Monday, December 30, 2013

Under the Stars

Usually I can't remember much detail about activities that happened more than 15 years ago, but one camping trip I took while I was in elementary stands out. I probably had not been in the Boy Scouts of America long (as in having finished Cub Scouts) when our troop went camping at Wooly Hollow State Park outside of Greenbrier. The fact I remember the campground and location is amazing, but it wasn't simply the beautiful park that made the trip so memorable.

What stood out is where we slept and the environment. Not long before we were all supposed to go to bed, the scout master put his sleeping bag in the bed of his truck. When we asked why, he told us he was going to sleep outside under the stars. Some of us asked if we could too. I was one of the first to move my gear out of the tent into a tent pad. It wasn't long before all of the tents were empty and everyone was laying outside under the stars. Before we fell asleep we could hear the soft strum of the guitar from a near-by campsite and the voices of a Hispanic family singing along. It was truly a memorable experience.

I have tried to relive that experience on multiple camping trips but out of the four to five attempts, none have been successful. In fact, most were cut short because of the weather or threat of rain. The last failed attempt was this weekend at Petit Jean State Park. My friend and I were bundled up around our campfire and decided we would go ahead and sleep next to the fire a while. The campground was dark with the exception of a few fires spread around the area. We both fell sleep, but the changes in lighting from our fire kept waking me up. I finally rolled over on my back and could see an animal in the next campsite over, close enough to see an outline by the glow of our fire. I quickly scrambled to my feet, not so quietly as I kicked the tarp I was on and woke my friend who questioned me confusedly.

After that he decided he wouldn't be sleeping outside -- not that the thin tent canvas would keep anything out that really wanted in. Eventually the fire died, leaving us with only a cold tent to return to and this funny story to tell. Well, funny for me; the raccoon may think otherwise.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lessons Learned During a Winter Camping Trip

It has been a while since I last went camping and even longer since I last wrote a blog. So this weekend makes for two things I haven't done in a while.

I don't get the opportunity to go camping all that often, especially in the winter. This trip had some pretty interesting obstacles and discoveries as most trips do.

Late night + Wet wood = No fire
It was 9:30 Friday night before we arrived at Petit Jean State Park. By that time it was dark and cold outside. I chose a campsite close to the showers and bathroom where at least there would be some escaping the elements if worse came to worst. Luckily, because we weren't on a peninsula surrounded by water and a cold breeze blowing across it, I didn't suffer quite as much as one night at Lake Ouachita State Park.

Unfortunately, by the time we got camp set up it was already getting fairly late. We still had to gather small kindling to start a fire. Usually it is pretty easy but that night I wasn't quite prepared for the obstacle in front of me: wet kindling and wet firewood. I would need a lot more small stuff to get the bigger stuff to ignite. After a half hour I called it quits for the night and went to bed. Little did I know, it wasn't going to be a good night's sleep at all.

Cold night + Two people + Small tent + 0ยบ sleeping bag ≠ Warmth / Sometimes, bigger is better
In the summer, a sleeping bag rated to 0 degrees is plenty warm, even with two people crowded in a small tent. I have a small, two man tent and a larger five man tent. Knowing it would be cold I thought the small tent would trap more body heat and help keep it warmer at night. What actually happened is I slept too close to the tent wall (keeping in mind I am 5'8" in a 6'x6' tent). Even in the summer I know to try and stay clear of the sides of the tent, but with bulkier gear it became more difficult. In the night I would roll over and find myself in the corner. That's not all I found either; each time I woke up I was reminded that cold outside air, warmer inside air, a nylon sleeping bag on a floor made out of tarp material and being too close to the sides of the tent meant I found my gear growing wetter and colder. I guess I was still in a better situation than my friend who only had a lightweight sleeping bag with him. He ended up sleeping in the car.

On the bright (and early) side, since we arrived after office hours we had to wake up early the next morning to go check in. I had to debate whether I was willing to stay a second night. In the end we decided to go ahead and pay for two nights. I set up a clothes line and hanged the blanket and bag up to dry while we went for a hike.

