Make 2019 The Year You Help 89 People

One month left on this project!! 

January I wanted to give $20 to each family and we raised enough to give $50.  For February donations increased enough to give $60 to each family.  For March, my new goal is $75 per family!  We only need $380 more to reach this goal!! 

We have donated over $11,000 to these families.  Thank you for helping us make this possible!  

Want to send a one time donation:
Venmo: @JENNYJ29 (Picture is of me and my dog, Chaco)

Keep reading below to find out about our project.  

HERE IS THE SURVEY TO SIGN UP TO HELP in February and/or March:

Shane and I know and work with each of these families. 5 of them are co-workers, all 19 families homeschool with us through Inspire, 8 of them lost jobs along with their homes, there are 52 children!!!  We see them, we hug them, we laugh with them and cry with them. I want to support them as long as they need, but I also want to take it one step at a time so 3 months gets us to Spring.  Then we will re-evaluate.

I know this is the season of giving and maybe you are all "gived" out, but I want to remind you that there are THOUSANDS of families could use your "giving spirit" long after the Christmas tree is thrown away, long after the presents are no longer being played with and long after your life has gone back to "normal".  I refuse to forget about the families who have had their entire communities burned to the ground.   However, there is just no way for Shane and I to help every single person affected by this horrific fire, so we want to do what we can to help the 89 beautiful people we are closest to.  We can only do so much alone.  So, as you are out buying the last of your gifts or treating yourself to a $5 starbucks latte, please consider helping Shane and I to help these 19 families.

Our goal is to give each family $50 a month - $950 each month.  This is hardly anything, but it might allow a family to go see a movie, or go out for dessert or buy a birthday present.  This is not fundraising to buy a family a house or a car, it is fundraising to get a little bit of "normal" back into their lives until they feel stable again. Shane and I will give $400, which leaves $550 we need to raise from family and friends - our family and friends, people who know these 19 families, ANYONE who wants to help. I want to start with just a 3 month commitment, as I dont want to scare people away with a long term commitment, but 3 months seems doable.  

Of course, if there are enough people and enough donations to reach $100 or MORE a family that would be AMAZING and that is my heart's goal, but again - baby steps - We are really just looking for another $550.  All this takes is 11 people to commit $50 a month!!!    

Want to help?  

 Keep reading

Cant help?

....keep reading and you might change your mind.  

( the math is simple....100 people giving just $1 a month gets us $100 - 50 people giving $5 a month gets us $ all adds up, one penny at a time!! )

Why are we doing this?  Because we can, because we care, because we know there are others who want to help also, but don't know how.  

If you are committed without hesitation then here is the plan.

1. You will fill out this survey - DONATE 2019
2.  I will email you the 1st of the month (starting in January) reminding you to send me your donation.
3.  The 15th of the month I will venmo or paypal each of the families WHATEVER amount we have raised divided by 19.  Maybe it will be $21 a month or maybe it will be $500....that will depend on how much support we get.
4. Repeat 2 more times.

If you are not sure because 1 - you have no idea who I am and think I might just run off with your donation and spend it on myself or 2 - you just want to donate one time, or 3 - cant afford to donate then keep reading.

If your issue is in trusting me, there is nothing I can do about that except to say that I am that person who goes back into the store to pay for something when I realize they didn't charge me for the 5 items in the bottom of my cart....I am that person who gives all of my money away because I don't need "things" and it makes me happy to give to others....I am that person who doesn't take the discount offered because someone else needs it more than I do. I would never EVER run off with even one cent that did not belong to me.  But, if you are still skeptical about sending me your donation then don't.  I would never force trust on anyone.

If you want to just send me a one time donation - GREAT!!!  Venmo @JENNYJ29 or Paypal -

If your issue is that you cant afford it then I have the following to offer:

Nothing creates fear in people like money.  Once upon a time, in my life, I feared money also.  We had lived on one income for our entire relationship.  We knew what it was like to count pennies, to not have enough money to buy gas to get to the end of the eat the same dinner every night because there was no money to "splurge".  I sold my PLASMA in college to get gas money...did you even know that was a thing?  Well, I did!!  

