Tag Archive | year in review

2020: A Year in COVID

It has been a long, strange year.  That might be the most positive spin I can put on this COVID year…

Usually my year in review sums up my year of adventure, accomplishments and trials.  With the lockdowns, adventure certainly took a back seat, and I found myself reliving more past experiences than living them in the present.  And the trials…  Oh, the trials…

The year started out so promising!  After having surgery at the end of 2019, I was healing and feeling better than I had in a while.  I took a weekend trip to the Washington Coast, and visited Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point in the lower 48, and walked the beaches at La Push and Olympic National Park.  Although I was moving very slowly, I did manage some walks that could be considered hikes, with plenty of stops to rest during and after.  The King tides that weekend made for a spectacular chance to see the awesome force of nature, and we had a front-row view from a cabin on the beach.  Who knew that that cabin (located on tribal land) would be closed in March and remain closed even now.

At work things went a bit haywire even before COVID, and I ended up spending several months working on projects I hadn’t planned for.  Even now, one large project is still on my plate.  I’m happy to be valued, and glad when I can do some work that stretches my mind, but 2020 provided a bit more than my fair share.  I look forward to the day I can spend more time focused on my regular duties.

In March came the first wave of lockdowns.  My last day working in the office (other than a handful of days here and there) was March 17.  Since then my coworker-cat Cora has been by my side at about 3 pm daily, demanding her early dinner.  Let’s be real – she would be happy if I would give her two or three dinners each day, but she would no longer be able to walk!

But March also delivered another blow.  My sweet horse Biz got sick in early March.  Fever and lethargy.  I drove home early from a trip to California for days of IV fluids, heavy doses of antibiotics and other care.  He seemed to be improving, but at the same time, at 32 years old, I knew his time was short.  I had even asked Tracie, the woman who owned the barn, if he could be buried there on the property, because I just couldn’t accept the alternative that exists for horses. On March 25, Biz went outside on a sunny, spring day, enjoyed the day in his paddock, then died at about 3:20 pm that afternoon.  He lay down in his stall after being brought in, and was suddenly gone.  Even though he was 32, and I’d been expecting this day for years, it still tore me up.  After all, he’d been in my life for over 30 years.  Longer than most of my friends; far longer than any romantic relationship.

I got a bit lost after that.  Locked down, working from home, drowning in COVID related mitigation planning, and lonely.  So when my boyfriend and I got into a fight in early April because he hadn’t followed through on things he said he would do, I was sad and frustrated and wanted a few days to think about things.  Instead of a few days, he left for good.  Not without taking the opportunity to lecture me on every single thing he thought was wrong with me though.  Because that’s how you show someone how much you love them.  And you do all this on Easter – for good measure.  Talk about being kicked while you are already down.  April truly is the cruelest month…

I wish I could say May was an improvement.  I was starting to see the light again, starting to feel like myself again.  The morning of May 15, I woke up thinking I hadn’t talked to my friend Roger in a while and I needed to text him.  COVID had put our beer nights on hiatus for a few months, and I was missing them.  I put it off, because I got busy with work, and then in the early afternoon, I got a call from one of my former employees.  She was calling to tell me that Roger had died that morning in a fall.  He was too young and too special to be gone so soon.  I sobbed…  If you are thinking about contacting someone you care about, just do it now.  Don’t wait – not even a couple of hours…

So three major losses in less than two months.  I really struggled this spring.  I spent a lot of evenings walking, alone, feeling numb.

Summer was a bit better, because I had the chance to hike and get outdoors, things I need so much in my life.  Plus the lockdown had eased somewhat so I could go out to dinner and happy hour with friends outside.  But I still felt lost.  So I decided to give therapy a try.  I think she was honestly surprised when I tallied up all the losses I’ve experienced over the last few years.  My dad, my horse, two close friends, the dream of having children.  And those are only the biggest ones.  I’m not very good at talking about the things that really bother me.  So it was a challenge to have to open up and get real about things.  That has been hard.  And how do you assess whether or not it’s helping?

I’ve cried more in the last two years than I probably have in the last 20 years.  Honestly I’m not a big crier, but the tears have fallen, long and hard.

