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

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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

Aloha to Hawaii, I’ll Miss You So… Saying GoodBye In Photos

Aloha Beautiful Hawaii! 

aloha rainbow state!

good ole wackiness from my first ever trip to hawaii, back in 2009

Saying goodbye to paradise was harder than I thought it was going to be.  This next step of life is so exciting and wonderful, and trust me: I’m blessed, happy to be where I am physically, emotionally, and everything – this point in life is good.

honeymoon at turtle bay, an amazing time

Our life in Hawaii was extreme, we saw great times and faced challenges.  We reunited there after deployments, but it’s also the place from which we had to say good bye.  We spent sun kissed afternoons out on the water, luxurious days at Turtle Bay, fun evenings out and about… it’s where we said “I do,” and it’s where we found the apple of our eye – our sweet pooch JJ Duggan!

our wedding day

exchanging vows on kailua beach, we did our wedding our way and it was so perfect for us

me and the sweet lil’ pooch, oh i’m so glad we found him in hawaii

It’s also where I’ve battled some health issues, it’s where we suffered a great loss when we experienced our miscarriage, coping through a lonely and hard deployment that was tossed at us without much warning.  But through it all, we came out on top, our marriage was bonded tighter and stronger – so we’ll take with us the happy sunny sweet tropical memories and get ready for a clean slate as we wipe away and move past some of life’s tougher trials.

saying goodbye before a deployment

saying hello when he comes back home again! ahhh, the reunion kiss is always the best.

I’m excited to be in New York and starting this next phase of our lives.  We’re literally writing the first page of a new chapter.  Matthew is out of the Marine Corps and he’s now a civilian, we’ve left Hawaii and moved to New York.  We’re setting out on our own, together.  Duggs was already established in the USMC and living in Hawaii when I came out and joined him – this is a step we’re taking together, going through it all hand in hand.

So yes, I’m stoked to be here in New York…

But I’m going to genuinely miss Hawaii.  I just wanted to take a little post to reflect on the gorgeous aina paradise and really say Aloha.

aloha to paradise, i’ll miss the warm pacific oh so much

we had so much fun boating and out in the hawaiian sun – too much fun to be had every hawaiian day

Hawaii is the kind of place where everywhere you go, there’s an epic view and a breath-taking scene to just suck in and fill yourself with.  The lush mountains, rainbows, flowers, the amazing bright blue oceans and the warm buttery sun bathing all of us.  Hawaii really is this vibrant, happy, relaxed paradise and I am so incredibly blessed to have lived there and spent the time there I was able to.

horseback riding on the north shore, romantic and something i’ll never forget. a truly one of a kind experience.

this island is incredible, i could take a million pics and still wish i had more

When family and old friends came out to visit, we were able to have an awesome time with them in Hawaii – showing off our island home.  I made some amazing friends and connections in Hawaii, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay refreshed and renewed my faith and my love of Christ.

sky diving day in the fall of 2010 – duggs, me, anna (my sister), and brian (duggs’ all time bff)

hope chapel women’s retreat 2011 – arise and shine!

L.O.V.E. HCKB Women’s Retreat 2012

me and ashtan and her navy day ball!

haunted lagoon 2011 at the polynesian cultural center, with ashtan + me

girl’s hiking morning at makapuu lighthouse, while all of our hubbies were deployed we made the best of it!

hope chapel k-bay is where i so found my heart for God – this past christmas was so awesome, here i am in between mel and tami!

The military experience is one that we’ll always remember.  Me as a spouse and Duggs as a dutiful member of the United States Marine Corps.  His service is the whole reason we were ever in Hawaii.  Even though the USMC liked to throw wrenches in our plans all the time, I have the utmost respect for the branch and the military in general. I’m grateful for the hard and brave work those dedicated men and women do, and I’m so proud to be married to a man as nobel as a Marine.

our first usmc ball together, in 2010

I tried to pick a couple photos to sum up my amazing Hawaiian experience, the wonderful times I’ve spent in paradise.  And yeah, it was impossible.  So thus… here’s a crazy montage of pics as a way for me to say Aloha!

I’ll miss Hawaii so very much.  I hope that we’ll be able to visit again one day, and hopefully it won’t be too far in the future that we get to go back.  Until then, I’ll take my mainland life one day at a time and find new beautiful sights to oooh and aaah over, I’ll discover new favorite places and I’m sure Duggs and I will forge tons of new memories and create lots of new adventures, all with stories to tell.  But as we do, I take some little pieces of Hawaii with me always – the sea turtle tattoo I got on my first trip to the island, the wedding ring on my hand that will always make me think of Kailua’s soft sandy beach, and the thousands of memories forever etched into my heart.

Aloha Hawaii – I’ll love you always! 

pretty islands (photo credit here)

And to my readers, I thank you (as always) for reading! xoxo, hhr

30 Days of Blogging Honesty – Catch Up: Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

I’m back on my 30 Days of Blogging Honesty kick!

Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Check out Tom Baker’s OP here, rules, prompts and all.   And here are a couple of my contributions so far: my intro, my day one.

I know it’s so cheesy to lump a few together, but I’m determined to get back on track.  I’m still sick, and even though it’s been a bummer of a low-key Easter – I’m bound and determined to get my stuff together.  I’m even making dinner tonight, which is awesome and the first time I’ve cooked in a while.  I’m not getting better in a reasonable time on my own, so I’m just forcing myself to get back into some routine of normal-ish life.

So… here we go:

Day 02 — Not including food, blogging or television, my most guilty pleasure (this includes chocolate)…

celebrity-related crap. 

The funny thing about a guilty pleasure is that you have to feel somewhat guilty for it.  When it comes to candy, ice cream, reality tv, lounging in the bath tub for hours on end, taking breaks to go down to the beach, buying something I don’t really need… etc, etc, etc – I don’t feel guilty!

I love candy and sweets.  I love most things that are deemed bad for one.

So my definition of a “guilty pleasure” is something I like to partake in, even though I’m morally opposed, or I know it’s bad.  When Duggs and I like to paint or work on really messy crafts, we’ll sometimes use paper towels.  Paper towels are so EASY to use, no mess, no laundry, etc.  That’s a guilty pleasure.  It’s one I haven’t seen in our house since before Christmas and I was making a ton of holiday crafts with all kinds of paints.

