Monthly Archives: July 2018

How a Texas flatlander climbed a Colorado mountain.

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My sister called me up one evening and said, Can you meet me in Colorado and go hiking? My heart started pounding a little faster and I dared to get my hopes up a little. This was the call I’d subconsciously been waiting for all summer. I knew about her plans of traveling, camping and hiking through beautiful places with her little teardrop camper and I wanted to be a part of it, but wasn’t sure how or when things would come together .  She had literally just finished hiking the trail seen above in the guidebook and was excited and inspired to call me. She gave me one month’s notice to get there. We chatted a few minutes and I was non-committal but told her I’d ask my husband. He was already in bed, but I couldn’t stop myself from heading to the bedroom to ask him if I could go. Not sure why , he was probably half-asleep, but he said yes without asking questions! My spirit soared! Yes! I am going hiking in the mountains of Colorado! Segment 10 of the Colorado Trail to be exact.

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I’d been training for a hilly trail running race for the past few months, gradually increasing my hill repeats and time on feet, but I still immediately began to wonder if I could handle something like this. I’d never backpacked overnight before or even put on a pack heavier than just a full 2 liter hydration bladder. I may look strong but my upper body could use some attention, so I knew I had some work ahead of me.  My first step was to go to Ebay and look at backpacking packs. My sister said I could rent one at REI in Denver but I wanted to train with a pack. God blessed me with a super nice vintage Gregory pack in my size for only $75.00 plus shipping! I ended up using this pack on the hike. When it arrived, I immediately put some stuff in it, including some hand weights and various random blankets and put it on. Yikes! It felt heavy. I was nervous. IMG_2712

So I started taking walks with the pack. The first time I only had about 10 pounds in the pack and it felt so awkward and different than my running vest. I was walking sooo slowly! I tried to go faster and tried various postures.  The pack is supposed to sit on your hips, which means you have to get used to that weight on your hips as opposed to your back.  I started to worry that I’d not be able to keep up with my sister. Later, I discovered that 2 miles per hour was considered perfectly normal so I stopped worrying so much. I kept adding time to my hikes with the pack and adding weight. I even went out in the rain one day. Finally I did a 3 hour hike with 25 pounds in my pack and used my trekking poles and tried climbing hills. It went so well that I finally felt ready. My only fear was the altitude.

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I live at 300 feet, basically sea level. I would soon be traveling to a high point of over 14,000 feet . I posted in a Facebook Texas hiking group about my plans and the replies were that I was probably going to get very sick in the altitude. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc.. Great! I became very concerned . My sister thought I’d be fine because I had been okay at 10,000 feet in the past, but this was higher, said my Facebook friends. So I did some research about how to survive and this is how it worked out. IMG_2727

The first day I flew into Colorado Springs and my sister picked me up and we drove out to where she was camping.  Mueller State Park is at around 9,500 elevation. All we did there is sleep and then get up and pack up and leave to drive to the next place. That was one night at elevation. The main thing, as far as adapting to altitude, that I did the first day was to drink a lot of water. I woke up needing to pee so bad it hurt,  but I was afraid of bears! I finally couldn’t hold it and I got out of the camper and just went right there in the grass. My bear fears abated a little over the next week.

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We set up our next camp at Twin Lakes campground, a very scenic park with a lovely lake surrounded by tall mountains. Gorgeous! This was about 9,200 feet elevations, the second night. We got our gear all sorted and packed and ready, discussed morning plans with her friend who was going to shuttle us,  and went to bed.  Her little camper is very comfy. The temperatures there were much cooler and dryer than Texas, by about 30-40 degrees at night and 20 degrees in the daytime, and I was loving that! Day two I also drank water constantly and also took some salt tablets. I was peeing constantly, as fast as I drank, the faster I peed it out. This is normal as the body adjusts, so you need to add salt to your drinks or food, or you’ll get dehydrated from so much water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. IMG_2783

The next day we loaded up in two cars, dropped my sister’s car off at the place where we planned to end the hike, and then rode in her friend’s car to the trail head. All of this driving took awhile and we didn’t actually start the hike until 10:00 A.M.  The hiking went pretty well as far as how I was able to handle the backpack and poles and trail, but I had one problem, gas! In other words, my intestines were bloated up with air and it really hurt. I found out later after suffering for a long time that  my sister had some Gas-X tablets which I took and they helped a lot. After that I just farted as often as necessary to relieve the pressure. Turns out gas is common when adjusting to altitude. Bring Gas medicine!

