The End of a Streak

Starting Tuesday night, I developed a fever for the first time in three years. Along with this raised temperature came severe stomach cramps, vertigo inducing nausea, and an unbelievable urge to evacuate my bowels. By 2 in the morning on Wednesday I was groaning in pain and unable to sleep. Five hours later, I was canceling my meetings for the day and hoping to simply pass out until the worst was over. No such luck.

I spent Wednesday shifting from one position to another in a futile attempt to alleviate the pain and get some rest. Whether from pain or simple exhaustion, I managed to remain unconscious for several hours throughout the day. This was little comfort as my Apple Watch continued to tick away the minutes and log the lack of movement and standing I was doing for the day. Sleep continued to grab me and pull me under in fits and rages.

My husband, with his ten years of healthcare experience, watched over me between sessions on his Nintendo DS. Ensuring I was breathing and rolling his eyes with each passive groan I let out. The cats and dog held me in place on the bed, purring and cuddling their way to a perfect day (in their minds at least). My body simply screamed for some sort of relief.

By early evening I was able to stay awake for a couple of hours, but my body had no energy left after beating back the fever and evacuating my bowels. The cramps had sapped me of everything I had remaining in reserves. I was a limp and broken shell sitting in my big purple chair with a 20 pound cat pinning me down while trying to convince me to go back to bed.

It was 9 o’clock when it hit me: my move streak on my Apple Watch was over. I wasn’t going to be able to get the 600 active calories that remained for the day before I collapsed again. I had been defeated 192 days into my self-imposed challenge by a stomach bug I cannot explain. Over 6 months of effort evaporated in an instant. It was at this point my friends knew I was truly ill.

Today is a brand new day and, despite not feeling 100% yet, I have closed all my rings. So ends Day 1 of a brand new streak!

Are you an Apple Watch user who revels in closing your rings? What’s your longest move streak? Do you use another tracker to motivate you to do more than sit at your computer and eat whatever is closest at hand? Share in the comments!

In-Flight Reset

Post 10 - Railyards
Albuquerque Rail Yards

I have been absent from my blog for the past two weeks as I thrust myself into an experiment to prove what I am doing has been positive. Essentially, I tested whether my lifestyle before this year was actually a bad thing. Initial results: it absolutely was bad for me.

Early this week I had to travel to New Jersey for work which broke the routine I have been following since the beginning of the year. This lapse in commitment on my part led to the aforementioned experiment. I started to leave the television on for hours on end, my diet went to shit, and I haven’t been to the gym in a week. My energy plummeted, attitude suffered, and motivation evaporated. I found myself wasting hour after hour doing nothing of importance – I passed from relaxation into laziness.

All of this helps to highlight the fact that new habits and commitments to improving yourself are fragile. It doesn’t take much to backslide into your old ways and, if you’re not careful, stay there.

I did not set out to test my resolve nor did I anticipate such a fast return to my toxic habits of the past. Fortunately, I have been able to identify what is happening and fix the problem.

Today has been a more productive day (outside of the office) than any in the past two weeks. I am in the process of an in-flight reset to ensure I don’t lose all of my gains this year and push through this barrier as quickly as possible. To help with this, I am doing the following:

  1. Calendar Organization – I am blocking time out using my personal Google Calendar to help keep me on track each day. This is not granular enough to result in notification fatigue, but pings me with general guidance as to what I should be doing.
  2. Writing – This is helped by my calendar, but keeping this blog and my personal Dailies in mind at all times. Writing has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts and vent my frustrations before they negatively impact my day-to-day. This year is highly focused on building this habit and skillset.
  3. Three Goals Per Day – I use this technique at work to ensure I stay focused on what is important. I may complete 100 tasks in a day, but it only truly matters if I complete all 3 of my primary goals I set out with at the beginning of each day. These goals can be as small “go to the gym” or “write a Daily” anything that I want to make progress on in a particular day.

This post will likely read as a bit scattered. There is a simple reason for this: it is. I needed to jump start my writing and this post is what I came up with. I hope you get something out of it like I did.

