Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thankin' My Lucky Stars

After the wonderful beach-side family visit in Pensacola, my mom and I loaded up in the Angel Mobile II and made the eight-hour drive to Texas. Having so much to catch up on, the miles disappeared before my eyes making it seem like one of the fastest I-10 trips ever (although I wasn't driving, so my mom may have a different take). We made pretty good use of the time catching up on everything, brainstorming new ideas, and, of course, jamming to Glee soundtracks (since my mom has all of them!). 

I spent my first day back in Texas doing what I always do my first day back in Texas: Shopping! I had a very focused shopping list I brought back from Guam with me. Most of the items are things I know I can use in Guam on an almost-daily basis (workout clothes, cooking supplies) that were more than I wanted to pay in Guam. Other items were things I simply haven't been able to find in Guam (like my new golf skirt!). And, okay, there were a few bonus items in there that I just couldn't turn down (a chopper that blends fresh herbs and oil into an instant salad dressing!). Pretty awesome to go into a store and find what I was looking for... plus a few goodies on sale :)

My first night there, my friend Jenny (who came to visit us in Guam!) picked me up and we went down to visit our friends Kristin and Preston in a suburb called Missouri City. We had an awesome time catching up and getting to see little William, who is now nine months. This has got to be one of the happiest little guys I have ever seen. It was so easy to get him to smile for pictures!

This is one happy baby!
So unlike San Diego and Pensacola, Houston did not welcome me home with perfect weather. It was drizzly and rainy the first day, but Wednesday was absolutely beautiful. With the promise of a front coming through for the end of the week, my dad did what any dad would do on a beautiful day while his daughter is in town for the first time in six months: He skipped out on work to come play golf with me! We played a course called Bear Creek. Not only was it my first time to play in Texas, but it was also my first time to play just me and my dad. The weather was perfect (for January, especially!), the fairways were fast, and there were no chickens in sight! I love that I have a new hobby that allows me to hang out with my dad more :) Behold the Texas sunset:

After golf, we hurried home and I did a quick turnaround because Jenny was coming by to take me out to see the girls for the evening. It was so awesome hanging out with Jenny just a few months after her visit to Guam. It was so neat that she knows what my life is like there and who my friends are and what our world consists of. And I had so much chat time to catch up with her while she was there, I know what's going on in her world too. I guess it was refreshing after catching up with so many great friends about the past six months. Jenny and I picked up right where we left off!

Dinner at Sara's with my besties is becoming somewhat of a tradition when I've been in town the past few visits. She and Matt have an amazingly beautiful home, one they are getting ready to share! Their little girl Savanna was due any day. She was actually born on Tuesday, Jan. 25th (adorable pics on Sara's blog!), just five days after I was there. I didn't get to meet her (yet!), but I got to see the adorable nursery and hear all the stories about how she and Matt were getting ready. It is so exciting to spend time with these future mommies in these precious last days before baby arrival. There is so much of a peaceful energy about all of it. A healthy mix of patience and anxiousness. All very exciting :)

After a couple more shopping trips, a few "self" care package sends via the post office, and a few hours spent helping out my parents around the house, there were just a couple more visits left. These friends, like Jenny, all fit into what my mom calls "The Guam Club." They're the ones who have made the long voyage out our way. The first were my in-laws, Russ and Diane, who you may recall were just in Guam a few weeks over Christmas.

The next Guam Club lunch was with my friend Amy who lived down the street from us in Guam until just a few weeks ago. Her husband got out of the Navy took a job in Houston of all places! As luck would have it, they were in town looking for a new place to live while I was there. So fun to meet up with Guam friends in Texas. We marveled at the fact that we were wearing real clothes, had showered before noon, and were surrounded by fabulous shopping. Weird!

Overall, it was a very relaxing week at home filled with everything Houston: shopping, eating, and visiting with some of the nicest people on the planet, including my family. The only bummer part was being at my house for the first time with no Bluester Puppy. He is still very missed, but again, you only miss something that was at some point to you wonderful. I'll take the wonderful and will figure out over time how to miss him. Small price to pay for so many wonderful years.

