Catching up with LIFE in 2021...

Updated: Dec 26, 2021

#2021 I'm not so sure using that hashtag is going to help this post or hinder it. For many, the year 2021 is one that they want to forget, move on from and distance themselves from or otherwise deny it happened.

It was a full year of dealing with CV19~January through today~which is the beginning of another wave from the Omicron variant. I struggle to stay positive as we are now into the 22nd month of it being on front page news. So what do I do when I find myself struggling,apprehensive, anxious? I rewind my life and search for other time periods that I've struggled. What worked for me during those times? What helped me through those difficult times and challenging mental health moments? What are you feeling Karen and how can you manage it in a positive way? Do you show up? or do you crumble? No one is going to do this for you and at this point in my life, I get that!

A life review is in order as I come to the end of 2021. The reality was that 2021 wasn't all bad, actually it held much more 'good' then bad. Beginning in November of 2020 through this fall, these are the things I have to be thankful for in 2021. My highlights~

  • The marriage of my youngest son, November 2020

  • The welcoming of a grandson to Ron, December 2020

  • The marriage of Ron's son, March 2021

  • The birth of my granddaughter, March 2021

  • First solo travel trailer trip to Canon City, May 2021

  • Purchase of a new, to me, vehicle May 2021 (by myself, which for you single ladies out there,if you've done this, you know what that means)

  • Turning 60, June.

  • Eureka Springs, for an unexpected last minute trip, July 2021

  • Trip to New Orleans, July 2021

  • Trip to Grand Canyon, July-Aug 2021

  • Kayak trips~with friends and groups.

  • Trip to Colorado, tent camping! Off roading and dispersed camping.

  • The marriage of my eldest son, September 2021

  • Total reorganization of my financial future~again, if this reads like this-> *&%#-> I get you! This was a time consuming, difficult to understand, learning to trust 6 week 'moment'. UGH, but it's over and I can relax.

Lots of milestones!

Boom, boom, boom. A lot of dedicated days to keeping myself in lock down because I didn't want to be the one that passed along any potential virus to ANY of these people or at these events. I took turns staying away from Ron, just so we allowed the other person an opportunity to be 'safe' when we got to meet their new babies and wedding celebrations. It was a happy, yet stressful winter. VACCINES~ I got mine with a badge of honor. Never would I have thought I'd live through a pandemic. This has been a reality that I had a hard time grasping spring in 2020, but by 2021 I understood that it wasn't 'magically going to go away' as promised. It just wasn't, it couldn't. Too many fires in this pot, stoking it with their own versions of their desired outcomes. What did I do? I focused on becoming, on growing, on exploring and always on the desire for adventure.

May 2021 was my first "SOLO" adventure pulling my travel trailer and heading out for exploration. I found the perfect spot, down a slot canyon, isolated, where I could set up camp and go hiking. Well in theory that was the plan. In actuality, it was a huge learning trip. I learned that I talk big, yet inside, I'm a little bit afraid of getting myself into situations where I may have to ask for help. I'm kind of an independent woman and that doesn't always translate into being a positive when you need help. Do I ask for help? or do I just figure it out on my own or wait until I get home, where it is safe? Step up to the plate for yourself. It's ok to be independent, it got you here, keep your big girl pants on, yet be aware you don't have all the answers and people do enjoy helping you. So with that I trekked my travel trailer 5 miles down a gravel, washboard road, 30 miles outside of Canon City, CO~ to a seemingly locked gate, with no cell service and no way to turn around. GULP. I did PLAN for the worst though (hundreds of hours planning events taught me have back up PLANS, usually 2) ~ and I retrieved my Garmin GPS SOS and proceeded to type the information I needed to get to my son. Shortly after beginning that I heard the sound of a diesel truck coming up behind me, oh the luck! The 'old timer' cowboy who lived at the end of the slot canyon, who had NO idea I was coming, told me how to enter the gate. He wasn't thrilled to know that a land owner had offered up a portion of the land for a HIPCAMP location. He also had no intention of helping me figure out where to park my trailer, or help me back it in if needed. Fine, I'll do it myself. I'll show you Mr. OldTimer--> and I did. The reality is that it wasn't about showing HIM anything, it was about showing ME that I can go into hard places, difficult, uncomfortable and unknown places and figure it out. Isn't that what 2020 was setting us up for? Being comfortable gets you safe, being uncomfortable gets you motivated to learn.

Next-->Turning 60! 2021 brought me to the 60th year of my life. I have tried to mark the 'big' birthday years, those that end in a 5 or a 0, by carving out an experience, a trip, a 'memory maker' event, a celebration of some sort. For the most part, due to my late June birthday, I tried to watch fireworks in a new 'way', being in a new city, country, style, & with my children. This wasn't going to happen this year~too many things had gotten pushed back, events rescheduled, CV #'s on the decline, all of us had other places to be. Plus, I had an adventure planned with a friend who was turning 50~ a trip to New Orleans, in mid July. I'd celebrate with her and others, ringing in the year with singing, dancing, partying that can only be done in New Orleans. I saw the city in a different way this time, having been there pre-Katrina and prior to visit a friend who lived in Hammond. This time I stayed IN THE CITY. What a vibrant, busy, bustling place to be. They have done a good job of keeping the city clean. The food was so good, the foot massages were a treat, the people were happy. I am thankful to have been included!

But wait~ a surprise was on the horizon.