Celebrity crap, like reading trashy celeb gossip blogs or buying tabloids… that’s a real guilty pleasure.  I love it, even though I hate it.  I think that the way paparazzi flocks to celebs is wrong, I think the decimation of any personal life is unfair.  I know that being a public figure has its trade-offs – but it shouldn’t be the way it is now.  We treat our celebs simultaneously like gods and like dirt.  I hate it.  I think it’s wrong.  I don’t want to support the careers of rabid paparazzi photogs who stalk celebs, I don’t want to support celebs who pull crazy crap just to drum up publicity… and yet, I read the Us Weeklies of the world, I watch the crazy TV shows that offer us lame regular folk exclusive glimpses into the fancy lives of the most illustrious of famous folk.

us weekly, probs my fave of the trashy glossies. photo source, here.

So that’s a real guilty pleasure.

Moving on!

Day 03 — Regardless of my current status, do I believe a person should save themself for marriage…

I know it might make me the mayor of rip off city to not really get into the nitty gritty of this one.  I know that controversy and craziness is part of the fun of this here 30 Day Challenge… it’s why we promise to be totally honest in our replies.

My answer to this: no, I don’t believe a person should have to remain a virgin until marriage.

It’s tough for me to come out and say that because I know a lot of my readers are strong Christians and uphold a certain caliber of moral tenacity.  I know that this answer might be disappointing, that purity is something very important to many of the Christians I know and respect – and there are plenty of save-it-until-marriage advocates I know that aren’t Christians at all.  For those who make the pro purity choice, I admire and respect their willingness to do so.

For me, though – I have a different take.  I think that consenting adults experience a relationship on a wide spectrum.  And I think that having sex is just part of this spectrum, it’s one of the pieces that goes into a healthy adult relationship.

I’m not sure how I’ll advise my future kids on this… I’m not sure how I’d talk to a teen who asked me about this.  I think it really depends on the place I’m coming from.  If I’m teaching Sunday School or working with a youth group as an official part of a church, then I think it’s important to echo the church’s beliefs and not speak out on my own.

But I also recognize teen pregnancy issues, young people with STDs… I see these realities and I feel like trying to teach abstinence just isn’t always effective.  I think safe sex education is really important, and I think that setting the stage for kids to feel comfortable asking the tough questions is how you can make a huge impact.   If a teen is okay asking me about sex, I have a real chance to offer practical advice about protection without being shut out or viewed as condemning, judging, condescending.

And when it comes to consenting pre-marital adults: I feel strongly that sound adults should be able to do whatever it is they’d like to do.  Without my judgement, attitude, or forced ideals.  Besides, my ideals – the ones that are actually mine – are okay with consenting adults doing what they’d like to do.

So.  I know this may not be popular.  I know that some readers might really be annoyed with me or let down… but I stand by my choice, and I think that my opinions don’t take away from my love for God, my willingness to be a good person and a good Christian.  I think it’s just a choice, one founded in reality and based on my own experiences.

It’s totally an individual choice, though.

If someone who is a devout Christian, or is practicing any kind of faith/lifestyle that didn’t encourage or allow pre-marital sex, I’d encourage them to keep in line with their existing ideals and to not do it.  But, I’m not going to judge someone for having sex.  It’s not my place to do so, it’s my place to love others and to try my hardest to be accepting, understanding, kind.  And, I’m not going to try to back pedal on my past behaviors or to condemn others now, while I’m already married, for a behavior type I didn’t myself uphold before I was married.

(Ugh, now all my family members reading this are totally cringing, right?  TMI? Oy.  This is a tough one!)

Of course I recognize that some physical relationships can be too much, too soon and can really hurt people in the long run.  But when approaching the issue in such a wide sense, I have to be honest here.  Specific cases will differ, some people are more or less mature than others.  Sometimes sex is used as a pawn or for the wrong reasons.  But many times sex is healthy and normal and it’s what grown ups do.

I guess I got into this way more than I wanted to, but there you have it.  If you respectfully disagree, I understand.  Just try to not go too harsh on me, though!

Day 04 — A blogger friend I’ve known for over five years told me she has been blogging anonymously all this time and most of what I know about her is her fantasy. My reaction to the news is…

totally annoyed, miffed, perplexed, and ANNOYED. 

If you want to write a fictional blog, why not just disclose that it’s fictional from the jump?

I can’t stand the whole lying online thing.  Even if you think it’s harmless and in good fun – it’s not.  Because when you portray yourself as a real person, that’s how many readers will think of you.  Readers will relate, glean advice, comfort, understanding… readers will come to get all kinds of things out of your blog – and if you were just lying or being fake, you’ve totally let them down.

I understand that people like to use the anonymity of the interwebs to engage in fictional lives, or to embellish their real ones – but why not just say that? Probably because no one would read a fictional blog, ha.

But, most of my reason here is based off the “friend” aspect of this one.  I would be so mad if someone I considered a friend was a faker.  It’s happened to me before, actually, on Internet forums… and it sucks.  It’s awful.  A girl I trusted to be a real person faked having cancer.  I’d give her advice and comfort, I was “there for her” while she was going through this supposedly awful experience… and then it turned out she was full of it the whole time!

Not the same as blogging, I know.  But still, an experience of Internet lying and fakery.  It happens too often on forums.  And even though we all know it can and does happen, it still stinks when it does.

When I think about other blogs that I read, ones where I’m not really close or friendly with the writer – well, then I don’t care so much.  I’m pretty sure Texts From Bennet is fake, but I don’t care at all.  It’s so funny.

So there ya go.

I’m actually a little nervous to hit post on this one.  But I’m being as honest as I can be… and we’ll just have to see how it goes.  If anything, this exercise is challenging me to get outside the box of what I’d normally post about, for sure.

And hopefully as the days go on, I’ll be better about sticking to the schedule.  I’m actually going to work on some more posts and queue them up so I have some consistency going on.

As always, thanks for reading!!  xoxo, hhr

Oh, Hi There Bloggies!!

Hi Blog Readers!  How are y’all doing?

I know, I’ve been busy.  This new job of mine is going really well.  It’s a lot of writing though, and I find myself spending hours more at the compy than I ever intended to do again.  It’s funny – I thought I was totally done with this kind of work, and yet,  I love it.  I’m so very glad to be at this kind of a job.

I’m not being very exact here.  I can explain…

I have a job with a great company, ICUC.  I love working for them, it’s challenging and exciting, I’m sharpening my pre-existing skill set as well as learning new things on the regular.  I’m confident that I’m a good fit.  The job I do is a mixed bag of sorts – I work on projects, I work on tasks.  I meet with others.  I’m both a lone wolf and a collaborator.  I make my own hours most of the time, I manage my own schedule.  And… I WRITE.  I write daily, all the time, and in many different ways.  I get to write creatively and I do lots of technical writing.  Sometimes it’s just emails and emails.

