Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Checking Things Off the List - Go Camping

Go Camping - Completed in August of 2010

Pretending I'm homeless is not my idea of a vacation.

This has been my motto whenever someone asks if I like camping. Living in Colorado, you tend to meet a lot of outdoor enthusiasts. You know, the people who use carabineers as key chains and buy their cars based off of how well it perform in the mountains. I have nothing against this lifestyle, to each his own, but I have just never been able to figure out why people would spend their few days away from work sleeping on the ground. If I take time off of work, I prefer to go to an all inclusive beach resort.

Now that's not to say I have never been camping, I have. I guess that makes this item on the list a little misleading when I say "Go Camping". What I really mean is "Give Camping a Fair Shot".

I've been camping a few times in my life. I remember going once when I was about nine with my sister, her boyfriend and my brother Marc. Marc is the one member of my family who loves to be outside and he even slept outside under the stars. I prefer large windows to look at nice views while I sit in an air conditioned room and read a book. Anyway, I don't remember much about the trip except that I hated her boyfriend and so in my mind, that made everything miserable.

I think I went to one night of girls camp once. Growing up I had horrible social anxiety and refused to go to school, church or just about anything that would make me interact with people my own age. Pretty much I stayed home all the time and made my moms life miserable (I now try to call her once a week to apologize for what a pain in the ass I was/am). The fact that my mom was able to get me to go to even one night of girls camp was a small miracle in itself. I remember very random things from that night. My mom drove me up on the last night of camp. For dinner they served a combination of chili and spaghetti-o's, which was surprisingly tasty. It rained all night, and if you touched the walls of the tent, the rain would soak thru. It was miserable and I just wanted to go home.

I know I went camping again sometime when I was a teenager. Camping with other teenagers without any supervision is never a good thing. I remember there was a lot of beer (why is it teenagers, or most people for that matter, literally have no idea how to have fun without drinking?), people peeing on the campfire and what seemed to be everyones goal of who could get the most STD's the quickest. To put your mind at ease, I did not take part in any of that. This was well before my "I'm going to do stupid crap to mess up my life" phase.

Several years ago I dated a true outdoor enthusiast, wait, that's putting it way too lightly, it's more like he was obsessed. He lived for being outdoors. One entire room of his house was devoted to outdoor equipment of every kind. any free time when he wasn't working, was spent on some adventure. Again, nothing wrong with having a passions for something, but when you fall in love with a man who's main hobby is something you hate, you just know it isn't going to end well. I tried to do a few outdoorsy things with him, but he was at such an advanced level, it was embarrassing for him to have to stop and wait for me all the time. Once I convinced him to come on my idea of a vacation to Aruba. He agreed, but didn't enjoy it. He ended up breaking up with me during the trip. Yea, that didn't make the last day together awkward or anything. After that, as soon as a guy mentioned he loved the outdoors, it was an instant turn off for me. But that's a tough thing in Colorado. I've found if a guy doesn't love the outdoors, then they seem to love video games and have an overwhelming desire to live in their parents basement forever. Tough choice.

I decided I would be willing to try camping again, but I had a few requirements.

1. I will only go with the right people. If even one person going is a "debbie downer" or a whiner, I'm out.

2. I have to be able to bring an air mattress. Sleeping on the ground with nothing for padding but a thin sleeping bag sounds like my idea of hell.

3. I have to have a bathroom of some kind. The thought of squatting behind a tree is not something I'm looking forward to. Not because I'm too girly to do it, but because I would be so paranoid about peeing on myself or my clothes. I have a fear that if I can't get at just the right angle, my pants would be covered. So does that just mean I should just take my pants off while attempting this? Well peeing pantless in the woods isn't sounding much better. And knowing me, I would loose my balance and fall directly into it. So there I would be, pantless, on the ground, in my own pee. Yes, a toilet is a must.

When the opportunity to go with Sara Rutman and Lauren Woodbury to the Sand Dunes (this is also on my list, but I will cover it in another blog post) and camping, I jumped at the chance. Sara is way fun, and lauren is hilarious, so I knew it would be good.

I realized I had zero supplied for camping, so I decided to go fully prepared. First, I didn't have a sleeping bag. I could have borrowed one from someone, but I figured if I enjoyed camping, I may as well have my own to take in the future. After much searching, I decided on a pink and grey camouflage bag. Not the most normal choice, but who knows, it may come in handy in case I ever have to hide out in the Barbie Corvette.

I also ended up spending way too much on things like; trail mix, a camping chair, every medicine known to man (just in case), a backpack, water bottle, air mattress with pump etc. I also had to make sure I got bug spray. It seems that mosquito's are drawn to me like rednecks to a free taping of the Jerry Springer show. For everyone who says the best part about camping is that it's cheap, I would like to show them my $200 receipt from Target.

Because we left after work on Friday, we didn't get to the Sand Dunes until after the sun had gone down. Also, because it is located in a national forest, you can't use any brush you find for fires, you have to buy it at the little check in station, which was also closed. We stayed at one of the reserved campsites which was actually pretty nice. It had a picnic table, bear proof storage for food, fire pit and was in walking distance from actual bathrooms! Hooray for indoor plumbing!! But because we didn't have wood for the fire, it meant setting up the tent in the dark. Thankfully, the people I went with came prepared with some cool forehead flashlights. In the midst of buying multiple packages of trail mix, the necessity of a flashlight slipped my mind. Mostly I tried to stay out of everyones way and do whatever they told me. Sara brought a little propane grill and made some tasty burgers for dinner. It's true what they say, all food tastes better when you're camping.