Thank you, Texas, for another fabulous visit on the America Reunion Tour!

Saturday, January 29, 2011


So, technically after the Bay Area I spent four days in San Diego. But in the interest of post consolidation (not to mention the fact that this is my blog and I can do whatever I want), I'm going to skip that for now and jump to my fabulous visit to my old hometown, Pensacola, Florida!

At seven years, Pensacola still holds the title for the place I've lived the longest. And on top of living there for all those years, I also spent many more weeks vacationing there when I was younger. It was the perfect place for our family to travel: world class white sand beaches, fresh local seafood, and best of all, our extended family on my mom's side all lived here, making it easy to catch up with everyone. Visits were spent fishing in Bayou Chico off the dock in my grandparents' backyard, body surfing and beach combing on the beautiful Pensacola Beach (above), and large family meals around my grandparents' dinner table. It was the perfect place to be a kid, and my grandparents were particularly amazing at making my sister, my two cousins and me feel special.

In recent years, since no longer making the drive between Gainesville and Houston, Pensacola has been a hard place to get to. I've been to visit a few times, but the most recent few have been for imminent goodbyes and funerals. In November I got the news that my grandfather had a health change, significant enough to prompt me to leave my second job and begin making arrangements to travel there in January. It was this trip to Pensacola that spurred my entire adventure back to the States. And specifically, it was to visit with my grandfather during a time when all is well. And as luck would have it, it just so happened that my visit would coincide with his 81st birthday.

The background of this picture gives a glimpse of the library of books and music on display behind my grandfather's favorite chair. If there were two symbols that summed up my grandfather, books and music would be it. My grandfather was in the Navy Band back in the day. He also deployed on the USS Midway after WWII. He later served as the band director of the high school I went to in Pensacola (long before I went there), and when education around him started to crumble, he started his own school. For nearly 40 years he has been offering an alternative education program for middle and high school students in Pensacola. In doing so, he has influenced tens of thousands of lives.

He has also influenced our family through the art, music, and philosophy he has always been so passionate about. I love all of the random things you can find at my grandparents' house. For one, he owns a viking ship. More specifically, it's believed to be the only working replica of a viking ship in North America. Well, "working" might be a bit of a stretch since Hurricane Ivan took its toll, but this icon has certainly been a part of my family history from as long as I can remember.

Continuing on with the viking theme, I found this scary cat statue (?)

His walls are covered in interesting art, including this giant Picasso replica.
Boats are the other thing my grandfather has always been passionate about. Maybe a little too passionate. He currently has more boats than I can name. Rumor has it that one of them works. But when we were growing up, I remember so many days going out in boats with my family, cruising in the wind in the Valkyrie or motoring the Viking Ship to a restaurant near the state line that you could pull up to dockside. My grandparents are definitely to credit for my own love of sailing. They put me through sailing camp two summers in middle school and ever since then, it has been part of who I am.

To celebrate my grandfather's birthday, our family got together at his house. My cousin Erika and her fiance Andres drove up from south Florida, and my aunt Wendy and uncle Dan joined us from down the street. Every time I step foot in his house, I am flooded with memories of being a kid. Where my family moved every 18 months growing up, my grandparents' address has been the same my entire life, so it has always felt like home in that unique way. It has always been the place I traveled back to, and I was thrilled to find myself here again, especially with so much to celebrate this time :)

An awesome bonus of this trip to Pensacola was getting to reconnect with my cousin Erika (her blog) and meet her fiance for the first time. They are off and running on the wedding planning (in Colombia!), and I am so excited for them. We threw them a little engagement party out on Pensacola Beach the next day, which was a great opportunity to spend more time with them and the rest of my family. Our dear friends the Winns offered us their beachhouse for the weekend. Because it has an elevator, it is the perfect place for my grandfather to join the party. I got this picture of the two of us, which is hands down, my favorite picture of my entire USA trip!

I also got to catch up with Danika, my best friend from middle school, and her sweet daughter Delaney.  I find it kind of ironic that growing up her dad was (and still is) in the navy and my dad worked for an oil company. Now I'm the Navy wife and her husband works out on the rigs. It's funny how many similarities there are between the two career lifestyles with our husbands gone so much. Always great to catch up with an old friend.

The next day my mom and I woke up to an absolutely gorgeous day. We were all packed up so we used our extra time before our last family lunch to take a walk on the beach.

No matter how many new coastlines I explore anywhere in the world, I still have yet to find a beach as beautiful as Pensacola's.
You all heard about the horrible oil spill that paralyzed the Gulf Coast last summer. The oil did wash up on these shores, but six months later, there was very little evidence that I could see. The waters and sea life are still recovering and will for some time, but the beaches, at least, have been cleaned up. The only evidence of the spill that I could see was this eyesore of a work crew on the beach.
Mom calls this my picture "with Nick" because he called from Sri Lanka during our walk. All in all, it was a wonderful visit to Pensacola full of people I loved dearly and had dearly missed, a beach that rivals the world's best, and a visit with my grandfather I will never forget. So thankful to my mom for making it happen and to the Winns for such a peaceful place to stay. For the last few years I have left Pensacola dreading my next trip back. But after this wonderful visit, I am so hopeful I can make it there again soon. It's one of the few special places on this planet where I truly feel at home. And after traveling so far away, it's always nice to go home.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hugs in the Bay Area

So my original goal destination on the west coast was San Diego. But when I thought I was flying into Travis AFB just nearby, I got in touch with my Bay Area friends and family. Turns out they were all free to see me the Sunday I would be in town. When the time came to book my ticket, I could have spent the same amount of miles and money to head to San Diego, mission accomplished. But thinking about all the people I would get to see and all the extra hugs from people I love, I just couldn't turn down a stop in the Bay Area.

Courtney picked me up at SFO extremely sleep deprived. It is not nearly as easy to sleep on an overnight flight when you are crammed into a seat surrounded by people. I much preferred my sleeping bag nest among the pallets on the military flight! But I rallied knowing brunch would have lattes and headed out to a cute restaurant called Luna Park in the Mission area where Courtney lives. We had a great visit with Nick's cousin Debi, her husband John and their little girl Madison. Debi is expecting twins in March. She looks great!

After a quick hello to Ben, Court and I headed south to San Jose for an awesome dinner with our cousins Dawn, Kurt, Katie and Olivia. One of our favorite things to do together is play "Just Dance" on the Wii. So fun hanging out with them!

 My Girls
 Dawn, Katie, Olivia, Courtney & Moi

It was a short stop, no question, but it was well worth the lost sleep and the extra plane ticket to get to see everyone. Already can't wait for my next visit!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ice Reunion in Alaska

The picture to the left is of the previously unthinkable. Me in Alaska... in January... smiling. Who would have thought? It was cold, all right (about 7 degrees when this picture was taken), but I think the sheer spontaneity of the fact that I was in a state I'd never been to on a day I'd never expected to be there with friends I hadn't expected to see numbed me (appropriately) to the single digit temperatures and five hours/day of pseudo-daylight of the 24... and then 48... hours I was there.

In my previous post, I mentioned the chance to see my good friends Ashley and Robbie was a big draw of venturing so far off course on my way back to the States (anyone else find it slightly ironic that they live in Alaska and their last name is Ice?). Admittedly, part of the draw was the sheer convenience of not having to figure out Alaska on my own, but more importantly for a chance to reconnect with such awesome friends. I met Ashley in college at Florida at the very beginning of my sophomore year. We were eating lunch at our sorority house. She was one of the "potential new members," and we older sisters were supposed to make an effort to get to know the new pledge class. After a brief conversation, I knew I had found my prospective "Little Sister" because she and I had an immensely important thing in common: We were both dating guys at military academies. 

