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2011-07-22 - 4:48 p.m.

Amazing Vacation at Glacier National Park!

I came home and left a message with the little girls' Dad and hope to hear from him and get to talk with them. I have a few days off work next week and wished I had planned better as I would love to take them camping a couple of nights. Should have asked for next week as my vacation time with them.

I asked for the days off next week MONTHS AGO and forgot I requested them off ! Its one of those "use it or lose it" vactaion day moments. I booked my travel and hiking vacation back in September and ALSO then kinda forgot about it until it creeped up on me a few weeks ahead of time. I then asked for the time the two weeks BEFORE as my vacation time with girls but their Dad said they had plans so that couldn't work. Subsequently they remained with him while I traveled, but next week is ALSO on the schedule his normal week with them, so although they normally would be with me this week until Friday night- that means I won't see them until NEXT Friday unless he calls back and they are around and it works out I can spend time with them.

Ce la vie...

Next year I will have to remember to plan better and ask for the vacation time from him AHEAD of time. I just forgot to finish that one last detail as all the OTHER vacation plans were made nice and early! I mean for me to book and pay for a trip in SEPT that is happening in July is just out of my norm!

I did however pack at the last moment. I THOUGHT I was organized ahead of time, but then my bridge builder friend asked if I was ready and asked a few more questions and I realized my tent and very bulky sleeping bag really were not wise. While warm both were BIG. Not practical for trecking around for days when moving often.

Bridge Builder was kind enough to be sure I wasn't going into the wild unprepared. He is a good friend and very sweetly tries to take care of his friends without being overpowering or controlling. He however WORRIES about those he cares about, and it is clear I am on the list of those he cares for.

He in fact was awesome companionship when traveling to Buffalo a few times this year- once along with Pocohontas to see Katerina in the lead in her high school musical, and once for her graduation. It was SO NICE of him to offer to drive if I would be comfrotable, and I was as he is a gentleman and booked his own hotel room while I stayed in a motel with Railtin who was lucky to come along and travel, and my family.

My Dad was kind to book rooms for all the uncles and me so we could all make the trip for the graduation without worry about expense as much and where to stay. It was generous, thoughtful and kind of him to do so.

However the Motel 6 in Amherst NY is NOT a place I would wish on anyone. That of course couldn't be known AHEAD of time... although I did ask a few times that he consider Priceline. I thought that you can then control the number of stars AND The price and not be surprised at quality even if you have no idea WHERE you are staying. Since we were staying in the burbs anyway and the graduation was downtown Buffalo I didn't understand the unwillingness to cancel a Motel Six reservation if he did find something on Priceline. However Dad couldn't be convinced so we all graciously accepted his lovely thoughtful gift of accomodations knowing "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" is still one of the best philosophys of life that our Mother drilled into us.

Some things are not worth worrying about as they can't be changed after the fact...

But the view UNDER that bed in my room, which I took in when flipping up the comforter to be sure I didn't lose anything and THEN noted a PILL ( and NOT MINE) under the bed, along with literally piles of dust, an empty water bottle and other trash-- was downright DISGUSTING.

Wonder we didn't come home with bed bugs!

Bridge Builder was staying at a comfortable motel literally 5 minutes away and drove to pick up Raitlin and I for the weekend activities when he wasn't off on his own. He did take in a day of hiking in the area solo while there.

So that was a fantastic trip just a month ago, followed by another wonderful summer ritual of hosting students for the International Youth Orchestra that Katerina is a violinist in.

Once again, our family had my favorite version of a "Staycation" in which we experience the culture, language, flavor and food of others yet don't leave our own home- but for to provide transportation to a few concerts we love to enjoy, and a picnic or two.

The Forth of July Celebration at Franklin Park in Purcellville was lovely as always. The music was wonderful as alwasy, and we enjoyed not only Katerina's playing violin but immensely enjoyed getting to know the three Venezualean's we hosted this time around, one of whom was a conductor.

Katerina and I are happy to be sporting the distictive jackets of the Simon Bolivier National Youth Orchestra which gathers the best of the 220 Youth Orchestras throughout Venezuela. The students staying with us played under direction of Gustavo Duvamel and have played Carnagie Hall as well as many other places all over the world. It was fun spending time finding them on You Tube videos of preformances. They were so proud, and personal and fun company and down to earth.

Katerina was excited as after spending a week with our guests, and getting to know the Aunt of the conductor who lives outside of New York City, Katerina was invited to a trip to NYC along with the group. Her Dad consented and she had what she said was the best vacation as they did all the touristy things ( like climb up the Statue of Liberty); which we can never do when I take all six kids vacationing as it is out of my budget for us all.

