Climbing Trail Mix – Angela’s Concoctions

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Lately, I have been reading a lot about high altitude nutrition.  This was certainly not part of my formal nutrition education required as a registered dietitian.  After all, it is a very specialized area of nutrition that only applies to a relatively small subset of people that climb at high altitudes; so it is not required as part of our core curriculum.  But it’s been interesting.  I was not surprised to learn that our bodies utilize even more energy from carbohydrates at higher altitude.  Endurance activities usually prefer that macronutrient, but at high altitude, carbs are even more important.  Digestion really slows down the higher up you go, so the carbs need to be easy to digest – more simple and low in fiber.  On the climbing forums, I read that most seasoned climbers just recommend that you eat what tastes good.  The higher you get, the more it affects your appetite.  So you need to eat what tastes good.  Eat what you can get down for much needed energy.

So the question is what should I include in our trail mix?  I guess I will include the food that we enjoy at sea level in the right carb-fat-protein combinations.  I’ll be honest.  I went to the health food store and did not like the granola in the bins.  There were primarily made up of only rolled oats and I have been enjoying mixes that are pre-packaged without preservatives or additives.  The one I like the most is KIND brand’s Maple Walnut Clusters with Chia & Quinoa.  The granola mix is actually a combination of gluten free oats, brown rice amaranth, millet, quinoa and buckwheat.  It’s got a very nice flavor.  The other packaged granola I enjoy is the Bear Naked Fit Vanilla Almond Crunch.  I thought about making my own granola, but with so much to do before departure next week I decided to save time and just use these two that I already like.

I decided to put 2 different trail mix formulations together.  One that includes a bit more nuts/seeds and whole grains for the lower altitudes (up to 14,000 feet) and one that is primarily a combination of simpler carbohydrate for the higher altitudes (14,000+ feet).

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Trail Mix up to 14,000 Feet

4 cups granola
1 ½ cups dried fruit (combination of dried apricots, mixed berries, raisins and cranberries)
1 cup mixed nuts (combination of roasted/salted almonds and cashews)
1 cup salted edamame

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Trail Mix >14,000 Feet

2 cups pretzel sticks, broken
1 cup granola
1 cup dried pineapple
½ cup dried berries
½ cup raisins

We are in the last push to leave town.  One week until departure!  Please pray for us as we prepare for our parents to care for our children and home while we are gone, and that we remember to pack everything we will need for 19 days.  And that we keep excitement our primary emotion – not fear!

We plan on blogging during travel over and while we are there, God willing that the technology we set-up in advance cooperates.  Hope you’ll join us virtually on this adventure.  After the Kilimanjaro climb, we hope you also are interested in our posts afterward on our 6-day safari.  We hope to post some awesome pictures for you to enjoy in the Serengeti-Mara of the Great Migration.

By the way, there is still time to donate to our fundraising efforts to raise money for the people of Africa! Be a blessing to a family in need.  By donating to the food and agriculture fund through World Vision, you will provide tangible contributions to help families make cultivate food on their own.  Now that’s sustainable.  God Bless you in advance for partnering with us in these efforts.  Go to our fundraising page here.

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What Does It Take to Climb Kilimanjaro?

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We’ve talked about building mental and physical strength, but there’s a larger than expected amount of gear aka “kit” that’s required in order to be able to physically perform in the various environments plus some other items that serve no purpose other than to increase one’s comfort level.  Let’s face it, we all like being comfortable, particularly when we can find someone else who wants to bear the weight.  In Tanzania, it’s against the law to climb Kilimanjaro without the use of guides and porters, so being the law abiding citizen that I am coupled with the fact that I’m providing a job for someone, I’m happy to only have to carry a 20ish pound day pack myself.

So what goes into the day pack?  -Only whatever I’ll need for that day.  2-3 liters of water, snacks, camera, rain jacket and pants, an additional layer in case it gets cold, sunglasses, a change of socks, and of course anything I couldn’t live without if it got lost/dropped/wet (passport, cash, small electronics, journal, the American Express card – I never leave home without it).  Doesn’t sound too bad; hmm, wonder if I should get paid for product placements?

So what do the porters carry?  -Everything else.  Several of them will be tasked with hauling the group stuff – food, cooking equipment and dining utensils, a mess tent, tents for all of the trekkers, a bathroom tent (after hearing the hold-your-nose stories of the public long-drop outhouses this is awesome!), plus the medical and safety supplies.

