My Armstrong Heater.

Long before Jarid was ever in the picture, one of the men that I could always count on to help me feel confident and special was my Pap.  Whenever he introduced me to anyone, he always referred to me as “his #1”.  I think that struck a chord with me so much because I was always striving to be “#1” at everything…  It was important to me to be “the best” and I took it very hard when I wasn’t…failure was my greatest fear.  I never even had to do anything to deserve that title with Pap.  I just remember feeling like a million dollars when I asked him how he was doing, and he would say things like, “much better now that you’re here!”

wedding

Pap was misunderstood by a lot of people,  but he was one of the most gentle, sensitive human beings you could ever imagine.  Maybe he hadn’t ALWAYS been gentle and sensitive, but as long as I’ve known him, he was.  In fact, there were some things I, along with his kids, didn’t even know about him.  People’s lives that he’d touched while he was on this Earth that went unrecognized by everyone except for Jesus.  I can’t wait to see how many crowns he has when we all get to Heaven and I think that most will  be surprised.

beach

Some of his favorite things included Harley Davidson, the Washington Nationals, televangelists (more specifically, John Hagee), classic cars, and Ocean City, NJ — a place where just this Summer, he took his last breaths while we were on our family vacation.  Pap had been in the hospital for a little while, but like me, he gets stir crazy.  Being cooped up and not allowed to use the bathroom on his own was just intolerable.  He was a stubborn son-of-a-gun (which is exactly where my Mom & I get this trait), and he hadn’t always listened to what the doctors told him either — he firmly believed that they were “only after his money” 🙂  Good ole’ Pap.  One of the last few times I was able to stop during my lunch break to visit him in the hospital, I’d stopped at Wendy’s to bring him a Frosty (although I knew he probably shouldn’t have had it) — his face completely lit up when I came into that hospital room.  I wish I would’ve just taken the rest of the day off to stay there with him, looking back on it.

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Some of the things that will always be near and dear to me about Pap were those baby blue eyes that you could see from a mile away and the fact that since I’m always cold, he would always tell me I needed to find myself a good Armstrong heater (meaning a man) – haha.  He was always VERY concerned and paid close attention to the guys that I brought around — making sure to tell them that they “better treat me right and take good care of me”.  It was the cutest thing when he bought and gave me pepper spray to carry around with me and insisted that I keep it on my key chain so it was very accessible (I think that started when I got my first apartment or when I started my job with the State downtown).  Pap enjoyed the fact that my hands were cold and my fingers were like icicles.  He would squeeze them and hold on for several minutes, in effort to keep them warm when it was cold outside.  When it was hot outside and my fingers were still cold, he would take my hand and put it on top of his bare skin head — thanking me for “cooling him off” 🙂  Pap had some of the best stories — he would tell you anything if you made the time to listen to him — there was nothing that man valued more, than your time.

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His daughter, my Mom, gave him one of his biggest desires close to the end of his life.  She and my Dad did most of the legwork, making it possible for Pap to leave the care facility he was staying at and come with us to the beach in OC, NJ one last time.  He was beyond thrilled and made the trip easily.  We’d rented a large house with an elevator, making it easily accessible for Pap to travel up floors and to basically do everything that any of us could do.  He wasn’t quite feeling up to going to the beach since we’d been there, but the atmosphere alone was something he treasured — his kids and grand kids all together in one big house, back where our family vacations all started in Ocean City.  It was Monday, June 9th, a beautiful beach day, until about 3pm.  It barely started drizzling on the beach (which is something that never scares us away–ESPECIALLY my Mom).  Before I knew it, Mom decided that we could probably head back to the house now.  Thank God she did because otherwise, we may not have all gotten to see Pap again before he passed.   I will never understand how God gives people little gifts like these and some can simply brush it off as coincidence.

This year has been a tough one for our family.  Two of the greatest men, who have been foundations in our family, have passed on to be with Jesus within just a few weeks of one another.  It’s been a real eye-opener for me to see how quickly life really does pass you by and how important it is to make every moment a special one.  Pap and I had just been sitting together that very same day of his passing, when I came back to the house for lunch.  I never imagined it would be my last conversation with him.  The scenario could not have been any better.  When we realized that Pap was struggling, an ambulance was called and he was still responding to us when they arrived, just 3 minutes later.  The hospital was only 6 minutes away.  We always try to make sense of things, wondering “what if” in circumstances like these, but especially in instances like this one, it’s evident that God’s timing prevails.  It could be the best case scenario and there is nothing we can do if God is ready to bring a loved one home.  There is no question in my mind that Pap is enjoying the beaches in heaven right now — probably sitting up there shooting the breeze with his brother, Joe and his wife, TT, and even his son, who was killed in car accident at a very young age… In fact, it was the first time Pap was able to spend Father’s Day with his son, whom he’d lost several years ago –what a special reunion that must’ve been.

