August 27, 2015

Thursday Thought

Remember how I didn't like Anne Frank The Diary Of A Young Girl? There were two things she said toward the end of her diary that were actually worthwhile. In fact, I thought it was profound that a young girl would even write such things. The two things that stuck me will be the Thursday Thoughts for the next two weeks.

"We're all alive, but we don't know why or what for; we're all searching for happiness; we're all leading lives that are different and yet the same. We three have been raised in good families, we have the opportunity to get an education and make something of ourselves. We have many reasons to hope for great happiness, but...we have to earn it. And that's something you can't achieve by taking the easy way out. Earning happiness means doing good and working, not speculating and being lazy. Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction. I can't understand people who don't like work." - Anne Frank

I believe that each day is a gift from God and it is up to us to decide what we will do with our time. We get to choose to proactive and work hard or to be lazy and complacent. We get to decide which path we will take in life and we choose whether or not to be happy.

Growing up work was something that we did ALL THE TIME in our family. Work wasn't always fun, but I'm glad I was raised the way I was. Now, that I am married and out on my own, I find that I can't not be working on something. There have been short periods of time when I haven't been "working" (like when we moved) and things were taken care of at home and I noticed a change in my mood with the lack of work in my life. Work brings meaning, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment to my life. I can't imagine my life any other way. I feel so incredibly blessed to be alive, to have been taught how to work, and to be physically able to work-- even with a "broken" foot!

If you aren't the type of person who likes to work, I challenge you to try working more. Maybe you choose to find a job, or to volunteer, or to start exercising consistently, or organize you home. Whatever you decide to do, give it your all! You may be surprised at how you mood and mindset change.

Carpe Diem!

August 24, 2015

Weekend In Review

This weekend was awesome!


Friday night my Mom and my sister came down to visit us for the weekend. Our house was in need of some cleaning before they arrived and Andy was kind enough to take on the task. I was exhausted! One of the side effects of cortisone is insomnia and well, I was very much an insomniac for a week and a half. I was so tired. I would lay down to sleep and would just lay there and toss and turn. If I did manage to fall asleep, I would sleep for maybe 20 minutes before I would wake back up. In the words of Grumpy Cat, "It was awful!" Friday I just couldn't take it anymore, I cried for a bit and eventually was able to sleep. I slept for maybe an hour, it was a miracle!


I woke up before everyone else (Yay insomnia!) and made breakfast. If I make breakfast, it is usually only on Saturday. Breakfast consisted of my favorite blueberry, cranberry, dark chocolate chip, whole wheat pancakes (they really are the best or so Mom tells me), orange juice, and scrambled eggs.

After breakfast we hit up a few yard sales, grabbed some lunch, and then hit the thrift stores. We scored on our second hand purchases. You would be amazed what you can find at a yard sale or thrift store! I got a new pea coat for a $1.00 and a new American Eagle sweater for $0.25. It was awesome!

That evening we had our Sunday School Class over for a party. The evening consisted of a lot of pizza, ice cream, and video games. It was a little crazy!


Several weeks ago I signed Andy and I up to ride in a hot air balloon. When you sign up, you aren't guaranteed the date you request for your ride. I requested that our flight take place on Saturday and  we ended up being scheduled for Sunday- boo! We woke up at 4:30 in the morning to be on the road at 5:00 to make it to Albany by 6:00 for our flight. It was a really neat experience and deserving of its own post.

When the hot air balloon ride was all said and done, we were tired. 6 hours of sleep and insomnia will do that to a person. When I got home I crawled in bed and proceeded to sleep 15 hours. I think my insomnia is finally starting to go away.

Fulfilling A Dream: Riding In A Hot Air Balloon

When I was about 3-4 years old I remember walking out of church and seeing a hot air balloon overhead. I was so intrigued by this big, noisy, flying object. Ever since then I have had a fascination with hot air balloons.

Fast forward to three years ago, I hadn't seen a balloon in about 10 years, but I suddenly had a desire to ride in one. I don't know where this sudden urge came from, but it wouldn't go away. On more than one occasion I found myself looking into balloon rides, but they were just too expensive.

Earlier this summer, Andy and I talked about riding in a balloon and we decided this year would be the year. I did some research and found out there was a hot air balloon festival in August, 45 minutes away from our house. I really like the idea of riding in a balloon at a festival with other balloons, so I signed up and waited to hear what day our flight would be.