I was so happy for her to have that opportunity! ( The contract manager I used to date, but whom I now just meet for coffee as I so like the attorney I am lucky NO LONGER WORKS where I work so I CAN date him ; ) was telling me : "Don't let her go to New York City with the Venezulan boys"... he was being a bit overprotective as he is a Daddy of a very little girl, and he is ALSO a man who himself is a bit of a "hound dog" as I have heard some described.... so he worried. It was cute he was being protective, but I ignored him and said "If her DAD says Ok its fine by me- and besides they are traveling with the AUNT!"

And it was more than OK- it was a wonderful time and they treated Katerina like one of the family and kept saying that- Just imagine , with the accents "You are like family" - and they MEANT it as I opened my home up to them, so they are opening theirs.

The musicians flew out of NYC and Katerina had another day or two there with the Aunt. Her train ticket home had been booked from VA and it had a stop at Grand Central Station to switch trains anyway so that worked out well.

I am now relaxing at home today after an amazing vacation that I booked way back in September with the Hiking group I belong to. It was another wonderful trip. I hiked Glacier National Park and logged about 30 miles of hiking over the five day trip. The fifth day was travel back , so no hiking that day- but it was four days of lovely hikes. Four out of the Five hikers who were on the trip to Rocky Mountain National Park two years ago came on this trip (some of whom went to San Francisco last year as well) so I already knew some of the group.

The first day we stayed at a campsite here:

then the next day hiked a 4 mile strenuous hike to here:

That hike was AMAZING-- as we trecked through snow in what was warm 80 + degree weather. The juxtaposition of hiking in snow on a hot summer day was incredible. We had great weather for the first three days but then caught rain on the final day. I think most of us slept for the first few hours upon arrival. That four mile hike was harder than the 11 and 12 mile hikes some of us went on the next two days!

I just went to and see we REALLY lucked out with great weather! It will be in the 20s and 30s the next couple of nights but was warmer when we were there getting into the high 80s and low 90s some days. That was INCREDIBLE as we were hiking over snow with this hot weather which was an amazing juxtoposition of heat from above and cooling from below;Quite an incredible experience!

I was grateful for Bridge Builder's offering to set me up with what are called MREs -- they are the same "Meals Ready to Eat" that the Marine gave Pocohontas and I for our backcountry treck into Shenadoah National Park a couple of years ago.(See I always do attract these wonderful men with that strong "provider/protector" instinct that want to subconsiously at least take care of me! I resist and figure they are always better as FRIENDS than lovers or boyfriends or serious consideration of a significant other... as I know ALL TOO WELL the pitfalls of that dynamic!)

But there are those times I do just SUBMIT and throw my hands up in the "HELP!! OK, go ahead and "Save me", said facitiously of course...and turn to my friends for help. I like to wear the "I ain't no damsel in distress" Ani T-Shirt when accepting such help as it makes me feel a little better.

The Marine WAS SO CUTE cute as he was so excited to show me how those MREs work- with this heating element that is in the box, and he shared his deployment stories of the six times he went to Iraq over the years and lived on those and loaded me up with gear a few years ago. I was given his leftover MREs then and gear to borrow. I returned the last of his gear when I saw him over the time in Buffalo for Katerina's graduation a month ago which he joined us at her party to celebrate. It was good to see him. Still makes me sad at times- that loss of who he was, but so happy and proud of who he is and who he is becoming. I am glad his spirits seem good and he is accepting the reality he is a patient and not being placed back to work, so he will now create his own opprotunities and what comes next. No doubt in his ability to do so- it just will not be what he expected his life to be like, but will still be good.

This time around I was fortunate to be able to borrow alot of gear from Bridge Builder who thankfully is organized and called to ask me if I was ready for my trip. Had he not I would have left with my regular backpack and my huge sleeping bag and even bigger tent I was gifted from Ex Boyfriend as he never used it anymore and thought it would be handy for the girls and I. That was thoughtful of EX as he dropped it off on my porch along with one of those backyard fillable pools for summer he had bought for the girls use at his place. Felt bad I pulled it out just a few weeks ago and he failed to also drop off the cap to cover the end so we couldn't get the air to stay in! I had a borrowed air pump from Bridge Builder and tried to McGyver it with tape over the holes,but it didn't work. The girls were disappointed. I tossed it out... as its useless without the air staying in it. ( Of course tossed it in the trash when the girls were not here to avoid a crisis!) We were fortunate to be able to go to the big community pool here in our HOA instead that hot day. I think they would have liked to have playing in the backyard with the neighbor kids who are allowed here but not to the pool.

Back to the camping/hiking re-cap:
We had 18 backpackers/campers in our group so we were split between campsites and motel and lodges. Some choose a group that did moderate hikes, and some (including me) chose the more strenuous challenging hikes available in the area. There was one misnomer as the group with the more strenuous hike up to the chalet was called the "Backpacking/ Camping Group" and I think the original intention was for us to do some more backcountry camping. It was also less expensive to be in that group, as hotel payment was not involved- so that informed my choice of which group to join. However the organizer changed it around at some point and some of us missed that memo - so we had more gear in the end than we would have needed at times. We could have for instance left tents and sleeping bags and just carried a day pack on some of the hikes as there was a motel at the other end we were staying at! So we got more of a workout than needed carrying full packs, but it was still fine.
So there was lodging to share for many of us which we didn't expect and
we stayed at facilities with more amenities than we expected.It would have helped had I the time to look up the below links BEFORE the trip!

DAY 3 of trip: Hiked Swiftcurrent pass;

to arrive here:

I am happy I am in great shape as a number of the hikers had blisters or bad knee problems and over did it- but I didn't have any trouble. My Wall Mart boots which cost 1/3 of what some spend at REI or the EMS or other Outdoor outfitting stores were excellent and I was comfortable and had no issues. ( Again thanks to Bridge Builder who said "Would you like to come over for dinner on Wed and then see what you would like to borrow and go get whatever else you need?)

He did sweetly buy me the new tent and boots I was carrying with the understanding I will pay him back when I can. That is a GREAT FRIEND!

That hike to Swiftcurrent Pass was easier than the 4 miles up to the chalet the day before although I did run out of water for the last quarter mile so was parched when I arrived! Nice cool water when arrived and I was rejuvinated. I have a 2 liter pack with water they call a "bladder" and really should have had a 3 liter for those hikes as I also had run out on the 4 mile strenuous one. ( Again missed the kickin one I borrowed from the Marine for the past couple of years! The right thing to do was return it even thought I loved that thing... but I do have a replacement which will do for now even though its inadequate- its better than nothing.)

DAY 4 Hiked to Iceberg Lake which was georgous!

I did pick up some lovely postcards of Iceberg lake. I will mail them NOW that home, as of course somehow lost the small notepad that had addresses transcribed on it JUST FOR WRITING POSTCARDS! Again Ce La Vie....

I was supposed to be at the campsite for the last two nights, however as I allowed my hiker friend who I and the other lady know well ( as we traveled with him to Colorodo 2 years ago and San Fran last year) to share the girls room , he reciprocated which was a great surprise for the following night. There was an imbalance of more guys than girls and the organizer who did a fabulous job didn't quite realized that four guys sharing one hotel room would be too tight so that was a big help to them that he crashed with us girls.

Campsites are first come first serve in the National Park campgrounds so we did not have any other options such as some of the fellows booking either another room or campsite anywhere as nothing was available.

So the next night when the other lady and I were given the offer to crash in our sweet hiker friend's room it was GREAT as that night was the really wet rainy one . He was the assistant organizer of this trip and they do get some kudos for all their hard work like the extra night of the hotel stay! Other than the organizer and her sister who also had a hotel room that night the rest of the crew were soggy at a campground and we heard they didn't sleep very well as it was very wet, cold and loudly storming.

We had more fun hanging out in the room with those who were there from both rooms. Cherries and Bree and Gouda and Merlot and Peppridge Farm chocolate filled cookies were a huge surprise someone packed and were so enjoyable after that long day of hiking as we sat inside visiting and laughing while watching the storm.

I think this link takes to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn where we stayed dry and slept well that night:

The trip was so reasonable, as I booked my flight with AMEX points back in Sept for $430 and it was $200 total more for the Meet Up fees for lodging and rental cars. We all will get a final accounting of gas expenses to be shared. We had three vans and a rental car amoung us- but it will still have been a very resonably priced trip considering all. I am VERY GLAD I booked and paid for it last Sept as If I hadn't I would not have been able to go as I don't fiscally have that money now and I booked it before the finances seemed to get worse rather than better. I can't believe what an amazing trip this was and how reasonable !! Bridge Builder set me up with those meals so I literally spent nothing for food and just accompanyied the group when they ate out which was fine. It felt odd at first but I got used to it, and so did the group- as I ate my MRE and enjoyed their company (and the leftovers when they were done on occassion as well! There were a few shared pizzas with an "extra" slice or two not finished, as well as fries, and potatoes of some sort at every meal. So I ate an MRE with hashbrowns for breakfast, then fries for lunch and even mashed potatoes which were an untouched side someone didn't care for.)

Oh- ( SHOOT I NEED A PSUDONAME THAT IS JUST right and haven't come up with it yet for my adorable Asian Hiker friend!!) Anyway, Adorable Asian Hiker Friend ( Avatar?? That's it! That will be his new name.)--- AVATAR did sweetly buy me dinner the one night after he crashed with us as he was grateful so I enjoyed one nice meal at the restaraunt in the Swiftcurrent Lodge. NOt only was he grateful but I think he must have a crush, although so hard to tell- but when he says things like "You are so intimidating because you are smart and beautiful and so many men fall in love with you" it makes me wonder... I was his date for his company Christmas Party. Advice for guys out there..."Kiss the girl", think of that song from a Disney Film, was it The Lion King? I see more men miss out on opportunity as they don't believe in themself! I mean for two years now our one lady friend has told me I should date Avatar, and I have told her the same thing-- that SHE should date him! We BOTH think SO HIGHLY Of him! But I think he is shy..

Anyway, I WAS happy (and I admidt with a tinge of jealousy) to hear they went to see the Harry Potter premier.

The night it opened I was disappointed NOT to be with my kids to go.

It was showing in a mall where the attorney and I shopped and we toyed with the idea of going- but since I had a work project I INTENDED to complete BEFORE packing- getting a pack and then getting home was priority. ( I fell promply asleep and had to rifle off the one and only "I am sorry I just couldn't get this draft done" e-mail that I EVER wrote at work! I have written " I need more time, not done yet but it is coming" e-mail, and the "Please help me finish I am running out of time- here is what I have so far" e-mail, but this was the first of the nature where I had NOTHING DONE to send. Again.. Ce la vie...
I am only human and had no option but to crash and sleep for the five hours after getting home from shopping. I luckily naturally woke up as I hadn't set and alarm. After being dropped off at work I opted to take my computer thinking I would finish at home and made it as far as Leesburg before I had to pull over and sleep. That narcolepsy thing was kickin in--- so after that nap I made it home to crash in full clothing without the alarm set.

I just had soup and salad when I went out to dinner with Avatar and hikers as I was craving fresh veggies after eating those ready to eat meals which are heavy on meat and pasta. There was Elk and Buffalo on the menu I would have loved to try, but needed veggies. They actually have very good beef stew and chicken and beef in the MREs as well as sandwiches for lunch which were all also meat, so I was eating a meat rich diet every day.

The one expense I wasn't really ready for was that when packing the night before I realized I didn't have a backpack to fit all my stuff in! I had borrowed Jane's when we went, and she wasn't around and Jeff didn't have one I could borrow either. I thought I was going to be in the back country camping group so thought I needed one to fit the tent and gear in. Turns out I could have taken a suitcase and just carried a day pack up to the chalet, but I hadn't realized that. So the night before my trip my current main squeeze( I need a psudo name for him too... hmmm...maybe it should just be the Catholic Rabbi which is what one of his former co-worker friends has apparently called him in HER blog!), the nice attorney I am dating was kind enough to pick me up at work and drive me around shopping to find the best pack. I was just TIRED and didn't want to drive and he wanted to see me anyway if there was time as I hadn't seen him in about a week - busy as he is working a project in D.C. so leaves early and gets home late since they let the project attorneys work up to 50 hours and that job is not only a pay cut but a temp job he is logging the max of 50 hours to get by until he finds his next position.

As the Catholic Rabbi ( I love that hilarious knickname- because frankly my experiences with him, while heavenly are a bit more carnal and "sinful" than what one might think of as least in the traditional sense..yet I think sacred is a fair way to descibe falling in love), had to be up at 5:30 AM and lives in Sterling a dinner date during the week isn't practical as he gets home around 8pm on most nights for at least the next few weeks. He was laid off from the job he had working with my company as a contractor-- along with three others in his group where he had managed a group of Indian attorneys as the company is outsourcing some legal work to India for contract document review.So when the Catholic Rabbi was laid off in early April, it made it possible for us to date! We wouldn't have otherwise as he was a contractor and there are ethics rules of the attorney/client relationship (in my case contract manager/client) that would have mandated I would have had to disclose to my boss if I was dating him which frankly made it just not worth my serious considation under the then current job climate (despite having interest in him!) I mean I wasn't going to do ANYTHING which could possibly make my boss think less of me in any way- so dating the Manager we sent outsourced work to wouldn't have been a good move while trying to retain job security by improving both my quality of work and my boss' esteem of me! I feel like I do have more job security lately as she hasn't fired me yet and just keeps extending the "Preformance Improvement Plan" so all I can do is keep giving it my best effort and hope it is good enough.

So on that shopping trip late Thu night I bought the back pack at Wallmart 5 minutes before the store closed after comparing a couple of other places where they had them on line but then not at the stores themselves ( Modells), or were too expensive (Dicks, EMS).
Here it is- I am VERY Pleased with it!

That was the one hidden expense I didn't account for- but I had no other option to carry a tent and gear up the mountain so was at least happy I found one I felt good buying, especially as the WalMart site said it was an online purchase only but the store in Sterling stocked it!

Lucky for that or I would have had no alternative to pay $ 100 to $130 plus at one of the other places to get one that fit tent and clothes and gear for a five day trip.

For anyone interested, you can virtually experience some of the sights and sounds here at the Glacier National Park E tours!

The trip was fantastic. I wished howeve I could have afforded to put all six of my kids on a plane with me to Montana. I saw families camping together with little kids and that did make my heart ache.
The cutest was the family with four little bikes and four little ones riding around the park along with their folks. If I ever CAN afford to take them all I DEFINATELY will install a bike rack and bring bikes!


The hikers are planning their next trip to the Smokey Mountains. I told them NO I won't be in on that one, as I have to save for a FAMILY Vacation next.

Next year is my goal. If it takes two years, then so be it.

I am SURE all six kids, including the big ones will want to come.

The really good news for me was that at this juncture in life I feel so much more at peace than a year ago, or two years ago.

I went on this trip as it was planned and paid for. I kinda FORGOT about it and didn't really do the final planning until last moment as I didn't NEED a vacation and didn't really NEED to get away as much as I did in the past.

That was a great realization for me. I feel like I have come a long way!

So for the rest of this vacation, I am going to go for a run, write a bit, clean a lot, meet a group of drummers for a gathering with my jembe around a fire, and this week go back to my Life Coach to work on my goals with dedicated focus.

I don't NEED to get away, but I do need to continue to map out goals and ways to meet them.

Its a good feeling to feel like one phase of life is over and another is just beginning. I have that feeling of re-birth at this juncture and look forward the the opportunities that lie ahead that I can't yet imagine, yet somehow intuitively know are going to come upon me when I least expect it. I recall a moment about a year and a half ago now when it seemed like such a weird random event when I met the best friend of a partner in an Immigration Firm - the same firm which one of the BIA members sheepishly pointed to in a phone book. They are not ALLOWED to give references, they are not ALLOWED to comment on the attorneys they see before their court, they could never ethically REFER anyone to a particular firm or RECOMMEND a firm to someone they are professionally mentoring this BIA member was a little frustrated by that and followed the rules but walked over to a phonebook in deliberation and quietly fingered one name. I caught the name and later googled at home to find that name was one of the finest Immigration attorneys in the D.C. area.

I sent a resume, and I had a phone conversation with him, but of course I couldn't TELL HIM that the BIA member hinted I call. I had no answer to WHY I CALLED Him and WHY I wanted to work for him other than some general statement which likely left him wondering what was missing...

He seemed intuitive himself. I think he was bothered by that missing info... why did you call me? Why me?
I said I was approaching a number of immigration lawyers and cold calling. One of the few times I told a lie- although I WAS cold calling and sending out resumes to every Immigration firm in the book-- that was NOT why I called him.

I called him for the same reason I wrote in a yellow lined legal pad lifted from the BIA Member's desk to jot down the name:

This is who #*&%&^ thinks I should work with.

This is who she thinks is the best and who she thinks I can learn from to BECOME the best.

So that year and a half ago, it was heartbreaking to hear- that after the death of that attorney, his partner was getting ready to retire. His partner's BEST FRIEND who just HAPPENED to be at a party in a little remote not well know off the beaten path town where I was a party CRASHER ( Really! I was not invited but Pocohantas brought me!) and where I knew no-one, himself thought it was destined we seemingly randomly ran into each other there. I mean the odds of that are bizzare. I was told to work for that man. And to top it off I befriended ( unknowingly) his Daughter in Law at work where she happens to also work. I mean what ARE THE ODDS! Her husband HATED being an Immigration lawyer and did it for a couple of years with his Dad.

Its my dream and it was being handed to me-- IF I HAD THE BAR. I however wasn't ready.

I couldn't actualize that dream yet.

So next week I meet my life coach.
I am preparing for the next phase of life and the opportunities that I can not yet imagine yet which I know will be presented before me.

This time I will be ready.

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