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All I know, speaking for myself, is that nothing has taught me more about life than death.  This place, this Earth is so temporary, yet so many people cannot see past the here and now.  The choices you make and the priorities you keep do have eternal consequences/rewards.  I believe that both TT and Pap would’ve wanted me to tell as many people as possible and to share the good news that because Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins, an eternity in Hell, we can have everlasting life in Heaven with Him instead.

Pap, I love you very much and you’ll always be the best Armstrong heater ❤  Miss you so much!

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In Loving Memory.

I’ve been dreading the day that this post would come.  I thought for sure, I would have had at least a few more years before I would would have to face this.  I hoped that my children would have a chance to know their TT… that his example and faith would have the impact on them has it has on me.  One of God’s angels on Earth was taken home on Sunday, May 18th.  It all seems so surreal to me that it actually happened and that he really is gone, until we meet again in Heaven.

philliesOne of TT’s specialties was timing.  Throughout his years of experience, he amazed me with his ability to predict exactly how long it would take to get from point A to point B.   I would ask him, “what time do you think you’ll get here?”, or “how long do you think it will take us to arrive at the Phillies game?”  Almost every time, he was spot on… I’m talking, down to the second.

lipsI talked to TT on Saturday night.  Jarid and I were on our way home from a wedding reception and had planned on stopping to see TT.  I called him when we got in the car, and he said, “Don’t worry about stopping tonight, I think I’ll be going home tomorrow, so before you come tomorrow, you better give me a call”.  At this point in my life, I believed everything that man said.  He had God-given wisdom that I could never fully comprehend.  Looking back now, when he said he was going home, he must’ve meant to his Heavenly home, rather than his earthly one.

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Although TT told us not to worry about stopping on Saturday, I felt a need to see him,  even if he was just resting.  Jarid agreed, and as we walked through the parking garage, I couldn’t help but feel excited that we were about to surprise him.  We got to his room, 719, only to find that our precious TT sleeping.  Anyone that knows him would agree, he was the absolute cutest man in the entire universe.  Jarid and I simply sat in the chairs beside his bed and watched him rest.  It felt so good just to be there with him, whether he knew it or not.  Saturday night was when my heart started to break.  In his sleep, TT would be breathing alright for a few breaths, but suddenly it was as if he couldn’t get enough air… he was gasping and it was difficult to watch.  It didn’t make sense to me that just the day before (Friday), when we’d visited him after work, he seemed just fine.  Short of breath, only after talking for a lengthy period of time.  I was fully confident that he would be fine… after all, with modern technology and all the advances made in the medical world daily, shouldn’t they be able to fix him right up?!

birthdayAfter sitting in the hospital chair for about 20 minutes, just admiring and praying for the man in the hospital bed that I’d loved and adored for the past 25-years, we decided to head home.  Before leaving, I asked one of the nurses, tears streaming down my cheeks, if I could borrow a pen and paper, allowing me to write TT a note, knowing that when he woke up, he would see it on his bedside table and know that we were there and that we loved him.

me&tSee, I know how much TT treasures notes because once, while I as house-sitting for him, I knocked something off of his dresser and a whole pile of notes that Nana had written him poured out onto the floor…. he kept every single one of them. I think his capacity to love far surpasses anyone else I’ve ever known.  It was all the little things that he appreciated most.

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It wasn’t long before Jarid and I were winding down on the couch, in our PJs.  Almost immediately after we turned the TV on, my phone started vibrating on the end table next to me.  As soon as I saw the caller ID reading, “TT Cell”, my face completely lit up.  “Hello?” I said, awaiting a goofy response, which I’d come to expect.  “Hey!  If you ever pull that crap again…wake me up next time!”… Haha.  I explained that I was sorry, but I knew he needed his rest and I couldn’t bring myself to disturb him.  I made sure that he knew I would see him the next day and that I loved him very much.

