Our next chapter

Well, I have been missing for the last month or so because we have finally moved from Oklahoma to New Jersey. Our trip to New Jersey is one that I won’t forget, the details of that will be saved for another post, but I will say that it was a great ending of a chapter for us. The next chapter seems like a big one, one where both of us will both hold adult jobs, take on a new city, state, and coast together, and start to experience new things and different places that the world has to offer.

In the last three years that we have spent together, we have had opportunities to learn more about one another, grow, and experience things together and apart. We have lived in 3 states, 3 cities, celebrated 2 graduations, pinned on some shiny pilot wings, and moved all the way across the country. If you asked me three years ago where I would be now, I could not have imagined that this is where life would have brought me. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have always said I would never live in New Jersey, but in this next chapter that is where we begin.

Just this week I accepted a job at a company as a Documentation Specialist. I am excited but anxious, to say the least. The project that I am being brought on for is a large task. In my own personal belief it would be completed by a team of technical writers anywhere else, however, the company I was recently hired by has not employed or utilized a technical writer before and they are going into this with little knowledge about the process, and how large this project truly is. So, I am going to make the best of this and gain as much experience as I can.

While I have just accepted a job, Jack has moved on to his next phase of training and is that much closer to getting into the cockpit of the KC-10 and beginning his exciting career. He is settling in and comes home daily with a new fun fact to share. With all that he has taught me this year, I think that I could make a great Air Force Pilot.

Since we have moved we are trying to expand our friendship group as we settle in. The hard part about this military life has to be the goodbyes to friends old and new. I am looking forward to visiting all the beautiful places that our friends end up in the future. That being said, Jack has had it made since leaving the Academy. At one point it was an ongoing joke that the boys wouldn’t end up together and of course, Enid was home to the group of five boys Jack considered his family away from home. Therefore, the last seven years have been spent with the same boys and we are now having to spread our wings and meet other people.

As we go into our fourth year together there are so many things I am anticipating, the new adventures we will get to take on this side of the country, spending time with our families, making and reuniting with friends and people from our new home, and continuing to learn and grow together and apart. I know that for the next several months Jack will be home every night, but in the near future, he could be thousands of miles away helping defend our freedom. I look forward to this next chapter and welcome it with open arms. It will have highs and lows that we will tackle and overcome together. So, here’s to us and the next chapter.

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Another year has passed

I feel like it was just yesterday that I raced you into Target from the car and laughed in your face because I was finally fast enough to beat you. You had a leg up on me until about age 13. Then, I could no longer blame a hole in the lawn, our lightening fast dog, Mika, or my rapidly growing feet for tripping me during the last steps of our races. Although, I would go back in a second to any of those tragic races where you would scoop me from the ground with scraped knees and tears in my eyes.

From the day you joined mom in heaven, I have learned to mend my own scrapes and bruises, and learned to dry my own tears, or laugh through them. But, sometimes I still think that having protector there would make life simpler. Bailey has stepped up and become one of the greatest young men, which is terribly hard for me to admit. He is my best friend still, and you would be proud to know we have outgrown our phase of bickering about what show to watch, fighting for the front seat, and wrestling over the last pair of clean soccer socks.

But, I think that without you, we have also learned to be distant from those we love, we have learned to bury feelings deeper, and learned to hold on to each other a little tighter. We have created our own language, one where we can pick up the phone and talk about anything in the world for hours on end and not mention what we are feeling, but the other knows. It is incredible because we always were told that we would grow up to be best friends, little did we know that there was no way around that.

I know that you are always looking over us, and shining your light as a guide to show us what is meant to be. Losing you was the most devastating part of my childhood, and without you, I learned to look to the Lord for solace. The Bible says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). And in my time of loss, I was comforted not only by God but by our family and friends as well. I am beyond blessed to have them, but I would give up anything to have you back, for a day, or month, or a year longer.

No one Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas…

Well as most people know our new home will be in New Jersey at McGuire Air Force Base, and Jack will be flying the KC-10 Extender. I don’t think that we could be more excited to get back to the East Coast. It was always in the plan for later in life, little did we know that our plans would change and we would be headed East so soon.

In the past two days, we have had a realization that we are headed back to things that we know and love. We will be close to home, Jack will be about an hour from home, and I will be about 3.5. This is a blessing to us. It means we will be able to spend with our families whenever there is a free minute, and it means that we have our support systems close. However, we both have heard that Bruno is what our families are most excited about. He is one spoiled dog. Speaking of him, he will have endless love, dogs to play with, lakes and oceans to swim in, and many adventures waiting for his little paws.

From what we have heard, we will be out of Oklahoma rather quickly. Jack anticipates that a couple of weeks after getting those new, shiny wings we will be on our way home. We are in the process of searching for housing all over the state of New Jersey. This all depends on jobs and the area. My main concerns are a yard for our energetic pup, a nice area so when Jack is away I am safe, and somewhere that it is easy for us to both get to work.

That being said, I am still on the search for a technical writing job. There are several in Philadelphia that have piqued my interest, and once Jack has orders, I will be applying for positions. I also think that with all the Universities in the tri-state area I could find a job on a campus. Overall, I am so thankful that I will have so many options coming from a place where I had very few.

Lastly, we will begin packing in the next week, or so, this means dividing up possessions with our other housemates, and figuring out exactly what we need for those couple weeks before we have a home.

I am so excited to see how Jack fits in with his new squadron. I know that this is going to be a great ride for us. His plane is incredible and as they say in the refueler world… No one Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas. On to the next adventure with my boys, our families, and a new plane.

Home is where…?

Most people have a set home. I like to think that home is where my family resides. But, I also like to think home is where my heart is most happy, relaxed, and safe. Recently, I applied for a job, and it asked for my addresses for the past ten years. It did not take long for me to realize that I have lived in SEVEN places in those ten short years. Some of these locations were home by choice; some were not. Each of these “homes” is located in a different part of the US. I have lived in three time zones, three states, and four cities in these short ten years. This number will only increase as time goes on seeing as the Air Force now dictates where we spend our lives.

I also realized that my current residence could only be home until the end of March meaning I will only have lived here for 3.5 months. Which is by far the shortest period I have lived somewhere.

This is Jack, and I’s first time living together. He doesn’t like the word home because we will only be living in places for such short periods. He thinks of home as a place that will always be ours, somewhere we can return to after time away, a place that holds memories, and our belongings. The funny part about this house is that it is all his belongings. All my stuff is all stored in tubs in storage for the time being. I am crossing my fingers and toes in hopes that I will get to see and touch all of my possessions come August (say a prayer).

Luckily, I have come to realize one thing. I am great at packing and organizing this trait is one of my best and worst. I can have a house packed in a little over a week. In my life PACKED means sorted, organized, packed, labeled, and ready to go in that short period. I have to say that Rubbermaid tubs are my savior. They last longer than cardboard boxes, they are durable which prevents from damaged boxes and possessions, and they are reusable (Plus clothing doesn’t get that cardboard smell). Reusable for many is a perk. For military purposes, it is just as important, especially with moves coming every 3-5 years depending on orders. Unfortunately, we still have some belongings to organize.

I have enjoyed living all over our beautiful country. It has not only allowed me to experience different ways of life, and new people and places. Living in different locations has given me the chance to travel and experience all that the US has to offer. I am hoping to end up somewhere that allows me to continue traveling and wandering the world. Included are some of my favorite things about my past homes.

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Christmas in NY

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Home Sweet Colorado

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Home Sweet Colorado

 

Garden of the Gods

Although I wish I were off on another adventure, I am sitting here reminiscing and dreaming lazily about my next trip. I am sad to say that this summer will likely include moving to our new home, and several weddings across the country, which leaves us with very little time to plan a trip. Therefore, I figured I would discuss one of my all-time favorite adventure places.

On my very first trip to Colorado in August of 2013, I had the opportunity to see Garden of the Gods during the best time of the day, just before sunset. This will always be my favorite time that I spent in the park, and I would suggest it to those in the area during the summer time. The way the sunsets over Pikes Peak and glows against the beautiful red rock will make your mouth water.

Once I moved to the area, Garden of the Gods was one of my favorite places to spend time. It was a great place to get outside, hike, explore, and wander. I felt as if every time I was there, I found a part of the park I had never seen before. Therefore, I suggest it to all visitors. It is the unknown 8th wonder of the world, and you are missing out if you do not visit this incredible park. The park can be accessed 365 days a year; sun or snow and is a great place to picnic, hike, walk your dogs, let your kids run around, and to take in the beauty of our country.

I look forward to bringing my family here in the future. It is one of the places my heart belongs and I look forward to sharing it with as many people as I possibly can.

Garden of the Gods Website: http://www.gardenofgods.com

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Since before my brother and I were born it was decided by my parents that we would be the kids who were constantly dragged on adventures. Over the years, I have seen my fair share of our beautiful country, and I figured I would do several posts on my travels around the country. I will start with more recent events because they are easier to remember and because I have pictures readily available. The older pictures will take a bit longer to obtain seeing as they are on the opposite side of the country at the moment. But that is beyond the point! I suppose I will start with one of my favorite trips taken in Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. ( I will include a link to their park website at the end of my post).

The weekend took several weeks of planning. Luckily, one of my best friends families has property in southern Colorado, and her parents were along for the ride and put us up for the weekend at their Ranch. That being said lodging was not an issue for us, but there is lodging in the area. Most people camp, there are all terrain trails that can be taken through the national park, and along these trails are quaint camp sites to be used by park guests. If camping isn’t your style, then there are other options such as cabins, a motel, a lodge, and ranch that can be utilized (reservations must be made ahead of time, plan wisely). Of course, you can research these further by visiting the website posted below.

We took three Jeeps and made an all-day trek through the woods to the dunes. This was the highlight of our trip because all parties enjoy the outdoors and a little thrill. We took Medano Pass into the park; this is where our careful planning took place. We used a Colorado State Gazetteer, in other words, a good, old-fashioned map! We traced our route out in a highlighter days before, and the leader of our Jeep convoy lead the way (I am a damn good navigator).

After our adventure and lunch in the woods, we finally got to the Dunes. The main attraction did not let us down. They are beautiful, and their shapes change depending on the wind, rain, snow, and ice. How cool is that?? We were lucky that Medano Creek still had water trickling through to cool us off on our warm fall day. We took the highway out after an hour and a half in the park and were exhausted.

Overall, I learned so much from taking this trip. Pack an easy lunch. We packed cold cuts, different types of bread, and condiments. Also be sure to include a variety of drinks for all parties involved. On top of our sandwich bar, we packed snacks galore. We were gone from around 8 am until around 8 pm and we knew that snacks would be necessary. Our trip took so long because of the route we chose to take. This trip will be shorter depending on if you are staying close to the dunes, and the way that you come into the park. I learned that our trip was not for the weak of heart, but I would do it again in an instant.

I am hoping to make this trip again in the future with Jack. He is all about the outdoors, Jeeps, and adventures in the woods. I hope this helps you realize that adventure is still out there, that we have some amazing national parks and that Colorado is colorful, wonderful, and welcoming to all!

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm

Mason Jar Madness

Well in my house Cheesecake is a favorite. I have found that the best way to make this dessert is in 4 oz. Mason jars. This idea sounds crazy, but since I am constantly moving to different areas of the country it is a foolproof way to make sure the mixture sets, it limits the amount consumed and leaves me feeling less guilty after, and it travels unbelievably well. The original recipe was designed to make 24 mini jars, and I like to cut that in half. So, below I am going to include two different recipes, one for traditional cheesecake, and one for Oreo cheesecake.

Jack’s grandma has a recipe for Oreo pie, and I figured the best of both worlds would be to combine his favorite dessert as well as my own. So here we go:

Oreo Cheesecake Jars:

1 1/4 cups Oreo crumbs (ground, save some for after mixture is in jars, sprinkle a dusting on top)
1 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 
Traditional Cheesecake Jars:

1 cups graham cracker crumbs (16 whole graham crackers, ground)
1 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste)
zest of 1 lemon

Instructions included here are the same for both sets of jars.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray the jelly jars with non-stick cooking spray, making sure to spray the bottoms so the crust doesn’t stick.

Blend the graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons of sugar and melted butter in a bowl. Place about 1 heaping tablespoon of the crumbs into each jelly jar and tamp down to make the crust (I used a wine cork).

In a large mixer bowl, mix the room temperature cream cheese with the 3/4 cup of sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Add the sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest and mix until well incorporated. Fill each jelly jar with about 1/3 cup of the filling, leaving room at the top for your topping.

Place the jars in a large roasting pan or two deep baking dishes. Fill the pan with hot water halfway up the jelly jars. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove jars with tongs and place on a wire rack to cool.

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. When I serve the traditional jars, I will serve them with mixed berries, chocolate syrup, or any other toppings desired by my guests.

These are so simple and I hope you enjoy them as much as Jack and I do!Cheesecake jars

2,920 days…

At some point, I will have spent more days on earth without my mom than with her here, present in my life. As of today, I have spent eight years without her here to celebrate important parts of my life, as well as to see me through the darkest days. The last eight years have flown by at a surprising rate of speed. Bailey and I have celebrated three graduations, eight birthdays, Christmases, and New Years without her.

This year she would have been 50 years old, but the 19th of January passed as just another day on my calendar. At this point, my daily life seems normal without her, which is a hard pill for me to swallow sometimes. It makes me realize how little she would know me now, but it also makes me realize how much I have grown as a person. Every day I am thankful for the 14 years that I spent with her because her fight taught me how to be a strong woman who stands up for herself, her friends, and her family. It is one of the biggest lessons I take from my mom. She was a warrior who was clothed in strength and always knew that she gave me strength to carry on. Her ten-year fight for life was the most influential part of my childhood. She managed to be a mom, a nurse, a sister, wife, and friend during her best and worse days. I am never outwardly religious, but there is a bible verse that says “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

This verse is so significant because not only is the Lord with me in my times of doubt and need, but I feel as if my mom is too. Therefore, when the days are long, stressful, tiring, and give me a run for my money I know that there is something there to guide me.

Overall, the last 2,920 days have gone on without her, just as the days will continue to do. I am hopeful that she is smiling down on my brother, and me. I am still convinced she is my guiding light and will put me where I need to be when the opportunity is right. So, although these days have been exhausting, I have continued to live on and spread her spirit. She is my reason to live, fight, and wear pink.

P.S. let my mom be the reason all you women get a yearly exam!

The final COUNTDOWN

Oh, how excited I am to say that we are finally in the home stretch, the light at the end of the tunnel is faintly visible. One month from tomorrow Jack will have some shiny new wings pinned on to his dress blues. He will officially be a pilot in the world’s greatest Air Force. That means two weeks from Friday we will find out his next assignment. I am getting excited and more anxious as the days pass, but I am anticipating that we will enjoy our next “home” as much or more than we have enjoyed Oklahoma.

The 24th of March will be one of the most important days so far; we will find out what plane he will be flying, as well as where we will end up. Hopefully, in the next week or so we will get his dream sheet with the list of planes and bases that are available for his drop night. We will then put in preferences and cross our little fingers and say some prayers. There are several options that Jack is interested in specifically the C17 and C5. Both are incredibly large planes with great missions. So, they will be at the top of his list. There is also the dreaded instructor pilot position that is on every list. Out of all the options, it will be toward the bottom. In many cases it goes to people in the top third of the class and this assignment would mean we would be staying in Oklahoma for three more years. Overall, we will make the best of what is to come, but we are hopeful that it will be somewhere outside of Oklahoma.

Now that we are in the last month we are trying to tie together some ends that need to be completed before drop night and graduation. We have been in the process of making an enlarged patch for their training class, and it has been quite the task. However, I have found that the process has been easier than we initially expected. It has taken far less time, and we are almost done. I cannot wait to see the final product.

I am hopeful that the next few weeks will fly by and that we will know our fate soon! So, for now, that is all I can update about, but I am hopeful that we will have some good news to share in two and a half weeks.

A little taste of the south…

Hey Y’all,

We haven’t strayed too far from home lately. Except for when we both go to work! Yes, I finally landed a job. I am working at the local college where I am helping students in high school as a tutor. The job is with a program that allows me to help students who live in rural areas, which are low income and have the opportunity to be the first in their families to go to College.

Two weeks ago we made a trip to Oklahoma City to see the Thunder play. It was a great game between the six and seven teams in the conference. Luckily, we chose a game where the Thunder won! Saturday we spent the day at TopGolf and got to wander around OKC for the day.

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Jack completed his second check ride in the T-1, and that means we are in the home stretch. We are five weeks out from finding out what Jack will be flying next, as well as where we will end up soon. Therefore, there is a move in our near future (keep your fingers crossed for us).

So back to why I am really here, Jack requested Jambalaya, I haven’t had it in quite a while and had never made it myself. I found an easy recipe and tweaked it a little bit to go alongside what we needed (Jack is mildly allergic to shrimp).

I figured since the NBA all-star game was being played in New Orleans this was the perfect dish.

So all in all, I will be making this again sooner rather than later.

3 chicken tenderloins, cubed
3 links of Andouille Sausage, cubed
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tsp cayenne pepper (go by taste and how spicy you like your food)
2 bay leaves
1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
1 can 8 oz tomato sauce
3/4 cups rice of your choice
1 1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped into bite size pieces (optional)

Add oil to a large nonstick saucepan. Over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery until onion is translucent. Add parsley, ham, chicken, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juice), tomato sauce, and 1 3/4 cups cold water. Gently simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Pour rice into the pan and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid. Stir in shrimp and cook 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste with cayenne pepper and salt.

**Different rice varieties will change the cooking time.

I hope y’all enjoy this little piece of the south, and one of Jack’s favorites.

–Alex

Here is a picture of Bruno and Jack to tide you over!

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