Another porter will be tasked with carrying my personal stuff, and honestly I’m glad they are limited to 33 lbs / 15 kg (I don’t want anyone to get hurt).  This includes my sleeping kit (bag, liner, mattresses – my super smart and savvy guide recommended bringing two), toiletries, extra clothes, cold weather gear, extra snacks, a full-sized cardboard cutout of an angry lion (which makes for a great gag when you place it in front of someone’s tent for them to wake up to), replacement batteries, and anything I don’t want/need to carry myself that day.

Wow, it doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, once you multiply it by two of us, start resourcing it, and then figure out how to fit it into luggage to bring overseas, it adds up quickly.  Of course we still need to leave room for safari items plus the gifts we’re bringing for our guides and for World Vision.  If anyone is reading along with the purpose of planning their own trip, I have the list of items (mostly populated with brand names and weight) that we’re bringing along in a spreadsheet – just let me know, and I can send it to you.

Hakuna Matata

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.

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.

Kili-what?

Mount Kilimanjaro from space

Caused by a mixture of others’ curiosity and our own excitement, Angela and I are being asked multiple times a day about our Kilimanjaro climb. With questions ranging from “What route are you doing?” to “What’s a Kilimanjaro” to “Why is it called Kill A Man?” everyone seems to understand a little more or less about the mountain. While Angela and I have posted a bit about ourselves and our training, we’ve never posted anything about the mountain itself. So, consider this our attempt at answering some of these questions.

Used as a backdrop in many of the movies about Africa (Lion King, Madagascar, etc) Mount Kilimanjaro is an iconic mountain that represents Africa in a way that no other landmark represents any other place on the planet. A place that holds romantic mystery in the way a brilliant sunset captures our hearts. Being a dormant stratovolcano, it stands almost completely alone, rising from an altitude of just 2,609 feet in the nearby town of Moshi, Tanzania (East Africa) to its summit at 19,341 feet above sea level. Our journey embarks at the Machame Gate, which has an altitude of 5,363′ and we’ll spend the following week walking uphill to reach the rim on top of the nearly 1 mile wide crater. During that week, we’ll travel through five distinctly different climatalogical zones, see a diversity of plantlife that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world, be captivated by a million stars in the night sky, touch the disappearing ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’, and see more of the Earth’s surface at one glance than anywhere else on the planet. And the best part is, our experience will be painted by guides and porters born and raised in an environment completely different than anything we’ve ever imagined.

Back in the 1880’s, Kilimanjaro’s summit was entirely covered in ice with glaciers cascading down the slopes. The approximately 1,300 foot deep outer caldera was completely filled with snow and ice with the exception of the innermost Reusch Crater, which is heated by active fumeroles slowly releasing volcanic gasses from the magma resting some 1,400 feet below. Scientists estimate the volcano’s age at 1 million years, with the last major eruption occurring 360,000 years ago, and the most recent activity more than 200 years ago. Since 1912, more than 80% of this ice has disappeared and Kilimanjaro will likely be free of persistent ice sometime between 2022 and 2033. Our route will take us close enough to touch one of these famous glaciers.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ll be starting at the Machame Gate with temperatures likely in the high 80s or 90s, will follow the Machame Route up across the Shira Plateau for the first several days before our trail diverges to the east to the Arrow Glacier Camp the day before our summit attempt. The Arrow Glacier Camp positions us for an assault up through the Western Breach, a spot where the outer crater wall has collapsed. This route allows easier access to the glaciers on the inside of the caldera and finally climbs up the inside of the crater wall to the high point, Uhuru (which means freedom). Temperatures on summit day typically range around 15 degrees, but can feel much less depending on wind chill factor. These cooler temperatures are one of Angela’s biggest worries. That day begins around 2:00 in the morning with the hopes of reaching the summit right around sunrise, and after taking a few pictures will end after decending almost all the way back down the mountain around 4-5:00 that afternoon. Of all the routes on Kilimanjaro, this one is known as one of the more difficult and potentially dangerous on the mountain.

Depsite the question, the mountain never killed a man named Jaro. The most likely translation comes from the ancient Swahili words ‘kilima’ and ‘njaro’, which means “shining hill”. Angela and I can hardly wait to see this shining hill for ourselves, to walk up its slopes, and touch the roof of Africa.

