Long story short (believe me, it’s a long one), I won 2 free round-trip flights anywhere in the contiguous United States last year. We decided to go somewhere a good distance away to get the most out of our freebies:
We flew direct to Phoenix from Atlanta and arrived midday. We picked up our rental car and headed to the Hilton Squaw Peak Pointe Resort. They have a lazy river. It’s the only reason I picked them. We spent a nice relaxing afternoon by the pool, playing some miniature golf, and got ready for dinner.
We ate at the St. Francis. Guy Fieri has been there on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We figured we couldn’t go wrong. We didn’t.
Adam got a burger. I got a pig dip. It was a French dip with a lot of pork: pork loin, prosciutto, cheese. It was delicious.
The next morning we woke up early since we were still on Eastern time and spent a few hours at the pool. Then we showered and packed the car to drive up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
On the way, we saw lots of cacti, climbed up mountains, saw the beautiful Verde Valley
and detoured up 89A, the Red Rock Scenic Highway, to see Sedona
and Oak Creek Canyon.
We stopped in Sedona for lunch.
It was another 2 hours or so up to the Grand Canyon. We stopped in Williams, AZ to use the facilities and it looked like the small town from Cars. It was so cute. We got on Route 66 for our bathroom break. That was exciting.
The Grand Canyon was predictably indescribable. It was my second visit to the canyon and Adam’s first, but our reactions were the same. We were awestruck.
We stayed inside the park at Yavapai Lodge. Here’s the sunset over the canyon our first night.
We also saw a ton of elk. Tons of them. They were more common than squirrels. It was crazy.
For our second day at the canyon, we hiked 1.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail to the rest house and back.
Our elevation changed by 1200 feet. It took us about 2 hours in total but we were booking it. It was pretty easy on the way there. Hiking back up out of the canyon was a work out! It was a really interesting hike because you get to see the layers of rock change as you descend as well as the climate and vegetation.
It was a great experience. As a public service announcement, we each packed 2 big water bottles, 2 bags of trail mix, and Adam brought beef jerky. We were pretty well prepared for a 3 mile hike in mid-July.
Despite this, we had to stop a few times on the way up to catch our breaths and my bearings. It was hot, our altitude had changed significantly and we were truckin’ it uphill.
The park rangers say it’s supposed to take you twice as long to come back up. Well, it took us an hour to get down to the rest house and an hour and 10 minutes to get to the canyon rim. We’re bosses.
We decided not to go any farther down than the rest house because there wasn’t much shade remaining on the trail below us, hardly any water available, and we had to think of the increasing heat of the day and the increasing heat as you get lower in the canyon. We would’ve loved to go all the way to the bottom, but the park service strongly recommends hiking one way on the first day, camping by the river, and hiking back out the next day during the summer. It’s just too hot to do it all in one day.
That afternoon, after showers and rest, we drove to the east end of the South Rim and climbed the Desert Watchtower. From the top you can see the Painted Desert to the east and there’s a great view of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.
Our last night at the Grand Canyon, we ate at the historic El Tovar Hotel. It was yummy. I think Adam had filet mignon and I had lamb chops. Yum.
And our stay at the Canyon was capped off by this beauty:
Too bad it wasn’t arcing over the Canyon… It was still gorgeous.
After the Grand Canyon, we headed south and back to Sedona. We decided to hike up Cathedral Rock with no idea what we were in for.
It was an amazing hike – extremely strenuous as you are literally climbing up steep rocks.
Once you reach the top – the saddle of Cathedral Rock – you feel like you’ve conquered something. If you’re in relatively good shape, you can definitely do this hike. It’s tough, but very rewarding.
What a view.
the Century Plant
After our hike, we were able to check-in to our hotel early for a shower and a change of clothes. We had a late lunch at a local pizza place and hit up downtown Sedona for some shopping.
We got a Christmas ornament for our tree. It’s a tradition of ours to get ornaments from the places we’ve been and some gifts for family, particularly for my parents since they had Mason while we were gone.
Our final dinner was at the L’Auberge Resort Restaurant.
Image courtesy of www.gogobot.com
I wish I had our own pictures to share but it was too dark. Our table was on a platform over Oak Creek. It was an amazing end to a whirlwind of a trip. We got to sip wine and eat great food while we listened to the water run over the rocks. We chose to have 3 courses – you can choose a 3 or 4 course meal. Adam had the pork belly with compressed pineapple, the corn chowder with lobster, and the halibut. I had a salad with cranberries, goat cheese and candied pecans, the corn chowder with lobster, and scallops with grilled Brussels, corn, chanterelles, and pork belly. It was delicious.
