A few days earlier than planned, we left Monument Valley in mid-October and drove six hours straight to Mesa, Arizona. We were glad to pull into a campground we were familiar with and neighbors that we knew.
I’m forever grateful that we left Monument Valley early as I was able to see my young nursing patient before she passed away. I’d taken care of this sweet girl when we lived in Seattle before her family moved away. I had visited them multiple times in Arizona and last summer/fall I saw this amazing family about once a week. As a pediatric home health nurse, I was with the family for hours at a time, going to school and doctor appointments, running errands, and doing fun activities with the family. All that made it easy to become close to the family and patient.
We arrived back in Arizona on a Wednesday, I visited my old nursing patient on Thursday not knowing it would be the last time I would see her, and early Sunday morning she passed away. My heart will always feel like a little piece is missing as this wonderful, precious girl stole my heart and will be forever missed. Brad and I made a vow to her to live more and do more as her life was taken too soon. We will live for her. We love you and will always miss you MacKenzie. #golive #foreverforyoumackenzie
As I dry the tears from my eyes and take a deep breath, I will tell you all about the rest of our time in Arizona. We were there for two and a half months, but it felt more like a few weeks as the time just flew by.
Camelback Mountain: Parking was interesting as the hike is in a random neighborhood. We had to park on the main road, then walk into the neighborhood, adding ¼ to ½ mile of walking before reaching the trailhead. This hike was much harder than we thought is was going to be! It wasn’t the length—1.5 miles to the top— nor the elevation—1,200 feet.
It was the steep edges and scrambling to the top on loose gravel. The first mile was just like a regular trail and then the scrambling begin until we reached the summit. At the summit, we saw a panoramic 360 degree view of Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Wind Cave: This hike was located in the Usery Mountain Regional Park and since it is a state park, there was a small entrance fee. It was a fairly easy trail and easy to follow, going up a small mountainside, winding around boulders and in between cactus until the trail ended at a large open cave. We had to be careful because there were active beehives and bees everywhere! The bees didn’t bother us nor did we stay long due to the fact we didn’t want to get stung.
Christmas in Chicago: Yes, we left warm and sunny Arizona in December to fly back to Chicago to see my family for Christmas. It was cold, windy, and snowing pretty much the whole time we were visiting, making Brad and I more grateful that we get to be in a warmer state during the winter months. Despite the cold, we had a great time seeing my family, having an early white Christmas, playing games, baking, shopping, eating out, and going to our first ever escape room, which was a ton of fun! It was much harder than we all thought it was going to be and we were only two questions away from finishing, darn! With a completion rate of 30%, we were pretty proud of ourselves.
Phoenix Symphony: Brad and I are big believers in donating blood and we end up doing this multiple times a year. We started over ten years ago when I worked as a school nurse and the school put on a blood bank drive. It made sense to me that we should be donating and we have been donated ever since. What does blood donating have to do with the Phoenix Symphony? When we donated blood in November we each got a free voucher to see the Phoenix Symphony. We went in December to hear the Christmas program and were impressed. They did a great job of not only having the symphony play but incorporating the Phoenix Choir and three vocal soloists. The program was fun, interactive, and got everyone in the holiday spirit.
Volunteering and Ice Skating: I like to volunteer around the holidays. Since I like to do events for the kids (I will always in my heart be a peds nurse), I found this event called JaKelle’s Christmas Box where families can come and shop for their children for Christmas. All gifts are donated, and volunteers are needed to help set up, help parents pick out gifts, and maintain the tables. The hours of the shopping were during the work day so Brad and I volunteered to help take down the tables and help pack up on the weekend. The team was very thankful we helped and we got done more than an hour quicker than last year so we were glad to help. The event was put on by Helen’s Hope Chest (http://www.mesaunitedway.org/helenshope/) and we got to tour the building. They are a not-for-profit company that services foster children. They have a little boutique set up where the foster children come and shop for a few outfits every few months. This is free for the foster families and all clothes are donated or bought with cash donations made to Helen’s Hope Chest.
After volunteering, we went ice skating at a small outdoor rink in downtown Mesa. Christmas music was playing while we skated and the best part was no jacket was needed! Brad used to play hockey so he was quick on the rented ice skates while I was a bit slower. It was a great way to end the day and we did all this on Brad’s birthday.
Target: It was our second time in Mesa at the same campground. Last year I got a job at Target to keep me busy, out of the heat, and basically out of trouble. Since we were back in Mesa, I returned to the same Target store for seasonal work. A lot of great people work there and make me feel valued and appreciated as a team member. Due to my crazy work schedule, Brad and I did not get to explore as much as we would have liked, but we made the most of being there, going on smaller hikes and taking advantage of the pool and hot tub at the campground. We plan to return to Mesa again for the fall and I plan to go back to Target for seasonal work.
We are off to Southern California for the winter and are looking forward to exploring a new state in our RV!!