Why Top 45?

These are the things that float to the top of my list of activities that I want to do for the year 2012 when I am 45 years old. The list is comprised of things that I have either never tried or have wanted to try and just didn't have the courage or time to do it. Follow along and watch my progress and feel free to comment or add words of encouragement to help keep me going for the next 365 days!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fly Like An Eagle

     There were many things that I _did_ do when I lived in San Diego for three years, and many things that I wanted to do that I didn't.  I worked at the San Diego Supercomputer Center for three years and it is located across the street from the Torrey Pines Glider Port.  For three years, I kept saying that I needed to go and check it out and I never did.  During those three years, my friend Greg, spent a good bit of time there, getting his pilot's license and spending hours learning how to use the equipment and fly on his own.
     When I was compiling my list of 45 things, I remembered how fondly Greg spoke about paragliding and how peaceful it was.  I told myself when I was making my list that it would not involve anything life threatening and technically speaking I guess paragliding could be borderline life-threatening, I had not heard about anyone dying from it.
     I called up the Gliderport on Tuesday morning and they said that conditions were right and the winds were favorable for flying so I put on a baseball cap and took off to fly above the cove.  My instructor/tandem pilot was Bob.  His description reads as follows:
"Bob Hammond is a lifelong resident of La Jolla.  Bob has been a Gliderport participant for over 40 years.  In the mid-70's Bob hang glided in the mountains, and in 2004 he transformed his dreams of free flight into paragliding.  Bob reflects a very patient and mellow approach to training newer pilots.  He works with students at their own pace to ensure that they receive a top quality learning experience.  Bob holds USHPA Advanced Paragliding Instructor and Tandem Instructor ratings."
Bob was definitely patient and gave me clear instructions on how the take off would happen.  He didn't just say, "Ready, set, jump off the cliff!," but it wasn't too much more difficult than that.
      It is amazing how the gentle wind completely grabbed hold of the chute and yanked us into the air with barely any sensation of falling.  We turned toward the north and we were off!  We spent about 30 minutes gliding alternatively past the Torrey Pines Golf Course to the north and multi-million dollor homes to the south of the gliderport.  One home that Bob pointed out to me was valued at about $80m and was owned by the man who started one of the grocery chains in California. 

Torrey Pines to the north.

I wasn't going to tempt fate and carry my camera or iPhone with me and risk dropping it the 400 yards to the beach so I have to rely on the photos taken by the gliderport photog.  And here is as close as he got proving that it was actually me.

It's Me!
I really enjoyed the ride and the peacefulness of floating above the Torrey Pines Cliffs.  However, since I did start to experience a slight attack of dizziness due to inner ear issues so while I probably won't paraglide again, I am very glad that I have tried it at least once and it is tough to beat the view from these seats!
Fly like an eagle!

Coming up soon:
List update and UT Football!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

World Champion

    A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Southern California to work on two of my list items and get a little break from work and relax.   No, I didn't instantly become a world champion surfer, but my surf instructor Alisa Schwarzstein-Cairns _is_ a world champion and legend in the surfing world.  You can read about her here, here, and here.  Special thanks to my cousin, Fabiola for introducing me to Alisa because she was the perfect instructor for me.  Alisa didn't waste a lot of time grilling me on popping up on my board on the beach nor did she take too much time instructing me on how to recognize when a wave is good to catch because she was going to do that for me.  She either did none of the above because a) she knew I was a quick learner or b) she didn't think I had a chance of getting up and staying up and didn't want to waste our time.

Surf Kooks!
     After wiggling and giggling myself into the wetsuit and swim booties and the requisite (according to Christianne) photo in front of the 'kooks' sign we were off to the beach.  The biggest thing that struck me on the descent to the water, was the image of about 20 surfers floating about 10 yards out in the water gazing out to sea watching for the perfect wave.  They looked like sea lions popping up through the waves as bad ones rolled by them.  I must admit it caused me a little bit of anxiety thinking about trying get up on the board around so many people, but that feeling quickly passed when I remembered that I would be out there with Alisa.  She went over the key points again, including that when I fall, the best way to go down is with my butt first.  A round of hugs to Fab and Christianne and we were off.  Masters swimming practice definitely helped with the paddle out as well as the pull up on the board.
     On the first attempt, Alisa told me to turn and start paddling quickly.  I did as I was told and suddenly received a huge push from behind, tried to pull up on the board and promptly fell.  In my head I was thinking, "Man, I thought I was doing great paddling myself, but that Alisa is so powerful coming from behind to push me."  After a couple more tries and falls....

