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2011 – A Year in Review

Posted by on January 3, 2012

As we start the venture into a new year, I wanted to update everyone on our past year’s events (especially since I’ve been so terrible about blogging!).  We’ve also got some big news of how our lives are going to change over the course of this year.

Crazy Weather and…Earthquakes?
As a meteorologist, you know I have to talk about Oklahoma’s incredible weather this year, with several extremes.  We started off the year with two major winter storms, coined “Snowmaggedon.”  The first was blizzard and ice storm at the end of January, followed by another blizzard and extreme cold in February.  A new record was set for the lowest recorded temperature in Oklahoma at -31o F.  Shortly after that, we moved into a very active severe weather season.  No tornado chasing this year…they were chasing us!  We had a harrowing evening when we left home with the dog and some of our valuables to dodge the multiple tornadoes heading right for our area.  Due to the high clay content of the soil, basements are very rare, and we don’t even have a storm shelter.  These storms were not the type you could survive in a closet or bathtub.  Thankfully they either turned or dissipated before they got to us, but hundreds of people were not so fortunate.  Then if that wasn’t enough weather for one year, we also had the hottest summer on record, with 63 days over 100 degrees!  Hopefully we won’t see temperatures like that again for a long time!

And while we’re talking about weird weather, it’s a good place to talk about another strange occurrence this year…our rash of Oklahoma earthquakes!  We also had the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma  history, rocking us with a 5.6 magnitude.  I felt a strong foreshock – originally thought to be the main quake – the evening before.  Then the next night, I was putting Riley to bed, and we heard a boom followed by a deep rumble and bouncing movements.  Then it kept going on and getting stronger – I could actually see the objects in the room rolling like a boat floating on ocean swells!  Now that was freaky!  Dale woke up a couple of nights later saying there was another quake, but we had a good laugh realizing it was just our monstrous cat Chewy jumping on the bed and cleaning herself…it really did shake the bed exactly like the quake I felt a couple of nights before!

It’s been a busy year for all of us.  I was in an accelerated track for a bachelor’s degree in nursing, so was either studying or in clinicals nonstop.  But it was worth it…I was done in just over one year, and graduated at the end of July.  I was honored with a couple of awards – I was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honors Society last spring, selected for a palliative care nursing award, and also received an award for community health nursing.  I applied and was accepted into the BSN to PhD program, but decided to defer for several reasons.

Dale is in his second year as head of the math department at Carl Albert High School.  He is also the school’s team lead for a prestigious grant to increase graduation rates and college attendance for students near military bases.  He’s teaching an AP Statistics course as well as Geometry.  He continually gets feedback from parents and students that he is the best teacher they’ve ever had, and was nominated as Teacher of the Year for both 2010 and 2011.  Last spring was his final year as junior class sponsor, and he went out in style with an incredible junior-senior prom with a masquerade ball theme.

Riley is in 4th grade, and has been getting great grades.  He also started their gifted program, SEARCH, last year.  It was great for this future engineer/architect as the emphasis last year was on architecture.  They studied famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, learned about the golden ratio and golden spiral, drew buildings like the Eifel Tower, and even drafted their own designs and made 3-D models.  This year they are studying Greek culture.  I’m excited to see what they learn before this school year is over!

Fun times!
We sure made the best of our time off this year!  For spring break, Dale went on a mission trip to help a sister church in Utah with construction projects to expand their ministry.  While he was gone, Riley and I got down to Texas to visit Uncle Steve and Grandma and Grandpa Stone.  We got to fit in a little fishing, fixed a fence, and planted flowers for them to enjoy.  Then we went to our land at Flint Ridge to go camping.  The weather was beautiful!

Summer started off with a big block party for Memorial Day.  Our former neighbors were visiting from Nebraska, so our whole cul-de-sac we all gathered in their honor with a barbecue, homemade ice cream, and water balloon fights.

For the 4th of July we packed our bags for Colorado for a Troup family reunion.  Riley stayed on with Grandma and Grandpa Troup for the next month while I finished my last month of school and Dale left the country.  (The dog!)  Dale was the sponsor for a high school trip to Europe, and got to travel through Switzerland, Germany, and France.  Like all organized tours, it was a whirlwind, but he had a great time.  I finished school a week before Dale got back, so decided to head back out to Colorado to stay with the Troups.  While there, Riley and I took a nostalgic trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and camped out with a wonderful view of Long’s Peak.  We spent the night at the Troup’s cabin in Southpark on the way home where Riley actually got to feed a chickadee out of his hand!

Our last vacation of 2011 was our second annual trip to Silver Dollar City over fall break.  We stayed at a cabin on Indian Point a couple of nights.  SDC is really at its best in the fall – the trees are beautiful and the air is filled with the aroma of apple butter, cinnamon bread, and grilled corn on the cob…as well as screams from the awesome roller coasters!

I have to mention our little bit of fun on Halloween night.  Dale and Riley went to a church block party, and I stayed home to man the fort.  Then I got to thinkin’ I had to be a little more creative than just hand out candy.  I stuffed some of my old clothes, work gloves, and a hoodie sweatshirt and used our talking skeleton for a face.  Then I donned something similar with a mask and sat next to skeletor on our porch with the candy bowl in my limp arms.  I wish I had a video!  It reminded me of the Halloween my sister Rachel and I dressed up as mannequins in the window of our store in Branson and scared the pants off some tourists who were admiring our outfits…until we jumped out at them!

Photography Awards
Another fall event of note was the county fair, in which Riley and I had entries for photography.  I was so sad Riley’s age group could only have one entry…he has taken so many great photos!  But the one we entered won first place!  I also had entries in several categories and took a first, second, and third place.  I also got invited to have a few pieces in a gallery as a breast cancer fundraiser for Komen.  It was the first time I actually framed and marketed some of my photos, so it was a great experience for me.  One of the pieces sold, and I get to enjoy the other two!

Spare time?
We’ve been pretty busy elsewhere too.  Dale and I continue to be involved in our church’s music ministry.  Dale sings and plays awesome guitar leads, I sing harmonies and occasionally play bass.  We’re also on a rotation to lead worship on Sunday nights.

I am still involved with SHOUT, a nonprofit group I co-founded to support young women with cancer.  I am also on the steering committee for our state’s cancer coalition, and have been busy as we rewrite the State’s cancer plan as well as direct projects to meet our goals to reduce the cancer burden in Oklahoma.  I’ve been working part-time in palliative care research, and was planning to fill the other portion of my time with a new research grant.  That’s unfortunately been developing very slowly, but I’ve enjoyed having the time to dedicate to other projects and especially to be there to see Riley off to school and again when he gets home.

The Big News
So, the big news is that we will be moving to Meru, Kenya next fall!  I’ll be making another post with the specifics, but we’ll be working as volunteers with the Miriam KananaMubichi Foundation (MKMF), directing programs in health and education, and economic sustainability.  In other words, just about everything you can think of to make life better for these people, from feeding programs to digging latrines, to helping local cottage industries get on their feet.  We are so excited, so as one year winds down, we are looking expectantly to the big change ahead.  This blog will become a forum to share what we’re doing, so you can make the journey with us!

Here’s some photos from this past year.  If the slideshow below doesn’t display, you can access the album here.  Enjoy!

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