December 2019: Growing Pains

posted in: Arizona, Thoughts, Utah, Van Life | 12

The speed at which one year passes could be described as idling acceleration. It’s somewhat of an oxymoron I suppose. Slow at times, it seems by the end we wake from autopilot to discover another year has passed. Where did the time go?

This is NOT an example of an oxymoron. Just a moron. Bear spray and driving DON’T mix. Haha

A new year is the perfect time to examine our lives; what we’ve done, where we’re going, why we’re doing what we do. It’s exciting to think about change because, in my mind, change equals growth. There’s no better time to elicit change than in the birth of a new year, as the end to one year signifies the beginning of another.

Like any normal human, my year has been filled with many ups and downs. Before embarking on a new blog journey, which I’ll share towards the end, now is my chance to reflect on 2019 and appreciate all the opportunities that I’ve been granted. I cover a LOT as this is a reflection. If you want to read about more current stuff (like where I’ve been hiding the last few months or what is going on with van life) I recommend skipping to about Sept/Oct.

January

I started a fitness journey with a goal to lose 50 lbs during the course of the year. While I didn’t quite hit my mark, I did get healthier, stronger, and 21.1 pounds lighter. In two years, I have lost almost 50 pounds which is a win in my book! The struggle is real and I know many of you can totally relate. If anyone wants an accountability partner for 2020 don’t be afraid to reach out!

Click here to read January’s original blog post: A New Year

February

I started doing a lot of hiking. A big thank you to Debbie and Jacquie for being wonderful, inclusive human beings and helping me discover more of the Boise area than I ever could have done (or wanted to do) alone.

We also bought the van. Wow. Thinking back, a lot has happened this year.

Click here to read February’s original blog post: Cooped Up and Cranky

March

Elks Rehab Chair Hoops Team

One of my favorite things about March is Chair Hoops with some of my amazing coworkers! This annual fundraiser event is put on by the Boise Parks and Recreation’s Adaptive Recreation Program. It’s super awesome, fun, and NOT EASY!

This year, most of our time was spent working on the van (weather permitting). We did have one of the wettest springs in history which made it a bit challenging at times. By the end of the month, we had the fan/vents and most of the insulation installed.

Click here to read March’s original blog post: Crawling

April

My first experience semi snow shoeing to a yurt! I say semi because the snow was melting so quickly that part of the hike in was with the shoes and most of the hike out was without the shoes. It was still a GREAT time.

Progress on the van continued…..

By the end of the month, much of the wiring was run, the insulation was 100% complete, and the cedar ceiling was up.

Click here to read April’s original blog post: Renewed

May

Lupins Galore

May is one of my favorite months in Boise. The lupins were glorious this year and I enjoyed several hikes with friends! It’s hard to pick photos to represent this active month but here are some of my favorite memories.

Lunch break bike rides!

Working so close to the foothills had its draws. I rarely let myself have a lunch break, usually there were too many notes to write and many work related excuses I’d make to suffer through the day and work, work, work. During the month of May, I had a hard time focusing with all the gorgeous weather we were having so I’d ‘sneak’ away and ride as far as I could get in 15-20 minutes and then scurry back to the office with a big smile on my face. I should have learned from these moments and did this much more often during the year. Perhaps I would have been a lot less stressed at work!

Weekends were a whole different story! I was generally out riding my bike as much as I could in between working on the van. Ah, the van. With only 2 more months to go, my free time to do ‘fun’ things was dwindling.

By the end of May, it felt like we still had a long way to go, but were making visible gains by this time. The van was looking more and more like a home!

Click here to read May’s original blog post: Hikes, Bikes, and Yikes!

June

June started off with the best weekend! We had so much fun visiting with Eric’s Uncle Mark and Aunt Louise and Mark’s sister Gail with husband, James. Ya’ll MUST come back and see us! There is still so much to see and do, plus, you’re just FUN PEOPLE!

The month just kept getting better! I was able to sneak away for a hike in Stanley, my favorite place on earth. You could probably guess why after looking at the photo below. Happy.

I also had the opportunity to hike with Debbie and Jacquie to an old mine which is where I was also introduced to the wonderfully despicable, Mormon Cricket. It’s a funny story you’ll have to click the link below if you’re curious. Great hike despite our unwanted guests.

