Universal Happiness

My sisters are incredible.

Sarah is spunky, intelligent, witty, hilarious, gracious, kind, glass is totally full, and go with the flow.

Amy is creative, hysterically funny, completely selfless, generous, intelligent, honest, trustworthy, and super protective.

Next to them, I sometimes feel rather blah. They are both beautiful, inside and out. Amy has such a strong personality and Sarah is incredibly funny. So where do I fit in?

Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m probably just the overly sensitive, cries at everything, totally oblivious, unoriginal, quiet one. Yup. That’s me.

How am I seriously related to them??

I am so blessed to have two sisters whom I consider best friends. We don’t always get on perfectly and we don’t always see eye to eye, but we wouldn’t trade each other for the world! And though we can’t always be together, when we are it’s such a blast.

Last October we all met up in Florida (where Amy lives with her husband and daughters). It was completely serendipitous! I discovered one month before that I’d be in Florida while Hoban went through the Air Force’s Squadron Officer School nearby, and my mom was able to book Sarah a ticket out for her uni’s Fall Break.

Not three days before Sarah arrived, Amy, John (her husband), and I had the brilliant idea of surprising Sarah with a trip to Orlando (a 10 hour drive from where they live). We bought park hopper tickets, booked a hotel, made Harry Potter shirts for each of us according to our house sorting on Pottermore (we even had matching flip-flops for us girls), purchased Dark Mark tattoos and kid-sized Harry Potter glasses, packed the car, and finally, picked up Sarah from the airport.

While she was distracted by saying hello to everyone and cooing over our adorable niece (10 months old at the time), I put her bag in the trunk with the rest of our luggage and jumped in the car.

We told her we weren’t going directly home in order to buy us some time before we broke the surprise – with that knowledge and with super cute Penelope distracting her, Sarah didn’t get suspicious for a couple of hours.

When she finally realized what was happening, her response was priceless! I captured it all on my old iPhone (which I unfortunately lost to an expanding/volatile battery) so I don’t have the footage, but I won’t forget her reaction any time soon!

As the only first-time visitor in our group (aside from my niece), Sarah’s excitement was infectious. We had an incredible day at the parks made even more memorable by our time together.

Tomorrow I’ll be with Sarah again (Amy couldn’t make it as she just had beautiful baby #2!). This time however we’ll be in China, not Florida. I’m so excited to see my sister and to share another incredible adventure with her – one we’ll definitely be talking about for years to come.

The only thing that could make this trip better would be if Amy could tag along, too. Keep us in your prayers for safe travel please! And in the mean time, take a brief moment to enjoy some of our photos from that surprise-weekend at the park.

 

During our rest stop about two hours north of Orlando, we all got out to unwind for a bit. I decided to get some photos of my wonderful brother-in-law John and my niece Penelope. I particularly love how they are both reaching for each other in this photo!

Penelope needed some time to unwind outside her car seat, so we spent about twenty minutes at a rest stop just north of Orlando. She is such a champ though! She hardly fussed at all the entire way there and the entire way home. Just to be clear, that’s nearly 21 hours in the car!

They are so cute together!

They are so cute together!

We tried putting John's sunglasses on her which she seemed to like

Daddy’s little girl!

Penelope is just too cool

Penelope is just too cool.

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So. Stinking. Cute!

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Sarah came over to play with Penelope and still (8 hours in) had no idea we were almost to Orlando...and yet she's still happy to hang out in the car all day!

Sarah coming to join us at the rest stop on our way to Orlando

On our way to the park! Notice the green shirt for Amy, the red shirt for John, and the blue shirt for Sarah. Three guesses as to which house I was sorted into! #dysfunctionalfamily?

On our way to the park the next morning! Notice the green shirt for Amy, the red shirt for John, and the blue shirt for Sarah. Three guesses as to which house I was sorted into! #dysfunctionalfamily

We had Dark Mark tattoos for our day at the park. All of them worked pretty well except for Amy's. She'd applied hers incorrectly but was determined to wear it like the rest of us and so taped it on her arm. I suppose the bandaged-look that resulted appeared so realistic that she was asked numerous times throughout the day if her tattoo was real.