If the weather men can be wrong, they will be wrong / Geocaching community
Saturday morning seemed like it would be a nice day. Before going on the camping trip I checked the weather and it was supposed to be cloudy but precipitation free the entire weekend. Another plus was I had picked up hot chocolate at the store before going -- nothing like a hot drink after a cold night. By 10 a.m. we were on the trail down to Cedar Falls. 

Close to the waterfall we searched for a geocache. We looked for quite a while on both sides of the trail. The GPS was leading me in different directions every couple of seconds as the signal bounced of the canyon walls on both sides. At one point, I thought I had found the geocache when I spotted a man-made pile of rocks. I began lifting rocks but quickly noticed a cross sticking out of the top and stopped. I found an open spot and sure enough there was a small skeleton inside -- that wasn't the geocache.

Eventually we decided to head on over to the waterfall and try again later. Sitting near the waterfall, the sun was shining in to the canyon which was colder by the water. After relaxing in the sun for a while we returned to the search. Eventually I took one of the hints literal and decided to go look half-way to the grave. In the end the terrain and difficulty rating turned out to be the most useful hint. While looking in the correct area another group of geocachers arrived. This was the first time I have met another geocacher looking for the exact same geocache. Instant conversation starter.

The one we were looking for contained half of the coordinates for a third geocache we would be looking for. In order to find the other half of the coordinates we had to hike roughly another 1.5 miles in the other direction.We found it much easier and assembled the coordinates to the "mystery" cache. During all of this excitement it began to rain. My mind went to the my camera and GPS and then to my sleeping bag and blanket hanging outside back up at camp. "Looks like I may be sleeping in my car tonight," I told him. Fortunately it didn't last long and my stuff stayed dry/dried on the line. About 4 a.m. it sprinkled some more, just enough to get everything wet and ensure the weather forecasters were wrong yet again.

What goes up must come down. And sometimes what goes down must go back up.
I think I am in worse shape every trip I take to Petit Jean. And every time I hike to Cedar Falls and it comes time to hike back to the top I began asking myself why I came back down into the canyon; much like I tell myself every time I hike Pinnacle Mountain I will never do it again, but I always seem to go back.

After four miles of hiking in the canyon at Petit Jean we drove to Mount Magazine State Park, about an hour and a half away. It turns out all of the trails there were closed due to damage from the ice storm (not that I was up for more hiking). Driving up the mountain I could tell the weather had taken it's toll on the area. The bare trees lay broken on the ground and the ones still standing provided little to block the view of the surrounding valley. I was glad to be on the inside part of the road going up but knew I wouldn't be so lucky coming down. Eventually I was going to have to face the curvy, steep, high road down the mountain with no guard rails and nothing to block the view of how far down it was. (It may be time for me to reconsider how badly I want to do some things/travel some places...)

The speed limit on the road was 55 miles per hour but I think I went less than 20 most of the way down the mountain. From the area hang gliders launch, where we viewed the sunset, it took somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes to get down the mountain where I could finally breathe again.

Eating local is always a good option
The last three times I have been to Petit Jean we have eaten in the restaurant at Mather Lodge. It is becoming somewhat of a tradition and I haven't been disappointed so far. The last two times I have had beef which is raised just down the road at Winrock Farms. Good food from a local source. It is always nice to eat local food.

If I am going to go backpacking, I have a LOT of work to do
I've been saying for years now that I want to go on a backpacking trip. When I was in college, a friend and I said we would hike the Appalachian Trail after we graduated. That never happened. Now I want to hike in the Smokey Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. That could be a while though -- it will involve a lot of work:

  • I am way out of shape and need to not only loose weight but build a lot of endurance
  • I have got to learn how to pack my backpack better and lighter
  • I have got to learn how to overcome my fear of heights -- there is no telling what adventure awaits in some locations
  • I have to find a way to keep all of my gear dry in the rain (or when it decides to sweat)
  • I have to buy new gear
  • I have a lot of emergency skills that are important to learn before embarking on the journey

Friday, October 18, 2013

Autumn is here

I can remember a time when people would ask me what my favorite season was and I would respond summer because I loved to swim. I still love to swim but I think my answer to the question has changed. I don't know what it is about this time of the year but it just has this feeling to it. It is hard to explain which means I can't say for sure why it is my favorite.

