Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goals for 2013

As I try to do every year, I have set goals for 2013. For one of these goals, I will need your help to meet the goal (please see below). But first, let's recap my goals for 2012.

  • Learn German.  Starting next September, I will be a full-time German student.  By the end of 2012, I want to have a decent grasp on the language.  Although I think I may have forgotten most of my German over Christmas break, I think I have met this goal. Our next progress test is in a few weeks and we hope to be at the 2/2 level. 
  • Complete my Belize bucket list.  I didn't get everything done on the list, but I completed a huge chunk of the list. 
  • Watch at least two sun rises and two sunsets (an annual goal).  I watched a number of sunsets this year, including a couple over the Pacific Ocean, the grand Tetons, Hong Kong, and a number of them in Belize. As for sun rises, I can specifically recall watching the sun rise over the ruins at Caracol and yesterday in the mountains. 
  • Tour America on the Ultimate Road Trip.  The route may change, but the goal remains the same - see parts of America that I have never seen before.  As I predicted, the route changed dramatically, but the Ultimate Road Trip was amazing. Definitely one of the highlights of 2012. 
  • Buy a house for my parents.  My parents are currently living with my grandparents after losing their home this year.  I have some money saved up, so I am hoping to be able to buy a house that they can then rent from me.  This did not happen for a number of reasons, primarily that my parents moved to Prescott Valley in May to start new jobs. 
  • Go to at least two football games (at least one Husker game); five baseball games; and three concerts.  I went to two Nebraska games (Northwestern and B1G Ten Championship); only four baseball games (Dodgers, A's, and two Nationals games); and just one concert (Garth Brooks).  But, I did attend three Broadway caliber musicals (Avenue Q, Wicked, and Les Miserables)
  • Remain a non-smoker. I won't lie and say I haven't smoked any cigarettes in 2012, but I have been able to severely limit those cigarettes to only every once in a while when I go out with smoker friends.  More impressively, my Mom has quit smoking this year.  I am so proud of you Mom!
All in all, not a bad job on my 2012 goals.  What's in store for 2013? (in no particular order)

  • Learn German at 3/3 level
  • Watch two sunrises and two sunsets
  • Weigh under 220 pounds by New Years 2014 (this is losing an additional 35 pounds)
  • Read 25 books
  • Visit at least 6 countries (not counting USA or Germany)
  • Attend at least one Bundesliga soccer match
  • Attend at least three concerts
  • Run a 5K in under 30 minutes
  • Complete a 10K race
  • Complete the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and at least one other long race (10 miles or more).
This last goal is where I need your help.  I registered for the Cherry Blossom Lottery last month, but was not selected.  My only option for entering the race is through their charity fundraiser.  I must raise $500 which will go to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals - which is a worthy cause.

My goal is to get 25 people to donate $20 each towards my goal.  If you would like to help me reach this, you can donate by going to my fundraising page.  Once I reach my goal of $500, I will be able to enter the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.  Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Christmas where Mom tried to burn down the house

So far, my Christmas vacation has been fabulous. I got in late Friday after a couple of pretty chill days of German. I did all of my Christmas shopping over a few hours on Saturday afternoon before meeting my parents, plus Katie, Paul, and Richelle for a movie (This is 40, which was hilarious) and dinner.  On Sunday, I went and played poker at the casino and then met back up with my parents.

Monday morning, I accidentally slept in as I thought my alarm was on east coast time - whoops.  We made our way over to Shelley's for Christmas Eve. Besides the five in our family, we also had Katie's husband Paul, Shelley's boyfriend Jeff, and Tom, my dads former coworker who had fallen on some rough times.   We played guitar hero (Shelley is really awful at this game) and scene it on Jeff's Xbox.  While we were playing games, mom was making some snacks. She accidentally turned on the wrong stove burner and caught two plastic cake pan lids on fire, filling the house with smoke. No one was hurt and the plastic lids were the only casualties of the incident, but I am pretty sure this will always be the Christmas mom tried to burn down the house.

For dinner, we went traditional Italian with my dads fantastic lasagna. Shelley made a great salad and Paul added delicious garlic bread. The dinner really was delicious.  Our family tradition is to open presents from each other on Christmas Eve. We go one at a time from youngest to oldest. Until a few years ago, Katie always got to go first, but then she started dating and then married a younger man, so now paul gets to go first.  I walked away with a bunch of new clothes, which I desperately needed, a new camera, as well as tickets to a suns game tomorrow and the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl game on Saturday.

I woke up early on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought. For years, Santa has abandoned traditional stockings and instead leaves our gifts in large gift bags. The last two years, Santa has gotten significant help from various family members. So, this year, I helped Santa get Paul's presents and Paul returned the favor.  Santa brought socks and underwear and deodorant, as well as a CD and DVD, plus a puzzle and a few other small things.

I went out for a short run this morning. When I got back to Shelley's, mom began to make french toast for breakfast. So yummy. Soon, Tom turkey went into the oven and we started to play scene it again. I dominated the game so much that I took a break so that someone else could win. Christmas dinner was just awesome with turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing (I don't like stuffing) and all the rest.

After the post-dinner nap, we packed up mom and dads car and made our way up to Prescott valley  it took us over an hour just to get out of Phoenix from Shelley's house. It is way to cold in PV to still be in Arizona. Brr.

I still have another four days of vacation here, but this trip so far has been fantastic. Except for the part where mom almost burned down the house.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Running Update

After last Friday's shooting in Connecticut, I needed to get the word "massacre" off my front page, so here is a running update.

I have been steadily working through my couch to 10K program.  I must admit I find this program increasingly more difficult than I did the couch to 5k program.  The main issue is the time commitment to a single run.  With the 5K program, my total time spent stretching, working out, and showering afterwards was about an hour.  In the 10K program, the workout itself is around an hour each time, and I basically have to commit between 90 minutes and 2 hours to get the workout done.  That makes it a whole lot easier to not have the time to do it.

Nonetheless, I have continued working out at least 3 times a week.  Unfortunately, my weight loss has plateaued a bit.  Today, I weighed 255 lbs., which is 30 lbs. lower than my peak, but only one pound less than before Katie's wedding.  I'm worried that Christmas will have a similar effect, but I will hopefully be able to keep running (in the warm Phoenix winter) and limit the desserts.

I had set a new goal to run in and complete the Cherry Blossom 10 miler this spring.  I even encouraged a number of my friends and even my sister to sign up for the lottery with me.  Unfortunately, most of them were selected to run the race, but I was not selected through the lottery.  I still have a couple of options to get into the race (I may be asking for charity donations soon), but if you had told me a year ago that I would be fighting to get into a 10 mile race, I would have laughed at you.

Current statistics:
Weight - 255 lbs (down 30 lbs)
Pant size - 40x30 (I am now in between the 42 and 40, but I can definitely wear a 40, so that is one size down)
Longest run without stopping: 32:54 (My long runs generally go for a total of about an hour, but they include periods of running and walking, so I have not yet bested my longest time in the last 5K)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Massacre in Indianapolis

As a college football fan employed in the Foreign Service, my opportunities to see my favorite team - Nebraska -  live and in person are few and far between.  While in Belize, I managed to sneak up to Dallas for the last Big 12 Championship to watch Nebraska blow a 17 point lead and lose to Oklahoma.  Earlier this year, I traveled to Chicago and watched the Huskers implode for three quarters only to complete an impressive fourth quarter comeback.

After Nebraska beat Michigan to take the lead in its division, I bought a plane ticket to Indianapolis hoping the Huskers would make to the Championship.  After they beat Minnesota three weeks ago, I invited my girlfriend, Sara, to go to the game with me.  I waited until we secured our Division championship to book a hotel room or buy game tickets.  With all of my worry about making it to the game, I didn't honestly worry about what would happen in Indianapolis.

I arrived late Friday night and watched football in a sports bar before returning to my hotel.  Sara arrived on Saturday morning and we set out to explore downtown Indy.  I have to admit that Indy surprised me in how awesome the downtown area was.  Lots of old architecture with intricate stone masonry and old brick.  Seemed to be early 1900s design refurbished for the 21st Century.  Tons of bars and restaurants and the weather was fantastic in the low 60s.  Our favorite bar was the "Slippery Noodle Inn", which doubles as both a sports bar and a blues bar.  All the bars in Indy were huge and this was no different with probably five or six rooms and an unexplored basement and second floor.

The stadium was pretty cool as well.  It was no JerryDome in Texas, but it was still pretty cool.  Our seats were fantastic, 11 rows up from the field at about the 10 yard line.  Unfortunately, we were in the Wisconsin section, which proved to be a dumb idea.

The game started bad with a quick Wisconsin TD, followed by a pick-6 on our first play.  Two minutes into the game, we were down 14 points.  I actually was not real upset at this point.  We had made several comebacks during the season and I had confidence we could do it again.  After a fantastic scramble by QB Taylor Martinez for a 70 yard TD, I thought we were in business.  Instead, the wheels came off.  Wisconsin turned a 14-10 game into a 42-10 by the end of the half and it was basically over.  An interception on our first drive to start the second half only sealed the deal.  For the first time in my life, I left a Nebraska game early.  The final score was 70-31!

We made our way to a bar to wallow in our misery (not that Sara cared all that much...she felt bad for me, but she is an Aggie, so her heart had not just been broken by the Huskers again).  The next day, we ate a late breakfast before checking out.  We wandered around downtown Indy a bit more and shopped in the mall before catching our flight back to DC.  Indy was a cool enough city that I had a good time despite the fact that my team got its ass kicked.
Cool obelisk downtown is dressed up as a Christmas Tree

The very cool "Slippery Noodle Inn"

Outside the stadium before the game (hence the smiles)

Holding a random NCAA trophy

Our seats were awesome, for whatever that was worth.