Monday, November 30, 2009


Tonight a friend pointed me to an awesome webpage. My last post (quite some time ago, I know...) was all about how God speaks through the stars to communicate His love for me (us) and to let me (us) know how precious I am (we are) to Him; so much so that He would focus not only on the major life events and the big picture, but He also communicates in the most minute details. He is communicating in these details, but we must look for it, or we will miss it. And we must be open to receive it.

The website that had me fascinated tonight is It contains the most intriguing astronomical evidence of the star - actually the entire array of celestial signs - that signified the birth of the Messiah to the wise men a couple thousand years ago. As I poured over the history, details and symbolism presented on the website, it struck me again the incredible attention that God gives to every single detail...nothing - absolutely NOTHING - goes beyond His notice and care. As the website states, the "Star finally means that from the very instant at which God flung the universe into existence, he also knew the moment he would enter human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He marked it in the stars. And from before the beginning of time as we experience it, God knew the very moment when Messiah would breath his last on the cross."

This is nothing that I haven't heard before. But when I really stop to contemplate it, it inspires awe - and praise - in me.

God not only knew the exact moments of the birth and death of the Messiah at the very commencement of all creation, but He also knew every detail of EVERYTHING for all eternity. At that moment, every single thing about all things became known.

AMAZING :: our God is more than amazing, but really there is no word - or collection of words - that adequately or even remotely begin to describe Him.

I just wanted to share that praise with you tonight! I hope that you are as inspired to praise our God and our Messiah as I am...

Friday, September 4, 2009


I don't know if there is a gratitude quite like that which comes with facing the possibility of losing your life, or your quality of life, and then receiving it again. This is the gratitude that I've been experiencing since last week when I got my wonderful news. Every morning since then, I wake up and tell myself, "I was supposed to be in the hospital today, and I'm not! I'm here in my own bed, with a whole day before me!" It seems that the possibilities are endless. And the truth is that they pretty much are!

Last night, I laid in my hammock after dark, wrapped up in a blanket to ward off the chilly night air. I laid there for over an hour just gazing up at the stars. I am in awe of everything right now, just as though I'm seeing it all with new eyes...or at least with more appreciative ones. Looking at the stars took me back to Greece and to Italy, two places where I also laid and watched the stars. In Greece, we were on the beach with the waves of the Mediterranean sea lapping up at our feet. We faced south and the big dipper was just over my right shoulder. The stars were so amazingly clear that night. Sherri saw a shooting star. In Italy, we watched the stars from the roof terrace of our hotel. Again, we were facing south so we had much of the same view. From that vantage point, we stargazed for our two nights in Cinque Terre. The first night, I asked God if He would show me a shooting star like Sherri got to see when we were in Greece. After making my request, I saw two shooting stars. The following night, I saw two again. Last night, as I stared at the vast array above me, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of God's goodness to me. While I watched, yet another star shot across the sky. I have never in my life seen so many shooting stars, and now when I do, it is like I am receiving a special promise from God that He sees me and He knows me.

There is a song that I've been listening to since my doctor's appointment a week and a half ago. The song, by Selah, is called "All My Praise." The entire song voices for me the amazing journey that God has taken me on. One line in the song says "You made every star and You taught it how to shine. You knew my name before there was time. This is just part of Your glorious design." When I hear that line, I believe the truth in that thought, that God did know me before there was time. We are taught that because of the distance away that the stars are from the earth, and the time that it takes for light to travel, to see a shooting star means that it actually fell around hundreds or thousands of years ago for us to see its light now. Stars that we see shining in the night sky might not actually exist anymore, but their light is still traveling to us. When I asked God to show me a shooting star, it didn't just shoot across space that night, but God made that star shoot through space hundreds of years ago. He knew me then, even before I ever existed. And He knew my request, and cared enough about me, to direct those stars. This thought brings me to my knees every time I think it. I am humbled by it, and at the same time filled with such awe and adoration for a God who knows and loves me like that. A God who cares for me so, who is in control of everything, and who is so big yet cares about such small details.

This wonderful song has much meaning for me throughout the rest of it as well. The opening line alone brings me to such a place of worship. It begins "I will follow You through green pastures and sing 'Hallelujah' to Your name." When I hear it, I think of hiking through Switzerland, through the green pastures on the hills, through the lush mountain forests, through the grassy valley, the whole time singing praise songs to God with Sherri. It didn't matter that we didn't sing well...we sang...we couldn't help ourselves. We were surrounded with God's amazing beauty that we had to sing to Him. Not only that, but He took us on that trip. He worked out every detail so perfectly and blessed me so abundantly. My gratitude has been just dripping off of me, because I've been immersed in God's goodness.

The song continues after that line with, "I will follow You through dark disaster and sing 'Hallelujah' through the pain. Even in the shadow of death I will praise You. Even in the valley I will say 'Holy, my God, You are worthy of all my praise.'" Our trip, our walk through those green pastures in Switzerland, was in the fore shadow of death in that it was in the shadow of an upcoming hospitalization and stem cell transplant. For these last two years, I have followed God through dark disaster, and all the while I have been praising Him. The reason that I praise Him is that around every turn, no matter what the situation might be, His goodness is always bigger and more apparent. I can't help but to praise Him because all I see is Him, and He is so worthy of all my praise.

