Friday, October 2, 2015

Finding Alingment

This past Sunday unless you were living under a rock or an overcast sky you probably got to experience the complete lunar eclipse or the "Super Bloodmoon." Since I am no genius when it comes to astrology I decided to google- Blood moon. According to How Stuff works, it happens when the Earth's shadow blocks the sunlight from directly illuminating the moon's surface. There was some stuff interesting stuff I won't remember about these two shadows called Umbra and Penumbra and some more info about the different orbits of the moon. Basically the only way for these shadows to cast out from behind the sunny side of the planet to eclipse the moon is when the moon is full and the moon and sun are on opposite sides of the Earth.
According to this occurs roughly ever 2.5 years. What made Sunday's eclipse special is that it was the last to occur as part of a Tetrad or 4 lunar eclipses over two years. It also it occurred as during a supermoon, which made for spectacular views of a huge reddish moon as the moon became blocked by the Earth's Shadow. The last time we experienced a eclipse like this was 33 years ago. 
As I stood in my alley staring out form my garage, a couple of thoughts came to mind. First, in order for this spectacular event to occur the Earth, Sun and moon quite literally had to be perfectly aligned. Now, I don't often immediately get or think of metaphors but this struck me as a metaphor for life. As living beings we cycle through periods of highs and lows in regards to circumstances. We can be in a period of darkness such as that time during a new moon or a period of brightness such as the time when the moon is full. How we react to those circumstances is up to us but I will come back to that later.  How often do we experience perfect alignment in our lives that stops us in our tracks in order to take hold of it's awesomeness?
The second thing I saw in this metaphor was my posture. I recently did a 50 hour yoga training thus have been keenly more aware of my body. My eyes were directed toward the sky. My heart was open. My arms were relaxed and my shoulders were back. You almost have to have perfect posture when you are looking towards the sky, provided you do not have you head tilted too far back, craning your neck. 
Third, the moon is dependent on the light of the sun for how it appears. If the light is blocked by the Earth it doesn't changed the composition of the moon nor does the Earth change the composition of the sun. The output of light from the sun is the same in regards to it's own lifespan. A mere shadow does not change the emission of the sun. 
This all kind of struck me as parallel to my own life. We don't often find perfect alignment. If we are lucky every 2 and half years, but a truly spectacular event might only occur every once or twice in a lifetime. In order to experience these spectacular events we have to remain open. We have to both metaphorically and literally keep our head up in order to find that alignment. It is essential to remain positive through the waxing and waning in our lives, but it is most important during the dark times. Finally, the light is always there, it is always the same whether it appears it is shining on us or not. I equated this to God. He is always there with the same intensity. It does not matter if we are in darkness or not, the light is always there. 


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Land of the 10:35pm Sun; our Alaska trip

Alaska! My squadron had been planning a training exercise since March and I was pretty excited to go until I found out that Rob was scheduled to leave on a very long trip that same week. As luck would have it his departure date got pushed back a week and a space available slot opened up on one of our jets. So we got to both go on the trip and as far as air travel goes the lear jet isn’t half bad!

When you fly into Anchorage the first thing you notice is the striking scenery, It is beautiful there; mountains, ocean and glaciers abound over the vast  586,400 Square Miles. General Aviation is everywhere, you must be on the lookout when flying at low altitudes.  Alaska is such an isolated, untouched, spectacular land. Over 80% of the state is home to communities that can only be accessed by plane or boat. It stands to reason why there would be so many resident pilots. I read that plane crashes are more than twice the national average. A clear flight can quickly turn into a nightmare of clouds, rain and wind as pilots navigate tricky mountain ranges, glaciers and twisting rivers. Pilots often rely on sled dog trails, rivers, mountains or a familiar tree to keep them on track. The death of former Senator Ted Stevens was a glaring reminder of one of the hazards of being an Alaska resident. Regrettably, Stevens also lost his wife in a small plane crash in 1978. Pretty interesting huh?

This first full day in Anchorage we did a tour of the command center that would be controlling us for our C-21 missions while we were there. Then just about everyone that came on the trip went on a hike up Flattop mountain near Anchorage. It was a short drive out to the edge of town.  It took us about an hour or so to get to the top.  The trail was only around a mile and a half but with 1300 feet in elevation gain it was pretty steep with a bit of scrambling near the top. The top had views of mountains in three directions with the fourth view being a panoramic of the entire city of Anchorage. We stayed a while and watched paragliders launch themselves of the top. When we finally decided to rally and head down we found the paraglider pilots at the bottom. They were ex-military guys who said they went up there every day during the summer. That seemed like my kind of retirement hobby!

That night we went to dinner as a group at the Moose’s Tooth. This was my third time dining here, If you head to Anchorage, this place should be a definite stop, especially if you like pizza and beer. Sadly, I don’t, but my salmon salad was very good and the wine was good too although not much of a selection. The atmosphere was great, the company was good time as usual. If you go, head there early since the wait will most likely be over an hour.

The next day Rob and I took a day trip down to Seward to catch a bay cruise. The day got off to a wonderful start with the drive down the Seward highway. WOW, is the best word I can use to describe the scenery. I felt slightly sorry for Rob, since he was driving he got to spend less time gaping at the beauty surrounding us.  There was ocean, lakes, big mountains and glaciers along the way. I later found out that it was on the top ten most beautiful scenic drives in the United States according to several different news sources.

Our bay cruise was well worth the money. We chose to book through Major Marine Tours since they had good reviews. I am a wildlife fanatic. I love seeing animals in their native habitat, and this cruise offered a ton of wildlife viewing. We saw bald eagles, sea otters, a humpback whale, Dahl porpoises, a giant school of jelly fish and the adorable puffin. I think my favorite
is the Alaskan sea otter; this little guy likes to swim on his back and rub his feet together. He just looks like he is having the best time backstroking along and making fun of the tourists as they float by.  

Look close and you can see seals basking on the rocks

We sprung for the all you can eat salmon and steak buffet. The meat part of the buffet was beyond delicious. They said the silver salmon had been caught fresh from a local river. All you can eat can be a self-proclaimed dangerous event for Rob. He is a man who likes to get his money's worth and when they promise abundance he likes to test a vendors resolve. Apparently, this trait has rubbed off on me. When it came time to sit down for lunch I downed 2 silver salmon steaks and at least 12 ounces of tender prime rib. I will admit I spent the remainder of the cruise utilizing as little energy as possible so that my body could focus on digesting. It was worth it.

Our last full day in Anchorage we drove down to toward Whittier to check out the Portage Glacier. The internet promised spectacular views on a clear day, which apparently is pretty rare in Whittier. There is a local saying that goes something like "it is always $hittier in Whittier". We lucked out and it was a clear day so we decided to press. The Whittier tunnel was a pretty cool feat of engineering. Three miles of a one way tunnel through a big mountain. I am also an engineering fanatic. I won't bore you with the history but if you want here is a short history of how it was built. 

The hike was breathtaking the entire way. When you get to the top of the first hill you get a spectacular view of the Glacier which is on the other side of Portage Lake.  There were waterfalls running down the large mountains with lush green vegetation all along the way. Perfect cover for a bear or two. We brought some bear spray and we noticed most people had bells or bear spray with them as well.
When we finally made it down to the rocky shore of Lake Portage I think we had taken so many pictures our sim cards were nearly full. Rob was in paradise he mentioned how this hike was food for the soul. We were both enjoying the beauty of the place immensely when came the most peculiar part of the day and probably the only time we will ever witness something like this in our lives.  A family that we had chatted with on the way down, who had mentioned they were from Anchorage, got to the shore around the same time we had. Except, instead of putting on a jacket like I did, they opted to strip down to their bathing suit and went for a swim in the glacier lake! They had a gaggle of kids who were having a blast jumping all over the glacier ice that had chunked off of the Portage glacier. One little girl ran out into the water and began playing with a large chunk of ice as though it were a pool toy for quite sometime! Rob and I looked at each other as if to confirm what we were witnessing. We walked down to feel the water to see if it was close to a reasonable temperature; it wasn't. I suppose when you live through Alaskan winters the cold is relative and toughness is inherent, but in my mind the only way to encourage me to jump in a cold lake like that would be preceded with copious amounts of liquor.  

After picking blueberries and taking more photos along the hike we decided to go for lunch in Whittier. We discovered it to be an odd little town with mostly ramshackle buildings and not many choices in the way of food. Apparently, It was originally developed by the military; most of those ramshackle buildings are abandoned. We found out later that 75% of the town lives in one condo building. I am sure it made for a tight community, but my hopes of finding a nice little lunch spot were dashed. 

Day four we relocated to Kodiak Island, affectionately know as a "small drinking village with a fishing problem". It was a fun approach into the island because we flew around the entire island and did a little sight seeing. The main runway in on a Coast Guard base at the edge of the water towards a 2000 foot mountain. It was pretty neat scenery. I could get all Tolkien on you by spending over 2000 words describing the scenery but I will spare you and provide some nice photos. 

That night everyone went fishing. I went as a tag-along to watch. If you have never witnessed folks fishing in Alaskan rivers it is quite a sight to see. People line up along the banks when the salmon are running to catch their quota. There are so many fish in the water that it typically doesn't take much skill to bag your five in a just few hours. Salmon fishing is a local past time up there. By the time the guys were ready to leave that had caught 24 pink salmon or humpy's as the locals call them. As the pinks swim upstream to find their birthing spot the fresh water starts to disintegrate their bodies and their spines start to curve creating a hump on it's back. It was fun to watch the guys fishing they were like kids with all their grinning and laughing.
The final day on Kodiak island was the best day of the whole trip. Rob and I another squadron mate of mine decided to charter a float plane to go bear watching. Kodiak Island is home to the infamous Kodiak bear. It is the largest of the Alaskan bears weighing in on average over 1200lbs. Roughly two thirds or around 1.9 million acres is designated as national wildlife refuge. There are over 3000 of these bears on the island although they aren't known to come around the main city. We were all pretty curious to find a Kodiak bear out in the wild.

The plane we ended up flying in is was a De havilland Beaver. The pilot said it was from the 1940's and still had an old radial engine. Taking off was pretty cool. It was a bit of a rush skimming along the water watching the shoreline beside you get smaller. It didn't seem possible. I am sure that we were all secretly wishing we had our hands on the controls.

On our way over to the inlet where the fish hatchery was we spotted a pod of orca whales. we descended low over the water to get a closer look. It really was a very cool sight to see. There were eight of them traveling along cresting the water every 10 seconds or so. They are a pretty whale with their black and white markings.

When we arrived at the hatchery, the landing was just as exciting as the takeoff.  We skidded to a stop by a couple of fishing boats then motored toward the dock. One of the first things we noticed was all of the salmon in the water, millions of salmon. Their was a small boat near the edge of the shore racing around in circles shooting air bubbles into the water. Apparently, they were doing what they called a cost reclamation or something along those lines. Once a year they round up a bunch of the salmon and sell them to local markets in order to help offset the cost of the hatchery. They receive subsidies from local fisherman and the state but that is not enough to cover all of their expenses so they do some fishing of their own.  One of the senior workers met us and began giving us the details about the hatchery. He was extremely knowledgeable; we were enjoying learning about the life cycle of their salmon when I looked over towards the trees and saw what we had came for, Kodiak bears! A Mama bear and her cub were moseying down to the water to pick out some fish for lunch. The cub was extremely small, our new friend mentioned that they had seen the cub a few weeks ago and did not think it was going to live. The abundance of food near by must have given it a fighting chance. Our guide told us to get small and walk slowly over toward where they were moving towards.  We camped out about 15 feet from where she was at in the water. We watched her move back and forth in between the water and her cub as she plopped fish on the shore for them to consume. She seemed to be picky as she turned her nose up at some of the fish we had slain. She was quite an impressive animal; her front claws were probably over 8 inches long and she was definitely an average sized Kodiak bear, meaning huge. Her cub was adorably tiny but we knew better then to get close to it, from the horror stories of people getting in-between mama and baby. Every Alaskan I met seems to have a bear story, one that probably left there underwear just a little bit marred. We felt fortunate to watch these bears from a close but reasonable distance and escape to tell the tale.  

