When Murphy met Lusi Part 6: An Epic Adventure

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I am finally finishing my chronicle of my adventures in New Zealand. Some of them horrifying (like here and here) and some of them amazing and wonderful (like here and here)

Note: the second link of horrifying adventures is probably the piece of writing I am most proud of. If you haven’t read it and need a laugh…read it!

Our final adventure on our last full day was cave diving. Like, extreme caving. EXTREME!!! Now keep in mind that I was still bleeding a lot, and suffering from some pretty heavy blood loss the day before (again…need to read that link I already mentioned) so I was a little nervous about this. Why? Well, I was going to spend six hours in a wetsuit and rubber boots and a helmet, and then proceed to us a harness and some rope to lower myself down 100 meters into a cave, and then hike, crawl, climb, slither, and swim my way out. But I decided to go for it, because I would never have this opportunity again! First they had us practice and train with our equipment, and then they prepared to lower us down!

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Our equipment we used

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The view down into the cave from the top of where we were lowered.

When we got to the bottom, they had a picnic lunch we ate on the floor of the cave, and then we started hiking along. We ended up crawling through a sinkhole made by the river, scaled a 20 foot waterfall, swam through a small crack in the cave, shimmied through another crack, swam through a deep river, and all kinds of adventures. All the things you want to do in a cave but never get to (at least here in the US). All the while we were surrounded by beautiful glow worms (which we learned were actually pretty disgusting creatures with major cannibalistic tendencies…but I guess you can’t have everything).

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I made it down the “chimney”

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Crawling through the crack…in the river.

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At least this crack didn’t have a river…thus in my mind. I call it dry crack.

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Group photo under some of those beautiful (yet disgusting) glow worms.

When we made it out the cave entrance, we hiked back to the main building where they were grilling food for us. Steak, potatoes and all sorts of yumminess was waiting for us.

I would go back. Seriously, I would do that again if given the chance because it was amazing! It was the perfect way to end our vacation.

Another note: on the flight home we actually left the airport and hung out by the pool of a hotel across the street. The views were amazing, the drinks were amazing, and the food was amazing. A much better way to pass the time. So if you ever have a flight in Fiji, leave the airport. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY LEAVE THAT HORRIFYING SINKHOLE OF DEATH!!

Treasure these moments

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My mind has been a whirlwind of thoughts lately. Spending 80 hours driving in a car with three small ones probably didn’t help matters. But recently life seems to have been going in fast forward. I would just like to hit the pause button just for a minute. Just to take a moment to soak in these moments of my three little ones.

Now, here’s the thing. I get really irked when people tell me to treasure these moments before their gone. Wait, let me elaborate. I don’t dislike the advice, except it seems to be spouted to me at the worst times. No one says it to me when my kids are giggling and squealing as they tickle each other, or wrap their little arms around me to give me hugs and kisses. It is always at those difficult moments. I once had King Toot in full melt down mode punch Urpling in the head so that she started wailing…while I was in the check out line trying to pay for food and grab bags of stuff to put back in the cart. I gave an exasperated sigh and the little old lady waiting in line behind me told me to treasure these moments as they fly by. I promptly assured her that I did treasure moments with my kids…just not these moments. I stand by that. I’m no expert and my kids aren’t grown so I cannot say definitively, but I’m willing to go out on a limb with this and say certain moments will not be missed. Never peeing alone, trying to take a prison shower before Chernobyl erupts in the living room over a bent up card from a game we no longer have, cooking every night only to watch three little beings poke at it for an hour claiming to not be hungry even though just ten minutes earlier was pleading for gold fish or cookies because they were SOOOOOOOOOO hungry…these moments are not something I will cherish. I’m fairly certain that the passing of these moments, never to return, are the silver lining to help ease the pain of your children slowly growing more and more independent and needing us less and less (that and grand babies. I’m pretty sure grand babies are a good salve on the wound of our children leaving us. They are the rewards for putting our time in with our kids. Little ones to love and dote on, spoil and pamper, and then pass back to mom and dad at the end of the day. I do plan on cherishing those moments!)

