A Life Worth Living

It was the phone call I knew was coming, and I was dreading it. It makes me laugh now, to think about how I cried, and how devastated I was at the news, when now it makes my heart burst with pride. It took so much courage.

Our eldest son, Gray, is a percussionist and went to a high school that had a very high achieving music program. Their marching band won the Colorado State Championship twice while he was the drum line captain, and their wind ensemble was selected to participate in a national festival in Indianapolis where only 12 high schools were chosen from over 400 applicants. Music was a very important part of our son’s life but he decided not to pursue it as a career. He was afraid that if music was his job, he would lose his passion for it. He decided to major in business and enrolled at Montana State University.

During that first year at MSU, we would talk to him frequently and my mother’s intuition told me that something was wrong, but he insisted that everything was fine. He had made some good friends and I figured it was just the adjustment of living away from home for the first time. He didn’t talk about classes much but he did say he had been spending a lot of time in the drum practice room, and he would light up when he would tell us stories about what he was doing musically. We asked if he wanted to change his major to music and he said no.

About a week before we were going to drive up to get him for the summer after his first year, he called and said he needed to talk to us. He said that he had been miserable the whole year. He hated his business classes and he missed being a part of a quality music program. “Good! You can enroll in a school that has a great music program,” I said. Then he dropped a bombshell. Read More

Yosemite: Lessons in Unparalleled Beauty and Mental Fortitude

I was really glad we had our raincoats. The day was gorgeous and there was 0% chance of rain, but we were absolutely drenched; Water dripping from the tip of my nose, drenched.  The name Mist Trail is a bit of a misnomer. I think of mist as a light spray. The water coming off Vernal Falls was more of a barrage, but I suppose The Barrage Trail isn’t as poetic.

My thighs were burning, but I was loving every minute of it. The Mist Trail in Yosemite was built by people who would have made the Incas very proud. It is over 600 steep, stone steps to the top. And the views are spectacular. There are constant rainbows on sunny days. It is unlike any hike I have ever done.

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Some Thoughts on This One Year Anniversary

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I started the Empty Nest Adventures blog. I felt like I was on to something, but taking action and putting yourself out there is scary. However, you will never accomplish anything if you let fear control you. I have made so many friends in the last year; really incredible people from all over the world, and my heart is bursting with gratitude for so many things. One of those things happened yesterday.

My son, Holden and I are working together this summer for a friend’s landscaping company. We spent six hours yesterday planting huge flower beds and it was hard work, but we told each other stories, laughed, and I was having a lot of fun. I couldn’t believe it when we got in the car all hot and sweaty and he said, “When you work hard with someone whose company you enjoy, it makes it fun!” I said, “Wait, are you saying you enjoy my company?” “Yeah,” he laughed. I seriously almost cried.

A fellow blogger posted something today that I love. Rekha Sahay wrote about Dennis Prager’s Missing Tile Syndrome. We all have missing tiles in our lives, but if you focus on those and not the tiles you DO have, happiness will elude you. The awesome thing is that if you change your focus, you can be happier than you ever thought possible.

On this one year anniversary of ENA, I am focusing on how grateful I am for all the wonderful people I have met, for supportive family and friends and the heartfelt comment from a son who likes to spend time with his mama.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends! And keep focusing on all the tiles you have! xo

 

Yosemite By Any Other Name…

Yosemite is “not just a great valley, but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra”. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And complimenting its breathtaking beauty, is its history. Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in 1864 declaring Yosemite protected land, however it didn’t become an official National Park until 1890. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt spent three days camping in Yosemite with John Muir. I find that really cool!

The history of Yosemite includes the names of its hotels, camping village and ski area. In 1899, David and Jenny Curry opened a tented camp in Yosemite. Their advertising slogan was “a good bed and clean napkin with every meal”. They charged $2, the equivalent of $60 today. Curry Village was where I made our reservations. I really wish I had saved that confirmation email for posterity, because about a month before our trip, I got another email saying that our reservation had not changed however Curry Village had been renamed and we were now going to be staying at Half Dome Village. WHAT?! Curry Village is iconic!

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1921 Ad for Camp Curry aka Curry Village

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Yosemite: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

We were going to Yosemite and we were climbing Half Dome. That’s all there was to it. I had found out that you have to join a lottery to get a permit, as they now limit the number of people that can climb it each day, but I wasn’t worried. There were only two of us and we had multiple days to choose from. Our chances of getting a permit were pretty much guaranteed. In addition, I could enter the lottery in my name and again in Brett’s increasing our chances that much more. There were still a couple of months before the lottery opened, so I put a reminder on my phone and forgot about it.

In the meantime, I researched everything about Half Dome. I knew it wasn’t an easy hike, so I wanted to be prepared, and I had to convince Brett that this was something he wanted to do. He can hike like a beast, but he’s not a big fan of heights. I found videos of little kids on it, and lots of first-hand accounts. I also came across the documentary Valley Uprising, which instantly became one of my favorites. I have watched it three times, and I’m sure I’ll watch it again. After our intense Half Dome immersion, Brett was in.

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Image Courtesy of Merced County Events

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Huaca Pucllana: When Human Sacrifices Were Hip

Growing up in California, I had no real first-hand experience of things that were OLD. The thought that people had been going to Disneyland since 1955 blew my mind, and there was a neighborhood in the next town that was built in the 1920s that seemed simply ancient, because by California standards, it was.

When I traveled to Europe for the first time and saw REAL history, it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that people built what I was seeing hundreds and in some cases thousands of years ago. I suspect that if you have been exposed to this type of history your whole life, you may take it for granted, but this California girl sure doesn’t. I wonder about the people and their lives and their personalities. Who did they love? What was their favorite food? Were they kind?