Unfortunately, our flight was scheduled for Sunday. We don't usually do stuff like this on Sundays, we prefer to go to church, so we were kind  of bummed about that.

Our morning looked something like this:

4:30 am - Wake up
5:00 am - Be in the car driving
5:45 am - Check in
6:30 am - Take off

It was a little crazy! It was weird for me to be up before sunrise. I can't say I have ever watched the sunrise before, this was a first for me. The sunrise wasn't very great because of all the smoke in the area from the wildfires. I may have to try watching the sunrise some other time.

When we arrived at the field, we checked in and then went and found our balloon and pilot. It was really neat to watch and help setup the balloon.

The take-off field.

Our basket. It literally is a basket.

Our balloon.

Our balloon and basket, deflated.

Me & Andy.

Blowing air into the balloon with a fan.

Filling her up.

Looking up.

Megan & I. Feeling a little nervous.
Helping hold the balloon down.
Andy & I.

Another balloon.

It's getting bigger.

So pretty!

The was the first balloon to take off. If flew with the American Flag hanging from it.


My mom and sister had come down for the weekend and I told them we were going to be going on a balloon ride in the morning. For some reason, Mom thought it was just going to be us and a pilot in a balloon. She didn't realize that it was part of a festival. They left the house shortly after we did.

As soon as they arrived at the air field and Mom realized what was going on she got SUPER, I mean SUPER EXCITED! She pulled out her new camera and went to town taking pictures.


In the week leading up to our flight, I had nightmares of falling face first out of the balloon. Naturally, the adrenaline was pumping leading up to our flight. Before too long, I found myself in the balloon being carried away.

We skimmed over the tops of trees, while about 50 feet in the air we crossed over a small airport and I-5. We flew over the top of Costco, Kohls, Taco Bell, and a cemetery.

Just sailing across the airport.

Planes down below.

Crossing I-5.

We made it across. Check out all those balloons!

The cemetery.

The ride was super peaceful, even with the torch blowing. You couldn't feel the ups and the downs of the balloon like you would on an amusement park ride. In a way, I felt weightless.

Our pilot.

Andy & I.


We landed in a field to switch out our propane tank and ride two commenced. We flew over fields and scared a snake, rabbit, cat, and deer.

Before I knew it, 2+ hours had gone by. I'd say we got our moneys worth, the ride was only supposed to be 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

We began looking for places to land without power lines and blackberry bushes, our pilot decided that we were going to land in a residential neighborhood. I wasn't sure there would be enough room to land on the street, but surprisingly their was. As we started to descend all of the neighbors came running to their doors and windows to watch us. It was funny to see little kids standing in their underwear looking up at you. Before too long you could see people running to where we were going to be landing-- I felt like I had celerity status, with everyone gathered around smiling and taking pictures.

Our soon to be landing pad.

Loading her up. The entire balloon fit in that gray bag.

All done! A few remaining neighbors standing around.

Me, our pilot, & Andy.

One of the best parts about the flight was talking to the people down below, who were looking up. The balloon amplifies the sound of your voice so when you say, "Good morning" it kind of freaks them out and then they get excited!

During our flight, Mom and Megan were down below on the roads trying to follow us. They were very surprised when they discovered that we had landed on a neighborhood street.

Overall the balloon ride was a great experience. They only thing that would have made it better, would have been a decrease in the amount of smoke in the air.

Would I do it again? You bet!

These photos here were taken with Mom's camera. They look so good! Thanks Mom!

The sign for the festival.


Off we go!

Up, up, and away!

Look at all those pretty balloons.

The butterfly!

Smokey reminded us of our friend Lance. He was the creator of Smokey the Bear.
Megan took some awesome photos too! I hoping to get them from her soon so I can put them up on the blog.

Here are some videos of our ride. Enjoy!

August 20, 2015

Thursday Thought

Well, it's Thursday and that means that it's time for a Thursday Thought.

I have had my share of struggles lately. Usually if something isn't going right in my life, I take a moment and step back to access the situation and then do what I can to fix it. Unfortunately, the trials I am currently facing are beyond my control. For example, I can't make the stress fracture in my foot heal faster than it wants to. This means that I get to endure the pain and miss out on my favorite summer activities. Some days it's hard to put a smile on my face and say, "It's okay" when everyone else is out having fun. All I really want right now is for everything to really be okay-- okay as in, the way I think it should be. I'm beginning to wonder if the Lord is trying to teach me patience or if I'm supposed to learn to trust in Him more. Maybe I'm supposed to be learning something completely different. I don't really know.

The other day as I was driving, I was stopped behind a car that had a bumper sticker that looked a lot like this:

I'm not a big animal person, but I liked the message of the bumper sticker and I have thought about it everyday since then. Live positively.What a simple and profound message. It got me thinking? Do I have a positive attitude even though life is hard right now? I like to think I have a positive attitude and I hope that things will get better but ultimately everything is on the Lord's timetable right now.

Then some days, I see cards and pictures that says things like this:

And then I laugh. Maybe laughing at something like this isn't a good thing but laughter is the best medicine right?

So the thought for today is this, live positively. Life is hard, it's supposed to be. Eventually the trials and hard times will end and you will be a better person because of the experiences you had. The Lord is there cheering you on from the sidelines. You can do this! Remember, failure isn't a option.

 P.S. Don't forget to laugh. And go listen to some Aqua-- you can't not be happy listening to them.

August 19, 2015

56 Miles On The PCT

Hello there. This isn't Ashlee. This is her goofy husband Andy. She asked me to write about this adventure I went on with my brother-in-law Brendan. So here we go-

Let's start by saying that when I was Brendan's age in scouts, the longest hike I ever went on was about 14 miles into the High Uintah's up Mount Emmons (elevation 13,442'). It was hard and I had a headache for a couple of days when we got there due to the elevation gain. But this PCT hike was much more difficult than it was.

When Brendan first asked me to go with him I was first- surprised that he even asked me, and second, not sure that I wanted to go because '50 miler' isn't something that is easy. My wife knows that I struggle with running a 5k let alone walking 50 miles. But after some coaxing and some thought, and the desire to get to know Brendan better, I agreed.

The Sunday before the hike, I met Brendan's leaders at church and learned a bit more about the hike. It would be 50+ miles spread across 6 days and 5 nights. That means that we would need to average about 9 miles a day. Easy-peasy right?

That night we would stuff our packs with only the essentials. And learned that the 'essentials' actually don't fit. So we cut less important things out, not once, not twice, but three times. And then my pack was 'packed up.' And weighing it on a scale, my pack was 40+ pounds. Sweet... this is going to be fun...

In the morning we all met and were trucked out to the hike location. It was a couple hour drive to get there, and was up on White Pass in Washington state. On our way up the winding mountain roads, we saw the biggest elk I've ever seen and then they dropped us off at a mile marker that was off the beaten path because it lined up with the PCT trail.

We got out of the cars, loaded our packs, said a prayer and started walking. This hike was not in a straight line and we walked until our first stop for lunch that day at a small pond. I was very sweaty and tired, and knew we weren't even half way there for the day. The other leaders had planned the hike well, so that we would be stopping at a pond or lake every evening. In short, by the time we got to camp, half of the boys wanted to go home and my shoulders and feet were sore enough that I didn't want to move for an hour or so. I remember that we had hiked 12 miles that day. The most we would need to hike to get things kicked off. -I took a bath in the lake. They thought I was crazy because it was too cold and muddy. But who wants to be sticky and stinky? Let me tell you- Boy Scouts, that's who (on day six I woke up in the middle of the night because Brendan hadn't bathed or changed his clothes the whole time). The remaining days would have shorter hikes. But guess what- they were harder.

As a side note- I was the only person on the hike to wear running shoes. Yes my running shoes. And it paid off. I didn't want hot heavy boots or the blisters that come with them. I changed my socks out half way every day and kept my laces tight. Especially on the downhill and I was the only person who didn't get any blisters the entire trip.

Day two's distance was shorter, but full of up and down terrain in the thick forest. Lots of switchbacks. And everyone was very sore from the day before. Call it getting broken in. I know my shoulders felt bruised and I cinched up my belt as tight as I could to take the weight off them ("I'm feeling skeeeny Tony"). Lots of complaining scouts and far too many breaks. I also noticed over the course of these two days that my knees were strangely tight and the pain started to make me wince when going downhill. Not good but we all made it to camp safely.

Mt. Rainier.

Day three was much like day two, but the scouts were beat. We literally hiked from sun up to sun down stopping only for lunch. It was interesting because we really were covering some serious ground. You would climb up to the ridge line of your mountain, then see the trail disappear into that next distant mountain, hike to it, see the next mountain top and hike over it too... all day. We finally stopped at a large windy lake for lunch and you could see that everyone was exhausted. But what kept the scouts going was the thought of the promised cheese burgers at the half way point. We would be crossing the highway at a parking lot and there would be junk food galore. Very motivating.

Once we got to the parking lot, all of the boys took a seat in real lawn chairs and feasted for a couple hours. It was great. We switched out some of our supplies as planned and sent one of the leaders home with the burger people. He had a difficult time because he had over packed and was likely unprepared. By the end of day two he was in big trouble, but decided to hike out on day three instead of being helicoptered out ($$$$).

When some of the scouts saw that he got to go home in a warm truck, they got their hopes up and got stubborn and one of them even played sick. It was at the same time amusing and distressing because they dug their heels in so hard and were adamant that they were going to get a ride home at this half way point. The leaders tried talking to them and their fellow scouts tried to coax them but they just wouldn't budge. Their faces swollen with tears... Then something very surprising happened. Brendan got angry with them and put them to task. After a bit of a verbal fight, Brendan essentially told them how they were letting each other down and I recall him yelling in anger that "IT'S BULLCRAP... AND UNACCEPTABLE!!!" and then he stormed off up the trail to our final lake for the day. We leaders decided that I would go ahead to be with the scouts that went to camp and they would stay behind with the boys that wanted to go home. I wasn't sure how the day would end, but later that night they all rolled into camp and everyone got their feelings smoothed out. It was a growing experience for those boys that actually bonded them together into friends. Not just members of a Scout troop and was neat to see.

The trail.

Day four. The night before was a very cold night as the lake water sat in the bowl with us. So everything was wet with dew. We waited for the sun to crest the ridge line and dried all our gear out in the sunshine. Then packed up. Both of my knees had been giving me such pain, that by this fourth day morning, it was all I could do to start moving. I had gotten used to the pack's weight, but didn't know how I would make it to the next camp. To be honest, the pain was so intense that part of me wished I was in the truck that went home yesterday too.

One of the other leaders was experiencing this same pain in one of his knees. Stepping down from one rock to another was so excruciating (even bearing the whole my weight on my poles) that I thought my ligaments on the sides of my knees were going to burst or tear and I was afraid that I would be stranded on the mountainside with an injury.

Finally, at one of our stops, while Brendan was doing his sexy dance to make the other boys lighten up, I decided that I was going to try popping my knees again. I had tried many times before but nothing had happened. This time, I was in such pain that I really planted my foot into the ground hard and then used my poles to help me twist my upper body and femur on top of the lower part of my knee and suddenly heard a very loud 'POP!' -The intense pain subsided almost immediately. So I promptly worked on the other knee until it 'POPPED!' too. Aaaahhhh... relief! I felt like a million bucks and was able to finish the whole hike out using this trick.


Days five and six were much like the others. One mountain-farsee (slang for- to travel as far as you can see) to the next. Day five we camped at a hundred-something year old ranch site and saw white mountain goats all around us and a helicopter flew down to us looking for a stranded hiker. I told the boys not to wave down the helicopter despite their excitement. We weren't the people they were looking for and we didn't need to foot that bill. By the end of day five we had seen fresh steamy bear poo (yeah, we didn't stop to smell the mountain air there), mountain goats, deer, elk, lots of little animals, stinky PCT hikers, F16s (yes the airplanes) and a helicopter. One of the scouts also had a mouse eat holes through his tent and through his backpack to snarf on his freeze dried ice cream. Not bad huh?

Clean foot, meet dirty foot.

Come day six, the boys were more than ecstatic to get down the mountain. There was a point in the hike where we stopped hiking on the PCT ridge line (which is a well beaten path by the way) and turned left off the trail heading down the steep slope. We dropped several thousand feet in a very short distance out of the fresh snow that had fallen on us and into the green forest again. At that point, I asked the boys a most serious question- I said to them "can you smell that?" The two of them I was hiking with stopped and raised their noses. "No we can't." So we kept hiking for a bit and I asked them again "Can you smell that?" and again they said "No we can't. What is it?" And I responded "DAIRY QUEEN!!" Hahaha! They hated me for that but I thought it was hilarious.

When we finally made it to the parking lot, everyone disco danced to the Bee Gees Stayin' Alive. All in all, we calculated that we had actually hiked 56 miles. I felt and looked like I had lost 10 pounds but I weighed exactly the same (muscles... right?...). If asked- would you do this again? To my own surprise I would say "yes, I would." I actually really enjoyed it. :)