Monthly Archives: July 2012

Emotional Preparations

I just returned from a weekend business trip and when I walked into the door, Hannah and Evan attacked me with their hugs and kisses.  “Mommy!!!!!  We missed you so much!!”  I missed them, too.  One of the hardest things about this Africa trip is being away from my 5 and 8 year old for 19 days.  It was the single most issue of telling Jeff that I would follow him on his dream climb in which he refused to do without me.  Here I was presented with an opportunity to go on an amazing adventure with the love of my life (my hubby, Jeff) where the only guide that I would allow to take me up the mountain (Jeff Evans) may be doing his last expedition ever up Kilimanjaro at a designated time that happened to fall within the time our son (Evan) will be starting kindergarten.  Yes, we will miss Evan’s first day of kindergarten.  If I did a poll, I would probably find that most moms would say NO to this scenario.  But I said yes.  Does that make me Mom of the Year?  It’s definitely a matter of opinion, and I am still dealing with my own emotions around my decision, to be completely honest.

Hannah and Evan are my world.  Until you become a parent, you have no idea you have the capacity to love as much as you do your children.  I wake up looking forward to their morning kisses, and I put them to bed with their special gentle touches.  For Evan, it’s “rub backs.”  And for Hannah, it’s very light touches with my fingertips across her face.  We are so deeply bonded together, and I am so blessed to be their mother.

But I must remember that our children will only be with us for about 17-18 years, and I plan on being with Jeff forever.  We are tasked to raise these special little people with lots of godly love and direction so they can eventually do life on their own successfully.  Jeff and I invest in our relationship with each other in part for the sake of our chidren.  We know that we can be much better parents when we are united, and our relationship remains close.  Our children know that their mommy and daddy are very much in love, and we tell them often that moms and dads must have their own time together.  As I look at all the purposeful time we spend with each of our kids, I ultimately believe this will be looked back on as a blip of time in their lives.  Besides, being away allows Hannah and Evan to spend very special time with their grandparents.  My mom lives in Richmond, Virginia and she will be spending the first 11 days with them which will allow her to keep that close bond with them alive even though she lives in another state.  My sister, brother-in-law and their children will be visiting while we are gone so there will be plenty of family surrounding them.  Jeff’s dad will take over the last 8 days, which will include their first days beginning school.  We are doing everything we can to set-up the technology that will enable us to stay in regular touch with them, and we will have daily notes that will be written in advance so they feel loved and remembered the whole time we are gone.

But don’t get me wrong.  It will be very hard for both Jeff and I to be away from Hannah and Evan.  We will need to encourage each other each day that we are gone.  And we are planning some very special time with them when we return.

I am also having to face another very emotional preparation before we depart and this is very personal.  Maybe this is a common fear of mothers and fathers; I don’t know.  But I have this fear of dying before I get the opportunity to see my kids grow up and start a life of their own.  It’s not necessarily the fear of dying – because I am sure of where I am going – but it’s the missed opportunities.  Watching my children grow up and start a family of their own is something I look so forward to in the future.  It’s the premier blessing of parenthood!  But ultimately, I know the good Lord is in control and nothing happens outside of His will.  But it’s still a fear that I must pray about even in my regular life.  And now I have to face that fear head on.

In preparation for this trip, we must have our Living Wills in place.  You would think that we would have already done them being that we have 2 children.  But it’s something I have personally avoided due to the emotional aspects of it all, and not wanting to even go there.  So we have started having conversations with those that we would want to adopt our children, and we will complete the Will in the coming days.  It must be done. Image

I said from the beginning that the physical challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro was not going to be the fear of mine.  It’s all of this — but I have never allowed fear to stop me from living life to its fullest.

With the Colorado massacre that just occured in Aurora, we are reminded that none of us have to travel far to expose ourselves to a situation that could end your life.  It could be at a movie theatre for goodness sakes!  Jessica Ghawi escaped a shooting just a month before she was killed in that theatre.  After the first incident and before she died, she said on her blog, “I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”

So we live life now.  Do not let fears keep you from doing those things that you really want to do while you still can.  Jeff and I are 41 years old and are in good shape now to do this trip.  As we have talked to so many people about our climb, we have encountered way to many people that say they would never do what we are doing.  I would encourage everyone to re-think that thing you are not doing because of fear.  If fear is the only thing holding you back, do it anyway.  What a great thing to teach our children by doing it ourselves.

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Pre-climb training in Colorado

We just returned from a pre-Kili climbing in Colorado to play around at altitude and see how our physical training has improved our stamina.  It felt amazing to be in the mountains!  We truly are a mountain family at heart, and one day we’ll live closer to our heart’s desire.

We eased ourselves into altitude.  After all, we were coming from Dallas which was at sea level.  Denver is at about 5300 feet and our friends home in Westminster where we stayed was around 6100 feet.  The day after our arrival, we ventured up Mount Evans, which involved one of the only vehicle drives up to 14,000 feet.  North America’s highest paved road took us all the way up to a parking lot just a couple thousand feet short of the summit.  From there, we did a very short climb to get to the most breathtaking views!

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Our 5 year old son Evan climbed what he claimed was his mountain — Mount Evans.  Our 8 year old daughter Hannah got a headache at about 13,000 feet and it got worse once we got to the parking lot just short of the summit.  I stayed with her while the group climbed to the top.  Our friends were nice enough to bring the kids down while Jeff came back up to the top so we could admire the gorgeous summit together.

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Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great in the Rockies while we were there.  Our first minor climb was up Chief Mountain with the kids.  It was a nice 1000 foot gain in altitude, and just as we got close to the summit the thunder claps immediately degraded our kid’s confidence on their first Colorado climb.  I had just gotten above tree line and had the summit in my sights when Jeff told me to get down quickly.  Oh, what a view.  And I was so close!  You can see the bad weather behind me.

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Hannah was so freaked out by the thunder and lightning – which then was followed by rain – that she screamed the whole way down, “I don’t want to die!  I don’t want to die!”  I had that Momma Bear feeling of needing to get my cubs down as soon as possible.  And we did.  By the time we got down, the bad weather had stopped.  That’s the mountains for ya!

The real climb that we had planned was Mount Massive.  Jeff figured that this climb would be fairly close to the last day up Kilimanjaro, so it would test our ability to climb at steep incline with similar terrain.  We set up our camp at Turquoise Lake, which provided us a phenomenal view of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert.

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The rain began to fall when we were setting up the tent.  It’s hard to know how long rain will last in the mountains.  As it turned out, we ended up experiencing an entire night of rainfall.  The tent leaked with water, which made for a very interesting night!  As we laid there, Jeff decided that Mount Massive may not be the best option for us.  A very steep incline combined with wet rocky ground made for a more dangerous effort than we wanted to attempt.  So, we decided to go up Mount Elbert.  Jeff and Kurt had already summited Mount Elbert a few years back, so we chose a different route to change things up for them.

The morning started out pretty clear.  What threw us off was the bad night’s sleep, which resulted in a slower start than anticipated.  Everything was soaked.  We made the mistake of going to a local diner in Leadville to have breakfast.  Although the food was great for our energy need to climb, it delayed our start even more.  We set out onto the trail up Mount Elbert just before 9 am.  This late start would prove to come back to haunt us later in the day.

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It was a beautiful trail with a nice, gradual incline.  Our dear friend Chrisie, who is also going to climb Kilimanjaro was with us on this climb along with our friend Kurt.  Chrisie did a stellar job, but it was a really big challenge for her.  We all supported Chrisie as she had to stop frequently to catch her breath.  We soon realized that if Jeff and I were going to summit, we were gonna have to climb ahead and keep in touch with Kurt and Chrisie via radio.  Kurt, an avid mountain dude, volunteered to stay back with Chrisie.  So, we climbed ahead.  I got some amazing photos above tree line.

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Jeff and I were climbing at a pretty good pace when the thunder started around 14,000 feet.  Jeff immediately says, “I do not like the sound of that at all.”  We continued to climb.  The second clap of thunder happened about 10-15 minutes later, which made us think the weather was far enough away to continue climbing upward.  We got about 200 feet from the summit of Mount Elbert when we passed a man and his teenage son coming down from the top.  They told us that the entire summit was “electric” and that their hair was standing straight up while they were up there!  Jeff immediately said, “That’s it,  We’re going down!”  We did an about face and started our quick trek back down to tree line.

The weather got worse and worse.  Suddenly, I found myself trying my best not to panic.  You do NOT want to be up above tree line when there is lightning.  You have no safe place to go.  The conduction of electricity will get to anything that touching the ground.  We get to an area of the trail where it is briefly level instead of going straight down.  Jeff yells from behind me, “Run the straight aways!”  So I began to run, trying not to panic.  All of a sudden, I hear Jeff yell, “NO!!”  I turn around and he is airborn.  He twists his left ankle on the way down and lands chest down with his hand cocked in the wrong way.  He broke one of his fingers.

So here we were, at 14,000 feet.  Jeff has a twisted ankle and a broken finger and the weather is very threatening.  We are about 3,000 feet north of tree line with the steepest decline before we are struck off the mountain.  I have to tell ya, I was really torn between my concern for Jeff and my desire to get down to tree line!!  I began to run ahead of Jeff, but didn’t go so far that I didn’t have him in my sights behind me.  If he were to fall again, he would surely incapable of getting down alone.  Jeff was a trooper; he limped down and was actually passing able-bodied people along the way.  His ankle was severely swollen.

I am happy to report that we got down to tree line, and also the rest of the way down without being struck by lightning.  But what an adventure we had these last 24 hours of camping in the rain and then dealing with bad weather so high up on Mount Elbert.  We were super bummed to be so close to the summit (we got to about 14,200 feet and the summit was about 14,400) and not to have gotten there.  But I think we made the right decision turning back.  Jeff’s sprained ankle is doing better everyday, and his finger is slowly healing.

What did we learn?  We learned that it’s all about the experience.  Jeff and I had such a fun time together, and had a blast with our friends.  The ride out to Leadville was filled with lots of jokes and laughter.  Our dinner was followed by a crazy search for bears out at the local dump.  We saw a black bear there!  And we had such a fun time playing cards in the tent before going to sleep.  We were reminded that regardless of how we do on the great mountain of Kilimanjaro, we are sure to have fun.  We look forward to building great memories that will last a lifetime, and that’s what it’s all about.

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