Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano
Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

31 January 2007

Bouncing Around

January 30, 2007 10:01pm

Just watched Grey’s Anatomy on TV here… it’s almost the end of the second season. Izzy just cut the LVAT wires and Burke was shot. Hehe. It’s fun to watch it over again, and this time I get the bonus of Swedish subtitles!

This morning I had shooting practice and then ate lunch at the club. Lunch today is worth noting… I ordered the “Shoemaker.” It’s a “famous Swedish dish” of meat and potatoes (meat and potatoes, of course!). The potatoes were mashed and the gravy had bits of bacon and onions in it. One guy I was eating with had four helpings of it! I don’t normally like bacon, but it was pretty tasty. Plus, eating it made me feel a little Swedish or something : )

Yesterday we didn’t have practice, rather we were all required to do some sort of workout at Klubb Active. This was good because it gave me the flexibility to go into lab AND visit a school to help with an English class. Our club goes out to local 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms to teach kids about our “08 Values”: Teamwork, Respect, Commitment, Quality, and Responsibility. I met up with Leila out in Vällingby and she drove us to the school. Leila’s in charge of the “08 Values” program. She played on our team when the season started, but right before Erin and I came she decided to devote all her efforts to these programs in the schools.

Last time I was in a school was to teach PE classes, so I never actually saw a classroom. Well, the classes/rooms were obviously different than my elementary school in two main ways. First of all, all the kids were all running around (or studying!) without any shoes on! They leave their shoes and jackets at the door. So following their lead, Leila and I removed our boots upon entering the classroom too. I was wearing these great blue slipper socks that keep my feet nice and warm (most of the kids had white socks though ;) ). The other obvious difference was that all of the desks were much taller than desks I ever used in elementary school (or have ever used for that matter!). The chairs were sort of like bar chairs with backs and likewise the desks were similar in height to a standard bar. Makes it much easier for teachers to get close to their students’ work (instead of having to bend so far over to those mini-desks in the States!). Anyway, aside from the obvious differences of the shoelessness of the students and the tall desks, the class seemed quite similar to what I remember of elementary school. There were paintings on the walls, roll-up maps hanging from the ceiling, and the boys and girls stayed a part from each other! I had a good time with the kids and I’m looking forward to visiting some more schools next week with Leila.

My highlight today was listening to some lectures by Dallas Willard that I had on my iPod. Willard just has this way of reminding us what matters most in life. One of the points that stuck with me most was that “Jesus lived for us!” We often hear and think of Jesus dying for us. Yes, He did that. But, very importantly, He lived for us! He lived so that we could see how we should live. He taught us how to live for God. He was an actual living example and obviously an inspiration. It’s quite daunting and challenging to think we could be Christ-like in all we do, but boy isn’t it awesome that God wants us to and calls us to try! We are all God’s children too: Jesus, you, me… so let’s use the example that Jesus set and try to live at least a little bit like Him everyday. Willard gave one example of how to change our lives to be more Christ-like: turn every curse into a blessing. If every time we are tempted to say something negative to someone else or about them, then say a prayer for them or bless them in some way. Cool, huh?! No more cursing, just blessings (in actions and in thoughts!)!! I’m going to give it a try, will you?

28 January 2007

Win at Södertalje

January 28, 2007 10:36pm

Today was a really FUN game! We played together so well, we played hard, and I really do think we played for each other. No one had a perfect game and no one played horrible either. We all just did the little things at the right time. Everybody had a part and did it well. And, it was so much fun! The game was played just 30 minutes south of Stockholm against Telgé Energi, a team that is either tied with us or one game back (I’m not sure which). In addition to their young, talented twin guards and an also young and talented post player, the team just brought in Stacy Stephens (she was a major player at Texas a couple years back; today was her first game with the team). This was a big game for us… more than anything to prove to ourselves how good we are, but also for the standings and all that. The game was really physical and a total battle on both ends, but in the second half we started to pull away. After being tied (or close to it) at halftime, I think we ended up winning by over twenty points. They started bickering among themselves, while we pulled closer and closer together. The best part of the game, through my eyes, was to see that everyone who went in the game contributed in a positive manner. Anders and Putte were pretty happy too. Now, we have 10 days to prepare for Solna. This game will be even more important than today to come out ready to play and focused from the start. I can’t wait!

Up and Down

January 28, 2007 1:10pm

I don’t really know where to start when it comes to explaining the week I’ve just had, but perhaps it’d be best to mention how we were being dominated by Visby at about this time last week. Nobody on our team played very well at all, they played amazing (especially their 41-year-old guard; she couldn’t miss, plus we kept leaving her wide open!), and it was just one of those games that happens like once in five years. We only ended up losing by 16-or-so points and I think we may have won the second half, but we were down by close to 25 points in the first half and it felt even worse. It sorta was a double bummer because the game was aired on tv. I think the TV-factor may have been the root cause of our GM being SO upset about the loss. I don’t really want to get into details, but let’s just say that all is pretty good when we win, but when we lose (and it’s on tv!) some people at the club can make you feel like the world is coming to an end! That wasn’t so pleasant to deal with, but it proved to be a good challenge in making sure that I keep perspective about what’s really important. See the big picture and all. It’s just a game. Yes, it’s a bit different with bball being my job and the reason Erin and I were brought here was to win games, but still… there will be more games, there is still the playoffs, there is still time to prove our team’s will and ability (and, that chance comes later today!). Anyway, practice turned out to be more challenging, more focused, and just better attended to as business (rather than some sort of social event) by everyone there. I really hope we are ready to play today (and that it is our turn to dominate) because I don’t want to deal with another loss.

Another interesting event this week was related to Sunday’s game and practice Tuesday. On Sunday I drove into the lane and slipped on this big sponsor-decal that is stuck around the foul-line area. My feet totally went out from under me and I fell flat on my back (“like in a cartoon,” explained one of my teammates). I felt kinda dizzy after that and was slow running back down the court, but I didn’t actually hit my head and didn’t think much of it. Monday we didn’t have practice and I was in lab all day, I had a little bit of a headache, but nothing too strange. During Tuesday’s practice I was going in for a rebound when one of my teammates knocked me super hard in the mouth with her elbow. I thought I was going to lose my two front teeth (seriously, plus one is already sorta lose from last year’s season); turned out that once I removed my mouthguard, I could only wiggle them both a little. However, my head was really hurting now. I went through the rest of that practice and did all the running, but on the ride home my head kept on hurting. I had trouble reading and the next day I felt like my head was all cloudy. After talking to Aaron about this (he has a PhD and is halfway through med school), he suggested that I take that day off from practice. I took it easy on Wednesday and by Thursday night I felt much better. So, I didn’t have a concussion – don’t worry! (though that wouldn’t have been the end of the world or anything), but I just got banged up a little. Feeling better now though :) I had never experienced any real strange feelings with my head, so it was something new.

Let’s see. What else? “Losing” and “my head” were the two big events of the week for me. Lab was pretty routine and we are really starting to nail down some of our findings. Thursday I spent some time walking around downtown Stockholm… just meandered around mostly and I checked out some of the 24-hour site-seeing cruises that are offered out of here. It’s been VERY cold (at least comparable to what it has been before this week). When I walk outside now, my cheeks really burn. Someone told me you can tell the temperature by how the snow sounds under your boots. It’s totally true! Today it was between -10 and -15°C. Alrighty, well I better get my things together for the game. Hope to check in before this week is out. Bye!

Random Rules

January 27, 2007 10:46pm

The other day while sitting in our lunchroom at lab, a few other people there and I were having a conversation about skiing. We discussed downhill skiing, cross-country skiing (two of them had acquired cross-country ski-gear over the Christmas holiday), skiing in Stockholm, skiing in Germany (that’s where the two of them were from)… we talked about basketball a little bit, but skiing seemed to me to be the focus of our conversation. Then the fourth person in the conversation, a sweet Swedish girl in her mid-twenties, chimed in with a question directed at me, “Are you allowed to have sex before games?” What?! I thought I had misunderstood her. Maybe she was saying something about the number six? After all, to say “six” in Swedish, one says “sex.” Raising my eyebrows and looking a bit confused (well, more like totally confused), I asked her if she could explain what she was asking. Sure enough, she was asking if we (my basketball team) had any rule forbidding us to have sex before a game. Interesting. I had never heard of any sort of thing like this. And, quite honestly since a situation like this will not occur (and certainly has not occurred) any time soon, I had never given it any thought at all. She went on to explain how she had dated a hockey player for a while and that his team had a rule against having sex the night before the game (“to insure a good night’s sleep,” she added). It was a funny little conversation we had… the four of us “researchers” sitting in our lunchroom discussing sports and sex. Well, it was only awkward for a millisecond, and then the conversation became quite funny. I told her I would ask my teammates and get back to her. This little conversation didn’t last long, as we all had work to get back to, but the story is a glimpse into one way I’ve experienced some of Swedish culture. People don’t always say much, but sex – as both a topic of conversation and I presume to think the act, so-to-say, itself – is quite well accepted and talked about with relative ease. Anyway, just a funny story. Oh, and to answer her question: no, our team has no such rule. In fact after doing some brief research by talking to my teammates, they seem to have concluded that the rule may be common among professional men’s teams, but not written up in contracts of women athletes. Interesting.

20 January 2007


January 20, 2007 5:20pm

Yesterday morning I started keeping a journal. A journal filled with prayers. Lately, I’ve really been wanting to pray a lot… pray for people and just talk with God. Sometimes I feel like I’m over here in Sweden, part way across the world and away from most everyone I’m close to and love, and I feel that I can’t really be a part of everyone’s lives like how I want to be. I can’t spend the actual time with you. I can’t give somebody a hug, crack up in uncontrollable laughter with you, or just sit together without saying a word. I miss that. So… I’m going to do what I can do: pray.

So, I ask you this… if there is anything at all going on in your life – joyful or joyless, exciting or routine, peace-filled or angry – tell me about it and let me pray for you. Everybody needs prayer, no matter how together life seems or not. Prayer is powerful and it’s something I can do from here, for you.

I haven’t written in an actual journal for a while, really not at all since I’ve started keeping the blog (everything has been done on my laptop). Yesterday when I retrieved one of the journals that I brought with me, I glanced at some of the old entries – entries from late summer and early autumn. As I read over some of what I was writing and what I had been praying for then, two really big things that I prayed for have happened. The prayers have been answered! And of course, God answered them in ways that I could never predict, but in ways that are much more awesome than I could even have imagined either.

So, if you would – let me know how I can be praying for you, or at least how life’s been going lately.

Enjoy your weekend and I really hope to hear from you :)


January 20, 2007 5:40pm

Just finished watching the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and soon I’ll probably go meet up with Jasmina, Malin, and Erin to hang out a bit and watch a movie. This past week has been a good one. We won our game on Wednesday. That was very good… that we won, at least. Our team didn’t play too terrific, but we went into a zone in the second half when they started to make a run; it worked. Their team has a new American and a big post player from Czech. My first game in Sweden (way back on Oct. 25th) was against this team and we blew them out; they are much better now with a couple of additions. I personally had a pretty good game. Maybe I’ll shoot well at home for once!

I was in lab much of the week. I really enjoy spending time there even more now, than before Christmas, because Aaron has more time to teach me and talk to me now, which really enhances the experience! He is a super teach, plus he likes to teach. It’s a good match because I like to listen. Monday I have the day off from basketball, so Aaron and I are planning on running some gels that take all-day to run… I’ll be there from the morning time to past dinner. I hope the gels run right and that I don’t break any of them! I’ve never really run this sorta thing before.

What else? No babysitting this week. Last night was the men’s all-star game, hosted at Fryshuset. Our whole team was there to watch. Maddy’s 2-month old cousin was in the stands, and she brought him over for us to meet. I just love babies. Haha. This little one was named Milton; he’s probably almost the same age as Annalise. They grow so fast and time flies so fast! I feel like I was just shopping with Maddy for a newborn outfit for him. Kevin, our club GM, has a little baby – Kayla – she was born in the beginning of December, and already seems to have grown so much too. She’s around the gym a fair bit, too.

Our game that was supposed to be today was moved until tomorrow. We are now playing right before the men’s game. Their game will be on TV live, and then our game will be aired (tape-delay) on TV after they show the men’s game. That’s sorta fun. Maybe some of the people I work with in lab will get to see it… they’re always asking me about how my team’s doing.

Alrighty, gonna go meet up with some teammates now. Have a good evening. Hej då.

15 January 2007


January 15, 2006 8:37pm

Just finished up practice (I was on fire – which always makes it extra fun… well, at least for my team because we kept winning :) my teammates were setting excellent screens for me!) I spent the morning is lab and this afternoon at the offices at Fryshuset (trying to figure out my cell phone situation… every cell phone they’ve let me use seems to be broken in some way… every time I try to talk on it, the screen either freezes or the phone completely dies). It’s getting a bit frustrating because I can’t have any sort of conversation on the phone (oh well, brings me back to the days before cell phones!). Patrice (the electronics guy on staff) gave me two more phones to try; things already don’t look that promising, as each of them upon being plugged in to charge will not stay on. Anyway, not a big deal, definitely not worth so much blog space! Geez, what was I thinking?!

Last night it was snowy out! I went to hang out with some friends I met at church and we had a pizza and movie night :) Earlier in the day I attended a “Newcomer’s Welcome” at Jodi and Doug Fondell’s House (they are the pastors of Immanuel International). I’m so excited to be a part of this church. The people are amazing and so diverse and committed to unity. There are over 40 countries represented (and the church isn’t even that big; feels very intimate to me!). It’s awesome. I feel so blessed. SO blessed.

The game on Saturday was a blowout and I didn’t play much. Got stuck with some tough calls from refs (resulting in turnovers) and a basket that was clearly a 3-pointer but only was counted for 2-points. Because we won by 30-or-so (I think), the game was a great opportunity to get substantial playing time for the whole team. That was very nice.

Erin and I grabbed pizza after the game at our favorite pizza place. Then, I watched Billy Elliot and called it an early night!

Just started reading “The Glass Castle.” Really enjoying it (I’m less than 50 pages in though, so I’ll give you my final opinion in a few days, but I think it will just keep getting better and better). Hope everyone is doing well back in the U.S.A. I miss you!! Lots.

13 January 2007

happy weekend!

January 13, 2007 10:36am

Slept in late on this Saturday-gameday morning, after having a really fun week! In addition to having practice in the evenings (except for Monday night, that was our off day), I was in lab all day on Monday and Tuesday, spent Wednesday and Thursday coaching, and did the perfect mix of labwork, babysitting, and practice yesterday!

Labwork is coming along. I’m feeling more and more comfortable with the new techniques and am getting to know people increasingly well who work there. Sometimes I really wish I could spend more time there or at least more time with some of the people. The young ones in lab (still older than I) are always inviting me to come hang out with them, but they often go grab a bite to eat or drink right after the work day; I almost always have practice. I like having practice to go to, but I do wish I could spend some time with them outside of lab… perhaps give me another perspective of Swedish culture. Anyway, maybe one of these days I will have a day off from practice and be able to spend some more time with them. Continue to be very grateful for the opportunity to be there, to be learning so much, and meeting new people.

This week, Erin and I also were asked to coach again. Yay! Leila called me on Tuesday to tell me that Erin and I would be helping out at some P.E. classes at a local school. At first I was slightly disappointed because I had been expecting to have that time to be in lab and get some work done there. However, that original disappointment – I think it maybe was due to the late notice of the plans for us, than really being disappointed – changed quite quickly to excitement once I met the kids. The school we were helping at was for kids from 6 to 16 years old, but we specifically helped with classes for the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. Walking into the gym, the teacher asked us, “So, do you have a lesson plan prepared?” “Ohhh, were we supposed to?!” we wondered. Well, yes, in fact we had been brought there not to just help the teachers out with the classes (and to make an “08 Stockholm appearance”), but we were there to lead a lesson in basketball. So, that we did. We did lots of ball-handling drills – stationary, dribbling, one-ball, two-ball, races, tag….etc.etc. It was so much fun! Many of the kids looked like they had never played basketball before. They were having so much fun and laughing and running around, chasing the balls like crazy! Some tried to speak to us in English, others didn’t at all. It was really neat to be able to try to understand some Swedish and also to be able to help them with their English if they so desired. On Wednesday we gave three 50-minute lessons to groups of about 20 students, and on Thursday we gave two lessons and had an hour lunch break (we ate lunch with some of the gym teachers and some students in the school cafeteria). While in the teacher’s lounge for a short bit, I began chatting with a woman sitting next to me. She was a 4th-grade teacher and began telling me of a fun trip she took a few years back with some other teachers at the school to attend a teacher’s conference in NYC. She was so excited to come to the U.S. and learn from and meet other teachers at this conference. She was real sweet. I asked her if I might be able to come and help in her classroom. She said yes! She said she would love it. We exchanged email addresses; oh, I hope that may work out. I think it would be with some of these kids again. They just have so much excitement and joy, and of course mischief, lack of focus and all those great other aspects of elementary school education! But, they do really want to learn, and I guess I could help them learn English (the official teaching of the English language begins in the 3rd grade). We’ll see if I get back to the school or not. It’s about a 30-minunte train ride, but even if I could get there once every week or two, I just think it would be fantastic : )

I woke up early on Friday (after staying up till almost 2am reading this fantastic book – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers… have you heard of it? read it? I wholeheartedly recommend it! I received it in the mail from Mel on Wednesday, I started reading the close to 500-page book on Thursday morning and by Friday night I had finished it! I couldn’t put it down. Go get it and read it)… so I woke up early on Friday so that I could be in lab for a short while before meeting up with Liam and Tove at their apartment along the water in Kungsholmen (this is the family I met up with last Saturday and offered to babysit for). Yesterday I was with Liam for about 4½ hours. Yay yay yay yay. He’s a cutie and it was really fun to be hanging out with a little one again. They just light up with joy over the smallest accomplishment. He was really good for me, not that he wouldn’t have been, but it’s always nice to have a good first experience – I don’t want him to be scared of me or anything!! Don’t have any current plans to babysit again in immediate future, but most likely something will come up. Hopefully : )

Yup, so that was how I spent much of my week. Of course we had practice in the evenings. Still going well. Actually, thought we had some good ones this week. Quite competitive. Always good. Better come out strong today in the game this afternoon! No more losing!!

Alrighty, think I will head off the mall to get the best internet connection I’ve yet to find so that I can upload this entry to the blog and download the newest Grey’s Anatomy. Then, back home to grab some food and head off to my game.

Have a fan-tiddily-astic weekend!

08 January 2007


January 8, 2007 9:34pm

Guess I’m becoming a bit (too) relaxed about my aim of updating my blog in a timely fashion. Guess it sorta feels like life here is becoming more, oh, well routine. In a good way. Like I’m really living here and not just visiting. : ) So…

We had a game yesterday and lost. Boo. The game was about 1.5 hour bus-ride, south(ish) from here. Our team lost when we played them at home (before Erin and I arrived), and now we’ve gone and lost again. We didn’t play any defense; at least, Erin and I didn’t think we played any defense. Transition D was generally really bad and they also shot very well (9 of 13 threes!). Their post players made a good chunk of the threes, which proved to be tough match-ups for our postgame. Erin kept us in the game offensively in the first half; I don’t know why she seemed so open. She made some tough shots too. In the second half we made a run, took the lead (I think), and then they dropped back into a zone. Great call by their coach; we could do nothing against it. We had a serious scoring drought. We ended up down by ten with a few minutes to go. Somehow we gained a two-point lead with a minute left, but then totally didn’t finish the game well. Players aren’t allowed to call timeouts in the league here; and, well, let’s just say we probably could have made good use of some timeouts in the last crucial possessions of the game. Bummer. We totally could have won. They did play well, perhaps even the best they had all season. Nobody likes to lose (especially to the same team twice!). I hope we see them in the playoffs… maybe in the championship series?!!

Today was good. It was a day off from basketball and I was in lab all day. It was my first day back there since before Christmas. I’m still so happy to be there, with the opportunity to really be doing research. Aaron, my American supervisor, is a great teacher and has more time for me now that the other student he was supervising returned to Italy. I learned how to do a western blot today. Yeah. : ) It’s so much fun to learn new things! I know, I’m a nerd :) :)

I had a good weekend too (well, before the game). On Saturday afternoon I met up with a family that I may potentially begin to occasionally babysit for. The dad is Australian, the mom is Swedish, and the little boy is a charming (at least on first meeting!), strawberry-blond, 16 month-old named Liam. They don’t need a regular babysitter, but rather are just looking for help on an occasional basis. Perfect! I didn’t think I would say this while playing overseas, but I really don’t think I have the time to have a “regular” babysitting schedule. So, even if I was able to help them out even once a week, I think that would be great for the both of us! He was cute. We (Craig, Tove, and I) were all sitting up at a bar having fika and Liam kept coming over to me and asking to sit in my lap. Guess I didn’t scare him off too much ; ) Don’t know when I’ll first get to help there, but hope it’s soon!

On Saturday I also met up with a youth leader, Chris, from Immanuel International Church. Chris grew up in Minnesota and has been working at this church in Stockholm for the past four or five years. I’m really excited because the church has some good programs for its youth. And, I think I may get to start helping out. The next fellowship event for kids is Saturday right during my game, but hopefully some other times will work out. I guess there are a handful of young girls who are pretty sporty and really like basketball. Chris thinks it would be fun to have a little basketball tournament or at least some sort of clinic or open gym. That would be great! I’m just excited to be getting involved in a church community.

Tomorrow my schedule looks like this: weights in the morning, lab all day (learning another new procedure!), and then practice in the evening. Oh, I think tonight I’ll finish this terrific book I am reading… The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks…and then, I’ll move onto reading another one of the many books I brought back from home. Don’t know which one. Hmmm.

Alrighty, “natty natt.” (like "nighty-night," but the swedish version… I don’t think Madde was pulling my leg! Hopefully not :) )

05 January 2007

Settling In Again

January 4, 2007 10:59pm

Getting back into the routine… well, perhaps with a few temporary changes. The kids here still have this week off from school, so Erin and I have spent the last couple mornings helping at Åkeshov with the practices for the best 9th-grade girls. I haven’t yet been into lab since I’ve been back; however, I’m planning on going in on Monday… thought I would catch up on sleep and focus strictly on basketball for my first week back. We’ve had practice every night – all of them have been surprisingly good… tomorrow we are going to watch video… first time! There is a guy’s game tomorrow night, so I’ll probably stay after practice and watch that. Not too much else new going on here, but it is really good to be back. Oh, one random thought… the ATM machine ate my Swedish bank card. Nice. Turns out I forgot my code, but I didn’t realize this… so, once you enter the wrong code into the machine for three consecutive times, the card is eaten. I went into the bank to investigate the actual fate of the card, but in fact the bank really does destroy the old card and issues you a whole new card with a brand new number on it. Pretty impressive security (seems pretty good to me, at least – I don’t use my ATM card enough in the U.S. to know if a similar security system exists, does it?). Anyway, should have my new Swedish ATM card next week sometime. Still working on getting internet for my apartment… I went out to my usual internet-hotspot atop the bridge/elevator, but disappointedly had a very low connection. Guess it’s time, maybe, to start being more demanding with the whole internet thing. We’ll see. Anyway, I’m off to read before going to bed! God natt.

03 January 2007


remember to keep checking at for more pics of my adventures. i just posted some from my trip to spain!!

Feliz Año

January 2, 2007 10:24pm

¡Feliz año! Yup, that’s right… Happy New Year!! (in Spanish!) Have spent the last few days in Spain and have experienced an absolutely tremendous time of friendship and fun. Now I’m back sitting in my apartment in Slussen, looking through pictures taken over the ten days I was away, and feeling very thankful and blessed for having such amazing people in my life.

After flying on four separate flights, I finally made it to Malaga. Actually the trip didn’t feel as long as I expected (must have been Garfield 2 that I watched on the plane!). Susan picked me up from the airport in Malaga. She looked just the same as always – full of life, excited, smiley, and just plain happy. It was SO good to see her. We immediately headed off to pick up Katie in Granada. How crazy is it that we actually made it there and were all meeting up?! Well, it’s not too crazy… but to me, the effort made for us all to get their and spend this time together is very special. Everything about this evening and lots of times throughout the trip, it almost didn’t even feel like we were in Spain because we were just spending time together like we would have back at Stanford – except, now we were in a very different place and we had tons more time just to be together (without practice, school, etc…). Anyway, after catching up during the car rides and back at Susan’s house, we decided that we wanted to try to go to Curtis’s game on Saturday. Only problem… well, it was an away game. Away in Madrid.

Madrid is supposed to be one of the very worst places to drive a car. Not only do the tour books give this warning, but locals say the same thing. Curtis did not want Sus driving to Madrid. So, we made a new plan : ) We did some research late into the night and found lots and lots of different options about how to reach Madrid from Granada. Not knowing exactly what would work best or what we should do, we just decided to get up early in the morning and start driving towards Toledo (a town about an hour-drive south of Madrid). Saturday morning Susan woke up Katie and I (my sleeping was already all messed up because of my trips back and forth, but poor Katie was really still on California time)… anyway, Susan drove the three of us to Toledo by following road signs (no more directions than that). When we arrived in the city we literally happened upon the train station within five minutes of driving around the outskirts. Walking into a beautiful station – ceramic mosaics, Spanish architecture, intricate colorful designs – we bought tickets for the AVE High Speed Train to Madrid. We had only to wait 15 minutes before the train left… we couldn’t have planned the morning any better!

Madrid was terrific! We visited the Prado Museum, walked around the Old Town/Historical districts of the city (Plaza Mayor, etc), saw the Royal Palace, ate some lunch at a tiny Italian place (only so-so food, but we were so hungry that it was quite satisfying), manevared the subway system and reached Madrid Arena in plenty of time for Curtis’s game. Watched the game (Katie and I barely could keep our eyes open in the first half, but both were hit with a second wind in the second half)… Curtis did great; it’s so good to see him playing relatively healthy (sort of) and with great strength. He looks good out there. And, the game was fun to watch. Plus, CB Granada won (always good!). That night we ate at another Italian restaurant (Gino’s = very good!) and spent the night Europa hotel in downtown Madrid (we called probably close to ten hotels, and finally were able to get two rooms in this one, as the rest were all booked!). The next morning we woke up, had some breakfast at Starbucks, and explored the Botanical Gardens and gardens behind the Royal Palace. Overall, the trip to Madrid was very spontaneous and very much worth the drive. In fact, the driving time brought its own barrel of laughs… and laughs and laughs.

Oh, I have so much more I want to write about… but, I feel like I’m hitting that wall telling me Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! So here’s a quick summary of the rest of my time in Spain (though this will never do the trip justice and will only serve as a – hopefully temporary – way to share some of the great times we had).

- Katie and I were spoiled by Susan’s cooking. She makes really yummy food! I need to take lessons from her!!
- “Got our sweat on”: Sus is an amazing trainer… and she graciously invited Katie and I to take part in some of her routines (and let’s just say that going up and down stairs the next day required focus : ) ).
- Katie and I visited the Alhambra in Granada… including the Albyzin, Generalife Gardens, and palace of some King Carlos. Impressive. Very much worth the many stars that all guidebooks award to this tourist hotspot.
- Snuggled with Sammy.
- Ate at Curtis and Sus’s favorite restaurant: Yesterday’s
- Hiked up a mountain, saw vast stretches of seemingly untouched land and the occasional pueblo scattered throughout the countryside, slipped along some ice, crunched over snow, and were hurried away from the top by a “perro dangeroso” (dangerous dog… hmmm – forget how to say or spell that, but you get the point!). The countryside is beautiful. Pictures will not do it justice (though we tried).
- Starred at the Sierra Nevada’s again and again, continually pinching ourselves to see if these huge, snow-capped mountains were real.
- Were given a personal tour of downtown Granada by Susan.
- Tried to go out on New Year’s Eve, had our own party, and celebrated the Spanish tradition of 12 grapes with 12 apples instead : )
- Ran along a beautiful river path in Granada.
- Watched En Sus Zapatos and Spanglish.
- Slept about 30 minutes the night before driving to Malaga and then flying to Stockholm.

Obviously this is a rather random, unorganized list of some of the activities that kept us busy while visiting Susan and Curtis in Granada. However, the visit was so much more than the places we saw and fun activities that filled our days. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve laughed so hard, laughed so much, and laughed for so long. We built some great memories the last few days and also enjoyed reflecting on past times spent together. Friendship is precious and spending time with each other is irreplaceable. My time of Spain reminded me of how very blessed I am and how much I have to be thankful for. So, thanks God! Life would be nothing without You. And specifically, thanks for putting Katie, Sus, and Curtis in my life – cause we sure had a sweet time!!