Ode to 2013

I had plans for New Year’s tonight…then I got sick.  So, instead of celebrating with friends, I’ll be celebrating with Josh, my carry-out Olive Garden, and Phish Food Ben & Jerry’s.

But that’s okay.  I was really disappointed not to hang out with my friends, and thinking about how lame this New Year’s was going to be compared to last year’s.  Last year, Josh and I were in Thailand, (he was in Phuket, and I was in Chiang Mai), and I brought in the New Year with the ladies of L Squad.  We hung out in downtown Chiang Mai, set off our own floating lanterns to join the thousands of others in the sky, watched fireworks, and as my first act of 2013, I had a Nutella Banana Roti from a roadside stand.  It was a magical night, for sure.





Especially on New Year’s, when the night is all about looking back over the past year, and anticipating what is to come, it is hard not to dwell on the past.  I try not to do this, especially now that all of the “a year ago today, I was in ______ , doing ______”s are happening. 

However, I think 2013 was one heck of a year.

I rode elephants in Thailand, for the SECOND time in my life.  So awesome.



Josh and I celebrated 5 years together (dating + marriage) on the beach on Penang Island, Malaysia.



I watched the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia.



I absolutely fell in love with a place and a people in Maasai Mara Kenya, where we took a safari.




I used my love of writing to tell the story of Allan, a little boy we met in Uganda who was a victim of attempted child sacrifice, and through my writing, donations were made that enabled him to go to Australia to receive much-needed reconstructive surgery.



I fell in love with Musa, a 4 year old Swazi orphan, and seriously considered adopting him.



We said a bittersweet goodbye to L Squad, the brothers and sisters we traveled with for 11 months.



I celebrated my 25th birthday with my family at Olive Garden.  Yay for the mid-twenties!



Josh and I moved in with my sister, Jess, brother-in-law, Tyler, and my nephew, Henry.




I started working at Chick-fil-A, and have met a ton of wonderful people there.



I was so blessed to spend the holidays with my family, and Josh’s family.




So, yeah.  2013, you were great.  As great as you were, I have a feeling that 2014 is going to be even better. 🙂

Cheers, and a Happy New Year!



Last Friday morning was the first time since arriving back in the States three months ago that Josh and I found ourselves at an airport.

We had been invited by my friend Pat to come spend the weekend with him in Ft. Collins, Colorado.  I was so excited to see him, because it had been over a year since the last time we saw each other.

After a busy Halloween, working at Chick-fil-A, then coming home to go with Jess, Tyler, Henry, and Josh to Trunk-r-Treat, we watched Hocus Pocus, and I called it a night.


In classic Jen fashion, I figured I would pack my suitcase the next morning.  (Pack. My suitcase????  Home Alone, anyone?)  I woke up at 5 AM, and spent a lot of time that I should have been packing sitting around, staring at my open (empty) suitcase, and checking Facebook on my phone.  Anything but packing.  You would think that after having done it dozens of times in the last year, I would be past this, but I think it’s just gotten worse.

Anyway, after I finally packed, Tyler drove us to the airport, and as we went through security and got to our gate, I was reminded of how no-nonsense the Kansas City airport is.  You just simply check in, then walk about twenty five feet to security, go through, and you are right at your gate.  The whole process takes about 30 minutes on a bad day.

Being in an airport for the first time since my Mom, brother, and sister picked us up in St. Louis three months ago at the end of the World Race was really nostalgic.  It felt weird to not have fifty other Racers lounging around the gate, with all of our electronics charging in the single outlet, random instruments being played, and various colorful purses and daypacks sitting in chairs.  I did feel at home, though, as I propped my feet up on my roller suitcase and applied my makeup.

When we boarded the plane bound for Denver, it felt just as normal as going to the grocery store.  Josh had the aisle seat, and I was in the middle.  There wasn’t anyone in the window seat next to me yet, and I was really hoping that no one would arrive so we could stretch out.  After a few minutes, though, this tired looking hipster guy squeezed past our legs, sat down, and promptly went to sleep.


I decided to try to sleep during most of the flight, because I had woken up an hour earlier to do what turned out to be nothing.  Anyway, I was trying to sleep with my head leaning on Josh’s shoulder, but that was almost impossible with the ridiculous angle of the seatbacks that passengers are forced to endure until that blessed moment when the flight attendants make the announcement that you can now recline your seat and use approved electronic devices.  After I was able to recline my seat, I adjusted to leaning on the other armrest, and fell asleep.

I woke up a few minutes later when Tired Hipster Guy put his entire arm along the armrest, making full contact with mine.  In my half asleep state, I didn’t know what to do about it.  It was awkward to touch a stranger like he’s your bff, but I couldn’t exactly push his arm off the armrest either.  What is the protocol here?  Do I surrender and move to the other armrest?  Do I claim it as my own?  Do I pretend I don’t notice?  I went with the last one and went back to sleep.

As we descended into Denver, I was excited.  I couldn’t wait to see Pat, and I knew we were going to have a great weekend.  I had to go to the bathroom before we met up with him, though, so I stopped at the ladies’ room not far from our gate.  Of course, there was a line for the stalls, so I waited patiently.  When it was my turn, the first open stall was the handicapped stall, but there was a long line behind me, so I took it.

While in the stall, I took my time, confident that there were plenty of other stalls opening up for the other ladies in line.  When I was finished, I unlocked the door, and found that there was no longer a line.  There was, however, a woman in a wheelchair waiting for the stall that I had been taking my time in.  Oops.  I didn’t say anything, I just wanted to get out of there, haha.  That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me.  So embarrassing-taking up the only stall that she could use.

After a few minutes of walking around the airport and having no idea where the heck we were (Denver is kind of a confusing airport), we finally found him near the luggage carousel.  We made our way out of the airport, and Pat took us to lunch in downtown Denver.  It was delicious, but I was reminded that this was not the South (or the Southern Midwest trying to be the South), when I was met with a confused reaction from the waiter when I asked for sweet tea.

We also hit up the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and it was awesome.  I was giddy as we waited in line for our tickets, and I was brought back to some of my favorite childhood memories-when my Mom would take us to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  I just really love museums.


The next day, we lounged around in the morning, and went to eat at a vegetarian restaurant.  Josh and Pat, thanks for taking one for the team, meaning me, haha.  It was awesome to have so many menu options.  After lunch, we headed to Horsetooth Resevoir, a lake on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.  It was beautiful, and so quiet and relaxing.  I also never thought I would get to see the Rockies, so that was awesome.

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We also took a tour of Fort Collins Brewery, and Josh and Pat got to sample the different flavors.  I’m not a fan of beer, so I took one for the team on that one.  It was cool to see how it was made, though, even if I don’t like how it tastes.  Afterward, we went back to downtown Fort Collins, and ate dinner, then headed home.

On Sunday, we lounged around again in the morning and watched Portlandia, and we intended on going to brunch.  The place we intended on going was apparently super trendy, because it was overflowing with people, and there would have been an more than an hour’s wait.  We decided to go somewhere else, and ended up at this tiny barbeque joint.  Josh was in heaven with his brisket and cornbread, not to mention football on TV.

After lunch, we headed out on bikes around the neighborhood.  It was so surreal that I was riding around on bikes with my husband and my best friend, among the beautiful fall trees, with the Rocky Mountains in the distance, and the sunshine on my back.  It’s probably one of my favorite memories from the weekend.


We also had the chance to meet up with some other friends, Robyn and Andy, who used to live in Springfield, but moved to Colorado after we left for the Race.  We met them at their house, and got to catch up and hang out for about an hour.  I was really glad we got to see them.


Afterward, we hopped in the car, and made the drive back to Denver, to be dropped off at the airport.  I was really sad to be leaving.  I felt like we had just gotten there, and I was sad that our time with Pat was coming to an end.  We said goodbye at the curb, and Josh and I headed into the airport.

As we waited for our flight back to Kansas City, I realized that airports are simultaneously places of happiness and sadness for me.  I am happy and excited to be traveling to wherever we are going, and to be meeting up with a treasured friend or family member, but by doing that, you are also leaving behind other people that you love.  I had spent several weeks looking forward to this weekend, and before I knew it, it was over.  But, I am confident that I enjoyed and took advantage of every minute of it.

Although it is hard to have so many people that I love all over the country, not to mention all over the world, I think that it makes our short times together more meaningful and special.  We look forward to those few, short days, enjoy them while they are here, and treasure the memories when the days are over.  Those times make the heartbreaks of the “see you later”s totally worth it.