Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Stand

I just finished reading The Stand, by Stephen King. I have to admit that I've always purposely avoided reading anything by Stephen King, simply because I freak myself out very easily. When I was reading The Lord of the Rings, if I was home alone, I just knew that the Ring Wraiths would be outside if I looked out my window. I figured Stephen King books would just push me right over the edge into crazy and/or paranoid. However...then I heard that the writers of LOST said that The Stand had a big influence on them when they were creating the show. After confirming with a few people that this book isn't super scary like some other Stephen King books, I decided to give it a try. It's also the first book I've completed for my LOST Books Challenge.I am really glad that I decided to read this book! I went into it knowing absolutely nothing about it. The story itself was very good. It starts with an accident at a Defense Department laboratory, where the U.S. government was creating a "superflu" that could potentially be used in germ warfare. However, the virus gets out of the lab, and about 99% of the world's population is killed within a matter of weeks. The survivors begin leaving their own towns and looking for others, and they soon discover that most of them are having different variations of the same dream. What starts as a story of surviving a flu epidemic and the aftermath caused by such a huge drop in population ends up becoming a story of the battle between good and evil.

After reading The Stand, I'm tempted to try some of his other books. I absolutely loved his writing style, which is full of literary allusions. I also enjoyed his attention to detail. This is probably because large portions of the book took place in parts of the country that I'm familiar with...such as Ohio and Colorado. Because I'm familiar with Boulder, Colorado, I could easily picture where many of the events in the book were happening. (And now I want to see if I can find Tom Cullen's house the next time I'm in Boulder!) At one point, King even mentioned a bumper sticker on the back of a truck that said "Get Your Ass Up the Pass"...which is actually the name of a Burro Race that takes place every year in Fairplay, Colorado.

If you haven't read The Stand, I highly recommend it! Don't let the length scare you; it's an entertaining and intriguing book. And for those of you who are fans of LOST, I can see how the writers were influenced by this book. It's an interesting thing to think about...what happens to people, society, civilization when all governmental structures are removed? Who wins...the "good guys" or the "bad guys"? What separates the "good" from the "bad"?

When I review a book, I'm also going to use my blog as a place to keep track of the number of books I've read this year as well as the number of pages read in those books.

Total number of books read in 2009: 3
Total number of pages read in 2009: 2020

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Thirteen

My friend Emily often does a "Thursday 13" blog post. I thought it was a great idea today, and when I took the time to do a little googling, I discovered the "official" Thursday Thirteen blog! So today, I'm giving it a try.

13 Things I Really Need To Do:
  1. Take down our Christmas decorations. (Yes, I'm blushing.)
  2. Register for and take the "content area test" that the state of Washington requires for me to be allowed to teach here after this school year.
  3. Request a copy of my Praxis test scores from that I don't have to take these tests again (for my WA certification).
  4. Finish the laundry.
  5. Work on my crocheted blanket.
  6. READ! I have 300 pages left in The Stand, and I just picked up 4 books from the library yesterday. I think I have another one that needs to be picked up today or tomorrow. (I requested these books at random times over the last few months...they all came in at the same time.)
  7. Organize/clean the second bedroom.
  8. Get outside and take a walk.
  9. Put the license plates on my car. (They've been in my car for almost two months now.)
  10. Balance the checkbook.
  11. Call a few friends I haven't talked to in awhile.
  12. Finish making arrangements for my trip to Colorado for the Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer.
  13. Organize our papers and files.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Books So Far

I've been doing quite a bit of reading so far this year, although my "read in 2009" shelf on wouldn't really indicate that. I've only finished two books, but I'm close to 700 pages in to Stephen King's The Stand. Throughout the year, I'll try to write brief reviews of all the books I read.

