Adventure, Fitness, Travel

CARPE DIEM

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I grew up embracing this motto, and in the past, for me, “Seizing The Day” has looked like striking out on my own at an early age, competing against the Big Dogs even when I didn’t stand a chance, saying “Yes” when I should’ve run the other way, saying “NO” when I should’ve said “Yes”, saying “YES” at just the right time to just the right man, touring England (and sweet-talking a Royal Guard into speaking to me), training in Krav Maga, “Caveman Training,”  going to Vegas and jumping out of an airplane, Fox Hunting, marathoning (well, Half-marathoning – I still haven’t met my goal of a full marathon, BUT I WILL!), moving from my Homeland to get closer into the Heartland, hiking the mountains of Southern France, pursuing a child in need of a loving home, and…

Well, yesterday, seizing the day looked like bruised, skinned, swollen knees, shredded hands, raw and bruised elbows, blackened hips, and as sore a body as I’ve ever felt.  Yesterday I took life by the horns and wrestled it to the ground. Deep into the ground. All the way down to 300 feet under the ground.  Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I went Spelunking.

For the past year, I’ve lived above the World’s longest known cave system, with over 400 miles of mapped passages, and more to yet be discovered.  I’ve traversed above ground trails, and taken two of the “tamer” tours through the caves and was itching to see a wilder side of this place I now call home.  So, I laced up my hiking boots and bought a ticket for the “Wild Cave Tour” – 6.5 hours of getting off the beaten track.

I am truly regretting allowing myself to get out of shape! I THOUGHT I could handle 6.5 hours of Spelunking, but after 4 or 5 hours of hiking, climbing, sliding, crawling, crawling, crawling, crawling, crawling, slithering, inching, wiggling, rolling, dragging my body by my fingertips/pushing with my toe tips, climbing, crawling, crawling, crawling, and FINALLY back to hiking…. WHEW! It was all I could do not to cry “Calf Rope!”

It was fun, though, and challenging. I had to do some free climbs that I NEVER would have even considered doing before. And though I did fail at one climb (despite assistance), I did make it up an alternative climb, though I couldn’t have done it without the help of our two guides.  The climb I failed to make (failed two attempts), required a stretch that my poor stubby, inflexible legs absolutely maxed out on.  My whole body was badly trembling as I stretched from wall to wall, suspended above the underground canyon floor, desperately trying to muster the strength to swing my right leg from one side of the canyon to join my left leg on the other side. I just couldn’t do it, Cap’n! I lacked the pow’r!

Ah, but I am comforted by the words of Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

I may never go Spelunking again…  well, I may just have to sign up in a CrossFit gym and get back in good shape before giving it another go! All I know now is that I am so sore I could barely roll out of bed this morning. Really, rolling is just too difficult. I had to wiggle my way to the edge. I can’t lower myself onto the couch – I just flop.  Yesterday I managed to soak in an epsom bath, but today I can’t lift my knees high enough to get into the bathtub.  Yesterday my right knee was about the size of a grapefruit, but the swelling came down since I slept with an icepack.  I can’t imagine what my knees would’ve looked like had I not have been wearing knee pads and coveralls!

All of the bruises and soreness are incredibly worth the memories, though. Once I reached the park, I immediately began encountering wildlife.  I saw a big doe, a squirrel darted across the road ahead of me and pounced over the double yellow lines, and I stopped for a turkey hen to cross the road with her flock of tiny babies. I’ve seen many deer and squirrels in my life, and even turkeys, but never before had I seen poults (baby turkeys). Another first was seeing bats inside the caves. They were so small and delicate, clinging to the cave walls. As we descended into the depths of the earth and away from the most-travelled paths, we looked up and were delighted with the sight of much larger Gypsum Flowers than I’d seen in previous tours.

If you visit this link you’ll get a taste of the wonders I enjoyed. There are many images on that page of the sights to behold inside Mammoth Caves, only one of which are the lovely Gypsum Flowers. I can tell that that particular group visited the caves not too recently, though, as now all participants on the Wild Cave Tour are issued coveralls and gear for the sake of preventing the spread of White Nose Syndrome – a devastating disease that is wiping out bat populations.

Some highlights from my Wild Cave Tour experience:

  • entered through The Carmichael Entrance
  • spent a LOT of time crawling on hands and knees for the first few hours
  • BARE Hole – I BAREly made it through! Must extend arms ahead, slither into the hole on belly, and push/pull/wiggle (not much room to wiggle as it was just big enough for my hips) by scraping the ground with your fingertips and toes of boots.  I almost didn’t think I would be able to get out on my own power, but somehow managed to inch towards a stable rock that I got my left hand on and pulled myself out. Also, my back left pocket was hooked on a jagged rock inside the hole, which is how the hole got it’s name. In years past, before visitors were required to wear the coveralls, some cave divers had had their clothes ripped off by that jagged rock.
  • The ManHole – a bit embarrassing that I couldn’t make it up that particular “Canyon Walk”, but the group was very encouraging and the guides were so great.
  • Through one crawl space, I had to half crawl, half drag my body. There just wasn’t room enough for two knees on the ground.
  • Mary’s Way – another passageway that was barely big enough to crawl through. There wasn’t room enough to hold my head up, so I was looking down the whole way through, unless I cocked my head at an odd angle. As I crawled and dragged myself along, I noticed someone’s missing button, a missing zipper pull, and the blood trail being left by a fellow Cave Diver ahead of me.
  • I don’t remember the name of the location, but at one point, we stopped at a running creek where our guide had explained that the acoustics were phenomenal in that spot. We turned out our lights and I spontaneously led the group in singing The Star-Spangled Banner.
  • Crystal Lake – a magnificent shaft with running water
  • Frozen Niagara – as lovely as it sounds (and available for even the elderly and small children to see on the short Frozen Niagara Tour)
  • Irene Ryan (Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies) signed a wall in the caves in 1937 – I was exhausted by the time we reached her signature. We were close to the end of our tour by then. We also were told about John Wayne’s signature in the caves, but did not see it.
  • The “Snowball Room” – I was shocked – SHOCKED – to discover that we were actually stopping in a subterranean cafeteria for lunch, WITH INDOOR PLUMBING. REAL TOILETS. AND AN ELEVATOR FOR FOOD SERVICE. Food service wasn’t available that day, but the amenities available were shocking all the same.