Despite having a bit of fun along the way, the van was getting closer to completion. By the end of the month, most of the walls were up, cabinets were done, and the electrical and plumbing almost finished.

Ok, we may have looked calm and collected, but in our heart of hearts we knew there was still a million things to get done. Next month was going to require dedication and determination.

Click here to read June’s original blog post: The Proof is in Idaho

July

I knew I couldn’t do it. I tried, I really did, but I HAD to go on at least one adventure this month *grins*

How could I not? I was leaving the place I loved most in this life—Boise. I had to get in some of the things I hadn’t been able to do yet. Thanks again to Debbie and Jacquie for making this happen!

Around the Mountain <3

If there is anything I am most grateful for in this life, it’s to have had the opportunity to live in Boise. I absolutely couldn’t imagine ever living somewhere that I love more than this.

Although there were plenty of distractions and shenanigans that I could’t seem to say no to, the van got done—Barely! Oh wait, that was because of my focused, dedicated, talented, amazing husband. Otherwise, the van wold probably not be done to this day.

Click here to read July’s original blog post: By the Hair of our Chinny-Chin-Chin.

August

Ups and Downs

This was a tough month and the photo above really sums up my emotional state after leaving Boise—A little bit of sunshine mixed with a whole lot of rain. I was looking forward to our adventure, yet, in my heart, I knew I wasn’t ready to leave. After spending 20+ adult years searching, I finally found a place worth planting roots and here I was leaving it. I’ll admit, I was a complete negative Nelly and emotional roller coaster. Thank you to my wonderful, patient husband for putting up with me. Also, a big thanks to my loving, understanding in-laws for always be kind and forgiving. It was a tough time.

I wasn’t happy about being in Missouri and there was a lot of personal things going on with family and health, etc. But, it’s no excuse. I was a bit of a pill. It’s not easy to admit your shortcomings, but I can be a real pain in the ass.

We did have some good times and Missouri isn’t the devil. I do hate the weather though. Always have, always will. Honestly, It is a beautiful state and I have some wonderful friends there. I was able to do some kayaking with Robin, see my old pal Barb, conquered some hills on my bike that used to give me trouble (no more!), and spent some time at Mary and Lindel’s farm (one of my favorite places!). So it really was a good trip.

Kayaking Finger Lakes
Donkey loves his afternoon chats with Mary.
Bike ride on the hottest recorded day of the year and 90% humidity.

It was mid August when we left Columbia the first time. Then a bit of a health scare called us back. Then mid August we set out for Van Life.

Here are some highlights of August.

Paddleboarding our favorite lake
Making the most of all the rain after we discovered a trail around Lake Showme.
Fishing!
Excellent sunsets at our second favorite lake

Looking back, I think to myself, “This is what van life is all about”. We were feeling free, happy, and life was pretty good. Sure, there were some lingering health issues, life wasn’t perfect—but it was simple, nice and we tried not to let the countless days of rain, storms, and humidity get us down.

Click here to read August’s original blog post: Emotional Whirlwind

September

By September, we were almost out of the Midwest. So many things happened this month, it almost feels like a year of experiences, thoughts, feelings, ideas all wrapped up in a 30 day chunk. Here are some of the highlights.

Magnificent sunsets in the Badlands
Succumbing to Roadside Attractions: WALL DRUG
Epic dispersed camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota
Exploring a section of the George Mickelson Trail
Discovering the Needles Highway in Custer State Park (WOW!)
Getting Eric out on a hike!
Van Life tacos just taste better!
The Bighorn Mountains were a welcomed surprise!
Our first visit to Yellowstone
A drive by of the Grand Tetons
A return to Idaho where I got super sick for what felt like forever!
Eric’s gift to me since I was sick: A nice selfie at Crater’s of the Moon. This place was so cool!
Rainbows over Rivers in the mountains of Idaho
Oh the delicious S’mores we had!

I told you there was a lot! It was fantabulous, frustrating, fascinating, and frantic all at the same time. We experienced unparalleled beauty yet it seemed that we never find the solitude we were seeking. There were constant crowds, people everywhere, and traffic galore. It felt like everyone was doing exactly what we were—searching for their piece of heaven.

