Thursday, May 26, 2011

Walking Where the Other Half Live

I live in Bellevue. Now, for those of you who don’t live in Western Washington this statement might mean nothing to you. (Or it might mean that OTHER Bellevue in New York... I assure you - though I might *belong* there - I don’t live in that Bellevue.) When I first moved here, that statement meant nothing to me neither; it’s just a city where my tiny apartment happens to be located. It wasn’t until a couple years into living in my place that I learned Bellevue is also the city where some super rich people live as well. They actually live in a teeny tiny community called Medina about 2 miles from my apartment. Medina is home to Bill Gates and a bunch of millionaire+ people.

It's fun to go walking through this community and ogle at the strange things the super-wealthy spend their money on. Walking through Medina can be risky too though, because Medina's police are notorious for stopping and questioning people who don't look like they belong.

This last weekend, I took my life in my hands and took my camera (in the form of my cell phone – I really didn't want to end my walk in the clink by being too obvious with a full-on camera bouncing around my neck) on my walk through this wealthiest of wealthy neighborhoods. I want to show you some of the crazy and eclectic things I see as I walk down this one particular street. The lack of cohesion between the different houses seems mind-boggling to me.

Also, I apologize in advance for the blurriness of some of these photos... I was trying to be stealthy and sometimes I'd move before the camera was done with the exposure.

First up: Topiary Paradise:

I wish I cold have taken this picture from a better angle. This house's garden truly looked like a manicured garden straight from the grounds at Disneyland (minus the animal-shaped topiaries). Probably the only time I wished I had a rhododendron so I could shape it like a tiny tree. They were beautiful in full bloom. Mad props to their gardener.

Next: The only two actual retail locations in the entire mini-city of Medina:
The bottom floor of the green building was for lease for a while a couple years ago and I dreamed of opening a breakfast place in it.

Here's a close-up of the mural on the side of the Post Office:

This house reminded me of some place you'd see in Laguna. I think it's the gate on the front and the glass blocks. But I kept expecting to hear the ocean every time I looked at it.

Right next door to Laguna house:
We enter the forest. I'm not normally fond of dark wood on houses, but I really like this one.

A little bit further down the road, we find what I like to call The Castle. I really wish they would have gone all the way and put in a moat and drawbridge.

A really blurry side view of The Castle.

The Castle's next door neighbor: The Italian Villa.

Now, I feel I need to mention that all the pictures thus far come from the non-lake side of the street. The 'poor' side, if you will. They have no gates, no cameras, no keypads, and no 12 foot high, 4 foot thick shrubs protecting them from prying eyes like mine. I'm pretty sure Bill lives on the lake side where most of the drives look like this:

Or this:

The lake side also likes to know what time it is, apparently. Or maybe it's just this one particular house:

Though, some of the houses do like showing off. Take this angular beauty for example:

My favorite from the lake side (from what I can see, anyway) is definitely this one:

Dude, if you're gonna have a gate, at least make it a fun one. In case you're wondering, no, that is not a park but someone's front yard.

Yes, it's fun to walk through Medina and marvel at how the other half (or maybe it's more like 10%?) live. You also have to wonder, though, what are they hiding behind those gigantic barriers? And then I spotted these creepy little chairs huddled on the other side of a fence and I figured I was better off not knowing after all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Walking on Maui

Can I just say how muscular and skinny I would be if I lived on Maui? For one thing: beautiful fresh fruit year round and not all restaurants are veggie-friendly so I'd be cooking more. For another: lovely walking weather - even when it's raining!

My plan before going to Maui was to get up early every morning and do at least an hour walk before the days activities got under way. I also wanted to do some hiking as I'd heard the landscape is spectacular. The first two days I did really well: 4.2 miles on Day 1 and 2.2 miles on Day 2.