cheeseThe next 24 hours were an absolute blur… completely surreal, like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake myself up from.  My Mom called me at 8:26am, just before my alarm went off for church on Sunday morning.  I could tell in her voice that something wasn’t right.  As she explained that TT was being “worked on” at the hospital, tears began to well up in my eyes, I jumped out of bed, threw a sweatshirt and some yoga pants on, and got ready to go.

icecreamThere wasn’t a minute to waste.  I needed to be with him that very second.  Jarid followed suit, never once questioning whether we should go or not.  He was completely on board and we left within the next two minutes, arriving at TTs room just 16 minutes later.  When we reached his room, we saw four nurses surrounding his bed, all seemingly doing some sort of test on him.

laughEvery time I began to feel hopeful about the situation, trusting that the doctors would be able to help him, something else turned the tides.  As Jarid and I waited in his room with him until Nana and Aunt Candy, and then eventually my Mom and Dad arrived, I held his hand and can still remember exactly what it felt like…soft, warm, and tender.  I don’t ever want to forget that.  While we were there, still on the 7th floor, the nurses informed us that the tests showed no bleeding in his brain, which was a good indicator that he probably didn’t have a stroke, however, they didn’t want to rule anything out for sure.

hahaThe nurses continuously asked him to “smile” to see if there was any drooping of either corner of his mouth, to which he replied, “I’m going to have to start charging for these smiles pretty soon!” 🙂  He was having pain in his right wrist, so much so, that it hurt to the touch.  Now, if you ask me, they should’ve been running blood tests to find out if there was any type of infection, since he had a fever that accompanied the pain, but they didn’t test for that until he was moved to the 11th floor a short time later.

baptismI told myself after everything had happened that I couldn’t be angry at the nurses/doctors for not catching it sooner, but I couldn’t help feeling like he may still be with us if they had.  In my mind, his heart tuckered out because his body had to fight so hard to get the infection under control, before they caught it and administered the proper medications.  In the end, the only thing that I could come up with to reason the lack of thoroughness on the part of Harrisburg Hospital, was the fact that nothing they could’ve or would’ve done had the ability to get in the way of God’s plan.  God was calling TT home, and there was nothing we could do about it.

laughingI remember the Dr. approaching Nana, asking about TT’s DNR (do not resuscitate) bracelet.  He asked her, and she told the Dr. to ask T.  I remember hearing the words of confirmation, that indeed, TT told him…he did not want to be resuscitated if it came to that.  Those words felt like a punch in the stomach, taking away my breath for what felt like minutes…  It didn’t take much to make me sob that day.  I think I knew, deep down, that things were really not looking up.  While on the 11th floor, time seemed irrelevant.

lawnmowerI don’t even remember exactly what series of events led up to the saddest moment of my life, but I do know that our entire family was there, at the hospital, going through it together.  TT wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  In fact, the waiting room of the ICU was entirely full of just our family, each waiting for their turn to see TT.  Before too long, they asked us to keep the visitor count down to 2 people in the room with him.  He needed rest…lots of it.  My Dad ran out to pick up sandwiches for lunch at one of the downtown deli’s, but no one was really all that hungry.

semiI was frustrated that we hadn’t been getting updated very often on his condition, what they were doing to help him, or anything really.  I felt like I needed to explain to the nurse how special he was to us, and that she couldn’t allow anything to happen to him.  At one point, during the waiting period, Mom, Dad, Jarid and I went down to find the chapel.  All of us hit our knees.  My struggle came in knowing that I had to pray for God’s will to be done, rather than for him to just simply heal TT.  I know that His plans will prevail anyway, in any circumstance, and I know that the Bible tells us that we should pray not for God to change the circumstances, but for God to change US (our feelings, our hearts, our attitudes)… so that’s what I did…difficult as it was.

cheese2Another vivid memory I have of that day, was when one of the pastors were in the waiting room with us.  He spoke words of encouragement and comfort to us.  Reminding us that TT was in the hands of the Lord.  He chose a song for us to sing, altogether in the waiting room.  We joined hands, prayed, and after prayer, sang “How Great Thou Art”… Tt’s Dad, PaPa’s, (who had already passed several years ago) favorite song.  I believe that God gave us several signs that His will was for TT to come home.  The hard part was letting go for us.  Letting go of all the things that TT was to us all… a brother, a husband, a friend, an uncle, a mentor… No time with him would’ve ever been enough.  It was in those final moments that all of us were called into his ICU room on the 11th floor that I realized, his earthly heart was probably so weak because he had given so much of it, generously, to all of us.  The blessings in his life were nothing to him, unless they were shared with the people he loved…that’s where his true joy came from.

