23-24

-118Dear 23,

Oh twenty-three. You weren’t my favorite year ever. But you turned out alright.

When you came knocking at my door last June, I had no idea the company you would bring. With you came good, bad, ugly, beautiful, exquisite, tender, sappy, lame, exciting, intimidating, stressful, glorious, pitiful, angry, calm, exuberant, low, facetious, greedy, giving, peaceful and my personal favorite, surprise.

You were the year I learned what it really means to work hard, especially when it seems like nobody notices. You taught me that faith quite literally precedes the miracle. That everything works out alright (and normally better than that) in the end. That Heavenly Father absolutely know what is actually best for me, even when I am pretty confident that I do.

Remember the patients at the hospital that tried our patience and made us bite our tongue? Sometimes we did, and other times we didn’t. Oops. I’ll try harder during 24. You were the year of electrifying feelings and realizing that I am doing what I love. And getting paid for it. Finally.

Remember those ten million times we looked over at Ryan and thought to ourselves “how is he ours?”. Those were perfect-life moments. Remember how he likes to pinch our bum and say he is the luckiest? Remember how we really wanted to make him a daddy and we are starting to not be so scared about that idea? Maybe 24 will make us more brave.

You and I, we shopped a lot. And were kinda greedy. Let’s be a little less worldly and a lot more satisfied this next year. What do you say? (But then again, we bought some pretty nifty shoes, that’s for certain. So it wasn’t a total loss.)

You were the year I conquered my belief that teaching Relief Society would surely result in my untimely death. I even surprised myself and found out that I actually rather like it. Those ladies sure are special.

Speaking of special, I developed some pretty important friendships while you were in town. Girlfriends that make me happy. Older folks in the ward who’s wisdom pretty much blows me away. Not to mention their desire to party.

Family took center-stage this year. Thanks to you I have learned that they are the very most celestial part of my life. How lucky am I?

I could go on and on about you, but it’s time to move on.

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Dear 24,

Let’s do this.

Pake Lowell

Let’s take a break from Hawaii, shall we?

IMG_3339Back in the stone ages, Ryan was a high school senior. 10 years ago next summer, if you can believe it! Because they were bad-a, hard-core 18 year-olds, Ryan and his buddies liked to switch the first few letters of the names of places, people, random items, etc., just for kicks. For example “Ryan Holt” was Hyan Rolt. “Tony Christensen” was Cony Thristensen. “Sand Hollow” was Hand Sollow. Super mature, huh. But I guess I married the kid partly for his goofy, “keep me young” attitude, so all’s well that ends well. Fortunately, the only name that really stuck was Pake Lowell. To this day Ryan rarely calls that grand old Lake Powell anything else.

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Lake Powell was, and is, one of the places nearest and dearest to Ryan’s big, shiny heart. I think he has a secret plan to retire to a houseboat and live out our eighties clad in neon swimsuits, chugging along the nooks and crannies at 5 MPH. Not a bad idea, really. I mean, have you ever star-gazed from the top of a houseboat? I am convinced you can see right through to heaven.

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IMG_3288 IMG_3383Last week we took a quick trip to Utah to visit Ryan’s family, see a few dear friends and renew our acquaintances with the Lake. We set out pretty early (for us) and made our way from St. George to Kanab and on through the red desert to the prettiest shade of blue you ever did see. Soon the water was set out before us; quite like a never-ending dessert buffet. All you can think about is partaking until you pop.IMG_3365IMG_3417

We spent the first day with Ryan’s sisters, Crystal and Katie, and my awesome in-laws, Norm and Laurene. We buzzed around the Main Channel and spent the afternoon drifting (and wakeboarding) through Last Chance. Unfortunately, all I have are i-phone pics. It made my teeth hurt to think about bringing my camera on board the Cobalt. I’m kind of selfish like that. On the way in for the evening we stopped at Antelope Marina for dinner. If you are smart you will say yes to the pizza and skip the fish tacos. Take my word for it.IMG_3321 IMG_3318Saturday morning we met up with Norm’s daughter, Lindsay, and our niece and nephew A and M. Just when I think I am over the baby bug they pop up out of nowhere. It’s a plot, I tell you.

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We spent the afternoon in my favorite crevice of Lake Powell, Navajo Canyon. The sagebrush dusted cliffs literally seem to grow right out of the warm green water and juxtapose themselves perfectly against the bluest sky you’ve ever met. (See how I did that? I have always wanted to incorporate ‘juxtapose’ into a sentence, and now I have. Big fat dream come true, right there.)

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That man of mine is sure going to make a great papa one day. My heart was a warm melty puddle of hormones hanging out on the floor of the boat watching him with interact with the kiddos. He’s a natural. Basically a kid-whisperer.

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LP, you treated us right. But then again, you always do. I mean we even managed to avoid blistering sunburns for the first time, ever. Thanks for that. In the wise words of yearbook-lingo, “stay awesome” Pake Lowell. We sure do love ya. IMG_3432

#holthawaii13 Part II: Pearl Harbor

IMG_2850IMG_2904If you know me at all, you know I am quite the history buff. My fiendish love affair began clear back in the 1st grade when I eagerly devoured the American Girl stories. I would stay up way past bedtime using one of those little clip-on book lights (nerd alert!) and hide under the covers so my parents wouldn’t catch on to my blatant rule breaking. I literally spent hours daydreaming of everything from the American Revolution to growing a Victory Garden of my own. My whole life’s ambition was to own an American Girl doll that I could dress up in her very own bonnet and corset. Sadly, my dreams were never realized. I am still trying to recover.

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Thus it will come as no surprise to you that I absolutely HAD to go to Pearl Harbor while we were in Hawaii. Being the scatter-brained soul I am, I totally forgot to reserve tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial. I was devastated. I owe my life to a pretty helpful concierge who found out that there are a few tickets reserved for walk-ins…but we would have to be in line at 6:30 AM if we were going to have a shot at it. So Sunday morning we woke up early, grabbed a little breakfast to go and headed over to what felt like my destiny.IMG_2908I’ll have you know that getting there was quite the battle. First our GPS led us straight to the active military base in Pearl Harbor. You would have thought the barbed wire for miles would have tipped us off, but alas, we ended up at these intimidating guarded gates only to be turned away. Oops. Then at 6:45 AM we found ourselves on a highway that was abruptly closed for a triathlon. Needless to say, I may or may not have uttered a few choice words. My history love runs deep so thinking that we might not make it in time set my blood boiling. What more can I say?IMG_2890IMG_3032

At 6:45 we pulled up to the memorial, only to see a line the length of a football field wrapped around the buildings and down the street. I about cried. The angels of mercy must have been looking out for us, because we somehow still got tickets.

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The next few hours were spent in a haze of stories, audio tours, and the building of my appreciation for the men and women who serve us and our homeland. Really, I thought my beating American heart might burst from the pure pride and gratitude I felt as story after story of heroism and valor poured out of the audio headsets and into my soul.

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A few hours into the day, it was time for us to catch the ferry boat to the USS Arizona. I have to tell you, it was kind of eerie. And also reverent. I really don’t remember a single person calling out or causing a distraction the whole trip. The need to pay tribute to such hallowed ground seemed to permeate each and every tourist on that boat. The names of those still entombed in the Arizona stand quietly etched into a white marble wall, surrounded by leis from visitors and the bright ocean air. You could almost feel their presence wafting in through the entrance. Apparently a few quarts of oil escape from the sunken battleship every day, streaking the water. Those who survived call them “black tears”. Fitting, I think.

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Later that day we toured a submarine and rode a shuttle through the tropical rain to visit the airfields. All I can tell you is that I had the movie Pearl Harbor heavy on my mind and I kept envisioning Ryan in a pilot’s uniform. He was pretty much my very own Ben Affleck that afternoon. It was pretty sexy.

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The USS Missouri is a fitting place to end this drawn out description of one of my favorite Hawaiian days. Standing on the very spot the Japanese army unconditionally surrendered was, in a word, humbling. May we never forget the lives that were so freely given to bring an end to the most devastating war our world has ever seen.

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#holthawaii13 Part I: Ko Olina

IMG_2842When my work schedule for May was posted, I was happily surprised to find my shifts aligned so that I somehow had 6 consecutive days off. Bliss! My mind went insane and I immediately started planning wild vacations that included grand destinations such as Paris, Bali and Kenya. Ryan quickly assessed the situation, saw that I was not to be deterred, and rescued our savings account by steering me to a destination a little closer to home. Hawaii.

Perfect.

You see, since our honeymoon, Ryan and I have never taken a legitimate vacation just the two of us. Of course we love family vacations and time spent visiting said family in Utah, but we have been combating an itch to just leave this place and adventure out on our own. Job situations, school and money all prevented it before, but they just aren’t much of an issue/excuse these days. So I convinced Ryan that we had to carpe that diem and with reckless abandon we went for it.

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IMG_2584IMG_2520After a few suggestions from some of our favorite people (Whit and Dustin, we are in your debt!), we settled on Ko Olina, a resort-style town on the western side of Oahu. With anticipation in our hearts and salt water on our minds, we booked a room at the JW Marriott Ihilani resort and spa for a five-night stay in what was sure to be the celestial kingdom.

IMG_2827IMG_2790IMG_2528The JW was perfect. White marble hallways, an open oceanfront lobby, koi ponds everywhere. From the moment we arrived I began dreading leaving. Little, hot tears pricked my eyes every so often. It was kind of pathetic. And also lovely.

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IMG_2502IMG_2840Having Ryan all to myself in that balmy ocean air was the best kind of paradise. Without being too cliche and sappy, it was exactly what we both needed. An escape from the stresses of that grown-up adult world that we find ourselves in everyday. We slept in (scandalously late) ran by the ocean, gorged ourselves on french toast with coconut syrup, laid by the pool, laid by the beach, took naps, etc. Rewind, repeat. For five glorious days.

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We ordered way too much room service and fell asleep to the sound of the ocean crashing in the quiet lagoons below. If this is starting to sound like a romance novel, it’s because it pretty much is. I couldn’t take my eyes off the guy the whole time. It is all a warm ball of happy in my mind. And I’m not sorry about it.

IMG_2537IMG_2544IMG_2801Also: PADDLE BOARDING. My new favorite thing. I was dead determined before I ever even stepped foot on the island that I was going to be great at it. Better than Ryan (he always outshines me at that kind of thing and I was just not gonna have it this time). And guess what. I rocked it. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but it really was so fun. Maybe I should start a new fad…The San Francisco Bay Paddle Board Experience. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

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On one of the final nights we were there, we crept by a danger sign and ventured out onto a secluded and rocky beach. The sunset was pretty much mind-numbingly beautiful. We watched a quiet little couple crawl over the rocks, her in a white dress. I nudged Ryan and we looked on while they exchanged vows witnessed only by a dressed-down priest. Straight-up genius I tell you.

IMG_2722IMG_2680IMG_2774IMG_2712IMG_2683I think night-time at the resort was my favorite. Glowing tiki torches, soft hawaiian ukulele music floating across the beach and of course…the seafood buffets. I ate my weight in ahi, shrimp and papaya. It was nirvana.

IMG_2812IMG_2831IMG_2836That saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Well I just gave you 20+ pics. Think about that. And I still don’t feel like I have even tapped the surface of how perfect Ko Olina was for us. Disgustingly cheesy? Yes. True? Absolutely.

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#holthawaii13

To be totally honest, this post (or series of posts) has been buzzing around my head like an obnoxious fly constantly for the past few weeks. It has been sitting at the very top of my to do list and yet I still come up with reasons not just sit down and get shiz done. Why? Because if I write about Hawaii then it means we have already come and gone and there aren’t any dreamy tropical oasis getaways looming on the Holt horizon. I am all sorts of angst-y about leaving that sun-drenched island. I’ve got the post vacation blues, baby. And I’ve got them bad.

That said, I will carry on like the stalwart post-vacationer that I am and share a bajillion pictures of us playing tourist and downing pina coladas and lava flows like the world was ending. Let the #holthawaii13 photo dump commence!

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Heaven’s Devils

IMG_3243One of the very first things I learned about Ryan when we were dating was his love for all things that involve two wheels. Motocross, dirt bikes, street bikes, bicycles, scooters…you name it. He’s pretty much smitten with that form of transportation. It must be something about the wind in his hair and the call of the open road. Actually it’s probably because there is something about danger and speed that gets that kid going like few other things do. Lucky me.

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A little history: a few weeks before we moved to California my car (oh that lovely Focus!) decided it hated the thought of leaving as much as we did, threw a temper tantrum and blew up. Awesome. We didn’t worry too much about it because we knew that Ryan would be taking the BART to work and so there really was no need for two vehicles. Which worked just swell when we lived a few blocks away from the train station. Then last summer we got all selfish and wanted more space (a tiny one bedroom apartment that would fit in my parent’s family room starts to wear on your sanity after awhile). So we packed it up (again!) and moved a few miles away where we have basked in two-bedroom bliss for the last year.

Which brings us back full-circle to the problem at hand (gosh, are you following me? I have quite the thing for tangents today). We now live a few miles away from the nearest BART so Ryan has been a true Christian saint and rode the bus to and from the station for the past year. Which tacked on an extra hour to his commute round-trip and left him with quite the unsavory taste in his mouth. Picture homeless people, urine and a nice whiff of garbage and you have basically experienced the bus trip yourself.

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So for the last six months or so we have been looking to add a second car to our loving family. Our requirements weren’t crazy…classy, willing to go where-ever, trust-worthy, a true friend…you get the picture. In the end my diligent guy simply could not find what he wanted in the price range he was willing to spend. (I’ll have you know that I broke down months ago and begged him to buy whatever…but the man is stubborn. And cheap).

Then a few weeks ago, my phone was flooded with pictures of two-wheeled machines that look and sound an awful lot like death traps and make me imagine life as a widow at 23. But there was something about that little gleam in Ryan’s eye and the way he so lovingly described every shining detail that made it pretty hard for me to say no. Also, I’d be lying if I said the thought of sleeping in on my mornings off instead of taking him to the station didn’t influence my concession to this seemingly crazy idea.

Less than two days after I gave my ok, Ryan was the proud owner of a 2009 Honda Rebel 250cc street bike (is that right, Ry? the details seem to escape me). Oh joy.

(On another side note…he bought it from the most charming older Englishman that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. From the way he offered us cold water the moment we stepped into his picturesque Berkeley home to his reassurance to me that Ryan wouldn’t die, I was sold. And he had the prettiest view of the bay from his kitchen I have ever seen…so obviously he had class.)

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What has surprised me the most about the “death trap” is how much I have actually grown to kind of love it. Ryan is giddy about it,which is pretty cute, and I would be lying if I said it isn’t more than slightly sexy when I watch him pull away on that thing. However, the best part has been the late afternoon/twilight rides we have taken together. There really is something about the wind on your face combined with a little bit of speed. Kind of magical.

(…Heaven’s Devils is the name of the biker gang Ryan and his friends are hopefully not starting. Heaven help us all.)

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