Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Reflection

Aunie Sauce, a personal reflection of 2017

To say that I'm glad it's 2018 would be an understatement. 2017 was one of my most challenging, testing years I've had thus far. It was a wonderful year, don't get me wrong, but I experienced many things that I never anticipated ever happening to me and the promise of a new, fresh year is just the reassurance I need right now.

I haven't written a post like this in quite some time. This blog has been primarily travel and military related for the last couple years. However, sometimes I just need to vent, and this blog was my primary intended outlet for that.

The past couple years have seemed to be a whirlwind. When Daniel and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this past December, we couldn't believe how fast time had flown by. Spending almost half of 2017 away from him for training didn't help that either, but we were able to work through that just fine.

It's the moments in 2017 that I didn't blog about that made the biggest difference. I'm inclined to say that this last year tested my faith in God—though looking back, it actually only made it stronger. I would not have made it through 2017 without God's grace, his forgiveness, his protection, and his help to move forward after some disheartening and paralyzing points in time.

I could have chosen to not journal about this, to pretend like none of it happened and to go on with a smile on my face, exhibiting the upbeat, fun-loving personality most people know to expect from me. But this—the last year—it just held some times that while painful, I don't want to forget. I experienced some of my happiest moments of my life in 2017. I also experienced some of the most crushing. Times like this help make me who I am, and while I'm not going into detail, 2017 changed my life.

It's easy to move past the things that are hard to talk about, the things that make you cry when you least expect it, the things that only you and a handful of people know. Those things, like secrets, can be so easily forgotten if you allow yourself to erase them from your life's pages. But though some of those memories bring tears to my eyes and make me want to just sit on the couch and cry in desperation, they're now part of me, and forgetting them doesn't help. Rejoicing in God's good grace and the blessings he has provided does.

In 2017, I moved past something that has had a suffocating grasp on me for years. I achieved a full-time job with the Idaho Air National Guard, my current dream job. I dedicated myself to being a better, more supportive wife than I'd ever been. I took a trip to Hawai'i that I'd been dreaming about for five years. I finished my first graduate class in pursuit of a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership. All that to say... I also made poor decisions. I had to give up (temporarily, I hope) my favorite hobby—running—due to injuries that won't heal and require extensive surgery to repair. I experienced a heartache that I never even knew was possible. And now, looking back, I am just so grateful that I am where I am today, and that I'm able to face each new day with a positive outlook and hopes for the future.

Yes, this is vague. It's supposed to be. This post is for me, a placeholder, to remind myself that I'm stronger than the world around me because God and the love from those closest to me makes me brave, fierce, and a fighter. If I crumbled under the pressure and sadness I experienced, I would not be able to be where I am today, or be able to pursue the purpose for why I'm here in the first place—to which I'm still attempting to learn along the way.

Monday, December 25, 2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2017

Walgreens custom Christmas cards, Rowe Christmas 2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Love ♥ The Rowes and all our blessings over the past year & dreams for the future

P.S. Thank you so much for visiting this page to read my blog. I can't put into words how much it means to me.

Past Christmas cards: 2011 │ 20122013201420152016

Monday, December 18, 2017

Maui Dreamin'

Hamoa Beach, Maui

What's a better way to celebrate a five-year anniversary than on the sandy shores of Maui? After taking this vacation, I don't think anything could have beat it.

Daniel and I have talked about this vacation since we first met in 2011. We have both been to Maui separately, and we always talk about how it's our favorite place to go. It was time we vacationed there together! We booked our tickets the week of Thanksgiving and spent the first two weeks of December basking in the Hawaiian sun.

Knowing us, of course we made use of every spare minute of our vacation. We were up before the sun rose each day, walking or jogging along the coastline, then filling our bellies at our hotel's breakfast buffet (the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel), and heading off every morning to enjoy a new beach or "must-do" on the island.

We ended up visiting ten different beaches, snorkeling eight beaches, eating all the fresh fish we could find, scouting the best happy hours on the island, and spending absolutely as much time soaking up the Hawaiian life we dream about so often.

See some of the photos and stories of our trip below!

Black Sand Beach, Makena Landing, Maui

We rented snorkel gear, chairs, and a boogie board from The Snorkel Store. Their staff was absolutely awesome, and they gave us an easy-to-read map with all their best spots for snorkeling detailed and specified to what we were looking for. Their map often lead us south to Kihei or Wailea, which had the best conditions during the weeks we were there.

The photo above was from one of the eight beaches we snorkeled--the Black Sand Beach, which is just north of Makena State Park and south of Wailea. The current was heavy the day we were there, but we saw plenty of their reef life, including a huge moray eel.

Hawaiian Ocean Project Lanai Trip, Lanai Snorkel Trip, Maui

On our third day in Maui, we took to the seas with the Hawaii Ocean Project and cruised on a day trip to Lanai. Daniel and I had both snorkeled Molokini during our past trips to Hawaii, so this time we opted for something new. Our crew was a seasoned group of guides and they were fantastic, and we also lucked out with a smaller tour group that day with about 20 people who were all middle-aged. It was very different than most of the other boats we saw setting sail that had 100+ people and 50+ kids in their groups.

We set out for Lanai early in the morning, the trip lasting just a little over an hour. Along the way, we spotted humpback whales in the distance, a bottlenose dolphin that came to check out our boat, and a pod of over 50 spinner dolphins that were hungry for some camera time. They ended up circling our boat for a good ten minutes, and I scored some fantastic videos and live photos of the action. The shot above was one of the stills, and I still think it's the best thing I saw the entire trip.

When we arrived at Lanai, we snorkeled at Manele Bay for an hour and then also snorkeled at a remote location called "The Club" for another hour. The coral reefs at The Club were immaculate and the water was so clear. The tour guides said they don't often get to go to that spot due to the weather, so we were so grateful for a beautiful, clear day. The tour also served us breakfast, lunch, and a complimentary cocktail. We both agreed that the Lanai snorkel trip was the best investment we made while on the trip and it was our favorite day overall.

5 Caves Beach, Snorkel 5 Caves, Maui
5 Caves Beach, Snorkel 5 Caves, Maui

The two photos above were taken at 5 Caves in Wailea, just north of Makena Landing and Turtle Town. We first were going to snorkel at Poolenalena Beach, but it was pretty busy so we ventured down the road and ended up at 5 Caves. We had to scale down the rocky beach to get into the water, and we were the only ones in sight. We weren't quite sure if we were even in an actual snorkel spot until we hit the ocean. And let me tell you--it was our favorite spot to snorkel. Within 20 feet of the water's edge, we were greeted by four turtles who were catching their morning reef breakfast. We took a corner and were greeted by five more. The water was absolutely pristine and the conditions could not have been better.

Once we finished snorkeling, we dried off and climbed the rocks around 5 Caves to check out the turtles. They were just hanging out, surfing the waves and enjoying their breakfast. We snagged some very cool photos and hung out for 30 minutes or so before heading off to enjoy margaritas at Fred's Mexican Café. It was the perfect ending to our best day of snorkeling.

Road to Hana, Maui

On our second-to-last day, we did the legendary Road to Hana, taking the winding roads on the northern coast to the remote beaches that Hana is famous for. Along the way, we stopped at viewpoints, waterfalls, and at any location that struck our fancy. It was a really fun day, and very different than all the other days we had spent snorkeling.

Road to Hana, 3 Bears Waterfall, Maui

These were the 3 Bears waterfalls along the Road to Hana. We had to climb down a steep pathway to get up close and personal to these falls, but it was so worth it. Speaking of "falls," I took a pretty good one while trying to climb out of the waterfall area. I totally ate it off of a rock and slid my way down a huge boulder, taking all the skin off of my shin with it. And as a side-story, I also got stung by a black sea urchin in the hand while snorkeling at Ulua Beach in Kihei the day before. I was an accident-prone tourist on this trip!

Road to Hana, Maui

This was on the rocks at Hana Bay Beach Park on the Road to Hana.

Road to Hana, Red Sand Beach, Maui
Road to Hana, Red Sand Beach, Maui

If we did the Black Sand Beach in Wailea, we had to visit the Red Sand Beach at Kaihalulu Beach in Hana. The hike down to it wasn't quite as bad as everyone had let on, but the aquamarine blue water and rich red sand at the end were so worth the trip. We didn't stay at the beach for too long, there were quite a few people there and we'd heard about another amazing beach along the coastline, so we enjoyed the cool water and pebble-filled sand for a bit before heading down the road.

Road to Hana, Hamoa Beach, Maui

Our last stop in Hana was Hamoa Beach, and it was the perfect, picturesque beach we had been hoping for. Many of the beaches in Kihei and Wailea were good for snorkeling but were often busy and not quite as breathtaking as Hamoa. This beach was pretty much deserted and we felt like we had the whole thing to ourselves. The water was sky-blue, the sand was soft and light, and we sat in the sun for a couple hours, just soaking it all in. We are grateful one of the locals we'd met along the Road to Hana told us to visit Hamoa Beach. It was our favorite lounging beach of the trip.

While I didn't share any of the photos of any of our spectacular meals, we sure did dine like kings on the trip. The Ka'anapali Beach Hotel (which we loved by the way for it's affordable prices, friendly staff, easy-going rooms, and prime location on Ka'anapali Beach), had a great breakfast buffet each morning that was more than just your typical Continental Breakfast. It boasted tables filled with all the breakfast food you could imagine, plus local Hawaiian foods and delicacies. We pretty much ate a big breakfast and then a lunch/dinner combo each day, saving room for scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone from Banyan Treat in Lahaina (ice cream is always a staple on our trips). We had the BEST EVER fish tacos at Paia Fish Market in Lahaina, loved the food and atmosphere combo (plus the Lava Lava Shrimp) at Down the Hatch in Lahaina, sipped on the most delicious strawberry margaritas at Fred's Mexican Café in Kihei, and ate the best sushi of our lives at Miso Phat Sushi in Kahana. What's best about all that food was that those places were our top spots, but only about half of what we actually got to enjoy. Let's just say we live with absolutely no food regrets while on vacation. Diet is not a word we even talk about!

Well, after six years of talking about it, we finally did it... we did Maui. And it was the vacation we had dreamed about (and then some). Talk about celebrating our anniversary... we fell even more in love with each other on the trip and we both fell back in love with Maui. We're already talking about wanting to go back, in addition to all the other fun places we'd like to explore, but for now, Maui is at the top of our "favorites" list.

So I'll leave this post with a "See you later, Maui," or as the Hawaiians say, "A hui hou koke iā ʻoe!"

Friday, December 1, 2017

Our Fifth Anniversary


Five years. How does time go by so quickly? You know what I love about us?

We fist-bump it three times, every time.
We don't take many photos... in fact, I have like 10 of us from this year... it's slim-pickins'.
We know all the best happy hours in town.
We are rockin' our careers.
We are saving for our future.
We are cool with cereal for dinner like every single night and there's never an argument about it.
We do the best dance moves with awkward faces.
We do good hugs.
We don't keep up with the Joneses.
We geek out over finances.
We watch sports and Stranger Things and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
We love our baby bearded dragon.
We travel and hike and live for vacations.
We don't say no to pizza or Chipotle or Chick-fil-a.
We don't do fancy cars.
We do long bouts of Scrabble over margaritas until way too late.
We do love leading our church group.
We make mad dashes to DQ for Blizz-dogs right before they close.
We laugh, rewind, and watch parts of movies over and over until our sides hurt.
We keep each other accountable and the trust that's grown because of it is so beautiful.
We don't discriminate with Mexican food. Bring on the chips & salsa & margaritas.
We garden and take care of our yard together.
We plan and dream for the future.
We love loving on each other.
We sing silly songs, "Deck, deck, ba-da-da-ba-dah..."

We do US. And that's what I love. Happy fifth, luh-luhs.

Past Anniversary Posts: Year OneYear TwoYear ThreeYear Four

Monday, October 2, 2017

My Interview Process to Become an Officer in the Idaho Air National Guard

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

I will begin this post by stating that my interview process for being selected as a Security Forces Officer with the Idaho Air National Guard (IDANG) is probably going to be vastly—if not 100% different—than any other officer selection procedure I've ever seen. So be advised... most other individuals selected for commission will most likely not experience these same things!

______________________________________________________________________________

It all started off when I was a new Airman First Class (A1C) and had recently returned from Personnel Tech School. I knew that I wanted to commission and become an officer, so I was waiting for job openings so I could apply. The way it works in the IDANG is that there has to be an open officer position that you qualify for before you can put in to apply for it. And then, after you apply, you typically interview among 5-20 of your ANG colleagues and, of course—may the best candidate win!

In May, 2015, my chance came. I saw an announcement for an open officer position within the Security Forces Squadron (SFS). I was immediately interested, though a few people were quick to throw out hesitation because being a "cop" was so unlike me in almost every way. But to me, that didn't matter. I thought it sounded legit and it sounded so cool to have the chance to learn an entirely different career than what I had graduated with (B.S. in Health Promotion) and my new enlisted career of human resources. I put in my application and let the waiting game begin.

In June, 2015 I received information (a WARNO) from the SFS Commander, detailing our interview process which was to take place in August. I knew right away that this interview was going to be different than most because there were reporting instructions, a packing list, physical fitness requirements, a detailed itinerary for the first day of interviews (which was a ruck), and information for the second day (which was the formal board interview). I was stoked at the chance to be able to prove myself not only personally with the interview, but physically with the ruck. That sounded hardcore and I was all about it. It also helped that I was in the peak of my training for that year's USAF Half Marathon, so I took the challenge to prep head-on and added rucking/hiking to my training.

When August rolled around, I was ready for the interview. A little bit apprehensive of what was in store, I showed up at 0500 on the first day of interviews with my ruck loaded and all of my tactical gear on (at least, I thought I looked tactical). Our rucks were 35% of our body weight + 12 pounds of water (mine was just over 50 pounds). I completely stood out like a sore thumb... an A1C personnelist among an elite group of Security Forces non-commissioned officer (NCO) troops and gung-ho enlisted members from across the wing. There were 19 of us in all, and like I said, upon first glance I was probably at the bottom of the selection pool.

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

The initial interview, the ruck up Tablerock (a local Boise hiking hotspot), turned into an all-day event. We met on base to receive the Operation Order (OPORD) detailing what was to come. Then, we drove to Tablerock to prepare for the hardest interview of our lives. Immediately upon arriving at the site, we unloaded our bags and the yelling and screaming ensued. One of our troops, a former Marine, was putting us through the rigors to simulate what Officer Training School (OTS) and the Security Forces Officer Course (SFOC) were going to be like. He smoked us on the spot, having us do sprinting drills, burpees, carrying our bags from here to there, and whatever else he could to burn us out prior to the ruck. After working up a sweat for 30 minutes, we loaded up our rucks and began heading up the hill.

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

The hike was steep as we headed off in a group, stopping at cones about every 100m for "intel," which was found on laminated pieces of paper. Each of us were required to memorize an intel card, which contained the name, photo and biography of one of the 14 fallen defenders. We had to memorize all the information, including the entire paragraph of the fallen defender—word for word.

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

As we finally approached the top of the hill, the former Marine went at it again, screaming for us to drop our bags, don our weapons, and prepare to be smoked. Another 45-minutes of smoking ensued, leaving us completely exhausted and drenched in sweat. We did everything from push-ups until failure, squats, overhead presses with our rucks, drills with the weapons until muscle failure, and more burpees than I can even count. During the smoke session, there were also several SF cadre in our faces, yelling random things, pointing out where we were falling behind, and truly overwhelming each of our senses.

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

We were all completely spent when we finally were told to ruck back up and head down the hill. When we arrived back at the squadron, we had to stand before a panel and recite our intel cards word for word. I know I didn't repeat mine 100% accurately, but I gave it my best shot. We were dismissed and told to return the next day for the formal board interview.

I showed up in my dress blues the next morning, making sure they were lint-rolled to perfection and my lines were ironed and crisp. I went before the board and saluted our Commander, a Major, and greeted my other board members (who were all officers from around the wing, including several Senior NCO Security Forces members). My Commander always invites people from outside the unit to sit on the board, hoping to negate bias and present an unfiltered opinion of the candidate. Some of the areas represented by our board were Finance, Maintenance, Emergency Management, and Logistics. Each board member asked questions, I responded in kind to each one. Being an A1C, I didn't have a lot of experience within the military to base my answers, so I tried to come up with examples from my limited Air Force trainings and then from my civilian employment with the hospital as well. My interview lasted just about an hour, and I thanked the board for their time as I saluted and left the room. And then, the waiting began.

I hadn't heard anything at all for almost three weeks when I got a phone call from the Commander, asking me to come back in for another interview. He told me to just come straight over from work and that I didn't need to wear my uniform. I showed up in my work outfit, a shirt with our hospital's logo and some black pants and sneakers, and went in for the second round. Each member of the board was present again, and I was in a chair in front of them answering questions for close to 20 minutes. They asked some follow-up questions from my first interview, including, "How would you conduct yourself to stay humble if you got this position?" and other questions similar in nature. It made sense—it's not that often that an A1C is selected for commission against other NCO's, but I answered all the questions to the best of my ability. The last question the Commander asked me, which he almost fired my direction as soon as I'd finished an answer was, "So, do you want the job?" I looked at him, mouth open in awe and for the first time at a loss for words, and didn't even have a chance to respond before my husband walked through the door, a smile on his face from ear to ear, and the Commander handed me a bottle of Patrón and said, "CONGRATULATIONS, LT! You got the job!"

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. I'm not normally a "speechless" kind of person, but I literally couldn't even find the words to say thank you. I was overwhelmed with joy, surprise, excitement, and pure happiness. I gave each of my board members the strongest handshake I could muster and hugged my husband like there was no tomorrow. I couldn't believe it—they had selected me for a Security Forces commission!

Just a couple days later, the following email went out to the 1,400 members of the Idaho Air National Guard,

"Please join me and my fellow Defenders in congratulating and welcoming A1C Annelise Rowe for being selected as the new 124 Security Forces Squadron Operations Officer. A1C Rowe's proven communication skills, enthusiasm for a challenge, and fitness excellence have prepared her for her new role as a leader in the always demanding, challenging, and proud 124 SFS.
Congrats A1C Annelise Rowe"

Shortly after the announcement was made, I transferred from personnel to be the Commander's Support Staff (CSS) in the Security Forces Squadron while I awaited my commission. I attended Officer Training School eight months later, and the Security Forces Officer Course seven months after that. And now, here I sit, two years after my selection for commission, as the Security Forces Operations Officer for the 124th Fighter Wing in Boise, Idaho. It's a pretty cool gig, I'll tell you that much. I love my job, wouldn't trade it for anything, and can't wait to see what the future holds!

Security Forces Officer, Air National Guard Security Forces, Commission in the Air National Guard, Officer Interview

Again, I know this description of my interview is drastically different than what most officer hopefuls & selectees will experience when commissioning, but I love the story and the process by which we were interviewed... so if anything—at least I wrote it down for myself so I could remember all the nitty gritty details. HOOAH!

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