Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As evidenced by...



I'm not sure I will make my annual calendar exam tomorrow.  Usually I spend some time on New Years Day looking back through the year by reading through my calendar before I throw it away.  This year I am working.  I was supposed to go to two New Years Eve parties tonight but I cancelled.  After skiing all day yesterday and then skating for several hours today...I just wanted to have a quiet night in...not to mention I had dinner at a friend's house last night and then lunch out with a friend both yesterday and today.  

I love that this entire Advent and Christmas season has been packed with fun times and seeing people that I love but don't always get to see! BUT I don't love that I have more friends than time!  Yet God is good.  And 2014 has been one AWESOME year.  This Christmas and Advent season have been AWESOME.  I'm blessed.

This is a photo from Haiti right after the earthquake when I was down there working in a hospital almost five years ago.  My friends last night wanted to see pictures but I told them I hadn't made them available on any social media...mostly because it felt disrespectful to show their devastation.  I know it is random but today it reminds me that all things pass, only God never changes.  The good, the bad and the ugly...eventually we move on...phew!  And eventually, heaven!

God bless you!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hail and blessed be the hour



I was just thinking yesterday about how awe-inspiring it is that GOD became MAN.  

Pause....okay....think about that...

And then at Christmas Eve Mass last night father began his homily by stating, "Today we come together to celebrate a wedding: the joining of God and man."  

Unlike every other religion that contemplates the idea of God uniting his nature with man as man becoming God only Christianity believes that an omnipotent, omniscient God with no beginning or end entered into our humanity so completely as to become one of us.

Silent night, holy night.  All is calm, all is bright.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My life isn't perfect, but it is beautiful...



Living in the moment right now and soaking it in...I've had such a lovely weekend!  It started off yesterday with a run and making cookies with a dear friend that I've come to know this past year and her kids followed by cleaning my house before heading to a work party at a work friend's house.  It was generally agreed that this was the BEST work party we've ever had.  

This morning my sister's text woke me up reminding me of my nephew's Nativity play that started in 15 minutes.  I arrived 5 minutes late. Then my nieces and nephews helped me load my car with chairs before I raced to Mass, arriving 5 minutes late.  Home and I was unloading 13 chairs by myself and preparing for the annual Christmas ladies ornament and cookie swap...which my mom and a dear friend began 16 years ago and which continues at my house with...get this: 32 women this year.  

Just so ya know...my house is small.  Of course I was out of coffee, my coffee maker broke, I don't own a teapot and I was low on hand soap...which I discovered just hours before the party began.  Thankfully friends came through and all was carried off successfully...even down to Kahlua and Bailey's for the coffee and hot chocolate.  The yankee swap for the ornaments lasted two hours and by the time everyone left I was exhausted.  I returned a call to my parents, ecstatic to find they had enjoyed their afternoon at a live show with tickets I gave them last August for their anniversary, before reaching out to my pseudo-grandmother and another friend who missed the party via phone...now I'm waiting for my chicken parmesan to cook while I enjoy my solo after-party...living in the moment...loving this season...and so happy Christmas is around the corner.  I am so blessed and God is so good.  :0)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My favorite time of year...



Sometimes when the Christmas season begins all I can remember is the rush, craziness and work that I have to put into it every year.  

Father Barron has been sending out daily meditations about preparing and waiting...but I think that this time of year flies by SO QUICKLY that the waiting is nonexistent and the PREPARATION is all-consuming!  Yet none of it is difficult and I don't want to stop or give anything up!  

I love decorating the house, sending and receiving Christmas cards, making cookies with the kids, having ornament and cookie swaps, going Christmas caroling, Christmas work parties, driving around looking at Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music, gathering and sending gifts to family members, going to Christmas shows and most especially CHRISTMAS itself with the Holy Mass and time spent with family.  

My job makes much of this possible so I am even grateful for it and my friends and family that consume my time ALSO FILL my life with LOVE.  God is very good.  I can't even begin to imagine how busy heaven must be...preparing...Immanuel, God is with us.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Mouse Chronicles



Okay so I know Advent is upon us and Christmas is almost upon us and I have a myriad of topics I could write about...but I have to tell you about these mice!  Today I found a mouse dead with *JUST HIS HAND STUCK UNDER THE TRAP* so how in the world did my other traps disappear?!??  I am very scared to entertain the idea that maybe I have more than a mouse living here: maybe I have a rat!?  AAACCCKKKK....kerplunk (that was me fainting).  The other trap I set was completely untouched.  Either the super mice are getting smarter or I have just killed off the dumb ones.  

I doubt this is the last mouse since I woke up around 4am and heard them in the rafters again.  I might need to move.  To a world that doesn't have rodents.

Plumber is coming tomorrow: yay!  I went skiing today: yay!!  Had a great time...family owned place with wicked nice, friendly people.  I took a refresher lesson before going out on my own (my last ski trip was basically my first) and am SO GLAD I did!  I learned parallel turns, to always face down the mountain and most importantly: that I can do this.  Confidence is so key to any endeavor!  Whether athletic, academic, spiritual or relationship-wise!  Confidence in God and confidence that it can be done!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Absolutely not ready...and mousetraps



I have this problem EVERY YEAR!  Christmas is almost upon me and I have not done anything except well umm, nothing.  I did watch Die Hard tonight (is that one word?) for the first time...I had no idea it was a Christmas movie.  There is a lot of swearing for a Christmas movie.   