Does anyone work anymore?

I tried not to have any expectations when we set off on this journey, but I can say that I was surprised at how busy everything was, wherever we went. It made the whole “no planning” thing all the more challenging, that’s for sure.

It was also a learning period. Trying to find the ‘perfect’ place with solitude AND internet (for Eric to work) was proving to be a lot more challenging that we anticipated.

Click to read September’s original blog posts: Exploring South Dakota and Exploring Wyoming

October

Some of the realizations we had during September led to the idea of staying in Boise during our October visit. Yeah, I know, right?!? After all of that! We even went out and viewed some apartments downtown (they were really cool too!). But, with a few tweaks in our mindset, we decided to go back out on the road.

First stop: The Salt Lake City area. While crowded (duh!), we found some great spots and had a wonderful time exploring the area. If it weren’t for old man winter, my vote would have been to stay much longer than we did. There are a ton of opportunities for adventure! Did you know that you can literally bike from north (near Ogden) to south (near Provo) continuously (that’s like over 100 miles!) I’m adding that to the list for next time. Anyways, here are a few pics to highlight October.

Biking along the Wasach Mountain Range
Discovering the nature preserve
Antelope Island
One of my top 5 favorite rides of a lifetime! Bison = added thrill (I mean fear!)
A perfect sunset every single night. It was stunning.
Temple Square was unreal.
Eric was getting better at selfies.
We did the unfathomable! We said we NEVER would (never say never!)
The decision was made to go on a hunt for the perfect spot, but drove away empty handed. Nice views though!
After nearly 2 months of searching, we found our perfect spot: Remote with Internet.
Found a hidden gem which we plan to explore again soon.
Utah truly is a magical place.

Utah is also where Eric and I parted ways for a short time. It needed to happen. Work stressors for him. Me stressors for me. It was pretty much a time where we just had to decide what we were going to do with our lives moving forward. Van life was great in ALMOST every way except the most important one—Work. After Eric decided to officially keep his job through retirement, working from the van and being constantly on the move was not ideal.

Eric went back to Missouri to focus on work.

I attempted to focus on what I thought I wanted: Adventure. Selfish, I know. But, the van life in my mind was all about DOING not SEEING. We had seen a lot, but done very little. That was all about to change.

I hiked and biked my little heart out for 5 whole days in one of my favorite places in the world: Zion. It was pure bliss, even with the mouse!

Then, reality struck. Eric was gone.

I filled my days with all kinds of things. That second week, I cut my hair, went on countless expeditions, and joined a CrossFit gym. It was awesome and exhausting all at the same time.

For someone with short hair, I have a LOT of it!
Before
After

Expedition 1
Expedition 2
Expedition 3

Then November happened.

Click to read October’s original blog posts: IdaHOME, Exploring Northern Utah, Exploring Central Utah, and Van Life: The Learning Curve

November

The first part of the month, adventure was still a focus. I went on a few more expeditions, the big one being my bikepacking trip to Yant Flat. I was definitely riding a high (emotionally).

Proud moment after climbing 3000 ft up to Yant Flat

My mom also returned home so I was able to spend some quality time with her (which rarely happens). It was nice. I’m lucky to have such an energetic, fun-loving, kindhearted mom.

We played pool
Divulged in self care
Did I mention my mom is AMAZING in the kitchen?

Despite doing all the RIGHT things (self care, time with mom, exercise, positive mental health strategies) IT still happened.

Winter hit, the rain came; snap, just like that, my mood soured. I got super blue, then flat out depressed. The sun went away both literally and figuratively.

My new screensaver. Adventure was not the most important thing.

Adventure no longer mattered. I missed Eric. I was mourning the loss of Van Life (and idea which took on more importance than I should have gave it). I wasn’t focused on my ‘now’ and instead spiraled into overthinking mode and sort of Hermited (yes, I made that word) myself into a cold, dark van—alone.

Bad idea. Poor coping. Emotionally unintelligent move, I know.