I’ve been a little discouraged by the slow progress on our bathroom and the fast pace of life in general. It was great to get away, recharge, see our beautiful country and spend time with one another without any distractions, no cell phones (I left mine at home accidentally), to-do’s, and renovations.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – RumiRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This post may straddle the line of too much information, so if you don’t want to hear about my recent biopsy at the dermatologist, this is your warning to stop reading.
I share all of this in hopes that no one will take their seemingly good health for granted. I consider myself pretty darn healthy. I’m 25 years old. I’ve never had a major illness, surgery, and I don’t have any conditions such as diabetes or thyroid problems. I’ve never been overweight. I eat pretty well. I don’t consume too much caffeine. I have maybe 2 or 3 alcoholic drinks a week. I exercise 3-4 times a week. I don’t have horrible acne. And I apply SPF 15 to my face and neck every day. Now that you’ve read my medical history, you could assume that I’m a healthy young adult.
I do have a history of atypical moles, or dysplastic nevi, though. I had my first mole removed when I was 8 years old. What followed in the years after were regular biopsies that led to about 10 scars and a lot of emotional trauma. As a kid, I feared going to the dermatologist. I started resenting her as a person. The fact that she had absolutely no bedside manner didn’t win her any points with me. Almost every single one of my biopsies came back benign. I believed she was trying to make a buck and that’s why she kept removing things from me. There was one mole on my scalp when I was about 12 years old that came back atypical. They had to go back in, excise it, and get clean margins.
Despite that scare, I was fed up with the dermatologist. Frankly, I was embarrassed that I had to have 10 moles removed. I lied to some of my friends about a scar on my collarbone. I used the classic “burn from a curling iron” tale that people use for hickies. In reality, it was a scar from a mole biopsy. I inherited skin that instead of developing freckles from sun exposure, it develops small moles. They’re not big – thank goodness. They’re dark freckles that are less than a centimeter in diameter.
In January of 2011, I went to the dermatologist for the first time in about 10 years for a head to toe check-up. My mother noticed a mole on my scalp during all our wedding hoopla and was pressuring me to go. I knew she was right. I should go. Adam did some research and found a dermatologist we could both go to. My head to toe went well. She made a few notes and said all looked fine and there might be a few places we should keep an eye on.
In an effort to take better care of myself, I made sure to be vigilant about self skin exams and checked myself out about once a month. If something looked a little odd, I went to my first doctor: my husband, the pharmacist. I think I only did this twice and it was on moles that hadn’t changed. He told me they looked fine and I should make sure to have the dermatologist look at them at my next exam.
At the end of November, I was attempting one of those braids at my hairline when I noticed the mole on my scalp that my mother saw almost a year before. It was about a ½ inch back from my hairline above my left eye. I part my hair on the right, so I hardly ever see my scalp on the left side. Call it instinct, call it a gut feeling, call it divine intervention, I knew something was not right. Have you ever had that feeling when everything else pauses, you feel a punch in your gut, and you just know that something is wrong? I had that feeling standing in our bathroom looking in the mirror with a fistful of half-braided hair in my hand.
You see, I haven’t had this mole my whole life. It is so close to my hairline and I used to part my hair on the left that I know it developed from sun exposure. In a way, I’m lucky it was so close to my hairline or I wouldn’t have caught it. From the time that my mother saw it in the fall of 2010 to November 2011, it had grown. It had grown enough that I noticed it with my naked eye through my thick hair in our bathroom mirror. I asked Adam to look at it and from what he could tell; it displayed two of the ABCD rules of melanoma.
I called my dermatologist and asked for her first available appointment. I went on December 23rd and she went ahead and removed it to be safe. She said it didn’t look too concerning, but we should go ahead and take it off. Her Physician’s Assistant shaved it off without giving me any anesthesia. Yeah, I’m a bad arse. And I won’t lie. It hurt.
I got a phone call a week later. Good news: it wasn’t cancer. Bad news: it was very atypical. The nurse’s words, “The pathology report shows that the mole was very atypical. Actually, there were some cells that were particularly abnormal and we’d like for you to come back in and meet with our mole surgeon.”
