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Archive for the ‘Journeys’ Category

When My Heart Stopped

It’s been almost 3 years since I last posted anything here. I don’t know if anyone is still following this blog, but if there is, I just wanted to explain my absence, and share my story.

On February 6, 2016, my 13 year old son, Christian, passed away in a tragic accident, and life as I knew it ended. My heart was still beating and my lungs still took in breath, but my mind went numb and my soul seemed to leave me. I was no longer alive.

I saw a post on a grief support group that said, “I died that day too, but they forgot to bury me”.  I thought, “how true”.

The “me I was” no longer exists, because that “me” had hopes and dreams for a future, one that included Christian in every aspect, a future that will never be. And so, that life ended.

A long time ago I said that my words were seldom polished or rehearsed, that I didn’t follow any fancy writing style, but that my writing came from the heart. But when your heart is shredded into tiny particles, words and thoughts don’t make any sense. Neither does life. So, I stopped posting. I did some journaling from time to time, but it was full of darkness and pain, not the kind of words to encourage hope and faith. I was dead inside.

CPR for My Soul

I woke up each morning and did whatever needed doing that day, but it was like watching someone else through a misty veil living a life that didn’t make any sense.

The next winter my Dad passed away and I slipped even further into the empty darkness. In just a few short years I had lost so many family members, I was beginning to feel like Job from the bible. And I kept begging God to take me too, but He didn’t.

About a month after my Dad passed, my pastor’s Dad also passed away unexpectedly. Being a pastor, he upheld a face of dignity and faith, and on the surface he showed great strength. But when I looked into his eyes one evening shortly after his Dad’s funeral, there was a reflection of pain that I knew all too well. When Christian died my pastor had said he couldn’t even imagine what I was feeling. But that evening as we talked about his Dad, I knew he now understood, and a connection was made.

I felt compelled to try to offer a sense of comforting, but I had none to give. Or at least so I thought. My pastor is a man I have always looked up to and felt a deep respect and admiration for (and still do). So when he told me that evening that he felt inspired and hopeful because of the strength and faith I had shown, I felt a little awkward and insecure. But I listened, and we exchanged a few memories and stories.

Later, I saw 2 memes on Facebook that I knew I had to share with him. One said, “Someone had to go into the fire in order for Nebuchadnezzar to see God” and the second said, “God uses broken people like you and me to fix broken people like you and me”.

I understand now that every one of us goes through all kinds of struggles, trials, and pain throughout our lives. But we have a choice in how we react to it. We can allow it to consume and destroy us, or, we can allow it to be used to help someone else, even if only to listen and try to understand on some level.

Many times in the past few years I’ve asked God what He wants me to do. I don’t know how I got the idea that He would speak to me in a loud booming voice and give me step-by-step instructions on what to do (probably too much Hollywood and not enough Holy Bible), but that is not how He answered.

I kept finding myself coming to these bible verses, and it finally occurred to me that these are God’s instructions for me:

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 KJV)

“Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3 KJV)

Coming Back to Life

I have been broken by my grief and there are many pieces of my heart that are gone now. But it has opened my eyes to others that are hurting, and it has stirred compassion in a heart that I thought was dead. That spark of compassion led me back to writing, to share hope and encouragement in any way I can.

I know I will never be the same person I used to be. But in my heart and in my writing, I am coming back to life. It will not be easy, but the journeys that make good stories and testimonies never are.

My goal here is to make connections in sharing our journeys, to lift each other up with stories and prayers, to share hope and smiles where they are needed most.

Since I have forgotten practically everything about the functions on how to run this site, I appreciate your patience as I get reacquainted with the workings. I plan to begin posting a couple times a week and look forward to your feedback. As always, please feel free to share, leave any comments, questions, prayer requests, etc. I welcome the interaction!

God bless!

– Amber Lea

 

 

 

 

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Today I have a guest post, written by my friend, Seumas Gallacher.

I’ve asked Seumas to share a little about his journey to becoming a writer because he’s had a great influence on me. His good-natured generosity and sense of humor has made it quite easy to like him.

Seumas started a strategy in social networking a while back called, “The Blog Scratchers Union”…a you scratch my back (or blog in this case), and I’ll scratch yours sort of thing. It has become quite popular in helping authors spread the word about each other’s works. I shared his idea in an earlier post. So now when you see the hashtag #TBSU, you’ll know where it came from.

So without further ado…meet Seumas Gallacher…

…what do YOU wanna be when you grow up?…

As much as I protest at the utter surprise at realizing I’m living well past the three-score years mark, my brain rejects anything other than a youthful mind-set.

