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Friday, March 28, 2014

A Bit of A Set Back

It's been a rough 24 hours. Dad was not able to eat much last night and was very worn out when I got him in bed. I was quite exhausted as well so was happy to find my bed. I slept well and didn't hear him through the night but in the morning found him quite weak and struggling with the severe diarrhea that is just wiping him out. We got him up and he tried to eat a bit of yogurt with fruit and some toast but the amount was hardly measurable. He tried to drink water but everything makes him terribly nauseous. I tried to change the catheter bag but couldn't figure it out. I was happy when the home health care nurse arrived around 11.00 a.m. It didn't take long for her to realize that he should never have been discharged to home. Low grade fever, low oxygen saturation, blood clot risk, low blood pressure, severe dehydration...unbelievable. Fortunately she sent us to Urgent Care where he was able to get some serious blood work done and get hooked up to both oxygen and an IV drip. Getting him in and out of the car was a real trick for me but by God's grace, we managed. And we have a wheel chair at home from when my mom was so sick so that has been a God send.
He slept comfortably and deeply the entire time we were at urgent care and his color returned and the color of his urine finally began to lighten. From Urgent Care we were referred to a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility which is where he should've gone in the first place. He tried to eat some dinner...a bit of soup was all he could muster but at least he is now hooked up to IV fluids.
It has been a very trying day. The home health care nurse was initially not convinced that he couldn't be at home so was saying things like, "He needs to drink more, you need to weigh him daily, he needs to make an appointment with his Dr. in order to get the catheter issues assessed" and I'm thinking, how am I supposed to do this when he can't even stand up? I'm not sure why it took so long for everyone around him to dial in to how sick he is. The nurse today finally said, "He's really very sick." Then at Urgent Care the Dr. asked how many times a week the nurse was coming home and I said he has been assessed as no longer fit for home care and she said, "Why not"? And I listed all of above and mentioned that he can't walk on his own. Her initial response was, "Well, he's 81 years old and has had major surgery." And I said, "Right...which is why he shouldn't be expected to heal at home right now." The nurse at Urgent Care was simply awesome and we had a nice conversation about Sweden while I watched him work on my dad.
The nursing facility is pretty good even if the rooms lack a certain loveliness. All of the staff were awesome, truly. Marco, a big orderly who was helping my dad as I was leaving assured me that they would take good care of him. He also said that while he is chronically weak, he sees signs of strength and is confident that he will get well. He was really very sweet. I left dad around 7.00 p.m. tonight hopeful that he will get better care and attention than I was able to give him at home.  At least he's hooked up to an IV. Did I mention how important that is right now as his ability to self hydrate is hugely compromised.
It's a road that's for sure. I hope when I see him in the morning he'll have had a good night and shows a bit of improvement. He is a bit discouraged that he's not improving and even a little progress would help him a lot. I know that I need to get sleep and eat as well. I'm thankful that the jet lag has not been too severe.
On a trivial note: I had picked Iowa St. to win the NCAA this year since dad went there and was born in Iowa. If this were a movie, it would've happened. But since it's real life, U.Conn managed to kill that dream! Small potatoes right now. Really longing to see some strength return to dad, for his sake and for mine. My current sports goal is to be able to enjoy the Masters golf tournament together in two weeks!
Thanks for your prayers...we definitely need 'em!
PS...I think there was just an earthquake...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dad Update Thursday March 27

The trip was as good as it could've been with a reasonable amount of space on the plane (empty seat next to me) and great service from British Airways.  Stinking long ways however. I watched 4 movies and played a lot of Candy Crush and Spider Solitaire! By a stroke of luck or God's good grace, (wink) the friends of ours who are using our house this week were in LA yesterday visiting other friends and the timing worked out so they could pick me up at LAX and drive me to my dad's. What a blessing that was. Not only did it prevent me from having to drive 2.5 hours alone, it gave us a chance to have a good visit in the car. And we stopped at In-n-Out on the way home!  Nice.

