Tuesday, November 29, 2011

i can do hard things

For the past 7 months I have been making plans to put one of my life goals in action: thru hiking the Appalachian Trail.

This is something I have wanted to do ever since my 4th year at Girls Camp. In my stake, the 4th year girls backpacked for 4 days on the AT covering 40-50 miles in Maryland in the month of June, a good time to see plenty of thru hikers making their way from Georgia to Maine.  I was fascinated by their stories, their drive to complete this enormous undertaking, and most of all, the culture of the trail.

Last May, Beau and I did a 4 day hike, covering many of the same parts I had done when I was 15.  On the last day of our trip, I felt so sad to be leaving and kept day dreaming of ways to thru hike.  You know those kind of thoughts- the "what if I...." inserting the "..." with something crazy but fun to think about. What if I left next week and went with the south bounders? What if I joined in with the thru hikers now and did VA-ME this summer, and finish the other half another time? What would thru hiking be like... how would I manage the logistics?  What would my trail name be?

But then I was thinking- why don't I just GO? We don't have kids yet, I don't have a fantastic enough job to keep me from leaving, and most importantly, Beau supports this crazy adventure.  From the beginning, he has been encouraging me to go.  When I say that I don't want to go that long without being together, he assures me he will meet up with me every weekend he can.  When I bring up concerns about day to day logistics, he reassures me that I'm a smart person and I can figure it out.  When I start to think about all the things I will miss when I'm gone, he reminds me that I will miss having this experience even more.

With the reassurance from Beau, I decided that if I wanted to thru hike, I would have to make it happen.  No one was going to plan it for me, buy my gear for me, or put me on Springer Mountain and send me on my way.  I would have to make it happen, and the only thing stopping me would be myself.

So I'm going.  All summer I've been thinking about it and planning a few things, but I've mostly kept it to myself and Beau because, I'll admit, I feel a little silly saying that I'm going to thru hike.  It reminds me of a junior in high school saying, "I'm going to graduate from Harvard!" Uh, sure you are.  Most people who say they are going to thru hike don't actually go. And most of the people who actually set out to begin the trail don't finish.  What makes me think I'm going to be in this small percentage of successful hikers?

I'm aware that it will not be all fun and games.  I try to think about the really not-fun parts (hiking in rain for days, humidity, biting flies in New England, being lonely) as much or more than the awesome ones (making friends on the trail, getting my picture in the book in Harper's Ferry, experiencing trail magic, KATAHDIN). Yes, it's going to be ridiculously enormously hard.  The hardest thing I've ever done physically or mentally. But I know I can do this- I can do hard things.

Friday, November 18, 2011

book review part II

I love reading.

I wanted to pick my top 5 favorite books read in the past year, and thanks to goodreads.com, it was easy for me to look at my comprehensive list to narrow down.  Striking books of this list to come to the "Top 5" was like cutting my arm off.  Not that I have cut my arm off, but nonetheless it was painful.  I felt like the cast off books were really sad to be deleted and not even mentioned.

The Book Thief :: Markus Zusak

I love books based on the Holocaust, but sometimes they blend together.  The way this is written, from the perspective of Death, is fascinating and captivating, standing out from any other World War II book I've read.  Death, while you would expect "him" to be gloomy, is actually personified as compassionate and, at times, oddly humorous.
"There was once a strange, small man. He decided three important details about his life:
1. He would part his hair from the opposite side to everyone else.
2. He would make himself a small, strange mustache.
3. He would one day rule the world.
...Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words."

The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio :: Terry Ryan

Likeable account of a woman in the 1950's trying to provide for her family by winning prizes and money through contests.  Unintentionally, this is the only book in this list that isn't a little dark. I found it very entertaining and actually a little inspiring. I mostly appreciated the story shows that you don't have to be wealthy or have a perfect life to be happy.  This book makes me want to be persistent.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea :: Barbara Demick

Other than some education from 30 Rock, I knew very little about North Korea.  Because the media is so restricted in gathering information about the conditions there, the author interviewed several North Koreans who had defected to South Korea or China.  During the first few chapters, I kept having to remind myself of the time period.  I caught myself picturing the setting in the 1940s because of the technology and culture, but seeing a date and realizing it was actually in the 1990s.  It is fascinating and heartbreaking to read about this country and culture.

The Cellist of Sarajevo :: Steven Galloway

Another book proving my cultural ignorance.  What Bosnian siege? While the novel is based on actual events, these characters are made up/loosely based on real people.  I loved that the chapters were from 4 different character's perspectives, bringing a greater understanding to what was going on while Sarajevo civilians were under attack by snipers, or "men in the hills".

Cutting for Stone  :: Abraham Verghese

Possibly the most beautifully written novels I have ever read.  I don't think I could put into words an accurate "review", other than the second I finished the last page I wanted to start it all over again.

Okay, I guess I will mention the runner's up that I don't want to feel neglected:
Bossypants :: Tina Fey
The Nazi Officer's Wife :: Edith H. Beer
Half Broke Horses :: Jeannette Walls

Isn't reading the best? I love goodreads.com as a way to keep track of what I've read and to get ideas from other people on what I might want to read.  Does anyone have any books they can suggest for me to read next?

Monday, November 7, 2011

time out for halloweekend get away

Ever since the MD Horse Trials, Jimmy has been a little off (someone forgot to remind him he's 22 and shouldn't be so exuberant cross country) so we have unfortunately not been able to show the rest of the season.  The good thing is that this allows me to actually do other things on weekends.

Several months ago, Gram wanted to organize a girls weekend, and planned for any family who was available to attend Time Out for Women in Richmond.  Time Out is sponsored by Deseret Book and reminds me of an EFY for adult women. Unfortunately, Gram's sister passed away the week prior and was unable to attend, but it still provided for a fun weekend.

Fantastic pizza place in downtown Richmond

Capitol building? I guess? Also, some good stairs to add to our morning run.

The whole group- my sisters & mom plus aunts Melody and Melaney and cousin Bethanie

Me, Pagie, mom, Ashley, Reagan and Truman

After watching all 5 X-Men movies in the past week, Beau and I were feeling the super hero love when thinking of Halloween costumes.

SuperBeau and SuperMackenzie.

Me and T-Man at the ward party.

Beau and I did something last weekend we've never done before. We took off work Friday and went away for a weekend JUST FOR FUN.  And by "away", I really mean a hour and a half south to Front Royal.  Although anyone who's familiar with northern Virginia knows that an hour and a half south can feel like you actually traveled into another state, country, or possibly decade.

Friday night dinner- Element in Front Royal. Highly recommend.  The menu was quite short, so I was a little disappointed at first that there was nothing I was super jazzed about ordering.  The table next to me got the black bean and beef quesadillas, and they looked super yummy so I went with that. Beau got pork chops with cabbage and root mash (what?) and it was AMAZING.  Root mash, in case you were wondering, is a mashed concoction of carrots, potatoes, rutabegas, parsnips, squash, or any other tuber.  Then I wanted to try a bite of everything on the menu because if they can make cabbage delicious, I can only imagine what the Blue Cheese Crusted Mignottes would be like.

Anyway, the next morning we went for a bike ride in Shenandoah Natoinal Park.  Lovely lovely.

I thought this sign was cool. 

Who spells Mackenzie with out a "c"? This was our lunch destination on Saturday.  30 different burgers on the menu, and Beau chose this monster:

Of course, we stopped by the barn on the way home and Beau sat on Jimmy for the first time.

Fuzzy, fat, and ready for retirement.

I was talking about Jimmer.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

horses and seagulls

In October, I competed in my very first horse trial.  Horse trials are different from the shows I've done since I was a kid- those were typically a jumping or flat class that was judged on either the horse or the rider's performance.  Recently, I've gotten into eventing, kind of a triathlon for riding.  There are three phases: dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country.  Dressage is on the flat and judged on the accuracy and performance of a prescribed test.  Stadium jumping is over about 10 jumps in an arena, with penalties for going over time or knocking rails down.  Cross country is over natural obstacles on a longer course in fields and woods and such, with penalities for time.

Jimmy has competed in the highest level of eventing in his younger days, and I entered us in the lowest  divison. :) It's always good when you're super nervous at a show for the jumps to seem small.  Anyway, rather than getting unnecessarily super detailed about everything, here are some photos from the photographer's site.

Beau's photography skills
smiling because I'm finished!

I finished 6th, so I was pleased to be in the ribbons on my first time out! There were lots of professionals in my division, and I saw later I was 3rd among the amateurs.  Yay for horses.

Speaking of event pictures... check out this shot of Beau at the Seagull Century!

Beau went with some guys from our ward down to Assateague and fought head wind and wild ponies for several hours.

Beau's awesome post race hair, with little ridges where the air vents are in his helmet.

Next up is the Mistletoe Half Marathon with my sister in Winston-Salem, NC.  On Saturday, Page asked if I had done a long run that day, and it occurred to me I have done absolutely zero preparation.  Oops.  Let's see if I can squeeze in some training in the next 4 weeks.