If Shane went to the store and spent $20 that I hadn't budgeted, I would have to pull the money out from somewhere else.  We had NO EXTRA MONEY - NONE.  Even when Shane was teaching and we had small babies, we still got by on a VERY tight budget.  We lived for years this way, until 2016.  

I started the Course in Miracles - Abundance class with Robin Duncan.  She says that even if all you can give is $1, then give it.  You will get it back and more, when you dont cling so tightly to it.  I started to send $10 a month to random friends.  I noticed that we didnt miss I went to $20 a month, then $50....pretty soon I was up to $200 a month that I was giving away when I had BARELY been able to find $20 for Shane to go to the store a few months prior.  The kicker is that we did get it back -TENFOLD - when I got my job with Inspire.  Not only do I have a job that I love more than I can express, but I get to still homeschool my children, be with my family all day and have even more money to gift to others.  Dreams come true!

One thing that I love about giving is that I NEVER, EVER regret it.  I NEVER miss the money and it
has NEVER made me poor to give.  In June 2017, we helped a friend go on a trip that cost $3000.  She was supposed to pay us back.  However, it became a very large burden for her, causing her stress and unreasonable grief.  Shane and I realized after 6 months that we really didn't need the money back, so we wrote her a very nice card stating that the money was a gift, given freely and with love.  Not 2 months went by and I received a promotion with a 35% raise and Shane got a 20% raise.  When you give freely and with nothing expected in return, you will receive.  And what I love about that is that we then have even MORE to gift to others.

I do not donate to big charities, I do not care that I cannot deduct my donations on my taxes.  What I care about is bringing a teeny tiny bit of peace and hope and love directly into the lives of people that I care about.  My hope is that it ripples out.  These friends then give to their friends, then they give and they give, etc... and etc....and 

so again....

If you are committed without hesitation then here is the plan.
1. You will fill out this survey - DONATE 2019
2.  I will email you the 1st of the month (starting in January) reminding you to send me your donation.
3.  The 15th of the month I will Venmo or Paypal each of the families WHATEVER amount we have raised divided by 19.  Maybe it will be $21 a month or maybe it will be $500....that will depend on how much support we get.
4. Repeat 2 times.



This post is long overdue and not gonna have pictures.  This post is straight to business. The business of being advocates for educating our children how WE want, not how SOCIETY thinks we should.  I feel that it is super important at the beginning of the school year to share with all you other  parents out there with children who do not learn AT THE PACE THAT SCHOOL and SOCIETY HAS DECIDED THEY SHOULD!  I wish 5 years ago I would have known what I know now.  Keep reading if you want to learn from my past fears about my childrens' learning pace.

This is also a post for anyone who thinks that parents of children who struggle are doing something "wrong" and if the parents/teacher would only PUSH the child more then they wouldn't be it friends, grandparents, neighbors or the clerk in the grocery store who REFUSES to not quiz your kid on how much change they should get back. (I could go on and on regarding how often my homeschooled children are quizzed by is nauseating! Does this happen to kids in public school?)  Or those of you who think THIS method will finally work or THIS game will help them memorize their times tables or if we just do MORE and for LONGER that they will learn better, or if we get them a tutor (I could go on and on) I thought all of this too because I was too afraid to just let them BE and I felt that I must be doing something wrong since they struggled to learn at their "grade level"!

Shane and I are both credentialed school teachers. He has a degree in a Geology and a minor in Chemistry and taught 13 years at Oroville High.  I have a BA in Mathematics and a MA in Mathematics Education and taught 6 years at Las Plumas High.  Our children never attended "real" school.  They have been homeschooled for their academics.  The two children of highly educated and smart parents are BOTH been behind academically - and ALWAYS have been!!  Yes, part of that is because we do not spend 6 hours studying the state capitals and flash cards and all the repetitive worksheets that kids do in a classroom, but part of that is also because both of them just were not ready to learn the things that are at their grade level.

Who decided that all kids in 3rd grade SHOULD be able to memorize their multiplication facts.  Just because a kid is 8 does not mean that this is now a possibility. IT DEPENDS ON THE KID!!!  I want to emphasize this. It depends on the KID, not on how persistent the parent is or how much the grandparent really thinks that the child should know something or how the school thinks intervention will get this pounded into the kid's head. It SHOULD depend on where the child is successful move from there, not on grade level that is arbitrarily based on an age.  

I have 38 kids on my roster right now (at Inspire charter schools - LOVE THIS SCHOOL) and guess what. I have a 4th grader reading at a 7th grade level and ready for Algebra and a 5th grader who reads at a 2nd grade level and can barely subtract - and guess what,  they are both EXACTLY where they need to be.  Lucky for my 2nd grader, who will be celebrated for their growth over time....not continually made to felt inferior because they are not at "grade level"!  But I digress...

The story about Alli and her academic struggles is long and drawn out, but you can read about it here if you want. 

In a nutshell, at the age of 8 she only knew 2 words (out of 10) on a PRE-SCHOOL reading list and no matter how much I time we spent on reading..she did not learn any quicker.  We found Vision Therapy (VT), spent 6 months "fixing" her eyes and when she graduated from VT, she jumped to knowing all the words on the 2nd grade reading list and half the 3rd grade!!  That is an argument for the benefits of VT if needed.....but there is more to the story.  When the kid is ready it will be easy.  If you want a huge daily struggle on your hands then by all means continually push them to learn things they are not ready to learn!  I did for a long time because of the fear put in my at the school we were at back then.

She also struggled in math.  We would work on her basic facts but if we took the weekend off she would forget so we worked non-stop, year round!  It was exhausting for both of us.  

When she was 11 I realized that I needed a change.  I needed to put our relationship in front of her academics and so I backed WAY off.  I left that awful school because I was tired of fighting with them to look at her GROWTH and not at her "lower than grade level" results.  I also left because they took away her dance and art classes because she needed to spend all her funding on TUTORING.  I went back to just reading to her, playing games for math and we did LOTS of arts and crafts again, like when they were little.

I then got my job with Inspire and that is when life got GREAT!!  Not only was I loving my job, but Alli's testing showed that she improved....I was blown away.  Both kids, by me backing off and allowing them some space to learn at their own pace had improved by more in the previous 6 months than they had in the previous year and a half!  

And FAR more important....all of our relationships were stronger.  It was amazing.  All of these things that I had been FORCING Alli to learn (how to tell time, how to count money, reading for fun) she was now doing on her own.  She wanted to know things things and so she learned on her own.  It was SO FAST once she wanted to learn it.

Fast forward to this summer.  Alli read FIVE books that were 500+ pages.  Jill would get so mad at her because all she wanted to do was read and Jill wanted a playmate!!  It was hard to pull Alli away from the books.  In July, Alli asked to start school again.  "Mom, can we please start doing school again, I feel like I am forgetting all the math I learned last year?" Ummmm...of course!!  

And guess what happened after all that reading!  Two things....First, when we did our beginning of the year testing at the beginning of this month, she tested in the green for the first time EVER in her LIFE!!!!  After all those years of struggling when I never thought she would ever test at grade level, she finally had!  It was a gift to my heart to see her glowing in her happiness.

Second, she is FLYING through her spelling book at a pace I have NEVER experience with her before.  She just KNOWS these words now.  It is such a beautiful thing to watch her FLOURISHING!!!

Third - is math...Yes, she is in 7th grade and testing at 4th grade level for math.  She does not know long division, she does not have her times table memorized, she takes a while even with some of her basic math facts, but she GETS it all. She understands what she is doing.  The program we use, Right Start Math, is FANTASTIC in that it teaches for UNDERSTANDING and long term mastery...not regurgitation and then move on.  There are things that she can do in the blink of an eye (which is larger 7/8 or 9/10 - a problem that my high school kids back at Las Plumas could never do!!) because she UNDERSTANDS them, not because I am going to test her on it...but because she genuinely enjoys what we are doing!  

What do I want to share by writing this post? Kids are going to learn what they are ready to learn.  Whether they are ahead or behind, is simply because that is where they are CAPABLE of achieving at this moment in time.  Life is a lot more pleasant when we teach them with topics WHERE THEY ARE instead of pushing them to learn things they SHOULD know (based on someone else's ideas).  I wish I had known this when Alli was 10 years old.  I would have saved myself from a lot of tears.  Meet them where they are at and they will SHINE!!!! 

