Monday, July 9, 2018

1. Read all the books on the list of Goodreads 100 Books You Should Read In A Lifetime Pt. 4

I've really started to pick up steam on getting through this list - here are mini-reviews for 10 more!:

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - Of course this was going to be sad. But damn... it was sad. The saddest part was how optimistic she was the entire time that they were all going to be fine, which of course I knew that wasn't true. Also, I made the mistake of reading the reviews on Goodreads when I was done and discovered that Holocaust deniers really are a thing...

Jane Eyre - This one was a slow-starter. I made it through the first hundred pages without having any idea what it was about. It turned out better than I expected though, and I love that she was a strong, independent woman who didn't need no man... mostly. I could have done without the entire St. John storyline, and it's weird that she just sort of forgives Mr. Rochester for being married and not telling her about it... There are some holes in the story for sure... But it was entertaining at least.

Night - One of the best parts about reading books on this list is that I don't know what many of them are about until I sit down and start reading. I had no idea this book was non-fiction about the Holocaust, and just like Anne Frank, it was incredibly depressing. Both of these books definitely got me thinking about that period in history though, and now I'm seeking out more and more information on it.

The Holy Bible: New King James Version - Yes, I did it. I read the entire Bible, cover to cover. And I did it in a month. I knew if I didn't impose some sort of arbitrary time limit on myself I'd never finish it... I was not raised in a religious household, and Bible study was not a thing I did as a child. I learned SO MUCH while reading the Bible, but here are some of the biggest takeaways I have:

1. For the time it was written, it's a fairly liberal document.
2. I can see why Jews and Christians did not get along for a time - "So yeah, all that stuff that guy Moses said? You can just ignore it because I'm here now and I'm going to tell you how it should really be."
3. Things I've heard from supposed Christians around me throughout my life turn out to be, a lot of the time, a gross misinterpretation of The Bible. I'm not sure if it's organized religion who touts these lies or if it's their parents or whatever, but I was astounded and how NOT angry The Bible made me compared to how angry religious posts on Facebook make me. That by itself was incredibly frustrating.
4. So much other literature alludes to The Bible, and I was missing out on so much by not being educated in the topics in it.

I can't believe how much I enjoyed reading it, honestly. That sounds crazy, and people thought I was crazy while I was reading it. (I literally carried it everywhere with me for that month.) I feel like reading it filled a huge gap in my knowledge that I've always had, and it was extremely fulfilling.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - First, I hate when books that have a huge following turn out to be as good as everyone says they are, which this one did. I have no idea why I hate this so much. Second, I was really hoping this book wouldn't make me want to read the entire series, but it did of course. Third, Swedish names are super hard to pronounce, and I'm pretty sure I read them all wrong in my head the entire time.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - This one was a slow-starter too, but I really ended up enjoying it. It's a coming-of-age story, which aren't typically some of my favorites, but this one was good. The fact that it took place in NY helped, I'm sure, because I feel a sort of attachment with it due to Rich being from there. One spoiler though - I cannot believe Lee just abandoned Francie. That made me so mad.

In Cold Blood - This is another one of those that I had no idea about the plot line before I started. I didn't know this was a true crime novel until right before I started reading. It actually read like a fiction novel, so I had to keep reminding myself that it was non-fiction. I read some articles about the story that said Truman Capote took liberties with a lot of the stuff in the book, and that makes me sad. I wish it were more facts and less embellishments.

Water for Elephants - I really liked everything about this book except the love story. The circus parts were great. The love story was wildly unbelievable. There was absolutely no tension between the protagonist and his love interest; they were just... in love. Just like that. It was odd.

The Raven - So this is not a book. It's a poem. It turns out this poem is really only published in books with a bunch of other poems. I just do not get poetry. The Raven is actually a good poem, because it has a plot. Sort of. But some of the others in this book I read of Poe's works made my brain bleed. I really wish I did "get" poetry though... maybe some day.

And Then There Were None - I read this entire book in one sitting. It was so good. Of course, Agatha Christie is the "Queen of Mystery", so I should have expected nothing less. But I really had absolutely no idea who the killer was in this book until the epilogue told me so. I was afraid the plot would be confusing with so many people involved in the story, but it was incredibly easy to follow and very enjoyable.

I'm now almost 50% of the way through this list, and I'm so proud of myself! I'm having a really good time with this, even if I haven't loved all the books on it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

83. Have a personal trainer

So I did it. I impulse-bought 20 sessions with a personal trainer. Her name is Hannah, and I started with her back in October. On my first day (in true me fashion) I ended it early by vomiting... yes, vomiting. I have this personality trait - I refuse to back down from a challenge - so if my trainer tells me to keep going, I'm going to do it until I LITERALLY can't do it anymore. After that session, it could only go uphill, right?