I think my year might have been easier had I been able to travel more.  Travel has been cathartic and healing for me.  To stand in front of the glacial lake, to see the ancient ruins, to read the interpretive signs and think about what happened at this spot so many years ago.  I put the car bed back in my Honda this fall, but my September camping trip coincided with thick, choking smoke from horrible wildfires.  Thanks again 2020.

I did have some amazing fall hikes and felt real connections with new friends and old.  That was a silver lining.  I have tried to appreciate the blessings that I do have.  Other than the isolation and loneliness that COVID has brought so many, I have not been affected in any real way.  My family and friends have not gotten seriously ill and my job is secure.

I’m slowly feeling like I’m regaining my footing.  It hasn’t been fast or easy, but I’m getting there.  I certainly won’t miss 2020, but I have things to look forward to, and I’m feeling hopeful.  My wish is that all of you find joy and happiness in the New Year and that 2021 gives us a bit more to be thankful for.

 

Farewell to a Decade!

2019 is almost over, and with it we are leaving behind another decade.  Like every year, it has had its ups and downs, but sadly this year they were overshadowed by losing my Dad.  There were other joys and experiences, but between working through my grief and starting my new job, the happy times were just more subdued this year, and that’s okay.

  1. Dad died suddenly in February.  It has been hard without him; never having had the opportunity to say goodbye or tell him I love him one more time.  He left behind a lot of estate and probate stuff for my mom to work through, which is difficult to face when you are grieving.  All the milestones are new ones in our life without him.
  2. I did a 15K this year in March with my friends.  I didn’t train, as it was less than a month after dad died, but I finished.  My time with my friends is dear to me; they are a lifeline when I need them most. 
  3. Mom and I took a few days away in March and flew down to Tucson.  It was a nice mother-daughter trip, with some laughter, and definitely some tears, with both of us grieving. 
  4. I started a new job in March.  There’s a learning curve, and there was some drama in the beginning (not my drama!), but things there are good; the people are kind and reasonable and I feel valued.
  5. I visited Astoria in May; I met Jeff and the kids there for a Memorial Day long weekend of fun.  It was nice to check the place out and see some familiar places and some new ones.  Making new memories is always good! 
  6. I visited Westport, on the coast of Washington, in June with friends.  I had never been there.  The weather was cool and sort of rainy, which made for less than ideal camping weather, but we had fun checking out the lighthouse, grilling some delicious food, and walking the beach. I added a ton of sand dollars to my collection! 
  7. In July, Jeff and the kids and I took a whirlwind trip down to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. It was so much fun camping and hiking and checking out the waterfalls! Lassen is definitely a place I want to get back to soon.

    Lassen Volcanic National Park

  8. I didn’t do much hiking this summer because I was experiencing a lot of pain in my belly, but I did go on a couple of hikes.  My hike to Watson Lakes with Lelani was so much fun!
  9. Jeff and I met near Salem, Oregon on Labor Day weekend for a few days.  We checked out the Oregon State Hospital Museum, the Salem Farmer’s Market, and enjoyed our time together.  We also took a day to hike Silver Falls State Park, and saw all the beautiful waterfalls!  What an amazing experience! 
  10. In October, my girlfriends and I did a 10K in town.  It was fun to support a great charity and get some exercise as well!
  11. On December 23, I had a total abdominal hysterectomy.  I have been having pain and other troublesome symptoms for years, so it was time, but it was still scary to be wheeled into the operating room that morning!  My surgeon and nursing team were awesome and everything went smoothly.  My family came to the rescue, setting me up at home and taking care of me for the first several days.  My uterus and its benign fibroid tumors weighed over 5 pounds (a healthy uterus should weigh about 2-4 ounces) – 5 pounds of extra stuff in my belly causing havoc!  I am still healing, and moving pretty slow right now, but am already feeling relief from my symptoms and can tell I will be feeling better in no time! 

2020 is a whole new decade, and one that should have some new beginnings for me.  I’ll be able to spend more time with Jeff and the kids, and once I recover from my surgery, I’ll be able to get back to my active life!  Here’s to a lot of good things coming soon!

May the New Year bring you all peace and joy.

 

Year in Review – 2018’s Been Real… Something…

What can be said about 2018?  It was an unforgettable year.

I’m incredibly grateful for my friends and family who care about me, but I also had to do some letting go of people who weren’t the friends I thought they were.