I have exactly three days to get everything together for my sister and her family (who live farther away) as we are all getting together later this week.  And I should REALLY get my parents and siblings and their families' things together in the mail before the end of this week.  Yah, really, I should.

Not stressed about it.  Thirty-four years so far and Christmas always gets done.  :o)  I am a little stressed by mice and water heaters.  That's because I went down to my basement this morning to discover two things: one was a puddle around my water heater...and the other was missing mousetraps which means that there are right now three mice running around with mousetraps attached to them or maybe one mouse with three but anyway you slice it: the mice have now run off with three traps.  These super mice are a bit creepy and quite frankly I find this latest antic disturbing.  Today I bought the kind of traps I used last year with success and set them out...hopefully I will catch a mouse tonight with three other mousetraps attached to him.

Blessed to have the next five days off from work so I can prepare for Christmas.  I also hope to get in my first ski of the winter but that depends on the water heater and the plumber's schedule.  Honestly, the biggest hardship of being single (for me) is dealing with plumbers and auto-mechanics.  I inevitably feel taken advantage of.  I know it's all in my head...but there it stays regardless of my common sense which doesn't seem to be able to talk myself out of it.

On a positive note I was able to send out Christmas cards!!  And tomorrow I am going to dress up like Santa and run 3 miles!  :o)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Last and final rule: number 14



[SPEX327] 
Fourteenth Rule. The fourteenth: Likewise, he behaves as a chief bent on conquering and robbing what he desires: for, as a captain and chief of the army, pitching his camp, and looking at the forces or defences of a stronghold, attacks it on the weakest side, in like manner the enemy of human nature, roaming about, looks in turn at all our virtues, theological, cardinal and moral; and where he finds us weakest and most in need for our eternal salvation, there he attacks us and aims at taking us.

I don't know why but this rule sticks in my head the most...I find it coming to mind when I am tempted or having desolate thoughts: the attacks are effective because the one attacking knows what he is doing.  But no matter how wily or canny he is, he doesn't win!  And no matter how weak we are, God is giving us the strength to continue on.  We shouldn't be surprised to find that suffering hurts or fears make us scared or temptations lead us toward wrong things that we really do want to do...the enemy is real, he is artful, and he's been doing his job for thousands upon thousands of years...so basically he is good at what he does.  But God is stronger and he's there whether we feel him or not, which means that even in our weakest moment...we're okay.  

So get to work: identify those desolate thoughts.  Pray and make sacrifices within your scope, tell a trusted spiritual friend and be patient.  Heaven is worth it.  And God loves you.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Licentious Rule 13



[SPEX326] 
Thirteenth Rule. The thirteenth: Likewise, he acts as a licentious lover in wanting to be secret and not revealed. For, as the licentious man who, speaking for an evil purpose, solicits a daughter of a good father or a wife of a good husband, wants his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his licentious words and depraved intention, because he easily gathers that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun: in the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows his deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.

He's sneaky...that he is!  So in just this way we must be on guard!  And how good it is to have a spiritual friend or confessor so that he may be found out.  So many times I have been tempted, drawn down in desolation or just plain deceived and in speaking with my spiritual director or a good spiritual friend been brought out once again.  The devil is a keeper of secrets...but of secrets not meant to be hidden.  Come to the light, he will not succeed!


Monday, December 8, 2014

So really, we win: #12





[SPEX325] 
Twelfth Rule. The twelfth: The enemy acts like a woman, in being weak against vigor and strong of will. Because, as it is the way of the woman when she is quarrelling with some man to lose heart, taking flight when the man shows her much courage: and on the contrary, if the man, losing heart, begins to fly, the wrath, revenge, and ferocity of the woman is very great, and so without bounds; in the same manner, it is the way of the enemy to weaken and lose heart, his temptations taking flight, when the person who is exercising himself in spiritual things opposes a bold front against the temptations of the enemy, doing diametrically the opposite. And on the contrary, if the person who is exercising himself commences to have fear and lose heart in suffering the temptations, there is no beast so wild on the face of the earth as the enemy of human nature in following out his damnable intention with so great malice.

I love this example because I completely understand what he's talking about... Or rather it makes it clear that no matter how devious desolation or the devil can be... He's already been found out. So really, we win. :0)  On the flip side, giving in a little will quickly lead to a lottle...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rule 11: Humble yourself





Humility is truth.  It takes away self-doubt and self-loathing.  It helps us to see who we are and who God is.  And it makes it all bearable.  In this rule St Ignatius focuses in on the importance of humility in times of consolation and in times of desolation.  Our focus is so much clearer when we are looking at Christ and not ourselves.

[SPEX324] 
Eleventh Rule. The eleventh: Let him who is consoled see to humbling himself and lowering himself as much as he can, thinking how little he is able for in the time of desolation without such grace or consolation. On the contrary, let him who is in desolation think that he can do much with the grace sufficient to resist all his enemies, taking strength in his Creator and Lord.

Humility really does lead to peace.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ten of fourteen

 I almost wish I had started this sooner...as we begin advent today I am still reviewing the rules of the spiritual exercises...but so it is...we prepare...sometimes too soon and sometimes too late.



[SPEX323] 
Tenth Rule. The tenth: Let him who is in consolation think how he will be in the desolation which will come after, taking new strength for then.


