35 years of magical life

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Birthday steaks by dad.

It was my birthday last week, and as always, I thought about my years here on this little planet so far. That’s what this post is all about. My past and what I can remember. How much I’ve already done. The places I’ve been and the places I have yet to go.

I first thought about my three trail birthdays (it’s pretty tough to beat a trail birthday, so they’re among my favorites). In 2006 I was on Argentine Pass, Colorado on the ADT with my mom and hiking buddy, Hickory. In 2009 I was on the Tahoe Rim Trail, cowboy camped for my very first time on a saddle below Freel Peak, with a gorgeous wildfire sunset view over Lake Tahoe. I was with my mom, dad, and friends Leo, Hickory and Ken. Last year, 2013, I was hiking with Rachel out of Sierra City after an epic cake and ice cream party organized by Adam the night before. I hiked up a mountain wearing a birthday hat and trying not to lose the helium balloon tied to my pack. I eventually popped it and tucked it into a pocket before the wind tossed it into a tree somewhere miles away. Camp that night was in the woods with Rachel, Bird Dog and King Street. All very great birthdays.

This year I was driving a truck through North Dakota. I woke up to Adam playing a birthday song on the radio and giving me a really sweet card. Throughout the day I enjoyed several texts, voice mails and fun facebook messages – you all made my day! With our short time off we visited my parents in Phillips. I tubed the Elk River, went for a run, ate dad’s fire-grilled steaks and mom’s garden-fresh salad, followed by her made-from-scratch carrot cake. Then we sat around the campfire with a few beers before heading inside and zonking out. It was really nice.

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This was on my card from Adam. He says he's terrible at drawing, but I'd take his little drawings of us over a Picasso any day.

My life really started on July 16, 1979 in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I think I was nearly 10 pounds of chubby baby. My poor mother! I grew up in the Milwaukee area, living in Hartland, where I was too young to remember much of anything – Waukesha, where our apartment was broken into while we were away and the police confiscated the pot plant my mom was growing because she simply wanted to see how big it would get – Menominee Falls, where I played with my best childhood friend, Nick, and fell into the swamp minutes after mom said, “don’t play by the swamp.”

I honestly… sadly… don’t remember much about my childhood. Either my memory has always been this poor, or I lost some of it when I got sick in 1998. Either way, several “memories” exist only because I’ve seen photographs. If you ever wonder why I take sooo many photos – that would be why. It’s also one of the big reasons I write. To simply remember.

Anyway, when I was about eight years old, we moved up north to Phillips into the house my Aunt Margie lived in. She was moving out of state and my folks were wanting to escape the city. I am so glad I got to grow up surrounded by forest and field. I played in the mud, made “soup” from findings in the yard (who didn’t do this as a kid!?), and swam in the river with our neighbors Tami, Eric and Jamie. Tami wound up being my very best friend – the best friend I’ve ever had, despite our age difference of four years. We don’t see much of each other any more, but I think of her often, and haven’t found anyone that can match that level of friendship we had. I miss those summer days tubing on the river with her. A lot.

I became a teenager and was a snot to my parents, snuck cigarettes with my friends and smoked them in the alley next to the movie theater. I never went to many parties, but I could feel that I might be heading down a rough path.

Then I took a bus to state solo & ensemble. I played the flute and had a solo. Adam was on that bus, too. For singing, of course. We hung out, he bought me an Icee at the mall, I sat next to him on a hotel bed and noticed a tiny hole in his jeans just above the knee. I put the tip of my pinky finger in it and gave him a smile. This might have been when we fell in love… I don’t know. He then drove me home afterward and called me as soon as he got home to apologize for something he said, worried he might have offended me. I don’t even remember what it was, but I wasn’t offended. He was also the first boy I showed interest in that my brother approved of. I’d like to say at the time I didn’t care what my big brother thought of my decisions. But I did.

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The weekend Adam and I met.

Meeting Adam was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I straightened myself out after meeting him. I wanted to care about school, I wanted to be good, and he supported me and let me spill my guts to him and bawl my eyes out about all the things I didn’t like about myself. I changed. He helped me like myself again and I love him for that.

I went to college. I got weak and tired and didn’t understand. Then I got diagnosed with a deadly blood disease. Aplastic Anemia. I had transfusions, treatments, side effects, several seizures, rode in a Life Flight helicopter, had my last rites read to me by a priest, and then my dad put a set of headphones on my ears and played “Lord Is It Mine” by Supertramp. I swear the love of my parents brought me out of that mess. God blessed me with that disease. It brought on several more changes in my life, most of which came on slowly and shaped me into who I am today. I love who I am because of it all, too.

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A summer in the hospital. Love my dad in the background!

I married Adam and graduated from college. I got a job as a graphic designer at 4imprint in Oshkosh and fell in love with the people and family atmosphere there.

I lost a bunch of weight… a journey all it’s own. I went from 235 pounds down to 170.

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Some people don't believe that I used to be so heavy... I can hardly believe it now, too.

I was told I was in complete remission from Aplastic Anemia.

