Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013. Now that was a good year.

    Twenty thirteen will go down as one of the best years of my life.  I honestly can't remember a year that was better. It was a year spent traveling and making new friends. It was a year that overshadowed  the underlying reason for this blog . It was a year where cancer truly took a backseat to living. When I am an old man talking about the good old days I will be referring to 2013.
   They say that life begins at 40. I turned 40 in 2003 and it was the beginning of the end for me. Thankfully, I had a few angels to deliver me from a self made hell but at 42 years old I was starting over from the lowest point of my life. It took several years to make good on old debts and repair my credit. It took even longer to undue the damage I had inflicted on my family. The day I turned 40 all I had to my name was a few pieces of furniture , a wrecked truck, a toolbox full of tools, and a few guitars. There were a lot of people who wrote me off as a loser. Those people are no longer in my life. When you are standing in a hole that you dug around you and your looking up thinking to yourself  "how am I ever going to get out of this hole " it can be a little intimidating. A lot of my blog has talked about my past. The struggles that I went through are the frame work for the life we have built from the ashes of a life once ruined. Today I surround myself only with those people who never faltered in believing in me.

   I met Mandy the week of my 42nd birthday. At the time we were only interested in friendship and for several months that's all it was. In late spring we began to date. To her, it didn't matter that I was living in a condemned double wide trailer. She didn't care that my credit sucked or that I was an ex junky. It didn't bother her that I drove a wrecked truck. She saw through all of those things and believed in me. Shortly after our 2nd date I was diagnosed but she was completely unscathed in her commitment to our relationship. I am a very lucky man. We had a June wedding in 2007 and set to work fixing our credit. In April of 08 we moved into our own home. We never knew how long we might have together. We committed to living life every day and planning for a future that we might not have. Our logic was simple. Nobody knows how long they will live so " why should we live our life different than anyone else ?" It has worked to our favor.
    2013 began with our annual snowmobile trip to Bend Oregon. We had celebrated New Years in Bend the two previous years and it has become a tradition. This was the first year we had included our daughter. We rang in the new year snowmobiling, ice skating, and eating at Mcminnimans. We shopped and played and had a wonderful time.

     Two weeks later Mandy and I boarded a plane for Tampa Florida. It was there that I was the guest speaker for the annual Dendreon convention. We stayed at the  Renaissance Vinoy in downtown St. Petersburg Florida. We were treated like rock stars. We basked in the sun and swam in the warm waters of  the Gulf of Mexico at Siesta Key. It was a wonderful contrast to the cold grey sky's of Southwest Washington. On the final day of the event I was presented with a guitar that was covered with signatures of all who attended. It was a remarkable event.
   February was a quiet month by comparison. We celebrated Mandy's birthday and Valentines day and our band played one weekend. It was nice to finally relax a little after the holidays. During this time my Psa had stayed nice and low. In celebration we traded our tired Dodge Durango in on the truck I never thought I would own. It is a beautiful Atlantic Blue 3/4 ton Dodge with a 5.9 Cummins turbo Diesel engine. I can't believe it is mine.
   In March I made two more trips for Dendreon. I first visited the facility in Seal Beach California and a week later they flew me to their facility in Atlanta Georgia. On those two excursions I met a lot of great people. I was awestruck by the commitment to detail and the overall professionalism of everyone I met. I made friendships that I am certain will last a lifetime. While in Atlanta I was also able to share an evening and a meal with two friends that I had only known from Waterguy and JNF are two of my new bestest buddies.

   March was also a time for family. Mandy and I rented a Three bedroom condo on Mt. Hood for a weekend of skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows. It was a terrific weekend that culminated in a Sunday afternoon snowball fight. Mandy and our daughter Michaela skied for the first time. When we were exhausted we sat on the outdoor patio around a gas fire pit and drank adult beverages.
    The very next weekend was spring break. We had planned a camping trip to the Oregon coast. We awoke Monday to sideways rain and decided to head south. Monday evening we crossed the Bay Bridge at 75 m.p.h. with our 28 ft. travel trailer in tow in sunny San Francisco.  We spent the first part of the week at Half Moon Bay where the movie "Mavericks" was filmed. We spent a day at fishermans  wharf and on a bay tour. Michaela's favorite part was Alcatraz. The last two days of the trip were spent traveling through wine country and at the redwood forest. It was a spontaneous vacation and one of the best we have ever had.
   The remainder of April and all of May was largely spent at track and field events. Michaela was a freshman and made it all the way to districts in the long jump and the triple jump. By the time school was out for the summer we were ready for a vacation.

  We headed for northern Idaho with our boat in tow to spend a week at Dover Bay on lake Pend Orielle in Sand Point Idaho.  It was a great vacation. We road our bikes along 16 miles of The Route of the Hiawatha. The route is an old rail line converted to a bike trail. It has multiple tunnels and tresells the longest of them being a 2 mile long tunnel through the mountains.

 It is a trail rich in history and folklore that should not be missed if you are in the area. We also spent a day at Silverwood theme park. Although Silverwood is much smaller than your average "Six Flags" it still has some pretty great roller coasters and a first rate water park. The rest of our time in Idaho was spent on the lake. We skied and boarded and sunbathed and explored as much of the lake as time would allow. We recommend the floating restaurant in Hope, Idaho for their Mahi Mahi tacos.

   During the 4th of July, my band got to play the headline slot at the go 4th celebration. We played for an estimated 15,000 people. Talk about feeling like a rock star. For the remainder of the summer we juggled camping and boating between summer volleyball and drivers education for our daughter. It is really hard to believe she will be driving soon.

In August our good friends Tony and Ruthie came to the great northwest to spend a weekend at our home. They were are very first house guests and we had a blast. Tony loved the mountains and the volcano. We ate and drank wine and played guitars. I miss them. The last weekend of the summer we awoke to a perfectly flat lake just as the sun was coming up. We were the only boat on the lake at 7:30 am save for a couple of fishermen. The water was still warm despite the chilly night before. We took turns water skiing until our arms were too tired to ski anymore. It was the perfect end to a perfect summer.
   With September came the start of the school year and volleyball season. Michaela's team took 2nd in state and it seemed like the season would never end. We were proud parents as we made the trek to Yakima to watch the state finals. After that came hunting season and although I was skunked this year the season had it's own rewards. It was the first time our daughter went hunting with me and I was able to spend another hunting season with my dad.
   The holidays were quickly upon us and as we tried to prepare for them we were also preparing for our very first cruise. On November 30th we flew to New Orleans to join 13 other couples from aboard the Norwegian Jewel for a 7 day western Caribbean cruise. It was an amazing vacation and the bonding we shared with our new family was absolutely the best part. I also turned 50 on the 2nd night of the cruise. When you consider that I was never suppose to make it to 50, my birhday was a pretty big deal. 
Two days after my birthday we were in Jamaica. I water skied on the Caribbean and went snorkeling on a coral reef in the crystal clear water. Mandy and I kayaked and swam. It was a wonderful time spent between the two of us. We returned from the Caribbean well tanned and rested. We were richer in spirit for having met so many of our extended family. We miss them already.
   Christmas was upon us the moment we walked through the door. We spent the next two weekends shopping and wrapping gifts. We decorated the tree four days before Christmas Eve and readied our home for the twenty family members who would be arriving. It was a nice Christmas. It was over almost as soon as it started. The decorations were packed and the tree sent to the burn pile. We spent New Year's Eve with family and friends. 
   The year was not without it's downside. We lost a good friend. My nephew was in a tragic accident involving a pedestrian late at night on a dark country road. She stepped out in front of his vehicle. He had no time to react. She was only 15 years old. She is gone and he will never be the same. My Psa began to rise and in July we had to start a new medicine. My numbers have since dropped from 29 to 0.29 
    It is the 2nd of January. 2013 is in the rear view mirror. We fondly say fair well. Welcome 2014. We have no idea what we will do to make this year as good as last but we will be here living out loud and choking the life out of every day. Happy new year everyone. Y.o.l.o. Todd