It goes both ways.  When we're down we can be uplifted by the hope that desolation is temporary and when we are up we can be tempered by the knowledge that desolation will come again.  This shouldn't detract from the joy and love that is pulling us toward Christ...rather we should commit to memory that in this very moment we are loved and carry that forward when the feelings fade.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ninth Rule: Is it my fault?



[SPEX322] 
Ninth Rule. The ninth: There are three principal reasons why we find ourselves desolate. The first is, because of our being tepid, lazy or negligent in our spiritual exercises; and so through our faults, spiritual consolation withdraws from us. The second, to try us and see how much we are and how much we let ourselves out in His service and praise without such great pay of consolation and great graces. The third, to give us true acquaintance and knowledge, that we may interiorly feel that it is not ours to get or keep great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is the gift and grace of God our Lord, and that we may not build a nest in a thing not ours, raising our intellect into some pride or vainglory, attributing to us devotion or the other things of the spiritual consolation.

I love the consolation this rule brings: is it my fault?  Then I need to do something about it...how do I know?  There is always that barometer that we talked about.  There are also a few more tips that St. Ignatius will talk about in the next couple exercises...but first of all it's good to realize that God permits desolation for many different reasons.  NOT just that we are failures (which is what desolation tries to convince us of) but sometimes because this very thing which seems to drive us from God is actually bringing us to him ("all is the gift and grace of God...we may not build a nest in a thing not ours") as it empties us of ourselves and makes room for Him.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Patience: Eighth rule



SPEX321] 
Eighth Rule. The eighth: Let him who is in desolation labor to be in patience, which is contrary to the vexations which come to him: and let him think that he will soon be consoled, employing against the desolation the devices, as is said in the sixth Rule.



I guess this rule speaks for itself.  Labor in patience.  We will soon be consoled.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Raw eggs: Seventh Rule

Love this rule!  Basically because it says that if God allows me to experience desolation, it's because He knows I can handle it and not only that: He is giving me the grace to handle it WHETHER I FEEL IT OR NOT.  And so that knowledge, even when I am not feeling his great fervor, love and grace, reassures me that I CAN PERSIST: in prayer, in good works, in loving my neighbor and letting them love me in turn.

[SPEX320] 
Seventh Rule. The seventh: Let him who is in desolation consider how the Lord has left him in trial in his natural powers, in order to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy; since he can with the Divine help, which always remains to him, though he does not clearly perceive it: because the Lord has taken from him his great fervor, great love and intense grace, leaving him, however, grace enough for eternal salvation.

I was cooking for a Thanksgiving bake sale the other day.  As I mixed the ingredients together I thought how gross, ugly and unappetizing the food in front of me looked...seriously how did anyone ever put this stuff together and think they could eat it in the first place?  



And that's how desolation works.  It robs life of it's purpose.  We can see the random gobs of raw eggs, lumps of fat and gloppy mashed pumpkin as they mix together but we don't understand why such unappetizing, ugly things are necessary.  Can't we just remove them?

Desolation also dampens our ability to trust and love the one throwing the ingredients into the bowl. When we taste the baking soda, we make a face...how can something that tastes so awful contribute to something delicious, yummy, filling?



And yet with time, it does.  My mess eventually turned into a delicious pumpkin soufflé (family recipe)...and so eventually will the trials and tribulations of life lead to something bigger and better than what we see right now.  

Don't let desolation pull you away from the big picture...God is the master baker.  He is giving you exactly what you need and the grace to bear it, whether or not you feel/see/think so.  Rest assured.  He will not leave you forsaken.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Back to business: Sixth Rule



We now return to our regularly scheduled programming: reviewing the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius (which I started in a moment of desolation when I realized I was forgetting what I knew and giving in to my pity party):


[SPEX319] 
Sixth Rule. The sixth: Although in desolation we ought not to change our first resolutions, it is very helpful intensely to change ourselves against the same desolation, as by insisting more on prayer, meditation, on much examination, and by giving ourselves more scope in some suitable way of doing penance.

When I first learned about St. Ignatius' rules I was going through a very confusing time in my life.  Practically speaking this rule was more helpful than the rest: it gave me something to do while discerning what in the world I was feeling, what God was asking of me and where, in the myriad of possibilities, God was directing me to go.  In moments of tumult, it became very clear that as long as I was saying my rosary, getting to Mass, confession and making the effort to put others first in my daily life (that was the year I adopted a local needy family for Christmas, sent money to the missions to pay for a seminarian in India, organized Christmas caroling at church and offered to babysit for all my friends and family...I needed to keep doing things that were within my scope when I felt like doing nothing but waiting in loneliness for God to "fix" my dilemma).

I'm sure I've mentioned this before but in the midst of desolation, when you feel God doesn't hear your prayer and you have no desire to sludge through the work of meditating because your heart just doesn't lift up to him or feel his love in return, your barometer is the sacraments.  When you don't know if you're okay, because you feel so far from God, you can know you're okay when you stay close to the Church.  My pastor told this to me once and it has brought me comfort so many times!

And this rule is also good to remind ourselves that desolation does not last forever.  I think sometimes just practicing this rule can bring us out of it...not always...but sometimes.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

7 Quick Takes about credit card fraud, bikes, swype and coming off mountain high...


1. Coming down off my Himalayan mountain high...still stop every once in a while and think "WOW - I was really there!"

2.  One sign you know you might be home is to find that the car place you used while out of town has a criminal record and has now illegally charged you almost $1000...thank you to credit card companies who get right on that!