I had a new lease on this one, short, precious, fragile little life. So I planned a walk. A big walk. I hiked across America with my mom. Every step from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific. For nine months. Dad and Adam worked their rumps off at home to make that possible, too. In the end, we raised over $100,000 for awareness, research and support for the AA&MDSIF on that trek. So worth the hard work.

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Mom and I in our tent on the ADT. I still use that same sleeping bag!

After that I kept working. I went on backpacking trips. I started running. I ran my first and only marathon in under four hours. A time I worked hard for and was so happy with I may never do another one. I weny skydiving. Twice. I hiked and completed the Frozen Otter – 64 miles in 22 hours, in January, in Wisconsin, in the freezing cold winter – overnight. This may have been the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done. But I did it. I was the fourth person to ever finish it.

I found that by staying really active I was constantly proving to myself that I was no longer sick. I used to tell myself while running, “no way you’d be running like this with low hemoglobin.” I was also striving for that damned flat tummy that my shape doesn’t allow for. I’m finally getting over that. Only took 35 years.

Then I went on another long walk. I thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with my friend, Rachel. Adam went along as vehicle support – for pretty much the entire hiking class of 2013. He is my hero.

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Tears, Aloha and Toots on the PCT - Onyx summit.

Now he and I are driving an 18-wheeler around the country. It’s fun. It’s an adventure. And what do we talk about with all that time in the truck together? Future adventures. With smiles on our faces.

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Joy.

I turned 35 years old last Wednesday. It’s been great so far. I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t ask to be younger (at least not yet – haha!) and I just know that whatever time I have left, whether it be hours, days or years – I’m gonna find joy in all I do and love it all.

There it is. My life in a nutshell. I am satisfied. I feel like I’ve done a lot already. All I can do is hope for more.

Happy 35th birthday to me.


Tonight… I love my life.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

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14 thoughts on “35 years of magical life

  1. I loved your PCT blog and I and our Girl Scouts continue to enjoy your journey which (like this one) continues to teach us about the wonderful joys in real life and reminds to believe in ourselves and love who we ARE and not who we are told we are supposed to be.
    Thank you Robin (toots magoots). You are an inspiration to us (me). Happy Happy Birthday.

  2. Love your story..love the way you move through life, and express yourself in words to remember. Followed you all the way on the PCT. Did a section hike and meet a few of your fellow thur hikers who knew you.
    Hey a couple of trucker questions:
    Do you guys still have CBs, “what’s your 20 good buddy”
    Do any of the big rigs have bathrooms?
    Are their kitchens?
    How much fuel and what is the MPG out there on the road?
    Do all those trucks always have a load, or are there a lot of empty runs?
    (dead heads?)
    You don’t have to answer, But to you own that beautiful rig? Tractor and trailer.?
    If you are ever on I 82 in Washington State There is a truck stop at mp 80 city of Prosser, I would love to meet you guys. Bar-b-q a dinner.
    PS get to hike in Guatemala next week.

    • Ooh, fun questions – and I think I can answer all of them! I’ll add them to a blog soon, too – but quickly…
      We have a CB but have only used it to be in contact with shippers so far. I recently heard usung “good buddy” is no longer a good idea – I guess it means you’re looking for some manly love, if ya know what I mean…
      Some big rigs have toilets and some even have a shower – those cabs are HUGE. Our truck has neither. No kitchen, but we do have a tiny fridge and pull-out desk that I use as a counter for cutting veggies and making sandwiches.
      We hold 250 gallons, I believe. Two 125-gallon tanks. We do pretty good with fuel mileage going 60 mph mostly – between 7.5 and 8 mpg. Crazy, huh?
      Most are probably loaded – if not, they’re ptobably nog going to far to get loaded. The more miles you drive dead head the more money that’s lost. Cuz we get paid by mile.
      We don’t own our rig – it’s a company truck. I don’t know that I’m cut out for owning. So many expenses, repairs, fuel, and things to worry about that the company you work for deals with if you drive their truck.

      Oooh, Guatamala! I just totally friend requested you on fb. Will you post photos?

  3. What an interesting journey! Thanks for sharing your life. So glad I stumbled upon your ADT journal. You changed the direction of my life! I bet there are many others you have similarly impacted. Keep writing!!

  4. Now that I have wiped the many tears from eyes after your wonderful recall of your life I realize again how lucky we are to have you with us. Some of your childhood memory may have been lost with the seizures but you’ve more than made up for that with the life you choose to live now. Do you realize that at 35 you’ve probably been through and accomplished more than most peoples will in a lifetime? Love you so much “Robeeno” The pic of you at your heaviest I have to say I never saw you that way, how weird. Have a great day and keep lovin it!

  5. Now that you are more than half way to 70–kind of a scarey thought, isn’t it–just think of the life experiences that await you in the next one or two 35 year segments. How great to have the super family support starting with your folks and Adam. While there are notable exceptions, so many great individuals are the result of awesome family support. Congrats to all of you. You are quite a team.

  6. Happy Birthday Robin! Beautiful words on your blog. Now I know what’s your next career. A very successful writer.
    Happy trucking and wish you more birthdays on the trail.

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