Saturday, December 5, 2009

The land of rain and pain


Hubby and I just got back from two fantastic weeks in Tahiti. This was a vacation like none other. My super awesome boss, Andy, owns a house on Raiatea and invited us down for Thanksgiving. We booked our tickets months ago and the time flew so fast. We've never taken a two week vacation before, so we were trying to prepare for a lot of different circumstances! Hubby had no idea why I packed four bathing suits, but I packed all of them anyway!


Hubby and I with our two tickets to paradise. 


The plan was to stay two nights on the main island of Tahiti at the Le Meridian hotel (Saturday & Sunday). As soon as our face hit the south pacific air, I thought, "OMG, it's really freaking hot here!". I thought we were prepared for the heat, but it's been a long time since we hit some really hot & humid weather. We were saved though because the hotel had air conditioning in their rooms!

Andy's friend, Willy, met us at the hotel at 7am to take us to the Papeete market. It opens at 5am and all the locals go to buy their Sunday dinner. Everything in Tahiti is closed on Sundays except the market. They had a very interesting selection of foods there:





Then we took the ferry to Moorea. It's about a 30 minute ride. Moorea is like Tahit 20 years ago. We rented a cute little car and took the one road all the way around the island. We stopped at the InterContiental Hotel Moorea for lunch and some beach time. Thank goodness we packed a little backpack with a towel & bathing suits. The food and beach there was beautiful!!



Monday we went to the store to poke around at local merchandise. We couldn't believe how expensive everything was. I think that, of all things, was the biggest shock to us. We ended up buying some fruit, cheese and bread and that was lunch! We went back to the hotel to enjoy the all sand pool and then drove around the island before catching our next flight that afternoon to Raiatea.


Arial shot from the plane from Papeete to Uturoa.


Welcome to Uturoa, Raiatea!


The next 12 days were very different than the two days spent on the main island. First, the internet was spotty, at best, and when it did work, it was very slow. This is good. It kept me from really spending much time online. I checked my email like 3 times and that was to basically let my mom & dad know everything was cool. The power also did not always work. Andy runs his house on a few generators. And we learned on the second night, they sometimes fail. That was no problem for me! I loved power outages as a kid, and I still do. Also, geckos are everywhere and they have this strange call. Every morning you awake to roosters crowing like crazy. We laughed about it because it sounded like the characters from South Park saying, "They took our jobs!". Because of this the roosters almost sounded familiar to us instead of foreign. We also watched the sunrise to a view Andy said hadn't changed in 30 years! Not one new light on in a new house. Not one new boat docked in the water.


Chilling & enjoying the WiFi we had for about an hour. 



At the beginning of the property. They work very had to keep the jungle away from the house.


Andy has so much fruit growing on his property: coconuts, pineapples, bananas, pomplumous (grapefruit) and pumpkins. Our first morning Andy had a fresh pomplumous and pineapple cut for breakfast. He showed us how to eat the grapefruit and then took the big peal and chucked it over the drop off in the yard! I was like, Sweet! I could get use to chucking food in the yard over the ledge! We did it with bananas too! The other natural composting we did was to take all the coffee grounds and dump it at the base of the dwarf coconut tree! I love this place!

The boat that hung out in our parking lot also made it's way down to Tahiti. We could not wait to get out there and hit the Motu Nao Nao for some awesome beach and snorkeling. So, if I didn't know Andy's wife and daughter joined us there on Sunday, I would have had NO IDEA that the next day was Monday, my birthday. We had to do a double take on the calendar to be sure, but yup, it was indeed the day of my birth, 29 years later. We went to town that day to do some shopping and hubby bought me a beautiful flower and wooden necklace from the market.


Birthday girl.



Birthday dinner where I tried to clean up and look "normal".


Thanksgiving was an amazing event to have in Tahiti. Some American friends of Andy's joined us, Greg & Ali. They maintain a permanent residence in Tahiti and have known Andy for like 30+ years. They validated some of Andy's crazy stories for us! We had a table for about 20 and the Tahitians brought some amazing food. We ate so well on this trip.


The Thanksgiving dinner spread.


The views were just stunning and ever since returning, I've tried to repel technology. My blackberry in particular is depressing. I finally took up the suggestion of like every friend I have to read Twilight. I figured Tahit was the place to do this. I blew through the first book so fast (all 500 pages) that I was sad I didn't have the second book. I had to wait a week.

The moment we got home, I deleted all my shows off the DVR. I didn't even watch them and then I deleted the series recordings for all of them, so they won't record in the future. I decided I wanted to spend less time in front of the TV and more time in the kitchen and reading. It's hard to do because the TV is right there and it's big, but I want to learn to be a better chef, so that's what I did.


Moto Nao Nao


The view from the corner of the yard.


Must we leave? I love it here.

I can't wait to dump today's coffee grounds on a plant in our back yard. Now, I just have to figure out which plant. We should take more two week long vacations and to destinations with out phones and internet!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I love surprises!

I love to get and give surprises and this year I got to help plan a very cool surprise! You'll need a little bit of background.

Amanda and I go way, way back. We met back when we both lived in Illinois. It was 4th of July weekend 1994 and we were at the same party because our parents were friends. We became friends instantly. At some point her family moved to Texas. Then they moved back, but Amanda stayed in Texas for college. This was before email, so we use to write letters! We kept in touch and we would get together at the holidays when she came back to Illinois to visit her family. (Amanda's story of how we met is different, but I'm positive my story is correct! :)

Years later we are still good friends, and she was one of my bridesmaids!


Gentilcore wedding 7/1/06 Amanda here featured on the right.


Then I get this fantastic invitation in the mail inviting me to her 30th birthday party...in Vegas! It was going to be 7 ladies and I had the chance to meet most of them on my visit. I was the only one not from El Paso, but they were super sweet and I wouldn't miss Amanda's birthday for the world.