3. AMAZING but true!  Someone wanted to get rid of a road bike, a 2012 Bianchi via Nirone 7, for very little and IT FITS ME!  God is sooooo good...guess that half ironman next year isn't impossible!

4.  Swype.  It's awesome.

5. And I know this because I got a new iPhone last week!  The camera is phenomenal!  The phone is nice too.  :o)

6. I'm going to France.  Didn't see that coming.  Why does God keep sending me to such nice places??

7.  Happy Thanksgiving a week early!!  God bless you and your families!

Now please go back to this ain't the lyceum and find another link to check out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Himalayas DAY FOURTEEN




I guess it's a good sign that I am so teary now that my journey has reached its end.  I left beautiful Pokhara by tourist bus early this morning.  I arrived in Kathmandu and then hit my hotel a little after 3.  Said goodbye to my guide and tried to put into words my gratitude...sometimes words are so limiting!  My trek has finally come full circle and even though I look forward to the city tour tomorrow: my true purpose in coming is done.  



I loved every moment (in retrospect!) - even the cold and mountain sickness...I wonder if there is a word for "I don't want to go home, I want to keep hiking with breathtaking views and interesting people for another three weeks"?  Probably not.  Not in English and not in Nepali.

In my head I know I should be tired but physically I have felt so good that I probably could go a bit longer.  Strangely I wasn't even achey after our ten hour trek over the pass.  Once again a huge THANK YOU to my triathlon/marathon training partner because I'm sure that's a huge reason why: our training together!

I'm getting ready to shower (dusty day driving with open windows) before finishing Into Thin Air.  Only a few chapters left from when I originally started (both the book and this trek) but now that I've seen these mountains, hiked them and fallen in love with them I wonder if the experience will be different.  I rather think it will.  Namaste!



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Himalayas DAYS TWELVE & THIRTEEN


I've spent this entire journey living in the moment and enjoying the "now" so to speak.  This morning began the same - met my guide at 7am to hike up to the hindu-buddhist temple area in Muktinath (only 5 like it in the world, a holy site for both buddhists and hindus) before a leisurely breakfast and late start to our final hike.

Beautiful scenery, through a desert into a huge, dry riverbed: trekking flat or downhill for hours.  On the way I realized this was my final day of hiking and became sad.  I used to, in my younger years, look for life-changing or self-defining moments during my trips.  In latter years I've come to just trust that God will bring those moments whenever and not to expect them.



Although this trek has brought me a lot of time for introspection and maybe some growth in regards to trusting God/not being in control, when I go home nothing will really change, nothing will be different.  That's not a bad thing.  My life is pretty special.

I just wonder why the God who brings me to such amazing places (I've been thinking today how the awesome view before me is so different from say the Greek Isles or the wilds of Scotland but fills me with the same wonder at God's handiwork.  He is such an artist!) hasn't brought me a spouse and children yet certainly a desire?  But as I told Him today while I walked in the midst of hindu and buddhist holy places and people - I know He is the one true God and I trust Him.  So it is as simple as that.

NEXT DAY

I am staying in the nicest hotel situated  on a huge lake in Pokhara.  True to form my 6:30am flight was delayed until after 9 because of cloudiness - but eventually we took off and flew over Annapurna I (well, beside it) so I was able to snap a photo.

I talked my guide into going zip-lining.  He's never been before and quite frankly is scared to try.  Two guys I met from Israel recommended it and the hotel is able to facilitate everything.  I hope we both enjoy it but especially him since I pushed him into it...I think it will make a nice thank you if he does.  He has been an exceptional guide.

And if it's a flop...then God's Will.  :o)  It's so peaceful on this lake, I like Pokhara much better than Kathmandu.  Sorry I don't have any deep thoughts today.  I really just want to relax and my brain seems lazy.  I'm sitting on this private balcony over a garden that abuts the lake, enjoying perfectly cool weather, peace and quiet.  We leave in an hour to zip-line.  I am so blessed, so blessed.



LATER

So ironically I finished with comments about the weather being perfect and now have just returned from the rain.  Zip-lining turned out to be fun and my guide got over his fear and admitted he really liked it.  I forget the stats but it was long and fast.  Afterwards we had to wait for a jeep at this bar-like place.   I sat on the patio overlooking a river and a cliff where 5 or 6 eagles flew around, picking up and dropping things.  A group of 6 or so kids swam in the river far below.  I stayed until the eagles disappeared and then walked around until I found the security guy and my guide fixing a ladder together.  For some reason this seemed more real than the american music and inane conversation I could over hear from the bar while I had sat on the patio.  I really enjoyed watching them work together as they fixed the thing.  Afterwards my guide and I talked (his English isn't that great so it's not always easy) until the jeep came back.  

After being dropped in Pokhara again we walked down to the lake and rented a canoe with an oarsman.  Our plan was to go to another shore and hike WAY up to a buddhist temple but after a quick stop at the hindu temple in the middle of the lake (on an island) the sky opened up and rain began to fall.  We made it to the opposite shore with just a few drops and then crowded into a lean-to which happened to be at the site of a recent landslide that killed four people just as it became a heavy downpour.  



The boat driver spoke excellent English and I enjoyed talking with him for the next hour and a half as we waited the rain out...honestly I enjoyed it way more than if I had gone on the hike.  He told me about his family, farm, politics, "America," arranged marriages, boat driving and I don't know what else...probably best part of my day.  As we paddled back on this huge, calm lake I was struck with another "wow-God" moment: how did I end up in the middle of a lake in Nepal, rowed about with two Nepali men sitting behind me and in the middle of a rainstorm?  God is so weird sometimes...in a good way.