beachFor the first few days after we lost him, I woke up in the morning and had to remind myself that it was real… that I couldn’t call his cell phone and chat with him at the end of the day… that I wouldn’t be able to ask him to come down and meet Jarid & I for dinner after work during the week anymore… that I wouldn’t be able to give him the Father’s Day gift I’d planned out for this year…I think I probably freaked Jarid out some of the time, before he realized what was happening… I would just lay in bed and sob.  I know that TT’s legacy will live on through each and every one of the people his life has touched.  At his memorial, his heart for people was made even more obvious by the stories told and memories shared.  I keep thinking that things will get better with time… that I’ll soon stop breaking down and crying at every little thing that reminds me of him… I think, in a way, I don’t want to stop,  because it means he is fresh in my memory.  Someone I’ll never forget.  Some I never want to forget.  I find myself, everyday, looking for people to help, the way he did and I’m so thankful for all of the memories I was able to make with him.  They’ll last me a lifetime.  Until we meet again in Heaven, TT — I love and miss you very much! GO PHILLIES!

Gluten-Free Spinach & Pea Pesto Pasta Salad

Every summer I seem to have a favorite food discovery.  One that really hits the spot in the midst of the heat, humidity, and sunshiny weather.

This year, I’m declaring that food, Gluten-Free Spinach & Pea Pesto Pasta Salad
(try saying that five times fast!)

ImageI made it once, so far, for Bowman’s birthday party, but I can guarantee I’ll make it at least twice more before the summer concludes.  It’s creamy, it’s got a bit of a bite to it, and it’s delicious warm OR cold!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 lb. dry brown rice pasta
  • 1/4 C. grapeseed oil (olive/canola oil works, too)
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 C. raw almonds
  • 1/2 C. green peas
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • pinch of paprika
  • sea salt & pepper to taste (about 1 tbsp. salt & 1 tsp. pepper)

ImageDirections:

1- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and allow to cool.

2- Blend together parmesan cheese & almonds in a food processor…

ImageImage…until it resembles a coffee grounds consistency.

3- Add spinach, chili powder, paprika, garlic, salt, & pepper to the food processor and pulse until grind (you may want to grab a spatula to pause and scrape down the sides as you go — I also had to add the spinach little by little since I was using my mini processor and it wouldn’t all fit!)

4- Add olive/canola/grapeseed oil (continuing to scrape the sides down so that the entire mixture is blended together)

5- Add peas & process until combined.

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6- Add the pesto to a large bowl with noodles and toss to coat.

ImageI would recommend allowing it to “marinate” overnight, so that the noodles really soak up the pesto, but it’s delicious as is, too.  Add some grilled chicken and sliced cherry tomatoes to round out the dish!

Enjoy!

Flashback Friday.

Returning to old memories isn’t always pleasurable for me.  Before I came to understand what being “healthy” really was, I had a very skewed perception of body image, exercise, and all around wellness.

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I was an over-exerciser and an under-eater.  The combination of those two things can be very dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong, I could eat an entire bag of steamed (unseasoned) vegetables, but only after burning 1,000 calories in a high intensity cardio workout.

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High school wasn’t kind to me.  I left that place with a serious complex about the way I looked.  There were days I remember wishing I didn’t live to see the next. I felt like a disappointment and a failure on a daily basis.  family
In many cases, mine included, when you have a self-image issue, it’s hard for you to see what reality is.  It’s a sickness.  I’m not saying I had an eating disorder, because neither anorexia nor bulimia fits the  bill for what I went through.  As I mentioned, I ate a lot, but it was mainly zero calorie foods (vegetables), NO snacks, and NO fats.  I ate three square meals a day, and absolutely NO more.  Breakfast was exactly 1 C. of Fiber One cereal = 100 calories.  Lunch, was a turkey sandwich on “light wheat bread” (50 calories/slice and no more with one serving of deli turkey only), 1 slice of fat free cheese, and a bunch of celery.  Dinner was usually 1 bag of Steamfresh vegetables (carrots, snap peas, and broccoli were the favorites).  While good intentions of being more aware of what I was putting into my body can be beneficial, I was taking it too far to the extreme, eating less than 800 calories per day. I finally felt empowered, in control, and able to change the shape my body was in.