Sure, it seems I can’t sprint from the armchair to the sofa in search of the television remote control as swiftly as I once could… and birthdays appear to be arriving in a concertina-ed time scale. But I believe I’ve arrived at a place of cerebral satisfaction… I’ve become a writer… never, ever labeling myself as an ‘aspiring writer’… but a ‘writer’… if you’re gonna be something, then be it totally.

However, it wasn’t ever so imbedded as it is now.

In my earlier youth, the preferred occupations ranged from ‘a drummer in a beat group’, followed bylead singer in the same beat group’ (note ‘beat group’, not ‘band’… kinda dates me a bit, doesn’t it?)… then it was to be a ‘back-street betting bookmaker’, short-lived when I learned that would require capital to get started. Brief skirmishes with the notion of being a ‘professional soccer goalkeeper’ lapsed as the need to get real and earn a living thrust me into the tentacles of Big Bad Banking. In that guise the world saw Master Gallacher over a period of four decades, tramping round the global greed centres of London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Manila, and now Abu Dhabi.

In retrospect, it dawns on me that all of that was merely to equip my grey cells with background material to indulge what I think has always been in my soul… writing… telling stories… entertaining people… enjoying the pleasure of word-smithing.

I didn’t complete my first crime thriller until about five years ago, and since then have become addicted to laptop-tapping constantly, in producing what has now become the Jack Calder series, with three titles on Amazon Kindle already, and a fourth Work-In-Progress…

Seumas 3 books covers

Available on Amazon at:

Savage Payback 

Vengeance Wears Black 

The Violin Man’s Legacy

Being the oldest self-confessed computer Jurassic on the planet, the advent of the social networks was beautifully timed. My incompetence has proved no barrier in a steep learning curve.

Marrying the eBook phenomenon with the proper business application of the various social networks has resulted in 75,000+ downloads/sales to date in eBook and hard copy … not bad for somebody who still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he (eventually) grows up. It still tickles and astonishes me that in this few short years I’ve become in some quarters, the darling of the self-publishing brigade. So much so, that many, many newbie and established author friends have exhorted me to tell how I did it. The result… the recent launch on Kindle of ‘Self-Publishing Steps To Successful Sales’…

Seumas book cover 1

 

Available on Amazon at ‘Self-Publishing Steps To Successful Sales’ 

…I welcome all and any contact regarding this wonderful world of quill-scraping and invite your interaction through:

Blog : http://www.seumasgallacher.com
Twitter : @seumasgallacher
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/seumasgallacher
Email : seumasgallacher@yahoo.com

 

Seumas Gallacher profile picSeumas Gallacher was born in Clydeside, Govan in Glasgow and spent his formative teens in the idyllic Scottish Hebridean island of Mull. His career as a banker took him from Scotland to London for ten years and thence on a further twenty-five year global odyssey through Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines in Asia. Along the way he metamorphed into a corporate troubleshooter and problem solver. He came to the United Arab Emirates for a month in 2004 and has remained in Abu Dhabi ever since.

A late discoverer of the joys of writing, his first two novels, The Violin Man’s Legacy and Vengeance Wears Black have sold more than 70,000 copies. The third in the Jack Calder series, Savage Payback was launched in late 2013.

Seumas has become a strong proponent of the use of the social networking channels to reach and engage with a global readership market in the new age of self-publishing and eBooks. Seumas is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on how to develop productive online relationships. He was voted Blogger of the Year 2013.

(* Don’t forget to drop Seumas a line, and help spread the word about #TBSU)

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Last week I wrote a post announcing the release of my friend, Pam Thorson’s new book, “Out from the Shadows”. She is celebrating with a launch party on Facebook on March 28, 2014 from 7 am to 7 pm and everyone is invited! There will be prizes given away each hour, but you must join the party to enter for a chance to win.

Let’s help Pam celebrate, and show our support by spreading the word.

Pam Thorson
Author Bio:
Pam Thorson is a licensed practical nurse, author, speaker, and full-time caregiver. She pioneered in the homeschooling movement from 1982-2006 and authored her first book, Song in the Night, in 2008. Her newest book, Out from the Shadows: 31 Devotions for the Weary Caregiver (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), pulls back the veil on the unique joys and challenges of caregiving. Pam resides with her family in the Northwest. Visit her here:
http://www.pamthorson.com
http://www.twitter.com/PamelaThorson
http://www.facebook.com/officialpamthorson

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What an author does

Writing is like giving birth, but the labor lasts much longer.

I have realized that the experience of becoming an author has been similar to giving birth. First, I was pregnant with the thoughts, feelings and ideas. They grew inside me like a new baby. I shared some of this with family and friends, the way a pregnant woman would let people rub her tummy to feel the baby kick.

I nourished my writing by reading and learning, and forming friendships with other authors. I began researching the writing industry and learning everything I could on the subject, along with information about publishing, marketing and promotion. In this way, it was similar to what is referred to as “nesting”, when a woman “prepares” for the coming arrival; cleaning and setting up the nursery, and getting all the necessary supplies on hand.

Then it was time to give birth.

The actual writing part came naturally enough, though there were some minor complications. I got stuck with my words several times. During the process, I ended up erasing entire pages, at times on purpose, and accidentally at times. There were times when I felt so frustrated and began to think that I might never finish my book. But just like being pregnant, you know the baby can’t stay in there forever.

Finally, my book was completed. Victory! And I felt very proud of this accomplishment. It took a lot of hard work, dedication and determination, but it had become a reality. I could hold it in my hands, my “baby”.

Then came the job of raising the baby, getting the word out and promoting it to the world. That was even harder than the giving birth! Naturally my new “baby” was eagerly accepted by my family and friends. But if that is the only audience to buy your book, you are going to need another job to support yourself.

Of course, several people in my inner circle spread the word about my new book to their family and friends. But let’s face it, I am no super-star with thousands of followers.

I needed some serious help in getting the word out, to promote myself and my book. As I had been reading and learning about the marketing industry, I learned about using social media and networking. It is much more than just posting a few ads on Facebook and Twitter and such. (I’ll be covering more on that later.)

Through social media I began to make new friendships, many of which were with seasoned authors. And to my surprise, quite a few were very willing to share tips of the trade and some much needed guidance on what to do next. Many of these fine and generous people even bought my book and promoted it to their own fans! And while my book may not be on the best-seller list in New York yet, I was quite honored to receive the mentions and lovely reviews.

One aspect I learned from all of this is about the concepts of “pay back” and “pay it forward”. The “pay back” is kind of a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” sort of thing, where authors cross-promote each other’s works. The “pay it forward” is where someone helps out a new author, without any expectations of returning the favor. It is simply a way of giving a new author or new book some support, and perhaps opening a door to new avenues for them.

This brings me to the point of my post today.

It has been my privilege to make friends with a few Christian authors that are about to release their new books. As my way of saying “thank you for your friendship”, I will be doing a few guest posts, interviews and reviews with these authors over the next few weeks.

I am really excited about these new books and the adventures the authors are about to begin! As I said at the beginning of this post, “writing is like giving birth, but the labor lasts much longer”, and I am happy to be a small part of these new births.

I realize that my work alone will not make these books successful bestsellers, so I will be asking for the help of all of my readers to spread the word. It’s not easy being a new parent. And neither is becoming a best-selling author. But with a little help and determination, it can be achieved.

So please join me in welcoming these wonderful upcoming authors and help us in sharing their work, their babies, with the world!

And if you know of any new authors or works that you would like to see promoted, I would be happy to take a look and see what I can do. Just send me a link or a note.

Thank you in advance for your help and support. I look forward to hearing from you, and God bless! – Amber

 

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I began writing many years ago, without having any college training or professional background. I just put down on paper what was in my heart and in my head. Several family members and close friends told me that my writing was very good and that I should consider becoming a writer. But that’s what family and friends always say. So I didn’t take it too seriously.

Then I joined a chat room and began joining in a few of the forums there. It was during a time of political debates and elections, and there was quite a bit of tension and heated arguments in many of the forums. So I began a discussion based on sharing humorous stories about my children and animals, as an attempt to cool things down.

Soon there were several hundred people joining in, leaving comments regarding my writing a book of these stories. Several of the comments were from professional writers, and they were encouraging me to become a writer. Me! A real writer?

I had no knowledge of the writing industry, but I asked questions. And to their credit, I found that these writers were more than willing to educate me. Through their kindness, I found some confidence and encouragement, and I began pondering the idea of becoming a writer.

Of course, the picture I painted in my mind was one of me, sitting at my computer, furiously typing out a best seller in a couple of days, while the phone was ringing with offers and pleas from several publishers. I pictured crowds surrounding me in public, asking for my autograph. And I pictured financial success. (Yes, I know that’s funny, but it’s MY picture, so don’t rain on my parade.)

I bought several books on writing, publishing, agents, and marketing guides. After I finished reading them, I think I was more confused than before I started. And I felt a sense of fear, realizing that I had no idea of what I was doing.

I lost contact with the writers I had met in the chat room when the site was suddenly closed for unknown reasons. And things were changing in my life circumstances that were beyond my control. So for a time, I didn’t give much more thought to writing for a living.

But I kept writing, and sharing stories with friends and family. And my biggest fan was always my mom.

Then a few years ago there was an incident which hospitalized my youngest son. There were many people wanting updates and to share loving prayers, but even texting was difficult. So one of the hospital volunteers arranged for me to get access to a computer and set up a webpage where I could post updates and people could leave messages for us. The site was similar to a blog, and I began posting once or twice a day.

The posts were similar to a journal style of writing, and I included my own thoughts and feelings about what was going on with my son. I was writing to share with our family and friends. But by the end of the first week, there were several hundred people that were following this journal, leaving messages of hope and prayers, and requesting that I continue the posts. There were hundreds of people that I didn’t know, I didn’t even know how they found the site. But it was being spread by word of mouth (or computer links) and it continued to grow.

I was a little overwhelmed when I realized that in a short time, there were almost 4,000 people following this journal. And many of them were thanking me for sharing our story, and repeatedly asking me to consider writing a book about our ordeal. My mom was among them.

Over the next year and a half, I wrote the book, “Faith, Hope & Miracles”. And while I was writing it, I was also learning everything I could about the publishing industry. Without knowing any writers or having any contacts in the industry, I knew that it was not going to be an easy endeavor.

When I finished writing the manuscript, I sent it to my mother and asked her to review it and give an honest critique, along with editing. I knew she had taken a few English and writing courses in college, so I felt confident that she would spot any grammar mistakes and such.

When she called after reading the manuscript, her voice was soft and shaky as she said, “Hon, you are a very gifted writer, and you did an excellent job”. At first I thought her emotions were very strong because of the subject of the book surrounding her own grandson. But it was more than that. She told me of how proud she was of me for completing this work, and that she believed in my ability as a writer.

Even when I confided in her that I had no idea of how to go about getting the book published, she said she had faith in me and that she knew it would happen. And she told me to never give up.

After careful consideration, I had decided to self-publish that book. To accomplish that required learning even more about the publishing and marketing industry than I ever really wanted to know, but I was determined to do it. It was a bit overwhelming and even frightening in some ways, but when the book was finally available for sale, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. And I finally realized that writing was what I wanted to do with my life.

I must say that going about it the way I did to become a writer was probably the hardest way. I highly recommend that anyone wanting to pursue a career in writing start by taking writing and publishing courses, and earning some credentials. It is hard enough for a first book to be a success when you know what you’re doing. But when you are learning as you go, and no one knows anything about you, it’s even harder.

I sent a signed copy to my parents and several other family members and friends. But I’m pretty sure that no one was more proud than my mother. It was a little over 6 months later when I finally was able to go visit, and she had my book proudly on display on her living room coffee table, next to her bible.

On that visit, I shared a few ideas I had for a Christian fiction series, and my mother liked the ideas. She said she looked forward to reading the books, and I knew she would always be my biggest fan.

My mother passed away the day after I came home from that trip, one year ago today.

In this past year, I’ve written a few articles and worked on a couple of different blogs. But when it came to working on the series I had started, I seemed to have developed writer’s block.

I managed to scratch out a few paragraphs now and then, but I just couldn’t find the time to really go after it.

It wasn’t until this morning that I finally realized that I have been feeling an underlying depression. I know it’s perfectly normal to grieve after losing someone you love. And in this past year, I have often missed my mother very much, and I’ve cried. But what I didn’t realize was that somewhere in my mind, my writing was, in a way, connected to her.

It’s funny how our brains work, making associations and connections that we don’t even realize are there.

But I also realized something else this morning. I remembered back to when my son was in the hospital and I began keeping that online journal. I knew as events unfolded in that hospital that there was a miracle that needed to be told. I could feel it in my heart that God wanted for me to share it with others, and I felt compelled to do so. I also felt a sense of pride with my mother’s encouragement to continue writing. But in this past year, I have not been doing what I was led to do. I was not honoring my mother, or God, with my procrastination and lack of commitment.

This day has been hard, and I know there will still be more hard days ahead. I also know that my mother would never have wanted grieving for her to stop me from doing something that is dear to my heart, and something that she was so proud of.

In realizing the connection I feel between my mother and my writing, I know now that I can turn that into a strength. It can be the inspiration to keep writing, even when I can’t think of what to write about. It can be the motivation I need to stay committed to my work, even when I’m too tired. And it can be the strength I need, to pour out my heart on paper, the words of my stories. And it can be a way for me to continue to say, “I love you Mom. Thanks for believing in me”.

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Imagine you are at the end of your life. Today is your last day. What legacy will you leave behind?

It’s not exactly a cheerful thought, thinking about our own end. And for the young, it may seem a long way off. But then again, we never know when our time will come. So what do you want to be remembered for?

If today was your last day, what would you do with it?

Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older (I’m not quite ancient yet, but…) I sometimes ponder these things. Perhaps it’s because I wonder what the future will be like for my children. I do not fear my own death, because I know where I’ll be going. But I sometimes wonder what my family and friends will remember of me. Have I made any difference to them?

I have never chased after fame and fortune, although a little more fortune in the financial area would be much appreciated. But when I look back over my life, I realize the majority of my time and efforts have been centered around relationships with others. But do those relationships matter? Will they be remembered? I hope so.

My family and friends have always been important to me. So after the loss of several members of my family over this past year, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on those relationships. I ask myself, “Did they know how much I loved them?” “Did I make them feel like they were important and treasured”?

I think about the people I will leave behind when I am gone. What imprint will I leave on their heart? And I ask myself, “What do I want them to remember about me?”

There are times when I look at the world around me and think about what I like or don’t like. I think about the things I would like to change. I would put an end to things like hate, oppression, poverty, and hunger. But how? I am only one person, what difference can I make?

I cannot change the world. But I can teach my children how to love others, by showing them my love. I can teach my children how to be just and fair, by how I treat them and those around us. I can teach my children how to be generous and giving, by my own examples. And I can teach them how to share hope and encouragement by sharing it myself.

The world doesn’t know my name, and I may be forgotten entirely in the years to come. But what I leave in the hearts of my children, my family and friends, will be remembered, at least for a while.

The memories I leave may not be a huge thing by themselves, but if they are shared, they can grow.

So if today is my last day, I will spend it loving my family and friends. I will help with whatever needs to be done. I will encourage love and hope in Jesus. These are the things I am spending my time on today. And tomorrow, if it comes.

There is a saying, to “Live each moment as if it were your last”. That is the way I want to live today. I want to give all of my energy, time and love to those around me. I want to make their lives more joyful in any way I can. I will love God with all my heart, and do my best to glorify Him.

Will the world remember me tomorrow? Probably not. But perhaps it will come to know my children, my family, or my friends.

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Well, here we are on the final stretch of our trip. It begins in Bozeman, Montana.

We stopped at the local post office to mail off a few boxes of goodies so that Christian could have a little more room to move. It even cleared out a small space in the back, where I could actually see out the back window for the first time on the trip. (It didn’t last long though, as we found more stuff to fill it back up with. 🙂 )

As we headed out along Interstate 90 toward Missoula, we spotted a sign for Lewis and Clark Caverns and decided to check it out. It was a very nice scenic drive to the park entrance, and beautiful sunshine along the way.

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We didn’t actually get to take a tour of the caverns due to time, but we did enjoy the visitor center and our talk with the park ranger. He talked to Christian and peaked his interest in bats, explaining to him about how critical it is to protect the bats from certain diseases that are currently wiping out many of the bat populations around the country. Christian bought a little toy bat to help remind him of what he learned. We also bought a DVD about the caverns to watch later since we didn’t get to see them.

After we left the park, we continued on the scenic route which was a loop that led back out to I-90. It was getting very hot, and we were truly enjoying the air conditioning along with the scenery.

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After a few hours we stopped for gas in a little town off the interstate. It was one of those where you have to exit the interstate and drive a mile or two into a town. As we were pulling back out of the gas station, I spotted a sign across the road that made me laugh, and I had to take a picture of it!

You know you’re in a western town when, instead of used “car” lots they have…

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I know some of the local folks were probably laughing at us as we made a U-turn in  the middle of the road to go back and take pictures of the sign.

Later, we stopped for a lunch break at a quiet rest area.

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The name of the river was Clark Fork, and it was a very winding river, as we crossed it so many times we lost count.

A couple of hours later we stopped at another rest area. As we were pulling into a parking spot, a couple was getting into the car next to us to leave and they were being followed by a little ground squirrel that seemed to be begging. As we watched, it looked as if the little squirrel was going to follow their car until we got out. It came right up to us. We noticed there were about 20 other squirrels nearby, hanging around some bushes, and they didn’t appear afraid of people.

I know it is not a good idea to feed wildlife, and normally I wouldn’t. But these little creatures weren’t exactly wild anymore, as they have become accustomed to handouts (and their antics were too cute to resist for Christian). We had a couple of pieces of bread, so Christian began to toss a few small pieces out to them. Within seconds they came right up to him and started taking food from his hand. He thought this was really cool.

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We continued on along I-90, and soon came into Missoula, Montana where there was a wildfire in progress. The smoke was thick in the air, making it hard to see and breathe.

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Soon after we crossed back into Idaho, it began getting dark. We pushed on to Coeur d’Alene, which has grown quite a bit since the last time I was there. We stopped for a bite to eat and then spent the night in a Wal Mart parking lot.

Early the next morning, we picked up a few more supplies and then headed on to Canada. We stopped in Bonners Ferry for gas, and ended up making some new friends. The place we stopped at was called Wild Horse Mercantile & Saloon, a family owned and operated store. We spent over an hour there, browsing the handi-crafts and talking with the store owner, while Christian played with their grandson. He was ready for a break from us “old ladies”, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to play with someone his own age.

Soon after leaving Wild Horse, we came to the Canadian border. I’ve heard many horror stories about crossing borders, but didn’t think we had anything to worry about, other than it may take a while if they wanted to search our car. We all had our passports ready when we got to the gate, but they also wanted to see my divorce/custody papers allowing me to take Christian across the border. I had to use those papers to get Christian’s passport in the first place, so I didn’t bring them with me on the trip. (I’ll know better in the future, though it’s not something I would normally plan to take on a trip with us.)

The border agent was friendly and helpful at least, and after asking Christian some questions, was able to call his dad to verify that it was alright for me to take him across the border. There were no more issues after that, and we crossed safely into Canada.

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A short time later we stopped for a quick lunch. One of the snack items we had purchased before leaving Coeur d’Alene  was something Christian had never had before…

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Amy couldn’t believe that he had never eaten a Twinkie, but I’ve always tried to limit the processed foods and sugar because he has a rather negative reaction with hyper-activity. He said they tasted “kind of weird” and he wasn’t overly fond of them.

We were soon on our way into Banff National Park, enjoying spectacular views along the way.

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As we entered into the town of Radium Hot Springs, all of a sudden traffic came almost to a stop. As we creeped along slowly, we finally saw the reason…

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This small herd was seeking shade from the hot afternoon sun, and didn’t seem to mind sharing the town with all the people. I think all of us tourists that had a camera handy, were all taking pictures as we drove by.

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We were getting excited about stopping at the hot springs for a good soak, as none of us had been there before. I had been by there back in the winter of 1994, but it was already dark and snowing and I drove right by, not knowing it was there.

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Water from the actual hot springs have been piped into this large pool, making it easily accessible. There is also a regular swimming pool on the other side of the building for a cool dip as well. We spent a couple of hours between soaking and cooling off, before heading on again.

As we drove along, we found a few places to stop for pictures, and Amy took a moment to dip her toes into the ice cold water in one of the rivers.

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She said, “That water is too cold”, as her feet began to go numb.

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By the time we entered Alberta, the sun was going down and we began looking for a place to stop for the night.

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We crossed over into Jasper National Park, and then crossed the 5,000 mile mark of our journey.

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We found a little pull off where we took about a 5 hour nap in the car. The next morning we continued our drive through Jasper, stopping on occasion to take in the sights.

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Even though it was a cloudy day, the scenery was still beautiful to look at, and we also began to see more wildlife.

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Well, that last photo wasn’t real wildlife, but they had a wonderful restaurant and gift shop there, where we spent too much money. 🙂 And this next picture does qualify as wildlife.

Black bear 1

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This was actually the 3rd bear we saw, with the first ones being young cubs that quickly disappeared into the trees before I could get a picture. This bear was trying to push his way through the barbed wire fence when we came upon him. As soon as he made his way through the fence, he turned around and looked at us. He watched us for several minutes, I guess making sure we weren’t going to follow him. And then he vanished into the woods.

We crossed back into British Columbia and finally arrived in Dawson Creek, which is where the official “Mile 0” of the Alaska Highway begins. When I was there in 1994, I bought a miniature replica of the mile post statue which I later gave to a friend. I wanted to buy another one, but it seems it is no longer a big deal to the town and we could not find any place that still carried these souvenirs. While asking around the town, one place was suggested as a possibility, but they were closed.