What do you do to get back on track after a stumble? Are there any things you do to make every day a productive day? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

PTSD Does Not Mean “Broken”

Post 8 - PTSD
Me in Iraq, circa 2008

As I was running on the treadmill yesterday morning, listening to the band Five Finger Death Punch, my mind wandered back to the days of old when I was in the Army. The picture accompanying this post is of me in Iraq circa 2008. I was a Staff Sergeant, infantry squad leader, and on my third tour of duty in that particular country. The quality of life during that visit to Iraq was much higher than my previous trips to other parts of the country. We had clean water, secure base, relatively clean living conditions, and only one enemy contact (an improvised explosive devise that didn’t hit my platoon or squad). It was a quiet time in our area of responsibility in Iskandariyah and its surrounding area.

With each trudging stride on the treadmill, I remembered the long, grueling runs up and down the “Schoolhouse” route in Korea. This was a favorite route of many Team Leaders (including myself once I earned the position) for its steep inclines and seemingly disproportionately shallow declines that culminated in a beautiful school tucked away from modern civilization. I recalled my brief runs on the small airbase outside of Camp Fallujah in 2004 at the beginning of my first tour in Iraq. Back then I had dreams of Ranger School, Special Forces, and a life of hardship directed by the U.S. Army. My mind flashed forward to Fort Campbell and the near leisurely squad runs I oversaw each morning. I would run the squad in formation between 1 and 3 miles out then turn them around and let them free run back to the company area – requiring each member of the squad to get there before I did. More recently, in Kosovo I reminisced about the midnight run I did, alone, that consisted of, well, running. I simply put on shorts and a t-shirt with my running shoes and started running (very Forrest Gump style). That run lasted about 15 miles and a couple of hours; running up and down the dirt roads that circled Camp Bondsteel thinking about all the things in my life.

Running has almost always been an activity of calm for me despite the fact that I am an “ugly runner”. I don’t talk while running, I don’t engage, I simply run. Nowadays, I am running to lose weight, focus my mind, and (hopefully) prevent pure embarrassment as I tackle actual races throughout the year. I have never been the fastest runner nor the slowest, always existing somewhere in the middle. This is okay with me – I don’t think I ever dreamed of being a world-class athlete, let alone a gold medal winning marathoner. Running is my center and every time I stop running for extended periods of time, I find myself off balance which negatively impacts my life.

What does all this talk about running have to do with the title of this blog post?

Post 9 - Promotion
Me getting my sergeant rank pinned on by two very helpful squad leaders…

Well, I also remembered the sprint I made from a courtyard in Ramadi, Iraq to the wall surrounding a mosque while under readily identifiable enemy fire. For those that don’t know what that means: bad guys were actively shooting bullets from AK-47 rifles in my, and my team’s direction, with the intent to kill one or all of us. The distance covered was about 100 meters and required a slight elbow-like turn halfway to the destination (the scariest part since it required the slightest decrease in forward momentum to avoid falling on our asses). We were completely exposed to the enemy and any step could have been followed by a bullet to a softer part of our bodies.

I recalled the building-to-building bounding (sprinting from one place to another) in a hostile marketplace in the rural outskirts of southwest Baghdad while a sniper and gunman took pot-shots at me and my soldiers. The sky was overcast and a light drizzle was falling down around us, everything appeared gray and downtrodden. At one point, in a surrealistic moment,  I took cover behind a vandalized mural of Saddam Hussein in the middle of the open courtyard at the heart of the marketplace. The rain fell around me as I peaked around the edge to better identify where the enemy was firing from. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, my radio seemed quieter, and an odd calm took over the world. I was strangely at peace in the middle of chaos.