We had Dark Mark tattoos for our day at the park. All of them worked pretty well except for mine (pictured – it faded pretty quickly that day) and Amy’s. She’d applied hers incorrectly but was determined to wear it like the rest of us and so taped it on her arm. I suppose the bandaged-look that resulted appeared so realistic that she was asked numerous times throughout the day if her tattoo was real.

We bought the 1 day park hopper pass so that we could check out Diagon Alley and London's Kings Cross Station (at Universal Studios) as well as Hogsmede (Islands of Adventure)

We bought the 1 day park hopper pass so that we could check out Diagon Alley and London’s Kings Cross Station (at Universal Studios) as well as Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)

On our way to Diagon Alley we stopped at the Rock It Roller Coaster which was amazing - and had virtually no line!

On our way to Diagon Alley we stopped at the Rock It Roller Coaster which was amazing – and had virtually no line!

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Universal Studios!

Walking through "London" on our way to Diagon Alley we saw 12 Grimwauld Place. The level of detail at the parks always impresses me.

Walking through “London” on our way to Diagon Alley we saw 12 Grimmauld Place. The level of detail at the parks always impresses me.

About to pass from London into Diagon Alley!

About to pass from London into Diagon Alley!

Quality Quidditch Supplies! I only wish we'd had more time at Diagon Alley. There was SO much to see and SO many stores to go in. I really felt like I was in the magical world.

Quality Quidditch Supplies! I only wish we’d had more time at Diagon Alley. There was SO much to see and SO many stores to go in. I really felt like I was in the magical world.

There were awesome drink vendors all throughout Diagon Alley. This was one of them!

There were awesome drink vendors all throughout Diagon Alley. This was one of them!

Sirius Black's motorbike was outside Gringotts

Sirius Black’s motorbike was outside Gringotts

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Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley even had a dragon on the roof (as a reference to the final book). Every fifteen minutes the dragon breathes fire which is impressive (and very loud!)!

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All over Diagon Alley were these medallions in the cobblestone. These show park-goers where they can “perform magic” throughout the park! Simply stand on the spot facing the direction of the arrow, speak the spell written, and move the wand (purchased from Ollivander’s) in the motions shown. Each place, something different would happen. I saw everything from lights turning on to skeletons moving and even rain falling!

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Sarah and I went into Florean Fortescue’s to get a cold snack on the hot Florida day. It was delicious. And check out those flavors!

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Penelope was loving all the spoiling from her two visiting Aunts. She especially loved the clotted cream and Earl Grey ice cream!

Penelope was loving all the spoiling from her two visiting Aunts. She especially loved the clotted cream and Earl Grey ice cream!

From Diagon Alley one could even get to Knockturn Alley which was dark, creepy, and full of shops like this one.

From Diagon Alley one could even get to Knockturn Alley which was dark, creepy, and full of shops like this one.

The line for the Hogwarts Express was the longest we stood in all day, but I'm glad we waited. While passing through the barrier between Kings Cross and Platform 9 3/4 there is a super cool special effect which makes it look like people are actually walking through the wall! Here is a shot of my beautiful sisters waiting in line for the train.

The line for the Hogwarts Express was the longest we stood in all day, but I’m glad we waited. While passing through the barrier between Kings Cross and Platform 9 3/4 there is a super cool special effect which makes it look like people are actually walking through the wall! Here is a shot of my beautiful sisters waiting in line for the train.

We asked someone in line behind us at Platform 9 3/4 to take a family photo for us. He did a great job...sort of. We only noticed later that Penelope is cut out which is such a shame as she was actually looking at the camera!

We asked someone in line behind us at Platform 9 3/4 to take a family photo for us. He did a great job…sort of. We only noticed later that Penelope is cut out which is such a shame as she was actually looking at the camera!

