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Archive for August, 2011

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With traveling and other summer busy-ness, we haven’t been eating as many meals at home as usual. But here’s what we’ve been enjoying:

Mexican Mondays

Tacos. But of course.

Store-bought taco dip and blue corn chips. Lest you think Mike is a food snob, he’s so not.

Chicken quesadillas

Salad Tuesdays

Romaine, red onion, pear, cranberries, feta, soy nuts, bacon, chicken, french dressing (for Shan), sweet vidalia onion dressing (for Mike)

Shrimp Caesar, only mine didn’t have shrimp

Nacho salad: blue corn chips, lettuce, red and green pepper, onion, cucumber, carrot, avocado, cheese, salsa, sour cream

Pasta Wednesdays

Spaghetti with homemade meatballs and a delicious sauce

This is the sauce. My boss bought this for us when we were in northern Michigan for an event. Apparently it’s made there and is supposed to be the best sauce ever. It was quite good.

Pizza Thursdays

No pictures because we’ve been taking advantage of Thursdays to be lazy and order in.

Grill Fridays

Hotdogs and baked beans.

Pork chops, red cabbage, french bread

Meat Saturdays

Yeah we’re never ever home on Saturdays in the summer, so this hasn’t existed for awhile. Frill Fridays have basically taken its place.

Soup/Stew Sundays

Pot roast with potatoes and carrots

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As you may have gathered from Mike’s post about his dad, we are moving. Again. Without exaggeration, the longest I have ever lived in one place since I graduated high school is a year and a half. And that was only once, usually it’s a year or less. I move all the time, it’s like a hobby. Even as a kid, I lived in several different places, so it’s really nothing new to me. But I’ve grown to hate it. I love the newness of a move – the opportunity to set up shop anew, to start over, to feel the freshness of a new place. But I’m so over the packing and lugging and unpacking of the shit. All the shit!

But alas, here we go again. Our situation as it stands is that Mike works in City A, while I work in City B, over an hour away. We live in Town C, somewhere in the middle, but it’s a place that is nothing more to us than somewhere to sleep. We wanted to get involved with the small town atmosphere, we swore we would, but it’s just not home and so we didn’t. We go to City A, where our families are, nearly every weekend. And we miss out on stuff during the week because we’re not there. We miss being in City A. We miss it a lot. It is where we have decided we want to be longterm, and so moving back there now is the first step.

Fortunately, the stars aligned for once, and Mike’s dad is getting married and moving out of his house the same month we need to be out of our apartment. His house is in a good neighborhood, it’s the right size for us right now, it’s the right price, and his dad can’t sell it right now anyway, so he’s looking for a renter.

There are many things that we are waiting on right now – I would like a job that doesn’t require a 75-minute commute or at least a way to keep my current job without that kind of drive every day; Mike would like to find a way to make more money; so would I for that matter; and we both want to start a family very soon. None of these things are working out right now, despite our best efforts, so the fact that the house situation came together pretty easily is a real blessing.

At the end of October, we’ll be packing our bags (and boxes) (actually that’ll be happening over the next couple months), renting a truck, and moving all the shit to a new house. At least it’s in the city that we want to be for the long run. We’re getting closer to the kind of life we wish for.

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So, my Dad is getting married. This is what is happening in my life right now.

Back story. My Mom and Dad split up about 6 years ago. I was living in California, and from what I can gather it was a good decision. There was no animosity. Since then, my Mom has been living in a condo, and my Dad has moved from a rental to a house. It was a little weird to get used to my parents being apart, but I’m handling it. Christmases are even smaller now, but whatever.

And now, this.

Dad went on a dating website, and after some fits and starts, met a woman named Penny. They got serious…fast. Shan and I met her at Thanksgiving, and shortly after that spent a Christmas celebration with her and my Dad at my Aunt’s house. Then the long winter set in. My Dad and Penny went on a vacation together. As far as I know, this is the first vacation he has been on with a woman other than my Mom in at least 30 years. When Shan and I went to his house for Easter, she was wearing a ring. I noticed this within 23 seconds of walking in the door. Several excruciating minutes (hours?) later, he announced what I (and Shannon, I later found out) had already pieced together. And so, my Dad is to be wed.