Sleeping, well it sucked, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The air mattress I bought was half deflated by the morning so my shoulder was digging nicely into the ground. I normally don't get out of bed before 8am, but as everyone knows in camping, no one sleeps after the sun comes up. I think it's actually impossible to. The lack of sleep, along with crappy sleeping positions caused me to feel like I had a hangover. Thankfully, Lauren was creative enough to put a cooking sheet on the grill so she could make us pancakes for breakfast. Looks and brains, quite the combination.

After breakfast, we packed up camp (another thing I like about hotels, you pack your bag and leave. You don't have to pack all the furniture and fit it in your car to take home) and headed off to our next stop, Mesa Verde. Keep in mind, we went to both of these places and then home within 48 hours. We camped in Mesa Verde, and the sites were even nicer than the other, these were a little more private. We had bought firewood on the way there and even got to camp while it was still light out. I filled up my mattress even more this time and it was a much better night. I even got a smore that night, yummy.

So all in all, I can't say that I hated camping. I will also not go as far to say that I loved camping. The most accurate statement would be that I tolerated camping. If done in the right circumstances, I can see how it is a lot of fun. i am even willing to go again sometime. But you're smoking crack if you think I would choose camping over a resort on the beach :)

arking Things Off the List - Learn to Shoot a Gun

Learn to shoot a gun - Completed in October 2010

I don't like guns. I never have. Frankly, they scare the crap out of me. I do not come from a family that enjoys hunting, or being outdoors for the matter. I have never understood the appeal of the NRA, or the whole "From my cold dead hands" hoopla. I'm not anti-gun, I just didn't get what the big deal was. Or maybe it was because the only times I have been exposed to guns was by rednecks or pushy republicans :)
One of the reasons I started this list was because I wanted to face my fear of things I have always been afraid to do. Shooting a gun was a big thing on that list.
Before this day, I had held a gun three times in my life. The first time, I was about 15, working in my dads dental office. He had a patient, who's name I can't remember, but I will never forget. He was a very large man, with such bad emphysema he had to be on oxygen constantly and carried the tank around on his back. Due to his weight and his health, I remember he could barely walk, but he always carried a little tote bag that said "Smokers Rights" on the side. I still find it amazing that a man who let such a horrible habit destroy his life, still believed in fighting for the "rights of the smoker".
Anyway, one day I remember my dad was talking to him about his little bag, turned out it's where he kept his little gun. He kept it in a case, unloaded, but explained it was for protection in case someone attacked him. How a man in his condition would be able to get the gun out, load it and be ready before his attacker was to him is beyond me. He asked if I wanted to hold it, I didn't really want to but my dad encouraged me. I remember I was so nervous my hand shook holding that gun (it was something like a 22) and it scared me. I gave it back as quickly as possible.
The next time I held a gun was at my dads house in Virginia. My step-mom had me hold her new 357 magnum she had bought. That is a big freaking gun. Plus in my little hands (no really, they are strangely small) it looked even bigger. Thankfully she didn't ask if I wanted to shoot it, I probably would have peed myself.
The last time I held a gun was at my friend Melissa Williamsons apartment this year. Melissa was a cop for 10 years so she knew exactly what she was doing and was very confident, which put me at ease. She made sure the gun was unloaded and showed me the correct way to hold it. It only lasted a few minutes, but my hands didn't shake and I felt ok with it. Just not ok enough to shoot it.
When Melissa came into town last week, I asked if she would be willing to teach me. She took me, along with Lauren Woodbury, to an indoor shooting range in Aurora called the Firing Line. I was nervous, much more than I let on, but I was determined not to back out. Mel gave me her basic "Don't be a dumbass" rules for handling a gun, which were;
1. Always treat a gun as if it's loaded
2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
3. Be aware of your target and beyond
4. Don't point the gun at anything that you don't want to destroy
Mel bought a few paper targets (the big ones that look like the upper body of a person) then showed us how it's done. She is a very good shot, which is a good thing since she is a cop. Then it was my turn. I pointed and tried not to hesitate or close my eyes. Baby steps, get the first shot out of the way. Guns are loud, even with my oh so sexy ear protection, it was loud. I knew there would be a kickback, but I prepared myself for the worst (meaning movie quality where I'm thrown back 5 feet into the window) but it wasn't as bad as I thought. I tried a few more shots, no idea if I was hitting the target at all, but just happy I hadn't freaked out. I thought I was aiming at the right spot, but Mel pointed out that I kept hitting the guy in the crotch. Hmmmm, still a good shot I guess. Mel figured out I was left eye dominant, so when I started closing my right eye to shoot, my aim improved drastically. I started hitting the chest and head, and a few groin shots just for fun :)
Now to answer the question everyone keeps asking. I shot a 40 milometer gun, I thought that would be more than enough information, but apparently not. They would ask, what kind of gun (didn't I just say 40mm? Is that not right?) then I would just stare at them with a confused look, trying desperately to figure out what kind of information they wanted. I would say a handgun, still not enough information. Seriously people?? Apparently I was supposed to know the make, model and every detail about this gun or I would look like a complete moron. So here is what I know. It was a gun, it fit in my hand, it was black, it shot bullets, it went bang. That's about all I care about. If you want more information, you'll have to ask someone else.
One lesson I learned the hard way is that shells are very hot right after they've been shot. I learned this when I shot and a shell came to rest right at the base of my neck on my shoulder and decided to hang out for a bit. It hurt. Another one headed for my cleavage (just another thing I can add to my list of weird things I have found in my cleavage) but thankfully landed on top of my shirt, still pretty warm though.
Remember how I said most of my exposure to guns was from redneck people? A few lanes down were some teenagers (who I would be willing to bet drove a truck with a confederate flag in the back window) shooting guns. They had these little paper targets with squirrels on them. While I was shooting, all of a sudden I hear this BOOM, it was so loud. I step back to see those kids are doing target practice with a 357 magnum! It practically ripped the target off the hooks. They thought it was hilarious, I thought that they probably found their cousins very attractive.
For the first half of shooting, I wasn't having a very good time. I was still really nervous, but I kept at it. By the end, I actually started enjoying myself. I was extremely excited that I kept hitting the target, even if everyone else there was using targets 1/4 the size of mine.
So all in all, it was a pretty good experience and something I would like to do again. But don't expect me to run out and buy a gun anytime soon :)

