Category: vacation

Charlevoix lighthouse as seen from the water.
Charlevoix lighthouse as seen from the water.

Six Month Recap

You will have noticed that I haven’t blogged in a good long while (duh). I’m trying to get back into the habit. It’s harder than I thought it would be to just get started. I’m faced with the decision – just pick up from here or try to recap the last six months? Bill says he didn’t realize how much he counted on my role as family historian until I stopped blogging. I guess I might be sorry in the future that I let the last six months’ worth of happenings slide by without mention.

I also stopped writing at Beyond Megapixels and put the site on hiatus (the content and archives are still up, though). Until just a couple of months ago, I hadn’t picked up my camera since we were at the cabin in January. I’m finally getting back to photography for pleasure, but I really burned myself out on all the freelance stuff I did last year. So I’m just now coming back around to thinking about looking for some more freelance writing and photography assignments.

Yes, glaring signs of depression. I’m back on Wellbutrin and I’m working through things, and I’ve been feeling quite a bit better lately. Well, with the exception of some stuff that I’ll get into in a bit. As you (or at least long-time readers) can probably imagine, the destruction of our Maine plans really hit me hard. So it took me quite a while to work my brain back around to the realization that things, in general, are good. My life is blessed and I’m enjoying it. I love the new job (well, I’ve been in the position a year now) I have at AcronmyCo, and I got a promotion earlier in the year. It’s nice to be appreciated.

So. To get caught up, you’re getting bullets. Sorry, I know you hate that.

– Okay, let’s just get the heavy stuff out of the way first. A few months ago I went to the doctor because of a pain I was experiencing in the lower right side of my abdomen. Signs didn’t point to appendicitis, so I was advised to… ahem… “eat more fiber” and that was pretty much that. A month later I went back again. I still had the same pain, and her advice didn’t resolve the problem. So they took an x-ray, didn’t find anything wrong other than trapped gas (sorry, TMI), and I was sent on my merry way. Then during my annual physical a month later I mentioned that I was still experiencing the pain in my abdomen, and the doctor finally sat up and paid attention. An ultrasound was performed, and come to find out I have a baseball-sized cyst on my left ovary. On the opposite side of the area causing me pain. Which is a puzzler.

So, I was instructed to go to my OB-GYN for a consultation. They scheduled me for some blood work and a CT scan, and determined that the whole shebang needs to be removed. Cyst, ovary and all. It’s a complex cyst, which along with the size (10 cm) is a slight cause for concern. But the bloodwork came back absent of tumor markers, and they scheduled me with a regular surgeon and not an oncologist, so that’s good. So! That puppy is getting removed on August 20th, after which I get to enjoy a two-week convalescence.

I also had a mammogram during the course of my physical. They had an “inconclusive” result for my right breast, so I was sent to another lab for a deeper scan and an ultrasound. After a PAINFUL hour of squishing, pressing, and manipulating, the doctor reviewed the results. They found a small lump that was cause for some concern, so I get to have a biopsy on August 15th to check THAT shit out. I know they tend to be overly cautious about these things, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Still, what the fuck, body? Time for the 40,000-mile tune-up? (You know, because I turned 40 in July. Heh.)

So! Other than the bullshit of having to go through surgery, and the minor EEEEK! going on in the back of my mind, I’m confident that everything will be fine. It’s just… man. You know?

– Robert and his fiancee Jenna got married a few weeks ago, and we headed out to Cheyenne for the wedding. They asked me to be their photographer, which was a great opportunity for me to keep my camera in my hands. We were really excited about seeing our Wyoming family, and seeing Robert – especially since we haven’t seen each other face-to-face in almost two years. So, I have a new daughter-in-law and a new granddaughter! Robert’s new in-laws are lovely, lovely people and made us feel like we’ve all been a family for years.

As usual, we had a blast traveling with Amanda. She’s seriously one of our favorite people, in addition to being our daughter. We ate too much and may have possibly caused some consternation for the good people of Domino’s during one late-night pizza delivery order (I’ll only show the video to a select few). We had a lovely cook-out at Robert’s new in-law’s house and enjoyed the effects of the storm that rolled in.

Wyoming Rainbow

We enjoyed another cookout with Bill’s side of the family, though part of that visit was spent in the basement when the tornado sirens went off. I was all, “HOLY SHIT.” Everybody else was all “Eh, happens all the time.” Meanwhile, Bill was wandering around outside LOOKING FOR THE TORNADO.

Anyway. Wedding photos are here. Here’s on of my favorites:


– Bill and I went to Michigan back in June for Aaron and Michelle’s wedding – he was a groomsman and I was the matron of honor. That whole wedding weekend was AWESOME and was the reason I finally started taking pictures again. We hung out in the lakeside village of Charlevoix and their wedding was held at Castle Farms which OH MY GOD. WHAT a place to get married. We stayed together with over twenty people in a rented house within walking distance of the village. We played Cards Against Humanity every night, and frequented the Bridge Street Taproom so often that we became regulars in the short time we stayed there. The ceremony and reception were absolutely stunning – beautiful in all its details and so very much fun. It was truly depressing to have the party come to an end, and Bill and I VERY MUCH didn’t want to go back to Arizona when it was time to leave.

All of the photos that I took are here, and here are a few of my favorites from various sources (alt text indicates the photographer):

But oh... those summer nights!

By Darrell Christie Photographyt

Photo by Ray Weidman

Photo by Ray Weidman

– I turned 40 on July 20th. We spent the day at Aaron and Michelle’s, swimming and eating cake. I purchased tickets to see Jersey Boys (for the third time), and the show was last night. AWESOME, as usual. Umm… so, yeah. That’s all I have to say about turning 40. Huff.

– Michelle, Amanda, Liz (Aaron’s mom) and I had an overnighter at the Junipine Resort in Sedona in May, for a girls-getaway-slash-bachelorette party prior to Michelle and Aaron’s wedding. Our cabin overlooked Oak Creek, and it was so lovely and peaceful and quiet. I loved being able to fall asleep listening to the creek. We went on a booze-and-munchie procurement run, rocked out to a playlist with multiple personality disorder, ordered room service and teased the poor delivery boy, and caused low levels of mayhem. The trip up was marred by a fender-bender on the highway (Michelle was driving, HI STRESS NICE TO SEE YOU), but nobody was hurt and the car was still drive-able, so we didn’t let it slow us down. Then on the way BACK we discovered a branch of Vom Fass hidden in a corner of Tlaquepaque which we were TOTALLY geeked about. I thought the closest store was in Jackson Hole. So, yeah. Stocked the hell up on Sour Cherry Vodka, various whiskies and rum.

– We traded the Dodge Ram in for a Ford Mustang GT on Mother’s Day. No need for a 4×4 truck when we’re not moving to Maine and we already have a Jeep. It’s a FUN car, and it’s been so long since we HAD a car that the novelty still hasn’t worn off. Weird to have to sit down into a vehicle, rather than climb up into it.

– My niece Sable (my sister’s oldest, and only daughter) came out for a visit in late May. She lives in Maine but was on a US tour, of sorts. She models and had gigs in Boston, New York, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, and California. She stayed with us for almost a week, introduced me to Vegan food that wasn’t disgusting, and just kind of chilled. On the last day of her visit she and I drove up to Sedona. We had a prolonged lunch, shopped a bit, and then I dropped her off with a friend of hers that happened to live in the area. They road-tripped it to California the next day. It was great to catch up with her – we haven’t had the occasion to just spend one-on-one time together, since I moved away from Maine when she was just a toddler. SMART kid, and having the time of her life.

– Bill, Aaron, Michelle and I got dressed up all fancy for no particular reason and had dinner at House of Tricks in early March (food decent, service AWFUL), followed by drinks and dessert at Rula Bula.


– Bill and I had a Valentine’s Day to remember. We both decided to really go all-out for each other. Bill spoiled me by having flowers delivered to me at work the day before Valentine’s, then a huge box of gourmet chocolate covered strawberries delivered on Valentine’s day. I re-created our “pizza on the roof” date (one of the first dates Bill and I had was when we sat out on the roof of my house and shared a pizza – I thought I’d written about that before but I can’t find an entry on it). I made him stay downstairs while I set the scene – a blanket, a few pillows, a dozen candles, a pizza, a bowl filled with ice and beer, a couple of snifters of whiskey, and my iPad with a new “Valentine’s Day 2014” playlist. When it was almost dark outside I lit the candles, then lead Bill upstairs. I’d taken the screen off of the window in the guest bedroom and he was mighty confused when I told him to go out the window. Then he saw what I did… and I’ll just say that it was a great surprise and a rousing success. It was a beautiful night and a wonderful memory.

– In early January we continued the tradition of renting a cabin in Flagstaff during/around the holidays. Aaron and Michelle joined us for a couple of nights, and Amanda stayed a couple of nights as well. It was a repeat of the previous visit with a lot of lounging in front of the fire, playing inappropriate card games (Cards Against Humanity in this case), eating and imbibing.

Amanda is the Dog Whisperer:


Okay! I think that pretty much catches us up. Everything else that happened is mostly minutia – work, being grown-ups, hanging out with friends and family, playing with the pups. Bill and I head to Indy next week for our annual MotoGP trip which we’re REALLY looking forward to. Long time readers will recall the dude we always meet there – though he’s put his online persona on hiatus and doesn’t use his real name on the ‘net. Didn’t get to see him last hear since we had to cancel the Indy trip after the whole Maine Moving Debacle, so we’re doubly excited this year.

Oh! And I heard from my ex-husband last week – a voicemail, thankfully, left on my work phone while I was at lunch. First time in ten years. Psycho nutjob now accuses me of stealing his identity and opening up/racking up credit cards in his name. THE FUCK? Why am I still on his radar, and why does he automatically think of ME when something goes askew in his life? Apparently I’m hard to forget.

Further details forthcoming as the situation unfolds. Hopefully, that voicemail is the beginning, middle and end of it.

Leave me comments! How are YOU?

A very relaxed Christmas

This past Christmas was the best one in recent memory. The chalet we rented in Flagstaff was decorated for the holidays, complete with a Christmas tree. I was more thrilled about this than I probably should have been, seeing as I’m an adult and all. But it has been so long since we’ve decorated for the holidays… I think the last time we had a tree was 2007. To be honest, I haven’t really missed having a tree. I’m not a fan of hauling out the decorations, being the ONLY ONE who decorates, having to keep the tree watered, keeping the pets away from the ornaments, living in fear of finding tinsel in the catbox, vacuuming needles, etc. etc. ad nausium. We just put the presents on a table and called it a done deal. This year, though, it was a lovely surprise to walk into our rental and see all of the decorations. It wasn’t overdone, just the right amount of festive touches that reminded us of the holiday without being overbearing or in our way.

We had a good giggle when Bailey jumped out of the Jeep and into the snow. She spread her legs out wide, dug her nails in, and sniffed for a good long moment before she started walking around. After that we had a hard time keeping her OUT of the snow. She LOVED it. The wraparound deck came in handy – we could let her (and Porsche) go out and race around without having to worry about her wandering off. She played in the snow, barked at the folks walking their dogs (even in the midst of the snowstorm… one lady walked a herd of five dogs, twice a day, regardless of the weather conditions), and went NUTS over the squirrels. BONKERS. COMPLETELY APESHIT.

We pretty much spent all four days in our pajamas. Our friends Aaron and Michelle, and Amanda and her dog Porsche, came up on the 23rd and spent the night. We stayed up late and ate way to much and drank even more, then played a hilariously inappropriate board game called Would You Rather? – The Twisted Sick and Wrong Version. The normal version would have been much too tame for our group, after all. Some of the questions were just AWFUL, but the hilarity escalated as the booze depleted. We feasted on Espo’s tamales, chili, Enchilada soup, berry pie, and a craptastic amount of junk food. We listened to music and ignored the television, played with the dogs and fed them far too many treats (Bailey is going to have to be treated for high cholesterol, I fear). The menfolk tended the fire, and I took too many macro pictures of ornaments.

Aaron, Michelle and Amanda all departed mid-afternoon on the 24th, just as a snowstorm started to roll in. Bill made a nest in front of the fireplace, and we snuggled and sipped whiskey and watched the snow fall. IT WAS SO FLIPPIN’ ROMANITCAL, YOU GUYS. It was wonderful to experience my first white Christmas since leaving Maine, and Bill’s first white Christmas ever. We just kept looking at each other and sighing, “Oh man, this is soooo niiiice.”

We left just briefly on Christmas Day to do a bit of exploring, and found the heads of a couple of trails that we want to explore this spring. Then it was back to the chalet, back in our jammies, and I read a book while Bill watched football. We mocked the people struggling to drive up the hill in front of the chalet, and generally felt superior in our Jeep-ness. The driveway hadn’t even been plowed out before our arrival, but Bill just smashed the Jeep into the snowbank until he gained access. YEAH, JEEP.

We had some of my epic chicken noodle soup and generally grazed on all of the other leftovers. We were more relaxed than either one of us could remember being in a very long time.

We were sorry to leave on the 26th, but we drove back home feeling quite a bit better prepared to deal with the return to “real life”. We’re definitely doing this again next Christmas. The rest of the photo set is here, if you’re interested.

Bill went back to work on Thursday, and I spent Thursday and Friday doing homework. I cooked a bunch last weekend, and Aaron and Michelle came back over on New Year’s Eve to party and spend the night. We were briefly visited by Amanda and her boyfriend, and our next door neighbor, and just enjoyed a mellow night listening to music and watching Phil Collins: Finally – The First Farewell Tour. We made an attempt at playing another round of Would You Rather, but gave up when we were too buzzed and giggly to read the cards. We slept in on New Year’s Day, then sat around eating donuts and coffee cake and mocking the parades on TV. Aaron and Michelle left at around noon, Bill’s sister Karen stopped by for a brief visit, and after she left I went back to bed for another three hours.

And here we are today, back to reality. I love having a couple of weeks off around the holidays, but man does it make it tough to come back after spending all of that time in stretchy pants.

Family Vacationing


We have taken what will most likely be the last vacation that Bill, Robert, Amanda and I will take together as a family. Unless they buy us a cruise or something when we retire.

It’s not that we didn’t have fun with them, back in July when we went to Wyoming, because we did. But more and more, Bill and I are discovering how much ALIKE he and I are when it comes to travel, and how little patience we have with anyone outside of our rhythm. The time we like to get going in the morning. The pace we like to set. The stuff we like to do. The plans we like to make. The music we like to listen to in the car. The food we like to eat. Those things that don’t necessarily jive with three young adults (Amanda’s boyfriend was with us too, remember).

See also: Each took turns bringing TEH DRAMAZ at one point or another during the trip. Which left us fearing that the twenties are the new teens.

In addendum: It still takes Amanda an UNGODLY amount of time to get ready for anything.

And finally: It’s really hard to have a romantical moment with my husband when we’re not alone. EVER. NOT FOR A SECOND.

So. There’s that. Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell ya more.

Some notes on our trip, in no particular order:


It was fantastic, as always, to see the Laramie/Cheyenne family. The first night we were there, Peggy and Billo had the whole family over so everybody could see us and vice-versa. We all love Laramie, but Robert loved it so much that he’s moving there in September. He transferred Guard stuff over to Cheyenne and has a couple of potential jobs lined up already.

The day of my birthday we went for a long drive through the Snowy Range and saw a whole bunch of moose. They grow ’em big in Wyoming.


The drive from Laramie to Jackson is HOLY HELL boring. But the first glimpse of the Tetons as you cross over the pass is totally worth it.

If you have the opportunity to see Grand Teton National Park from the back of a motorcycle, I highly recommend you do so.

daddypandabike robertbike

Buy whiskey and liquors and spices (oh my!) from Vom Fass in downtown Jackson. There’s one in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Missouri and California too. They let you taste stuff. Their sour cherry vodka is HEAVEN. We made our selections (Sour Cherry Vodka, American Whiskey, Irish Whiskey, and some dry rub spices) and they timed the shipment so that it arrived the day after we got home.


The next time we go we’re staying at the Jackson Lake Lodge. We only went into downtown Jackson once, so we’d rather be more proximate to the parks than the tourist traps. Plus I hear tell that guests saw a bear kill an elk the week we were there, right from the patio overlooking the marshes, lake and mountain. Way cool. Also, ew. But cool. But ew.


There was a Hobbit Hole/Narnia Door in the closet of our hotel room in Teton Village. It was way creepy. The kids thoroughly explored it. Better them than me.

There was a thunderstorm every afternoon of our entire trip, which we loved. Even when Robert and Bill got caught out in one on the motorcycles. The storms never interfered with our plans and made everything feel and smell nice and fresh and clean. From 4:30 until about 6:30 we could anticipate a quick downpour followed by clear skies and even a double rainbow in Cody.


Bill bought me three necklaces directly, and one necklace indirectly, for my birthday. The boys were just talking about the waitresses at the Silver Dollar, so Amanda and I left for a bit and ended up visiting a little curio shop in Cody. MAN was the young lady behind the counter a good salesperson, and I bought a pretty little bangley necklace for myself. Also, kaleidoscopes have come an incredibly long way since my childhood. If you find your way to All That Glitters, check ’em out (it helps if you have a teeeensy bit of a buzz). They’re a lot like these. If they didn’t cost upwards of $300 Amanda would have come away with one.

Old Faithful still is. And the smell of sulfur has permeated my dreams. Not in a good way. (IS there a good way?)


This is our second trip to the area, and I stand by my assessment that I like Grand Teton National Park better than Yellowstone. Not that Yellowstone wasn’t awesome, but it’s so vast that there is a LOT of driving in between seeing cool stuff. In GTNP you can drive the whole thing from end to end in an afternoon, explore bits at your leisure, and still be within an hour of getting back to the hotel.

By the time we were done, we were sick of seeing moose, antelope, elk and bison. They were that prevalent. We didn’t get to see a bear (close, a couple of times, but by the time we’d get there they’d moved on) or any wolves.

We got stuck in bison-induced traffic stoppages several times during our travels through Yellowstone. Bill amused himself by rolling down the windows and… mooing? lowing? growling? …at the male bison, who would voice their deep-bellied complaints any time their womenfolk would meander off. Bill says the males were keeping them in line, but I observed that the were always following BEHIND the cows and complaining, while the cows went on placidly grazing and rolling their eyes. At any rate, a whole herd would come up to the road, then one massive bison would step across the pavement and stop in the middle of the road, blocking traffic both ways. Once all of the cars stopped, the rest of the herd would waltz across while the first bison stood in place, then once everyone had crossed he’d cross the rest of the way over. It was pretty cool. Much of the time they were close enough to the cars to touch, and we watched one asshat get out of his vehicle and walk closer to one of the bulls to get what I presume was a photo-op taken from a friend from the safety of their car. We thought it was going to be a YouTube moment, but the guy wised up and stopped from about 50 feet away. I admit I was a little disappointed.


Avoid by all possible means the bathroom at the Silver Dollar Bar & Grill in Cody, Wyoming. Particularly, I’m told, the men’s bathroom.

The 3rd Street Bar in Laramie is pretty darned awesome, though. And clean. And serves up a mean Liquid Marijuana.


Cheyenne Frontier Days wasn’t really worth the hassle of parking a million miles away, walking to the grounds, dealing with a humongous crowd, and sweating in the 90+ degree weather. We didn’t have tickets for any of the rodeo events (which cost a pretty-ish penny) so we just perused the arts and crafts, bought some cowboy hats, and moved along (see the first picture of this entry).

The STARS. You guys. THE STARS. I got a kink in my neck from staring upward so much.


There is a field full of matching black Percherons at the entrance to Teton Village. They give hay rides in the summer and sleigh rides in the winter. They were EASILY 18 hands high, probably more. They were completely and totally AWESOME. Consider, if you will, the amount of trust that the establishment gives to these horses that they know they will tolerate tourists petting them, posing with them, feeding them (I saw one chick do it with a CLOSED HAND over an apple, mind you, and the dear was a complete gentlemen when he nibbled the snack away from her), hooting and hollering around them (WHY don’t parents control their kids around animals???), with nary a bad attitude to be seen. I ADORED those horses. Even when they slobbered on me.


So, those are the highlights! I’m continuing to add to the Wyoming set on Flickr if you’d like to peruse the photos.

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