I’m very happy for my Dad. If he has a chance to be happy late in life (later, anyway), then good for him. And I love Penny. She’s a down-to-earth, genuinely nice person. She’s cool, and I’m glad she and my Dad are happy. However, this is weird. If your parent has never married someone other than your other parent, you wouldn’t understand. I’m also a little freaked out by the fact that my Dad will become a grandparent when he gets married. It’s selfish, but I wanted him to become a grandparent when WE had kids (or my little brother, I guess). I actually got to watch him interact with Penny’s grand kids the other day, and it was unsettling.

One upside in this is that he and Penny are buying a house together. Since my Dad bought his house not-too-long-ago, and got a tax credit, he can’t sell. That means we get to rent a house without going through the nightmare search that goes along with that. Also, I get to be a best man! That’s not really that big of a deal, and it’ll be fairly duty-free, but still…fun!

So, that’s the big news in my life. And. So. Weird. But hey…at least the blog is about weddings again for a post.

Editor’s Note: Mike gives me too much credit. I (Shannon) had NO idea anything was going on until his dad announced their engagement at dinner. I didn’t see the ring, I didn’t suspect anything, and I was completely surprised. I guess I’m not very observant…

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A friend asked for a detailed account of our skydiving experience, and I realized I’d like to remember all the details too, so here it is.

Even before we met, both Mike and I wanted to go skydiving someday. It’s been on my “to do” list for at least a decade, so when Groupon had a 50% off deal with Central Michigan Skydivers, we jumped at the chance. That was nearly a year ago. We waited until just about the last minute to cash in and actually go for it, but thank god we did. It. Was. Amazing.

A couple weeks before our scheduled jump date, I started to get nervous. What the hell was I thinking? And part of me, I admit, hoped it would somehow not end up happening. So the night before the jump, when it started to pour and storm, I was a little relieved. Maybe this wouldn’t happen afterall. But by 10:00am, the sun was peaking out and we hadn’t received a phone call telling us it was off, so I gathered my wits about me and we headed to the airfield. I hadn’t slept at all the night before, but fatigue was the last thing on my mind. I was nervous!

When we got there, everyone kind of looked at us funny. “Um… we have a reservation…?” “Oh, nobody called you?”

Yeah, they had canceled everyone else’s jump for the day, but somehow missed us. They said we could either reschedule right now, or we could fill out the paperwork, get trained, suit up and then see if it was safe. I was tempted to reschedule, but I knew if I didn’t do it now, I may never work up the nerve again. So we signed about a thousand pages of liability releases while my sister (the skydive place was near her house, so we stayed with her and her husband the night before) chatted up the instructors. Then Geoff, one of the instructors, walked us through everything we needed to know.

The night before I had done some research about skydiving, and it actually eased my mind to know more about what would be happening. And the thorough instructions from Geoff helped even more. I was a little bit freaking out during the training, but I was glad to know exactly what would be happening and what it would feel like. Plus he promised us it would be half as scary as we thought and twice as fun, so ok!

Next we got into jumpsuits. From this point, everything moved really fast. In minutes we were fully suited up and the instructors were strapping harnesses on us.

That’s me and my dude Chuck. He was a real jokester.

That’s Mike and his dude Geoff. Apparently even super tall people can tandem jump!

I, of course, asked a million questions. Including “Are there bugs that high up?” and “Has anyone ever become detached from their instructor?” Both answers were no. I thought I needed a little time to compose myself, but with a few harness adjustments, we were suddenly walking off to toward the plane. The little bitty teeny tiny plane. During training Geoff referenced the “big plane” and the “small plane” because he wasn’t sure which one we’d be using yet. Turns out: small plane.

We took this before we knew for sure we were actually going to be jumping!

Look at me! Practicing my arch!

Even while we were getting harnessed, we weren’t positive we were jumping. But as we walked to the plane, it hit me, yep, this was happening. Holy eff. Honestly though, I was feeling pretty chill. Yeah I was nervous, but not the barfy out of control nervous I was sure I would feel. Even on the plane ride up, I was shockingly calm. I knew it would be ok all along, that nothing awful was going to happen, but I was sure I’d be a nervous wreck and want to change my mind. Instead we all chatted (well, more like yelled) and joked around, and got ourselves ready to go.