12 Lessons in 12 Weeks – Summer 2018

There was a period of time in our life where we openly shared all the ins and outs of our family’s life.  All the fun stuff like the 7 weeks we spent biking over 1,000 miles through British Columbia and the San Juan Islands,  or the backpacking trip with 4 year old Jill or the crazy trip when we drove hours out of our way from Colorado to go to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico (The namesake of our Chaco).  Then there was all the “not fun” stuff like
Our Chaco
Alli’s struggles with reading and her vision therapy that followed, Jill’s onset of MASSIVE anxiety that caused our family to nearly fall apart. I have posted a few times in the past years - Once in 2016 and 3 times in 2017 and honestly, I miss writing!  I miss sharing what is going on with us. It is like my digital journal.  So...I am gonna make an effort to post more than 3 times a year.  I hope you will join us if you want to come along for the ride!
Chaco - he gets cozy even in the worst conditions

If the last 3 years have taught us anything, it is that life is a roller coaster.  It has been so interesting to be able to look back on our blog to read about all these ups and downs.  In the past 3 years I have gone back and forth on keeping up on the blog. I cared and then I don’t care….round and round.  

But I always come back to the fact that LESSON 1: I LOVE TO WRITE!!    I love to share the lessons we learn on these trips and there is always someone out there who benefits from what I share.  I feel it is important to share a “real” life, the good and the bad, the amazing and the painfully hard.  I figure that if I share it on our blog then people who care can read about what is going on with us and people who could care less – can pass right on by…

So, with all of that being said, I want to write about our summer.  Read on or just scroll through the pictures….I love to write so I write for myself.  If my stories interests you, then thanks for reading!

As is true with everything in my life, the lessons start right away!!  Our first trip was 1 week to Santa Barbara with my parents and my sister’s family.  A tradition we have been doing for 5 – 6 years, a trip to southern California beaches. 

Lesson 2: Don’t take family for granted. There is something to be said for traditions shared with family and I think I have been taking that for granted during the last 2 years I have been trying to balance homeschooling my kids while working full time and being a wife, friend, daughter, sister, and thinking it is my job to make everyone happy.  Forget about trying to find a few moments of time for myself in there somewhere.  The blinders I had put on regarding how out of balance my priorities had become would start to come off during this first beach trip with my parents and my sister’s family.  
Kern River outside Kernville

I could feel it in the back of my mind, but I continually chose to block those messages out in favor of keeping up with the responsibilities I THOUGHT were so important. Those priorities that were so out of balance, they were nagging at me, but I just keep pushing them away.  And I was balancing so many plates that it was pretty easy to ignore obnoxious thoughts of figuring out a better balance in my life.  

It would become UNDENIABLE in July, and I would feel like I was drowning in a sea of all my past mistakes, but the lessons I would learn would be VITAL to changing my priorities.  I knew there was a reason I read FIERCE CONVERSATIONS TWICE in June and July.

Back to the traditional Beach getaway.  I have a few pictures from this trip.  One is the classic kids enjoying “hotel TV”.  They don’t realize that people have this same TV in their houses since we have never had a TV.  They fed the giraffes at the SB Zoo.  

Lesson 3: Gratitude for having 2 incomes. In the past I NEVER would have paid $6/each for the kids to feed 3 pieces of romaine lettuce to the giraffes, but we have a bit more discretionary income so I can justify the “extravagance” of this in exchange for the joy on their faces.  

The rest of the trip was all about food and beach time!  Santa Barbara is a great place to go for these two things.  I didn’t think it was possible to get sick of ice cream, but after McConnell’s the first night and then Pink Berry the next afternoon and McConnell’s AGAIN that night…I could not stomach any more ice cream!  However, New Earth carries their double peanut butter…it is worth the $8 a pint, although I really wish they would carry the espresso chip, it was AMAZING!!

Shane and I were still working (Inspire Charter School – YAY!!!!) so it was nice to be somewhere that we had signal and could still do our work even while sitting on the sandy shores of the Pacific or by the hotel pool or at the Santa Barbara Zoo!  The perks of having a job that can be done from a Smart Phone.

