Posts Tagged With: Swimming

Teaching a frog how to dive… only in Barbados!

Cool Runnings is an excursion setting you sail on a custom made catamaran through the gorgeous waters of Barbados while providing, food, drink, dance, snorkeling and of course plenty of time to be kissed by the sun.

It’s been called the Rolls-Royce of catamaran excursions‘ in Barbados and was voted the 2nd best attraction from the popular Zagat. All with good reason, as you’re treated like royalty from the beginning.

Ryan did the honors of introducing this day trip to me and it made such a memory that when I was in the hosting position, I made it a point to pass on the experience. Here are some photos from my first experience of Cool Runnings.

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On this bright morning I’m like a little kid taking friends to Disneyland for the first time!

As you board ship, you’re greeted with an open bar and homemade banana bread. Yes, breakfast of Bajan’s.

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Brunch down and the first juice behind it, we’re off towards the first stop which is an opportunity to swim with tropical fish and sea turltes.

I’m going to pause here and define “dive”- a plunge into water executed in a prescribed manner, usually with arms extended and head first.

Since we have that clear, please explain to me how Bree managed to complete a dive by entering the water with both feet and hands at the same time after fully extending from what appears to be the position of a scared frog. Be mindful that we also initiated this attempt from a decently elevated height. I’m impressed.

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“Under da sea!” (To be said like Sebastian from the Little Mermaid)

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Back to the catermeran for our departure to the final stop which was more swimming and a Bajan Buffett! Flying fish, fried chicken, macaroni pie, salad, rice, veggies, spicy mango… and more adult beverages.

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A few years back, I connected with a warm hearted guy that was an instant friend with conversation that fueled my (already raging) fire for travels. Two years later as I approached the catamaran, I spotted Raymond immediately. Expecting him not to remember just another guest, he pointed and said, “Hand standing around the world… So good to see you again!” Brilliant. Here we are, then and now.

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Have you ever felt like a super-model being gently sprayed down with fresh water while gracefully perched on the back of a boat… only to see photos of it later to realize that you more resembled a giggling girl being drenched with freezing water out of a hose while trying to awkwardly brace yourself? Me neither.

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Here are some random photos taken throughout the day. Good times for sure!

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After swimming the clear turquoise waters, devouring lunch and enjoying one (or three) Bajan beverages, it was time for the final stretch back to the dock. What’s missing you may ask? Dancing! Music gets turned up and everyone braced themselves on deck to wiggle with it. Embarrassed to dance in front of a crowd? Eh, just blame your groove on the rocking boat!

Please take note of Hayden’s face… Was he just jealous of our sweet moves?

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Dear Annika and Robert, this beautiful day and the way it left us smiling reaches far beyond a day at sea. Your kind presence and willingness to make us feel right at home didn’t go unnoticed. Thank you!

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A walk through Tornado Alley

“If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma… just wait five minutes.” This is a commonly used phrase describing the extreme changes that can happen within a moments time. I’m here at the end of Spring which means the rain is finishing up and the sun brings on the heat. Combine those two things and you have a humid day that often leaves you feeling sticky and constantly thirsty. This year, another element has shown it’s face earlier than usual and that little monster is called tornado season.

It’s usually the thunder that wakes you up. Sharp cracking is the first sound that alarms your peaceful rest followed by the roll of deep thunder. With the windows rattling and your heart pounding, sleep is now something of the past. As you attempt to drift off, the continuous lightening keeps your room looking like there’s paparazzi outside with dozens of cameras constantly snapping photos. I’m actually writing this post with the sound of the storm as my music and the constant light flicker as a reminder that it’s still dark outside.

With that said, let me take you on a tour of an Oklahoma Spring day. Ours starts as a bright event, with clear skies and happy children chasing butterflies as we gather in my families yard.

My dad is currently building a studio in his backyard for my grandfather who needs assisted living. This perfect sized guest house will also be a great future hide out for my siblings as they grow up and “need space”. I’m not sure if you could pay me enough to go back to those teenage years! Either way, this project has turned into a family effort due to my talented father severely injuring his dominate arm. With cousins, kids and friends… let the construction continue!

What you can’t see here, is the intensity building as we raced against the wind to finish what was necessary. Tornado warnings had been rumoring the town all day!

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With our powers combined, the days work is wrapped up just in time to hear the first city alarm sound. It’s informing us that with the next siren, you must promptly take shelter. Here are the clouds bubbling up on the way back to my grandmas house.

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Photo opportunity! The usual handstand picture before the storm takes over (Thanks for the fun idea Aunt Cindee!) and a “creative” sign displayed by a local.

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My cousin Kaleb captured a few photos on his way home as well. He lives in the other direction and was heading towards the lightening! Notice in the first picture, he’s actually following the storm trackers from the news station.

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As Kaleb gained ground, this was his final photo before putting the camera down and thankfully making it safely to his wife and daughter.

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As the darkness followed him, the clearing left us with birds singing in the light of a rainbow. This was definitely an unexpected sight after going through such aggressive weather.

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To give you an idea of just how separated the sky can be, I took this panoramic as the circulation was beginning. It was like watching day turn to night in seconds.

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Attempting to sleep, a few more violent knocks at the window, tells me that the sky is still dancing and the threat isn’t over. A big day, a longer night and finally the sun welcomes a new start.

The morning arrives with blue sky and a few tree limbs scattered around the damp ground as the only evidence of the vicious night prior. This brings a heart of gratitude and numerous phone calls to check up on loved ones around. I’m thankful to say that my volunteer work for the Oklahoma tornados will not be done in the town of my family… others aren’t so fortunate.

To end this post on a cheerful note, I’ll return to the common phrase, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, just wait five minutes”. Here’s a recap of the 48 hours that followed the tree snapping, life threatening, heart pounding chaos.

The sun is out, the twisters are gone so now it’s time to play!

Working up a sweat!

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Water balloon games!

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Any excuse to get wet…

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What do you get with a hot day, buckets of water and 6 siblings in a backyard? A classic water fight!

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It took no convincing to finish up the fun with some good ol’ fashion country swimming!

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Kicked out by the neighbors horses, we headed back home with all smiles and more memories to add to the precious family album.

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Push ups on a dance floor?

Remember during the last bus ride, how we were plotting out an opportuntiy to reunite with the brightly spirited newlyweds? Please officially meet Muli, a joyful man with a sincere presence and his equally happy wife that carries a genuine smile wherever she goes.

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All of us agreed that sealing up the trip at a nice resort would be a delightful way to decompress (as if our life is hard) before the long flights home. Since I had already been there with Hayden, the guarantee of quality accommodations brought no hesitation as the bunch decided… Off to the Hilton we go!

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Again, my camera just seems to disappear when my shower shoes come off. With that said, here’s a small piece of our luxurious ending!

Daytime fun!

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I was able to learn some new German card games and I taught her a few that I grew up with as well!
Fun fact: In Germany, they call the Jack a “Bube” and the Queen a “Dame”.

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Food fun!

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Night time fun!

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20130529-090353.jpgSIDE NOTE: To mix things up at the resort, we decided to act like a couple of kids and create a “list” of items to find or things to happen while staying here. Examples would be a polka dotted bikini, someone skipping, a “mom” tattoo, etc. Who ever spotted a “list” item first would then get to deliver a drink or dare to the other person.

Carina pointed out an elderly couple holding hands (also on the list) so I received the first dare. 10 push ups in the middle of the dance floor at the disco tech! Of course I waited until an Usher song, then randomly dropped for my set. Raise your hand if you’ll ever see me again?!

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Our new friends have departed and now Carina and I are left with one more van ride together as we make our way towards the San Jose airport. Can you see the difference in our eyes? The smiles just aren’t the same when you know that the next hug, will be the last one for awhile.

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Carina, you are a friend that blesses us with your bright heart and fun loving spirit. You’re the type of woman that gives us all such a great example of “independence” being used with positive drive. You’re worthy of all the amazing things this life has to offer and I truly thank you for being you!

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Next stop, USA! I’m flying directly into Oklahoma to visit my father and fabulous family that always has arms open, smiles waiting and eager ears to hear the stories I bring back. The photo below is the card I needed to get into Costa Rica and the document to get out.

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This next stretch of travels will also allow me to put my hands to work for the victims of the EF5 tornado (strongest category measured) that destroyed over 17 miles of central Oklahoma. With packed winds between 200 and 210 mph and a rotation of almost 2 miles wide, several innocent families are left to pick up the remaining pieces of what was once their home. My thoughts go out to them and I’ll be there soon!

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Zip lining -aka- “The flying fox” in Montezuma!

One of the top tourist excursions in the tropical country of Costa Rica is zip lining, also known as an aerial runway, the flying fox or death slide. Doesn’t that last one make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Me too.

We decided to take the route that follows a river and crosses waterfalls giving you an opportunity to take a dive. With 11 platforms, a swimming hole and dreams of monkey filled trees, we were excited and ready by 8am. Instead of a greeting from the taxi driver, we got a call informing us that they were “repairing a cable” so our excursion was pushed back until 3pm. I’m not sure if we needed to know that we were the first and only to use the cable today, but I suppose it just adds more thrill to the adventure. Let the death slide begin!

Before the zip lining, let me give you a very quick tour of Montezuma. The main road has a market, a bar, several tour kiosks and a few restaurants.

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My favorite part of the town is how the main street literally drops off to the sandy beach. That’s it, no more driving from here on out!

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Ok, off we go to play in the trees! Safety first as they gear us up into these darling outfits.

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Instead of describing each individual platform (because they’re all similar) here is a fun group of photos as we fly through the jungle tree tops of Montezuma!

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A bit through the zip lining you can begin to hear the faint sound of rushing water splashing off of rocks. At this point in the hot day, it sounds so sweet and extremely inviting!

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As soon as I spotted the rope swing across the water hole, I was edge side ready to go. Can I just remind myself through this blog… “I’m waterfall jumping to a rope swing in Costa Rica on a Thursday afternoon!” Ok then, I wanted to embrace that for a second. Moving on to the photos!

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Carina’s turn! For her first jump, she went with the “frog” approach.

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…and for her second form, the “scared frog”.

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In my opinion, her rope swing technique was brilliant! Why wait to hit the refreshing water when you can simply drag your entire body throughout the swing?

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Instead of the frog, this friendly boy from Austria went for, what I would call, the “fish out of water”.

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For my second round, Carina complimented the perfect “starfish” dismount from the swing.

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After our hour in the water, we climb out like water soaked, happy kids and get ready for the short hike to the final flying fox.

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Flying through the green tops of Costa Rica… Check.
Jumping off waterfalls… Check.
Rope swing to a swimming hole… Check.
Carina finally seeing a real monkey? To be continued…

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Not just a Dolphin Tour

I like to focus on the present with a positive look forward, however just for a moment I’m going to step out the “travel blog” and tip toe through a bit of my past personal life. I feel this is necessary for you to grasp the emotional energy that surfaced during this part of my journey.

Please take note that some of the pictures and comments might “hit home” or “strike a cord” with some of you depending on your own experiences. I mean no harm… Just sharing what I view as a beautiful story.

Pamela is her name. The woman that carried me, delivered me, and raised me.
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I claim my mother to be one of my biggest fans. Most parents tell their children that “You can achieve anything you put your mind to”.
When my mom says this to me, she’s teary eyed and expresses it more like “I’m so amazed by you. You’re something special on earth and I love watching you accomplish your dreams. You’re going to impact so many people and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Yeh, I know… What do you say back to that? I feel like “Thank you” is an understatement for the unconditional love that she has supported me with all of these years (even the moments in which she claims aliens took her sweet girl and replaced her with a teenager).

Her story went like this:
Mom in the middle of 2008: “I have an abnormal mark on my breast”.
1st nurse practitioner gives Mammogram and exam: “Looks like you’re fine.”

6 months later

Mom: “I know my body. I don’t know what’s wrong, but something isn’t right.”
Nurse practitioner orders an ultra sound: “The ultra sound shows nothing to be concerned about”. During the test, the nurse tech mentioned that mom had dense breasts and that can make it difficult to read.
Mom: “Try again, look in a different spot”.

3 months later

Mom went back and asked for a different doctor. They sent her to a female surgeon.

New Doctor: “I haven’t seen your films, but nothing is jumping out at me. Breasts can change over time and this is normal.”

2 months and and many phone calls from my mother to the doctors…

Doctor: “For all patients who think they have cancer, following everything you’ve had done, the next step is a fine needle biopsy”.

First two came back negative so they followed up with a third fine needle biopsy.

It’s now September of 2009

Me: “Mom, I trust you, but they did tests and said you’re clear. No more stress ok?”
Mom: “Not ok.”

Doctor calls to set up a PEM Scan (Positron Emission Mammography).

Test results showed cancer and encourages them to give her a PET scan and a Needle Biospy MRI.

After 2 mamagrams, 2 Ultra Sounds, 3 fine needle biopsies, a PEM scan, PET scan and an extreme amount of persistence…

Stage III Breast cancer.

Nov 23, 2009- Bi-lateral Masectomy with 22 Lymphnodes removed.
January 2010- 6 months of chemotherapy (she refused 6 weeks straight of Radiation treatment).

Obviously all that was described above included many long nights, dreadful hospital visits, tears, exhaustion, teamwork, support from friends, patience, courage and an uncountable amount of hugs.

The morning she woke up with a rainbow of hair on her pillow, she called me that day. “It’s time to take it off”. With a hesitant but courageous stride she walks into my shop and sits while I prepare the clippers. Leave it to us to have a little fun with it.

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The beauty underneath it all…
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Personally, I think she dominates the bandana look.
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Then we head in for her first treatment. Previously they inserted a device underneath her skin so that they would have a direct line site rather than peircing her arm or hand each time. This was the first time it was put to use and not the last time I held her hand through it… Literally, I didn’t miss a session.
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All hooked up.
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Moms sassy side kept my faith up…
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..and her attitude kept the treatment center smiling.  Really take a look at the nurses, that’s not fake.  They loved her!
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They kept the room super cold but always had a heated blanket for us.
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During her treatment she would often say “When (not if) I make it through this, I want to be on an island.  Just give me sun and warm sand next to pretty water.”
She had no idea, but during this entire process I was planning to make it happen. So after her first “clean” test (and first haircut) we jet set to the gorgeous island of Barbados. What a vibrant place to celebrate her 50th birthday of life!
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She’s happiest near water so I set up a submarine tour.
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Goofing off on the boat.
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Before and especially since her cancer she has developed a “bucket list”. A list which includes the day that made my trip to Panama City Beach such a memorable one.
BLUE DOLPHIN TOURS is owned and operated by extremely kind people. Ted and Karen have a warm-hearted nature that is present in all conversation and a welcoming spirit that invites you in. If you are ever in this area, I can only suggest to the best of my ability to check this out. It’s an unforgettable experience!

www.bluedolphintour.com .

I could write chapters about this excursion, but I’ll keep it to the point with some fun pictures.
On this day I got to watch my mom go from a  51 year old “survivor” to a “full of life” 12 year old!
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This was our guide, Russell. He was another great addition to the day, in fact, he made the “tour” feel like a day on a boat with friends. His knowledge of the water and everything in it was impressive and comforting. Thank you Russell!
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We got to make him blush.
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Off we go!
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Snorkeling along the way! Russell jumped right in and starting searching for cool stuff!
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I chose to stay in the boat to capture these moments and had no idea of the emotions that would play in my heart. To see her truly happy from within, absolutely made my heart smile.  At one point I had teared up with inexpressible joy. My mom was finally in the water with these amazing creatures, doing what she had always spoke about.
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Survey says?
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Winner!

Dear mom,
If I got to pick again… I’d still choose you.

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