At the end of the day, I’ve spent hours staring at the monitor and my writer’s energy is tapped.  Hence slacking at this blog.  And let me say this – once you get out of the regular blogging habit, it’s really overwhelming to jump back in.

My health has been so-so.  I’ve had this little cold on and off, I’ve had some weird upset tummy issues.  But mostly, I’m okay and just super busy.

Check out the work writing I’ve been doing on the daily for my company blog here.  I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been doing work-wise.

So about blogging… I totally have a kajillion ideas all backlogged in my brain and scratched out on my paper notes, and I want to get them out onto hhr!  This is my first attempt at biting the bullet and trying to get back into the groove.  So, if you’re still with me and reading now – know that I’m so appreciative and I’m excited to keep striving for a better balance.

We have some HUGE changes coming up soon.  We’re moving next month, Duggs really got orders so we know it’s real now!  We’ll be saying goodbye to a lot: our friends, Hawaii, this lifestyle, the USMC… as well as being so far away from family – yeah, there’s a lot we’ll be saying hi to when we move back East, and we’re so excited for that.

Even though I’ve been workin’ my tail feather off, things have still been wacky as ever around here.  Poor Duggs, never a dull moment!

So, It’s good to be back and say hi, I hope to be posting more and more, with regularity and consistency.  Cheer me on, yo!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

 

 

“GrΣΣk” Spurs Memories, Good and Bad: A Personal Post On My Experienced Sorority Life

Are y’all enjoying my silly and weird “Screen Week?”  I am!  I watch way too much TV, Netflix, etc., and every time I get sucked into a new show or really connect with a movie, it inspires me to relate to my own experiences and post.

Warning – this post is long and it gets really personal.  Intense stuff up ahead!!   

Sometimes a TV show can get into your head and just really affect you.  Maybe the content is too close to home, or an experience portrayed resonates within you.  I like to use TV and movies to zone out.  But sometimes, it’s more than that – it can be catharsis.  And that’s what’s been happening to me recently.  A show has shaken me up and helped me to work through some old old issues.

The show “GrΣΣk” from ABC Fam, now available on Netflix (well, like six seasons are on Netflix now) is the latest series we’ve been sucked into.  Netflix kept suggesting it for us, and so finally, we gave the first ep a whirl.

It’s corny, cheesy, a lot of the acting is terrible, yes.  But it’s funny, light, and it’s just something I so easily connect to.

Yeah, I was in a sorority in college.  Alpha Chi Omega, Theta Sigma chapter at University of North Florida.

Hard to believe, maybe, for those of y’all who know me in my mid/late 20’s, my post-collegiate days.  For people who went to high school with me, it’s also probably hard to swallow.  I was quite the rebel rebel back then, so seeing me jump in and conform to an entity like the greek system may seem far-fetched… But not only was I a sister, but I loved it.

And why discussing that part of my life is so hard – it didn’t end very well for me at all. 

Ready for story time?

When i first came to UNF in the fall of 2001, I was a swimmer.  I walked on to the D1 team, and it was great.  The upside is that I was swimming faster than I had in a while, and I liked the swimmers.  The downside was that I couldn’t balance it all – I was falling asleep in class.  I ultimately had to drop a class (it was a night math class, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open, those 5am practices had taken their toll on me).  When I dropped the class, I ruined my swimming eligibility by not having a “full time” course load.

So, I wasn’t eligible for rush my freshman year – and I think even if I could have been, I was NOT interested in that.  I was the one who was anti-greek.  I didn’t want to “buy my friends” or “conform.”  I found the greek system to be elitist, stupid, expensive, and just a way for lame people to pump each other up.

me and my friend maxy, in our freshman dorm, being awesome!

there she is: rowdy rose is all her obscene glory! how could this gal be contained by a sorority?!?!

So even once I was able to rush my sophomore year, I didn’t because it “wasn’t me.”

crayon night with my pre-greek besties (the gals) - and stu! who was greek already.

The wacky thing is that I was dating a greek man!  My then-boyfriend, Eddie, was a Sigma Chi.  I had so much fun hanging out with him and his brothers.  And a lot of the gals that hung out with that crew were greek too.

The greeks I was meeting and becoming pals with were fun, awesome, they were more down to earth and fun to be around than I’d ever have imagined.

fourth of july, way back in the day, me hanging out with a bunch of my sigma chi pals before i was greek

I started just conforming anyways.  Next thing I knew, I was dressing like them, I was going to the scrapbook store and wearing pearls.  I was into it!  I loved going to Sigma Chi parties and events.

Then, there would be greek-only stuff, and I HATED it.  I hated how many secrets Eddie could keep from me.  Looking back, it seems so silly – it was just his own chapter’s business and ritual.  But for some reason, not knowing what went on every Sunday night really really got to me.

Then a friend consoled me, saying that when greeks and non-greeks try to date it never works out.  The non-greek (the GDI) gets left out of too much and gets resentful.  It’s hard when your boyfriend has to go to a social that his fraternity has arranged with a sorority, and I cannot go.  Oh man, that would make me so jeals back then.

My BFF at that time was a greek gal, Kendall.  I wanted to be a part of what she was a part of.  I wanted to rush to get to do all the greek stuff with her.

me and kendall

So, I decided to rush my junior year.  (Sadly, things with Eddie didn’t last – but I do owe him so much, as it was that formative time that really encouraged me to become greek myself and get to go to socials and have my own secrets).

I rushed in the fall of my junior year.

Going into it, I had all of these AXO friends.  I rushed solely so I could join them.  The thought of joining another sorority didn’t even cross my mind.  The greek system at UNF was really small back then – there were only 3 main sororities, and a 4th was colonizing that year.  KD was too new for me.  Zeta hated me because of some beef I’d had freshman year (boy drama, but of course – my boyfriend cheated on me with a ZTA, I flipped out at a country bar one night and near bout got in a fight, then I ended up hanging out with a dude who unbeknownst to me, had a ZTA girlfriend. oopsies!  So ZTA immediately didn’t invite me back.  Which is sad, I think at heart, I would have made a damn good Zeta!).

Now it was down to AXO and DG.

A funny thing happened in rush.  AXO knew I was a shoe-in, and so they spent like zero effort to recruit me.  Looking back, that should have told me something.  I didn’t feel wanted at all, it was like they knew they didn’t have to bother convincing me.

DG on the other hand – they wanted me. They made me feel so welcomed.

I couldn’t even tell you what happened at Alpha Chi on Pref Night (the last, most important night of rush).  I don’t remember any details from AXO.

But in the DG room, oh man.  I still remember Katie singing and me crying at her immaculate rendetion of “Home” (that song: it feels like home, to me… it feels like home. zomg, her voice is amazing).   Katie preffed me, and I had such a genuine, awesome, time with her.