Hang Ten!!!!
....I GOT UP!!!!!
   I can totally see why surfing can become addicting and it is probably a good thing that I don't live on the west coast because I would be out there watching for waves to ride like those 20 others.  It was truly exhilarating and exciting and just so much fun.  I could have gone on forever, but after about 2 hours and several successful rides, my body just wouldn't let me paddle out anymore and we called it a day.

Alisa and Me after surfing

Thanks to Fabiola for introducing me to Alisa, for Alisa and for Christianne my cheerleader and photographer.  The end of the day was enjoying a glass of wine, watching the Olympics with Fabiola and Chuck, and getting to watch the sunset of Laguna Beach from the balcony chez Kinder.

Laguna Sunset

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Which Came First

     We all know the line, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg," and of course, this post relates to my desire to get at least 1 egg from a chicken that lived in my backyard.  Many people have conjectured why I have this urge.  My friend, Alison, says that I am obsessed with the idea because of my impending menopause and that I want the egg from a chicken because I won't be producing my own sometime in the near future.  Thanks Alison.
     I believe that I have placed this on my list because of remnants of childhood.  I remember spending time on my cousins' farm as a child and also remember having a large garden at one of the houses we lived in when I was younger.  We didn't have chickens there, but at one point we did have rabbits, 52 at one time to be exact.   I had forgotten how many we had until I was watching one of those old home movies and in video from that time, there was a homemade "Vacancy" sign attached to the rabbit pen and I asked my mom how many we had and was amazed at the response.  I hadn't remembered that number but do remember that the fried "chicken" legs I ate from time to time looked a little different than I had remembered from KFC.
     Last year was a trial run with the chickens.  At Nicole's school, the 1st graders get eggs in the spring and place them in incubators while studying the life cycle of chickens and to observe the chicks pecking out of the shell and then get to have the chicks in the classroom for a bit.  My friend Susan had arranged for us to get some of the chicks and raise them in a pen in my backyard.  Since I was not a professional chick sexer a la Dirty Jobs and Mike Rowe (see the video below) it was going to be luck of the draw on hens vs. roosters.

     It takes about 5 months before you know the sex of a chicken.  Around the 5 month mark, one of the two white chickens started to crow.  Upon closer inspection, the two white chickens had spurs on their legs just above their feet, identifying them as male.  After a couple of weeks, I had gotten pretty tired of the crowing and also didn't want to annoy my neighbors too much.  I called a local farm store and they said they would take the two white roosters off my hands.  Since I didn't want the remaining, multicolored chicken to be lonely, I bought a hen from Callahan's when I dropped off the two offending roosters.
     The new chicken was multicolored like the 3rd of the original 3.  I could tell it was going to be trouble from the get go.  One morning while Nicole was letting them out of the coop to the chicken run, the new chicken got out and started to climb a tree attempting to escape to the greenbelt behind the pen.  We both tried to capture it and it just kept climbing higher.  I got the brilliant idea to try to use the pool net to snag him out of the tree and put him back into the coop, only the execution was not as smooth.  After using the 3-rung ladder that was close by to climb on top of the shed/coop, I couldn't net the chicken nor could I get down off of the coop.  Nicole had to have my neighbor, Suzy, rescue me with their tall ladder.  Nicole and I decided to take a short, breakfast break and we had to wait for Susan and her husband and son, Jon and Sean, to come and help us.  It took the three adults armed with a rake, long stick and swimming pool net and the two kids to capture the chicken and get him back to the safety of the chicken run.
     About a week after the new chickens arrival, the third of the first set of chickens decided to start crowing too.  As we were leaving on vacation, I didn't have time to take this rooster, disguising as a hen, to Callanhan's for an exchange, so I decided I would do so upon returning.  Unfortunately, last year's heat was brutal.  While in Savannah, I got a call from Susan who was caring for the chickens, that the third of the original batch had died due to the heat, which I have come to find out is pretty normal due to the Texas summers.  I didn't want to tell Nicole because I was worried that she would be upset but when I finally did tell her, her first reaction was, "Aw." then promptly exclaimed, "Friend chicken!"
     While trying to help the last chicken not perish from the heat, during the day I would prop open the door to the coop and attach a huge piece of 4X4 cattle guard to the doorway of the coop to let the air circulate even though the chicken also had a chicken run to the side.  One afternoon I had gone out to check on it and there were multicolored feathers on the outside of the cattle guard.  I felt horrible because I figured another animal like a fox or something had come from the greenbelt, climbed into the coop, and got the chicken.  Then, a day later, I saw the "hen" in the greenbelt just beyond the chicken wire the lines our property and it started to crow.  He tormented us for a couple of days walking back and forth along our property line crowing each morning.  I tried to help it come back by placing the chicken ladder that Jon had constructed over the chicken wire, but the chicken eventually disappeared into the greenbelt.  I did hear it about a week latter crowing deep in the mini-forest then the crowing ended.
     At first I thought I was not meant to have chickens, as did my vegetarian friend, Alison, then I decided I would not give up on this idea and put it on my list to get at least one egg from a hen in the backyard.   We eventually got some hens from a neighbor who was relocating and on the morning of Nicole's birthday...

