2,922 Bonus Days: That’s EIGHT Extra Years of life!

It’s that time of year again, ALREADY.  Thanksgiving has somehow come and gone, and Christmas is right around the corner.  My childhood BFF Mary just celebrated her birthday on December 1st (a chronological landmark I remember every year) and now the third is here…

It’s my EIGHT YEAR CANCER-VERSARY! 

Can you believe it?  It’s been eight happy, wonderful, blessed bonus years that I’ve been gifted since beating Stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in college.

The funny part about this commemorative occasion is that for the last several years, we’ve been celebrating it on December 5th.  In writing a post for this very blog, I uncovered some old photos, and actually found my radiation completion certificate – and lo and behold, it was dated the 3rd.  So the third of December it is.

The certificate of radiation completion!

The certificate of radiation completion!

This morning when I woke up to some texts and emails from family, I kinda found myself reflecting for a bit.  My moods ranged from full of awe and reverence to downright giddy. On Facebook, I posted an image of my cancer-beating certificate, and I’ve gotten an obscene amount of likes on it, like in the 160s and climbing.  And my dear pal and former-roomie and current co-worker Sasha “Salsa” Freeman Gray has been quite lovely in uploading some of the sillier pics from those crazy cancer days.

I was in college, had already gone through some really crazy health issues (a mis-diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease led me down the garden path of insane meds and eventually a full bowel obstruction which required a surgical resection), when my neck started to look like a sock full of golf balls – at least that’s the easiest way I’ve come to describe it.   I was tired, running slower than usual (literally, I ran a 5k and noted that my time was really slow, even for me), and I was having terrible night sweats.  Eventually I developed a non-producing cough, and around the holidays I just assumed I had some kind of supercold that my immuno-suppressed body couldn’t really fight so well.  It wouldn’t be until February of 2004 that I’d begin the process of diagnostic testing, and actually April when we found out for sure that it was Stage III-BS Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that had taken my collegiate body hostage.

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With Sasha, while getting my head shaved. I didn’t want to wait for it to fall out, so I took the matter into my own hands and got my pretty round head buzzed after my first chemo round.

In the process of shaving my head, I of course, had to take pause when I reached the excellent stage of MULLET.

In the process of shaving my head, I of course, had to take pause when I reached the excellent stage of MULLET.

I’ve gotten some interesting questions today – people wanting to know what it was like, how I’ve made the most of my time since, how I’m doing now… so without boring you all to death, I’ll try and give some tidbits:

What is it like to know you have cancer? 

Cancer was wacky crazy and very surreal for most of the experience, with one grindingly serious memory that jumps forward in which I finally absorbed the fact that I indeed had fecking CANCER and that it was hardcore.  Most of the time though, when you have cancer and you’re all chemo-bald, people know what your deal is and they’re very nice to you.  In my ongoing health issues with “Crohn’s Disease” and what we now know to be Acute Porphyria – it’s different. 

The serious realization came about very randomly.  I was driving home, and I was getting on Hodges from JTB (Jax ppl know what I mean), and it just hit me: I HAVE CANCER.  THIS IS SERIOUS.  And it kind of quietly overwhelmed me for a few moments, but by the time I got home I felt “normal” again.

How old were you? 

I was 20 when I was diagnosed, and celebrated my 21st birthday between chemo sessions.  I remember going to the Pepsi 400  (because that’s what it was called back then) on my actual birthday (July 3rd) and when a freak rainstorm came through I was freezing.  My then-boyfriend, Rick Neidringhaus, went and bought me some sweats and a windbreaker for my two favorite drivers: Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr, respectively.  I still have the pants and actually wear them often!

Sasha and bald-me, circa Fall 2004.

Sasha and bald-me, circa Fall 2004.

What got you through?

This one is easy: God, faith, family, friends, the entire UNF family, the Greek system, and my incredible team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and techs – all the good people of Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville who efficiently and effectively saved my life.  I had top notch doctors – I was already a patient at Mayo because of my aggressive “Crohn’s Disease” (since I really didn’t have Crohn’s, my body would never respond to the treatment – rendering me a medical outlier with an extreme case and therefore in need of the best doctors in the land.  Luckily for me, I lived in Jax, FL at the time and had Mayo access just a few miles from home).

I kept a really awesome attitude the entire time.  I bore everyone to death with the stories I tell again and again – but the one that I must tell when I saw a mother and her wheelchair-bound small child park next to me at Publix the day I was officially diagnosed.  Seeing that kid who has likely never walked and likely never will, I refused to feel sorry for myself.  It changed my entire perspective on the situation.  The first 19 years of my life were spent in excellent health, as I lead a life of privilege, freedom and one full of lovely memories and special experiences.  Had I died the day I was diagnosed, I wouldn’t have had a regret or a single sad feeling for myself.  Having cancer is what it is – once that tough lump is swallowed, all that’s left is making the best of it.  So I fought hard, kept my chin up, and did what I always do: plow my way through with some jokes and a lot of laughs, and a firm anchor to God and faith in the ultimate plan He has for my life.

Have these eight years been well-lived?

I mean, according to me – YES.  Heck, yes!  I’ve done some pretty amazing things and I believe I’ve chocked eight years full of an awful lot of life.  I’ve traveled, I’ve helped others, I’ve tried new things, I’ve experienced love, loss, happiness, and pain, full spectrum human experience.  I’ve created art, made others smile, formed friendships in the strangest and most normal of places – and every now and then I hear the “I word,” that I’ve inspired someone else into doing something good or at least having a good attitude about whatever it is he or she has going on.

Knowing that I can actually inspire others is very humbling.

Knowing that I’ve literally been granted 2,992 extra days of this life (heck yes I counted Leap Years) is humbling.

Snorkeling in Hawaii.  I've had a very happy life, yes!

Snorkeling in Hawaii. I’ve had a very happy life, yes!

I ran my first marathon this year, 26.2 miles!

I ran my first marathon this year, 26.2 miles!

Helping Sandy Relief in NYC last month.

Helping Sandy Relief in NYC last month.

My husband + me, smooching from a deer stand.

My husband + me, smooching from a deer stand.