The first book I read this year was Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003, and I'd heard lots of good things about it. When we were in California for Christmas, my sister-in-law recommended it to me, and she gave me her copy of the book. It was an interesting story. On one hand, it is the story of a hermaphrodite whose unique genetic makeup wasn't discovered until he was 14. On the other hand, in an effort to explain how Cal Stephanides ended up with this gene, the author takes the reader on a journey that spans more than 80 years of history. In that 80 year story, the reader is given a view of emigration, immigration, religion, culture, Prohibition, segregation, race riots, war, and other elements of the changing American society throughout the 1900s. I thought the story was unique, and I enjoyed the author's writing style. However, I had trouble getting into this book for some reason that I can't explain, so it took me a couple weeks to get through it.
The second book I read also included a journey undertaken to better understand the present by searching for the past. For our January meeting, the book club I've started going to decided to read The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan. It's the story of 18-year old Phoebe and her quest to discover the truth behind her older sister's death in Europe 8 years earlier. She takes a literal journey as she recreates her sister's trip by using the information in the post cards her sister had sent from various cities. I thought that this book had a really good concept, and yet I felt like the author didn't do nearly as much with it as she could. It seemed to me that she veered off into too many little tangents; she either should have cut the tangents out, or made them more profound or purposeful or something.

Monday, January 26, 2009


If you've read this post, you know that I finally had a substitute job a little while ago. The first job I had out here was a half day assignment in a 7th grade English class. I must have done a decent job, because the next day, the teacher called me. She said that she was going to have a week-long absence, and she wanted to know if I'd take the job. Considering I haven't worked at all since moving here, I figured I could handle working for a week, so I said yes.

So today, I worked my first full day since the beginning of last June! It went pretty well. This teacher has an interesting schedule. She has one group of 15 students in the morning...for 3 periods in a row. It's an English/Social Studies/Reading class, and I think the students will be doing pretty much the same thing all week. Then there's a break of about an hour and a half for the teacher's planning period and lunch. In the afternoon, the teacher has one group of about 30 students for the last two periods (technically Social Studies one period, English the other period). I thought they were all relatively well-behaved today (for 7th graders), and I think that they'll be working on a project for the majority of the rest of the week.

Last week, I also attended an orientation meeting for substitutes in another district. In this area, I've discovered that the districts are so small, you really need to get on multiple sub lists if you want to work. I should officially be activated to sub in that district by the end of this week...but I already got an interesting call. I interviewed with a director of Human Resources in order to get on the sub list. He apparently passed my resume on to an Assistant Principal at one of their high schools, and the AP called me last week. They have an English teacher who will be going on maternity leave in March and will be out the rest of the school year. He pretty much offered me the long-term sub job over the phone based solely on my resume! I'm going to go talk with him and with the teacher next Monday. I have a few concerns (such as the fact that I would have to miss the last couple days of school in order to make it to my brother's wedding in North Carolina), but if all my questions and concerns are addressed, I'll probably take the job. Again, I don't really love the idea of working full time, but it would be a decent chunk of money to put into our savings account! :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Some Things I Have Done

I saw this on someone else's blog, so I've decided to steal it. :) I'm not sure who came up with this list, but I figured it was a good way to share a little more about myself. Feel free to ask questions!

Top 100 things one should do in their life, ones I have done are bolded:

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/World
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch (I'm counting crochet here)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors (sort of)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language (I don't remember much of it, but I did teach myself some Italian a few years ago)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Wow...I've done exactly half of these things! Not too bad. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Resolution Updates

We're about 3 weeks into 2009. I thought it might be a good time to give a little report about how I've been doing with my resolutions. Granted, I said I didn't really make any...but yeah, I guess I did. There have been a few things I wanted to work on, and my determination to work on them just happened to coincide with the beginning of the year. :) So here's how I've been doing:

1. Get up earlier. It's a known fact that I love to sleep. A lot. It's one of my favorite things to do. However, I'm not a morning person. I've never been one of those people who can just jump out of bed all perky and smiling. I'm definitely a night owl, and if I had my choice, I'd happily go to bed around 2:00am and get up around 10:00am every day. However, I've decided that I really need to get more done around the apartment while Shawn is at work. And if/when I start working on a regular basis, I'll need to be in the habit of getting up at a reasonable hour. So although I'm still not getting up super early, most weekdays this year, I've managed to be out of bed before 9:00. Many days, it's even been closer to 8:00! This actually is a big deal for me. :)

2. Drink more water. Check. I haven't been keeping an actual count of glasses of water, but the fact is that I actually have been drinking some glasses of water every day. It's sad, but prior to the beginning of the year, I could occasionally go for days on end without drinking a single glass of water. More water has also had the positive secondary effect of my drinking less Diet Coke, which is also good.

3. Getting more exercise. For this one, I actually set a number. For the last 3 weeks, I have successfully managed to get some kind of exercise at least 5 times each week. Sometimes this is going for a walk around the lake near our apartment (I've even started adding some running to this!). Sometimes this is using the Wii Fit. I've been doing a good job with the 100 Push Up Program. When I started, I could do 4 push ups. Lately, I've been able to do close to 30 over a period of about 5 minutes (with some rests in between sets). I've also started doing the 200 Sit Ups Program this week. Obviously, none of these things are overly strenuous, so that's one thing I want to work on. Now that I've been getting in the habit of simply getting off the couch and doing something, pretty soon I'll start finding other things to do that will up the intensity.

Those were my major resolutions this year, and I think I've been doing a pretty good job with them so far. How are your resolutions coming? Anything you're really proud of? Any that you've given up on?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

LOST Books Challenge

If you spend much time on book-related websites or blogs, you're probably aware of various reading challenges. I don't normally participate in these (at least, I don't make my participation known), simply because I prefer to let my book choices be determined by something other than what the challenge spreadsheet is telling me I should read next.

However, there are two things that I cannot deny. #1 - I enjoy reading. And #2 - I enjoy watching LOST. I've enjoyed LOST since its first season, and I've been literally counting down the days until a new episode finally airs tomorrow night!! (Hmmm...I wonder if it's too late to change our dinner plans for tomorrow and make something LOST themed instead...maybe something tropical, or maybe 15-year old Saltines.) So when I heard about the LOST Books Challenge, I decided to give it a go.

Here's the thing. If you've watched the show (and please tell me you've watched the show!), you've undoubtedly realized that books are used heavily. The titles come up periodically. Characters quote from them. Books themselves are displayed in many different episodes. And themes from books are certainly prevalent in the storyline of the show. The authors of LOST have said that every literary reference is intentional and purposeful.

So what exactly is the LOST Books Challenge? You simply need to choose at least 5 books that have been mentioned/used on the TV show. You then have until the end of the series in 2010 to read those books. You maybe asking, "How should I know what books have been used?!" Simple. You can check here, here, or here. :)

I've narrowed my choices down, but I haven't chosen just 5. Here's what I've come up with:

  • The Stand by Stephen King (I've already started this one, actually.)
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie (I haven't read a good murder mystery in awhile, and my dad's a huge Agatha Christie fan...this one's for him!)

Obviously, that's just 4 books. The fifth book will come from one of the following titles (depending on my mood):

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (since I've been thinking about re-reading the series anyway)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

If you're interested in joining us for this LOST Books Challenge, click here to be taken to our official blog and to receive the instructions!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

One Car Couple

As of Friday morning, Shawn and I are officially a one car couple. Remember that minor accident we were in about two weeks ago? If you scroll down a few posts, you can see the pictures of it. Although it wasn't a very hard hit, and it looked like there really wasn't a whole lot of damage, if you look carefully there were actually about 4 or 5 pieces of the car that would need to be replaced. The headlight, the entire front bumper, the side panel, the hood...and maybe one or two other small things. We were given a copy of the estimate, and I noticed that the parts total wasn't that bad...but it was the labor that pushed the total estimate to just about $4000. Since Shawn's 1995 Montero with over 200,000 miles on it isn't worth $4000, the insurance company let us know that they were totalling the car. To his credit, Shawn fought them on it, but I'm sure you can guess how that went.

So yesterday morning, Shawn went and signed his car over to the insurance company. He then took his rental car back to the auto body shop, and I met him there. We got all of our things out of the Montero, and we said goodbye. It was kinda sad.

Before we made any official decision about the car, we had discussed all of our options. We actually could've kept the Montero, but it would've cost us over $2000 out of pocket to fix it, and we decided it just wasn't worth it. We've decided that for now, the money from the insurance company is going into savings. When we chose this apartment, we actually said (as one of its benefits) that if something ever happened to one of our cars, we'd be okay using just one for awhile. So now we'll see if that's true! We do live close enough to Shawn's job that he can easily walk or ride his bike to work. On days that I have sub jobs, that's what he'll do. He'll obviously need the car for rugby practice, so those nights I'll just have to plan on staying home (which is's what I normally do anyway). Our main worry about having only one car is the fact that the one car we have now is really small. It's a Dodge Neon. Shawn's bike won't fit in it (at least, we doubt it will), so we'll have to figure out how he'll be able to go mountain biking on occasion. And my car can't make it up really steep, rocky terrain, so that might restrict where in the mountains we can go for snowshoeing, hiking, or rock climbing.

But we're going to give the one-car lifestyle a shot. If we decide it's unbearable, we'll figure out then what to do. It's possible that the insurance money is enough to get us another SUV similar to Shawn's...old, with high mileage. But our goal is to set aside "car payments" every month so that hopefully, we can eventually pay cash for a second car (that isn't a mid-90s model). We're very proud of our current low-debt lifestyle, and we'd like to keep it that way awhile longer.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Substitute Teaching

Ah, I had such lofty goals and high expectations before we moved here. I wasn't surprised that I wasn't able to find a full time teaching job for this year, so I planned on substitute teaching. I really didn't mind the idea. I would only sub in secondary schools, which frankly, would normally mean popping in a video or giving students a bunch of busy work. While they did that, I could read a book or maybe even do a little crochet. Even if I was expected by the teacher to actually probably wouldn't be anything difficult, I wouldn't have had to do the lesson planning, and I wouldn't have to grade the assignments when they were turned in. And of course, when you consider the hourly wage, substitutes get paid pretty well.

The main problem with subbing, however, is actually getting the jobs. If you don't have a job on any given day, you don't get paid...simple as that. So that means no income during the summer, on national holidays, or when the kids are on winter or spring break. And the rest of the year...there's no guaranteed income.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may recall that I submitted my application to sub in August. I was notified by the district in September that I'd been accepted. I finally turned in my paperwork in October. I wasn't added to the substitute system until Thanksgiving. And despite bringing the phone to bed with me (so I'd hear it ring in the early morning hours) and checking the online sub system multiple times every day...I had no jobs. It wasn't even that I was being picky and turning jobs down; there simply were never any jobs listed as available.

Until yesterday. I was almost startled to see an actual job listed when I clicked "available jobs" on the website. It was only a half day job, but I went ahead and accepted it. So this morning...I got up at 5:30 and headed to a nearby middle school. I spent my morning teaching 7th grade English. I thought it went pretty well. It wasn't the "pop in a movie and sit back" kind of morning I was expecting, but since it was my own subject area, I had no problem helping these kids with some reading strategies work and some writing skills.

I actually already have another (half day) job lined up, so stay tuned for next week as I attempt to teach middle school Math! (My dad did it for 38 years...I'm sure some of his knowledge and talent rubbed off on me over the years, right?) :-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Good Cause

If you haven't noticed yet, I'm a sucker for a good cause. I feel that I have been blessed with so many things in my life (a home, a wonderful husband, more than enough food on our table, good health, family, friends, and living in this country). So when I find a way to help people who are less fortunate than I am, I want to do what I can. Sometimes, that isn't a lot, but I firmly believe that every little bit helps. In a sense, it's almost unfortunate that there are so many good causes out there...I can't support all of them! Although Shawn and I are rich compared to so many people throughout the world, our money is, of course, limited.

You've all heard this saying: "Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime." One problem with a lot of charitable organizations is that it feels like they're giving people fish. In other words, you can donate money to an organization that will get it into the hands of people who really need it. Or they'll use the money to buy things that will be given to people who need it (like food, clothes, or shelter). Obviously, these are good causes. But at some point, ideally, the people on the receiving end of this charity will be able to stop needing it. In order to do that, they'll need to be able to become self-sufficient.
And that's where Kiva comes in. Kiva is an organization that I am proud to be involved with. I first learned about Kiva over a year ago from my friend Greg (who, incidentally, has recently started his own good cause, Sense the World). You may have heard of this organization through the New York Times or through a TV show such as Frontline, Oprah, or The Today Show.

Basically, here's how it works. People from developing countries around the world apply for microloans (a "big" loan is a couple thousand dollars) in order to start or improve a business of their own. As the business succeeds, they repay the loan. Sounds pretty simple, right? Where does the loan money come from? From the lenders (people like you and me) at Kiva. So instead of giving these people fish, Kiva teaches them to fish...provides them with the means to become self-sufficient.

I already mentioned that I'm involved with Kiva. No, I didn't loan someone hundreds of dollars. I loaned $25. I was able to search through their list of people applying for loans and learn a little bit about them...their marital status, their children, where they live, the kind of business they want to start (or already own). I chose a person I wanted to support, and then I simply donated money that would go towards their full loan amount. Now here's the cool part. The money really is a loan...not a true donation. So when the person I chose to support had paid her loan back, that $25 was credited to my Kiva account. At that point, I could either have that money put back on my credit card, I could donate it straight to Kiva (for operating costs), or I could reinvest it. So I chose to reinvest it. And when Juliana Okyere in Ghana is able to pay off her loan, I'll most likely reinvest again. I'm a little intrigued to see just how many people that original $25 "donation" will eventually help! If you're interested in loaning a little money, go to Kiva's website. They've apparently been updating it recently, so if you get an "unavailable" message, please do try back a little later!

Monday, January 12, 2009


Oops. I was on a roll with the blogging in January, and then I got stuck. Sorry about that. Nothing super exciting has been going on around here the last few days, but I'll give you an update.

On Friday, Shawn and I watched the series finale of Stargate Atlantis. If you aren't already aware, Shawn is a big SciFi fan. He's really excited for the new StarTrek movie coming out later this year, and he was bummed to learn that this Stargate series is over. But never fear...Stargate Universe will be coming out this summer! And this Friday starts new episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Just in case you were concerned. :) But I'll admit...I was enjoying Stargate Atlantis. I'd watched enough of it to know what was going on, and the writers of this show weren't afraid to make fun of themselves. (One of the main characters mentioned more than once during the show that he's not a fan of SciFi.) Shawn has decided recently that I'm a closet SciFi fan, citing my love of Lord of the Rings, LOST, and Twilight as evidence. I refuse to agree with him. I'm not a dork...really.

On Saturday, Shawn was at a rugby training for most of the day, so I used the time to get a lot of reading done. That night, we went out for dinner. If you don't have a Boston's restaurant near you, you're missing out. I've been craving their chicken parmesan pizza for weeks, so I didn't even need to look at the menu. It was super yummy!

On Sunday, after going to church, we headed downtown. For Shawn's birthday, his brother bought him a "family" membership to the Seattle Aquarium. If you're having trouble thinking of a gift for someone...what a great idea! The family membership means that we both get into the Aquarium for free (and I think 2 kids could get in, too) as many times as we want for a year. I've already been there a few times over the last few years, but I've enjoyed it every time. Yesterday, my favorite part was the mammals. One of the Northern Fur Seals was showing off for everyone, and both of the Harbor Seals were posing for all the aquarium guests. Seriously, these two little guys were coming to the top of the water and just poking their heads out, staring at everybody. Since the seals are pretty much vertical while they do this, I pointed out to Shawn that their fat little bodies look like Russian nesting dolls. :) We forgot our camera, but this is basically what they looked like (but their water was more still, so you could see their entire body more easily):
And that was pretty much our weekend!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer

Have you ever heard of the Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer? According to their website: "Since 2003, Tubbs Snowshoe has partnered with local affiliates of Susan G Komen for the Cure to present the Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer - a snowshoe walk series modeled after the highly successful Race for the Cure. Since then, the Romp to Stomp has raised nearly three quarters of a million dollars for Susan G Komen affiliates..." This year, there are events being held in New Jersey, Vermont, Utah, Oregon, and Frisco, Colorado.

I'm sure you know that cancer is something that affects nearly every one of us. A friend of mine lost her battle against a rare form of cancer this past September; she was only 25. Shawn's father lost his battle against cancer in March of 2005. My grandmother lost her battle with breast cancer when my mom was only 27. Fortunately, I also know lots of people who have fought cancer and won. My father defeated cancer when I was a very young child, and he has dealt with skin cancer recently as well. I have friends, family, and family of friends who have faced breast cancer and beaten it. As pessimistic as this may sound, I believe that if you have not yet been personally touched in some way by cancer, it's not a matter of "if" this may's a matter of when.

Those of us who are healthy have two main things that we can do in the fight against cancer: we can raise awareness, and we can raise funds that will go toward research and toward helping people who are battling the disease. This is what the Tubbs Romp to Stomp accomplishes. On March 7, 2009, I will be participating in the event in Frisco, Colorado, along with my friends Mat and Abby. I'm excited to get out into the snow of the beautiful Rocky Mountains and to raise awareness for this great cause. I'm also excited to raise funds that will go to help women in Colorado get the support they need to fight breast cancer, and I'm excited to raise funds that will help continue important breast cancer research.

And that's where you come in. If you would like to donate to this cause, please click the link to be taken to my fundraising page: Every little bit helps! If you're in the Denver area and are interested in participating with us, feel free to let me know and I'll get you the info to register as a part of our team.

Thank you very much in advance!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My New Challenge

Obviously, we're at the beginning of a new year, and this is the time that people start thinking of resolutions and things that they'd like to change. I'm not really big on resolutions, but I do like to use this time of year to try once again some of those things that I've attempted in the past. So far, I've done a good job of getting up earlier in the morning (before 9:00!), drinking more water, and getting more exercise.

In order to work on getting more exercise and losing a little weight, I began looking at various websites this weekend to find a little extra motivation. There are a couple health/fitness/shape up boards on the nest that I've been reading and posting on over the last few days. It's always nice to have other people to talk to who are pursuing the same goals. I've also been reading some articles on I've been using peertrainer to log my food intake since last summer (to some extent...I forget sometimes).

Somewhere along the line, I found a link to something I thought was interesting, and I've decided to add this to my list of goals for the year. So as of Sunday, I am participating in "The One Hundred Push Ups Program"!

You can click here to read about the program. I completed the initial push up test on Saturday, and I was able to do a grand total of 4 push ups. Yep. That's it. But to my credit, they were "normal" push ups...not the kind where you leave your knees on the ground. I started the official program on Monday...and following the "week 1, day 1" schedule, I was able to do 13 push ups. Assuming that I stick with it, I should eventually be able to do 100 push ups!

Frankly, I think it would be pretty impressive to be able to just drop and do 100 push ups. But I also think that doing push ups will be a great way to get my upper body and core muscles into better shape. After just one day on the program, I can already feel that muscles in my arms and back are a little sore. But I can also feel it in my abs, which is great (although that may have partially come from using my Wii Fit yesterday). I promise to keep you updated occasionally on my push up progress!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Snow Adventures, part 2

Yesterday, I blogged about our trip to Leavenworth and snowshoeing. We really did have a very good time, but I have to admit...I didn't tell the whole story. Shawn asked me to save the rest of our adventures for another blog post; he wanted his brilliant plowing/parking job to get the credit and attention it deserved. :) So here's the story of the rest of our evening.
After leaving Leavenworth, it got dark pretty quickly, and we noticed it was snowing lightly. It really wasn't snowing very hard at all, but it was enough that when there were two lanes of traffic going in one direction, only the right lane was clear. Although even this kind of snowfall makes me nervous when I drive, it really doesn't bother Shawn at all. He's used to driving in all kinds of weather, and he does have that wonderful, 4WD SUV.

We got up and over Stevens Pass with no problem. Everyone else was driving really slowly, and once we were off the mountain, the roads were actually relatively clear. However, this part of the state has gotten quite a bit of snow over the last few weeks, so there were small banks of snow on the shoulders that had been left by the snow plow. The guy in front of us was driving a Jeep Wrangler. For no apparent reason, just as he was going around a slight curve, the Jeep's right tires went through one of those snow banks. This did not make the car very happy. Shawn and I watched as his Jeep tried to cut through the snow; then his right front tire seemed to get caught in the snow and he came to a very quick stop. The back end of the Jeep slid out to the left so that his Wrangler was sitting sideways in the road.

Shawn basically had two options. Either keep driving straight and try to stop, or try to steer around the guy to the left of his Jeep. Since this part of the road was only two lanes (one in each direction), that would have meant driving into potentially oncoming traffic. We also think the left side of the road had a ditch which eventually dropped off into a river. I agree with Shawn's decision to keep driving straight and trying to stop. Unfortunately...that didn't happen until the right front corner of Shawn's car came into contact with the right front fender of the other guy's Jeep.

Fortunately, none of us was hurt and both cars were still driveable. Since we were more or less in the middle of nowhere (at night, on a 2 lane road, on a curve, in the snow), we decided to keep driving until we got to a town with a McDonald's, where we stopped and Shawn and the other driver exchanged info. Here are the pics of the car that Shawn took in the parking lot.
We're just glad that no one was hurt and that we were able to easily drive Shawn's car back home (instead of having to get it towed). Sadly, we've been informed by the insurance company that it's considered our fault since we didn't stop in time. Bummer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snow Adventures

Shawn and I headed to the Cascade Mountains today. We got a slow start, though. As we were waiting for the gas tank to fill up, we realized that we weren't exactly sure how to get from our place to the Highway that we needed to take into the mountains. I thought we should go north, so we started out that way. After a couple exits, Shawn checked his Blackberry and realized we should go south, so we turned around. We passed our original exit, and after a few more exits, I realized that we'd forgotten our snowshoes at home. So we turned around again to get them.
So we wasted an hour, but we eventually got on our way. We went over Stevens Pass without any difficulty (only a little snow and not much traffic). We hadn't been to this area before, so we did originally miss our turn off and and had to turn around once. But then we found the trailhead pretty easily. The problem, though, was that the plow had only cleared one lane. It made a loop, so cars wouldn't get stuck, but there was nowhere to park. That didn't stop Shawn, though. It took him about half an hour of driving back and forth, but he eventually was able to use his car to create a parallel parking space. In the picture below, his left tires are basically on the line that the plow had created. We were very proud of his "plowing" abilities. :)
After parking, we got on our snow gear, put on our snowshoes, and hit the trail! This was Shawn's first time using the snowshoes I bought him for Christmas...he seems pleased with their performance. We didn't make it a very long hike, partly due to our rather late start, but we had a lot of fun enjoying the snow and this beautiful area of Washington.
After snowshoeing, we made a quick trip to Leavenworth. This town is a Bavarian Village...everything looks like it came straight out of Germany (even the Starbucks didn't have its normal corporate logo!). It was very pretty (especially with the Christmas lights still up), and I'd love to spend more time looking through all the little shops. But was really cold! So after taking a quick walk through the town (and purchasing some fresh salami and a 1/2 pound of really good fudge), we decided to head home. But here's a pic of the downtown area!

Friday, January 2, 2009

San Francisco, Part Three

Happy New Year! Hopefully everyone had a fun, safe holiday and has gotten off to a good start in 2009. I don't really have very many exciting or unusual resolutions...pretty much things like drink more water, exercise more, eat less junk, and start reading through a weekly devotional book with Shawn.

I figured I should devote one more blog post to our trip to San Francisco. I've mentioned my friends from on here on more than one occasion. When we knew we'd be going to the Bay area for Christmas, my friend Caroline and I were excited to meet each other! She and her husband actually live near Sacramento, but they were nice enough to come into San Francisco to meet us on Monday.

The four of us visited Alcatraz on Monday. The first thing that concerned me was getting there. I'm sure you know that Alcatraz is an island, so we had to take a boat to get there. I get motion sick extremely easily, but I forgot to take medicine for it. Fortunately, I had no problem with the boat this time! Yay! :) Once we arrived at "The Rock," we had to walk up to the actual prison. Part of our ticket price included an audio tour, so we were each given a headset and an audio device. It was really nice, actually, because the audio tour allowed all of the visitors to spread themselves out instead of getting stuck in a big group. You could also replay a portion of the tour if you missed something, and you could pause if it you wanted to take more time to look at something. Unfortunately, though, the audio tour means no tour guides who would want to be called Vicky. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you really must go watch So I Married an Axe Murderer...awesome movie, and probably the best ever filmed in San Francisco.)
Here are some of the pictures that we took of Alcatraz, and the last picture is of my friend Caroline and me.