The first day, I took my brother with me as we'd both been up for hours by 6am (still adjusting to the 3-hour time shift). By the end of the first half-mile, I think he had a better appreciation for the kind of walking I do... Well, that and the boy only brought wool socks with him, so he was wearing shoes without socks because it was about 70 when we started walking. I left him sitting on the beach and continued my walk. I had forgotten how humid beach areas were, so I worked up quite a sweat on my 4-mile walk. I didn't mind, though, because I was walking next to the beach where I could hear waves crashing and birds chirping. The sun wasn't over the tops of the mountains yet, so the whole world had a kind of muted beauty to it. Here's my route:

By the time I made it back to the resort, I was smiling, loose, and ready to take on the day. It does a body good to breathe deeply fresh salt air first thing in the morning.

My second day's walk was limited to only half an hour as we'd decided to go out to breakfast at this place that was notorious for lines forming half and hour before it opens. Oh, Gazebo, how you wooed me with your banana and pineapple pancakes!

What I find amusing about these maps is it looks like I'm staying in a dirt field. I swear, there's actually a resort there! That day, my brother, dad, and I went hiking in the Iao Valley as well, so I didn't feel too guilty about cutting my walk short. The hike was beautiful and apparently we really lucked out as the valley is known to have rainy weather a lot of the time.

The next day, I woke up stiff and sore from our hike. I knew I wasn't in the best of shape, but I didn't expect my legs to actually scream at me after only an hour's hike. I decided to give my legs a rest that morning because I knew my brother and I were going to be driving around the top part of the island that day and I planned on throwing in a couple impromptu small hiking excursions along the way. The drive was beautiful and the scenery was dramatic. High cliffs, crashing waves, sudden lush valleys, cattle-country, and volcanic craters.

That afternoon, I became ill and had to take a day to recuperate before I could go on any strenuous excursions. I sat by the pool and read a lot.

My brother and I decided to take a drive and hike out past Makena on a trail called The King's Highway. I had never understood what lava rock was until we hiked on it for a couple miles. The landscape was so foreign, we could have been walking on Mars.
(Well, Mars with an extensive ocean, anyway.) The photos don't do the place justice. Next time I am out there, I will need to spend more time and try to capture the place. Iao was pretty, but the lava field was by far my favorite place this trip.

Our final full day on Maui, I did get another morning walk in. It rained during my walk, but 75 and rainy? Totally okay with me! It actually felt nice to have cool raindrops hit my sweaty face as I listened to the birds and waves battle for dominance in my ears.

I seem to be averaging 4.15/hour right now. Not too shabby for having only started training.

I didn't get to walk nearly as much as I'd planned, but all in all I'm proud that I got out there and did it the days I could. Like I said, I would be one in-shape chick if I could live there!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What to Say?

I've stopped and started several blog posts this last week. They either started out real strong and fizzled out quickly or were kind of lame from the beginning. I want to talk about why I'm walking, why this cause has become a big issue for me, why - after doing this 60 miles last time - I am knowingly putting my feet through that torture again. But I honestly don't know where to start.

I guess I'll start with a story that will make you all think I'm crazy. This is something I don't think I've ever shared with anyone before. (And now I'm sharing it with anyone who reads this! Way to start small, Me.)

I don't know where I heard the term "breast cancer" first. I do know that I was young when I came to understand what it meant. I remember obsessing over the fact that a lump could turn into something deadly in your own body; that your body could essentially turn on itself. I don't know how or why, but I became convinced I would get breast cancer on the outer side of my left breast. I checked for lumps constantly and, as any woman knows, teenage years are extremely lumpy years. I would poke and poke and poke and ensure nothing ever changed size (had no real knowledge of what to look for, just lumps). Never spoke of it to my mom, convinced that if I uttered my fears they would be realized.

When I finally started going in for checks, I was educated on what to look for, how to do it, and when to be worried. It alleviated most of my anxiety over the issue, but to this day I still get freaked out a little when I go to do my self breast exam.

So, this is why I'm walking: I want to help find a cure for future generations of girls so they don't have to worry, wonder, and fret about breast cancer. There are so many things to stress about already, let us take one off the table.