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The first day I was super happy, almost giddy, to finally be hiking in the mountain, something I’d been dreaming of doing for awhile. Instagram has a way of inspiring me to try newer and more exciting adventures , especially when I know there’s a real possibility of making it happen, thanks to my amazing , retired, adventurous  big sister. So far, thanks to her and with her, I’ve been to Hawaii, climbed up to the Delicate Arch in Utah, hiked Negro Bills Canyon in Moab, went running on Mid Mountain in Park City, went snowshoeing and alpine skiing, and did lots of camping and other fun things when she still lived in Texas. We also went to see the late, great  Stevie Ray Vaughan live in Houston. Once we went canoeing and our boat capsized in some rapids and I was left stranded in the middle of a river. Another time we got caught in a huge rainstorm and near-flash flood while camping and had to abandon our tent. Oh, and I got lost on that mountain that  I climbed in Park City and thought I might die.  But things always work out!  I’m very thankful for my sister and her willingness to teach me how to adapt and learn and have fun. IMG_2787
Back to hiking. On the first night on the Colorado trail, we set up camp at 11,000 feet. I was feeling good, no issues with headaches or anything, except for the previously mentioned intestinal gas. This was my third night at altitude. The next day was going to be the real test. We were going to attempt to climb the trail to Mount Massive, up to 14, 421 feet. Could I do it? Could she do it? Neither of us were really sure. It took me a long time to fall asleep.

We woke up at sunrise as usual. It was gloriously cold and beautiful weather, but there was  smoke in the air from a wildfire burning. It wasn’t close to us, but the wind carried the smell. We retrieved our food bag from the tree, took some sunrise photos, packed up our sleeping bags and tents and got our packs sorted, then hiked about a mile down to the Mt. Massive trail intersection. Before we headed out we had to refill our hydration packs from the stream (after filtering), figure out what food and supplies and clothes we were going to wear and set up a tent to leave the rest of our stuff in while we were gone. This was a tip we got from some fellow hikers that we became friends with, leaving our stuff in a tent instead of just leaving it out by a tree or something. We finally hit the trail to climb the mountain at around 8:30 or so. Not as early as we should have started , but it worked out.

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The first mile or so was still in the trees, mostly pines. It was fairly steep going, about 1000 feet in one mile. Then it got really steep! About 2500 feet in a little over 2 miles. The trail was well built but rocky and got slightly technical in some places. We took a lot of breaks to take photos, rest, catch our breath, eat snacks(protein bars, jerky, cheese, and Clif bloks), and my sister made one phone call, so it was slow going . The closer to the top we went, the steeper it felt and the slower we climbed,  and the windier and cooler it got. My sister said she had never moved that slow in her life, and we were having a little trouble with the lack of oxygen, but no headaches or dizziness, so we were thrilled when  made it to a flat spot about 13,900 feet up where we stopped for a short break. We took some photos, shooed away an overly brazen marmot who wanted snacks and  waited on our friend who we saw descending the trail which was pretty technical past that point. She was without her husband and she told us that she had decided to stop short of the summit because it was very difficult and included some rock scrambling in place with steep drop-offs.  Her husband had gone on to the top. After hearing this information, we decided to push forward as far as we could , knowing that we would probably not make the summit as we both have a fear of heights when we can see the bottom. As long as there was no visible drop-off , I was okay, but the minute I had that in my peripheral vision, I knew I would get scared and could freeze. I also knew that even if we made it up , we’d have to come back down which is even more frightening.  We made it up the increasingly technical and hard to see trail to approximately 14, 153 feet, based on my Garmin and were both okay with stopping there. Next time I may make it to the summit, but this time I am happy with climbing over 14,000 feet . We could see a mountain goat on the summit, we were so close. Of course, there was  a boy about 10 years old scampering back down from the summit with no poles and no fear and  that did make feel a little like a big chicken for not going all the way.

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After that, we carefully, but fairly quickly descended the mountain and made it back to our tent.  We were tired and hungry so we took time to refuel before  we packed the tent and hiked another 4 miles mostly downhill to her car.  Our total mileage for the two days was about 20 miles.  The next few days were spent camping,  kayaking relaxing, and reliving the hike and feeling very good about it. I can’t wait to do it again and I plan to use the same methods of sleeping at gradually higher altitudes for several nights, drinking tons of water, and taking salt, to adjust to the the altitude. It worked and I’m so thankful!

 

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Feeling Caged: Life as a caregiver

I am a full time caregiver to my disabled daughter. Lately, as in for the past year,  I’ve been feeling extremely isolated, limited , and basically trapped by my life circumstances. Every direction I try to move, I’m hampered by someone else’s dependence upon me. I also have a husband and other children who need me. I feel this sense of needing to do more in a day , that I’m just wasting so much time, that life is passing by. I have very little contact with the outside world other than running errands and through the Internet world . My daily caregiving tasks don’t take all day , but they need to be done throughout the day.

For example, my daughter needs to be fed , given medicine , have her diaper changed, be moved from bed to wheelchair, at certain times . Then she’s fine for awhile. During the time in between caring for her I do laundry, cook, clean , pay bills, and sit at my computer.

And there truly is no easy solution, or even a moderately difficult solution. All choices involve very difficult actions. Part of the reason I’m so limited in my daily life is that I have no income . In order to produce an income, I’d need someone trustworthy to take over my current job as caregiver. It’s a Catch-22 that all mothers have, but especially hard when your child is non-verbal, and totally dependent on you. One option is to find work nights and weekends but then I’d never see my husband. I’m not sure that would be so helpful to our marriage. And the fact is I don’t really trust a non-family member with my precious daughter. Not to mention that finding someone who wants to drive out to our rural home for a part-time, low-paying job is not easy.

This summer has been extra difficult for me and my non-disabled kids because we are so tight financially that we can’t do anything fun. Water parks, movies, trips to the beach are all so expensive. I start to plan a fun day then I think , no, we can’t afford it. We are deep in debt and I’m trying hard not to go deeper. And stuff keeps coming up, like unexpectedly replacing a tire yesterday for $155. So many things needing repairs. The lawnmower, the roof, the truck.

It could be worse. God always provides for the necessities. So why do I feel like this? I’m not good at being poor and staying home day after day after day. I wasn’t raised like this. I did fun stuff in the summer when I was a kid and when my older kids were young. Things have changed and I just don’t know how what I’m supposed to do. Our daily routine has been reduced to mostly eating, sleeping, and playing video games/being online . And of course I run. Even my running is limited. I can leave the house for a few hours at a time, but that’s not really enough to participate in the outside world.

People who don’t know us very well tell me to do this and that. But I have no help with my daughter . I can get an occasional babysitter but it’s unpredictable. And most of their ideas require, at the very least, money for gas and food. Something’s gotta give . I’ve been praying and asking God for guidance . I feel like He’s keeping me here with my daughter, so I am trying hard to be patient. Some days are better than others.

I wrote this post a month ago. I’ve since been on vacation away from home , without my family,  for a week. All it did is make me wish for more. I missed them, but I didn’t miss the cage.

Your fascinating brain and how to make it work better

The brain is a fascinating organ. (This post is from my observations and knowledge gleaned. I am not a doctor. ) When God originally created the first humans, Adam and Eve as they are named in the Bible, he made their brains perfect and they functioned as they should, with no disease or chemical imbalance or malformations. Yet Adam and Eve STILL made a poor, life-altering decision. This to me is proof that they had selfishness built into them from day one and of course God knew that they would sin against his simple rules.

People today do not have perfect brains. We are all born with some problem or other,  at the very least, the eventual inevitable degeneration of our bodies, including our brains, that will lead to death. Some are born with worse problems, such as my daughter, whose brain did not finish developing in utero, so she has a condition called Lissencephaly, or smooth brain. Some develop problems later due to other diseases, such as encephalitis or dementia, or they may have mental/emotional conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, psychosis, and others that are generally  passed down genetically and often related to metabolic conditions elsewhere in the body.

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My sweet daughter

When a person commits a crime of violence or suicide or doesn’t otherwise act ‘normal’ , they may be called crazy or evil or lazy or various other words. I’m not saying evil doesn’t exist, I believe it does,  but in many cases I think it is at least worth considering the conditions leading up to the crime or act and determining if the person’s brain was in fact not functioning correctly.  Yes, people must be held responsible for most actions, but there are cases where the person was in psychosis or hallucinating or otherwise incapable of making decisions. Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries can both cause bizarre behavior. Abnormal behavior can be seen as well in babies born from drug-addicted mothers, babies neglected from birth, people living in war-zones and people affected by diseases and things such as lead poisoning and Lyme disease and chronic alcoholism.

There are many interesting, yet sad and difficult, cases of people whose brains have become injured in accidents or are affected by drugs, alcohol, chemicals, allergies, fatigue, hypothermia, heat stroke, heart disease, diabetes and liver disease.  All of these can result in bizarre behaviors that are unusual for the individual. For instance, people may have hallucinations, memory loss, be unable to speak, walk, or see normally, faint, have seizures, angry outbursts, violent or aggressive behaviors, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and nightmares, all because of some temporary or permanent brain malfunction. In some cases the person may be blamed unfairly for their actions that they really had no control over.

The scientific world has barely scratched the surface on understanding the brain. But there is a world of anecdotal information on how changing ones diet, reducing exposure to chemicals, and improving sleep habits can improve many of the problems listed above. For example, the Feingold Diet was one of the early diets created to address the correlation for some people with food additives and hyperactive, aggressive, out of control behavior. Ask any parent of a hyperactive child and they will tell you that there are certain foods ( like Skittles candy or Kool-aid, or apples)  that they would never feed that child because of the awful reactions they would have to deal with. The Wheat Belly book was revolutionary for many people who had no idea that eating wheat  was causing so many of their physical and mental health issues, as well as weight gain. For almost any of the diets that make a big difference in people’s mental health, the main factor is removing the highly processed foods , which almost every type of diet will do. Eliminating packaged, factory made ‘food’ such as cookies, crackers, bread, canned soups, noodles, frozen snacks, sodas, chips and ice cream can and will improve anyone’s health, including their brain health. 

One recent scientific finding is that eating carbohydrates , as in sugar and bread, pasta, etc. is related to Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a huge breakthrough. Another brain related diet factor recently acknowledged, is that the low-fat diet that was recommended for years by doctors actually starved the brain of necessary nutrients. These two findings are just a couple of examples of ways that foods have unknowingly damaged the brains of millions of people.

Vitamins, mineral and amino acids and hormones are all part of a well-functioning brain. When we eat a poor, junk food, Standard American diet, we are depriving our brains of the fuel we need to think clearly, be in control of our emotions, make good decisions, have energy, and feel good in general. Two nutrients that millions of people should be supplementing daily are magnesium and Vitamin D. Taking magnesium not only helps with muscle cramps, constipation, blood pressure and migraines, but also depression! This is one that I personally recommend to everyone. Vitamin D deficiency is very common as well and many doctors are recognizing this and testing for it.  The B vitamins are also very helpful for depression and energy.

Sleep deprivation is a common problem in our always busy society. More people are staying up late on their electronic devices and not getting good sleep. This can lead to depression , clumsiness, and poor decision making, as well as weight gain. The brain needs to rest to function well. It’s important to not eat right before bed, not be on electronics, and not drink alcohol at bedtime, all of which affect sleep quality and rest.

Most of us have the seen the change in behavior of a sober person who becomes intoxicated. They may become the life of the party, talkative, joking, dancing, affectionate, or they may become aggressive, angry, depressed , or even act like a completely different person. The long-term effects of alcohol on the brain and body can be devastating to health.