These ponderings were prompted by my preparations for the coming school year. Our family has a fairly strict routine we follow. Why? Because the elaborate schedule gives me peace. Everything I need to get done in a week has a place. Since it has a place, I can let go of it and stop stressing over it the rest of the week. I digress. As I was reworking our schedule I had to adjust several things. For example, last year Sasquatch only went to half day kindergarten. So she was gone for the morning, but I got to keep her the rest of the time. But now she will be gone all day. Which really hit me when I realized that she wouldn’t need to help pick up each day…because she wouldn’t be there to make a mess. *insert a few tears and a small and delicate sniffle for dramatic effect.* No more elaborate forts. No more “decorations” to make the house pretty that consisted of whatever random toys she found coating every surface of every shelf and door knob and bed and chair. No more elaborate Calvin and Hobbes books that she drew for me. Okay, I know, she still will have the weekends and evenings to do these things but it’s a really big jump in my life. For 6 years it’s been just Sir Smiley, Me, and the kids. We occasionally made excursions into the real world but usually it was our own little world. We’ve slowly been losing that and this feels like the big moment, the end of an era. Sasquatch will be in children’s choir at church, and be with the big kids (at least they’re big in my mind), she’ll be eating multiple meals a week without me, and will be having all these experiences that have nothing to do with me.

A sudden desperation to squeeze in as much time with her as possible has seized me. She is, of course, excited to finally eat lunch at school with her friends. I’m, of course. worried that she won’t have friends, or someone will be mean to her and I won’t be there to talk her through it. I am not a worrier by nature. I don’t often cry. But this one really hit me. Kindergarten didn’t…but first grade has.

I have about two weeks to go treasure these moments…and I intend to do just that.

Love for Hire

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I took a very long trip a week or so ago. By long, I mean I drove over 5,000 miles, through 15 different states and back, with my three small children, in a tiny car, all by myself. Sir Smiley flew out to the ultimate destination for a few days and flew home. When I got back I experienced a drain that I have never experienced before. I’m an introvert who spent over two weeks with absolutely no time to myself. Add that to the fact that I had an ablation three days before I left means I was physically tapped out. I had no energy reserves…mentally, emotionally, or physically. The result was a very disconcerting week. I have always struggled with feelings of self doubt…but they always sit in the back, hidden. But I was faced with a situation that brought it glaringly to the surface. I was so exhausted that I was relying on my husband and others to do it all while I kept having to sit and rest. The kicker was there was no real medical condition, no surgery or illness, to justify my “laziness” (as in my mind that is how it felt).

I could no longer earn love. I had to just receive it.

I’ll let that sink in because I am betting that a lot more of us suffer from this than would care to admit. Those of us who keep a hidden tally, a mental scorecard, and make sure they’re always ahead. Who work so hard to keep others happy so that in the end any affection and love they receive they can be comfortable with…knowing that they deserve it.

But this is the complete opposite of what God wanted. So far from the truth. As Martin Luther put it, “The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”. I was falling prey to this sin. I had never felt so vulnerable when I realized how much I was motivated by this very wrong perception. I knew the truth in my head, but wasn’t following it with my heart.

And beyond earning my husband’s love, I wanted to earn God’s love. But to rely on my own actions and behaviors is an unstable place to rest. Every mistake, every moment of weakness is more crushing because I’m resting my worthiness on actions I can never fully live up to. In a way, I’m treating other people as though I have to buy their love in some way. Their love is for hire…and I want to be the highest bidder.

Of course, I didn’t see how much I was relying on myself and what I do to create my worth until I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t see because also thrown in the mix is my honest love for God, for my husband, for my kids, for my friends and family. In part, I do things for them because I love them. There is nothing wrong with that. I will continue to do things out of love for them. But I need to learn to accept their love. Not a love that is a response to what I’ve done…but a love that is a response to who I am. I can only accept love when I accept the truth. God loves me. He will not love me any less if I mess up. He will not love me more if I achieve some new level of greatness. He will feel pride and pleasure in my accomplishments, and will be my unwavering support when I fall. He does not love me because I am involved in my church. I could be a CEO (Christmas and Easter Only) Christian and he would love me the same. He does not love me more than others who “do” less. If I can truly learn to accept this truth, the more free I will become to love Him back…and other’s as well.

When Murphy met Lusi Part 5: Embracing the Geek

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So it’s only taking me months to finally get caught up on my blogs about my trip to New Zealand.
I left off with a good day of scuba diving (which was epic enough to make up for a damaged car and epic vomit). We started off the next day with an amazing breakfast:

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Then we headed south to Hobbiton. One thing you should know about me. I’m a huge geek. I already have my Dr. Who and Supernatural attire all picked out for comicon this year. I embrace the geek side of myself frequently and often. So to be able to go to Hobbiton was literally a dream come true…and this place was amazing! Because of the start of the cyclone, it was cloudy and misty. But no real rain, and because of this instead of a tour bus full of 60-70 people we only had 13 in our group! So I got pictures that were amazing….without having to push through crowds of people. Here are some of my favorites!

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Here I am at the entrance. I was just a tad bit excited…

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Here are some views of Hobbiton.

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Here I am in a hobbit hole. This one was scaled for actors playing actual hobbits.

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Here I am knocking on the door of another hobbit hole. This one was scaled for actors playing the “larger” humans.

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The infamous Bag End. Need I say more?

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The party tree and field where Bilbo had his party. To the left you can see the gate that Bilbo jumps over in the movie when he yells, “I’m going on an adventure!”

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Crossing the old stone bridge to go to the Green Dragon. We wee able to get a drink and some beef and ale pie inside!

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The old mill.

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Panorama from the front of the Green Dragon.

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Yes…I bought the sign!

We stayed that night in a wonderful bed and breakfast. It was called Lakeview Heights and the hosts were amazing and the accommodations were fabulous! At this point we didn’t see much of a view because of the cyclone and had to follow our alternate itinerary. We headed south for our Lord of the Rings tour (the one we almost missed…). Again, embracing my geek side we had an amazing full day tour! We got to see Weta Cave where they do all the effects for LOTR and The Hobbit movies as well as Iron Man 3, Avengers, Avatar, and other movies. It was an amazing place!

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About to head inside!

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The deta

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The detail on all their statues was amazing!

Then we visited some actual filming locations. We actually visited about 6 locations but I’m just including the ones where the pictures turned out the best.
First we have the scene where the hobbits have just taken a tumble and landed on the road. This scene here:

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…and this is what the site looks like now…you can still see the three trees that were behind the hobbits.

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Next up is that actual studios. The gate was actually open so I snapped a shot of the giant blue (now green) screen they used to film the marshes.

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Next we went to a park where they filmed Gandalf riding to visit Saruman.
Here is what it looked like in the film:

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Here it is in real life…you can see the shot was inverted so the tree on the left is on the right in the film and vice versa.

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Finally we saw the greenway where Gandalf and Saruman were taking a stroll together. Here is what it looked like in the film:

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Here is what it looked like in real life:

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It was a wonderful few days for a geek girl like me! The scenery was beautiful and the tour also included lunch and all kinds of interesting facts not only about the LOTR films but about Wellington as well. It was well worth the money if you are a big LOTR fan!

These were the amazing high points that accented the crazy and mortifying moments.

An Honest Mother’s Day

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It’s Mother’s Day. That day that honors mothers and the work we do. I love the idea. Motherhood is the most talked about calling. I can find hundreds of blogs, memes, internet threads, articles, trending hashtags, and any other media bit about motherhood. Yet it is also the most controversial.

I was pondering this today. I’ve read blog posts comforting mothers. Telling us it’s okay that we don’t have it all together. I’ve read posts commending mothers who haven’t caved to consumerism and instead stick to old fashioned ideals. I’ve even seen posts stating they refuse to celebrate Mother’s Day because mothers should be celebrated every day. Everyone looking to cleverly offer a new perspective on motherhood.

I am not that clever. Unlike Matt Walsh’s mom, I did take my kids to Disneyland. I do let my kids watch movies. I’m not perfect. I also wish I had clever words of comfort on this day of all days for all us hardworking mommas. For those of us who feel like we fail each day to be that perfect mommy we see plastered on our Facebook walls. But I have none.