Throwback Thursday...I adore this photo of my bro, my dad and me...
I must've been about 4!
I finally got to my dad's house at 11.30 p.m. which was 7.30 a.m. in Sweden. It was definitely strange for me to walk in and have it be empty. I got about 5 hours of sleep after falling into bed around midnight CA time.  I woke up and called the hospital and they said to come any time. So I got cleaned up and sorted out a few things and headed up around 8.00.  I am so thankful that the hospital is about 5 minutes from my dad's house.
I must admit that when I first saw him in his bed, I was a little taken aback.  He looked pretty ragged. He's obviously lost weight and it really showed in his face. Over the course of the morning, his color improved and he started to look better.  The biggest concern right now is a combination of extreme weakness combined with low appetite. He needs to eat but is so weak that even holding a fork is a big challenge right now.  But he nibbled at his breakfast and when the physical therapist came in, he willingly got up and walked around the corridor, which is about 300 feet.  I was very impressed with how well he did.  He was standing reasonably upright and the PT could tell that he was in pretty decent shape before the issues set in. He was of course, quite exhausted when he finished that. But instead of returning to bed, he agreed to sit up in a chair, which is also better for him than being in bed. Lunch arrived and he ate a few bites of soup and kind of picked at the lasagne. He did drink a small container of orange juice. After lunch he was really tired and chilled so we got him back in bed and I left him to take a nap while I returned to his house to do the same. I went back up around 3.30 and they were lining up what needed to happen in order for him to be discharged and we were soon leaving the hospital. The transfer to the car went pretty well and the transfer to the house was OK too.  We are both glad to be home but I am anxious to see the home health care nurse tomorrow and get a little more information.
I went to the store and stocked up on things that I hope will be easy to eat and provide some energy. We're enjoying the March Madness basketball and I'm praying for an uneventful night. The walk from the living room to the bedroom will be a challenge but I'm confident he will be able to make it.
He is really not up for visitors or for talking on the phone but I am answering his cell phone and the home phone so feel free to call those if you'd like to check in. Please keep praying for his recovery. I can see how that we're looking at the long haul as opposed to a quick bounce back. I am very thankful that it worked out for me to be here. No question that it's the only place I need to be right now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Across, Again

The last 48 hours or so have been a challenge. During the extremely short phone conversations with my father, it became apparent that he was really struggling. Late Sunday night I received a note from a friend who was at the hospital that dad had mentioned that he needs me to come back and help him. Throughout the day on Monday I considered what I needed to do and it became clear that while his physical needs could be met by anyone, I was the one who could best help him with his emotional and mental needs. I also spoke with his nurse who agreed that he was pretty down and then had a long conversation with my dad's pastor who also agreed with the assessment. I spoke with dad Monday evening, (morning in CA) and when I asked how he was all he said was not good. Then I mentioned that I was thinking about coming and he said that would be good. He never asks me to come home so I knew this was serious.
I am not overly concerned about his ability to physically get better although the surgery he had was very serious and the healing process will be quite extensive. But I can tell that he's really overwhelmed by his circumstances. He's so weak that he doesn't see how he will get better and I think the reality of his being alone has hit him rather hard. This is the first time he has been sick since my mom died and I can only imagine what it feels like to face going home to an empty house after an ordeal like this. Yesterday, (25th of March) marked 8 years since my brother died and 11 months since my mom died. I don't care how tough you are...these things are hard.
So across the big pond I will go.  I got an amazing deal on a flight that will take me through London and straight into Los Angeles. Amazingly, the friends staying in our house in Palm Springs right now are going to be in LA Wednesday and will pick me up and drive me to my dad's, saving me a 2.5 hour drive once I land. And I have never seen the fare cheaper than what I got my last minute ticket for. I feel surrounded by peace in the midst of shifting my life for the next 3 weeks. I won't see my dad until Thursday morning CA time.
There are losses on this end for sure. I have two new Bible studies going that have been a lot of fun, a women's event on April 5 that will happen without me, a trip to Holland that will have to wait, and most significantly the farewell for our associate pastor who is moving with his family to Japan in May. And of course, my absence increases Doug's workload along with caring for Tanner by himself. But in the grand scheme of life, those are all manageable losses that I am actually already over. Not being present with my father during this difficult time is a loss that I can avoid. Every single person with whom I have had to cancel something has been overwhelming loving and supportive. Both the people I report to at church have said there's no question that I need to go. And of course, Doug has been great, not hesitating for a moment that I should go. I will miss him and the Tanner dog most of all.
When I spoke with my dad before I went to bed Tuesday night he sounded a bit better but is concerned about weak he is. It will be good to see and assess the situation first hand.
So yesterday was working at shifting our schedules and recalibrating the next 3 weeks. It's now 5.40 a.m. in Sweden. I leave for London at 11.50 Swedish time and land at LAX at 19.05 CA time. I am going to try to get to another hour of sleep. I'm glad I'm going even though I do wish sometimes I could be two places at once.
This photograph was taken last summer when he came to visit us. He has a ticket purchased for this summer and I am hopeful that in a few months time we will be enjoying the Swedish archipelago together once again. For now, it's my turn to be in California with him encouraging him on his road to recovery.
Thank you for your prayers and support. Caring for an aging parent is hard, wonderful, challenging and important. I'm so thankful that I have the means and the support to be able to do so even though it means making the trek one more time.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dad Update

