Wednesday, April 27, 2022


One of the biggest and best news updates of late is that GTD has hired on one of our amazing volunteers as our part time Administrative Assistant!! We are overjoyed to welcome Kari Martindell to Team GTD!!!!
This is a position we've needed to fill for a loooong time, but with the most recent round of health issues with my parents it could not be delayed any longer. Our number one need right now is administrative personnel, and Kari is an Admin Rock Star!!
Behind every event GTD does is a ton of admin work. I'm a bit of a nerd so I've always loved doing the office work, but I need to move out of the way of the admin work so we can focus on the growth & expansion of GTD. Opportunities abound and I need to transition to walking through doors God is opening up to GTD. That's a much easier thing to do when you're blessed with competent, capable, driven, hard workers... as well as the reality before me that I'm unable to stay on top of anything in this chapter of my life. 
Kari will be like Sgt. Al Powell in Die Hard who shows up in the middle of the mess to help the injured & overwhelmed John McClane with capabilities & resources needed to overcome the situation at hand. Welcome to the party, pal!
I'll never forget when Kari went through our Volunteer Training a few years ago. She was moved to tears and felt like God was calling her into this ministry. Ever since she has been an amazing blessing to GTD and everyone who meets her. GTD just got waaaaay better with her addition! It's totally a God thing!
And it probably wouldn't have happened if I wasn't so exhausted and run down. This is one way that God is turning the iceberg I've hit into snow cones. I'm often reminded that God used persecution on the early church (read the book of Acts) to spread the gospel to the world. Maybe it's because our stubbornness or human tendencies, but sometimes God has to use rough measures to motivate needed actions. Thank you Heavenly Father!
Aaaaaaaaand more importantly, meet Kari Martindell:
“I’ve been volunteering since 2019 when I went on my first SLAMMED Adventure Trip! I immediately wanted to learn more about GTD. Doug’s passion for nature, fun, strong work ethics, and the Lord were unlike anyone’s I’ve ever met! Fast forward to 2022, and I’ve helped with 3 adventure trips, a few local public events, and I'm now helping in the God-awesomeness that is Going the Distance Adventure Ministry as the Admin Assistant!!”
"I was born in Pennsylvania, but grew up in Indiana. I went to Moody Bible Institute and graduated with my Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and Bible. I'm currently teaching 3rd Grade at Indian Rocks Christian School. My favorite verse right now is Jeremiah 31:35!"
Welcome to the party, Kari!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022


We knew it was inevitable. We've talked about it for 16 months. We've strategized for possible solutions. But about 2 months ago we finally saw the inevitable iceberg dead ahead... we saw our maximum sustainability of huge amounts of caregiving hours. The past 5 months have been especially brutal. Unfortunately, starting on the day after our Annual Banquet in November our parent's health issues skyrocketed (multiple hospitalizations, multiple UTI's, multiple surgeries, multiple COVID cases, etc, etc). It has been relentless and nonstop for the past 5 months (not to mention the past 16 months). During this recent resurgence of around-the-clock care my Sister and I saw the inevitable iceberg dead ahead. We've been on a head-on collision course with an iceberg called "unsustainability". Everything in our lives has been suffering to very unhealthy points for quite a while. We had gone further than we were able to go. We had no choice; we had to start backing off of our hours caring for our parents. Instead of being there 24/7 we had to cut back to around 16/7 & 12/7. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than nothing. It was our new "best" that we could give. We've also had wonderful friends & neighbors that have come to be with our parents for 4 hours at a time to help lighten our load. We are forever grateful! With our reduced hours at our parent's house our hope was that Mom wouldn't fall during one of those times we could no longer be there. That lasted about a month. The day she fell was a day I would have been there. And the place she fell was a place that we prevented her from falling many times. I'm not struggling with guilt or anything like that. I understand that all I can do is all I can do, and we have done a good job of getting them this far. I jokingly blame my parents for not having more kids so those kids could be here now helping us too haha! So the long & short of it is that life is tough and growing older can be very hard. Exiting this world can be brutal. Mom is in a rehab center (nursing home) trying to walk again. Her Alzheimer's complicates every aspect of her new situation. There's a 100% chance that she will fall inside the rehab center during an unattended moment. Ironically she is now more vulnerable to falling than ever before. So I'm spending everyday at the rehab center trying to keep my precious Mom off the floor and on track to hopefully returning home... possibly in a wheelchair. But there are still times throughout the night that she will be unattended and has the potential of falling, breaking her hip, and heading back to the hospital. There have been 2 elderly patients that have fallen in the week that I've been there. And this is a fantastic facility full of amazing & caring workers. Another fall for my Mom right now would be a death sentence for her so we are doing all that we can to give her a fighting chance to come back home one more time. We are also scrambling to make whatever changes & adjustments we can to make whatever improvements we can in every area of our lives... including housing, wheelchair accessibility, and our own work & life responsibilities. I will be posting those updates over the next few days & weeks. As Albert Einstein once said, "In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity." Despite the exhausting aspects, this crisis is opening new doors of opportunities all around us. The hard part is having any time or energy to make the most of the opportunities. Still we press on to do our best to seize those windows of opportunities before us while they are open. Sometimes transformation comes through consternation. There are many good things that have been going on over the past 16 months that I haven't had time to share or post, but I'm going to be doing my best to share those good things. Keep your eyes peeled for some good news, good changes, and needed help with projects & opportunities that lie before us. We aim to turn ice bergs into snow cones!

