Monthly Archives: December 2011

(A Happy New Year)

My dear acquaintance, it’s so good to know you
For strength of your hand
That is loving and giving
And a happy new year
With love overflowing
With joy in our hearts
For the blessed new year

Raise your glass and we’ll have a cheer
For us all who are gathered here
And a happy new year to all that is living
To all that is gentle, kind, and forgiving
Raise your glass and we’ll have a cheer
My dear acquaintance, a happy new year

All of those who are hither and yonder
With love in our hearts
We grow fonder and fonder
Hail to those who we hold so dear
And hail to those who are gathered here

And a happy new year to all that is living
To all that is gentle, young, and forgiving
Raise your glass and we’ll have a cheer
My dear acquaintance, a happy new year
Happy new year

 

Regina Spektor

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December Taught Me

  1. There is such a thing as freezing fog.
  2. You can switch your Facebook language to upside down. Because that’s practical.
  3. Ruths Chris petit filet cooked rare is exquisite; it’s like velvet. And the cheesecake dessert. Get in my belly.
  4. There’s something about cleaning out my purse that instantly makes me feel more organized.
  5. Milk chocolate just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Dark is better.
  6. The New Orleans Jazz Festival lineup is amazing.
  7. My iron is low. Again. Feed me raisins.
  8. The Hunger Games is phenomenal. Couldn’t put it down.
  9. For the 2011 Festival events, Memphis in May generated an economic impact of $76,506,384 supporting 939 jobs. Good stuff.
  10. Jax and I met 6 years ago today.
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Sunrise Atop a Volcano

Despite what you may be expecting, this story starts with a sunset.

After a full day of Tiger basketball, surfing lessons, and lounging on a secluded beach, Jax and I paused for a sunset. Our toes buried in the warm sand, we prepared to watch nature’s drama unfold. We gazed peacefully on as the sun slipped away, daylight fading into night. The scene was fantastic – the bright fiery sphere sliding across the sky, rays bouncing off the clouds to create brilliant orange and yellow hues. Silhouettes of other islands in the distance dotted the horizon. We watched intently, silently, not wanting to miss a moment of the display.

That next morning at 3am, as if to complete the cycle, we journeyed to the other side of the island to meet the rising sun atop Haleakala Volcano. It is surprisingly cold at the top of the mountain, so we bundled up with jackets, gloves, and beach towels. We wound up the mountain, curving our way through the night. As we climbed the 10,023 feet in elevation, it was almost impossible to see anything but what was directly in front of our headlights. Sheer darkness. Our drive down after day break revealed that the winding road we were following takes you within inches of thousand foot drop offs without so much as a guard rail for protection. So that’s comforting.

We arrived at the top about 40 minutes before the sun was to rise and perched on a rock at the edge of the mountain to wait. It was cold, and we entertained ourselves with the stars. I was closer to the Big Dipper than I have ever been in my life, and that’s a pretty neat place to be.

As 6:03am neared, the sky began to lighten, called predawn. We were sitting on the edge of the volcano’s mouth, and the cloud cover inside transformed with color. It moved from an eerie dark haze to a milky ocean to a pillow of pastels. The sun began peering over the horizon sliver by sliver, and it was brilliant. It was bold and mesmerizing, and you couldn’t help but fix your eyes on it, to both stare and look away at the same time.

I had never really thought about it before, and we hadn’t planned on it happening this way, but witnessing the sun set one evening and rise the very next morning really has a feeling of rarity and completeness to it.

You should try it sometime.

 

Psalms 113:3 From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised.

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Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Wishing you all the merriest of Christmases! I hope your day is filled with loved ones, laughter, good cheer, and an honest acknowledgement of the One we are celebrating. May your hearts be blessed by the miracle of Christmas and the weight of its meaning, for He alone is worthy.

Amen and amen.

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What I’m Loving Wednesday

I’ve been shirking my regular Wednesday post, leaving your lives empty and void of all the great things I’ve been enjoying over the past several weeks. And I feel really bad about it. Turns out leaving town for nine days and then returning just in time for the busiest month of the year does not bode well for those of us trying to squeeze in an extra few seconds for blogging. Today, amidst my lengthy to do list, I am carving out a sliver of time to share some of my latest goings-ons.

There’s so much to say, I don’t know where to begin.

I am loving that I have all but completed my Christmas shopping and wrapping for the year. I realize that it’s approaching crunch time and pretty much everybody has reached this point (or if they haven’t, they’d better get there soon), but I still relish in the personal accomplishment. It’s a true test of how much shopping, planning, and creating one can squeeze into a limited amount of lunch breaks, and it looks like I’ve passed the test.

I am loving the Memphis Tigers. Always have, always will, but there’s something about watching them from directly behind the bench in a small gym in Maui that made me feel that much closer to the team. We were so close to the action that I couldn’t help with empathize with the guys. Every facial expression, every footstep, every aggressive play took on more weight. It felt personal. We cheered for them by name, we made eye contact, and we became best friends. Ok, so maybe not that last part.

I am beginning to love my new iPhone 4, an early Christmas present from the parents. At first I was more frustrated with it than anything: How are you supposed to type on this tiny keypad? What’s my Apple ID? How do you make a simple phone call on this thing? What in the world is iChat? How do you close anything? But now, after several days of practice and exposure, I’m starting to get more comfortable with the device, and I’ve actually discovered a lot of nifty uses for it. It really is pretty amazing. And if you have any tips, suggestions, tutorials, or app suggestions, please feel free to send them my way.

I am loving scarves. I’ve always been attracted to them, I’ve just never really mastered the art of how to wear them. But those days are behind me, my friends. This year, I promised myself that I will not be miserably cold all winter long, as is normally the case, and that I would make good use of all that cozy winter wear I own. So far, it’s working out quite warm and toastily for me.

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I love my coworkers. And their spouses. I really am blessed to be part of such a great team. We recently had our annual Christmas dinner at Ruth’s Chris, and I always leave feeling so warm and fuzzy (and stuffed). Not only is the meal mouth-wateringly amazing, but the friendly chatter around the table is a pleasant reminder of why my job rocks.

There’s more, so much more. But we’ll save that for next week.

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Waterfalls and the Bamboo Forest

The day following my brutal 16-mile run, Jax and I decided to go hiking. Never mind the fact that my legs were so sore I could barely bend them, causing my attempts at walking to resemble that of an uncoordinated toddler with little muscle control. Alas, you can’t let things like this slow you down in Hawaii, where there is just too much fun to be had to let a little lactic acid get in the way.

We started the day with breakfast in a cute little hippie town called Paia, then hit the Hana Highway in all its tropical glory. The road twists and turns along the coastal rainforest and offers the most breathtaking views you’ve ever seen. Clusters of lush foliage and flowers frame the deep blue expanse of ocean below, and every bend reveals a gorgeous panorama. Since we had already spent several hours exploring the winding Road to Hana with Jax’s family earlier in the week, we didn’t stop for all of the sights along the way this time. (More on our initial excursion soon, though at the rate I’m going, said future date could easily extend to summer of next year. But stay tuned.)

We set our sites on the small town of Hana, about 55 miles away, and we didn’t detour until we arrived at our intended destinationHonokalani Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park. This dramatic beach is tucked away in a little alcove set among seaside cliffs and lava tubes, and the sand is actually small, smooth lava pebbles.

We walked along the ocean bluff above the beach and admired the waves violently crashing against the rocks, forcing gusts of ocean spray into the air. Then, we spent some time climbing around in the seaside caves.

Once we had our fill of black sand, we headed to Haleakala National Park for an afternoon of hiking. We ended up going about 4.5 miles roundtrip, and the various treasures we encountered along the way were just stunning. We climbed along the Pipiwai Trail, every now and then stopping at some scenic lookout, waterfall, or hidden pool. Eventually, we came to the mysterious Bamboo Forest, which is quite possibly my favorite forest ever in the world. I have never seen anything like it. For miles in every direction are thousands of dense bamboo stalks of yellow and green, towering over your head. Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone….

Sidetracked by The Beatles. It happens. Let’s carry on.

The bamboo is surprisingly tall, and the effect of the light filtering through the leaves creates a dreamlike setting. The forest is actually quite dim, and when the wind blows, the bamboo stalks knock together causing a hollow musical rustle to move throughout the expanse. At points, there is a raised boardwalk marking the path, and I felt very much like a character in a fairytale as we trotted along. It was fantastic, whimsical, and eerie all at the same time.

Eventually the Bamboo Forest faded and we found ourselves crawling across small streams on slippery rocks. Thanks to some nimble maneuvering, we made it to solid ground, and directly before us was the most splendid waterfall I have ever seen. And you know how much I like waterfalls. We were standing at the base of Waimoku Falls, which rose a spectacular 450 feet above us. The waterfall crashed down a sheer lava rock wall into a pool below, and we stood there in the spray, silent under the roaring water, necks craned, just appreciating the beauty of it all.

There had actually been a point during our hike where we considered turning back because daylight hours were dwindling and we didn’t want to make the treacherous drive back in the dark. We decided to forge ahead anyway, and at this moment, we agreed that it was utterly and totally worth it. It’s amazing to think that God created things like this for our pleasure, for us to enjoy, and as a reminder of His love for us. What a beautiful, indescribable gift to my soul.

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Running up a Mountain in Maui

Let me tell you about this ridiculous 16-mile race I ran in Maui last week.

And when I say ridiculous, I’m talking no bathrooms, no cheering spectators, no water stations, and no water. Totally unsupported. No water?! Now that’s just mean.

Jax and I wake up at 4:30am on Thanksgiving morning, I scurry into my race gear and down a quick breakfast of peanut butter and toast, and we are out the door within 30 minutes. We drive the hour trek it takes to get to the race site, and then we spend the next 45 minutes circling two-lane roads crisscrossing the mountain in search of this mysterious locale. As 7:00am nears, it is becoming less and less likely that I will be running a Turkey Trot this year; I have pretty much accepted that I’m not going to arrive on time, and then, just in the nick of time, we stumble across Rice Park.

As we are standing at the starting line, which is really more of a starting area than a line per say, the race director describes the course as such: You’ll take a sharp right out of here onto Kula Highway. After roughly 8 miles, you’ll see five trees and turn right onto Haleakala Highway, where you will proceed to run 7 miles straight up a mountain. One hill. No relief. Just up. At the crest, you will enjoy a 2-mile downhill stretch, and you will want nothing more than for this race to be over. Follow Haleakala until it intersects with Kula, then loop around back to the park. Oh, and the course isn’t marked, so I hope you remembered that. Ready, set, GO. And just like that, before I have a chance to get out of my jacket, we’re off.

And I am terrified. Nobody said anything about a 7 mile uphill climb when I signed up for this thing! Perhaps I should have considered the terrain before committing to a race that includes a volcano in its topography.

My first 8 miles are excellent. Jax comes by and relieves me of my jacket, and I am running strong. I use the rolling hills to my advantage, lengthening my stride on the downhills and using the momentum to plow up the other side. I enjoy the beauty around me, and I thrive off the encouraging honks and yells from the passing cars. I smile and wave my way down the highway and thank God for the opportunity, the health, and the ability to be running a race in Hawaii. As directed, I turn at the five trees, and what looms before me nearly knocks me off my feet.

They weren’t kidding about that hill. I don’t stand a chance. I push my body forward but soon have to stop and walk. I am thirsty. As if on cue, my knight in shining armor drives up in his bright red jeep with water bottles in tow. I drink deeply, and I am beyond thankful. I didn’t realize this at the time, but Jax actually bought water for all the runners, and in between stopping to offer support to me, he drove around the mountain hydrating anyone in need. He was the MVP of the day, and there is absolutely no way we could have finished that race without him.

So, I’m intermittently running/walking up this hill, and it is brutal. It is so steep, I sometimes feel that I’m running in place. I run until my legs and lungs burn, then I walk for some relief. Even the walking is difficult. I can’t see anybody ahead of me or behind me as we spread out under the weight of this challenge. It is just me and this mountain, my heavy breathing, and the spectacular view. I climb 1,500 feet in elevation over these 7 miles, and it is a test of my emotional and physical endurance in a way I don’t think I have previously encountered, not even during the marathon. Jax drives by frequently to check on me, quench my thirst, encourage me, walk with me for stretches, and assure me I’m still on the right path and that I don’t have too much further to go.

Somehow, miraculously, I reach the top of this monster and notice the road begins curving in the other direction, and I fly down the remaining two miles. My feet hurt with every pound to the asphalt, but I can’t stop. If I do, I don’t think I’ll have the strength to resume; I’ll probably just lay on the side of the road and wait for somebody to come find me. So I run and run and run with all my might, and I’m greeted at the finish line with a bouquet of flowers from my honey. I’m done and it’s over, and I can hardly fathom what just happened.

We peel the top of our jeep and drive off into the afternoon sun with a perfect rainbow marking our path, and it is the most picturesque thing you’ve ever seen.

Here’s the funniest part of it all: the winner of the race was determined not by who crossed the finish line first, but by who guessed their time most accurately. Prior to the run, we were each asked to predict how long our run would take. I was planning on saying 2.5 hours, because that’s typically about how long it takes me to run 16 miles. The guy in front of me, however, guessed his time to be 3 hours, and that caused me to reconsider my initial plan. It would be silly of me to think that I can run the race faster than this athletic-looking fellow, so I offer 3 hours for my time as well.

Turns out I ran the race in 2:59:58, two seconds off of my prediction, which makes me the winner of the whole thing. How hysterical is that?!? So yeah, you’re looking at the reining champion of the Valley Isle Road Runners’ Turkey Trot.

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November Taught Me

  1. The frequency with which I reference the Dewey Decimal System is unusual and abnormal.
  2. Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
  3. Sometimes your cell phone service provider will give you a new charger for free, and it will make your day.
  4. The area code for the state of Hawaii is (808).
  5. I have mastered the complex process of putting the top on a 2-door soft top Jeep Wrangler.
  6. My boyfriend cooks a mean turkey.
  7. Drinking Kona coffee makes me wish I was back in Maui.
  8. I despise Black Friday, but Cyber Monday is where it’s at.
  9. 22 uninterrupted hours of travel is (surprisingly) not as bad as it sounds.
  10. I need to own more jackets.
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