We couldn't get Penelope within a foot of the Harry Potter glasses until she saw Sarah wearing them.

We couldn’t get Penelope within a foot of the Harry Potter glasses until she saw Aunt Sarah wearing them.

This one is super blurry as we couldn't use flash, but we were aboard the Hogwarts Express! (Ignore Amy's purple necklace...Penelope was teething, haha)

This one is super blurry as we couldn’t use flash, but we were aboard the Hogwarts Express! (Ignore Amy’s purple necklace…Penelope was teething, haha)

 

Arriving at Hogsmeade Station! Dragon Alley was very very cool, but Islands of Adventure was definitely the better park overall.

Arriving at Hogsmeade Station! Dragon Alley was very very cool, but Islands of Adventure was definitely the better park overall.

This photo is totally candid and I love it. Sarah was totally enjoying her surprise day at the park.

This photo is totally candid and I love it. Sarah was totally enjoying her surprise day at the park.

Sarah inside the Three Broomsticks

Sarah inside the Three Broomsticks

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“I know you want to take a photo but my butterbeer is more important.” TRUTH.

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks! Shepherds Pie and Butterbeer. Doesn't get much more delicious than that!

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks! Shepherds pie and butterbeer. Doesn’t get much more delicious than that!

I've been to Harry Potter World three times now and each time at Ollivander's I've been picked for the wand ceremony which is just ridiculous! Here I am with the wand that "chose me".

I’ve been to Harry Potter World three times now and each time at Ollivander’s I’ve been picked for the wand ceremony which is just ridiculous! Here I am with the wand that “chose me”.

My owl must have gotten lost, because this is where I should have attended.

My owl must have gotten lost, because this is where I should have attended school. Hufflepuff forever! (Haha)

Sarah and Penelope at Hogwarts!

Sarah and Penelope at Hogwarts! (Penelope was more concerned with snitching food and drink from everybody that day at the park than paying attention to her surroundings! She also was sporting a wicked mohawk by the end of the sweaty day courtesy of her father.)

 

I am so excited to spend more time with Sarah in China! Just looking back at the last time we hung out makes me itching to be there already!

Check back in a few weeks! I have lots of catching up to do including blogs about our trips to New Zealand, Korea, Vietnam, whale watching, Fourth of July, our Summer on Okinawa, and of course, a blog about China with Sarah!

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I am still joyful.

I have now spent two of our three anniversaries away from my husband. The first year he was flying an emergency medivac mission through Afghanistan while I sat on the couch at home with a bottle of wine and an extensive Netflix queue. Last year we celebrated at a speakeasy steakhouse (Yes, you read that correctly. It was amazing.). This year Hoban is yet again out of the country for work, and I spent our anniversary with another delicious bottle of wine – though this time I had company in the form of my amazing friend and neighbour, Karri.

For the military spouse, I’ve heard that 33% isn’t too shabby! More often than not our husbands are sent away to some exotic and/or dangerous locale, while we spouses hold down the fort at home. I thank God for amazing friends (my island family!) and for a husband who is worth waiting for!

Since I couldn’t see my better half today, I went through the million wedding photos  stashed on my hard drive – we were so blessed with such an incredible day!

Don’t get me wrong, it was far from what most people would consider to be perfect. It was rainy. I had very little time for photos because of the Mass schedule. Father Hector mixed up Hoban’s first and last names (that was pretty hilarious, actually). I tripped over the words as I began to recite my vows. The organist couldn’t find the sheet music. Father Hector forgot to have us light the unity candle until the end of Mass. Our wedding party exited first because that’s how Father thought it should be (oh well). When we went outside for photos the rain and wind made it nearly impossible. The florist called the day before the wedding to say the wrong flowers arrived. The groom’s cake wasn’t what I’d described to the baker at all. I was so busy talking with family and friends that Hoban and I hardly saw each other at our reception. We couldn’t find my passport. My shoes were stained blue because of the wet silly string in the car (thank you, rainy day). So many things gone wrong. If I’d been a wedding planner I would have gone crazy running around trying to fix it all.