So, to sum it up, it was an incredible experience that I would highly recommend to someone that feels up for a challenge. A word of caution, though – get fit or be sore!!

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All Things Horses, Our Adoption Journey, Saving Grace

Changing hearts, changing lives…

Bucolic Evening

A wise man once said, “The only constant is change.”

Changes that I could never have foreseen in my own life have been coming to fruition within the past year. Before we knew we were moving from Texas, we had 11 horses, a growing herd of cows, and we thoroughly enjoyed our life on the ranch. We had no intentions of ever leaving our homeland. Then one thing on top of another began to pile up in our lives and, like the drought sucking all the moisture from the pastures, slowly sapped all the desire we had in us to stay. With no real clue where we might end up, we began to prepare for the move we could feel God calling us to make. A year in advance we began culling our herd, culling the “stuff” from our home and lives. We even moved into a 5th wheel, to be ready to move at a moment’s notice.

When we finally got the call to transfer to Kentucky, it was a dream come true. We had visions of post and rail fencing around a small horse farm filled with rolling hills and rippling bluegrass (much like the above photo found on Flickr). We began to draw up barn plans and scout property. We found an Amish builder. We just knew that within a few months of making the move, we’d have our beautiful barn ready and we’d be on our way back to Texas to retrieve our remaining beloved horses.

Then something big happened.

God completely changed the desires of our hearts.

In ten years of blissful marriage, we had failed in one thing – to have children. We had discussed adoption before, but never followed through. Our house was always full of nieces, nephews, friends’ children. We wanted children, but it was always something we put off for the future. Then, suddenly, we make this move and are surrounded by a community and Church family that is always talking about adoption. Everywhere we go there is someone who is in the process of adoption, has already adopted, was adopted.

We could feel God tugging at our hearts, saying “Now. Now is the time.”

So, we scrapped all of our previous plans and immediately began looking for a house so that we could get the process started. Any other time and we’d have real estate agents blowing our phones up, but oddly enough, we could get no replies to all the voicemail and email messages we left concerning houses we were interested in looking at.

Wait.

I take that back.

We DID get two replies. One reply turned us down because our dogs are too large. The other reply turned us down because we have too many (3) dogs.

I was ready to pull my hair out. How can we ever get the adoption process started if we can’t even find a home for the kids? Then, just as He taught me to let go of my homeland, God showed me I had to let go of even this. He once again showed me that when my desires line up with His desires, He provides all that is needed. More than that. He shows up and shows out!

I had given up and put it all out of my mind. Sometime later, I was walking in to work and a co-worker who had made the move with me struck up a conversation. She knew someone who was retiring that had a house I would absolutely love and they would be putting it up for rent soon. She gave me their number. And you know what? They actually answered on the first ring! And they were okay with our dogs! AND we could see the house tomorrow!

Until we decided to follow through with adoption, I had had no desire to move out of our 5th Wheel – I was a gypsy, ready to go wherever the wind blows. I couldn’t imagine loving a house as much as I loved my camper.

Then tomorrow came.

I walked through the front door and knew I was home.

Every detail fit us to a tee – from the hardwood floors, to the stone fireplace, to the colors on the walls. The heritage of this home is our own – from the company posters and emblems left in the office (I’m a second-generation employee of the same company as our Landlord), to the Bible verses written inside the walls, to the very core of the original building as a Post Office (my husband’s mom, both grandmothers and grandfather are retired from the Post Office). This is home. Thank you, Jehovah-jireh!

Eight months later, we’re waiting for our homestudy to be completed and approved. We’re down to one last horse to sell – the one I never thought I’d ever be able to part with. We’re still trying to sell our fabulous horse trailer. So much change has happened. So much change is still to come. It can be so easy to allow it to overwhelm us, to allow our hearts to ache for what was. But when God has been so good, SO GOOD… I KNOW the plans He has for us, and it’s greater than anything we could ever imagine.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

And for this reason, I will lift up my eyes and keep them on my Savior, “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him,” (Ephesians 3:12) knowing that He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

God has good things in store for us. Our children our coming soon, and He has good things in store for them, too. What about you? Are your desires His desires?   James 4 tells us “you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Draw near to God. Draw near to Him and see what He won’t do for you!

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Uncategorized

What’s new?

Nearly two years since my last post, and the saga of life with horses continues… in Kentucky! We moved nearly a year ago, and though we have yet to foxhunt since our move, we have gotten connected with a therapeutic riding center and a Dressage trainer. Work takes up most of our time, but we do manage to get some horsey time in at least a couple times a month. We left our own horses back in Texas – all sold or given away, except for Shaggy. He is currently for sale and can be viewed at MW Equine. 

We were full of plans, plans that revolved around horses, when we moved to the “Horse Capitol of the World,” however our lives, hearts, and plans were spun around and we gave over our own plans to follow God’s plan for us. It’s been an adventure and I can’t wait to see what He has planned for our future!

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