Life of a Real Mom

Unedited Mothering

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 13)

To Elder Shaeffer From Home

Dear Clark (Elder Shaeffer),

Hi! How are you doing?

So! I am FINALLY done with the scrap and photo books! I had lots of extra photos that I have divided among the 5 of you and yours are set aside in a nice photo box in your room. You will enjoy going through the photo albums. There are MANY photos of you that you have never seen. I hope that you and your kids enjoy hours of laughter as you browse them from time to time.

We did a bunch of deep cleaning yesterday, including having that old piano hauled off. Remember that piano, which came from an abandoned house in our neighborhood, was garbage and that Natalia, Olivia and Curt and I pushed it down two streets to get it in our garage, THEN Adam and Curt have had fun taking it apart. We threw away every single piece that we could get off, many parts, but still it was so heavy and junky. I had to PAY a junk company to come get it. Still, while they were in our carport the owner, John, tried to get $50 more dollars from me, but I stood my ground and only paid him $100. STILL, to pay someone to get rid of someone else’s junk. Oh well, we learned a lot about pianos in the process. I have also thrown away other things from the closets, etc. WHY? I am not sure, except that I know that this fall will be busy and I want to declutter.

When you read this, we will be on the road in Colorado beginning our summer road trip. Remember the wonderful Florida trip we had a couple summers ago? We have had so many good ones! Well, now is Adam and Curt’s turn. We are going to Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and such. We will send you some postcards! By the end of this trip Dad will have been to all 50 states, Adam and I to 49, and Curt to 47. You have been to around 40, so don’t worry, you will catch up.

We love you! and will be missing you. J.D. and Kay are not coming either – OH, the pains of being grown up.

For school kids outing Adam and Curt went to Big Surf and then the 4 of us went to Portillo’s for some Big Beef ;).

Uncle Spencer is doing SO WELL. His Candlelight Sports has grown and grown. Now he is creating a franchise and has asked me to start a branch of it in Tempe. I am so excited! Don’t you think that will be amazing at Rover and Fuller? If you think about it, kids want to play. They LOVE and NEED to play. Unfortunately, as you know, the opportunities to play freely outside are diminishing because of our culture of parenting and increased crime. To have sports programs, is not unusual, but they are in the evenings and weekends, require driving distances, and cost a ton of money. The experience can be lacking if the coach isn’t good and the playing time is often compromised by lack of organization and a prideful desire on the part of adults to win. Candlelight Sports fixes all these equations by training their coaches on proven drills and philosophy, by downplaying the competition, by having practices after school AT the child’s neighborhood school and being affordable. I am so glad to be bringing it to our area. I just wish it had been in time for you guys to benefit from it, but that is okay. CLICK HERE for more about Candlelight Sports. CLICK HERE for more about the need for a youth sports revolution.

I have 3 things that are important and I am doing to improve society around me now:

– Candlelight Sports

– Highlands Latin Cottage School – 2nd grade teacher on Mondays, did I tell you about this? I am going to be a 2nd grade teacher! at a school that is only on Mondays for homeschooled kids. At Highlands (Scottsdale) they teach a Classic Education (includes Greek and Roman history early on, LOTS of literature and math, and LATIN!) So, Curt and I are going to be learning Latin together. This will be helpful for him if he gets into Tempe Prep.

– Piano teaching (I went to the AZ Music Teacher’s Association Conference in Scottsdale three days last week! It was really cool. Very nice talented people!) I have 2 new students (in addition to Curt, Adam, Natalia, and Olivia)! Who would have guessed?!

– and Refugee resettlement, Oh, I guess that is 4 things. (Plus, I am still hoping the grant that I wrote is awarded to instal more shade at our neighborhood park. AND I am food storage specialist still and loving being Sunbeam Teacher!)

We have been paired up with a Congolese refugee family! We will be their friends, family to family. Here is a little about them:

The (keeping confidencial) family are arriving later this month They are originally from The Democratic Republic of Congo. The family consists of the father, Fidele, Aimee, Pacifique (15), Audrey (12), Nyasezerano (6), Ange (1). Cool names, huh? The father speaks some English and is literate in French. He works as a teacher. The mother speaks Swahili, finished primary school and has worked as a housekeeper. The older boys also speak some English as well as French and Swahili.

