Saturday, December 29, 2007

In loving memory...


It is with a very heavy heart that I now write about the passing of one of the greatest women I have known. Just a few hours ago my dear Aunt JoAnn left this mortal existence to find the peace and rest that she so deserves. She was in the midst of battling cancer for the third time and had recently started chemotherapy again. This last dose proved to be too much for her as it left her very weak and with very few white blood cells. She was rushed to the ER earlier with breathing problems and eventually her heart stopped and the blood pressure was so low that they could not bring her back.

There is a gaping hole in the hearts of our family members and "Josie" as I lovingly called her will be so greatly missed. Everyone who met her could not help but love her for her genuine character and fun personality. I have so many fond memories of her and both my sister and I were blessed to have a close and special relationship with her.

I am very grateful that I was able to see her twice while I was home for the holidays. On Chrismtas Eve day my mother and I picked her up to help her finish up some last minute gift purchases. I only briefly saw her on Christmas Day as she was not feeling well enough to join us for dinner. Instead, we dropped off some food at her house. Oh how I wish now that we would have stayed and spent some more time with her. But I think there are always things....the "could have", "should have","would have" things that we would change if we had only known how soon those opportunities would be gone.

However on both occasions I was able to tell her I loved her as we parted ways. I hope there was no doubt in her mind how much I love her and esteem her. I certainly never doubted her love and concern for me. I don't know if she heard me in the hospital tonight but I expressed my love to her one more time...and later my anger for leaving us when we still weren't ready to let her go. :)

Grief and loss are unavoidable aspects of this life. But there is no grief and loss if we have not shared and loved. My own grief is bearable but it is so hard to watch my sweet sister and my cousins (my aunt's sons) grieve. My heart also goes out to my other aunt Sue who was in Hawaii with her family as this all unfolded. She will be on a plane in a few hours. But the most unbearable thing is to watch my dear mother grieve. She said to me tonight (paraphrasing), "I don't know what I'm going to do. I've never had a day of my life without my older sister." My mom retired just one week ago and was very much looking forward to spending more time with my Aunt JoAnn.

The next few days and weeks will be hard for our family. But along with all of the grief and loss and sadness also comes peace and comfort. Josie suffered many things throughout her life but she was a classy wonderful woman who loved a good laugh and I will miss her so very very much. I am happy to know that she is no longer held back by her physical problems and that she has been reunited with her parents and loved ones.

There will never be another Josie...I am glad she is mine. I will hold her close to my heart and will look forward to being reunited with her at some future date as well. I am grateful for the Savior and his Atonement that provides us all the opportunity to be restored in the Resurrection and reunited with those we love.

Here's lookin' at you Josie. You're one tough old bird and ain't nobody gonna fill your shoes. Keep on dancing and keep on smiling. We love you and already miss you more than we can stand...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bahama Mama

As promised, I am returning with a synopsis of my most recent travel escapades. Most of you probably know that over Thanksgiving I went on a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas with 4 of my friends. It was such a blast and I highly recommend Royal Caribbean for all of your cruising needs. Things couldn't have gone much better for us.

Sunday, November 18th

We flew into the Fort Lauderdale Airport and met up with our ground transportation. It was about a half hour drive to our hotel in downtown Miami. We ended up getting to the hotel sometime around midnight and we were all starving. Kim and Heidi headed across the street to Checkers (a burger stand) across the street while the rest of us dropped off our luggage.

We joined up with the girls and Checkers and soon discovered that perhaps our hotel wasn't in the best part of town. This guy...I swear he was totally high or otherwise wacked out...wouldn't stop talking to us and the overall vibe was not good. We escaped with only two meals and ran back to the "safety" of our hotel room. Guess that's what you get for a $60 deal on Hotwire, eh?

Monday, November 19th

The next morning got off to a much better start. We had some time to burn before heading to the port so this really nice valet or porter or someone pointed us towards a homestyle diner so we could grab some food. I'm sure we looked like total dweeby tourists as we walked the few blocks. Here's a self-portrait with some Miami high rises in the background:

I really enjoyed our diner experience. We had this great waitress that honestly seemed more like a character from a movie than a real-life person. We had awesome cheeseburgers and Candice got hit on by some Coast Guard guy and another guy bought her a piece of cake because he somehow ended up with the burger that was supposed to be hers. In case you are wondering, Candice was definitely the resident hottie on the trip. Anyway, here we are outside the lovely diner.
We made the short taxi ride to the port and found the embarkation process to be very easy. We went to our staterooms to drop off our luggage and tried to explore a bit. However, not too far into our explorations we had to suit up for the muster drill before we could hit the high seas. It was interesting to me that although our rooms were next door to each other, Heidi and I were assigned to a completely different muster station than Candice, Analee and Kim (hereafter referred to as the CAK.) Therefore if the ship were to go down we would not be able to know the whereabouts of our friends...hmmm. Anyway, we weren't too worried as you can tell by this picture of me and Heidi suited up in our oh-so-fashionable-prison jumpsuit-orange life jackets.