This song seems to have been written for me, for this time. I listen to other music also, but this particular song I keep coming back to and I've been listening to it over and over again on repeat. This feeling of gratitude that has overwhelmed me is nurtured when I listen to this song, and that is something that I want to nurture. So often, we go through life nurturing feelings of doubt or anger or hurt. We feed our minds with self talk of all the different events of the day and our take on them. I am thankful that right now I've gotten a reprieve from the cares of the world to just focus on this one thing, praising God. And right now, that is all I can focus on. Afterall, yesterday I was supposed to receive a stem cell transplant and I didn't. Instead I laid on my hammock beneath a sea of stars and a large moon, listened to the crickets chirping, and felt the cool night air turn my nose into a popsicle. And a star shot across the sky.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good News!

Hello Everyone!
Well, the world traveler has returned home and has some wonderful news to share with each of you!
Sherri and I arrived at home Friday evening after some flight delays due to poor weather. We were greeted by friends with silly string at the airport, drove home, and tried over the weekend to recover from jet lag and a 6 hour time difference. We went to church on Sunday, which was like returning home. It felt so awesome to be standing in church again, worshipping God. It was such an incredibly wonderful feeling and just so right and perfect. Pastor Thomas told the congregation in both services of Sherri’s and my return home from our European trip, and explained why the trip was necessary, about my upcoming stem cell transplant, and then invited me to stand before the congregation (in both services) surrounded by all the cancer survivors in the congregation, and they all prayed over me. It did my soul such good to be again surrounded by my family – my church family – after 6 weeks of separation. I had missed being in their presence as we together seek God’s presence. Truly, nothing can replace that.
On Monday morning (the 24th) I had a PET/CT scan scheduled at Hillman. Dr. Agha wanted to get this scan done prior to the scheduled Stem Cell Transplant in order to reassess the disease progression before admitting me on Wednesday the 26th, as planned. This morning, Tuesday the 25th, I had an appointment with Dr. Agha to review the results of the scan.
Dr. Agha and his team walked into the exam room smiling. He welcomed me back and asked all about the trip…where had I gone, what had I done, how did I feel, etc. I told him the various places and adventures that Sherri and I had gone on, and impressed him with the extent of the physical activities I had done, from hiking to kayaking, to rock-climbing, to canyoning, and everything in between. He asked me, rather pointedly, if I had drank any red wine. I assured him that I hadn’t, that I don’t like the taste of wine. He inquired if I had been taking any supplements or medications on the trip. No, I stated that I hadn’t. He did the rest of his typical routine, throughout which he and his team asked me a few more times about drinking red wine. After again confirming that I hadn’t had any, Dr. Agha sat down in front of me, stating that he had personally reviewed the PET/CT scan himself since the radiologist hadn’t prepared a report of it yet. Then he told me very simply that the tumors have begun to shrink. He said that although he isn’t a radiologist, he can read a scan and has done so many times, and that indeed, the tumors were smaller! He said that he wanted to wait for an official report from the radiologist before postponing the stem cell transplant, but that he expected the radiologist report to state the same and that he fully anticipated that a stem cell transplant at this time isn’t necessary. He said that his team would call me later this evening, one way or the other, and let me know the results of the official report, and whether I would need to be admitted to the hospital the following morning.
Around 10 pm tonight, I called the hospital answering service and soon received a follow-up call from Dr. Agha…inadvertently, the individual responsible for calling me tonight forgot…but Dr. Agha told me that he had indeed reviewed the radiologist’s report by that time and that yes, the tumors had shrunk! He said that we will not proceed with the transplant, that the donor would be put on a hold (so that he is still reserved for me if I do need him at some point in the near future), and that he wants me to wait two months and have a follow-up PET/CT scan.
I believe that this is the beginning of the supernatural healing that has been prayed for by so many people. I believe that this reversal of the disease, this shrinking of the tumors, is God alone. I believe this, for one, because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and through that relationship know that God is able to do anything, that He truly is all powerful, and that He truly is in control. (He doesn’t just take control when it isn’t given to Him, and He isn’t always responsible, but He is always able, and He is always bigger and greater than our comprehension.) Secondly, I believe that this is a miraculous healing because there is nothing else that it can be attributed to. The doctors are stumped and want to believe that it is because of some red wine (which I didn’t even drink!). It isn’t due to medical treatment, because I haven’t had any since January when I had radiation (and previous scans showed that the tumors grew and increased in number since then). It isn’t due to changes in my diet, because although I did try a special “Macrobiotic” diet for about 4 months, I ended this diet prior to leaving for Europe because I didn’t want to be restricted when on vacation. While on the diet, I had a PET/CT scan that showed an increase in the tumors. While on vacation, I indulged in sweets and other foods known to be foods that certainly don’t aid in eliminating cancer, but rather promote cancer. So diet is certainly not a reason to explain the sudden regression of the tumors.
All Dr. Agha could say is that sometimes diseases such as this will experience a spontaneous regression and a change in their biological state. True, but even that doesn’t state ‘why,’ but rather only ‘what.’
Judge for yourself, but I believe this to be God’s hand at work. And Praise God for it! Throughout these two years since being diagnosed, I have praised God continually. I do so all the more now! This is the work of God alone, in response to the thousands of prayers that have gone up on my behalf.
To Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or think, to Him be the Glory!
I look forward to writing you another letter in two months!
Much love and blessings, Amy

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Italy - Our day today!