I also had the amazing opportunity to go on a monumental several-month road trip of the United States.  Despite never having traveled alone for more than a week, I packed up my car and set out entirely alone.  I stayed with some friends and family along the way, but the majority of my nights were camping by myself.  Not only did I get to see some of the amazing scenery and history this country has to offer, but I also got to prove to myself that I can travel solo and have a great time in my own company.

And last, but certainly not least, I got over 15,000 annual views on this blog.  My current figure is 15,098, which is more than 1,000 more views than I received last year.  I must be doing something interesting!  Thank you to all of you who read.

Without further ado, here’s the recap:

  1. Paula and I went on a girls’ weekend at Mount Rainier on President’s Day weekend.  We went out on snowshoes, drank wine, did puzzles and had a fabulous weekend of girl bonding.  It was so much fun!

    I was so excited I could do a high ponytail!

     

  2. My 31 year old horse Biz has been good.  My vet decided to go a conservative route last winter and not pull one of his damaged canine teeth, but instead another one broke; it has since healed.  He is doing well with his remaining three incisor teeth and a daily painkiller.
  3. In March, I did my first 15k Hot Chocolate Run in Seattle with Katy and Katie.  The weather was cold, but the company was good!

    At the Expo

     

  4. At the end of March, I had the opportunity to join my friend Lelani, her daughter Laura and Laura’s friend Brenna, on a 6 day road trip down to San Francisco and back.  We camped, saw the San Francisco sights, and did some wine tasting in Santa Rosa.

    Me with the Golden Gate Bridge

     

  5. Paula, Brandon, and Joel and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Walla Walla wine country again.  We did some shopping, soaked up the sun at the pool, and relaxed for a few days.
  6. In June, Oliver went to be with the angels.  His cancer had progressed, and it just wasn’t fair for him anymore.  I still miss him terribly.

    Oliver and I on our last day

     

  7. Taryn, Brandon, Brent and I took a two week trip to London in late June and early July.  It was my first overseas trip since 2006, and we did and saw so much!

    Taryn and Me with the bow of the Cutty Sark

     

  8. I left my job in July to fulfill a dream of mine.  I converted my car with a bed and storage, and traveled the United States for four months seeing the sights.  Since I was on the road so long, this trip probably deserves slots 8-30 in this review.  I learned that I could do it, and had an amazing experience, and hope to be able to do it again at some point.  That is such an incredible understatement too.
  9. I spent a week in September visiting family and going to my cousin’s wedding.  It was great to see everybody and catch up on life with my aunts, uncles and cousins.
  10. My former boss, mentor and friend, Larry, died in mid-December.  He played an important role in my life and my career since I met him in 2001, and I will miss him terribly.

I am hopeful that 2019 will reveal itself to be a good year, with new beginnings and continued love from my friends and family.  May all your lives be blessed as well.

Good Riddance 2017!

 
To say 2017 sucked is a bit of an overstatement.  But only slightly…  A wee bit…  A smidge…
 
I learned a few things…  I learned that some people truly go to incredible lengths to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.  I already knew that of course, but 2017 brought it into laser sharp focus in more ways than one.
 
I also learned about enabling.  My divorce was final in June, but it was an incredibly long and bumpy road to get there.  I had originally hoped to remain on good terms with my ex, but his and his family’s behavior made that impossible.  For the sake of my well-being I cut ties completely, and have not regretted that choice.  Because no one should tolerate what he dished my way.
 
This blog is generally my happy place, and I know it may appear that I have a pretty blessed life, but it seems disingenuous to remain completely silent about the struggles I have endured this year.  I DO have a REALLY, BLESSED LIFE, but there are also the hard, ugly, raw wounds that every life has.  I don’t have any intention to turn this blog into a rehash of my life’s low points, but I also want to be real and truthful about the fact that my life, just like any life, has some low points.  So if my sharing this little bit here helps someone feel like they are not alone, then maybe I can feel that I did some good. 
 
I have learned that life is too short to put up with being mistreated.  Again, I knew this before, but 2017 kept that in razor sharp focus.  Just because someone “says” that they love you does not mean they will behave in a loving way, and it may mean that they just want you to let your guard down so they can slip that knife between your shoulder blades…  Life is too short to continue to swim in your mistakes.  Move on.  Cut your losses.  It’s hard, but there is something better coming once you do. 
 
So with that, let’s move on to the rest of my year…
  1. Oliver is still chugging along in his old man way, after having two surgeries to remove his fibro-sarcoma.  So far, after the second, massive surgery, it doesn’t seem to be coming back.  He is on supplemental fluids a few times a week and holding his own. 
  2. I snowshoed with a girlfriend a couple of times at Mount Baker last winter, and had a fabulous time!
  3. I’m not convinced this item belongs in the “good in my life” section, but here it is anyway.  I did my 9th Half-Marathon, a grueling 13.1 Whidbey Island Half Marathon experience up huge hills and sections of frigid, battering winds.  I had been extremely ill the week leading up to the race, and between mile 9 and 11, when I was dizzy and cramping and felt like death warmed over, I seriously considering stopping.  But I did keep going and did finish, although we’ll just keep that finish time quiet for now… 
  4.  I took a trip to Hawaii in May for a week, and enjoyed it thoroughly.  Sun, warmth, and fun with a combo of relaxing and sightseeing!
  5.  I did a long weekend in Walla Walla for Memorial Day weekend, and did some relaxing, wine tasting, exploring and we ate some pretty darned good food! 
  6.  I spent the Independence Day long weekend at the Hood Canal with friends, exploring the area, visiting Olympic National Park, hiking, collecting sand dollars (don’t worry, they are already dead), eating my fill of BBQ oysters and sunning myself on the deck.  OH, and there was ice cream!
  7.  I did a road trip in late July/early August with my brother and his family.  We went to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Craters of the Moon.  We ended our 12-day spin with a few days in Sisters, Oregon, seeing the High Desert Museum and the Dee Wright Observatory. 
  8.  I did a lot of hiking this year, and hiked several “new to me” hikes here in my neck of the woods.  I hiked Oyster Dome, Pine and Cedar Lakes, Sauk Mountain, Monte Cristo, Mount Si, the Stimpson Preserve, Ape Cave, the Big Four Ice Caves, Lake Ann and Fragrance Lake. 
  9.  My girlfriend Shelley and I, along with her son, took a trip down to Portland in August to go to Antiques Roadshow again!  The experience, for a second time, did not disappoint!  We detoured on the way down to hike Ape Cave.  While we were there, we went to the Portland Saturday market, the Kennedy School for dinner, and visited the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum (that’s a mouthful!) in Everett, WA on the way home.
  10.  Oscar died in September after suffering from acute kidney failure. I miss him…
  11.  I took a trip over Veteran’s Day Weekend to Annapolis and Washington D.C.  I visited the Naval Academy Museum, saw a play, went to the National Mall and the Museum of Natural History, and visited Ford’s Theatre and the Peterson House.  All of these sites in D.C. have been on my bucket list for a long time!  I only barely scratched the surface, and really need to get back to D.C. again for a week or two to feel like I have gotten anywhere near my fill.
 
Posts to come on a lot of this – as I keep trying to get caught up! 
 
2017 was one of the hardest years of my life – a continuation of a rough 2016.  But I’m out of that dark tunnel now and things are getting so much better!  2018 is going to be a good year!  Happy New Year to all of you!

Hasta La Vista 2016!

While I can’t say that 2016 has been the best year, it has become a tradition to do the annual year in review.  Although in some ways, I won’t be sorry to see 2016 go, I still have to remember that even with its ups and downs, I do live a truly blessed life.  So without further ado…

