Forgive me, this will be a lengthy post, but I want to try and capture some of the highlights of the past seven years by sharing some photos. Join me now for a walk down memory lane!!
In June 2005, just a few days after Cassidy joined the rest of us in Reno, we took a family trip to Yosemite National Park.
In July Cassidy and I moved into our own apartment at Canyon Vista.
Our family took our first trip to Las Vegas in November, and Cassidy and I went to our first U2 concert at the MGM Grand. Experiencing such an incredible performance by such an epic band, in a "City of Blinding Lights" (which was the opening song for the concert) still ranks in my top 5 favorite experiences of my entire life.
In March 2006, Bev was the first of my friends from Tennessee to come visit me in Reno. We visited Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Virginia City, and we had a movie night with some of our Reno friends. Bev did an excellent job navigating for my first time driving in San Fran!
Throughout the spring, Cassidy, Erin, Bruce, and I were practically inseparable. When Rathkeltair, a Celtic rock band I used to go see in Tennessee, was invited to play at the Sacramento Scottish Games in April, we made a weekend of it and spent an afternoon walking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco before backtracking to Sacramento and spending our weekend having a blast at the Scottish Games (where I also met my sweet friend Danielle).
In May I helped chaperone a youth group trip to Great America, and shortly thereafter I became a shepherd for the youth group, sparking the beginning of many friendships, sleepovers, and movie nights.
Early in June, my grandparents and our friends Lisa and Jason all came for visits that overlapped each other. We all visited Donner Pass; Cassidy, Jason, Lisa, and I took an overnight trip to San Francisco; and we were treated to "Gramps' Gala Dinner" at Mimi's Cafe on the last night of my grandparents' visit.
Just a week or two later, Tira came to visit! We visited Lake Tahoe and downtown Reno; took an overnight trip to Yosemite National Park, during which Tira kept us laughing with "Dear Diary" moments, with Jason, Bruce, Cassidy, and Erin (who officially began dating the night before the trip); saw Carrie Underwood in concert; and made a fast day trip to San Francisco.
After all the June visits were over, Cassidy, Erin, Jason, Bruce, Sarah, and I took a jam-packed road trip to Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon over July 4th weekend. 1900 miles in 5 days. Yes, we are insane.
And, as if we hadn't already traveled enough for one summer, Cassidy, Erin, Mandy, and I took a weekend trip to Salem, Oregon, where Mandy had gone to college. We went hiking at Silverton Falls and had a weenie roast on the beach in Neskowin.
In October I took a week of vacation and went back east to visit friends and family. I spent a few days in Tennessee, during which I stayed with Bev at her apartment; went hiking with Jessica; shopped in Gatlinburg with my BFFs-since-1st grade, Christen and Anna; saw a movie with Jason; had breakfast with Andy and Pam and their boys; and stopped to see several of my old Chick-fil-A coworkers at work. Then I spent the rest of the week with my grandparents in North Carolina, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and visiting Grandfather Mountain, and even stopping for dinner where Tira worked at Knights on Main in Boone!
In January 2007, my family met up with my Uncle Steve and cousins Dusty and Chris for a weekend in Las Vegas. It was so fun to see them for the first time in years!
In June, Anna and her mom Maria came for a 10-day visit, which we dubbed our "Wild West Tour." We spent the first few days introducing them to Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Virginia City, then my mom and I set out with them (calling ourselves "The Fantastic Four") for a grand tour through San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, and Las Vegas. This, too, definitely ranks in my top 5 favorite experiences ever.
Cassidy and Erin got married on July 28, 2007. It was the most wonderful blessing adding Erin to our family and being surrounded by family and friends, from near and far, as Cassidy and Erin joined their lives together.
While family was in town for Cassidy and Erin's wedding, we showed them Lake Tahoe and San Francisco!
Throughout the year I continued building my relationships with the girls in the youth group, especially my "outkizzles," Amber, Nicole, and Mackie. They continued to be a gigantic blessing in my life!
In February 2008 I got to pretend to be a "jet setter," flying into Las Vegas just to spend one day with Rebecca, whose husband Cacy was there on business.
It was the spring of earthquakes in Reno, and Cassidy, Erin, and I got out of town just in time to miss the biggest one that occurred -- a 4.7. We had gone to San Francisco for the night, and Mom and Dad met up with us the next day, AFTER the quake had occurred! I was so thankful I had missed it.
In May, Bev came for her second visit! We revisited Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, where we were blessed with a room that overlooked Alcatraz; but this time we also explored a portion of the PCH, where we froze as we insisted on eating our Subway sandwiches along the ocean, and we also spent a day at Yosemite National Park!
In August we revived an old tradition of taking the youth group camping in Santa Cruz, California. We five shepherds took a "scouting trip" a few weeks before the big trip, and once we went with the youth group I learned that I DO enjoy camping... As long as there are showers on the premises!
One of our other summer youth events involved taking care packages called "manna bags" to Tent City, an area in downtown Reno designated for the homeless. It made a HUGE impact on all of us.
In late August I flew to Dallas to visit Tira for a few days! It was my first time in Dallas and I LOVED it! We went to the Dallas Aquarium and the Ft. Worth Zoo both in one day; Tira graciously took me on a crazy hunt to find where Owen and Luke Wilson grew up and then we went to see "Henry Poole Is Here," a movie starring Luke Wilson; and we went to see American Idols Live in concert. We were eating dippin' dots at the zoo when Tira commented on their slogan -- "The Ice Cream of the Future" ... "for the past 25 years!" she added! Haha!
Just a few days after I got back from visiting Tira, Christen came to visit with her mom Yvonne and her sister Katie. We got to go to the Best of the West Rib Cook-off in Sparks, spend a couple of nights in San Francisco, see Lake Tahoe, visit Virginia City and downtown Reno, and see the Great Reno Balloon Race. Katie kept us entertained the entire time -- counting every Starbucks we saw, singing about Weinerschnitzel, FREAKING OUT about seeing "the Painted Ladies" (aka the "Full House" houses) in San Francisco, and acting ridiculous while taking pictures, among other things.
Now let me just say that I DON'T DO POLITICS. But I went through a brief phase during the 2008 election season where I became a Sarah Palin fanatic. And since Nevada was a swing state, she made three visits to our area... And I went to every one of them. At the final rally, Ashley and Jessie and I met Sarah's parents and brother! This was probably the furthest I will ever delve into anything political.
In April 2009 my whole family took a week-long vacation to Florida for the first time in YEARS! We spent most of the time with my grandparents in Stuart, Florida, enjoying boat rides, eating good food, going to the beach, and relaxing in their waterfront condo. My Aunt Kim and cousins Tyler and Travis also came and spent one night with us in Stuart. After leaving my grandparents', we spent two days at Disney World! It was so much fun having Erin with us to see so many memorable places from our past!
Summer of 2009 saw the peak of my American Idol craze. I actually got to meet almost all of the contestants who went on tour that year, including my favorite, Matt Giraud, and then I even drove to LA by myself and met up with my prayer warrior friend, Kim, to see the contestants in concert again and deliver goody bags filled with Scripture to each one!
I feel like an entirely new "season within a season" ("Inception," anyone?) of my life began after we took our second youth trip to Santa Cruz this August. One of my first blogs referred to the core group of friends that formed that month and stuck with me for the next two years (and even until NOW, for most of them). I think the significance of this is that, whereas a lot of my highlights from previous years involved visits to or from Tennessee friends, my focus at this point truly shifted to my local friends. It's almost like this was the point at which I COMPLETELY embraced that my life is now in Reno. (Hey, it only took me five years, right?? Sheesh, haha!) I love these friends so much and am so thankful God has blessed my life by making them an integral part of it.
Cassidy, Erin, and I took a fast trip to Las Vegas in October for U2's 360 Tour, which was the most amazing spectacle I have ever witnessed in my life. It was supposed to be a family trip, but my dad had been in the hospital with some health issues so my parents weren't able to join us! We're thankful those problems were eventually resolved!
In November, Jessie, Amber, and I took a road trip to Salem, Oregon, to see Krystal! We had a great time hanging out in Krystal's dorm room, browsing around some antique stores downtown, and watching Krystal do an AMAZING job performing in her school's musical!
In December Cassidy, Erin, Jon, Dana, Kelly, Ben, TJ, and I went to Traction For God, a missions-oriented conference in Sacramento. We had a great time together and God was also really working in our hearts in various ways.
In May 2010 I went to visit my mom, who was on an extended visit with my grandparents in Florida. I had completed Jillian Michaels' "30 Day Shred" the previous month and the trip was something of a celebration for me!
I also previously blogged about how great a role Ashley has played in my life... She was one of the very first girls I met in Reno, while she was still in high school, even before I started working with the youth group. Our friendship has endured through all these years, and during the summer of 2010 her friendship both comforted and entertained me in a special way through a really tough time. I am exceedingly thankful for the memories we made -- whether hiking up "the hill of death" to the "N," having "arts and craps" nights, taking trips to Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, working with the youth group, going to concerts, or a number of other things -- during that season of my life!
Ashley and Ben were also my choir buddies throughout the fall. We had a great time singing in the choir together and also hanging out during our free time. Whether we were going to the Great Reno Balloon Race, taking a day trip to Apple Hill, or having lunch at Olive Garden after a Saturday choir practice, we were constantly laughing at each other and having a great time.
Throughout the fall I got to share some fun experiences with my parents as well. My mom and I attended our church's women's retreat at Lake Tahoe in October, which was very relaxing and refreshing. In November both my parents and I met up with my cousin Dusty and his wife Katrina in Las Vegas, then we went to San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend!
In early December I stepped down from being a youth shepherd after almost five years, bringing an extremely significant chapter of my life to a close (at least for now). It was bittersweet, as I had LOVED investing in our youth as well as serving alongside our awesome shepherds (Cassidy, Erin, Jon, Dana, Kelly, Ashley, Judy, Luke, and Brett), but it also brought a lot of peace as I followed where God was leading me at that time.
Anna and Maria came to visit us for Christmas and for the first time in over three years, the Fantastic Four were reunited! We spent Christmas Day walking around the village at Squaw Valley in the snow. It was a joy to share the holidays with them!
In April 2011 I traveled outside the United States for the first time as I went to Mexico on a mission trip with my church. It was a very challenging experience but it was also a very eye-opening time as God showed me His heart for reaching the nations with the Gospel. I'm grateful for how He worked in my heart as I faced some of my own fears and weaknesses.
In June my whole family FINALLY got to see U2 in concert together! We had quite a time getting to the Oakland Coliseum due to an enormous traffic jam, but we had a great time at the show and then enjoyed spending the following day in San Francisco. I was so glad to share that time with my favorite people in the world!
In September my parents and I took a last-minute vacation to Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon -- basically a repeat of the vacation I'd taken with friends in July of 2006, only better! It was SUCH a refreshing time for all of us to be in the midst of God's incredible creation day after day.
On December 26, as you probably know, my precious nephew, Caleb Timothy, was born. I fall more in love with him every time I see his sweet face!! Being an aunt is the BEST!
And finally, rounding out these seven years of life in Reno is my trip to Disneyland just a few weeks ago, which I was so blessed to share with Jess, Ben, TJ, and Alex -- a great group of friends who all love to laugh together!
I can't even begin to tell you how time-consuming it has been to put this blog together, and I'm guessing few people, if any, will actually make it here to the end, haha. But it was good -- and CRAZY -- for me to really go back through so many of the highlights of my life here so far, from those early days through the present. I'm always aware that God has blessed me so exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond what I could have imagined or asked for, but when I look back over all of these people and memories and experiences, I'm truly in awe. I cannot believe this is my life. I am humbled, and I am grateful. I can't wait to see what the next seven years might hold! To God be the glory!