Amanda & Esterina in Vegas.



Partying it up at Amanda's Dirty 30!


We had the most amazing time in Vegas! The long weekend was all too short.

Not two months later, I get this email from her husband:

Amanda had been feeling a little sick for the past 2 or 3 weeks. I just told her that since she was now 30 everything hurts all the time and not to worry. I had been experiencing those for awhile now and was and old pro. Things came to a head after our annual trip to Mexico during Thanksgiving when it was apparent that she was sick with a little more than Montezuma's revenge. She went to her Doctor back in El Paso on December 3rd of this year to see what they could find out. The doctor could not figure it out and ordered several blood tests to be performed. The next day the doctor called and made Amanda and I drop everything and get to the ER immediately as something was seriously wrong with Amanda.

After several blood tests we got the shocking results that Amanda did in fact have a real problem. Amanda was diagnosed with A.L.L. (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). As you might imagine it is not easy to hear that you are being diagnosed with Cancer. Luckily we have a wonderful oncologist and the staff was really great in getting us all settled into the hospital for the treatment of the cancer...


The email continues on and he talks about her upcoming chemotherapy treatments and what her life will be like for the next few years. I was SHOCKED and called her parents right away. They were leaving the next day to be with her and I wanted to go so badly to be by her side. The next several months she was in and out of the hospital and I kept in touch from California.

I am happy to say that she is doing better now, but the next several years will be the most challenging out of anyone I know. Amanda is extremely strong willed and she is totally kicking ALL's butt! The hardest part for her is not being able to do everything she wants for her girls. Look how happy they are here to cross off Amanda's last hospital visit on the calendar they made:




So the girls from the Vegas trip and I planned to surprise Amanda for her 31st birthday in El Paso! I flew in and surprised her at the house. Then we went to dinner and as she rounded the corner, it was all her playgroup friends & husbands!!! We had a great time and it was good to see all the ladies again.




Amanda is a truly special friend and I look forward to the day this A.L.L is a distant memory. You can follow her story on Caring Bridge's website: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/amandajoy


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I love yoga!

Last night was my first class back to anusara yoga with Kenny in a few months. I'd been volunteering my Tuesday nights with New Creation Home in East Palo Alto, but last night I went to yoga and it was great to be back. I love having a good support system at work for yoga and getting to class! My coworker and friend, Jackie is a Design Engineer by day and yoga instructor and one who practices by night!

Jackie and I usually place our mats next to each other and when we do crazy poses, like wild thing, we try to extend over and tap the others leg with our foot!

One version of wild thing courtesy of yogajournal.com

Last night we were both used in an example going into a hand stand! I've never been used as an example in class. And the great thing is in anusara yoga, you're an example because you are doing something right. Now, I am far from perfect and I get instructions to improve like: tuck your tail bone in, squeeze your legs together, lift more from your arms..., but it's so much fun! After the example was over, Jackie gave me her fist for a little bump. Kenny thought that was funny.


Handstand example from yogajournal.com

We always have a good time in class. I was so spent. Savasana (corpse pose) never felt so good. I am feeling it today, but being sore from yoga is one of the best feelings ever!!! I'll probably need a wheelchair tomorrow, but I already can't wait until next week's class.

Are you interested in learning yoga? If you've never done it before, I recommend you check out the poses library at YogaJournal.com: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finder/browse_categories

Namaste :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Now that it's been a year

Last week was my first week long vacation in probably 1 year. Hubby and I went to St. Louis. Our friends, Brent & Jessica were finally getting married!


The happy couple: Jessica & Brent

We decided to make a trip around their wedding date to visit with other friends & family. It ended up being a whole lot of family time and very little time with friends. However, the time with friends was very well spent.


The ladies



The men

I love the fact that no one has changed. It's a really nice to be able to pick up where we left of like no time passed at all. It's a very soothing yet exciting feeling to have.


Having a good time with friends

Traveling is stressful. We had so much traveling to do, we slept in 3 different beds within 8 nights! One bed was too hard. One was too soft and one was too small. It felt like I was Goldilocks, except I didn't find the one that was just right. But our bed was perfect and I finally got the perfect night sleep last night when we got back home.

I felt like I kept gipping everyone out of time. We first carved out almost 3 days to spend at my parents and we ended up hardly making it 2 days. We were constantly going from one place to the next and always saying, "Sorry, I gotta go." Some vacation. It sucks to always be on the clock. Today was like a vacation day from our trip. I feel like crawling up into my perfect bed again...so tired. It was a great trip. xoxo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Say hello to my not so little friend

Ah, it feels so good to have my friends back in the living room with me: The Biggest Loser is back! The premier tonight was nothing short of shocking. They found a new heaviest person ever on the show weighing in at 476 lbs! That would be 3.5 of me. Wow.

I find myself overcome with tears during BL, especially at the beginning when they introduce the new people of the season and they share their stories. Bob said it right, they have a lot of baggage this season. This is season 8 now and I only started watching it last season. It came right at the time when I had already made the decision to change my life. Hubby never really understood why I watch this show but he always supported me in my desire to lose weight and change my life.

When we're running at night and I'm having a hard time, I hear their voices in my head saying, "Don't quit. Don't give up. You can do it. Finish strong." It was never an option to quit or not run when I had the chance. Some days my run are a total struggle and my time is the worst ever. But I've learned to recognize those days are actually pretty rare and I am able to recognize the signs to set myself up better for a good run. And oh how I treasure the amazing runs where conditions were absolutely perfect and I extended my distance with no pain and my heart filled with pure excitement.

My "trainers" are back and I have new friends. I think this is going to be a great fall to continue my running and add some additional things to our workout. The last 6 weeks or so my weight has been pretty uninspiring. It's remained around the same 2lb flux, but I've not been able to shave more pounds. It's been a bit depressing and I've been reading a lot about what is physically and psychologically happening. I can try this or that, but most importantly: I'm not stopping.