On one of our first trips together, we were standing on the bulwark of the Fort San Cristóbal in San Juan and I said to Brett, “Don’t you just want to know everything about the people who built this fort?” “Nope”, was his succinct reply, “but I’d like to shoot one of those canons.”

In the heart of the Miraflores district in Lima, Peru, there is the strangest juxtaposition I’ve ever seen. Sixteen hundred year old Huaca Pucllana is surrounded by the modern city. It is a clay and adobe brick pyramid built by the pre-Inca Lima Culture, who lived between 200-700 AD. It was an important ceremonial site where human sacrifices were made and ritual banquets were held. After the Lima Culture died out, the Wari Culture converted the pyramid into a tomb for its elites. Following the Wari Culture’s disintegration, the Ichma Culture took over until they were conquered by the Incas in 1470, who were then conquered by the Spanish Conquistadors. It’s a miracle this pyramid has survived.

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Soarin’ Over Miraflores, Peru

I was nestled into the crotch of a strange man, and he made it pretty clear he wasn’t interested in talking to me. Perhaps there was a language barrier, but for the first minute or so it was kind of awkward. Then I forgot about him, and focused on where I was.

Have you ever been on Soarin’ Over California at Disneyland’s California Adventure? It was our favorite ride when we lived there and we must have gone on it 50 times over the years. I was now Soarin’ Over Miraflores, Peru and the real thing is a thousand times better than virtual reality. My non-communicative buddy was a blessing. I didn’t want to talk anymore. I just wanted to take it all in and I couldn’t wipe the sh*t eating grin off my face.

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Spring Blog Party

It’s a cold, snowy day in Colorado and I think the perfect way to bring some sunshine into the day is to host my first Blog Party! I’ve met so many interesting, funny, talented bloggers through Blog Parties, and I love the idea of helping others connect.

If you’re interested in sharing and promoting your work, finding other like-minded people, and hopefully making genuine connections, please participate!

Rules:

  1. In the comments, describe your blog and link to your homepage.
  2. Check out the other bloggers, and interact.
  3. Come back often to meet newcomers.
  4. Have fun!!

I hope you make lots of new friends! Happy Blogging!

Julie

Castle Rock Zip Line Tours

A few months ago I wrote a review of our fun time at the Epic Sky Trek in Castle Rock, Colorado. We were invited to come back to try the zip line tour as their guests. It was a generous offer we couldn’t refuse.

The Castle Rock Adventure Park is located within the awesome 320 acre Philip S. Miller Park. There are hiking trails, an amphitheater, and Challenge Hill, which is a mini Manitou Incline. The adventure park is a separately run entity. In addition to the Epic Sky Trek and zip line course, there is the Epic Tower Adventure (which we have yet to try), and the Ninja Warrior Course, which we (meaning my sons) tried. Gray did the salmon ladder like it was nothing, and Holden shot to the top of the 14’ warped wall like he was Spider-Man. I couldn’t do either of those if my life depended on it.

 

 

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Eat Like it’s 1957

Stepping through the doors of Rod’s Grill in Arcadia, California is like stepping into a time machine. It’s on historic Route 66 and hasn’t changed a bit since it opened in 1957. The turquoise vinyl booths, brick walls, and original light fixtures transport you back to that simpler time.

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The Drapers’ and Whitneys’ booth

Having lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles for my first 34 years, sometimes it feels like I’ve seen and done everything there. Of course, that’s not true, and when we go back to visit I try to make a point of doing something new. Flying into LAX, and arriving very early, I looked into historic diners for breakfast and happened across many reviews of Rod’s. It was exactly what I was looking for; a place with lots of history and character. Read More

St. Paul’s and the Amazing Nappers

My time at Westminster Abbey had been a hot mess, and I was looking forward to a mortification/apology free time attending Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral. We had some time to explore before going inside and it was quite a treat to happen across a statue of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in the courtyard of St. Paul’s. Being a Methodist, and having a grandfather named John Wesley who was a Methodist minister, it was a special moment.

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John Wesley, the founder of Methodism

Just like W.A., there are no permanent pews. At St. Paul’s, folding chairs are set up under the dome in a half circle. We got there early enough to score seats in the front row.

I didn’t see any “No Photography” signs, but I was feeling skittish after my run in at W.A., so I clandestinely took a photo of the dome from my purse. It’s not my best work.

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Purse photo of St. Paul’s dome

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Biting the Hand that Feeds and Other Church Misadventures

We were going to be in London on a Sunday, and I was very excited. That meant we could attend service at both Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. They each have many services a day, with different themes, so to speak. Some are music orientated, and some offer communion, for example. We opted for the Sung Eucharist at Westminster Abbey, which was a combo: music and Holy Communion. At St. Paul’s we would be attending Choral Evensong.

We had spent our morning up at Abbey Road getting one of my most favorite vacation photos ever, and the day was off to a great start. We knew we needed to get to the Abbey early, because I had heard that it fills quickly and late comers are turned away.

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Off to a great start!

We got there in plenty of time and were enjoying people watching and having the time to just stand next to the Abbey and contemplate all of the historical events that have happened there, and the historical people buried there. It’s quite mind boggling.  It was also nice to have a moment to relax. We had been on the go non-stop.

 

It was time to go in and here is where things took a turn. I was overwhelmed at being inside and took my phone out to take some photos. I got one shot, when Gray said, “Mom, there’s a guy coming.” I looked up and saw a very stern, unhappy priest barreling down on me. “You cannot take photos! Can’t you see the signs?!” I was mortified!! “I’m so sorry”, I stammered. “I promise not to do it again.” My heart was pounding and I was crushed at the thought that my first interaction with an Anglican priest was one in which he thought I was a total jerk.

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The infamous photo

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