Category Archives: Challenges

Needs Improvement

This week I’m taking an online workship by Franklin Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I just read/listened to the book so it’s been quite interesting to see the examples in the workshop offering more insight. One of the habits, Sharpening the Saw, is all about improving yourself (your circle of influence) in four key areas: Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul.

Body: This is basically making sure you get plenty of sleep, exercise, and healthy food.

Mind: Yep, anything having to do with improving your mental capacity, such as reading, writing, thinking, and discussing.

Heart: Making consistent deposits in people’s emotional bank account. In other words, doing something the other person deems as positive (you may not necessarily get it) as a way to improve your relationship.

Soul: Regardless of whether you’re a religious person, this about improving your spiritual side. Reading spiritual literature, meditating, and praying.

They had a questionnaire to fill out to see how you stack up right now (prior to including the 7 habits in your life). I found it quite interesting!

Key Areas

I wasn’t all that surprised by my Soul score (sounds like a song!) because I knew I had work to do here. What I was surprised by was my Body and Heart scores. I workout 4-5 times a week, but my food is not as good as it should be. I’m also guessing that my Heart score is low because I can tend to get negative. Again, these are things I’ve constantly been struggling with!

Right now I’m reading Erin McHugh’s One Good Deed, which is a book about her choice to do one good deed a day for a year. The subtitle says it all: 365 days of trying to be just a little bit better. In December, I challenged myself to do one random act of kindness a day. I truly enjoyed doing most of these but was starting to run out of ideas. I think Erin is on to something…it should be just about trying to be a better person each day. It doesn’t have to be random, although it will usually work out that way, or anonymous. From what I’ve learned in Stephen Covey’s book and by using the outlook that Erin used in her’s, I think I’m finally figuring out how to turn myself in to the person I want to be. I’m not saying I’ll do one good deed a day for a year, but really…why shouldn’t I strive to? How difficult can it be to just be a little bit nicer and more compassionate?! I think it may be a struggle at first since I typically have “dark storm clouds” following me as my husband says but it’s a struggle I’m ready to take if it means replacing the dark clouds with sunshine and blue birds (a little over the top, huh? Yeah, I agree…but you get my point!).

So, with that in mind…it’s off to finish my workshop and figure out some goals for the day!

31 Days of Random Acts of Kindness

In November I decided that I wanted to bring back the holiday spirit to Christmas time and help others out in the process. My main goal was to bring a smile to someone else’s day in some small fashion. I put forward a challenge to my friends and family, but mainly I challenged myself to do one random act of kindness (RAOK) a day for the month of December. Some people participated and some cheered me on. I have to say, this gave me a whole different perspective on how I go about my days. After a month, I’m finding myself looking for opportunities to do something for someone. Before, I would just hurry about my day so I could go home and veg out. I rarely put thought into how a complete stranger’s day may be going. Now, I look forward to possibly brightening their day just a tad! I repeated some of the RAOKs because I’m not that creative!
This is the challenge I put forth:
My Friends and Family, I have been doing a lot of thought lately about the holidays and the fact that everything is so commercialized that we often lose sight of what’s important in the rush to get “that toy”. I have a challenge I’ll be starting on December 1. I would love for any, or all!, of you to join me. I am going to do at least 1 random act of kindness each day in December. #1) It’s in giving that you truly receive gifts and blessings. #2) By putting other’s first, even if for a moment, we stop long enough to understand that we’re all in this together and need a helping hand from time to time. If you participate, I’d love for you to post on my profile what your RAOK was so I can live vicariously! If you choose not to participate, that’s ok too. As I said, this is a challenge I’m putting forth for myself but would love to see others join me! Love to you all.
RAOK #1: Letting the person behind me go before me when checking out.
RAOK #2: Handed the waiter a card with some money in it to give to a person/family he felt deserved it.
RAOK #3: dropped a dollar on the floor of Office Depot with a note. I was told I shouldn’t spy on my
RAOK, but I had to see what happened! Several people passed it up but one of the workers at the store found it!
RAOK #4: Eating all of the peppermint bark in the office kitchen so the others didn’t eat mindless calories!
ok ok… My actual RAOK! Gave stamps to the Postal worker to give to the next person in line.
RAOK #5: Tipping 50% at lunch today.
RAOK #6: Taped a dollar to the coke machine at work.
RAOK #7: Gave Mr. Newspaper a gift certificate for dinner. He’s the guy always selling newspapers at 242 and 45.
RAOK #8: Left a dollar in the bathroom stall on a small shelf. In hind sight that probably wasn’t the best idea.
RAOK #9: Donated a $5 B&N gift card to Methodist Children’s Hospital.
RAOK #10: Took a stray shopping cart into the store.
RAOK #11: Let a couple of people ahead of me in the car. Anyone that knows my driving knows I usually speed up and let them go behind! 😀
RAOK #12: Gave a friend some foreign currency and a fifty cent piece for his son who insisted they had to have one in the couch cushions!
RAOK #13 and #14: I’m running out of ideas, so I’m repeating some. Moved the cart from the parking lot to the store and allowed people to go in front of me in line.
RAOK #15: I made a plate of food and took it up to a fellow employee.
RAOK #16: I said good morning and smiled (as best as i could!) at everybody I passed during my 11 mile run!
RAOK #17: Keeping a smile and positive attitude when the girl at Walgreens told me they lost my prescription. They finally found it 20 minutes later.
RAOK #18: Picked up trash littered on the ground.
RAOK #19: Instead of remoting onto two co-workers’ computers I walked to their buildings and provided face to face service. One woman I had to go to her office, the other two were to provide a more personal experience! 😀
RAOK #20: put a dollar on a random car. The owner of the first car showed up as I was about to put the dollar on there. That’s ok, this person looks like they need the smile more!
RAOK #21: Tipped the waiter, Cidney, 55%.
RAOK #22: After taking my Mother-in-law to a couple of doctors appointments today I offered to take her anywhere else she wanted go instead of hurrying home like I wanted to.
RAOK #23: Left a tip for the hotel housekeeper even though we were only staying one night.
RAOK #24: Left some money…page 301!
RAOK #25: Left a dollar in the cup holder at the movie theater (the Hobbit).
RAOK #26: Maybe not so random but I helped Mom with all the dishes, cleaning, and even gave her my seat!
RAOK #27: Paid for the car behind me at Starbucks.
RAOK #28: Donated money to the local heritage museum.
RAOK #29: Left money in the “take a penny” jar (more than a penny!).
RAOK #30 and #31: took a stray cart back to the store, picked up litter, and donated money to Big Brothers and Sisters.

5K Foam Fest – Austin, Tx

On October 20th, I joined Amy and Jeremy to play in the suds in Austin! We’d been signed up for the foam fest for a while and I was extremely excited but as the day got closer I kept thinking “What did I get myself in to!”. I’ve done normally 5K’s, a 1o miler, and a couple of 1/2 marathons but I’ve never done anything like a mud run or foam fest. This video sold me, however!

I stayed in Marble Falls since the race was at Reveille Peak Ranch (AKA…No Man’s Land). There was a beautiful pavilion with an in ground hot tub and a couple of bar areas if you wanted to have a party. It was situated right on the lake where some of our obstacles took place. In fact, from the lily pad obstacle it looked a lot like the photo below:

Borrowed from

So, just to give you an idea of what the course looked like, it was 3.1 miles with 19 obstacles, 10 of which were at the very end of the course!

The first obstacle was the mud hole, which was just as the name says: A big hole of mud. You would think with the name Foam Fest that you’d be pretty clean through this race, but it was more of a Mud and Foam Fest! We hit our first bottle neck at the Spider Forest. They didn’t plan that out very well. I think we were stuck behind people from a previous wave as well. It was moving a little slowly because everyone kept trying to hole the ropes for the people behind them. It may have gone faster if we all just let everyone get through it the best they could, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Just kinda killed the buzz a little!

I was surprised at how much the elevation changed on the course. I expected it to be slightly hilly because we’re in the Hill Country, but I wasn’t expected it to be that big of a change. Definitely got the heart rate up! The Holy Foam and Moon Walk obstacles were kinda difficult to get in to just because your feet are wet and you’re trying to walk up a slippery, bouncy surface! I had the bright idea to jump out the other end and land on the slope on my butt instead of trying to walk down it. Only problem with that was my butt slid all the way to the ground and I couldn’t get my feet under me in time. I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty site!

The walls…sigh…they had slats so I thought we’d be able to climb them like a ladder. However, I could barely get my toes in between the slats. I skipped the first two walls (set of 3) and tried again on the 3rd. I got up and had a leg over but couldn’t figure out how to rotate my foot to get a toehold so I could swing over. Thinking back on it now, I should have laid on my belly and just flopped!

The cargo climb was scarier than I thought it would be. It was 12 foot high and quite wobbly. A lot of people were going at the same time so that made the whole thing shake. I almost froze on the top, but thankfully Amy was there talking me through it. I was coming down the other side when a jerk flipped over the top therefore shaking the rope hard. I almost lost my grip and fell the rest of the way. He shouts “That’s how you’re supposed to do it!” to which I responded “yeah, and scare the hell out of everyone else because you gave no warning. That was excellent!” I was none too thrilled.

I have to be completely honest, I was disappointed in the slip n’ slides. I thought they’d be on a downhill angle so you could really get going but they weren’t. You just had to run and jump. If you’re built like Jeremy, you could fly to the end! However, if you’re built like me…you get stuck 1/2 way through and have to crawl out on hands and knees!

The Aqua Lilly Pad looked like you laid 5 or 6 yoga mats out over the water and had to run across them. The trick was to keep moving. I fell on mat #2 and decided to crawl the rest of the way so I didn’t hold up the line any longer than necessary. This was the second bottle neck area, and again it slowed the race excitement down some. The next obstacle was the tube crossing which was quite fun! I got to the last one and was having a hard time rolling myself off the tube so I could get out of the water and on to the next one! Yep…grace…my middle name!

borrowed from

Some of the obstacles were just a little silly, like the Bouncey Ball Attack and Stumpy Jumper. Meh…now, the Electric Crawl…that was interesting. Yep, it was literally an electric cable strewn up over top of where you were supposed to crawl. Jeremy’s curiosity got the best of him and he touched it. I heard it zap him pretty good…so it was live wire, not just for looks! We all tore our racing bibs on this part of the course. It was quite hard crawling on the rocks and mud. My elbows were scraped up pretty good afterward.

We had a “Death Drop” toward the end that scared me to death! hahaha…wish I had a picture. Basically, it was a huge inflatable water slide. You had to climb up a “ladder” on the one side. I had to hold on the ropes on the side to climb to the top because I kept feeling like I was going to fall down! Once at the top the guy said to cross my feet and arms and go. I sat down and saw Jeremy at the end, waiting for Amy and me to drop to our demise. Before I could talk myself out of it I crossed my feet and scooted over the edge. I’m pretty sure I screamed all the way down!

From there we went through another mud hole and over a mud hill. Then they expected us to walk across logs…yeah…with slippery, muddy feet. That makes sense! I tried a couple of times but just had to give it up. I walked through the water instead! Then…finally, at the very end was the 50 foot slip n’ slide. Jeremy and I both went at the same time. This time, he even got stuck 1/2 way through!

Yay for having a camera in your face right at the end! Can you tell we were tired?!

Not sure what I was doing here:

Unfortunately, Amy wasn’t in any of my shots so I don’t really have any of her throughout the race. But, I do have some at the end!

We are so going to rock this race again next year! If you don’t count the time we took standing around to do some of the obstacles, we finished in 59:18! Oh, and that lovely hot tub I was talking about:

Taken from

It was destroyed by kids and people washing off in it! Someone had a lot of cleaning to do, and probably repair work, afterward. Maybe they’ll make sure it’s drained next year!

Time Warp!

It’s just a jump to the left….

Hello My Lovelies! I’m so sorry I haven’t been around for the past month. Apparently, I’ve had my head in the clouds and have just lost all sense of time. How have things been going for y’all?

On the weight loss front, I’m still hanging around 188lbs. That’s probably because my eating hasn’t been the greatest. My exercise has been outstanding, if I do say so myself. Check this out, BAM:

My eating on the other hand, yeah…not so much. I have been struggling with getting my eating back under control after vacation and learning that I’m allergic to rice and lemons. Who’s allergic to rice and lemons?! Sigh…that’s alright though. I’ll keep pushing through! 😀 Seriously though, a month of not eating well (now, I didn’t go all hog wild either) is quite enough.

I am encouraged by the fact that I didn’t really gain any weight during my month long binge. Maybe one day I will be able to maintain my weight without logging everything I eat!

Let’s look at the self-improvement areas now. I mentioned that I am trying to better myself (better worker, wife, family member, all around human) and have made a list of virtues I want to uphold. Unfortunately, I’ve not been doing very good at keeping these in mind as I fly off the handle because someone doesn’t know how to drive. That being said, I need to read this list every morning until I have them emblazoned on my frontal lobe. I recently took FranklinCovey’s 5 Choices web conference and learned some interesting tidbits that may help me with this.

By working through the 5 Choices each day when looking at tasks, we can create a culture in the work place where we focus on the important, not just the urgent. This can also be beneficial in our personal life as well. For example, is one of your roles that of a “Spouse”? By identifying the role statement (e.g. As a Spouse, I will foster a closer relationship with my Husband through quality one-on-one time together) and creating actionable goals (e.g. Schedule 52 date nights this year) we can create a clear road map for being productive in that role/relationship. Once you’ve identified the actionable items, book them on your calendar and follow through.

Every decision of the day should run through the 5 Choices in order to continue the desired culture/environment. To learn more about this process, FranklinCovey offers the 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity as an online web conference that lasts 1 day. It consists of three 90 minute sessions with an hour long break in between. You will be expected to participate in the group discussions and/or chat boxes. They will provide you with the tools, but it is up to you to follow through.

So, I am going to attempt to put the 5 Choices stuff in place this month and see if it makes any difference in my life. Not only will I be using this at work (which it is mainly about) but in my every day personal life. I need to take more time to connect with my friends and family. Life isn’t only about getting a paycheck!

Oh, and HAPPY FALL!! I’m so excited to have some cooler weather this morning. It was actually a little crisp and made me want to roll in the leaves except it was dewy and dark and who knows what else I would have been rolling in. O_O

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Many years ago I went with my parents to Zion National Park where we attempted to hike Angels Landing. My Mother and I made it to Scout Lookout but that was as far as we went. My Father tried to go to Angels Landing but turned out when he realized how tough it was going to be. Now that I’m in better shape, I decided that I wanted Mike and I to tackle Angels Landing this year. I had already climbed a rock wall this year, surely I could hike this trail!

One of the stops on the shuttle trail takes you to the trail head for the Narrows. From this stop, you can see the Great White Throne (left) and the end of Angels Landing (right). We weren’t able to actually see anyone, but I’m sure there were people there!

Mike and I started the hike around 7:40-8:00 AM. The shuttles will drop you off at the Grotto, where the trail starts, before the visitor center opens so if you want to hike this trail with minimal direct sunlight, I recommend starting early! I had just learned the day before that the hike to Scouts Lookout was 2 miles, not 1, and the hike to Angels Landing was .55 miles, not .25. So, the entire hike was twice as long as I had expected! The total mileage will be 5.4 miles.

As we were on the shuttle heading that way I started getting more and more nervous. I always get nervous before races and this was pretty much that same feeling. What if I couldn’t make it? What if I had to tell my friends and family that I had to turn around? All of these thoughts were going through my head but I managed to keep them turned down enough that I didn’t chicken out!

From the Grotto you cross over the street to the steel bridge.

The first part of the trail is by far the easiest! So, enjoy it while you can! You’re well in the canyon on start and the views from the bottom are almost as beautiful as from the top! It follows the river for a bit and we saw some wildlife.

The trail slowly starts angling upward heading to Walters Wiggles (a ton of switchbacks that aren’t nearly as fun as the name implies).

These Whiptails (not sure if that’s the right name or not but we saw a restaurant in town with a metal version of the lizard, by that name, so that’s what we called them!) were all over the place!

After going up a few of the switchbacks, I took a break to shoot a picture from where we started.

I stopped to take several -ahem- picture breaks…yeah, picture breaks!

And…the wiggles just kept on going!

We finally came upon a section of the trail that went between two mountains and was relatively flat, which enabled us (me, as Mike seemed unshakable) to catch our breath some. It was quite pretty and cool (since the sun wasn’t shining through yet).

 Just when you think  you’re almost to Scout Lookout, the smaller wiggles attack. Holy Steepness, Batman! I had to stop a lot more on these tiny switchbacks than I did the larger ones. You can’t see how many are left, so just when you’re thinking you’ve got to be close to the top you’re faced with yet another climb.

Then finally, you reach Scout Lookout which isn’t very big but it’s big enough for someone to wait comfortably while you finish the hike to Angels Landing, or eat a snack or lunch. The views are quite nice from here as well!

If you look to the right you can see the trail to Angels Landing, as well as the Great White Throne.

I sat down for a bit while Mike decided to go check things out. By check things out, I mean he climbed to the end to see if it was something he thought I could do! My legs/muscles weren’t tired at all (which was an improvement) but my breathing was horrible. Between my throat issues and the higher altitude (I’m a flatlander!) I was fighting for oxygen. That’s Mike in the white T-shirt and jeans.

While he was climbing, I was watching the chipmunks scurry around. They kept checking out my water bottle and hoping I’d give them food. Sorry little guys, but I’m not feeding the wildlife!

The rise of rock is a little misleading from this angle. It doesn’t look that bad.

I was able to use my 42x zoom to see Mike on the top ridge! I love my camera. At least I knew he’d made it that far!

This is the ridge he was on, right at the end of the trail.

Soon enough I saw Mike back close to the bottom waving at me to come on. On my way to the start, where the chains begin, I see this sign. Yep, in the last 8 years 6 people have fallen to their deaths. That’s almost one a year. Not very comforting!

As I sat at Scouts Lookout, I saw several people start the climb only to stop and go back down. As I got closer and started climbing, I understood why. Yes, there are chains there for your use, but the chains don’t go from beginning to end. They kinda stop and start in different places. In fact, there is one spot where there are no chains and it’s not very clear where you need to go. When in doubt, just keep going up.

After climbing what felt like hours (was more realistically just about 15 minutes) I could see the daunting task still left ahead. I’m not necessarily afraid of heights, but I’m afraid of falling. I’m a bit of a clutz, so I was concerned that I’d be one of the people who made a wrong step and tumble to my death. My game plan was to just keep my eyes on where I was stepping and not look over the edge too often. Since it’s only one way up and one way down, we had to move over several times to either let people pass going up or going down. It was at those moments I’d look around and snap some pictures.

There were several spots on this trail that had drop offs right next to the trail.

Take this spot for instance, only about 3-4 feet of a rock bridge separate you from…


The climb was slow and strenuous. I was asked a couple of times if I had asthma and even had someone offer me her inhaler, so I know I was huffing and puffing pretty good! Mike, on the other hand, is part billy goat and had no issues. We had come pretty far so far and I was feeling pretty confident I was going to make it, finally!

See?! I told you these guys were everywhere, even way the heck on the top of the mountains.

We finally made it to the end! You can sort of see where we started the trail (center) here.

The view was gorgeous. There was a 360 degree view of Zion Canyon! By the time we got to the top it had taken up 2 hours and 15 minutes. The sun was starting to glare down and was quite hot most of the way down too.

You can see the river winding through.

From the top, the Great White Throne doesn’t seem as high up! Proof that I actually did make it. That’s right…I was able to quiet the doubting voices and push through. Even Mike wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it to the top, but I proved him wrong too! He didn’t tell me that until we were done though, which I was thankful for.

There were a lot of people taking their time at the end, enjoying the views, taking pictures, re-hydrating, and refueling. Mike and I stayed for a bit. After all, how often are you going to get views like this?!

But, in the end, we knew we had a long way to go to get back to the start again!

Was it worth all of the huffing, puffing, and discomfort to hike Angels Landing? Yes, it was. It was worth all of that and more to prove to myself that I could do it. Will I hike it again? Maybe eventually, but not any time soon! The total time of the hike was 3:51:04 (of hiking, that doesn’t count the times we stopped at Scouts Lookout and at the end of Angels Landing). If you plan on giving it a go, wear sunscreen, start early, and take plenty of water and food to keep your energy up.