I'll never give up. The scale will come around eventually and I'll be excited when it does, but I have my friend (real life friends & TV) back giving me that extra excitement and encouragement. I remember this time last year when Tara, Helen & Mike joined me on the journey. I look forward to my new friends. We are all going to do such great things over the next few months!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Whoa slow down

I've noticed a theme of two problems: 1. I'm too busy or worried to enjoy the moment and 2. I take on too many things at once and they all suffer. I think these themes are actually pretty common in women.

Right now I am sitting at a table in a simple, but very comfortable chain hotel looking at the window to a small marina near Hermosa Beach in LA. It's been a great weekend here with our friends, but I spent so much time & energy thinking, "How we doing on time?", "I gotta do this that and the other to leave the room on time to make it to the boat.", "I plan on packing tonight so I don't have to do anything in the morning...so we can leave at 6am."

Well, it's 7:47 (according to our - seems to be off a tad - alarm clock) and hubby is still sleeping and I'm obviously on the laptop. Hubby told me last night that I need to simply enjoy more and not worry so much about getting to the next thing. I took a deep breath and said, "You're right." And he is. I've probably lived like this my whole life too just going from one thing and can't wait for the next. Pretty soon I'll be 29 and I'll just breeze on to 30 without enjoying the last year of my 20's.

It's just so hard for me because I know all of these things that have to be done. I want to leave at 6am because I'd rather the drive take 6 hours instead of 8 in traffic. I have laundry to do at home and we need to go grocery shopping and get a new dress shirt for hubby... He doesn't realize all these other things we have to do, but we're going to take the morning like true Californians and set an alarm, but still sleep in and grab some breakfast at a shack on the beach and then drive back. I'm just trying to go with the flow.

So right now I'm going to the lobby to get some coffee and then start packing a bit, but no pressure - hubby is still sleeping.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Half way there!

Earlier this summer I got an email from my friend Erin that said. "Hey E, I've been putting together this volunteer opportunity and I am one person short of getting this off the ground. I remember our talk before when you told me you wanted to get more involved in the community and I think you'd be great for this. Give me a call sometime if you have time and want to learn more." Oh, so that's how I remember the email going.

I called her that very day and the volunteer opportunity is at this non-profit in East Palo Alto. I wrote before about the fun on the playground. New Creation Home is the place and Erin and I started teaching a call there Wednesday nights on jobs. Tonight was our 2nd class out of 4 and I think it's going really well.

At one point we had 11 young ladies interested in taking the class. The source of these young ladies come from the Tuesday night parenting class. From a short survey, we thought - wow! How are we going to handle 11 students AND their more than 11 children? We decided to take the ones that were super dedicated first and thought we could reasonably handle 6.

Day one was last Wednesday night and we had 3 students! I thought this was a success. But even more of a success is that all three girls also showed up tonight! I am thrilled. We form the class in a circle and have great discussions. Last week we covered resumes and cover letters. This week we talked about what to wear, what not to wear, interview question examples and illegal questions.

Erin and I had great fun role playing and the girls are so smart! I am really impressed and I will be so happy if we can close that last 5% with them and give them the confidence and knowledge they need to get a great job!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fun on the playground

A few weeks ago I started volunteering my Tuesday nights with my friend at this house in East Palo Alto. It's for teenage or young mothers that have either been kicked out of their homes or in a difficult time. Some of them get to live in the house. They all get to attend classes and events at the house. Tuesday night they have parenting classes and while they are in class, we watch their kids. Some are really good, some kids are fierce and some cry - a lot!

I had a crier tonight. She wouldn't stop...only to call out to her mom. My friend commented to me that I was really taking one for the team because a super unhappy kid makes it harder on all the other kids reminding them they can't see their mom either. It's also hard on the moms and volunteers. After about 15 minutes she went inside the house with the younger kids and then their were five.

Last week we had 16 kids and 3 adults. This week we had 5 kids and 5 adults. The adults are not super talkative with each other and after my friend left (she had something else going on), I kind of wanted to leave too, but I forced myself to stay. It's good practice in discipline for me. Sure, I could have left, but then why go next week? I didn't have anything pressing at home and I have a chance - my one chance this week to really be outside my comfort zone and play with these kids.

Sometimes I leave with a great uplifting feeling. I had a great time with the kids and with my friend. I felt like we were really helping out. Other times I just try and help keep the kids from hurting themselves and others with their rough play and pure excitement on the old, worn out playground and toys. That can be draining, but I can't even imagine doing that all of the time! Moms and dads out there - I really tip my hats off to you guys. In just the hour and a half or two I'm there, I get drained.

It'll be nice when the kids there start to remember me and maybe even the mom's. It's so hard to build a relationship on just a few hours a week, but maybe next week we'll have a kick ass play date. Can you say "kick ass" when talking about kids and a playground at a place that needs some attention and new toys? Sure, why not! I will. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

17 + 4,000 / 12 = 1 hell of a day

The decision to hike Half Dome started back in April 2009. A group email went around with hubby's friends that did the hike two years ago. At first I was very skeptical because I remember how sore hubby was two years ago and seeing his pictures...I didn't know if I wanted to do it. I finally decided I could and should go for it after our 10 mile hike at Mount Rainier outside Seattle. The hikes are very different, but after a 10 mile hike, I built up enough confidence that I should at least try it. I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I'm still working to get in better shape, but if I should try it...now was the time.

I was nervous at first about starting the hike at midnight! I thought, crap, full day of work, no sleep and hike up a freaking mountain. Ok. Step 1: take that day off work. Step 2: sleep as late as I can that day and take a nap in the afternoon. Step 3: be as prepared as possible. Ok. I can do that. The temperature swings for that night and the following day was a low of 40 and a high of 85. Ok, well that's not so bad. Besides, I like the cool air. This is totally manageable and will be absolutely lovely under the full moon. 