Markign Things Off the List - Feed a Giraffe

Feed a giraffe - Completed in 2010

I've always like giraffes and have wanted to see one up close. A few years ago I heard that there was a zoo in the springs where you could feed them, so of course I had to add it to my list.

Cheyanne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs is a really interesting zoo. It's literally on the side of the mountain. Thanks to Lauren for going with me to get this checked off the list :)

They have a deck that puts you high enough with the giraffes so you can feed them crackers they have to buy. Yes of course we tried the crackers, they tasted like unsalted Triscuts. There were a lot of people when we went so at first the giraffes didn't seem too interested in us since they were being fed so much. I got bored so I decided to feed Lauren instead, she was much more receptive. Eventually though I got one to take my cracker and even let me pet it. Lauren even held a cracker in her mouth and the giraffe took it from her, didn't lick her or anything.

The giraffes didn't seem very interested in our crackers for the most part, but they did spend a lot of time licking the big wooden poles holding up the porch. And I mean a lot of time, like more than 10 minutes. And it wasn't just one, there was a giraffe at every pole. It was a little awkward so of course I stared and took pictures.

Very cool experience, if you have kids make time to take them there.

Marking Things Off the List - See a Meteor Shower

See a Meteor Shower - Completed in August of 2010

So I've been a slacker when it comes to marking things off my list. I LOVE my calling as ward activities co-chair, but this summer it has taken up all my free time. I'm not complaining though, this has been one of the best summers that I can remember! I will be better about it in the next few weeks.

I was a little worried when I put "see a meteor shower" on my list. I had no idea if there was even one happening during this year. Thankfully last week I noticed a friends status about a meteor shower that weekend. Friday August 13th, I grabbed some friends (thank you Joy, Jeff, Crystal, Jeane, Dustin, Sara, Lauren, Candi and Joni!) and headed out to see what we could see. One of my downfalls is that I come up with fun ideas, but don't plan them well. My idea was to drive into the middle of nowhere in Castle Rock and lay on the grass somewhere. One thing I didn't realize was that all of the open areas in CR are farms. This meant all the land was fenced off right by the road leaving no comfy places to lay down.

Thankfully Joy realized I was wandering without direction and called her sister who lived close asking if we could lay out on their yard :) The view was pretty amazing (and not just because of the hot boys that were with us). I have always been fascinated by the sky, especially stars. we get to see some great stars in Parker and CR, but this was more than I had ever seen before. We got to see 2 satellites that we could track across the whole sky, something I had never seen before. We were outside for about 90 minutes and saw about 15 shooting stars. It was a very cool experience.

Every time I lay out to look at stars, I can't help but think about how amazing this universe is. I know it didn't all happen by accident, we are all here for a reason.

Thank you to all who helped me check this one off my list! Love you!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Things To Do - Go To Nauvoo

Go to Nauvoo - I went in July 2010

One of the first things I added to my list was "Go to Nauvoo". I knew one of the things I wanted to do for my birthday was to take a trip with friends. I LOVE to travel, but don't get to do much anymore. My favorite kind of vacation is anywhere with an all-inclusive hotel and a beach, but those were a little out of our price range. We talked about going to Las Vegas, but since I don't drink or gamble anymore, that kind of limits the kind of fun you can have there.

Then the idea of Nauvoo came to me. I figured I have made so many changes in my life that have led me to such a great place, why not celebrate my birthday by being in one of the best church history sites in the country? I also happen to love road trips, and I can't tell you how excited I was that I got friends to agree to go with me.

I also decided to take a full week off of work for my trip, something I hadn't done in years. The drive to any location is half the fun. The girls put up with me and let me take them to random roadside attractions like the worlds largest ball of stamps and the worlds largest concrete bull (it weighs 45,000 lbs).

While in Nebraska, we also got to see Winter Quarters, it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip for me. It's hard for me to imagine what those pioneers went thru or how difficult it would have been to see so many of those around you pass away. I am so thankful for those people who had such amazing faith in the Gospel and opened so many doors for us. If anyone is in the Omaha area, don't miss visiting this site.

We spent two full days in Nauvoo. The first day July 7th was my birthday. I scheduled for us to do Baptisms for the Dead that morning (for any of my non-member friends reading this blog, it's not as weird as it sounds. Ask me about it sometime) then in the afternoon we did an endowment session in the Nauvoo Temple. The temples baptismal font is absolutely beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice. And the spirit in that room is beyond words.

I had only been to the Denver temple, so getting to do a session in Nauvoo was so exciting. You move to different rooms during a session which I wasn't used to, and each of the rooms had amazing hand painted murals. It was a beautiful experience and I am so thankful that I got to be there.

I was inactive for a long time and when I finally decided to come back to church (or to take my head out of my butt as my brother in law says) I had a lot of work to do before I could be temple worthy. It was a long road, but every time I go to the temple I think of how thankful I am for what I had to go thru to get there. I would never have had a strong a testimony as I do now if it hadn't been for my past life.

That evening we got to see the Nauvoo Pageant. The pageant is a 90 minute musical that is performed outside, down the hill from the temple. It is the story of how Nauvoo came to be, and the early days of the church, along with when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred. It rained thru the whole show, but I didn't want to budge. The spirit was so strong it was almost overwhelming. I can't tell you how many times I had my testimony confirmed that trip.

The next day we went thru all the buildings in Nauvoo. We saw a few other musicals during the day and toured all the buildings we could. That night, we got to see the pageant again, this time without the rain.

On the drive home, we were able to stop at several more church history sites, including Carthage Jail. As you walk up to the jail, there are several granite markers, each with a quote from Joseph Smith or a scripture. The photo I posted is one of those. It is a quote I have never heard before and it moved me more than I can say. I think it is so important to not judge others of a different religion, or try to force them to believe the same things I do. I thought the way he said it was beautiful.

Hands down, this was the best birthday I have ever had! Now, time to check another item off the list....

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The List - It's Making a Comeback

Back when I turned 30 in 2010, I came up with this great idea of coming up with a list of 52 things I wanted to do.  Then in that year, I would do one thing a week and blog about it.  It started out well, and I marked some things off the list.  Then a dumb boy broke my heart and kind of crushed my desire to continue with the list for a while.  That was 18 months ago and I'm ready to start it back up.  Not to say I haven't had fun during that time, trust me, I did.  But, life got busy and I had other priorities.

So it's time to get back on track!  Here is the list, plus a few things I decided to add.  I am not putting a time limit on it, but it would be cool to finish them in the next year.  If you have any suggestions I should add to my list, I would love to hear them!  :)

I'll start posting the things that I have already accomplished during the week.


Drive a tractor
Ride a horse
Ride a mechanical bull
Go "Fire Walking"
Learn to play at least 1 song on the harmonica
Visit Nauvoo - DONE
Read the entire Quad (Bible, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and D&C)
Compete in a triathalon
Go thru the Salt Lake Temple - DONE
Find out what the random gravestone says in Wyoming
See a windmill from a wind farm up-close
Tour the Jetson house
Visit my dad
Learn to meditate
Hike to Hanging Lake
See the Grand Canyon
Indoor Skydiving
Learn to ride a bike
Hillbilly hand-fishing
See the sand dunes - DONE
Learn to shoot a gun - DONE
Participate in a mud run
Learn to juggle
Learn to make 5 balloon animals
Volunteer 100 hours
Learn to play at least 1 song on the banjo
Learn to play golf
Wrestle an alligator
Sing in sacrament meeting with a group of friends
Attend General Conference - DONE
Go to a bluegrass festival - DONE
Learn more about other religions - Buddhism, Muslim, Jewish etc 
Try rocky mountain oysters - DONE
Go snowboarding or skiing
Participate in a charity walk/run
Hike Green Mountain
Hike to the cross on the mountain
Visit the little graveyard on the way to Utah in Price canyon
Hold a terrantula
Hold a snake - DONE
Ride on a motorcycle
Shoot a shotgun
Learn a pool table trick
Stay in a haunted room at the Stanley Hotel - DONE
Go camping - DONE
Ice Skating
See the "Four Corners"
Have a Scooby Doo Adventure
Learn to say "Take Your Shirt Off" in 10 languages
Ride in a hot air balloon
Zip Line - DONE
Hike Mother Cabrini Shrine
Learn to belly dance
Feed a giraffe - DONE
See a meteor shower or shooting star - DONE
Climb a 14'er
Take a social dance class
Hike Castle Rock
Hit the bullseye on a dartboard
Hike the Manitou Incline

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chivalry – Is it dead, or can it be resuscitated?

Chivalry – Is it dead, or can it be resuscitated?

I have become painfully aware lately at the lack of chivalry in our culture.  Men doing basic gentlemanly things was something I so rarely witnessed, the few times it happened it threw me off.  I had gotten so accustomed to doing things for myself, I had developed the mindset of “just because I don’t have a penis, doesn’t mean I can’t open a door myself”.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love knowing that I can be independent and do things myself.  But I have come to realize how nice it is when men do those little gestures.

I am not a very romantic person.  I don’t need flowers, jewelry or gifts to feel loved.  I think one of the sweetest things a man can do is hold my hand in public or put his hand on the small of my back when I walk in front of him.  But it wasn’t until my guy friends started pointing it out to me, that I realized I actually push away a lot of acts of chivalry, simply because I am not used to it.  I am very blessed to have some truly incredible men in my life who have been amazing examples to me of what a real man is, and because of them, I am trying to be a better woman.

Let me also be clear though, just because you do some of these basic acts, I may still think you are a d-bag.  I know too many guys that think because they opened the car door for their girlfriend, that makes it ok to flirt with the waitress because they are a “good guy” and it’s just for fun.  I have said it over and over again, I am looking for a guy who does the right thing because he knows it’s what he should do, not just because he is trying to make an impression on someone.

So I decided in this post I would go over a few things guys should start doing to step up their game  J

Holding the Door Open for a Woman – And Not Just the Hot Ones

When I was heavier, I had gotten very used to the fact that men didn’t usually hold the door open for me.  To save myself the embarrassment, when I was walking to a door, I found myself start to speed up my walk so that it would put me in front of anyone else there so I could open the door.  This had become such a habit that I didn’t realize I was doing it until a few months ago I was out with a friend.  He literally pulled on my arm to slow me down so he could open the door for me.  He then scolded me for not giving him the chance to do this nice gesture.  That was an eye opener for me.  I had gotten so used to not having it done, that I didn’t give anyone the chance to try. 

I have started slowing down my walk now to see what happens.  Half of the time, the man will open the door and stand to the side and let me walk in front of him.  The other half of the time (if they open the door at all, there are still plenty of times they don’t) they open it for themselves and lean back to keep a hand on the door to prop it open until I can hold it myself.  I am really surprised at how different I feel with each of these scenarios.  The first makes me feel appreciated and gives me a boost of self confidence, while the second makes me feel like an after thought, and just a step up from being ignored completely.
What I really hate to see is the guys who only open for the girls they are interested in, or the “hot” ones.  If you are going to be a gentleman, do it all the time, not just when it might benefit you in some way.

Opening Her Car Door

This is one that is actually not a requirement for me, but it is nice when it happens.  The reason this isn’t a requirement for me, is I always think when will it stop happening?  Will he only do it while we are dating?  Just the first date?  Forever?  Should I be offended when it stops?  My friend Cameron went with me to my work Christmas party in December and he made a point to open my car door every time.  Because this is something I am not used to, I pushed it away.  He scolded me for not letting me, and then told me that I need to let guys do it.  For some reason this really stuck with me.  Why was I pushing it away?  Did I feel like I didn’t deserve to have it done?  Honestly, for a long time, I really didn’t feel like I deserved it.  I had dated nothing bust scum bags my whole life, being treated well was an adjustment I had to mentally prepare for.
So now when it happens, I let it happen, and I actually enjoy it.  It makes me feel feminine and taken care of.  But again, it isn’t a requirement.  I don’t feel let down if he doesn’t do it.  I still see some couples who have been married for twenty plus years and he opens the car door her every single time.    Guys need to know it really is the small gestures that we remember.

Carrying Things for Her

This is kind of an old school thing to do, but something that I would like to see make a comeback.  And granted, this is the kind of thing you see when the guy is interested in her, which in this case is ok.  Example – you know in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (don’t even lie, most of you guys have seen it.  And if you haven’t, you need to.  I love that freaking movie) and they go to the barn raising?  And all the girls get there so the guys go and help them carry their stuff?  And really, does a girl need help carrying a pie?  No, I think our little bitty muscles can handle that, but to have a guy offer is incredibly sweet.
Unfortunately this can also backfire.  I know a lot of girls who are still in the overly independent mindset and get offended if you try.  But ask anyway.  In this case, the thought totally counts.
There are times that you should offer whether you are interested in her or not.  A friend of mine signed up to make a turkey for an activity our ward did last year.  When she went to drop it off at the church she had to carry the twenty pound cooked turkey in a tray, and try to open the door herself (two guys watched, but didn’t get up to open the door for her).  She wasn’t sure where to take it, so she asked someone and he said “I guess the kitchen would be ok”, then he walked away!  Hey dumbass, the correct thing would have been to say “let me hold that for you and we can find someone who knows where it should go”.  She also passed three other guys, not one of which offered to help.  I’m willing to guess these are the same kinds of guys that sit at home (meaning their parents basements) and play lots of video games, but that’s a subject for another blog…

Setting Up/Taking Down Tables and Chairs

Yep, I’m bringing it up yet again.  I still stand by my theory that the guys who always stay after and clean up tables and chairs are the guys we girls should be paying attention to.  In family wards, most guys help clean up.  In singles wards, you get one or two.  In fact, most of the time, there are more girls cleaning up than guys.

A few months ago at a linger longer, my friend started cleaning up.  She was in her church dress and heels and was picking up a table to put away.  The executive secretary came over and started to take it out of her hands saying “What are you doing?  Let us put this away”.  She told him no, and pointed out it was a test for the guys.  He then looked around and realized that not one guy was helping clean up.  They were all sitting and talking while the girls put away the tables and chairs.  I recently visited a different ward and went to their linger longer after church.  At the end, I noticed one guy putting away the tables and chairs.  That seemed silly to me, so I went to help him.  Again, no one else came to help.  I have even been to help people move, where twice as many people from the relief society showed up compared to elders quorum.

A friend of mine has a theory he calls “STP”.  Basically in every ward you are in, the Same Ten People do most of the work.  They are always there for building clean up, when people move, organizing activities etc.  So what has happened that this is the norm for everything?  This especially troubles me in the singles wards where I see maybe 3 people do everything.  Not to go back to 1950’s stereotypes, but what happened to the girls doing the dishes, and the guys picking up the heavy stuff? 

One of the things I have always respected about the church the most is that no one gets paid to do anything.  A ward acts as its own small community, and we all should share in the cleaning and upkeep to keep things going.  Why is it now that people come for the food, then if there isn’t anyone there worth their time to talk to, they leave without a second thought? 

There are some good guys out there –

I just want to take a minute to point out some of the people that keep me having faith that there are good guys out there.  My brother in law is one of the best guys I know, which I funny because I hated him for the first few years they were married.  Their old neighbor lost her husband last year to cancer and has a toddler age son.  I found out that when it snows, he drives over to her house with my nephew and shovels, every time.  No one is asking him to do it.  He isn’t looking for recognition.  He does it because he knows it is a small thing that will help her.

This last weekend I took some people to a BBQ at a friends house in Arvada.  On the drive back, the other car got a flat tire and the tools they had didn’t fit her new wheels.  I called my friend who was throwing the BBQ to see if anyone could help.  He left his own party to help a girl he had met only an hour ago.  When his tools wouldn’t work either, they went to Walmart, bought the parts and fixed it.  He would not accept anything for thanks and ended up missing the festivities that night.  The worst part?  The girl with a flat tire had another guy with her who didn’t do any of that.

Guys, you know I love you.  Hopefully you all step up your game a bit to show us what real men look like  J

Friday, February 17, 2012

Barbie and Her Tiny Tummy - AKA I Am Now a Really Cheap Date

Barbie and Her Tiny Tummy – AKA I am now a really cheap date
On February 15, 2011 I had gastric bypass surgery.  This has been one of the best decisions of my life, and I am shocked by the changes both physically and mentally.
At this time last year, I weighed 304.4 pounds and wore a size 26.  I was extremely good at justifying this weight, it wasn’t really that big, I was tall so I didn’t look as heavy, I wore flattering clothes etc.  For years I tried diets only to loose some weight, just to gain it all back and then some.  What I had to come to terms with was that I had developed a very dangerous addiction to food.  It no longer was a form of nutrition and energy, it was a way to alter my mood and truly, slowly kill myself.
My decision to have the surgery was not something I came to quickly.  I had been thinking about it for years (back when I was 220 pounds).  For years it felt like the timing wasn’t right, or was too extreme etc and I stopped thinking about it as an option.  Then one morning in July 2010, I woke up and my first thought was “I need to talk to a Dr. about having weight loss surgery”.  This was completely out of the blue, but I decided to go with the prompting.  That day at work, I looked at my insurance and at the hospitals I was covered under.  I saw that Parker Adventist was listed, so I called to see if they had a Bariatric Surgery center.  The operator who answered was surprised at my call, because they had literally just had a Dr. sign on and would be opening his doors in the next month.  Interesting coincidence.  I spoke to his receptionist (an amazing woman named Joe) who gave me all the information and even started submitting things to my insurance.
I found out that my insurance had a waiting policy for the surgery.  I had to wait six months and go thru monthly phone calls with a nurse and a nutritionist.  I started to think of this like the waiting period they have for people who want to buy a gun.  For me, once I decided on the surgery, I wanted it right then.  I was ready to change.  They make you wait so you don’t run off and do anything stupid and without being totally sure, and I’m so thankful I did.  The people were incredibly helpful and taught me so many things I needed to know.  This waiting period was crucial to the mental toll the surgery was going to take.
Originally, I wanted to have the lap band procedure.  But after doing a lot of research and talking with my surgeon, I decided that Gastric bypass (Roux En Y) was the best choice.  For more information on the difference of these surgeries, click this link
I have had lots of questions about my surgery, so I figured I would answer as much as I can here.
How much weight have I lost?
As of today, I have lost 136 pounds.  I still have about 25 more to loose before I get to my goal weight.
What was surgery like?
It really wasn’t that bad.  The procedure was done laparoscopically so they made five small incisions in my abdomen and inserted tubes with cameras etc in them to perform the surgery (if you are feeling adventurous, you can find video of a surgery online and watch it.  I did, and it helped me understand what happene).  I was in the hospital for two days, then home.  I was kept on IV painkillers at the hospital, then tablet painkillers at home.  The pain was very minimal.  I have to look hard to even find the incision scars now, they have almost completely faded away.
Did I have any complications?
Nothing I wasn’t expecting, and they were very minimal.  I read a lot before the surgery to prepare myself for the worst that could happen.  I was very blessed that I went into my surgery in very good health.  I was not a diabetic, I did not have high cholesterol or blood pressure etc.  I followed the guidelines they gave me for the first six months as exactly as I could, this is a big reason I have never had some of the problems others have.
The most annoying complication I have had is hair loss.  I have lost at least 60% of my hair.  Thankfully, I had a lot of hair to begin with, so I don’t have any bald spots or anything like that, it’s just much thinner.  Most patients experience this complication (they believe it is due to a protein deficiency) and my hair has started growing back.  If my choice is to be morbidly obese with great hair, or healthy with thin hair, I’ll take thin hair every time  J
How much can I eat?
After my surgery, my stomach was about 2 ounces, or the size of an egg.  Depending on what I eat, it can stretch to about a cup (or 8 ounces).  I now order almost everything off of the kids menu, and barely eat half of it.  See why I said I’m a cheap date?  J
What can I eat?
Honestly, I can eat just about anything I want, just in very small portions.  Some things make me feel like crap (white flour, sugar) so I try to avoid it if possible.  After having the surgery, I have to make sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water each day (this is a giant pain) and at least 60 grams of protein.  The key is eating your protein first, then you can add carbs etc after, if you have any room left.
Why did I decide to do the “easy thing” and have surgery, rather than watch what I eat and exercise?
Let me make this very clear, having the surgery was not an “easy thing” in any way shape or form.  My food addiction had gotten so bad, it literally was out of my control.  I would eat massive amounts of food multiple times a day.  I realized the only way I would be able to stop is if I had a physical limit put in place.  A few days after the surgery, I had a massive panic attack and emotional breakdown.  Normally when I felt anything like this come on, I would eat until I calmed down.  Having this no longer be an option, it forced me to really stop and deal with what I was feeling.  This was the only breakdown I had since the surgery, and I’m thankful I had been in therapy and worked with the nutritionist before hand to know how to work my way thru it.
Let me also make it clear that the surgery is not a magic pill.  It is simply a tool to assist with a life change.  My Dr. told me about a call he got from a patients mother two weeks after her surgery.  They were in the ER because the daughter had gotten upset and tried to eat 2 quarter pounders to deal with the emotions she was feeling.  She found her curled up in the fetal position, and had ripped most of her stitches.  Just because you have the surgery, it does not mean it is going to be easy.  Some people don’t deal with the mental issues and go right back to eating the way they did before.
Can I gain the weight back?
Yes, absolutely.  It is possible to re-stretch your stomach to the size it was before, and get it used to eating crap again.  Like I said, the surgery is only a tool to assist you in making healthy changes.
What are the changes that took the longest to get used to?
Having to slow down!  Meals should take a minimum of 15 minutes to eat, this took some serious getting used to.  Also, chewing like crazy.  Now when I eat a meal, I take a bite and chew at least 20 times.  I also have to remember to put my fork down between bites, it helps you slow down.  I also stop and think after every few bites to figure out if I am full.  Overeating makes me feel like death, so I try to avoid it at all costs.
Do I feel so different now?  Do I have tons more energy?
Honestly, yes and no.  I had a lot of energy before my surgery, so in that way I don’t feel a lot different.  The times I really notice the weight loss are when I climb stairs.  I used to get winded after one flight.  Now I can climb several before I get out of breath (I still need to work out more).  Also seating is a big change.  When you are obese, you do a lot of things to help minimize embarrassment like avoiding chairs with arm rests because you wont fit, or sitting in booths because it is nearly impossible to wedge yourself in.  At the Cheesecake Factory, they have these kind of wicker chairs.  At my heaviest, I literally could not fit in them.  I went there a few months after surgery and the only seat left was in that chair.  I braced myself for the worst, and was shocked when I could fit!  It was a very emotional victory for me.
The same goes for seats at the Pepsi Center, I can now fit in them comfortably.  And on airplanes I no longer have to ask for a seat belt extender.  Being able to wear normal size clothing is probably my favorite change.  Once I get to my goal weight, shopping is going to become a very expensive habit for me  J

So there you have it.  Feel free to ask me any other questions you have, I’m very open about it.  And if anyone is struggling with weight loss or just needs someone to talk to, please let me know.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Am I Really Too Picky?

Am I Really Too Picky?
After my last post “Dating: The Two Main Things That Irritate Me”, I got some feedback of people commenting that all of my posts were about dating, and dating with the purpose of marriage.  It’s true, most of my posts are about dating in some way, but if you really think about it, my whole life revolves around relationships or lack of them.  I am a member of a completely family based church (I’m a Mormon), I am fully immersed in the singles ward and now branching into the mid-singles world, I run a branch of a dating service and to top it all off, I plan weddings.  Yep, the vast majority of my life revolves around dating, marriage and families.  There is no way to avoid it.  But honestly, I don’t think I would want to.
Being a single, 31 year old Mormon isn’t always easy, but I actually enjoy single life.  I am not the kind of girl who is in her Bishops office every other week, crying because I’m not married and how my life is miserable.  I live under no illusion that once you get married that life will be perfect.  Does it mean I want to be single forever?  Not at all.  I would love to meet a person I actually want to spend the rest of my life with (right now I would be excited to meet a guy I don’t want to punch in the throat during our first date, but I digress).   I would love to have a family and a home.  But I also know, without any doubt, that Heavenly Father will make the option of marriage available to me when he knows it’s time.  For some reason, this is all I need to know.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still wish the process itself would speed itself along.  There are days when I swear I can hear my uterus calling out “Remember me??  I’m only useful for so long!!”.  It would be nice to pop out a few kids before it turns to dust, but again, I don’t have much control over that.  Until that happens, if it does, I am very happy to live thru my siblings and treat their kids like my own.  I also don’t think I should just be sitting at home, waiting for my man to come along.  I fully intend on living life until the next step is ready to happen.
All of us have a list of qualities our dream spouse would possess.  And don’t think this is just girls, pretty much every guy I know has a list too.  My list used to be pretty basic, I would like him to be rich with heart problems.  Hahaha, I kid  J  My actual list used to be a little longer, until a few years ago when Elder Bednar came to speak to the YSA here in Colorado.  It was an open Q&A forum.  One guy got up and asked something along the lines of “What do you recommend we do to help us find a spouse with all of the things we want”.  Elder Bednar started talking about all of the qualities we had on our lists, looks, spirituality, education etc.  Then he looked at us all and did something I would never forget, he chastised us.  Honestly, he got pretty upset, well, as mad as Elder Bednar gets probably.  He basically looked at us and said “You have a list of all these qualities she needs to have to be worthy of you?  Just who exactly do you think you are?”.  Then he said the most profound thing “That list needs to be for you.  That list needs to be for YOU”. 

Yes he said it twice, he felt it was that important.  All of the things on the list that this dream person needs to have, those are things YOU should possess.  And if you have them, the other people with those qualities will be drawn to you.  This has stuck with me ever since that night, and it has helped me as I try to improve to be the best Barbie I can be.  Over the years, my list has evolved into three basic things.  I will not get into a relationship unless he has the following things;
1.        A job
2.       A car
3.       A current temple recommend
Much to my surprise, in the last month I have had three separate people tell me that I am being too picky.  Really??  Too picky??  Let me point out that not one of the qualities I listed is a physical feature of any kind.  Also, nothing on this list is anything out of that persons control.  So how is this honestly being too picky?
Let me break down my list and the reasons behind my choices.
A Job –
Now of course there are exceptions to this, but very few.  I have several friends who are in medical/dental school, and literally cannot have a job.  Obviously this is an exception.  If you are spending 80 plus hours a week studying for your future career, there is nothing wrong with this. 
Also, this is a tough economy.  I know people who were laid off a year ago and have been unable to find anything in their specialty. 
Here is my reasoning behind this being a must have for me.  I have also been in the position of being unemployed more than once.  While looking for a job, I work every contact and apply to everything I am even remotely qualified for in the mean time.  Daily I am making phone calls, sending emails and setting up interviews.  I am not so prideful that I am not willing to work retail or deliver pizzas (I have done both for years at a time).  The problem I have, is with the multitudes of men that I see that are doing the bare minimum.  Working as few hours as possible, or applying for things online and never following up on them.  I know that if it ever came down to it, I would be willing to work 5 jobs to support my family.  Why shouldn’t I ask the same of a man?

A Car –
It doesn’t have to be a certain make or model, or even a nice car.  Just a car.  I have dated guys before without a car, and I ended up becoming a chauffer.  That sucked.  Get a freaking way to be independent, end of story.

A Current Temple Recommend –
Much to my surprise, this has been the one that is the most difficult to find.  I decided to phrase it as “have a current temple recommend” because it encompasses so much of what I need.  Someone with a strong testimony, active in their church callings, pays their tithing, is a worthy priesthood holder etc.  I know I need someone who has a testimony of the gospel for himself.  Not because his parents say it’s true.  Not because he just goes with the crowd.  And definitely not because it’s what I want for him.
I was talking to a friend this last weekend who wanted me to be aware that men with current temple recommends are hard to come by right now.  Sadly, this is the case for both young single adults and middle singles.  Maybe I was setting my standards too high?  I started getting extremely depressed about this.  Then I started getting frustrated.  Then I got pissed.  My poor mother and sister got to hear the majority of my rant.  I sure love that they put up with me.
Let me give you a little background on myself.  I was raised in the church, but I was inactive for 14 or so years.  My parents divorced when I was about 8 and my father became very less active.  I suffered from depression and severe social anxiety to the point where I refused to go to school and dropped out in the 8th grade.  I am by no means a “Molly Mormon”.  During the years I was away from the church, I did a lot of really dumbass things.  I ended up with a very dark and difficult addiction that took me years to overcome.
I knew I was never going to have the life I wanted unless I put myself together.  In the fall of 2004, I started attempting coming back to church.  I phrase it that way because I think people who have never left the church, don’t understand how difficult it can be to come back.  It isn’t a “One day I woke up and stopped doing everything bad and was 100% active again”.  For three years it was more like 2 steps forward, 5 steps back.  Most of the time if I decided to go to church, I had been at the bar the night before.  I couldn’t figure out how to leave the life I wasn’t happy in, to go to a life I couldn’t figure out how to be happy in. 
I have been on the bad side of life.  I have sat in a Bishops office with him telling me I was probably going to be excommunicated (it was only by the grace of the Savior that I wasn’t) and it was then that I realized that I needed to decide what was more important to me.  Having “fun”?  Or progressing toward a happiness that I couldn’t even comprehend?  I made my choice in 2008, and I didn’t look back.  
I am sharing this because I want people to know it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for me.  I worked and still work hard every day to keep my life going in the direction I know it should.
I made these choices for myself.  Not for anyone else, and I know that is a quality that I need in a spouse.  Needless to say, I can be a little, well let’s call it “opinionated”  J  The last thing I need is a guy who won’t stand up for what he knows is true and right.
So this leads me to why I was getting pissed off that night talking to my family.  I have overcome so much, don’t I deserve someone who has these basic qualities?  I am not saying he can’t have a past, heaven knows I have one, I care about how he is living his life right now and if he is moving forward and growing.
So do I feel that I am deserving of a man with these qualities?  Yes.  And I will not settle for less.  These are qualities I would expect in myself.  There is no reason I would not expect them in a spouse.
So if this makes me “picky”, does it mean that it’s ok if I have high standards?  You bet your sweet ass it does  J