The plan was pretty cramped. Four people plus the pilot in a space the size of my teeny bathroom. My instructor, Chuck, was quite the comedian. It definitely helped ease the craziness of the situation a little. I was worried I’d get motion sickness in the plane, but thankfully I felt fine the whole time. At around 3,000 feet I thought surely we were high enough, but nope, not even a third of the way there. We were going up to 10,000 feet! The ride took about 12 minutes, and after about 9 minutes the instructors started getting ready. I had to climb up on Chuck’s lap which was, well, intimate. He strapped me to him, and when I asked to be reassured I was firmly in place, he tickled me a little, to which I obviously squirmed and tried to get away. And couldn’t move. Point taken.

TheĀ  next two minutes were the scariest of the whole experience. I heard the pilot say “one minute” and I think I squealed. Eeeek! Then the pilot said “door” and Chuck opened the fucking door. Please realize I was directly next to the door, like, touching it. And suddenly it was open and the wind was out of control. And they’re telling me to swing my legs around and out onto the step. I distinctly remember thinking “In a few seconds I will be plummeting toward earth. This is happening and there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

Then I was flying. I’m not kidding, I have no idea how I got out of that plane. Chuck titled my head back, I heard “ready set arch” in my ear, and then I was airborne. I know in theory, Chuck got us out by sort of tipping forward, but I have zero recollection of what happened. Luckily, I remembered to get into the arch position, we did a little flip and I got a split second glimpse of the plane above us, and whoosh. Flying.

I’m scared of heights and I was really scared of the free fall, but it’s less like flying and more like really loud floating. The ground is so far away, you really have no concept of getting closer. Basically it’s a lot of wind in your ears, a lot of pressure pushing up on your body (not uncomfortable), and it’s cold. I started with my arms crossed at my chest, as instructed, and when Chuck tapped my shoulders, I put them out like I was being arrested.

After about 40 seconds (or what felt like 10), he pulled the rip cord and we were floating. Immediately Chuck told me to look up and I saw a tiny pinprick of dark spot falling through the air and then a parachute open up. It was Mike! It was pretty crazy to be together so high in the sky. When you’re floating, it’s pretty quiet and peaceful. And actually, I was a little more scared during this part than the free fall. When you’re free falling, you’re not even thinking about anything. But when you’re floating, suddenly it’s like, holy shit I’m in the air!

It’s Mike!

It’s me!

Chuck loosened my harness a little, which was a bit scary, but more comfortable. And then he had me hold the reins of the chute. He was still in control, but I could at least feel the power of the parachute. He took me through a cloud, we steered around a little, and he had me practice lifting my legs for the landing. I watched Mike a little too. They were falling a lot faster than us, probably because of the weight difference, so I also got to watch him land.

Then it was my turn. We approached the ground, and I waved like crazy at Em and Drew. Then I looked at the ground and damn, it was approaching fast. I worried he forgot to tell me to lift, so I frantically asked, “Do I lift my legs now?” He said go ahead, I did, and a couple seconds later we hit the ground. You kind of come in at a angle and land on your butts. The instructor takes the brunt of the landing, hence getting your feet up, but somehow my right foot still grazed the ground and I hurt my ankle. I didn’t notice at first, but that night I had to ice it. A skydiving injury! How cool am I?

Em and Drew ran out to meet us, and we were both high on adrenaline. We couldn’t stop talking about it, and I’ve been replaying it in my head for days.

I already want to do it again. I told Mike I’d go right back up and jump again if it wasn’t so expensive. But in reality it’ll probably be awhile. Maybe for our fifth anniversary? And I told my little sister I’d take her when she graduates from high school in eight years. But I definitely want to do this again sometime.

It’s funny because if they had called us to cancel like they had with everyone else, we wouldn’t have jumped that day. But the universe was looking out for us. They didn’t call, we showed up, the weather cleared just long enough, and we had the time of our lives.

I was scared to go and I was nervous, but it was more amazing than I can describe. Such a fucking rush. It really was twice as fun and half as scary as I thought it would be. If you haven’t done it, and you’ve been thinking about it, go! Go skydiving!

From Mike’s perspective:

I did not have the same trepidations that Shannon had. I believe this means I’m not very smart, and probably shouldn’t be in a position to take risks in my life. Seriously though, it never crossed my mind how scary of a thing it is to fall out of a plane at ten thousand feet and plummet toward the earth. Even when I read the part about serious injury or death on the waivers. In hindsight, I was so amped up for the prospect of doing this thing, that I just didn’t have room in my mind for the fear.

Then, we were in the plane. I was behind the pilot, away from the door, so the door opening didn’t freak me out as much as it did Shannon. What totally freaked me out was when, shortly after the door opened, I watched my wife try to get her feet out the door and, seconds later, watched the empty door where my wife had been a moment ago. It wasn’t like watching a car drive away, or even like watching someone dive into a pool. It was as if she literally vanished.

Before I had time to contemplate this much, Geoff and I were shuffling toward the door. I swung my feet out and we were falling. As I was wrapping my mind around that fact, I heard Geoff scream “ARCH” in my ear. I had forgotten to arch with so much of my brain power devoted to processing the fact that I was falling through the sky. I arched, we fell, and, before I knew it, the chute was open.

This is where my experience goes down-hill. I am not a cushioned individual, and I don’t fit in most things. Apparently this includes my harness, because when that chute opened and the harness took my full weight, I became aware that I was 6’8″ of guy in 6’7″ of harness. That extra inch meant that I was squeezed at the crotch and the chest for the entire float down. This was not comfortable, and I have the bruising to prove it.

I did, however, nail the landing, which was surprising since it entailed lifting my legs up so my toes were parallel to my nose. This is not an easy task for a tall man, but I managed it…mostly out of fear of terrible bodily injury. As my butt slid to a stop on the grass, I began laughing uncontrollably. We got unhooked, and I staggered to Shannon and gave her a hug.

While I am not quite as excited as Shan about doing this again (remember the bruising?), I am definitely glad I did it, and sort of like the idea of giving it another whirl. All in all, it was incredible.

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The original plan was to leave Montana Saturday morning and drive straight through to Sunday evening, but after the drive out there, part of the party wished to leave earlier. I felt confident I could do the power-through thing again, but conceded to leave Friday after dinner. Josh and his family left early Friday morning, and Em and Drew left late morning. The rest of us hung out at the house and visited Ennis one more time to do some shopping. We bought souvenirs like this one:

And so it was only two cars that left in the evening and drove through Friday night while Scarlet and the other kids slept. We kept going until about 4:30pm on Saturday when we stopped somewhere in Wisconsin. We finished out the drive Sunday, getting home that evening. Overall, the trip went pretty smoothly. The kid was nearly perfect, entertaining herself with random things as usual, and even though our van was a disaster, we had a good time.

Montana is beautiful, and I was so happy to get back out there. We were really lucky Dad invited all of us along, and I’m so lucky to have a family I want to spend a week (including two cross-country road trips) with.

One last thing I forgot to mention. One of our favorite activities while at the house was looking for wildlife out the giant picture window. We never saw much, but it was pretty common to see scenes like this all day long:

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On Wednesday, a small group decided to go to the Tetons. I had been a few times, so I volunteered to babysit Scarlet so Kelli could go. I told her, and Mike and Des, who also went, that if they’re this close, they can’t NOT see the Tetons. So they were up early and off to see some beautiful mountains. The rest of the family went hiking and swimming, so I was home along for most of the day with the crazy toddler. Again, I sent the camera with Mike:

They even saw a moose! Kelli’s goal for the trip was to see a darn moose, so I’m really happy they did. Apparently there was a lot of flipping out. Moose are pretty cool – they’re my favorite animal after the elephant I think. One time, while camping in Wyoming somewhere, I strolled off by myself and came face to ass with a huge bull moose. They are HUGE and amazing, but I didn’t stick around long to inspect it. Anywhere, here’s the moose they saw:

Apparently they also saw a black bear on their way home. It ran out in front of their truck, but no pictures…

This is what my day looked like:

That night, when everyone recommenced at the house, we had dinner and cake and ice cream for the birthday boy, Kyron, who turned seven.