Shortly after the muster drill we were on our way and to make a long story short we had an enjoyable first night on the ship. I did have a little bit of sea sickness but nothing too bad. We also got quite a kick out of standing at the front of the ship and having our hair blow sky high. I can't find the picture I wanted to post of that right now so I'll try to remember to do it later.
Tuesday, November 20th

We arrived in our first port of Nassau, New Providence Island in the Bahamas. We had signed up for a "Forts and Pirates" tour which turned out to be much less exciting than we anticipated. We boarded a mini bus and got kind of a narrative tour through the city before stopping at Fort Fincastle. We got a little rowdy so they put us in Bahamian time out:

From there we moved onto Fort Charlotte where we could have chosen to pay yet another $5 to actually tour the fort and take pictures of the harbor. Instead, we took this picture for free outside the fort.

Our next stop was the Pirates of Nassau Museum. I was really looking forward to this because I have always been a bit fascinated by pirates. This museum was touted as the "highlight" of our tour and it sure was something. We were led on a guided tour by a crazy man dressed as a pirate who kept scaring the children on our tour recycling his same lame pirate jokes every 3 minutes or so. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed. I suggest you save your money and take the online tour yourself. The scariest pirates around belonged to this crew pictured on the left.

After the tour we spent some time on the beach. It got pretty windy (I think I still have sand in my left ear) so we headed back to do some shopping. There wasn't really anything exciting souvenir wise and the CAK headed back to the ship while Heidi and I forged on. She ended up with a couple of things and I bought a license plate.

Back on board it was time to get all glammed up for the Captain's Gala or something like that. Basically it was formal night and so we all got fabulous and had a great time posing for the formal portraits, including some rather awkward poses suggested by the photographer...we were laughing hysterically. I must say we all looked very nice and although I was skeptical before the trip, Candice was right...formal night was quite fun!

Wednesday, November 21st

This day's port of call was CocoCay--Royal Caribbean's private island. While the island wasn't all that exciting, it was actually really nice to have a day to just lounge in the sun and not have to do much of anything. The water was a bit colder than I expected but Kim and I had fun with the waterproof digital camera although our underwater self-portraits didn't turn out as well as we hoped:

Thursday, November 22nd--Happy Thanksgiving!

Our third port of call was Key West. It's kind of crazy to think that it is closer to Cuba than it is Miami. I thought about swimming the 90 miles to Havana but I'm just a little too afraid of the open water. But more on my fears later. Our shore excursion in Key West was called "The Big Three" which involved sea kayaking, snorkeling and dolphon watching.

Our first adventure was sea kayaking which I had never done before. It was quite enjoyable but I would like to try it in a one person kayak because I am too chicken of capsizing the kayak. Had that happened it wouldn't have been much of a problem though as it was low tide and many of the areas only had a foot or so of water. Here are Analee and Kim, the kamikaze kayakers:

We then suited up for snorkeling. I had been snorkeling once before in Cancun and for the life of me couldn't figure out why I had signed up to do it again. **Confession--I have an irrational but very powerful fear of being touched by fish or other sea life while in the water.** This makes snorkeling some what challenging, and at times, terrifying. However, I decided to buck up and try to be brave. I only said a bad word in my snorkel once (hehehe) although my heart got pumping a number of times. Overall it was a much better experience than my first time but I was still ever-so-grateful to get back on the boat. Thankfully the waterproof digitals were able to capture footage of my bravery.

On the way back to the ship we were tried to find some dolphins. We wer very lucky to run into a pod of about six of them and we followed them for a good twenty minutes. They were quite playful and just amazing creatures to watch close up. One even jumped out of the water for us. It was pretty cool.

This is our cruise ship, the Majesty of the Seas:

I was sad that it was already the last night of our cruise. We had such a fun time and even the stereotypical things about a cruise were so great. We enjoyed going to the cheesy shows in the theater and making fun of the horrible choreography and singing. The exception was the comedian they had the first night because he was funny and clean! Anyway, we wanted to commemorate the theater in a photo...notice the people behind us...definitely kindred mischevious spirits of ours!

Friday, November 23rd

It felt like the blink of an eye our cruise was over. However, we had scheduled an Everglades tour in Miami so we loaded on the bus and headed out to the Gator Park for our airboat tour and gator show. I really loved riding on the airboat even though our guide was a more annoying and less-funny version of Larry the Cable Guy. The Everglades are impressive and we were actually able to see a couple of alligators in the habitat.

After the airboat tour we moved on to watch alligators being fed and then a show about some of the wildlife in the region, including gators. Perhaps the coolest thing of all was that I got to hold a young alligator in my very own hands. Their skin is very cool to the touch and has quite an interesting texture. It was sooo cool!

I made some new friends at the Gator Park:

After the Everglades tour we went back to downtown Miami and checked into our hotel. We then took some local transportation (Metro mover) to an open air mall along the dock called Bayside. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and wandered around for a while before barricading ourselves in the hotel room again. We did not make the mistake of another late night run to Checkers! :)

Saturday, November 24th

The days flew by way too quickly and it was time to head home. We had an early morning flight and had to leave our hotel by 4 a.m. which means we only got a very few hours of sleep. Despite the grumpy tired looks on our faces on that early morning we had a GREAT time on our cruise and I would happily do it all over again. Thanks to Heidi and the CAK for another great set of memories!

Monday, December 24, 2007

I'll be home for Christmas...

It's hard to believe that Christmas is tomorrow...seriously, where has this year gone? Regardless, I am happy to be blogging from lovely Simi Valley, CA and happy to be home for Christmas. I get to spend a glorious 10 days with my family and I couldn't be happier.

Thanks to the many people who responded to my last blog. I appreciate your support and encouragement. I am happy to announce that things have been much better in the last couple of weeks...even with all of the added holiday stress. So don't worry, I'm not as close to the edge any more.

There are so many things I've wanted to blog about but just haven't had time. So now that I'm free of work and a lot of other responsibilities for the next little while I hope to at least post something about my trip to the Bahamas last month. Stay tuned....

In other news, it's already been an eventful holiday break. I flew home on Friday night and thanks to airport delays didn't get home until long past midnight. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, however, the next day we all hopped in the car to head to Vegas to show some support for the Cougars at the Las Vegas Bowl.

It was a lot of fun for us all. My mom hadn't been to a football game for a good 30 years and my sis hadn't been at all. Our seats were great...thanks to taking my mom's wheelchair. The only bad thing was that it was FREEZING cold...c'mon Vegas, we expected something better from you!

Anyway, the Cougars didn't play as well as they have at other times this season, but a win is a win! And we can give a big thanks to Eathyn Manumaleuna for helping us put a mark in the W column. In case you missed the highlights and the amazing blocked field goal with 3 seconds you go:

Somehow I managed to forget to pack the USB cable for my camera so unfortunately I won't be able to post any of my own pictures from the game. I know...I can practically hear your disappointment over that one. Next time I promise to try to not be so thoughtless.

So after the game we headed back to the Stateline (aka Primm, NV) to spend the night at Buffalo Bill's. Not the nicest accommodations, but it will certainly do when you've been in the car for a good chunk of the day. The best part of the stay was that we got two free tickets to ride the Desperado roller coaster housed at the hotel...pictured below:

Yes, friends, that's a 45 foot drop straight down. Megan (my sister) and I braved the ride together. She's usually totally freaked out by roller coasters so it's a miracle that I got her on it in the first place. And well, I'm not a huge fan of heights either so I doubt it would have ever happened without the free tickets. I mean, do I look stupid enough to pay to risk my life on something like that? Never mind, don't answer that question.

Anyway, I must have been a little more scared than I thought because I seriously dreamed about that stupid roller coaster the whole night! But I have to say, it was totally awesome. I screamed for the first 2 seconds of that big drop and then it literally took my breath away. I was really proud of Megan too...I think she might have been less scared than I was!

The only bad thing is that now I will have to find something new to tease her about. It's been a tradition for me to tease her about us going on that roller coaster every year when we drive by. Oh well, now we have a great memory to last a lifetime.