When I had to rank my choices I was so torn. So torn, I was up there for a while.

Of course, I chose AXO.

Things were okay at first.  I felt shafted by some of the sisters I’d considered friends for a while.  I wasn’t an exciting shiny new member to them.  No one really ooh’ed and aww’ed over me.  During big sis/little sis stuff – my big was kind of a derelict, and I didn’t really feel special at all.

There was some fun hazing-ish stuff that went on.  Harmless, silly stuff that was really cool.

here's a group of us at some western themed something-er-other when i was first in as a "pledge"

I LOVED my pledge class.  The girls that came in at the same time as me were awesome.

AXOs at a toga party - i'm the tall one on the far right

Eventually, I found my place in AXO.  When I got sick with cancer, my sisters rallied around me and they literally saved my life.  They did fundraisers to help me pay for treatment, they totally kept my morale up.  It was an awesome showing of love and support – at least to me, I felt very very loved.

sasha still loves me!!

I should mention that my best friends during this period were my sisters.  I was living off-campus with sisters, those were the people I chose to hang out with.  And my very best friends from college, who I’m still close with to this day, were all sisters of mine at some point.

The arguments for joining a sorority about the real friendship and the longevity of those friendship – that is real.  I’ll agree to that.

I became the Chaplain of my sorority.  It was an honor, and it was a job I loved doing.  During rush, my first time on the other side – I had a blast.  I worked my tail off to do my best.  I was going through chemo at the time, and I was able to get up and give this tear-jerking speech about having cancer and how my sisters were saving my life.

my football jersey from the powderpuff team i played two seasons on - rowdy rose, #17

the plaque from KA for being one of their roses, a hat with letters on it that i used to wear all the time, and the paddle my big sis made for me

It was a Pref night killer!  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of a group like this?  My cancer was totally exploited for rush, but not against my will.  It was an important thing that had affected the whole chapter, so it made sense to tell the potential new members about what kind of ladies my sisters were.

To this day, I still have people comment about how they heard me talk during rush and they found it inspiring.  It was nice.

I found my way in the greek world.  My then-boyfriend was the President of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha.  I became their sweetheart, it was really fun hanging out with the KA boys all the time.   I love those rednecks!

a few of the KA boys - these guys were real good to me, always

I was Chaplain, and I was running our concession stand that we worked at the Jags games.  Being in Jacksonville, FL – we had access to work a stand at the NFL home games for the Jags.  It was REALLY hard work, but an awesome way to generate revenue for the chapter.  I did a great job as manager, a job that no one wanted to do.  I made it FUN!  I came up with fun incentives to motivate people to go.  I was great with that.

The Super Bowl came to Jax that year, and we were able to work the stand at the Super Bowl!  We were serving food to celebs!  It was awesome.  Our booth was in the Touchdown Club, an elite level of  the stadium, and we got to see so many A-listers milling about.  Super rad!

My real sister became an Alpha Chi at Stetson – a few hours away.  I surprised her by showing up to initiate her, it was awesome!  We had so much fun with the Stetson chapter.  We’d meet up with other chapters at State Day and other AXO events.

That spring – the spring of 2005 – I was letting off steam.

with the pi kapps on spring break - bahamas, spring 2005 - the best trip ever!

I was declared cancer-free in December of 2004, and so well, it was time to celebrate.  I’d spent way too much of college being sick and if I wanted to let my hair down, so be it.  (I guess I didn’t have hair, haha, but you know what I mean).

In my opinion, I was still upholding the values of AXO.  I had done so much for the school – student gov’t, mock trial, spirit club.  I’d held a huge GPA.  I’d held offices and done them well.

out at a party

When the girls put choices for a big sis, I was the first choice of WAY more girls than I could take on.  As it was, I took “twins” and I took my role as their big to heart, trying to be the best I could.   I was voted onto the exec board, and I was to run our recruitment in the Fall – I was in charge of rush.

I was partying quite a bit – but still upholding my responsibilities and then some, still working, and getting good grades.

Here’s where it gets really ugly. And sad: 

The week before finals, well, the NIGHT before finals – a Sunday night – we had a chapter meeting.  Someone called me that day and asked if I could bring the keys to the chapter’s storage unit with me.

That was weird.  Why did they need my keys?

I got to chapter and I was told that I needed to stay afterwards for a CR meeting.

CR is the Chapter Relations and Standards Board (I think).  Anyways, there was one exec sister in charge of CR, and then a board with a member from each pledge class (or maybe it went by grade level).

The CR Board ran the sorority, kinda like HR.  That’s where complaints and discipline went down.  And everything that happened there was totally confidential.

So I stayed after, and I was so nervous.  I’d never been in trouble before.  Well, during homecoming the President and myself had both gotten caught peeing outside – first of all, at a school full of rednecks, that’s not really a shock – and we were up late working on homecoming stuff (building our epic parade float) and we had to pee.   I remember that going on, and both the Pres and I were equally as guilty.  And that happened back in February.  The fateful night that changed my life was at the end of the semester.

our prize-winning homecoming float, it was hollywood with famous stars all over the hills. building that float was so fun and crazy! we were partners with pi kappa phi, and it was such an epically fun time.

(By the way, we WON homecoming that year – it was awesome.  And I was in charge of our homecoming team, I was a captain or something, and I worked my ass off.  Literally, blood, sweat, tears (and pee), all went into that amazing victory).

homecoming - feb 2005 (basketball is the homecoming game at UNF)

So there I was, asked to stay after.

And they kicked me out. 

It was really simple.  “We need your keys.”  “We’re recommending that you step down from your exec position and disassociate from the chapter.”

The worst part is, I HAD NO IDEA WHY.

I STILL DON’T KNOW WHY. 

They told me that someone had come to them in a CR meeting and told them something about me.  And this piece of information was so damning, they wanted me out.  Because everything said in a CR meeting is confidential, they couldn’t tell me what was said.

I had NO way to defend myself.

I didn’t even know what was going on.

I was so stunned I couldn’t even speak.  I just cried.  It made no sense to me then, and for years it’s haunted my heart.  My very best friends in the world had a meeting about me, behind my back, and decided that I was such a bad person they didn’t even want to associate with me.

It was the hardest thing I’d ever experienced.

That night I offered to resign from exec, but to still stay in, and they said no.  That I had to leave.

I just kept asking why, and the president looked at me all steely-eyed and said,
“YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.”

That phrase haunts me.

At one point when I was begging to stay in, they had the CR board members pipe up.  Amber, this girl from my hometown who had never really liked me – she put the final nail in my coffin.