Friday, April 22, 2022


Dad's pacemaker implant went perfectly, and Mom had a great day of physical & occupational therapy (and yummy ice cream twice!). Dad returned home last night. Thank you very much for praying for them!!

Thursday, April 21, 2022


Please keep our parents in your prayers today. Dad is scheduled to get a pacemaker implanted this afternoon (huge thanks to their neighbors Tom & Cindy for taking him for this half-day outpatient procedure!!). Mom starts her 2nd full day in Belleair Health Care Center (rehab center / nursing home). I was with her at the hospital all day Tuesday then went with her when she was transported to BHCC Tuesday night. I spent all day and into the night with her there yesterday and will do the same today and the foreseeable future. She is soooooo confused and has moments of great sadness. She wants so badly to just go home. The staff at BHCC have been wonderful and incredibly helpful. But one thing I learned when I was a Respiratory Therapist in nursing homes in the 1990's is that nursing home staffs have way too many patients to care for at one time so there are a lot of unattended moments when confused unbalanced patients can fall (out of bed, off the toilet, out of the wheelchair, or just wandering the halls). I was reminded of all of that yesterday even as helpful, caring, and hardworking as the staff was. One crazy major change from the 90's to now is that there are no longer side bed rails allowed on patients' beds because they are considered restraints??? My Mom falls out of bed. We have bed rails for her at her home. I signed some paperwork to allow for bed rails and they have ordered a "bed scoop" that forms a wedge on the bed to help prevent rolling out of bed. When I asked about bed rails on Tuesday night they told me that they aren't allowed to use bed rails, but they could put some pads on the floor for her to land on if she falls out. Do you know how asinine and unreassuring that is?!?! She has a broken femur with a rod and screws... falling out of bed onto a pad would be a one way ticket back to the hospital. So the nurses assistant and I shoved pillows up under the mattress to form a wedge. Thankfully my Mom's hip is so sore that the pain won't allow her to consider trying to get out of bed so I feel safe for now that falling out of bed is less of a concern as the other times she will fall if left unattended... so I'm going back everyday to stay with her... as self absorbed as this sounds I can't even put into words how much I don't have an extra 12 hours a day to do this... so much of my life and responsibilities are falling apart or have already fallen apart, but my Mom is worth it. She would do it (and has done it) for us, and it's an honor to be there for her... and that's the point of love right... it makes great sacrifices... like Jesus did, and like Jesus said, "For God so loved... that He gave..." I'm so thankful to have learned this type of love from our Heavenly Father and an earthly mother. Keep her & our Dad in your prayers... they continue on a very difficult road. PS: My amazing Sister would be here too if she could. She has mandatory training all month that has been scheduled for a loooong time... she has no option. Anyways, thanks for the prayers and I'm sorry I haven't had time to reply back to so many encouraging FB comments (text messages, FB Messenger messages, & voicemails) for several months now... I literally have no time. But the words of encouragement and the support mean more than I could ever convey in words. Humbly I say, thank you! 

Monday, April 18, 2022


God blessed us with a great group and beautiful day for our annual FREE day-before-Easter LIQUID Paddling Day Trip! 32 enthusiastic adventurers participated in this year's 4-mile kayaking trek through the amazing maze of mangroves at Weedon Island Preserves. The day included a complimentary lunch, all kayaks & gear, a squishy ball war, our annual kayak race, and a floating devotional message entitled "For God so loved the world that He gave" (a tribute to the selfless love my Mom gave to us growing up). It was a goooooood day!
Thank you to all of our incredible & generous supporters that have enabled GTD to purchase new kayaking gear over the past few years... aaaaaaaaaand for making it possible to provide free events like this... especially during these spending-crunch economic times.
Going The Distance Adventure Ministry
God-awesome adventures since 1996!

A belated Happy Easter from Morton Plant Hospital!

He is risen!! Mom loved her get-well cards from the fUntastic Zeitler kids! She is doing well as she recovers from Friday's surgery to repair a broken femur. In addition, she is being treated for another UTI (I think this is her 6th in 5 months... we've been using D-Mannose to help prevent UTI's & a great friend suggested Uqora). Yesterday we enjoyed hanging out together and watching the Rays game (Mom loves watching the Rays!). She is very confused as to why she is in the hospital so we keep showing her pictures from the incident and that helps a lot. When sundowners hits around 5pm it gets a little crazy (she wants to call her Mom to come pick her up and starts to try to take the IV & catheter out so she can get out of bed & get dressed so she can leave). But the great news is that the nurses station is stocked with ice cream (for her and for visiting guests)!! Ice cream is my Mom's Happy Place haha! Now everyday in the hospital can be a really good day :) 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Mom Breaks Femur Bone!

Many of you already know this, but just in case you missed it - yesterday (Thursday) our Mom fell on the driveway after getting up from her rocking chair and broke the top of her femur (the largest bone in the body... and reportedly one of the most painful things a person could ever experience). Our Dad was a few feet away & saw the whole thing. My parents are surrounded by phenomenal neighbors that are always watching out for them. Tom & Cindy immediately came across the street to help Mom. Dad called Traci, Laurie, and me, and we rushed right over. Mom communicated that she had pain in her left leg & hip area so they got her a couple of pillows to help comfort her while we were in route. Mom is such a strong, selfless, and funny woman. She may have broken her femur, but her funny bone was undamaged. The first thing she says to me is, "Doug, what are you doing here? You should be running your trip." Then she asked if everyone had already eaten because she didn't want anyone to be inconvenienced. When I called 911 she told me to tell them not to come with their lights & sirens on (LOL!)... she hates being the center of attention and gets embarrassed easily. The whole time she was caring for all of us who were there trying to care for her. She cracked little jokes here & there, posed for a picture with a beautiful smile, and just really wanted to get up and go get an ice cream cone LOL! That is, until she tried to move. That's when she really felt the pain! The EMT's arrived and carefully got her onto the stretcher, but each movement caused her great pain. I rode in the ambulance with Mom, Traci followed behind, and Laurie stayed with Dad who was pretty shaken up by the whole thing. On the way to the hospital Mom was asked what level of pain she was in on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the worst pain she has ever experienced). Without hesitation, she said, "10". Mom was in the ER for a few hours before an ER room was available. We weren't allowed in with Mom, but praise God, one of our greatest volunteers in the history of GTD (Jenn) "happened" to be working in the ER that night (she is a traveling nurse, and I haven't seen her in several years). She was able to take great care of Mom and text us regular updates. It was a huge blessing and relief for all of us! X-rays showed a broken femur. Today (Friday) Mom had a successful surgery that included inserting a rod & fastening screws in her femur to help repair the damage. My awesome Sister spent all of today with our awesome Mom by her side. I have an event to run tomorrow (Saturday) so Traci is covering Friday & Saturday, and I'll be covering Sunday & Monday. So far so good. Our huge thanks to all of our family and friends for your prayers and encouragement!! They mean the world to all of us! And our unending thanks to our first responders, 911 operators, ER nurses & doctors, hospital staff & administrators, and everyone who plays a role in saving lives and mending broken bodies... we are forever grateful!! We are now entering a new part of this journey that we knew was inevitable. Thank you for your prayers for Mom's recovery & upcoming rehab! Please also pray for our Dad too... he has to have a pacemaker implanted next week. Of course, Traci, Laurie, and I are all running on empty so we covet your prayers as well. But hopefully we can all have some ice cream cones together in a few days and all will be good again =) 

