2011.

Apologies for the crazy long post after writing nothing at all for-ev-er. I guess I’m making up for lost time. Feel free to just browse for the photos. =)

We can buy the expensive milk. I keep using this as my leaping off point because it seems like such a silly little thing. But it’s not. It means worlds and words and so many blessings. In a time of such turmoil for so many people, 2011 has been a wonderful year. It makes me feel guilty, as we watched our neighbor of 3.5 years, our friend and confidant, hold her head high and tell us that yes, she has to return our emergency house key because she is being foreclosed on – and won’t be here through the month. What can anyone say to that? Nothing. Only appreciate – so very much – what we have. We buy the expensive milk. That’s huge.

December alone has been a year of memories in itself, and every month preceding has only tried to outdo the one that came before. If there’s one thing we know how to do, we know how to live. and 2011 has been a year of living.

The first weeks of January are always recovery. Some dieting, lots of extra exercise, but still managing to find time to finish off the last of the pumpkin pie. The first started out with a bang – celebrating the new year in Big Bear with people who have turned into our very nearest and dearest. This year was extra special because not all of us were drinking – our group of friends has moved into the next stage of life – making new life. (And now I have the cutest niece in the world, but we’ll get to that later.) We bought a new car in mid January, a big SUV that we then had to convince everyone that no, it did NOT come with a baby seat. We bought it for memories to come, for accessibility and ease of use, and so we can go places that we couldn’t go before. (And in that sense, in memories, it’s paid for itself tenfold.) The end of January is always celebration for the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met – my mom. This year was extra special, her 60th birthday. My dad is a planner extraordinaire, and managed to get almost all the family together in San Francisco for a surprise trip. I’ll never forget walking into that Starbucks in Fisherman’s Wharf and seeing her face. A dozen of her loved ones, appearing out of thin air. It was fabulous.

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February is a month for love. We managed to make it up to big bear a second time this month, none of us were ok with letting all that good snow go to waste. Especially the boys, who built an igloo (I’ll say that again for impact – built. an. IGLOO.) and then tried to sleep inside. I finally pulled N out around 3am, unreasonably terrified he was going to freeze to death. Valentines day was much warmer, and, ignoring our multi year tradition of a rental movie and take out thai food, we went to the Inn of the Seventh Ray, for their special Valentines dinner. It was a wonderful night, but the real celebration was still to come. The end of February was spent in Palm Springs, celebrating our 1 year anniversary. We ate incredible food, took the tram up to Mt. San Jacinto and played in the snow, and generally had a lovely time.

In March we saw Avenue Q, which I had seen previously in London, and was absolutely dying for someone else to be in on the hilarity of what the internet is REALLY for. We loved it.

April was mostly quiet, spent with friends and loved ones. A weekend in vegas for a canyoneering trip that didn’t quite happen, a small concert with a new friend, and a much larger concert where I got to relive the glory days of high school and rock out to Slayer. Ironically, I also ran into an old high school friend who tried to take me to a Slayer show way back when, and I never got to go. In a way, we finally got our rock on together. This show was really meant for N though, and he had an amazing time with the Big 4 – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath, and Anthrax. An anniversary gift for my love.

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Girls girls girls for May. L and I drove up to San Francisco for another friend’s bacherlorette party, which turned out to be one of the most comedy of errors type weekend I’ve ever had. Between dirty cab drivers, getting locked IN the house, and partying it up the Castro district, it was something I really can’t talk much about except to say it was memorable. E’s birthday was the following weekend, in which we did a day full of baby friendly non toxic manicures, hair straightening, and super yummy peruvian food. After that? Her baby shower. Another day full of such love and high emotions – I am constantly reminded how very lucky I am to have these ladies in my life. I am so blessed. May ended with N and I gutting and rebuilding our bathroom, with the huge help (read as: they mostly did it) of my parents, who also installed the amazing beautiful headboard that my father built for us. Complete with mood lighting.

That brings us to June. Keep your belts on folks, this is where things start getting exciting. Zion 2011 happened in early June. Pine Creek, Water Canyon, and Keyhole were all on the list, and were all sorts of amazing. I think Water Canyon might be my new favorite – even though it did have a 140 foot drop. That’s a new PR for me. There’s something about being out there, in these places that so few people really get to see – it’s pure magic. The adrenaline helps with that magical feeling too, I’m sure. We even got lost and ended up in one of the last polygamist towns in Utah – a whole different kind of magic there. Children of the corn, anyone? And speaking of children… my childhood friend, my brother, my lego playing pal got married in June. His wedding was intimate and beautiful, and I hope the best for him and his new family. His wife was pregnant, but not as pregnant as E, who had her baby in June as well. Who truly is a little bit of perfection. (She’s 6 months now, and just as breathtakingly amazing as she was on day 1.)

July 4 was spent in Hawthorne, where fireworks are legal and drinking encouraged. We had fun setting off a few sparklers and hoping no cars exploded. I took that week off work since it was a 3 day week and one of the perks of my job is that I get tons of vacation. We spent the latter half of the week in Big Bear, N “worked from home” and I relaxed in the mountains. The next weekend we went back to Vegas, this time for B’s birthday. The boys got to drive exotic cars around a race track, something that they were extremely excited about, and L gets wife of the year award for putting together. July also included sailing lessons, family breakfasts, and girls nights galore.

August is the month of birthdays. Mine, N’s my dad’s, my brother in law, my niece, it goes on and on. There were two in particular this year that were big though. My dad turned 70, and N turned 30. But first was a bridal shower for the Castro district cant-mention-that-weekend friend. And then was my birthday. Which started out with me knowing absolutely nothing, and then realizing that V was IN THE HOUSE at 8am, and the first thing out of my mouth was obviously, “OH MY GOD I’M SO SORRY I PEED WITH THE DOOR OPEN!” (We’re true sisters now.) N had arranged a surprise gathering with fresh breakfast and then a trip to the desert for horseback riding – where L and B showed up from behind some cacti as well! I got to really open up my pony and ride too – galloping through the tumbleweeds. It was fantastic and I couldn’t walk for 3 days. The mark of a good birthday. As soon as I could walk though, we went on a… big…. walk. With packs. and Tents. and Canyoneering Gear. and I cried. Ok, so backpacking possibly isn’t for me. We backpacked/canyoneered Lytle Creek the next weekend and it was an experience. I’m glossing over this on purpose. The next weekend was the big one. Dad’s birthday. So naturally, I used it as an excuse to disguise N’s surprise birthday trip. (Dad was proud.) We met L and B at the ferry to Catalina and N’s face lit up. Little did he know, he still knew nothing. We went to Two Harbors, rented kayaks, and kayaked to our camp ground. All of this being a surprise, N was on cloud nine. Someone even spelled out “Happy Birthday” in the rocks in our campground, but I still don’t know where it came from. Little things. We then kayaked back, took a bus to Avalon, and went to dinner… where N’s family and a few more friends (some from as far as Oklahoma) were waiting to surprise. It was perfect, and only got better when I pulled out two birthday cards – one for N and one for dad – both of which had been so soaked to the bone that they nearly fell apart in the receivers’ hands. A wonderful night, and a wonderful weekend. He even just mentioned this to me, saying it was the most memorable birthday ever. I’m glad, since that was the idea all along. The next week he bought himself a new bike, and we had more family gatherings at my parents’ house with my sister and her kids from Michigan. We went to a baby shower for the lego childhood friend, and spent time with loved ones. August is always an insane month, and this year was no exception.

September started out camping near Camp Nelson. N went up a few days early after quitting his job, and forgot the tent. I laughed rather hard at this. V and I drove up closer to the weekend to join, and so did his dad and his other sister and her family. (I brought the tent.) It was a wonderful family camping weekend. We came back and N started his new job just after Labor Day — which he is still very happy working. The end of September we celebrated the marriage of Castro district friend, and brought fall into season with more boughts of love.

October was L’s birthday, and we did a crazy scavenger hunt thing in the bowels of Los Angeles. It was a lot more fun than I thought it’d be. We went back to the cabin, went bike riding on Pine Knot trail, and celebrated Halloween in style at a friend’s party and Knotts Scary Farm. September and October are the nice lull between the storms and a good time to catch up and breathe.

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November was Supercloud canyon, my first snowy canyon. It was fantastic, despite the fresh bear tracks. Luckily he was headed up the mountain, while we were headed down. Thanksgiving with my family always proves to be entertaining, and this year my favorite moment came from my papa. Who looked me directly in the eye, took me by the shoulder, and said, “Do you remember that promise you made me about no babies before a ring?” I said yes. He said very seriously “It’s expired.” I laughed, and he said “Why are you laughing? I’m serious.” I love him. Luckily there was a baby there to distract, who was almost 3 months old and cute as a button. Lego friend’s baby. Who is pretty much a clone of him. It’s a little crazy looking into her eyes and seeing my childhood friend. More than crazy. Incredible.

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Which brings us all the way around, back to December. December, which was more family weekends, dinners in Irvine with N’s family, more girls nights and present exchanges, holiday parties, and seeing old high school friends as they come through our little airport town. Christmas up north, another new baby. Holding a nearly-2-day-old is an otherworldly experience. N’s family is wonderful, and even though V and I both botched our only baking requirements, we had a wonderful Christmas. N and I took advantage of being up north and drove up to Calistoga, to a wonderful little bed and breakfast that I want to go to every year until I’m old and grey.

I know I keep saying this, but I am so thankful for my friends and family. New and Old. And ones who I might still think of as new but really are now, Old. So incredible. It’s been a wonderful, amazing, exhilarating year. I cannot imagine what next year will bring. But for now, I’m going to look forward to tonight, with my friends, my new niece, and celebration of all of us, all of our memories and experiences and new ones to come, because everything is honestly, perfect. And we can buy the expensive milk.

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