So we settled for our own pictures of the mile post marker in the center of town, and moved on.

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By the time we left Dawson Creek, it was almost dark and beginning to rain heavily. We made it as far as Fort Nelson before stopping for a nap. We left Ft. Nelson around 4:30 am and continued on. By then we were all getting a little tired of being in the car, even feeling a little grumpy. But we were determined to make it to Liard Hot Springs, our next stop over.

The weather was clearing up a bit, and there were more photo opportunities along the way.

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It was a bit of a surprise to suddenly see a small herd of mountain goats trotting across one of the bridges towards us. We stopped to let them pass, and to take some pictures.

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We soon crossed the 6,ooo mile mark and stopped for a little celebration and to stretch our legs. We also said a special prayer of thanks.

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We saw a few animals with radio collars while driving through Canada, but this little fella and his momma captured our hearts. The baby played “peek-a-boo” with us, being bashful, and the momma had a torn antler on her right side that hung down. It didn’t appear to bother her though.

Shortly before we made it to Liard Hot Springs we came across a herd of wild buffalo. Everyone had to stop as we were coming up on a construction zone and had to wait for the pilot car to let us go. I felt a little sorry for the guy on the motorcycle. Being that close to a wild buffalo in a car is one thing, but this guy had no protection.

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Even after the pilot car began to lead us through the construction zone, we still had to stop for the pedestrians.

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We came across this old fella taking a dust bath to ward off the bugs just before we reached the hot springs.

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We made it to Liard Hot Springs Lodge around 3:30 pm, ready for a good soaking and a hot meal.

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Liard Hot Springs 1

This is the upper end of the springs, where it is hottest. There used to be another pool farther up years ago, but it was closed down.

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This was down at the lower end of the springs where it is much cooler. There is a cold spring that feeds in here, making it ideal for children. The whole spring is shallow, maybe at chest level at the deepest.

This next photo is from a visit in the winter of 2004, which was the first time I visited here.

Liard Hot Springs 4 winter

Soaking in the springs was so nice, I didn’t want to leave. It really is amazing just how good it makes tired old bones feel! Many of the people we met here made the trip for the specific purpose of healing and the overall health benefits.

One of the people we met was a school teacher from one of the villages on the Kuskokwim River, here in Alaska. She was visiting the hot springs as therapy to avoid surgery on her back. It turned out that she was also a rock hound, like Christian, and they quickly sparked up a friendship. She showed him part of her rock collection, and gave him a first hand lesson in geology, along with sharing the locations of a few places she thought we might be interested in visiting.

Christian also made friends with a few children around his age, and they mostly stayed in the lower end playing in the cooler water.

After soaking for a couple of hours, we went back to the lodge for dinner, and then returned to the springs again for a couple more hours. I had the most restful night’s sleep in many years. The next morning we soaked again before breakfast. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave.

We left Liard late morning on July 29th and drove into the Yukon Territory, and on to Watson Lake to visit the Sign Post Forest. I had been by there before too, but in the winter time the snow was very deep and I only saw it from the road driving by. This time, I got to go walk around inside.

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What began as an ordinary mileage post in a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers camp in 1942, has now become a famous stop for tourists from all over the world. It started with a post used for distance between camps and cities during the construction of the Alaska Highway. In 1943 a homesick soldier added a sign with the name of his hometown in Illinois to the post, and it started a tradition with people from all over putting up signs from their hometowns. Many more posts have been erected since 1943, and the “forest” continues to grow each year with signs being made from everything one can imagine. There are now over 72,000 signs there, and of course, we added a sign of our own (the front license plate) to mark our journey.

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When we left Watson Lake, Amy and Christian were going to take a nap. But just as they were starting to fall asleep, I came across a brown bear just off the side of the road. I hit the brakes kind of hard, waking Amy and Christian up, and I turned around and drove back slowly, past where the bear was. He was busy digging for grubs and didn’t pay much attention to us. I turned around again and came back, driving slowly on the shoulder of the road until we were right next to him. (Thankfully, there weren’t any other cars around at the time and I was able to stop and turn around easily, which we did quite often for pictures.) This was one of the best photos I got, having been waiting for an opportunity like this. I didn’t want to push our luck and make the bear angry, so after a couple of pictures, we moved on.

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Brown bear 2

Not long after seeing the bear, we again crossed the Continental Divide for the 7th time.

7th Continental Divide Crossing

We were planning to drive straight through to White Horse, but stopped for a few gorgeous sunset shots.

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By the time the last bit of twilight was fading, we were crossing the line into Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. Amy and I were discussing the days events when all of a sudden we both said, “Look!” We were both pointing to a bright green light flashing down through the sky. We’ve seen “shooting stars” and the like before, but they don’t usually last as long as this did. We never did hear any reports of what it actually was, but from what we could tell, it was a “fire ball” from a comet. (If anyone has any information, I would appreciate a comment on it. The location was just outside Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, around 11:00 pm on July 29, 2013)

We filled up with gas in Whitehorse and were laughing about all the bugs splattered on the grill of the car and gas can on top of the car. I had to keep using the windshield wipers and stopping to scrape the windshield in order to see where I was going. I thought Alaska bugs were bad! These were all collected between Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

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We spent the night just on the other side of Whitehorse in a rest area. We left around 3:30 am, determined that we would make it back into Alaska that day.

Just after sunrise, we came to Haines Junction and stopped for gas. There was a place I had stopped years before just past Haines Junction by Kluane Lake called Soldiers Summit. It was a serene and relaxing setting, almost mystical in the winter time. It was where the Alaskans and Canadians met in the building of the Alaska Highway, and they marked the spot with a memorial to all those who had contributed. It was just as peaceful in the summer time.

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Yes, we hiked up the trail anyway (with a can of bear spray in hand).

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View of Destruction Bay at Kluane Lake from trail head.

I knew we were getting closer to the border and home when we left Soldiers Summit. Perhaps the few cars in front of me were thinking the same thing, and that could explain why we all were going a good bit over the speed limit when we came to Burwash Landing. All of a sudden brake lights started coming on, including mine.

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Now someone there has a sense of humor (and artistic talent), and I have to admit, I was laughing so hard I could barely take the pictures!

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We stopped for a brief rest in Burwash Landing and visited the Natural History Museum before continuing on. We were getting into what felt like familiar territory to Christian and I, and we were beginning to get very anxious to get home. Amy was still very enthusiastic about the scenery, as it was very different than where she lives.

While passing one of the many lakes, we spotted a couple of pairs of swans swimming along.

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Swan Lake Canada

When we were getting close to Beaver Creek, the last town before the Alaska border, we were talking about our journey. The subjects of a message in a bottle and time capsules came up. We started thinking about marking our trip in a unique way, something that might be discovered someday by a future generation.

We came up with the idea of writing our names on a few rocks, along with the names of all the places we’d been and the date, and throwing them into Beaver Creek. Perhaps no one will ever find them, but then again, perhaps they will.

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We threw our rocks into Beaver Creek and stopped in town for gas. Soon we were at the Alaska border. (Thank you Jesus!)

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We still had several hundred miles to go before reaching home and we were getting very excited. It didn’t take long to reach Tok Junction, and I knew our trip was coming to an end. When we stopped in Tok for gas, we were greeted with a lightning storm and heavy rain. It wasn’t as spectacular as the ones we had seen in Arizona, but for Alaska, it was pretty cool.

Not long after we left Tok, the rain stopped, but I could see the storm clouds following us.

By the time we reached Glen Allen I was getting pretty tired. But I knew we were getting close now, and the anticipation of getting home kept me going.

As we pulled into Glen Allen, we crossed the 7,000 mile mark.

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The storm clouds had caught up with us, and again we were seeing lightning and hearing thunder. As we headed down the road, the storm shifted to the east toward Valdez and we entered into partly sunny skies.

Just before we got to where we could see the Matanuska Glacier, we were treated to a light rainbow.

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Matanuska Glacier

In another 45 minutes we were back in Palmer, Alaska…home at last! We had gone 7,165 miles in 14 days of driving time. We were exhausted, but it was the trip of a lifetime and we had a blast.

I feel very blessed to have been able to take this journey with Christian, and in a way, I consider it a gift from my Mom. I will always treasure the memories that were made along the way, and I will always be thankful.

I hope you have enjoyed my sharing our journey with you. I know hearing someone else’s stories and looking at their pictures is never the same as being there yourself, but perhaps through our trip, it will stir some excitement and desire to take a journey of your own. Perhaps you might even explore some of the same places we did for yourselves.

At any rate, I’d like to thank you all for your kindness in taking the time to read about our adventure. And again, if you have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. I probably won’t post again for a few days, as I’m still behind on some chores. But such is life.

Take care, go make some happy memories, and God bless! – Amber & Christian

 

 

 

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