Me - hunting just this past week or so!

Me – hunting just this past week or so!

So what’s it like now?

It’s both far-removed and ever-present.  The scars have faded, but they’re still there; and I still have my very first tattoos – the radiation dots that they marked me with to make sure they hit the same spot every day.  (As far as scars go, I had a couple stitches in my neck from a biopsy, another incision on the left side of my neck from having a lymph node removed, and I have a scar on my chest when I had my port-a-cath taken in and out).  I don’t obsess or worry about relapsing like I once did, and I don’t have to do the often check-ups and scans as I did in those first crucial years of remission.  I passed the five-year milestone three years ago, and that was a BIG ONE.  That’s the “you’re cured” milestone.

I don’t ever want to lose touch with that experience though.  After all, having been through cancer is a huge definer of who I am as a person.  It shaped me into a MUCH nicer person in general, and a tougher person in many ways.  It gave me a glimpse of my own frailty and left me with a profound appreciation for life and every breath I take.  And with that comes a responsibility to carry out a life well-lived and to do good in this world – and I find myself still trying to grasp at the best ways to keep that promise.

From this experience, what still impacts you today? 

I forever live with inexplicable gratitude in my heart.  For every nurse who held my hand, every doctor who took the time to make sure I received exemplary care… to my loved ones who came with me to chemo, prayed for me around the clock, and supported me in so many ways that words can never express… to the friends, classmates, and total strangers who came together to raise funds to help cover the costs of my treatment, to my Dad for working hard and having a good job that provided excellent insurance for me and money still to cover the costs that even excellent insurance didn’t take care of.

I carry with me a legacy of the hopes, dreams, and the honor of so many people who aren’t as lucky, of those who came before me and the technology that saved my life, of those in circumstances that don’t allow for early detection or top-notch medical care, of those who just don’t win the fight.  And that’s something that’s very real with me, a part of who I am.  We stand on the shoulders of so many giants, and I can’t ever forget that.

Mostly though, I just feel like me: Rose.  A happy wacky tie-dye loving slightly-redneck weirdo who often smiles and laughs everyday, and who is truly loved.  And I’m happy to be me, and I feel blessed to be me – each and every day.

I suppose if there was ever a profound take-away from an experience like mine – it is knowing in every ounce of my being that I am loved.  By my God, my family, those around me then and now, my husband, my friends, my sister, and even strangers – yes.  I am loved.  And being able to come face to face with such colossal concepts as life, death, and love is an honor that I am humbled to have experienced and lived through to write about now.

This post is dedicated to all of the many, many people who saved my life.  And to the many more lives that are forever changed by cancer, in all manner of ways – both happy and sad. 

Thank you for reading and for your support.

XOXO, 

HHR

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The Circle Of Life Rings Around Pain and Loss, Too.

I know.  I know what you’re thinking, and yes – I readily admit it.  I’ve been super absentee lately.  What started as a small break because family was coming to visit and I had too much to do, turned into a little blogging break and then snowballed into just well, blog neglect?  For my loyal readers and supporters, I do apologize.  The break has been nice though, and times have been busy as of late.  Work is going full swing, so has home life.  But before I can delve into stories of runs I’ve been on and adventures in which I’ve partaken, I must take today to post about something serious, something sad, something hard.

My Grandmother died last week.  

A week ago today, actually.

a recent pic of me and my gma

Sally Ann Jacobs Eckerle is no longer with us.  And seen it coming as I may have, it still stings and hurts – the circumstances surrounding her last earthly day took us all by surprise and have left a bigger hollow than I could have anticipated.  But isn’t death always like that?  You always prepare and stonewall yourself, you brace and prepare… and yet, your efforts be damned, it still sucks the wind out of your sails with it’s urgent appearance, pulls at your heart and spirit to leave you bereft with sadness.  And disbelief and questions, longing, missing, emptiness.

My Grandma had been sick for a while, she wasn’t a spring chicken.  Not as spry and energetic in recent years the way I had always known her to be.  We knew time wasn’t on her side, of course.  Rational, smart people can always perform simple math.  But even with that knowledge in the back of our minds, I was caught off guard.  She had a tragic accident last week, and now… she’s gone.

I have to stop the sad talk and darkness here though.  Not for myself, because I assure I could go on… but for her.  This is NOT what she wanted.  She didn’t want tears, not ever and especially not now.  She didn’t want a process surrounding her death, she didn’t want us to fuss, she didn’t want to upend everyone around her.   She just wanted to go and to be at peace, and asked that we trust in what is to be and find our own peace too.  Not exactly religious, but more than spiritual, she did acknowledge the full-circle nature of nature – she knew that death was part of living.  As a woman who really lived – boldly coursing through life with chutzpah – she didn’t fear death or despise it.  She was ready, I think.

And in my own beliefs, and the strength I find in God – I have to trust, and be willing to trust, in His timing and in His ways.  I know she’s better now, I know she is in happiness now.  And I thank God for giving me the peace and serenity I so need now.

My Grandma was amazing.  

this is several years old, i do believe

Where to start?

She was strong, smart, outspoken, kind, passionate.  She’d always tell you what she thought, you always knew where you stood with her.  She was blunt, she was honest.  Her heart bled for so many – she felt compassion for causes the world over, and always took the time to understand how a person could feel.  She taught me a great deal about empathy, about being a humanist.  Back before the Internet, she’d educate me about women’s rights issues in remote places, about sex trafficking and slavery.  If she could have fixed it all, she would have.

She had long, strong legs… and I just have this image of her in my mind as both standing firm and tall (she was 5’10 after all) and also of her striding through life, strutting really, with her long legs stepping over obstacles and challenges and never breaking her pace.  She didn’t really let others get in the way of her determination, you know.

When I was little I was somewhat resentful of who she was.  I wanted a tiny old Grandma, a cuddly woman with soft white hair.  I wanted a Grandma who rocked in a chair, knitting, and telling stories.

My Grandma was big and booming, brassy and brazen.  