Afterwards my guide and I walked back along the path by the lake until we reached the hotel.  I ordered room service and feasted on yummy indian food and tried the Everest beer.  I think I like its taste better but it's not as strong as Ghorka (sp?).

Tomorrow we take a tourist bus to Kathmandu.  As I tried to explain earlier, this trip has been filled with one amazing thing after the next.  I don't know why I've been so blessed but I am resolved not to take it for granted.

I'm pretty sure if I lived in Nepal it would be in Pokhara.  I might even try to learn the language...so far I have mastered three words and that with much practice.  Jit, the boat driver, assured me that I could learn if I just stayed here one month.  If only!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Himalayas DAY ELEVEN


 OK wow OK wow OK wow!!  Where do I start??  What a day!!  So maybe with 3:30am breakfast and 4am start time.  I forgot my headlamp in Kathmandu so a very nice, unknown person looked back, saw me with a penlight and left a high-powered flashlight on a rock, passing the word back along a line of 15 or so people for me to take it.  So kind and thoughtful!  Not sure how to return it since I'm not sure who it belongs to...so I told my guide to keep it.

I pushed my body harder today than I think I ever have before, even when I've done marathons or triathlons.  About a half hour into our ascent (we climbed 1000m to go through the pass from base camp then descended 1700m to Muktinath).  I began to feel nervous and like my breakfast didn't agree with me (such slow digestion in high altitude) which drove me crazy and by the time we had been hiking for 1 1/2 hours I couldn't go more than 2 steps without stopping or I knew I'd puke.  I finally told my guide who was like, "Don't we have medicine for that?  Why didn't you say something sooner?"  

I then spent the next hour asking God to bless my co-worker (back home) who insisted on calling in a script for zofran the day before I left...I had almost instantaneous relief.  At one point I wasn't sure I could finish the trek through the pass, I just felt so sick...climbing upwards when my body felt like the earth was pulling it down by 10x its normal gravitational force and when one step left me breathing hard...add nausea to that and I wasn't doing so well.



Reaching the pass was such a great feeling, like I had won a race of some sort!  I was so happy - everyone who came through when I did was shouting congrats - it was an awesome feeling.

The descent brought me to what felt like a new country, a total change in scenery but beautiful in its own way.  I just showered (hot!) and now am shivering while my hair dries.  I'll write more later.



LATER

Ok, I feel better.  What a headache I had after my shower!  I took a nap.  And discovered the owner of the flashlight (Russian guys) so I guess my guide is losing his new light.

Anyway - today was amazing (did I mention that??!!?)...even with mountain sickness I felt like I was in a movie - one of the ones like IMAX Everest: walking in the dark under the most stars I've ever seen, watching little headlights slowly moving forward through the dark, trekking through snow on narrow paths beside precipitate drops, crossing the sweeping slopes of the pass (biggest in the world), and waiting for the sun to rise...taking each step, one at a time, willing myself up steep inclines and icy paths, across bridges and rocky knolls - barely able to think at times, just going forward.  

After the zofran my trek improved immensely: I enjoyed the view, people around me and cool words written in the snow with walking sticks: "Good job!"  "Good jorney!" "Keep going!" "30 minutes!" plus all the words in languages I couldn't read.  But even before, while I was sick...it was pretty special.

Thankfully the sky was clear, not a cloud visible.  Some porters pointed out where the recent blizzard took the lives of fellow hikers.  I offered my rosary last night for them and today prayed as we passed.



There's a solidarity on the trail.  Last night at dinner I sat with a Tibetan from Nepal who now lives in Canada, so talkative, and a group of friendly Polish people.  It's so easy to strike up a conversation on the trail and especially today (as we passed each other after the pass) to exchange congratulations.



Now that the pass has been crossed I feel ready to head for home.  I'm still looking forward to tomorrow's hike into Jomsom and the flight to Pokhara, but its not pressing to get there.  I rather think the best of this trip has occurred but who knows what God has in store!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Himalayas DAY TEN


It came to my attention that I am not only missing Sundays but also All Saints Day Masses on this trip.  Last night I found a litany to the saints in my Magnificat book so at least I was able to say that.  

I believe it snowed last night in the mountains.  This morning it is crystal clear with a blue sky and gleaming white mountain tops in the distance.



Last night a cardiologist at the lodge pulled out a pulse-oximeter and we all checked our oxygen levels.  Mine was only 86%!  Then it went up to 88% (should be above 90%).  And we still have another 1500m to climb!  Kind of intimidating.  Two girls I met at breakfast told me they had a member of their group flown out by helicopter after he developed HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) and another two after they came down with food poisoning.  Guess this altitude things is real!  And nothing to disregard.  Very grateful to still feel excellent.  I'm sleeping a little less but since I was averaging 10 hours a night my first few days here I believe I'm doing fine.



LATER

Finally reached Thorong Phedi, base camp of Thorong La Pass (La means pass in Nepali but they say both in English), 4450m above sea level.  We then proceeded to hike another 400m upwards to high camp to help acclimatize after lunch.  Turns out the Russian guys are pretty funny...we sat and had tea together at the top.  Lesson in not judging!  One of them even gave me his hiking stick (he had two) to help get back down to base camp.  This was super helpful since we returned through snow, then mud, then gravel and finally dirt.  Even my guide was slipping.



Tomorrow morning we will be up and gone by 4am.  To make it though the pass with good weather, the guides recommend this early start.  I have my parka, gloves, etc. all ready to go.

Oddly enough I have a private toilet but no electricity in this room.  And not that this needs to be shared but I FINALLY learned to squat correctly.  After trekking in Peru and however many days here it's such a relief to go without making a mess!  This is definitely a life skill, up there with being able to swim and start a fire, I'm sure of it!



This has been an awesome, amazing trip.  I keep feeling like God has fulfilled a dream I didn't know I had.  Today at lunch I ate a piece of apple pie and listened to a recording by Bob Dylan playing in the background.  "How crazy!" I thought, "I'm on the other side of the world in the remotest region where there is no contact with the outside world, staying in a tiny little lodge run by a German lady and her Nepali husband, surrounded by people from all over the world except the US and I'm eating apple pie and hearing Bob Dylan played aloud."  So funny.  God must smile sometimes when He plans my life.

LATER

My room ended up being too cold to sleep in...it was outmost on the mountain and no one realized the lights were broken.  They moved me inward after I requested to sleep in the dining room and I now have a private toilet, working lights, and a relatively warm bed (my nose probably won't fall off from frostbite by morning!).  I've been told to go to sleep.  4 am comes soon!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Himalayas DAY NINE



Dinosaurs.  That's what three little old Nepali men told me the noise from the yaks was caused by.  Definitely agree it could be!

I'm sitting on the side of a mountain on the roof of a tea house overlooking a panorama of the Annapurna range: Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna IV (7525m), Annapurna III (7575m) and Gangapurna (7454m) while I sip lemon tea in the sun.  There is a table of Russian guys behind me.  Our guides are friends so for several days we have hiked beside each other.  Today is the first day they have talked to me directly.

I LOVE not having any decisions to make!  I realize that not having control or responsibility (or maybe relinquishing it completely to someone I trust) brings me much peace.  I am pretty sure that this is something God has been showing me again and again on this trip.  It starts with "don't worry!" and ends in peace.  

My guide will be surprised - this is the longest break I've ever taken but also the loveliest place we've stopped while hiking.  Random thought but I can see why so many people have worshipped the sun in the past...with its warmth, light and cheer!  How it transforms the earth!  So glad that instead of worshipping it I know the God who created it!



LATER

"My Jesus, if you want me, cut the fetters that keep me from you."  St Philip Neri

Shorter hiked today but after lunch (yak chilly - very good! and apple pie) I headed up the mountain beside the village for a good 2 hour hike.  These extra hikes make for some sound sleep - not to mention the views!  As we climbed it became cold and dark clouds descended over some of the mountains - snow.  Needed to remind myself that snow and a blizzard are two different things.  My guide is not worried about the weather and I since I doubt he wants to die in a blizzard I'll just trust him and God.

I met a solo-female trekker from Italy today.  We talked over lunch.  It was lovely.  And I met an eclectic group of canadian, armenian, aussie and americans, first trekkers from the US that I've encountered.  I also met a lady from Slovenia.  Her country is near northern Italy/Croatia region...she said there are only 2 million people in her entire country!

I love meeting so many people from other countries.

Oh and the cutest show went on as we climbed the mountain.  Looking down in the valley we saw this little puffy black and white dog barking and coming head to head with a huge yak.  The yak would back off and leave only to return from another direction, restarting the battle.  I laughed every time.

Afterwards I took a bath from a bucket of hot water.  Its too cold to wash my hair but so nice to have everything else clean!  I guess there are only three days left of hiking.  I cannot fathom how the time has flown by so quickly except to say that each moment (well maybe not the freezing cold) has brought me the delight of living in the moment and how quickly these moments supersede each other!

Another random contribution: I keep stopping on the trail, turning in a circle taking in everything around me and thinking, "HOW am I even here?  How did I get into the middle of the Himalayas in the middle of Nepal surrounded by people from all over the world?"  Must be God.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Himalayas DAY EIGHT



I sat alone on the top of a mountain today with God.  I am still in dryness but what a beautiful consolation to feel free to speak to Him although I haven't heard Him speak back.  I recommitted to following His Will in my life and striving to keep His rules and precepts.  Then I went back down the mountain and stopped and sat alone next to a turquoise rushing river to have more alone time.  This time I just sang, an old Amy Grant song that has been in my head since I was probably age 6 or 7, about the Lord having a will and I having a need to be in that will.

From the top of the mountain we could see an ice lake, glacier, and flow of snow.  The lake is a beautiful blue, simply breathtaking.  I'm definitely feeling the altitude but I think because the ascent is more gradual than Macchu Pichu -not feeling it as much, well, so far.

My life is odd.  I am so blessed going from one wow-God moment to the next, one beautiful place to the next, one beautiful friendship to the next.  I was thinking about that as I hiked, as I had that wow-God moment, and yet how many wow-God moments marriage and family life must also afford.  I know there are difficult moments - as in travel (don't get me started on flight delays, holes for toilets or freezing at night!) but the excitement, enjoyment and awe of things outweigh that 100-fold.  I know those moments are peaks and there will be valleys in marriage but looking at the peaks around me, I think it must be worth it just like hiking to the top of these over-looks are.



Hence why I have recommitted to God's Will.  Because I don't know everything (I'm not even sure what we are doing after lunch) and I definitely don't know what's best (I'd be married to a temperamental Spaniard who was always gone if I had my way) but as my guide said today when we were talking about the future of our respective countries, "We don't know but God knows."

So altitude is a very real thing.  And oxygen is not over-rated.  After lunch we hiked up the opposite side of the valley to a bunch of shrines.  It took an hour with my stopping to catch my breath every 20 ft or so.  Views were worth it though!  On the way down I watched some men "sacrifice" a goat.  First they poured water over its head and then yelled and chopped off the head with an axe.  Violent.



Dinner was pizza.  Altitude has put a serious damper on my appetite.  The idea of spicy foods leads me to feel nauseous, so I'm succumbing to western style.  Another weird effect of the altitude, especially when I'm hiking, is tingly fingers.  

Today I went to the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic.  It looks like a mission site.  I looked in the exam room and they have O2 but didn't see anyone around...well except for some dogs.  Apparently there is a talk every day at 3pm but I missed it.  Not exactly disappointed.  In total we did about 4.5 hours of hiking today as part of the acclimatization process.  Not too shabby for a rest day.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as we were able to leave our packs behind.  Also my guide doesn't rush, is funny and disappears from sight whenever I reach the top so I have had as much alone time with God as I could desire.  

How am I so blessed?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Himalayas DAY SEVEN


Awake before dawn again, but it is nice to lay in a warm sleeping bag when its so cold out~  Staying in the busiest lodge yet - Russians are friends now that everyone else is a stranger.  Met a nice couple of Germans last night.  One went to the University of Arizona.  It is amazing to me how almost everyone speaks English here.  Makes my life very easy.  Not a morning person (even in the Himalayas)...will write more later.



LATER

I just finished writing to ask my parents if they would be very upset if I grew up to be a Himalayan trekking guide.  Today's hike was the most beautiful of all.  How my heart sang as I walked through to Manang this morning!  Now we are at the acclimatization point.  We are staying an extra day before heading towards the pass.

My guide swears he has never had a 'tourist' (as he calls us) get altitude sickness, but I guess there is always a first.  Tomorrow we'll do some easy local treks to prepare.  I've already walked around town.  Much fancier here - you can get yak burgers and there is a bakery and movie projector house.  So far I've had chocolate cake and a coconut cookie.  No I don't have a sweet tooth.  :o)

I had this great thought today while hiking but I can't for the life of me remember it.  Oh well.  There is laundry service and I can charge my phone!  Its the little luxuries, it really is.  Now for a toilet seat.




LATER

Ouch!  Feeling the sunburn tonight!  Face but especially the back of my neck.  I spent the last couple of hours resting and reading.  They are selling "Into Thin Air" (I left my copy in Kathmandu) but I don't really want to buy a second copy just so I can finish it.  Besides, I left at the crux of the story, just as the storm finished, so I kinda wanna read the end after the crux of my trip is over. 

There are 2 hikes planned for tomorrow...not sure if my enthusiasm is annoying or not but my guide is awesome about it.  I think if he (who happens to be carrying all my stuff) didn't tell me to rest then I wouldn't think to stop until I passed out.

There is a huge range of mountains spread out in front of me.  Looking backwards  we have passed Annapurna II and sit at the foot of Gangapurna.  Annapurna I, the 8000+ meter mountain we won't see until we fly from Jomsom to Pokhara.  See?  I'm learning my Himalayas!

For the record ginger-lemon tea is my new favorite.  Nepali take on european and mexican food?  Not so much.  I still need to try Daal Bhat which is pretty filling.  Maybe at a lower altitude?  I hope slower digestion doesn't result in greater caloric absorption!



I'm not even sure how many days are left of my trip.  My last day was supposed to be free but the agency proprietor assured me I could make up the Kathmandu city tour.  And supposedly I have a Nepali cooking class the day I fly out, but we'll see about that.  This trip is just flying by - like all good trips do.  Its good for me to be alone with God but I realize for all I value solitude: I really am not a loner.  Meaning I like people, what they think, have to say, how they tick, and what makes them who they are.  I makes me more cognizant of how blessed I am to have my friends and family.

There are some PRETTY GREAT PEOPLE in my life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Himalayas DAY SIX



I'm used to looking out at the ocean and seeing the power, vastness and beauty of God.  I find that same awareness here in the mountains: their height, beauty, and quickly changing faces all turn my heart towards their creator.

Today I ate one of the freshest apples I've ever had at an orchard randomly placed along the trail.  

Herds of yaks keep passing by as I sit in the sun awaiting my guide after a delicious potato curry and apple pie.

I love this place.  I've already decided which river to take home.  My guide tells me Nepal has over 6000 rivers so they shouldn't miss one.  Still figuring out which mountain.  There are a lot to choose from.  Off to an afternoon of trekking!



I realize I could sit and stare at the mountains for hours.  This was true in Greece when we went to Meteora.  My favorite part of that entire trip was sitting outside the hotel on my balcony watching the light play on the mountains.

Right now I am in Lower Pisang where we will stay the night.  It is at the foot of Annapurna II and on the opposite hill is Upper Pisang and a Buddhist monastery.  We trekked all the way to the top where there is a monastery to look around.  Surprisingly we arrived ahead of the crowds and had the place entirely to ourselves...well the monks were there.  Then I turned around and saw this beautiful vista of the mountains, not available from Lower Pisang.  Of course my lofty, meditative thoughts burst forth: "You do good work, Lord!"  But I think he knows how much deeper I was touched.

As I walked around the temple, shoeless, I felt a certain respect for people who truly believe their faith and can not know differently.  At the same time I felt an over-whelming love for who God is and my Catholic faith.  My guide is hindu and we talked on the way down about how the hindus do not eat cows (which they worship), yaks or pigs.  He hasn't asked anything about my faith.  I wonder how much a Nepali knows about Christ?



My lodging for the night is bigger than usual and full of french people.  Its also shared toilets and showers.  I realize how lucky I've been so far to have private toilets all along!  My room is cold but not like the last two nights.  Still no update on possible storms but tomorrow we should find out in Manang.  I did see some dark, ominous clouds come over the Annapurna range today but all is sunny (as of sundown this evening) here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Himalayas DAYS FOUR & FIVE



So as I mentioned - one thing after another!  I arrived in a small, one street town last night and stayed in a guest house.  I had my own room and shower but felt like a cheater...all the others at dinner were from England and Australia and shared a room full of bunks together.  I enjoyed their company.  I don't prefer solo-travel but I am enjoying myself.

This morning I was supposed to have breakfast at 6:30 and leave by 7.  My guide came around 6 for my passport size photos in order to get the TIMS pass (permit) - and of course I left them in my luggage in Kathmandu.  He went down and then came back to tell me "no problem."...so what could have been another crazy delay worked out.

I climbed into a jeep and went up and down the one-street of the town half a dozen times loading, unloading over and over until finally in true Nepali fashion we went to a market and auto parts store before departing, jam-packed full of people.  I've decided I'm clueless here and that's just the way its going to be.  I'm good with that.

I sat squished against an Israeli couple in the jeep, very nice, who asked where I was getting off - I didn't know.  Where my lodging was tonight - didn't know.  "You at least know what trek you're hiking, right?"  Other couple in  the jeep are from Russia.  The woman told me how she hiked Kilimanjaro last year.  Guess that's on my "when I get back from Honduras" list.

Can't help it - keep wishing for a husband to travel with.  Trusting God with that - I'd hate to marry someone like my grandma did thinking he loved to travel only to find he'd done so much already he never wanted to go anywhere ever again!

I couldn't finish lunch - I found a beetle in my noodles.  Oh well, watcha gonna do?  Started the hike! OH MY WORD!  AMAZING! Gorgeous, like I've stepped into a movie.  Huge mountains with ginormous waterfalls everywhere, all going down to this light blue (oddest color) raging river that is so powerful at times you can see how its just carved the rock right out of the mountain.  My pics will never do it justice.  Speaking of which I wish I had a better camera!  My phone battery won't last long enough to get to the end of this trek.

I won't lie, I'm exhausted after just the first day of hiking.  Hope I'm better with a good nights sleep and early start.  Right now I'm in a little room surrounded by the mountains which I can see all around me as three walls are just huge windows.  I can also hear the river.

Dinner soon - but honestly after lunch I'm not hungry.

A DAY LATER




Oh the merits of a hot shower!  We just finished our first full day trekking and I have to say, except for being tired and beginning to feel the altitude: I feel great!  The mountains and rivers are AMAZING and the people of Nepal and their villages beautiful to look at as we walk through.  We left this morning at 7:30am and headed toward Annapurna II.  Apparently there isn't just one mountain in this trek, its a range of the Himalayas and includes Annapurna I,II,III,IV as well as Gangapurna and I don't know what else.  Then there are the peaks, mountains not tall enough to be mountains even though some have snow on them!  

Check me for accuracy as this is me remembering my guide's instructions:  There are 8 mountains over 8000 meters in the Himalayas.  We are planning to go through a pass that is over 5400 meters (5.4km, yah that's over 3 miles above sea level).  And 8 of the 10 tallest mountains in the world are here.

However today I met a lovely group of ladies from Vancouver who told me another typhoon is predicted in India which may send another blizzard our way.  My guide says he's on top of it.  One of the women has a daughter who works for the Himalayan Rescue Association in Manang.  We'll be there in a couple more days.

I realize how glad I am to trek alone!  I go at my own pace and my guide just stays behind me and sometimes beside me.  There is no rush.  Today we made a stop at a little outdoor kitchen and the woman was making sweet fried dough rings.  My guide bought and ate 2.  He said they are special and only made during religious festivals (Nepal just celebrated Desalami or something like that!) 2 days ago.  We talked a bit about Hinduism.  I saw a real buddhist monk today too.  They tell me the mountain people are mostly buddhist and the valley people (lowlands) are hindu.  The hindus have shrines to their gods in their homes.  We passed several buddhist shrines.

I find Nepal so interesting.  Even the people of the same country appear so different.  Some with asian eyes and dark skin, others with light skin and indian features.  God has created such an amazing world.  Wishing today I had another 2 weeks to hike more.  Several people have told me about the Everest Base Camp trek.  Its definitely on my list now.  These mountains are beautiful!

Oh and I stepped on the proprietor of this lodgings buckwheat spread out to dry on the floor.  I felt AWFUL!  But she was so nice.  This really is a lovely country.

Oh and a nice thing that happened at lunch: the owner asked my guide if I was American.  When he said yes, the owner said he was so happy to have an American in his restaurant.  I can understand.  I haven't seen any americans yet either.

My hair is drying.  Hope it dries quickly before the sun goes down because brrrr!!  It will be suddenly, ghastly cold!