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Spending Quality Time with Grandma & Update On Her Health

It was Thursday around 3AM when I received a call from my mom letting me know my halmoni (grandma) was sick and was unlikely to make it. Halmoni had been like a mom to me. She raised me while my mom was getting her Ph.D. There was a time when I actually thought she was my biological mom.

All the signs were telling us that death was near. She slept all day, and when my mom persistently questioned her, she could barely peel her eyes open. She had labored breathing and her words were no longer coherent. My whole family had caught pneumonia, and halmoni being 96 had the worst of it. Was it okay to fall apart now? Do I have to stay strong on behalf of my mom? Does it get easier to cope with death as you get older? Seems so.  Is it because it’s all around you and you’re more aware of the inevitable? Is it just selfish for me to want her to live when her pain just gets progressively worse?

While I was distraught, Jacob calmly packed my things and booked the quickest flight for me back to Atlanta. It was the next evening when I found her on the floor of her room unable to move. I held her hand and as I started asking her questions, it came as a surprise to all of us that she began speaking back.

Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.

By the next day she regained enough energy to sit up by herself if we propped her up. And then a few hours after that, I saw her stand up and wobble over to the bathroom. It really was a miracle. She started dancing, arms only since she can only move so far. She sang how grateful she was to be alive again. Despite all the pain, she was so grateful.
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.

Thankfully now she has almost recovered fully from pneumonia, but I am learning how fragile she still is. A few days ago she fell, and I have to accept that this will be a normal occurrence. She gets a little better and then worse. A little better and then worse. You never know when it will happen. Over the last few years, we’ve noticed that she has been prepared and willing… maybe even hoping… for death to come. But I am asking myself.. Am I prepared to let her go? I really can’t stop crying whenever I think about it.
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.

Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.

From this experience, I’m thankful to be reminded how important it is to make time for those you love. You really never know when it will be the last time. I kept feeling regret that I didn’t come back home to visit enough or call home enough. I am grateful that we have been given another chance to love her the best we can for whatever time she has left with us. I’m also grateful that she has her joyful smile back. You can really see the difference just on her face. This one was taken yesterday:
Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma

I’m so thankful for all your kind words, thoughts, and prayers over the past week or so. It was such a difficult week for the family, and I really appreciate the support. I had started prepping and editing my favorite photos of her while here, so I will eventually share those, but for now you can find more here, a couple here, and on instagram.

Sorry I didn’t have a travel tuesdays post yesterday. Unlike a good blogger, I haven’t had much scheduled ahead of time. This is week 31 of practicing gratitude. 21 more weeks to go! Click the banner below to see my previous gratitude posts:

This is week 31 of practicing gratitude on Dealing with Death & Spending Quality Time with Grandma.

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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

We went on our first hike at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area a few weeks ago. We had signed up for a hiking meetup and then quickly learned that we have only been equipped to do level 2 hiking, so we ended up exploring a level 2 hike on our own. I guess in all my life my perception of hiking was that it required your feet but very little of your hands. If you had to use your hands, that was climbing.. or so I thought.

We did the Red Springs Loop or some people call part of it the Calico Loop. There was some scrambling but nothing where I felt like I was in danger. There were many trails that ultimately led to the Saddle or Guardian Angel Pass and on the way we saw several people bouldering:

Bouldering at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Guardian Angel Pass or the Saddle | Red Rock Canyon Hiking.

Guardian Angel Pass or The Saddle | Hiking Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Flowers on Red Rock Canyon Trails | Red Springs Loop or Calico Loop.
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Choosing the Perfect Travel Backpack for a Laptop and Camera

I’m (Esther) the main writer of this blog, but Jacob has been wanting to contribute as well. After brainstorming, we finally figured out a couple things he could do in this space. One will be writing up reviews and making some youtube videos for travel products that worked for us and those that didn’t:

Choosing a backpack perfect for traveling with a dslr camera and laptop.

For the past 8 years, I’ve been using the Lowepro Compudaypack (review here) for everyday usage, but since we’ve been traveling and doing more outdoorsy activities, we’ve outgrown the pack and have been in search for a new one!

Finding a versatile backpack is really hard! It doesn’t help that the perfect bag has very specific specs.

What I needed in Choosing a Backpack:
  1. decent storage (enough space to go on overnight trips).
  2. has room and protection for a laptop.
  3. is good for traveling with a dslr camera (when I have it).
  4. has solid support for short hikes.
  5. is reasonably priced.
  6. on top of all that… still looks good.

I know, I know. It’s a lot to ask for from one bag.

After much research, I didn’t find a good bag made for a camera that functioned well for anything else. After a few recommendations from friends, I decided to buy a camera insert that I could use with any bag.

For the actual pack, I online shopped for months and couldn’t find anything I wanted. When REI had a sale (gotta love their return policy), I finally decided to order a bunch of packs and try them out. In the end we ended up keeping the Mountain Hardwear Paladin Pack! It’s primarily made for bike commuters but works well as a hiking pack as well. It’s spacious, has top and side access for a laptop, and even after using the insert there is plenty of room for other stuff! It’s been a couple months since using the new bag, and we’re happy with it! We’ve taken it with us on a mission trip to the Philippines and have gone hiking with it a few times.

Check out my reviews for the Mountain Hardwear Pack & Crumpler Haven Camera Insert by clicking on the images below:

Paladin Pack Review | Mountain Hardwear Backpacks | Choosing the Perfect Laptop Camera BackpackCrumpler Haven Insert for DSLR Camera Review | Traveling with a DSLR Camera | Looking for the Perfect Travel Backpack.

