Family Time in Kansas City, MO

We spent 12 wonderful days with my (Mel’s) brother, Matt, and family. It was entirely God’s timing being with them at this point on our trip. With my unexpected heart issues, we knew the kids were safe and well taken care of with their uncle, aunt, and cousins when I had various doctor appointments. Thankfully, most of our time was not taken up with doctor and hospital visits. We really got time to just enjoy being with my family; time that doesn’t happen often enough due to geographical distance. Josh shared some photos from our first few days with them. Here are quite a few more!

We talked (so many good conversations!), cried, laughed, played games, wrestled,

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visited Uncle Matt’s school (where he teaches P.E.),

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cooked with Aunt Christie,

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enjoyed walks and playground time on nice days,

watched my nephew, Austin’s, soccer game while my niece, Brooklynn, practiced her gymnastic skills on the side lines,

rode a ferris wheel and bowled at a crazy big sporting goods store,

attended church and finally got some nice family and cousin pictures,

ate some Kansas City BBQ,

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and went on a couple adventures to downtown to Union Station, Kaleidoscope again (see our last post about that), and the local art museum that had an outdoor glass maze (we walked away with a few bumps on our heads!)

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and ended our time celebrating my nephew, Brendan’s, upcoming 20th birthday (which we somehow missed getting a group picture at the restaurant but at least I got a picture with the man-child ūüėČ ).

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As always, the time flew by way too fast and it was hard to say goodbye.

I really wish we lived closer. Hopefully, some day, God willing.

Mapping out the final leg

With 7 1/2 months of travel behind us and less than 3 months till we come back home, we have begun to plan out the final destinations of our trip.  We have currently traveled through 39 state and plan on making it to 5 others for a total 44 states that we have traveled to in our motor home.

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To help everyone reading this understand what lies ahead, I will attempt to timeline the rest of our plans:

Kansas: Drive through & eat lunch at “Peter Pan Park.”

Oklahoma: Stay the night with friends we have made along this trip who are also full-time RVing with their kids.

Texas:

-Spend some time at the Homestead Heritage.

-Visit El Paso and attempt to cross the border into Mexico.

New Mexico:  Visit the Carlsbad Caverns

Arizona:

-Visit family in the Phoenix area

-Visit the Grand Canyon.

-Visit four corners (actually the point that Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah meet)

Colorado: Visit family in Castle Rock

Utah:

-Visit Arches National Park.

-Visit family in Ogden

Nevada: Drive trough and eat lunch in Wells.

Idaho:

-Visit family in Boise.

-Visit a homestead in Deary.

Washington: Go Home!

You will notice that I have not added any dates to the above timeline because we are still trying to contact family and plan dates, but hopefully this will at least serve to give you an idea of what is to come.¬† It is hard to believe that we are even beginning to talk about the end already.¬† This trip has been amazing and it now seems that it is passing by us quickly.¬† We are excited for what is still left to come and plan on enjoying every moment of it until the very end.¬† Thank you to you who have “journeyed with us” through our blog.

Let the Good Times Role

It’s about time for a feel-good blog post.¬† To be completely honest we have been having a blast hanging out with Mel’s brother, Matt, and family and little of our time or attention has been focused on Mel’s current health concerns.¬† One of the reasons we chose to come up to Missouri during this time (trust me it was¬†NOT because of the sunny warm weather) was due to spring break school schedules, which will allow us to spend more quality time with the family while we are here.

One of the major goals of going on this motor home adventure around the country was to embrace quality family time in it’s purest form.¬† It is evident that this goal has been embraced without reservation during this week.

From kids spending time with cousins,

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To family game nights (thank you Thompson’s for our new National Parks game).

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From playing with the family dog,

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To a nephew testing his wrestling skills against his uncle’s,

we have fully strengthened our bonds with family.

A few note-worthy outings we have taken so far are as follows.  In Kansas City we took the kids to a free kids art workshop called Kaleidoscope.  They had an hour free for all of arts, crafts, black lights, puzzles, markers and paint to create whatever their hearts could imagine.

Another note worth outing to mention was when Mel and I were given the valuable gift of a date night together.  We ate at a Mediterranean restaurant and visited an ice cream shop called Freezing Moo.