I have a tendency to over think everything when my mind is in a dark place. I was literally acting like a tantrum throwing two-year-old in a tiny room in my own head. I wasn’t getting what I thought I wanted and I wasn’t happy about it. Lame but true.

Instead of picking myself up and wiping off the dust, I lay flopping in the mud, crying and muddling around in it like a self loathing lunatic.

Sorry that I don’t have a photo of that one. 🙂

Click to read November’s original blog posts: Exploring Zion National Park, Bikepaking Adventure: Yant Flat, and Southern Utah: Trails Galore

December

I worked extremely hard on myself, which for me basically means to stop thinking so hard about everything and try to just let things happen. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I started reading—A lot. I also began taking long walks late at night under the moon lit sky. It was nice.

Many cloudy nights with an occasional break to spot the moonlight.

It’s funny how reading one simple thing can twist your mind and set you back on track. Never underestimate the value of dropping .25 cents on a dusty book on the bottom shelf at a musty, overcrowded thrift store.

“The rainbow is more beautiful than the pot at the end of it, because the rainbow is now. And the pot never turns out to be what I expected.”

Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself

I remember reading this over and over again and applying it to my own existence. It helped. Truly, it did.

Am I the only one guilty of not living in my now? I hardly doubt it. Maybe I’m the only one that would foolishly or shall I say BOLDLY announce it on a blog that I share with the world. But, I’m a real person with real thoughts and I know I’m not alone. Perhaps working through my own shortcomings will someday help someone else. Sometimes, the front we put up to make people think we’re perfect is the same front that gets in the way of connectedness. We’re all human, most of us struggle at one time or another, and it never hurts to have the support and love of your friends and loved ones.

Oh, Eric came back.

We decided we would spend the rest of the month at a cabin in the mountains of Arizona. Our goal was to a comfortable spot for Eric to work while we figured out our next move.

The drive from Southern Utah to Northern Arizona is stunning! I highly recommend it!

Remind you of any movies? This is a pretty famous stretch of highway.
The contrast of snow on the red rock and architecture of the bridge was astounding.
Unforgettable.

First stop, Flagstaff.

Flagstaff, Az.
Eric worked, I took a walk at Buffalo Park (no bison present).
Lowell Observatory: Mausoleum where Lowell himself is buried.

The Lowell Observatory was a bit of a bust (cloudy, windy, poor lecturers, rude guests) and I think that is where we picked up our sickness that would last Eric’s entire 10 day winter break off from work. Typical.

So we arrived at our wonderful Cabin Christmas Eve (I was sicker than a dog) and Eric got sick the next day. We then proceeded to lay on the couch/bed and binge watch every single movie offered by both Amazon and Netflix for the next 14 days. Happy New Year!

Looking Back

This has been an amazing year taking us places that I never dreamed we’d be. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve said, “If you would have told me 4 years ago we’d be…”

*If you would have told me 4 years ago we’d be living in a van on an open range cattle field listing to cows moo all through the night while looking up at a star fill sky in the middle of central Utah, I wouldn’t have believed it.

*If you would have told me 4 years ago we’d be laying on a blue suede couch in a tiny cabin in the middle of a snowstorm in the mountains of Arizona, I wouldn’t have believed it.

The list goes on.

I’ve always fancied the quote:

“You’re only one decision away from a totally different life.”

-Mark Batterson

No truer words have ever been spoken.

We’ve created opportunities for ourselves that people only dream of. Some we have capitalized on, others left by the wayside. I know I’ve learned so much about myself and what is really important in life. Maybe we’ve wasted a little time and that’s ok. We’ve definitely wasted a bit of money, not as easy to swallow, but that’s ok too. Mistakes are how we learn and learning, exploring and growing are what make life worth living.

We have each other. We love one another. Nothing else in the whole scheme of things really matters (to us anyways).

“Ancora Imparo” which means, Still I am learning.

Written by Michael Angelo at 87 years old

Now THAT is something to think about. No matter how old we get, we should be learning something about life; ourselves. When we stop learning, we stop living and when we stop living, our minds wither away and we die. Maybe first an internal death but eventually a physical one as well.

I regret nothing.

Moving Forward

We’ve made the decision to move back to Boise. We loved our life there and feel it’s the right decision for us both. It will allow Eric to work from a more realistic setting in a controlled environment and I will be able to work towards the work/life balance that I desire.