The next 2 weeks were in the Eastern Sierras. There are so many wonderful places to go in the Sierras that we can go there every summer for weeks and weeks on end and never run out of places to explore.  This year we spent a week in Onion Valley and a week in Palisades Glacier.  Onion Valley was a GREAT place to set up camp for a week because there was cell signal and the truck could still get Wi-Fi, this allowed us to be in the mountains, but keep up with work requirements. 

Lesson 4: Getting away from EVERYTHING in your life will ALWAYS bring clarity to those questions that are nagging at you!!  

Palisades Glacier was in July and so we were both on vacation!!  Out into the woods we went and without cell or Wi-Fi (our truck has Wi-Fi through AT&T), or any other responsibilities it was the first we were able to really just check out and enjoy each other and the kids and being away.  

My eyes started to open wider to the fact that I had WAY too many responsibilities and I had some fierce conversations with myself and Shane.  I promised that I would figure out some ways to balance these aspects of my life that felt out of whack.  Working at night and on the weekends, having a lot of time commitments outside of family time, always answering texts and phone calls, etc…. all these habits had to go….  But, where to start??  That is the hardest part, actually making REAL, MEANINGFUL and LASTING changes. 

Lesson 5: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans….Mid-July brought us back to Chico, which is NEVER good! We miss the coolness of the Sierras (30- 40’s at night), the elevation of the mountains,  the joys of being away from everything that feels like a WANT TO and back into the world of heat, heat HEAT and HAVE TO’s.  We were home to participate in some classes and
My office in Onion Valley
workshops, but as life would have it, LIFE HAPPENED and we ended up taking a 180 degree turn. Sometimes life throws you those curve balls and you feel like you are under a wave with no clue as to which direction is up.  This was one of those times for me, and while it took me a little bit….I found the lessons and used it to improve my life. 

This is where I feel that I shine.  Instead of staying in a place of feeling beat down, hurt and disappointed in what was going on, I found the lessons in the situation – and the lessons were overflowing with gifts that I had been blind to just one month prior.  There was no denying that now my eyes were WIDE OPEN to the changes I needed to make. 

It wasn’t going to be easy, to change some DEEP, DEEP characteristics about myself, but I was willing to look at myself and make some changes that needed to be made. 

I work A LOT when I find something that means a lot to me!!!  I have always been this way. When I do something I do it at 200%. There is no 150% or 110% for me.  It is 200%, and I put my heart and soul into whatever it is I am doing, and I LOVE IT!  Yes, this is a downfall of mine. It benefits whoever I am doing things for, but it doesn’t benefit me or the most important people in my life.

This was the #1 reason that I resigned from teaching when I was pregnant with Alli.  I knew that I could not be a good teacher and a good mom.  I would EXCEL at one of them and SUCK at the other, so I gave up teaching to become a mom.  For 12 years I put 200% of myself into being a mom and wife, and never regretted that decision.  My kids and Shane were the center of my universe and that was perfect!! 

Then the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.  I could work for a homeschool charter, get paid to share my 6 years of
Shane and Jill Backpacking in July
homeschooling knowledge with other homeschooling families and continue to homeschool our children.  I was told there would be 10 students, maybe 15!  That seemed totally doable for me.  Alli and Jill were 11 and 8 and I felt like I could balance these tasks better than I could have when the kids were younger, or when Jill was deep in her anxiety/sleep chaos - HELL.  Jill was still struggling with being away from me so this would allow me to work at her “enrichment classes,” so she could still participate in the classes she loved without causing major anxiety about her having to be away from me.  It was a WIN-WIN for all of us.

My 10 – 15 students grew to 20, then 25, then 40, then 45….and I LOVED IT!!  I loved my job. I loved the freedom I had and we had NEVER had 2 incomes so not having to count every penny was SO AMAZING!! 

I LOVED meeting with my families and helping
them navigate the sometimes choppy waters of homeschooling.  It felt like all those years of stress and crying and hard work I had put in to homeschooling our kids was actually serving a purpose.  I UNDERSTOOD what these families were going through and I could really help them!  And slowly, slowly….I was losing myself in my job.  There was no boundary between the two and so I just became my job.  But I loved it, so that was ok!