As I grew up and grew into my own strengths and glaring personality, I understood her better.  Through my own challenges and experiences, I became the “me” I know myself to be today – both resolute and kind, strong yet sweet.  In recent years, my Grandma used to compliment me on the woman I’d become.  “You’re really a nice person, Rose.”  She’d tell me.  And I know she meant it as a compliment – sometimes being nice is difficult.  And I knew that (I haven’t always been so nice, you see).  She saw the changes in me, from bratty teen to confident adult, and she approved.  Really approved.

She loved me.

I admired her.  More than she knew, I suppose.  I tried to make sure she got the idea – it’s hard to say how successful I was at that.

she was a model, it’s easy to see why. what a knock out!

She didn’t have it easy.  Her first husband died when my Dad was only five.  She raised my pops as a single Jewish woman in NYC, post WWII.  The world was harder back then, people more unforgiving.  Feminism wasn’t yet to have burst forth.  She worked jobs taking lower wages than the men around her.  She felt the heat and pain of antisemitism all the time.  She knew the heartache and loneliness of being a young widow.  And yet she held her head high – always.

When her husband died, she found out she was pregnant.  Securing her role as a harbinger for women’s rights, she sought an abortion.  Yes, in the 1950’s, she went to Cuba to get one.  The shame she was forced to crawl through to take care of her own body left her with a hunger to assure that others didn’t have to do the same.  She always fought tooth and nail for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and I’ve always admired her for that.  A true feminist, I hope I do her proud as I keep that torch going.

if you’ve ever wondered where on earth my hippie tendencies come from… hahaha… viper (my dad) and gma, old school!

Well read, well traveled, sophisticated in many ways and yet rough around the edges when she wanted to be.  She lived through a lot.  She knew a lot.  I just can’t express  well enough how she was just so able to get from life so very much.   She could really grab life by the balls and make it hers.  She was funny,  she was charming.  Witty and crass too.

Seeing her get ill in the past several years has been hard for all who know her.  She hasn’t been herself at 100% for a while.  And that was tough.  For someone who’s been able to shine so brightly, it’s hard to see her personality dampened and darkened by the clutches of Alzheimer’s, and the slowing of her body thanks to COPD.   I resent the sickness that detracted from the fullness of her character.  She did too.

a recent one of gma and my dad, at his house in leesburg

So now that it’s all said and done, I can at least step back and say: she lived a full, rich life.  Her memory will carry on for a long time to come, and she will be both loved and missed forever.   And when I take my own selfishness out of the equation, I recognize she’s at peace now, reunited with loved ones she’s been too far removed from.  I’m happy when I think that she’s with Stanley again.  Her father.  Her brother.  She’s missed them all, and so many more.  That’s the terribleness of out-living everyone you know.  We may be lonely for her voice down here, but she’s without want now – and that fills my heart.

Thanks for reading this.  It means a lot.  I love any chance to spread her legacy just a little bit further, to have one person aware of who she was.   I wrote this all as a stream of consciousness more or less, and I’m worried that if I go back and edit it, I’ll end up just hacking it to pieces and taking things out.  So I’m going to let it ride… probably full of typos, and blistering with raw feelings, but it’ll be real.  And honest.

Oh, and the title: SHE LOVED THE LION KING.  She really did.  She loved animals so much, Spirited Away was her favorite movie – how rad is that?!?!  She was so rad.  Really really truly rad, without trying at all.   There’s just so much I could say about her, she was so dynamic, she did and saw so much, she held so many ideas… it’s really hard to sum her up, and I hate even trying to.  But I don’t want to keep this post going forever, so I’ll wrap it up.  I loved her, I always will.

she was a hipster, from brooklyn and all

Here’s her obit, as written by my Dad and Stepmom and put in their local paper:

Sally Shapiro Eckerle, age 85, widow of the late Richard Eckerle, passed away at home in Leesburg on August 23, 2012. Born in New York City, May 5, 1927, she moved to Miami, Florida in 1974, later resided in Delray Beach, Florida for 28 years until she moved to Leesburg in 2008 to be with her son and daughter-in-law Scott and Anna Shapiro. She is also survived by her grand-daughters Rose Duggan (NY) and Anna Shapiro (NY), by her step-daughter Edith Eckerle (VA), step-son Kenneth Eckerle (GA) and sister-in-law Ellie Jacobs (CT). Sally graduated for NYU with a bachelor of arts degree, worked as the executive secretary for the P.A.L. in NYC, office manager for the Miami Home Builders Association until retiring in 1978. Her interests included mah jong, bowling, card games, word puzzles of all types and socializing with friends and family. She was an avid reader and was always in the middle of a good book. In honor of Sally?s wishes, there will be no service and her body will be cremated. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Humane Society, one of her favorite organizations.

Thanks for reading.  You can count on me to be “back” now – my blogging break is over, and I’m excited to catch everyone up with all kinds of hippie missives.  Love to you all – tell the ones you love how you feel, because life is so precious.

XOXO,

HHR

 

Life in Fredonia, all the Fancy Photos!

Whew… it’s been a busy time here at HHR, with all my photo posts from our trip, updates, catch ups, and everything.  Hope you can stomach one more photo binge.  Can you?

Here are all the rest of our initial Fredonia pics, from our first few days and weekend here!  Just like the other posts of the fancy pics (all the photos from Long Island and then all the photos from Pottersville), I’m just going to throw all the photos in here as a blob, and anyone who wants to can go through them.

As for getting settled in and how we’re doing, I touched on all that earlier this week in our post about finally being here in Fredonia.

So things should be getting back to “normal” around here … if my blog even has a normal! It’s been fun including everyone on the trip, and I know that people have been so curious to see what our surroundings are like, to see the big difference it is to go from Hawaii to Western New York.  So it’s been fun.

But hopefully life will take on a more routine feeling and I’ll get back in the swing of things, around the house, with work, and here too!  I’m hoping that my energy levels keep soaring and before you know it I’ll be posting about running again, and who knows what!

I’m just so very glad to be where I am.  I’m feeling better in so many ways, and just being on the first page of a fresh chapter is so nice.  I’m so blessed to be with my Duggs, surrounded and supported my some amazing family and friends, and to have a whole new section of our story to set out on.  No matter how routinized daily life becomes, that aspect of where we’re at – that newness and that exciting looking-over-the-edge feeling won’t wear off for a while I don’t think, at least I hope it won’t!