Red, orange and yellow fill the trees (when we are lucky). Fall decorations begin appearing in stores and around houses. Pumpkins. Cooler weather. The smell of burning leaves. All of these are great and I am sure add to why it is my favorite season but I don't think they are the reasons why I love Autumn so much.

In the end, I think the sights, smells and feel of Autumn probably bring back subconscious memories of childhood or something. Regardless, I love the outdoors and this is a great time of the year to be outside and enjoy the weather.

What is your favorite season? Why?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Long Pool Recreation Area

   Dover, Ark.
Campground:    Long Pool Recreation Area
Website:    USDA Forest Service

The majority of my camping trips are to Arkansas' State Parks but this weekend was a little different. It is the first trip I have actually planned more than a week in advance and it turned out well; my sister even came along. We all met at my office Friday afternoon after work and my niece, nephew, sister and I headed in to the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest Area.

Three of us had been camping at the Long Pool Recreation Area on Big Piney Creek two or three summers ago. I had promised my niece and nephew I would take them there this summer to go swimming. The park offers campsites with any combination of water and electric or no hook ups. We chose a tent site with no hook ups. There was only one left in the area we chose, but it turned out to be a nice site with a trail down to the water.

Most of it was as I remembered but I also learned a few new things as I researched geocaches in the area. I learned about two days before going that there were at least two waterfalls in the area. We hiked there Saturday morning and found they had both dried up already. The swimming was nice and I am sure we swam several miles Saturday afternoon and evening.

The park offered both primitive and non-primitive camp features. There were many trails connecting different sites around the campground and the water. It was easy to get around. Camping is first-come, first-serve; it is also paid through a pay-station rather than an attendant making it easier to arrive after 5 p.m.

I haven't seen it in the Spring, but read signs that many people like to float the river. It is prone to flash flooding and visitors should use caution when it is raining in the area. There is no cell service in the area which is nice, but if there is an emergency adds to a dangerous situation.

Without the interruption of technology and with the views of the mountains and sky it is a very nice area to relax for the weekend. I look forward to visiting again sometime, hopefully when there is more water.

GC - Ghosts of Spanish Conquistadors

Geocache name:    Ghosts of Spanish Conquistadors
Hidden by:    Old River Runner
Location:    Dover, Ark.

I planed a weekend camping trip to Long Pool Recreation Area for this past weekend. My niece, 11, nephew, 13 and my sister, 33, arrived about 7:30 p.m. Friday. After setting up camp we went for a swim until dark, roasted hot dogs on the fire and told some scary stories. Around 10:30 we left camp to attempt our first night cache.
We began by parking at the overlook and looking out into the valley and up at the stars. I haven't seen that many stars in ages! The overlook was crowded with people, most of whom appeared to be high school students, drinking and playing music. We left the overlook and pulled in on a dirt road which didn't appear to have much traffic. We walked back east down the road and began the hunt.

After about five minutes of walking it became a more difficult to see between the reflective tacks and I had to  watch the GPS to make sure we were not walking in circles. It felt like we were but the GPS said we were still on the path. It wasn't long before I began hearing rustling in the leaves somewhere in the darkness around us. I told the kids to be quiet and listen. We clearly heard an owl somewhere, but the rustling seemed to stop. We heard it a little more as we continued through the woods looking for more reflective tape.

Having a GPS in my hand keeps me comfortable that we won't get lost, but I don't know where the spiders or snakes are. I don't know how close we came to finding the geocache, we found as many as three tacks on some trees but we never spotted four. We ended up somewhere close to a road and we could see break lights and hear voices. We had also been spotted as we could clearly tell by the voices. It didn't help that my sister had a red light and my niece had a blue light. The lights kept malfunctioning and flashing so it could have appeared as if they were police lights. As I said, they were drinking, and my sister was afraid they would be drunk and possibly violent. That lead to our giving up on the geocache and just trying to get out of the woods without being seen.