No more ‘dangling carrot’ as we call it. You’ve seen it. That thing they use in dog races to keep the animal motivated to move onward, as fast as they can go! Ah, yes, the dangling carrot. Ours were those larger than life dreams that took a hold of our happiness. Those ideas that took us away from living our NOW, shifting our focus on future events. It’s totally an anti-Buddha way of thinking.

It’s back to basics. A simple life. Here and now.

The Blog

Adventure is part of who I am. Even the smallest event like a trip to the grocery store can be an adventure in my eyes. I can make the smallest of things seem grand. I view the world, at times, like a child. While I hope I never fully lose that capability, I do think I need to reel in my ideas and wonderment with a healthy dose of reality. Perhaps it will calm my mind and help ground me a bit.

Chasing happiness will lead to misery. That I have learned at least a million and one times, yet, I’m guilty of doing it time and time again.

So in the spirit of a new year, I’ve decided to try something new with the blog and my life. I’m not 100% how it will go exactly, but I’m excited about a change. I want to do something challenging, yet fun. Why you ask? Honestly, I’m tired of writing about myself all of the time! I want to share ideas, engage the reader, and perhaps even figure out a way to incorporate more participation!

I look forward to entertaining you both visually and verbally while documenting and examining my own thoughts on life! Stay tuned for what’s to come.

Thanks for reading!

12 Responses

  1. Marsha kyle

    Happy the two of you have come together again……was excited to read Arizona as Jay and I want to spend winter there next year. Laying low from the Missouri winter here in New Mexico and Arizona, but not sure where to begin. Will be driving out the camper.
    Any input?

    • Jenni

      Wow! Exciting Marsha 🙂 You’re going to love it. My mom is actually staying right outside of Phoenix (in Chandler) at an RV park for 55+ (I’m jealous!) and says it’s really nice and 70 degrees right now. There is a ton of things to do in the area as well (biking, food/drink, hiking, etc). Eric used to live in Carlsbad and mentioned the caverns are totally worth a visit. If you make it to AZ before the weather gets too bad, I highly recommend a drive to up to Flagstaff/Sedona as well as the Grand Canyon and Zion (it’s a realistic day’s drive from Pheonix) and beautiful if you’ve never been. If I think of anything else, I will let you know!

  2. Cece

    You are coming back to Boise. Hooray!
    Very proud of everything you’ve experienced and decision you’ve made.

    • Jenni

      Thank you for your kind words. Moving back to Boise! I’m very excited. Happy New Year.

  3. Gaby

    1.- so glad Eric came back.
    2.- Boise yeeey we can do the entire green belt and many more adventures!

    I miss you lots!

    • Jenni

      YES!! The entire greenbelt in one shot is totally on my list! I miss you too. Looking forward to many adventures to come!

    • Jenni

      Thanks Jenna! It will be great to be back. Counting down the weeks (only 3 at the most), but also trying to enjoy the days at hand! Maybe we’ll finally get to ride together!

  4. Heather

    I’m really happy you will be coming back to Boise!!! If you wouldn’t mind a tag-a-long for springtime hiking I would love to try some adventuring with you! I’ve been here my whole life and need to explore my environment!
    You’re blogs are magnificent! Thank you for them! Looking forward to the next chapter!

    • Jenni

      That is so funny you ask. I was talking to Eric a few nights ago and told him my goal is to make Heather want to hang out with me more even if I have to drop down on one knee and beg. Ok, maybe that wasn’t quite how the conversation went (but close). Haha. I would LOVE to do some hiking with you and I think you will LOVE Boise even more once we do! Your doggies are welcome too! You have no idea, but you made my day! I’m so happy you enjoyed the blog as well <3

  5. Brenda Dunne

    Jenni,
    Hope you are able to reprioritize and find happy ground on which to settle. Whatever you find, we wish you peace and happy trails in the new year!
    Brenda

    • Jenni

      Thanks Brenda. I think Boise is a great compromise. Eric can work towards retirement (his goal) and I can adventure as much as I want (my goal) all while being together. Hopefully it will be a win-win. Happy Trails!

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