That was it, I was out.

(this is really harder to write about than I thought it would be).

You know what you did. 

That phrase terrified me.  It’s the phrase that took my life as I knew it, away from me.  And after fighting so hard for my life – my life that I had built and made, my life that was happy and I cherished – someone else was able to take it all away from me.  A group of them were.

The news was shocking.  No one could believe it.  People kept asking me what I did, and I just kept saying, I don’t know.  I didn’t know.  I still don’t know.

What if it wasn’t true?  What if someone misunderstood something?  My name was tarnished.  I had no legit way to defend myself.

It felt like getting sent to prison in a fascist regime – where you don’t even get a trial, and there is no evidence.  They just accuse you of treason or some ambiguous political crime and you’re out.  You’re done.

I was shunned.  I couldn’t go to any events, I couldn’t see my friends.  They did it to me the night before final exams started, and I was so mad at them for that.  That’s just low and unfair, I was so upset and I had to go take all of my exams and finish up my papers.

Half my wardrobe was inaccessible to me – all of my stuff had letters on it!  I lived with sisters, who were still active, and that hurt too.  I couldn’t very well ask everyone I knew to quit too, but it was really hard.  Every one of my good friends were still greek, and once again, I was the outsider who wasn’t allowed at the parties.  The clubhouse had a No Roses Allowed sign.

It hurt. So badly.

It was the deepest emotional cut I’ve ever experienced, actually.

There were friends who stood by me, for sure.  I was really close with the Pi Kapps at that time, and they totally had my back.  But the decision was done, there was nothing that those who believed in me, could do.

It was a dreadful shock to know that people I had trusted, or at least considered to be thoughtful, kind, or decent – were a part of it.  That was so weird.  It really messed with my willingness to trust for quite some time.

The helplessness of not knowing why made it a thousand times worse.  My parents helped me approach it from a legal point of view.  We contacted Nationals.  They just told me that they were standing by the chapter’s decision and that was it.  My sister’s chapter petitioned to have the decision overturned, they didn’t care.

The Dean of Students guy who was greek advisor or something – I had worked for him for a while, back when I had cancer I had a desk job within student affairs.  He hated me too, Tom.  He supported the Alpha Chis in their choice.  The Alum advisor, Amanda, I had always thought she liked me – well, she was in on it too.

All of these people knew about it before I did.  They knew why, and NO ONE talked.

The level of serecy they were able to uphold is amazing.  To this day, I still have no clue.  There were some nasty rumors about me going around.  I’d lost a lot of weight (being off of steroids and all the cancer meds can do that), and there were some kind of rumors about me doing copious amounts of cocaine.  The rumor seemed so ridic, I didn’t think that could really be what they used to boot me out over.  But who knows.

I think that there were jealousy issues.  I know that some people had missued the cancer funds – taking money out of that account and paying for other things with it, promising to pay it back after rush with collected dues.  There were certainly some dark and sketchy things going on.

But I never dreamed these girls who I had come to know and love would do this.  It was so weird and surreal to see someone I thought was my dear friend, tell me to beat it.  Can you imagine?  I was thinking, who are these people?

I didn’t do anything kick-out worthy.   I KNOW THAT.  I know what I did and where I was.

But what sucks super hard – other people don’t know that.  People saw me so differently.  I had volunteered, and worked so hard in good will to build the community that is UNF.  Today, that student community thrives off the hard work my peers and I put into it.  We built the entire spirit movement from the ground, up.

A year ago, at the end of March 2011 I went to a church event out here in Hawaii, and the theme was forgiveness (my post on that event is here).  That was the first time I honestly forgave the girls who did this to me.  It’s still hurts so much to talk about, the way they were so awful to me – it still makes me sad.  But I don’t carry any hate in my heart at this point.  I’ve tried my best to forgive them, between me and God, I have.

I don’t know if any of them feel remorse.  No one ever apologized to me.  No one ever shined any light on it for me.  I would love for someone to come forward at this point and tell me, it would bring me great peace of mind to just know what the heck they think I did.

So, now, today – years and years later – I still have all these loaded feelings when it comes to greek life.  I’m not sure if I could genuinely tell someone to go for it and get involved.  I’m still friends with sisters I had back then.  But I’m embarrassed when I think about what happened, and I would never want anyone to be hurt the way I was.  I just don’t know if I could ever recommend or trust an institute that allowed me to be treated the way I was.  The control and power dynamics are intense.  It’s really hard to combat the system – impossible, actually.

But if all goes well, it can be a great experience.

Watching this show, Greek, has brought up so many memories.  When they do fun greek life things, like socials and mixers, door piles, singing songs, showing ritual kinda stuff – I remember the good ole days, and I reflect fondly on my experiences.

It’s just that those happy memories only go so far… and ultimately, I end up back at sad.

It hurt my self worth a lot.  I was asking a lot of questions – am I not friend worthy?  Am I a bad person?  What did I do wrong?

It shook me to my core, and it took a while to re-build my own self understanding.

I felt used.  I felt like they used me for rush, to attract girls in with my cancer story.  I heard rumors that after they kicked me out, they still talked about me in the rush room as if I had left or quit and they still talked about how great and wonderful they were to me.  I was livid that they had cheapened and reduced what I had been through.

But even still, I find myself defending the greek system in some ways.

My husband was never greek, and he doesn’t really seem to be an advocate.  He thinks of it as elitist, snobby, rude.  And sometimes when he’ll base an idea on a generalization, I’ll defend the greek ways.

Watching the show had me go grab and dust off this book I remembered hating back when I was in a sorority.  “Pledged, the Secret Life of Sororities” is a book by investigative reporter Alexandra Robbins.  I was still active when this book came out and I read it – even though it boiled my blood.

read at your own risk - stolen pic from amazon

At the time I considered Robbins to be bitter, jealous, mean, and just looking for reasons to mock and pick apart the greek system.

I figured now, given my current point of view, I may have a new appreciation for her book.  So I cracked it open and started to read a little bit and a funny thing happened –

I still can’t stand her approach!

She still sounds bitter and hateful to me.  It’s had me reflecting a lot, honestly. Do I sound bitter like that?  I sure hope not.  I’m very bitter about my own experience, and how that was handled (I think I’m still bitter, even though I try not to be) – but I don’t ever want to sound how Robbins does.  She just sounds like someone who wanted to be in the cool club and since she wasn’t, she lashed out like woah.

There were a handful of reality shows about sororities that came out around the turn of this century, and they were really damning to the greek PR machine that tries to keep the image looking good and nice.  But the shows served a purpose in piquing American curiosity, and thus people wanted to know what did really go on in there.

