Month: July 2011

More Random Thoughts

Today I have a lot on my mind, so I’m afraid this will be another one of my random, all-over-the-place posts.

1. I just watched Say Yes to the Dress and it has me all fired up.  There is a girl who is a 20 (which is still a touch smaller than me).  She can’t fit into any of the sample plus size dresses (this is the Atlanta show which doesn’t seem to have the plus size selection of Kleinfelds).  Anyway, as she fails in trying on the bridal dresses the upset woman says “Its not that bad.  I’m not that big.  I’m not this horrible person”.  What is wrong with our culture that big girls feel their size is not just a health concern but a sin, an evil- that it makes you a horrible person.   It is a classic example of the prevalence of fat stigma in our culture.  It makes me crazy!

2. So the former political science grad  in me has been eating up this recent debt ceiling debate.  I find it fascinating to watch the back and forth and try to guess what is going to happen (not only now but in 2012 as well).   It is a source of pride for me that the principles I helped fight for in the tea party rallies are being instituted by both parties.  Of course, I am the biggest fan of the cut, cap and balance bill but I think any spending cuts are a step in the right direction.

I’ve also given it a lot of thought and I don’t know what I would do if I was in Congress.  I respect the representatives that are sticky to pure principles but I also understand those that are accepting a practical compromise. I will be very curious to see how everything plays out. What would you’all do and why?

the government listened to my sign! 🙂

3. Today I made delicious whole wheat banana bread.  It is really good and actually good for you.  Here is the recipe:

1/3 cup grape seed oil

1/2 cup clear agave

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup mashed bananas (2 large bananas, 4 small bananas)

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup hot water

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
In a large bowl, beat oil and agave together. Add eggs, and mix well. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix, and then add to batter. Blend in chopped nuts. Spread batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 1/2 hour before slicing

4. Relationships are so confusing.  Its like the great mystery of life.  How does anybody get together in the end?  It happens every day so we just accept it but it seems impossible sometimes.  We hear a million talks in the church about how great marriage is and how we should all get married- if someone would please tell me how to do that I will be glad to oblige?  Anyway, finding love is hard  and that’s all I have to say on the topic.

5.  I am in need of good book suggestions.  I just finished reading the July-September book club picks (Life as We Knew It, All Creatures Great and Small, Anne of Green Gables- 2 out of 3 were terrific).  I figure I can’t read the October book so quickly (I’ve read it before, the Book Theif, but I want it to be fresh for book club).  Anyway, I am looking for engaging, creative, whimsical books.  They can be sad or even tragic but it just has to be something with likable, interesting characters.  I like historical fiction, classics, high-quality chick literature, poetry, and even some fantasy.  Please send me your recommendations.  Even if you think it is not my cup of tea please let me know what you have enjoyed and I will give it a shot.

6. My quest for the open water swim is going well.  As I mentioned in a previous post I had a great effort last week.  It was exhausting but thrilling. I did 5 tough work outs in one week.  However, this week was not quite as successful because of some stomach upset.  I have stepped up my dosage of victoza and once again my body did not like it.  I was doing so well for weeks that I thought I could up the dosage but not so much. Anyway, we will see.  Including tomorrow I will get 4 workouts this week which is pretty good considering I had 2 sick days.  I just want to be ready for the swim.  Next Thursday I will do a practice swim so that will be a good test to see if I am prepared.  If not, I can wait for the October swim but I hope I can participate.  Wish me luck!

7.  Today is the end of week 1 for the cpap machine.  It has been a hard adjustment but I’m improving each day.  Its difficult to get used to sleeping with a mask and it is hard to keep it from leaking.  I also miss being able to read before going to sleep.  Thank goodness for ipods.  (Also, thankfully I am not in a couple because the mask is not a romantic look!).

this is at the sleep lab but my mask is basically the same. Darth Vader here we come!

So that’s my random thoughts.   Love you guys!


Skinny, Skinny, Skinny

Today I have a bit of an upset stomach so I am not going to the gym but never fear I will be right back at it tomorrow!  The last 2 weeks have been some of my most consistent and hard working during this fitness quest.   It really helps to have a goal and getting ready for this open water swim is a huge challenge.  At least I read yesterday that the water is warmer than usual-70 degrees, oh la la!

Currently I am working on the most boring project for work.  It involves looking at a spreadsheet with 27,000 items and identifying what branch the item belongs to.  Sometimes this requires my looking up the monument or national park to see what area it is in.  (On the plus side, I am now somewhat of an expert on the national parks, even obscure ones!).

