COVID-19: A Family Update

March 10, 2020 is when it all started unraveling. I have been doing bootcamp in my friend Sarah’s basement the past year and I met with her, our friend Jenn and Jamie, an ER doc from our ward. On all of our minds: COVID-19. I had been casually watching what was happening in China but it seemed so far away and non-applicable but things in the U.S. had slowly started heating up. We peppered Jamie with questions and she had answers.

No, the hospital and staff are not prepared.

We have only 30 test kits in all of Utah and no labs to perform tests.

This is going to explode. Soon.

Little did we know just how soon. Things would start unraveling fast later that day when church was canceled and moved to home-based, an NBA player tested positive causing the league to be canceled and Disneyland closed. Those were the big three that night.

When I arrived home from bootcamp, I told Jamie, “We’re going to Costco. NOW.” I was admittedly panicked because I knew we weren’t prepared. We had dumped most of our food storage when we moved to Utah. At Christmas, I had thrown out our expired canned food in our storage room with the promise to replenish ASAP…but hadn’t. We had some items but not nearly enough. There was an accident in Provo Canyon, causing an hour of delays. Jamie wanted to turn back but I knew this might be our only chance to go for a while. While we waited, I read to him the latest medical reports, solidifying to both of us that this was no flu. We had both undermined the severity.

The parking lot and store were packed but fortunately, we were able to navigate the store fairly seamlessly without waiting too long in line (the next week, Costco would only allow a certain amount of people in the store, resulting in huge lines around the block). We were able to stock up on most of our items with the exception of the staples that have been scarce in this pandemic: toilet paper, flour, sugar, sanitizers and yeast. We had two overflowing carts and spent $800; a personal record at Costco.

That was Tuesday. By Friday, school was canceled and the reality of homeschooling our kids set in.  Everyone was directed to self-isolate (only leave the house when absolutely necessary for food) but Hadley was placed under strict quarantine for two weeks; a student at her school tested positive for COVID-19 and was the first in Wasatch County.

The following week was one of nightmares. Trying to work while navigating an endless stream of emails from teachers. It was the end of third time (traditionally the most challenging of the terms) and Hadley was behind. Really behind. She was nearly failing physics and math and we had no way to help her. A friend’s son stepped in to give her virtual tutoring and we had a series of 10-hour days. I had my first panic attack that Monday, prompting Jamie to step in and provide more assistance (he has been a star, truly).

On Thursday, we were in bed watching the news at 7 a.m. when the bed started shaking. Really shaking. WHAT THE? ARE WE HAVING AN EARTHQUAKE? What fresh hell is this? A 5.7 magnitude earthquake, to be exact. We were 30 miles from Magna’s epicenter so were spared the worst of it but our nerves were frayed.

We somehow survived the week, Hadley squeaked out all As and Bs (a miracle), Bode got straight As (BLESS HIM) and we started our first week of fourth term on March 23. She is somehow two weeks behind…only one week into it, confirming what I have long suspected: she is not an ideal candidate for homeschooling. Bode is really self-directed and just cranks it out. She is easily distracted (a new boy in her life isn’t helping her focus) and when she gets overwhelmed, she just shuts down. She is already behind in every class and Jamie and I have been so busy ourselves we have done a poor job staying on top of it. I don’t know how working parents are managing everything.

The Monday before everything started crashing, our refinance came through to finish our basement. Last fall, Jamie strongly felt we should start on the process and I agreed. We haven’t liked this house–at all– because we just don’t have the space to entertain. Our home in Arvada was THE social hotspot for kids and they never bring anyone over here. Our basement will be the perfect refuge for teens with a home theatre and game room but we keep asking ourselves are we being foolish to continue with it with everything that is happening in the world? Maybe. But it is also something that has come together in a miraculous way. The building marketing was bustling a month ago and it would have been difficult to find contractors but now, so many are out of work that we are able to find contractors who are willing to work within the confines of our budget. We found a team that framed our basement in one day on Wednesday.

Last week was very chaotic with contractors in and out to give bids and the constant pounding with the framers. We are having them enter through the basement window to avoid contact with our family. This week, we have the plumber and electrician, after which we will hopefully get our permit and then move onto drywall and mudding after we hang all of the insulation. The good news is everyone is home now to help. Or bad news for the kids!

