The Zest Quest began when I was six-years-old
I was six or seven-years-old when my grandparents sold their home and many of their possessions in order to follow their dream of moving to Florida to retire. Unfortunately, Grandpa had a heart attack and passed away right before they began their journey. My grandmother eventually moved to Florida, but not before she had to remake her life by getting a job and moving into an apartment. I don’t ever remember my grandmother without a smile on her face or a song in her heart, even though her life didn’t turn out quite like she expected.
When I was eight a fellow classmate had an accident and tragically died while trying to make his sibling laugh. That was my second funeral and the first friend I lost in death. I learned that year that life is unpredictable, so we need to appreciate those who are important to us while they’re with us, and respect them by living our own lives to the fullest.
When I was 19, we lost another grandmother before she had a chance to travel in the motorhome that her husband bought her. Grandpa never went on a trip in that motorhome, but we spent many days in his kitchen or mine, discussing how to cook, his favorite pastime. It was Grandpa’s joy and my education.
Then we lost my great-grandmother, Nanny, who taught me how to bake without measuring cups. Nanny went to Cornwall to meet her younger sisters for the first time when she was in her 80s, having moved to the U.S. as a teen with her grandmother.
If Nanny could go on a Zest Quest in her 80s, then what’s up with the rest of us?
Next we lost my mom’s sister and I am left with the memories of riding horses bareback and the wind blowing through our hair as we fly down the road in my aunt’s convertible.
One day when I was working full time in outside sales, a semi-truck hit my car head-on. There were no air bags but I was thankfully wearing my seatbelt which saved my life. Fellow motorists pried my car door open to get me out. I bent the steering wheel with my chest, rammed my knees into the dashboard, tucked my legs as far back as possible so I wouldn’t lose them, and prayed. The semi-driver was sure he had crushed my legs, which was why he hid his eyes and wouldn’t get out of his truck right after it happened. It took me years to overcome the accident that changed my life.
Years later, I lost two more friends without warning. They were both older than me and full of life, made me laugh and lived without regret. There’s a lot to be learned from your elders if you’re willing to listen. Their joy for life was contagious and I had to keep up, then carry on after they were gone.
The losses didn’t stop there in a family as large as mine. There were uncles, aunts, cousins and in-laws who found their way into the light. Many gone too soon before they were told how much they influenced who we were over the years and what we’ve now become. The only way we can honor them to take what they taught us and become better because of it.
Three years ago we lost someone else very dear to us. My husband and I were both devastated. No matter how much you think you’re prepared for life’s changes, sometimes it takes numerous hard knocks to teach you how to live. The next year was joyful and tearful as we went on our own Zest Quest.
Next, I was rushed into the hospital and almost died due to complications for illnesses I didn’t know I had. My doctor insisted I was meant to do something important with my life now that I had been given another chance. I scared my husband and myself, but little did I know that he was going to get even with me.
I lost 50 pounds after I began a semi-vegetarian lifestyle out of need. I have always gardened, but I became obsessed with vegetable gardening in my search for fresher, more organic choices. I have always cooked and baked, but I had to find a way to do that without fat because I was allowed 40 grams a day. If you count your fat grams for a few days, you’ll find out that it’s impossible to eat processed foods, or eat at very many restaurants, or even enjoy a family holiday meal and stay within those 40 grams.
My life depended on sticking to this new limitation so I had to learn quickly. Vegetarian and Vegan became new words in my vocabulary and my recipe for health. I started collecting Vegan cookbooks and re-learning how to prepare my own favorites in a low-fat manner. I realized that if I requested the Vegan option at conferences or restaurants that I could almost always stay within my fat limits.
I remember starving for months as I tried to get my diet in line with my body’s needs. I was afraid to eat for fear I’d have another attack. I became obsessive before I finally settled into a routine that worked for me as a Flexitarian.