Hi All,
It has been a beautiful blue sky, cloudless day here in Cinque Terra, Italy. We had a phenomenal breakfast of bread, fruit and omeletts!!! Yum!!! Typically we get bread only!!!! And juice, tea and coffee of course - Jen, Erika and Liz need their coffee!!! I (Sherri) was excited to have hot chocolate with my breakfast - mmmmmmmm!!!! Then it was off to a boat - we were planning to explore the 5 cities that make up the Italian Riviera or Cinque Terre! Plans change, as usual - but this was a great day. When we got to the one city, to our pleasant surprise we could rent kayaks! So Amy and I set out in a double kayak and Erika and Jennifer each had their own kayak. (We never did make it to any of the other cities!) We so enjoyed the teal, teal water with the blue blue sky reflecting on the surface of the water. And then there was the rock face that jutted out into the water at different intervals, with the buildings of the towns clinging to the edges of the cliff faces and other beautiful views all about us. We paddled to a beach about 45 minutes away where there was a natural fresh water waterfall right at the beach. We swam over to it and climbed the rocks - very fun - and stood under the VERY COLD waterfall. (Peggy, Amy says it wasn't near as cold as in Puerto Rico! ) We even filled our water bottles in the waterfall - YUM!!!!
On returning we switched kayaks and Amy and I each had an individual and Erika and Jennifer had the double. We switched because you could enjoy a swim from the single kayaks from the middle of the sea, but the double, you could only get out on shore. It was very enjoyable to be in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, swimming like a fish!
In the meantime, Liz shopped and enjoyed one of the small towns called Vernazza - known as the "Jewel of Cinque Terre".
So that is about it! It is off to dessert now - we have gotten really good at dessert!

Love you all very much and miss you too!
Sherri and Amy!

PS We are having memory card issues and it won't let us upload the images - sorry! Maybe next time!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Adventures in Germany, the sequel!

Hi everyone...
We're back! The girls aren't as travel weary as Sherri and I are, so they've been cracking the sight-seeing whip on us....waking us at early hours and keeping us up past our bedtimes...and certainly keeping us too busy to find a spare moment to say "Hi" to you all!

So, since the last time we said hi, we've explored a little more of Germany. As Sherri said last time, Mom got to revisit some childhood places. What a great experience that was. She was so blessed by God the way that each memory and each place unfolded. She didn't stop smiling for days and Erika and I really got some unique glimpses into her life before us.

The evening after visiting her old apartment, we tackled another exciting adventure on my "life list," something that none of us other than Sherri had ever done before....a hot-air balloon ride! We took off from the country-side near Munich after helping to prepare the balloon, and floated over fields, small towns, forests and lakes. Aside from Munich and the Alps in the distance, the scenery below looked a lot like home... It was so beautiful and picturesque...What a great time. We landed in a field that appeared to be growing nothing but mosquitos, and had to help deflate the balloon and pack it and the basket back up again. By the end, the mosquitos were quite fat and happy!!! But, the balloon folks drove us back to the biergarten (beer-garden) where they had champagne waiting for us. After that and a great dinner, we were just as fat and happy as the mosquitos!!!

While in Germany, we also visited Fussen where two great castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenshaungau (I really have no idea how to spell these!!) are located in the forested hills where they have beautiful valley and lake views. Neuschwanstein is the famous castle that the Disneyworld castle is modeled after. We took a tour of Hohenshaungau, which was pretty interesting and a new experience. The four of us girls also rented bikes while mom had fun shopping in town, and we biked the georgeous paths along one of the many lakes in the region. That is, until a torrential thunderstorm caught up with us and sent us racing back into the town in a downpour. We were soaked!!! Sherri and I were riding with our rain ponchos on, which did little more than catch the wind and make us look like blown-up jelly fish! Ah, fun times!!!

We left Fussen after two days and headed for Italy on the night train. Don't let any romantic images of train travel delude you...night trains are certainly the exception to any sort of romantic notion. They are cramped...imagine 6 people, in 6 small cots stacked 3 high on two walls, in a room the size of your bathroom...and that is a pretty good picture of our room in the sleeping car. Add to that, the sway of the train, the abrupt stops and starts (no wonder they put crash rails on the bunks to keep you from rolling is a distinct possibility), and random people in the same room as you...some of whom snore. Loudly! This is why ear plugs were invented!

We landed in Florence and spent 3 great days there. Florence is a beautiful city overflowing with history and ambiance and interesting things to see and do. It certainly redeemed Italy in our eyes after our Varenna experience. Some of the highlights included seeing Michelangelo's David in person, climbing inside the dome of Florence's Cathedral and seeing the view from the top after climbing 463 steep stairs, the beautiful candlelit restaurants that we dined in, and shopping in the local outdoor market place where you could find inexpensive but beautiful and authentic Italian goods. It brought out the shop-aholic in all of us!! Especially Mom Liz!

Ok, the internet cafe that we landed in tonight here in Cinque Terre, our second to last town on our European adventure, is almost closed. Time to sign off so we can get some pictures on here for you!

Hopefully we'll write again soon!
Our final stop after this is Venice...
And then back home again on the 21st!
See you all soon!!!

Love, Amy and Sherri

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Long Time No Write!!!!

Hi All,

Sorry for our absence, no we are not stuck in the train station or lost and Lizzie is in the next room, we have not lost her either! All of the other ladies arrived the other day and we have been busy with nostalgia ever since... it has been awesome. First, we bummed around Paris or as they say - 'Pareee' for a day and then off on a night train (otherwise known as our sardine can) to Germany, to a little town called Bogen where Liz vacationed as a child. We met the woman that owned a Bed and Breakfast where Liz and her Grandparents stayed. We also met the owner's father as well, who, it turned out, had played with Liz's Great Uncle as a child. Gerlinda, the owner, and her family have owned this establishment for 4 generations. She proceeded to spoil us rotten and her and Liz told many stories back and forth.

We hiked up to a little country church where miracles are known to happen - there we had a prayer pow wow, for Amy's health first and foremost, but many other things as well.

Next was Munich, Germany where Liz grew up until age 9. We went to her old neighborhood and walked down her old street while she told us stories of her childhood. Erika videotaped it all! When we got to her old apartment building we were surprised and pleased that the street level door opened with an easy turn and we then walked the hall to the back courtyard and heard more stories! We climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor (what we would count as the third froor in the US) and stood in the doorway.. We wanted Liz to knock on the door and see if anyone would answer and she didn't want to... but with some coaxing and Erika hitting the buzzer, a woman came to the door. Liz tried, with cracked voice and broken German to explain to the bewildered woman why there were 5 Americans on her doorstep. Once she did, the woman kindly let us in and Liz got to explore the rooms where she grew up as a child. It turned out the woman, Elfriede, helped take care of Liz's grandmother (who raised her while she lived in Germany) in her last years. We spent much time going from room to room and listening to story upon story --- that we could not understand because it was in German!

Thankfully Erika and Jen videotaped it all and we hope to have Liz translate at a later date. Both the Bogen and Munich experiences were God blessings with the absolute favor of God on how things worked out. Elfriede told us later that she thought we were Jehovah's Witnesses and contemplated not answering her door!Yesterday we rented bicycles and roamed the lakeside and countryside and ended up in a thunderstorm -- it was great fun - We got drenched while Miss Liz shopped! Always an adventure!!!!Today we went to the top of Germany by train and cable car and got to do a little more rock climbing with Liz's not so enthusiastic blessings!!! We are now awaiting yet another night train, this time we will land in the morning in Florence, Italy for the final leg of our trip.Amy and I realized yesterday that we have been traveling now for one month and one day. Not sure about Amy since her whole family is here, but I am getting a little homesick! But I am still having the time of my life and not ready for this to be over!!!

Love you all, sure hope to get back to you sooner next time!
Sherri and Amy

Sorry - no pictures today - this internet cafe doesn't give us access.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anecdotes from Abroad

Hi! Here we are in Reims, France. Two days ago we successfully arrived on the train in Reims, which is where we had been hoping to land. Fortunately, all the train connections from Switzerland worked out just fine, and once we arrived, a nice French gentleman in the train station who spoke only a little English pointed us in the direction of some hotels - or as he said, "few many hotels". We found a comfortable room with no problem on a very pleasant pedestrian street with lots of fun cafes and restaurants. Yesterday, we did some sightseeing around here and today it is off to Paris.

We wanted to share with you some of the interesting lessons that we have learned while traveling in Europe...some of the things not mentioned in the travel guide books!

1. Computer keyboards in each country are different...the letters and symbols are in all different places and typing is not easy! Hunting and pecking is required!
2. In the hotels there are no wash cloths or shower curtains in any of the showers!
3. Every shower is a hand held shower!
4. If you get a room with twin beds, they are right next to one another and there is no such thing as a room with two double beds!
5. Most hotel rooms must be locked with a key from the inside (they don't believe in building codes) and skeleton keys are typical!
6. French dressing is actually ranch dressing - everywhere but in France, where dressing is a mix of mayo, mustard, oil and vinegar!
7. Bacon bits are real bacon, still steaming from the grill!
8. People are nice in France, but not in Italy, at least not in Varenna, which is exactly the opposite of what we heard!
9. But nowhere in Europe do people move out of your way on the sidewalk. (Sherri wants to test this, but doesn't want to lose a shoulder!)
10. EVERYTHING closes for 3 hours each afternoon!
11. All music in restaurants and shops is American, from oldies to rap to country, but all American!
12. Nearly every restaurant has an outdoor patio, which is very pleasant!
13. When you are finished with your meal at a restaurant, you nearly have to beg the waiter for the check!
14. Tipping at restaurants is not a common thing.
15. In the culture here in Europe, every day begins and ends VERY late! Dinner is often beginning around 9pm!

So, these are the things we know! Not much to be sure, but should give you a good chuckle nonetheless!

Looking forward to meeting up with Mom Lizzie, Erika and Jennifer tomorrow to explore Germany and Italy!

Talk to you soon! All our love, Amy and Sherri

ps Sorry, no pics today. We forgot the card reader - oops!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Climbing, Canyoning....and the top of Europe!!!

Wow, it has been a few fun-filled, action-packed, adventurous days since we last said hi to all of you! Where to begin...

