Here We Go Again

3 am.  I should be sleeping.  But I cannot sleep.  I cannot shut off my brain.  Or my worry.

We are here again.

I am here again.  Dealing with a broken system that would rather pass judgement, make unreasonable demands and hold needed and necessary medication hostage.

I am my son’s biggest advocate.  But I shouldn’t have to be.  Not now. Not anymore. 

“He has substance use disorder, and that makes us concerned that he will become addicted to his meds. So we are going to take him off of them.” 

“He needs to go to art therapy to learn how to channel his creativity and to learn life skills and until he does that, we won’t be prescribing his meds.”

“The treatment team met this morning and we decided that your son needs to participate in group events, and he needs to be working fulltime.  If he isn’t doing those things then he doesn’t really need his meds.  Meds are only for those who are working and need to concentrate.”

Are you kidding me??  This is seriously f’d up! 

How irresponsible!  No psych provider should be this irresponsible. 

I countered every lame excuse the lead case manager had for why my son was being taken off meds.  Every 2 weeks they were going to drop the dose until he was off of them.  But these meds are necessary…..

If he was becoming addicted to the meds and that was going to be an issue, wouldn’t he seek increases in his dosage?  He is only asking to be kept on the current dose, which is lower than his dosage for 13 years. How is that concerning to her or the provider?  And demanding that he do certain things they want him to do, without any conversation with him or consideration of how these affect him, or he won’t get his meds is absolutely irresponsible. Necessary meds should not be a bargaining chip.  They are necessary for everyday function.  Holding meds hostage is wrong.  She didn’t like hearing that. 

So, here we are again.  He has been without his meds for a week because he missed an appointment in December.  It is now February!  Did they tell him, the many times he called the nurse to see what was going on?  NO.  Did they tell me when I called and talked to his case manager to see what was going on?  NO.  Did anyone try to contact him after the missed appointment?  NO. 

I had to go in person to sit in the waiting room to find out what was going on.  That was 2 days ago.  That is when they finally said something. 

The lady I talked to said my son was lucky.  His provider had an opening the next afternoon for a phone appointment.  He would have to wait another day for her to prescribe his meds.  But he had a little hope…. I had a little hope that this would get fixed.  He was lucky right?

All hope disappeared the next afternoon when my son called after his phone appointment. Here we go again, he said. 

I know mental illnesses are hard to diagnosis and treat.  They are invisible illnesses.  And each patient is different.  Each treatment plan has to be tailored to the individual being treated.  That is why, when the balance is found that works, you don’t change it!   

The luck of the draw for my son was being assigned a provider, a psych nurse, who does not believe in medication to treat mental health illnesses.  She believes that mental illnesses are a shortcoming in a person’s character.  She believes that anxiety, clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder, is treatable by behavior therapy alone.  No medication necessary.  Especially when the patient is also an addict (who is currently not using and completed treatment 4 ½ years ago).  For most of us, pushing through the panic is how to handle things.  But not my son.  That makes it worse.  He doesn’t just get anxiety, like I do, when facing some event or situation. He is anxious ALL day, EVERY day.  It is constant.  And things do make it worse.  So, let’s take his meds away.  (this is what I learned about his anxiety when he chose to be taken off the meds in 2017) Seriously?! 

My son was finally stable.  The right balance of meds was working.  Well…. that just all flew out the window! 

I should have seen it coming.  Her first appointment with my son, she told him she was going to remove his ADHD meds and his anxiety meds.  The first appointment.  Did she even read his case file?  Did she read beyond his substance use disorder diagnosis?

I don’t get it.  I don’t understand. 

It doesn’t matter that his diagnosis for his mental health illnesses predates his addictions by many years.  This current team believes that his addictions caused his mental health illnesses.  They do not understand that untreated mental illnesses often leads to self-medicating and addiction.

I am scared.  Really, really scared.  We have been down this road, with judgemental uncaring providers, too many times to count.  I know where this road leads.  And I am petrified. 

So, I can’t sleep.  Too many worries in my head.  My husband needs to concentrate on his health.  My son has been worried about his dad.  And I am worried about them both. 

When will this get better? When will self-righteous, judgmental psych providers stop changing my sons life?  Our lives?  If my son had diabetes, or high cholesterol, or chronic lung disease or a myriad of other physical illnesses, they wouldn’t withdraw his meds because he wasn’t behaving the way the provider dictated.  So why should mental illness be any different?  Why wouldn’t my son being stable be the outcome that is sought? 

Today is day 3 of dealing with this.  I am supposed to get a call back sometime today to let me know how they are going to fix this.  I don’t have much faith in them right now….

This system is very broken.  And it is most broken for those who need it the most—those who cannot afford to pay for treatment, those who rely on government providing treatment—those without money, the homeless, and the addict.  When will we finally fix this?  When we will finally see mental illnesses in the same light as physical illnesses? 

Just breathe….. been here before…. My son is determined to not let them derail all his progress….. I will get us through this again…… I will never stop fighting!

Traveling the Unknown Road

My husband and I love to travel.  We love road trips!  There are so many places we wouldn’t see if we flew everywhere, so we choose to take a lot of road trips.  Those trips give us flexibility to take an unknown road, an off-the-beaten-path road….. a road less traveled. 