Anyways.  For now, I’m quite happy to be posting from Fredonia.  And I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with us on the trip!

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

Running Into Tragedy

(Warning: sad content about a fatal motor vehicle accident).

Yesterday afternoon I went for a run.  Well, more accurately, it was a jog and walk mix up, doing three minute intervals of each.  Considering how sick I’ve been over the last few months and how little exercise I’ve gotten in (I haven’t gone on a run in way too long), I’m really rather proud of myself!

red faced and sweaty close up. yikes!

happy pooch on a run

It was a sun-filled, warm afternoon.  I wanted to get an idea of where I have to run around here, what the scenery and paths are like, sideswalks vs. grass, quiet roads vs. busy streets and so on.  I used my RunKeeper app to notice the mileage and keep track of landmarks – I now have a great idea of whereabouts my half-mile and mile marks are, etc.

these will be tall vineyards one day

on south roberts road, a little ways down from our house

The pooch was happy to stretch his legs.  The worst part about me being sick and not going for runs is that the pooch doesn’t get to go jog either.  Now, he’s had a lot of chance to play lately.  At the hotel in Hawaii there was a doggie park for him, all during our trip he got to hang out with other pooches and play, and without fenced-in yards – to go potty he was taken on walks.  So it’s not like he’s all cooped up… but the pooch LOVES going for runs with me.  He was so excited he pulled on the leash the entire time, to the point that it was straining and annoying.

exploring doggie

my jayjers

a little farm access road i found to jog down and get away from traffic

While I was out I had the music pumping, I took some fun snapshots with my iPhone camera.  I was really stoked for myself, exercising again, getting some sun, checking out my new home, etc.

a fun place to run, so green and open

I was on my way back to the house, jogging my last “run” interval when I looked further down the road and I saw a ton of dirt and dust clouding up into the air.  Traffic started backing up and I could see cars swerving and zig-zagging.  Something was wrong, and I could just tell.  It seemed like an accident.  So I took off in a sprint and tore down the road.

I am so out of shape, and I’m sore today already… but when I can tell something serious has happened, that lifeguard in me just responds and I sprinted the whole way there.  I got to scene and started yelling, “I’m an RN, is anyone hurt?”

I could see one conversion van, blue with handicap decals and a wheelchair ramp, just smashed to pieces and sticking out into the road at a weird, dangerous angle.  I saw a semi truck in the opposite lane pulled over, and who appeared to be the driver, trying to direct traffic.

a photo of the accident from observer today (link below)

From what I initially gathered, one man was dead and the other was fine – no one else claimed to have been involved and no one else said they were hurt.  The deceased was pinned underneath the rear axle of the blue van, and the scene was just horrendous.

Some volunteer firefighters on the scene started calling up more guys.  They said they would need a lot of help, and I asked if I should run home to get Duggs (“my husband’s a Marine – do you need him?” – “oh yeah, go get him now!”).

So I sprinted home as fast as I could, got Duggs and we hurried back to the accident.  It all happened a country block away from Nick’s house (where we live now) and we could see the whole thing from the end of our driveway.  By the time we got back there so many professionals were on the scene and taking care of everything, they didn’t need us at all and we were told we could go home.

we were really close to the wreck

standing in the driveway, looking toward the accident scene

Now.  I did take some photos with my phone.  I was worried that people were going to try and move the car or move the man, so since I was the first one on the scene with a camera – I just started taking some photos in case things weren’t left as is (I was just trying to do anything I could to help).  No.  I will not post those photos or share them.  I’m going to delete them actually, the officer directing the scene already told me he didn’t need them (it turns out they didn’t end up moving the vehicles or the man).

I went back home and I just felt so weird.  I was so sad for the man who died and for his family.  I know accidents happen all the time, people die everyday – but it’s sad when you deal with it firsthand, so up close.  And I was all mixed up.  I had been so happy, so excited to be out on a run – and now patting myself on the back felt weird.  It felt disrespectful or inappropriate.

But life has to go on, right?

I didn’t know the man who was killed yesterday.  I’m not suffering or grieving his loss.  But I know that many are, and that’s what makes me sad.  After we got back to the house I went out back to the vineyards and jogged, walked, prayed, and just cooled down.  I aksed God to bless the man who lost his life, to comfort his family, loved ones, the other driver and everyone involved.  Other than praying, I wasn’t really sure what to do.

happy pooch, running and playing

love the views of grape country

off leash running in back of the house, sprinting up and down the grassy access road between vineyards

Today in the news I saw the story about the accident.

Turns out the man who died was a very well-known and respected former public official: John Dillenburg.

john dillenburg, rest in peace – this is a photo of him they posted on the daily observer, from 1999

He’s been serving in government since the 70s, he was in the national guard and he went to State Ranger school out here.  His whole life he’s given back to his community and the people around him.  His wife of 45 years survives him, along with his daughter and grand-daughter.

Forty-five years of marriage.  Wow.

My heart breaks for his wife, and now I ask God to bring her comfort and peace.  I just can’t imagine what she’s going through.  I wish there would have been something we could have done, some way we could have helped or saved him.  But that’s not how this played out.  The only respite is that he didn’t suffer, it all must have happened so quickly.

Here’s the link to the news story, you can read all about his service and the work he did in this part of the country.

While I am happy to have gone on a run and to have worked out, I’m just left in an interesting state of mind.  I’ll take this experience as a call to appreciate life, to recognize how fragile we are, how fleeting and delicate life can be.  Each day is a gift, and every day we encounter so many blessings.

I’m in awe of God’s beautiful creation – coming from amazing Hawaii to wester New York, which although different in scenery, is another gorgeous, green, natural place.  I love living here so far, and I’m so grateful for my life.  I’m so grateful that I felt well enough to go running yesterday, that my husband and loved ones were alive and well at the end of the day.

Even on our worst days, there is so much gratitude to fill our hearts to overflowing.  Ever since having cancer, I try to approach and value every day as so special.  But it’s easy to get caught up, it’s easy to get into a routine and come to know distraction.

smiling, again – there’s lots to smile about and even more to be so grateful for.