  1. My beloved grandmother passed away in February at the age of 98.  She lived a long, blessed life, filled with God, family and good friends, and she was ready to go be with my grandfather again.  I was lucky to have her for the first 40 years of my life, but I will miss her always.
  2. I took a wonderful girls trip to San Diego in April, full of bonding with friends and relaxing in the California sunshine.  We celebrated Allysa’s 50th birthday and saw the sights.  I tried SUP-ping for the first time too!
  3. I did quite a bit of local hiking this year.  I hiked Fragrance Lake twice, the Ozette Triangle at Olympic National Park, and the Chain Lakes loop at Mount Baker.  There is a peace found on the trail that is unmatched elsewhere.
  4. I took a long weekend to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in Oregon and Southern Washington.  We went to a small town rodeo and went white water rafting on the stunning White Salmon River.
  5. My mom and I took a 10 day road trip through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in August.  It was wonderful to spend so much time with my amazing mother, seeing the sights and laughing throughout our adventure.  More posts coming soon!
  6. I completed my 8th half marathon, the Woodinville Wine Country Half Marathon, in September with my dear friend Katie, with our friend Shelley providing support.  Even though the weather sucked, my 13.1 mile slog through rain and wind ended with a new personal record and a definite feeling of accomplishment!  And wine!
  7. My horse and the kitties are all happy and healthy.  Biz is down to just three old man teeth, and gave me a scare recently when he suddenly lost a ton of weight, but he is now on the mend and making me feel more comfortable about him weathering the winter.  At the ripe old age of 29, I am keenly aware that time with him is getting short, but the memories I have with him will last a lifetime.
  8. In November I took a long weekend trip to revisit Astoria, Oregon.  I went to see some old sights and some new, and relaxed over a beer at some of the town’s best breweries.  Even though the forecast called for a weekend of rain, I walked everywhere and stayed completely dry!  The rain began as I got into the car to head home.
  9. I am close to the two year anniversary at my job, and continue to enjoy the challenges and successes.  My staff are second to none.  And the vacation accrual is wonderful, as is the summer schedule!

I didn’t post as much in 2016 as I had hoped to, but still have many posts coming about my West trip, the half-marathon and Astoria.  I am hopeful that 2017 will have me back on a more regular posting schedule, as well as experiencing many new adventures.

Know that I am eternally grateful for all of you that I count as readers, family and friends.  Here’s to peace and happiness in the New Year.  Cheers!

Ciao 2015!

Each year, I feel blessed by the life that I’ve been given. I’m healthy, and happy, and have the ability to spend much of my time doing the things I enjoy. I get to spend my days with my husband, friends and family. As I reflect back on 2015, I’m surprised at how quickly it has flown by, and what amazing things I’ve done! 2015 was certainly a year full of travel – so much that I had to expand my Top 10 list to 12!

In no particular order:

  1. We welcomed a new niece to the family in early February, and this little one is busy exploring the world and is just days away from walking!
  2. The El Niño phenomenon brought us a crazy-mild winter. We are talking temps in the 60s in February. Which was perfect for a Valentine’s Day getaway to the first-ever Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie Winery. Eleven Oregon sparkling wine producers, about 25 wines, oysters on the half shell, chocolate, and gorgeous “sitting on the patio” weather! I hope they do this festival again!
  3. Jon and I took a mini-getaway in late March back to Moab, Utah and Salt Lake City. We hiked Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and we visited Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. And, I zip-lined for the first time and loved it!
  4. We knocked another National Park off our list by visiting Mount Rainier in April, on an unseasonably warm weekend. Temps were in the mid-60s! We snow-shoed for the first time, and did several great hikes, in addition to staying at the National Park Inn, our first “in park” accommodations!
  5. We spent a fun long weekend with my family on the Oregon Coast. Jon and I also had a chance to visit a few of the area’s attractions – beer, wine, a lighthouse, and Lewis and Clark’s Winter Fort! The beach at Nehalem Bay State Park is also where I experienced the most beautiful sunset of the year!
  6. There were no major illnesses or injuries among our “herd” this year! Biz is 28, and rocking his mostly toothless smile, after having four more teeth removed in June. Oliver is doing well on his kidney food, and is healthy, other than a random couple of days of vomiting in early December. Oscar still loves getting love on his terms, and Coraline got even pudgier, despite a year on diet food. Time to crack down on portion sizes!
  7. After having such a nice long weekend with Jon’s parents last year, we decided to take a week-long trip to Colorado in August. I planned an epic road trip to see five National Parks and Monuments, and lots of other fun stuff! We had a great time!
  8. I completed my 7th half-marathon in September – the Woodinville Wine Country Half-Marathon. The cool temperature was wonderful, the course was fast, and I shaved 18 seconds off of my previous personal record – despite not having trained for it! Jon got second place in his age division too, and we enjoyed some nice wines and beer at the end!
  9. Our big trip this year took place in October – a trip that has been in the works for three years now! We had almost two weeks to tour Virginia (with a couple of stops in other states). We saw Shenandoah National Park, four Presidential homes, five Civil War battlefields and the place where Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. We also saw several other historic sites, and we finished off with a trip to Chincoteague Island to see the ponies made famous by Marguerite Henry and her children’s books. The memories will last a lifetime.  More posts on the trip are coming!
  10. I’ve been at my new job almost a year, and am enjoying the work (and the vacation accrual!) and making new friends. I miss seeing my old friends every day, but that’s just a reason to make sure we get together.
  11. Jon and I were feeling a bit sun deprived in December with all the rain here in the Northwest, so we booked a last minute weekend getaway to Joshua Tree National Park, in southern California. We hiked to our hearts content and added yet another park to the notches on our belts! The weather was dry the whole time, and it warmed up each day; it was the perfect sunny respite from our torrential downpours!
  12. And last but certainly not least, I celebrated two milestones this year. Jon and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in June, and I turned 40 in September. I’m getting used to the 40 thing…
A stunning sunset at the Nehalem Bay Campground.

A Fabulous Sunset!

I know I have a tendency to gripe about the weather (and wouldn’t you if you had moss growing in your ears!), but in reality I know how lucky I am. I hope 2016 brings as much joy as 2015 did. And dear readers, I wish all of you all the best for the New Year!

Farewell to Another Year – See you later 2013!

And just like that, another year has flown by and it is time for another annual recap.  The top 10 for another (mostly) great year in chronological order, rather than order of importance, are:

1. Jon and I took our first trip to Walla Walla wine country, after Jon ran his 3rd half marathon in Richland, WA.  He placed 3rd in his age division and 11th overall!  We had some great food, great wine, and visited the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

2.  My dear sweet bitchy kitty Martini went home to the angels after losing her battle with lymphoma on March 1.  I’ll never know how old she was, but I will always remember the nine years I got to spend with her.  And unless you are Oliver, to know her was to love her…

3.  Jon and I took a fantastic road trip to California, down the coast through the Redwoods, the Anderson Valley wine country, San Francisco, Monterey and finally Sacramento.  We saw huge trees, big elk, lighthouses, one of the world’s most awesome paintings, and we ate great food, tasted great wine, and saw great views.  And I puked.  Several times.  Ten days and almost 2,500 miles later, we came home exhausted and thoroughly spent, but happy and with memories to last a lifetime.

4.  On April 20, this sucker for a cute baby brought home sweet Coraline, a six month old kitten who was brought to my vet’s office after being dumped on a farm.  She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but she does love her kibble.

5.  I got to indulge my inner nerd in June with a trip to Antiques Roadshow in Boise!  We didn’t make it on the show, but if you are interested in watching other people from the Northwest, the 3 hours are airing on January 6, January 13, and January 20 (who knows, maybe the back of my head will be on!).  Although we can’t fund our retirement by selling our treasures, we had a blast, and had a great time seeing the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the World Center for Birds of Prey.

6.  I completed my fourth (on September 1 in wine country!) and fifth (on October 5 at home for a great cause!) half marathons.  Next year, I will have several friends testing their resolve with me!

7.  Jon and I enjoyed a weekend trip to Olympic National Park, where we hiked in the Hoh Rain Forest and listened to the crashing waves of Rialto Beach.  Although Hurricane Ridge gave us the finger with a huge downpour, we’ll be back to see those views.

8.  I had a scare with my horse Biz, who had a scary bout with colic after his most recent dental x-rays.  At 26 years old, I am aware that my remaining time with him… well… you know…

9.  Jon and I welcomed our newest nephew on November 13 (that makes two nieces and two nephews now!).  He is sweet and perfect and cuddly.  His parents love him dearly (at least until he starts talking back).

10.  Jon finished his first full marathon on December 8, in Sacramento, California.  I got a trip to California out of the deal (no more trips to California Jon!), where I got to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the Governor’s Mansion, and the John Muir National Historic Site.  Posts on the trip coming soon, I swear!

This annual recap reminds me of how truly blessed we are to live the life we do.  We are surrounded by awesome friends and family, loving animals, and we are lucky to have the freedom to enjoy our travels to wonderful places.  Although there are always the highs and lows, I am thankful that there are many more highs…  I hope you have all been blessed by 2013, and that all your dreams come true in 2014.  So bye, bye 2013 – you have been good to me!