Taking an unplanned road can lead to exciting places or to places we would rather not visit again.  We never know where they are taking us, BUT we know we are traveling the road together and as long as we are together the trip will be fine.

Early last summer we took an almost 3 week road trip through a number of states.  The first day on the road, we traveled 9 hours.  9. Hours.

We were tired.  Exhausted really.  But we are who we are, and we don’t like to let an opportunity to explore pass us by.  So, after a quick dinner we left our hotel and headed down the road, off to find a historic site we read about.  It didn’t matter that we had already spent 9 hours in the car that day.  We wanted to explore.

On this outing we found the dirt road and followed it.  No one was on the road, we were alone…. And then we found the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historical Park ( )  We had the place to ourselves for a bit.  It was amazing!  Taking the dirt road led us to a spectacular site.  We enjoyed it sooooo much. 

On the way back to our hotel we took another little road, a short detour to see if we could find the lake.  We got a little lost.  Went a little too far.  Wondered where we were.  But we were fine.  He was driving and I was navigating, and working together we found the way back and found the lake.  Another great find!

I like to explore unknown roads with my husband.  Even when they don’t take us to where we imagined.  It is still worth the journey together.

In our almost 39 years together (37 of the married) we have taken a lot of roads, literally and figuratively.  Some roads we found ourselves traveling were put in front of us by life.  Yes, life can send us on detours, off-course sometimes.  Those roads we maneuvered together.  Many of those roads, whether unexpected moves, deaths of beloved family members, changes in life roles, dealing with our oldest sons addiction and subsequent recovery, among other things, were roads that could have sent us each on our own way, separate.  Many times we were alone on those roads, roads that were filled with potholes, even deep holes, and curves that could have pulled us apart.  But they didn’t.  We traveled them together, taking turns in the driver seat, giving the other time to rest.  Many of those roads we would never have chosen.  But life chose them for us.  The detours happened and we followed them, together.

We now find ourselves on another road we did not plan.  One we would never have chosen.  But never-the-less, here we are.  This detour presented itself to us in late summer.  The curve popped up out of nowhere.  We never saw the detour coming, yet it changed our course.  We had no choice but to push on.

We drove down the road until it suddenly stopped.  It felt so sudden that I could feel the breath being knocked out of me.  There it was.  A big hole was in front of us.  And we had no idea which way to go from here.  We just stopped.  We needed to catch our breath.  We needed to assess, engage with each other, and research the route before choosing the road we would now follow.

Late summer had presented us with the possibility that my husband may have some health issues going on and then that hole opened up on November 10. That was the day that we sat in the doctors office, holding hands, waiting for the news.  My husband’s biopsy was positive.  Prostate Cancer. 

Hearing the word….. well, it brings up all sorts of fears, questions.  It doesn’t matter what kind.  That word is not one a person wants to hear.

We are now traveling this new road.  Unexpected.  Not wanting to.  Feeling alone, but learning that others also travel this road, they are just in different locations or taking slightly different routes. 

We are not alone. 

But the two of us do need navigate through this. 

My husband is in the driver seat.  This is his disease.  The road we take is his choice.  I am there to support.  To research.  To provide the information for him to make the decision.  To take the wheel  when he needs to rest.  And to drive the sections of the road that he just doesn’t need to deal with.  His focus is (and should be) his health.  And to love him.  All while I am praying that the road we take ends with a long, long life.  Together! 

In a couple of days, we start the next section of the road, the decision made.  Surgery. 

And then we will rest in one location for a bit before more decisions are made as to which road we travel from there.  

I don’t know where this will lead us, or how long it will take.  But I do know he is going to be okay! (That I have to believe!  Staying positive keeps me going).  We have our family, we have each other and we have our faith!  We will approach this road as we always do, looking for the positives and staying positive. 

And for the next couple of days I am just going to breathe……. And then before we know it, we will be back to traveling unknown roads (literally), to amazing places!  Together!!

Remembering on this Mother’s Day

I have been blessed in my life with many women I could call “mom”–

–the mothers of my friends who took me under their wings when I really needed them.

–And my own moms–the one who gave birth to me, the one who adopted me at the age of 3, the one I gained when I married my husband, and the one I gained when she married my dad–These 4 women have impacted my life in ways that I can never fully explain and though 3 of them are no longer here on earth, I feel their presence every day and love and miss them very much.

My birth mom, took care of me and loved me for the first 3 years of my life. She loved me. I know that now. She started the foundation of my life and then, as difficult as it was for her, she sacrificed her needs for love of my sister and I and gave us up to be adopted. I didn’t understand this decision when I was younger, but now I do. She loved us so much that she did what she believed was the best for us….. I love her for that! She was my first mama! And one day I will be reunited with her in heaven.

Christmas 1976–mom and me

My mom, the one who adopted me, loved me unconditionally and taught me to love others and to love God. She comforted me and yes, punished me when I needed it. She would sit with me late into the night when I would have nightmares, hug me and we would just talk. She showed me how to listen to others and what it meant to empathize with others. My mom gave me a foundation in love and faith that has carried me through the most difficult times. I miss my mom every day and always will. And I look forward to the day I am reunited with her in Heaven.