60 miles is a long way. It is Seattle to Olympia; Garden Grove to Malibu. Trust me, walking 20 miles for three days straight is no picnic. Blisters, black toenails, and quivering leg muscles are in my future. But I do it gladly if it will help raise awareness and funds for research to get even a little bit closer to finding a cure. 60 miles I can do.

It sucks that we have to live in a world where diseases like breast cancer must take up our time and thoughts. Let's help end it so future generations can think about more worth-while things. Let's make it so breast cancer is a part of medical history, not emerging medical research.

Please join me by donating today. I'll gladly do the walking and campaigning knowing I have your love and support.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Walk A Mile

I walk every day whether I feel like it or not. I gave up my car two years ago when driving my old junker became so infuriating (because of major leaking and beeping issues) I decided I'd rather walk through a blizzard naked than get back in that car one more time. So, I started walking everywhere - clothed for the sake of humanity.

I've become such a walking snob. I don't count anything under 5 miles of straight walking exercise even though I know it doesn't matter the distance, it only matters that you are out and doing it.

Yesterday, I did my first real training walk after work. It was a nice day when I got home, so I changed clothes real quick (before the weather changed its mind) and out the door I went. There are two things you should know - or actually, you probably shouldn't know but I'll tell you anyway - about my exercise wardrobe:
1. I wear baby-blue old pj bottoms to walk in. I'm always the only one in color walking around the track.
2. I inevitably never have a pocket to keep my keys in, so they end up jangling around in my sports bra. Pockets! Why don't any of my workout clothes have pockets?
As it was my first real walk of the season, I decided to just go up to the park and do laps. It's relatively flat with a slight incline and some steps to get a good variation. Since I hadn't walked for exercise in, oh, about four months, I figured it would be a good starting point. My goal was 5-6 miles which translates into 10-12 laps.

Also, the park is fantastic when you're walking alone because of all the people watching opportunities. Last night was no exception. There were the typical Bellevue-ites out with their tiny dogs, walking in heels on gravel. There was the stereotypical wealthy couple: her with her fake boobs and skin-tight everything, him with his designer shades and the phone clutched to ear. Lots of middle-aged women with their dogs chatting in the middle of the track, dogs sniffing and growling with wagging tails.

And then there were the single walkers like me. These people I enjoy watching the most. I notice I tend to make up stories about why they aren't walking with anyone. She spent the day homeschooling her three kids and now that Dad's home, she gets an hour to herself to unwind. He spent the day having tests run and found out he needs to start exercising to stave off high blood pressure. That one had a fight with his lover and needs to cool off. She wants to shed just a little more so she can fit into her dress for her high school reunion. I invariably start to wonder if anyone else there is walking like I am: to get ready for 60 miles. I wonder if I were to wear a sign if any one of them would come up and say they are walking for the same reason. Perhaps next time I go, I'll wear my old 3-Day shirt and see.

Those 5 miles were invigorating and eye-opening. When I walk for exercise, I walk at a good clip. I was done with 5 miles in a little over an hour. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy that endorphin rush that only exercising can give you. It was eye-opening because today my glutes and hamstrings are singing. I have a long way to go before I'm in shape!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cookies for a Cure

Last night, I baked!

I'd been thinking about how I wanted to kick off this year's fundraising for a month or so and then I found the cutest cookie cutter, and I knew sugar cookies were the way to go! As I'd never made sugar cookies before (on my own), I was a little nervous. Anyone who has eaten my food knows I tend to be cautious in cooking to the point where everything turns out well-done. Cookies are no exception. I like to blame it on my great grandmother who served me many a crispy chocolate chip in my impressionable early days, but that excuse only goes so far.
The Beginning

So, I squared my shoulders, put my head down and got to business. And lo! Cookies were born! *An aside here: I never knew how many cookies one batch of sugar cookie dough could make. My final count was 116.

My Pink Cookie Army - Can you spot the "wounded soldier?"

Thank you, coworkers for donating to the cause for a sugary treat! This one fundraiser pulled in $47.50. Not a bad start toward my goal!

The Simple Things

Walking. It's such a simple thing to do. As children, it was our first real mode of transportation. As adults, it is a form of exercise and stress-reducer. One foot in front of the other. It might be slow, it might take time, but so long as you continue to put one foot in front of the other, you will reach your destination.

I have signed up again this year to take part in the Seattle 3-Day for the Cure. This is a 60 mile walk over three days (roughly 20 miles per day) benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I have pledged to raise $2,300 before September 16th when I start my 3-Day journey in Seattle with thousands of other participants.

$2,300 and 60 miles may seem like a lot to ask from one person. I know the first year I took on this challenge, it seemed almost impossible. How am I, little ol' me, going to persuade people to hand me money for charity? I start by asking, continue by entertaining, and - if push comes to shove - end by begging. Most of the time though, it doesn't take much persuading. Breast cancer is, after all, the #2 cancer killer among women. It is a scary fact that every woman lives with every time she does her self-check and thinks she might feel a lump. #2. The only thing that beats breast cancer is lung cancer. I'd love to see this number fall off the map. I've known too many people over the years who have been diagnosed with this awful disease. My goal in walking and in raising funds is to raise awareness and give research a chance to find a cure before the next generation of little girls grows up and has to face the #2 cancer killer of women. Mine is a simple task.

Today starts my campaign to educate while I raise funds in preparation for the 3-Day walk starting in Seattle on September 16th. Tomorrow starts my walk training, rain or shine (though, I'm really hoping for shine!). If any of you are in the Seattle area and ever feel the need to go on an extended (or short, I'm not picky!) walk one day, please let me know. I'm always looking for walking buddies! Or, if you've ever wondered what it would be like to walk between cities (like, say, from Bellevue to Issaquah or Bellevue to Seattle or Redmond to Issaquah) don't hesitate to let me know you're interested. Those are just some of the walks I plan on doing this year. 60 miles is a long way - longer than you realize until you're on day three with 5 miles to go and you're legs and feet hurt so bad that curb in front of you might as well be Mount Everest. But in the end, it's worth it. Because walking? It's a simple thing to do.

The difficult thing is getting a diagnosis of Cancer. Making choices you'd never thought you'd have to make and then watch your family worry while you're terrified is difficult. Donating money and walking miles is simple by comparison.

If you have a moment and some spare cash, please consider helping me to reach my goal of $2300 by clicking on the Donate button to the right. Let's do what we can to help those that we can. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Lifetime

There is a lot said about human nature: that we are inherently selfish creatures, mean, insecure, pessimistic. Some days, I tend to agree. There is a lot of ugliness out here in this big world we live in. We fight amongst ourselves like we're the enemies. It is so wrong.

I just spent three days being proven that all of us - every single one of us - can get along when our energy is directed not at each other, but at an outside force. In this case, that force was breast cancer.

I saw people in the last three days that were physically hurt to the point of needing serious medical help stand up and continue walking without a peep of whining. I saw women and men stop and offer assistance when they saw a stranger sitting on the side of the road massaging their feet. I saw women cheering us on with tears in their eyes and a smile on their lips, holding signs saying "Thank you" because they couldn't trust themselves to speak. I saw scars that would normally be hidden from the world displayed proudly. I saw a sea of smiles every where I looked - from the walkers and from the people cheering us on.

No. After these last three days I'm convinced that selflessness is the the rule not the exception.

Everyone I had talked with that had done one of these 3-Day walks in the past told me that after the event, your outlook on life changes. I was skeptical at first, but now I see exactly what they mean. Unfortunately, I can't think of any way to describe it other than a very large, bright smile in the pit of your stomach.

Do you want to know the final numbers for The Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day?

3,200 Walkers walked.
400 Crew Members volunteered.

Seattle raised over $8,700,000.00 dollars. That's almost 9 MILLION dollars, people! We did good.

Over the next few days, I'll be writing about my experience walking. I was going to do it on one gigantic post, but I don't think it would do the walk justice.

More later.