Yikes. Thank God it wasn’t cancer, but it’s still very scary that it came back as a dysplastic nevi. I went one week later and met with the mole surgeon. I brought my mom with me this time. She was naturally worried and I knew she would ask him good questions. And let’s be honest, it’s always good to have mommy there when you feel nervous or uncomfortable. The surgeon told us that dysplastic nevi are rated on a scale of slightly atypical to severely atypical. All dysplastic nevi are pre-cancerous; they may never develop into cancer, but they are more likely to than other moles. My biopsied mole was moderately atypical, not severe and not slight, but in the middle. Because of that and my history of having previous dysplastic nevi, the surgeon excised it. He cut it out deeper and wider. I got internal and external stitches. They sent the second biopsy to the lab to make sure the diagnosis is the same as the initial pathology report and that there are clean margins on a microscopic level. Good news: it came back benign and margins are clean. I had a big bandage and a wrap around my head for a day. I was told no strenuous physical activity for a week – no running, no weights, no vacuuming, and no heavy lifting. Oh darn. Well, I was a little sad about no exercise. I do like to exercise, but at least I didn’t feel guilty for not doing it. I’ll tell you what; I did look forward to Adam doing a lot of the house cleaning.
The first few days were a little uncomfortable, but not too bad. I have a weird reaction to lidocaine. It makes me a little woozy and groggy. Once it wore off, I was still tired and my head started to hurt at the incision. I iced it, took Tylenol, and took it easy. The surgeon warned me that the swelling could travel down my forehead and give me a black eye. Luckily, I didn’t have that problem. I iced it like crazy the day of the procedure so I could avoid a black swollen eye. I pretty much carried on as usual after the first few days. I had to be very careful when washing my hair, but that’s about it.
Without staying on my soapbox too long, I share all of this because it is so important that we take care of ourselves. Sure, my mole wasn’t cancer. But it was a pre-cancerous lesion and because of my awareness I did not give that spot the chance of turning into something worse. Don’t be ignorant about your body. Don’t be stubborn if you don’t feel good or something isn’t as it should be. See a doctor. Check yourself out in the mirror more often. Look at your skin in the shower. Get your partner or a loved one to look at your back or your head. Ladies, give yourself breast exams every month. And if you get that gut feeling like I did, it’s usually right and you need to follow your instincts.
For more information on skin cancer prevention, visit these sites:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
• January – Rang in the New Year with Adam’s family in Florida
• February – I got a promotion at work
• March – Adam and I took a mini-trip to Savannah and started looking for a house
• April – Adam and I ran a 5K (my first) and we both finished under 30 minutes
• May – We went to a great Zac Brown Band concert with friends, traveled to Washington, DC to visit Adam’s twin brother, Adam got a promotion of sorts, and we went under contract on our house!
• July – went to a wedding, moved into our house, celebrated my 25th birthday and had about 20 friends over to our empty and box-ridden home, I went to Austin, TX for a conference where the highs were about 112 degrees every day. Ouch.
• August – went to another wedding and spent a weekend on Lake Burton with our friends
• September – had Adam’s brother and friend from high school stay with us, started some major yard work, and had a date night at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
• October – celebrated our 1 year anniversary in the Smokey Mountains. I went to Nashville with my sorority sisters, visited my brother while I was there and helped him propose to his fiancée. I started working from home 1 day per week, we kept doing lots of yard work
• November – went to Birmingham to help my formerly-pregnant-now-she’s-had-a-beautiful-baby-boy sorority sister get ready for her little baby. We got our gorgeous kitchen table and chairs from Adam’s parents, celebrated Thanksgiving and Adam & Ryan’s 28th birthdays with my family in Atlanta, kept going with home improvement projects like curtains and painting, and raked/blew approximately 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 leaves in the yard
• December – went to several office holiday parties, participated in 2 white elephant exchanges (1 with my book club and the other with my sorority sisters), Christmas shopping, went to Florida to spend Christmas with Adam’s family. While there, we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and got trampled on by muggles pretending to be wizards. Going on December 26th is a bad idea. Now we just have to go back. Celebrated a late Christmas with my family on New Year’s Eve.
Things We’re Looking Forward to in 2012:
• Various weddings all over the western hemisphere in North Carolina, Maryland, and Grand Cayman
• My sorority’s anniversary celebration this spring. It will be one giant reunion
• Our California trip. It’s the first real vacation we’re taking since our honeymoon. We’re beyond excited!
• Hopefully getting a puppy! GASP!
• New opportunities at both of our jobs
• Slowing down a bit with house-related projects – it gets exhausting
• Visiting Adam’s family in Florida and DC
• Having Adam’s family visit us in Atlanta
• Making progress on acquiring furniture for our house
That’s about it. Summing 2011 up like that shows me how busy we really were. While 2011 was very good to us, we’re hoping 2012 will be mellow. We’re ready for a slow-down. Anybody make any resolutions? I did. I made mine back in November though. That’s how badly I need to work on my potty mouth, eating healthier, and slowing down (I do too much. It’s a problem.).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
My fantastic husband threw me a 25th birthday party in our new backyard last weekend. Never mind that we only moved in two weeks before and the inside of the house looks like the worst kind of chaos you’ve ever seen. We still wanted to have our nearest and dearest over so we could break-in the backyard. And our friends aren’t the stuffy type that would turn their noses up at a bunch of cardboard boxes and bubble wrap in our living room. Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures of the party. I was too busy wearing my b-day tiara and having fun to snap photos.
We kept it pretty casual. Beverages were beer, sodas, water, and spiked lemonade. For food, we had grilled pork tenderloin, this amazing mac ‘n cheese from Bon Appetit, and … we also went and got a Bocce Ball set so we could have fun and GAMES. We know how to party! My parents also came for the shindig, providing much of the meal and the cake and the hands-on help that is necessary when you have 20 people over at the same time.
I love having casual get togethers with friends and family where you can visit for as long as you want, spread out, eat, drink, laugh, and there isn’t a bill at the end of the night. We are so blessed to have such great friends and family nearby. We know that there’s always someone to listen, help out with something, pick us up if we’re stranded, etc. Thanks, friends. Thanks for coming to my partay. Adam deserves all my hugs and kisses for such a special day. He’s pretty awesome. I’m glad you’re mine.
Oh yeah. Adam gave me this shiny, new toy for my 25th.
It’s sweet. And mommy and daddy gave me a sewing machine. This one to be exact.
And mommy and daddy-in-law gave me a very generous gift card to DSW. It will be used soon. Shoes are my weakness.
I’m sure I’ll let you know how the sewing goes. I’m excited to see what I can do with my snazzy machine! I’m hoping I can sew some panel curtains and throw pillow covers. If you’re nice, I may embroider a kitty on a tote bag for you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Have you ever taken a quiz in a magazine, filled out a job application, or played one of those silly icebreaker games where you’re prompted to think of a few words to describe yourself? Never have I described myself as athletic. It’s simply not true. If you’ve spent any amount of time with my dad then you’ve probably heard tales of my notorious lack of prowess in basketball, gymnastics, track and field, dance, and even swimming. Now I love my father, but I cannot comprehend why he enjoys telling my friends about the time I made my only basket of the season: a foul shot between periods when they let us make “catch-up” baskets additive to our team’s score. The way my dad tells it, I was ecstatic over my success. He doesn’t understand what I did at eight years old: athletic victories are very few and far between for me.
When I graduated college three years ago, I started exercising on a regular basis. I joined the local YMCA and got on the elliptical a couple of times a week. (The treadmill terrified me.) I realized that exercising was a new hobby I could commit to. It would give me something to do after work and while Adam was studying or in class. In the midst of wedding planning, I started exercising more often and with more intensity than before. I didn’t do it to lose weight. I hauled myself to the gym 4 or 5 times a week so I wouldn’t be up to my eyeballs in floral arrangements and invitations. The elliptical was still my equipment of choice, though Adam would run with me around my apartment complex every few weeks. Then here comes July; three months until matrimony. I was bored with my exercise routine and decided to tackle the treadmill. I ran two miles without a whole lot of trouble. It was a victory my eight year old self would be excited about.
I have stuck with running despite a history littered with “I quit’s” in the area of sports. Since July, I have continued to improve. So far, I can run over two miles in about twenty minutes. I like running because it isn’t a team sport. No one has to rely on me to make the winning shot and I don’t have to beat the other guy out there. It’s just me and the miles. Two and half miles may not seem like much to those athletic folks out there, but it is something I am proud of. I have decided to run a 5K in April that supports the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, something that hits close to home since I lost a grandmother to blood cancer. Training for a race is motivating, but training for this race is added incentive for me.
I couldn’t write this post without thinking of my college days and a girl my friends and I fondly dubbed “Running Girl”. Sporting a bucket hat, round glasses, and long dark hair, Running Girl would dash through the Caf with a to-go box in hand every day. Before you knew it, you’d spot her out the window running through the Quad. She ran everywhere she went: between classes, through the University Center, the mail room, the parking lot. I’m not sure if anyone ever caught her long enough to ask her what her hurry was. If anyone knows, I’m quite curious. The other night Adam called me Running Girl as I set out for the gym. Then he said, “I wonder what happened to her. Do you think she’s still running?” I sure hope so. Running just wouldn’t be the same for me if I knew she quit.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )