Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Taste of Space-A

I had some pretty fantastic luck with Space-A this time around to close off an overall really smooth trip. That said, there were still a lot of ups and downs in the process, as there always seem to be. This is how my timeline turned out, to give you a little taste of how sporadic it can be.

Sunday, June 22

5:50p - Roll Call - Seat assigned on C-17 heading to Andersen AFB in Guam.

6:58p Hey boo - I went to the terminal and was the 2nd person in line for the 11 seats available on the C-17. Got my boarding pass, checked my bag, then the flight broke and wouldn't be fixed in time to meet the crew rest standards, so they pushed it back 24 hours. I think I will give up my seat and try for one of these earlier flights, because that will set me up to arrive in Guam at a more reasonable hour for being picked up. Will keep you posted, obviously. Luckily Ashley had a dinner group with her friends from the squadron for me to return to. Nothin like leaving Space-A let down to head to a party! Doesn't get much easier than that. Hope you had a great flight. Miss you already :)

Nick: Okay honey, let me know what your plan is when you find out.  I love you and can't wait for us to get back to normal life!

[side note: ME NEITHER!]

Monday, June 23
8:29a Hey boo - I am manifest on flight  7979 a KC-135 that is scheduled to leave here at 10a. I will keep you posted if we take off. Also, I figured out I do not have my Guam phone with me so I can't call or text you when I land :( If you could call the Guam passenger terminal for flight updates I'd appreciate it. LY! I will still try to get in touch with you when we land if I don't see you. and can always call my Andersen friends if I need a holding spot. LY!

9:40a - TEXT: About to take off on a KC 135. I think it will land 1500ish. Fingers crossed!

[Side note: my USA phone has about 30 cents left and I have no idea if I will need it past today... so this is a pretty confident text]

11:03a - Just kidding! We boarded, engines fueled up to take off, then they announced the fuel pump was "acting up." So off we go again, meal refunded, waiting on our bags back at the terminal again. No other flights out until tonight, so I will keep you posted. Love ya, ~P

11:10a - Hahaha - 6 minutes later we find out that they are not bringing our bags to us, they are bringing us back out to the plane. Here we go again! Love ya :) If you don't hear from me in like 4 hours call the Guam terminal for arrival info. p

(Uniformed guy is yelling at me to get on the bus, but I don't know if I have phone credit left so I continue emailing while I have wifi access).

11:36a - Back on plane, engines on, everything loaded, doors closed. Ready to go.

12:15p - Still in Hawaii. We have been sitting in a "penalty box" on the runway for the last 30 minutes soaking in our own sweat (temperature control is a luxury completely taken for granted flying commercial, FYI). Since our flight was originally canceled, our flight plan had dropped from the system, so we were waiting on air traffic control to give us a new flight plan. If we did not take off in the next 45 minutes, we would miss the window for crew rest and the flight would be delayed 24 hours.

12:23p - We have a flight plan! We are taking off - hooray!

16:23p Hawaii time - We are now halfway through the flight and therefore "safe" that we won't turn around and head back to Hickam (hey, it happens).

1615p Guam time (8 hours later) - Hooooome!!!!!!

This is my 5th or so time to travel via Space-A and I have learned sooo much. The main thing I have learned is not to get excited or disappointed. About anything. The flights will do what they do, and whether or not you make it where you are going when you want to merits no emotional effort. It won't change a thing.

I have had a lot of friends ask me about Space-A recently, saying I make it look and sound easy. All I have to say is that if it weren't SO unbelievably expensive to get from Hawaii to Guam, it would not be worth the hassle. I am SO lucky to have the easiest possible Space-A scenario, with my good friend Ashley living right down the street from the very terminal we Guammies are most likely to get stuck at. Not to mention a flexible job that won't give me a hard time for taking a few extra days (or, uh, weeks) away.

Can I just tell you how absolutely wonderful it was to step off of that plane and be back on Guam? The warm breeze, bright blue sky, luminous sunshine, and swaying green palm trees. In a word, paradise. In another word, home! How lucky am I?? Getting here without paying a dime is a HUGE bonus. Thanks, Air Force!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ha Why Yeee

After spending the weekend with my sister, I arrived in Hawaii on MLK Day, where Nick was hanging out between back-to-back conferences. It was great to see him, but after being in the States for five whole weeks, I was really ready to get home. I mentioned I would hang out with him for a few days, then start the process of trying to catch a military flight back. Fortunately for me, Nick had other plans. "No, you are going to spend the week here in Hawaii with me." My reply?