Some other things:

    • My friend Stacey was supposed to fly here from Canada on Wednesday (it was to be her first visit since our move). Our family was then supposed to fly to Sea Island, GA next Monday for Spring Break. Jamie’s best friend Stan has a condo there and this was a trip we had already rescheduled when a hurricane last fall forced us to postpone. This has probably been my biggest disappointment of the whole thing.
    • I’m so sad for all of the graduation ceremonies and milestones that have been canceled. My niece was supposed to get married in St. Lucia in a month. We’re lucky that didn’t have a ton planned for spring. Bode’s Nordic ski team ended a week early but they don’t train during mud season and Hadley isn’t enrolled in anything besides her Young Artist Academy which has gone remote. However, the kids both have weekly church meetings, Scouts, workouts and Bode is part of a board game group that hangs out regularly (they’re now doing online Risk tournaments). It has been strange to have everything wiped from our schedule. but also kind of nice to not be racing around all the time.
    • There has been a flurry of changes in church policies this past year and the inspiration is downright staggering. We have shifted to more home-centered church and it was actually been very memorable to have our own Sacrament meetings and classes in our living room. Except for when Fat Kitty started puking on me in the middle of it last week.
    • The first week was such a frenzy with zero self-care that I was a wreck. Last Monday, I let the kids sleep in until 9 a.m. so I could workout and having that time to myself has made all the difference. I started a GroupMe with friends “Quarantine Queens” to help motivate each other to stay active. I was much better–I even went for a ski up Snake Creek with Kristine and Donna–but I could still do better. I need to carve out an hour to myself every day for my sanity.
    • I’m grateful for our family relationships.  Of course, we’re only on Week 3 but overall, it has brought us together. Hadley and Bode were really close before we moved to Utah and while they have never fought, they have been on different planets the last few years. Quarantine has brought them back together. They have a blast playing Settlers of Catan as a family or Minecraft. It warms my mama heart to see their bond deepening. Jamie has been a complete rockstar with juggling work, all of the basement construction, Hadley’s homeschooling and everything else…all while he continues to struggle with his health.
    • Meanwhile, Fat Kitty is a mess (see previous puking reference). He hates change and there has been a lot of chaos and commotion. The Saturday before the contractors started coming, we spent an exhausting day moving everything out of the basement. Thankfully, we spent a week during our Christmas break organizing and pillaging everything in preparation but it was still a lot of work to move everything out. The most impacted was our storage area where we keep his littler box and food.  He voices his displeasure by pooping and he has voiced his displeasure loud and clear. The night after the framers left, he went down to the basement, desperate to let us know how mad he was. He always has to poop ON something (because pooping directly on the floor is not an option) but all he could find was a board so that’s what he pooped on. How you know you’ve hit rock bottom…. :-)
    • This quarantine has confirmed one thing: We are the Addams Family and Hadley is Wednesday. Last night, I shared my friend Jenn’s darling ideas for daily themed adventures at home for spring break with her kids. On Wacky WEDNESDAY, they’re going to wear silly clothes, take an outing in the car and roll a dice at each intersection to see which way to go, eat mixed-up meals, and have a funny utensil night. Hadley looked at me and morosely declared, “We shall eat soup with our sharpest kitchen knives.” It’s gonna be a spring break to remember.
    • We went for a hike last week to a cool tunnel with graffiti that felt like we were plopped in a dystopian movie. Maybe we are. 
    • Self-isolation is HARD (especially for an extrovert like me). Yesterday, I was moping ALL DAY. I refused to work because I just needed a break but there’s nothing on TV I want to watch. So, I whined until Jamie and Bode took me for a walk up Dutch Hollow. It works for dogs…and me!
    • So many are suffering and that has weighed heavily on me. I had a conference call with the Health Department for work last week and domestic abuse calls have gone up significantly and it breaks my heart so many feel unsafe in their own homes. My dear friend Julie took Bode skiing with her son last month and got in a really bad ski accident and has been navigating a concussion. Yesterday, all the crap hit the fan: her dad has pancreatic cancer and collapsed (they don’t expect him to make it), their family of seven moved out of their house into a small apartment yesterday..and it was her birthday.