Me, my oldest and my mother-in-law in 1987

My mother-in-law, who showed me what being a mother was all about. She was an amazing, caring mother who always put her boys first. She raised the man I am married to and taught him to care about others, to love unconditionally and to work hard for what he wanted. And she accepted me immediately, taking me under her wing. She taught me to cook a turkey and to make her amazing cookies. And she was a loving grandmother! Her example will guide me as I step into the role of grandma! I miss her everyday and know that I will see her again!

And this amazing woman, with my sister (her daughter) and I, became my mom when she married my dad. Though she did not enter my life until I was an adult, she has had an immense impact on me and I cherish our relationship. She has been there for me to offer guidance, love and support when I need it. And she is there when I just need to talk. I am so thankful that God brought her into my life. Though I do not get to see her as often as I would like, she is always in my thoughts.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate my moms–the three in heaven and the one still here on earth. I am so very, very blessed to have had these women in my life, helping to shape me into the woman I am today!

Thank you, God, for blessing me with them and with their love.

I love you all!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day and I am reflecting on my life as mom, the GREATEST joy in my life! I wrote this 3 years ago and wanted to share it today as I prepare for the next great role in my life, that of a grandmother. Yes, my baby and his wife are having a baby, and this little life coming into the world is already so loved. Motherhood is amazing and now I look forward to what life as a grandma will be. How I wish my mother and my mother-in-law could be here to see their youngest grandson become a father and to see my husband and I in our new roles.
Greatly missing my mom today!

Take the Leap and Just Breathe

As a young girl I had dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up….a teacher, a writer, a singer, an actress and then a social worker.  The ideas changed and the dreams changed as I grew and learned more about myself and the world around me.

But there was one dream that never changed….. that of being a mother.  From a very young age I dreamed of having my own children and being a mom.  Of course my dream of becoming a mom was for selfish reasons….I wanted to love and be loved.  And I knew that having a child of my own, then I would be loved, unconditionally.

At my very core, the core of all that I am, I wanted to be a mom!


I was 20 years old when I became a mom for the first time. From the day I was told…

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Patient? Me?

Not so long ago I said to my husband “I am not very patient.”

He laughed.  Really laughed.

And then he said “that is the understatement of the year!”

I like to believe I am a patient person.

I act like I am a patient person.

But those who know me, know that I need some work in that area.  A lot of work!

I have improved.  I no longer peek at Christmas presents.  I do not like surprises and I really don’t like waiting, so every year since I was a kid, I would search for my Christmas presents, hoping to find them.  Sometimes I did.  Sometimes I did not.  As an adult, I would pull the tape carefully back so I would not tear the paper and then unwrap the gift to peek.  Then I would carefully rewrap, paying attention to the creases and replace the same piece of tape exactly where it was.  I thought no one knew!  Ha!  Eventually my husband and kids caught on and then they used a whole roll of tape on every gift so I couldn’t peek.  (THAT may be an exaggeration, but it is A LOT of tape!)  I no longer peek.

I like to think that I stopped peeking because I am more patient, but the reality is that my guys made it so difficult for me to peek that I just don’t even try anymore.

My impatience also shows up when it comes to arriving for appointments, or leaving for a trip, or meeting someone, or anything that requires being somewhere at a certain time.  On time is important.  Early is even better.  When I am ready to go, I AM READY to go.  I don’t want to wait around.  I time everything I need to do to get ready for something based on the time we are leaving, so everyone else better be ready too….or I get really impatient!  And don’t give me a “we will leave between this time and that” timing, because that does not sit well with my patience. 

My impatience has resulted in a speeding ticket or two.  Again, I don’t like to be late.  For anything!

So, my intention for 2020 and now for 2021 to live in the moment, to be mindful and not worry about yesterday or tomorrow takes my level of patience to task.  I have to be patient to live in the moment, don’t I? 

I guess I have not quite learned the lessons of patience, so circumstances are colliding to teach me to be more patient.  One year ago, today, I was in the waiting room of our local hospital waiting for my husband who was having knee replacement surgery.  Have I mentioned, I do not like waiting?  From my journal entry that day, written while in the waiting room, I can feel my impatience.  Then add in my own back issues one week later, well, I was going to have to learn to be patient, whether I liked it or not.  I had no choice.  Both were hard!  I just wanted everything to hurry up and return to normal, for my husband and I both to heal.  NOW!  Things don’t work that way, do they?

That should have been enough to teach me to slow down, to live in the moment and to be patient. 

It was not.

The pandemic hit and my patience was sorely tested.  I just wanted it over!  I just wanted life to return to normal.  I wanted to hug people.  I wanted to shop in stores.  I wanted to travel.  That has been hard.  Now is NOT happening fast enough for me.  Yet, I have found that living in the moment helps.  Being mindful and grateful helps.  Maybe, I am more patient. 


Then came the conversation with my husband not too long ago.  He laughed because he knows me.  He knew I was not really a patient person, even with my improvements.  Things will continue to test my patience and to teach me lessons. 

When my alarm goes off at 3 pm every day, as it has every day for almost 3 months now, I cringe.  Ugh!  Really?  Can this just be over?  Now?!  It has been long enough and I am ready to be done with all of this and get my life back to normal.  That alarm is a reminder for me to take those two pink pills, the ones I have to take to treat this fungus in my body.  The pills I thought I would take for a week, maybe two. 