Though Ashley was a year younger than me, she had known her then boyfriend Robbie and had been dating him for longer, plus they already had two years of long distance down since he first left for the Air Force Academy with plans to become a pilot. I couldn't believe how much we instantly had in common in terms of the difficulties in communication, the expenses of visiting, the struggle to make our way through the dating-obsessed world of the Gator social scene while attached to instant messenger. In addition, we both had already chosen these guys when Nine-Eleven happened the year before, and so the prestige and romance of the military academy experience was overshadowed by the reality and severity of their future military careers. We weren't just dating for fun at that point. We knew, on some level, that these guys were our futures and their career choices were very much a part of our decision to continue "dating a keyboard."

Kate, Ashley, Me, Kristen, Courtney & Kim on our wedding day :)
It dawned on me after I (finally) got on the flight to head to Alaska that it had been five and a half years since I'd seen these two. They drove down from Wichita Falls, TX to Houston for our wedding weekend. Ashley was one of several sorority sisters who came in for the celebration and mini-reunion.

Five and a half years later, here she and Robbie were picking me up in Alaska at 1:30 in the morning after my flight from Guam. And, now nine months pregnant, Ashley looked a little different than the last time I saw her!

Planning to only be in Alaska for 24 hours before hopping a flight to the Bay Area, Ashley helped me pack in a mini-tour of Anchorage in the short time we had. We started out by trying to go for a short hike, but quickly went back to the car upon discovering the trail was completely icy (not a good idea for el bebe) and I was sufficiently freezing three minutes after getting out of the car. I took this picture of the thermometer in Ashley's rearview mirror, but I should have waited until later that day when it said 3 instead of 10. Even so, 10 was a rather ridiculous temperature drop from the 88 degrees I soaked in as I boarded the plane in Guam just hours before.

Me, Ashley & Robbie
After our "hike," I joined Ashley for one of their previously scheduled events, lunch at Robbie's squadron for a going away party of sorts. Robbie's squadron is deploying to Japan and before they return, Ashley and Robbie will be drastically changing climates and moving to Hawaii. So we ate pizza in their squadron bar and listened to some speeches about how great an asset he had been to the squadron. That's always nice to hear, but not as nice to hear as the beautiful words Robbie had to say about Ashley when he had the floor. I was so proud to be there to hear Robbie thank his wife (my friend!) for always supporting him, even while plowing through grad school, working full-time as a second grade teacher, and carrying his baby. Yeah, military wives are pretty impressive across the board. Even the Air Force ones, it turns out (badoom-ching!). This was perhaps my favorite five minutes of my, albeit short, stay in Alaska. So great to witness firsthand that the authentic love these two shared years ago when I met them has carried them through all these years. That just gives me the warm fuzzies (the warm part being a major bonus about this point).

Next on the one-day tour of Anchorage was a combined "welcome back to America" type visit... shopping at REI! Okay, so not the most original Alaska stop, but major bonus that they don't have sales tax and it was still post-Christmas sales. It sounds so silly, because I have certainly done plenty of shopping in Tokyo, New Zealand, and even Guam, but it still felt so amazing to be in an American store for the first time in six months. People who worked there were helpful (weird). And they had a great selection of colors, sizes, fabrics, and prices (also weird). All in all, it was a great stop that made me even more excited about the fun to come these next few weeks.

That night for our last meal, Ashley and Robbie took me to the Bear Tooth Grill, an awesome restaurant that served its own microbrews. I got halibut fish tacos (locally caught Alaskan halibut... yum!). We took this picture thinking it was our last hurrah and continued back to Ashley and Robbie's so I could start my long night ahead of packing and traveling. All packed up, I drove Ashley's car to the Elmendorf terminal, arriving 30 minutes before roll call for the 0225 flight to Travis AFB near Oakland, CA. It was a bit intimidating that my first time driving more than 50 mph was in someone else's car on an icy freeway in the middle of the night in a city I'd never been to before (not ideal). But everything went just fine. That is, until i got to the terminal and discovered the flight had been diverted to Japan and would possibly take off the next day. Directions were given to call in the morning for an update. I headed back to the Ices, put sheets back on the bed (that's what I get for being a polite guest), and fell asleep not knowing what the next day would bring.