We had to walk without lights at times adding to the spookiness. We walked into several branches and thickets before stopping to listen and to watch. There were lights that would appear and disappear, making it difficult to tell how far we were from the road at times. I don't think I have seen that many lightening bugs in 10 years. We never got far from the road as we wandered through the woods, trying to stay out of sight. From the sounds of things we had scared those at the overlook off as well. We made it back to the car safely and it made for the most interesting "Did Not Find (DNF)" caching story I have experienced.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Expensive Meal

I don't eat at many expensive restaurants but when I do I always try to order the least expensive foods off the menu. I think the restaurant I dined at last night in Little Rock was by far the most expensive meal of my life.

As I looked through the menu, I found the prices were ridiculously high. Eventually I asked the waitress what the least expensive meal was and she told me an item that was on special for $30. I accepted. All was well through the meal with my friends. All seemed to be well after the meal. I handed my credit card to the waitress and signed the bill for $30 when she brought it back.

The next afternoon I received a call from the restaurant saying there was an error with my payment and asking me to stop by the restaurant. When I got there the waitress went over my order again and told me I owed $7,000. I was outraged and began arguing with the waitress who told me it was because I paid with a credit card instead of cash. The menu said the price was $7,000 but the meal was on special for customers paying cash. Her comments didn't make me feel any better. I continued arguing and refusing to pay. Then the manager came and told me to calm down. But he told me the same thing she did.

I told them I was going to call some people and that I knew a lawyer. Then I walked outside into the hot summer air and thought about what I was going to do. Seven-on-your side maybe? Legal fees would cost just as much as the bill itself. I didn't know what to do. I wasn't in much better shape when I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning to realize it had been a bad dream -- a bad dream it took a while to recover from and fall back asleep for another hour before I had to get up for work.

What strange and annoying dream will I have tonight?

Sleeping at the Wheel

It was a dark night as I headed home, driving down the highway. There was some traffic on the road but not a lot. My headlights lit up the road before me and beside me. I couldn't see very far and my eyes were growing tired. I knew I should pull over on the shoulder and sleep or at least wait until daylight to continue the journey. But I was in a hurry; I wanted to get home to sleep in my own bed. I kept driving. My eyelids became heavier and heavier, eventually I could barely make out the road in front of me. A little time passes and I find myself thinking how amazed I am that I am still on the road. There haves been curves and I can't even make out what is grass and trees and where the road is. I'm driving blind. I open my eyes and see my lights shining straight out into the grass and find myself in a soft bed in my house, happy to know I hadn't truly fallen asleep at the wheel of my car.

I have had that dream or similar dreams multiple times in the past. I'm driving; I fall asleep and somehow the car drives itself or something. According to, driving a car within a dream signifies "ambition,drive and ability to navigate from one state of life to another...Overall, this dream symbol is an indication of your dependence and degree of control you have on your life." It says sleeping may "denote a peace of mind." It could also symbolize ignorance or similarly to death, "renewal and new beginnings."

In the past I have looked up some of the symbols and they were much easier to interpret and try to figure out what the underlying causes are. This dream isn't so easy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Non-existing Memories

 Science was never one of my strongest or favorite subjects.Don't get me wrong, it is interesting and I like to learn how things work. I think the brain is probably what fascinates me the most. It is intriguing to think about how it works and even its digital equivalent -- computers.

I don't understand how a bunch of 0s and 1s can equate to a colored image of a certain dimension to appear on my screen. I don't understand how I am connected to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who then provides me with access to the International Network "Internet" and the World Wide Web.

Similarly, I don't understand how the electrical impulses in my brain equate to memories. What intrigues me the most are those foreign, often physics-defying places my brain takes me at night. I gave dreams some thought in college and what causes them.I wanted to try to control my dreams. I wanted to have a dream in another language, specifically Spanish. I don't think it happened during my college career.

When I lived in Spain, I finally had a couple of dreams in Spanish, but most were silent nightmares, most likely brought on by my real-life fear of heights. Being in places that made me face my fear was a frequent occurrence in Europe. Most of the dreams involved me climbing to some height, usually on a building, and then realizing I didn't have anyway down. Usually I would let go and wake up.