***Update:*** While writing this post, we found a new bag at REI over the weekend, the North Face Overhaul 40 Daypack, and I am still deciding between this one and the Mountain Hardwear.

Pros of the North Face Pack in comparison to the Paladin Pack:

  • Camera gear is more easily accessible.
  • Laptop flap lays flat so you don’t have to take it out during TSA screenings.

Cons of the North Face Pack in comparison to the Paladin Pack:

  • It’s heavier. 3 lbs 3 oz versus 1 lb 15 oz.
  • It doesn’t compress. Compression comes in handy during hiking.

See my full review here:
The North Face Overhaul 40 Daypack  | Choosing a Backpack.

Check back for my final decision in a couple weeks. If you like my reviews, please subscribe to our channel!

Here were some others we checked out that didn’t quite work out:

Have you found a perfect travel backpack? What’s some criteria you would look for in your perfect travel backpack?

I do a travel post every tuesday, and you can check out other Galapagos and travel posts by clicking on the banner below:
I post about international travel on Travel Tuesdays.

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Pinball Hall of Fame Las Vegas NV

Once I heard about the Pinball Museum / Pinball Hall of Fame, I knew I wanted to go as one of our 52 dates a year. Located just off the strip, the Pinball Hall of Fame is a 10,000 square foot building filled to the brim with pinball machines! It was fascinating to see pinball machines from the 1950s all the way to present day. Along with the massive amount of pinball machines, there were a handful of other classic arcade games as well.

The owner, Tim Arnold, built up a collection of nearly 1000 pinball machines and after his retirement decided to host “fun nights” where he let the public come play with proceeds going to charity. Eventually, they founded the LVPCC (Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club), which funded the building they have now, and now, everyone at PHoF works as volunteers. You can really tell they love what they do. Read more of the story here.

Pinball Hall of Fame Las Vegas / Cheap things to do in vegas.

Pinball Hall of Fame Vegas / What is there to do in las vegas.

Pinball hall of fame Las Vegas NV / Cheap date ideas.

Pinball hall of fame Las Vegas NV / Unique date ideas.

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Loving the Place We Call Home | Gratitude Week 29

After a weekend of fun in LA, we drove back home (in Josh’s car) only to realize we lost our keys in one of the dozens of places we visited in LA. It was pretty difficult to stay calm, and I may or may not have thrown a few things. After a long drive, all I wanted to do was wash up and crawl into our own bed. Unfortunately, due to my carelessness and due to one shaaaaaady locksmith, we weren’t able to get into our home Sunday night. Luckily, our keys were found and are currently being mailed back to us (Thanks Jess!! You are a lifesaver!).

Being locked out of our home for one night actually made me realize what a privilege it is to have a place I call home. There are many things, big and small, that I often take for granted because they are always simply there. It reminded me that these too were blessings that should be counted.

Our place isn’t perfect. And at the moment (and many other moments) it happens to be a mess. You can forget about spring cleaning here. It has not been happening. But this is our humble abode and I am grateful for it as is.

Our Humble and messy Abode. Gratitude practice for week 29.

Our Messy House. Gratitude practice for week 29.

Home is where the cats are.

Our Messy House. Practicing gratitude for week 29.

Our Messy House. Practice gratitude for week 29.

Urban garden in our messy house. Gratitude practice for week 29.

Our patio in our humble abode. Gratitude practice for week 29.

Even though I might be more of a nomad / wanderer, I’ve realized it’s always good to have a home base where you can reset.

7 Reasons Why We Love our Home // Gratitude Practice for Week 29:
  1. Comfort. Everything is familiar and arranged in a certain way for our convenience.
  2. Our bed has a pillowtop and is the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on.
  3. Our cats. Have you ever heard the quote “Home is where the cats are”? That’s how we feel!
  4. Desktops. It’s so much easier working on a desktop than on my laptop.
  5. Washer / Dryer in unit. I didn’t realize this until we moved to LA, but depending on the city that you live in, it can be rare to have your own washer dryer in your place. You are constantly collecting quarters so you can wash your clothes.
  6. Our kitchen. I know I complain about how little storage and cabinet space we have, but at the end of the day we make it work. It stores all the snacks and food and kitchen gadgets we could ever need or want.
  7. Heater & AC. Having a working heater and AC is a luxury if I really think about it. I’ve been to so many countries where this is not the norm.

Gratitude quote of the week by Sarah Ban Breathnach:

Gratitude quote of the week is "Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need." sarah ban breathnach quotes

How do you define “home”? Is it a person, place, or thing? Can you think of a few reasons why you love your home? Also, we can’t use our car until the keys are mailed back to us, so what do you like to do when you are stuck at home? Let me know in the comments below.

This is week 29 of gratitude practice on my blog. You can see all my other gratitude posts by clicking on the banner:
Gratitude Practice for Week 29.Free Wedding Website from Wedding Paper Divas
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Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Spring is in the air! I haven’t seen any blossoms in Vegas. I’m not even sure if there are any or where to begin looking for them, but it made me miss the pretty dogwood trees in Georgia and the cherry blossoms in Japan. Don’t mind me. I’m just wanderlusting, so I’m interrupting my Galapagos posts to share some cherry blossom photos I took from our Kyoto trip.

I don’t know why cherry blossoms are so fascinating to me. Maybe it’s because they are so temporary and can only be enjoyed for a moment. When we went to Japan to see the cherry blossoms, it actually snowed and cut the season short. They said this never happens. Luckily, we were able to capture some of its fleeting beauty the few days before.

Photo of cherry blossoms in Japan.

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