STAY THE COURSE

8/27: Snow King Mountain Summit

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

1.5 mile hike up Snow King Mountain

(3 miles round trip)

1,500 feet elevation gain!

Today is a travel day from the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone, but we kicked it off with a strenuous early morning hike. The temperature dropped considerably overnight and it was unseasonably cold for a mid summer morning. Winter hats, gloves and jackets were appropriate for our summit but in reality the only thing that kept us warm was our own movement, the pumping of our legs against the wet, muddy ground. We ran at first (rookie mistake) and in no time it slowed to a walk. Head down, toes gripped, and arms swinging, Doug, Evan and I pressed on. Our lungs were screaming and the sound of my own gasping for air kept tempo with my footsteps.

1/4 of the way up, I turned around to check on Evan, who stopped momentarily. He was physically spent. Done. Checked out. From his perspective, the summit was too far away and quitting was a strong temptation. Tears came. More than once. “It’s too hard!” he demanded. But I know what he is capable of. He is an elite rock climber and the exceptional athletes on his team are very disciplined in their training, enduring strenuous practice routines. I had a valuable teaching opportunity in front of me.

We are in the hardest season of our life. I have an opportunity to build perseverance in my child that will serve him well in the years to come. We must persevere.

“Keep going, son. You can do this.”

“But I don’t want to. It’s too hard. I’ll stay here and wait for you to come back down.”

Here’s where tough love came in. “No. You can’t stay here. You can do this. I’m right here with you…I won’t leave you, but you ARE finishing this.”

More tears. Silence. Deep breath. Then, forward progress.

“It will be challenging, oh but the summit will be worth it!” Perseverance is a fruit that grows out of trials…it’s a willingness to stay strong when things get tough. It means going through mental anguish and often a physical struggle of “staying the course.” Evan accomplished this today!

The Bible compares living the Christian life to running a race. Just as athletes are crowned with victory medals, God rewards those who persevere to the end.

Evan’s Uncle Doug boldly exclaimed “this is what adventures are made of!! It’s not in the good, fun, easy stories. It’s in the hard climb on a cold and rainy day.” Do something different and crazy and hard and fun, and you will live a life of adventure!

We reached the summit in less than an hour – perseverance won today! And Evan was rewarded with the amazing views and the accomplishment of something he didn’t think he was capable of.

SEEK ADVENTURE

8/25-8/26: Grand Teton National Park

Rafting/Cliff Jumping

Teaching kids to take risks is an essential skill to learn. This weekend, we met some dear friends in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a mother son adventure of white water rafting, followed by hiking and cliff jumping in the Grand Tetons. We had the thrill of our life filled with smiles, laughs, high fives and fist pumps!

Rafting:

2 mamas, 4 boys, our guide Bear, and Steve. Poor Steve. Steve thought he was going to enjoy a peaceful day on the Snake River and instead he got 4 excited young boys and 2 mamas empowering them to push their limits as they explored the outdoors.

Down the stream we go on the white water rapids. The strong current pushes us left and right, as the waves crash over our boat and the icy temps send goose bumps all over our body. The raft jolts up and down like a rollercoaster. The momentum slowing while the raft climbs up the wave and then intensifying as we crash, nose first, into rapids. The laughs, screams and encouragement were exhilarating.

After everyone was comfortable with rafting, it was time to push the limits. Evan and Cole both fought nerves as they assumed their position on the nose of the raft…aka “riding the bull.” No paddle in hand, they sit on top of the raft with one hand on a rope and one hand free for balance. Cowboy up! They took turns riding the bull into the rapids.

The Big Kahuna was up ahead and Cole appeared confident and ready. As the nose of the raft plummeted into the rapid, waves spilled over the top, flooding the inside of the boat with water. The water sprayed into our face and soaked our clothes. As we wiped the water from our eyes, we noticed Cole was missing!

Without hesitation, I dove across the raft, locked my toes around the seat and with one arm, then the other lifted Cole up and forcefully launched him back into the boat. His buddies were there wide eyed in disbelief and astonishment! Their cheers boosted his confidence and he was all smiles and ready for round 2!

Risk. Adventure. Living life to the fullest. We grow and become our best selves when we seek adventure. Through adventure, you learn valuable experiences that ultimately will change your life. My life was made better today by an incredible adventure.

Cliff Jumping:

After a mile hike around Phelps Lake in the Grand Tetons, we found the infamous cliff jumping boulder…situated at the waters edge, with a large platform 30 feet above the stunning deep blue water. The boys quickly scaled the boulder and peered over the jagged edge, sizing up their next adventure.

We made sure the situation was safe, but then gave them space to work through emotions and make calculated decisions. We encouraged exploration. Evan wanted to touch the water before taking the plunge. JJ crawled out to the ledge to access the sheer vertical drop. Cole and Andy were trying to muster the courage, but only if their big brothers went first. Brilliant plan by the littles!

JJ took the stage first. You could see the nerves as he cupped his hands around his mouth to feel the warmth of his breath. “You got this JJ!!!!” He quickly turned his head with a nod and then confidently sprinted off the edge! Unbelievable! Evan followed suit. Then Cole. Then, the best of all, the youngest of the group…7 year old Andy. His trunks were flapping in the wind and there was no time to waste. Delay increases your odds of backing down. The countdown started. “10-9-8….3-2-1” and without hesitation, little man took off in perfect cliff jumping form and nailed a 10.0 score, with his mom waiting to wrap him in a towel and embrace the courage she just witnessed. Unbelievable! Epic day!

Rafting and cliff jumping are two memorable experiences that expanded our boys’ horizons and built confidence in their ability to handle new, exciting and scary situations. I’m so proud of all of them! So happy to be their mama and to walk alongside a friend who is also raising amazing young men. What a weekend!

As I lay here thinking about our amazing week, my imagination takes off and I smile as I pretend I’m on that river wild, rafting and cliff jumping, enjoying nature and making sweet sweet memories. We love you Metzler’s!

STORMS OF LIFE

8/23: Custer State Park, South Dakota

Black Elk Peak

Cole and I set out late Thursday morning for a mother/son hike in Custer State Park. Black Elk Peak was the Target. At 7,242 feet, this is the highest point east of the Rockies. This is a great accomplishment and gives him a taste of bigger things to come, like Half Dome in Yosemite (16.4 miles with 4,800 feet elevation gain) or a 14er (14,000 ft elevation) in Colorado.

It was a gorgeous day out. The sun was shining and we lathered up on sunscreen and packed a gallon of water and plenty of snacks. The goal: Sylvan Lake to Little Devils Tower to Black Elk Peak. The trailhead started around colossal boulders (where we left Evan for climbing practice with Doug and Jeff) and ponderosa pine trees. The trail snaked back and forth through aspen, Black Hills spruce, and a gorgeous river cutting through the forest. We climbed an intense grade in the trail and took several water and rest breaks to catch our breath and rest our burning legs and racing hearts. The final summit to the peak of Little Devil’s Tower was stunning! We scrambled through granite clefts and cracks and topped out with jaw-droping views of the Cathedral Spires to the southeast, the Black Elk Wilderness, and the brick fire-tower atop 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak to the north. Breathtaking!

Cole was a powerhouse and was determined to continue on to the final summit of Black Elk Peak. The trail left Custer State Park and continued on into the Black Hills Wilderness (where it is easy to get off trail and land yourself miles and miles into the vast wilderness).

Although it was a gorgeous day out, storms are not uncommon in summer afternoons. They sneak up on you faster than you think, and if you’re on an exposed ridge or summit, they can be deadly. Cole and I had been hiking for nearly 3 hours when the sky drew dark, the wind picked up, the rain started, and the thunder rumbled. Frightening and extremely dangerous!

We were nearly above the tree line, the worst place to be in a storm. The rain intensified. I checked my phone…lightening strike 4 miles away! I immediately called my friend skilled in mountain terrain and hiking. She gave immediate, precise and urgent instructions. I had to make the decision to bail and descend quickly or summit (above tree line), knowing there was a shelter on top.

