Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Merry

For most of our 13 years together, J & I have spent Christmas mornings with my family at my sister's house in Connecticut. Sure we celebrated with his family either later that day or another day (depending on where they lived) and there were a few exceptions over the years, but Christmas mornings were typically spent with our nephew and niece on my side.

Now that Ryan and Sarah are 13 and 10, we have switched gears. For me personally, Christmas is definitely more exciting with kids in the picture. So, Christmas mornings--starting with this year and provided we are not off on our own adventures--will be reserved for J's family and the 2 nephews on his side (Everett, 3 years, and Owen, 17 months).

We had a lovely Christmas Eve and Day here in Denver. It snowed on and off, unlike the East Coast's near-summer temps! Our brother-in-law had his parents in town as well, so it was a full house with 9 adults and 2 children!
It is nice that both his sisters and his mom live in Denver now. It makes visiting very convenient!

The day was probably much like yours with lots of eating and gift exchanging, but we have some serious musical talent in our family, so we even spent a good amount of time jamming together.  

We will inevitably spend a lot of time with these 2 young bucks this winter ... so this is not the last you will see of them on the blog. 
The youngest is obsessed with books, while the oldest is obsessed with ears!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wilderness First Responder

Before anyone freaks out with these pictures, know it is all makeup!! It was all part of Wilderness First Responder training and certification we achieved last week. 

J & I have both been Wilderness First Aid certified, but becoming a Wilderness First Responder (WFR - pronounced "woofer") has always been a goal of ours for personal and professional reasons. It was definitely a major step up from our knowledge base. 

We went through National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI). It was an 80-hour class over 10 days, with two night sessions and one day off mixed in there. Intense and fun may seem like oxymorons, but those are the best adjectives to describe our experience. 

The WFR course is designed to train participants to assess medical emergency situations. While the information we learned is applicable for daily urban life, the intention is to be trained to respond effectively and treat when 911 is not an option. Emergency response in an urban setting could be less than 10 minutes, but in the backcountry, it could be days. Addressing life threats and making a patient comfortable and knowing the right patient information to gather to plan for an evacuation could be the key to survival. 

We have been extremely lucky not to encounter any crazy emergencies in the backcountry, but now we feel so much more confident and prepared should we have to.  

One of the main goals with WFR training is to improvise and learn to use the gear you have. J is already a MacGyver, but he definitely upped his skills. We learned to make splints using our backpacks, sleeping pads and trekking poles. We learned how to make cervical collars and slings out of jackets and the hip belt of your backpack. We dispelled myths about lightening, hypothermia and swimmer's ear.  

The course is taught in a classroom, but just about half the time, we are outside testing scenarios. The hands-on teaching portion of the course is killer. The students rotate as patients and rescuers, so you get both perspectives. And the situations are simulated as close to real rescue situations as possible (hence the fake blood). 

My list of illnesses/injuries included a broken patella (knee), a broken fibula (leg), a dislocated shoulder, a twisted ankle, crushed hands, lacerations on both my wrists, explosive diarrhea (twice) and I had an asthma attack.

J, on the other hand, broke his left leg twice, his right leg once, dislocated his patella, had a contusion on his head, dislocated his shoulder, was stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock, had hyponatremia and had a bad bout of angina.

We took the course in Denver, but class attendees were from all over and from all walks of life. I was impressed with how many younger folks (I consider under 30 to be younger) took the course. It seems like a good step in the right direction early on. We met some good peeps. When you spend 80 hours together, you form an inevitable bond. And when the whole class passes the course, there's a reason to celebrate!! 

We would recommend the WFR cert for anyone working/playing in the outdoors. Like I said, it was intense (class all day, study at night), but crazy fun. 

And for the record (but also because this never happens), I scored higher on the written test than J did. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Currently: December

Currently living/working in: Well, we made it to Colorado! And right now, we are in the midst of getting our Wilderness First Responder Certification (more on that in another post)

Current mood: Busy and tired! Who knew a daily schedule of 8am to 5pm (our 10-day class schedule) could be so brutal??? 

Currently excited about: Winter adventures in Colorado!

Currently not excited about: Prepping our tax documents. Since we spent half of 2015 in New Zealand, I didn’t do our taxes until June, so it feels like just yesterday. And now tax season is right around the corner. 

Currently worried about: Having to pass my Wilderness First Responder Test Monday … I am a TERRIBLE test taker. It is making me a ball of nerves. 

Currently thankful for: Friends and family who house the glorified homeless (us). 

Currently proud of: Five great stops on our Te Araroa speaking tour so far!

Currently regretting: Having possessions in storage in 3 different states. There’s always something we are looking for and realize it is across the country! 

Currently amazed by: Big Bird (our bright yellow Subaru, AKA home). He performs well in the snow and got us across the country problem free. Phew!  

Current confession: I love the snow. As much as I loved spending our winter in New Zealand, I missed the snow. 

Current guilty pleasure: While on tour, we inevitably ate out a lot! It was a nice treat. 

Currently reading: NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Currently watching on Netflix: No Netflix … after working all day, making dinner, catching up on a few e-mails, etc and reading for homework, sleep trumps Netflix. After the holidays, we hope to return to at least a weekly Netflix movie. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Midwest Tour Recap/Visits

Our Te Araroa speaking tour took us through the Midwest, somehow magically without any winter weather.

All 4 stops--Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Kansas City--were awesome.

We both love, love, love standing up in front of people and educating them about our passions and adventures. But I think the thing I enjoy even more is being able to give away free gear. It wasn't so long ago that J & I would be in the audience ourselves hoping to win and going to REI garage sales to get the best deals ... Oh wait, we STILL do ALL of that. Gear, it's an addiction. But, in any case, I love being on the giving end. People are so darn appreciative!

While driving across the country, we (of course) visited with friends! The most prominent visit was the 4-day weekend we spent in Columbus.

We always stay with Jay & Adrianne. They are gracious enough to host us, take us to the hospital when necessary, and we always have a grand old time. Plus, Columbus has the best sushi across the whole US ... Mr. Sushi (I understand your shock, but I wouldn't lie).
This go-round, we added a few more peeps to the picture.

J & A's friends, Sean & Sara (who we've gotten to know over the years), were in Columbus visiting as well. Not going to lie, we stayed up way too late, ate crap and drank more alcohol than we have in the last year, but it had to be done.
 Yes, that is a bomb pop drink. Yes, it was delicious. 

We hit this bar that had old-school arcade games, like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Marble Madness and Frogger. My inner 12-year-old was jumping up and down. 

One of the weekend activities was playing poker. All 5 of them, including J, are pretty much professional poker players (in my mind). I have never played poker, but have watched J plenty of times. So I got the gist. Well, guess who got in 2nd place????? MEEEE!!!!! Did I mention J got first?? I'm starting to think maybe J & I should seek a new venture as card sharks/hustlers ...

The more civilized activities included putting up the Christmas lights. I love coming through everyone's house during the holiday season. If there is one thing I miss the most about not having a permanent roof over my head, it's being able to decorate. I fantasize about someday opening up my 3 tupperware boxes full of Christmas decorations sitting in storage. For now, I live vicariously through others.
My friend Shayna also drove down to Columbus from Cleveland! We introduced her to Cards Against Humanity. Being a librarian means Shayna is incredibly knowledgeable, but she learned a few "street" words that night.

Oooh! Pretty nails thanks to my sister!

I also saw a very long lost friend in Columbus ... Jill from grammar school. I went to a very tiny Catholic school (graduating class had SIX people), so it's sort of this unbreakable bond!
We had a few more quick friend visits in Indianapolis, including my old housemate from Arizona.
No friends to visit in St. Louis & Kansas City, but we certainly made a few new ones through the tour!!

Now we are Colorado-bound for the foreseeable future. We have 3 more TA presentations around CO, but they won't happen until January. In the meantime, we have a 10-day Wilderness First Responder course, then will hob knob with J's family there for the holidays.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Westbound With A Purpose

In this past week, we went from the serene quiet of the island to the organized chaos of life on the road.
We are officially on our Te Araroa Speaking Tour, making 8 stops at REI stores across the country between now and Jan. 13. We started in East Hanover, NJ, with an audience of 28 people. Starting in NJ was perfect; we both grew up there and still have family & friends, so we were happy to see so many familiar faces in the audience!

As usual, we have been squeezing in visits with friends and family along the way, starting in CT and NJ.

 We even timed our drive-through of NJ with J's 20-year Seton Hall Prep school reunion. However, of the 180 graduates from the Class of 1995, less than 25 attended the reunion! J continues to complain about this fact. In his words, "why did I spend $65/person to see the same schmucks I can see for free at their houses??" My cheap husband will be unhappy to know we will be attending my 20-year reunion next year!!
Up next: presentation tonight at the REI Columbus (Easton) store, then a weekend of fun with our Ohio friends.