"Ummm, okay... if I have to."

Now I'm sure that my attempt to turn down a week at the Waikiki Marriott sounds to many of you really bratty... or maybe even downright insane. But those Guammies who are Space-A veterans like me know how frustrating it can be to try to get back. And when you're in the mindset of trying to get home, Hawaii is no longer Hawaii. It's checking flights, calling the terminal, roll calls, broken planes, bumming rides at all hours, and complete schedule uncertainty... And those who have traveled with me know I can't stand not being on a schedule! I actually schedule in blocks of time for spontaneity... "Next up, ladies, we have two hours allotted for winging it...Go!"

Not to mention, so much of the things that people love about Hawaii (warm weather, pretty beaches, beautiful hikes, etc.), I can get a-plenty on Guam, minus the traffic and hyper-commercialism. PLUS, I was really ready to get back to start up youth group again and begin the fundraising season for our upcoming mission trip to Manila. There is a lot to be done that my mind started dwelling on but couldn't act on. So hopefully you have a little better idea of why I would be so ready to get home at this point. (I know, I know... many of you are still shaking your heads).

But, okay, looking ahead, I know that this time next January, we will be in a very different place. Nick will probably be gone far away on some training trip, and the days of traveling with him will be long past. I will be left behind scraping ice off my windshield, transferring plants into the garage so they don't freeze, all while wearing multiple layers of long underwear and wool socks. Possibly even the electric kind with batteries. Surely I would like, at that moment, to look back on this time last year and remember the relaxing round of golf we played at beautiful Mamala Bay.

Or our afternoon lounging in the sun on Waikiki Beach watching Nick surf
Or hanging out with my friend Tina and her awesome workout group, the Buttercups

 Or the view from the top of our hike to Mariner's Ridge
 Or getting together with a dear friend who has sprinkled my various trips to Hawaii with wonderful visits and memories (Thanks, Space-A Angel!).
 Or going out for an awesome sushi dinner only to be informed by the waitress that a random stranger picked up our tab... we have no idea how this happened, but it was pretty amazing!

Or running up Diamondhead Crater with Nick... from the lower parking lot (shazaaam!)

Ooooor the pretty fantastic view from our balcony.

Soooo many great memories from this week. There's a good chance I will be pulling this post up about a year from now, reminiscing about our fabulous time together, joining you all in knowing with certainty I was crazy to try to miss out on this. The things I need to get done will be long done by then, and the opportunity to rendezvous with Nick in a dreamland like this will be but a distant memory. And no matter how cold my feet are at that moment, I will have to smile knowing... Man... we had it good.

Monday, January 23, 2012

San Francisco

Court - come to Guam and I will show you how I got this great tan
One of the new perspectives I've acquired living all the way in Guam is that when you go back to the States, everything seems really close together. So when I knew I would be in San Diego for a week, I couldn't not travel the measly 500 miles north to San Francisco to spend the three-day weekend with my sister. The flight was an hour long and cost $45. That, my friends, is air travel heaven.

This was a very special trip to the Bay Area. My sister has met a bunch of new friends over the past few months that I have been hearing about and finally got to meet. In fact, one of her friends organized a wine tasting tour for us through Sonoma County. So during my 4th or maybe even 5th visit to the Bay Area, I actually got to feast my eyes on America's wine country. Soooo beautiful! The pairings weren't too shabby either.

Court's fabulous new friends
 And I was so thrilled that during my limited time there, it worked out to meet up with our Bay Area cousins, Dawn, Olivia and Katie. We spent the afternoon shopping and drinking hot chocolate on a most blustery Bay Area day. Much as I hated to leave California, it was kind of nice knowing it would be my last shivery day in the States. Great to see you girls, as always! Quit growing up so fast!!

Overall, I had a pretty fantastic time in the lower 48. Even spending five weeks there, there were still so many people I didn't get to see and so many things left on my wish list. But after that much time away, I was definitely ready to start the trek home. And, lucky me, the only way to get home is through Hawaii :)

Aaaaah San Diego!

I have taken quite a few pictures on this 6-week long trip across the States, but this one above is going to be pretty hard to top in terms of choosing favorites. Hellooooo San Diego! A few months ago when I figured out my timeline for zipping through town, I had a vision of getting as many of us Wine Wednesday girls together as we I could. So we decided to throw Nikki, the one blushing bride among us, a bridal shower as an excuse to get her down south from the Bay Area. Throw in a brunch reservation for earlier that morning and voila! Friend photo perfection (and hence, my new desktop). It was so, sooo good to see everyone. I am so blessed to have made such wonderful friends in San Diego, and so grateful that everyone makes such an effort to keep in touch despite the distance and major life changes (complete understatement) that have happened these past two years.
Awesome group of fabulous people who love Nikki
The co-hosts who schemed this up and made it happen... thanks Liz and Huya!