It has now been 7 months since I've been working with Hannah, and I absolutely love it. I go three times a week (or fewer, depending on if our schedules don't line up), and we only do weight-lifting. No cardio (I think because she thinks it'll make me barf... which it probably will), and I love it. I have increased the weight I can lift by 500% or more in some exercises since I started. On some of the exercises I can actually lift more than my trainer, and she is in incredible shape!

I feel pretty fantastic about myself, but the changes to my body have been slower than I anticipated, and the biggest victories have been non-scale ones. Since beginning training 7 months ago I have barely lost any weight at all (though the needle is FINALLY starting to move on that...), but my measurements have definitely gotten smaller. Clothes fit me differently now, and I can tell that my posture has changed drastically for the better. I used to have lots of lower back and ankle problems, and those are completely gone - I have strengthened those muscles to the point where they support me sufficiently now, and it makes day-to-day life a lot less painful. I can also tell that my arms are much more toned, and I'm really looking forward to wearing tank tops all summer! Another non-scale victory that comes from working out all the time is my mood - lifting weights elevates my mood better than nearly anything I've ever experienced. The feeling I have when I'm driving home from the gym could best be described as euphoria. I always thought it was complete bullshit when people said that working out fights depression, like they were being dramatic about the effects, but I am now a true believer in it; in fact, some days I look forward to it for no other reason than because I've had a bad day and want some cheering up.

The biggest change I can see in myself throughout this process is my confidence. My self-esteem has increased drastically, and I care a lot more about what I put into my body. For instance, my workout tonight was GREAT, and I truly believe it's because I ate well today - lean protein, no simple sugars, etc. I have also learned a lot from Hannah (and online research) about the reality of getting fit. I had incredibly unrealistic expectations of myself and of the effects of working out before I started this, and gaining the knowledge of how long a process this really is showed me that tiny steps in the right direction are still huge in the grand scheme of things. Celebrating the small victories along the way makes me want to keep going when I want to give up, and having Hannah there to celebrate them with me makes it even better.

Moral of the story - if you can afford it, get yourself a personal trainer. It has absolutely changed my life.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

9. Own my own home by 30

Back in 2015 when I wrote The List, 30 seemed so far away. Yet here it is, 18 days away. Do I own my own home? Not even close. This dream will be the first failure I'll have that can't be fixed... and I'm completely okay with it.

A lot has changed since 2015. I had just started a new job when I wrote The List, and at the time it seemed like I'd be there forever and I should just settle right down here where I currently live for the duration. In the time that's passed I've learned a lot about myself and what I want, and buying a home - at least here - doesn't make any sense at all.

So what changed?

1. The Chief Operations Officer at my company was let go, and it really shook me; like... hard. I was 2000 miles away in Portland, OR when it happened, and my boss called to deliver the news to me before I read it in an email. But beyond that phone call and a meeting with our CEO, very little information was given on why she was no longer with us. (However, I have gleaned some more information since, and I really do think it was best for both her and the company.) But she was my rock; she was what I wanted to be "when I grew up". Her leaving the company made me re-think so many things I had thought were true about myself... and that's all I have to say about that for now.

2. I learned that I LOVE public transportation. The first time I ever navigated public transit alone was in Paris, and after that I was completely hooked. My love for it has only grown since then. This may seem insignificant, but it showed me that I'm a far more urban girl than my very rural childhood would lead anyone to believe. The idea of living in a big city like New York or Chicago thrills me, and I think about it A LOT. Buying a house here in mid-Missouri would not make any sense right now, since all I can think about is selling all my things and moving into an 800 sq. ft. apartment in some huge city...

3. I've read a lot of business books in the last couple of years. The company I work for is absolutely one-of-a-kind; there is no doubt about that. It's a place people want to work so badly they'll move across the state and take a pay cut just to "get in the door". And our attrition rate, at least in my opinion, is very low. People love this company and everything it stands for. And so do I. But I have also, in my readings, learned that there are other companies that might be just as fantastic as the one I currently work for, and they just might be located in a city I'd prefer to live in. I'm absolutely not saying I'm thinking about quitting my job, but I'm also not so tied to it that I'd never consider leaving (like I was when I first wrote The List).

4. Mortgage rates. Mortgage rates changed. For the worse.

5. Rich and I make a lot more money between the two of us now than when I first wrote The List, and we're actively working at saving and aggressively paying off debt. Right now, adding a house payment (and all the other things that come along with owning your home rather than renting...) doesn't make sense for us financially. Could we do it? Absolutely. Do we want to spend our money that way? We do not. I'd personally love to pay everything off we've got while simultaneously using the excess to travel all over the world before owning my own home at this point in my life, and I think Rich feels the same.