Jokes on me!  I will be hearing this alarm on my phone every day for months, maybe longer.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. How is that for teaching me to be patient?

No, I am NOT a patient person.  But I am trying!  I don’t peek at gifts anymore.  I don’t speed (okay, maybe just a little, but not much).  I stop and smell the roses far more often than I used to. 

But my body keeps betraying me, forcing me to step back and take it slow.  And I don’t like things to be too slow.  I just want to get back to 5ks and using my spin bike.  I want to be able to hike.  I want this done NOW!  (And don’t even ask how I am doing waiting, and waiting, and waiting for my turn to get the vaccine while everyone around me is getting theirs….)

Again, I am NOT a patient person.  I am a work in progress.  Always learning.  This will pass…. So, for now I am taking a leap toward patience and just breathing!

The Charm Bracelet

I love Hallmark movies, especially at Christmas.  They just make me feel good!

This past December I watched a new Hallmark 2020 Christmas movie—“A Little Christmas Charm”.  It was so good!  It centered on a charm bracelet, found in a donated coat, and the finder wanted to return it to its owner. 

While searching for the owner of the bracelet, the finder discovered that each charm had a special meaning and that made it even more important to find the owner.

Why am I sharing about a Hallmark movie?  Because, watching this movie, I was reminded of a charm bracelet that was sitting in my jewelry box, unworn by me.  It was not my charm bracelet.

The charm bracelet had belonged to my mom.  One of the very few things I have that was my mothers.  

This movie had me thinking about my mom and her charm bracelet.  I had vague memories of hearing about her trip to New York City and for most of my life, I believed this bracelet held charms that were from her trip, along with other charms that may have a special meaning to her.

I pulled her bracelet out and took another look…. Wait….. there was no charm that looked like the Empire State Building…. Hmmm…. I could have sworn there was one.   

And it looked like there was a charm missing, making me wonder what that charm was?

These charms were not from New York.  So, what did they represent?  Why was it important to her?  How would I ever find all this out?  How would I learn the stories behind her charm bracelet?

Taking a cue from the movie, I started to search.

I examined each charm and that is when I saw my first clue, one charm was stamped “Chicago” on the bottom.  Well…. I never knew she went to Chicago. 

I pulled out my laptop and started searching.  It is amazing what you can find on the internet now.  I searched for images of the Chicago skyline in the 1960’s and there I found the first building represented by one of her charms.  As I continued my search, I also discovered what the other three charms represented.  I now knew that all four charms were representations of buildings in Chicago—The Historic Water Tower, One Prudential Plaza, Marina City and the John Hancock Center.

Now that I knew the charms were from Chicago, I assumed she took a trip there.  And that trip had to be in 1969 or later as the John Hancock Center was not completed until 1969. 

The internet was a wonderful help in my finding what the charms represented, in locating them on a map so I could see how close each was to the other and in helping me to know the earliest my mom could have gone there.

You can find just about anything on the internet now. But there are some things the internet cannot not tell us.  

It could not tell me the things I really wanted to know— Why did my mom travel to Chicago?  Was it for pleasure?  Was it for one of dad’s work conventions?  Was it for her work?  What did she do there?  What did she like?  Where else did she visit?  When exactly did she go?  Did she take my sister and I?  If not, who took care of us while she was gone? 

I wish I had asked these questions when I had seen the bracelet when I was a child.  I wish I had asked lots of questions about my mom’s life so that I would have the stories to pass on to my children.  But I was young, and I did not realize just how important those stories would be to me.    

Now I know the importance.  And it is too late. 

Though I may not know the whole story behind my mom’s charm bracelet, at least I now know where she got the charms and a rough timeline for when.  I can imagine her there and what she might have done.  I know this charm bracelet was important to my mom.  And that is why I treasure this bracelet now.  It is another connection to my mom and to her story. 

Family stories are important.  Family history is important.   I would love to have just one more day to sit with my mom, ask questions and listen to the stories about her life. 

It is that desire, that drives my scrapbooking and keeps me journaling our trips and keeps me writing, period.  I am motivated more than ever to record our family history, the things that were important and the things we did, so that future generations of our family won’t have to wonder or imagine. 

The answers will be right there, waiting for them. 

Hello 2021!

“2020 will be the best year yet!”

Well….  I wrote that on the last day of 2019, after committing to making 2020 the year I would live every day, not waste a minute of any day…saying yes to adventure and taking care of me.  Really living in the moment.


I can say that I did live in the moment in 2020.  How could I not?  What else was there to do?  But I don’t feel like I was really living in 2020…… at least not the way I had imagined.

2020 was a challenging year for us.  For our country.  And for the world.  The year was filled with fear, anxiety, and loss.  And it still is.

And I stayed home far more than I ever have.  I was grounded many times as a kid, but this, THIS, was a-whole-‘nother level of grounding!  But I stayed home.  And so did my husband, other than work and essentials.  And now I am ready for the grounding to be over, but it won’t magically end at the stroke of midnight tonight.  Darn! 

Yes, I am ready for 2020 to be behind me.  Yet, despite the challenges and the world-wide pandemic, some real positives came out of 2020.

It is those positives that I am focusing on, reflecting on, while I sit here in my backyard next the warmth of the fire in our firepit and listening to the sounds of the waterfall in our pool.  The positives are what I want to remember the most about this year and what I want to take with me into 2021. 