Rain. It always rains, doesn’t it? It’s not about IS it going to rain? It’s WHEN. It rains in our lives. A lot. God says incredible things like “when you cry out to me, I listen.” When I’m in a storm, I can’t see past the current situation…it’s all consuming. Cole was the same way out on that mountain. But as his mother, I would do anything to keep him safe and get him home. Isn’t that how our Heavenly Father must feel? He will do anything to keep us safe and bring us home. Cry out to Him.

I grabbed Cole’s pack, strapped it backwards across my chest, and encouraged him all the way to the summit. I never saw a lightening strike, but my head was down, heart racing, legs burning as we pushed hard to the top. We made it safely under cover and waited out the storm before safely descending. We enjoyed a gorgeous hike down and likely missed a rainbow, full of God’s promises, as the sun peered out behind the dark clouds.

HEALING

We are half way through our trip today! I have no down time, other than when I’m lying in bed at night or on travel days when we switch drivers. With limited cell access, I have not posted to the blog, but I’ve tried to document some memorable moments along the way…especially teaching/learning moments. So bare with me as I catch up on posts today!
For many people suffering from physical or emotional ailments, the best medicine isn’t found in a pill bottle or an IV drip, but rather in the magical forest filled with Sequioa trees, at a Canyon overlook, spotting bison and elk, prairie dogs and coyotes, brown bears and antelope, begging burrows and big horn sheep. It’s found at the shores of a shimmering lake or at the top of a mountain. It’s healing out here. We have the same challenges on the road as we do at home…in fact, it’s twice as hard here without the convenience of “home” and equipment left behind. The demands on my time and energy are increased substantially and yet God has granted me the ability to not only survive it, but thrive out here! It is HARD. But it is worth every second! With every hardship comes amazing memories that are being etched in our memory banks forever. We have something to look forward to every single day. Adventure! Fun! Excitement! Exploration! I think I can safely speak for all of us in saying, our bond is stronger, we love harder and the outdoors is healing and soooooo good for us.
Working through very real and tangible challenges in nature — like figuring out a fridge that stopped working, a nail in the tire of our tow vehicle, crossing a scary pass across Yosemite with an RV, cliff jumping 30 feet into icy waters, riding “the bull” on a whitewater raft, trad climbing in Yosemite, getting caught in a frightening thunderstorm on a mountain top, and summiting Half Dome (16.5 miles of extremely difficult and dangerous terrain) — can boost self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy. We are doing HARD THINGS out here together in nature and we are doing HARD THINGS in life. Spending time in the outdoors and the anticipation of completing more challenges over the next 3 weeks helps to counteract the hopelessness we feel. I don’t want this trip to end, but knowing we have all of you waiting for our return makes us smile.
We love you!
Tara and Jeff

6 week trip of a lifetime: RESILIENCE

(After posting via Facebook last week, I realized that I want a copy on my blog for my boys to have one day…so I’ll start documenting here regularly. Daily photos still being listed via Instagram @homans.liveoutloud)

Day 1 of 41 of our trek out west! (Most daily images will be posted on Instagram @homans.liveoutloud). The efforts of so many people have made this dream possible for our family and we are eternally grateful! The trip came together in just a few short weeks and now here we are…on the road to resilience.

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress. We will have many chances to build resilience on our trip. After all, we started the morning off with a fall, followed by the full efforts of Doug and I to carry Jeff into the RV. We will do this many times a day, in the face of significant stress, but with an abundance of love. We have young watchful eyes on us and a big opportunity to help develop resilience in our boys.

Everyone reacts differently to traumatic and stressful events, but ultimately our capacity to rebound from adversity will be stronger, and we can allow it to transform and empower us. Jeff and I want them to keep moving forward in spite of our challenges, obstacles, and disappointments. We also want them to be positive and optimistic when they have every reason not to be.

So here we go…For the next 6 weeks, I’m driving a 38 foot RV, hauling a wheelchair accessible van! I just accessed Jeff’s port with a NEEDLE and hooked him up to his IV drip, all while in the RV. Feeling stronger. Feeling more empowered. But it doesn’t come without stress, fear, anxiety and even tears. It doesn’t come without pure exhaustion, frustration and even anger. All normal emotions. We are committed to living an extraordinary life. We are committed to making the best of our circumstances. But even so, we still have to wade through the muck of emotions. We have an opportunity in front of us…to become stronger, together. #shredALS