But I’m not a wedding planner, and our wedding felt perfect.

During our engagement my dad gave me the greatest piece of advice. He essentially told me not to sweat the small stuff. He told me that on their wedding day, my mom was radiant. He said she was radiant because she wasn’t worried about the details, and wasn’t stressed about perfection. They were both just so happy to be together and to be married. At the end of the day, that’s all you really come away with.

I held onto those words and when we thought we’d have to cancel our honeymoon because of my missing passport, we sat in the car at church and prayed. We prayed for peace of mind, we prayed for my passport to turn up, and we prayed most of all that we’d remember to be joyful no matter the circumstances.  (FYI: We found the passport 30 minutes after leaving the reception, in the trunk of my dad’s car.)

That prayer is still applicable today and not only because I’m constantly misplacing important things such as my passport! Our circumstances aren’t perfect – after all, we spent yet another anniversary apart – but we are both still joyful, and we are both still so thankful to have each other – even if it’s only 33% of the time. ♥ Happy anniversary, Hoban. Wherever you are, I hope you know how much I adore you.
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Christine & Hoban-1016Christine & Hoban-1460Christine & Hoban-1451Christine & Hoban-946Christine & Hoban-883Christine & Hoban-56Christine & Hoban-863Christine & Hoban-1318

Christine & Hoban-1315Christine & Hoban-638Christine & Hoban-2_2Christine & Hoban-26Christine & Hoban-541Christine & Hoban-22Christine & Hoban-613Christine & Hoban-592Christine & Hoban-625Christine & Hoban-21Christine & Hoban-20Christine & Hoban-485Christine & Hoban-474Christine & Hoban-460Christine & Hoban-16Christine & Hoban-15Christine & Hoban-91



O tanjōbi omedetō gozaimasu!

To the rest of the world December 31st is New Year’s Eve. In the Blume household it’s Hoban’s birthday! I wanted this year to be extra special since it’s easy to lose his birthday in the excitement of the new year.

The day was full of presents, family, friends (some of our island family), spear fishing, and surprises (such as Hoban’s new PS4 and the surprise party hosted by our friends the Chauvins!). Needless to say, the bar has been set pretty high for next year! Check out some photos of Hoban’s big day.  🙂  (Thanks to Courtney Chauvin for the beach and party photos!)

Hoban’s breakfast in bed choice – an omelette ↓

Skyping Hoban’s parents in New Hampshire ↓

I guess I’m a better actress than I thought because Hoban had no idea I’d bought him a PS4 ↓

Time for spear fishing! This beach is a two minute walk from the Chauvin’s flat (amazing). Due to the freezing cold weather on the island in December (65 degrees!) I needed three layers to go swimming. Still, it was a gorgeous day. ↓

Courtney and Swagger (Thanks Courtney for all the photos from the shore!) ↓

Swagger (the Chauvin’s dog) wanted to join in on the fun. We had quite the time convincing him to get out of the ocean. ↓

Hoban imitating a Star Wars sand raider ↓

Heading off to find fish! ↓

Hoban was a natural – in fact, this happened accidentally. While posing for a pre-fishing shot, he stuck his spear into the sandbar. He pulled up dinner. ↓

Hunting ↓

Stephen Chauvin! ↓

Hoban’s second catch of the day was this Parrot fish ↓

A successful first day of spear fishing! ↓

My photo with the birthday boy at his party! ↓

My photo with the birthday boy!

Eight years after competing against each other in Belgium and Germany, two former DoDDS athletes met on the tiny island of Okinawa……and the rest is history. This world keeps getting smaller and smaller! ↓

I LOVE this girl. Courtney and I figured out that we played against each other in sports during our high school years in Europe! Small world!

The obligatory Japanese peace sign photo ↓

The obligatory Japanese peace sign photo.