Ta da!
Thanks to everyone who made this possible including Susan, Sean and Jon for helping build the chicken coop/run, my neighbors who put up with the crowing from last year and to Suzy for going so far as to buy some organic eggs to secretly place one in the coop in case this year was as disastrous as last year and being supportive of my goals.  Also to Kellyn who, as she says, "Does not do chickens" but has helped care for them from time to time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

List Update - End of Summer

Just a quick post to update the status of the list...I have had to change a few things in the interest of time and physical ability, but many things remain the same.  I am in the home stretch of the year and the list and truly hope to accomplish all of them.

  •    Get physical exercise 5-6 times a week for 45 weeks - Ongoing
    •    Austin 5k - Run for the Water
    •    Danskin Triathlon - June
    •    Highland Lakes Challenge - October
    •    135/8 - Ongoing
    •    Masters swimming meet/ 3x3 Challenge - TBD
    •    Diva Dash - April
    •    Change Hair - January
    •    Passport Vacation - TBD
    •    Trip to San Diego with Kim & Stacy and others – July/August
    •     Paragliding - August
    •     Surfing  - August
    •     Snowboarding/skiing – November/December
    •     Chicken S*&t Bingo - Fall
    •     Zip lining - March
    •     Make bed each weekday morning - Ongoing
    •     Plant garden/produce veggies and herbs - Spring
    •     Get an egg from hens - Spring
    •     Empty kitchen sink each weekday night - Ongoing
    •     Redecorate Nicole’s room for 10th birthday - June
    •     Blanton B Scene Art Party - November 30
    •     AMOA Opening - Janauary
    •     Lenoir Special Seafood Dinner – November
    •     Opera – Lucia di Lammermoor – February
    •     Broadway Across America – Wicked – February
    •     Ballet – Fall
    •     Paramount Theater – Summer
    •     UT Football home game -Opening game vs. Wyoming
    •     Symphony - December
    •     Volunteer for Thanksgiving or Christmas
    •     Texas Advocacy Project – Handbags for Hope became KW Red Day
    •     SXSW – Focus Movie – March
    •     Austin Film Festival – October
    •     One handwritten note a month to Nicole – Ongoing
    •     One handwritten note a month to a Friend or Family member - Ongoing
    •     Photography Class - TBD
    •     Art Class - TBD
    •     Top 45 at 45 Blog – Ongoing
    •     Courage to Change Blog – Ongoing
    •     The Artist’s Way morning pages and art dates – Ongoing
    •     iPhone Apple class – January
    •     Practice French – Ongoing
    •     Whole Foods or Central Market Cooking class became Le Cordon Bleu Class - TBD
    •     Organize Family Birthday Calendar
    •     Turkey Trot or Jingle Bell run 5K