There is another group of girls in town who still have a big home in my heart... the girls from my youth group, Seven. Several of them came out Sunday evening (at 7, of course!) for frozen yogurt and catching up. I can't believe how grown up they all are. To give you an idea of how long I have know them, one of the girls, Piper, was in 6th grade when I first started volunteering there, and now (somehow) she is halfway through 10th! Pretty soon I'm going to have to keep track of who is at which college. Crazy!
Having an entire week in San Diego was quite a luxury considering my last visit was less than 48 hours. In fact, it afforded me a bonus trip to LA with my friend April. April hooked us up with tickets to a live taping of the TV show The Talk. And I was so thrilled that my dear friend Jen, the one from Guam who I went to Thailand and Korea with, could join us! I don't know how many times I told Jen about April and April about Jen, and then magically it all worked out for a fun rendezvous in Hollywood. Jen just got married a couple of weeks ago, so it was great to hear about everything and visit with her new hubby Scott as well. Jen and I are already scheming about what girls trips we will plan together once I am back in the States :) Meanwhile, April and I are scheming up a trip to China together in May.

And yet another group still so dear to me are the girls from my Monday night Bible study, many of whom still meet every week. I was able to go to Bible study and see for myself how the group has changed. Many of the former regulars are now new moms, so the 6:30p study doesn't work for them. Meanwhile, a whole new group of girls are coming, finding out about it through word of mouth, and new friendships are forming. I am amazed at how many people this informal, unofficial, unsponsored Bible study has reached in the six years since it started. Speaking of new moms, I had the pleasure of meeting the almost one-year-old Caleb, Sarah's son (who is just days apart from Mallory's daughter Norah). And crazily enough, Ann in the center was actually IN LABOR when this picture was taken. Yup, that smile is hiding contractions, believe it or not. Ann gave birth to Asher later that evening, about 10 hours after this picture was taken!

And... more friends! This one is a mash-up of Seven and Bible study and Wine Wednesday friends. Three incredible groups of people who made San Diego such a dream for me. Our friend Veronica opened a really awesome frozen yogurt shop in Pt. Loma called Cup of Yo, and I couldn't turn down a chance for a visit over some pistachio FroYo. I was so thrilled to hear they are doing so well that they are opening up a second one near SDSU later this year!

In addition to friends, there was also family to meet up with this time! In August Nick's cousin Debi and her family moved back to San Diego from the Bay Area. And their family has grown! Introducing Drew and Jack, the twin boys Debi and John had in March. It was SUCH a joy to get to meet them! Madison is one proud big sister. This visit made me extra sad that we won't be down the street from them this time next year. 
Of course no San Diego visit of mine would be complete without going sailing. I was so fortunate to have friends who could join me my last day in town. In fact, it was Jeanna's birthday, which made it an even more special spin around the Bay. The winds weren't the most amazing, but they were enough. I loved being out on the water, smothered in sunshine, surrounded by bustling city and yet cruising along quietly powered by the breeze. I definitely miss my Sunday afternoons on the Bay, but realize how fortunate I was to have logged so many hours in this beautiful place.

This third trip back to San Diego was a special one, no question. I am so grateful for how many people I got to catch up with. This visit was different, in a way. It was my first trip here since Nick and I made the decision to move to Virginia Beach instead of back to our amazing paradise here. So it was bittersweet knowing all this goodness exists that we won't be jumping back into. It will continue to be a land that we visit for some time longer.

Another big difference is that this time, San Diego didn't really feel like home anymore. Guam is definitely my home now, and I'm grateful for the life we have there. San Diego and all its special people will always make me wistful for days past, and who knows, maybe days future. And being there helped me to recapture these memories and freshen up relationships I hope to take with me everywhere I go. 

So it's yet another goodbye to San Diego for now. But I'll be back, first chance I get. You can count on that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Years at the Lake

It has come to my attention (thanks Kristen!) that Peyt's Island has become a total snoozefest these last few weeks. I do apologize to my regular readers, but only so much. It's sooo hard to write updates to a keep-in-touch blog from the States because it takes away time that I could be spending hanging out with friends instead of updating them! But now that I am OCONUS and halfway back to Guam with some serious down time (aloha!), I'm going to hopefully jazz this place up a bit. So here goes, picking up at New Years (wow, I am over two weeks behind... laaame!).