This is probably true for a lot of people who have a mostly virtual job.  You can’t go HOME, and check out of 
work because all of your work can be done on your Smart Phone which is always within arm’s reach.  

Where it used to be my children that were the only thing within arm’s reach at all times, now it was my laptop and my phone.  I was never “off” work.  But I LOVED my job so much that I made excuses for this.  I also had spent so many years being “just mom” that I am sure that some of this dedication to my job was because I finally felt important in a tangible way…not in a mom way (you know, in 10 years they will really appreciate me!)

Lesson 6: Lessons will continue to teach you when you are willing to continually learn.  The eye opening events that occurred for me in July had
Bear Lake in Utah - This place advertised "Most Famous Shakes"
We went next door to the place that advertised "Least Famous Shakes"
ripple effects that continued to teach me lessons during the trip we took in August.  This was not a planned trip, but it was one of the gifts that rose up from the lessons of July.  

It was so incredibly hot, then the Carr Fire in Redding along with numerous other fires, we just couldn’t take it (the heat, the smoke…) anymore.  We headed to Wyoming. 

We had already started back at work, so this was going to be a test of balancing work and travel.  Having WiFi in the truck really helps as this allows for me to work while Shane drives. Then, we find the GREATEST libraries to work in (shout out to Pinedale, Jackson Hole and Lander whose libraries were AMAZING! I wish Chico would put some money into our library!)  The kids can spend HOURS in libraries so we found that working on the road was super easy! 

This also tested a new boundary for me….no more working in the evenings!  I set this rule for myself when we were back in Chico.  I could answer emails for an hour in the evening OR I could sit on our porch swing with Shane and chat.  Those of you who remember the evenings when Jill just SCREAMED for hours every night (refer to 2015 – the year of HELL for our family!) will appreciate the fact that I am going to choose Shane over emails!! 

Let me tell you, I felt like a NEW PERSON!  I had found a way to turn off my working brain and just be ME!  It was so wonderful.  Those emails that come in at night are still gonna be there in the morning and I will answer them then.  What a GIFT it was for me to learn this.

Lesson 7 – Repeat Lesson 4: You really, really must GET AWAY from everything to clear out all the static in your head and find out what you really want - YOU, not other people!

Then we had our first weekend out in the Wind River Range.  SO BEAUTIFUL, and so out in the middle of nowhere that there was not cell service and the truck would not get WiFi.  We were completely unreachable and this is where the MAGIC happened.  Friday Evening to Monday Morning I was not there to answer emails, texts, facebook messages, etc….and guess what???  The world did not fall to pieces.  This was EARTH SHATTERING FOR ME!!!  

(Yes, I had 30 emails to answer, 15 FB messages, 20 FB notifications (from the Inspire group I monitor), 2 missed phone calls and 10 texts, but guess what….2 hours driving out to Lander and they were answered!  A new world just opened up to me that is for sure!  SIDE NOTE- My phone is now on SILENT at all times.  I cannot handle the constant dinging anymore. )

We had an amazing weekend.  CRAZY thunderstorms each day, Shane was hiking with Chaco for the largest one.  The same hike he spooked a Mama Moose and then the Moose trailed him just to be sure him and Chaco got VERY far away from baby!  At the same time, Jill and I had hiked along the south shore and found the sweetest little badger!  (You know badger are NOT nice, right?)  This one really liked us and just kept digging and walking around as we gave it enough space to feel safe. 

Later, when we had cell signal I looked up the spiritual meaning of these two animals that we ran into separately, but at the same time.  It made us smile and is right on, as the messages from nature are.

Lesson 8 and 9 from the animals:
Moose - Know and understand that you – and only you have the authority to make your own choices in life.
BADGER -   You must have faith in yourself and your abilities,  walk your path at your own pace.
From Green Rivers Lake we headed to Lander, Wyoming. This
place is serendipitous for us. Shane attended a conference there in May 2017  while he was still working for Oroville High.  He had already quit his job.  If you knew us back then, you remember that we had VERY LITTLE support when Shane quit his job.  Who gives up 13 years of tenured seniority in public school??? The high pay, the health insurance…for NOTHING!!  He just quit with no job in line, we were going to make it work on my income.   