The day after we jumped off the mountainside, we decided to see it a little more up close and personal, but no less precarious. (Oh, and mom, the first picture of the two of us paragliding in the last post was taken by me (Amy) and showed my wing and Sherri waaayyyy off in the distance...) On Wednesday, Sherri and I did a climbing course called Via Ferrata, which means "with iron" and is a sort of climbing obstacle course that spans from a town called Murren and descends about 1000 feet to the town we were staying in, Gimmelwald. The course took about two hours and included FUN stuff like rock climbing, tight rope walking over a waterfall, a zipline over a waterfall, and a long and narrow suspension bridge over a VERY high canyon! Don't worry, we had a guide and we were strapped into harnesses that were constantly secured to the guide cable attached to the mountain (thus the reason it is called Via Ferrata). It was danger....but a safe sort of danger! :)

On Thursday, as if we hadn't tested our muscles enough yet, we went canyoning in Grimsel Canyon. It was AWESOME and FREEZING cold, even with a thick wetsuit on. We rappelled around 150 feet into the canyon, where we immediately plunged into rushing water that had just melted off of a glacier at the top of the peak. COLD!!!! or as the Swiss like to call it, "refreshing." But let's just say that at the end of two hours, my hands were blue and about to fall off!! After the rappel down, we climbed on rocks, slid on our bottoms down smooth boulders and waterfalls (on purpose), and rode a zipline over the edge of the waterfall where we then dropped about 15' into the frigid pool below.

We also jumped off of a cliff about 30' into the base of a waterfall, too! Talk about an adrenaline rush!!! After we were done, they rewarded us with a meager lunch of bread, cheese, and beer! (We bought pictures of the adventure, but sadly, they are being mailed so we don't have any to post.)

The next day, we decided to rest our weary and aching banged up bodies a little by sleeping in. But we couldn't take an entire day off from we took the train up to the very top of Europe. When we chose to stay in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, we had no idea that the highest point in Europe was right above us, only a two hour train ride up, up and up. So we couldn't be here and not experience that, could we? The highest point that people can get (aside from the crazy professional climbers who think its fun to freeze their behinds off actually climbing to the peak) is called Jungfraujoch, at 11,333 feet above sea level. Sherri and I layered up with all the warm clothes we had...each of us was wearing 3 shirts and our fleeces, and Sherri even put on two pairs of pants. The temperature at the top was a balmy 24 degrees farenheit! We ventured out on to the various observation decks, but that wasn't enough. We walked out onto the portion of the glacier that people are allowed on and threw a few snowballs at each other!

Today, we have decided to take off, even though today is Switzerland's National Day and the fireworks are tonight. We will miss them, but we couldn't find a place here to sleep. So we are hopping the next train to France...hoping that we will make it as far as Reims or Paris, but not quite sure where we will land or where we will sleep. Ahhh, adventures!!! Not to worry though...we'll find a bed somewhere, rather than a bench in a train station. Now we feel like real backpakers....just hopping trains and figuring it all out as we go!

So, until next time....
Auf Wiedersehen (or goodbye to all you English speakers).
Love, Amy and Sherri

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Flying High!!!

Hi All,
Well, we went from complete boredom to complete adventure!!!! Let me explain! Last Friday we landed in Varenna, Italy! It was so VERY beautiful... but we found out quickly two very important, very sad things! #1 they don't like tourists, well...people in general, but especially Americans and #2 there is ABSOLUTELY nothing to do!!! After touring the city, which took about an hour and eating at this really lovely lake side cafe we looked at each other and said - now what! We couldn't even get on the internet - thus our absence! The good and God thing was, Amy had come down with a bad head cold and this gave her time to sleep for a full day (Sunday) and not feel like she was missing out on anything cuz Amy can't miss out on anything!!!! I had a pleasant day sitting by the lake reading, but by dinner time I was bored and so very lonely!!! The people person that I am was so deprived - we could not get locals or even other tourists to even say hi, let alone converse. It was a bummer. But like I said Amy got to rest and by the next day she was feeling so much better.

The one thing we did find to do - and I mean find - because we couldn't find it at first - was, we climbed (we like to climb if you haven't noticed!) a mountain path up to a very old, crumbling, abandoned Castle. It had a drawbridge that actually worked, up until the point it was chained, but Amy had great fun with it anyway. She also had fun pretending to chop my head off with the sword/spear-like thing that the suit of armor was holding!

Adriene, you will be so excited, I went to a real Italian Catholic Mass. I didn't understand a word, but God was there and that was what was important to me! I could follow along though, because it took the same format of service that we have in the States.

On Monday morning we hopped a train to Gimmelwald, Switzerland. We were so very proud of ourselves, hopping trains without getting lost - but trust me, we are not going to get overconfident! Our hotel, or Pension, as they call it, is at about 4000+ feet above sea level overlooking snow capped mountains, green valleys and over 17 waterfalls. I kid you not - it is heaven come to earth... AND... they like us!!! AND there is soooooo much to do. This morning we hiked down the mountain about an hour and a half to the valley floor called Lauterbrunnen where we booked a wonderful adventure! Hold on to your hat Mom!!! We went Paragliding, which means we ran and jumped off of a mountain side!! (don't worry we had a parachute attached to us!) We were jumping tandem with an instructor and then proceeded to F-L-Y!

For about 20 minutes we swooped and spun and floated and it was incredible and beautiful and fun and exciting. The views were AMAZING. Because of the wind and the thermals we actually soared higher than our take off point! You could see the glacier and the water fall that is formed by the melting ice, and sheep grazing and cliff rock faces - WOW! What an experience!!! We have more adventures planned for the next few days - one every day. We even plan to stay here a day, probably 2, more. We found out that August 1st is their "4th of July" and they have a parade and fireworks. Amy had said when we got here, long before we knew about this that she wanted to see fireworks in the valley between the mountains - and so she shall have her wish! God is good to her (and me)!

SO... that is the Adventures of Sherri and Amy for today... definitely more to come! We are certainly having the time of our lives! Miss you all!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Athens to Barcelona...what a ride!

After leaving the amazing natural splendor of Milos Island, we hopped a ferry and landed in Pireaus port, Athens. This is not a place for the timid traveler, to say the least! We arrived after dark, and having not been to Athens before, had to navigate the port and the metro to find our hostel in the dark! Not to worry though, God has had our backs non stop!! Due to the help of a very considerate Athens native with a blackberry who happened to be sitting next to me (Amy) on the ferry, we received some detailed directions nearly to the door of our hostel and got there quite safe and sound at around 11pm...and quickly collapsed into our bunk beds! The next morning we ventured out into the oven also known as Athens, Greece. In the heat of the day we explored the Acropolis, waiting in lines and dodging other tourists at every turn. Although it was quite amazing to walk on paths that were so ancient and realize the number of feet that had tread the paths before us, it wasn´t our favorite place to be!! It was still fun, though, for me to see up close and personally the quintessential structures that I had to study in architecture history.

After the sweltering heat of the Acropolis hill, we made our way to the next line where we waited to get into the new Acropolis museum. Our motivation to visit this had a bit more to do with the air conditioning than with anything we could see inside! After recovering in there, we decided to tackle the other major tourist attraction right around the corner, the Agora and Areopagus. It was quite humbling to climb the slick marble of the Areopagus and know that we were standing in a place where Apostle Paul once stood and delivered a sermon to the Greeks (Acts 17).

Dripping with sweat, we walked the narrow streets back to the hostel, collected our bags and headed off for the metro to take us to the airport. Then the adventure really began...the metro line we wanted to take was closed and we had to take the much longer route...if we thought we were sweating before, that was nothing!!!! We arrived at the airport about 40 minutes before our international flight to Barcelona was scheduled to take off! We had to find our way from the metro station to the check in point, and the signs were less than helpful. We did make it to check in though...and then ran through the airport (we are not even kidding about that one....just so grateful to only have a backpack and no other luggage in tow!). I don´t know that I´ve ever traversed an airport where the gate was so far away from the check-in. I also don´t know if I´ve ever come across a security station that moved as slowly as the one we had to pass through, or if we had ever dripped with so much sweat as we did that entire day. Fortunately, the line was short and we made it to our gate with a few moments to spare before boarding! What an adventure that we will not soon forget and hope to not repeat ever again on this trip (or any other)!!!

So, upon landing in Barcelona, the adventure continued. Again, we landed after dark and had to navigate another unfamiliar metro system. We made it to our metro stop, but couldn´t quite seem to find our hostel. We literally wandered up and down the same street for about 45 minutes, carrying our 20 lb bags on our backs, until a helpful taxi driver and some students were able to point us in the right direction. I don´t know if we have ever been so relieved to see a sign in our lives. When we crawled into bed that night, we vowed that we will NEVER arrive in a new town after dark EVER AGAIN!!! We decided to take the next two days off from everything and bummed around the hostel all day, napping, reading, doing laundry... Yesterday evening, we finally emerged from the hostel where we were being travel-weary slugs, and Sherri discovered her perfect food, spicy chocolate chicken! What a combo, but she loved it!

During our two day travel sabatical, we also seemed to take a sabatical from our posts (sorry about that!) and used all our internet time to do exhaustive planning for the next legs of our journey! That exhaustive planning has continued until today when we finally were able to make reservations for our train out of Barcelona to our next destination, Varenna, Italy. We also had success in booking some nice places to stay in Varenna and the following spot, Gimmelwald, Switzerland.

With the planning done, we finally felt relaxed enough to really take in the sights of Barcelona today. We visited the most famous work of architect Antoni Gaudi - Casa Batlo, Casa Mila, and Sagrada Familia (an incredible cathedral that continues to be built more than 117 years after construction began). What a was awe inspiring. We´ve also enjoyed exploring the famous tree-lined street, Las Ramblas, and the narrow, crooked, personality-filled streets of the Bari Gotic, where our hostel is located. Tonight, we simply strolled the streets and listened to the various talented street performers....only blocks from one another were an accordian player with the fastest fingers we´ve ever seen, a sax player, and a guitarist. Amazing sounds, and what an atmosphere! It was quite relaxing, and Jen, you would be so proud that we just sat and soaked it all in!

Tomorrow night, we take the night train to Varenna (so that we arrive in the full daylight the next morning to find our next home!). Before that, though, we plan to explore the well-known park, Monjuic. Hopefully our next post won´t be so delayed as this one was...

Love you all, Amy and Sherri

ps...We so enjoy reading all your comments! Please keep them coming!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Have Map - Have Moto - Will explore!!!!

Hi All,

Wow, so much to say!!!!!

Where do we start?!?!?! Well, we landed in Milos on Thursday night at 8pm with no place to stay - no worries, God had us all covered. In two phone calls we had the cutest little room! They were a really nice couple who came and picked us up at the bus station - they spoke no English but we managed ok!! The next day they took us to rent a moto bike and off we went!! We chose our destinations by the post cards we saw in a local shop when we got off the ferry!! First to Pollonia, a small fishing village where we had lunch on the coast at this quaint little restaurant not 4 feet from the water - ahhhhhhhh!!! Then off to Papafragas - talk about amazing. We hiked down this precarious stairway built into the rock and there at the bottom is an inlet of water with a white sand beach and a cliff on each side - the width was probably 30 feet! We of course couldn't just splash on the edge - we swam all the way out into the open water and around the adjacent cliffs just to see what we could see!!! We also explored an undiscovered cove and swam through a hole in the cliff about 10 ft high 6 ft wide and 25 ft in distance! It was so cool! It landed in another part of the ocean where we looked around a bit, swallowed some waves and swam back! The water was crystal clear and you could see the rocks on the bottom so clearly you would think you could touch but you couldn't. We hiked to this other area where there were no people, only rocks and water and lo and behold, there in the middle of nowhere there were two beautiful, very comfy beach chairs sitting on a rock surrounded by water - they had no earthly business being there. So, of course, we couldn't resist. Jennifer, you would be so proud, we sat still and enjoyed the view - for AWHILE!!!

Then it was off to Sarakiniko - it is like being transported to the moon. It is white volcanic rock - can you even imagine! You could see the swirls in the surface from the flow of the lava. It was surreal - the pictures don't do it justice! Then we explored some caves, which Amy loves, but is not my favorite - never know what might be hiding in the darkness!!! We had chicken gyros for dinner for only 2 euros!!! Mind you, we have been here for over a week - and lamb gyros do not exist - at least we couldn't find any!

Today we are hopping another ferry to Athens - we get in late and it should be an adventure to find our hostel, although - at least we have one booked! We spend one day in Athens and then off to Barcelona. I want to see a bull fight! From there - we haven't a clue - we are adventurers, after all!

Questions to answer - yes, Peggy, we see the big dipper every night! Which is faster the motobike or the high speed ferry - with me(Sherri) driving, definitely the motobike - just ask Amy about nearly flying off the back!!!! Thank God for the handle - and no I was not trying to lose her! Oh, Pam, I forgot to tell you I tried a local Santorini wine in your honor - you would have liked it! Mom, Amy says we pull "Grand Canyon's" every day, but there is no one to notice we are gone! Sorry about disappearing from the internet - we didn't have time or access. Peggy, in reference to Greek driving - think Wayne!!!!! And see the next post...we'll try to upload some video from the scooter!

Love you all and believe it or not - we do miss you! :-)
All our hearts - Sherri and Amy

PS Uploading pics takes FOREVER!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Driving in Santorini

No, it's not a Harley, but we'll race anyone anytime!! Sherri is getting better and better at navigating tight spaces and hairpin turns (lots of busses and switchbacks here on the islands), but sometimes the acceleration still takes her by surprise! Let's just say, it is a good idea to hold on tight during takeoff!!! :)

Sorry guys - we tried for 20 minutes, but the video is too big and it won't upload :-(

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Santorini Adventures...

Hi everyone,

Well, day 3 in Santorini has been another perfect, albeit windy, day. That might be an understatement!!

To begin, after posting yesterday Sherri and I watched a beautiful sunset over the caldera (the bay that formed where the center of the volcano dropped out) from a village called Megalochori. It was georgeous. Also an understatement!!

Afterwards, we drove the fun little motobike back to our room and took a walk down to the beach, just a half block away, and watched an amazing display of stars over the ocean. Absolutely incredible!! We saw a galaxy glowing, possibly a planet (or at least a very bright star), and Sherri saw a shooting star. Again, like yesterday, quite surreal!!

Today we did not get up for a sunrise, Mom, but we did get up and get some great exercise in!! We took a 6 km hike up to the highest point on Santorini. It took us 4.5 hours and was exhausting, but exhilarating. The views were outstandingly unbelievable. The remains of Ancient Thira were at the top of one of the peaks, and the top of another (which was the higher of the two and the one that we took, not surprisingly) was home to a monastery. The mountain was all marble, so it was a beautiful view out as well as underfoot.

After we recovered from that (and showered!!) we took a drive to watch the sunset from the lighthouse at the furthest point south of the island. Again, breathtaking.

We've decided to stay on Santorini an additional day and then are taking another highspeed ferry to the nearby island of Milos on Thursday. Having some trouble finding a place to stay there though.... Milos is supposedly another beautiful island, with bright white beaches to contrast the black beaches here on Santorini...still the same awesome architecture, though.

We'll make it back to Athens for just one evening so that we can see the famous sites of Athens before heading to Barcelona on the 19th.

Tomorrow, we have planned to spend the day exploring the main town of Fira and Oia, which is at the northern tip of the island and famed for its sunsets. We'll be saving the best sunset for last!!! Not planning to catch any sunrises though!!! One thing we've noticed here is that at least on the islands, there is a different time frame that everyone functions under. Everything starts late and ends late.

For now, time to go....only 4 minutes left on the internet... hopefully more soon!!

Love, Amy and Sherri :)

Monday, July 13, 2009


So..... I am so sorry for you all who are working right now! We look out and see the bluest of blue skies bumped against the bluest of blue water!! We keep looking at each other and saying - are we really here! Or are we just dreaming - if we are, don't pinch me!!!!

Yesterday we took a hydrofoil here (Santorini!) - really big - really fast boat! Then we took the public busses the rest of the way! That was interesting as they had so many people on the bus we had to stand in the aisle and the aisle was so full you couldn't fall over even if you tried - you won't see that in the states!!!!