The next day we headed home in our aforementioned lear jets. Everyone seemed tired from the excitement but our bellies were  full of salmon and our adventure bug had been squashed for the time being. Alaska is a great destination especially if you like nature. Although this was a work trip the fact that Rob got to come made it feel more like a vacation, and it will be remembered by us a trip of a lifetime.   

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Land O' Lakes: our trip to Michigan

From the handful of times I have visited the Midwest I was left with an impression of friendly down-to-earth people, plenty of delectable dairy dishes for the choosing, and the flowing of beer and wine infused into the culture. My recent trip to Michigan was no disappointment from my past experiences. Rob and I took our first 6 day trip up to Northern Michigan and I have to say it was definitely too short.

 I say it was our first trip because Rob's family has a little summer cottage on Lake Michigan in the township of Empire. It is quaint, quiet, relaxing and awesome. We have explicit plans to go back next year. . .maybe every year. Their house has shoreline right on Lake Michigan with beach access and spectacular view of the lake. It was built in the late 60's and still has a 70's feel to it as much of the same furniture and appliances are still there. The best part about it is you are totally disconnected, no internet, no TV just the sound of the lake gently lapping against the shore. I can almost hear it now.

If you have never been to Michigan you may have had the same reaction as I did when Rob said he wanted to vacation in Michigan...Michigan? Isn't it cold there? What is there to do in Michigan? Should we invest in bullet proof vests? I admit the extent of my knowledge came from news stories about Detroit violence, NPR specials about the collapsing auto industry and HGTV's Rehap Addict who fixes up dilapidated houses in the ghetto. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong I was.

We flew into Detroit which was a mistake. Only because it was a 4.5 hour drive to Poor Richards (the name of the cottage), this made for a very long day of travel given that we drove to Denver then had a connection through Dallas. My first pleasant surprise came from the fact that we did not have to dodge gang members and flying bullets to pickup our rental car. I know my thoughts are ridiculous but sometimes stereotypes can be difficult to overcome.

We arrived at Poor Richards just in time for the sunset which was at precisely 9:18 pm that night. This became our nightly routine to just sit and watch the sun go down with a glass of wine in hand. I am a bit of a sunset junky, as I REALLY appreciate a good one. Lake Michigan sunsets are right there at the top of my list of all time favorites. Other notable sunsets include, flying in a plane over Southern Arizona, Heron Island in Australia, and Cala Luna Point in Costa Rica.

The next day we went exploring around the Leelanau Peninsula. As I came to find out the area is known for sweet cherries, chocolate and wineries. . .What?!? I believe if a girl had to chose a dream place to vacation this could be it. We started in Glen Arbor and spent the morning tasting cherries and chocolate at Cherry Republic. Glen Arbor is an adorable little European style township. We ended up eating there a few times since it is only 15 minutes from the cottage with a good selection of restaurants. We next drove up to Leeland, which is a little fishing village. There was an adorable dock with turn of the century fishing shanties which have been converted to little shops. Rob got a sandwich on a pretzel bun from the Cheese Shanty which came recommended by the locals. He raved about the flavor and softness of the bun, but I wanted to save my appetite for wine tasting. We made a loop up and around to Suttons Bay checking out the small towns in between. We passed by a grass airport strip along the way, which got Rob pretty excited, so we stopped to be tourists. Grass strips are always fun to see. As pilots we like imagine ourselves with our own plane making the landing there. Hopefully, someday we get the opportunity to land on that strip.
We finished out a perfect day at Black Star farms where we did a 5 for $5 wine tasting. Our wine specialists was so friendly chatting with us that he just kept pouring. I am pretty sure our 5 pours turned into more like 10. That was the start of my trip addiction to their Sur Lie Chardonnay. I think I put away 4 bottles in 4 days with little help from Rob. By the time we were done with our "5" pours I was pretty hungry so we ordered their farm to table gluten-free veggie pizza. It was amazing! Everything was from their farm to include the cheese and crust which was made from grape flour. Yum.

We spent the next few days exploring the nature and town around us. We went hiking along Empire Bluffs which revealed a spectacular view of the shoreline. We took the canoe out in South Bar lake which was a fun and relaxing upper body workout. We walked the coastline up to North Bar lake which was a tranquil lake set a few feet from the edge of Lake Michigan. It was peaceful to wade into this sandy warm lake. I always like to stay active on vacations and we did plenty of hiking and walking while we were there. If you are a fit bit fanatic like I am I like to shoot for 15,000 steps while on vacation to make up for our lack of gym time, but I digress.
We ate out a couple of times at the local restaurant in Empire called Joes Friendly Tavern . I have to give a shout out to this place because the food was good and the people were friendly, go figure. When we had dinner there the place was packed, but we managed to sneak into a couple of seats at the bar. We immediately took noticed of the jovial owner who was energetically chatting with every single patron in the place. He was bussing tables and helping the waitress bring out the food to keep things moving. You hardly ever see that kind of service. One of the many reasons I like the Midwest.
On the weekend we went hiking at the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes which is National Park. As a side note if you are military make sure to get your free National Parks pass from the forest service, it is such a great deal! We hiked four miles roundtrip in deep sand. It was a killer workout and also fun. We began our hike with a steep climb up what was the first of many steep hills. As we trudged forward we passed many pouting children and discontented couples discussing whether or not to continue on. I admit that after the fourth steep and sandy hill I was tempted to whine a little myself, but I knew the view and sense of accomplishment would be worth it. It was worth it. When we rounded the last corner and we were rewarded with a crisp breeze and the cool water of the lake Michigan. We got a little wet, took some pictures then we turned around for the long trip back.
It was so hot and sandy, it was difficult to imagine this area was shaped by glaciers more than 12,000 years ago. Apparently, the dunes are migratory, moving over 3 feet per year, pushed by the wind. It is really an amazing geological wonder. After the hike we did a scenic loop drive that offered more spectacularly steep dunes and view of the Manitou islands. On our way home we rewarded ourselves with a stop at a farm stand for cherries and blueberries. It was another perfect day.