I am very thankful that my dad is alive and no longer suffering from the terrible pain he was experiencing. He's a ways from full health but at least he's heading in the right direction. The Dr. said that when he opened him up his bowel just fell out in a big knot that resembled a spaghetti squash.  He really could not believe that it had not ruptured. Feeling relieved and of course, very thankful.
I've been able to talk with my dad about a twice a day. He sounds weak but OK. Tonight he seemed a bit down. I think the magnitude of what he has experienced is setting in and the road to full recovery feels a bit long. Plus, the post-op pain is not so fun. He did get up out of bed and was actually able to go to the bathroom, a huge step for him. Getting the oxygen tube out and other tubes disconnected has made a big difference but he feels shaky. He needs to start eating now and after not really eating anything of substance for 11 days, this feels pretty hard. He's not hungry but also knows that he needs to start getting some food in his system.
I don't know what the plan is for how long he'll be in the hospital and then what things will look like once discharged. We're in wait and see mode. We truly appreciate your prayers for his healing, both physically and mentally as he prepares to face the road to recovery. I'm of course, torn once again, about being so dang far away. So I appreciate your prayers for my peace of mind as well.
On a brighter note, my favorite wild flowers starting appearing in the park where I walk Tanner in the morning. It always amazes me to see these first bursts of color after the fallow winter.  The lawn looks totally dead, devoid of life and then out of no where, these beautiful, delicate flowers pop up. It's so fascinating to me that they lurk below the surface waiting for enough warmth and light to pull them up year after year. Always, they represent the joy and wonder of new life but this year it feels especially meaningful. The beauty of these small flowers has given me hope that out of a seemingly dead landscape, comes amazing, beautiful, new life. The wildflowers have provided me with encouragement in the midst of this uncertain journey with my father. There are things going on beneath the surface that will lead to health and well-being even though I cannot see these things at this time. I do trust that God is present with both of us, bridging the gap that the global distance creates, but I really do miss being nearby during these times of difficulty and illness. That said, I remain ever grateful for the community of care that exists for each of us on both sides of the vast pond that separate this daughter from her father right now.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Different Kind of March Madness

The US college basketball national tournament is unfolding and it is affectionately known as March Madness among those of us who are fans. Unfortunately for me, the basketball tournament isn't on the top of my list right now...my father's health is. Last week he experienced severe back pain like he's never had before. He went to the Dr. who treated it with pain medicine and took an x-ray but that was it.  He languished in severe pain over the weekend and was unable to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. He thought it was side effects of the pain medicine. Fortunately, he had a routine CT Scan scheduled as follow up to the aneurysm procedure he had in Dec. of 2012.  During this scan, it was discovered that he had a flipped colon.  Turns out this is excruciatingly painful and can actually cause death if not treated in a timely manner. They rushed him straight over the hospital and began monitoring the problem. Because of his cardiac history, he takes Coumadin, a blood thinner that makes emergency surgery difficult.  After measuring his INR( a value that gives a read on clotting ability), it was discovered that he was way out of whack. So the first thing they had to do was to work at bringing that into range. He was given platelets and Vitamin K which work against the drug so the blood will thicken and finally, Thursday evening the surgeon felt confident that he could move forward.  I got a text from my dad's pastor at 1.15 a.m. my time stating that dad had gone into surgery.  At 4.00 a.m. my time, 8.00 p.m. in CA, I spoke with the pastor who informed me that dad was still in surgery and would be for another 2-3 hours. He said I could call the nurses station in about 3 hours and likely get good information.  I tried to go back to sleep.  At 6.30 a.m. Stockholm time I got a text from my cousin stating that Ted was OK.  So I got up and called the hospital and was able to speak with my dad's nurse as well as my dad.  The nurse was happy to report that all had gone well.  They did have to do a colon resection as the part that had knotted was necrotic. (The tissue had died).  But thanks be to God that he did not need a colostomy.  She was impressed with his overall health and strength and felt that he do well in the post-op.  They did have to make an abdominal incision so his recovery will be quite extensive.  He will remain in the hospital for at least 5 days.  Later today, when it is day time in CA I will get more information on the road ahead. For now, I am so thankful that he finally got relief from the terrible pain and that all signs are pointing to a healthful recovery.
Easily, the issues with family members health is the hardest challenge that we face living in Europe. My next decision will be how to manage Dad's post-op care and right now I just don't have enough information to determine a course of action. I am grateful for all the prayers that are being said on behalf of my father and for me as well. I will update regarding his situation here on the blog.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Second Sunday in Lent

A full week of gratitude is behind me.  Here are my reflections from the past week:

Monday, March 10
My dad...it's his birthday!
Relaxing spa afternoon
That the girl giving me the treatments today was a young Christian!

Tuesday, March 11
Beautiful, clean, safe city in which I enjoy walking my dog
Material comfort
Meaningful job

Wed. March 12
That God is in charge (visited Dinara today, a single mother who is dying from cancer...such a sad and complex situation.)
That I enjoy teaching and got to do it today with an eager group of adult learners.
My house cleaner and that I can afford that luxury.

Thurs. March 13
Collaborative ministry
Great Board
Good health

Fri. March 14
Warm memories of my grandmother whose bday was today.
Ability to think and write.
God's word that comes fresh over and over again.

Sat. March 15
Thankful my father is home safely after his back failing him while in Las Vegas.
Thankful my sermon is ready for tomorrow.
Thankful for good friends to share a film with tonight.

Sunday March 16
For resources which allows us to enjoy life.
For our church which I always look forward to being a part of.
Warm clothes and home to fight the chill.

I guess I'm wondering if I have to come up with completely new things to be thankful for each day! Sometimes the best thing is to cultivate a spirit of gratitude for the ways in which life is truly satisfying.  I saw this sign on Facebook and it seemed to fit with what I'm trying to be about:

The consistent features in my life for which I am truly grateful include my husband, my family, my friends, my church, my life privileges (food, house, shelter, money, etc.).  I suppose these are also the things that I can often overlook and so it is good to remember, on a daily basis, that these "ordinary things" are far from ordinary...they are truly treasures in a life that is filled with abundance.  Blessings on the next 30 days of your Lenten Journey.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ah Spa!

One of the great things about Stockholm is the vast array of spa, massage, treatment opportunities that are available.  I watch Groupon pretty carefully as there are some great deals to be had!  At Christmas, Doug had given me an afternoon in a boutique spa and I booked it before our trip to the US for right after we arrived home and boy was that ever a great idea!  A spa afternoon is the perfect solution for jet lag and helps with the transition back to work and life in Sweden beautifully!
I am, of course, familiar with the big bath house Sturebadet, which is indeed my favorite way to spend an afternoon, but it's pricey so I only indulge when gifted with such!  This little spa was located in a former apartment that had been renovated beautifully.  Upon walking in, I immediately felt the warm coziness of a nurturing environment.  I was led into the treatment room by Tilde, the young woman who was in charge.  The room itself exuded relaxation.  Candles were lit in the fireplace, the table/bed was inviting and the whole room ushered me into an atmosphere where I could forget the outside world and allow the stress of life to simply melt away.
The afternoon included a body scrub, facial, mini manicure, mini pedicure, and eye brow management.  I really love this stuff! 
An added bonus to the day however was Tilde!  We were chatting, as you do, and she of course, asked me what I did so I told her that I was a pastor and she about jumped out of her skin!  She shared with me that she and her husband go to Hillsong church, which is a few short blocks from our house!  She shared with me how she had been adopted from Sri Lanka when she was 2 months old, how through her Confirmation experience in the Swedish church led her to begin pondering matters of faith and how some difficult circumstances a few years back led to her becoming a Christian.  Her husband shared a similar journey and they are now worshipping at Hillsong but expressed an interest in visiting Immanuel.  The international nature of our fellowship appealed to her so I hope to see her some time on a Sunday!  I was blessed to meet another Christian in the Swedish marketplace!  It is so rare.
An added bonus was getting a text from her that stated what a blessing it was for her to also meet me!  So my afternoon at the spa turned out to be a blessing for my body, mind and spirit!
By the way, this place is great and Tilde is a wonderful spa provider. Check out her website here and if you are in Stockholm, I absolutely recommend this place to you!  I hope to return time and again.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

First Sunday in Lent


In my previous post I mentioned that I was going to seek to give up ingratitude for Lent and practice mindful thankfulness by stating three things at the end of each day that I am especially thankful for. It has been an interesting few days as I've started this. I also started a Facebook group entitled Thankfulness Project for those doing the same thing and wishing to share it on Sundays. What joy it has been for me to not only connect with so many friends from all walks of life, who are literally scattered across the globe, (People participating live in: New Zealand, South Africa, France, Sweden, Germany, England, USA!) but also to connect these various relationships in my life with one another. What joy! I must admit that I have been more mindful of my complaining spirit and more cognizant about what I will be thankful for at the end of the day. 
Here's the full list from my week:

Ash Wednesday
Thursday, March 6:
Thankful for technology and travel that transport me to the other side of the world in a safe a comfortable manner.
Thankful for our friends who have stayed in our house while were gone, taking great care of it and having dinner made for us upon our return.
Thankful for the darlingest of all dogs...Tanner!

Friday, March 7:
A meaningful job
A beautiful home
Good, fresh food

Saturday, March 8
Beautiful city to live in
Time to relax
Social media through which I connect with friends far and wide

Sunday, March 9
Fantastic church
Daylight returning to Sweden
The Thankfulness Project group on FB. What a wonderful day to connect with family and friends, near and far, scattered across the globe!   

I am curious to see how the progression of gratitude will go for me...if I will tire of the task or be inspired to notice more and more reasons to be thankful. I think the latter will prove to be true. One of my friends who is participating mentioned this poem in her thoughts this week. What a great way to begin the second week of Lent.

St. Jude's Prayer on Lent
Looking for something to give up for Lent?
Give up resentment and become more forgiving.
Give up hatred and return good for evil.
Give up complaining and be more grateful.
Give up pessimism and become more hopeful.
Give up worry and become more trusting.
Give up anger and become more patient.
Give up pettiness and become more noble.
Give up gloom and become more joyful.
Give up doubt and turn to God.

You are welcome to join the Facebook group if you are interested.  Just let me know via commenting on the blog or private message.
May blessings be yours this week and may your heart overflow with gratitude!  It's good for your soul!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Journey Through Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season in the Christian year known as Lent.  On this day, thousands of churches will gather for worship and to be reminded that from dust you have come, to the dust you will return, blessed be the name of the Lord. Perhaps this sentiment is resonating more deeply with me this year since we "returned" my mother's ashes to the earth just a few days ago.  At any rate, even though the season is heavy and challenging at times, I actually do welcome it, knowing what awaits us when the journey has finished.

The 40 days prior to Easter, Sundays not counted, are intended to be a time when we reflect more deeply on the events leading up to the Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.  Different traditions mark the season in different ways but incorporating a discipline of some sort is often the most popular way people engage the journey through Lent. My understanding of giving up something that is valued or enjoyed is rooted in the sense that our "little suffering for a little while" helps us to more deeply identify with Christ's suffering on the cross, which he did out of his great love for us. 
For my part, I've done a variety of things through the years, sometimes taking something away, other times adding something.  I do try to read through the gospels every year and add another reading of sorts to help me focus and to practice discipline, neither of which are very easy for me.  I also try to not broadcast what it is that I've given up because then it becomes more about my willpower rather than a private journey between me and God. But this year I came across this great idea and I'm throwing it out there for those of you who read my blog and would like to participate in some way.

Lent starts today.  Traditionally this is the time of year that Christians "give up" something for 40 days in order to prepare for Easter.  I'd like to invite everybody-Christian or not-to give up something with me this year.  Together-let's try to give up ingratitude.
I have a hunch that gratitude is the key to peace.  I'm not sure we need to change our circumstances but I think we might need to change the way we SEE our circumstances. So I'm going to start a little page on my computer and before I go to bed I'm going to write down three things for which I felt especially grateful that day. Want to join me?  40 days is a spiritually important amount of time for experiments and not surprisingly, it's the amount of time many psychologists suggest that it takes to form a new habit.
This Lent, I want to wander out of the desert of ingratitude and into the paradise of gratitude. If you want to join me, I'd love for you to share your thanks if you'd like to.  If you'd like it to be private, that's fine too. I suggest that on the Sundays of Lent we look back on each week and share with one another the beautiful things that have made us thankful.  If you let me know that you are doing this I can set up a Facebook site where we can just drop in our thoughts.
As for today, the first day of Lent in 2014:
I am thankful that the real desert is a paradise for me.
I am thankful for my father who is such an awesome man and an inspiration to me in every way.
I am thankful for citizenship not only in one country with opportunities but two...I speak this as one person living illegally in California, who we care deeply about, has run into some difficulties this week and another living in Sweden is about to be deported.
May gratitude fill our hearts as we consider things greater than ourselves.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The New Backyard

Since we bought the house two years ago, each time we've come to California we've added something new to the property.  This time around it was landscaping the backyard.  I was admittedly loathe to landscape the backyard since for most of the year no one looks at it.  But at the same time, it will help with weed control and my book club had given me a tree in memory of my mom for the yard so it seemed appropriate to go ahead and spend the money.  I have to admit, between Doug's really good sense of design and the skilled hands of our landscaper, it turned out great.  The light colored rock is called Palm Springs gold and is very popular out here.  The reddish rock that borders the yard matches the stripe on the patio and is the same red we have as accent colors in the front.  We left the fire pit in the center as there's nothing quite like a live fire under the starlit sky in the desert.  Easy maintenance as well...just rake!  Perfect for not being here much.
The patio space doubles the living square footage of our house as we are out there much more than we are in the house so having a beautifully landscaped yard to look at is nice.  We put in some barrel cactus, a yucca tree, the Mexican fan palm that my book club game me as the memorial tree for my mom, and a few more lantana.  Doug also put solar yard lights in so it even looks very beautiful at night.


At this moment I am sitting on the patio looking at the yard basking in the morning sunshine.  I will miss my mornings here where the peaceful breaking of the day has been my companion over these weeks.  I remain thankful for the gift of this place, the memory of Doug's sister Debbie whose gift upon dying helped us to purchase it and the joy of knowing my mom's spirit lurks around us as well, knowing how much she loved this area.  Peace to their memories which are ever present in this lovely spot.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Joshua Tree National Park

It is really hard to believe that after all these years of living in California, especially during these "desert" years, I had never been to Joshua Tree National Park. We have driven past the entrances time and again and always said, "We gotta get out here sometime." Finally, on a windy day with Doug's parents, we ventured to the park. Once again, like the Tram, this National Park does not disappoint.
You feel as though you are driving to the hinterlands with vast desert landscapes surrounding you. Then suddenly large towering rock structures begin shooting up around you and the distinctive Joshua Tree begins to appear on the landscape.  The combination is breathtaking and a bit unlike other landscapes.  
We were there on a driving tour so barely got out of the car which was fine because the temperature was in the low 60's and the wind was whipping around us at breakneck speed.  The roads are really good and allow excellent access to the park.  The trailheads for hikers are clearly marked and we even saw some rock climbers.
The landscape was mesmerizing for me.  I found the raw beauty of the rock formations and desert vegetation to be a fantastic combination. And with names like Lost Horse Mine surrounding you, you felt that you were being transported to the wild west.
The high point of our journey was Keys View, a perch that overlooks the Coachella Valley from the opposite side of what we saw from Mt. San Jacinto. The wind was really whipping when we got up there so I just ran out, climbed the stairs to the top of the lookout and tried to snap a couple of shots. The park is well marked with great information about the vegetation and where the famed San Andreas fault line runs.  We were pleased to learn that the fault line runs right through our property at Mission Lakes! (We knew that but still...weird to see it on a map!)
Joshua Tree is about 30-40 minute drive from our house.  Doug and I said that we'd definitely like to return to the park to do some hiking and exploring on foot.  It is a national treasure and once again, if you are in the area, it's worth taking a little time to wander through the park.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

From Below Sea Level to 8500 Feet Above

Since Doug's folks were visiting last week, we decided to do some touristy things that we have not done in a very long time, one thing being the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  It had been well over 20 years since I had last gone on the Tram so was excited to experience it once it again.  The new cars are circular and they turn as you ascend and we had picked the most perfect day to go up.  It was warm and sunny in the desert and mild and sunny in the mountains.  Because of the dry winter California has been experiencing, there was no snow on top of the mountain.  The forecast said clear, sunny and 50° on top!  The Tram station at the base of the ride is quite a climb in the car taking you to 2,000 feet.  From there, without even going on the tram you can hike many great trails and there are lovely waterfalls that gush a lot more than this when there's been snow.
From there however, the tram gets you to 8500 feet in about 10 minutes!
The cars are quite stable but it's standing room only so you have to be careful.  When the cars ride through the cable towers they sway a little adding to the excitement!  But the views are breathtaking in every direction and it's oh so cool to ascend high above the desert floor through the pine trees, surrounded by towering rock.  The Coachella Valley stretches out to the east and on a clear day, like the one we got, you can almost see the Salton Sea. The crisp air thins as we land at Mountain Station.  Once off, you are hit by fresh, cool, clean mountain air.  Beautiful and refreshing. I can see where this would be a fantastic getaway in the summer heat with temperatures reaching 110° in the desert but only 70° or so in the mountains.
The views really are spectacular and the opportunities for hiking are endless.  We were just there for the views on this day and they did not disappoint.  From one of the viewing platforms you could see our housing complex out in the distance, with the green from the golf course highlighted.  
After tooling around for a bit we decided to make our way down.  The tram descends at what felt like a much faster speed because the car does not turn on the way down.  Your ears pop a bit and your stomach drops a little but it's a great ride down as well.
It was wonderful to share this with Doug's sister and his parents.  We will definitely make our way back up here again one day when we can spend the day hiking around.  One of the many treasures of California is the unique ability to be in the desert, high in the mountains or at the coast all in the same day.  Quite a treat to leave the desert and land at the top of Mt San Jacinto in just a few minutes.