My family is healthy, at least as far as COVID-19 goes.  And we are all happy!

My oldest is in his own apartment now.  He is happy.  He is doing well.  He is creating art pieces that are amazing.  He is so talented!  Being on his own again has been very good for him.

My youngest and his wife are doing great!  They are happy.  And we got to see them not once, not twice, but three times this year!  Thank you 2020!  I look forward to the day we can travel again so we can go visit them. 

My husband has his knee replacement surgery the end of February and we thought he would be home for 6 weeks…. But that 6 weeks turned into 5 months due to schools going virtual.  I am so grateful for that time together!  We found that even “locked down” we still enjoyed hanging out together.  I have no doubt after this year, that when he finally retires for good, we will be just fine!  And I look forward to that day and the travels we have planned.

We were able to get away once this year—to see my sister and her husband for a few days and then to spend a couple of nights at Zion National Park.  Being outdoors did us both some good.   We needed it.  Having not been able to travel this year was hard, so we needed the time in the outdoors.  I don’t know when we will be able to get away again, but the memories of those couple of days in Zion will keep us going for now.

I found time for my hobbies and to read. 

We got projects done around the house. 

I escaped to my backyard oasis many times a day, so grateful to have a backyard to escape to. 

I also found that I love cooking from scratch and tried many new recipes. 

Thanks to the shortages in the stores, I rediscovered my love of baking bread. 

I found ways to stay in touch with family and friends. 

And I discovered that I am okay alone too.  (though I really miss hugs from friends)

Yes, there were some good things this year.

Looking forward to 2021, I want to continue to live every day (hopefully this year I will get a chance to live outside my home environment) and I am going to focus on kindness- toward others and toward myself.  If nothing else, 2020 showed me that kindness is needed.  And I discovered that sometimes I can be a little too quick in my responses, jumping to conclusions and making assumptions.  I am also quick to criticize myself. So, 2021 will be the year I take a step back, I take time to breathe BEFORE responding impulsively.  2021 will be where I work to be a little kinder, to listen more and talk less and try to see the other person’s perspective more.  There is just not enough of that in the world today.

When midnight strikes tonight, the challenges of 2020 won’t just magically end….no matter how much I wish it would happen.  The virus will still be here when I wake up in the morning on January 1st, 2021.  And my fear of this virus will still be front and center. 

But I will NOT let that fear take away the beauty in the world around me.  And I won’t let that fear stop me from living each day as it comes, present in the moment.  2021 will be the year I become a kinder, more grateful person and the year I will continue to live mindfully, saying yes to adventure and no to fear. 

2021 will be a great year!

Oh, and I also want to learn to be more patient, because patience and I have a love-hate relationship…….. more on that soon, thanks to 2020 and Valley Fever!

Happy New Year to you all!  My wish is that 2021 brings you peace and hope. 

And yes, this year I am staying up to make sure that 2021 really does appear…. Don’t want to live this year over, like a kind of “Groundhog day”. 

Travel Thursday– Zion National Park

My husband and I have a joint bucket list.  We want to visit EVERY National Park in our great country.  We have made a big dent in that bucket list but still have more to visit.  And many we want to return to.

Recently my husband added another element to our bucket list—to stay in the National Park lodge for the park we are visiting, at least once.  And our first lodge on this new addition to our bucket list was Zion National Park Lodge.  A great one to kick off the checkmarks on the latest bucket list.

We have been to Zion National Park before.  2 times to be exact.  And both times the only part of Zion that we visited was the area from the Visitor Center to the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway turn and then on the highway driving east.  The Zion Scenic Drive was closed to personal vehicles when we visited in the past and we didn’t have time for the shuttle, so driving through the park on the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway was our only option for visiting this National Park.  And it was stunning both times we have driven it.  It left us in awe of the forces of nature and the art those forces created.  And it made us want to go back and see the part we had never seen before.

A couple of years ago, our youngest son and daughter-in-law spent some time in Zion and they took the shuttle.  They did the hikes so many go to Zion to do—the thrilling hikes sought out daily by those who live for the thrills and the adrenaline.  Their photos were gorgeous and only solidified our desire to one day, go back and see that part of the park for ourselves.  (But there was NO WAY I would be hiking Angel’s Landing!  Not this girl!  No need to test my fear of heights on that hike.  I will leave that hike for others to do!)

Well, 2020 came along and brought with it some challenges for us.  A new knee for my husband.  A back injury for me.  And a pandemic that kept us home for most of the year.  Those challenges made our desire to travel stronger.  We decided to take a short trip to see my sister and brother-in-law….at least that would get us away from the house and we knew we would be safe at their home. 

A few days after deciding to take the trip, I got a text from my husband who was at work.  He just wanted to let me know, that though I might think he was crazy, he had made a reservation for us at Zion National Park lodge for 2 nights following our visit to see my sister.  Okay??  THAT totally came out of the blue! 

And of course, I said yes!

These past few years have been about not saying no.  About taking leaps of faith.  About living fully, with no regrets.  So, I had to say yes.  Even though I thought he might be a little crazy. 

I am so very grateful that he made that reservation.   And extremely happy I said yes to going.  Our couple of days inside Zion National Park were rejuvenating, relaxing and nothing but spectacular. 

We arrived around lunch time, stopping at the visitor center first.  It was CROWDED!  It was like any other times we had been there.  And if it were not for the masks people wore and the markings on the ground for social distancing while in line, we would not have known there was any pandemic happening in our world. 

We left the visitor center with our souvenirs and with our red hang tag and gate code in hand we headed up the road toward the lodge.  At the intersection where we normally head straight, we turned left, following a shuttle bus.  At the gate we entered the code and magically it opened.  We were off.  Excited to see in person what we had only seen in pictures.

The drive was amazing!  We were surrounded by trees—which for us, having lived in Arizona for 6 years now was quite the sight!  And the walls on both sides of the road were stunning.  We were among giants.  My heart was happy here.

We arrived at the lodge and checked in.  Our room had a great view off the balcony and out the window from the bed.

I would be so happy waking to this view every day.

We rested a bit and shopped in the gift shop before getting our hiking gear and heading out for a short hike.  We left the lodge and crossed the road, where we were met by the beautiful sight of a bridge over the river, with huge rock cliffs behind.  Wow! 

We enjoyed the view and waited for others to leave so we could get some photos of just the scenery.  Then it was off on our hike.  We hiked the Lower Emerald Pools trail.  Though the day had been quite warm, the evening was cooling down and the breeze coming off the river at the beginning of the hike as quite refreshing. 

The hike to the Lower Emerald Pool was an easy hike, with a slight elevation change.  The views were amazing on the entire hike.  And the trail was not busy, only passing a few people while we were out there.   

We heard the water before we saw it.  Finally, we arrived.  It was so cool!  And not in a temperature kind of way.  Just beautiful.  The 2 waterfalls were small due to the dry summer, but there was water.  And we walked right under both.  That felt so nice!  We spent quite a bit of time in the area, enjoying the views, the sound of the water, and the time together.

Reluctantly we headed back to the lodge, we didn’t want to be out on the trail after sunset. 

And this is what we found when we arrived back at the lodge to order our takeout dinner from the restaurant.

It was not just dinner time for us.  These mule deer were having dinner.  At one point we counted 29 of them.  We enjoyed watching them as we waited for our food.  Quite a pleasant and unexpected gift!   

We went back down to the green lawn after dark to enjoy the night sky.  WOW!  It was so dark.  We could see thousands of stars, twinkling in the dark.  We marveled at the Milky Way and watched the International Space Station fly over our heads before returning to our room.  An amazing first day in the park.

The next morning, we boarded the open-air shuttle with the tickets we had purchased the night before.  I highly recommend this open-air shuttle.  It was slow, yes.  But our driver told us what we were seeing and some of the history of the park on our way to the Temple of Sinawava at the end of the road. 

The views were amazing from the shuttle.  And we could see the people at the top of Angel’s Landing as we drove past.  They must have gotten up really early to be at the top already. 

We arrived at the Temple of Sinawava and were quite surprised by how many people were there.  It was here, that those hiking the Narrows, started.  But the river having a dangerous bacteria in it and the vast warnings about the dangers, had us thinking it would not be crowded.  Boy were we wrong. 

We hiked the River Walk trail to the end, where the Narrows hike starts.  It was a beautiful hike.

Stunning views all around us.  We didn’t go fast, we wanted to enjoy the views.  And we were not getting in the river.  Not this trip anyway.  Despite the bacteria, most of those on this trail with us, were there to hike the Narrows. 

We really enjoyed the hike, even with our masks on.  After our hike, we had some time before the shuttle would be picking us up for our return to the lodge, so we found a spot next to the river to enjoy the view, have a snack and do some people watching. 

It was a beautiful spot.  And the other tourists were quite entertaining.

We then meandered across the road to a secluded spot on the river and enjoyed some quiet time, just the two of us and mother nature.  This was the BEST way to spend our morning.

We arrived back at the lodge at lunchtime and found a spot in the shade on the big grass lawn to eat our lunch.  My husband had planned everything perfectly and brought folding chairs and a small camp folding table for us.

We enjoyed the afternoon, there on the lawn.  We ate, we read, I wrote and we enjoyed a conversation with another couple.  It was so relaxing.  So peaceful.  Even with all the people roaming around.  I think we could have stayed there forever. 

We took a short walk that last evening and again enjoyed the mule deer having dinner on the grassy area and then the night sky after dark. 

Zion was everything we expected and SO MUCH more! 

We left the next morning, feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever craziness that 2020 would be throwing our way next. 

For the third time, we took the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway as we left the park.  And it was just as spectacular as we remembered. 

We made a couple of stops to enjoy the views as the sun came up.

Zion National Park is a spectacular park that offers many things for many people.  Yes, there are the big hikes, the ones that thrill seekers love.  But for those of us, who can’t do those hikes, for whatever reason, there are still hikes we can do.  The park offers hikes for all levels of ability.  And the views on the easy hikes are just as beautiful and amazing as the more strenuous hikes.  Different views, yes.  But no less impressive. 

If visiting Zion National Park is on your bucket list, but you wondered if it would be worth it if you couldn’t or wouldn’t hike to the top of Angel’s landing, I will tell you, Yes, it is worth it!  Our 2 short hikes made the trip worth it.  Sitting for a few hours on the big grassy area at the lodge made the trip worth it.  Watching the mule deer each evening made the trip worth it.  The spectacular view of the night sky made the trip worth it.  The time together, off the grid, made the trip worth it.

