September 27, 2006

Fall is here!

Some new things I've learned:
1) Do you think genetics plays a big role in your probability of getting cancer? Turns out that only 5% of those diagnosed with cancer can attribute their illness to heredity (from the book, "The Biology of Belief" by Dr. Bruce Lipton).
2 )Ever wonder why the closer you get to the equator, the spicier the food gets? It's because before refrigeration, meat would spoil and the hotter the weather is ( like it is the closer you get to the equator), the more spoiled meat you would have. Folks soon found that cooked spoiled meat tasted horrible and so they started using spices to cover-up the taste. The more spoiled the meat, the more spices to help the taste.

Can I just say that I love the fall? I really do. Does anyone know what I mean when I say that there is just a certain "energy" in the air in the fall? I seem to get motivated and have a lot of energy during the fall. Perhaps because there is so much to do. Now is a great time to go hiking, camping and exploring. To me, fall is that great time of the season where it's nice and cool in the morning so you can cuddle up in your bed with you blankets and start the day off with some hot cocoa. Then, as the sun goes up, so does the temperature, allowing me to do all sorts of fun outdoor activities.

I love watching the leaves change, it's one of my favorite activities and I'm looking forward to observing the fall in Utah. Just this past Monday, I took a group for a "stroll" up Big Cottonwood Canyon. It was great to see all of the colors from the aspens and maples in the canyon while still being surrounded by green pine and spruce trees. The air smelled great too...fresh and full of life. Tonight I look forward for going up Millcreek Canyon with some friends to see some more leaves, start a campfire (which always smells great), roast some marshmallows and just soak up the atmosphere.

Some more things that I like about the Fall is apple and pumpkin picking, making homemade pies, getting up early to spend the whole day at church to make apple butter, hayrides, tracking deer, watching the geese get ready to fly South for the Winter and the list goes on and on...

Another great aspect about the fall is that now is when the baseball season gets exciting. I get all caught up in the playoffs and the World Series, especially when the St. Louis Cardinals are involved!

Perhaps the only thing about the fall that I don't like is that I know the days are getting shorter and that cold weather is soon to come. This will be my first fall in Utah and already, on September 15th, snow dusted the valley and there is now snow on the mountain tops...I don't know how I feel about snow this "early" but it sure is pretty. On the upside, if farmer's tales have any truth to them, it shouldn't be too bad of a winter. According to folklore, you can gauge how bad a winter will be by how much black is on a wooly worm, like the one above. I'm going to trust the farmer's almanac and say that the little guy's orange stripe pictured above is a sign of a decent winter...I hope so! But whatever happens, I'm sure it will be pretty and my 9&1/2 Wide Clodhoppers will be excited to put on some boots and check things out.

September 20, 2006

What is an Adventure?

As always, I start of my blog with new things I've learned. I think this is important because it makes me pay attention to my surroundings and it keeps me from forgetting what lessons I've learned. So, something new I've learned lately is that 1) The average human body is made-up of about 50 trillion cells! 2) One climbing pitch is equal to one-half of a rope length. One rope is about 60 meters long, so one pitch is about 30 meters long and 30 meters equals about 90 feet.

I love my friends. I have some of the best friends in the world. They support me, they make me laugh and they also make me think. One thing that my friends have made me think about lately (whether they realize it or not), is determing what exactly is an adventure?

A lot of the time we describe an adventure as taking on a new endeavor, traveling, seeing and doing something new and exciting. I have to admit, so far, I have considered my whole AmeriCorps service an adventure. I nervously left home, a place I love with folks that mean a lot to me, to move 1300 miles away to a place I have never been to, to do an array of projects that are fun, challenging, unknown and rewarding.

Right now I'm in that interesting stage of life where my friends are getting married, having kids, succeeding in their jobs, buying their first house, completing graduate school, etc. (Which, by the way, Congratulations to Nicole and Jeremy on the birth of their little girl this morning. Welcome to the world Dorothy Ann!) Lately a lot of my friends seem to be in awe of the continuous "adventure" I'm on right now, which is ironic because I think they're the ones on a real adventure. So this makes me think, "What is an adventure?"

One dear friend of mine says she loves hearing about what I've been up to and that now, because she's limited on her activities due to "life," expecting a boy in November and moving, she said she vicarously lives through me. I told her it's strange how life works because for so many years that I talked and longed to go on an "adventure" like AmeriCorps, I lived vicarously through her. One of the reasons I joined AmeriCorps was because my friend inspired me to live freely and I'm forever grateful to her wisdom and spirit. I also find it funny that she says her "adventures" are on hold for the time being because of her pregnancy...I told her motherhood will be a whole new adventure, full of twists and turns, but none the less rewarding.

Another dear friend of mine said she always knew that I would do something Huge (meaning moving to Utah to join AmeriCorps). When in reality, I think she's the one doing something huge. She's expecting her first child in February and her and her husband just built their first house. Another friend of ours is about ready to celebrate a one-year anniversary of helping start a real estate business and metting her goal of buying her first house by the end of the year!Huge doesn't have to mean that you're "changing the world" or doing something few others have done. Me and my friends are all in a spot where we are doing something huge. To me, "huge" means making progressive steps in our lives, taking on endeavors that make impacts on our personal lives. Although we're all taking on different things that are "huge" I'm so grateful that we're all able to share these moments together and celebrate each other's accomplishments.

