2013 in review

2013 was quite a year. There were momentous occasions, additions to the family and a lot of fun was had.

I will start in February, when I asked Kristin if she would marry me in Alaska (she thankfully said yes!). Seeing the Northern Lights was high on both of our bucket lists, so I planned a trip to Fairbanks in February, which is one of the best times of the year to see the lights. We arrived to a freezing but beautiful Fairbanks. The bed and breakfast we stayed in was pleasant and a bit out of the town center in order to give guests the opportunity to see the lights. We didn’t see any the first night, but had high hopes for the following night as we were scheduled to embark on a midnight dog-sledding tour under the stars (and hopefully lights!). That was when I originally meant to propose, but I soon began to realize how difficult it would be in the -33 degree weather which meant we were so bundled up. During the day, we explored the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, enjoyed some coffee at a local cafe and decided to relax with a bottle of wine in the afternoon as we had to save energy for the dog sled tour. I knew this was going to be the best time to propose, so I did over some nice wine in our bed and breakfast.

Kristin showing off the ring in a coffee shop in Fairbanks

The dog sled tour that night was remarkable. We went through Sirius Sled Dogs, which is run by Josh and Anita, two amazing people. They built a cabin off the grid and now offer sled dog tours through the wilderness. Josh picked us up and drove us to the cabin. Along the way we spotted a mom and baby moose, which was great to see. Immediately upon arriving, we felt welcomed and we knew the night was going to be incredible. The small number of people that are on each tour makes it a very intimate experience. They have an abundance of sled dogs, who were anxiously awaiting being able to show us the Alaskan countryside. We played with some of the lucky ones who wandered outside and inside then got ready for the tour. I was really struck by how excited each dog got when they know there was a sled leaving soon. There are too many to use every time, so they’re competing with howls as to who will be selected. Their excitement does not stop when they’re picked; when they’re selected they eagerly await being given the command to start mushing. It was a very cold night and we didn’t see the Northern Lights for more than a couple minutes, but it was one of the most memorable nights of our lives. Gliding underneath the gorgeous sky covering Alaska, interacting with the excited and friendly dogs, and learning from Josh and Anita all made it such a phenomenal experience.

A few of the sled dogs!

Since we didn’t see the lights that night, we booked a tour for the next night that would take us out to a remote cabin. It was led by a Native American who was an incredible guide. His knowledge was vast and his personality shined. That night we saw the Northern Lights from 9pm - 3am. Watching as the lights bounced around the sky and danced to the other side was something we’ll never forget.  I also highly recommend his tours for anyone looking to see virtually anything in the Fairbanks/Denali region. The rest of the trip was full of relaxing in the hot springs, eating good food and enjoying ourselves. We met up with friends of ours in Anchorage, which was awesome. Alaska is definitely one of the highlights of 2013. The engagement of course is the shining moment, but the trip as a whole was as unforgettable as trips get. One of my goals for 2014 is to get some of our photos canvassed (more decorations for the apartment).

A great photo of the Northern Lights

Another huge highlight of 2013 occurred about 3.5 months after Alaska, when we drove up to Clarion, Pennsylvania to pick up the newest member of our family, Kaikoura. Kristin and I had always wanted a dog and from the beginning, we both knew we wanted a Siberian husky. About 1.5 years before, we scoured the Internet for reputable breeders within driving distance and happened upon Jalerran Siberians. We were impressed as soon as we read their website about why they breed, what to expect with a Siberian and more. Our satisfaction with Jess (the breeder) skyrocketed when she interviewed us over the phone for about an hour. She wanted to know why we wanted a Siberian, how we would care for it and what questions we had. After that, our decision was easy and we put a deposit down. We waited a while, always getting notified of new litters and anxiously awaiting the time when we’d be able to select one. We were notified of a litter that was to be born on Kristin’s birthday, and we decided we were finally ready. Since we had waited so long, we were fortunate to be able to select first. After tirelessly analyzing the photos and temperament updates, we selected the puppy who was then known as Athena. She was a cute fluffball who had amazing markings and a mild temperament. We drove the 5.5 hours to pick her up and quickly fell in love with Kaikoura. Nothing can really prepare you for a new puppy or baby, no matter how much research you do. The next few months were amazing, exhausting and very rewarding. We couldn’t have asked for a better addition to our family. Kai is a sweet, friendly and incredibly intelligent dog who wants to play with everyone and everything she sees (unless it’s a rabbit or a mouse, which she wants to eat). She has quickly become a Facebook celebrity and has a lot of friends at daycare. She is growing much too quickly of course and her coat continues to evolve, which is pretty cool.

Kaikoura when we first brought her home

Many other notable events in 2013: my cousin Kenneth got engaged as well and we couldn’t be happier for him and Jess. Their wedding will be a riot (as we hope ours is!) and we’re looking forward to it. A few friends of ours got married and we were excited to celebrate with them. My other cousin Ryan was ordained and we were able to celebrate with him in May.

Christmas was a fun time this year. We brought Kai with us and were able to bring her to Mendon Ponds Park three times, which she obviously loved. Jessie and Joe are both doing great at their respective universities and they continue to mature into pleasant adults. Mom, Dad and Murphy are also great. We’re very much looking forward to July so we can celebrate with everyone.

2013 also was the year when I committed to rediscover learning. I’ve read a lot more this year than I have in the past 5. Even though I didn’t hit my goal (which I will carry over to 2014), I also filled my time by listening to educational podcasts. The search for truth is exciting and I couldn’t be happier about the number of ways we have of educating ourselves now. Books, of course, but now YouTube is quickly becoming a great destination for long-form content such as debates, lectures and talks, and podcasts as a medium are rising in popularity and utility. Whatever your interests are, you can find a podcast of various lengths to occupy your time. Many are sub-par and that’s to be expected in any medium, but there are many others that are high quality.

In terms of looking ahead to 2014, I hope it continues the upward trajectory. I hope Kai continues to grow into a healthy and happy husky, I hope that our wedding goes well and that the guests traveling from places far and near enjoy themselves, I hope we continue to celebrate good times with friends and family and I hope that I continue to learn something new everyday and always strive to uncover truths, no matter what the implications are.

Here’s to a great 2014!

Happy New Year!