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Take note how bony my arms are, how I have NO boobs, and how sad my face looks

It was taken to the complete extreme, and although I was feeling super confident as a “skinny girl”, I was tied down, unhappy, and grumpy most of the time.  As my 5’7 frame dwindled down to a measly 104lbs.  (dangerously low, for an always athletic girl, high in muscle mass), there were several times I can remember waking up to numb arms and legs, which was very scary.  My body didn’t even have enough energy to circulate blood properly.

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Protruding collar bones

When I looked in the mirror, I could tell I was thin, but I wasn’t seeing the skin and bone that everyone else was…literally, a walking skeleton.  Slowly, my limbs became less functioning and my hair became incredibly thin and brittle… I’ll never forget when my Mom asked why I was walking so weird…it was because one of my legs/feet could hardly move along.  I was so stubborn that I would’ve paid any price to stay that thin.

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Compliments that used to be given to me, like “you look great! how much weight did you lose?!” turned into concerns from almost everyone to my poor parents who had no idea what to say.  They tried to tell me and get me help, but I refused.  I didn’t need help!?  It truly is something that must change internally before anyone can help you anyway.

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The crazy thing was, I still tried to play sports.  What killed me was one day that I decided to accompany my sisters and Dad to a basketball open gym at my Alma Mater one night… I was completely embarrassed.  Sure, I could out run everyone, but my body was so weak I could barely catch the ball or make a layup.

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In another instance, my heart was broken by my worrisome Dad, who called me downstairs one day after work.  He became desperate to help, doing all kinds of research to try to convince me to change my self-depriving ways.  The one thing he said that will always stick with me, is that “he never wants to have to bury a child, and at the rate I was going, that may become reality”.  I hated myself for putting them through that.

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It was little bits and pieces that finally came together, and with Jesus’ strength & the support of family and friends, I pulled myself from that pit of hopelessness into a happier, healthier me.  It took a lot of time, self-reflection, forgiveness, and admittance, but I got there.  I think that’s another reason why I’m so thankful to be where I am today.  I have the joy of Jesus down in my heart.  It’s been such a long road, and I’ve discussed my thyroid condition, but this is the first I’ve ever discussed my eating issues.

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I can proudly say, I’m no longer a slave to food.  I apologize for the heavy post on this lovely Friday, but I can promise you, this is much more of a celebratory post than anything.  With God on your side, anything is possible.  Through prayer, people that God put into my life, and HIS strength, I’m happier and healthier now than I’ve ever been.  He saved me… not only from an eternity of Hell, but from a life on Earth that was sad, unhealthy, and unfulfilled of His plans for me.  Praise GOD — I’m free. ❤

Curaçao – “koor-uh-sou” (Part II)

Each day for the entire week that we were in Curaçao, we found new things to explore.

 

We felt like total tourists, but apparently it wasn’t all that obvious, because a lot of the locals first tried speaking to us in Dutch. 

We were pleasantly surprised to find that American currency was almost 2x more valuable than the Florin that were used in Curaçao. 

Regardless, things were always a little more expensive there than they would’ve been back in the States.   One day we bought breakfast at Subway and it ended up costing about $9 per person?!

We saved money by eating breakfast in our hotel room most of the time (I brought peanut flour and oats & we bought bananas).  Then for lunch, we either used our daily $10 voucher at the hotel restaurant, or ate things that we bought at the “grocery store” there.  I’m pretty sure I got a grilled chicken salad almost every single day.  Dinner, is where we splurged.

I tried genuine curry for the first time and I’ve got to say, I’m a huge fan.

Another night we opt for seafood at a delicious waterfront restaurant called Scampi’s.

Jarid had some spinach mashed potatoes that he said he’d never forget,

while I ordered a grilled shrimp entree that came with a monstrous & decorative plate of fresh greens and other vegetables.

Although most of the shops were closed, like I said, by the time we were finished with dinner, the views and city life were enough to occupy us until it was time to head back to our room. 

Actually, I’m lying.  Each night we snagged some ICE cream before heading back to our hotel.

There was a little ice cream place called Don’s Ice Cream that we discovered in Rif Fort that served Edy’s brand.  I fell in love with the sugar free almond amaretto ❤

As I mentioned before, we had a voucher for one day to rent a car while we were there.  On a whim, we decided we’d like to drive the entire length of the country (which only took us about 45 minutes) to a place called Boka Park.

The trip was a little bit stressful — we had NO GPS & we had to turn off our cell phones’ data because we were “roaming” to avoid outrageous charges”.  We simply left our hotel with a map of the island, a little bit of faith, and a lot of prayer that we could make it 🙂 

It didn’t help that all of the signs were in Dutch, either.  Thankfully, Jarid & I make a pretty great team — he was about 12093895 times more nervous about it than I was. 

My sense of direction is pretty good, and his… well he’s not so confident.  We did make a few wrong turns along the way, but quickly realized it, and took appropriate action. 

The trip was totally worth the hassle of the traveling.  Shete Boka National Park is “10 kilometers of the rocky wave-exposed north coast of the island and with some 10 pocket beaches where 3 species of sea turtles are known to lay eggs“.

The park begins at stunning Boka Tabla, where huge waves thunder into an underground cavern.

Steps cut into the rocks lead you directly into the mouth of the cavern; you can sit on the very edge and watch the surf roll in.

We actually peeked inside the caves at the end, just before we left.  The majority of the time we were hiking the coast, exploring each of the little inlets: Boka Wandomi, Boka Kortalein, Boka Plate, Boka Mansalina, Boka Djegu and Dos Boka.  These inlets are protected turtle breeding areas and lie inside the park.

 

Overall, I was just so thankful to have had the opportunity to get away with my husband.  After all of the wedding chaos, exciting and as wonderful as it was, I was ready for some down time!  Time away from work, just enjoying my husband.  When it came time to travel back to the States, we were actually excited to get home! 

Not because we didn’t have a blast, but because we knew that it meant starting our lives together in a new home.  Remember back when we were house hunting?!  It feels so long ago, now, but the process of finding “the one” can sometimes be frustrating and grueling!  Thankfully, we had a wonderful agent helping us out from Howard Hannah, who helped us find the perfect starter home for us!  All about that in the next post 😉  Stay tuned!

Curaçao – “koor-uh-sou” (Part I)

Booking a honeymoon was not something Jarid & I had ever done before.  We knew we wanted it to be special, affordable, tropical, romantic, and memorable.  We also knew that we wanted to go somewhere that neither of us had ever been.  We considered places in Europe (on each of our bucket lists), Hawaii, and Mexico.  The trouble with Hawaii, was the insane cost of airfare from PA cross country to the island.  The trouble with Europe, was the fact that we kind of wanted to be near a beach.  And finally, the trouble with Mexico, is that during this time of year, it’s smack dab in the middle of the hurricane zone.  We did a bit of research and prayed about it.  For the most part, I would’ve been happy anywhere that I could take a break from the craziness of life and just enjoy time with my new husband.  We are both somewhat adventurous, so the idea of a place that not many people had heard of was slightly appealing.  Before we got an email from Living Social, a free email subscription that both Jarid & I are registered for, I had never heard of Curacao before.

We decided to just go for it!  I think our parents were more nervous for us than we were for ourselves — traveling out of the country and all.  We got our passports and the next step was booking our flights! Jarid found a good deal, where we were able to fly from Baltimore, MD to Miami, FL and from Miami, FL to Curaçao.  Because Momma Snyder gets great rates on hotel rooms, after our reception we drove to Baltimore and stayed in a beautiful hotel room the night of our wedding.  We were exhausted from the day, but I think our anticipation and adrenaline was enough to keep us awake!  Here’s a brief play-by-play:

12:45am- Check into our hotel in Baltimore

4:45- Scurry to the airport & check our bags

6:10am- Flight from Baltimore –> Miami

8:35am- Arrive in Miami and devour airport breakfasts

11:20am- Miami to Curacao

2:15pm- Arrived at honeymoon destination

2:30pm- Made it through customs and picked up our bags

2:45pm- Realized that our shuttle service from the airport to the hotel was non-existant & called a cab

3:30pm- Checked into our honeymoon suite & began exploring

One of my favorite things about the area was the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.  Everytime there was a boat that needed through, the bridge was literally pushed aside to allow it through.  In cases like this, if people were on the bridge already, they either turned around, or in some cases were risky enough to try jumping as the bridge was pulling away from shore! 

We stayed in the Plaza Hotel & Casino Our hotel was exotic and casual — it reminded me of a bed & breakfast…only, it was gigantic. 

 Did I mention, it was right along the water…? 

…And that there was a casino inside? Because  there was 🙂  Jarid & I aren’t big gamblers, but we designated $1-2 each night, just for the heck of it, for the casino machines.  We ended up $12 to the positive after our week there!

Overall, Curaçao was not quite as tourist friendly as neighboring islands like Aruba.  The pastel colored buildings were endearing and I enjoyed strolling and exploring all of the areas of the country. 

We didn’t have or really need a rental car for most of the week, so we did a lot of walking!  Would you believe that the work-out-a-holic that I am, I didn’t spend ONE morning in the hotel’s gym?! 🙂 I was rather proud of myself for just kicking back and relaxing for once.  Every morning, we went for a walk on the island. 

All of the shops closed by about 6pm (which we found kind of odd), so if we wanted to get souveniers or family gifts, we had to do it in the morning.  We developed a routine, though, which was easier for me to adapt to than it was Jarid, of waking up at a decent time (somewhere around 9am), eating breakfast, and starting our adventures for the day.  We ended up crashing and relaxing at the hotel then after dinner around 7:30/8pm every night. 

Our hotel had a shuttle which would take us to and from the closest place to soak up the sun…Cabana Beach

The first day we were here, we were able to snatch up a spot under the cabanas and no one ever came around to collect our money… the second time, we weren’t so lucky and ended up shelling out $15.  Not too bad for two days worth of cabana shelter…and my own personal cabana boy 😉

 The sun was super hot, so I had to make sure that my husband was always lathered up in sunscreen, and that we re-applied it every couple of hours.  He still ended up with some nice color even with the SPF 50 buffer!  Cabana Beach had the whitest, silkiest sand that I’ve ever felt before.  It was so fine that it blew with the wind.  Water there was like no water I’d ever experienced before either.  You could see straight to the bottom, complete with views of the teensy fish weaving in and around people.  Temperatures in the ocean must’ve reached 60° because I, for one, can NEVER submerge myself…but here, it was easy!

After the beach each time we went, we usually took a dip in our hotel pool to cool off after the bus ride back.

Which brings me to the hands-down, most amazing part of our trip: scuba diving… something that can now be checked off of both Jarid & my bucket lists.

Jarid & I walked to the Scuba Lodge about mid-week, after reading up on the best spots.  We only had a rental car for one day, and since it was only about 1 mile to walk, we put our legs to good use 😉

For the first 45 minutes of our session, we had to listen to all of the safety precautions and instructions… probably the best idea for first timers.  Our instructor was pretty cool — down-to-earth with a good sense of humor — but Jarid wasn’t a fan because he said he was “checking me out”. Ha.

Anyhow, when we finally got to the hands on part, we slipped into our wetsuits (some easier than others). 

There was a sweet dutch woman who was part of our group.  She said that her husband was a higher level diver and she was trying to catch up so they could go together.  She also laughed outloud when they showed her the suit she had to squeeze into.

 

I was completely taken off guard by how heavy the oxygen tanks really are.  Honest to gosh, I could hardly walk with one strapped to my back!  Jarid, the gentleman that he is, kindly was able to stop laughing long enough to help me into the water.

The most difficult thing to get used to for me, was having a mask strapped over my face and being unable to breathe out of my nose.  I’m not a mouth breather…even when I work out, I usually breathe out of my nose.

 

One of the cool things we learned was that most experienced divers barely swim at all to maintain a certain level in the water.  They control how high or how low they are in the water by their breathing alone. 

The more water in your lungs, the more buoyant you are, and thus, the higher in the water you remain.  Everytime you exhale, you will sink lower into the ocean.

Thanks to my parents, who gave us their underwater, fancy shmancy camera to borrow, we were able to bring the memories of our sealife adventure home with us!  It was an incredible experience and I’m so thankful to have it all in photos!

 

See you soon for PART II of our honeymoon posts!

Making Me a Mrs.

Once upon a time there was a freckle-faced, red-headed girl who lived in a small town.  She was raised by two amazing parents, who loved her more than life, and vice-versa.  As a child, she didn’t have a care in the world.  She was athletic, passionate, and spirited.  As she grew up, she allowed the ups and downs of life, the opinions of others, and society to make her question her value.  She felt as though all of the heartache she experienced through medical issues, emotional breakdowns, and insecurities were on display for the world to criticize. She grew to wonder if she would ever find a soulmate who would be able to appreciate the self-proclaimed flaws, broken pieces, and imperfections that seemed to overwhelm her.  The search for her significance seemed never-ending, until God showed her the truth about who she really was– precious, beautiful, and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).  Until she found a way to love herself, she knew that she couldn’t accept the love of another.  She knew God had a plan for her, and she just had to be patient…God was just waiting for the perfect time to introduce her to her very own prince charming ❤  It really is true that love finds you when you least expect it…

Of course, Jarid & my wedding day began with a good sweat to get the blood flowing.  I didn’t want to over-do it, because I knew the day in itself would be exhausting (in a good way), so I stuck to a quick 45 minutes on the elliptical in the garage of my parents’ house…besides, I was entirely too excited to get to the reception site to help my girls start decorating to stay there any longer!  My matron of honor picked me up after a shower, and we were on our way to help with the decor. 

