The Miracle of a Gas Station

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If I had a dime for every time I thought our lives would be ordinary, I’d be a wealthy woman! Instead, gratefully and thankfully I am rich beyond measure in a million other ways that money and possessions can’t come close to buying. Living an ordinary life..this just isn’t in the works for us.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of visitors, with more on the way over the next two weeks, which we love. It’s fun to be a “tourist” in the place you live. There is something about sharing your dreams with people that is so magical. Giving them a glimpse as to the WHY we do, and act, and live the way we do. As adventurers and joy seekers my hubs and I relish these sweet moments to bring people to off-the-beaten-path places that we have known and loved for so long here in Costa Rica. We love sharing why this place is so special to us, and the decisions and (many)prayers that went into this and making it our home. We love sharing the obstacles that God put in front of us, the wait, and the right path that He finally put us on to get here. We are thankful for the friends and visionaries that we met over ten years ago, who we’ve stayed in touch with, and continued to inspire us on this journey. IMG_4924

Costa Rica isn’t for everyone, and we fully understand that. The way of life here is  S L O W (unless you’re driving) and rides on a timeframe that most people don’t roll on. A slow-roll vacation is one thing, but living by that day to day is a whole different experience. Thankfully my hubs and I are very patient and don’t get overly-excited when things aren’t in our time frame. It’s just part of life here. The water goes out, and the electricity goes out, sometimes during the hottest times of the year. Things break quickly, but it’s not always easy to fix them or have them repaired quickly. There are bugs. (have I mentioned that on a few past blogs HAHA) Some days the language barrier can be hard, although I can speak and understand Spanish pretty well (and am still learning and taking classes) there are times that it’s rough. Living on the beach, things rust and just quit working that you wouldn’t suspect. Phones and computers die quickly due to salt air. Growth is slow, and in fact, the village where we reside in is the same as it was ten years ago on our first visit. In fact, it has gotten smaller. It was these types of things we LOVED about it and why we fell in love with it. However, there are days that I just feel out of sorts, weary and this day happened to be one of those days.

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After a wildly-fun week with our daughter and her roommate visiting, going to some incredible places, playing tour guide, and driving the milage of a drive from here to Belize, I was ready for a quiet night at home on Saturday. My daughter and I drove into the city to take a tanned, sleep-deprived CW to the airport. I have to admit, I was a little….tired myself (a lot), unraveled and on the fray already. After leaving the airport we got onto the highway, to make the 90 min- 2-hour drive home. There was a lot of traffic as per the usual for a weekend. Then I could feel it. The air in our SUV started to feel “off” and a little warm. I looked at my temperature gauge and noticed that was rising towards the H! Hmm. I pulled to the side, which was a flat-out act of playing Frogger, and I turned the A/C off. When we left our beach town yesterday it was 91 degrees F (with a real feel of 109) IT WAS A LITTLE TOASTY! I thought…in all of my mechanical wisdom (none) that maybe using the air in such heat, the car needed a rest. I surely did! Once I shut the air off and sat for 30 seconds, the temp went down. “OK..good!” I said to my youngest Cub who was riding shotgun. We merged back into traffic, passed a tollbooth, paid our colones, and I looked at the gauge again…it was now all the way to the H. Hmmm! That means HOT! Which we were coincidentally, with no A/C, 100 degrees of sun on us, in the middle of the highway, just out of the city. I pulled back off onto the side of the road and shut the car off. I took a 30-second “Jesus take the Wheel” moment and texted my hubs who is in the States. THIS POOR MAN! This Saint of a husband of mine. What is he possibly going to do? What he did is what he does so well; calmly, coach me through a couple of different things. By the grace of God, we had water in the car. As surfers, we carry it as our after-saltwater rinse. I popped the hood, added some water where needed, but could tell the radiator was much too hot to open, and went to turn the car back on. Nope. Still overheating. I climbed back into the car and looked at my daughter. I said, “well….hmmm.” I got back out and stood in front of my open hood as cars raced by coming out of the tolls like racehorses on a track. Semi trucks were whizzing by and honking their horns. Tourist vans and shuttles screaming by, jocking for their position into two lanes after the width of the tolls. I stood staring at a steaming engine and for a brief second felt very vulnerable the helpless. We were far (12-15K) from the next gas station that I could tell on Google, but had mountains to climb to get there. I got back into the car to check on my daughter; I said: “Aren’t you happy that I don’t panic?” Which is true, but to be completely honest, inside I was feeling a slight tinge of alarm and dismay. I was in a “mother’s protection mode” but under the shield I felt a heave of my chest and was spinning a million things around in my head. Things that were coming into play; no mechanic, in a fair amount of traffic, the sun getting lower in the sky, which was great for the heat factor, but meant that sunset would be coming, leaving us not only in the dark on the road, but to drive (if we could) back home in the dark (worst thing ever) and EVEN if someone stopped, thinking about our vulnerability, being two gringas stranded, and the language barrier to explain the situation. I stood outside the car and whispered, “God. God in all of your power and mercy and saving, I NEED a miracle right now. Right this very moment, because honestly, I do not know what I am going to do.” 

IMG_4940Within 5 minutes of that whisper, a car pulled up. I was a little nervous because I couldn’t quite see who was in the car. I couldn’t tell who was getting out. Up walks this young guy followed by his sweet wife and baby. He said “You OK? I know you. From the gas estacion en Jaco. I work there, and I recognize you on the side of the road.” WHAT!? I was completely dumbfounded at this point, staring at this guy. And he says again “remember me? I know you from Jaco.” The miracle. I snap back together and say “YES! Oh my gosh, yes, I remember you, of course!” This young guy, from Jaco, 100K away, where we frequently get gas, and now will be THE ONLY PLACE we ever get gas, just happens to be driving back from San Jose with his wife and baby son and they recognize me. Sweaty, hair in a top-knot, baking on the side of the road, in a maze of cars, looking like a hot mess, they recognize me? The miracle. 

He starts peeking and poking around in my car and asks for mas agua. I pull out the few remaining bottles we have that are half-full, he wets the radiator and slowly starts to work the cap off. At this point, we were completely out of water. As this is happening another car pulls up, and an older man and his wife walk up. He brings out of his vehicle two big jugs of water. The miracle. The two men converse back and forth and look into the engine. They get the cap off and fill it with water. It was DRY, and the fan is not working. Nothing to cool the engine. The older gentleman pulls out a knife and starts to cut wires. I look at my daughter and smile as she’s Snapchatting this to her world fan base. and say, “is this really happening right now?” I ask the younger of the two guys if this is his amigo? “No” he replies, with a shake of his head. Just a random man and his wife. Good people. This older gentleman is slicing and splicing car wires and sparking wires off of the battery, all in an effort to get the fan running. He definitely knew what he was doing. Then he says “broken.” Ok, well there it is….. He splices wires back together and pulls out some electrical tape to secure them. Meanwhile, behind us, pull up two semi-truck drivers to add to our roadside party mix. They got out to share some conversation. They were great at blocking the oncoming traffic for us out of the hustle of the toll booths. Finally, the young man says “OK it’s holding a bit of water, but leaking. Please drive in front of me to the next gas station, so I know you get there safely.” I offer to pay them, and they would not accept the money.

The Cub and I hop into the car, the gauge is reading in the normal range, and we take off for the next gas station where we pull in, and the guy and his sweet wife and baby hop out, he pops the hood and fills the radiator again. This continues at EVERY gas station until we hit Jaco around 6 pm. (We left San Jose and the airport at 2:30p!!) Once in Jaco, he says “I can follow you to Esterillos if you like.” I knew at this point I was close enough to get home without running out of water. I was holding back tears. I could not believe the genuine, sweet gift that these people were to my daughter and me when we were in such great need. A random act of kindness from complete strangers. Once again I pulled money from my wallet and offered it to them. The only way I could think of besides my continued words of gratitude in my fragmented Spanglish, to repay them. I said, “Please, you saved me today! You were an answer to a prayer.” His sweet wife looked at me and shook her head no and said: “We do this for you de nuestro corazón because we love you.” (We do this for you from our heart because we love you)

Queue the tears. QUEUE. THE. TEARS!IMG_4932

The sweet guy asks if I have a phone and he puts his cell number into my phone. He says,  to please let him know if I need help explaining to a mechanic what’s wrong with the car (because as far as my Spanish goes I missed the Automobile Engine Course to explain) By the time my daughter and I got home, he had already texted me to see if we made it safely. The miracle. 

When we got home, our kids were waiting with our dog which they had kept all day. What a sight for my eyes. I was so happy to be back home. I FaceTimed with my hubs to fill him in. I laughed and cried a little over the story and sequence of events that played out. Laughing because nothing is ever ordinary and crying because of the enormity of graciousness, helpfulness, and love that I felt from complete strangers.

Number 5-million of WHY we love living here. The people. The kindness. Given, taken and shared. I try and talk to everyone, everywhere, even when I pull into the gas station and greet the attendant. Yes, I can be busy. I can be on my phone. I can be fidgeting with my radio controls, but I always think about people, because they MATTER. Maybe they aren’t having the best day. Maybe (doubtfully) I am the only gringa that decided to pull up and TALK that particular day.  I always share a smile. They are entirely free, and people LOVE receiving them. Thankfully, yesterday that came back to me. 

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

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Two Little Letters: B E

 

Happy Twenty Eighteen!!  

What does it mean “to be”? Or for that matter; BE?

I love this from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/to_be.htm; The Greek sea god, Proteus, was (like the sea) capable of changing form in an instant. In order to get any decent information out of him, you had to grab him and hold on tight while he went through his various forms — lion, wild boar, snake, tree, running stream — it wasn’t easy. The verb “To be” is said to be the most protean of the English language, constantly changing form, sometimes without much of a discernible pattern. Considering that we use it so often, it is really too bad that the verb “To be” has to be the most irregular, slippery verb in the language.

The most irregular, slippery verb.

When the word “BE” came to me this year, as “my ONE word” I was perplexed, and honestly, I still am, because what do I do with a word so open-ended as this?
I ran this morning and walked the beach to cool down (a word that’s impossible living here), and as per the usual, I prayed, because beach- walking and running are ALWAYS my “gettin’ down to business with the Lord” times. I asked God “what does BE mean?” “You gave me this word, and I don’t know what to do with it.”
There are a million things that BE can have an association. I posted a few last week on my Instagram; BE helpful, BE kind, BE available, BE yourself, BE there, BE love, BE the best you, BE all in, BE generous.

I have the strangest feeling I’ll be on quite a ride this year.

IMG_3093For me today, as we start this new year, I know it’s BE accountable. I read this morning; “accountability is something that you must take on yourself. It is the ability to claim your actions as your own and discuss your reasons behind them. It’s natural. Transparent.”

I want to be accountable to my family and friends. I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt; I’m in their corner. I’m behind their crazy schemes, and dreams and ideas. I want them to know; I have their back in all circumstances. For the joyous times as well as the messy, ugly, dirty times. It does not mean, however, that this accountability wouldn’t bring with it some tough love, or that it allows room to be a doormat to someone that is in harm’s way. I think in life and in relationships being accountable is tough. Everyone wants to hear the rainbow side of things and not always the “Please don’t go down that road, because there is a cliff at the end” side of things. Being accountable does not mean allowing toxicity or harmful behavior to enter into your life. I’ve learned, I can forgive and love a person from afar without allowing them to poison me but at the same time standing to take the reprimand if I’ve wronged someone.

I want to be accountable to my hubs. (This is SO easy for me) I want him always to know I support him. He has some ideas that I just sit and look at him, blinking wildly, mouth agape, but he knows….I am all in! Always! And to be honest, I’m sure, in fact, I KNOW he sits blinking wildly at me at times at my wild ideas. Talk about two people brought together by the Divine.

I want to be accountable to myself; allowing myself to be kind to my body athletically, nutritionally, sleeping well, practicing yoga, mindful of getting my feet onto the sand and earthing, taking care of my immune system with good food, a lot of water, excellent supplements. I want to read more. (more than I already do) I want to laugh hysterically at something, daily (which is never hard for me. I am well skilled at the art of the belly-laugh ). I want to meet someone new or do a good deed every day, not because someone expects it of me, OR to get the recognition but to just shine a light. IMG_3092 2

My first start was running again after taking a little hiatus. After moving, I had a hard time finding my rhythm. The days are long here (year round 11 1/2-12 hours of sunlight) which is fabulous, but when the parrots are waking you up way too early, and the sun streams in, and it’s 90 degrees already, I couldn’t. I could not get going. I could not take the heat, which I love, usually. I could not tackle the humidity. I could not get used to running in the sand again. I could not keep myself hydrated enough. AT FIRST. I needed some accountability, and even though it’s online, I joined a Strava running group. It’s only a two-week commitment. (For now) But I’m logging my runs again, and have a 2-week goal because sometimes THAT is what you have to do to jump-start yourself. Knowing that my little running community is there, is holding me accountable. And you know what? It’s felt great. Well, it’s still hot as blazes, but after that first day, my body felt so incredibly satisfied. It’s what I’m made to do. Having the accountability to my group is terrific!

I loved and lived my word last year; Intention. Everything I did I tried in earnest to do out of intent and mindfulness, without being held captive to the word. I looked back on my post from last year and some things that popped out after knowing my word was; I want my actions to speak lounder than words, givng my friends undivided attention, surround myself with people on fire for life, being intentional with food and exercise, traveling more, soaking in salt water, have things in my house that are USEFUL and not just becasue “it’s a shiny new thing,” focus on my Creator, really listen to His will for our lives, BE A MAGNET FOR MIRACLES, be outdoors more, and have less TV time, to serve more, take more risks, love fiercly, allow myself to “not try to control the uncontrolable”

IMG_3089 2UMMMM hello! Talk about a year living out my word! IT WAS AN AMAZING YEAR! I saw an IG post a couple of weeks ago that said “Sometimes I just look up, smile and say “I know that was You. Thank you.” It gives me chills because this past year has overflowed with those moments. A smile creeps onto my face. A swifter beat of my heart happens. Chills cover my body. Tears come to my eyes out of nowhere. It’s comforting knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt; this past year has all been because of Him. When I’m able to look back on the year, with the word INTENTION, and the heart that wrote that first blog for twenty seventeen, listening and being open, waiting, and being patient, not rushing the perfect timing of God….. it brought the most unimaginable year into existence.
Before we moved, I was able to spend the most incredible time with friends and family, just soaking in their smiles and words and wisdom and love. I had the honor and privilege to stand up in the wedding of two of the most precious souls I’ve ever known. A friend that I’ve laughed wildly with, have traveled abroad with and have also cried long nights in anguish alongside. A friend that I have prayed on my knees daily for to find love. Isn’t God surprising in the way He hears and answers our hearts? I also got to welcome a new baby with a dear, sweet friend. The miracle of life! I cheered as friends achieved goals, I walked alongside sick friends, praying for healing and they all walked beside me as we got closer to moving. Because as exciting and ready as we were to make this move, there is something about becoming disconnected from your tribe…. I already knew and should have realized that nothing would change or TRULY disconnect us, because friends are friends and love is love,  but on some days I allowed insecurity to seep in where it had no business being.
We became more minimalist, honestly and genuinely taking inventory of our “things,” and boy did we PURGE! We wanted to be in a place and a space that had no excess. What we own is our most favorite, and used for a purpose, daily. We have everything we’ve ever loved, being useful and not sitting on a shelf. We gave away and tried to bless with our excess. We traveled a lot, and salt water soakin’ is a way of life now. Every day my husband says; “let’s get salty!” It washes away so much! We are outdoors, always. Living in a tropical climate EVERYTHING is open air. Not to mention, running, hiking, waterfall chasing, surfing, beach walking. We are outside people and are out a lot. Less TV….easy, and when we moved, our house didn’t have a TV. Take more risks = moving to a foreign country. Not controlling the uncontrollable literally happens on the daily here.
I see now how God walked me (us) through this past year by hand. He prepared the entire way for us. He had moved and was here way ahead of us. I am looking forward to a year of BE. I’m excited and encouraged to see the ways God will flow through and use this word in our lives.

What are you’re terrific moments when you say “I know that was you” What is your word for 2018? Do you do a word, a resolution, an intention? I’d love to hear it! It’s a great confirmation and comfort to me, seeing the past year and how it played out, to know God has us right where He wants us. For this moment. For this season. To be.

Pura Vida

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Tales From the Trail -Red’s Meadows

IMG_5634IMG_5620We traveled 11.75 miles this morning after breaking camp in 5-hours! We were a tad motivated to get to Red’s Meadows. As we hiked, we talked about the upcoming luxuries of SHOWERS. REAL FOOD. CELL SERVICE. Among many, one of the things this trail has lended me was to absolutely and constantly be thankful for the little things. As I paid the $15 for 15 minutes of clean water in an actual shower I considered people who do not have this option and how easy it is to take for granted. I couldn’t believe the MUD that rolled off of me and down the drain. Serious filth! Even though I was bathing daily in whatever body of water was available to us each evening, it just didn’t compare to a warm, clean, shower. How much this relates to Jesus! I would’ve paid $100 for this luxury. We laughed! Us girls. We all three went into the shower at the same time, finding three empty stalls and as we plopped our tokens into the coin operated machine and stepped in, we laughed! Hard! We stood under the rush of warm water and felt like pampered princesses and REALLY felt clean! We didn’t shave the entire trip. It was our pact. The feeling of wanting to now was SO incredibly overwhelming. It was part of the journey and being all in. We may be clean princesses but we are hairy! And so was our dude! His facial hair was reaching epic proportion! For me, this shower washed so much more than dirt away. It washed away my bad attitude from the days before, it washed away feelings of guilt over decisions I have made, expectation I’ve placed on myself and ones that have been put there by others, it washed away things I’ve been holding on to that needed desperately to be let go of, past hurts, pride issues, being judged, negative feelings, mistakes, times in my life that I fell apart, fear, the mess of the last year and the dirt of the past…..It all ran down the drain in a puddle.

Red’s Meadows is such a great place. Magical. The gathering place for all wanderers just outside of the beautiful Mammoth Lakes/Devil’s Postpile area. IMG_5630Full of wonderful, backpacking, happy people. It’s no wonder I loved it! (“My People” as my hubs refers to them) We quickly recognized some of our trail family. Those we’ve met along the way, and continue to see on the daily. Leap- frogging along, but always ending up camping alongside each night. Our Slovakian’s whom we met WAY back on Glen Pass; two buddies hiking together, one of them barefoot. Tony, our dreadlocked farmer, who gave up an organic farm to hike the JMT, and of course the sweet 50th-anniversary couple, Brooks and Rita. We all filtered in little by little to the showers, the Mule House Cafe (that had the BEST cheeseburgers, fries, and fruit pie on the planet, ON THE PLANET!) and little general store that held our resupply. Interestingly enough, none of us rushed for our resupply. We opted instead for a shower, food, beer and hanging in the sunshine talking with other hikers…. in that order. We met Sam, a guy from the UK who is hiking the PCT. He is 3 weeks from finishing his 6-month journey and even though I have suffered some pretty rotten things out on this trail, I yearn for the opportunity to hike the PCT at some point. I was a little jealous. We talked to 2 women hikers from Maine that were having issues with sleeping bags. They were freezing at night and were asking opinions from everyone about new sacks that they were considering purchasing in Mammoth Lakes. We met a group of 4 women hiking together that were sharing a jar of queso dip and chips from the store. HEAVEN! We listened to the stories of fun and laughter, of animals, of heartbreak, of spiritual journeys, of blisters and sprained ankles, of sleeping COLD, of favorite and least favorite passes, the stories of their journeys and what brought them out here in the first place. I was happy to see so many solo-female hikers, and Ladies of the JMT (all of us wearing our blue bandanas on our pack to signify who we were) I was fascinated by these people and their stories and just wanted to take it all in! Sometimes I thought; man we must have a screw loose to do this, to want this, to enjoy (to some extent) the suffering of almost a month in the wilderness. The isolation, being dirty, being in the complete silence, the remoteness…but then I realized…Nah, it’s passion. It’s passion that drives this and every. single. one. of. us.  has. a. story.

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This was some DANG good coffee!

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With our “Slovakian’s” Igor (who hiked most of the trail barefoot and Jakob (Jakub)

We picked up our resupplies from the little general store and sifted through the contents. I dug….WAY down to the bottom for my note, but quickly saw that Greg had added a few other goodies to this bucket. A can of Pringle’s (oh sweet Jesus) about 5 lbs of Starburst, blister care items (first aid) and a few bottles of Fire Ball. That man knows exactly what I need even from thousands of miles away and not hearing from me in over 10 days! This would be our last resupply. My last note. The last little bit of correspondence until we finish this out. It excited me as much as it grieved me. It was bittersweet in several aspects and as happy as I was to be finishing up this incredibly, epic experience, I was deeply SO saddened at the same time.