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Now Freezing Moo requires some additional commentary.¬† Mel and I love to visit quality or unique ice cream locations and this experience fit the bill.¬† First, you choose your ice cream flavor including sweet treats that they crush on a large frozen pan called an “ice grill.”¬† Then your flavors are mixed with cream and right before your eyes ice cream is created in a thin layer.

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Once our creating is completed they scrape the frosted treat into “ice cream rolls” and place them into a bowl, after which they add additional sweets of your choosing.

The final result makes for an exceptional date night treat.

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So I can easily conclude that our stay here so far has been everything we wanted it to be.  We love our family and consider it an invaluable privilege to spend such quality time with them.  Let the good times roll!

Bionic Woman

Though it has only been 3 days since my last blog post, I feel like this post is much overdue, for all you caring family and friends, considering our current situation.  Today, Mel went to a medical facility for the fifth time in 12 days.  Thankfully her visit today was a scheduled appointment with no surprises.  I think I will chronologically summarize what has been written about in a last few blog posts, then bring you all an update to where we are today including the reason for the title of this post.

5:00 am – Monday, March 4th: First unexpected trip to the emergency hospital near Dallas, TX (See blog post on March 8th).

3:00 pm- Friday, March 8th: Scheduled appointment with a cardiologist (as recommended after our hospital visit) in Belton, MO, just minutes away from Mel’s brother’s house.¬† The doctor could find nothing wrong with Mel’s heart and recommended she get an echocardiogram (ultrasound of her heart).

5:00 am РSunday, March 10th:  Second unexpected trip to the emergency hospital in Belton, MO (See blog post on March 10th).

4:00 pm – Tuesday, March 12th: Mel discusses over the phone with her primary care doctor in Seattle.¬† According to lab results in the hospital her potassium levels were low.¬† Her doctor recommended her take some health supplements (potassium and cal-mag), but assures her she has seen this sort of condition in many of her patients and she’s confident she will be fine.

2:45 pm – Thursday, March 14th: Scheduled appointment to have echocardiogram (ultrasound of her heart) completed.

1:45 pm РFriday, March 15th: Scheduled appointment with cardiologist in Belton, MO to discuss the results of the echocardiogram and discuss future steps.

I would like to interject here to speak to our emotional countenance over the last few days.¬† Though one could easily believe that the above mentioned account might bring a flood of tension, stress and anxiety, I am pleased to report that both Mel and I have been at peace and have not felt any of the above mentioned emotions (at least not in any noteworthy degrees) in the last few days.¬† Even though there is some slight frustration in not having a clear diagnostic as to what is actually causing Mel’s heart abnormalities, we have not been discouraged.¬† If anything, we have felt loved, supported, cared for and prayed over.¬† All of you, family and friends, have reached out to us and communicated your concern for Mel and our family.¬† For this we are deeply grateful.

Today, at Mel’s cardiologist appointment, the medical professionals helping her told her that all the results that came back from her echocardiogram (performed yesterday) showed that her heart was healthy in every way and that no abnormalities had been detected.¬† Not much more light was shed on the question of “Why” her heart had, twice now, woken her from a dead sleep and, in a rapidly accelerated manner, sending her to the hospital.¬† Though we had hoped for a more specific diagnostic, we were pleased that no damage was detected in her heart scan.

The doctor’s next recommendation came as no surprise to us as it had been mentioned as a possibility at her last appointment.¬† My wife is to become a Bionic Woman.¬† Unlike superhuman bionic powers (that I had hoped for) one might see in a sci-fi movie, she was only to receive a heart tracer, hooked to a special cell phone that would allow doctors to monitor her heart for the next 30 days.¬† I apologize for a very anticlimactic ending considering all the build up to this point.¬† I suppose that is what we wanted, though, in actuality.¬† A story with positive ending without any drama.¬† Though Mel now has to keep a heart monitor on her for the next 30 days, this will not inhibit any of the future plans we have for the rest of our trip.¬† Because her heart recorder has real time tracing, the doctors can monitor her heart while we are traveling anywhere in the county.¬† And once the 30 days is up, we simply put the device back in the box and ship it back in a pre-paid postage envelop.