After a four hour drive, we entered the park. We immediately got the most magnificent views of the famous mountain: El Capitan! The bright moonlight shinning upon the enormous granite face was truly awesome! We pulled over to the side of the road to soak in the sights before continuing on to the parking lot. What a surprise when we pulled into the parking lot to see hundreds of people also doing this hike at night!!!! We immediately no longer felt so special, but we knew we were in good company with others that wanted to make it to the summit for sunrise. 

We met up with the rest of the group quite easily and the organizer gave a little welcome and made sure each car group had a walki-talkie. Hubby managed to get one and that made me feel really good because I knew it would take me longer than most. And off we went at 12:13am! We all stayed together for the first 1/2 mile that went from the parking lot to the bathrooms. Hubby held my hand for a bit here and made me feel really great. He even made sure to get a picture of me smiling (although slightly blury) before I stopped smiling! 

All smiles at the beginning!

Everyone made sure all water containers were full and then we set off. I was instantly last. I was amazed at how fast the group darted up the stairs around the falls on the Mist Trail. I thought for sure I wouldn't be dead last already, but maybe in a small group that wanted to go slower - nope. I was last. Tony stayed with me, but was still ahead. Rounding the huge stairs looping around Vernal Falls, the moon cast a beautiful glow on the falls...basically just enough to make my stomach do flips. Unfortunately, the flips in my stomach didn't go away for some time. 

After climbing for some, the layers started to peel off. I was sweating like crazy and down to my tank top. As we ascended, we matched pace with another couple from the Sacramento area. They were nice and we made small talk for a while. She said, "It gets easier - I promise. You'll hit about a mile of flats." That was very encouraging, but we soon fell behind them. It started to get later and later and also colder and colder. I had all my layers on and was still freezing. After the flats, I just had to take a rest. I didn't want to rest for too long because the longer you rest, the colder you get. 

One stop in particular, it was late and I started to get scared. I was hungry and cold and tired and it had been just the two of us for some time now. Hubby was talking to me and said I wasn't making any sense. My sentences were not complete thoughts and he was really trying to narrow down exactly what I was thinking, "Are you hungry? Are you cold? Do you still feel nauseated?" I said, "I don't know. I just want to curl up and die!" and I started to cry a bit. Hubby got down in front of me and took my hands. That's when he realized that my body temperature just got way too low. My hands were freezing cold and the tips of my fingers were numb. I was shivering like crazy, so he took off his North Face soft shell and gave it to me. He took my windbreaker and said, "Oh yeah that's going to make you feel so much better really soon. Now here, eat this" and he handed me a Cliff Bar. I took a few bites while I put on his gloves and secured my warmest hat on my head. I started to feel better almost instantly. Then I was asked if I wanted to turn back to the car. I took a deep breath and said I wanted to continue up. I may not make it all the way, but I want to get as high as I can and see the sunrise. 

So we kept going up and we could see signs of the sky getting lighter. We were still in the trees, but it was great motivation to keep going knowing it would get warmer and knowing how hard I've already worked I did not want to turn back. 

Sunrise at 6:08 am

Hubby holding me tight!

So I made it to the top of this part before you descend a bit before the switchback granite stairs. Hubby and I watched the most beautiful sunrise coming up over the mountains and casting pink hues over neighboring mountains. As soon as the sun broke over the very tip of Half Dome, we could hear all the people at the top cheering!!!! It was an amazing feeling to hear the joy of those that made it. Hubby stayed with me for a big and we pulled out the food we packed. I made a comfortable resting spot there (others stopped at that point as well). Hubby made sure I had all my layers on and zipped up tight and then he took off to trek all the way up the ropes to meet the rest of the group at the top. He also left me with the walkie-talkie so I had a way to communicate. 

We could hear the "ants" on top of Half Dome cheer at the first sign of sun!

I made it!

Amazing sun rays shinning on the mountains!

Hubby ready to make the trek up the cables.

I had a great meal of cheddar cheese and summer sausage where I didn't even bother cutting the sausage, but just bit into the roll! I felt more energy coming on. I was "alone" there for almost three hours by the time hubby and about 5 others made it back to me. I had some food all prepared for Hubby because I knew he needed to eat to get his energy. He had the greatest chuckle when he saw I just too huge bites out of the summer sausage! It was about 9am when the 7 of us started our descent back to the car. 

By no means, not a flattering picture, but who cares when you climbed about 4,000 feet!

It started to warm up nicely and the layers started to come off. Along the flats, I did a quick pit stop off at the bathrooms there and changed from my long, black pants into my pink running skirt. I was comfortable and all smiles on the flats. 

Enjoying the 1 mile of flats!

It was really nice to make our way down in a group of people. Hubby and I had the chance to talk with others and be more social than on our way up. I got to actually see the beauty of the Nevada and Vernal Falls. 

Vernal Falls

A friend let me borrow her hiking poles. I at first didn't know if I would need them, but I can't even stress how helpful they were at most points to have around. They helped pull me up on the really steep stairs going up and helped stabilize me on the treacherous downhills when my legs were just totally giving out on me. I think I would have been in much worse shape without them. I remember thinking after we finished the stairs at Vernal Falls - WooHoo we're almost there! Until I read the sign that said, "2.5 miles to the Valley floor"...and knowing those 2.5 miles would take us like probably 3 more hours!!!! 

Then we made a wrong turn. :( We started ascending and noticed that we made a left when we should have made a right and we were on the John Muir Trail...not where we wanted to be. Two people went back down, verified we were going the wrong way and radioed to Hubby to turn back. It was probably a 30 minute detour, so not terrible, but also not what you want to hear when you're exhausted to the point when you just want to be finished. The last 1/2 mile hubby even carried my pack on his chest! Every time we stopped, my legs were just wobbling. It was kinda funny! 

We finally made it down all the way and through the massive crowds with children and to the car by 3:30pm. Ok, so that's leave at 12:13am, make it to the top by 6:30am, rest until 9am where we started making our way down (so - 2.5 hours then) and all the way to the car by 3:30... is 12+ hours of moving time. WOW. And that's like 15 hours of moving time for those that went all the way. I mean, they had their breaks too and rested at the top, but all I have to say is that's an incredibly difficult hike. I don't ever remember staying up ALL night and into the next day, so even with nap at the top, it was a VERY LONG experience. 

The best feeling was back at the car when I took my shoes off and put on my flip flops! I was all smiles again. I got to wash my hands and face and felt like a new person. We found the organizers campsite and cooked some food and made some coffee. We decided we would not camp that night, but actually drive back home. Hubby said he was good to drive and we all really wanted to make it back to our own showers and beds! So I snuggled up with a pillow in the back seat and fell asleep as soon as we left the park. We did manage to get one amazing shot on our way out of the park with half dome in the background..."We were there!"

At some point about 1.5 hours into the drive home, I immediately felt ill again...woke up and asked Hubby to pull off the road because I was going to be sick. He did a great job getting off and I managed to gather myself enough to not be sick. I switched seats and got back in the front and we found a gas station within the next little bit where we pulled off to get more water and rest for a bit. I had the chance to go to the bathroom and then I threw up. I felt better already. I slowly drank some Gatorade, took a dramamine and then told Hubby he could start driving again as long as he took the road with extreme caution until this nausea subsided. It didn't take long before I felt better and we got to wittness another amazing sunset. Two sunsets & one sunrise all without getting actual "sleep". That's pretty freaking hardcore. :) 

We made it back home by 10pm and decided to leave everything in the car except the one small bag with clean clothes. We both showered up and watched about 2 seconds of TV before we fell asleep and made our way to the bedroom where I crawled out of bed around 9am. We had a fantastically lazy Sunday, even though it was HOT outside...and 86 degrees inside our place, we didn't do a thing. We spent some time in the afternoon cleaning the car of stuff and putting everything away, but I did not do laundry, we did not clean the house, but we did grill up some dinner in the backyard and watched some TV. It was a fantastic weekend and I have a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment even though I did not make it all the way to the summit. 

We were there!

It is amazing what you learn about yourself and for your spouse at that matter, when faced in an epic journey like Half Dome. I learned I can't wait (well, I can for a few more years) to have children with Hubby. He is the most caring and protective man and I know he will never leave my side and always be there for me when I need him most. It was more than I ever thought I could accomplish. What's next? :) 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A threesome with...

Myself, hubby and the night sky!

Last night hubby and I were reading in the living room when he went to the kitchen, opened a beer, grabbed a blanket and went outside to enjoy the cool night air. I liked what I saw so I joined him. As we sat there sipping his Guinness, we looked up and watched plane after plane fly overhead. The sun was setting and more and more stars started to appear. We are by no means in the country, the Caltrain run rights past our place, but it's enough to see the stars.

As we sat there enjoying the evening, we talked about how his brother likes to sleep outside without a tent. At first we both thought he was completely crazy, but on the last hiking trip they took, hubby tried it with him and said it was incredible. I threw out the idea of how awesome would it be to set something up outside and hubby said, ok - let's do it. Meaning, if I set it up, he'll go along.

So I went inside and first got a big blanket to lay down on the ground. Our little "backyard" is all stone with plans along all edges. Next I drug out the huge blow up mattress we have. This is the bed we have set up in our guest room. When we moved to California more than three years ago, we decided on this nicely raised air mattress that also fits standard queen sheets. We blew it up once and left it, only needing to add air occasionally. So I pulled that out there with all the trimmings - pillows, blankets and his G1.

We had the Sky Map app installed on his G1 and when the sun was gone, we were able to pull up all the constellations in the sky! We were out there for about an hour looking at stars and planets when we finally fell asleep. Waking up this morning to the cool air and the sun, through overcast clouds was so refreshing. I couldn't believe how well I slept all night. It makes me want to do it every night! Thank goodness I remembered to turn off the sprinklers so they wouldn't go off at 6:30 am!

If you've never slept out in the open air under the stars, I highly recommend it. It was an exciting adventure and we didn't have to go anywhere!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Traditional gift is leather & modern is crystal or glass

AKA hubby and I just celebrated our three year anniversary. Thankfully I did not get anything of leather or crystal or glass. Instead I got memories to last a lifetime. The night of our anniversary I got home about an hour before hubby and caught up on some house things. He told me he had something planned and not to do anything. We had no food in the house, so I wasn't sure if we were going shopping or out to eat. He walked in the door and pulled some fresh veggies out of his backpack. He stopped at the little market by our house on his bike and picked up just enough for dinner tonight! I thought it was so cute.

Hubby also got me a card with cute puppies on it. I thought for sure we were going to pick out a little puppy tomorrow, but no - no IOU puppy card. It was way better. Instead a boarding pass slipped out! I wasn't going to read it at first, but half way though the card, I just had to look at it in more detail. It was a trip for two to Seattle that leaves first thing tomorrow morning!!!! He didn't want to eat out because we'd be spending the next four days and three nights eating out and wanted to hang out at home because we needed to pack! AND he made reservations for us at the W hotel! I was so excited. It's exactly what I wanted.

So we packed our bags and took off to Seattle! The first thing we did was went to Vivace's for some local Seattle coffee. Needless to say we spent the last four days drinking a lot of coffee! It was just so good and the options were endless. Here I am with my latte! Notice the amazing heart latte art. :)

That night we went to Bambridge Island to wander around and have dinner. We found a great place recommended by the hotel called Harbor Public House. Hubby got the fish & chips and I got the buffalo burger. We had some tasty local brews and overlooked the beautiful harbor full of sail boats. I must also say that we had the best server on the planet here. She was extremely attentive without being at our table all the time. We gave our first 25% tip to her because we were just so impressed, we felt she went beyond the service we normally 20%. Neither of us worked at a restaurant before, but we realize it is difficult work and they deserve to make good tips - if they provide good service. On the island we randomly found these rock figures in yoga positions. Being the yogi wannabe I am, we posed!

Hubby is here in Tree pose.

I am here in Triangle pose.

The ferry ride to and from the island was amazing. It was a quick 35 minute ride. I was actually surprised by the number of commuters on the ferry. I read that 30,000 people live on the island. It was so beautiful and I can see why they love it there.

Just being goof-tastic!

Enjoying the beautiful sunset on Seattle - around 9:00pm!

The second day of our vacation we went on a fantastic 10 mile hike around Mount Rainer. I just couldn't believe this beautiful area only about an hour of the city. You can see the mountain with just tons of snow still...I don't think it ever goes away. We were a little afraid we wouldn't be properly dressed, but it all turned out to be perfect temperature. Now we didn't actually get up to where the actual snow is located, but we hiked around in the only rain forest in North America! It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen to date on our hikes. The weather was beautiful and the hike was well shaded, which is good because even though I had on SPF 30, we didn't bring sunglasses or hats.

Here we are at the waterfall where we stopped for lunch. We were about 4 miles into the total 10 here.

Day 3 we went to the market area. It was huge and we found the best bakery for breakfast, lunch and then we returned for another snack later! It's called Piroshky Piroshky. It was so delicious. Get the salmon thing. At first I was like, huh? What is this going to be like? But then I had a bite and I fell in love. :) Hubby loved it too!

The best thing at the market was this book store. In the font we saw this book called, "The Gas We Pass". I had to go in and read it. Apparently it's from the 70's. I thought it was related to the "Everybody Poops" book, but nope. Here I am holding up the book!

Hilarious book. Everyone should read it!

Later that day we also made it out to the Space Needle area. We didn't go up because it looked lame, but we hung out around the base. They had some pretty cool stuff, but nothing we really did but walk around. This one section that was by the music museum was playing Michael Jackson and messages in chalk filled the entire area from the floor to the walls and benches. Some people posted pictures, left flowers and candles. It was a beautiful, yet simple tribute to MJ. Hubby tried to get a picture of me in front of the building because it was super cool looking. I decided to throw in a move from Thriller, but I was super fast and he caught me in the after math. I love the look on my face here because it was a truely candid moment where I didn't have time to pose. Love it.

Bustin' a move!

We ate some fantastic meals in Seattle and even caught the 4th of July fireworks show! I spent today doing laundry and getting ready for the week...without actually thinking about work! I made while on the plane this morning of all the things I wanted to do today. It came out to 17 items! I knew it wasn't realistic to do it all, but I have 7 completed and think I can do 3 more yet tonight. These also include things like dinner...and that's what I'm going to do now! I love being surprised and this was the best surprise ever! Thanks Hubby. You're the best and I can't wait to spend all the more years of my life with you! xoxo

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happiness in a pair of shoes!?

What shoes are you wearing when you look at yourself and think, "I'm happy"? Mine are a pair of beautiful, black pumps with hot pink soles with heels so high they make my legs look like I'm 8 feet tall. Well, I don't own a pair of shoes like that. I own black pumps, but just slightly more ordinary ones. Sometimes I want the clothes and the shoes of an executive that looks so smart that walk into a fantastic house each night for dinner in an awesome kitchen. Other days I want to be in a pair of comfortable flats eating a bowl of cereal while looking through a magazine. 

Which makes me happy? Hubby said I'm so conflicted between the two worlds because he said I can be happy in both. I never really thought of that before. Most people aren't happy because they tell themselves they aren't happy. Do we really truly have that much power over ourselves. Well, I do not have a medical degree, but I believe we do have that power.  Too bad it took someone else to point it out to me. 

I am surrounded by young, driven, fun people, yet how many of us are truly happy? I think we are to some degree, but why stop there? We could all be so much happier if instead of posting facebook messages and tweets about how terrible our lives are, we all started tweeting about all the good things in life? 

Today I had the opportunity to play a violin for a while. I took lessons for year as a kid, the suzuki style where you learn by ear instead of reading music. I played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! I still remember it after all these years. And I played it in like 6 different ways - little staccato notes and longer notes. It was fun! Even more, I like how the wikipedia page describes the Suzuki method "an educational philosophy which strives to create "high ability" and beautiful character in its students through a nurturing environment". That's so funny to me now! For 5 minutes, I was 6 again! 

Maybe tomorrow I'll shoot for 7. I have lots of happy memories of that age! 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Medical Study Volunteer

I was poking around CraigsList a few weeks ago looking for some volunteer opportunities. I found a post for a medial study being conducted by Stanford for hand eczema. I was immediately intrigued. I've been suffering from hand eczema for about 4 years now. It started the week hubby and I got engaged! I've seen three different dermatologists and even though the last one I saw by far was the best, they don't have a cure and it's quite frustrating to put topical steroids on your hands. It's so painful and most of the time I am unable to wear my beautiful wedding ring. 

Yesterday I was able to speak with the person in charge of the study. After describing my particular eczema experience, what it looks like, where exactly it's located etc, she told me I do qualify for the study! She emailed me the informed consent papers to read through and go back to her if I have any questions. It was 21 pages long. Here are some interesting things to note:
  • looking for 600 participants
  • with chronic hand eczema that does not respond to topical creams
  • 6 month long study - after reading the informed consent it's actually 1 year, 9 months
  • must be on two forms of birth control
  • I can stop the study at any time for any reason
It's interesting because I never really thought about wanting to have children in the next two years until I'm told I can't get pregnant while being in this study. It totally makes sense because they are unaware of possible birth defects while on this drug. I went off birth control about 15 months ago. Not to get pregnant, but because I didn't want to be on any medicine. I am taking nothing right now except the occasional ibuprofen for headaches or body aches. It's been nice to not be altered. 

It would totally suck to know for sure I can't get pregnant for the next two years (if I do the full study) and I only have a 50/50 chance I'll get the real drug instead of the placebo! Hubby and I spoke last night and he thinks I should do it. He said if it helps my hands to feel better, it's worth it. I'm just not sure yet. It seems like a really big deal. I don't trust the FDA anyway, so it doesn't matter to me that it's not FDA approved yet. What does matter to me is I might suffer from bone density loss. I know your body can rebuild that and I'm young enough to have time to reverse that. 

The first meeting, where they actually determine if I'm perfect for the study, is an entire day of tests. They take a blood sample, tons of x-rays, photos of my hands, samples of the eczema to determine I don't have anything else on my skin and an allergy patch test. I think all of those would be fantastic to have done. I did an allergy patch test when I was a kid and I've only had x-rays at the dentist and once at the chiropractor years ago. I guess I can always start with that and see if I'm even right for the study and go from there. I'd hate to waste the doctors time though, but they are sure to have a lot of people eventually drop out. I'd have monthly meetings and a few benchmark visits are all day. 

I have two other people to get medical opinions from on this study: my mother-in-law and my boss' wife. It's a little nerve-wracking, but if I get the real drug and it really works, my life will be changed and that would be wonderful. The kinds of things that bother me now are: getting manicures, going into the ocean, preparing foods, handling a lot of paperwork etc. All of those irritate my hands or dry them out. I have to wear latex gloves when I prepare foods, especially anything raw. I cut a tomato earlier this week without gloves and it burnt the hell out of my finger. I just want to be normal again! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ode to Michael Kors

Michael Kors has got to be my favorite American designer. I love his classic clothes and his amazing ability to dress a woman. Now, most of his clothing I unfortunately has no place in my wardrobe. Hubby and I do not have any fancy parties to attend or any formal events. We have the occasional wedding, but I would stick out like a sore thumb if I came in wearing any expensive dress. In a way, that sucks! I want to wear beautiful pieces! 

Today I was talking to a friend about this beautiful MK black dress I thought was SO BEAUTIFUL! As I recall, it was also so expensive!!! My memory thought it was about $5k, which after looking at the website and not seeing anything over about $3,500 makes me question the price. But it's no longer there, so we're going to say it was $5k. That's about a year of my clothing allowance! I'm not sure exactly what I spend on clothes, but I know it's less than rent & food & other major necessities, so I feel it's in proportion. 

But say my clothing allowance was abut $5k for the year. And let's say I spend all $5K of that on this one MK dress! That kind of made me throw up in my mouth right now, but let's just say I did it anyway. First of all, hubby would be absolutely furious with me. But hey, I work too! I should be able to spend my money how I want. I guess that's not a good argument considering we have everything joint. Oh well. Turns out also have arguments in this made up world! 

But what if I wore the same freaking MK dress every single day! Let's say I had enough shoes to wear it every day with a different pair of shoes and different jewelry every day! When would I get sick of the dress? Day 3? Day 20? Day 150? Who knows, but it's fun to think about. 

Say, you keep it for special occasions. How many events would you wear it to before you got sick of it? How many events would you not be able to wear it to because the same people would only see you in that fantastically, beautiful, but the same dress? I love clothes, but I know myself and I get SICK of the same stuff over and over again. I've learned to buy quality clothes, but I'm also learning I don't like to hold onto pieces year after year after year. My recent closet purge puts that to a fact. 

I like change in my wardrobe. I like diversity! I don't care to spend a bunch of money on clothes and I have a tiny closet, so I'm motivated to keep things in a fairly small place. I have about a 3 foot rack space, with shoes beneath and 3 drawers in a dresser for tops, jeans and workout clothes (top to bottom respectively).

I have a very organized closet. I also organize hubby's side according to my system (lights to darks in each category: dresses, skirts, tops: sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 length sleeve and long sleeved and then pants: by length and color). It works quite well. I highly recommend this system rather than random! 

Anyway, how long could you go wearing the same thing day after day after day? 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I need a vacation, but a good laugh will do for now!

The last few weeks at work have been really difficult. And on top of it, so serious. I've had to remind myself to breathe. We use to have so much fun at the office. What changed? I feel so much pressure and some days I don't know if I'm coming or going. Most nights I come home, hopefully run or go to yoga and after dinner veg out. Nothings so wrong with that, but I need a vacation! 

Hubby and I keep talking about taking some time off, but I honestly don't see that happening any time soon. I fear we are becoming my parents in that sense where they talk about doing something forever and then never do it. So far this weekend, I've mentally traveled to San Diego, Seattle, Madrid and Cabo. 

My annual review was last week. It was good. Not great, but not bad. I'm spread pretty thin right now and it's making it difficult to do much of anything very well. A meeting the following day was about roles & responsibilities for some PR efforts and Boss #1 (I say that because I have 2) asked me to speak up if something interests me. They asked me to be the "Queen" or PM for a project. I said I'd love to, but let's look at my other responsibilities and be honest about how this can work. We agreed I have too much going on and that we set a goad in about 1 - 2 weeks to have a new person take over a lot for me so I can focus on this. 

I think that's great. Exactly what I wanted and was promised at my review last year. No wonder I need a vacation. Boss #1's daughter came in for a few hours Thursday afternoon and I watched her, while doing my work while he was in meetings. She's a fantastic 5 year old and we have a good time together. She asked me why I have two desks and two computers! I said, that's what I need to do my 6 jobs! She laughed. I didn't. 

I do believe if we get a new body in the office, someone that is fun and creative, it will help bring some life and fun back to the office. We desperately want it. I'd like to be able to take on new and full challenges to see if I can really bring it and be given a fair shot at doing well. The next few months will be really critical to my successes and future at my current place and my next place. 

So I decided it's about time I have some fun outside work! I had two friends (also coworkers) over for drinks after work Friday. We also made some burgers and corn and threw them on the grill while we sat outside and enjoyed the back yard area. Hubby's been working so hard back there. It's nice to have some oasis like that to enjoy your hard work. We were able to vent and talk about work, laugh and just have a really good time. A lot of the time, Hubby doesn't necessarily understand what's going on at my office. We work at two extremely different places and the office politics and dynamics are completely different. It's nice for me to have him experience stories from other people I work with, rather than just myself. He said, I can see why things are difficult for you and are struggling. It's a relief to have some understanding. 

Then last night we went to see The Hangover. It was so freaking funny! I love Las Vegas and the characters in this movie just made me forget about everything else except their story. I loved it. Then I came home and why hubby worked on something in the office / guest room, I decided to watch The Jane Austin Book club. I've never read Austin before, but I did see the movie Becoming Jane with Ann Hathaway and James McAvoy and I totally loved that movie. I loved this one as well. It makes me want to explore more books. I've been in a rut lately with looking at travel online and watching TV. I go in cycles. 

Our 3rd wedding anniversary is coming up. It's the same time as 4th of July, so I thought we'd go somewhere for that, but the park, Lassen Volcanic Park is sold out of camping spots. We haven't really figured out what else to do yet. It's coming up soon. I think I'll sit back and not worry about it for the moment. Instead I'll enjoy this overcast, chilly Sunday morning with my cup of coffee and wait for hubby to wake up and hit the Farmers Market! Happy Sunday!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Suburbs to San Francisco adventure

Earlier this week we were invited out Saturday night for a friends birthday. We were to hit some bars in San Francisco. Hubby and I were of course all about it. I invited one of my girlfriends to join us and we decided to do a shopping adventure that afternoon before going to the bars! I was so excited! The shopping around here consists of malls and normal stores, but the shopping in San Francisco consists of all these super cute boutique stores! I've been dying to get on the scene for a while now.

I decided to take Caltrain up to the city to meet my girlfriend and then hubby would drive up with the car later that night. Well, yesterday morning I got a bit scared because I've only ridden the train twice before and always with hubby. Plus, I had to transfer at Milbrae to get on Bart so I went to the right part of the city: The Mission. Hubby did this transfer before from the airport when I couldn't break away from work to get him after a backpacking trip. He generally has a bad sense of direction, so I knew I would probably rock the transfer.

Well, I successfully got on the Caltrain at 12:23, found a seat and pulled out my new Livescribe pen & notebook. I had some thoughts from my venture I wanted to write down. The first few minutes of the ride my arm was shaking a bit. I told myself to calm down. Ah, I didn't look to see what the stop was before mine. It was difficult to hear the announcer. Deep breaths girl. You'll be fine. The other two times I took Caltrain was to go to the Giants vs. Cardinals baseball games and for that, you take the train all the way to the end.

The transfer to Bart went fine. Me and 15 or so other people stood around like, HUH? What do we do? The tracks were not labeled well, the track I was suppose to be on had a light rail train on it that said out of order...what now? Well, of course a woman was working there and instructed us to stay put. We were in the right place and she was getting information for us. Turns out they were having problems at the transfer point and they were going to use that train. We could board it in a few minutes and it would take off in about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes! That's a long time. Well, I had never been on Bart before either, so I'm all full of adventures today. I texted my girlfriend and told her what's up. Of course she said no biggie. I thought to myself, I should have taken the earlier train. D'oh! How will we have enough time to shop and get our nails done!?

When I got off at 16th and Market in San Francisco I was in the heart of The Mission! It was the first time I walked around San Francisco and felt like I was in a foreign city. The rest of the city is pretty regular and maybe bland, but The Mission has a lot of character! I felt like I traveled way farther than probably 40 miles from my house! I found my girlfriends place quite easily and we headed out to Noe Valley for some shopping! I was so excited - I need some new clothes that fit.


We stumbled upon this beautiful jewelry store called Qoio. She had the most beautiful jewelry I'd ever seen. The owner makes all the items herself and her inspiration is her home country of Guatemala. She was explaining to us that all the different villages have unique colors and Guatemala is know as the colors of spring. I thought it was beautiful and quite reasonably priced considering the details and hard work she obviously put into each unique piece. If I ever need, and I hope I do, a beautifully piece of art to wear, I will visit Qoio again and do some serious shopping.

So at the end of the day I had a manicure & pedicure and bought a beautiful, black, floppy sun hat and a new bronze colored woven clutch. I didn't find any clothes. I realized I'm a very traditional, preppy Banana Republic / J.Crew style after all. Maybe I can go back to Qoio and get something interesting to mix it up! Nothings wrong with that.

So my adventure worked out well yesterday after all. I mean, I knew it would, but it was good to be out of my element and taking public transit alone. I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I remember back in High School and College, I use to travel all over the world and I was fearless. So fearless in fact, it scared my parents a bit. Ya know, this was before the internet was big and I went on all these trips knowing only a few things: where I'm staying when I get there and what the weathers like (based on average temperatures from the encyclopedia and not real time weather). I didn't research transportation or restaurants or anything. I just went and figured it out there. So, when did we become fearful? Well, hopefully I'm on my way to discovery and breaking down the fear inside me and bringing out the adventure in me again! I can't wait to discover what's next.