To keep from falling asleep I have a movie on as background noise.  Today I’m watching Brigadoon with Gene Kelly and and Cyd Cherise.  Its not the greatest musical but I enjoy it. It has beautiful dancing and a few of the songs are catchy.

The thing that shocked me while watching is how insanely skinny Cherise is.  In fact, all the women are uber-skinny- made more so by restrictive corsets. It reminds me of the famous scene from Gone with the Wind when Scarlet is upset over not being able to corset her waist at 18 inches after having a baby!

so skinny!

Does anyone else think she looks ridiculous with such a tiny waist and large bust?  Maybe that seems like the cliched response of a fat girl but honestly! The only thing I can think in her defense is that she was a ballet dancer and they are always very skinny.

The sad part is we still set such insane standards.  For instance, the other day I was watching Big Bang Theory and Kaley Cuoco’s character Penny is upset when Sheldon guesses that she weighs 120 lbs.  Let’s say she is 5 ft 7, 120 would still be well under the body mass index produced by the insurance industry.

By all competent medical diagnosis 120 should be considered skinny, even underweight, but on the show she is horrified to be labeled as a fat 120. I even read some articles that listed Kaley as a ‘curvy’ member of Hollywood young.  Please!  If she is curvy than no wonder so many people are turning to eating disorders. What do we all have to be below 100 lbs to be considered skinny? Crazy!

To see the clip go to  They won’t let me embed it.

Hollywood doesn't think this is skinny

The problem with words like ‘skinny’ is they have no real diagnostic value.  They can mean whatever you want and so using such a vague term as a goal for change is dangerous.  If skinny is your goal it will literally never be good enough.  You will never be skinny enough.

I would love to say that the images and skinny messaging promoted by Hollywood doesn’t affect me- that I am strong and know it is garbage.  I do see the flaws but I am not invulnerable to the feelings of longing for a body I will never have and an image that will never happen.  I don’t know anybody that is perfectly confident all the time and doesn’t on occasion wish for a seemingly better, more attractive body.  When those moments come, the images sent out by Hollywood can do damage to my self-esteem and confidence.  I am not immune to such feelings. Are you? Luckily, I am wise enough and strong enough to pick myself up and start telling myself the right kind of messages.

Perhaps I am thinking of this topic because I have been exercising like a maniac and yet my bi-weekly weigh-in yesterday I had lost no weight.  Obviously this was a disappointment but I know that I have become healthier in the last 20 days.  My swim times are faster, my weight repetitions and amounts are more, and I feel enthusiastic and happy.   The skinniness may not come along but I have to remember that being skinny is a mirage of a goal.  Being healthy is real.  Finishing my race on the 13th is a real goal, and I know I can do it- skinny or not!

What do you think about the illusion of getting skinny?  What are your goals for fitness and weight loss and how does the images presented by Hollywood or fashion impact you?

Am I Motivating?

So true!

First thing- in writing this post I am not begging for compliments or praise (not that I will refuse either :)).  It is a sincere question- Does my story make you want to get in shape or does it scare the heck out of you?

What made me start thinking of this was a conversation I had with a few friends the other day.  I realized after, I had talked about exercise a lot (my goals, upcoming race, trainer, routines, etc) and that I didn’t make it sound very appealing.  I’ve never been the kind of person that can put on a nice face, and I find it particularly hard to do so when I’m in physical pain. Like my father, I can’t seem to ‘fake it until you make it” with anything.

Exercising is HARD WORK!  It is honestly more painful and difficult than it is rewarding and exciting.  At least that is my experience. Of course, it is completely worth it and the pain does make the rewards all the more meaningful but make no mistake it is tough.

The difficult question I am having is how much of these challenges do I share with my friends and family?  I never want to discourage anyone from beginning an exercising quest, but I also feel like I would have benefited from someone giving me a heads up on how hard it was going to be.  On the other hand, I might have been scared off by people being too graphic.  (You can see how torn I am with this question!).

It just drives me crazy on television when they make it seem so easy.  Like all you do is make a few changes and poof 2 months later you are 100 lbs lighter.  If only it was that simple for me.  Granted I had some unusual health problems that may have happened regardless of my fitness quest (such as my eye surgery) but it has been one terrific obstacle after another.  (I am also by no means finished.  I have many years of hard work ahead of me to get to my end-goals and then after that I will have years of maintenance. )

I have the same struggles when talking about my mission.  I loved my mission but it was also a serious testing period.  Never was I lonelier in my life or more daily-tested mentally, spiritually and physically.  Through the loneliness I learned so much about myself and God that it was without a doubt worth it, but it was super hard.

People tried to warn me about the difficulties of a mission, but I mostly ignored their advice.  That said, most of the warnings concerned all the rules and the rejection, which to me were not the true struggles.   My mission was like a personal crucible of everything God could throw at me and as a reward He helped me find some amazing people and refine my testimony and character.

I wish someone had told me a mission was like that…

However, again I am torn because not everyone has the same mission experience.  Most people I know did, but not everyone, so who am I to warn them of something they may or may not experience?

Back to the dieting what if they get lucky and lose the weight fast (it usually is so much easier for men!  No fair!)?  Maybe my discourses will only prepare them for something they won’t experience…I don’t know?

Its the balance between preparation and discouragement which I struggle with…It truly has me puzzled?

In the end, I just want to be motivating.  I want people to look at my example both as an exerciser and a missionary and be encouraged, not discouraged.  I am sorry if I make either seem too hard or painful.  The rewards are awesome!  Nothing could be better than teaching my investigators or surfing in Hawaii.  The sweet moments make the struggles worth it one hundred times over.

How do you give advice? I know many people face the same challenge when talking about parenting.  It is easy to sound like you hate being a parent because it is so difficult but of course it is worth it to raise your children. I am sure nobody would want to dissuade people from having children when they are ready but its really hard.

How do you find that balance in giving honest counsel to friends and family? I would really love comments on this one.

A Perfect Week

Today is Friday and I am watching Say Yes to the Dress and putting my feet up after a long week.  A perfect, but long week.  How was it perfect- you ask?  Well, the main reason is I worked out like a maniac (as this photo shows!).

On Monday I did a tough weight routine, Tuesday I swam a mile, Wednesday did a boot camp with my trainer (need I elaborate that a boot camp was difficult!), Thursday I swam a mile and Friday I met with my swim coach and did 1500 meters worth of interval drills (we did 250 meters fast and slow, 200 meters fast and slow, all the way down to 50 meters.).

I wish I could say I feel full of energy from all this exercise but sadly I feel like a pile of rubber.  I’m so glad I have no other major responsibilities beyond work, church and exercise because I honestly don’t have the energy. (Most of the time I heat something up or eat a sandwich because I’m too tired to cook).

The truth is that many people respond to exercise like me.  In fact, I read an article about the ‘myth of endorphins‘.  It discusses a study of the brainwaves of highly trained athletes after work out.   Their results amazed me and confirmed what I had always seen in myself:

“When researchers set out to determine whether killer workouts could produce enough of the opiate-like hormone to bring on that buzz, the notion turned out to be another fitness Sasquatch”

Another researcher goes on to say:

“Endorphin has also been identified as the reason people sometimes appear to get a ‘high’ from exercise or even become addicted to it. Yet no compelling scientific evidence backs any of these claims.

The idea that endorphins flood our brains in sufficient quantities to create a druglike buzz is virtually an article of faith in gym conversations and numerous fitness publications. ”

Don’t you love it when science backs up your own personal theories? 🙂  Exercise is hard and painful for most everyone!  Hurray! I’m not alone!

That said- I have seen significant improvement in my over all mental and physical health.  I feel tired but good (or perhaps whole and complete are better words)  if that makes sense.  There is a new sense of potential within myself and after surfing a sense that I can do anything- I am a champion and I’ve never been that before.

I have enrolled in an open water swim which is a mile long in cold open water. It is a huge challenge but again if I can surf, I can enter this race.  Even my trainer noticed a new sense of confidence in me.  On Wednesday she said “I’m so glad you went to Hawaii.  It was very good for you. You have a whole new enthusiasm”.   My goal is to finish the race and then hopefully enter many future races.  I have even aquired a wetsuit and a swim coach to help me (who ever said getting in shape is a cheap has another thing coming!  I look at it as my new hobby and it certainly takes up more time than most hobbies).

All I can say is this week I did what I never saw myself doing- I did intense workouts every day.  Who is this person?  I hardly recognize her but the knowledge of her existence makes me happy.  The knowledge of this perfect week makes me happy.  I did it!  It was super hard but I did it.

Now I am going to hook up my cpap machine for my sleep apnea (just got that this week! I’m like darth vader at night!) and enjoy a well-deserved slumber.  Is there anything better than a well-deserved slumber?

Btw, I also met with my endocrinologist for a check up and everything looks good!  I think after all I’ve been through my body is finally on the mend!  Hurray!  (This is kind of a random post but that’s the great thing about a blog.  I can do however I wish!)



Yesterday I read an article that astonished me and I just had to share it with all of you.    It is entitled “Young Adults Feel Empowered by Debt” and it talks about a new wave of young adults that “actually feel empowered by their credit card and education debts.”  This is garnered from a study done by the journal of “Social Science Research”.

This article shocked me because I have always been petrified of debt.  In fact, part of the reason I went to University of Phoenix for my graduate school was I knew I could work while I studied; thus, allowing me to pay for most of my schooling and living expenses concurrent with my education.  I was lucky to have some family support but even if it had been solely left to me I would not have gone into very much debt because I was working at the same time.

I have also never bought property or driven a new car mostly because I am scared to death of being held down by the obligation of debt.  People tell me all the time that I’m ‘throwing money away on rent’ but at least it isn’t a noose around my neck that could hang me if things go badly (both personally or with the economy at large).   I have known so many people saddled with mortgages they can’t get rid of  from homes that will not sell.

In admitting my reservations about debt I also admit that in some ways it is a weakness.  I know there are risks and investments worth taking,  but I cautiously chose not to.  I also gratefully acknowledge the many blessings I’ve had along the way which have helped me avoid debt.

That said- I can’t imagine someone having the attitude of some in this article or the study at large. “Young adults wear their debt like a new tattoo”.   I can’t imagine being proud of  or feeling empowered by debt.  To me it is a bizarre reaction.

Another good article on the topic says that credit card debt is particularly tempting for young adults (considered in this study to be 18-35, so I still count!) because it allows them, if only temporarily, to experience a more exciting, full life.

“Buying things is a way to alleviate [a feeling of powerlessness]” says Rucker. “It might be only temporary, and so I continue to buy and that’s how I accrue debt. When consumers feel powerless, they spend in ways that help them accumulate power or at least the psychological feeling of power.”

I think there is an attractiveness to credit card debt because it solves problems quickly.  Want to look more professional, charge it.  Want to take a memorable trip, charge it.    The problem comes when all of that charging piles up.

The third article I listed gives the following example:

Jason Eichacker, 31, of San Jose, Calif., for example, used debt throughout his 20’s to help finance expenses that helped move him closer to his goals. “When I needed professional looking clothes or textbooks, I just put it on my card,” says Eichacker. To justify it, he told himself, “‘You know what, I’m going to make good money. I’ll be able to pay it off pretty quick.'”

Unfortunately, Eichacker’s habit of using credit to finance his aspirational lifestyle later spiraled out of control when he opened his own business and used business and personal credit cards to purchase what he needed. “When the business foundered, I had to declare bankruptcy,” says Eichacker. He now receives collection calls almost daily and his personal relationships have suffered as a result of his wrecked credit history.

Eichacker admits that self-esteem issues and an early concern with status and control over reaching his goals were at the root of his behavior. “It gets down to the picture in my mind of how I was supposed to look like,” says Eichacker. “I was more concerned with that than I was about how my credit would be down the line.”

I know that certain debt is unavoidable but shouldn’t it be looked at as a necessary evil, not an empowering gift?   A large reason we are in such a financial mess as a country is too many people were “using credit to finance his [or her] aspirational lifestyle”.  People aspired to bigger homes than they could afford, impractical degrees they will not see much value from, new cars they don’t need and wardrobes that they couldn’t pay for.

As Eichacker experienced, I fear many will find what empowers them one minute, robs them of future minutes.

I personally think part of the fault lies with our government.  Have not many in Washington made the case for empowering debt?  That spending when we have no money ‘stimulates’ the economy; thereby, making things better and making the obligation of more debt a good thing?  Is this not another way of saying debt empowers the economy?

Indeed, many are making such an argument right now in the debt ceiling debate.  If it is so great for our nation than why not incur tons of debt in our individual lives as well?   The truth is it that it is bad for our country and it is bad for individuals.

Think I’m exaggerating?  Take a look at   Also, look at the interest owed of over 3 trillion dollars and growing!  Think of all the good we could do with that 3 trillion if we weren’t in debt.

I don’t think anyone should feel empowered by debt.  Yes, it is a necessary evil for some but it is not a free check to pay later on.  It carries with it many burdens and problems which must be fully anticipated before the debt is incurred.   What do you all think?  Are you empowered by debt?

Put on a Happy Face

How happy is the little Stone
by Emily Dickinson
How happy is the little Stone
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn’t care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears —
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity —
(If there was ever a poem that describes me this is it)

Today I went to a large church social and was doing my best to mingle with the crowd (not my favorite activity).  Eventually I came across a group I had not seen in many months.   As we chatted about our summers and the latest movies one of the girls perked up and said “Rachel, you look happier.  What’s going on?”.

The question caught me a bit off guard.  I wish I knew the answer.  I’ve always felt like a very happy person but I did go through a tough couple of months at the beginning of the year.  It was a lot of bad news in a short amount of time.  Plus, it is always hard for me to put on a happy face when I am not feeling well.  I’m afraid I’ve inherited some of my father’s complete inability to fake an emotion or to be anything less than genuine.  My entire family will tell you that I am a big grump when I’m sick, tired or hungry (so if you see me being crabby check one of the three!).

That said- the strange thing is I didn’t even realize an increase in my happiness had occurred until she pointed it out.   Isn’t that funny?  We can be happy and not really appreciate it or understand it?

I think a big part of my current happy heart is the  aloha spirit that I still have inside me.  I know that sounds cheesy but Hawaii was so good for me.  It made me feel active and alive in a way I have not felt in over 2 years.  With all the exercising and conditioning I never had a moment where I wanted to exclaim “Yes, I’m so much more capable physically than I was before”.  However, in Hawaii that happened again and again with surfing being the ultimate moment of triumph.  If I can surf, I can do anything!

Since returning home I dove immediately back into the fitness rat-race (in a good way) challenging myself with new routines and goals.  It is exhilarating!  In fact, on Saturday I completed my first mile-long swim since high school.  It still took me an hour but its a start.  Like I said, if I can conquer surfing I can conquer anything and that’s SO EXCITING!!!

My health has also been steadily improving since I gave up the various medications in May.   On  Thursday I have a check in with my endocrinologist, but I have a good feeling that the last 6 months of 2011 will be much better than the first.  Its a feeling in my gut that I find difficult to explain but its great.

I know there will still be challenges but Hawaii gave me hope for the future.  If I can be that happy on vacation then I know I can be happier in real life.   HOPE IS AWESOME!

One of the exciting goals I am setting for myself is to compete in an open water swim.  These are marathon type swimming races that are usually 1 mile, 3k and 5k.  There is one on August 13th that I am trying for but if not there’s another at the beginning of October in Vegas.  Can you believe that I can even think of signing up for something like that?  18 months ago you wouldn’t have believed it!

It is perhaps this feeling of accomplishment and balance that is putting a smile on my face- a smile which this girl noticed even before I did.  After the year I’ve had I’m grateful for every smile I get and I certainly don’t take it for granted.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who point out my happiness, so I don’t just let it go by unnoticed!

Random Thoughts

I sat down to write three or four different blogs tonight and I finally decided I just had too much on my mind.  So, in a shift from my normal style of topic based posts I am doing things a little bit differently.

Random Thoughts

Things on my mind:

1. I can’t believe that Casey Anthony was acquitted.  I am sorry but a mother (or aunt, or grandma or human being) does not lose their child for 31 days and not say anything to authorities.  Then there is the duct tape, emails, smells, the partying and pathological lying.  Just the fact that a case is based on circumstantial evidence is not a reason alone for reasonable doubt.  No prosecution’s case is perfect because usually if it is than there is a plea deal and no trial!  Reasonable doubt is not no doubt.  It just makes me sick that she could do this to her beautiful daughter and that she is getting away with it.  I’m sorry but it does.  Plus she was not found to be innocent.  I hate it when people say that . All she was found of is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  There’s a difference!

2. The debate of a debt ceiling has also been on my mind.  Unfortunately I think the Republicans will capitulate to the President and continue the status quo of debt without any guarantee of real reforms.  Cuts will be bantered about but no sacred cows will be touched, no real entitlement reform.  Neither party wants to be seen as the ‘bad guy’ that is hurting babies and senior citizens- how about who is hurting our entire country? The greater debt we sink into the weaker our country becomes.  The only thing that Obama seems willing to cut is defense- something very comforting with the 9/11 ten year anniversary quickly approaching us (even if he cut the entire defense budget it still wouldn’t make a dent when compared to entitlement reforms of medicare, medicaid and social security).  Now Moody is considering lowering our rating, which means the dollar gets weaker, while the Chinese get stronger.  Is that what we want?  Not me.  Come on Republicans- get some guts!

3. On an entirely different note- Can’t wait for the new Harry Potter movie to come out.  I wasn’t nuts about the last one because I felt it dragged a bit, but I am eagerly anticipating this final chapter.  Every review I have read is full of praise (97% on   I am not a huge fantasy fan but I loved the books and have also thoroughly enjoyed the movies.  The performances, special effects, and screen adaptations are first rate.   Its nice to have one summer movie to look forward to.  It just wouldn’t be summer without it. Btw- my sister is seeing it like 4 times this weekend! Now that’s hard core

4. On another movie note I saw Woody Allen’s new movie Midnight in Paris over the weekend and loved it.  For some reason it hasn’t gotten much play but it is a whimsical and funny story of a liberal writer who arrives in Paris with his less-sincere fiance and her parents.  He wants to soak up the mystique of Paris (the photography is great- makes you want to go to Paris so bad!  Anyone interested?).  Meanwhile, the fiance is more interested with her pedantic professor friend who muses in a different sort of way- he is all about knowledge, even trivia, where the writer wonders about life and love.  One night he steps through time and ends up in 1920’s Paris and then meets his literary and artistic idols of the day such as Gertrude Stein, Picaso, and Hemingway.  The movie asks the question- would life be better if only we had lived in a previous golden age?

5. I must admit that coming back from my break has been harder than I would have thought.  I miss the ocean so badly it hurts.  Sometimes I pretend the sound of the traffic outside my apartment is the waves and then I almost don’t want to step on to the patio and have the illusion ruined.  Its been cloudy and gray here and yesterday I was feeling a little depressed.  I have also been struggling to get low blood sugar readings (they are ok) here like the I did in Hawaii.  It makes no sense because I ate terribly in Hawaii. I think it may be that I went longer without eating so my levels got low and just couldn’t rise as much as they do, even with mediocre food.  I have been back at the diet front; however, and I think I have already lost 1 lb.

6.  My trainer is setting up a boot camp system that will help me record my progress in ways besides weight loss.  Starting next Wednesday we are going to do a set of challenges (push ups, tricep  curls, crunches etc).  Then we will repeat the same things every 6 weeks with a small prize for improvement.  I am very excited about.  I am also on the lookout for long-term goals for this year, something sort of like surfing was for me the last 2 years.  Any ideas?

7. Read a book this week that was a real snooze (how do you make the end of the world so dull?  she does it!)  but one of the things that annoyed me is the author threw in a number of references of how lame Fox News is and how the President from Texas (obviously President Bush) is an idiot.  It didn’t have anything to do with the thoroughly boring story but it still annoyed me.  If you want to write an opinion piece call the New York Times, don’t write a novel and subject the rest of us unwillingly to it.

I also reread All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Its funny because you wouldn’t think an animal-phobe like me would like a story about a country vet but I do.  You see the story really isn’t about the animals- but the animal owners.  I counted over 40 different characters that Herriot creates throughout the book.  They are funny, sad, charming and totally delightful.  It is a terrific book- particularly for the light and airy days of the summer.  If you haven’t read it- read it!

8. Had a Chinese cooking lesson with my friends Taylor, Darcy and Melissa.  Was a lot of fun and totally what I needed to get out of my funk. We made egg rolls with pulled pork, pineapple, cabbage, carrots and scallions; along with wantons stuffed with real crab and cream cheese.  I even bought a fry daddy for the activity- something I’ve wanted for years and felt was too fattening.  Its still for a rare indulgence but it is healthier to fry at home.  Anyway, it was a good time and just what I needed.  Sadly I did not take any photos.  I always forget because other people in my family were always taking the photos. Plus, I’m kind of in between cameras right now.  I am still researching before I buy a new one.

9. I received, you won’t believe it, a REFUND from my eye doctor for a payment I had made previous to my surgery.  In order to work I had to pay  my doctor $1356- part deductible and part my 20%.  Well, I get my mail coming home and there is a refund check!  I call the doctors and they said the insurance company only applied $695 to the deductible so the rest was sent as a refund!  Who ever gets money back from the doctor? When does the insurance company cover more than expected?  Never.  I still can’t believe my good luck (and let’s be honest I was due for some good luck after the year I’ve had!)

10.  What did I do with that refund?  Well, I spent a small portion of it on an item I have wanted for several years- I bought a kindle!  Over the course of this trip I realized how much I wanted one and how tired I was of lugging around those heavy books.  I went ahead and ordered the 3G wireless and have been downloading up  a storm- mostly novels before 1923 which are free!  I have all my Jane Austen, George Elliot and Elizabeth Gaskell.  Its great!  I can also download all my audible downloads on the kindle at no extra charge.  I’ve always loved gadgets but come on the kindle is just fun!

this is supposed to look like I am deep in thought 🙂

Anyway, so those are my random thoughts for the day.  I love you all.  Thanks for listening to me ramble…


While I was away on break one of my most anticipated events of the summer occurred- Pixar Studios released its latest pick, Cars 2.  Unfortunately, this appears to be their first dud with a 35% rotten rating on  This comes after a remarkable winning streak with 16 years of fresh movies.  Their previous low was the original Cars at 74%.

I’m actually a little sad to not have my summer Pixar movie (although I will probably see Cars 2 eventually).  As any reader to this blog knows I love movies- particularly films with good writing and interesting characters.  You wouldn’t think this would be a difficult request but of the thousands of films that come out each year it seems only a handful are truly special.

My favorite Pixar movies have it all.  The animation is stunning, the characters funny and interesting and the story is good.  Even a movie like WALL-E, which is very different still drew me in.   On Rotten Tomatoes the first two Toy Story movies have 100% fresh ratings with Toy Story III, Up, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Wall-e, and The Incredibles all over 95%.

Part of the reason I have always felt connected to Pixar is when I was 9 0r 10 my uncle Mark worked there and gave us a video of their  animated shorts. When Toy Story came out I felt like one of the few people who knew what the jumping lamp in their logo meant because I had seen the short years earlier. We also saw Tin Toy, Red’s Dream and Knick Knack years before they were featured as introductions to various films.

It’s always fun to be ‘in the know’ before others- makes you feel special.  I know my Mom and Sister felt this way when Harry Potter became popular.  I’m not sure how she heard about it but they had been ordering the books on the UK for years before they hit US markets.  That was certainly a find!

Anyway, I thought I would give you my list of favorite Pixar movies and try to explain why but truly I love them all.  I will let you know what I think of Cars 2.  After all, I might like it.  Roger Ebert gave it a great review, so you never know. He actually liked it better than the original.

1.  Up- I have seen this movie so many times and it still moves me.  It is funny, sad, and tender-hearted.  Particularly the opening montage depicting a marriage is for my money the most beautiful five minutes ever in film.    The other day I was watching it at the gym and started crying (and I am not a movie crier).  It was funny because I think everyone thought I was having quite the emotional work out!

2.  Finding Nemo- I just rewatched this movie and was blown away once more.  Just the artistry is beautiful.  If you stop to watch each frame the animation of the ocean continues throughout every inch of the screen.  Every character in this movie is funny and sincere- I particularly like the sharks at fisheaters anonymous. It also has terrific voice actors, funny dialogue and a heart tugging story.  Never did a dentist look so sinister!

3. Toy Story- Great voices, endearing characters and a story pleasant for adults and children.  Are there better characters than Woody and Buzz? Teaches so many lessons about friendship and the danger of pride and competition with others. A game-changing classic.

4. The Incredibles- As previously stated in my review of Summer movies, I do not like super hero movies. Leave it to Pixar to win me over with the Incredibles.  A great movie about a family of super heroes that are living on the down-low as normal citizens.   The best part of the Incredibles is it uses the cliches while still making them work- giving us a weaselly villain, a gadget/clothing guru and action scenes mixed with humor.

5. Toy Story II- Rarely does a sequel equal the predecessor but this one does.  The great characters of the toy collector, cowgirl Jesse and the Barbies are wonderful plus the best music of any Pixar.  You would have to be made of stone to not feel emotion during Jesse’s song, When Somebody Loved Me.

6. Ratatouille- How do you make a movie about a rat and still make it appealing?  I hate rats but love Ratatouille.  Some of the best voice work in all of Pixar and a wonderful depiction of a critic with the duplicitous Anton Ego (I love how his office is a coffin!).  I really want to go to Paris someday and movies like this make me want to go even more…

7. Toy Story III- For my money the best part 3 sequel ever.    How do you take the same characters and make them engaging and funny a full 15 years after the original?  Even the Star Wars and the Godfather movies got weaker at the 3rd entry.  I love the addition of Sunnyside Daycare and all the characters and plot points that setting provides.  I also love the idea of the complicated emotions of growing up- it is exciting and sad at the same time.

8.  Bugs Life- The forgotten Pixar film but I recently rewatched it and found it funny, charming and very creative.  Great voice work and who knew grasshoppers were so evil?

9.  WALL-E- Probably the most controversial Pixar, with some loving it and others finding it a big bore.  It reminded me of an old silent movie.  I like that it didn’t tell you everything.  It just presented images and you were free as the viewer to fill in story details.  In a world where original ideas are few and far between I appreciate the gumption it took to make WALL-E.  To me it was a work of art in film-form.

10. Monsters Inc- Its strange this movie is so low on my list because I really liked it. In truth all of the Pixar movies were on my favorite movies of the year when they came out, so they are all winners.  Monsters Inc is a brilliant idea- taking the classic notion of kids fearing monsters in their closet and creating a great story.  I love the voices and dialogue of Mike and Sully.  Also, Boo is so cute.

11. Cars- I think I would have liked Cars more if it had not been about a world with only cars.  Why not make it like Toy Story where the humans don’t know the cars exist?  Its just hard to make a full spectrum of emotions with a car- partly because they don’t have arms or bodies.  I did like the story and the theme of small-town America being forgotten.  The vistas and artistry is beautiful as well as good voice work throughout.

So there is my list…Enjoy some great movies (All are available on Netflix with Toy Story III being a stream). All of these movies I could watch again and again (and I have!)

Back to Reality

So after a 16 day trip involving 6 plane flights, many miles in a car, countless hours in the water and way too much junk food, I am home!   I must admit to having mixed feelings about being back.  On one hand I miss the ocean so much I want to cry but on the other I am tired and ready to get back to my regular life.

I actually started to miss my Utah routine and it is perhaps no surprise that in the two days I’ve been home I have already unpacked, met with my trainer, spent tons of money getting healthy organic food, booked nearly 20 hours of work, held my monthly book club meeting and tomorrow I am having my voice lesson.  As much as I miss the ocean I have to admit that I missed all of these parts of my life.  Its too bad that I can’t have it all- why can’t Utah move and be by an ocean!

It may sound cheesy but at least I have the memory and when I feel depressed I can pull the sound, rhythm and peace of the waves out of my pocket and remember.  I can also look back with great satisfaction at all I accomplished on this trip.  Its funny you think going to the North Shore, Oahu for the 4th time would get old or boring but each vacation feels different.  This one was wonderful because it was so active.  We were constantly walking, swimming, hiking, surfing and more.  There wasn’t as much soaking in the sun as in other trips and I found it immensely satisfying.

Since I started working out I haven’t had a real ‘I did it’ moment.  In other words, I have not felt like I have accomplished much in regards to my fitness/cardiovascular health.  I have seen the weight loss but the huffing and puffing, the fatigue, and aches and pains seem the same.  Especially surfing in Hawaii was the first time I felt a greater physical capacity.  I felt like I could do more and that was great!

On the downside I did not eat very well on my trip so it was important for me to get back working with my trainer the day after I came home- jet lag and all.  I gained 5 lbs in Hawaii but it was worth it.  What a great break!  It has motivated me to have more ‘I did it’ moments and my trainer and I set a goal to lose 15 lbs by the end of the summer- I want to get down to 250.   I am also recommitting myself to the No Fast Food Challenge that I temporarily abandoned on the island.  If anyone wants to join me that’d be great!

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all a little update.  I am back home and happy to be here, even while missing the ocean each moment.  I can’t say enough of my gratitude to my family, friends, colleagues and everyone else who made my trip possible.  Thank you!  I needed it so badly.  It allowed me to reflect on the crazy year I’ve been through and set new goals for the year to come.  It helped me remember that the world is big and magnificent (I’ve seen a lot of my apartment in recent months and it was good to get out!).  Thank you also to everyone who encouraged and loved me as I have struggled through this fitness quest.  It has been harder than I ever imagined and I could not have done it alone.  I feel so fortunate.  Thank you and Mahalo!

By the way, I got a $651 refund- yes you read right, refund- for my surgery!  Turns out the insurance covered more than the doctor expected so I was greeted by a large check upon arriving home.  Does it get better than that?  I still can’t believe it.  I decided in return for my good luck to finally order the kindle I’ve been pining after for like 2 years.  Best summer ever!

love this photo of me