A few weeks ago I dreamed I was passing through border control in an Islamic country. I had never been there before. There were were several weird parts, but nothing made the dream special. Two weeks later, I revisited that dream within another dream. And then last night, I revisited it again -- I even had more success crossing the border having learned from my previous adventures. Somehow in my dreams I had memories of the previous dreams.

It was pretty interesting how my brain would remember other dreams within a dream -- a memory that didn't really exist. I didn't look any of those three dreams up in a dream dictionary, but it somewhat makes since for the dreams to be symbolic. I wonder how much we could really learn from our subconscious minds.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Petit Jean State Park

My first trip with a group other than my family was a ski trip to the mountains in Colorado when I was a freshman in high school. That was when I learned how important the people traveling together are one of the most important aspects of any trip. With a bad group its going to be miserable; with a good group even the worst locations can be fun. Life is just so much better with people. So is camping.

A month ago I went camping and blogged about Lake Frierson State Park. This past weekend, I camped with a friend at my favorite state park - Petit Jean. Located about an hour and a half from Little Rock, Petit Jean State Park offers many spectacular views. Of course, it is also one of the parks where I have to face one of my greatest fears -- heights. There are multiple overlooks on the mountain, looking out in almost any direction. Some are very safe, some are very dangerous.

Saturday morning my friend and I set off on the Boy Scout Trail, a 12-mile trail that is estimated to take eight hours. It crosses many of the other trails at the park and winds through various landscapes. At one point, we were sitting on rocks that dropped off into the canyon below. There were no rails or anything, just one step away from death -- well not for me. I chose to stay back. We only made it on six miles of the trail and completed those miles in nine hours. We were still exhausted.

Most of the hiking trails aren't that strenuous and most hikers are able to hike any of the trails with the exception of maybe the BSA trail. Visitors can also enjoy the Mather Lodge Restaurant which overlooks the canyon or fishing on the lake. Also, in addition to camping, the park has cabins. One downfall to the park is no swimming is allowed in the lake or creeks, only in a swimming pool at the lodge. Most of the campsites have running water and electricity. And a huge plus -- they aren't all on top of each other.

Petit Jean remains by far one of my favorite parks and locations in Arkansas.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lake Frierson State Park

One of my favorite things in Arkansas is the state parks system. With multiple types of parks and a wide range of activities, they are sure to have something for everyone. For me, they offer hiking, geocaching, camping, fishing, swimming, and boating. This past weekend was the perfect weekend to enjoy the spring weather -- yes, SPRING! Not too hot, not too cold.

It was also graduation weekend for many university students accross the state and nation and as such I had just the state park to enjoy, one I had enjoyed on several occasions during my time as a student at Arkansas State University. Camping at Lake Frierson State Park would provide me the opportunity to see some of the last people I know at the university graduate, see some friends in the area and get to enjoy a weekend of camping.

As a student we would go to the lake and enjoy kayaking, playing on the playground (when there weren't children present, of course) and watching the sunset. It was a nice park, close enough to town to visit for a couple of hours. I had never visited the camping section.

Upon arriving to the camping area Friday night, I was surprised. The first thing I had to do was visit the restroom, which I expected to be like every other state park campground I had been in. What I found was a toilet in a room with a lock on it. There was no sink and no running water, but at least there was hand sanitizer. Wrong. It may have been labeled hand sanitizer but it was soap. Back at camp I used some bottled water to finish washing my hands before setting up camp.

Once I unloaded, set up the tent and staked it down I sat down at the picnic table to begin trying to make plans to meet some friends for dinner. Then someone came up behind me and told me to move that I was in their site. (He could have been a little nicer about it...) Rather than stand around and argue, I just pulled the stakes out of my tent and moved it; luckily I was camping alone and had a small tent so I didn't have to tear it down. Trying to figure out where to move it was another story. I knew my campsite number, but the sites were poorly laid out so it was hard to tell which site the numbers corresponded with.

That evening I decided to sleep outside; it isn't often I get the opportunity to camp under the stars, either because of the weather or the mosquito  I got a little cold so it was difficult to sleep, but what made it worse was the campsite's proximity to the boat ramp. Around 4:30 a.m. loud trucks began driving through the area along with boat trailers that didn't help the noise level anymore. I finally moved inside to avoid some of the lights shining in my eyes.