It has all been so much but there are silver linings. We went to Julie’s house (she obviously wasn’t there) and her husband recorded us singing a silly birthday song in our costumes. I joined friends to serenade a neighbor for her 30th birthday on Thursday. We left a note for a neighbor who lives alone of Hadley’s cool Quarantine Man” drawing. Last week,  Julie and Jenn brought me yeast because they knew we were running low. Yesterday someone ding-dong ditched us with Charmin toilet paper.

There is so much fear and pain but there is so much good and we’re praying and fasting today for healing and hope for this crazy world of ours.

The glory of knee surgery!

I know, I still have yet to write about my summer updates but the big news ’round here is I had surgery to repair my meniscus I tore while trail running two years ago. With all of our medical bills this year, we almost reached our deductible so Jamie approached me about finally getting it done. I mean, 50% off knee surgery? What a bargain. If you count spending thousands of dollars on a temporary fix “a bargain” but if I can get some semblance of my life back, I’m all-in.

If you’re going to get your knee scoped, there is no better man than Dr. Cooley in Park City who is contracted with the U.S. Ski Team and Tiger Woods. I don’t remember much from my right knee surgery five years ago so wanted to detail all of the glorious details here.

1) Upon check-in, they requested a urine sample to ensure I was not pregnant. I told the nurse, “If I’m pregnant, I’ve got bigger problems than this knee.”

2) As I changed in my lovely hospital gown, Jamie and I overheard repeated staffers talk about a patient who neglected to leave his underwear on. Apparently flashing the staff during surgery is not optimal. I left mine on for kicks and giggles.

3)  The team at Park City Hospital was relatively quick and efficient. I checked in at 10:45 a.m. and was outta there by 2:30 p.m. Everyone was really funny and nice except for the anesthesiologist but when you’re the Drug Man, everyone loves you.

4) As he wheeled me into the operating room, I commented it was “Canadian cold” in there and I was out three seconds later. I suspect foul play.

5) When I woke up in post-op, I remember two things: shivering uncontrollably and discussing giant pumpkins and the upcoming pumpkin regatta. I was apparently delusional.

6) I have awesome friends who are continually checking in on me and bringing me tasty food.  Thank-you tasty friends! P.S. I’m still on drugs.

7) Percocet makes me wanna party all night long. It wasn’t really a tortuous all-nighter: I just laid there listening to Fat Kitty and Jamie synchronize their heavy breathing while I felt pretty buzzed. The doc suggested I switch to Tylenol so I can hopefully get some sleep tonight.

8) I have a nifty tube that connects to my knee from an ice machine. It doesn’t help the sleep situation but swelling (and pain) are subsiding much quicker than my last surgery. I wonder if they have an all-body cooling tube for menopause?

9) I had grandiose Fat Kitty snuggles & Netflix plans but I’m already bored. My new favorite pastime is ringing my cowbell for Caretaker Jamie; my megaphone somehow went missing.

10) Thanks to Grandma for taking the kids so they can have some semblance of a fall break. They’re planning to hit the Hogle Zoo, Dave & Busters and a haunted house, a step up from hanging out at this house of horrors all week.

Here’s to a quick recovery!

43 tons of rock

Good gosh, I hadn’t intended to let that much time lapse since my last blog post but life has been warp-speed ahead. BYU’s graduation was last week, I’m a couple of months ahead of schedule on our alumni magazine and work life is settling into a more reasonable rhythm–one where I dictate the wheres and the hows for the next few months. I really need to sell Mile High Mamas but that will take time and effort to redesign and revitalize it to where it needs to be, neither of which I have.

I have so many updates. Our fun spring break in San Diego. My awesome foodie group that meets every month.  The start to pumpkin season. Watching Bode score lots of soccer goals every week with Jamie as coach. The start of track season. The end to Hadley’s roller-coaster club volleyball season. A lot of seasons through the hourglass.

But if I’m being honest here, life is hard right now, really hard. I’m not a complainer but we’ve been dealt a heavy dose of C-R-A-P and every time we think we can come up for air, we’re thrust down under again.

