Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Curtis and Jessica : 2013 in Review

The excitement of this year took off with a bang right at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, Curtis got down on one knee and whispered to me, "will you marry me?" The cheers of our families around us went from "Happy New Year!" to "They're finally getting married!!" And with that, the best year of our lives began! Wedding plans started to come together just a few days later, and we relished every moment we had until Curtis took off to Arizona for his 4th semester, our last one being in a long distance relationship. It was a trial we endured for 2 years, yet the trial proved to be very valuable to our relationship as we were able to discover ourselves separately without growing apart. 

During the first couple months of the year, Curtis worked extra hard on not just his school work, but on his application for the NUPAC program in the US Navy. He traveled to San Diego, CA to tour a submarine in February, followed by an interview in Washington DC in March that ended with receiving a spot in Officer Candidate school, to begin in summer of 2015. I, as well as both our families are extremely proud of all Curtis' hard work and how it paid off, and we are excited to see where God will take us on this new adventure! As for the rest of the semester, Curtis enjoyed hiking, gold panning, letterboxing, and singing in his a cappella group. He purchased his first vehicle, a '98 Dodge Dakota that he affectionately calls "Yeti", learned to drive stick shift, and completed his finals all in the week before driving home to Iowa! He continued to take some summer classes that fortunately wrapped up at the beginning of July and did not interfere with wedding or honeymoon planning.

While this was happening, I was back at home, living with my family. Wedding planning took over lots of time, but I enjoyed every part of it and was thankful to have all that extra time to spend with family. My sisters were very helpful in making decorations, and we enjoyed reviewing every Disney video my family owns while working! I was also working part time as an independent contractor LMT at BodyOasis Therapeutic Massage. I enjoy giving massages very much, and was very blessed to have so much support from my clients, some of whom were family, soon to be family, and friends! BodyOasis was the perfect place for me to work in the short time I had left to work there. Another big part of the first couple months for me was going to basketball games! I had 3 very talented siblings on 3 different teams, and I attempted to go wherever they were playing. The most interesting trip was to middle of nowhere, Missouri. How middle of nowhere? Well, there were zebras and camels there! I also made separate trips to visit both sets of grandparents - in April, I visited Grandmother with my soon-to-be sister-in-law Lydia, then in July I visited Nanna and Popa's farm with Curtis. After such an eventful year and moving so far away, time spent with family is even more special to me now!

In May, Curtis came back to Iowa, ending the distance between us for now. We celebrated my brother Grant's graduation at the end of the month. We're so proud of him, and are happy to see him thriving at Iowa State! We also enjoyed visiting the UP of Michigan in the beginning of July to attend Curtis' sister Lydia's wedding. We're so happy for them, and are even more excited to have them move to our lovely state in summer 2014!

One eventful thing that happened to me just 2 months before our wedding day - I had a seizure that came out of nowhere, and sent us all into a panic. It was the 3rd one I had, but the first time that it wasn't caused due to illness. After several tests, the doctors found nothing wrong, for which we are very thankful. I haven't had any issues besides a little dizziness since then, but I still have not driven a vehicle since that day. My family and I chose to see it as a way to spend extra time together while they drove me around for the next 2 months. 

Finally, the big day arrived - July 27, 2013, our wedding date! It was the most beautiful day of the entire summer, just 70 degrees and sunny. I'm very thankful for all I have to help me remember the day - pictures from Garrett Hufford Photography and my new mother-in-law Julie (Country Mile Photography), and a video from Bryant Haldeman. I had been very nervous up to that day about my health and being in front of so many people, but seeing Curtis at the end of the aisle crying made everything alright. Our youth pastor Mark gave a beautiful message, and we were married surrounded by our friends and siblings in our wedding party, and in front family and friends that have supported us for so many years. We are so thankful for everyone that has impacted us and our relationship over the years, and each of you holds a special place in our hearts! We're also so blessed to have a wonderful family that not only supports us, but gives us perfect examples of marital faithfulness. All 4 sets of grandparents were in attendance, and when you add up years of marriage between them and our parents, the total is 280 years of marriage!! Other highlights from our wedding day include Curtis singing our song to me ("Time in a Bottle"), speeches from our wedding party and all of my siblings, and having the Yeti decorated for us that scored us champagne on our honeymoon! (since we were both minors, that was a special blessing ;))

For our honeymoon, we took a 2 week long road trip and saw all the Great Lakes. It was a great vacation, and we have plenty of things to recommend if you're interested in trying something similar! Cities we stayed in were St. Paul, MN; Two Harbors, MN; Thunder Bay, ON; Sault Ste. Marie, ON; Indian Creek, MI; London, ON; and Napoleon, OH. We visited the Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls, Boundary waters of Northern MN, Kakabeka Falls, Mackinac Island, the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, ON, Niagara Falls, and countless trails and scenic areas along the way. Altogether, we traveled about 3000 miles and found 54 letterboxes. 

After the honeymoon, we returned to Cedar Rapids for a few more days before our big cross-country move. Saying goodbye to family and friends and leaving my home of 20.5 years was definitely the most difficult part of the year for me. I still miss being near them all the time, but have grown to love my new home in Arizona. Tucson gave us a warm welcome when we arrived - it was above 100 degrees every day for the first couple weeks. :) I very quickly adjusted to it though, and as I write this back in Cedar Rapids, IA, I am very much missing the 70's that are still in Tucson! We have a cute little apartment within a friendly community and are within walking distance of many stores and restaurants, including a puppy store!

Curtis had a relatively easy semester, probably the lightest one he's ever had. We took advantage of all our free time by hiking, going on road trips, letterboxing, and enjoying every landmark around our home for the next 1.5 years. We made the effort to get out every weekend and have a new adventure, and since moving to Tucson we have hiked around 120 miles and have found about 250 letterboxes. We have a great group of friends that we enjoy hiking and letterboxing with. We also found a church that is pretty much the perfect fit for us - similar to our favorite Bible teacher, Ken McElreath's lectures, with more Calvinist beliefs and expository Bible teaching. The church body is small but very welcoming, and Curtis and I joined as the youngest attenders of the congregation. We enjoy the challenging and applicable messages from both the sermon and Bible study. A few other highlights from the past fall include a trip to Albuquerque, NM for the International Balloon Festival and visiting San Diego, CA for my 21st birthday. Finally, after 4 months away, we came back to Iowa to celebrate the holidays with our families, and celebrated Christmas in 7 different homes.

As you can see, God has been very good to us this year, and we have seen Him bless us and our marriage in so many ways. We are very thankful to each one of our friends and family that He has put into our lives.  We hope that God blesses you in 2014 - and remember that if you ever need a warm vacation spot, we'd love to have visitors! :) Happy New Year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hiking in Arizona

Here are some panoramas that Curtis and I have taken while hiking recently!

 Hiking on the Arizona trail in the Molino Basin in the Catalina Mountains

 Curtis' hike up Mt. Wrightson in the Santa Rita Mountains

Monday, December 2, 2013

Highlights of Thanksgiving Week

Here's a little look into how our first Thanksgiving as a married couple went! It was hard not getting to spend the holiday with my family, but we still managed to have fun, eat great food, and have a couple adventures! We had a lovely dinner with Curtis' relatives, who have their own traditions - like substituting the turkey for duck!

We went hiking Tuesday night at sunset and ended up finding 6 boxes in the dark. Pretty hardcore, right? We hiked at Ironwood Park in the Tucson Mountain park, and pictured below is the only ironwood tree in the park!

Sunset in the desert 

On Thanksgiving day, we stopped on the way to Curtis' cousin and got a box near this awesome bridge. Just another reason why Tucson is so great!

Looking inside the bridge

The rattlesnake tail at the end! 

And finally, on Saturday we went to Tombstone and Bisbee with our letterboxing friends. Our mission was to plant 5 boxes, but we only planted 3 which means we'll enjoy another trip to these cities in the future!
Here is a historical landmark we pulled over to check out:

I love the colors in Cochise county!

This is on Mule Pass, right outside of Bisbee. 

Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone

Any cemetery that has how the person died written on their tombstone becomes very interesting! 

Courthouse in Tombstone 

We finished this adventure at Big Nose Kate's bar in Tombstone 

Married for 4 months, and we still love each other! :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013


The longer I'm away from home, the more I find myself missing, loving, and admiring my family. As a kid growing up in your parent's home, it's easy to take things for granted and not enjoy life. Being away has shown me many things, and today I'm thanking God for them and counting each of them as blessings.

I'm thankful for my parents, and how dedicated they were to protecting me. I'm thankful that I grew up in a conservative household, and that my parents took/take raising us as a high responsibility. I'm thankful that they homeschooled me, and that they allowed me to continue living at home until my wedding day. I'm thankful for their rules, discipline, teaching, and how they gathered us into the same room multiple times a week for dinners and family times.

I'm thankful for my siblings, as crazy as they are, and I'd do anything to just be around them and surrounded by that silliness now. I was so blessed to grow up in a family that knows how to have fun! I love looking back and remembering growing up with all these people, and even though it could be annoying, loud, insane, I wouldn't want to have grown up any other way.

I'm thankful that we lived so close to grandparents, and that family was always priority over holidays. My grandparents are the best ever, and now that I'm married I'd say what I'm most thankful for are the marriages in my family. Every couple is different, yet works together so well, and each is a great example for my marriage. I miss them all, but I'm so thankful I get to go back in a month to spend more time with them.

I hope they all know my heart is with them today, and that I'm very much looking forward to seeing them again!

 Last Thanksgiving, eating lunch with my family on Mt. Lemmon in Tucson

So blessed!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rainy Road trip in Cochise County

The rain may have altered some of our plans, but it definitely didn't spoil today's adventure! We successfully found 8 letterboxes and enjoyed more of Arizona that we hadn't seen before. However, we weren't able to see as much as we wanted of Chiricahua National Park due to rain, cold, and snow causing closed roads. But from what we saw, it looks amazing and we're looking forward to going back and doing more hiking someday!

Every week I am more and more amazed by God's creation all around. I love everything I've seen, and I keep hearing about more places that I need to visit! I'm certain He put in overtime when designing Arizona's mountains and rock formations. ;)

I hope you enjoy the pictures of this adventure as much as I do!

Texas Canyon

Dragoon, AZ

 It might have been windy, rainy, and cold, but the clouds were amazing!

 If you go to Arizona and only drive on interstates, you are seriously missing out on the beauty of the back highways.

 Willcox, AZ

 Dos Cabezas, AZ

Driving toward Chiracahua National Park:

 Some pictures from inside the park:

 Jaguars in AZ? Yes!

 I love the red bark on this dogwood tree:

 We also visited the gravesite for John Ringo

 Back at Texas Canyon on the way home. There are some quality boxes around here! :)

Panoramic view from highway 186 heading toward Chiracahua National Monument

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hiking in Saguaro National Park

Winter is coming - it's getting much cooler and is starting to rain. Thankfully, we were able to get out and go hiking and boxing before the rain started today. (it's been pouring off and on since last night!) Because Curtis has school and we only have 2 hours until sunset when he gets home, we split up this hike into 2 days. On Wednesday, we hiked around 3 miles up toward Wasson Peak on Sweetwater trail, and Thursday we hiked the other way, down Thunderbird trail. All of the hiking was on Saguaro National Park West of Tucson, but the 2 boxes we got were cleverly hidden off of the park territory.

With these 5 more miles hiked, we have now hiked around 100 miles since we got married, almost 4 months ago. The longest trail that we've hiked together was around only 5 miles, so with that you can see that we have done lots of  <5 mile hikes on many, many trails. Someday I'll be strong enough to hike to one of these mountains with Curtis, but for now I'm enjoying what short hikes I can take to get used to the elevation and endurance. With all the beauty that we find in Arizona, it really isn't hard to enjoy!

See the cactus with the weird growth on the top? It is a crested saguaro.

Being here makes me wish I was better with photography to be able to capture all the beauty!

Hopefully we'll be able to have another Saturday adventure this weekend despite the predicted rain and Tour de Tucson!