Saturday, March 31, 2012

One Year Later

Jason and I were (fittingly) driving across the United States (for the FIFTH time together since October 1) on March 27th, when we realized that one year ago were just getting ready to head off on our big adventure. We had finished packing up our little house in Redondo Beach and moving it all into a storage unit. Then we had one more big to-do with family and friends, before spending the night at my parents house and heading out the next morning.

We knew that we were headed out on a crazy adventure, but had no idea what was truly ahead of us. As I think back on that time of packing and moving - the emotional rollercoaster - all I can think is that had I known how truly incredible the coming year would be, I would not have shed a single tear. For all the emotional difficulty and logistical planning that making a change THAT HUGE brought us, we were paid back 100 times in incredible moments of sheer beauty and fun. It really was the best year of my life.

So, of course, I asked Jason that truly unfair question - "What has been your favorite moment this year?". Jason looked at me like I was insane. Then we began to list off the incredible things we've done this year, and I came to realize that there was no way to choose a specific moment that was the best. Jason and I stepped off the beaten path onto a very unconventional life and have been blessed beyond our greatest imaginings. There are no words to really describe (without sounding boastful) all of the amazing things we've seen and done this year. So, I'll skip trying to be modest and just go for it.

Here's a list of some of the INCREDIBLE things we've done and seen in the last year, with links to the original blog post if you'd like to go back and check it out.

Thanks for following us on the adventure this past year. Here's to the next one, which has already been extraordinary! More on that to follow!

March, 2011 - We arrive at the Hawkeye Ranch to begin seven months of work and fun in one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

April, 2011 - The entire month of April was a month spent recovering from years of workaholism, and finally slowing down and catching up. There's no specific post that covers all of this, but the whole month of April was a time of discovery, both of the ranch and of myself.

May, 2011 - We spent a lot of time in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but this day in particular was the best day that I can remember having during our summer. One of those shimmering moments where you are so joyful it practically leaks from your nose and ears!

June, 2011 - Jason reads a book on Mountaineering in the Tetons and decides that he is a mountaineer, too.

July, 2011 - Mom and Dad came to the Ranch for a few days to visit, AND I discovered my love for Yoga! PLUS, Jason decided to become Mr. Rodeo!

August, 2011 - Jason went on the Pack Trip that Almost Wasn't, and I got some desperately needed quiet time for rest and relaxation. You should go see some of Jason's photos from that trip. They're awesome! That week was definitely a highlight of both of our times on the ranch.

October, 2011 - We took our first cross-country drive from Wyoming to New Hampshire, and made it to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a MICHIGAN football game (my alma mater!), and then on to see Niagara Falls (a first for both of us!) Then, Jason got to shoot the fall color in New England, and spent two and a half weeks working his way South from Maine and then across the Country to San Francisco. We then packed up everything and headed for Florida!

November, 2011 - We went a-cruising with Jason's familia! First two stops were Nassau and St. Thomas (where I dove on my first shipwreck!), and then on to Puerto Rico and Great Stirrup Cay. What a fun way to unwind from a summer of crazy hard work! We then flew across the country to LA to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

December, 2011 - I got to carol. A LOT. Which was such a blessing since I love caroling SOOOOO much! I also got to spend a ton of time with friends and family, catching up. We spent Christmas in LA with my family and then drove BACK across the US to Florida!

January, 2012 - January was truly OUTRAGEOUS. We arrived back in Florida in time to get on another cruise ship, this time for Aunt Irene's 80th birthday extravaganza! We had a BLAST - this time visiting Honduras, Belize and Mexico. Later in the month, we drove up to Atlanta to spend a few days with Tommy, Deborah, Lara and Daniel before flying to South Africa. It was so much fun! Then, we flew across the world to South Africa, spending two incredible weeks visiting with my friend Steph, exploring Cape Town and South Africa's wine country, and volunteering at Bridges Academy.

February, 2012 - We arrived back in Florida by way of South Africa and Atlanta, and mustered our courage to go on YET ANOTHER incredible vacation. What did we do? Spend a week DIVING in the Bahamas! Tough life, I know, but someone's got to do it!

Which brings us to February, and since it's the last day of the month, let me just tell you that March has been another doozy, too. I have a lot to catch you up on - our adventure continues to crank along, but that's for another blog post.

So for now, let me just say how grateful I am for the year we've had, and how excited I am for the year to come!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March Madness

OH MAN! Do I have some work to do to get you up to speed!

We came back from the Bahamas on February 22 and have been in a whirlwind for the month since then. For those of you who blog, you know how life gets crazy and then the recaps just seem so overwhelming? That's what's happened here. Seriously. It's been nuts!

So, here's the quick and dirty recap of what our version of "March Madness" has looked like:

Disney days with Lara and Deborah!
Jason's Aunt Deborah and cuz Lara flew into Orlando for some much needed fun. What's the best fun to be had in Orlando? DISNEYWORLD, of COURSE! And what's the best way to end a day at Disneyworld? Drinking Margaritas in Mexico at Epcot!

Catherine and G'ma Joyce prepare to flex their Toy Story Muscles!

Ready for the new Star Tours in our rainbow 3D glasses! Deborah, Lara, G'ma Joyce and I.