On the positive side, I think that the staff at the park are much friendlier than Lake Ouachiata State Park. The first night I was there one of the park rangers stopped and asked if I would be wanting any wood. I told him no and asked him about showers and he told me I could use the ones at Crowley's Ridge State Park if I was up for the drive. The next morning I finished the check-in at the office and inquired about what I would need to show if asked at the other park and they gave me some receipts.

According to the park staff they are trying to get running water and showers in the camping area, but haven't yet. No running water isn't a huge problem for me; I don't mind primitive camping, when I am expecting it. Of course, this was my fault. I am sure they offered the information if I had paid attention. 

Overall, this is a good park, but I do believe it is more for day-use.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Terminal A to G

I've heard that eating right before bed affects a person's dreams. I'm not sure how much truth there is to that or not, but I do know I have had some strange dreams the past week while taking an antibiotic that requires me to get up in the middle of the night to take it -- with food. On the bright side of things, I made it back to Spain.

It was my final day in Spain before my trip back to the United States. I had a flight to catch at 2 p.m. The weather was nice, sunny and warm. It was a nice relief after the long overnight bus ride in to Madrid. I pulled my two bags behind me as I wheeled through the airport terminal. I am about 8 hours early. It was more or less a routine trip, except the airport was new (rather, nonexistent . The airport was huge, with multiple runways and seven different terminals. My bus had let me off at terminal A.

I don't know why I was stressed; I wasn't short on time, but I had no clue where to go. I pulled out my ticket and saw Terminal G. Then I found a map of the airport. Terminal G was at the opposite corner of the complex, which included the other side of multiple runways. So how was I going to get  from Terminal A to International Terminal G? By this time I have about 7 hours before my flight, and I know I have to get there, check my bags, and make it through security. I begin looking for an airport employee, an information center, anywhere I can ask how to get from A to G.

When I finally find it, I have a discussion in Spanish. But they tell me most of the airport's ground transportation is still inoperable, but there will be a bus in about 15 minutes, and there will be another bus at 2 p.m. Definitely not what I want to hear at that point in time. The bus picks up at the other end of the crowded terminal I am in. If I don't catch the bus now, I am likely going to miss my flight.

Running through an airport is never fun, especially when you are carrying two bags, both packed to their max. I'm dodging people and objects as I fly through the airport trying to get down to where the bus will pick up. As I arrive to the bus stop, I see the bus about 10 feet away -- already pulled out into traffic, headed away from the bus stop. I sit down outside for a minute to try and gather my wits before getting on the metro and going elsewhere in the city. I get off a few stops later at a bus station and find a taxi.

Through all of the excitement I end up getting to Terminal G a few hours later -- about 3-4 hours before my flight. I'm on time at this point I think. I go check my backs and get to security. When I arrive to my gate I realize that I left a bag at the security checkpoint. Thirty minutes until boarding. I arrive back at the security checkpoint and describe my bag. They haven't seen it. That is when it hits me that I was only carrying two bags with me--both checked before getting to security. I hadn't had my third bag the entire time; I must have left it on the bus. With 15 minutes left until boarding and six hours since I got off the bus, I didn't have much chance. I didn't know what to do. In fifteen minutes, my ability to make phone calls to Spain would almost disappear. If I didn't make the call now, I may not see my bag again. I hope that someone will see the name and address written on it and somehow it will make it back to me in the U.S.

I woke up at that point so I don't know how the dream ends. I could make something up but it simply wouldn't be as interesting and crazy as the dreams tend to be. If only dreams could "to be continued..."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Progress Report

Last week I wrote about some of my serious new years resolutions. This year I tried to go a step further than any previous year by not only setting the goals, but setting steps to achieve those goals. So, although I haven't even come close to achieving what I want to, I have made some progress. I began cleaning and reorganizing on Thursday and finished up by Sunday.

It turned out to be a bigger ordeal than originally planned and included cleaning out some trash, cleaning out my closet and moving around furniture. I still have more stuff to go through sometime when I have some time, but it is amazing how much more space I have now and I even sleep better at night with this organization -- awesome.