Our time in Houston did include one overnight road trip to our friends Sara and Matt's family lakehouse. I can't remember how many visits Nick and I have made up this way over the last 12 or so years that Sara and I have been friends, but the visits are numerous. We have lots of great memories from hanging out here after the homecoming dance, spring break, the week before Nick left for I-Day, and trips back to Houston during college. The lake is always a relaxing getaway with delicious food and fantastic friends, and this trip proved to be no exception.

Sara and Matt, our gracious and glowing hosts

A quick stop on the way there... fireworks. Zillions of them. I had no idea what did what. Felt like I was ordering off a menu in Japanese. Except much less classy. After much hemming and hawing, we opted against the "Official Redneck Party Pack" in the corner and went a la carte.

 Getting ready for a fabulous last 2011 dinner of smoked ham and sweet potatoes... yum!
Their daughter Savanna looking festive... 
she loooooves the headband and never wants to take it off

Lots of partying took place...

Just kidding! We were all fighting to stay awake until midnight!

 The first day of 2012 was a Texas beauty... blue skies and sunshine. Nick took the kayak out on the lake while the rest of us sat around in our pajamas doing as little as possible.

 And I found my favorite place in the world to start off the new year... a seat in the sun.

Thanks to Sara and Matt for a fantastic new years eve getaway! It's always a good day at the lake. 

A quick mention about Sara's blog, These Lees, because it is one of my top three favorite blogs in all the interweb, and the one that gave me the idea to start one of my own. It's one of the few I have literally laughed out loud (more times than I can count) and even cried my eyes out reading. It's so well written and bursts with wittiness. Not your ordinary mommy blog, that's for sure. Check it out!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Christmas with the Family

This year Nick and I had the pleasure of spending Christmas at home in Houston with our families. While some aspects of Christmas in Houston are rinse and repeat ("it's a pastor's dream but a fire marshall's nightmare"), others are very special because they have become such a tradition over the years. In our dating years, Houston was where Nick and I would reunite after one more semester behind us, one semester closer to being together indefinitely. There was always so much to celebrate, in addition to reconnecting with family and friends.
This year was particularly special for a number of reasons. Despite the plethora of exotic places to travel to from Guam, we decided back in May that we'd spend Christmas at home. You may recall, May was the month when Nick and I both said goodbyes to grandparents of ours, and recognizing this first Christmas with an empty chair on both sides, we thought it would mean a lot to be there to fill a chair for once, especially not knowing what our whereabouts will be this time next Christmas. 
Another reason it was so special was that so many family members came in town to celebrate with us. My sister flew in from San Francisco. Nick's aunts, uncles and cousins came in from Florida and New York, and his grandfather came down from New Jersey. His brother and future sister-in-law came in from Austin as well, so it was a couple of full houses. With so many people in town, my mom and dad schemed up the most genius idea. The last evening everyone was in town, we looked outside and a Hummer limo was waiting for us! All 15 of us, from age 11 to 87, piled in and rode around Houston looking at Christmas lights. It was a really neat and unexpected way to all spend time together. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the visit:
Glamming it up in the limo

This pretty much sums up everything!

The "Glowston-Toths" together again!

Christmas Eve at our house, complete with a piano-led singalong 
of Christmas carols (in true Holston-Toth fashion).

My future little sister and my older sister meet!

Golf with Nick, Dad and Russ at River Ridge
(I was so grateful the sun finally came out after a week of cold and rain)

 Dinner with the siblings

In addition to spending so much time with family, we also saw many of our friends from high school who either live in town or were in town for the holidays.  

Reuniting with the besties Sara & Annie...
and finally getting to meet Sara's baby Savanna!

We even got to see our Guam friends Amy, Dave and Eric, who moved to Houston a year ago. They used to live on our street and we have missed them ever since they left!

A photo of the people from Houston who have been to Guam, featuring my parents, Nick's parents, and the Jennyyyy! 

Pop Pop experiencing real Texas BBQ at a truck stop in Flatonia

 A day trip to the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. 

My last dinner in town, spent with close friends, hosted by my parents. Thanks!

The older we get, the more fortunate Nick and I realize we are that our parents live in the same city three miles apart. We know this won't always be the case, so it's nice when we get to take advantage of seeing so many of our friends and family all at once. Such a great way to end 2011 and ring in 2012. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and happy new year as well!