Driving BACK across the United States
Yes. We drove across the United States for the fourth time in as many months. We planned to take our time - do it in four days, stop along the way - but the weather was so terrible, we were forced to push through it. Pouring rain for the ENTIRE first day. Rain for the first half of Day 2, and then gale force winds and tornado warnings for the rest of day 2. Wake up to snow on Day 3 and freezing temperatures across New Mexico and Arizona. It was a long drive, with Indy unhappily sighing his discontent the whole way. At least until we pulled into my parents neighborhood, when he realized he was going to his girlfriend Sierra's house!

Stormy weather in Louisiana.

Arizona's Painted Desert.

Weekend in the Sierra Nevadas
We spent a day in LA and then headed up to the Sierras (confusing, I know, since it's also the name of my parents dog) for a weekend with my parents, and their friends Jerry and Lisa. Lots of campfires and stars. :)

Jason heads back to the Ranch
We got back to LA in time for Jason to drive the photo truck back to Wyoming for ten days of work. That left me footloose and fancy free to have fun (lots of f's there!) in LA with friends and family (seriously! That's 6 f's in a sentence!). And have fun, I did. Although I missed Jason like crazy! (He's back now! YAY!)

Brandon and Ariel's wedding
My longtime student (now adult) Brandon, married his love Ariel (also a former student of mine) in a SURPRISE ceremony in Pacific Palisades. She knew she was getting married, just thought it was a different venue. Ariel was a VERY good sport about it! AND they have a precious baby girl on the way! HOORAY! It is strange, though. I started teaching Brandon when he was 10. Now he's 21 and married with a child on the way. Makes me feel my age a little. The wedding was a blast, though, and I had a great time visiting with lots of good friends!

Pastor Chris marries Ariel and Brandon in a wonderful ceremony.

L to R: Travis, Jen, Tom, Tiff, Debbie, Nancy (Mother of the Groom!), Hedy, Colt, Me

Colt dips his brother Travis. Such sweet brotherly love.

TIFF! I hadn't seen this girl since my own wedding and have missed her like CRAZY. SO GOOD to reconnect with her!

Excited Faces! Jen and I snap a photo with the groom!

Disney Day with the Bride to Be!
Helped Jen finish her save the dates for her wedding this summer and then spent Saturday with Jen, Marissa, Becca and Nessie at Disney having a blast!!!!! Can't believe I didn't snap a single photo. LAME.

It's a BOY!
My best friend Solange and her awesome husband Nik are pregnant with Baby #2, and it's a BOY! Could not be more excited for them! Go see their blog post for photos and video of their awesome baby reveal party!

The kidnapping of Nancy
My dear friend Nancy has had a crazy couple of months. So crazy that she found out on the SAME DAY that her husband has cancer, and that her youngest child had a baby on the way and was getting married. On the SAME DAY. So Cindy and I decided that she needed a night of fun, friends, food (there go the f's again!) and wine. Lots and lots of wine. We successfully kidnapped her and had a great night with friends at Tiff's amazing apartment in Manhattan Beach. So much fun!!!!!

Successful kidnap! L to R: Me, Jen, Nancy, Cindy, Hedy

The view from Tiff's balcony with lovely ladies to match. L to R: Cindy, Hedy, Tiff, Me, Jen

Getting my gardening fix!
I've been blessed to get to spend some of my days playing with Spring flowers. I've been working on redoing all of moms flower displays, and helped my sis Kelli redo hers as well!

All of which has just worn Indy right out.
Good thing he has his snuggle bunnies for comfort.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bahama Mama

So, this post is a little overdue. As one of our last vacation adventures, Jason and I were blessed to spend 8 days on New Providence Island (where Nassau is) in the Bahamas, diving and relaxing (not at the same time.)

Diving was definitely the highlight, and while we were there I dove eleven times and Jason dove fifteen (!) times. We both upgraded our PADI certifications so we now have Advanced Open Water certs, and we just had an amazing time diving with Stuart's Cove.

Sunken Cessna from JAWS Revenge.

The best things about diving around New Providence Island are the wrecks and the reefs. There are SO MANY wrecks - most of them placed deliberately - many of them made famous by appearances in James Bond movies, JAWS, Into the Blue and MythBusters. So cool.

Sea Turtle!!!!!

Stuart's Cove is also one of a handful of places in the entire world where you can do a "Shark Dive". And when I say Shark Dive, I'm not talking about being in a cage.

Diving with Sharks!

Here's how the Shark Dive works. On the first of two dives, they take you to the shark site, and you do a normal dive on a nearby shipwreck so you have an opportunity to get used to the presence of the sharks. That way, they know before the main event if you're going to panic or freak out. So... On the second dive, you add extra weight so that you can sit on the ocean floor without moving or bobbing. They set all the divers up around the "shark arena" and once everyone is set, the shark feeder (in oceanic chain mail) gets in the water with the bait box. Before the bait box hits the water the sharks are already there. They know the time of day that is "feeding" time, but when the bait is in the water? It's on. We're talking 30 FULL SIZE reef and nurse sharks. Occasionally they'll have a hammerhead show up, but on our day it was just reef and nurse sharks. The feeding begins, and they are swimming over and around you, pushing past you, focused on the feeding happening in the arena. I never felt threatened or in danger, and let me tell you... it was SO COOL. The sharks are INCREDIBLE animals. So beautiful, so powerful. It was one of the most incredible moments I have ever experienced, and I am so grateful that we had the experience.

Check out the shark coming over my head!

If you are a certified diver and are going to be in the Bahamas, you HAVE to go on the Shark Dive with Stuart's Cove. It is truly incredible!