So while yesterday is a tragedy and it’s sad, and the whole thing horrifies me and hurts my heart, at least I can try and take away some lessons.  A wake up call, a reminder, a poignant and painful lesson about just how precious every moment is.

I know I hugged Duggs much tighter than usual last night.  And I hope everyone who’s blessed enough to have your loved ones alive and well will do the same.  Be glad for all that you do have.

As always, thanks for reading my blog. 

 

Fancy Photos From the Road – Long Island, NY

As promised, here are some of the “good” photos I took while we were on Long Island last week visting Duggs’ side of the family and a lot of our friends there.  In my earlier post, I used the snap shots from my iPhone (which aren’t so shabby), but now here are some better pics that we took with our real camera.

And even though we have a fair amount of pics, I wish I had taken more!  I always do.  It seems so annoying at the time to have out the camera and to nag everyone to pose and take pics.  But then after the fact, when you have nice photos, you’re always so glad you did it.  So my new thing is not being afraid to be the annoying one – because the benefit in the end is so worth it.

Okay.  Enough rambling, here’s from the wonderful time we had on Long Island with family, friends, loved ones near and dear:

Like I said, I wish I’d taken more photos.  These hardly paint the picture of the time we had there – no image can really encapsulate how nice it is to see family when it’s been so long since you were all last together.  But some are better than none, so I appreciate y’all checkin’ out the ones we did manage to take.

And next time someone’s pestering you to smile, think of the big picture – maybe the person with the camera writes a blog and they’re trying to fully illustrate a week-long road trip with oodles of pics.  Maybe!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

Happy Mom’s Day, Catching Up, and Other Bloggy Stuffs

I know most of my posts have been about our big move.  It’s been pretty consuming.  Don’t think the ole wheels upstairs aren’t turning though!

After staying in so many different households over the past couple weeks, I’m excited to work on some posts about my happy hippie ways that have saved us money and helped to run our home in an eco-friendly way.  I’ve been passing on my tips to our gracious hosts along the way, and it made me think that I should do a post with a bunch of my household tips and tricks!  So that’s on my mind.   Of course I want to show off all the photos from the trip (from the nice camera, I haven’t posted any of those yet) and I want to show off Fredonia and what we’ve been up to here.

Oh, and the climate change has inspired me to keep track of my outfits.  Hehe… it’s not the same style that I could get away with in Hawaii.  So it’s been fun dressing in layers and changing my daily garb.  So there’s that too!

in pottersville on a dreary day- i’m wearing jeans, boots, and long sleeves. i can’t remember the last time i had all this on at the same time. it’s fun!

In good time, once I have more magical interwebs power I will post lots of fun and exciting happy hippie idears and posts (I know I always say that, but really I’ve been on the ball the past several days – Idk if it’s getting away from the moldy house or just moving in general, but man has my energy and motivation been coming back to me.  I’ve been incredible industrious since we’ve arrived in Fredonia – it’s outstanding!).

For now though, it’s great just to say hi!  I hope everyone is doing well.

To all the mothers out there, I hope y’all had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!! We spent the afternoon at my Aunt Patty’s house and had a lovely family dinner.  It was great.  I hope all the mommies out there spent time with your loved ones and were able to feel the love and appreciation that so many have for you!

aunt patty and nick, yesterday at dinner celebrating mother’s day and us being up here finally!

…I have to admit, it’s a holiday that’s a bit bittersweet for me… I can’t wait to be a mom someday and get to enjoy the celebration in a different way.  It’s certainly a day that made me wistful.

But I know things all happen for a reason, and that God’s got us covered.  So when the time is right, I know our family will grow.  And until then, I’m all about make the best of the millions of blessings we sure do have!  There’s a lot of exploring to do in our new home, so much to see and do, so many new places to check out.

Even though Mother’s Day made me a teensy bit sad, it’s a very exciting and happy time for us.  And sharing in that positive energy is so fun for me.  So keep your fingers crossed that we’re able to get some decent high speed and then I’ll be back up and running in full effect!

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

We’re Here, We made it to our New Home!

Hi everyone!

here i am, at my new “working station,” the breakfast nook of nick’s house

I know it’s been a few days since I’ve posted an update.  Things have been busy and we’ve been getting settled, of course – but the main reason I’ve been an absentee blogger is to do mostly with the Internet connection.  And the lack of a decent one here.

Turns out we’re a bit more off the beaten path than anticipated and getting a high speed set up has been a tough challenge so far.  We have a temporary solution (a Verizon MiFi mobile hotspot), but it doesn’t get us very far and bigger files like photos and movies are painstakingly slow to move about, and usually end up getting dropped before completion.

posted this on instagram this past weekend – it’s a collage of our first weekend in fredonia. love it!

So, I wanted to jump in and say hi, even if I do it without all the bells and whistles of oodles of photos and all that jazz.

here’s the front view of nick’s house – it’s lovely!

We’ve been getting settled in, trying to get a feel for the area and see what all we got ourselves into.  The first couple days we were tired from all the traveling and feeling a bit overwhelmed at all we had to do.  But now that the anxiety of such a move has faded and reality is setting in, I’m just pleasantly surprised at how quickly I’ve acclimated, how comfy I already I am.

Our room is set up and we’re all unpacked.  We’re settled in and we’ve been able to visit with family in the area.  And, it’s lovely.  The weather has been perfect so far!  A pleasant change, I’m really loving it (even though my lips are all kinds of chapped).   My cousin Nick’s house is very comfortable and I really feel at home here already.  I’ve always gotten along well with Nicky, so I wasn’t worried about that.  But it’s just nice to now actually be here and to feel so at ease.

our room! i love it, it’s bright, clean, cozy and nice. it makes me happy to be all moved in.