All I have is a life lesson. I used to get my hopes up when Mother’s Day would approach. This day is MY day. It will be a day I get to do what I want and relax for a change. Each year would leave me disappointed. My husband didn’t do enough. My kids were naughty. Angels didn’t follow me singing a chorus of alleluia behind me. But I eventually learned that Mother’s Day works much better if I approach it the way I have learned to approach life. Prepare for (and then promptly discard) the disasters and enjoy the successes. Don’t know what I mean? Let me give you some examples:
I woke up at 5:45 am to get the grocery shopping done since our bare essentials were now non existent and I would have to resort to eating hamburger helper…without hamburger…and juice with a suspicious expiration date. Not exactly pampering. So I discard that…and remember that I also woke up to several notes taped all over the house:

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I also got to walk out to the car and get into it without negotiating three peace treaties and a cease fire…and I drove to the store without listening to Let it Go, the most ironically named song I’ve heard. Definitely something to enjoy.

Of course King Toot proceeded to smack me on the face when he was angry today…twice. The kids spent at least 90% of the morning shrieking, yelling, and tattling. I cried. Also, several preschool workers were unable to do nursery this morning so I spent much of the morning scrambling to get the nursery classes covered. I’ve discarded those moments…in favor of the moments where several people stepped up to help. I even got to attend service instead of working in the nursery myself.

My husband had to work on Mother’s Day so I have spent most of the day without him. But I choose to instead enjoy the fact that my sister, who has lived half a country away from me for several years, moved back to my city this week and we spent the afternoon together. Our kids played well together and it was a fun and (mostly) relaxing afternoon of conversation with my life-long best friend.

So yes, parts of the day sucked. There were some tears. There were moments where I felt I had failed. But there were beautiful moments filled with family and friends and selfless love. So I guess today is a pretty good representation of motherhood in general. There are moments of beauty. There are moments where you soar and you finally feel like maybe you’ve got it figured out. But there are also moments of failure and compromise. Those moments where you just hope to make it to the end of the day in one piece. We just need to choose where to focus. It’s Mother’s Day so I will focus on the positive…today and everyday.

Now excuse me, I must go feed my children cold cereal from a box while watching a movie because…Mother’s Day.

Some selfies with those little people who made me “Mom”

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Sasquatch…now six years old!

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My four year old Urpling

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The youngest little trouble maker…the two year old King Toot…

When Murphy met Lusi part 4: making L&P

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So, I have now shared with you the horrors of my trip to New Zealand and the process drained me to the point I could no longer type. Well, not really. I just had a lot of that stuff called life getting all up in my face and so I figured I should probably focus on that instead.
Anywho…
Sir Smiley promised to pop me some yummy pop corn but then got wrapped up in making himself a wallet from leather he bought (to replace the one he lost…) and is right now pounding divots into the belt he also just made himself.

I digress. I started to ponder the fact that since my trip I have only shared the horrors. I am putting a black mark on New Zealand’s name! It must be redeemed! So, I wanted to briefly share with you some of the joys of our trip. I will start with scuba diving. Yes, I did puke all over myself and damage the car getting there. But none of that was the fault of Dive Tutukaka…our dive company. They did a fantastic job, despite the weather and the experience was fantastic. We saw nudibranchs, scorpion fish, moray eels….and a bazillion fish. We swam into a cave, and even drove the boat into the larges marine cave in the world. Here were some pics of our adventures that day:

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Sir Smiley meets a new friend..

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…and then he met even more!

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A yellow moray eel

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The smaller cave we found to explore.

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Sir Smiley playing in the sea weed.

This more than made up for the vomit. I will share more joyous fun later. But Sir Smiley has adjusted his new leather belt so I will leave you now to eat homemade popcorn. Yum!

When Murphy met Lusi Part 3: Chasing Lusi

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Here is part three of my horrifying trilogy. This is the link to the backstory of this trip…and here is the link to the first few days of our trip. There…all up to speed? Good!

Day 3 was relatively uneventful (at least in any bad ways). It was our first good day, despite the beginnings of Lusi. She had started at the North and worked her way south. We also were slowly working south…but at this point we were managing to stay just ahead of her. We only experienced brief bouts of light rain and some gusts of wind that were impressive but not shocking. I will revisit this much more pleasant day later when I start to expound on all the amazing and wondrous things we experienced on this vacation (it really wasn’t all horrifying). The only truly bad thing was when we got to our bed and breakfast, Lusi finally caught up to us and while feeling more of her force, we get a message from the next dive center that our dive was cancelled due to the cyclone. So diving an active volcano was kaboshed.


Supernatural reference…it was a tragic moment…

But otherwise it was the end a much more pleasant day 3.

Day 4 dawns with us still in the midst of Lusi. We begin our alternate itinerary and head south six hours to Wellington for a Lord of the Rings tour. It was another fairly pleasant day and we were beginning to feel fairly optimistic. By the time we get to Wellington, the skies were clearing and so we decided we would FINALLY be able to camp! We have terrible directions from their website and by the time we find the campsite, it’s 7:45. It closes at 8, we’re 20 minutes from the closest civilization, and we haven’t eaten dinner. You see the problem. So we dine on Cliff bars and Stinger Waffles for dinner and then go to set up camp. But of course since Mr. Murphy was involved in this vacation, Lusi returns in full force. We find a little alcove sheltered from the wind on three sides and set up camp. We use the car to try and protect us even more.

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Our cozy campsite.

We settle in and about a quarter of the way into the night I wake up to gale force winds whipping at our tent…and half the tent collapsing on us. I panic and look at Sir Smiley who is literally holding the tent up with both arms and yelling at me, “Don’t worry! I got it! I got it!”. He manages to bend the tent poles back and the rest of the night we survived without trauma…although I didn’t sleep much. You could hear the 50mph winds sweeping across the canyon before it would even reach us and the roar of the trees whipping around above us.

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End day 4.

The wind calms by morning and we have a dry tent when we wake up. We quickly take down camp and head into town. We obviously know little about New Zealand as we thought Wellington was like the other towns we had been to. But this is no town…it’s city…a capital city…with rush hour and traffic. We go to the i-site (their form of a visitor’s center) to meet with the bus for our Lord of the Rings tour. I assumed there would be parking…there was not. We find a parking ramp…it’s closed for construction. This city is a tangled web of one-ways and curvy roads so we loop around and around and around…and ultimately find a place to park that’s about half a mile away. I quickly pay for parking, put the receipt in the dash and we run. We make it there and head inside only to find out we had literally just missed the bus. I was on the verge of a full-fledged panic attack as I had spent over $300 on this tour and we had driven 6 hours to get here and we had just missed it.

Sheldon hyperventilating Big Bang Theory

But the information desk ladies kindly gave me the company’s number and when I called them, they let me know that the driver had just gone to pick someone else up and then was coming right back. So she picks us up and we enjoy a lovely day…fully embracing my geek side. But, of course, when we got back to our car we discover a parking ticket. Sir Smiley had left the window’s cracked and apparently our receipt had flipped upside down. Awesome. We then camped that night. By now it was dry and pleasant and we again began to have hope for the last part of our vacation. This hope would soon die.

End of day 5

Warning: here we enter the shocking and most horrifying day of all. Day 6 should really be named day 666 for the evil nature of it. It begins well. We wake up refreshed, have a lovely breakfast, and then head out for a long day of hiking. We were headed Tongoriro Crossing. Information about the trek can be found here. It’s about 19km long and probably climbs 1000 feet up. We park at the finish and then catch a shuttle to the start. We arrive at the same time as 2 tour buses full of high school boys. We walk very slowly to let the herds and herds of loud boys go past us so we could enjoy some solitude and peace on this hike. We then catch up to them when they take a break by the “bathrooms” (port-a-potties) so we take a little side trail until they leave.

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The herd of boys that kept us company during our hike…

Then we begin the long trek pretty much straight up a volcano.

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This sign greeted us at the start…we should have listened…

For three hours we hike up and up and up and up. We were a little disappointed because clouds had settled on this volcano so we saw pretty much nothing. We were going so high that I’m sure the views would have been amazing…if we could have actually seen them. But we enjoy the mysteriousness of this land shrouded in mist where they had filmed Mordor. We finally reach the summit and pause to grab a quick bite to eat and enjoy the view…..*hysterical laughter

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The “view”…

Then we begin our trek downhill from there…relieved to be done with the steep climbs up. The trek down is on deep sandy gravel. I really was more downhill skiing then hiking.