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm

Another way the brain can be affected is by prescription medications. Many medications have side effects such as depression, anxiety, irritability, nausea, problems with vision, sleeping, and even suicidal thoughts. It is very important to read the information with your prescription and even do your own online research. Even antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs can have these side effects. Be your own advocate and protect yourself.

Lastly, some of us are unfortunately born with genetic predispositions to certain mental and emotional difficulties that greatly impact our lives. Some of these are metabolic conditions and some are probably more structural such as a small tumor.  Some people also develop conditions over time such as thyroid disorders and hormonal imbalances that are probably genetic and also influenced by diet and exercise or extreme stress.  Some may need medication to deal with these conditions. Other may get enough relief by exercise, diet, sleep and stress management techniques or counselling. Prayer and spiritual beliefs can be helpful as well.

Our brains can be marvelous, creative, and full of good feelings, or they can make us miserable, angry, tired and sad when we are not taking good care of our health or are struck with some infection or disease. Do all you can to protect your most important bodily organ and educate yourself.  If you feel bad and your doctor tells you , “It’s all in your head”, it just might be! Ask, demand, to have some tests performed that check the functioning of your thyroid, liver, vitamin levels, allergies, etc and if the first tests come back normal, as for more specific ones. Don’t just accept a prescription drug when conclusive evidence has not been shown that you need that drug.  The majority of doctors have strong incentives to save money for insurance companies by limiting testing and make money for pharmaceutical companies by prescribing.  Likewise, don’t blame your problems on your brain if you feed it junk and don’t get enough sleep.

 

Don’t worry about being ‘NORMAL’

Being normal is overrated. What is normal? The first dictionary entry I found when I searched ‘define normal’ said this :

conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
“it’s quite normal for puppies to bolt their food”
synonyms: usualstandardordinarycustomaryconventionalhabitualaccustomed, expected, 

I’m sorry for puppies, but I guess that is normal for them. But look at the other words.

USUAL. STANDARD. ORDINARY. CONVENTIONAL.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t fit into those categories, by the sheer fact that not that many people read blogs at all and not that many people read blogs about being normal. Good for you! You are EXTRA-ordinary, non-conventional, unusual, non-standard. That’s great! That means you are special!

SPECIAL: Possessing unique qualities, rare, one of a kind, non-conforming.

And if you want to know more, the word normal comes from the word norm, so here is a link to a full definition of that word. Another way of looking at normal is with a bell curve graph of classroom grades. The norm would be the majority of the students grades in the middle of the graph and and the minority  on the  two ends. Thankfully I was in the middle most of the time, but not everyone is so blessed.

 http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/5658-why-grading-on-the-curve-hurts

I have spent way too much of my life having anxiety over the fact that I’m NOT like other people and wishing I was , for some reason. We all know the reason. It’s because we are told that fitting in is best, in SO many ways. It’s the first thing you are taught in school , but even before that, just by watching TV, participating in daily life, listening to your parents, reading Children’s books. The message is clear. Follow these rules. Act like this. BE this person. But what if you’re not?

Children who don’t conform are subject to scrutiny and punishment. Loud children are told to be quiet. Active children are told to sit down and be still. Skinny kids are ‘fattened up’ and fat kids are put on diets. Eat these foods, wear these clothes, play with these toys, read these books, enjoy these activities, join these groups, have these goals, like this music, follow these trends , or something must be wrong with you. You develop the idea that you are not like everyone else. You are the only one who doesn’t fit in. Which is not true! Children are very intuitive and pick up on disapproval. If you are reading this and your child is the one who is not normal, please, I beg you, make sure to not transmit disappointment to your child. Love and appreciate and value  your special , unique, non-conformist child.

As a child I was not a conformist. I was ‘normal’ as far as the basics, not diagnosed with anything, at least. Thankfully my mother was not one to take us kids to the doctor a lot. If I had been born in this era, I’d probably have been put on some kind of medication for ADHD or labeled with something like Aspergers Syndrome or Social Anxiety Disorder. I also had undiagnosed food allergies that caused me a lot of digestive pain and problems as well as food cravings and emotional problems later on. But even now with a better diet, I’m still different.

