On my way to the grocery store yesterday I noticed some beautiful storms building around us. The clouds towered high into the air and shone really bright as the sun reflected off their tops. The scene reminded me of Alaska where I would sometimes mistake the huge, snow-capped peaks for clouds. I made it home just before the sky grew dark and lightning began striking the woods in our backyard. Before long the rain came in torrents, which pushed our trip departure back by an hour or so - we were on our way to Suwannee. Boone seemed mildly depressed over the rain (see above). He usually enjoys the back porch in late afternoon.

The exciting news we have to share is that I got a job this week! I'm the new high school history teacher at Westminster Christian Academy! Sarah and I could not be more excited about this opportunity. For a long time we thought I'd teach, but the window for getting hired kept closing in to the point where we were exploring other options (firefighting, to name one). I guess it's never too late, because I received an enthusiastic phone call from the principal at Westminster asking if I would be interested in teaching American, European, and World History. That's like the Triple Crown of history teaching!!! I told them I'd have to discuss the opportunity with my wife, but I knew this was a no-brainer for us both. I accepted the job and immediately received the preparation materials. I'll be spending significant time over the next month building a classroom model and preparing lesson plans. I can't wait to get started! Thanks to everyone who have been so supportive throughout the job hunt.

Last week Sarah was invited to Savannah to spend some time with my mom for a little get-away (her story to come). While sitting at home wondering what I was going to do without my best friend for 4 days, a call came in. It was my friend Brian asking if I was interested in backpacking the Smokies over the weekend. Would I ever!!! With Sarah's permission I embarked on the 3 day journey with 3 friends . . .

That's Natasha on the left. She just graduated from UGA and is also a friend of my brother, Philip. Next to me in the middle is Brian, a scientist and master violinist. This was his first backpacking trip. On the end next to Brian is Laura. She is the worship director at the Wesley Foundation. You might call her an "avid hiker."

We set out on Friday morning to do a 26 mile loop that began at Smokemont Campground and took us as far as the Appalachian Trail near Charlies Bunion. Once our bags were strapped on and our tennis shoes laced up we headed for the Bradley Fork Trail. After hiking about 30 feet we got lost. Some deliberation took place before a knowledgeable hiker pointed us in the right direction and we were off again, this time for real. About 5 miles the first day to our campsite: creatively named "#48." We set up camp, began cooking dinner, and then made fire. If you're inclined to say "we made A fire," then let me correct you and claim that while you're camping, it's much cooler to simply say, "we MADE FIRE".

It is such a beautiful time to be in Smoky Mountain National Park. It's so green, the weather is comfortable, and there are wildflowers in bloom. Here are a couple of pictures from our 15.5 mile hike the second day.

We finished the hike in the dark with sore hips, aching shoulders, and blistered feet, but perhaps the most amazing part of the trip was that amidst those conditions, everyone was enjoying themselves as well as encouraging to each other. After making camp in the middle of the trail (on account of darkness and soreness) we went straight to sleep and saved dinner for the morning.

Our last day we had a relatively easy hike and made it safely back to the car. Lot's of good conversation, laughter, and life stories. So glad I went. What a wonderful 3 days with 3 good friends.

I can't wait to return with Sarah! Thanks for letting me go, baby!

10 things I learned while hiking the Smokies:

1.) When stung by a yellow jacket, ALWAYS check yourself for more.
2.) Throw the weather report out the window. 0% chance of rain could mean rain.

3.) Natasha is more knowledgeable about historical quotes than ANYONE.
4.) I'm not as brave as I thought (returning to sleep when I thought there might be a bear in our camp).

5.) Brian is both deep and hilarious.
6.) You can still eat well while backpacking (i.e. Brian's chili)
7.) A 4-person tent is nice, even when there are only 2 of you sleeping in it.
8.) Laura is a natural leader, and in her words "just doesn't care what society thinks" (inside joke, sorry).

9.) The Applachain Trial distance markers lie!!!
10.) Backpacking the Smokies is as awesome as I had imagined

Name: Boone.

Breed: Hound/Retriever mix (simply put, he's a mutt)

Size: approx. 45 lbs

Temperament: playful and submissive

This is Boone! We got him almost 2 months ago, and we absolutely love him! He's about 8 months old and most likely about as big as he's going to get. Boone had been fostered by a friend through the Humane Society when we were tipped off that he needed a home. I had promised Sarah a pet when she finished cancer treatment, and Boone was a perfect fit for our lifestyle. A good ole' southern dog. We went trekking through the woods this morning and it felt like a scene out of "Where the Red Fern Grows." He is so friendly and is good about matching the mood in the room. While he is generally pretty calm, it's not hard to get him wound up. His favorite game is "run around the cul-de-sac like a maniac." Other games include variations of fetch and our home edition of ultimate fighting.

Playfullness aside, he is surprisingly obedient. It doesn't take much for him to transition out of play mode and into complete submission. As long as you are assertive, he'll do whatever you want him to do. This morning I had him following me in circles around the couch as we patrolled the living room for several minutes. Thus, the area was secured. Good boy, Boone! You earned breakfast!

With that said it's 3:10 and time for breakfast. What can I say, it's Sunday.

Sarah is cancer free!!! Not much more to say about that. If you're wanting more information about the cancer Sarah had and the treatment she went through, then check out caringbridge.org/visit/sarahklayman. Otherwise, I don't intend on giving cancer the time of day on this blog. Been there, done that. We're moving on folks. To those of you who are joining us from the caringbridge blog following I must say that I'm thrilled to be sharing with you stories from our life that don't include doctors, chemotherapy, and the side effects of prescription medication. Ok, enough of that.

Today is Sarah's last day of Radiation Therapy! We intend on celebrating with a couple of friends tonight over dinner. Low key, yes, but don't you worry. There will be a huge blow-out bash to celebrate Sarah as a survivor once she recovers her strength enough to celebrate properly. More to come on that in a month or so.

What's great about insurance deductibles is that you will eventually meet them. Considering that the cost of a single chemotherapy treatment is around $17,000, we met ours within the first week of the new year! The result: cheap & free medical care for the remainder of 2010. I went to the doctor this morning to get a check up. I know there's nothing wrong with me, but why not get a check-up??? It only cost a simple co-pay to learn that I DON'T have cancer. Never too young to start checking. They asked if I wanted to get blood work done. I asked how much it cost. They said nothing, insurance will cover it. They won't even charge a co-pay for it. My response? I said I thought I should get blood work done. We're going to get our eyes examined next month.

Now that I've gone back on my word and blogged about doctors and chemotherapy, I'll go ahead and write a bit on side effects. I considered taking some aspirin this morning for a muscle ache. Then read the label on the bottle. The side effects can range anywhere from headaches and nausea to hearing loss and confusion! Hearing loss!?! How does that even apply to muscle pain? And confusion??? I'm already confused trying to understand these symptoms! Ibuprofen even lists diarrhea AND constipation as side effects. On second thought, I might just eat a banana and deal with my sore muscles to avoid the hassle. How do they expect me to understand Health Care Reform if I can't even understand the medicine in my cabinet?

There, now I've written about everything I said I wasn't going to write about. Seriously, though, Sarah and I are thrilled that she is finished with cancer, and we are excited to be embarking on day 1 of our post-cancer life together. We hope this blog enables you to be more involved in our life. We love you and look forward to sharing more in the days to come. God bless!