So, I officially have a makeshift office that will allow me to sit at a desk without so many distractions when I need to. I even went as far as to label some files for various paid bills, pay stubs and tax info. Within the next few days my letter organizer should be here to put on my desk. This reorganizing was a step toward my first and primary goal, so hopefully new, good habits will soon be starting.

In other news, my lesson for today: Open mouth insert foot. Definitely embarrassed myself at work today, but that is another story.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Welcome 2013

Last year when I made my new years resolutions, I decided to do something different. Since generally I and a lot of other people are bad about starting out well but not ending so well, I set my resolutions to the opposite of what I really wanted to do. Instead of losing 10 pounds, I set it to gain 10 pounds. I would either do what I really wanted or at least keep the resolution, so I thought about doing the same this year. In fact, last year, I did lose about 20 pounds. The only problem is, once I came back to the United States, I gained the 20 plus an extra 20 back. So maybe that isn't such a good idea. Instead, I am choosing to go with the traditional route this year. I have set three major goals for this year and now I am blogging about them for accountability. The first goal is the most important of the three -- so important that it is the only way I will succeed in the other two goals.

1. Actively seek a stronger relationship with God through Jesus
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13). This year I want to put on the full armor of God. I want to have a strong relationship with him. Throughout my Christian life, I have been on a roller coaster ride. When I was first saved in high school, it started out well -- I was "on fire" for God. But when I went to college and left my youth group, it got even bumpier. After leaving behind some of the friends I made in college with which I could talk to about spiritual matters and study the bible together, etc., it has been mostly a down hill ride. Its time to turn around. This will be my hardest resolution -- going up hill is always harder than coasting down -- but it will be well worth it. It will be the only way I will be able to succeed in any of my other goals.

I don't think I have prayed consistently since college -- before bed, before meals, etc. I haven't really prayed before meals much at all since freshman year of college. And I don't really know when prayers at night ceased. I downloaded a bible app for my phone this summer and began listening to several chapters per day on my drive to work. But it isn't enough. And then there is the trust factor. So some of my plans are:

  • Reorganizing my bedroom to provide space for a desk.
    • A location to study my bible, and use a desktop computer with no internet connection for a study log and/or prayer journal.
  • Make it a habit to pray throughout the day, whether long or short prayers. Prayer without ceasing.
  • Attend church regularly; stop making excuses such as "I didn't get much sleep last night."
2. Be more outgoing
This will be another very difficult goal. I am shy by nature. I don't really make small talk very well, especially with people I don't already share some kind of connection with. I want to be able to talk to people I don't know, more often. Sometimes this little bit of interaction can make their day (see my previous blog post). I'm not really sure how to plan for this one other than pray, pray, pray and trust in God. I think this will also apply to sharing my faith.

3. Live healthier
Rather than simply state that I want to lose weight, I want to take it a step further. I want to exercise more. I want to eat healthier. I want to build my endurance. I love the outdoors but my physical state doesn't allow me to do a lot of things that I think would be a ton of fun. My fear of heights aside, I can't climb because I don't have the upper body strength required. I am out of breath after climbing 3 flights of stairs. I would like to go on a 100+ mile backpacking trip within the next year or two but don't think I have the endurance to make it. I would love to have a multi-night canoe trip down a river/survival trip camping off of the bare minimums (emergency food for backup, catching most food, etc.). So here some some of the plans to help meet this goal:
  • Eat small portions of each meal so that when I go back for seconds (as I am sure it will), I will not be overeating
  • Develop a schedule of certain physical activities for each week along with a backup plan if there is some kind of unexpected event such as rain
  • Develop more self-control -- don't feed the sweet tooth. 
  • Force myself to jog and to keep running even when it hurts to build endurance
So there you have it, my three goals for 2013. They won't be easy goals to meet. And the last two will be impossible without succeeding in number one. If you are reading this blog feel free to hold me accountable and ask me about these goals and any progress. I am going to attempt to blog about my progress on some of these throughout the new year as well. Have a wonderful and safe 2013.