Isn’t that cool?! See? This fall is going to be super busy.
I’ve started the Book of Mormon for, what I figured out, the 23rd time. Every time I read it I understand my Savior better. This time, while I read I am going to underline aspects of the enemy, Satan, and His opposite: Light, Goodness, Love, and Truth. I have seen Lehi’s Dream in a whole new light under these themes. As you say, The Book of Mormon is the most precious book on the face of the planet! I love it! for one, because I learn who to follow and what pit falls to avoid so that I can be happy. Jacob 3:2 fills me with love and light!

I love you!




The Book of Mormon is the Best Book on the Planet

The Book of Mormon, ladies and gentlemen, is the best book on the planet.

A week full of service, study, and an investigator with a satanist boyfriend.

Yup, Janeth (awesome 19-year old investigator with a lip ring and a wacko but awesome 50-year-old mom) has a boyfriend who’s, from what we’ve heard, absolutely satanist. Satanism in Mexico is popular, more or less – it’s nothing cultish that would make you puke, just emo teenagers all over Mexico. Kinda weird. Makes a 6 foot 2 “Güero” (white boy) look even crazier or out of place.

Aside from teaching the investigators we already have, we had a blast serving our bums off setting up chairs for, playing with and taking care of kids for, and serving food for the sister members in our stake for the women’s stake conference, which lasted friday afternoon to saturday night. We served food for three meals, my pants got super dirty.
And then to top it all off, saturday night was a talent show, and Elder Zarate got to show his excellent guitar skills to accompany some hermanas to sing “Sabor a Mi,” a bossa nova-ish Bolero song, basically a classic handsome love guitar song from Mexico. Dreamy. I got to hold the microphone, like a champ.
My singing skills are known but not really asked for, that’s fine by me. I get to practice hymns on piano often, I’m at about 7 or so. I’m working on having 10 hymns down. I love to play hymns, just to let you know. I learn them fast, the Spirit helps a lot.
I mention it a lot, but I feel the Holy Ghost in so many things I do. I felt it a ton today, when we toured the Mine “El Edén” again for me, my first time on my third week or so. I didn’t understand anything from the tour guide my first time, but today I understood a huge amount! At least half of a quickly-speaking tour guide.
Understanding Spanish makes living in Mexico even better. I felt a surety of the progress I’ve made in Spanish all today specifically, realizing that I’m speaking Spanish without thinking about each word, and realizing the impact I can continue to make with a better understanding.
I feel it as I read the Book of Mormon every day. I date-mark my scriptures (I read almost entirely in Spanish) and mark in four different colors for these four different things, mentioned in Preach My Gospel:
-Mentions of Christ (His titles or names)
-When Christ Speaks (or His servants, when they say “thus saith the Lord”)
-Attributes of Christ (outlined excellently in Preach my Gospel)
-Doctrines and Principles (Gospel Truth, or stuff from which I learn)
I started on the 6th of May, and I’m already on 1 Nefi 13. I have learned so much about Christ and his nature, his servants, how revelation works, and how much He loves me.
I feel a pure peace when I open those paperback pages. I feel my Spanish strengthening in all that I do through the book that proves that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet, and that the Church is true.

But don’t send a letter to space just yet, I haven’t had THE DREAM or the “snap” moment of “Oh, I know Spanish.” They’re on the way, I feel them coming.
I replied to JD and Kay in Spanish in our little emails, I can do that now!
Speaking of, KAY’S PREGNANT! She’s going to be the best mom for Charlie V. At least, that’s what we’re hoping, a boy. He’s gotta be cool for him to be counted as my first nephew. I won’t meet him until he’s at least 1, though.

Thanks for all the love! I find that I have too many things to pray for, sometimes I need to pause because my knees hurt and pray sitting up.

Con abrazos (Especially to the Soon-to-be mom Kay, the Zulancito is probs bigger than a tasty, tasty mango),

Elder Shaeffer

Mmmm… Mangos.