I was surprisingly calm for the majority of the morning, just taking it all in and enjoying every moment.  Before I knew it, 11:30am rolled around and it was time to head back to my parents’ for hair & make-up.  The only thing to be done at the church was dressing and pre-ceremony pictures!  My stylist, Emily, did things to my hair that I can’t even put into words.  I knew what look I wanted, but I couldn’t find any pictures of the exact style.  She took the ones that I did manage to compile and molded my locks into her very own creation. 

Something old: my veil — worn by my Godmother, my Momma, and my matron of honor

Something new
:  my earrings —dangly teardrops

Something borrowed: my Papa’s hankerchief (tucked in my garter) & my Mama’s broach pinned to my bouquet

Something blue: my Cowboys football themed garter

Our wedding started at 3’oclock in the afternoon, so most of our pictures were able to be taken before the ceremony.  While the guys were doing their thing, us girls were doing ours.  Jarid’s best man delivered a sweet card to me, which made me teary.  As if that weren’t enough emotion, my parents gave me a card as well, before the ceremony.  We all prayed together and lots of happy tears were shed. 

Before I knew it, my Daddy was walking me down the aisle to the instrumentals from the song, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, amidst a church full of loved ones who were there to support the vows that Jarid and I were there to make before God.  It all happened so fast.  We had written our own vows, and the young adult pastor from our church was officiating the ceremony.  

After we said, “I do”, we made our exit and drove to our photography site.  Where better to get some pictures than my old high school gymnasium.  After all, Jarid & I met on a basketball court, fell in love, and he asked me to marry him at half-time of my last college basketball game.  We headed back to the church for some traditional shots before making our way to the reception.

Jarid and I had worked pretty hard to make our wedding personal and economical, yet classy.  For favors, we burned our own CDs as the “soundtrack to our love story” picking songs that were special to us, or simply ones that we liked to jam out to in the car together 🙂  We didn’t want to do all of one thing (families of five would go home with five of the exact same thing!), so we did every other setting with a cookie cutter wrapped in a cute little box with a healthy cookie recipe tied on.  For our centerpieces, we had three different themes — on tables 1-10, we used grade school pictures of each of us — tables 11-20, we painted wine bottles with chalkboard paint and wrote on the table numbers — on tables 21-30, we printed and framed the numbers to sit on a table with pomander-like balls that we put together ourselves. Jarid punched out almost ALL of the flowers by hand so that we could pin them to the styrofoam craft balls.  We sat them on flipped-over glasses (martini, wine, and goblets) to create different heights. We also used tulle on all of the tables, and strands of cheap pearls to make the tables appear more full.

 Our ushers drove us in my Momma’s gold Jaguar, which was dressed up in hot and light pink streamers, and filled with balloons that we had to pop before we got in…that was a nice little surprise from one of my sly bridesmaids 😉  For dinner we were served green beans, steamed california blend vegetables, seasoned mashed baby reds, grilled seasoned chicken and ham.  As we arrived, we were greeted by our DJ, who was fantastic!  Literally, we partied all night.  He seemed to know just what song to play to pull the crowd onto the dance floor.

 Everything at our reception was super traditional.  Jarid & my first dance as a married couple was to Dave Barnes version of “God Gave Me You”, Jarid danced with his Mom to Rascal Flatts “My Wish”, and I danced with my Daddy to Heartland’s “I Loved Her First”.  We added another special dance so that we could dance with my Godparents to Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be”.  We did the dollar dance, the garter ceremony, the cake cutting, and the toasts.  I can honestly say I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  God completely blessed Jarid and I on our wedding day, and we are so excited to see how he will continue to work in our marriage. 

After all the excitement, Jarid & I drove to Baltimore, MD to spend our wedding night in a gorgeous hotel for the night, leaving for Curacao –the Dutch Antilles– at 6am the next morning for our honeymoon!  Stay tuned for lots of adventure!