One of my illnesses can affect your memory and brain function until you have surgery to remove the gland that is causing an imbalance. It took about 6 months after exploratory surgery before I started to feel my brain cells thaw. Over a year later, I have recouped most of my memories but some of them are still a bit foggy or missing. It’s now self-preservation to write things down and take photographs so I won’t ever forget life’s many treasured moments.
Meanwhile, I wanted a way to share what I’ve learned from this new lifestyle and a way to give back for so many chances at living a cup-half-full life, rather than a cup-half-empty. I also need inspiration to continue on the path I’ve started. The idea for this blog was formed and a hundred name ideas later, The Zest Quest became the perfect choice.
After several months of planning and very near the launch date of the site, we experienced yet another reason to be zestful. The Zest Quest was becoming a mantra my husband and I couldn’t ignore.
We love to go boating so we were excited for our first day out on the lake for the season. We always have a lot to bring that first day, needing to restock the boat with the necessary safety items such as life jackets, fire extinguisher, flares, etc… I like to call my husband Mr. Preparedness because we’re lucky the boat still floats after we pack it. Going up and down the floating docks to load the boat can wear out a person’s legs, so we use a four-wheel cart to bring things along expeditiously.
The cart wobbles, a bit like a drunken sailor, when pulled on those docks but if we do it carefully, all goes well. We had loaded the cart this time with some really heavy things so it was wobbling more than normal. My husband decided to walk backwards, which always makes me nervous, but he’s done it so many times before. Except this time, our boat was one space up from where it was in the past, closer to the end of the dock, and he forgot.
I was hanging back so my steps didn’t make the dock bounce more, since we hadn’t yet acquired our sea legs for the season. My husband stopped and I thought he was going to turn into our section of dock off to the left, but instead, he thought he had a few more feet and proceeded to walk backwards right off the dock into the water within the very small space in-between two boats. His right leg went in first, which bent him into a backwards somersault and like anyone who is falling, he clung to the only thing on land, so to speak, the cart which proceeded to roll into the lake on top of him.
I don’t remember running to the end of the dock but I was there in an instant. There was nothing to see. No husband, no cart, no bubbles. I screamed at him, asking him where he was because I was sure he came up underneath the dock and would be disoriented. No answer. I started screaming for him to come up and still didn’t see any bubbles. I was afraid to jump in because there was so very little room between the two boats and I thought I’d land on him, not knowing exactly where he was or if the cart was still on top of him.
Finally, I saw his hand come toward the surface and I grabbed it, telling him “I’ve got you,” so he’d concentrate on breathing. His gasp for air was the loudest gasp I have ever heard. I knew he was on his last breath because he had been under so long. I wasn’t sure if he had inhaled water or not. All I could do was scream for help because I was afraid to let go of his hand. Then I saw the gash on the back of his head. I knew I couldn’t get him out safely by myself.
Luckily, several men ran to help us, trying to keep us calm and to figure out a way to get my husband out of the water safely. We ended up moving a boat to him by hand and luckily he climbed out up the ladder on his own. We rushed him to emergency and fortunately he didn’t have hypothermia. After a myriad of tests, he received six staples to close his wound and was able to go home.
We’re not inexperienced boaters. My husband grew up at a marina and I went in my first boat as a child with my dad. We took boating safety classes, even though we are experienced boaters. I’ve been through first aid classes and water safety training in my lifetime. My husband has been through all sorts of emergency preparedness training for his job and has been awarded for saving lives. We’re always safety conscious because we understand how fast something can go wrong. Neither one of us would have predicted this, ever.
I know in my heart that God was watching over us on that day. How my husband found his way to the surface under these circumstances is still a mystery to both of us. We both feel as if we’ve been given another chance at life more than once.
A psychic once told us we are both old souls who have found each other over and over through the centuries. I’m just hoping we can live through this one!
So, once again, The Zest Quest has been reinforced in our minds as a way of life. Join me on this journey to live each day with enthusiasm for the beauty and wonder gifted to us from the vistas and the rich soil at our feet.
What will you do on your own Zest Quest?