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So, with all this said, we are doing very well.¬† Mel has a healthy, properly working heart.¬† We are able to resume our trip according to plan without any delays.¬† We have peace of mind and know that her heart will be monitored 24 hrs a day for the next 30 days.¬† Mel and I feel closer to each other and all of you, our real time emotional support system.¬† Though I wish no one would ever have to take a loved one to the hospital unexpectedly early in the morning, I am convinced that these events have served to bring us closer to our family and friends and have increased the gratitude in our hearts for our life and for those we love.¬† We believe that God is good and is providing for us in so many ways through this. We feel God’s love and peace. Thanks you all for everything you have done for us during this struggle.

This isn’t what I wanted

Yesterday was a challenging day for me (Josh).¬† Not only was my wife hospitalized for the second time in 6 days, I also made a critical decision to stay with Mel this week as we work through her health conditions.¬† Recently I learned that the word disappointment comes from the root meaning “to miss an appointment”.¬† I will be missing an appointment this week that I had with the survival wilderness school.¬† Of all the things we had planned to do on this trip, this was the one thing I was most excited about.¬† Since this class is held quarterly, I will not be able to “make up” this class during the time we have on our trip.

I’m going to share something about my self with you that few people know about me.¬† It is not a secret, it is just a way that I operate that is not obvious from the outside.¬† When I “feel,” I do so deeply.¬†¬†When I experience an emotion such as anger, fear, sadness or joy, I do so often at the extreme end of the spectrum.¬† I can become so overwhelmed with these emotions that it clouds reason, and, for a moment, I can temporarily believe things that I know are not true.¬† This can be challenging to overcome, in the moment, but I have found a single, helpful activity that produces a positive effect and unexpected byproduct.¬† When I am in the deepest of emotions, when I find myself hiding in the darkest regions of my soul, I find company with a pen and paper and I permit my raw, naked and tender feelings to spill onto the page.¬† This act helps me to accept the, often unwanted, emotions I find blowing and stirring inside myself like a mighty tempest.¬† Though I am not always proud of the thoughts I have during such a storm, once it has passed (and it always does) I am sometimes amazed at what gets left behind on the lined paper of my personal journal.

Yesterday morning and long into the afternoon, I battled through such a storm.¬† At the height of it’s wind I allowed it’s strong force to lift up my pen and transcribe on two pages the fierce torrent that surrounded me.¬† Today I would humbly like to offer it to you.

“This isn’t what I wanted.¬† But who am I to say that?¬† What right do I have to protest my own desire?¬† Does what I want have any value?¬† Does it matter my own desire?¬† I am angry inside, a hidden burning rage of fire that I hide from myself to protect myself and those around me from being burned.¬† I want to hold tightly to what I believe is mine.¬† To what I believe I deserve and am even entitled to.¬† The entitlement of the world around me that destroys our culture, I see inside myself.¬† What I thought was only in those broken around me is actually altogether alive in me as well.¬† I want what I want.¬† Words of a proud and selfish heart.¬† A heart that can’t possibly be humbled in a way to accept the will of God in my life.¬† Even anger burns within me against God.¬† The God who is the lover of my soul is the target of my frustration.¬† God is God and I am not.¬† Painful words for a self-entitled, self-centered individual.¬† I loath myself, wishing I could change myself.¬† There is the trap.¬† “I.”¬† I want to change myself through my own self efforts.¬† I am unwilling to submit myself to God’s will and am unwilling to allow him to change me.¬† Even though I can easily reason that submitting to God is the best, most profitable action I can take.¬† This truth is clear, obvious and evident, yet my heart remains cold and hard, clinging onto what I want.¬† I want control, I want my will to rule supreme in this life.¬† God offers me a never ending waterfall of love and I am too broken to accept this free flowing love, instead I grasp onto my stubborn desires.¬† I wish deeply that I could loosen my white knuckled grip, letting go and free falling into the loving invitation of my Father.¬† How can such brokenness be overcome?¬† Thanks be to God the Father through Jesus Christ who has done this impossible work for me.¬† These words I quote from the Bible.¬† I try to find even a hint of them, hidden somewhere in my heart.¬† If even a small amount of this truth can be found as faith in my heart, then maybe just then, this faith can be cultivated and grown.¬† I understand that God does the growing, but I have some responsibility for the condition of the soil.¬† LORD I pray that you will give me the strength and courage to till the soil of my heart.¬† Uproot in my heart, every overgrown weed that steals every last ounce of nutrition that exists.¬† Help me to submit to your will and embrace your desires for me.”

