Baby Lillian

IMG_1544My cousin Casey was on bed rest for a majority of her pregnancy. Thankfully, baby Lillian waited until 37 weeks. With our birthdays only a day apart, I’m thrilled to share birthday week with Lillian.

Casey asked me to be Lillian’s Godmother back in May. I had just returned from Kairos that day and we were enjoying her brother’s wedding reception. As if Kairos doesn’t make a person emotional enough, having Casey ask me if I would “teach her child about God” left us both in tears during this celebration. What an honor and what a responsibility.

I’m excited to play a role in this sweet little girl’s life. She is absolutely perfect, and I loved spending my day with her.

Five-Year Anniversary

5Y3A3371The only thing bad about our five-year anniversary is that I’m afraid it can’t be topped.

Our morning included omelets right on the beach for breakfast. We then spent the day swimming in the ocean and relaxing poolside. Any day I can read a book and drink iced coffee is a great day. Having John next to me doing the same thing was a beautiful sight.

As for our evening, we decided on a specialty seafood and steak restaurant along Waikiki Beach. My mouth waters just thinking about the macadamia nut mahi mahi. Our tour guide earlier that week said, “Mahi mahi: fish so good, they named it twice.”

After dinner we grabbed dessert, Pineapple Whip, at a local shop and then headed to the beach to take our seats for their Friday night firework show. It was unreal to watch a Hawaiian sunset and fireworks at the same time.

As for these fun photos, they are our anniversary gift to ourselves. We hired a professional photographer for a one-hour sunset session one of the evenings because we really wanted some great photos from our trip. If anything made it feel like our anniversary it was having someone take photos of us like they did on our wedding. It was really fun! These are souvenirs I’ll cherish, and they’ll make great additions to our travel wall.

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Hawaii 2015

IMG_1318We made the most of our Hawaiian vacation by splitting our time between exploring the island and just staying put to enjoy the scenery of Waikiki. It felt like the perfect amount of adventure and relaxation all mixed into one trip.

A few of the highlights included:

Click on each highlight to read more!

…not to mention all of the great seafood!

What was my favorite part of the trip? The weather! Since “perfect” isn’t very descriptive, I will say it’s a blend of Arizona desert heat mixed with the cool breeze of California. Plus, there aren’t bugs, and the humidity is low. I was never cold out to dinner because all of the restaurants are wide open to the outdoors rather than running the air-conditioning. It truly was paradise!

Luau

IMG_9489We knew we couldn’t go to Hawaii without experiencing the culture. An authentic luau offered us this and more. From cooking the pig underground all day, to the dancing and music, we definitely knew we were in Hawaii.

It was nice to leave the crowded beaches of Waikiki and experience a private beach during the luau. Our tickets included transportation, three alcoholic beverages, and the all-you-could-eat meal, in addition to the show.

Watching the men take the pig we were going to eat straight out of the steaming ground was awesome. Plus, it tasted great! I tried all of the Hawaiian traditional foods, but my favorite was the fish with pineapple salmon salsa.IMG_9492

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North Shore

IMG_9417The Dole Pineapple Plantation visit was part of an all-day guided tour around the island. It was a birthday to remember! Fresh pineapple, eating coconut right out of the shell, and drinking pure Kona coffee were all part of the day’s treats.

We traveled all the way to the North Shore where the beauty can’t be captured in photos.

We also visited a Buddhist Temple that is a half-sized replica of the one in Japan. The grounds were gorgeous and have been used for scenes in movies and shows, including Lost and Jurassic Park. We also drove by the Turtle Bay Resort, which is where the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed. If we return to Oahu, we’re spending more time in this area.IMG_1386
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Dole Pineapple

I love pineapple, so scheduling the Dole Pineapple Plantation tour on my birthday was not an accident.

What’s even better than fresh pineapple? Pineapple Whip. It’s a non-dairy ice cream-like substance made with pineapple. There weren’t birthday candles, but I’d take this any year over cake.

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Pearl Harbor

IMG_9385The Pearl Harbor Memorial is well done. It includes the story of Pearl Harbor through self-guided tours, a theatre to watch a memorial film, and the actual memorial on top of the Arizona. A boat takes visitors out to the Arizona Memorial where they can read the names of everyone killed on that ship. Since the water is so clear, it’s easy to see the ship still buried underneath as a tomb to those 1,177
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It’s probably because I didn’t pay close enough attention in history class, but I didn’t know why the memorial was so specific to the Arizona until I got there. This is the ship that had every single crew member on board that morning, because they had a concert on deck the night before. While other ships also sunk, this one had the most IMG_1331casualties.

Learning more about something so terrible in a place so beautiful was difficult, but they did a good job making it an informative and respectful tour.

Diamond Head

IMG_1238Diamond Head is a crater that was created by a volcano. It is now a state monument, which might be the reason they charge $1 admission.  Hiking Diamond Head was on my must-do list for Oahu, and it was one of my favorite days.

Since the time changed worked in our favor (five hours ahead), we were up super early and ready for the day! Our hotel was a couple of miles from Diamond Head, so we just walked IMG_1243there and learned our way around. John was excited to see former NBA player Reggie Miller jog by us on this route. The actual hike took less than an hour and was relatively easy. (I’m comparing this to hiking in Arizona, which was more challenging). A lot of the path was concrete over the crater and there were even stairs and railings in a few places.

The views all the way up are IMG_1274incredible, but nothing beats the top! Breathtaking 360 degree views of Oahu made the flights to get there worthwhile.

I couldn’t get over the colors and the clear water. If you visit Oahu, this is a must!

Grateful For Every Age

  30. Some may stress over this milestone birthday, but I’m remembering Oprah’s words from her book What I Know For Sure. “You’re not the same woman you were a decade ago; if you’re lucky, you’re not the same woman you were last year. The whole point of aging, as I see it, is change. If we let them, our experiences can keep teaching us about ourselves. I celebrate that. Honor it. Hold it in reverence. And I’m grateful for every age I’m blessed to become.”

 Celebrating my birthday in Hawaii made it extra special. As I type this post while sitting on my hotel patio that overlooks Diamond Head and the ocean, I see God’s beauty and power. What I’ve learned this year, more than any other, is that my time here is not my own. It is on loan to me from God, and it would be silly to look at it any other way than as a blessing. 

Thanks for the calls, texts, tweets, and other birthday shoutouts. It’s going to be a great year! 

Meeting Rainbow Rowell

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IMG_1181Remember this post?

Last night I had the opportunity to attend my third Out Loud Author Series Event courtesy of our public libraries. These are my favorite non-profit events in our city, and each one is a little different.

While I loved hearing about Gillian Flynn’s writing process, I was starstruck meeting her. I didn’t know much about Wally Lamb until I read She’s Come Undone right before his event. He captured the audience with his storytelling and read us excepts from his books in character. Last night’s author was a comedian on stage. She had us laughing the entire hour. I also found out Rainbow is her real name.

Meeting Rainbow and having her sign my copy of Eleanor and Park was awesome! What was even better was talking about her books and sharing my passion for reading and writing with this group of ladies. If you’re looking for one of her books to start with, I recommend Eleanor and Park. A screenplay has already been written.