Our two days in Zion National Park left us renewed and rested.  And I couldn’t be happier that I took the leap, trusted my crazy husband and went on the trip.

Travel Thursday– Have Mask, Will Travel

When it comes to our travels, my husband is the planner, often planning our trips far in advance and planning all the details for each day.  Though he has also been known to plan a spur-of-the-moment short trip too.  We often joke he has a 5-year plan—for our lives and our trips.  And I love that about him.

I am the planner when it comes to prep for the trip and packing.  About a week prior to our trips, I write a packing list.  I add to it as I think of things I do not want to forget.  When our boys were young, my lists were long—what I needed, what each of them needed and the extras for the whole family.  My husband was on his own.  He could pack his own things and if he forgot something that was on him. 

Now that it is just the two of us, my packing list is 2 pages instead of 4. 

And yes, I cross each item off the list as I pack them.  And those things that cannot be packed until the morning of the trip, I just put a line next to them to remind me to pack them.  I check and double check my list as I pack and before we leave.  It works for me.

So when we planned to go see my sister and brother-in-law for a weekend, I started my list.  And then my husband added a couple of days at Zion National Park to our trip and my list got longer.  Now I had to pack bags just for my sister’s house and bags for Zion.  No problem! 

The usual things went on my list—clothes, snacks, drinks, shoes, toiletries, journal, camera, meds, etc. and then there were the extras…..

This is 2020 after all.  And travel is just a bit different.  It requires a little more planning.  And a few extra items.  So I added them to my list—a can of Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer wipes, hand sanitizer bottles, and masks–quite a few masks.  And fear was also packed for this trip.  How could it not be in this unprecedented time? 

Never would I have ever imagined I would need ALL of those.  I have always been careful in our travels.  But I have Never had to take all those items necessary to clean and sanitize things. 

But the items we needed to take with us were not the only way that travel had changed.  Our stops also changed.  We usually make quite a few pit-stops on our road trips.  This time they were more planned.  Safety and cleanliness were factors in deciding where and when to stop.  But also, what was opened was a factor in where and when to stop.  Some things are still closed. 

Short, quick, “run in” and “run out” stops were made.  No need to hang around and look at souvenirs or talk to strangers.  Just get in and then get out.  Had to limit exposure, just in case.  Very strange for us. 

And then there was the extra time it took just to get out of the car, making sure we had a mask and making sure we had sanitizer wipes to take with us.  I used those wipes when touching doors, faucets, walls… really anything that someone else had also touched.    

Masks were on whenever we stopped.  Of course, most places on our trip required masks to be worn, but not everyone adhered to that rule.  We did.  We had our masks on inside any building and when others were too close.  It was weird to see our society all masked up.  Hard to see someone smile at you.  Hard to connect with others or talk with strangers.  The masks are like a wall that we carry with us to keep us distant and disconnected.  It was very, very strange. 

Upon arriving at the lodge where we were staying in the park, the first thing we did was to wipe down ALL surfaces, ALL light switches, ALL faucets…… and so much more.  And then spray the whole space and all cloth covered items with the can of Lysol.  Doors opened to allow it to air out.  NEVER have I EVER done that on a trip.  (I know others do and I have mad respect for them!  I just never did anything close to this). 

Oh boy, travel was different. 

Despite the extra precautions, we had a great trip, and I will share the trip in another blog post. 

And we learned some things–

  • Time with family is necessary and healing. Of course, I always knew that, but in 2020, time with family has been even more important.
  • Masks are difficult when hiking, but necessary on very crowded trails. And on trails where there is the ability to keep that distance, removing the mask is quite refreshing! Ahhhh! Fresh Air!! Isn’t that what we want to breathe when spending time outdoors?!?

On the shuttle in Zion National Park

  • Masks keep the face warm when the morning is quite chilly and breezy! A HUGE plus!
  • If you look you really can see a person smile when all you can see is their eyes!
  • Fear does NOT have to hold us back. It is possible to travel safely, just differently and with a little more planning.
  • Even in these masked times, we found that while sitting on the big green lawn and by keeping distance between us, we could connect with strangers and enjoy a conversation. THAT was really good for us. I have really missed connecting with strangers and hearing their stories. The conversation we had over that hour and a half, with a couple from San Jose, was wonderful!

Yes, 2020 has been a difficult year. A different year. And what we have enjoyed in past years, has been a little harder to enjoy now. Even a little harder to find. This trip was much needed for us. A little time away. And time outdoors. So good for the soul.

I do not know what future travels hold for us or what they may look like.  But I do know that any future travels will find me making my packing list and then checking the items off as I pack!  Some things will never change!

Travel Thursday- A National Park, A Lodge and A Grill

After leaving the dramatic landscape of Goblin Valley we were off to spend the rest of the day and the next day exploring Capitol Reef National Park.  We had grand plans that we would be able to explore both Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  Well….. we ran out of time to see both.  Capitol Reef National Park was more spectacular than we had expected, making us spend more time there than planned….. but boy was it worth it!  And we still did not see all we had wanted to see.  I think we have finally come to that point in our lives of wanting to slow down a bit, and just take our time.  Even relax a little on these trips rather than go full steam, rushing to get it all done and exhausting ourselves in the process. 

We arrived at the park in late afternoon.  Driving into the park from the east was stunning to say the least.  This drive gave us a glimpse into the dramatic landscape of this National Park and made us want to get started immediately. 

We stopped at the Visitor Center first.  Always our first stop.  The view from the parking lot at the Visitor Center was AMAZING!!  The view teasing us, calling to us to explore. 

We got our maps, bought some souvenirs, and talked to the ranger.  My husband really wanted to see Cathedral Valley, but it had been raining before we arrived and more rain was on the way.  The ranger gave my husband instructions for getting out to Cathedral Valley and then warned us about the rain.  His last words to us were that if we were out there when the rain came we would have to be prepared… there was no cell service, no rangers roaming the road and it would be self-rescue.  Well, THAT made me nervous!  But NOT my husband.  We did ford the river (you can read my post on that here) and started on the dirt road to Cathedral Valley. Then the rain started really coming down!  We aborted our attempt for that afternoon.

After aborting our trip out to see Cathedral Valley, we decided to go get settled into the lodge where we would be staying for a couple of nights.  The Lodge at Red River Ranch met our expectations and surpassed them.  The lodge is west of Capitol Reef National Park and just west of the town of Torrey, Utah.  From the highway we could see a large log “home” with stunning red cliffs behind it and lush green fields where the buffalo roamed on the ranch land.  Oh, my heart was happy. 

We had reserved the Anasazi room, one of 15 unique rooms in the lodge.  There were no TV’s anywhere in the lodge and very little Wi-Fi.  Cell service was minimal too.  This was keeping us off grid!  We were delighted.  Our room was beautiful and cozy.  Perfect!  And the Great Room in the lodge was filled with books, games, and seating for guests to enjoy.  We hung out in the Great room, relaxing after our long day. 

After dinner, we roamed the land, walking along the river, watching the buffalo, and enjoying the quiet solitude we found.  The Lodge at Red River Ranch was the perfect place for us to get off the grid and just breathe!

After a peaceful night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast at the Lodge, we were off for our full day of exploring.  We headed first to Cathedral Valley.  (I wrote about Cathedral Valley here.  It is one of my favorite adventures!)  After the hours spent in Cathedral Valley we were pretty tired, so we decided to skip the big hikes we had planned.  We still wanted to see a little more of the park, though. 

On our way to the Scenic Drive, we stopped to see the Freemont Culture Petroglyphs.  It was a short, easy walk to see the Petroglyphs. 

Then a quick stop at the Visitor Center before driving down the Scenic Drive. 

The scenic drive was stunning!  Every curve in the road took us to a different view.  We stopped at every pullout to take in the view.  We were amazed by the colors.  We were in awe of the forces of nature that created the dramatic and diverse landscape. 

Stunning!  What else can I say?! 

At the end of the paved road we parked in the parking lot.  We could not drive any further as the dirt road beyond this point that would have taken us into the gorge was closed because of all of the rain. 

Here in the parking lot the view took my breath away.  And I felt so tiny here.  We enjoyed a bit of time here, just sitting and taking in the view. 

It was the 4th of July.  The birthday of our Country.  And we could not imagine a more spectacular place to celebrate, than here in Capitol Reef National Park.  We did not want to be anywhere else at that moment, on that day, celebrating our Great Nation.

We finally got back in our car and drove back toward the visitor center, making one last stop in the Fruita District.  There we found the campground, in an orchard.  We could see the apricots in the trees and on the ground. 

What a great place to camp.  In that moment we wanted our camper back.  We wanted to stay in the park, in the orchard, surrounded by all this beauty…. And the deer. 

Next to the campground we discovered the Gifford House.  The house sits on the historic Gifford Homestead.  We went inside the house and found a store, with unique gifts and delicious treats.  We bought a cinnamon roll and a piece of pie and took it outside to enjoy while watching deer roam through the orchards.  A perfect end to our long day exploring. 

The next morning, we packed up and headed home.  We left the lodge early so we could arrive at Hells Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, in time for them to open for breakfast.  We found out about the grill from an internet search for unique places to eat. 

The restaurant was founded by two women who grow their own food on their farm and source food locally.  The atmosphere was so peaceful.  And the food was delicious.  Our breakfast was the BEST breakfast we have every had, in all of our travels.  We cannot wait to go back and enjoy more meals at Hells Backbone Grill.  Maybe we will stay at the lodge next door on our next trip, while we explore the area around Boulder.

I miss traveling.  I miss getting out and exploring.  2020 has stopped our travels for now.  2020 has also made us rethink our future travels. We do hope to get out soon, at least for a short trip somewhere.  These memories of our trips have kept me going through these unprecedented times. I get to travel from the safety of my home– through our memories, through the pictures we took and the journals I wrote. 

Capitol Reef National Parks is one of those places we will go back to again.  We did not get to do everything.  We want to hike some of the trails.  We want to camp in the campground.  There is so much more to see in this park.  It is a little more out of the way than some of the other parks, but that means it is a little less crowded. 

Capitol Reef National Park is perfect for getting way off the grid and just breathe!  And we all need that once-in-awhile! 

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