WONDER-FULL Wednesday-The Valley of Grief


The two people who would have gotten the biggest kick out of this summer hiking adventure are not around for me to tell it to. They were two of my biggest cheerleaders. They always had time for me and loved me with the type of love that instills courage, dreams and confidence.

My grandfather, Baba, was one of the most gentlest, kindliest, intelligent people that I had the privileged to know. He was a chemist, teacher and inventor. His thirst for knowledge was quenched at the library where he was found on a daily basis. And if he couldn’t make it to the library in person, he reached them by phone. He was always researching something and had a questions for the reference desk. Baba was adventurous and fun.  He took us on family mystery rides, taught us all the words to “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch Coconuts”, and watched Cindafella more times that I can remember. I think he passed on his love of PBS to me and whenever I watch Masterpiece Theater, I pretend that he is sitting right next to me with a big bowl of air popped popcorn.(Sorry Baba, I put a lot of salt AND butter on mine.) My grandfather had a country-western DJ company, was the president of his writing club, and was always on the look out for a new project. He approached failure as a challenge to succeed. He left a legacy of education, perseverance, gentle and kind words, mystery and adventure.


My aunt was beautiful inside and out. She was creative and loved art, poetry and books. Like my grandfather, she was a teacher. Auntie had her degree in education and was a personal trainer. In the 90s, she made a few exercise videos rocking colorful,spandex exercise clothing. She dabbled in modeling too. Auntie was fun and had a great sense of humor. She loved Seinfeld and Toy Story. I can still hear her laugh and see her smile. She was one of those people who came alongside you. Celebrated with you, cried with you, laughed with you, encouraged you. Oh, she was such an encourager! And a leader! People loved to be with her. My aunt was also a courageous fighter. She fought cancer for many years. At the end of her life, she kept her wit, humor and grace until she could no longer speak or write. She never complained to me and always managed to give me a smile.



Tomorrow marks a day of remembrance. Ten years have passed since Auntie’s passing and some days my grief is as raw and real as it was then. I think grief is like that. No right or wrong way to work through it. It pulls me back through memories. There are moments when I still expect to see my aunt walk through the door or hear her voice as she sings my name -“Shanny-Jean.” So many times, I have wanted to pick up the phone and tell her the latest news or hear her excitement over this hiking trip. I am sure she would have me on some sort of personal training routine for strengthening my glutes and core muscles (complete with the perfectly drawn stick-figures.)

I can no longer hear what my grandfather’s voice sounds like. We have recorded tapes with his voice but if I am being honest, it would make me even more sad to listen to them. He would have loved this hiking trip. Researching all he could about the mountains I will climb and helping me purchase the correct gear. He might have invented some sort of gadget for me to take. Or create freezed-dried humus-his homemade humus was the best.

Even though I can’t have them here on Earth, I carry them with me each day. I see them in butterflies, glass beakers, and in books. What they invested in me has outlasted their breath. They gave me adventure, courage, love of learning, and unconditional love.  I pour those things into my children hoping to leave them a similar legacy that out last my last breath.

They are coming with me on my hike. I am taking this picture in my pack because this is how I think of my grandfather and aunt in heaven. Auntie with her tour book in hand. Baba taking it all in, thinking about the next new thing to jump into. Smiling and laughing. Free of pain and in peace.

baba and auntie




Unless you are Her Majesty the Queen, you are just going to have to do it yourself. While The Queen employs the services of a Royal-Shoe Wearer to break in her new shoes, most of us commoners must endure a slightly uncomfortable time period known as “breaking in.”1

Many sources, from Vogue to the Wall Street Journal, have weighed in on this topic and it seems they all come to the same conclusion, to break in new shoes you need to take it slow. Breaking in is a process. The shoes need time to mold to your feet decreasing the chances of blisters, sore ankles and pinched toes

This is where this week’s hiking update finds me- breaking in.  It has been a little over a week since I bought my hiking boots. I have been wearing them everywhere. Out for walks, shopping, errands around town. They got some extra “breaking in”  when they totally rocked it out during a worship service with my brothers and sisters at the Pentecostal Ministries Church.  BTW, If you ever need to break in hiking boots (or any shoes for that matter) attend a service. Your heart will be overflowing with joy and your feet will have you dancing through the whole week.

I am not only breaking in my shoes, I am also breaking down fat and building muscle and strength. This week, I was reacquainted with an old friend, Jillian Michaels.  America’s toughest trainer is leading me through personal exercise sessions in the comfort of my living room. She promised me that if I give it my all, bring everything I have to my workouts, I will be “ripped” in 30 days. Thirty days seems like a reasonable amount of time to commit to. I am hoping that this start will help me stay focused and motivated to continue regular workouts. I need to get stronger for this hike.  (Please do not tell Jillian about the free froyo I had on Tuesday.)

Between the shoes and workouts, I have been reminded of a few things. One, no one can do it for me. If I want my shoes to be comfortable, I have to wear them. If I want to be physically fit, I have to put in the time and make my body move. Two, new things can feel uncomfortable. The first few days of wearing my boots, I thought I had made a mistake in purchasing them. They were a stiff and snug in the beginning but with wear they have become more relaxed and comfortable. The same goes with the exercise. It was difficult and slightly uncomfortable to start but once I got going, I remembered that I actually like exercising. In fact, I really enjoy it. I have seen improvements in my body and in my mood. My stress level seems lower and I have been sleeping more soundly and comfortably. So a small amount of discomfort in the beginning turns into a lot of good things in the end.