My note to myself.

Paula,

Wild Mama, just because you cried today doesn’t make you weak, Allow the tears to come and wash your spirit clean. You’ve come a long way baby! You’re at Red’s Meadows. Reflect on where you have come from and where you’re heading. Continue to celebrate all that lies within you. God has created in you and adventurer, a lover of nature and of stars and extraordinary views. This is why you’re out here. Breathe it all in. You are stronger than you ever give yourself credit. Keep it up, badass warrior! Thanks be to God. Remember, you planned well and are ready for the next few days to the finish!IMG_1659

And from G.

Look at you, Lady! Wow! Bad-assery in its truest form. Your body is probably a little beat up and tired, but that’s ok. Better this than a lump on the couch. Embrace it all! You can make it this last stretch, dig in and remember, LOOK UP! Hopefully, you remember me at the end of this. I will be the guy standing with a cold beer, a super-soaker, and a razor. Ha-Ha! I love you, G

I roared with laughter as I read this. Along with his funny note, and myriad of additional goodies, he had packed the baggies of my re-packaged dehydrated meals (yes RE-PACKAGED because weight is EVERYTHING when it’s on your back) and had renamed a few for me, which brought some great laughter around our little Jet Boils as we cooked dinner at camp.IMG_5623

We had to say goodbye to Red’s Meadows  in the morning and start our way up Donahue Pass. It was hard leaving. We ate an AMAZING breakfast with WAAAAY too much coffee from a pot. Donahue is a big pass with 23-ish miles to the top. It’s long and gradual reaching 11,703 feet. We camped part way up around the Shadow Lake area. We had decided to bite this last section off in chunks. This was a gorgeous camp, with a waterfall right outside my tent door. (and for me, besides sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls rank HIGH up on the food chain of gorgeous-must-sees for me. I LOVE them) I climbed to the top of the falls and spent some alone time with God thanking Him for his creation, for His love for us through his creation. The beauty here and along this entire journey has been unsurpassed. I thanked Him for the opportunity of being out here, for His healing on my feet and body. I thanked Him for my hiking partners and keeping us all healthy (for the most part.) and safe. Out of the four of us, we had one common thread before going into this hike….our dude! K and I knew one another, but not to the depths that we did now. J and I met the day she, K and her hubs picked me up in San Bernardino to head to Lone Pine. Talk about really putting your faith into your hiking partners. So for us to make it this far with only a few small scrapes and bumps along the trail (so to say) I think I was in good company. I was so thankful for their underserved patience, and their inspiration, and kindness. I know we all had days where the raw emotion was high and we wanted to scream at one another, but in the end, we showed love, appreciation, devotion, fortitude, humility, mercy and grace. We showed friendship.  I was so grateful for that. Complete and utter favor in the most extreme conditions Their compassion was incredible. I know full well that some days, probably most days, I was deserving of NONE of it!

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That one day that J fell and K had to bandage her up with a Maxi-Pad!!

I took a deep breath as I climbed into my tent and into my mummy, the cascading sound of the falls outside the door making me dizzy with relaxation and tiredness. It had started to rain and we all retreated to our tents early. The daylight still lingered. I sat up and re-read the note from G and giggled. He has the greatest way of always making me and those around him laugh! He would love this spot. I cannot believe this journey is almost ending. I didn’t want it to. It had changed me in some pretty profound ways already. What would going home be like? What would matter to me that hadn’t before? What things would I cherish more and what would I no longer need or care to have? Would I want to go home and buy a Tiny House in the woods after living in Big Agnes for the past 3 1/2 weeks? What would I appreciate more and find unnecessary? What would food and water taste like? Different? Possibly. I do know the need to see my family was so colossal. To breathe them in deeply was all I wanted. That, and to lift and inhale the sweet, dirty, earthy, grass-smell of my puppy’s paws. (this is something her and I do several times a day) Those things that on a daily we become so accustomed to, that are so ordinary at times, that never will be again. They just can’t be.

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Start my JMT journey from the beginning HERE