Hard, hard, back-breaking things. Doctors. Interventions.  Mountains of medical bills.  A snowboarder who won’t pay for injuring Hadley and now we have to deal with the hassle of small claims court. My stupid bum knee(s) I can’t afford to fix. Jamie’s chronic rheumatism. This week our washing machine started wigging out and is knocking at death’s door. A part on our new dishwasher broke off and oh, don’t forget that our outdoor water spigot leaked into our walls and floorboards, forcing Jamie to punch a hole in the basement ceiling to survey the water damage and the potential for mold.

When it rains, it downpours. Sometimes inside your own house. 

We had 43 tons of rock delivered a couple of weeks ago. We’re slowing chipping away at our landscaping but it’s a slow process as Jamie repeatedly runs into problems installing the sprinkler lines. Once that is finished, then we can rock the backyard and then seed. Everything in its proper order. On Saturday, the kids tirelessly and without complaint helped me wheelbarrow and haul buckets upon buckets of rocks in our front yard. The rock pile is still there…and so are our weary muscles but the front yard is one step closer to being finished.

After yet another major blow after church yesterday, Jamie and I were feeling so darn defeated but I’m so grateful to have him by my side. “Survivor Island,” we jokingly call this new existence with the hope that pina coladas will someday be back on the menu. As I was expressing my frustrations to him last week, he said, “I really feel like we’ve got about seven years of this and then things will turn around. And then we’ll be better off than we ever were in Colorado.”

S-E-V-E-N YEARS? If you do the math, Bode will be 18. It’s no small coincidence that the end of his time frame also marks the end of the teenage years.

Jamie needs some tips on how to give an effective pep talk.

But you know what? Hard things are everywhere. My dad is a tireless caregiver for my mom. My friend Anne is an inspiring advocate for her beautiful autistic schizophrenic boy. My friend Tanya has been struggling with infertility for years after having cancer. She set the goal to do a triathlon and crushed it last year. She eagerly prepared to have a beautiful baby placed in their home via adoption, only to have the birth mom pull out right before. Tonight, she announced her cancer is back.

43 tons of rock.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at BYU’s Commencement and his words pricked my heart about the state of the world and our role in it.

No child should have to go to school fearful that they won’t live to see their parents that evening. No citizenry should have to live with a system, pick a nation, any nation, put a pin in a world map almost at random, where corruption is rampant, where chaos is the order of the day, and statesmen lack character, elevated to say nothing of elegant speech, and dignified personal behavior are seemingly alien concepts. No young people your age or any age ought to face conditions in so many places where poverty and abuse, including sexual abuse, malnutrition and disease, human trafficking and terror are still the rule, rather than the exception for too many people, including too many children.

Well, not on this day do I want to dwell on anything negative.

And you might say, ‘it has always been so down through time.’ Maybe it has but it doesn’t have to be. So, go out there and light a candle. Be a ray of light, be your best self and let your character shine. Cherish the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it. The world needs you and surely your Father in Heaven needs you if His blessed purposes for His children are to prevail. You have entered to learn…now go forth to serve and strengthen.

43 tons of rock.

We’ve got this. Even if it is one small load at a time.

Welcome to 2017: A year of healing, hope and discovery

From the offset, I knew 2016 would be a tough year as we walked away from a beautiful life we spent 13 years building into a wilderness of unknowns. At times, I’ve thrived and reached summits I never thought possible. Other times, I’ve faltered and have struggled to carve out a new existence. I’ve been so busy getting unpacked and starting a new job over these last months (while still juggling the old one) that I’ve neglected what makes me happy. Being outdoors. Writing about travel. Building friendships. Communing with God.

I talked to Jamie about some of my frustrations this week and he consoled me to be kind to myself. “We’ve had a hard year. We’ve been in survival mode.”

But now that we’re a lot more settled, I’m feeling restless to delve in. To explore. To befriend. To eat healthier. To build new communities and networks. So much of the Midway area is unknown and brimming with possibilities. I’ve been uncharacteristically placid. Paralyzed in the past and present. I injured my left knee a few months ago running down the Mid-mountain Trail in Park City and it is still giving me problems. Couple that with my other arthritic knee and I’ve been slow to rehabilitate and figure out a new lifestyle that nurtures healing.

A few years ago, I read an article about adventure racer Amelia Boone. Since the sport’s inception, she’s amassed more than 30 victories and 50 podiums. In the 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder competition, which lasted 24 hours, she finished 2nd OVERALL out of 1,000+ competitors. This was ahead of every male except the winner, who beat her by just 8 minutes.

When she was asked why she was so successful in obstacle racing, she replied,

“I’m not the fastest, and I’m not the strongest, but I’m REALLY good at suffering.”

Persistence. Endurance. Never giving up.

I’ve certainly never been at Amelia’s elite level but being an athlete has been part of my identity. Even from a young age, I would torture myself with sprints up and down the gully. I’d slog through the deep snow in the golf course. I’d leap-frog off my long jumping leg for hours on the trampoline. Last year was the first time in my life (besides my mission and late in my pregnancies) that I haven’t had a regular workout routine because I’ve been at a loss for what to do. I’m bored to tears by low-impact yoga, swimming and Pilates so I’ve barely done anything since we moved to Midway.

It was with great interest I followed Amelia’s journey this year after a serious injury. How would a champion who thrives on being on top of the podium cope with her rehabilitation? She recently wrote an article that has become my blueprint for this year, “A Year of Healing.” You won’t regret taking a few minutes to read it if you’ve ever been smacked in the face with the need to change but here are a few excerpts.

On April 26th of this year, a few days after the whole “broken femur” thing started, I picked up a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s book “Brave Enough.” I flipped to a page, and this stared at me:

I promptly ripped this page (and one more, which you’ll see if you make it all the way through this novel of a post) and taped it to my bathroom mirror, as a theme for my recovery journey. Granted, the journey has been much longer than I anticipated, but can be summed up with two themes: gratitude and acceptance.

When I first sat down to write this post, I titled it “2016: A Year of Injury.” But the more I wrote, I realized that, yes – I could look at this as a year of injury. Or I could look at this as a year of healing – body and mind. So that’s what I choose to do.

….People always talk about the physical part of injury. The physical part is easy. It’s the mental part that will eat you alive. Wondering if every ache and pain is a new catastrophic injury, or a massive setback from the prior. Worrying that your body is going to betray you…forever. And trying to have the patience and trust to weather the painfully slow rebuilding process.

…..2016 didn’t go as planned, to say the least. From laying out my most ambitious and exciting race schedule ever a year ago, to not even competing in a single obstacle race. From logging my highest mileage months ever, to not running a step for 9 months. From feeling the strongest I ever have as an athlete, to feeling the absolute weakest. Yes, 2016 was a doozy.

But you know what? It has been, by far, my most personally fulfilling year ever. Maybe being unable to physically run from my problems forced me to confront them, and do the deep work that is so easy to abandon when times are good. Maybe I had to be physically weak and broken to become emotionally strong. And while I don’t have it all figured out, maybe life put a “pause” button in front of me to allow me to do so.

To say it was a sucker punch when you are already down for the count is a bit of an understatement. But amidst the tears, my friend (and life twin!) Caroline asked me a question which I thought was rather silly at the time: “Amelia, did you ACCEPT your injury? With the femur?” And I retorted “of course I have, Burckle. It’s hard to not when you are on crutches for 3+ months.”

But what I realized is that while I couldn’t ignore the physical injury, I did everything I could to cross-train around it. I fought like hell to maintain my fitness. I denied that my training methods were wrong, or that they may have been the source of the injury. I did everything to pretend it was just a few months off, and my training would resume as normal after a clean bill showing no fracture. For months, I kept lamenting about being worried about “getting back to the place where I was.” When instead, I should have accepted that I’m NEVER going to return to “where I was,” and that’s actually the LAST place I should want to go. Instead, I need to move forward, accept that I’m never going to be the same athlete, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now, the end of December, a month into a return to run program (until the careful guidance of Coach David…#rawr) from the second stress fracture, I finally feel like I’ve reached the point where I’ve accepted that I’m not trying to “get back” anywhere. And I’m probably never going to train how I used to train, but that’s OK. Because I have faith that, with the perspective and knowledge, I’ll train better.


My frustrations with 2016 aren’t just about my injuries (though that has definitely been a part of it). I need to figure out what my new normal will be–for my family, my new career path and my health. I’ll never return to “where I was” and I need to become more OK with that.  Because things are still good, even great.

Instagram has an algorithm that compiles your nine most popular posts of the year. I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

It was almost exactly a year ago that we made the decision to move for no apparent reason, during which time Jamie prophetically announced “2016 is going to suck.” I find it interesting that we started, ended and spent the majority of our year in Colorado but most of my #2016bestnine moments are in Midway. Because despite all the hard stuff of goodbyes and stresses, there were new friends, rainbow sunrises, joyous reunions and golden vistas. 2016 was a lesson in faith, sacrifice and growth but 2017 will be about finding our place here. I’ve learned not to take any mundane or magical moment for granted. Life comes and goes, just long enough for us to witness the sublime, the glory, but only if we take the time to look and listen.

I may be limping into 2017 (literally and figuratively) but my life’s creed resonates more than ever: “When you’re falling on your face you’re actually moving forward.”

I’m coming for you, 2017, face-plants and all.

Updates from the underworld

Yes, we’re still alive Chez Johnson but just barely. After a busy Thanksgiving weekend, Jamie casually mentioned on Sunday that he had been having chest pain for three days. SAY WHAT? With a medical history like Jamie’s, you don’t delay on such matters so he went to the ER that afternoon while I fretted and worried at home.

Thankfully, it turned out he *just* had pneumonia. (Only at our house would that be considered a minor ailment). The weird thing is besides the chest pain, he didn’t have any other symptoms, juxtaposed against Hadley who couldn’t get off the bed for two weeks last year.

I’ve been sicker with a cold than he is with pneumonia but the cruelty of the matter is that I’ve been too sick to play but not sick enough to languish in bed watching ridiculous movies so I’ve had to work. And feel crappy. And wish I was either playing or wasting my day in bed. I don’t have any Christmas decorations up, which is a major trespass in my world (I usually have them before Thanksgiving but no later than the day after).

Tomorrow, we’re going through the temple with a dear friend who was baptized last year, followed by our Ward Christmas Party. Then next week is Jamie’s birthday. And our staff Christmas party. And Cub Scout caroling. And feeding the missionaries. And the kids’ piano recital. And volunteering at the school’s Santa Shop. I also somehow landed a huge campaign that will be all-consuming for seven days and then is taking me to Breckenridge at week’s end, followed by a weekend ski trip to Winter Park.

Maybe I’ll never get those Christmas decorations up.

In other news, Hadley just returned from Outdoor Lab, a sixth grade rite-of-passage where they spent the  week in the mountains playing in the snow and learning earth science, astronomy and wildlife biology. She has the time of her life every summer at week-long Camp Chief Ouray so I knew she’d have zero problems adjusting (as opposed to many of her  friends who’d never been away from home).

She was glowing when I picked her up, raving about everything from her day-long hike to her group’s failed skit to star-gazing to a fun electric guitar music performance to the team-building activities, to the cute high school counselors (OK, I added that in but I’m sure she thought it). She was completely in her element and already wants to return as an intern or counselor in high school. These pictures are from family friend Whitney, who was there as a counselor.

Cabin Juniper: B: Lexie, Morgan, Kasey, Lexie, Lily, Ellie. F: Charlie, Hadley, Jaeda, HS Leader Miss Acosta, Whitney, Alex, Lordan

Castle View

Outdoor Lab

Bunkhouse crazies

It brought back so many of my class trip memories. A world of possibilities was literally opened to me as we journeyed to the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium as a teen.  In middle school, we flew out to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre,  a world-class teaching and research facility located on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island where I fell in love with coastal marine sciences…and then proceeded to live out my days in land-locked mountainous states (go figure!)   Dear Mom and Dad: If you’re reading this, you totally rocked for giving me those opportunities and set the trajectory for a love of travel, adventure and learning for the rest of my life.

Alright, back to my current pitiable condition. I finally dragged myself out of the house today to run some errands.  I was in my foggy, semi-functional state at the grocery store check-out stand when the cashier reached into one of my recyclable bag and pulled out my sports bra. Which would have been super awkward had it not been a super cute Soybu one.

Maybe I should have spent the week in bed.

Growing On Up

I’m overloaded with travel and deadlines the next few weeks so posting will be sporadic. Thanks to those who have asked about my mom. She’s still in the hospital, not much has changed, and I’m flying home in a few weeks. Please keep those prayers coming.

Last weekend, we went to one of my favorite places on earth, The Broadmoor. The timing was impeccable! Their PR Director gave me the story assignment for their magazine to write about Broadmoor Outfitters, their on-site adventure guides and we had a blast rock climbing, geo-caching in the snow, mountain biking and hiking. Much more to come about that but what made it the most special was being able to celebrate Valentine’s Day and our 12-year anniversary there. I’m so grateful for this little family of mine and my wonderfully handsome, hard-working, spiritual, wise and hilarious husband who not only puts up with but supports my hair-brained ideas.

I posted this picture of us on Facebook and my longtime blogging friend Serf Rhett commented: “Tarnation. I’ve got to get out more often. Who are those small adults posing with you two?”

Tell me about it.  These kids are growing up waaaaay too fast! I had a freak-out moment last week when 10-year-old Hadley (who’s almost my same height and is the tallest girl in her class) told me she needed new running shoes. Her previous pair was a size 5 youth so we started with a Women’s 6. Then 7. Then 7 1/2. Finally, she found a pair that fit: a women’s size 8!!! I also bought her a make-up kit for Valentine’s Day. We’re holding off on eye liner, mascara, etc. until she’s in middle school but her face has been breaking out (hello, puberty) so she has started wearing foundation and lip gloss.

It’s only a matter of time before she starts sharing my shoes, make-up and clothes.

I’m still trying to figure out if that is a good or a bad thing.

Meet the parents: travel edition

My parents are currently en route from Canada to stay with us for a couple of weeks. I always welcome their visits but wish it was under better circumstances. My mom has been in a lot of pain lately and is hoping a nerve block will give her some reprieve. The problem: The wait time for this procedure in Canada is 12-18 months. I called a Denver neuro clinic and they could get her in almost immediately for just $925.

Let’s call this the joys of socialized medicine. What good is affordability if you have to wait months, even years?

Of course, we’re living the flip side and by being self-employed (and with Jamie’s health history), our insurance is almost as much money as our mortgage.

We’ve had an arctic blast in Denver this week and my parents insist upon driving. OK, my mom insists on my dad driving so she can bring Christmas presents and do lots of shopping. Even with her poor health, she can out-shop me 100-1 any day.

Whenever we go on road trips, I’m borderline obsessive about departure. The house is cleaned, the car has a full tank of gas and as much is loaded as possible the night prior.  I have little/no tolerance for any delays on departure morning.

Case in point: Several years ago I went camping with a friend to Southern Utah. He mentioned he had to stop for gas on the way out of town. Annoying, but I dealt with it. Two hours later, we finally pulled out because he realized he needed to have his emissions testing done as well and there was a huuuuge wait.

I don’t even remember who he was. If that wasn’t a friendship deal-breaker, it should have been.

The drive from Calgary to Denver is about 19 hours in good weather so we usually divide the trip into two days. With winter driving conditions, it will likely take my parents much longer so I assumed they’d get an early start. Not so.

“So, what time are you leaving, Dad?
“Not until after your mom has her hair appointment.”

We all have our priorities. Obviously (by looking at my unruly mane) my hair has never been one of them.

Whole 30 and a Twinkie Overload

My dearly beloved works his butt off and has been dealing with chronic pain for years–so much that he barely sleeps but rarely complains. He’s been on a cocktail of meds that, in my opinion, only put a band-aid on the problem and are more reactive, not preventive when he has his debilitating rheumatism flareups. I really would love to connect with a doctor who specializes in not only traditional medicine but also alternative who is (brace yourselves for this) not a quack and is actually covered by Kaiser.

Does such a thing even exist? Ridiculous that I can’t find anyone like that in Colorado.

He’s been living in such misery and after he missed out on several weeks of commitments, I decided to take matters into my own hands. At Front Range Boot Camp, we frequently have month-long health challenges so I signed up to do the Whole 30 and somehow convinced Jamie to do it with me. Though we lead a fairly healthy lifestyle–both with food and activity–there are definitely a lot of things we should cut out. For me, it’s baking treats. For Jamie, it’s a pop addiction and nightly ice cream. Of course, he doesn’t need to lose weight but I’m a firm believer that food not only nourishes but it heals so I’ve been researching anti-inflammatory foods (and would love any of your advice!)

We’re a couple of weeks into the challenge and I’ve found Whole 30 ridiculously restrictive and have instead adopted a more Paleo approach, which seems to be helping by cutting out processed foods, dairy, carbs and sweets. There’s no way we’d survive this eating regimen permanently but it’s been good to clean up our eating habits and I’m crossing my fingers it helps him feel better.

Though he’s convinced there’s nothing more miserable than not having ice cream every night before bedtime.

Before we started the challenge, we had a ward BBQ and devoured the burgers and treats with a vengeance. There were a variety of fun activities, like this “blue bounce.”

Well, at least it was fun until they convinced Jamie and me to try it with our friends Kendra and Dave. Let’s just say we don’t bounce quite like we used to.

I was playing in the field when someone shouted to me, “Amber, you’ve gotta come over and see this. NOW.”

I raced back to the pavilion and there I saw my husband surrounded by cheering people. This is not uncommon because he is the highly celebrated Pumpkin Man! But the reason for the fanfare? My beloved husband had entered the Twinkie-eating contest.

If there’s anything to cure you of sweets forever, this is it (just see the disgusting ingredients)

It’s not something he’d normally do but my gosh, if he was going to be denied sweets for a month, he was going out in a blaze of glory. He started the strongest of the competitors but slowed down by his fourth Twinkie (the three plates of food he had prior may have had something to do with it). Someone handed him a water, which he said helped because “the Twinkies felt like concrete in my mouth.” Ewwwwww.

He ended up downing seven of them in three minutes and I didn’t know whether to be disgusted or proud.

Maybe I was a little bit of both.


Multiple Sclerosis and the gift I never had

The post that took me two years to publish….

A couple of years ago, there was a large fire at my parent’s house that destroyed years of memories and decorations but was also motivated us to action. They have lived in their home for almost 45 years. Between my mom’s crafting career, the closure of her beloved tea room and gift shop, inheriting mementos of loved ones who have passed and her love to shop, the house is literally busting at the seams.

The closets in every room are jam-packed with treasures, many of which haven’t been opened. My mom’s craft area/laundry room/storage room were the worst culprits and were literally floor-to-ceiling with boxes upon boxes of beautiful ribbons, outdated lace and flowers, sequins, fabric, glue guns, dishes, baskets, unfinished wreaths and over 50 straw hats.

Growing up, my mom WAS Martha Stewart. Everything she touched was gold and she was (and still is) beautiful. She could cook anything and craft everything. She was the life of every party and the mom many of my teen-aged friends loved to visit because she provided them with the laughter and  stability they craved as their own families were rocked by divorce.

As my mom’s Multiple Sclerosis has worsened over the last 25 years, she has CLICK TO KEEP READING

A Lesson in Gratitude: Our Story of Easter, Cancer and Rebirth

Jamie has been cancer-free for 15 years.

He had recently graduated from college and had started his own consulting firm when a lump starting forming on his neck. It disappeared after a week but night-sweats and flu-like symptoms emerged. And then the lump returned.

He tried a few home remedies to no avail and finally sought medical attention. After Jamie described his symptoms, the doctor said, “I think it could be either mono or cancer. And I don’t think it is cancer.”

He was wrong.

Jamie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, cancer of the lymph nodes. When detected early, the survival rate is 80 percent. Like all cancers, later-stage prognosis is deadly. He was single, without insurance and living in Utah, far away from his family.

His doctor told him to apply for Medicaid. He was initially denied. Miraculously, CLICK TO KEEP READING