Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vacation Part 2-The Big Tan Van

I think our worst vacation driving with the kids was when we decided to break in the NEW "Big Tan Van", as the kids call it.  I never thought I'd be excited about having a van, but back then, with 3 kids under 4, a van was a gift that brought tears to my eyes.  Actually, the tears came a year before, when I had to relinquish my cute white Jeep Wrangler. It just didn't seem safe picturing myself with the Jeep top down, music blaring and 3 baby car seats in the back swatting away the freeway debris as I enjoyed the sun and my feeling of "I can still be cool with 3 kids.. oh yeah.. uh huh." Thankfully, my mothering side came through and I decided to be safe and protective and get the "Big Tan Van" with car seats already installed with a VERY safe 5 point harness system.   The beauty of the van was it was so big we could not only take our little one's around, we could eventually take their friends with us too, or grandparents and of course it fit all the awkwardly shaped baby apparatuses that follow you everywhere doing those early years.  This van would be with us for a long time.  I could picture my kids years down the line with their friends giggling in the back, many family trips, groceries fit like Tetris on level 30, and most of all it had automatic door locks that locked safely at 10 miles an hour on its own.  
The only things we had to sacrifice to get the good price we got was leather seats and a drop down DVD player, which we felt at the time was worth saving the extra add ons. 

IMAGINE! our excitement to take our first official road trip.  It was October 2001, our kids were 4, 2, and 9 months, and we were headed to Disneyland.  The Plan: we would get to Sacramento from Portland in about 11 hours ("I'm sure the kids will just sleep") barring any long stops just in time for dinner, find a hotel, and then finish our 5 hour journey to Disneyland the next day while picking up my college friend Fran along the way.  Fran had seen our kids off and on but never had spent an extended period of time with them, PLUS she knew Disneyland and how it "works" better than anyone.  
So, off we went in our fresh, new, nice smelling van on a beautiful day.  "PULL OVER I THINK HE'S GOING TO THROW UP".  Those words were the only thing we said for the next 10 hours. Poor Luke was so car sick he threw-up 13 times on the way to Sacramento.  We stopped for baby  nausea medicine that for some CRAZY reason they offered in RED Liquid only (some sick minded pharmacist was having a good laugh at the factory somewhere in the midwest). Luke managed to throw-up all over our brand new tan cloth seats, down the crevices of the wonderful built in 5 point harness system, and on the floor.  By the time we got to Sacramento it was 8pm and most hotels were full. There were a few hotel rooms available for $250 a night, and that didn't fit in the plan at all, we are talking about "Big Tan Van People" who picked cloth seats over leather (which at this point in the trip has proven to be a poor choice)!  So, on we went a little further south, Luke moaning in the back, until we stumbled upon GALT California. It was there in Galt we found a place to stay, which at that point we didn't even care what the amenities were, or the price, we were hungry, tired, and sick of the vomit smell.  As we turned the key and entered our room we were greeted with a peculiar shaped two story loft style room which screamed "FIRE TRAP" as the kids bounded up the hard, steep, thinly shag carpeted stairs screaming "this place is awesome!!" Ward and I trying not to show our lack of being thankful for shelter and a positive attitude, went into the 1980's wall papered bathroom where we were greeted again with a pleasant surprise of a lipstick kiss on the wall, in deep maroon color, which obviously signaled Galt was one Happenin' town! "KIDS DON'T Touch or lick anything and we're sleeping on top of the beds!!"  All was fine, we made it out safe, rested, and the next morning back on 1-5 south to meet Fran who much to her delight, I'm sure, got to ride the rest of the way to Disneyland in the back with the barfing boy, and the pungent remnants of the day before.  So the "Big Tan Van" was now christened.  We found out that trip, as we left our "Big Tan Van" in the Disney parking lot, that you can leave a door wide open and the alarm will still seem activated not giving any clue that a door might have been left open displaying all of our barf stricken belongings.  Thankfully, our clear minded Fran happened to look away from the 5 person mayhem ahead to see what we had innocently stepped away from.
We still have the "Big Tan Van" and it has continued to go through a lot of abuse.  The door locks no longer work, the windshield is broken, primer paint has spilled all over the floor, the kids no longer fit in the 5 point harness (although I milked that for as long as I could), it's too embarrassing to take friends in, and now that it is almost paid off I can't wait to tell the kids that I'll be handing it over to them when they are in high school, while I honk and wave in my cute little mini cooper convertible!  
And for any of you people that actually live in Galt? I'm sure your town is lovely, we just didn't hit it on a good night, probably took a mistaken left instead of a right.  
*A few years later we again went to Disneyland, but chose to fly and Fran was "unable" to attend.
For Sale: 2001 Big Tan Van -$1000 obo.
condition: horrible 
memories: priceless

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Time To Vacate The Area!

Vacation : Leisure time away from work devoted  to rest or pleasure.

This last year we haven't really had the chance, or the budget rather, to go on a vacation. Actually, I think the last 2 years might be more accurate.   We've never been real planners of a vacation most likely due to the cost and being self employed.  It is hard to relax on a beach that you paid thousands to get to and know that each day you are sitting there it is another day away from the office where money could be made.   There are always some psychological challenges for us to hurdle over just to take that step and get away.  

When we have taken the plunge I usually like to drive somewhere rather than feed my fear of flying (and yes I already know that driving is more dangerous blah blah blah) This does cut down expense, but adds a few days of travel which in the end I guess evens out with the 2 more days away from the office losing money and the possible extra night at a hotel...hmm.  BUT, I feel safer and less stressed and enjoy the scenery of familiar places and new finds.   One thing we always end up doing on vacation is talking about businesses we'd like to start.  In the past these talks have sometimes turned into actual business plans but most have turned into nothing but conversations and a few web domain name purchases, that eventually get cancelled. It's fun to dream though, and gives us lots to talk about along the journey.  

Another variable in the vacation "equation" is kids in the mix... we love spending time with them, but we also love spending time just the two of us.  Throwing them in the plan adds more luggage, stops, food, arguments, potty breaks and once you get to the hotel we either have to get two rooms or one child sleeps on the couch and goes hungry at the free continental breakfast.  Being penny pinchers I bet you can guess what option usually wins, and thankfully most places let an extra breakfast ticket be purchased.

On the converse.. if we decide not to take them, we have to find a few willing family members to pitch in a few nights to watch our little darlings, for what I'm sure sounds like a perfect weekend for the lucky relatives!  Recently, we chose the latter and decided to leave them with family as we drove to San Fransicio for a wedding.   It took us 10 hours which at first seems like a long way for a wknd, but in the end we decided without the kids it was TOTALLY doable and the next time we plan a weekend road trip we can count on a 10 hour radius from our home to pick a spot for vacation.  With this in mind, we decided we should get away for the wknd more often, we haven't exactly broke the news to the kids or the extended family/caretakers.  I'm sure they'll remember how FAST the weekend really did go.   The only drawback to this plan was by Sunday we really missed our 3 little people waiting for us at home, waiting for the souvenirs and our stories of how much fun we had just the two of us without them.  In the end what came of it was deciding that the next trip we should go somewhere 5 hours away (or less) by car and take the kids.  We can alternate, however the rotation will have to fit in with the current rotation of me getting to plan the vacation which usually is in a city, with a nice hotel, pool, restaurants compared to my husband's choice of the great outdoors , no running water, hiking and sleeping in a tent, and of course hiking to the top of some "painful" mountain for a BREATHTAKING view (ok..I'll give him that one). Even if plans go different than expected, or the off season deal turns out horrible and obvious as to why it was a "deal", it is worth trying and worth getting away from the pressures of every day life and leaves us with some great stories and memories along the way.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

10 Seconds From Eternity

I wanted to share this letter my Dad wrote last week after going into Cardiac Arrest. Thankfully, he is doing great thanks to a device that was put in a year prior that ultimately saved his life last week. I thought his words and what happened in his heart physically and spiritually is worth sharing. My Dad is 66 and very healthy other than his heart issues. He and my mom gave gave their life to Jesus in the late 60's at a Billy Graham Crusade in Portland.
Love you Dad!

Approximately one year ago, after experiencing diminishing breathing capacity for the previous two years, it was concluded that I was experiencing ventricular irregularities that would need correction, or else. In specific, my two lower chambers were not beating in synch, diminishing blood flow to the rest of my body. The answer, a three in one device recommended by the “electrician” doctor, a cardiologist who specializes in implantation of pacemaker devices. Little did I know that the de-fibrillater part of this trio would save my life within less than a year.

February 27, 2009 started out as an ordinary day in my routine. After a leisurely morning I set out for work in my Dodge truck thinking about some of the things I wanted to accomplish at work that day. Except for a little hitch here and there with dizziness, I had felt great for the year since the three in one device has been placed in my chest. I was breathing much better and at my last medical exam and test the cardiologist was very surprised at my recovery. I was experiencing 50% breathing capacity prior to the ’08 surgical implantation in my chest, and now tests showed that I was up to 85%, one of the best improvements the doctor had ever seen for this type of problem.

I entered the lobby of my office building and approached the elevator. Just as I was reaching to push the up button I felt an overwhelming feeling of an ominous cloud coming over me. It was not like the dizzy spells that I have previously experienced. I knew it was more compelling than that, more serious than I had ever experienced. This cloud or “cloak” enveloped every thought and emotion that I had in those moments of time. There was no pain, but I knew I was in trouble as I fought to maintain consciousness. I went down to one knee thinking that that might alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed and, I was thinking that if I did go down I didn’t want to fall down like a tree and break every bone in my face. I felt that I was dying, but I was still fighting to maintain consciousness. I thought, “If I can get through this I will be ok.”

I remember getting up and thinking that I needed to sit down, that by sitting I might be able to clear my head. I knew that there were chairs across from the elevators so I rose up and started to take agonizing steps to reach them. As I was moving toward the chairs I thought to myself “so this is how it is going to end, this is how I am going to go out.” Just before I reached the chairs I felt a tremendous blow to my back, centered between the shoulder blades. At that moment in time I cried out to the Lord, saying “Lord what is happening to me?” It felt like my entire electrical nervous system had just been severed.