People thought we were insane!   But we knew….that job was slowly killing him and money does not buy happiness.  We would go without so that he could get out of that awful job.  He spent his time in Lander planning on ways to maybe teach a class on the side to make a little money – or IDEALLY get a job with Inspire so we could work together.

Lesson 10: Quit a job that is killing you no matter WHAT people think!! So…here we were, one year later, back in Lander – Shane and I both employed full time with Inspire.   Shane quitting OHS was the BEST DECISION of our life!  Look at him – he GLOWS!!!

Shane went overnight in Lassen.  He hiked to the peak.

Lesson 11 – Never stop dreaming and believing that you can have everything that you want!!

We stayed for a few days with a family on my roster, so awesome, right?? (Selby honey production!!!  Best honey ever!!) The kids got to hang out with friends from back in Chico, we got to learn about
the ins and outs of honey making (FASCINATING!!) and hang out with some super cool people!!  Thanks, Chiaramontes!

From Lander we went to Yellowstone and met up with Shane’s parents.  We had a great time with them. 

Bruce drove while we looked for wildlife and walked the boardwalks of the Geyser Basins, and Mammoth Springs.  Believe me – I have NO DESIRE to hike in Bear, Moose, Wolf and Bison territory, they can have it all to themselves! 

                                                       Campfires (a treat…we
never have fires camping), GREAT FOOD, quality time with Grammy (you were so tolerable of the kids!!) .  Thanks Johnstons, we really appreciate these times that we get to spend together. 

We left Yellowstone on a Friday – Labor Day Weekend! We were able to go camping and be unreachable again….Palisades Creek in Idaho.  Family hike, 8 miles…that was a bit long, but it wasn’t an eastern sierra hike with crazy elevation gain so it was doable. Lazy days by some rivers and world famous SQUARE ice cream. 

We woke up today (Labor Day) and decided to drive home.  Yes, 13 hours – (15 hours with stopping) although we cross the time zone so at least we gain one hour back….but still that is a long drive.  We couldn’t stop in Winnemucca with only 6 hours of driving left.  We excel at this last day push home so we can sleep in our own beds! 

This summer really stretched my beliefs about many aspects of my life, but this is one of the lessons that I hold close to my heart.  No matter how long it took me to find a healthier balance in my life, my family didn’t hold it against me.  They just welcomed me back with open arms.  Thank you for the best lesson of all.

Lesson 12: I have the best family EVER.
Palisades Creek, Idaho. Kids playing Water Sprite Fairies...Still at 13 and 10 they have the best imaginations.  


On the ferry heading back to the US

We continued our travel eastward and the weather and the roads just get colder and more dangerous.  We knew that this would be part of our travels, so Shane just drove REALLY slow and I just
I have no idea how this is comfortable for him!
distracted myself on the computer so I wouldnt have a panic attack.  If I pay attention to the roads I just see us sliding off every hill, sliding into oncoming traffic or rolling over into a ditch. No amount of positive thinking was gonna help me through these roads.  

We pulled into an aquatic center in Trail after a crazy day on the road.  We grab our frozen (literally) bathing suits out of the camper and start to head into the center when Jill says, "Mom, our tire is
Jill sledding down a hill on a plastic lid
making a weird sound!"  There is a huge BOLT coming out of our tire and she was hearing the air slowly leaking out of the tire.  Alli runs inside to get Shane before he gets all cozy in the hot tub.  It is 18 degrees out, late on a Sunday, pretty much dusk outside...and every tire repair shop in town is closed.  
Shane heads out to find a shop to fix the tire before it goes flat. 

The kids and I enjoy the warmth of the pools and hot tub, Jill goes down the waterslide and jumps off the diving board and rope swing.   It is so complicated in Canada because we have no cell service, so I have no way of knowing where Shane has gone or if he was able to find a place to get it fixed. Looking out the
windows, watching the snow fall for 2 hours and seeing this car nearly go up and over the barrier into the river below, I cannot help but give thanks that the only problem we faced today was a bolt in our tire.  One hour later, Shane gets back.  There was a Canadian tire 5 miles out of town and for $30US, the biggest problem of our day is solved.

The next day we head to Nelson.  This is another city in BC that we love.  A great library, aquatic center and ice skating are all on the list of things to do.  Then reality sets in....there are no open campgrounds and the Walmart in Nelson does not allow overnight parking.  