Nick’s house is very nice.  He’s worked really hard to make all of this happen, and we’re just grateful to have such a great place to stay.  Not to mention that being with him, Austin and Rocky is just super fun!

nick’s kitchen, it’s plenty big and very nice

the breakfast nook, where i’m actually sitting right now. i love working here, it’s an awesome set up.

here’s a bigger shot of the living room (with sick duggs, aww)… i can and should take some better pics when the lighting is better and with the real camera, not the iphone.

the laundry room, aka: my dungeon! it’s only one part of the epic basement, and i already whipped into shape and got it all set up, organized, and ready to keep this family in clean clothes and linens. (i’m tellin ya, i’ve been on my a-game ever since we got here, it’s awesome).

I was sick, before we packed up in Hawaii… in the hotel in Hawaii, once we got to Long Island and then throughout our whole time in this state.  But now, just now, I’m FINALLY getting to feeling better.  And what happens?  Duggs gets my cold!  Gah.  Poor guy.  He went all this time being around me and my germs and it didn’t get him at all.  I guess it was bound to catch up to him at some point.  I hope he feels better asap.

duggs finally caught my cold, so he’s not feeling so great – on the couch with our little one

Other than Duggs having my cold, everything is just wonderful.  Moving here, so far, is feeling like the best thing ever.  I’m just loving it. It’s been a big change, no doubt.  But it feels like the world is our oyster now… we have so many choices on what to do!

I’ll tell ya the whole story…

My cousin Nick offered for us to come stay with him, in a small town – Fredonia – just outside of Buffalo, NY.  This area is interesting.  A lot of people wouldn’t see the appeal… but for me, I felt something calling me here.  My mom and her siblings grew up in Fredonia.  It’s that side of family’s “home base.”  Out Patriarch, my Great Uncle John, still lives here, as well as a mix of cousins, aunts, uncles, and other extended family.

The winter weather is intense.  Yes. I know.  I’m not sure how I’ll handle my first winter – but you never know until you try, right?

As for spring and summer, I couldn’t think of a more lovely place to live!  The festivals – there’s something going on every single weekend it seems, the weather, the hiking, camping, Lake Erie, Darian Lake (the amusement park, water park, with weekly concerts in the summer), being so close to the city (Buffalo has a lot going on ya know!) as well as the mountains, the countryside, the Finger Lakes, wine country, Canada, Niagra Falls… every which way there is so much to do.

Where we are now, at my cousin’s house, is a bit off the beaten path.  We’re surrounded by vineyards, it’s quiet and peaceful.  Just a couple minutes up the road though and it’s everything you need – grocery, gas, every fast food and chain restaurant, etc.   So for me, it’s a good way to get the best of many worlds.  A new place, a new climate, a new area to explore – the calm and quiet country life with a busy world not too far away.  Lots of family in the area, and just knowing my roots are here is neat.  Matthew’s family is nearby too, and now my sister is as well.  If we want stuff to do, we just have to look around.

And come winter, even though it’ll be cold and snowy – there’s so much to do!  Sledding, skiing, ice fishing, snow mobiling, hunting, etc.  We chose this area because all year round there’s a lot to do outdoors.  Chautauqua County is an interesting place, full of its own culture and color, and we’re excited to learn more about this place.  Besides, if you’re going to live where it gets cold, you may as well live where there’s enough snow to have fun with it, right?  (that’s what we’re telling ourselves anyways!)

So, we’re here!

It’ll still be a little while before all the details are taken care of and we have our whole lives set in stone and mapped out.  Our car and all of our household goods are in transit, we’re not sure how long we’ll live with Nick, etc.  But for now, for our first week here – things couldn’t be any better.

Thanks for following along with the journey and for all the nice and supportive comments and emails I’ve gotten.  It means so much!

Later this week I’ll put up a HUGE photo post – with all the nice and fancy pics we’ve taken here with the good camera.  It’ll be nice and you’ll be able to get an even better idea of what I’m talking about in regards to the area and all that.

At least now you have an idea of where I am and what our new life is starting to look like.

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

 

The Last Leg of Our Roadtrip, to Buffalo We Go!

Hey there readers!  It’s your favorite Northern Newbie, posting a bit to say hey!

check out my new raincoat. i’m so northern, right? i so fit in. i just know it.

I last posted about Camp Curtis and the wonderful relaxing time we had in scenic Pottersville, visiting my sister and her boyfriend Jared, where his family graciously hosted us at their lake house.

saying goodbye, our last couple minutes at camp curtis – here’s roger by the fire on a rainy day

We had a great time indeed.  After we packed up and hit the road though, it was time to bring this show on down.  The whole point of our “road trip” across New York was moving, so as much as visiting was nice – we had to get to the moving part of the exercise. So we were off!

saying bye to my beautiful sister, i miss her already!

me, taking more pics of myself while duggs is telling me to get my crap in the car so we can go, go, go! (oops).

hey there aj, lookin’ good!

about to hit the road

My husband, Duggs, is now (happily! blissfully! excitedly!) a civilian, and has just gotten out of the USMC.  After dutifully serving a contract, we decided that we wanted to give life outside of the military a go.  So we sadly left gorgeous Hawaii and have embarked on a new life.

The military flew us to Matthew’s “home of record,” New York City (since he’s from Long Island).  And rather than pay all the extra money to add on a flight to Buffalo, we decided to take the chance to go visit family and take our time.  So we rented a car (an amazing, luxurious SUV – a Buick Enclave, a vehicle I would do anything to actually own, it’s the nicest ride I’ve ever been in, seriously!  except that I’m a hippie and I’m morally opposed to such massive gas guzzlers, of course)… so we rented a car and went to visit family.  First my husband’s people, all across Long Island.  Then my sister, who happened to have just moved to Upstate NY, outside of Albany.

From here, we had one last journey – about six hours of driving west to lovely Fredonia, NY – our new home.  So we hit the highway, and made our merry way to start a new chapter of our happy hippie lives.

i love the scenery of upstate new york!

we saw a lot of this on the six hour drive

and a lot of this too. pretty, but dreary too!

the sun setting over I-90

Duggs and I really had a nice time in the car together.  Books on tape, podcasts, music and chit chat passed the time nicely.  Not to mention all the scenery and the Dunkin Donuts stops (of course).

oh cute pooch, all snuggled down and being a good boy on the ride. finally, he chilled out and learned how to snooze in the car.

duggs at the wheel, off to buffalo we go!

i’m hanging out the passenger side of my best friend’s ride

So this was the last part of our “road trip,” with the destination being our new home! I’m actually here now, and we’ve spent the last five or so days getting moved in, settled in and what not.  I know I have a lot of posts to catch up on, pics to share and all that – so this week will be my catch-up week, with posts everyday from our new home and backtracking with photo posts from the road trip and our time visiting friends and family in New York.

Mostly I can say, life is good!  Hope to see y’all around this week and I hope to get into a good groove of writing now that we’re in one spot and plan to be here for quite some time.

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

 

Lots of Dogs and Even More Love in the Relaxing, Peaceful Lake House at Camp Curtis – Pottersville, NY

This stop on our New York state road trip has been a real treat!

leaving the city and heading upstate!

holding sweet jay in the car ride on sunday

My little sister and her boyfriend Jared just relocated from Florida on up to NY as well.  Crazy, right?  That we both, my sister and I, moved from the warm and sunny states to woods of New York.  She left Florida the same day I left Hawaii in fact!  We’re such sisters, always on the same wavelength.

we’re kinda birds of a feather as it is, ya know!

Luckily for us, the timing just fell in to place for a nice two-night visit along our eat to west route.  So after seeing the McKay and Duggan side of the fam and our eastern-NY pals, we headed toward Albany.

Pottersville, where Valentine Pond is, is about 45 minutes (maybe even an hour) outside/north of Albany.  I haven’t seen my sister in over year, not since I was in Florida last March.  So this reunion was long overdue!

a crappy pic, but you get the idea – me and my seester!!

And what a place for a reunion to occur.

the background of camp curtis, the pretty valentine pond

Camp Curtis is the rustic and luxurious country home of the Curtis family; Jared, Anna’s boyfriend is a Curtis.  His Dad and Uncle both have houses on the property and the backdrop is the clean, serene upstate beauty all around us.  Valentine Pond (which is more like a small lake), the woods, and the clean air make this family camp a wonderful retreat.

The Curtis clan is great!  Warm, wacky, inviting and very hospitable, they welcomed us right in and we’ve spent a few days here eating with them, sharing music (guitars, basses, and banjos galore!)… we’ve been trading stories and hanging out.

all around the dinner table in uncle paul and aunt margaret’s house next door

uncle paul marches to the beat of his own drum! with his wife, aunt margaret on the left. great people, it was lovely to have met them!

camp feat our first night here, grilled pork chops, venison, fresh trout pasta, spinach, brussel sprouts, bread and more… this was just all i could fit on my plate!

Not to mention that amongst all of us “kids” there are enough Apple products to open our own Genius Bar.

another view of the pond

The only thing possibly outnumbering our fancy electronics is the pets!  The Curtis Family are pet-lovers for sure!  Our little JJ has had the best time ever.  He hasn’t even been scared!  He just got right in with the other pooches and he’s been playing, cuddling, running around.  He’s even been walking on the hardwood floors.  (Trust me, I’m just as shocked as you are).

anna holding stewart

josie, cousin evan’s sweet pup

aunt margaret’s pooch, parker! love the sweetie pie – looks like a bear, loves like a lamb

zoey the pretty kitty cat, my sister’s cat

bell is the shy and sweet pretty princess

anna’s dog, puppy, is a sweet old man.

stewart again, he’s just so wacky and cute!

of course, our jayjers!

how to make friends around here!

It’s just one more reason why Duggs and I need to expand our fur family when the time is right.  Jayjers just does better with more doggies around!  So Anna and Jared have their blended fur fam, and then the Uncle and Cousins up here for the weekend had a couple pooches with them too.  It was way too fun being on the pond, feeling the cool clean air, and just seeing oodles of wagging tails and running paws.

Spending a few days here has really allowed me to re-charge my batteries.  I’m still sick, don’t worry.  But mentally – I feel a peace that’s been long overdue.  I think part is just being around my sister.  Going so long being so far away from her just tugs at my heart.  Matthew’s family is amazing and wonderful, and being with them was long overdue too – they make me feel like one of the fam for sure.  But nothing beats being with your own sis, right?

the pond at dusk, so peaceful. i love it here!

I’m so happy to know mine will only be a six hour drive away from here on out!  Woohoo!

The pics in this post are all my iPhone snap shots.  At some point I’ll have to make a real nice photo post of pics from our good camera from the trip.  We’ve had a lot of fun taking some nice shots, and I can’t wait to get them uploaded and have a look.  We have some awesome shots of the boys and Anna all jamming out together, all of the animals going nuts, it’s just been an awesome time – I love when a bunch of redneck music-geeks get together for some hang out time.  For now the quickies will do and they at least give you an idea of what camp life has been like.

 

We’re moving on from here to Buffalo (Fredonia, NY) – FINALLY!  YAY!

We’ll get to our last stop on the road trip and get to see my cousins, aunts, uncles and so on.  We’ll be living with my cousin Nick and his son Austin – so finally getting there and starting to get acquainted with our new home will be awesome.   The rambling phase will come to an end and we can finally feel able to settle down.  Homeless, no more!

HNL to JFK, Road Trip, Reunions, and So On…

We don’t live in Hawaii anymore.  It’s so crazy to realize that, but in another way – it feels like it’s been forever since I was in Hawaii.  I know it’s hardly been a week since we left, but the sounds of luau music and the taste of pineapple with li hing feel like super distant memories.  It’s weird how time can mess with you like that!

We finally left Hawaii on the evening of May 1st.  Getting all of our luggage, the pooch and ourselves to the airport was comedic at best.

the shuttle from the hotel to the airport. yeah, we literally filled the whole thing

arriving at the honolulu airport – so much stuff, yikes!