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A shot of the trail down…where it ALL went down…

A few yards down and I start to feel something. You ladies know this feeling. I had a pad on just in case but hadn’t actually been having a period…but here it started and it was very heavy. I nab Sir Smiley and drag him away from the adolescent males and warn him we shouldn’t pause or take breaks because I was bleeding now and the next bathroom was an hour and a half hike away from where we were. So we start hiking/skiing more briskly when a few minutes later I feel massive clots of blood exiting. Probably about three of them. Now I’m starting to feel a bit panicked. Would I make it to the bathroom? The answer came right then…something very solid slowly began working its way out of me. I truly was freaked out now. Did I somehow manage to get pregnant and now was losing a baby? No…highly illogical as I had a tubal and an IUD. A was it a cyst or something that had broken loose and worked it’s way out? Possibly. At this point I again grab Sir Smiley and simply say in a freaked out voice, “Something solid is coming out!”. He just stares at me, undoubtedly trying to figure out how best to react. I was informed later he wanted to rant about the absurdity of this all and this vacation but knew I was so freaked out that it wouldn’t have been a good idea. So he then points to a large rock just off the trail…right on the edge of the abyss. “Want to go behind that to figure out what’s going on?”. Did I want to to disrobe and examine myself on the edge of a cliff when I have questionable balance and coordination? No way I was going to risk a half naked death for this, so we hiked a few minutes down to the emerald pools and find an alcove of rocks. I then proceed to strip from the waste down and Sir Smiley gives me some toilet paper he has in his bag (for emergencies) so I can clean up a bit. That’s when we discover that I had given birth to my IUD on the side of a volcano. Of course. Sure, it’s supposed to last for five years and then be removed by a physician but mine decides to just mosey on out when I’m miles and hours away from any type of civilization…on the side of an active volcano…surrounded by teenage boys…armed with one spare pad.

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My brand new “baby” I gave birth to…

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The Bloody Rocks as we now call them…my impromptu dressing room…

I clean up, we put the “biohazard waste” into an empty juice box container and then continue our trek. I was feeling hopeful that the worst was over. But then…of course…proceeded to bleed clot after clot after clot. We get to the bathrooms and Sir Smiley gives me a handkerchief to use, as my womanly supplies had now run out. So girded like it was the 1930s, I then begin the long trek back to the car…another 2-2.5 hours from that rest stop. Still bleeding large quantities of blood, it starts pouring rain. I start sobbing about how I’m now wet in places where the rain can’t reach and how I was wet everywhere else from the rain. I wail about how there is no redeeming quality of this day and I deserve to be miserable. I finally whimper that Mount Doom was so aptly named. At this point it occurs to Sir Smiley that the prospect of camping that night at a campsite with no showers or running water was probably distressing me then assures me we will get a hotel. In┬árelief I just sob and say, “Good, because I need a shower so bad!”

Mount Doom

I want to make this into a shirt…no one needs to know that’s not really lava flowing down the volcano…

We get down the mountain and then have to hike another hour through woods before we even reach the parking lot. We make it to the end and snap a picture of victory. Only then we notice that this was not our parking lot. We apparently have to hike another mile or two down the road to get to our car.
We make it to the car, I grab a towel and sit on it, and we head for the nearest town. I grab some clean clothes and go to clean up in a gas station…as by this time I “looked like I had slaughtered a chicken in my lap” (Sir Smiley’s words…not mine). I had some fish and chips to cheer me up and then we proceeded to find a hotel.

I did bleed a lot over the next several days and by the time I got home I struggled a lot with feelings of lethargy and fatigue. Undoubtedly I was a tad bit anemic… added to the joys of jet lag.

The only other adventure after that was when we checked into our final hotel. We got there only to discover they had no parking left so we had to park a couple blocks away and then haul our bags from there. Also, our hotel room was on the third floor which did not have an elevator straight through. We took one elevator to the second floor, then had to walk across the hotel to the other side and took another elevator to the third. The second elevator squealed and jerked like it may plummet at any moment. By this point I felt any paranoia was highly justified. I’m only grateful there were no stairs. When we got to our room, we discovered there was no AC so we opened the windows and fell asleep to the hot air oppressing us and the serene sounds of drunk people, sirens, and garbage trucks.

Overall, our vacation was an adventure. There were definitely some horrifying moments that never had entered my brain even remotely in the realm of possibilities. But there were amazing sights and adventures that brought us great joy. I will begin with those tomorrow.

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