Eventually I want to buy a house, but it's definitely not a top priority right now. I'm crossing this one off The List because it no longer applies, and like I said before - I'm completely okay with it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

1. Read all the books on the list of Goodreads 100 Books You Should Read In A Lifetime Pt. 3

I'm honestly impressed with myself for how quickly this list is going. I'm getting that "what am I going to do with myself when this is over?" feeing, even though I'm not even halfway done... I'm a weirdo.

Anyway... here's more thoughts on the books on this list, and as always, there are spoilers:

Pride and Prejudice - I always love books where the bad boy wants the good girl but she doesn't want him (see Gone With the Wind below...), but this one was especially good because he turned out to be good in the end. This was an easy, fun read, but it wasn't my favorite by any means.

Little Women - Boooo. This book was so boring. And Friends ruined the only interesting part of the book - when Beth dies - because of the episode where Joey's reading it and is sad so he puts the book in the freezer.

Fahrenheit 451 - This book had so much promise. I was looking forward to this one for a while, because I love dystopian novels. But I was let down by this one. It's incredibly short; I feel like the underlying premise is great but it isn't used to its full potential. So disappointing.

Gone With the Wind - I expected to absolutely hate this book. I watched the movie (which consisted of two separate VHS tapes...) when I was in high school, and I made it all the way to the end without really knowing what it was even about. I was so mad at my mom for telling me to watch it because it was "so great". However, the book IS great. I loved it so much. I love the historical fiction aspect, but most of all, I love Rhett Butler. I love that everyone hates him and he doesn't give a damn. (See what I did there???)

A Tale of Two Cities - I was incredibly confused about this one right up until the very end, but Dickens does a great job of tying it all together. This book absolutely validates a philosophy I have about reading - until I have finished a book, I cannot form an opinion on it; therefore, I have to read every book to the end, no matter how much I dislike it along the way. If I had given up on this one, I wouldn't have known that it's actually a very good love story!

Memoirs of a Geisha - My grandma bought me this book because she loves it, and that immediately made me dread reading it. (Yes I'm terrible... sue me.) I was SO wrong. I could not put this book down. Again, the historical fiction aspect was great, and so was the love story.

The Old Man and the Sea - Ummm, what?! This book served no purpose whatsoever. The character arc is non-existent - the protagonist (if you can call it that...) is literally in the exact same (sad) position in life as when it started, and it doesn't appear that he learned anything or changed in any way at all. I'm so glad it was only 120 pages, because I would have been furious if I'd wasted any more time on it than I did. The internet tells me it's supposed to be symbolic of... something or other. I have no idea, but I didn't get it at all. I guess I'm too literal.

A Game of Thrones - I have been actively resisting watching this series, mostly because I hate doing things that are trendy when they're trendy. When I saw this book on the list, I was not pleased. I didn't think I was going to like it at all, and I thought it was going to be hard to read. Once again, I was so wrong. I freaking loved this book, and I was so upset I didn't own the series so I could read them all in a row. And now I finally understand all the "Winter is Coming" memes on facebook! Sort of.

The Scarlet Letter - Three things: 1) Did you know that the author NEVER explicitly names Hester's crime? You just assume it's adultery, but it could totally be something darker, like incest. The intro to the book points that out, and it blew my mind. 2) Hester should not have waited 7 years to run away with her baby daddy, because then maybe he wouldn't have gotten all old and sick in the meantime and they could have spent their good years together. She didn't even like her husband. 3) Pearl scared the hell out of me, and I think she scared the hell out of Hester too.

The Odyssey - Yet again, I judged a book by its cover... or rather, by the things I thought I knew about it. I read excerpts of this during my freshman year of high school, and I was terrified this was going to take me months to read. I was completely wrong; it took me less than a week. It was really good! The things I knew took place in the story though (for example, the run-in with the Sirens) were such small pieces of the plot, it makes me wonder why they are the things modern students are taught about when discussing the poem.

At the end of my last blog post regarding this dream, I referenced Don Quixote being my next book from this list, but that was a mistake. It was the next book to read on my bookshelf, but it's not even on this list!!! I read it entirely as some kind of punishment to myself, I guess. And punishment it was. When I began reading it, the guy who sat next to me at work mentioned that it's his favorite book. That made it all the more frustrating when I got to the very end and asked myself what the hell I had just read. Don Quixote is a crazy person who everyone besides him knows is a crazy person, and in the last 3 pages of a 1000 page book he realizes it and just... stops being crazy. What a waste of my time!!! However, tons of other literary works allude to this book, so at least I understand what they're talking about now...

My next book from this list (for real this time) is the New King James version of The Holy Bible. The same guy who told me Don Quixote is his favorite book told me there was no way I could read The Bible in a month, so I bet him $100 I could do it. I would have done it for free, but he threw out the number so I went with it. Yes, The Bible is a large book with lots of words and lots of pages. But I've read those before (see Don Quixote...). I am determined to do it, and I'm going to begin reading it on March 1. Check my next blog post about this dream to see if I made it through in just one month or if I had to put my money where my mouth was!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

42. Foster a kitten/cat (and don't keep it)

This is my first dream-fail, but it's an adorable one so I'm going to share it anyway. Maybe someday I'll be able to cross this one off, but it won't be today... 

Last October, my sister sent me a picture of a fluffy orange kitten and said, "This is Walter. Will you foster him for me until my lease is up and I move to a place that allows pets?" My very first response was, "When is that?" and her reply was, "July."

I didn't love the idea. We had two cats already, and they were a handful by themselves. But earlier that year, my sister had put her cat Zoey down, so I knew she wanted a companion again. Against my better judgment, I eventually said yes. 

Fast forward a year. Walter is now a full-fledged member of my household. Exactly as I anticipated. Here is Walter with his brother Jack (the white one) and his sister Sophie (the gray one): 

So how did we get here? 

Last November, my sister and I picked Walter up from the foster he was with. He was so sweet. Tiny, fluffy, and incredibly friendly, he loved getting into his carrier to head home with us. When we got home, he wasn't scared or nervous at all. He was ready to explore his new home. Jack and Sophie were not as excited... but Walter didn't care in the least. Here he is on his first day in our home: 

Over the next few days, we realized that our new house-mate was having some tummy troubles. His trips to the litter box weren't as... solid... as we liked. We decided to see if his stomach settled down after he got used to his new environment and food, but a few weeks later he was still having trouble. We ended up taking him to our vet, and she treated him for worms. We thought everything would clear up and we'd be on our way, but we were SO WRONG. 

Turns out the medication that treats worms makes the kitty stomach sooo much worse before it gets better. We're talking pure liquid. It was a rough few days in our household. There were lots of baths and cleaning of walls and carpet going on... 

Finally, after a couple of months of new foods, meds, and vet visits, Walter's tummy settled down. Once his digestion was back to normal, we realized that he liked to eat - a lot. From the time we got him last November to his vet visit a couple weeks ago, he doubled in size. He's only about 18 months old, and he is way bigger than his brother and sister. And he's not even done growing! We think he has some Maine Coon in him; his head is nearly as big as Rich's!: 

I made it a point not to bond with Walter during the time he was here, because I didn't want it to hurt too badly when my sister finally took him. That doesn't mean I was mean to him, or cold, or anything... I just refrained from falling head over heels in love with him. The time finally came in July for my sister to take him, and despite my not having bonded with him, I was incredibly sad when he was gone. I mean, look at this face!!!

Almost immediately, my sister realized how much work it is to have a kitten in her house. She and my parents didn't get Zoey until she was an adult, so she had no idea how much work they are. It only took her six days before she brought him back to live with us permanently. 

I was conflicted about this. I still am. I love Walter. He is so cute and funny and lovable. But he and Sophie don't get along particularly well, and I feel terrible for her. Rather, Sophie doesn't get along with Walter well; he likes her just fine. Sophie has been having some medical issues of her own for the past few months, and we can't help but wonder if Walter being here is causing her stress and preventing her from healing like she should... We are working through that right now.

Here is one last picture of Walter; I took this one this morning, right before he tore through our brand new duvet cover with his teeth:

Kittens are fun... 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1. Read all the books on the list of Goodreads 100 Books You Should Read In A Lifetime Pt. 2

I'm getting through this list faster than I expected! Here are some more mini-reviews for the next handful of books I've read:

To Kill a Mockingbird - I remember starting this book in high school, but I'm pretty sure I didn't finish it. I say that because I feel like I would remember how it ended, which I did not. All that to say, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I couldn't put it down. It only took me two days to read it because I was completely engrossed in it.

Charlotte's Web - I read this book in elementary school, and as I was reading it this time I was surprised at how much of the story I remembered. My fourth grade teacher was smart in having us read it. It's a chapter book with pictures, which I feel is perfect for children in that age range who maybe still aren't super comfortable with reading. Plus it's adorable.

Animal Farm - This book was about as political as they come. It was a quick read though, which was nice, but that also means the plot escalated super quickly. I liked the message, but I can't help but relate this book to our current political climate, and that makes me sad/scared.

The Grapes of Wrath - Okay, I loved this book so much right until the end. I always think that every dystopian novel I read is going to have a happy ending for whatever reason, and I'm always wrong. This book was extremely well-written but also very depressing... Same as with 1984, I was hoping the people would come together to overthrow those in charge, but they just... didn't. Life just went on as depressing as it was before.

The Kite Runner - Again, this book was very well-written but was also depressing. Overall I liked this book, especially the historical parts, but the fate of Hassan was really sad. Actually, the fate of most of the characters was really sad. I understand that authors are trying to make a point when they write sad stories, typically about the world in which they live, but I'm learning that these types of books are not my favorite. Give me back my Charlotte's Web...

Macbeth - All I have to say is thank goodness for footnotes. I'm pretty sure I would have NO clue what this was about without them. I always have good intentions to understand Shakespeare without footnotes or Cliffs notes, but my brain gets so focused on the rhyming that I forget to pay attention to the plot. I'm just glad this one was short...

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - This was a slow-moving book, but it was an easy read regardless. I feel that there are a lot of parts to this book that don't advance the Injun Joe plot line at all and could easily be left out. Maybe I'm missing some bigger picture though. Reading reviews on this book, however, has made me very excited to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because it angered enough people politically that it was banned from schools for a bit (though I'm pretty sure I read it in high school, or at least started it...).

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass - I feel like Lewis Carroll was eating some magic mushrooms of his own when he wrote these books... They were entertaining to be sure, but if I had read them as a little kid I feel like my mind would have swirled and I wouldn't have understood a lot of it. Also, I'm glad I'd already seen the animated Disney version of this movie, because it helped me visualize things in my head I'm not sure I would have been able to otherwise.

Anna Karenina - This book took me several months to get through, not because it was particularly difficult to understand, but because there was an insane amount of information that had nothing to do with the story at all. Basic premise - Anna is a slut and feels so guilty she chucks herself under a train at the end. Not sure why it took nearly a thousand pages to get to that conclusion. WHO CARES ABOUT LEVIN?!

The Things They Carried - This book was incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I gushed on and on about it to the person who let me borrow it and he ended up buying me my own copy. This book and its stories about the Vietnam War reminded me just how hard people in the military have it - I wish more people would read this book, honestly.

The Road - This was a really, really good book, another one I couldn't put down, but it just has one flaw in my opinion - WHAT IN THE HELL HAPPENED?! I understand that this book takes place in a post-apocalyptic time, but I want to know how they got to that point. The author touches on it just enough for me to want to know more, but he never fully explains what happened. I guess that's not the point, but I'm too curious to let it go.

Crime and Punishment - After my months-long experience with Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, I was terrified to read anything by Dostoyevsky. But since it was on the list, I had to read it, and I was pleasantly surprised. I just assumed all Russian novels would be as convoluted and ridiculously wordy as Tolstoy's, which I now understand is a silly notion. Either way, this book was way better than I expected it to be, though I'm still not sure what made Raskolnikov kill the woman in the first place...

I'm currently working on Little Women, and it's slow-going (bordering on boring) for sure. We'll see if it gets better. Next is Don Quixote, and it's terrifyingly thick and heavy. Also, it was written many centuries ago, and I'm afraid it's going to take me all summer like Anna Karenina did last year. Let's hope I'm wrong. =/

Monday, February 27, 2017

51. Hustle a random at a bar game (Buck Hunter is preferred)

I had no idea how soon I'd be crossing this dream off the list, but I did have a feeling it wouldn't be planned. And I was right!

On Saturday, Rich and I went to KC for a beer festival. About 15 beer samples and a nap later, we were starving. We met my friend Sara and her boyfriend at a great little Mexican restaurant for dinner and drinks, and then afterward we all went to this bar that had a bunch of arcade games at it. The very first thing I spotted, of course, was a super old Big Buck Hunter Pro, and I eventually made my way over to it to play a round. No one wanted to play with me, though, so I got bored and moved on.

Later on in the night, however, the four of us were sitting at a table next to the Buck Hunter machine and a mostly drunk guy asked us for change for a $5 so he could play it. I asked Rich to make him change, then when I handed it to him I told him I wanted to play with him. He was excited to have competition, and I was excited to show off my skills (which he knew nothing about yet).

During the first round he said, "Okay, you're good at this..." Then I proceeded to crush him in every subsequent round. During another round, he muttered, "This girl is so fast..." I was elated! He had no idea what he was getting into, and he totally misjudged me based on the fact I was a girl. I ended up pummeling him, and he thought it was hilarious. He was such a good sport about the whole thing that it completely made my night.

After it was all over, I ended up telling him that I'm a world championship competitor at the game, and he replied with, "I knew that. Right away." He said he travels the country looking for Buck Hunter in truck stops and such because he loves playing it so much. He was so impressed with me, and I had such a good time. Even though I've already technically crossed this dream off now, I plan to continue doing this. It's a huge rush to get people to think I'm some dumb girl who doesn't know what I'm getting myself into then systematically demolish them at it. I can't wait to do it again and again and again!

Monday, June 27, 2016

98. Drink Starbucks in Seattle

Rich and I just returned from Seattle to visit my best friend from high school, Allyssa, and her boyfriend, Vince (a friend of mine from college). I did three different things while I was there that are on this dreams list, so I don't even know where to start with this blog post! I guess I'll start with the easiest one - drinking Starbucks.

After Rich's and my plane landed on Thursday morning, we met Allyssa at her office building to drop off our suitcases, and then we were off to explore a bit before she got off work. The very first thing we did? Go to Starbucks, of course. Not that it was difficult to find one, because it was on the first floor of her building. Here is a picture of my drink:

Anti-climactic, I know. And we ended up having Starbucks about 85 more times while we were there. But whatever... I love Starbucks, so I was pleased with it.

Another thing we did while we were in Seattle was go to the Cardinals/Mariners game on Friday night. It was a really good game, except the Cardinals lost due to a walk-off home run. Safeco Field wasn't terribly impressive. It was nice enough, but nothing very memorable. My favorite park I've been to so far is still Wrigley... But here are a couple pictures I took while we were at the game:

Our view from our seats. Notice all the fans in red.

A view of the Safeco Field sign. This shot shows that the roof had been closed for that night's game.

Of course, just being in Seattle at all helped me get closer to another dream on the list - visiting all 50 states. Washington makes 24. I'm almost halfway there! I don't have any plans to visit any new states currently, but I'm always searching for that next travel adventure. I'm sure I'll think of something soon.

We did tons of other stuff too while we were on vacation, but nothing else helped me cross of any dreams. However, in case you're interested:

  • We went to Pike Place Market and had gyros on the street - they were delicious. 
  • We had great Thai food. 
  • We went to the Space Needle. 
  • We convinced a stoned girl on the bus that all four of us had flown in Friday afternoon for the Cardinals game only and were leaving early the next morning heading back to Missouri - she was mind-blown. 
  • We went to the EMP Museum, where they have a really awesome Kurt Cobain exhibit. 
  • We spent 2+ hours trying to decide where to go for dinner one night, then we bailed on the whole thing and got delivery. 
  • We had an amazing brunch on the water. 
  • We saw Mt. Rainier a bunch of times from the car and bus windows, and it was impressive every time. 
  • I stood at the edge of the Puget Sound and let it lap at my feet. 
  • We visited a cat cafe where we got to hang out with random cats and drink coffee for an hour. I tried to make Allyssa put one in her backpack, but she wouldn't - what a bad friend.
  • We went to Fremont Brewing and had some delicious beers and good conversation. 
  • We hung out at Vince and Allyssa's place and they got us hooked on a new show - Billions on Showtime. 
Our trip was a lot of fun, but I'm glad to be home. The weather here is a big pile of poop compared to what we left back in Seattle, but sleeping in our own cozy bed tonight will (almost) make up for that. 

57. Visit 20 different amusement parks and ride at least one roller coaster at each

A few weeks ago, Rich and I took a road trip to Pennsylvania to visit his parents, and on our way back, we stopped at King's Island in Mason, OH. We spent the day riding roller coasters and other rides, and I figured this was a good opportunity to write about my progress on this dream!

I haven't always been into amusement parks and thrill rides... When I was young - like 3 or 4 - my dad and uncle smashed me between them on the Tilt-A-Whirl at a school carnival. My dad is not a small guy, so I could barely even see out from between the two of them. It made me violently ill, and I begged my dad and uncle to "make it stop". I was pretty much petrified to ride anything ever again from then on. So when my best friend in elementary school invited me to go to Six Flags with her, I was excited to go but not excited to ride anything. I unfortunately don't remember what my very first roller coaster ever was, but I do remember being forced (almost literally) to ride rides that day. I ended up enjoying myself very much though, and from then on I was totally hooked. (It took me until I was 14, however, to gather up the courage to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl again at a carnival...)

Until 2008, the only amusement park I had been to was Six Flags St. Louis. I used to ask for a Season Pass for my birthday every year so I could go all summer. The house we grew up in was only about 25 minutes away from the park, so my parents would drop my friends and me off in the morning, we'd spend all day riding rides, and then they'd come pick us up again later in the evening. I can't even count the number of times I've been to that park. It makes me wonder how many hours of my life have been spent waiting in those lines for the same rides over and over!

In 2008, my family took its first-ever family vacation (that wasn't to visit other family members). We went to Myrtle Beach, SC for a week in June that year. My boyfriend at the time, David, came with us. While we were there, we visited my second amusement park - Hard Rock Park. The park was rock & roll themed, and it was a ton of fun. The park wasn't crowded (foreshadowing...), and it was very clean. The rides were awesome, and they all had fun rock themes. All of the roller coasters were unique in their own ways. I wish we had spent more time there, but my mom isn't into riding thrill rides at all, so she was pretty bored for most of the day. We ended up leaving around sunset.

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to go to this park at all, because at the end of 2008 (its opening season!), it filed bankruptcy and was subsequently sold before the 2009 season. If you're following, that means we managed to go to the park during the one season it was open, by complete accident. I have a few souvenirs from the park that I plan on keeping a hold of for a long time to come - who knows? They might be worth some money some day!

In August 2010, David and I had a trip planned to go to Cedar Point, in Sandusky, OH. Our plan was to drive to Sandusky on a Monday, spend Tuesday and Wednesday at the park, and drive back to Missouri on Thursday. We planned to spend two days in the park because there are so many rides we wanted to ride that we figured it would take more than one day. We spent the first day riding about half the rides and roller coasters in the park, including Top Thrill Dragster, which we waited in line about two and a half hours for - it was rainy that morning, so they kept shutting the ride down. It was worth the wait though to experience a ride like that. It goes from 0 to 120 mph in less than 4 seconds, and it's one of only two roller coasters in the world over 400 feet tall. By dusk, we were tired and sore, so we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before our second day of roller coasters.

However, when I woke up the next day, something was wrong with me. Like, seriously wrong. As we were waiting in line for our first ride, I got very dizzy and felt as though I was going to throw up or faint (or both?). I thought I might just be dehydrated, so we got out of line, I drank a bottle of water, and hoped to feel better. But instead, I just felt worse and worse. David finally got the park employees to call First Aid, and they came and got me in an ambulance and took me to the First Aid building. They also figured I was dehydrated, so they gave me crackers and Gatorade and sent me on my way. But I just keep feeling worse. Finally, we ended up leaving the park without riding a single ride. We went back to the hotel, where I tossed and turned in bed all day, filling myself with water and Gatorade, thinking I was just severely dehydrated. But I never ended up feeling better. The following day, the day we were supposed to drive back to Missouri, I ended up asking David to take me to the ER, because I somehow felt even worse then the day before. They also said I was likely dehydrated, so they sent me off with no treatment or tests, telling me to eat bananas and drink Gatorade... This was the beginning of a long few months of misdiagnosis before I was finally diagnosed with something called POTS the following January. I have now been struggling with this syndrome for 6 years, and, while it's mostly controlled by the three medications I take daily, I still don't feel "normal". And I'm not saying Cedar Point gave me POTS, but... if it quacks like a duck... Anywho, that is another story for another blog.

After the Cedar Point incident, I was convinced I was never going to be able to ride any rides or roller coasters ever again. For about a year after I first got sick, I could barely be in a moving car without wanting to pass out or hurl. I was pretty upset, because riding roller coasters is one of my most favorite things. Eventually, I made peace with the fact that amusement parks were part of my "former life" and were just going to be fond memories. I just wasn't going to be able to be one of those people who could ride them anymore.

Then, in December 2012 (which was about 6 or so months after the meds had finally stabilized my dizziness and nausea), I flew to Houston to visit my friend Jenn. During that trip, we took a day trip to Galveston to hang out on the beach, but it was rainy and only about 70 degrees, so we sat shivering on beach towels and watching the one other person on the beach using his metal detector. When we could no longer take it, we packed up our things and headed back to the car. We had seen an amusement park on our way in, and I brought up to Jenn that maybe we should go to it. She knew that I hadn't been on a roller coaster since I'd gotten sick, so I think she was nervous that I was going to become a hot mess if we went, but I convinced her I'd be fine. I wanted to try it so badly. I was finally feeling better, and I wanted to see if I could get back into something I really missed.

We ended up going to the park, called Pleasure Pier, and it was really fun. We rode the roller coaster there, Iron Shark, and aside from it being painful and something I never wanted to do again, I wasn't dizzy at all from it. I was beyond thrilled by this. This was one of the best things that happened after I was diagnosed with POTS; it made me feel like a normal person again. The funny thing about that day though? Jenn was the one who ended up feeling sick after a spinning ride we went on!

After going to Pleasure Pier and not getting sick, I felt like I was definitely able to go to amusement parks again. The following June, my sister, David, and I went to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, about two hours from here. Friends from work told me that it wasn't as fun as Six Flags St. Louis, so I was pleasantly surprised when it actually was a lot of fun. One of the rides there, Mamba, reminds me a lot of Millennium Force at Cedar Point. I could ride it over and over again! I have been to Worlds of Fun a few times since then, and in my opinion, its way better than Six Flags! Or maybe it's just better because I haven't been there a thousand times.

In July 2014, I decided to try something I never thought I'd be able to do again - go to Cedar Point. Rich moved from New York to Missouri that summer, so while we were driving his car from there to here, we stopped in Sandusky. I was incredibly nervous, but it turned out to be an amazing time. I didn't feel sick at all, and because we paid for the Fast Pass to jump the lines, we got to ride everything lots of times. At the end of the afternoon, however, a tornado warning was issued and everyone was forced to leave the park. I suppose that's what happens when you build things in the Midwest...

In the last year, I have ridden record-breaking coasters at three new parks. In August 2015, I rode El Toro and Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. El Toro is the U.S.'s tallest wooden coaster, and Kindga Ka is the world's tallest steel coaster (and the U.S.'s fastest). Kingda Ka is a slightly larger, faster version of Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. Everyone raves and raves about these rides, but in my opinion, they're not that great. The launching from 0 to 120 is super thrilling, but the rest of the ride makes my head ache... El Toro, on the other hand, is incredible. I could literally ride it over and over again. It's amazingly smooth for a wooden coaster, and it's so fast. There is a ton of air-time too!

Then in September 2015, my sister and I went to Silver Dollar City. Say what you will about Branson, MO... Silver Dollar City was an awesome time. It was super crowded, but the lines for the rides weren't long at all. All the baby boomers in the park were there to buy apple butter and take antique photos. I think the longest we waited for a ride might have been 20 minutes. And we loved every single ride there. Outlaw Run was one of our favorites - it currently holds the world record for highest number of inversions on a wooden roller coaster with three. And it is insane. I am trying to plan a trip to go back this summer.

I started this post by talking about Rich's and my trip to Pennsylvania last month, and I'll end it there as well. On our drive up there, we stopped at Cedar Point (my third time there, his second), and we had a blast, as always. It's seriously one of my favorite places on earth. We rode the newest coaster they have, Valravn, which is a dive coaster. It was fun, but it wasn't as thrilling as I expected it to be. Rich really liked it though!

And finally we went to King's Island on our way home. There were two rides there we kept riding over and over again - Diamondback and The Beast. Diamondback is a steel coaster with tons of airtime, and The Beast is the world's longest wooden coaster. It was built in the 1970s, and I can't believe how smooth of a ride it is. And it is really fast! I have never been on a ride like it, and I'm not sure I ever will again.

So there you have it - a way too long description of all the amusement parks I've ever been to where I've ridden roller coasters. I haven't even reached 50% of my goal yet, but I can't wait to keep working on it. I have a list going of the other parks I want to go to, and I keep adding more and more parks to it. If I have kids, they better like roller coasters...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

75. See a game in all the MLB ballparks

This dream is a lot harder than I had anticipated, because apparently baseball games aren't free, which makes it all the more exciting. Until about a month ago, I had only been to three parks - Busch Stadium, Citi Field, and Wrigley Field. I clearly have a lot more to go, and it's going to take me a while. However, I did add another to the list on Opening Day this year (and I'll add a fifth in June!).

Rich is a huge Mets fan (being from New York and all...), so when I found out that they were playing the Royals for Opening Day, I decided to surprise him with tickets. Kauffman Stadium is only about two hours from here, so even though the game was on a Sunday night, I went for it. He was thrilled when I gave him the tickets, and it was really fun to surprise him!

The weather was beautiful as we headed to Kauffman on Opening Day, and we got there pretty early. I'm used to games at Busch Stadium - no parking, walking a ways to get to the venue, etc., but Kauffman shares a HUGE parking lot with Arrowhead, and parking was a breeze. We got inside the stadium well before the game started, but we didn't take our seats until after the National Anthem. We explored a bit, got some drinks, and waited until the Royals' World Series celebration was over. (You may remember who they beat in the World Series last year? Yeah... the Mets...)

When I go to Cardinals away games, I swear it feels like at least 40% of the fans there are in Cardinals gear. Not so at this game. There were like 10 Mets fans there total. It was crazy! But the Royals fans we sat next to were very pleasant and friendly. So mid-western. The wife did, at one point, tell Rich, "At least you're not a Cardinals fan!" then proceeded to talk about how awful we all are. It was really funny, because she had no idea I was actually a Cardinals fan. I ended up telling her that I'm a die hard Cards fan, but then I apologized for any rude ones she'd encountered and all seemed to be well.

The Royals ended up winning the game, and until the eighth inning it was pretty boring. The Mets staged a comeback, but it wasn't enough to win. Even though the team we were there to cheer for lost, it was really fun to see the hometown fans get a win on Opening Day. And we didn't get home as late as we had expected, so that was nice too.

The reason I wanted to do this - visit all the parks - was mostly to see what other teams' fans get to see when they go to games. Each park is different, and I love comparing them to Busch Stadium and also seeing what makes each one unique. Kauffman has a huge crown over the main scoreboard, and I thought it was really fun to look at.

Stay tuned - we are going to a Mariners game in June, so I'll be adding Safeco Field to my (very short) list of parks visited.

Until then, here is a picture from our seats at the Mets/Royals game: