Sunday, November 25, 2012

We're Moving!

Hey Everyone!

Apparently I've hit my limit on Blogger for the number of picture storage I am allowed to have. I'm not quite ready to start paying for that yet, so I'm switching my blog over to Word Press.

I would love it if you would continue to follow me at our new location: www.michaelandtaylorzabala.wordpress.com

Thanks!

Taylor

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mercy Found - a reflection on giving

As we enter the holiday season, a few words as I reflect on giving.......

Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think of all the worthy causes that my time or money could make a positive impact on. From sponsoring a child in Africa, supporting ministries that build up and preserve the concept of family, cancer research, to supporting the soldiers that fight for our freedom and everything in between. There are a million things that rightly deserve our attention, our passion. It feels like an uphill battle, that even if I devoted my every dollar and minute to these causes it would never be enough. Is the idea of "family" too far gone in our society? Does my $32 a month make a difference if the majority of children in Africa are still sick and hungry? Of course the answer is that family is always worth fighting for, and the $32 does make a difference if even just for one child. Satan has a way of sneaking in and quietly discouraging our giving, our charity, our hospitality. So, I choose to stand up to him. I may never have enough time or money to make an impact on all worthy causes but I can choose one and pray that God will work through my gifts and that He will multiply my gift to produce a far greater blessing on the world no matter how small it seems. 



I say all of this to get to one small point. That if you are looking for a way to give. Or need some direction in terms of a worthy cause I encourage you to consider, Mercy Found . I went to High School and Church with John Paul and Crystal. They truly have devoted their lives to serving the Lord. They are genuinely good people. They have started a blog to chronicle their journey to becoming parents through adoption at http://mercyfound.blogspot.com/. It is beautifully written and inspiring. I encourage anyone reading this to visit their blog. Give if you can. If you can not give, join them and all of their friends and family as we pray that God will bless their faithfulness. 

Taylor

Friday, November 2, 2012

Welcome To This World Beckham Roberson!

Disclaimer: This post may or may not highlight my bias and outrageous exaggerative qualities.....

Fact #1 - I am quite certain that I am the luckiest Aunt in the history of Aunts! 

Fact #2 - We have the cutest Nephews on the planet!

Fact #3 - If you try to convince me otherwise I'll call you a liar :)

With that, it is my great pleasure to introduce: Beckham Levi Roberson. Born on 10/11/12 (which by the way is a super cool birthday).


This kid is going to be spoiled rotten!

Ahhhh, my heart melts every time I see this photo.

video
Jackson playing football with his Uncle Michael with his new AUBURN football!


Even though it was a quick trip, Michael and I had an awesome time visiting our Nephews. This was the first trip that Jackson really remembered us and it didn't take long at all for him to warm up to us and start playing (It helped that we bribed him with a football). Jackson is already a GREAT Big Brother and Beckham is going to be so lucky to have him looking out for him :) We love these two kiddos like crazy and look forward to the day where we might live closer and get to see them more. 

Much Love,

Uncle Michael & Aunt Tay Tay

Monday, October 8, 2012

Half Dome Conquest 2012

Since Michael and I moved to California and since one of our first trips to Yosemite, we have had it on our "California Bucket List" to hike Half Dome. We drew a big fat permanent marker line through it on 9/28/12.

I'm going to plagiarize a friend's blog when she quoted an unknown internet resource regarding Half Dome:

“Half Dome is the ultimate Yosemite day hike – the one you can’t die without doing, 
and the one you’re most likely to die while doing.”

This picture contains almost the entire trail in it. I'll try to photo shop little dotted lines into it later so you can see where we went.


This is what I knew about Half Dome before our trip: 

1) Most sources say it is approximately 16-17 miles round trip 
2) You cover about 5,000 feet in total elevation. 
3) If you attempt it in a day you will be hiking for about 12 hours, otherwise you haul camping gear on your back and drag it out to two days. 
4) The last portion of Half Dome consist of climbing a wall of granite rock. A wall that consist of a 400 foot ascent at a 45 degree angle. The Park Service provides wire cables attached to the rock to aid hikers in this effort to make it to the top.
5) To keep down crowding 400 permits are given out per day and only that number are allowed to the top of Half Dome (in good weather months only - May to October) Most of these people are not professional rock climbers/hikers

So in preparing for Half Dome Michael and I started hiking in the Bay Area. We would hike 1-2 times a week at varying distances and elevations. Nothing really comes close to Half Dome but I told myself that we were young and that adrenaline would carry me through . I received encouragement from friends who had done Half Dome who told me that I would "be fine" . I was never worried so much about the distance but more the elevation and constant up hill parts. Particularly in regards to the last portion of climbing the actual Dome I did my best to shield myself from the pictures, internet stories, etc that told stories of people falling to their deaths. I reminded myself that people do it every day safely and all the deaths from this portion of the hike were from unprepared or unwise hikers making poor decisions. 

So what was the Half Dome Hike actually like? We we departed our Yosemite Valley tent cabin with two of our very good friends (shout out to Jason & Charity) at 6:30 am. We reached trail head at 7:00 am. We were each prepared with all of the following: 100 oz of water, water purifier, 3,000 calories in power/protein bars, extra pair of socks, head lamp, toilet paper, gloves (for the cable climb), camera (extra battery and card), sunscreen, bug spray, pain killers, and tape in case of blisters. Within the first 2 miles I knew it was going to be a tough day. Through my huffing and puffing and many hours later we made it to the base of Half Dome (actually it seems really unfair that I can cover that part of the hike in one small sentence like that). 

                                     
Jason & Charity at the top of Vernal Falls

Thankfully we had wonderful weather that day so we stopped in for our safety briefing with Ranger Joe (I actually have no idea what his name was but Joe seems good). On the way up the Sub Dome I was feeling pretty beat. I also had gotten my first glimpse of the cables and my fear was starting to mount. We passed a guy who was coming down who said "you think this is hard, the cables are much worse". My heart sunk. We got out of ear shot from him and our friend Jason says "Taylor that was a lie from the pit of hell" then He said (seemingly jokingly but welcomed if serious) "I just told Satan to be banished from that man". Thanks again to Jason for that encouragement. Thanks to my husband and good friends I made it to the base of Half Dome! Unfortunately my theory of letting my adrenaline carry me through and that the accomplishment of having walked so far would overcome my fear of the cables didn't actually play out the way I expected. To understate it, I was terrified........

                                                     
At the base of the cables - see that ant trail behind us? Those are the cables

                                                     
Michael & Taylor at the base of the cables

                                    
Jason at the base of the cables

It was much steeper and scarier than I had expected. Likely had I looked at all the online photo and video hype I would have been more prepared but likely would have not even planned on doing it. We decided to rest for a while at the base to make a decision. Part of me was watching all the people go up and down and was thinking "how it must not be that bad". The other part of me, the sane one, was screaming internally that I would surely die if I attempted this crazy feat. Also the fear of getting half way or all the way up and not being able to come back down was slightly terrifying. Visions of ultimate and expensive rescue operations played out in my head. So as I was dealing internally with my fear and staring fatefully at my certain death, this woman passed by me towards the cables (she was probably in her 40's) looked at me and said "Just don't do what I did. I came and did this hike 20 years ago and didn't make it to the top. I regretted it for 20 years." She was back that day to make it to the top with her husband and teenage daughter. So.......I went for it. I started the climb with the intention of getting as far as I was comfortable and coming down if I didn't think I could make it. With each section of the climb I kept repeating to myself "I don't want to regret this for 20 years. I don't want to regret this for 20 years." I took my time and forced myself to stare at the rock in front of me and never look out or down. Before I knew it......I made it to the top! I don't know that I have ever done something that made me feel more accomplished. I found that woman and her family and told her she was basically the reason I made it to the top.

                                                       
You can barely see us but that's Michael & I at the top of Half Dome

                                         
We are all on top of the world! (El Capitan is in the background - that is NOT on my bucket list :)

                                         
Enjoying the view from the top

Technically, it was all down hill from there......I wish it was so easy! I used my trusty never ever look anywhere but your feet method to get back down the cables. Also my amazing husband pretty much coached me all the way down the rock face we were climbing. We celebrated briefly at the base and started on our way back. The trek back was almost as hard as the haul up the mountain. It showed mostly in the pain in our joints. 

                                   
Michael & Jason on our way back down

                                    
Feeling like we've conquered the world on the way back to to the Valley

About 12 hours later we made it back to Yosemite Valley. We were covered in dust, sweat, and either real or metaphorical tears. Following are the stats from me Fit Bit pedometer which I wore from the time I left the cabin to when I hit the showers that night:

50,000 Individual Steps
20+ Total Miles
517 Flights of Stairs
3800 Calories Burned

I can not even begin to describe the amount of pain I (we) felt the next day. We were all walking quite funny and could barely take a step without wincing in pain. I hurt from my head to my feet. There was not a muscle in my body that was not sore. The full body pain lasted for about a day. However my calves hated me for a full week after our hike. I am glad I made it to the summit. If I had not I surely would have been equally as sore but without the glory of victory. Somehow the soreness was tolerable with the feeling of accomplishment overpowering the pain. I can't say that I would ever do Half Dome again but I am so amazingly glad that I did do it. And the anonymous quote from above really does feel quite true.  

Here's a video from the park service about Half Dome. I think they try to scare people a bit more than is needed but it give a pretty good idea of the hike itself. Followed by our triumphant pictures the following day.


This view is from Glacier Point. Half Dome is right behind us

The day after. Checking out Half Dome from afar

Enjoying a relaxing next day

From Glacier Point

Michael using the telescope from Glacier Point to check out the people on top of Half Dome. Where we were just a day before

Practicing some night photography. That's the moon on the right

Night Photography from the Valley

Star gazing from Yosemite Valley

The full moon really lit up the granite walls

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Southerners Guide to California

This post is dedicated to my new friend Elyssa. She just arrived in CA from Virginia and is adjusting to life in this new crazy world call the West Coast.....

• Where to find acceptable sweet tea - McDonalds (I know what you are thinking....but it's true) & CoHo (short for Coffee House) on Stanford's Campus

• Where to get Sweet Potato Casserole - Boston Market. It's not my Mama's but it will do for now. You'll mostly only be able to find yams in the grocery store but they are close enough if you're trying to make it on your own.

• Where to get good BBQ - The Bounty Hunter in Downtown Napa (the real name of the place is Bounty Hunter Restaurant and Wine Bar - I'm leaving off the last part of that to make it less Californian and more Southern - I mean really how many BBQ places in the South are also a wine bar?)

• Where to get Southern Comfort Food (specifically Southern Fried Chicken, Greens, Corn Bread, & Mac-N-Cheese) - Scratch Restaurant in Mt. View (it's expensive but totally worth it - don't let the oyster bar at the entrance of the place scare you off)

Where to find Quality Yoga classes - Oh wait......wrong blog post.....

• Where to get Chick-Fil-A - Well for 4 years the closest place for Chick-Fil-A in the Bay Area was Fairfield which is about 2 hrs north of here. We would usually go up to Napa for the day and make a trip over (also the outlet mall was close by). However, God blessed the Bay and gave us a Chick-Fil-A closer. Now we have one in San Jose/Milpitas Area (which is only about 20-30 minutes away). There are several more scheduled to open in the Bay Area as well within the next year or so. 

• Where to get Dale's Meat Marinade - BBQ Galore on El Camino Real near campus sells Dale's 

• Where to find a beach with water warm enough to swim in (and not be eaten by a shark) - start driving East, eventually turn South.....It's called the Gulf Of Mexico (I'm sorry California....you can't beat our beaches!)

• Where to find the best Louisiana Jambalaya - well I'm not an expert and maybe my friends from Louisiana would call me crazy (Keith?) but Whole Foods has some really good Jambalaya. 

• Griswald/Redneck Style Christmas Lights - 1957 Eucalyptus Ave in San Carlos with 707,296 lights + the rest of the street has started participating. This is a MUST SEE if you live here

• Dr. Pepper - Behind Coca Cola it's the most common soda of choice in the South (at least for me and many other devoted soda fans) but sadly it's not very popular out here. So in order to get it in a restaurant you'll have to go to the following places: Subway and Una Mas. 

I'm probably forgetting something but this will have to do for now......Look for my future post on things I love about California that I want to take back to the South....

Enjoy the randomness that follows :)

Lunch at Amici's after Church

Dinner in Monterey.....

Is it possible to see this and not think about moon pies?

Retirement party for Pete Sommer (Campus Minister at IV Grad). 

Michael kite flying at the Oval on Stanford's Campus


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

MPPC Compassion Weekend

This is another overdue post. Michael and I attend Menlo Park Presbyterian Church here in CA. We've called it our church home for over a year and a half now. I love many things about this church but one of my favorites is Compassion Weekend. Our congregation takes a break from our normal weekend services one weekend every Spring for Compassion Weekend. MPPC works to set up projects that everyone can sign up for over the weekend instead of just "going to church". It really is amazing. They set up so many projects (there must have been 50 different things this year (reality is I can't remember the number, but it is a lot). Projects range from health, education, homeless ministries, visiting with people, building things, and so many more I can't even begin to remember. The small group Michael and I go to decided to sign up for a project together. They do this every year, but this is the first year Michael and I participated. We signed up for the Habitat for Humanity Project because one of our small group members, John, works for Habitat and he was heading up this particular project. So for an afternoon we gathered with our small group and other church members and build houses, playhouses that is. Yep. I said playhouses. Our particular project (since it was something we could start and finish in a day) consisted of constructing and painting playhouses for children of military families. Several of the families have Dad's who are overseas serving our country. The Mom's take care of their kids the best they can, usually with help from other family members. The playhouses we provide went to these kids to provide them some sense of normalcy in their childhood. At the end of our serving the families came to pick the playhouses up and we got to meet them. It was a really fun day and incredibly rewarding.

Measuring and Building

God gave me a revelation on this day........My Husband is an artist!!

Michael's Rooster :)

John & Jonathan give the day a thumbs up

Sadie prepping her paint palate 

Ivan and Joe working on a dragon for the roof of one of the other play houses

This was the play house we worked on - it was a barn theme

This is a little girl of another family that was helping build....she was testing the house out to make sure it was Kid Approved

Our group, our finished play house, and the girl who received it is in the striped shirt up front

Completed House

Each house comes with a solar panel from PG&E (welcome to California) a certificate of full ownership from Wells Fargo - I think it is safe to say they were the sponsors for the project :)

Sadie paining barn animals on the inside of our house

Video of construction

Sadie inside :)

A video we filmed of all that were involved in the making of 6 different playhouses. It was for playback at MPPC (although it never made the big screen)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Crater Lake & Lassen National Park

This is part 2 of our Northern California and Oregon Trip. We left Mom and Dad in Oregon for a few more days of relaxing, costal views, and wine tastings. Michael and I started the ~750 mile journey back home. We decided to make a few stops along the way that we were told were "musts" and they certainly turned out to be. The first stop was Crater Lake in Oregon. There have been some wild fires in Northern California whose smoke actually reached all the way to Oregon and made the air very hazy. Even through the smokey haze it was a beautiful sight. Our second stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. It was a lot of driving but an amazing trip overall! One note: believe me when I say there is nothing to see in Klamuth, OR.....at all :)  I'll give a recap of the journey in the pictures below.

On our way to Crater Lake, OR we followed this beautiful river

I can't even describe the beauty. I'm way over in the lower right corner in the middle of this painting

Michael was aching for a fishing pole

We made it to Crater Lake - the deepest lake in the US, the second deepest in North America, and the ninth deepest in the World!

Crater Lake, OR

Crater Lake, OR

Crater Lake, OR

One of the lakes in Lassen National Park

Lake in Lassen National Park

Lassen National Park - the water in this stream is crystal clear

There is no possible way I can describe the color blue of this lake (Helen Lake in Lassen)

Helen Lake - this one was taken on a timer with the camera propped on a rock (how good are we!?!?)

Amazingly clear blue water of Helen Lake in Lassen

Lassen National Park, CA

View from the Bumpas Hell Hike in Lassen National Park

Hike in Lassen National Park 

Sulphur pits created by underground Volcanic activity in Lassen

It was quite smelly (the pits.....not Michael - love you honey :)

Mud Pots and Steam coming from the ground

More from Lassen National Park

Bumpas Hell Hike in Lassen National Park

If you haven't been thoroughly convinced that you need to visit both of these parks then let me help you out ------ YOU SHOULD GO! The natural beauty is humbling and refreshing.