Photos (Camera’s still under repair, using the photos from Elder Zarate)

1-2. The mine today! Yes, my pants are huge.

3-4. Eggs we made and Salsa-beans from a member. We don’t hardly ever use forks, just tortillas with this kind of food. Reminds me of the chopstick buds I have out on missions.

Virginia on the Appalachian Trail

J.D. (More commonly know on the trail as “Gigante“) has been having a real adventure these past couple of weeks including sickness, new friends and amazing sights.

When J.D. called a few days ago, to tell me that he was exhausted from vomiting and diarrhea, I naturally was concerned. We kept in touch over the course of two days, which were uncomfortable and discouraging for him. In the end it was determined by his symptoms and gathered information, that he had Norovirus. This virus is highly contagious, thriving in close quarters such as hostels. CLICK HERE for more info. After taking it slow a few days and getting his energy back up he is doing FANTASTIC!

Deer are a frequent companion on the trail. They don’t seem to be phased by hikers, since they will get as close as 10 – 20 feet from them.

This quarter point sign is the formal and exciting evidence that you are 1/4 of the way through the journey. there is a hostel nearby cleverly named “Quarter Way Inn.”

Seeing this rabbit on the trail reminded J.D. of childhood stories I have shared about raising rabbits for a couple years. My Alldredge grandparents were the pros, though. It was at their home that I ate my first BBQ rabbit.

J.D. says, “I have seen lots of flowers. This is a nice grove of them.”

This unique shelter had 4 walls and a door! (Before I got sick) The inside was painted white so you could see the graffiti very clearly. Some funny hiker had drawn outlets with a sharpie and a light switch. “Obviously there was no light switch. I said ‘Hi’ to a few hikers, but said, ‘I’m going to keep going.’ They thought I was crazy because I had already hiked 29 miles that day, but I had told myself that I would hike 30 milers whenever possible and even though it was 6:30 p.m., I felt great, so I said ‘Goodbye’ and took off. These guys were a lot of fun. Ozzie is literally combing his beard. The girl with the shaved head next to him is called ‘Her Dudeness.’ They all knew each other and had caught a ton of crawdads a few hours before. They bagged them up and cooked them in pots when they got to the hostel. They were having a good time.”

In four miles I caught a shuttle to THIS gorgeous hostel, Garden Mountain! I saved 5 dollars ($15, instead of $20) by sleeping in the barn instead of the mansion. I fell asleep with the barn door open watching fire flies!

Here is really interesting lady bug. It looks like someone drew on its back with a sharpie. The bug is on someone’s sweater.

This is just out of Atkins, Virginia. That was a big day. I was up at 5:00 a.m. and got a few miles in before sunrise, which you can see coming over the hill behind this beautiful building.

“Two days ago, while I was still coming out of norovirus, I met back up with a hiker named, ‘Short legs.’ We had eaten together earlier on the trail and he had now caught up with me. We hiked and talked throughout the day. A father and son duo named ‘Ya Ya’ and ‘Goober’ reached Dragon’s Tooth together.”

“Four miles later we hit this hostel, a families 3 car garage.” J.D. has also met lots of other COOL people including “Gramps” and “Charles” who he spoke to about religion, philosophy, technological advancements, and other “bright and insightful” things. After J.D. and Charles talked for a few hours, Charles said, “I want to send you some trail magic.” Trail magic is random acts of kindness to hikers, usually in the form of food and drinks. At a postoffice there in Daleville, Viginia he picked two packages, as planned, at the postoffice! One was the replacement pole for J.D.’s tent and the other, from Charles, WAS A ROMANIAN MANDOLIN!

“We hung out all day to catch a famous cafe as soon as it opened at 4:00 p.m. and ate epic all you can eat southern food. ‘Short legs’ is on the right and ‘Who’ is on the left. The green beans were magical. The pinto beans were of the likes I have never tasted before. The fried chicken was the best quality!”

Here is “Who”‘s hilarious hitch to the restaurant!

THEN we hiked with bulging stomachs to McAfee’s Knob, the most photographed spot on the entire Appalachian Trail.

While J.D. gave me this last bit of the update he was sitting in a chair (I feel sorry for the person who buys that chair, which now must stink having held J.D.’s body in it for a few minutes. Notice he doesn’t even change his clothes from day to day.) for sale on the porch of a Kroger Grocery Store, super excited to grocery shop, but wanted to tell me the details of the last couple days. At the end of the call J.D. said to a passer by, “Hey, Nomad! What’s up?! … Mom, I gotta go.”

Mom’s Old Fashioned Brownies

Frosted Brownies
by Lorraine Alldredge, my mom 🙂

1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 c. flour
10 Tbl. cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
2 cubes butter or margarine
I also like to add chocolate chips sometimes (optional)

Cream (this means to mix it until it is creamy – whipped almost) sugar and margarine. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Sift dry ingredients and mix in. Spread batter into a 9×13 pan (or mulitply it by 3/2 and spread it into a baking sheet like we would do for cookies) Bake at 350 (for 9×13, about 30 minutes, but for the baking sheet, about 15-20). It is done when a toothpick (or fork) can be inserted into the center and doesn’t come out doughy.


Melt 5 T. milk, 4 T. cocoa and 1 stick margarine or butter. Add 1 tsp vanilla, and 3 cups powdered sugar. Beat well.

J.D. is in Tennessee

Last week after having some 25 mile days and even running on the downhill, J.D. began to feel severe pain above one of his knees. After I did some searching on the web and J.D. spoke to his uncle that is a doctor, it appeared that J.D. may be developing some kind of tendinitis. So he slowed down last week (to around 13 miles a day) and took a zero day (a day with zero miles) on Sunday in Hot Springs, NC, which J.D. grew to like very much.

Being away from church on the Sabbath and not being able to partake of the sacrament weekly has been difficult on J.D. There wasn’t an LDS congregation in Hot Springs, but the Presbyterian and Baptist congregations were both very welcoming. J.D. went to both full services one after the other.

Today he called at Mile 370.

He just hitched into Irwin, Tennessee, 3 miles off trail, to re-supply. He was at a McDonalds, but really on cloud 9. He was eating a southwest salad, an icecream cone, and 5 McDoubles and 5 McChickens. We Shaeffers like combining these two sandwiches like this: you open the McDouble between the two patties and insert the entire McChicken, topped with the other half of the McDouble. This makes, what we call, a McAwesome! He could only eat one of the 5 McAwesomes, but is happy as punch to pack out the remaining 4 to eat tomorrow!

He has lost 8 pounds already.

J.D.’s hips hurt when sleeping on his side. He has a light and tiny pad. Shelters have harder floors than the ground.

J.D.’s gotten use to eating
– a whole box of poptarts each day – 6!
– Spam tacos. $1 thick slice of Spam can be found packaged in plastic, which he puts in a tortilla and garnished with cheese-its, Doritos,
– any seasoning he can find including taco bell sauce or even mustard!
– Powdered Sustain for electolytes. (2-3 per day)
and much much more.

He is off to the grocery store after McD’s and then hitch back to the trail. Happy day!!!

Prevention, from the Mayo Clinic website
To reduce your chance of developing tendinitis, follow these suggestions:

1. Ease up. Avoid activities that place excessive stress on your tendons, especially for prolonged periods. If you notice pain during a particular exercise, stop and rest.
2. Mix it up. If one exercise or activity causes you a particular, persistent pain, try something else. Cross-training can help you mix up an impact-loading exercise, such as running, with lower impact exercise, such as biking or swimming.
3. Improve your technique. If your technique in an activity or exercise is flawed, you could be setting yourself up for problems with your tendons. Consider taking lessons or getting professional instructions when starting a new sport or using exercise equipment.
4. Stretch. Take time after exercise to stretch in order to maximize the range of motion of your joints. This can help to minimize repetitive trauma on tight tissues. The best time to stretch is after exercise, when your muscles are warmed up.
5. Use proper workplace ergonomics. If possible, get an ergonomic assessment of your workspace and adjust your chair, keyboard and desktop as recommended for your height, arm length and usual tasks. This will help protect all your joints and tendons from excessive stress.
6. Prepare your muscles to play. Strengthening muscles used in your activity or sport can help them better withstand stress and load.