I’ll say that my experience in a National Pan-hellenic women’s fraternity was very different than what went down in the local chapters who allowed themselves to go on reality TV.  The imaged and exaggerated stuff seemed more the fodder for juicy TV than the way to define the average collegiate greek experience.  That’s just my POV, though.

So there ya have it. 

It’s funny how a simple, cheesy, wacky TV show can dredge up so many feelings.  It’s funny that while we’ve been watching it on Netflix, I find my mind wandering all over the place – thinking about the fun times I had.  Thinking about how much it all meant to me at that time in my life.

What do you think?  

Do you know why I was kicked out?

Has a show ever done that to you? 

I often wonder what other experineces would be similar to what I went through?  

Has anyone else ever been shunned?  

My entire social structure was taken away from me, against my will.  I imagine when someone comes out and they’re rejected from their social group – it could feel similar. Maybe.  If you’ve come out – what do you think? Am I making little or light of your experience?

Well, sorry today got heavy and sad.  But for those of you who like me and my blog, this was really revealing.  Another big one that was hard to talk about and now I feel lighter for having done it.

Thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

PS – and I hope I properly expressed this in the main article, but just in case, there were some great people and loyal friends who literally got me through that whole experience.  Afterwards, there were still greeks I could love, and trust.  And most of my college friends that I keep in touch with today were greek at the same time I was.

I will never forget how good that core group of friends was to me during that time.  My roomies and BFFS, the pi kapp guys who were like brothers to me (the blood kind, not the greek kind).  I love so many people from those days, still.  There were some who were good to me and never wavered in their loyalty.

 

SO – I’ve gotten a little bit of feedback, and the story that seems most consistent is about a rumor.  A rumor that I was doing cocaine off of a toilet seat, at a fraternity formal.  And that a group of my “sisters” had witnessed this. 

I’m not really sure how anyone could have witnessed this… as I’ve NEVER in my life done cocaine off a toilet seat.  (Who does that??  Was the hooker’s ass already taken?).  

It’s so infuriating, honestly.  They never even asked me about it.  No chance to ever defend myself.  On one hand, the absurdity of the rumor makes me feel vindicated – but on the other, it just makes me getting kicked out and going through so much pain feel even more futile than it already does.  

They really did boot me out over nothing.  Shame on them.  

Analog Life Has Been Busy!

I KNOW I’ve been a bloggin’ derelict.  I sure do know that.

Things have been wacky round these parts, though.  (Wackier than usual, given that I am just kinda naturally wack).

please forgive me for not posting in a week by seeing pics of my cute pooch

Here are my excuses for abandoning y’all:

  • I have not been feeling well
  • Working out has slacked, too, not just blogging.
  • Work has been busy – and I love it!
  • Creative writing has been taking precedent over blogging.  Book over blog, yo.
  • Matthew and I have had some awesome good quality time, which is way more fun than being behind the compy.
  • When I have been feeling up to it, we’ve been out and about – not even near the compy.
BOMBSHELL: 
We found out we’re moving soon-ish.  Like, next month-ish.  So that’s had things going crazy too.  So much to get ready, work out, plan for. It’s a crazy nightmare of super stress, actually.  But, we’re excited to start our next adventure… and we’re super sad to leave Hawaii.  It’s a lot of emotion. 

On My Health and Fitness

So, I haven’t been feeling so hot.  Which stinks.  I’ve written recently about my quest to run, and to run longer distances than usual, and to train for like a half-marathon – and one of the things I’ve confessed is the ebb and flow of my workout consistencies.

I have good weeks and bad weeks.  It’s how I’ve rolled for the past year-to-eighteen months.  It just goes like that, and I’ve been trying to break that pattern.

January was great!  But in February, not so hot.  I’ve only gotten in a couple runs a week, and my last run was already like five days ago (and I’m not lacing up my sneaks at this moment, sadly).

I just haven’t been feeling well.

here i am right now. feeling okay (better than yesterday, thank goodness)... but still pretty blah.

Nothing major, just my same ole, same ole.  I’ve tweaked up the meds a bit lately, and have seen some good come of that.  So, hopefully this period of rest is just my body taking care of itself.  Part of my hippie nature is all that “listen to your body” stuff, so I do.

Mine has been telling me to rest.

I tell ya what though: the last run I went on, I killed it!  I didn’t even think I’d make it more than a couple minutes, and it ended up being my FASTEST four-miler ever.  (Well, in recent times kinda ever).   My chest was hurting and I felt just sluggish and heavy in the beginning – during those first two minutes, I was convinced that I was going to do a five minute jog for the day.  But, as I warmed up I just shook it out and felt positively wonderful.

Oh man, even recounting such a fab run has me itching to get out and run.  Tomorrow morning, perhaps!

So, the running has slacked.  I’m bummed, but I’m also okay with it.  I’ve been taking care of the bigger picture.  I know I need to workout and push myself… but with a body like mine, I’ve just learned that when it’s telling me to stay put, it means it.  And well, with how physically ill I’ve been – running just hasn’t been an option.  GI woes (including vomiting lately, which is the pits!!!), tummy pains, back/shoulder muscle pain, overall weakness, and of course my nerve drama.

Valentine’s was super fun.

Duggs treated me to a really fun night out, it was lovely. We grabbed some grub, and we went to Dave and Buster’s to play games.

out to dinner at buca di beppo

the menu had a little blurb on v-day that was cute!

I know what you’re thinking.  The plan sounded kinda ehhh to me too.  Then, we actually got into D&B, and started playing, and it was so so so fun!

If you’ve never been to a D&B, it’s essentially a TGIFriday’s-esque restaurant with a giant arcade attached.  They have all kinds of games, video games, and those driving car games where the little car you sit in tilts and shakes.

Then there are all those games you can play for tickets.  Duggs’ romantical plan was to win me prizes.  And he did!

duggs, holding a prize and all of our tickets

here's a crappy pic of this elvis game i couldn't get enough of.

We had a blast.  I whooped up on some trivia, annihilating anyone that tried to play with us! Duggs killed me in basketball and skeeball, and he won a prize out of one of those stuffed animal claw machines on the first try (and then he gave the prize to an adorable little girl and it was so durn sweet).

me, in the NASCAR racing game. (which i beat duggs on, btw).

duggs is the man at the skeeball

duggs, the claw machine, and the prize he won on the very first try!

Work has been great.  I’ve had some projects going on, I hope the great people I work for are still enjoying my writing.  I think that this month I’ve done some of my very best work yet.  So that’s exciting.  I still have tons to learn, lots of goals for myself.  My boss is great, and I really enjoy working with/for her.  She’s a lot of fun, and she’s just been a great teacher and mentor.  She knows so much about the industry and she’s a good one to be learning under.