We keep driving to our next destination...Ainsworth Hot Springs.  We have been here numerous times.  It is our FAVORITE hot springs by far.  There is a hot pool, CAVES that you can swim through and the hot springs just pours out of the sides and top, and a cold plunge pool. The road here is super sketchy, it is icy and cold, a storm is coming in and there is NO WHERE TO CAMP.  We decide that we have endured a lot of freezing cold and a lot of cramped spaces and so we spoil ourselves by getting 2 nights in the hotel here.

It ended up being the best decision we could have made because the snow did not stop for over 24 hours.  It was so peaceful to watch the snow from the hot springs and from the banquet room and hotel room.  It was kind of complicated with Chaco because they did not allow pets and he does not do well without exercise...but we did take him twice to an unplowed road so that he could run around and get some energy out.

During this time, my grandma was not doing so well.  Her oxygen levels were dropping and she was in quite a bit of pain.  We decided to end our trip early and head to Sandpoint, Idaho to spend a few extra days with family there.   The only trouble is that the highway from where we are to Sandpoint keeps getting closed down due to rolled semi trucks, fallen trees and car accidents.  We aren't sure if it will be open the next day when we are leaving....and the snow just keeps coming down.  I am worried we wont get to see Grandma in time.

I spend all night awake, watching the weather reports and following the facebook group for Bonner's Ferry who has an AMAZING person who updates all the road conditions.  Around 2am it seemed like we would be able to get through and then I was able to sleep.  We took the free Kootenay Ferry (Longest free ferry in Canada) and made it safely to Sandpoint.  

Our time in Sandpoint was bittersweet.  Besides time with my parents and my aunt and uncle, we also got to see my cousins, Scot and Mat, who we have not seen in 10 years, they had never even met Jill.    My
I am so tired of being cold!! It is FREEZING!!!
cousin Wendy and her family was there which was wonderful.  The last time we saw them, the babies were 1.  Now they are 3 and had SO much fun playing with Alli and Jill.  It was so precious to watch.  And we also got to see my grandma quite a few times, although she was very out of it most of the time due to the pain medications.

A few times she was aware that we were there.  One of the times was when my dad was sitting next to her on her bed and he said, "Mom, you look so pretty!" and she made an eyeroll (as best she could), slowly lifted her arm up to her face and said to her best ability, "Oh, I am just GORGEOUS" and posed her arm under her face.  That was the last day I saw her more aware.  

Christmas night we went to see her again and she was really restless and mumbling a lot.  I sat by her and put my hand on her
arm and just sent her love and peace - through my thoughts and my hands and my heart - and she became quiet and calm and was able to go to sleep.    I am grateful we were able to see her and spend this time with her before she leaves this world. 

Chaco played Frisbee in the snow

We had a lot of fun in Sandpoint also. Shane, Jill and the cousins went cross country skiing.  We took the kids sledding and Jill used her skis which was terrifying for me!!  We went to see Star Wars, had amazing food, watched Christmas movies and stayed up late talking.  It was wonderful to spend so much time with family that we dont see very often.  A Christmas we will not be quick to forget.  

We stayed in the camper at my uncle and aunts house because there were 11 people sleeping in the house! If we learned anything on this trip, it was that we sleep REALLY HOT in the camper. The lowest the furnace goes is 50 but even with that on...the camper will still grow ice inside when it is 20 degrees outside!!  

We have also reached the limit of the amount of winter we can handle.  We are headed back home to spend New Year's in Chico, with some blue skies and 60 degree days!! Next year for Christmas we are heading SOUTH!

Jill with Scot and Mat

Shane and I were talking about this trip and what we learned from the last 3 weeks.  For sure we learned that we do NOT want to travel north during the winter again.  I learned that it is OK to admit that I do not enjoy being cold and/or the snow.  We also learned that sometimes trips are taken not to get away from everything, but to be thrown into the middle of it all.  

And finally, we saw first hand that life is short, and when it is time for us to be taking our last breaths we will have no regrets.  We have immense gratitude following our hearts and living a life that fills us with love, happiness and appreciation for all we have and everyone in our life.