Thursday, April 14, 2022


There are many little victories to celebrate within the Caregiving battle, and there are also many casualties suffered along the way. My Mom has had Alzheimer's for about 8 years. It has been a very slow digression. One of the great honors & blessings I will always cherish is that as soon as it became apparent of Mom's condition I backed off of volunteering at my church service and started attending alongside my Mom at her church service. We did this almost every week for 6+ years usually followed by lunch together at one of a few of our favorite local diners. I know this time together meant the world to my Mom (as well as to me). I can only imagine the joy a parent has when their adult children wantingly go to church with them. And that's what it was - a pure joy we shared together as long as we could. Then COVID hit 2 years ago around the same time Mom's condition got worse. So one of the personal casualties of our Caregiving battle is that I've not only missed in-person church with my Mom for 2 years, but I personally have missed in-person church by myself for 2 years (as well as working out, eating healthy, maintaining my house, maintaining friendships, and many other little casualties). I've watched church online during this time, but it's not the same as being there in person. Mom no longer gets up early enough to get ready for church and the packed days oftentimes makes Sunday morning church a herculean size task. But last week I was able to go and attend church, hear the Word of God preached, and participate in community praise & worship for the first time in 2 years. It's so encouraging to see God working in so many people's lives. It felt so good to be back involved in one of the greatest inventions God ever made - the church! I've never missed this much church in my life and I hope this will be the first of many Sundays that I'm back where I soooooo long to be. =) 

Monday, April 11, 2022


We loved our kayaking day trip last Saturday at Weedon Island with the young adults of ZSOM (Zeal School of Ministry) from Calvary Chapel Fellowship... it was a Bea-YOU-tiful day with some nice challenging winds in our face for the last mile... but we finished strong! We also loved our yak attack squishy ball war & kayaking race to add a little more fun to the paddling trek =)
We love this small group of fun-loving college students!! More good times ahead!



Our Mens Backpacking Trip on Jacks River Trail was full of highlights, but one of the absolute best moments was when one of the men got baptized in Jacks River atop the multitiered Jacks River Falls! 
I guess you could say we were all JACKED! (including the river, the trail, & the falls!)
Nothing quite compares to experiencing God in the majesty of His amazing creation!!

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Backpacking on Jacks River Trail with The Men of Calvary (Part 2)


Here's a short video clip of 1 of 42 river crossings we forded on our 16 mile backpacking trip with the men of Calvary Church of Clearwater!
It was an epic adventure that we are still processing & celebrating! The hiker's ages ranged from 16 to 71... everyone finished what they started despite 8 MILES OF DOWNED TREES... we went the distance!
And we are all somehow profoundly better and richer because of it. God works in powerful ways through adventure, creation, starting something, challenges, struggles, enduring, teamwork, overcoming, and finishing what you start!
John 4:14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Backpacking on Jacks River Trail with The Men of Calvary (Part 1)

The 24 backpackers have returned! Their 3-day 16-mile backpacking trip included an unexpected 8 GRUELING MILES OF DOWNED TREES! Can you imagine climbing over, crawling under, & hurdling hundreds of trees for 8 miles with 50 lbs backpacks on your back?!?! That's on top of the expected 42 RIVER CROSSINGS in winter conditions! It was an epic adventure in the truest sense that bonded 24 God-loving men into a tight knit family quickly. More pics, videos, & stories to come!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Jacks River Trail, Here We Come!

About to start a backpacking adventure with 24 awesome men!