62 Days Left Until Departure!

Here is the exercise we typically start out with on Saturday mornings. Three sets of 30 to “activate” the heart and muscles, as Brad would say.

The reality is setting in.  We’re going to Africa!!!!!  And we’re gonna climb a really BIG mountain!!!!  Those are the thoughts that cycle through my head pretty regularly these days.  It’s no longer a trip far off in the distance.  With 62 days left until departure, it’s safe to say that its fine time to kick our training into full gear.  We hired an awesome trainer to help us get as ready as we can – Brad Patke with Texas Family Fitness.  He developed a challenging plyometrics routine for us that works every muscle in our bodies.  This once a week training is combined with 2 days of strength training and most days of some type of cardio like running and Precor AMT (adaptive motion trainer) throughout the week.  We’re feeling good!

For those of you who don’t know what plyometrics is, you are not alone.  As I researched this exercise, I learned that we really aren’t doing the true plyometrics that was originally coined by a former US Olympic long distance runner named Fred Wilt and created by Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky.  It looks like what most people refer to as plyometrics is really a varying combination of exercises that use your own body or low weights to build strength, agility and stamina.  That’s basically what we’re doing.

Me on my favorite cardio machine in the gym – the Precor AMT (adaptive motion trainer).

Our awesome expedition leader, Jeff Evans, has decided to take us up the most challenging route.  He believes our group can do it.  It’s the Western Breach, and yes, it’s the route that killed 3 climbers back in 2006.  The route was shut down for awhile, but is back up again.  Jeff tells us that the route is very safe, is more fun and much less travelled.  But it will take some Class 3 and Class 4 scrambles to get up that way.  Although I am very nervous, I trust our guide.  If you check out the experience of Jeff Evans, you would trust him, too.  His best friend is blind and he helped him summit Mount Everest.

We recently read up on an American climber’s very detailed experience up the Western Breach in 2010 on his blog entitled, “It’s in Africa You Know.”  Check out his climb account, especially Days 7 and 8.  Those were the two days that inspired me to ramp up my physical training exercises!  Although at the end of the day, altitude may be the thing that keeps me from summiting.  They say that the physical training can help reduce AMS (acute mountain sickness) somewhat, but genetics is a big contributor as well.  There are plenty of well-trained people that hit a wall at a certain altitude.  So we do what we can to train and then get up there and see how our bodies do!

It’s about time to play in the mountains.  We leave July 3rd to do a couple climbs in the Denver area.  We look forward to posting a trip report and pictures when we return.  Stay tuned!

Real Mental Toughness

Over the previous year and a half, I’ve lost both my mother and grandfather to cancer.  I’m not sure yet what kind of mental toughness it takes to climb Kilimanjaro, but I know what it feels like to lose someone you love.  Angela’s and my season of loss has thankfully come to an end, and I believe we’ve entered a season of blessing, or put another way, our hearts have been changed significantly enough to see the blessings inside the pain.

For a number of reasons, we decided this was the right time in the real estate market cycle to take a risk.  Like many others over the last several years, we’d put off major purchases like buying a new home in order to be more financially conservative after the 2008 crash and subsequent “great recession” that’s still going 3½ years later.  We had a plan to put our home for the past decade on the market the first weekend of May, let it sell and then find a new house.  Sounded like a good sensible plan, but that’s not the way things happened.

After having our hardwood floors refinished and hand scraped as the first major step of our make-ready, we had planned to be out of the house at our kids’ soccer games all day on a Saturday in mid-March.  Unfortunately my son’s afternoon game was rained out, and the smell of the” water-based” floor sealant was far too overpowering to be at home.  So we decided to drive around looking at neighborhoods and stumbled upon an open house sign in a yard.

The previous day, Angela had made a list of her top three homes she wanted to take a look at, and this particular home was on her list.  Most real estate agents will tell you everyone makes a decision to buy a home within the first few seconds of opening the front door.   I’d always thought of myself as unique and as the exception to the rule, but not in this case – Angela and I fell in love with it the moment we walked in from the rain.  The agent conducting the open house informed us that the house had just fallen out of contract the previous day, and because it was a foreclosure wasn’t expected to last long on the market again.  While the house was exactly what we were looking for, Angela’s and my biggest concern with purchasing a foreclosure was what happened to the family that used to live there.  Emotionally, we didn’t want to benefit at the expense of someone else, but logically understood someone would buy the home and there was nothing we could do about the past.  We put in an offer the following Monday (March 26), and after a highest and best bidding process, had a closing date of no later than May 4.  We could no longer wait until May to put our house on the market.  Our 5-6 week timetable needed to be shortened – considerably.

Over the next two weeks, we painted the inside, outside, doors, windows and baseboards, had the roof inspected, flowers and landscaping sculpted, countless small repairs (that by themselves wouldn’t have been a big deal, but combined had us on overload), and de-cluttered the house into one of those drop off storage pods.  All while we were still working full/over time (I survived another of my company’s layoffs on March 29) with the kids soccer seasons (and coaching responsibilities) in full-swing, Angela had to travel on a 3-day business trip, we planned two kids’ birthday parties and celebrated my own.  The Kilimanjaro workout schedule we’d established had been blown away.

So on Easter weekend, our friend Chris Mickle listed our house for sale on the MLS.  Over the next week, Angela had another 4-day trip, leaving me to manage both of the kids and keep the house spotless for showings.  It turns out that it’s easier to keep the house clean if you aren’t home because your house is constantly being shown; we had sixteen showings in this first week, producing two written offers (including one that wanted the hand scraping “repaired.”  Say what?!).  We accepted a cash offer from a retired couple who wanted to move closer to their grown children and grandchildren, with a hard and fast closing date of May 7.

The good news is our house wasn’t likely to be shown anymore, and the stressful news was that we had 3 weeks to find a moving company, pack a family of 4, close on the new home loan, move and clean up the old house.  During the “hello” call with the mortgage company, I addressed the timing differential between the closing dates, and was told it wouldn’t be a problem to underwrite me owning two homes for a weekend (May 4 to May 7).  With the new government lending regulations that have been put in place since we bought our last house, the underwriting process for home loans has become five times as complicated with ten times the paperwork.  Despite this, the loan tracked smoothly for the first week and a half.  Then, after a week of radio silence from my lender, I called the mortgage company to find out if we had final underwriting approval only to be informed that they weren’t able to close with me owning two houses for a weekend.  A company that I’d had a relationship with for more than 20 years, had pre-approved me for the loan, and had already accepted the timing of the structure of the home sales was going back on their word only 10 days before my closing date and didn’t even have the courtesy to call to inform me there was a problem.  I was angry; very angry.

Angela arrived home that evening with a story to tell.  She and one of her follow-up clients had been discussing our move, and it turns out her client was best friends with the former owners of the house.  Angela held her breath, unsure of the news that would be delivered.  Angela’s client let her know the previous occupants were doing better financially than even before they purchased this house, and had reached a sense of peace and understanding about having to move (apparently less than a mile away).  With good news on the previous occupants, our emotional concern was gone, but we no longer had a loan.  However, somehow I felt an immediate sense of encouragement.  On the same day we lost our loan, we found out that the previous owners of our new potential home were doing very well.  I don’t believe in coincidences.

I told Chris what was going on with the mortgage, and he recommended the mortgage broker Rodney Anderson as someone he thought could get the deal done within the next 9 days (before May 4).  I have to say I was concerned with using a broker who advertised all over the radio, but his office delivered in impressive fashion and in only 8 days we closed on the new home!

All along, it was obvious to Angela and I that a lot was going on behind the scenes.  Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned how much we need to give our burdens to God every single day, and how much He enjoys being with us through the ups and downs of everyday life.  As anyone who’s been through this process knows, the daily stress and anxiety can quickly get overwhelming.  Throughout this time, we prayed that God would lead us through the make-ready process, that he would help us find the right home, to keep those who were working on our house safe and inspired; we prayed many times for the family who was foreclosed, and for the new occupants of our former house.  And in the height of anxiety – I prayed that a retired couple wanting to move closer to their family would come up with a cash offer and a quick close.    God never promises us an easy road, even when He’s pouring out blessings.  We’ve continued to stay faithful to Him, to give freely to our local church and to others, and He continues to change our lives in ways that keep us comfortably uncomfortable so we rely on Him.  The mental strength we’ve gained has sharpened Angela in ways that can only come through faith, and it’s a faith that takes exactly the right amount of weight off your shoulders.

Interestingly enough.  Angela and I were frustrated, anxious, and completely mentally and physically depleted throughout this whole time of buying and selling of homes that we couldn’t keep up with our physical training for Kilimanjaro.  But now we realize, these last couple months of testing of faith and mental toughness was the exact type of training we needed.  Ask any mountaineer.  That is perhaps the core component of any climb.

Training at Sea Level

How do you physically prepare to climb a 19,00-foot mountain when living in an area like Dallas, Texas that is flat as a pancake?  Good question.  That is definitely something we have asked ourselves.  Unfortunately, we do not live in Colorado where we can go climb 14’ers on the weekends (although we do plan on doing one or two trips out there before August).  We have no idea how either of our bodies will respond at very high altitude levels.  There are some people in superior physical shape that experience high altitude mountain sickness every time they ascend while others do just fine.  We’ve both climbed to 14,000 feet and seem to do ok, but those 5,000 extra feet are a big difference.  The best thing we can do to prepare to conquer this African mountain is to be in the best shape of our lives.

Me acting silly on a Colorado summit, Grays Peak (14,270')

I would consider both of us in pretty good shape for 40 years old.  We can get out there and run 6 miles without any problem.  But how will we do climbing for several days straight with 20 pound backpacks on our back, traveling through all 7 climate zones and then summit day being the hardest day yet?  We both know we have some physical training to do in order to be prepared.  That is why we joined a gym and hired some personal trainers this weekend.  I am not overly excited at the thought of becoming a gym rat, but I know that I need to pack on at least 5 additional pounds of muscle weight to have the stregth to endure this climb.  Last week we received the 27-page training and condition guide from our expedition group, Mountain-Vision Expeditions.  Yikes!  Reality is sinking in.  We need to get our butts in gear — now.

On an inspiring note, we had the pleasure of following the expedition of Mission Kilimanjaro through their blog posts as they ascended a few weeks ago.  If you have the time, you should watch the story the Fox Atlanta news did on Kyle Maynard, a congenital quad amputee, made it to the top!  So many people that we come across that find out that we are doing this trip say there is no way they would attempt this challenge.  I say, check out Kyle’s story.  This is one man who did not let any obstacles stand in his way.  I also say, also check out Francis Chan’s analogy of a life and a balance beam.  These are the things that keep me inspired.  Taking chances by getting outside your comfort zone really allows you to learn life lessons you would not have otherwise.  Our Africa trip is going to be so much more than the climb – we want to meet the phenomenal African people and culture,  experience God’s creation there,  get to know our guides and fellow climbers and meet our World Vision family there in Tanzania.  There are so many life lessons to be learned on this journey that we will bring back to our family.  You may not be inclined to climb a large mountain or head to a far off land, but ask yourself — how do you need to challenge yourself this year?  How do you need to branch outside your comfort zone for God, yourself, your spouse and/or your family?  Face that fear head-on so you can get to that next level of life.  You won’t regret it!

Angela

Gearing Up

I’ve been reading through our guide’s recommended gear list, listening to suggestions from friends, reading books, and reflecting on my own experiences with what I like to bring hiking.  This massive amount of information gets even more confusing when you realize that the highly-competitive outdoor products industry comes out with newer and better products at a pace that rivals the consumer electronics market.  And then I’m expected to literally weigh the choices to stay within the porter load limit and my own desire to be light and fast.

Most people just go to a store to outfit for a trip like this, and then are lead around by a salesperson picking up a host of items and equipment with the end user having no idea as to its intended function, how to use it, and wind up spending twice as much as they should.  But I’m not most people, and if you ask my friends, they’ll tell you I’m a gear nut (or nerd) who loves to research and pre-think my choices to get the best personal match-up of equipment at the lowest possible price.  And with 8 months before our departure, I have the luxury of time.

If you’re like me, and you like learning what works and why, or how to make the best choices for yourself, then with enough comments from you below, I’ll be glad to write everything I’ve learned.  However, what I’ve discovered is most people are more like my wife, and just want to jump to the bottom-line conclusions.  I’ll share these as I come to these conclusions and start to buy gear.

This week Patagonia has its base layers (when I was growing up these were called Long Johns or thermal underwear) on sale for 50% off through January 9, 2011.  So Angela and I purchased another 8 items on top of what we already own based on the suggestion of a friend of mine, Keith.  When he climbed Kilimanjaro several years ago, one of the simple things he enjoyed was having a fresh base layer top to put on every day.  He explained they don’t weigh very much, and pack up really small.  We purchased a mixture of weights and fabrics to match our days on the mountain, going with capilene 1 for the first and last days, a hooded merino 3 for Jeff and merino 4 for Angela for summit day and a mix of capilene 2 and merino 3 for all the other days.  My personal experience with the capilene (a polyester blend) is it’s slightly more comfortable and wicks slightly better than the merino wool.  The merino wool is more comfortable in cooler temperatures and does not retain the same odorific smells that accumulate and persist in the polyester fabrics.

One of the things I love about Texas winters are the occasional 70 degree days.  Yesterday’s weather made for a great trail run at one of my favorite spots – Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano.   The dirt paths wind up and down hills and are heavily wooded.  Getting the new gear early means I’ll be able to keep running outside when the weather finally decides to get cold here.  Getting what we needed on sale, and being able to use it to help prepare for Kilimanjaro is one of the big benefits of taking the time to prepare early.

Jeff “The Gear Nerd”

Lions & Cheatahs & Bugs (Oh My!)

I have a long, life history of dealing with irrational worries and fears.  Back when I was 5 years old, I would worry about things that a little girl should not be concerned about.  When I found out that St. Louis, the city I was born and raised in, was set on a pretty big fault line – I just knew I was gonna get swallowed up into the earth’s crust when the big earthquake would finally erupt!  I would often wake up at night just trembling with fear about some nightmare I had, which made it difficult to fall back to sleep.  To this day, I am still one of those people that has less than pleasant dreams.   Jeff has these great adventure-type dreams where he’s the lead character battling against some evil force and he makes heroic moves that end up saving the world.  Me?  Mine are more like: I am running from a super scary half man/half monster that wants to rip my legs off and floss his teeth with them.  I am running as fast as I can when suddenly, I fall down and wake up just as the monster’s drool hits my arm and I am screaming for my life.  You could psychoanalyze me to figure out why I have battle fear more than others, but regardless of its origin, I deal with it on a daily basis and it stinks.

My fears have surely been my nemesis.  But ironically, battling my irrational fears have actually been the catalyst of me not living a boring life.  I guess you could say that I have courage, as it is fueled by my refusal to allow fear from keeping me from the life that God has intended.  It may surprise you that I do things that many fear – I am a public speaker, I’ve bungy jumped, I scuba dive and I would actually skydive if given the opportunity.  I am always doing things regardless of the fear that lies ahead of me.    You know, there are tons of Biblical scripture that talk about fear – and I use them often, along with prayer – to tackle life’s challenges.  My favorite one is Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When Jeff approached me about the idea of climbing Kilamanjaro, I told him I would think about it.  Little did he know that I already had my answer in my mind (no!), but wanted more time to elapse before sounding too close-minded.  But what I didn’t realize was that the wait of my not fully answering Jeff allowed for my heart to change.  As I was running one morning, I thought, “You know, this trip to Africa and climbing Kili could actually be a spiritual quest that will help put fear in its place once and for all.”  [I believe that God gave me that thought.]  I came to the realization that this will be a good time for God and I to do some serious business so I can continue to mature spiritually for myself and others around me.   Someone like me loves the modern conveniences of living where we do in suburbia – the comfort of my home, the short treks to stores that carry daily necessities and the security of knowing that God forbid something happened, there is an emergency room and hospital just one mile from my home.  In  Africa, and I will be forced to draw my security from God only.  Gone are many of the modern conveniences that I (falsely) find much of my security in.  There we will be, high up, a world away from home and far away from most people.  It’s so good to know that there is no place in the world where God is not.   God is, and will be in Africa with us in August.

So yes, there are lions and cheetahs and bugs – oh my.  And many other dangers like high altitude sickness, malaria and all kinds of unknowns.  But I am sick of being dominated by worry of the “what if’s.”  This is my way of facing them head on!  I turned 40 years old this year, and I have too many real-life adventures to enjoy with my husband, children and friends.

There are too many people that are controlled by fear and worry.  Surely you don’t have to travel to Africa to prove your fight like me, but have you ever thought about the things you would do without them?  You may actually conquer the world. 🙂

Angela

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