Hiking Goals for the week:

  1. Keep exercising.
  2. Keep breaking in my boots.
  3. Purchase a hiking pack.

For those that need to break in some hiking boots or shoes, check out the video below and see the type of workout my boots went through on Sunday night. So much fun!


WONDER-FULL Wednesday- Keep Your Feet on The Ground

Keep Your Feet on the Stars and your feet on the ground- Theodore Roosevelt

I reached for the ice axe handles and held the door open as my three children joyfully stepped inside the “store of grand-adventures-waiting-to-happen.” Wide-eyed, the kids and I stopped to stare at the hanging bicycles, the colorful walls of packs, and the people buzzing in and out of racks of clothing and equipment. The store smelled of hope and wonder. I felt out of place, like an awkward preteen on her first day of junior high school. I did not know where to go or who to ask or even what questions to ask but I had three kids with me and I was their leader in this escapade.

We had come to buy new hiking boots. Over the weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to try on my old hiking boots just to make sure that they still fit. I would be wearing these boots for hours and hours, over many miles, for several days, they needed to be comfortable and fit correctly.

I wasn’t surprised to find the boots were tight and uncomfortable. I had purchased them back when my feet were a size and half smaller (my feet have grown 1/2 inch with each of my pregnancies.) My poor, old boots had been neglected for many years. The closest they had come to gracing my feet was their placement besides my well-worn, favorite pair of sneakers. Part of me was glad and excited at the prospect of purchasing new boots but another part of me knew that buying hiking boots was not as easy as buying a pair of flip-flops. There were many different brands, different styles for different terrains, and an added expense to consider.

old hiking boots

The Poor, Old Boots

The kids and I found the shoe section and met a very nice saleswoman named, Helen. A soft-spoken woman in her early sixties, Helen became my BSF (best store friend.)  I confessed that I had no clue what I was doing or what I needed. Helen chuckled and smiled confidently. She gave me hope that everything was going to work out and she was going to lead me to the right boot. At the shoe display, she talked about styles, terrains, leather verses fabric, toe-boxes and ankle support. All this information seemed foreign and overwhelming to me and I found myself paying attention to only two things-the two things I could understand- the cost and the look of the boot.

After some consultation, Helen went off to find some boots for me to try on. She soon returned carrying three boxes and a pair of socks.  She put the boxes down and handed me the “clean” pair of socks. This was going to stretch me. Everyone has their issues. I had some doubts about the cleanliness of those socks. They did not seem like the disposable Peds that come in the unmarked, white box found in most shoe departments. No wrappers to indicate that they were new. No “SAMPLE” stamped on the sock.  I could not help but wonder whose feet had been in them or if they had been washed. I looked at the socks and I looked over at my kids who were getting more restless by the minute. This needed to get done and we needed to get out of here. I pushed aside my hesitation and slipped the socks on my feet. Desperate times call for desperate measures.


“Clean” Socks

Helen schooled me on the criteria of a good fitting boot: 1.) No cramped toes. You have to be able to wiggle and move them. 2.) Tap the front of your boot to the floor. Your index finger should fit behind your heel. 3.) Walk on the “mountain.”  Your foot should not slip and toes should not touch the front of the boot.

The very first pair of boots I tried on met all three criteria. They were in the right price range, not as bright as I would have liked, but still pretty. I tried on two other pairs just to be sure but I still liked the first ones the best. There was no time for doubts or second guesses.  I looked at Helen and told her I would take them.  Helen was happy to have a sale! I was happy to have come to a decision! The kids were happy to be heading to the door! It was a win for everyone!


The “Mountain”

With the hiking shoes purchased, we walked past the ice axe handles and into the fresh air. The first major item checked off my hiking list. The shopping trip had stretched me out of my comfort zone and I had learned something new in the process. I was one step closer to the mountains and happy to know that my new boots would keep my feet comfortable, dry and firmly on the ground.

new boots

The New Boots



Everyone needs a friend who encourages and gently prods-or pushes- them to try new and adventurous things. I have a friend who is like this. She is one of my best and dearest friends and one of the things that I love most about her is that she believes in me wholeheartily. So much so, that if she believes I can do something, I know that I can and usually execute it with much more confidence and grace than I thought possible!

So when my friend sent an email invitation to “a few dear friends who might be interested in spending a few days in the midst of God’s beautiful creation in the mountains,” I did not give it a second thought. My answer was an enthusiastic “YES!”

New Hampshire has 48 mountains over 4,000 feet and we plan to “bag” four of them. This is not a day hike. It will involve three days of hiking with three overnights all while carrying a 25+ pound pack on our backs. Three other, brave and adventurous friends will be joining the expedition.

I feel excited and a bit anxious all at the same time. I have a lot to do to be physically prepared for the trip. I am hopeful that this will kick my rear into gear and help me get back in shape. I also have some emotional preparation to do. The longest hike I have been on have been day trips and camping has involved being close to a bathhouse. Sleeping overnight miles into the woods, in a mountain hut, with strangers is stretching me big time. (Those who know me well will understand this.) There is a lot to learn especially about packs and equipment and I want to take it all in.

I plan to blog through the preparation in the weeks leading up to the trip, partly for accountability but also for reflection.  I will be posting my hiking  updates on “WONDER-FULL WEDNESDAYS.” Why not give it a name? The definition of the words are a perfect fit.  I hope that you will consider “joining” me  and cheering me on as I prepare to embark on a challenge that will stretch me physically, emotionally and spiritually. With wonder and enthusiasm, I can’t wait to find out what God has in store for me!


  • desire or curiosity to know something.
  • a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.


  • possessing or containing a great amount


  • the day of the week between Tuesday and Thursday