On Thursday, most of us went out for a little adventure. First, we went white water rafting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t wise to bring cameras on the river, so I only have photos of us pre-departure.

We had to seriously gear up for this: wetsuits, water booties, rain jackets, life jackets, helmets and paddles. We were really awesome looking, I know. The ride was pretty sweet. We had ten people so we had to split into two groups. I went with my brother, sister-in-law and their kids, while Mike went with Dad, Des and their kids. Nobody fell out, so it wasn’t nearly as exciting as it could be, but we had fun. After lunch, we drove to the corral for horseback riding.

Again, we had to keep our cameras in our saddlebags once we were on the horse, but luckily Mike saddled up before me so I got one of him on his horse Angus.

His horse was so good for him, which was good since Mike was a first-time rider. I, on the other hand, used to ride all the time when I was younger, so I volunteered to take the horse that was described as a drama queen. And oh she was. Such a diva! Her name was Monroe and she wouldn’t cross the river, she didn’t like the mud, she walked soooo slow and we were constantly behind, and she really couldn’t have cared less what I had to say about anything. She’s the light-colored horse in this picture:

About half way through the ride, we stopped on top of a hill and got into attack formation so the guides could take a few photos for us.

Notice my horse on the far left being a total brat and eating weeds like she was NOT supposed to!

That was our day! Definitely a good time. And just because it’s adorable, here’s a picture of Mike wearing his souvenir hat.

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After taking a day to relax and adjust, we spent Monday at Yellowstone. This was kind of an emotional trip for me because I worked at YNP for a few months 10 years ago with my sister. I had always wanted to go back, to revisit all the places I had accumulated so many memories. Unfortunately, my sister couldn’t make this trip, so visiting Yellowstone again was bittersweet. She and I really bonded that summer, and it changed our relationship, so revisiting it without her was not ideal.

Anyway, we drove the lower loop of the park, stopping for wildlife sightings and to see a few highlights. We saw a lot of elk and bison, and we even got to watch a buffalo cross the road right in front of us. They’re quite impressive animals! When I lived at YNP, I had many close encounters with them, and they’re kind of amazing.

Our first major stop was Old Faithful. Andrea and I spent about a month working here at the very end of our time at the park. We had such an amazing time at Canyon, where we spent most of our summer, and moving to Old Faithful kind of sucked. But the lodge looked exactly as I remembered it.

That’s where I worked!

And she’s off!

I love how he’s holding Scarlet’s diaper bag.

We ate lunch in the parking lot, then drove on. We made a couple small stops, but the next major one was my old home, Canyon Village. It’s so strange to stand in the same place you stood 10 years ago and think about how much has changed. Unfortunately, the visit was tainted by some miscommunication and some short tempers. Somehow the group got split, and we spent a lot of time waiting for each other.

Ever since we started planning this trip, I had a vision of standing at a certain lookout point and recreating a photo from when I worked there. But by the time we got to that specific point, Kelli had had enough. Apparently we took too long while she waited in the car, and when we got back, she made a remark and I went off on her. We had WORDS! So many words that eventually my dad had to cut us off because the profanity was inappropriate for the small ears in the car. Oops. I hated that my long-awaited visit to Canyon was tainted, but eventually we made up, as sisters do, and it was fine.

This is the photo that caused such a ruckus.

Breathtaking.

We spent some time in the Village, visiting the front desk where Andrea and I used to work and the dorms we used to live in (Mike and I even snuck inside!).

Oh Canyon, such fun we had together.

The front desk… looks exactly the same.

Our room is the one on the first floor right before that side door.

We finished the lower loop and went back to the house. The next day, Tuesday, Emily and Drew went up to Missoula for a couple nights, and almost everyone else went back to Yellowstone to do the upper loop. I was more than familiar with the park and had seen what I really came to see, so I stayed back with Kelli and Scarlet. I really wanted a chill day, time to read and nap and do a lot of nothing. I sent the camera with Mike though:

Mammoth Hot Springs

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