The next day I got my first real taste of the Space-A frustration. When I called at 7am, I found out the flight was now scheduled to depart Alaska at 0300 the next morning. Another night of driving on icy roads, showing up at a freezing terminal, and taking my chances that I would find my way out of Alaska, especially since the plane had picked up more cargo in Japan and they couldn't guarantee there would be any seats. Not awesome. At this point, I was really ready to get to California and start my previously planned visits, so I checked out my commercial options and was relieved to see I could book a flight on miles and get to San Francisco by 10am the next morning, all for $5.00. It was temping, for a minute, to fly straight to San Diego, but since I'd already been planning to fly into the Bay Area, I had made tentative plans with some really awesome people. It was too many great hugs to turn down, so I stuck to Plan A, well, Plan B at this point :)

The extra day in Alaska was pretty awesome, all things considered. For Ashley, it was the first Saturday in two years she didn't have homework to do. With their baby's impending birth scheduled for the following Friday, it was the last Saturday they had to not yet be parents for, well, the rest of their lives. I had already crammed in the Anchorage-type things I wanted to do. So the three of us just hung out and did absolutely as little as possible.

One of the things we did do was talk a lot about Guam and Alaska. It was amazing to me how many similarities we found in the ways we approached living in these two very different places. Like in Guam, people in Alaska don't check the weather. Ashley explained, "The weather doesn't keep us from doing anything. If you plan to go hiking and it snows, you go hiking anyway." Pretty similar to Guam where getting an accurate weather forecast is nearly impossible, and getting rained on is nearly certain.

One of the other similarities was the availability of fresh fish. I got to experience this again firsthand that night when they treated me to a dinner of wild King Salmon that Robbie caught the previous summer. I meant to take a picture of our beautiful dinner, but didn't think of it until our plates were empty. Robbie had a brilliant backup idea, and he sent me this picture he took of the actual fish we ate just after it was caught. Pretty awesome :)

As Ashley and Robbie dropped me off at the Anchorage airport, I found myself in a very grateful place. I was so grateful for the precious time we'd spent catching up on our very different but very similar lives. I was grateful to have had friends help me maneuver my way through a midpoint Space-A stop as well as winter in Alaska. I loved getting to check a new state off my list. Though I didn't see much of it, Alaska is absolutely beautiful and it's definitely somewhere I hope Nick and I make it to one day. Hey, if I can do it in January, the rest of the year can't be so bad, right?

All that, and I found myself particularly grateful that I had a boarding pass in my hand on a confirmed flight that had already made a space for me. No more uncertainty! And at the end of this flight would be another familiar face. Not my "little sister," but this time, my big sister :) Just like that, I was off to California, my second stop on what was quickly becoming my reunion tour of America.

****UPDATE! Ashley and Robbie had their baby, Robert Jeffrey Ice on January 14, 2011. Mom and baby are doing well. Can't wait to meet little Jeffrey in Hawaii one day soon!

Friday, January 14, 2011


Ever since I left my second job in November, I have been tentatively planning to come back to the States for a visit in January. Nick was going to be off island, things at the church would be fairly low key, and the rest of my days were wide open. Combine that with one of the military's most lucrative benefits---Space-A travel---and I had a recipe for a glorious visit.

In Space-A travel, the "A" technically stands for "available." But it could just as easily stand for "adventure." Every day the military has different kinds of planes in transit for various reasons between its bases all over the world. One of the benefits of being an active duty spouse stationed overseas is having access to fly Space-Available without my sponsor (Nick). Basically, if there's an available seat and you want on, you've got a free flight to wherever the plane is heading. The catch is that the flight you're waiting for may not take passengers, may not take off, or may not ever even arrive.

Being in Guam the past six months, I've heard a number of exciting and horrifying stories about Space-A, which is why I approached my trip back to the States hesitantly. Some stories I've heard boast about how easy it was for someone to drive from their house five minutes from the terminal, get on a plane that stopped once in Hawaii and fly onward to a base just miles from their final destination all for the fabulous bargain price of zero dollars. On the other hand, I've also heard stories of people who tried every single day for two solid weeks to get off Guam. And others who got on a plane to head back to Guam who flew halfway home only to have the plane turn around midair and return to its takeoff spot where passengers had to start all over again waiting for a flight. All in all, it's a total gamble. But considering the possibility of seeing so many friends and family while I had the time to spare, I figured it was worth the risk.