So life is good. 

As always, it’s a mixed bag of challenges and awesomeness.  Duggs and I are in this super sappy happy mushy phase, like more than usual (if you can even imagine).  My home life and personal life are so sweet.  And while work is busy, it’s fantastic.  The major stressors of right now are my health and this upcoming move.

It’s hard to embrace the notion of saying good-bye to Hawaii.  It’s impossible in some ways.  I’m going to miss this place so much, I’ve grown far more attached than I thought I could or would.

On the other hand, moving is exciting.  It’s a fresh start, a new world to go check out. I’m excited for the weather… and best of all- FAMILY!  We’re going to live close to family!!!  I cannot wait to see everyone.

True story: after writing about that awesome run I had last week, and how blah my physical fitness has been as of late I totally just did a little mini-workout in between drafting and finalizing this post.  I just had to do some moving and shaking, get some stretching in there.  Not grand, but better than nothing.

Wish me a better week, and that I get to feeling better soon.  I want January back!

I gotta get going… I promise to have some good and fun posts up this week.  Love to you all!  Thanks for reading. 

xoxo, hhr

happy happy joy joy, anna anna joy joy!

Happy Birthday to my Anna Joy! 

my pretty lil sis

My younger, and only, sibling is my sister Anna Joy.  She’s my best girlfriend, and I love her and miss her so much – like, the kind of miss where I literally call her crying from the fetal position, lying on my couch wallowing away.

So today, amidst the dramz of the SOPA-inspired blackouts (say no to SOPA, here)… my sister was attempting to party on – January 18th is her birthday, and my love for her trumps my need to blog out against SOPA and PIPA (even though I am so against them… we shan’t share the spotlight here, here today is for Anna Joy!)

Anna is amazing. 

My sister Anna has always been more popular than me, and for good reason.  She’s kind, empathetic, gregarious, funny and so fun to be around.  She parties me under the table and into the ground.  She’s a total badass, growing up she never had any fear and would often launch herself into danger way ahead of me (ski down a black diamond? Anna did it without a second glance.  Jump off the dock?  Right after Anna, I will).

i don't even know what's going on here

She’s beautiful, sweet, and has an amazing heart.  She loves other people so much, she lives as such an example.  She is more generous than anyone I know.  And beyond loving people, she has a huge heart for animals.

anna with puppy

Her hair is about an untamable as mine, ha!  We have much in common, sure.  When we’re around each other we have the exact same mannerisms – Italians, we talk with our hands!  And WE’RE LOUD!  Like, annoying loud.  But it’s okay, because we’re fun.

are you two sisters? no.... YES!

wa wild and crazy hair

She’s always the life of the party!

And we’ve done this weird thing where in so many ways she can be the more mature sister.  I’m the one who would blow up a bag of chips in the microwave, and she’d be making whole dinners.  She’s so wise beyond her years, a true “old soul.”

anna, explaining to me that i must wear clothes in public (boo)

 

But don’t think she’s stuffy or anything like that.  Bossy, yes! hahaha… a little bossy.  But so am I.  I’ll admit that.

My wiser and sensitive sister, always there to listen to me, lend a shoulder, etc.  She’s so wonderful, and I love being able to go to her with anything, and I know that she’ll help me out, love me no matter what, and she’s always there for me.

I have so many epically funny and sweet tender moments from growing up.  I think of us wearing our mom’s dresses (ie: negliges, weird!) and dancing along to our fav musicals.  We would watch Footloose ad nauseum, and Beaches.  Oh, Beaches, we loved that one.  There are so many musicals we were obsessed with, singing and dancing along… Disney movies, samesies.

love!

We loved Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing, and on TV we’d watch Saved By The Bell together, and Snick.

My little sister was a better dancer than me, and she went really far with it.  She was great with gymnastics too.  When we got older, we both swam together.   Her true passion is music in general, and watching her play, I get so proud.  She was always the real talent in our family; harboring no jealousy over her vast skills and abilities, I’m just so impressed and proud of her, she’s amazing.

best bassist ever

umm... she was in cirque de soleil, nothing to see here! (haha, we're such twins)

lil' gymnast

sassy

I’ll always remember traveling with her, playing with Barbies on airplanes, and our precious Tamagotchis.   Or better yet, the road trips!   I should totally tell the Binaca story on my blog sometime, or the Mission Veijo, oh man.  We have so many funny ones.

My sister is so rad and fun, she’s the best.

For a while she was cooler than me.  She had blacklights under her whip, and it had tons of bass in the back.  She was always into pimping out her ride, for sure.  (I love you Anna, hahaha).

We are so alike in so many ways, and not just how we talk and walk, and we walk and move and wave our hands when we talk.  We’re both music-loving hippies, always sharing music and telling each other about bands, going to concerts.  We love the beach, playing outside: hiking, exploring, swimming, and camping.  We’re always comfy in an outdoorsy setting.  We LOVE sports, cooking, crafting – we have so many hobbies and interests in common.  I love exchanging recipes with her.

We’re both so very family-focused, we love our wacky, crazy family.  I have a feeling that surviving them is what has brought us so close.

me, grandma sally, and a.j.

anna, stepmom, and me

aj, mom, and me

aunt shosh, aj, and me - not only do we have our mom, and our step-mom, we have our aunt shosh, who loves us like a mom

nicole (nicky cole) and anna... nicky is basically the third sister, but she's technically our cousin. we all look and act so much alike!

My sister and I love fireworks, and fire in general.  We’re both world travelers, and even though we went to different colleges, we were both initiated into the same sorority (AXO).  We’re both givers, always looking for ways to help others.  Democrats! Yeah! We’re both runners, and we should totally train and meet up for a race, that would be awesome.  Garsh, we have so so so much in common.  We’re like the same person, but different. You get what I mean, yeah? (Probably not, I don’t make much sense).

sisters for obama!

I learned my tie dye skills with my sis!  We’ve both been so obsessed for as long as I can remember, and we always dye when we get together.  She’s so business savvy, my dream is for her to work with me on the tie dye thing and whip it into a real (organized) business, and she’d help me to do the PR and making the garments too.  That would be so rad.

right before sky diving!

playing with fire

let's not kid, this is our most fav thing to do. we're awful with our technology addictions.

All of my best tie dye shirts are actually made by my sis, well a lot of them are.  A couple are made by Nicole too.

For twenty-six years I’ve had the sincere pleasure of being a “big sister.”  January 18, 1986 was clearly a huge day for A.J. herself, and well, the world at large became a nicer place; but,  it was an amazing one for me too, an event I am forever grateful for – I am so blessed that you came into my life, and for 26 years we’ve been giggling, having fun, making up languages and getting up to no good… I cannot wait for the next 26 years of being your big sis, or well, optimistically, the next 86!

a classic, a very floral classic.

Your birthday, beloved sister, is a celebration for me too.  But I don’t want to obsess any more on that point, because it is YOUR day.  You’ve already celebrated, over there on the east coast.  So I’m sorry this is late (blame my power outage, ugh)… and I’m sorry I’m not there.  You’ve been in my thoughts more than usual today.

I wish you a super duper rad birthday!

So dear Anna Joy, today and everyday, I wish you the best, that all yoru dreams come true, that you find nothing but happiness and good times in life… and if at any moment it’s not all cupcakes and glitter, Duggs and I are always here for you.  We miss you and we love you so much.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNA JOY!! 

christmas 2011 rundown

I’m trying to figure out how to post about Christmas:

  • do I talk about being homesick (because I was, I missed my family and the East Coast so very much)? That could be a whole post right there, if I let it be.
  •  Do I talk about how much fun Duggs and I had carving out our own Christmas memories, in our first-ever just the two of us Christmas?
  • I’d like to thank everyone for the beautiful and perfect gifts I received.  Some very lovely and well-wanted things were sent my way.
  • I also want to talk about how CRAZY it was, turning our house, here on base, into a Christmastime factory that even Santa’s elves would respect.

So here’s my rundown: Stats, the Good, the Bad, and even the Ugly. 

Stats:

  • 10 boxes and big puffy envelopes were sent to family across the country
  • 62 (and counting) Christmas cards were mailed out
  • 40+ cards were handmade and hand delivered!
  • Six service projectes were participated in
  • One all-nighter was required to pull it off
  • ZERO parcels arrived late! hahaha, take that Post Office on base who said it’d never happen! 
  • Probably a dozen boxes were shipped to us
  • And the Christmas cards are still coming in (oh, I love cards!!)

The Good

Matthew and I really did have a nice time together this year.  It was so fun waking up Christmas morning and going down to see presents under the tree, gifts from our families back on the mainland, as well as presents that we were able to exchange with each other.

The gifts I recieved were just AMAZING.  The things people gift you say a lot about you, and this year’s message was loud and clear: we love you, you silly hippie!

Duggs  got me a Tamagotchi, like an original from 1996.  That’s a whole story in itself.  He bought me a beautiful necklace.  I was gifted a scarf that I love from Aunt Heather and Uncle Joe, my Mother-in-law knows me SO WELL, and sent an amazing package of pretty things for me (like a set of floral gilden notebooks, love!) as well as more food from Omaha Steaks than anyone could eat in a month.   I won’t sit here and brag and brag and brag (even though I want to)… but I was very blessed this year.  Gift cards, hand made cards, a new handbag, new make up and new make up brushes, scratch-off lotto tickets. cute Christmas ornaments – so many things that I love are filling my living room.

It’s a weird time of year, ya know.  I try so hard to not be materialistic, but that’s not honest.  I do love things.  I love pretty, cute, fun, lovely things.  And to have been gifted so many, especially in a year that’s been economically hard – well, I do feel so happy.  And spoiled!

So, thank you.  I am grateful.  I’ll stop reveling in my presents now.

I had an even better time with the giving!  I know I’ve already blogged about a lot of the giving projects Duggs and I got into.  I’m so proud of us for making a big focus of this season, giving to others.  That’s def a good thing about this Christmas.

So, to speak on giving:  I did gift Duggs a humidor for his cigars, some handmade coupons (the kind where I’ll watch a movie he picks out without whining, or he can play video games all day guilt-free, those kinds, hahah).  I bought a couple Jets shirts and a keychain/beer opener.   I got him some video games (which is another funny story I’ll have to blog about later on).

did i mention duggs got booze, too? he did. plenty!

Church was a blast!  We went on Christmas Eve and it was such a joyous, happy celebration.  I really did enjoy myself.  Duggs and I sang Christmas carols with everyone in the Sanctuary, and it was just happy and fun.  The energy was amazing, I LOVED being there.

Christmas evening we went over to the Tanner’s house and we had an amazing prime rib dinner with them.  It was great.  They are such wonderful friends, so spending the holiday with them, out here, was really awesome.

Overall, there is SO MUCH GOOD that came along with this Christmas, that’s for sure.

Props: Please check out Chaos To Art – the store that Duggs bought some BEAUTIFUL up-cycled sachets and change purses from.  I’m so in love!!

chaos to art = amazing, love all of these repurposed gifts!

 

The Bad: 

I was homesick.  I missed my family.  Sure I made lasagna on Christmas Eve, as did everyone else in my family – but we all ate it separately, so far away from each other.   I’m really hoping that we’re all together next year.

And I missed Matthew’s family too.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen them, and Matthew has hardly spent any time with them at all these past five and half years.  I know they miss him so much too.  So again, next year I’m just hoping for more family time.

 

The Ugly

Oh boy.   I was bad this Christmas.  Real bad.  I try to live in an eco-friendly way, I’m a “green” person.  (this is the happy HIPPIE rose blog, ya know).  This Christmas was so un-green, I’m mortified to be honest.

We sent packages.  We got packages.  I won’t even admit the amount of packing materials, tape, and paper that’s coming in and out of this house.  Not to mention the cross-Pacific and cross-Continental shipping of everything.

I’m getting sick just thinking of it.

I indulged.  I know I did, and it wasn’t very nice to good ole Mother Earth.

So to my planent, and my fellow greenies: I heartily apologize.  I plan to do better in the future.  More gift cards, more digital gifts, less shipping.  And hopefully, I’ll live close enough the in-person gift exchanges will be possible.

But man, did we waste a lot.

I didn’t even make my own (recycled) gift wrap this year, like I usually do.  Just, eeks.

(Saving grace: I was gifted a reusable bag (love those), Duggs bought be some local tea, and I was gifted cruelty-free make up! So at least I have those few eco-friendly aspects on my side.)

Another thing going in the “ugly” list, I didn’t really do anything for Hanukkah this year. I didn’t make any latkes or even so much as light the candles with my dad/step-mom over the phone.  That’s something I do every year, and this year it all just got lost in the shuffle.  So I’m sad about that for sure.  Next year, it will be a better effort next year – for sure.

So there you have it: the good, the bad, and the ugly – and all of it coming together to make one memorable holiday season.

 

And now…. the photos!  In no particular order, enjoy:

Most of all, I hope everyone of my reader had a very Happy Holiday.  Wishing you all a wonder New Year!  

Thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr