2016 has been a bugger of a year for many. Rather than stew over the loss of family members, friends, and icons of our adolescence, my cousin asked a simple question: "what's the best/coolest thing you did in 2016?" I thought to reply with a picture - but as I scrolled through my camera roll I found it has been an amazing year of memories, too many great experiences to pick just one picture. So here are some smile-worthy pictures from my family's 2016!
If you like these, my Instagram account is entirely things that make me smile or laugh. Cyber security exposes me and my peers to a constant flood of bad news and never-ending threats. This is one way I stay mentally healthy.
A highlight of our year was a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Puerto Rico. The beaches were beautiful, the sunsets were spectacular, and snorkeling the tropical reefs was like entering a completely different world. As luck would have it, the night we arrived, several leatherback sea turtle nests hatched, so we got to see hundreds of little tiny turtles making their way to sea.
|A postcard-perfect white sand beach in Puerto Rico|
|Tropical sunsets are gorgeous!|
|Early to bed and early to rise - means the beach is all ours!|
|The Yohaku Tower in El Yunque National Rainforest, Puerto Rico, was a memorable stop. From the top you can see the Atlantic Ocean, along with miles and miles of forested hills and valleys.|
|The coral reef was a veritable undersea garden|
|Snorkeling under the waves was like entering a completely new world.|
My daughter has raised rabbits for several years; in January, she won the showmanship award at the county livestock show. Showmanship involves a breeder's knowledge of their animal and breed, the responsibility they display, how well they present themselves and their animal, and how well they control their animal. While a champion animal involves the student taking good care of it, there is also a lot of genetics and a good bit of luck involved in raising a winning animal. Showmanship on the other hand entirely reflects the work a breeder puts into honing their craft. Yes, I'm a proud dad!
|3-day-old Dutch kits on the left; Polish kits on the right|
I grew up around airplanes, and several of my kids inherited my love of aviation. We go to at least one or two airshows every year.
|A WWII bomber, the B-17 Flying Fortress "Texas Raiders," at the Central Texas Airshow in May.|
|No airshow is complete without the iconic P-51 Mustang|
|The United States Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team is always a thrill to watch. Some of their formation moves involve high-speed flying separated by mere feet.|
|Watching the Jack Link jet biplane take off is a serious "what in the world?" moment: the ordinary sound of a piston engine is replaced with jet roar as the plan turns vertical at the end of the runway.|
Another family favorite is live music. Each summer I and a few of the kids drive out to the West Texas desert for a 3-day festival, known appropriately enough, as "Rock the Desert."
|RED put on a face-melting performance. Singer Mike Barnes on left, guitarist Anthony Armstrong on right.|
|No RED concert is complete without Anthony Armstrong's signature guitar spin!|
|There's nothing quite like watching a musician (in this case, Jeremy Camp) genuinely having fun on stage.|
|Switchfoot's Jon Foreman got up close and personal with the crowd|
Last but not least, I live in Texas, which means no end to natural beauty in my own backyard, and in the myriad state parks close enough to make a pleasant day trip. A side note to my Texas readers: the State Parks Pass is perhaps the best deal in the state. $70 buys you an annual pass, good for as many people as will fit in your vehicle, as often as you like to go, to more than 90 parks in the Texas Parks and Wildlife system.
|Hiking and swimming at Pedernales Falls State Park|
|The bluebonnets are determined to bloom, even in the smallest crack in the massive limestone slabs at Pedernales Falls|
|A clear, cool day calls for a hike at Enchanted Rock State Park. Take lots of water: the huge granite dome gets hot even on mild days.|
|A day at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas Panhandle does wonders for humbling an overgrown ego. One can't help but feel small facing the sheer scale of this "grand canyon of Texas."|
|It turns out the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is smack dab in the middle of Pedernales Falls State Park.|
|Not a bad view from my office window. The Texas capitol, with Longhorn Stadium in the background.|
|An early morning during a training exercise with Civil Air Patrol, I was treated to this beautiful pre-dawn silhouette in a pecan grove.|
|The Texas Capitol by night|
|Spring comes twice a year in Central Texas! These queen butterflies are enjoying the greg's mist flowers blooming in October.|
|If I stay very, very still, maybe this person with a camera won't see me...|
|January on South Padre Island is a gamble. Some days it's warm enough to swim; other days are better suited to bundling up for an early morning stroll on the beach.|
|Fun in the sun and surf, at Mustang Island State Park|
|Mission San Jose, in San Antonio, pre-dates independent Texas by over 100 years.|
|At the top of the granite dome at Enchanted Rock State Park, lies a boulder-strewn cave surrounded by small trees and shrubs.|
|Deep in the piney woods of East Texas is this gem.|
|A fawn sleeping peacefully in a ravine|