The blow to my back knocked me to my knees and I spun around, ending up sitting with my back to one of the chairs. I was stunned, unsure what was going to happen next when a young man came running over asking if he could help. I said yes, call 911 and the fire and emergency personnel arrived within five minutes.

As I sat there my head began to clear. I had absolutely no clue as to what had just happened to me. I couldn’t compute for a few moments until I realized that the cloud was gone, I was breathing normally, there was no pain, and I was suddenly cognizant of everything around me. And it was then that I realized that the defibrillator had gone off. When first placed in my chest I was told that if it ever were used, it would feel like the butt end of a 2X4 hit me. Well, that’s what if felt like all right.


At the hospital the emergency doctor and cardiologist both said that without the defibrillator, I would have been gone. Any one who would have experienced this type of ventricular fibrillation would have died unless someone administered paddle de-fibrillation or a de-fibrillation device was in their chest.

The technician who reads and interprets the medical device indicated that indeed there was a very serious episode. In showing me the printed read out, he said that he could tell exactly when the episode started and when it ended and the severity of it. The entire episode lasted 10 seconds. That amazed me because with all that was going through my mind I would have thought it was much longer.

I felt great at the hospital. I thought that I would be going home, but I was wrong. The doctors wanted to run tests on me to try to determine what may have caused the fibrillation. So, they ran all the tests they normally run that afternoon. Blood tests were taken every four hours to determine if there were enzymes in the blood to show that there was a heart attack due to arterial blockage. A nuclear test was taken the next day to verify that vessels were clear.

The result of all of this on a physical basis, and search for a cause, turned up nothing. The doctor called it an “abnormal episode”. It could happen again. The good news is that the fibrillater is working (tough way to find out), and that my arteries remain free of concern for any blockage.


First of all I recognize that this could happen to anyone, besides me. I also recognize that God is the potter and I am the clay. Why not me? I am a sinner, but a child of God. I felt the same when I had the quad by-pass ten years ago. God must have a purpose for these things that happen to me in big ways.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future. Romans 9:16 says “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desires or EFFORTS, but on GOD’S MERCY.” Satan did not attack me in that lobby, rather God allowed his mercy to be revealed in me, to use me for the greater cause of his kingdom.

As I was sitting in front of the chair recovering, I was trying to compute what had happened, what had hit me. And then I saw it, running across my mind. A fist, a right-handed fist, and a very strong looking, hairy forearm. I recognized it as the fist of God. Nothing else but the fist and forearm of God. The force of that blow felt like a 2X4, but it was the hand of God. His blow was so stunning that it knocked the life back into me.

God did not show me his mighty fist for nothing. I know exactly what hit my back. Some will say “it was the defibrillater Mick, get real.” Physically I know that, but spiritually that vision showed me what hit me. God gave me a mighty blow to bring me back because he has other things for me to do. I don’t exactly know what that may be, big or small, but I want to be aware of what His will is in my life for as many more days that he gives me.

When that blow hit my back and I thought that my entire electrical/nervous system had gone, it was like it was being severed. I expected nothingness after that. But as I look back now, it was really God plugging the power cord back into my electrical system. It’s the opposite of what I thought when I was in the cloud. Instead of death it was restoration. It was God’s mercy in action.

The entire episode took ten seconds. It seemed like a lot longer to me. Why? Because I think God operates on a different time clock. When He wants to reveal himself to us, or show us and teach us something, time is of no essence to him. He wants to make sure we get the picture. I did.

I shared with a number of people the vision of God’s fist. Sister-in-law Carla Hergert while watching a television program with evangelist Joel Osteen heard him talking of the mighty fist of God. She called me with what she had heard and this spurred me to do a word search for “fist”. I didn’t find anything meaningful.

That very night I intended to read Psalm 19 about the glory of God’s creation. I turned to the pages that indicated Psalm 19 at the top and moved down to what I thought was the chapter, but instead I wound up reading Psalm 20. I had no intention of doing that, but here is what I read in Psalm 20:1,2 and 6: (1) May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you; (2) May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion; (6) Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed, He answers him from His holy heaven, WITH THE SAVING POWER OF HIS RIGHT HAND.

A coincidence? I don’t think so. Those scriptures speak powerfully to those who are open to them.

When I was working my way to those chairs, with that cloud of death hanging all over me, I was fighting with all I had to keep my consciousness, because I felt if I lost it, it would be all over. My flesh, my earthly body, was still working to stay, to be a part of this world. Was that wrong as a Christian, one who certainly knows where he is going into eternity? Why not succumb at that moment? There was no pain; it would have been easy to just let go. But, God instilled in me (us) a will to live, and that is what He allowed.

God has blessed this world with men and women of many talents. He is the author of everything, in believers and non-believers alike. My belief is that God knew what this day of February 27, 2009 would hold for me long ago. And He provided the expertise, knowledge, and foresight of those doctors to recommend and install the device that was used of God to save my life and allow me to operate in His will.

GLORY be to GOD.
Mick Hergert