As a child, I was different in that I didn’t want to go to school or participate in group activities. Those things gave me anxiety. I liked people and still do, but on my terms. Sometimes my unique way of looking at life meant that I was seen as difficult. In fourth grade I wrote a paper on how I wish I lived in France.  My teacher was disturbed and said I wasn’t patriotic ! My mom was not worried. I still want to go to France.

As an adult, I am still not a joiner, although I like groups of people , just not being forced into them or required to be there at certain times or days. I like to observe and take in the sights, which is about all I can do  because of my ADD. I can’t really focus that well when the scene is loud and busy. So when my oldest son turned out to be ‘different’ like me, I decided that home-school was the best option. And honestly, it was best for both of us. I tried putting him in a couple of schools and the pressure to make him fit in and follow rules was very stressful on both of us. I felt like a bad mother and he felt frustrated. Of course I think my son is wonderful and a genius, most adults did not like that he couldn’t sit still, shut up and do what everyone else was doing. He tried! Once he got in big trouble for cussing in a Little League game. Gimme a break.  I’m happy to report that my unique, gifted, musically talented son grew up to be a fully-functioning, self-supporting, completely home-schooled adult and he still cusses.

There are lots of unique people out there and now we can find each other, thanks to the wonders of the internet, the online world, social media, whatever you want to call it. I’m so thankful for America Online and Windows 3.1 ! I joined the online world back when desktop computers were huge and expensive and dial-up connections were super slow. My old Compaq computer had primitive graphics and a dot-matrix printer and almost no hard-drive compared to today’s offerings. But we loved it! My son was 2 years old when he first tried using a computer  and he took to it instantly playing all the Broderbund games and Learning Company software. Oh the fun hours spent playing Busytown , Reader Rabbit, and later The Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego. Computer games taught my kids reading and math and many skills.

Interesting article about the early world of computers

Meanwhile I spent hours creating my Geocities page ( later deleted by them, much to my eternal sadness) and discovering Yahoo Groups, an email forum. I am still friends with the women I met in those day, but now it’s on Facebook and Instagram. We are a unique bunch. None of us are ‘normal’. We have large families of children who were born at home, breastfed, not immunized, and homeschooled. Most of us are Christians and Bible-believers. And that is awesome! I also have a different network of friends who have special needs kids like my daughter. Some of them are ‘normal’ people, but they are still great folks who helped me adjust to life with a child with a rare condition and shared information that most doctors didn’t even have at that time. By normal, I mean, they fit the more standard ways of life in our American society, two kids, two incomes, suburban lifestyles. I also have my newest network of friends, my running friends that I have discovered are a mix of normal people and special people. A large number of runners are very special and have unique careers and lifestyles, but there are also many that have mostly regular lives, but escape them by running in the woods or even on roads.

Learn to appreciate your uniqueness, don’t fear it like I did. Scientifically, there is a very broad spectrum of normal behavior. As long as you’re not hurting another person or infringing on someone’s rights, do your thing! As a Christian, I do believe certain actions are prohibited, and most moral codes would include similar rules, such as do not kill, steal, lie, cheat, etc. But you can dress, talk, and do whatever makes you happy. Love yourself, love others, but that doesn’t mean you have to be super social or even go to parties. Or if you are super social, you don’t have to be an expert at it. It’s okay to be awkward. There are people who will be your friend anyway. I know because I’m social and socially awkward and I have friends. Ignore the rude people who truly think they are better than other people. Pity them. Pray for them. Because YOU are special !

My life in pictures #2

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I’ve always loved Volkswagen Beetles . I had a copper colored one like that. 

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Enter a captionIphone 072Iphone 133Iphone 187Iphone 196Iphone 286Iphone 364Iphone 372Iphone 430Iphone 448My husband gives himself tattoos. This is my favorite.

I had some issues with this post and couldn’t get the captions under most of the photos. The group photo is a special one. It’s literally a group of moms who all have children with the same very rare condition that my daughter has, Lissencephaly.

The one of the motorcycle was me a few years back in my faster, fitter, younger days.

That’s my husband with a painting on a wall of Willie Nelson, a very famous singer and musician in America.