Triple fudge cake with raspberry ganache and milk chocolate shavings. I think I outdid myself this year. ↓

Every year Hoban requests something with raspberry for his cake. This year it was a triple fudge cake with a raspberry ganache and milk chocolate shavings. Definitely a repeat!

Toasting ↓

Every hour until midnight we had a confetti bomb. There were multiple strings but only one would set off the bomb. We turned it into a game!

All of us (except for the beautiful Courtney Chauvin, who took this photo!). (From left to right: Adam and Rhonda, Hoban and me, Stephen, Lawrence, Shannon and Craig) ↓

All of us (minus Courtney, who took the photo!)!

Happy New Year! ↓

Happy New Year!

Adam and Rhonda know Hoban loves games and horrible movies. So, as they said, “we found the worst game and movie we could find.” Hoban loved it. ↓

Our neighbours Adam and Rhonda know we love games and that Hoban loves horrible movies. So they gave us, and I quote, "the worst game and movie we could find." They were a hit!

Shannon, Rhonda, and me ↓

Shannon, Rhonda, and I

The morning after – Hoban enjoying the ocean breeze from the Chauvin’s deck. It doesn’t get much prettier than that! ↓

Hoban enjoying the morning view. Courtney and Stephen have an amazing apartment. The view doesn't get much better than that!

I can’t imagine a better way to start off 2015 than playing Mario Kart 64 and going to Mass.  ↓

What better way to start 2015 than with Mario Kart N64 followed by mass?

Traipsing around Thailand

For those of you who didn’t know, I traveled to Thailand back in August and September for seventeen days. It was a completely last-minute trip and it was also completely amazing. I planned on backpacking solo but when my mom expressed interest in accompanying me I was thrilled – how special that we got to experience Thailand together!

My mom and I are the perfect traveling companions. We care (generally) about similar things, have similar ideas of how we’d like to spend our time, and don’t insist upon trying our digestive systems too severely (in fact, we try not to). Apart from a few “Eeep!” moments (like when that mouse ran over my foot near the cathedral after mass in Bangkok – gross!), it was an incredibly fun time. We explored ancient cities, saw temples, lounged on the beach, rode elephants, faced down tigers, took cooking lessons, went shopping, tried new food, utilised nearly every means of transportation available, made paper out of poop, enjoyed museums, indulged at spas, and experienced anything and everything that caught our attention for the seventeen days we were together. Now, I have well over 1,500 photos from our trip (I went a little snap-crazy…) but I narrowed them down significantly in order to share a few from our adventure – Enjoy!

I had some time to myself in Bangkok before my mom joined me. My first full day there, I headed off to find a mass. I'm not sure if it was the ethereal music, the joy I normally feel at mass, or the fact that I slept all night on a cold train station bench...but I was moved to tears.

I had some time to myself in Bangkok before my mom joined me. My first full day there, I headed off to find a mass. I’m not sure if it was the ethereal music, the joy I normally feel at mass, or the fact that I slept all night on a cold train station bench…but I was moved to tears.

Our second night in Chiang Mai we ventured off to explore the famous night bazaar. Definitely a fun time!

Our second night in Chiang Mai we ventured off to explore the famous night bazaar. Definitely a fun time!

My mom is such a sport! She agreed to try out Doctor Fish (that's what it's called on Okinawa, at least) even though they creeped her out. Personally, I find the experience relaxing and rejuvenating.

My mom is such a sport! She agreed to try out Doctor Fish (that’s what it’s called on Okinawa, at least) even though they creeped her out. Personally, I find the experience relaxing and rejuvenating. Seriously, I love it!

Want to buy some food? All spices sold with cat hair at no extra charge.

Want to buy some food? All spices sold with cat hair at no extra charge.

One of our many dishes cooked at our cooking school! Nonstop cooking and eating from 0830-1630 makes for two happy (and full) backpackers.

One of our many dishes cooked at Baan Thai Cooking School! Nonstop cooking and eating from 0830-1630 makes for two happy (and full) backpackers.

After my own encounter with the tigers, we looked on as others went into the enclosure for a while. This particular tiger reeeeaally really wanted to join in on the fun. To see some pictures of me in the tiger cage, check out a previous post!

After my own encounter with the tigers, we looked on as others went into the enclosure for a while. This particular tiger reeeeaally really wanted to join in on the fun. To see some pictures of me at Tiger Kingdom, check out a previous post!

Making paper out of elephant poop finer? Nbd.

Making paper out of elephant poop fiber? Nbd.

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Staying in the old walled city of Chiang Mai meant we were within walking distance of dozens of temples. Pretty cool!

Staying in the old walled city of Chiang Mai meant we were within walking distance of dozens of temples. Pretty cool!

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Another buddha - and probably my favourite temple from the whole trip!

Another buddha – and probably the most beautiful temple from the whole trip!

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Anybody hungry for chicken on a stick? What about a chicken head? I hear the beak is delicious and crunchy.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok was enormous and would have been overwhelming had we not paid for our amazing tour guide - who then informed us that the movie Anna and the King is illegal in Thailand. What??

The Grand Palace in Bangkok was enormous and would have been overwhelming had we not paid for our amazing tour guide – who then informed us that the movie Anna and the King is banned in Thailand. What??

While at the Grand Palace these Imperial Guards were more than happy to pose for a shot! The guy second to the left is totally hamming it up.

While at the Grand Palace these Imperial Guards were more than happy to pose for a shot! The guy second to the left is totally hamming it up.

The top end of the famous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. I knew 150 feet was going to be long, but this was impressive nonetheless.

The top end of the famous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. I knew 150 feet was going to be long, but this was impressive nonetheless.

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Wat Arun was our favorite wat to check out! It wasn't too crowded when we were there (rainy season!), and we got to hop on a neat water taxi to get there. The steps to the top were STEEP though - some were spaced a good 2.5 feet apart!

Wat Arun was our favorite wat to check out! It wasn’t too crowded when we were there (rainy season!), and we got to hop on a neat water taxi to get there. The steps to the top were STEEP though – some were spaced a good 2.5 feet apart!

Riding in a tuk tuk back to the river taxi!

Riding in a tuk tuk back to the river taxi!

One day we took a 20 baht train ride (and then a sketchy water taxi) to the ancient city of Ayutthaya! We decided to rent some bikes (50baht for the day) to ride around the ruins. To give you an idea of how cheap this awesome day was, 30 baht = 1 dollar.

One day we took a 20 baht train ride (and then a sketchy water taxi) to the ancient city of Ayutthaya! We decided to rent some bikes (50 baht for the day) to ride around the ruins. To give you an idea of how cheap this awesome day was, 30 baht = 1 dollar.

Buddha in a tree! An obligatory stop while exploring Ayutthaya.

Buddha in a tree! An obligatory stop while exploring Ayutthaya.

One more shot of Ayutthaya! Isn't it beautiful? I felt at times like I was back in Pompeii while exploring the ruins. Did you know that at one time Ayutthaya was the center of trade and global relations? Even Louis XIV had diplomatic envoys sent to Ayutthaya!

One more shot of Ayutthaya! Isn’t it beautiful? I felt at times like I was back in Pompeii while exploring the ruins. Did you know that at one time Ayutthaya was the center of trade and global relations? Even Louis XIV had diplomatic envoys sent to Ayutthaya!

Okay, this boat ride was insane. We took this from the Jim Thompson House down the canal in order to get the the Temple of the Golden Mount. It was pretty much only locals (which didn't surprise us), and you literally hop on and off, even if the boat is moving. They don't really stop for long so you have to be quick! You also have to walk around the (very thin) edge of the boat in order to get where you want to sit.

Okay, this boat ride was insane. We took this from the Jim Thompson House down the canal in order to get to the Temple of the Golden Mount. It was pretty much only locals (which didn’t surprise us), and you literally hop on and off, even if the boat is moving. They don’t really stop for long so you have to be quick! You also have to walk around the (very thin) edge of the boat in order to get where you want to sit.

One more shot of the canal boat to give you an idea of what getting on and off was like. This was the average gap left between the boat and the pier.

One more shot of the canal boat to give you an idea of what getting on and off was like. This was the average gap left between the boat and the pier.

Top of the Golden Mount.

Top of the Golden Mount.

We indulged for a meal and ate lunch at the Jim Thompson House before our overnight train South. The food was incredible! For appetisers we had fruit smoothies, Spring Rolls, and Chicken in a "special" house sauce.

We indulged for a meal and ate lunch at the Jim Thompson House before our overnight train South. The food was incredible! For appetizers we had fruit smoothies, Spring Rolls, and Chicken in a special house sauce.

The view from my lower berth on the overnight train. This thing was definitely no frills! I tried telling myself I imagined the cockroach on the wall...it didn't work. And I didn't get a lot of sleep.

The view from my lower berth on the overnight train. This thing was definitely no frills! I tried telling myself I imagined the cockroach on the wall…it didn’t work. And I didn’t get a lot of sleep.

This was my view. Man, my life is great!

This was my view from our beachfront resort on Koh Samui. Man, my life is great!

Paradise. A perfect end to a perfect vacation with my mom!

Paradise. A perfect end to a perfect vacation with my mom!

I will never ever forget this trip. We had a blast. Thanks for being such a great travel companion and for being so willing to try new things with me mom!

Ikei Island

While going through the gazillion photos I finally uploaded of the past 3 months, I stumbled across a few from our camping trip the beginning of November. We’d grabbed our packs, thrown our snorkel gear in the car, and driven an hour northeast to Ikei – a tiny place connected to Okinawa by a series of bridges and other islands.

The drive was beautifulbut it was nothing compared to sunrise the next morning. The only person on the beach, I stood by the water and felt completely in awe.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

Ikei Island Sunrise ↓

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Have you ever experienced time standing still? I’ve got that a lot since moving to Okinawa only 6 months ago. Being so close to beauty of this magnitude really has a way of taking my breath away. Each moment serves as one more reminder of how blessed we are. We get to live on this gorgeous island, with fantastic friends and surrogate family (framily), and we get to use it as a home base for seeing the rest of the Pacific. Is this really my life?

Like I said – blessed. Incredibly blessed.

Even though I didn’t take many photos from our overnight adventure, I had to share the sunrise with you. I had to, and I hope you see why! Here are two more from our camping trip. ↓

Beach camping = Hawaiian shirt ↓

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The obligatory campfire photo ↓

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Check out my next (real!) post to see some more pictures from Thailand! Now that I have access to my photos, you can expect more updates. (It’s about time, too!)

 

Wild Thing, I think I love you

I am the last person in the world my husband, parents, siblings, or friends would choose to come face to face with a wild creature. I’ve always been a complete wuss around animals – I blame it on the fact that I grew up in a pet-free home with a courageous father who never faltered in his duty to keep my life as bug-free as possible. (What a saintly man!)

This being so, why did I find myself in such a predicament? I was in a cage, in a corner of said cage, with a very large and very agitated adult tiger prowling toward me, and nothing between us but two feet of air. Staring at me. Like I was the next meal.

“Breathe in. Breathe out. Stay calm. Just stay calm and nothing bad will happen. Don’t act afraid. Perhaps today isn’t your day. Please Jesus, let today not be my day! Okay. Breathe. Just remember to keep breathing.”

Surprisingly, with a few urgent taps of my guide’s bamboo stick (a sorry excuse for a tiger deterrent if ever there was one), the tiger allowed himself to be lead elsewhere. My mom (watching from behind the fence) took the following photo of me moments after I realized I wasn’t about to be lunch. Yeah. I felt pretty ecstatic. (Wouldn’t you?)

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Despite those few heart-stopping moments, it wasn’t all completely terrifying – And despite how imbecilic I may be for actually paying to enter an enclosure with four animals that would as soon kill me as look at me, I had an amazing and unforgettable time. Check out some photos from my morning!

Signing away my right to file a lawsuit should a tiger maim (or eat) me ↓

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The rules inside the tiger enclosure ↓

IMG_3447I was told repeatedly to lay on top of the tiger. This was all I could manage. ↓

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At 2.5 years old, this male tiger was the largest (and thankfully laziest) of the bunch. ↓

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I’m convinced this guy wanted to eat me. This was taken just before he turned around and cornered me. ↓

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Yeah, I totally do this every day. ↓

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So. Big. ↓

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Yes. I am actually holding a tiger’s tail. ↓

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In 17 days spent exploring Thailand, my tiger encounter was definitely a high-point. Despite the danger of getting close and personal to fully grown tigers and despite the fact that I’m no great animal lover, my morning at Tiger Kingdom is something I won’t readily forget. (Not least of all because that one tiger freaked me out!) It was crazy, incredible, heart-stopping, and surreal. If I didn’t have these photos I probably wouldn’t believe I had the guts to do this.

Next time you’re in Chiang Mai, do this. You won’t regret it – I certainly don’t.

Capoeira Academy

Tonight was liberating, truly.

Stepping out of my comfort zone is difficult – I try to do it, but every once in a while there is something I’m almost too timid to even attempt. Tonight that “something” was kickboxing.

I’d somehow stumbled across Capoeira Academy Ladies Kickboxing during one of my marathon research days while living in Albuquerque. I’ve always been intrigued by kickboxing, but too intimidated to try. The idea of stepping into a kickboxing gym with zero experience felt unsettling. This gym sounded different. They advertised a ladies only class and mentioned that beginners were always welcome. It was advertised as being a good mix of actual kickboxing/defense and a cardio workout. It didn’t sound easy, per say…but it certainly sounded easier.

After several shoves out the door from Hoban, I showed up for my free introductory class tonight a bit nervous but excited. Sitting down with several other girls who were stretching, I introduced myself and began to chat. As it turned out, two of the girls were complete beginners like myself. The other two had been attending classes for only three weeks.

“Do you enjoy it?” I asked

“No.” Replied girl #1.

That should have been my first clue. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

By the end of our warm-up I was out of breath. By the end of our circuit training I was seeing stars. By the end of our roundhouse kicks I felt like I was going to hurl. Then, I did hurl. 

While emptying the contents of my stomach in the lavatory, I felt mortified. Why was nobody else having such a hard time? I could barely keep up with the exercises. I had trouble rotating my body while following through with my kicks. I was dizzy. I felt nauseated. I could not stop throwing up. 

After class, as I (very shakily) walked down the stairs and toward the parking lot a block away, I was talking with the other girls and we all agreed that we just got our butts kicked. I certainly didn’t feel as B.A. as I thought I would, and I know I didn’t look like I’d done anything other than barely survive.

“Does it get any easier?” I asked Girl #2.

She responded with a small laugh, “There’s a girl who wasn’t here tonight, but she’s been coming for a year. She said it never gets easy‘, but that each time you come it feels like you’re dying a little less.” We all laughed at that, but I loved how she put it.

I could use any number of life metaphors with this one, but what struck me most tonight while I was driving home and blasting Demi Lovato – (don’t judge) – was that what this mystery girl said applies specifically to me right now. Each time I put myself out there and try something new it gets easier. Each time I force myself to smile and talk and I lock up the almost-introvert within me, I feel less like I’m drowning. Each time I leave my comfort zone and do something new, I feel just a little bit more alive and at home.

Tonight was exhausting, painful, and slightly humiliating.

I’m going back tomorrow night.

Crazy difficult workout + no AC + Summer in Okinawa = this. ↓

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