Our "hotel" that is really a hostel is one very white room with one window and one picture on the wall and two twin beds!!! It is small and nothing to write home about but it is clean and comfy and... cheap!!! And it has a fridge, and AC - you can't beat that for about $30!!! Our landlord came in last night about 11pm and scared the beegeebies out of Amy after we had been asleep for over an hour- I had my ear plugs in!!!! He came to fix our toilet and we guess he assumed we would be out partying like the rest of the tourists here!!! Guess we are not that exciting! :-)

Today we had double adventures!! First - we went scuba diving off of the coast here!!! Beautiful and something Amy had not done before! We got to hold sea urchins and hermit crabs and we petted some sort of coral that felt like silicone - it was strange!!! We saw fishes and coral in very CLEAR blue water!!!

Now, Mom, hold on for this next one! Well, maybe you better sit down!!! We have rented a motor bike!!!! It feels like it goes really fast although we can't tell because the speedometer is broken!!!! I am getting better at right turns but they are little rugged!!!! Pastor Carol - you would be so proud - but no, I haven't taken the safety course!!!! Our instructions were as follows - bring it back without any damage - here is the gas, here is the brake - go for it! When we finish here we are going to take a drive through the southern part of the island and see some coastal villages and a lighthouse and some churches! There is a town called Megalochori that is known for its georgeous sunsets - we plan to see one tonight!

Tomorrow we will ride the motobike up the coast to the main town of Fira in the center of the island that is famous for its white buildings that jut out of the rocks and silhouette against the bluest sky you have ever seen! It is what you see in the post cards! Then to Oia, which is "THE" spot to see sunsets and yes Jen, we plan to take a dip in the swimming hole! We will leave here on Wednesday to go to a different island not yet determined.
We are having the time of our lives and it has only been a few days! God is very good to us! We've even gotten some good deals and seen the favor of God as usual!
Love you all!!! :-) Sherri and Amy

Saturday, July 11, 2009

We made it!!!!

Hi All,
Well, its Sunday morning here in Greece and in a few minutes we leave for the island of Santorini! We arrived without any difficulty and easily found our way to the proper bus to get us to the port at Rafina, Greece, we're we booked a small, but modern room in a hotel. Our room even had a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. After relaxing in the room and being "horizontal" for an hour (since we had been sleeping sitting up for so long), we went down to the beach and jumped in the blue, blue water. Ahhhh!
We went to a little outdoor restaurant last night in the small port town here, which really only consists of a shop lined street, and experience our first Ouzo! Wow! Don't think we'll be trying that again!!!! :)
Our hydrofoil to Santorini takes off shortly, so time to go! We plan to stay in a little hostel in Perissa near the south east end of the island. Hope to say hi again to you soon, next time with pictures.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Destination Day!

Good Morning All!

Well, today we leave for Europe. Our bags are packed (to the gills!) and we are all set! Neither Amy or I are sure we really realize what is happening!!! Maybe finally getting on the plane will cure that! But we are certainly ready for our adventure of a lifetime!!!

We leave Pittsburgh at 11:26am today for Philly, 6 hour layover in Philly, Leave Philly at 6pm and get to Frankfurt, Germany at 8:10am (a 13 hour flight!!) leave Germany at 9:15am and arrive in Athens, Greece at 1pm on Saturday! Woo Hoo!!!!! First stop - Santorini Greece! Swimming holes, caves and ancient ruins to explore, black sand beaches, bluest of blue waters, cities jutting out of cliff sides - Ooooooooooo, I can't wait!

Gotta go now - Europe awaits us!!! :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A new era

Today begins a new era in my life...
Two days ago I finished my to do list (at work only...the "at home" to do list is still quite long!), packed up my desk, hugged all my coworkers, and walked out of my office. Not for the last time, but for a long time. On my final day, I received such an incredible send-off of cupcakes, cards, laughs, hugs and generosity from all of my coworkers. My coworkers, who are really not simply coworkers, but rather a family of folks who come together day after day, for hours on end...they are the ones I share such a huge piece of my life with...they are my work family. And on Thursday, they made me feel very special and very loved. I am monumentally blessed to work where I do, with each of them...whether or not they are in the same office as me...whether or not I have even ever met them face to face.
Yesterday, I moved my best friend Sherri into my home. It is now "our" home. With the help of many enthusiastic and highly organized friends, Sherri and I packed up her little apartment in Youngstown and relocated her things into the small guest room in my house...and into a small niche in the attic as well. She has decided to move in with me to take care of me when I return home from the hospital in October. Together, she and my mom will provide the round-the-clock care that the doctor has said that I will require for around 2-3 months. Sherri selflessly has decided to give up so much in her life - her independence, her time, her address - to relocate and be here for me. Again, I am a very blessed girl!!

This Friday, less than a week away, Sherri and I will hop a plane to Athens, Greece, where we will begin a six-week adventure backpacking through six European countries. Following Greece, we will visit Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. My mom, Erika and Jen will meet up with Sherri and I in Germany, and together the five of us will explore Germany and Italy, visiting the places of my mom's childhood. It will be the adventure of a lifetime, and my last hurrah before embarking on another adventure of a different flavor, my donor stem cell transplant. I have so many to thank for making this trip even a possibility, from the doctor, who gave me his blessing to go and enjoy life, to my work family, who so generously provided the time off and the funds to take the trip, to my loving big sister, who immediately offered to pitch in all that she could to help fund this trip as well...
I don't think I can say enough how immeasurably, abundantly blessed I am. And how overwhelmingly grateful I am to everyone who made this dream come true. If you are one of those ones reading this right now, Thank you, Gracias, Merci, Danke and Grazie! I hope to be in touch again soon!