My commentary – How on earth is he going to “mix it up” when he is doing the exact same motion every second of the day for the next 3 months? Maybe sometime he can point his toes in and sometimes out. Maybe sometimes he can walk backwards sometimes, NOT! Oh! How about he hits the toe first sometimes and others the heal? or knees in and then knees out? Oh my land!
He doesn’t want to ease up any longer. HE SAYS he feels fantastic today. He hiked 25 the last 2 days and is doing 21 today. He hopes to be up to 30 mile days soon!
He’ll be in Virginia in less than a week. VA is 500ish miles long. Fun in the GREEN TUNNEL:

My Family Video Game and Console Advice

Anyone can correct me or ignore me or add alarm to this. Feel free. I support all families that have more strict rules than we do.

Video games, to me, have seemed like a necessary evil. The draw of them would have pulled my kids away from our home – to their friends houses – if we didn’t have our own video games. We have learned from many mistakes. We now have double filters on our computers (router and device) and have clear boundaries for all electronic play. OF COURSE, we strive to stay balanced, happy and busy with music rehearsals, homework, church service, sports practice, wholesome family activities, dinner around the table and much more. AND, Yes, we play video games. From all my years of battling this wave, my advice of living with video games is as follows:

We have had an x-box for a few years, though I DO “get rid” of it from time to time. We also have had a Wii and Game Cube and PS2 over the years. Though it has parental controls and family preferences that can be set, the players are bombarded with advertisements constantly. The way to get rid of that is to not hook it up to the internet, which is what we have now. The internet is necessary to download new games, the boys have had the net on for this reason more than I would have liked, but that is in the past… or to play with people on the internet, which we don’t like.

The x-box has some good games that are multi-player and allow the kids to progress through levels (which my boys like). They have liked “Skate 3” (with all the blood and sound off) “Terraria” “Lord of the Rings Conquest (which is questionable in my mind, but I have let them play it because they are not fighting humans nor holding guns.)” It seems to me that x-box has the most awful games of any console, so the advertisements were more than I could handle. I have been mad at the x-box so many times because of the “home” screen.

The kids favorite games have been Zelda and those are all available on Wii-U. We haven’t had a Wii-U, but J.D. won a Switch recently and the kids pitched in to get a Zelda game and have loved it. Zelda is excellent, in my opinion. Right now after the last day of school, Adam and Curt are playing “Terraria” together.

I know you didn’t ask for this but,
Our rules are this:
– No blood
– No killing humans
– No killing your brother or friend, even if your brother or friend is a tomato
– No swearing
– No internet friends/competitors
– E, E-10+ and maybe some T if they follow the above rules, are controlled and approved by Mom. NEVER M, of course. No Call of Duty! No Fort Night or League of Legends (both too addictive).
– Only games on Friday and Saturday after all responsibilities are done, with Mom or Dad’s permission.
– Limited hours on summer days.

So, those are the basics. Does anyone have suggestions for me or more clear information? Good luck! Believe me, you’ll need it. Remember, you are the parent, which means you are in charge. Be a COURAGEOUS PARENT.

Purposeful Parenting, Joy D. Jones and Bonnie Cordon

Courageous Parenting, Larry R. Lawrence

The Family Proclamation to all the world

Excellence in Parenting with Music Brings Me Closer to Heaven

A Musical Mother: Jenny Oaks Baker

Jenny shares many wonderful parenting tips in her latest podcast with LDS Perspectives. CLICK HERE to listen.
– Work first, play later. “Sometimes we see the reward from working hard and sometimes we don’t and that is okay. Sometimes we get paid for hard work (there is nothing wrong with paying your kids to practice their musical instruments. Parents get paid for working, why shouldn’t kids – for just getting it done). If you are working hard for the church or in service to someone, we get blessings instead of money AND THAT IS EVEN BETTER.
– Scriptures bring peace. Jenny’s mother would tell quote certain scriptures to her when she was nervous before a performance (Did you know she started playing violin when she was 4 and has performed all her life? Did you know Dallin H. Oaks is her father?!)
– Before Jenny’s mother passed away, she told her children that their dad had her permission to remarry, which (and later Jenny’s new step mother’s love) helped the transition after Jenny’s mother passed away to be smoother than it may have been otherwise.
These insights and more are in this excellent podcast. I invite you to listen to the whole thing.

Adam with his viola – junior year

Adam’s Spring Concert

Curt leaving his concert with his stand , which was the first chance I had to get a picture of him because the seating in the cafeteria doesn’t lend itself to good photo ops.

Did you know that each of my children and I play the piano and another string instrument? Kay (violin), J.D. (viola), Clark (cello), Adam (viola), and Curt (violin). We went to Curt’s middle school Chamber Orchestra concert last night. I was reminded the life changing power good music teachers offer to their students. The orchestra programs in many schools have brought places of belonging and love to students of all ages. For my children, we are normal – mediocre musicians. We DO love listening to excellent music. Curt was barely talking when he could request KBAQ on the radio. I LOVE my kids taste in music, most of which is classical. I want to take music excellence into more homes and will start by sharing this LINK with you of Lexi Walker, Jenny Oaks Baker, And Kurt Bestor.

I feel emotional many times when directing children musical events or attending musical events including at the performances during BYU Women’s Conference. When I was training to be a Kindermusik teacher I started to cry when I saw a teacher dance with toddlers to the song, “It Rained a Mist.” Children and music go together. I want more of this magic in my life.

Music brings Heaven close. Oh how I love excellence, children and music. Does that mean I love heaven? I think so. <3

“Music brings more light an love to the world.” – Jenny Oaks Baker

Hitchhiking and Going Fast on the Appalachian Trail

Made it to North Carolina!

J.D. Shaeffer has made it to North Carolina! Yesterday he hiked 25 miles. He has rolled his ankle twice but has jumped up. He is feeling great!

Today is the beginning of day 8 on the Appalachian Trail. J.D. has decided to run when he can. Let me tell you why:

After reaching a highway junction and completing 25 miles yesterday he lay down exhausted on the ground. A car stopped and asked if he would like a ride into Franklin. The 10 miles into town wasn’t part of J.D.’s plan, but Jimmy – an Italian guy who loves serving hikers – said he would drive him in to get what he needed and right back to the trail, so J.D. said “Yes.” At Burger King, with the 2 for one coupon Jimmy gave him, J.D. devoured 2 Whoppers and TONS of soda. “I am ignoring all nutritional advise right now. I HAVE GOT to get AS MANY calories as possible. It is so weird and so glorious! Today as part of breakfast I ate 10 oreo COVERED in Nutella and while tortillas and….”

After eating it started to pour rain, so J.D. decided to stay in a hostel in Franklin instead of camp on the trail. Jimmy drove him to the hostel, which is “like a huge frat house,” J.D. said. “There were 20 bunk beds in the basement, upstairs a giant screen T.V. with Netflix, a huge kitchen, video game devices and tons of hikers just hanging out. It cost $23.00 to stay there one night. I got a shower and watched 2 episodes of The Great British Baking Show! It was GREAT! A fellow hiker made a giant batch of pasta and couldn’t eat it all. He offered it to anyone and said, OK!”

It was while at the Franklin Hostel that he got some valuable advise. Most hikers plan 5 to 6 months to hike the Appalachian Trail, which is about 13 miles a day. J.D. has 3 1/2 months of summer break, which is about 23 miles a day. The speed record is close to 6 weeks, which is around 52 miles a day. After telling some hikers that he was stressed about making it to Maine before ASU starts in the fall one said, “You are in conflict with yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
The fellow hiker replied, “You are saying you want to finish fast, but you are stressed about it. You need to agree with your own plan.”
“How can I do that?”
“You need to decide that you are going to go fast because you like going fast, not because you are worried that you won’t reach your goal.”
To J.D., this was a revelation. He DID like going fast and he decided right then to enjoy it.
So, he is running on the down hills and feels GREAT! He needs to figure out his budget to see if he can afford to buy a lighter sleeping bag. He has a 2 1/2 pounder right now (hasn’t been cold, thank goodness) and is also thinking of trading his 3 liter water bag for a 1 liter water bag. Anything to go faster.

He had no problem hitchhiking back to the trail this morning. The towns around the A.T. are very hiker friendly. Two mornings ago, however, he DID have a harder time hitchhiking back from a town in Georgia. It took him 3 rides and 2 1/2 hours to hitchhike 12 miles. Well, you can’t win them all.

Go J.D.! Hike like the wind. 🙂

North Carolina Green

J.D. Finishes Georgia on the A.T.

There continues to be a mouse problem in every shelter, so J.D. chooses to set up a tent every night lately.

Setting up tents is the way to go.

J.D. hiked this many miles:
10 the first day,
13 the next, then
and 20 yesterday. He is at mile marker 70. He will cross into North Carolina sometime today near mile marker 86.


On the Appalachian Trail

“I started the Appalachian Trail on Friday. It goes from Georgia to Maine. It’s absolutely amazing!! I’m tremendously grateful to God for the blessed life I lead. Thanks so much for all your kindness and support! Enjoy your summers and be sure to keep in touch!” (JD Shaeffer,

J.D. is still “pinching himself” because he can’t believe he set this terribly lofty cool goal and is now actually doing it. He called me yesterday, Sunday, and reported some surprising stuff about fellow hikers, sleeping accomodations, and mental adjustments.

The long distance hiker culture is full of friendliness and acceptance. “I have met some really cool people on the trail already!” J.D. continued to tell me about “Yak”, “Taters,” “Beats Working,” and his wife “Little Engine.” On long distance trails, hikers go by a trail name that is given to them by another hiker. J.D.’s trail name is “Gigante” (“Giant” in Spanish, pronounced “Higante”), which Duncan gave him on the Pacific Crest Trail 2 years ago. Yak is a buff military dude traveling with 6 other men. They are all nice and friendly. Taters got his name when someone on the trail noticed he loves to eat potatoes. J.D. has appreciated the southern Christian couple Beats Working (a cop) and Little Engine (an EMT nurse) because they have been open about talking with J.D. about God, which he was craving. The hikers seem to be automatic family. They give each other food, camp together, share life stories with each other, encourage each other, and are sharing strains and joys with each other. J.D. is a social creature and enjoys meeting new people everyday.

J.D. has started the trail slow, increasing the miles hiked each day to avoid injury, his problematic ankle being the greatest concern. The first day J.D. hiked 10 miles. Next 13 and Sunday 15 miles. His ankle feels GREAT and he hasn’t been sore at all, which is a result of his thorough training, I am sure. Today he plans to hike 18. He hopes to average about 25 miles a day, with many marathon days to come. The first night J.D. decided to sleep in a shelter. There are many of these structures along the way, cabins without a front wall. The first shelters he has seen are 2 stories high because of a loft (wooden floor) above the main cavity. There are no mattresses, of course. Mice are a problem in shelters. Yak (sleeping in the loft with J.D.) forgot a bag of oranges in his pack outside the first night and the whole group woke up to loud nibbling noises. They all shouted together to scare the mice away so Yak could rescue what was left of his damaged pack and food. The second night J.D. set up in the loft of another shelter, but after hearing scuttling mice even before he fell asleep, he set up his tent a bit off the trail instead. It rained that night and his tent held up well. It has proven to be a tad short, but J.D. is just making the most of it.

Surprisingly, he had eaten all his food by the time he got to his first opportunity to re-supply: a small store “Mountain Crossing” that the trail passes THROUGH! He bought all that he needed including a frozen pizza that they baked for him (a service they provide for hikers). J.D. is starting to feel a mental shift. “I have to eat to survive,” he told me on the phone. “This part of our country is beautiful! I LOVE hiking!” But, J.D. was sad to miss attending church yesterday. He has debated the pros and cons in his head all over again, while on the trail, but must rely on the decision he made through the guidance of the Holy Ghost months ago. His faith in many things are growing even stronger.

His favorite food that he can carry on the trail so far is Nutty Buddy Chex Mix. His advise for us is, “Don’t just endure the journey. Enjoy the journey.”

Happy Trails, Gigante!

Sources: J.D. has a friend who hiked the A.T. last summer. His blog is HERE.

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