It took so long to do all the checking in and inspections that we were literally the last ones to run aboard the plane just moments before take-off.  American Airlines was actually great, they only charged us $175 for JJ – and if you’ve been following all of the controversy and price changes for animals accompaniment fare, you know this is a screaming good deal!

checking the pooch into american airlines

I was so sad to say bye to JJ.  I was so worried about my pooch being on the plane, all by himself.  He’s meek and scared of everything as it is.  I knew the poor little guy was just going to be terrified the whole time.  I slept with a blanket for a week out, so it would really smell like me.  We had his favorite pals, Hippo and Bonky in there with him, along with a new doggie bed a couple pillows he likes.

saying good bye to the pooch before we boarded the plane in hawaii

Then it was go time!

self-port in the plane lavatory, hahah. i’m shameless.

duggs and me, on the plane – good bye hawaii and hello new adventure!

We made a quick stop in LAX (and hey! Cali friends, don’t worry, we hardly had more than a few minutes to sit at the gate and then we were off again – if I ever have enough time to hang out during a layover I make sure to let folks know, and this was NOT one of those time).  Then on to JFK in New York City it was!  Jayjers seems to have done well enough, because when we picked him up in the NY airport he was his happy, excited, adorable self!

i look so tired after flying all night – but i’m super happy to be reunited with my sweet boy!

rounding up all of our crap in the jfk baggage claim

We landed in the mid-afternoon of May 2nd.  Between the flight lengths and the time change it really takes about a full day to go from Hawaii to the East Coast.  Then the nest adventure was rounding up the luggage (all zillion pieces of it… seven checked, 3 carry ons and a pooch, to be exact) and get the rental car checked out and on the road.

The first stop was Miss Alices, or Mom’s – my Mother-in-Law’s place in Long Beach, Long Island.

miss alice, outside of her home in long beach, long island, ny.

We stayed at Miss Alice’s house for three nights!  We were able to catch up with her, Matthew got to see BOTH of his brothers and we just all had an awesome time.  We got to relax, shoot the breeze, and it was just lovely all around.  MIss Alice treated us to some amazing home-cooked meals and we just lived it up, relaxing and taking it all in!

stephen, matthew’s brother holds jj

Matthew and I did some shopping (we made some awesome use out of some leftover gift cards from Christmas).

duggs driving me to the mall for some shopping!

yo, i’m at the mall. so what about it?

oh hay duggs, how does it feel to be back home?

It’s been a little colder here than we expected – but the change of pace has felt AMAZING. I love it!  We packed for a slightly warmer season, so while at the mall we did grab a couple more sweaters.  And Miss Alice gifted me some layering stuff and sweaters too.  Surprisingly, I’ve done well with the climate change and haven’t felt “cold” at all.  I’ve just really liked it!   One thing I have had to get used to – having to wear real clothes.  In Hawaii, I dressed sooooo casually, flip flops (slippahs) and sundresses all the time!  Not to mention I work from home, so I hardly get all dolled up.  In the NYC-area, it’s a different story.  You can’t go running errands looking like a slouch.  So I’ve had a fun time wearing “real” clothes.  It feels good!

A few of Matthew’s pals hosted a really sweet gathering for us and we were able to catch up with a lot of friends.  It was so rad!

duggs and me, from the night we hung out with everyone

We had a great night hanging out with everyone.  I was too busy gabbing (go figure!) to take many pics… ugh.  I promise that once we go through the real camera and upload pics, I’ll include whatever ones we have from that night.  It was a blast seeing Christian and Lauren, their little baby Griffin, Lauren’s parents were such a delight!  And then so many friends came over to say hi!  We got to see Brian and Rachel, Nick and Liz, my friend Marissa met up with us too, Christian’s brother Shawn, and then we were there – it was such a cool night!  (I really really hope I didn’t forget anyone).

To everyone who came and hung out – thank you so much!  It was so rad to see everyone.

miss alice, during the road trip out to the east end of the island

the view driving near nanny and grandparent’s house out in amagansett, long island

me and the sweet pooch on the road, loving it!

Before we went to the actual house, we stopped by the beach in Amagansett and I was able to lay eyes on the Atlantic Ocean once again.  After living in and around the Pacific the past couple years, and getting used to its warm waters and bright blue electric colors – it was nice to see my tried and true gray Atlantic.  Something about the murky and cold water just feels comforting to me, out of familiarity, out of the hours and hours I’ve spent in it and on it… as gorgeous as the Pacific is, the Atlantic will always be home to me!

the ocean!

the house in amagansett – it’s a beautiful beach home that duggs and his fam have all gathered at for years.

We spent a night with Matthew’s grandparents, his mom, his brother Johnny and his Uncle Joe all out at the beach house in Amagansett.  Uncle Joe had his lovely doggie Kola with him, and seeing Jay and Kola interact was fun and cute.  The time out at the beach house was very relaxing.  It’s so quiet out there, it was really nice.

I woke up the morning we were to head out that way with a dreadful sore throat.  I was so worried about getting everyone sick, but it’s been way too long since we’ve seen everyone.  So long as they were okay with me and my germs, I was more than happy to suck it up and make the trip anyways!

Here’s where I’m a heel: the vast majority of the picks we took were on the good camera and I haven’t even started to upload and sort through those.  The only ones I have are my random iPhone snap shots.  So I’ll have to go back and post much better pics from this trip when I have some real time to do a nice job.  On my phone, I hardly got any family pics – just some weird snaps here and there.

 

johnny is the biker of the fam, he looks like jax from sons of anarchy!

duggs and i got to sleep lucy and dezi style in twin beds, hehe! it was so nice and quiet there, we were able to get some great sleep.

check out this old school image of super duper hottie hubby back in the day!

Grandpa cooked us a lovely meal of salmon and rice, Nanny served a light and a delicious   key lime pie.  The whole family was able to catch up, chit chat and relax.  I know Matthew was just so happy to get to see his family – for him it had been about two years since he’d seen anyone!

The single night spent out there came and went too soon, and before I knew it we were on the road again… time to head back to Long Beach and drop off Miss Alice (my mother-in-law) and then pack up and head out to Pottersville.

Next up: a blog about our time at Camp Curtis on Valentine Pond, in Pottersville, NY.   Our road trip will continue and we’ll keep going and visiting more fam and friends.

the road trip route: JFK to long island, going all across the whole island and then back to the city, up toward and past albany and then on to buffalo! pretty sweet way to criss cross the state, huh?

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr