Monday, December 7, 2015

Mel's #44 and Erica's #44 - Go to an NFL (Football) Game

Those of you who know us know we're Seattle Seahawks fans living in a state filled with Indianapolis Colts fans.  It often strikes people around here as odd that we are far more likely to be wearing Seahawks 12 (Twelfth Man) jerseys rather than a Colts 12 (Andrew Luck) jersey on  game day.  It's been just a little bit tougher to root for the Colts since Peyton's departure...

We had two options to see the Seahawks near Indy this year - vs. the St. Louis Rams on opening weekend, or vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in October.  We'd been meaning to get to St. Louis and see the sights anyway, so we opted for the Rams game.  After plenty of checking around for the most affordable seats that got us close enough to the action, we opted for some Stubhub tickets about 16 rows off the field, right on the 25 yard line, on the Seahawks' side of the stadium.  These seats were nearly perfect, and we were surrounded by fellow Seahawks fans!  We'd seen people decked out in their blue and green all weekend, and shared several "Go Hawks" cheers with them.  We even ended up in one of those tiny pods coming down from the St. Louis Arch with three fans from Seattle who had flown out for the game.  Now that's dedication!

The game was a nail-biter, as anyone who watched it will recall.  It ended up tied at the end of the 4th, sending the game into overtime.  The Seahawks led things off, and for some ridiculous reason, opted to attempt to recover an on-side kick instead of letting the Rams possess the ball, which did not end up working out for them.  The Rams won possession with fantastic field position, drove down and kicked a field goal for three points.  New NFL rules state that both teams have a chance to posses the ball unless one scores a touchdown on the first possession, so the Seahawks would get (and blow) the chance to win.

While it was a very disappointing ending to the game, it was an exciting one nearly all the way through, and we were happy to have such a great view of it, especially since it was Erica's first NFL game.  Win or lose, we'll always welcome the opportunity to cheer on our favorite team - Go Hawks!

Mel's # 1 - Donate Hair to Locks of Love

It's weird to write a blog post about the process of growing one's hair out and donating it, right? It probably shouldn't be that big of a deal. However, as someone who has pretty consistently kept a short hairstyle for a number of years, this was quite the undertaking.

Sometime around the end of our bike trip in September 2013 was the last time I had a haircut. I had decided to grow it out, or to at least try to grow it out, thinking I would reach that inevitable point where I just couldn't take it anymore, and get it all cut off. I've tried numerous times before to grow my hair out with the intention of donating it, and I usually lose my patience about six months in.

Something was different about this time. Maybe it was the accountability of this being a goal on my list of 101 things to do in 1,001 days, maybe it was a new perspective on what I could handle after spending 80-something days on a bicycle...who knows?

So, let me first address something I discovered about my hair in this is kind of like a fingerprint. More specifically, our hair grows in specific patterns and in ways that are unique to us. While this is kind of a cool discovery, it also revealed something about my physical nature that is somewhat embarrassing, and something that was confirmed by looking at baby photos of myself. What I discovered is that my hair grows in a pattern that can best be described as a "skullet." Ok, right now, you need to open a new tab and Google "Boss Hogg." That guy...that's how my hair grows...the sides grow first, then the top tries to catch up somewhere down the road. Weird.

Fortunately for me, I worked at a place where the dress code was super casual and I could wear a baseball cap during those months where my hair reached that awkward phase and there was no way I could style it in a way that made it less awkward. My hair is thick and super straight, so it just kind of hangs off of my head when it gets to a certain length.

And of course, there were months where I felt like my hair just was not growing at all. In my head, I was thinking "How long could this possibly take? Is my hair still growing?" Summer of 2014 pretty much felt like that. I was convinced my hair just stopped growing. I didn't give up, my hair did. Then, I would experience a growth spurt.

Eventually, my hair reached a point where I could pull it back into a ponytail, something that I hadn't been able to do since I had dreadlocks back in 2006 (don't worry, I'll post a photo of that hair adventure, too.) I had to buy ponytail holders for the first time in years. I even went so far as to buy a Seattle Seahawks headband to match my Seahawks gear that I would wear on Fridays.

Since my hair is stick straight and thick, once it started to get really long, I couldn't handle wearing it down. Or, I would go to work or out somewhere and within a few hours, I would have to pull it back. When my hair was down, I somehow felt like my peripheral vision was impaired because I had SO MUCH HAIR. It was crazy. There were more growth spurts which meant more hair. Lots of hair.

But even though I experienced these random moments of irritation or annoyance at having long hair, I could usually just push right past it. For the first time, I never had that moment where I felt like I couldn't take it anymore and I was getting my hair cut no matter what, as soon as I could.

Near the end of this process, I had started to research what organization I wanted to donate my hair to, and decided to donate to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, which seemed to be in line with what I had in mind at the set of this project. It is a wonderful program and one that truly helps cancer patients in numerous ways.

So, the time came this past summer where I hadn't even measured my hair to see if it was long enough to donate...and I can't believe that I wasn't measuring my hair every stinking day to see how long it was. But Erica and I measured my hair and realized it was more than long enough to meet the requirements for donating to Pantene's program. I made an appointment with my amazing and always willing hairstylist, my mom, to cut my hair and have it ready to donate. And I didn't feel that sense of attachment that some people feel with their hair when they grow it out and how they feel sad or scared about cutting their hair off. This is probably because I was my mom's guinea pig when she was getting her cosmetology license...I was always getting my hair cut or styled as practice for her. But I also think that I knew it wasn't my hair. This was going to belong to someone else and I didn't need to claim it as my own, as it was a gift I wanted to give.

Here are some photos of my mom cutting my one photo, I think it looks like she is holding up a fish she caught.

From there, it was pretty hair donation was kept in a ponytail and put in a ziploc bag, then I mailed it off to Pantene's program. A few weeks later, I received a lovely letter in the mail, thanking me for my donation. It was just a generic letter, but it really meant a lot to me to be able to do this for the first time in my life. I've had friends and family members battle cancer...we all have...and I was glad to be able to do something for the folks currently battling it. It was the simplest thing to do and all it took was my patience and time.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Erica's #88 - Create a Photobook with LOAA Photos

In the event that you don't have the background on our cross-country bike ride a couple of years ago, which was coined "Looking Out Across America" or "LOAA", check out our blog HERE.

Over the course of our three month journey, we took TONS of photos, naturally.  Some were uploaded to our blog, some we added to albums on Facebook, but many of them were just hanging around in a folder on our laptops, as digital photos nowadays tend to do.  Sometimes, I just miss having an album to physically pick up, hold, and flip through the pages of.  So we decided to print (almost) all of the photos from our trip, which meant lots of photo albums and time spent organizing into chronological order!

It took months of taking advantage of the best coupons those digital prints websites have to offer in order to get everything printed for a fairly reasonable price.  Then we found some albums we liked, and bought one here and there as we found coupons for them.  Then we spent painstaking hours organizing the photos first by state, then more chronologically, and then sliding them into the pockets.  It's amazing how much shoulder, neck and back pain that can cause.

Mel made some fun dividers to designate the switch to a new state along the route.

All told, we now have six binders, each holding 300 photos each, taking up shelf space in our living room, and we couldn't be more thrilled!  Let us know if you ever want to stop by and spend a couple of hours flipping through them :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Erica's #32 - Take a Train Ride

I'm not so sure I accomplished this goal in the way that I anticipated to when I chose this particular item, but sometimes you just take what you can get, right?  It's not like I haven't been on a train before - we did take Amtrak from Portland to Seattle a couple of years ago, and I've been on some random short train rides here and there, but I was hoping for something a little more exciting than how this goal was actually accomplished.

As someone who hasn't lived in a major metropolis where public transport is king (i.e. Chicago with the El, New York with the Subway, D.C. with the Metro), my idea of a train ride is a little more romantic than most - I always envision a cozy seat (or maybe a fancy sleeper car) on a train headed West (always West), where you have nothing to do but soak in the scenery, take in a good book, and enjoy travel instead of having to rush through an airport or spend time stuck in traffic.

Instead, I checked off this goal on good 'ol Amtrak again - I had to travel to Chicago for a seminar, and rather than fighting 4 hours of driving traffic each way, I elected to take a 5 hour train ride each way.  It didn't hurt that it only cost $48 round-trip from Indy to Chicago either...

So, I think in some parts of the country, Amtrak is a perfectly well-used way to travel between two cities, and people from all walks of life use it.  This was absolutely not my experience, especially on the ride from Indianapolis to Chicago.  I had to be at the train station before 6am, which isn't pleasant in the first place, only made less pleasant by the state of Indy's current train/bus hub.  It is a hovel.  I honestly cannot believe they've let it be what it is for so long.  Granted, the city is building a new transportation hub, but this is LONG, LONG overdue.  This place is tiny, dirty, and has many permanent citizens.  It isn't a place you'd ever go willingly.

To add to my lovely experience, I was seated directly in front of a family (Mom, daughter who was 19, daughter's 19 year old boyfriend, and son who was around 15) that had to be the most ignorant, offensive, and annoying family on the planet.  Their conversations were painfully unintelligent (Mom lost the argument that Chicago was only a city, not a state), they rapped along to their loud music (N-word not excluded), joined everyone else's conversations, told everyone they saw where they were headed and why, discussed who owed them money for the prescription pills they had sold their friends back home, used the restroom every 10 minutes, smoked in the restroom, made cell phone calls every 5 minutes (usually to the same people, updating them on their travel progress), and were just a general disturbance for the entire 5 hour trip.  On the one hand, I was mostly amused the entire way...on the other, I could not get a minute of shut-eye because they could not shut-mouth.  To add to the amusement in my head, the daughter's name was Tina, and scenes from Napoleon Dynamite kept running through my head.

Other than the people, the train trip went fine.  The one thing that trains have that planes don't - they leave on time, there's no messing around.  When they say 6:22 is the departure time, they don't mean 6:23.  Other than a few delays on the tracks due to freight trains in Chicago, everything was remarkably punctual.  And the rural scenery was pleasant in the early morning through Indiana.  And, you know, you can't beat that price.  If only it were more affordable to ride Amtrak to the West Coast, I could finally realize my romantic train ride dreams!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Erica's #57 - Make a Collage of TransAm Memoribilia/Photos

I'll preface this by stating that I didn't personally make what I am about to post photos of here.  But while I technically didn't do the creating, a collage of TransAm and LOAA memoribilia and photos does now exist, thanks to my talented and creative wife!
My birthday was last week, and she knows I love handcrafted gifts, so she put these awesome shadow boxes of some of our Looking Out Across America bicycle ride together!  If you don't know about this, check out our trip website HERE.  We can't believe it's almost been 2 years since we started off on that amazing journey, and creating something special to hang on our walls to remind us of this fun summer has been on my list of things to do from the moment we stepped foot back in our own home after the trip.

She completely surprised me with this gift, and it's definitely one of the best gifts I've ever received!  We hung it in a place of prominence, right above the sofa in our living room, so we can be constantly reminded of how great that summer was, and inspired to get out and have more just like it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Erica's #43 - Build a Snowman

I hadn't built a snowman in a long, long time.  So long that I can't even remember the last time I built a snowman.  After living in Indiana for 20 years now, I think of snow as a menace to have to deal with versus something fun and entertaining to get out and play in.  Rudy and Louie generally see a snowy yard as a brand new thing to go out and explore, so we take them out and romp with them every now and then in the snow, but we haven't even been sledding or skiing in years.  Winter generally isn't our friend.

So I wanted to challenge myself to get out and enjoy winter like a kid again.  I remember, even as a teenager, my brother and I suiting up in our snowsuits and heading out with our sleds in hand to hike frozen creeks and spend weekend days sledding in our neighborhood.  And, having grown up near San Francisco, CA, a trip to the mountains to play in the snow was a treat almost unparalleled in our childhoods. Funny how age and actually living in a place where you have to deal with the white stuff changes your perspective!

We got a good 6" of snow last Sunday - March1st - which meant it would probably be the last somewhat significant snowfall before Spring finally takes hold of the Midwest (hopefully!), so Monday night was snowman night.  We suited up, and headed to the backyard, which the dogs thought was the biggest treat we could possibly offer them that evening - "humans playing with us in the snow...oh boy oh boy oh boy!".  They romped, ate snow, got in the way, and just seconds after this final photo was snapped, they destroyed that snow dog (just in case he was going to be competing for any human affection or food!)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mel's #22 and Erica's #75 - Go to The Henry Ford Museum

I’m not even going to wait until the end of this blog post to tell you that you need to go to the Henry Ford. I’m telling you now…figure out a weekend or whatever 2 or 3 day span of time and plan your trip up to Dearborn, Michigan. Take the kids. Plan for the weather and dress appropriately. You’ll love it.

I firmly believe that every American needs to take a pilgrimage to the Henry Ford at some point in their lifetime. There is a wealth of information and history in this place that will blow your mind.

This was my first time to the Henry Ford, but Erica has visited before and really loved it. We always knew that someday, we’d make it up to Michigan for a visit, and finally decided to make the trip over the Thanksgiving holiday. The bonus was that we were also going to be able to visit with our dear friend, Meredith, who was visiting her family in the area over the weekend.

The first thing that struck me as we drove through the complex on the way to the museum, was just the sheer size of the place. It is an enormous building that rivals the size of any Smithsonian museum. Huge…like how-in-the-world-are-we-going-to-see-everything-in-this-building, huge.

We purchased a membership to the museum instead of single day tickets, since we were planning on coming back the next day to visit the Greenfield Village, which ended up being a better deal in the end. So, consider becoming a member when you go to visit.

The basic idea behind the Henry Ford museum was to preserve the artifacts and history of some of humanity’s greatest innovations and achievements, along with objects that serve as symbols of our American history. Thank goodness Henry Ford had the foresight to purchase and preserve many of these objects that speak of our story as a nation.

Of course, the first item we saw upon entrance of the museum was the original Oscar Weiner-mobile. Maybe not the most earth-shaking historical item, but an important one in the world of business and marketing. And people love taking their pictures with it.

We walked through a section of farming equipment that showed the progress of innovation that has made our agricultural economy what it is today…everything from a plow connected to an early motorcycle, to the complex harvesting machines used in modern farming. I don’t know much about farming, but this was a pretty impressive collection of items that exemplified industrial progress.

One of my favorite items in the museum was the Dymaxion House, labeled the “House of the Future.” The prototype in the Henry Ford was the work of architect R. Buckminster Fuller and this 1946 model is the only remaining prototype in the world. As someone who loves the idea of the Tiny House movement, I thought this house was awesome and I would totally live in it.

Next, we moved on to the Your Place In Time exhibit, which housed items from the 20th century…everything from old radios, to the first forms of the birth control pill, chunky cell phones from the early 90’s, and books meant to guide you through the survival of a nuclear attack and Y2K.

We then found ourselves all kinds of turned around in the With Liberty and Justice for All exhibit, which feels like the heart and soul of the museum. What I enjoy about places like the Henry Ford is that the museum isn’t afraid to explore some of the more painful and ugly parts of our history. History is meant to be honest and while some museums only serve to deify our nation’s progress, the Henry Ford confronts visitors with the good and bad, creating a space where we can reflect on where we have come from and truly appreciate the sacrifices made for our progress as a civilization. The focus of this exhibit was the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century, the Civil War, the Revolution, and the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. You’ll see everything from some of our country’s original founding documents, to the chair that President Abraham Lincoln was sitting in the night he was assassinated, to the chains used on slaves, to the very bus where Rosa Parks sat in that cataclysmic moment in the 60’s. I was in awe of the entire exhibit, and thankful again that Henry Ford and the curators of the museum sought to preserve these important items.

Following along that same path, we saw the Presidential vehicles collection, which is super impressive. The collection includes one of the first Presidential vehicles, the horse-drawn Brougham of Theodore Roosevelt. It was surreal seeing the John F. Kennedy limousine, the actual car he was riding in the day that he was assassinated. The entire feel of the museum shifts in that spot and you can feel how somber people still feel about this event.

After that, we walked through the Heroes of the Sky exhibit, which tells the story of the first 40 years of aviation history. It’s no surprise that this exhibit takes up a significant amount of the museum, as Henry Ford was extremely interested in aviation and it’s potential from the very start. There are some truly remarkable pieces of history in this exhibit, including some early model helicopters and prototype aviation models. There is even a large area where visitors can build and fly paper airplanes.

Nearing the end of the museum, we found the Driving America exhibit, an extensive collection of cars, trucks, early model RV’s, race cars, and just about anything and everything that a person could drive.

All in all, we pretty much made it through the entire museum in a day and really enjoyed it. We knew we were coming back the next day to explore Greenfield Village.

When Erica first told me about Greenfield Village and how Henry Ford bought a number of historical buildings and examples of specific types of architecture, just to move them to this village, I thought it made Ford sound a bit eccentric. However, after taking some time to research Henry Ford, it’s clear that he had a desire to preserve artifacts that would tell the story of how our country has lived and worked since its founding.

Greenfield Village is one of those places where you truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time and have the opportunity to see how life was lived before so many of our modern conveniences. One of our first stops was to the home that was Henry Ford’s birthplace, where we were treated to a tour by a couple of amazing costumed interpreters who told us all about the history of the home and the humble beginnings of Henry Ford’s life. What was super interesting is that the ladies in costume were decorating the home for Christmas and were starting to bake bread in the old kitchen, using old recipes and the antique kitchen tools that would have been used at the time.

Just outside the home was a flock of sheep in a fenced in area, which of course, resulted in my animal-loving wife’s efforts to whistle them over to her so she could pet them. This gave me flashbacks of our cross-country bicycle trip, when Erica would do this same whistle every time we rode by a cow farm or any farm with animals that she would try to befriend.

Some of the highlights of the village included the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop and home, where they first started developing their flying machine. When Ford purchased the property, one of the Wright brothers helped oversee the move and installation of the building in Greenfield Village, and even served as one of the interpreters after the installation.

There is also a replica of Menlo Park, the laboratory of Thomas Edison, who was a close friend and mentor to Henry Ford. This was one of my favorite parts of the village. It was really incredible to see some of the original tools and machines that Edison used.

Another favorite spot was the Logan County, Illinois courthouse, where Abraham Lincoln practiced law. There was an interpreter in this building and we really enjoyed talking with her about how court cases were social events during this point in history, all while enjoying the nice fire she had built in the courthouse fireplace.  

You can walk through smaller scale replicas of Henry Ford’s first Ford automotive plant and factory, take a ride in an old Model T, and walk through another small scale replica of Edison’s electricity factory. In one part of the village, you can see glassblowing and other artisans who still practice tin making and woodworking, as well.

While walking around in the chilly weather down one of the streets in the village, we spotted a friendly little black cat, no doubt one of the barn cats on the property. Guess who immediately walked up to the cat, picked it up, and made a friend? Yup, that would be Erica. This friendly little black cat kind of wandered around the village and followed us for a bit as we visited some of the sights. The cat was quite the little tour guide and was always willing to come over to us and get a little scratch behind the ears.

We filled the entire day with just strolling around the village, seeing the sights, stopping for some hot chocolate and lunch later on, and just enjoying this visit back in time.