Here--> enjoy a slideshow of New Orleans, my treat. What a great trip!

SURPRISE bomb drop--> The summer just got more interesting and FUN! In between kayak trips with the "Friends of Kaw" and the "Dirty Girls Adventure Group", the time flew by as I prepared for wedding showers, tried to lose some weight through exercising, taking care of my flowers~seeing my beautiful grandchildren and doing the day to day things of LIFE> BUT~ Sometimes the early bird gets the worm~ for REAL!

I woke up early one morning in July (who am I kidding, I am up early most every day), but this day was extra early. I saw a FB post on the Girl Camper site about someone offering her ticket to a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon in late July. I've dreamed about going down the GC~ on a raft no less, for YEARS!~ I wondered how my body would hold up paddling so far and for so many days, where do they sleep, how much would it cost, what are the dates, would they fit in my schedule, trip of a lifetime, people I do NOT know~ not one of them. So many reasons to say, No, Karen, this isn't the time. Doubts...doubts...doubts...and yet I sent the message to the person IMMEDIATELY--> tell me more. I waited about 10 minutes and wrote another one--> I'm very interested, what is the cost? I got online and found the trip she was offering a ticket to, which then started a whole set of new reactions: power rafting for 8 days, no 'real' paddling needed. GOOD, CHECK. Sleeping is on the river banks, in sleeping bags, tents optional. OK< that'll be different. All food is prepared< Ok, that works for me. What about the dates? I returned from New Orleans middle of the day on a Tuesday, I have to be at a mandatory meeting in Flagstaff the following Thursday (under 48 hours to turn & arrive) evening. Meaning- get home, pack up, get on a flight on early Thursday. Can I physically do it? Can I pull together the gear before leaving for New Orleans~ trip of a lifetime, bucket list check off Karen. How important is it to you?

Needless to say my July and August hold some pretty sweet memories for me. I met some cool ladies~there were 27 of us on that trip, 22 Girl Campers and 5 rafting company employees. Shout out to Arizona Rafting Company! We slept in sleeping bags, on the beach, under the stars, with whatever creepy crawly things decided to show up with us. Here's the backstory here: I think I may have tent camped 1 time before this. I've NEVER slept out under the stars. This is the experience I've only DREAMED about, but never thought it would happen. I truly made a snap decision that I barely knew the facts. I learned a TON about myself. EWWW, what if an ant crawls into my sleeping bag? What about those bats flying over my head? What? About? living in the WILD? Can. I. Do. It?


We packed our stuff off the boats, to our chosen camp sites, we set up our own camp areas, we did it~except the cooking~ and trust me when I say, they cooked us some awesome meals!~ I was thankful for each and every hot breakfast, fresh lunch, snacks, hot dinners and most especially, the ice for our adult beverages at the end of our days. There are lot of metaphors that I can find when I look back on that trip~ do you show up for yourself or do you live in fear? Do you take a leap of faith that all will be ok when you do something totally 'out there' or do you allow yourself to live in your shell, safe, warm and comfy? How does one manage living life in a dirty, yet beautiful river with temperatures over 100? Your hair is never fully clean, no matter how many times you manage to get shampoo through it. Does your vanity show up, or do you show yourself that your beauty is beyond what you look like on any particular day? Does your beauty come from within or from the outside? Do you surround yourself with people that are supportive~ and encourage you to keep pressing forward in your quest to live an interesting and unique life? Maybe those things don't matter to you~ but they do to me. I met my 2021 self on that trip~ I challenged myself and I found out some personality traits that I do like about myself, I also found out that I can continue to learn and to try new avenues to grow. I'm 60 and I am fully aware that I'm not perfect, don't claim to be, don't want to be~what I want for myself is to continue to pursue a lifelong yearning to keep myself educated, inquisitive, willingness to learn.

Check out my Grand Canyon videos here: This particular video is about the beautiful waterfalls we encountered. The cleansing off of the grime from the muddy, rain swollen river, was not only a cleansing of the dirt, it was time for reflection of how sweet it was to have fresh water, beautiful canyons, lovely, encouraging people surrounding you and to take it all in. A baptism for all~ and listen to the sweet squeals as we realized the hidden gem we were being led to. It was just a beautiful site and a wonderful memory. These videos will be for my children, my grandchildren, my friends, family and I hope to strangers who need a push to go find themselves and trust that you place yourself exactly where you need to be.

How can one walk away from all of that beauty and not spend some time reflecting? How can you go through that experience and say to yourself, well that was nice, what's next? I'm just not that kinda gal~ there were too many significant points made during this trip that I cannot walk away from it and not look back. A trip of a lifetime is due its own respect, its given place in your memory bank for the review of your life. I just might have to write more about this trip in future posts, because truly, it was a place, time, moment that helped me find perspective to my life. Are you willing to jump at opportunities that might scare you for the reward of finding yourself, make friends that impact your psyche AND lead you to discover new places, within you and a physical location? I can't answer those questions for you, but for me....I wouldn't change a thing and I need to do more of this. Life is short my friend, eat the cake, find the exercise plan that keeps you healthy, make plans for your next adventure, meet new people, explore places, people, things that challenge you to your core~ that is how you grow.

Wait 2021 Isn't over...we've only gotten to August, what is left? We have an off road, tent camping trip to Colorado, a wedding and a few other surprises!

Stay tuned, more to report as I wrap up 2021.

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