Another Surprise

For those of you following this blog closely, you may be surprised to see this post.¬† It is quite unexpected, specifically since I last told you all that I would not be blogging for the next week.¬† I told you that I was going to be at a wilderness survival camp for the next 5 days, that I would not have access to internet.¬† That was all true, until 6 am this morning….

Regretfully, I was awakened this morning, like a reoccurring dream that won’t go away, by my wife telling me that her heart was beating irregularly fast again.¬† After sitting up and praying for her, she, without any hesitation, told me she wanted to go the hospital again.¬† Unlike our previous episode of the same kind, we had the privilege of being with family and having the luxury of borrowing a car for the convenient, six minute drive to the hospital.¬† After defrosting the windshield, after surviving the below freezing Missouri night, we drove away without the hassle of moving our RV or waking the children.

Avoiding ice on the roads, we quickly made it to the hospital building where we had been to only two days previous for Mel’s cardiology exam.¬† Checking Mel in, she was wheel chaired to her hospital bed, though this time I was granted the ability to stay with her in the hospital since the kids were still safe in bed at “home”.¬† She requested I call her parents, and I did so.¬† They prayed for her as I chatted with them in the lobby, then I joined her in her room afterwards.¬† Her upper body was covered with monitor cords connected to her skin by white circular “stickers”.¬† Her gown and our favorite “star blanket” covered her to keep her warm.¬† Her cheeks were red and her face shown agony and discomfort.¬† By the time I came in, the nurse had already talked with her and no one who worked there showed signs that they were worried about her condition.¬† Everyone was kind, calm and professional.

Between short occasional conversations with the staff, Mel and I were left alone with each other and I moved the single chair in the room by her bedside.¬† We looked into each other’s eyes and cried.¬† I could see in her eyes, not only the pain of her physical discomfort, but also the agony of the fear of the unknown, the latter, I believe, far worse than the former.¬† I had no power to do anything to change her situation, I had only myself and my presence to offer her.¬† The only gift I could give her that cold winter morning, felt to me to be the most precious gift I had.¬† Though I wish we were still together, sleeping in our own bed, I felt more grateful than ever to be in her presence in that moment.

Suddenly her heart monitor began to flash red numbers and her heart rate rapidly rose.¬† I watched the red numbers increase before my eyes.¬† 145… 151… 159… 163…the monitor began to alarm and a nurse quickly came into our room as the number 171 appeared.¬† The nurse coached Mel in her breathing and tried to assist her in relaxing, all the while staying very calm, without the slightest hint that she was concerned that Mel was in any kind of danger.¬† As Mel’s heart rate slowly decreased, she was administered an oxygen mask for a short time, then after the episode had passed, we were once again left alone to ourselves.¬† I had, which I must admit is very rare, brought my Bible with me, and I read the Psalms to her starting with chapter 23.¬† We then sang a song together she remembered singing in her childhood when she was scared.

Mel reminded me that we had not yet written our will together and I told her that I was not ready to discuss it now, though I was willing to listen to anything she wanted to say.¬† We quickly moved on to listening to uplifting music, on my phone’s Pandora app, gentling filling the room with songs of praise to the Divine King.¬† After over an hour had passed, the doctor came in to discuss Mel’s situation and the results of the lab testing.¬† The good news was that Mel’s heart was working properly.¬† The top muscles and the bottom muscles was working together in harmony, even when her heart rate rapidly increased during her episodes.¬† Mel’s heart was healthy, with no signs of serious threat.¬† “The question remains,” the doctor explained, “Why is your heart rate suddenly increasing without reason?”¬† This question she could not answer, though she listed off some uncertain possibilities.¬† She recommended we call the cardiologist again on Monday morning and, with the new heart records they had just obtained, she may be able to shed some new light on the increasingly concerning situation.