So Wednesday afternoon, Nick and I drove to the air force base, 45 minutes from home, to find out the flight outlook for the next 72 hours. I'd been tracking flights all week by calling the 24-hour hotline and I knew that there hadn't been any the last few days. I was a bit worried that whatever flights there were would be packed with interested passengers who had been trying to get out amid the absence of flights. The guy at the terminal said there wasn't much in the next few days. The first flight he told us about was to Elmendorf Air Force Base. I looked at Nick and said, "Umm, isn't that in Alaska?" Sure enough. I laughed out loud and quickly moved on with, "Okay, what else you got?" There was a plane going to Hawaii then on to Northern California three days out, but it was on an unreliable plane and there was no word on how many seats would be available. All in all, not great news considering I was hoping to start flying out the next day to maximize my time in the States.

Taking advantage of our gas usage to get to the air force base, Nick and I embarked on a round of golf (I mean, it was ladies-play-free Wednesday). Somewhere around hole 7 (with my mind clearly on Space-A and not on my chip shots), I said, "Hey, aren't Ashley and Robbie stationed at Elmendorf?" Sure enough. Then Nick piped in with some other rationales that he must have been mulling over. "I know it sounds kind of ridiculous, but you'll have a lot better chance of making it to San Diego if you just get off Guam. If I were you, I'd hop on the first flight heading East." An interesting thought. Alaska in January? Could my venture to friends and family in the Lower 48 really require a trip from the equator to practically the North Pole?

After getting in touch with my Elmendorf friends and having a backup of a place to stay, plus the prospect of a bonus visit with friends I hadn't seen in ages, my Space-A journey began. Nick dropped me off at the terminal on Thursday night around 11pm. When we left the house the flight was supposed to check in at 2:30 a.m. and rather than interrupt both of our sleep that night, I decided to bear the brunt of the inconvenience. When we checked in at the terminal we found out that the Elmendorf flight wasn't actually checking in until 8a.m. Awesome. That meant, because of our one-car transportation setup, I was spending the night in the terminal with no guarantee that it would get me anywhere. BUT there was a bonus flight to Hawaii that was leaving before then that I had a chance to get on, so things were looking good either way.  So Nick left and we said goodbye not knowing if we'd see each other the next month or the next day. The rest of the night was long and sleepless, as the Hawaii flight never panned out, and I waited hour by hour for 8am to get there to find out if I would be one of the 20 possible passengers who got a spot.

C-17 I crossed the northern hemisphere in
Many granola bars and too many hours on Facebook later, 8a.m. finally came. Turns out despite all the people trying to get off Guam, only two... TWO... people were interested in Alaska in January, despite the 54 available seats. But at least one of the uncertainties (not getting a spot) was taken away. We got boarding passes, went through security, and were waiting for our ride to the plane when we heard there was a "maintenance" issue that would set us back an hour. Uh-oh. An hour went by. Then another half hour. We were getting antsy, so we had the terminal guy call the flight crew guy, who reported that they hadn't even spotted the maintenance issue at that point. Great. I texted Nick to tell him I might need a ride home after all of that sleeplessness (in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, what Alaska flight crew wants to fly off 85-degree Guam back to Alaska in January???). As soon as I hit "send" on the text, a knock on the door came and a guy in a flight suit said, "We're ready!"

Instantly, a bus arrived to take us to a C-17, a plane Nick has traveled in to and from deployments on many occasions. I could tell as he described my flight options, he was kind of excited for me to get a chance to fly in one of these, and he prepared me well for the ride. Sure enough, the inside was enormous! It's like a flying warehouse, with plenty of room to hold pallets of gear, supplies, etc., that the military is transporting across the world. Supposedly I lucked out because not only were there not a lot of people on this flight (flight crew + 2 passengers), but there was only one single pallet. Nick said he and his guys never traveled that light before.

In addition to requiring spontaneous maintenance, military aircraft are notorious for being freezing cold inside, like 40 degrees. Those of you who know me well know I get cold in a climate change as simple as shade... and that my feet are often mysteriously colder than the surrounding outside air (Nick still marvels at this). So to get around this, Nick hooked me up with his super compactable down sleeping bag for warmth, and a blow-up ground pad for comfort. I got on the flight, set up my nest, and with the help of earplugs and an eye mask, passed out for the first half of the nine-hour flight. It was hands down the most glorious plane sleep I have ever had, especially considering how tired I was from pulling an all-nighter the night before. I had to take a picture (awkwardly on self-timer) to show you all what it looks like in there. Pretty sweet way to travel!

I arrived in Alaska at 1:30a.m. It was sooo cooooold! I was pleasantly shocked to see my friends there to pick me up at the terminal so late, especially considering Ashley is literally days away from giving birth to their first child. They scooped me up and drove me to their cozy house where I spent my first ever trip to USA North. And so my journey home had begun and already taken a surprising turn. But I was definitely closer than when I started and excited to find out where Space-A travel might take me next. All this adventure for the bargain price of zero dollars. Not bad!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Diving Into the New Year

I know I mentioned this to a few people recently, but last year's New Years Eve/Day was the worst day of Nick's entire 6-month deployment. I spent much of New Years Eve evening with friends and had a great time at a NYE party a block away at Mallory & Adam's house. I met some new friends there, played fun games, and hung out with people. When the time came, we counted down to the new year. As the count ticked down 3 - 2 - 1, we yelled happy new year! I continued yelling until I suddenly realized I was the ONLY PERSON at the party not kissing someone. It wasn't that the new years kiss is that big of a deal, it was just that I hadn't prepared myself to miss Nick for that. I also hadn't realized I was the ONLY PERSON there not part of a couple. Surely if I'd put two and two together, I would have used the new years countdown time to hit up the ladies room or otherwise done something to escape.

So one of the things I was looking forward to this holiday was spending New Years with Nick. We had a great day trying out a new golf course, one he and Russ played that I hadn't been to yet called Windward Hills. It's only a 20-minute drive from base and since it's in the middle of the island, it has some completely different and completely gorgeous views I hadn't seen on the other courses we've played. I had a great round considering it was so hilly and it was my first time on the course. And it was our third day of golf in a row, so I was on a my A-game (as much golf A-game as I have, that is).

On the way back to base, it dawned on me that we should rent tanks since the tank place on base would be closed for the next day holiday. So we rented tanks with the idea we'd take the boat out on Saturday. As the evening rolled on, it dawned on me that I was just 45 minutes, or one dive, away from reaching 24 hours of total underwater dive time. I mentioned it might be cool to do a night dive so I could reach that milestone in 2010. Not having any plans that evening, we also then realized we could do the dive spanning the change from the old year to the new year, so that's exactly what we did.

The dive wasn't all that exciting… until, that is, a sea turtle came out from the reef and joined us, right at 11:58pm! We spent the next few minutes chasing it and taking pictures of it. Nick even tried to ride it. He grabbed the sides of it, but it was too slippery, not to mention tough to juggle with a camera and a flashlight in hand.


So it wasn't until a couple of minutes after midnight when we were able to celebrate the year changeover. While under water for those first 30 minutes of 2011, I thought about how different, literally worlds away, this new years was from last. Here we were, just the two of us, together in the dark sea, 8,000 miles away in either direction from where we were that moment last year. I suppose it would have been great to be anywhere with Nick at that point, but surrounded by more of our favorite sea creatures, as well as some new ones, I considered myself very lucky. Here are a few other creatures from our new years party:

 And perhaps the goofiest looking creatures under there were Nick and me in this picture. We thought it would be fun to bring the champagne bottle under. Had a tough time getting it all in a photo. This may well be the most ridiculous looking underwater picture that exists of me. The even funnier part is that Nick and I didn't have a sip to drink that night, either before or after the dive, and yet, by the look on my face, you'd think I hadn't shared any of it! Hope you had a memorable new years too. We are off and running in 2011. More on that soon!