So, I'm really not sure what the point of this post is; perhaps part of it is to brag on my friends, or to make others ponder what an "adventure" is. Whatever meaning you find out of this post, I hope you consider what kind of an "adventure" you want in your life. It doesn't have to be as big as joining AmeriCorps, having a baby, building a house, starting a business, etc. Life is full of possibilities, see where your feet take you. The soles of your feet is full of excitment, lessons and adventure...have fun out there and don't live vicarously through others, blaze your own pathsI!

September 12, 2006

5 Days in Moab

Some new things I learned over the weekend:
1) There is a mountain range West of Moab, UT called the Henry Mountains. The Henry Mountains are the last mountains in the U.S. to be names and they still have a wild heard of buffalo roaming the hills.
2) The Earth rotates at 900 mph (wow!)
3) Pistol Budding (see the picture of the Aspen Tree above), is when a tree is growing on a side of a hill and their first grow to the side and then straight up. The trees do this because their roots are actually planted up the hill but due to erosion and moving soil down the hill, the tree is pushed further down the hill until it can start to grow upwards again. This is a sign of unstable ground.

So, this past week I haven’t posted much because I’ve been in Moab, UT. I was unable to get to Internet access, I didn’t watch any TV and I enjoyed sleeping outside for four nights.

Moab is a small community in the desert of Southeastern Utah. It is full of great people, art and history. I was there for business but had a blast while I was there as well, meeting new people, sharing laughs, rafting and hiking through beautiful country. I went to Moab to pick-up donations for SPLORE’s auction that is coming up soon in October; to my surprise, most of the stores we went to were more that happy to support us. Everyone I met was friendly to talk to and they all enjoy the good work that SPLORE does.

Westwater Canyon Rafting

While I was down there, I didn’t do just work of course; it’s Moab! On Friday, some of our staff and volunteers took a trip down Westwater Canyon. Half the time it was cold and rainy, the other half of the time it was sunny; but most of all it was great. I loved seeing the clouds come in and over the canyon and then the sun breaking through to show the bright, beautiful colors of red sandstone rock and black, shiny Pre-Cambrian rock called Visnu-Schnit (bad spelling). Visnu-Schnit is the oldest Pre-Cambrian rock to appear in North America and it’s only found in three places in the U.S., including, Westwater Canyon and the Grand Canyon. The massive amounts of rainfall in this delicate area created a lot of flash floods and mudslides that are incredibly rare and beautiful to see. One mudslide erupted as we floated around a bend and the landscape gave way!

But perhaps the highlight of this rafting trip was getting dumped after going through the Sock-it-to-Me rapid and then being pushed into the magnetic wall where we high-sided, resulting in me falling out and floating down the canyon. Yesterday, I reported on this excitement if you want to learn more.

Best of all, this trip was a way to thank our volunteers for their support and a way to celebrate another great summer of providing outdoor recreation to people with disabilities.

Hiking in the La Sal Mountains
So the La Sals is a beautiful mountain range located on the outskirts of Moab. Surprisingly, these mountains are covered with aspen and spruce trees despite the fact that the La Sals are located in a desert. Some SPLORE volunteers, staff and I decided to take a hike up in the mountains. We drove about 10,000 feet in elevation before stopping to hike. Lets just say that chubby girls from Missouri aren’t used to hiking at this altitude. Hiking somewhat steep trails, my legs quickly started to burn and I was huffing and puffing like none other. After taking a few rest stops, I kept going, pushing myself because I knew the rewards will be in the effort. We hiked to Blue Lake (as can be seen in the picture above) and were surrounded by nature, solitude and beauty every step we took.

Delicate Arch by Moonlight
Once I got back from hiking in the La Sals, I met up with the rest of the SPLORE group. I was exhausted from being out of shape and hiking at that elevation. A friend suggested the idea that we hike to delicate arch at midnight, using the full moon for light. I had already seen Delicate Arch on an earlier hiking trip and thought it was wonderful. Now I had to decide if I wanted to let my body pass-out or keep pushing myself and not live with the regret of how this magnificent formation would look lit by moonlight.

We started the hike and I was surprised at how fast we got there (despite my struggles from the first hike of the day). Heather and I both commented on how fast the hike went compared to the first time we went to Delicate Arch. Nearing the top, I started to remember how awe-struck I was when I first went around the last curve in the trail to be revealed to this sandstone wonder. Again, I went around the last curve and was mesmerized at how grand the arch looked at 1:30 in the morning, lit only by a full moon. I must say, this once in a lifetime moment took my breath away.

We all sat at the top for awhile, all in our own peaceful thoughts and becoming belittled in the grandeur of our surroundings. We ended by letting out shouts to see who had the best echo. We were all alone in one of the most amazing places in the world…we had it all to ourselves and it’s a memory I will never forget.

The best part of this whole adventurous weekend wasn’t just spending time with good friends, seeing beautiful scenery or creating lasting memories; it was that I got to do all of this because I joined AmeriCorps. I’ll admit it, joining AmeriCorps and moving to Utah was out of my comfort zone, I was scared but now I’m completely grateful that I took a leap, trusted in faith and myself and have love ones to support me.

September 11, 2006

The Magnetic Wall

(The first picture is of the rapid called Sock-it-to-Me; it's from the all about website. The second picture is of Funnel Falls from the Canyon Voyages Adventure Co. website)

So this weekend we went rafting along the great Westwater Canyon. It was a blast! I rode in a 16 foot paddle raft so I was really close to the action…perhaps too close as 5 out of 7 people (including me) high-sided and got dumped in a class-IV rapid called Sock-it-to-Me. We went through the rapid ok, but then the waters slammed us into some rocks called the magnetic wall. Below is a video of someone else going through the same rapid. You’ll see that they get pretty close to the magnetic wall…which is where I fell out. It was still a blast though! And luckily I got back into the raft before hitting another rapid.

To see the video, Click

To see more of where I went, Google Westwater Canyon and click on Google Images.

And if you're wondering, YES, I would do it all over again!

September 05, 2006

There is always a meaning

My newly gained knowledge: Before the use of refrigeration, sailors would board giant turtles onboard their ships. The sailors found that turtles could live a long time without food. This allowed the sailors to always have a fresh supply of meat on-hand that they didn’t need to freeze or feed. (Sort of a morbid fact, I know, but I still found it as being new information and pretty interesting).

I always start my journal entries off by listing the things I’m grateful for (this is a great exercise recommended by Christine Kane’s blog). I then go onto to write about the new facts/lessons I’ve learned for the day (i.e. turtles living on sailor ships). After exercising these practices, I then usually go into my more traditional form of journal writing.

When I write in my journal, often times I seem to have the idea stuck in my head that I have to have something “important” to write about. Yesterday, however, I couldn’t find anything poignant or poetic or enlightening to write about so I just started to write about the small random things going on in my life and thoughts.

Turns out that nothing that I wrote about yesterday lead to any “breakthroughs” in thought, nor did it turn out to be poetic or seemingly insightful, but what I did learn is that I just enjoyed the act of writing. I enjoyed the transformation of words in my mind being transferred to paper via a pen in my hand. I enjoyed the basic art-form of creating symbols that had messages that could be read by others. I especially enjoyed listening to my wind-chimes haphazardly sing as a gentle breeze floated through the house to make the legs of the chimes dance.

So, even though last night’s journal seemed like it started out pointless, with me writing about my sadness of Andre Agassi’s retirement, I still gained a lesson. I still found an artistic release and I still enjoyed a wonderful habit. There is always a meaning in the things you do.

September 01, 2006

Perfect Titan

What have I learned new today, you may ask? Well, keeping up with my ideal that we learn something new everyday, I learned something about one of my favorite sandstone structures in Moab, Utah. Pictured above is the area called The Fisher Towers. They are marvelous red sandstone structures in southeastern Utah. Until recently, I had no idea each tower had a name. Turns out, the biggest tower is called Titan. The Titan stands at 900 feet tall and it is claimed to be the largest, free-standing sandstone monolith in the United States. OK, so some of you reading this might not think this fact is cool, but since I travel past this perfect scenery while rafting down the Colorado River, I find a great appreciation for new information to share with others.

You might have noticed that I called the scenery perfect. So many wonders in nature can be considered perfect and often times we use the word perfect in daily life. We’ve all heard the saying that “Practice makes perfect” but let’s see if I can persuade you to shift your thinking into saying, “Practice make better, not perfect.”

First off, applying the word “perfect” to ourselves carries so much pressure. The word “perfect” carries so much clout. We live in a society that places so much attention to someone’s image and talents and so when they “faulter,” it surprisingly comes as such a huge shock to everyone, including the individual’s ego. To me, having the title of “perfect” leaves no space to relax.

We all have dreams and goals that we strive to achieve. Sometimes we’ll reach our goals, sometimes our goals change, but it’s inevitable that our venues and pathways to our dreams and goals will change. It’s the changes in the pathways where we learn invaluable lessons. If we were perfect, not only would we not need to change pathways (thus not gaining great lessons), but we’d already be at our goals. What would we strive for if we’re already perfect?

The word “better” leaves room for improvement, it leaves us with challenges to go after and chances for growth. “Practice makes better” is such a more positive and healthy way of thinking that “perfect.” Now, just because I’ve personally ruled out “perfect” from my lifestyle, doesn’t give me an excuse to be lazy and not strive for growth. After all it has taken Titan 1000’s and 1000’s of years of being transformed by sand, wind and rain to be majestic as he is today (and a thousand years from now, who know how beautiful he’ll look).

So, don’t put the pressure or the unrealistic ideals of “perfect” on your shoulders, but practice bettering yourself in all aspects of life…including happiness.

P.S. I’m really enjoying keeping a journal of the new things I’ve learned each day and I encourage you to do the same. It’s pretty fun. Just pay attention and keep track of the daily lessons you learn each day; and don’t forget to share what you learn too!