“If you have another episode,” the doctor explained to Mel, “take a dose of the medicine you have been prescribed, and lay down and relax your body the way you did when you were here.”¬† And with that final advise, Mel was discharged once again.¬† As we exited the hospital and got into the car, we had only thoughts of the unknown to accompany us.¬† I was grateful that Mel was safe, though deeply perplexed by the situation.¬† Thanks again, everyone, for your concerns and prayers.¬† We will keep you all updated as we discover more about where this unexpected turn will lead us.

From Texas to Kansas City, MO

After spending the day resting after our early morning hospital scare, we cancelled our evening plans.¬† Contacting Mel’s cousin Aaron, we made arrangements to come visit them one night earlier than planned.¬† They let us park our RV at the church Aaron is head pastor at.¬† We plugged in and stayed their for the evening without being disturbed by anyone.¬† The next day we arranged to go to lunch with Aaron at Chili’s restaurant.¬† I enjoyed ribs, chicken strips and beef brisket complete with garlic bread and corn on the cob.¬† A meal fit for a king.¬† Along with sharing a meal with us, Aaron shared the 15 passenger church van with our family for the next few days, and I commented how small the van felt to drive.

That evening we all piled into the van and drove to Aaron & Paige’s home.¬† The house was packed with family, including 2 cousins, 8 children and 3 spouses (one of Aaron & Paige’s kids is married) for a total of 13 bodies.¬† Pizza, pasta, bread and salad satisfied all the hungry mouths present.¬† While the kids watched a movie and wrestled in the living room, the adults (and a teenager) played cards.¬† It was good to see family; laughter and conversation were in abundance.

The following day we relaxed in the sun on the green church lawn.¬† The kids played at the church playground, rode bikes and enjoyed the beautiful Texas day.¬† The church had a kid’s youth group service that evening which the kids were excited about and especially because they could hang out with their same aged family members.¬† This afforded Mel and I a date night to ourselves (we had planned a double date with Aaron & Paige, but Paige wasn’t feeling well) and, by Aaron’s recommendation, we ate at the Flying Carpet Turkish Cafe (http://flyingcarpetturkishcafe.com/).¬† Not only was the food and service excellent, but the building was uniquely decorated with hand made Turkish rugs hanging from the walls.¬† The evening was completed by artisan crafted ice cream at an ice cream shop called Melt.

The following two days would be traveling days on our way to see Mel’s brother and family in Kansas City, MO.¬† We drove north through Oklahoma while listening to the music from the musical, “Oklahoma.”¬† Stopping at the visitors center, we learned the history of the relocation of the Native American tribes into what is now Oklahoma during the expansion across the United States and the 1889 land rush into “Indian Territory” after the western frontier had been settled.¬† It is an interesting and sad history into how the Natives were treated. We wondered at how we had never learned this part of our history while growing up. It’s something worth digging further into. Also, we studied the famous Route 66 and listened to 4 different versions of the well known “Route 66” song.

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Though it was not the most straight forward route, we drove next to Arkansas.  We stayed the night at a local Walmart, and I did my grocery shopping in the evening so we could get a quick start on the road the next morning.

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Mel was able to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist just outside Kansas City, only minutes away from her brother, Matt’s, house.¬† Her appointment went well, everything checked out, and the doctor recommended her get an ultrasound on her heart as a final precaution.¬† And so, at around 5pm on Friday, March 8th, we pulled into the driveway of our closest relative outside of Washington state.

We plan on staying here for about 12 days.¬† During that time I (Josh) will be visiting a wilderness survival camp for 5 days (that I am super excited about!).¬† (https://survivalschool.us/survival-training-class-list/wilderness-survival-courses/sigma-survival-training/) I will be gone from Monday, March 11th- Friday, March 15th.¬† During that time I will be unable to blog, but trust me I will have much to say when I return.¬† I hope and pray all you who are reading are well.¬† We are grateful and thankful for everyone for following our family’s epic adventure.¬† All our love goes out to you.