The last night we went for a nice dinner at the highly recommended Blu in Glen Arbor. It was farm to table restaurant although a bit pricey. We thought the food was great although in typical fancy style the portions were small. So we capped off the evening with a walk back into town for ice cream.

The best word I can come up with to summarize the trip is: lovely. The misconceptions I had about Michigan were replaced with fond memories and a thirst for more cherries, wine and lake-style relaxation. See you next time Empire!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

RIP Adam Robert Towler

I wrote my younger brothers obituary. No body should have to do that for a brother who was barely out of his teens when he passed away. No mother or father should ever have to bury their son. No family should have to listen to police officers tell of the atrocities of how their loved one was stabbed to death by a psychopath.
When July rolls around every year. I secretly relive the events of the past as memories come flooding back from the day when I learned my brother had died, then later how he had died. Grief is different for everyone: for me it feels like a disorganized concoction of sadness, anger, pity, emptiness, loneliness and sometimes hatred. I used to let the anger dominate these feelings. I was particularly bothered by the common condolence "I am sorry for your loss." He wasn't lost! He was taken!

I felt intense anger toward Justin Geiger and the family that would raise such a monster.  I didn't view him as a human being. I believe he was evil incarnate. I used to think that if he was still alive I would have wanted to see him receive the death penalty. I know this may seem harsh, if not vengeful but I don't see it as such. I believe it is the job of the righteous to help fight evil in this world. It is one of the reasons I chose to join the military. I believe those who were blessed with strength should use it to protect those who are weaker. I am thankful the evil that took my brother no longer walks this Earth.

However, anger and hatred are not easy emotions to hold on to. They can destroy a person, thus over time I have learned to simply observe those feelings then let them go. They are not part of me. My brother's killer never gave me the chance to forgive him because he took his own life, but if he were here today, after years of wrestling with this notion; I would have looked him in the eyes and forgiven him. I now understand that power.

I try to balance the flood of negative memories with an intentional practice of reinvigorating the good ones. Adam was amazing guy. He was articulate, intelligent, deeply spiritual and funny. Gosh that guy was funny. I remember one time we went to an Atlanta Braves game and as we were leaving the game I asked him if he knew any good jokes, he started telling me jokes. He had an arsenal of jokes. He probably went on for 20 minutes as I drove him back to his dorm. He had an extraordinary memory which explains the reason he knew so many jokes.
He gave a toast at my sister's wedding in which he chided the bride and groom to the point where he had the entire room laughing so hard they could barely hold up their glasses. He of course toasted their everlasting love leaving us with a speech to remember.

He loved his Irish and Australian heritage even though he was just a baby when he lived in Australia and only briefly visited Ireland when he was in elementary school. He used to wear an woollen flat cap like the old men wear, all the time. It was his prized possession. Because I left home when he was 13, I remember him as the little boy who wore his cowboy boots, vest and superman cape everywhere he went. Although, some of my favorite moments with him were when he was on the precipice of manhood after he had finished up his first year of college. He talked of girls, and school and friendships he had made. He was excited to have a future at Georgetown University, the school he had been hoping to go to since he was in grade school.

Adam had high moral character. He was committed to the principles of his faith and practiced them everyday. He was pure, innocent and altruistic. After years of trying to make sense of it all, I have decided his death cannot be understood except through the acknowledgement of evil, and an abiding faith in God. I no longer feel sorry for myself or for my family. Our pain is there and it never going away, it is up to us how we allow it to manifest.  I do, however, feel sorry for the world. Adam was taken too soon. He had big plans for this world and would have done big things. RIP Adam Robert Towler.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Separation Anxiety: Top Five Best and Worst

Growing up my parents were hardly ever gone from home without us. I can remember most of the trips my Dad took because he always brought us back sweet gifts as tokens of regret for ditching the family. Us kids used to almost get excited about a business trip for Mom or Dad, knowing that we were going to get something awesome out of it. Although, I'm not sure it was a fair trade knowing that if Mom left we would be eating the same two dinners he knew how to cook for the entire week, and if Dad left we might not get to sports practice all week. Plus we missed them.

Well it is the same thing now that I am married. I am mostly sad when my husband is away but I am trying to find the positive. This post is for me, so that I can look back when I am half way through a deployment or long trip and find a silver lining.

Top Five Things That Suck About My Man Being Away:

5. Taking out the trash out by myself...and all the other chores that men are suppose to do. The other night a GIANT cockroach ran across my living room. It took a couple of attempts, but I managed to kill that bugger by myself!

4. No one to binge watch Netflix with. Do you know how difficult it is to resist the new season of Orange is the New Black due to a marital pact?!?

3. No one to cuddle with. I need a dog (although nothing is the perfect substitute).

2. Having to wait to talk to him. Conversations are limited to specific times. I can't just blurt out what I am thinking and have him respond right away...although he might see this as a positive.

1. Having my BFF around. He is always on hand to go do something fun....Anyone want to come hang out with me?!?

Top Five Things That Don't Quite Suck About My Man Being Gone

5. I can go like a week in between leg shaves. If you are a Dude and thinking gross, get over it. Your lady does it too. We all do.

4. I can make myself the same dinner 6 nights in a row when I am not responsible for the care and feeding of someone else. Although this get's old, I do enjoy cooking. Any one want to come over so I can get out of my dinner rut?

3. I get more focused on diet and fitness. I don't want my man coming home to an out of shape wife. Gaining weight is a slow creep, but when you have a deadline to shoot for like a homecoming you get your a$$ in gear.

2. Girls nights. Investing more in your friendships. This is a great time to do that. Who is up for a little Thunder from Down Under? j/k but really, girls night anyone?

1. You plan stuff. When you are together you make mental notes to talk about vacations, goals, plans etc. but then routine makes the time fly by and you never take any aciton. When you are separated you talk more about the future, which provokes action. Book those tickets, write down those goals and cement those plans you have been meaning to make.

Routine makes the time go faster, and so do goals. I am sure the time will fly by.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude #7


It has been a couple weeks since I last posted due to my typical excuse, business, also due to a little bit of laziness, I will admit. We had a visit from Rob's parents, which was great! I really do love having family in town. It is fun to catch up and get out of our routine to be tourists in our own town. We rode the train out of canyon city. We sat in a full service car and had a light lunch of chicken skewers and fruit. We enjoyed standing out on the observation car and enjoying the gorgeous view.
 Last weekend we went to Wyoming to visit my mother and help her with a few things. While up there we went to dinner at my favorite restaurant The Altitude Brewery. I had a big steak with mashed potatoes, veggies and wine...mmmm it was delicious.
This has been the first weekend in a while I have just stayed at home and been lazy. I got a few things done but was mostly lazy. Rob had to leave this week for training, he spent the weekend in Air Force lodging but his weekend was the same. I think we both needed a chill weekend to recharge.
Currently,  I am fasting for a small medical procedure tomorrow. For those of you that know me, you know I eat all day long; thus I am HANGRY! I am trying to take my mind off of it by devouring everything on Netflix that I have been wanting to watch for while. It is not working, but mind over matter, or rather mush over matter since the light-headedness has already set in.  I apologize if my thoughts in this blog keep drifting towards food. It is somewhat subconcious.

Here is what I have been particularly grateful for lately:

1. That we live in a society with access to good medical care. Really. I know we have a way to go to make the system more efficient and reasonably priced, but I am just so thankful that I can get to a doctor if I need one. In many parts of the world people do not have the same luxury.

2. My awesome in-laws. We had fun with them when they were visiting. We had fun exploring Canyon City by train, then going to the prison museum. We had a garage sale while they were here and they waited patiently while we hocked our personal items. I love garage sales. It feels so good to simplify the items that you need to keep. I believe spring cleaning is very important to keep from getting consumed by stuff. But I digress. We also went to dinner at Bonefish which was fun as well. I had the salmon. It was amazing. I am never disappointed when we go there.

3. That we get to fly for the Air Force. Particularly when you first take off from earth and into the sky: there is nothing like it. A sense of calm and contentment comes over me every time. It is so amazing to fly low and watch the ground pass underneath you while seeing it from a perspective that makes everything look both majestic and small at the same time. It is equally as fun to fly high where you can see the curvature of the Earth, knowing that you have a view that most people never get. We both love flying

Check out Rob's plane. He finally got his name on an Otter!
4. That we have been married for almost 4 months now. I love being married. I know, gag me, you are newlyweds of course you love being married. But Rob and I have defined some of the goals for our family. We have some big plans and I am looking forward to many more years of bliss.

I bought this cake for Rob for our 3 month anniversary

5. Finally, I am grateful for: red grapes, pineapple, ground bison with goat cheese, Almond butter, sweet potatoes, cedar plank salmon, quinoa salad, salt and vinegar almonds, roasted brussel sprouts, eggs and hash browns, oatmeal, Americanos with steamed soy milk, fajitas and black beans, dark chocolate. I told you I was hungry...sigh. Tomorrow I will be like these guys.

Happy Summer! It is finally here in Colorado. We have had so much rain lately. This week we managed to dry up a little.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude #6

My heart is very full today, so I have a long list of things to be grateful for this week:

Memorial Day:

In cemeteries across the country flags adorn the graves in honor to our brothers and sister in arms who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Memorial Day is not just a day off nor is it tribute to those who have served. It is to honor the lost. I know it is all over social media today and my words are only background noise to all that has been published today, but it is my blog so I will restate some of those thoughts.  Freedom is not free. There are thousands of men and women currently still fighting for our freedom. The war is not over. There are still men and women dying everyday for the luxuries we enjoy. We must remember the lost, we must learn from the past, we must stay connected to the most important cost of war.

Today Rob and I went and did the Memorial Day WOD at our cross fit gym; "Murph" 

1 mile Run
100 Pull ups
200 Push ups
300 Air squats
1 mile Run

We ran the last mile together, as we rounded the last turn we started naming all of the service members that we knew who gave there lives in service to this great country. It was a really nice moment between us. 

This week I am first and foremost grateful for them:

1. Daren Hidalgo
2. Luc Gruenther
3. Eric Ziegler
4 Luke Johnson
5. Warren Sneed 
6. Mark McDowell 
7. Jorma Huhtala 
8. Roslyn Schulte

9. I am also grateful that Rob and I were able to attend the Wings of Blue Suit ceremony today. It is so energizing to watch the Wings of Green get their Bluesuit after a year of training. I clearly remember how amazing it felt to finally put on our Bluesuits after a year of very challenging training to become first a skydiver then a jumpmaster. The look of joy on their faces brings back a flood of positive memories and you can't help but be right there with them in their special moment. 

10. On Saturday we went to a fun 40th Birthday party at a roof top bar. Our friend went all out to celebrate her 40th in style. She just competed and won several awards at this past Body Building competition. She looks amazing and has everything going for her. She had a lot to celebrate. I hope I am as put together as she is, to rock out for my 40th in a similar way. It was also nice to get dressed up and let loose a little after a few months of sober/clean living. I was definitely a bit of a light weight when it came to the wine. But enough of that, I am looking forward to getting back into the gym and working towards my new goals. 

That is all I have for now. Have a great 4-day week! What are you grateful for?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My First Bikini Comp

So I thought I would provide the gory details of competing in my first bikini competition. I say my first because I really do hope to do another one although the thought of going through the entire process again sounds a tad overwhelming right now. I figured now is a good time to talk about the experience rather than during the actual prep because I anticipated being in a cranky mood…and I was.

I have been lifting weights consistently since last August when I came off a summer of training for the Ascent and completing my yoga certification. Needless to say I was lacking muscle when I started. I hired a coach initially to help me build muscle and get my diet on track. Shortly after I got on with her team

(JAKT MUSCLE), I got engaged!  Thus my focus shifted from competing to looking good for my wedding. I got on a lifting program which she switched out every eight weeks. However, I since I was worried about getting “too big” for my dress she kept the cardio up for me which probably hindered my progress in gaining muscle.

After our honeymoon I got back on a strict diet. I had definitely gained a couple pounds of fat and needed to work hard to lose it. My body likes to hang out around 122-125 when I lift weights. 120 ish when I run a lot and destroy all that hard earned definition. I do not lean out or lose weight easily so I had to do two a day cardio sessions to help me trim down.

Each week she cut my calories and carbs little bit more. Let me tell you when you are working out very hard and used to a certain amount of calories it REALLY takes the wind out your sails. I expected to be tired and grumpy but I failed to anticipate how exhausting it would be. It was exhausting both mentally and physically. I am usually pretty high energy. I love to work out, make Rob dinner, clean the house, grocery shop etc. but all I could do was food prep and workout. My brain was not firing on all cylinders that is for sure. The last two weeks were the worst. Trying to gut out two hours of cardio on very few calories started to get to me. I almost cracked several times. Junk food started to sound amazing as I craved sugar and carbs constantly. The final week (Peak week) was exhausting but it was also fun to see little changes in your body everyday. The worst day I had was the day I had to cut the salt. I put salt on EVERYTHING! Not only did it make my food taste awful but it left me even more tired than I already was. I granted myself the privilege to lay on the couch after my cardio and take a nap. It didn’t seem to help much. I woke up just as grumpy and declared to Rob that I was done with this and just wanted to get pregnant. He patiently listened to my concerns without trying to talk me out of anything. He just let me sort out my own feelings, well-played husband, well-played.

But enough about the bad…let me tell you about the good, show day!

Yes I was depleted and tired and dehydrated but that didn’t matter because it was time to show off all my hard work and finally step on stage.

My jitters were apparent as I hardly slept at all the night before. When we arrived the next day we stood in line for our final tan touch up then went to the main area to get our hair and make-up done. I can honestly say that I have never had so much makeup on my face in my entire life. Well, there may have been a wannabe gangster faze in junior high when I experimented with lip-liner and painted on brows but even those times did not trump this experience.  

We waited what seemed like forever, got oiled up, pumped up, ate some honey then finally it was our turn to line up and take the stage. When we were moved into the pump up room I notice the tan on my back side had gotten messed up. I started to panic a little, as little things such as this can be distracting to judges, and all your hard work can be negated in an instant.  

My coach, Evie, came over and threw me at the oil booth and yelled at one of the tanning artists to fix it. Then she threw me back in the lineup just as we were about to exit for the stage she pointed at me and said sternly “Don’t for get to smile, when you smile you are a rock star.” I thought to myself I am a rock star! I am just going to pretend I am one for these few minutes on stage. So I smiled and tried to make eye contact with the judges and something must have shined threw because I managed to get in the first call outs after we had all gone through our individual posing. To my surprise I placed in all the categories I entered. The biggest surprise to me was that I placed in the Open which had the largest group of women and was the most competitive.

I think Rob enjoyed the whole experience as much as I did. I could see him from the shadows taking pictures and smiling. The other girls on the team who were sitting in the audience took pictures of Rob taking pictures of me because they thought he was so adorable. He was super supportive throughout the entire process. I was definitely grumpy and lacking energy for at least three weeks. I barely made him dinner or cleaned the house, practically all my energy went to completing my workouts and getting my food prep done.

My prep was in line with traditional body building methods to include, water loading and dehydration there at the end. I ate lots of fish and spent a lot of time on boring cardio machines, but it worked! My coach knows her stuff. She knows how to read and plan for certain types of physiques and she did a great job.

The next day my Mom, Rob and I went to Broadmoor and splurged on a big brunch. It was a welcomed event after feeling so deprived for so long. However, I did my research and know that it is very common to gain back the weight and more if you are not careful so I am working hard to stick to a reverse diet so that I do not balloon past my pre contest weight.

Rob surprised me with a congratulations present of quest bars and these yummy B-12 chews that I munch on daily as a little fit treat to keep me sane. He knows me so well

All in all it was fun. I like challenging myself and working towards fitness goals. This was always something that I wanted to do since I was in college but never thought I had the confidence or discipline for. It turns out when the prospect of getting up on stage in the tiniest bikini you have ever worn starts to become a reality it helps to keep you focused.  Now I am going to work a little more balance into my life and work towards new future goals…

Happy Training!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude #5

So it has been a few weeks since I posted, in a large part due to being busy but mostly because I have had ZERO energy. As I mentioned before I was working towards the goal of competing in my first bikini/fitness competition. Let's just say it has been all consuming! Between the grueling workouts and lack of food it has left me with having to prioritize working out, food prep, time with my husband & work in that order. There has been little time for much else.  I was hopeful the end result would be positive, and it was! It was a lot of fun to see awesome changes in your body and know you worked so hard to achieve them. Later this week, I will post about my entire experience if you are at all interested. 

Rob and I have stayed pretty busy between work and fitness. He has been of course putting in long hours at his job, but this week he got the opportunity to complete the Accelerated Freefall Instructor Course (AFF-I) for skydiving. He started it last year but never got to finish. This week he finally finished it! I am so proud of him. Being an AFF-I is a really awesome accomplishment, it means you have achieved enough experience and skill to teach others how to skydive. The AFF-I course is extremely challenging as you essentially have to deomnstrate that you can fly to a student and save their lives if necessary. This is often done at low altitudes close to your own pull altitude. You have only seconds to think then act accordingly. You have to stay calm when the pressure is really on. My man is the man.

Without further adue here is my gratitude list.

1. My husband; the guy has been a trooper with this whole fitness thing. I take that back, he has been a champion. He has put up with a house that smells like fish and a kitchen that is perpetually dirty. I had to work last Sunday and was stressed about getting my food prep done so he did it for me. Packaged up my little mini meals so I had food for the next day. What a sweetheart! He also made up a fantastic fan club the day of. He was my cheerleader the entire time.

2. That Rob got the opportunity to finish up his AFF-I. Here is a badass video of him killing it on one of his evaluation dives. 

3. I got to partake is a glorious cheat meal at the Broadmoor today with my Mom and husband for a late Mother's Day brunch & post fitness comp celebration. Mmmm crab claws. 

4. We received a letter from our Compassion Sponsor child today and she is doing well and thriving in Togo. She shared a verse with us Psalm 150:6 "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD"  Truth! 

5. That we get to live in this country. Summer is almost here and there is no better place to be than Colorado. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude #4

Last week I was at the sim as you could have guessed from my last post. I got the pleasure of sticking around and hanging out with my sister and her family for one night after it was over. Those kids are growing so fast. It is fun to see their little personalities. She has three girls and a boy. Alex is the oldest and he has typical boy interests in computer games and leggos. The rest of the house is a flurry of pink and princess as they all fight over the newest my little pony. They are the tiny girl version of the three musketeers complete with sword fights and charming anecdotes. They're adorable.

Poor Rob had to stay home all alone last week but he was incredibly productive getting all his studying done for some of the commercial equivalency tests for his civilian licenses. He will get his ATP (Air Transport Pilot) license done when he heads to the sim this summer. It was wonderful to come home to my husband however, there was a melancholy addition to our living room as Rob acquired a bag full of deployment items and has begun collecting things he will need for his trip this year. I am thinking I will move it to the garage.

Last weekend before I left for Dallas, Rob and I participated in a charity WOD at our Crossfit gym. It was to benefit Angels of America’s Fallen, "which was founded to help children of fallen military and first responders develop into strong and successful adults by providing them positive mentoring and developmental activities when they are at their most crucial developmental phase of life."  It was a really cool event and we got to meet some of the kids the foundation helped to mentor.

Therefore my gratitude list this week is kind of human centered:

1. That we got the opportunity to participate in and finish the Angel WOD. It is an awesome organization. The WOD was of course challenging but we finished and were pretty proud of ourselves.

Rob gutting out the kettlebell swings
Me gutting out the burpees

2. That we are in a position to help when and where we can. We never feel like we are giving enough but it feels good when we have the opportunity too. 

3. That I was able to visit with my sister and her family. My nieces and nephews are so stinking cute. They are hard to resist buying toys for when we take trips to the store. 

4. That we won the genetic lottery and are living in a great time in history. Humankind has never had it so good. 

5. That Rob and I have some really great people in our life. Truly solid friends and family that we can count on if needed. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Top Ten Best Things about the Simulator

I used to dislike going to Simulator. I have never lived close to a Sim for my airplane so it has always required a trip away for 5 or so days. I'm not really sure why I use to dread it so much. There are so many things to like about the Sim, but I think it was because it I didn't enjoy the challenges to save a broken airplane regardless of whether it was real or not. I felt stressed that I might crash the Sim, despite it not being real, it is an eerie feeling to hear the Sim crash and see the screen go blank. In my new aircraft I get to go twice a year. I have come to relish going to the Sim, which is good since it is an obligatory part of my job.

Here are the top ten reasons I like going:

10. Slack-ademics--getting away from the office and focusing on systems for a few days is a nice change of pace and good for developing a better understanding of your aircraft. Two or three days of this is just about right anything more and I start getting a little antsy with the death by powerpoint.

9. Emergencies--Seeing and working through some theoretical emergencies. God forbid we ever have to deal with any of this stuff in real life but it is nice to know you have at least run through the checklists before and put your hands on the switches

8. Marriot reward points--I've banked quite a few airline miles and hotel points from trips to the Sim. These come in handy when I have to feed my skiing habit.

7.  Sim Dinosaurs--The Sim instructors are usually older gentleman who have thousands of hours in your plane or at least thousands of hours in something and a lot of knowledge about flying. These guys are like a band of yodas teaching us all how to be pilot Jedis. However, I still have a way to go before I can lift a downed X-wing out of a swamp.

6. Free coffee/cappuccino/sugary treats--The flight simulator companies understand their clients.

5. CRM discussions--We usually have a pretty healthy portion dedicated to Crew Resource Management. We hear about different air disasters and discuss the missteps in the chain of events. While it can be disturbing to hear about someones demise it is incredibly beneficial to dissect the logic of the pilots at the time of the mishaps. We are are not immune to making the same mistakes.

4. Meeting pilots from all over the world--There are so many fascinating flying jobs out there and it is fun to chat with peers doing cool things.

3. Making a vacation out of it--I hiked Stone Mountain in Atlanta, went to a film at the Toronto film festival and have gotten the chance to visit my nieces and nephews in Dallas. Finding new places to explore always makes a sim trip a worthwhile endeavour.

2. V1 cut day--Losing an engine on takeoff after V1 speed but before rotation speed then taking it airborne is extremely challenging...Bring. It. On.

1. Being done with it for another 6 months!

Ssshh don't tell anyone that I actually enjoy it...They might decide it is too good of a deal.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Our Secret Wedding

I suppose the title of this post invariably makes it a not-so-secret wedding but for a while there we were trying to keep it in on the down-low. We got married in the church before we got married in Costa Rica. Roughly 5 days to be exact, however, for all intensive purposes our anniversary will forever be March 1st; for a couple of reasons.

First, it is not fair for a husband to have to remember two dates, I get that, I work with mostly guys, most are not good with remembering dates etc. (I am blaming Rob but in reality I am the one that is not great with anniversaries or birthdays, just ask my sister).

Second, it was important to me that we get married in the Catholic church and they will not recognize a wedding done outside. Therefore we had to arrange an extra ceremony either before or after our wedding. We went through the entire Catholic marriage prep and finished up just in time for our ceremony. The marriage prep or pre cana is not for the faint of heart. We had 6 months to prepare which, naively I thought was plenty of time. It wasn't. We  finished most of it prior to our ceremony, but still had one Natural Family planning lesson left to complete. We spent many hours working on the online coursework, attending mentoring sessions and learning about fertility. Apparently, the Catholic church wants you to go forth and multiply (I kid, I kid...but really, they want you to have lots of them). They graciously let us get married without completing the last lesson.

Third, it is a bit of a pain in the a$$ to get married outside of the U.S. There would have been a month lag in order to receive the paperwork to make it official. Plus, since we love the old US of A we decided to have the paperwork made official on our home soil. Being type A I wanted to have it all shored up by the time we got home from the honeymoon, so we did. This way we were able to return home from the honeymoon and sink effortlessly into married life.

Good friends who showed up to witness
Finally, we didn't want to make a big deal out of it. We knew that in February there was a good chance there would be a snow storm (and there was). I personally didn't want people to travel to Colorado during possible bad weather.
We wanted to keep it private.  We knew that if we advertised the event we would end up having two weddings, which is what we were trying to avoid. Instead, we had a few close/local friends show up to be our witnesses. It was extremely low key. Rob went to work that day. Deacon Dick ran the ceremony (he is the old guy in the priestly robes). He is also retired Air Force Lt Col.
Our friends did the readings and we said the vows that we had picked out for our Costa Rican wedding. It was a nice evening and great dry run for our special day! My favorite part of this not-so secret wedding was signing the Marriage certificate. There was something awesome about signing on the dotted line therefore making a legal commitment for life. We were in agreement that our dream wedding in Costa Rica was our actual union, however, the church nuptials were part of this process.

I love Rob's smile in this picture. He seems to happy so lock it down.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude #3

The past two weeks have whizzed by in a frenzy of business. I have been working/flying/homemaking etc. Mostly working. I flew a few missions and taught a few yoga classes. Rob has been busy with work as well. We have started a countdown until he is out of his current job and into a a much more suitable slacker job. We both enjoy balance in our life and in particular we try to avoid long hours at work. Don't get me wrong, we work hard if assigned a task or we are intrinsically motivated by a goal but we are not workaholics. His current job is keeping him at the office for over 12 hours a day. He works SO hard! I am so proud of him but don't want this pace to last forever. I am looking forward to having him around more and he is looking forward to having some balance back.
I have been working towards my goal of competing in a bikini competition so pardon me if my thoughts seem is from lack of carbs. Here is my gratitude list:

1. My amazing husband. I flew a mission to Alabama on Sunday. I was gone the entire day. He went grocery shopping, cleaned up and had flowers waiting for me when I got home. Nice work!

2. I had to drive up to Denver to shoot the 9mm gun as a qualification for my job. It had snowed that morning and was 20 degrees out at the range therefore my fingers were frozen. I am super grateful for the program lead. He is a really nice retired cop who helped me load my magazines and got us through the training in an hour so we didn't freeze.
3. We got our wedding photos back from my good friend and photographer, Sheryne Cadicamo. I will blog about the whole day in another post but for now I will spare you the gushing. Here is one of the party favors we got everyone. I thought they were funny...but I may have been the only one.

4. My health

5. That I get to live in Colorado. I love this dang state. Seeing Pikes Peak everyday never ceases to ground me and make me appreciative to live in such a beautiful place. 

Hope you had a great week. What are you grateful for?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude Week 2

Happy Easter! He is risen!

I love the Lenten season it gives you the opportunity to be mindful of what Christ went through for us. It is amazing how giving up a few comforts can help you focus more on him and your faith. Easter is such a joyous day. My mother came down and we went to church then I made brunch for us. Even thought Rob is 36 he still enjoyed the Easter egg hunt I set up for him. He of course beat out all the other kids by collecting 52 eggs. j/k I probably need some more kids in my life.

Rob and I gave up pre-workout. While I have to admit our workouts were a little less frequent, it was good to power through them with out the extra push. Before Lent I felt like I was overdoing it big-time with the caffeine. I also gave up soy milk in my Americano's but I will have to continue with that since things just got real with my diet. I am going to attempt my first fitness comp in 6 weeks.

So many things to be grateful for today I am not sure where to start. I'll start with the most important thing.

1. Christ's sacrifice and Resurrection

2. We received this AMAZING quilt in the mail from family friend's of Rob's. I was brought to tears at how beautiful it is. It is done in patriotic colors and she stitched stars on the edges. The patchwork is very intricate. It is gorgeous!

3. My awesome husband.

4. The beautiful 70 degree weather we had for Easter

5. My mother being able to spend Easter with us

Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Uniform Adustment

Before you begin reading this rant. I'll warn you that I'm going to tie the military into the whole yoga thing again so if that is not your cup of tea I'll let you politely excuse yourself from this blog without judgment to your rationale. But of course I am hoping you keep reading. 

It is no secret that the military has dress requirements. The uniform we were is designed to make us exactly that, uniform. We drop quite a bit of our persona as we put on matching outfits with similar hairstyle and accessories. Black or green socks, subdued hair-ties, flesh colored nail polish, sleeves not rolled up, nothing hanging from the uniform. There is an entire publication dedicated to telling us how we are supposed to wear our uniform like everyone else. The uniform makes it difficult to categorize one another based on their personal style. For instance, I would often be startled to see someone I worked with in cowboy boots or biker attire outside of work. However, as much as I did not enjoy wearing an unflattering, baggy out fit, it definitely served it's purpose. In a lot of ways, it evened the playing field. It made it difficult to judge me based on my attributes, style or overall general appearance. Even though it did not completely eliminate judgment it was certainly helpful.  In my opinion, the military uniform can be an aid to helping us practice Yama of Satya or truthfulness.

This Yama is about living a truthful life without doing harm to others. In practice of Satya, one must think before he speaks and consider the consequences of his actions. In order to do this one must be aware of her thoughts. The key to truthfulness lies in our thoughts. Consider this, thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits and habits become values. By bringing awareness to our thoughts we must work on not judging. By dismissing your biases about someone based on their appearance you can more accurately evaluate their character.

I know what you are thinking. This chick is crazy, some people deserved to be judged! Some people leave the house wearing a fanny pack and knee high socks, some belt their pants at the base of their man boobs. Some people chew really loudly when they are eating. Some people make weird sounds when they are exercising at the gym.  

Satya would offer that judgment is harmful because the energy of criticism lives in us. It affects us, negatively. By practicing non-judging we can better see someone for who they truly are, and by consequence know ourselves better. Have you ever heard that whatever you don't like about someone else is really what you despise in yourself? Heavy, right?

First, let me say that I do not believe that yoga would have us do away with our legal system. I am not talking about reacting to bad behavior. I am talking about those mean girl, petty high school thoughts that make you feel superior or inferior to someone else. Also, I am not suggesting that you can just all of a sudden stop judging others. In fact, it is probably bordering on the impossible. We judge others ALL DAY long. We do it without thinking. But perhaps next time you find yourself thinking a thought about someone else, bring awareness to your thoughts. Observe your thoughts, if it is negative, stop it. It does not serve you.

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."

-Carl Jung