My mind brought to bear the memories of jumping out of a helicopter as it hovered a foot or so off the ground over a potato field outside an abandoned, half-built Russian power plant south of Baghdad. Once the bird (helicopter) dropped its babies it quickly rose into the air and peeled away into the jet-black night sky. I led my platoon (as point-man, not designated leader) out of the potato field, onto an asphalt road, across a bridge, and through the front gates of this abandoned complex. My squad cleared the main administrative building while the other squads peeled off to their designated clearance zones. Calling the building that reminded me of most small American schools “clear” (no enemy presence), my men and I moved to clearing the shanty town of plywood buildings that had been used for storage and living spaces that surrounded the admin building. All appeared clear of enemy presence. During this clearance, someone (I don’t remember who), found a “bongo” (snub-nose, typically flat bed truck popular in the Middle East) truck with a solid coating of blood on its bed. It was presumed this was the blood of the American soldiers we had been sent to look for after their abduction by enemy forces at a checkpoint a few miles from the power plant.

Many more of these memories found their way to my mind’s eye during my short run on the treadmill yesterday morning. I started thinking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it seems that the American public expects every veteran to suffer from this problem. It can be seen in movies and television all the time: Agent Booth in Bones was traumatized by the loss of his spotter, Vietnam Veterans have been portrayed as “broken” since the war was actively in progress, and newer movies about Iraq (Hurt Locker (puke), American Soldiers, and others) always contain a large portion of its cast reliving their memories from “the shit”. I know, first-hand, that PTSD is a very real thing and different people have different thresholds for dealing with it.

But what about those of us who don’t actively suffer from PTSD? Are we the exception or are we broken in other ways?

I don’t have nightmares. I don’t feel survivor’s guilt. I am not easily triggered into an “over-the-top” reaction to explosions, gun fire, or falling plywood. I don’t drive in the center of the road fearing there might be a bomb buried on the side of the road. I don’t drink heavily, trying to drown my memories and tears. Most importantly, I don’t relive my memories, I simply remember them and an appropriate emotional response occurs.

When I first left the Army, I did have issues with hyper-vigilance and over-the-top emotional responses (typically anger) to minor slights. However, this is more attributable to why I left the Army and the speed at which that happened than anything else (that’s a whole other long blog post). To help with this, I had three appointments with a psychologist at the VA in Tucson, Arizona. I think she found my telling of the stories (lack of emotion, more of a report than a story) more interesting than my reaction to them at that time. I was diagnosed with PTSD, but I didn’t seek any further treatment since I was (and am) fully capable of thriving in day-to-day life without pharmaceutical, therapeutic, or self-medicating treatment.

Despite these facts, it seems that non-veterans and veterans alike assume that since I was an infantryman who was in Iraq for 33 months during some of the worst fighting the country experienced that I should be broken, crying, and constantly talking about the medications I am on to keep me from being a danger to myself or others around me. It is despicable that people assume soldiers are broken simply because they served.

I guess what this overly long post is driving at is: Don’t assume I am broken and should be acting like that guy in that movie who drinks too much, can’t stop crying, and ultimately just needs a hug.

For those people who do suffer from PTSD, veteran or not, find someone to talk to, whether it is a professional or a friend or a family member or a dog, don’t let your experiences and memories run your life. Let it out and seek help sooner than later

Any veterans out there with an opinion on this matter? Anyone know of some good resources for people to use if they suffer from PTSD? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

2018 Goals – Status Check

It has been nearly a month since 2018 started and I have worked the past 4 weeks to make meaningful gains towards my goals for the year. I won’t lie, this hasn’t been the easiest thing to do. Yesterday, I had a couple of wrenches thrown in the machine that is my progress by work. I spent most of last night sorting through different ways to handle the stress introduced throughout the week as well as the bombshells of Friday the 26th of January.

Morning RunDespite unforeseen (yet expected, break that down) circumstances resulting in some financial strain, increased stress in life, and the temptation to slip into my old ways, I still got the house cleaned and laundry started. Win for me. This morning, I woke up and had my cup of coffee, furthered the weekly laundry parade, and headed to the gym. In one hour and six minutes, I ran/walked 5.34 miles on the treadmill with a variable incline. Another win for me. Of course, that euphoric feeling after running did nothing but help me decide that I am going to make it through this first hurdle of the year and, most likely, will come out the other side better off than I am today.

Remember, when life throws a roadblock in front of you, the best thing to do is accept the situation and its circumstances, determine the path forward, and drive on!

In that spirit, I have decided to give everyone a status update on my progress towards accomplishing my 2018 goals. Here we go:

  1. Lose 25 Pounds
    Weight Tracking
    Down 6 pounds!
    • STATUS: As of this morning I weigh 197.4 lbs!
    • I started the year at 203.2 pounds and have been weighing myself everyday, but only paying attention to the Saturday weigh-ins (for progress tracking).
    • I am very happy with my progress on this goal!
  2. Maintain a personal blog with no fewer than 52 posts in 2018
    • STATUS: This is my 7th post this year, definitely ahead of schedule!
    • Writing these blog posts has been thoroughly therapeutic and fun – each week I am looking forward to sitting down and publishing.
    • I recommend that anyone who can, should start a personal blog and commit to posting on a regular basis!
  3. Log at least 180 personal journal entries
    • STATUS: As of this morning, I am at 15 entries!
    • I am write on track (get it?) with this goal though sometimes I feel I’m still not writing enough.
  4. Complete the 10k “Run for the Zoo”
    • STATUS: Training is in full swing!
    • This race isn’t until May so I can’t complete it quite yet.
    • However, I have been running 1-2 times a week (4+ miles) along with high intensity interval training twice a week in order to prepare myself.
    • In the coming weeks, I will be switching from “get my body used to moving again” into an actual 10k training plan – more to come on this front later.
  5. Finish the half-marathon OR marathon in the Duke City Marathon
    • STATUS: Training is in full swing!
    • This race isn’t until October so I can’t complete it quite yet.
    • Once I start a complete the “Run for the Zoo” 10k, I am going to 16 week marathon training program – more to come on this front later.
  6. QUIT SMOKING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
    • STATUS: No change since the beginning of the year 😔
    • This is the most difficult goal for me to accomplish this year. I’ll write a separate post about my smoking problem in the future.
  7. Pay OFF 85% of existing debt
    • STATUS: 5% of my existing debt was paid off in January!
    • I am right on track with this goal and, barring an emergency or sudden change in my life, will be accomplished with plenty of time to spare
  8. Save $15,000 in cash and investments
    • STATUS: I have saved 3% of the total.
    • At this rate, I will only reach 36% of my total goal by the end of the year. I need to step it up and find additional sources of income as well as tighten the belt a bit.
  9. Hike to the top of the Crest (Sandia Mountain)
    • STATUS: Training is in full swing!
    • As a part of my training for the Bataan Memorial Death March, I make a point to be off-road or on trails as much as possible to help me with this goal as well.
    • Planned ascent is November so I still have plenty of time to make this happen.
  10. Read 20 books (of any subject)
    • STATUS: Halfway through two books at the moment
    • I haven’t been focusing on this goal as much as I should – plenty of excuses but no good reasons.

So, there it is, a lengthy post about my progress towards my 2018 goals. There is plenty of work left to do and I remain optimistic that I will be able to accomplish everything on this list this year. There may be some blood, sweat, and tears in the process, but it is all worth it in the end.

Until next time, take a moment to breath for 5 minutes – it really can help!

How are you doing with your 2018 goals? Have you run into any barriers causing you to stutter-step on your path to accomplishing your goals? How do you deal with stress from work? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Oh the History I’ve Seen

In pursuit of accomplishing my goals for the year, I took a little walk around downtown Albuquerque. I took a quick look at the building my dad worked in during the ’80s and ’90s, looked at the playground equipment they are installing on the Plaza, and a historic placard affixed to the Galleria building. It got me thinking about how things change in so few years while still triggering memories of otherwise forgotten times.

I, like everyone else, cannot foresee the future so the title of this post is a bit of an assumption. The optimist in me says I am still less than halfway through the total number of years I will be alive. However, as I have learned in the first 34 years, there is no guarantee this will end up being true. Morbid, right? I like to think of it as more practical than pessimistic.

Thinking in these terms reminds me to be thankful for the time I have had and to live each day with purpose. I don’t buy into the concept of “living each day as if it were my last” since this would inevitably lead to some bad decisions worth avoiding. Living with purpose means a majority of my actions are driving towards identified goals and objectives. My Goals for 2018 have been documented on this blog and I am working on a new page for my Bucket List (so check back often to see it). This is how I guide my actions in a purposeful manner, I recommend a similar approach for everyone!

Today is my 34th birthday (as mentioned in the post immediately prior to this one) and I want to take a moment to reflect on my life thus far. I have not followed a “normal” or “safe” path through life. Many people would look at the overview of my life and say, “wow, that sounds <insert exciting adjective>”. For me, it has merely been my life.

Here are some of the historic moments that influenced my life:

  1. September 11, 2001 –  This date has defined the part of my generation born in the 1980s. Many of us joined the military and served our country in response to the attacks that occurred on this day. It will likely be regarded by historians as the defining moment of the 21st century – at least, until the next high-profile, conflict initiating event in the world.
  2. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – In response to the attacks on 9/11/2001, the United States, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, declared war against Afghanistan (the home of the Taliban government that provided safe haven to Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the attacks) and, later, Iraq.
  3. Revelations of the False Pretenses for Declaring War on Iraq – This was not a defining moment necessarily, but it opened the eyes of a patriotic generation. The guise of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and affiliation (or complacency) with Al Qaeda were burned down years into a war that I participated in.
  4. The Election of the First Black President – The election of President Barack Hussein Obama (and his subsequent reelection) shocked the world for all the wrong reasons. He was a freshman congressman with limited national experience, but a wealth of good judgement and a high intelligence in conjunction with a charming personality and great rhetoric led to his historic win over John McCain, a Vietnam Veteran, POW, and seasoned political figure.
  5. The Great Recession – Right about the time I was booted out of the Army (for being gay), the US economy crashed causing high unemployment and a lack of opportunities for the masses. It took years for this to be corrected (and some would say we are still working on pulling ourselves up) but shone a light on the house of cards that was the housing market – similar to the .com bubble that burst in 1999 and 2000.
  6. The Technology Revolution – Many will say this revolution started prior to my birth, but it sure culminated from the 1990s to present. Smart phones, augmented reality, virtual reality, genetic engineering, leaps and bounds of forward momentum on personal computing devices, wearable smart tech, social media platforms, online existence, etc. all came to fruition in the past 15 years. It has truly been an incredible time to be alive.
  7. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Put in Place and Subsequently Repealed (a little too late) – This is more of a personal historic moment for me given the impact on my life that DADT ended up playing. I was a part of the thousands of Army personnel discharged under this policy. It took away one of the lives I thought I was supposed to have – serving in an Army that I would have gladly given my life for many times over.

Obviously, I could go on and on listing the historic moments that happened in my life so far, but those are the ones that stand out to me while I write this post. I think it says a lot about me that these are the items that highlight themselves. Conflict and challenge, loss and love, evolution of the way we live.

My goals this year are my purpose through my 34th year of life. I will work everyday to accomplish or surpass these goals.

What historic events do you remember being influential in your life? Did these events guide you down an unexpected path? Do you think you have seen your last major historical event?

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is my 34th birthday, it is also the day the US Government shut down for the 8th time in its history. I blame myself, a week ago I was in a really good mood, had a very productive day, and was optimistic about the future.

If you are interested in the shut down on President Trump’s one year anniversary in office you  can click that link or this one. However, if you are looking for political commentary or my thoughts on the matter, you will have to read another blog – I have no interest in sharing my political views here at this time.

This past week has been a dismal failure towards reaching my 2018 Goals. My husband was sick for the first half of the week and I ended up going down with a touch of a cold in the middle of the week. The television has been playing regularly in the background, I haven’t picked up a book since last weekend, and I missed one of my gym sessions due to the feeling of exhaustion. My personal journaling suffered and I felt motivation seeping from my pours with each conscious minute that passed.

Fortunately, I have regained my drive through personal reflection and discipline. Today, I nearly had to force myself to write a journal entry (what I call a “Daily”) but once I started the words flowed freely from me. It helped push me to write this blog post. It will help motivate me to get out of bed in the morning and go to the gym for a long run on the treadmill and some rowing work. The train may have slowed this week, but it has not been derailed.

It is easy to give up when life doesn’t cooperate with your dreams, but it is very fulfilling when you stand up and say, “I will not stop”. I have only quit a handful of times in my life and each of those times were major disappointments. I try not to hold onto regrets for my past decisions, but when I have quit (regardless of reasons) are bright shining lights of regret.

This weekend is my time to reset and focus back in on my goals. There is a lot of work to be done and plenty to occupy my time. Health, family, personal development, and so many other positive things in my life.

I hope congress can pull things together and get the government running again – my friends in the Army would probably appreciate it along with every citizen of this great country.

How do you remotivate yourself after a setback? Do you regret the times you have quit in life even when it was for a good reason? How do you move past those hurdles? Share your thoughts in the comments!

My Goals for 2018

earlnightingale1-2x

Most people create “resolutions” for the new year – temporary motivations towards improving their lives, the lives of others, or simple self satisfaction. Unfortunately, most people don’t follow through with these resolutions for a better version of themselves. I have been one of those people up to this point.

This year I am taking a different approach. This year, I didn’t wait until New year’s Eve or Day to start improving myself and my situation in life. In the weeks leading up to the end of 2017, I began seriously thinking about and documenting my goals for 2018 and beyond. I did not see the point of waiting until the calendar ticked from December 31, 2017 to January 1, 2018 to begin working on fixing my shortcomings.

I am sharing my list of goals with the world (even if the world doesn’t read this electron of text) for accountability purposes. It is easy to fail at something that you alone know about since a self-berating rant is easy to ignore. Knowing that you put yourself out to the world and the world will ruthlessly roast a person for failure or giving up adds some pressure that could create a diamond.

Goals for 2018 and Beyond:

  1. Lose 25 pounds
    • Current weight: 203 lbs
    • Timeline: July 1, 2018 and kept off for an additional 6 months after which time I will re-evaluate
    • Other than general health reasons, losing weight (subsequently gaining muscle) will require the gym which helps justify the $80 a month I pay for full access to said facilities.
  2. Maintain a personal blog with no fewer than 52 posts in 2018
    • Writing has always been a healthy outlet for me, but I never seem to maintain the practice like I should. This is mentally and emotionally beneficial for me.
  3. Log at least 180 personal journal entries (electronic or handwritten) in 2018
    • As with the personal blog, writing is beneficial to my wellbeing and I need to make a concerted effort to write regularly.
  4. Complete the 10k “Run for the Zoo” in May 2018
    • This goal is in line with my weight loss goal, but would mark my first competitive running with civilians (since I regularly ran 5k’s in Kosovo).
    • A five month running training plan should be more than adequate to not embarrass myself during the event.
    • Logging all training and competition miles in Runtastic or Apple Workout App.
  5. Finish the half-marathon OR marathon in the Duke City Marathon in Oct 2018
    • Same comments as the 10k “Run for the Zoo”.
  6. QUIT SMOKING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
    • Not only is the week to week out of pocket expense ridiculous (likely to be upwards of $3,000 a year!), but the longterm health risks will be very expensive if not life ending.
    • I am no longer the teenage rebel or young Army Sergeant with something to prove – I need to stop acting like it!
    • It would be nice to initially accomplish this goal by March 2018.
  7. Pay OFF 85% of existing debt in 2018
    • Paying off this debt will allow the Husband and I to do more with our lives since we won’t have the constant fear of financial collapse.
    • This goal is also a key factor in accomplishing what we have termed “Goal 40” – our exodus from the city to the country.
  8. Save $15,000 in cash and investments by year’s end
    • The amount is lofty (at best), but can be accomplished with the right amount of sacrifice and focus.
  9. Hike to the top of the Crest (Sandia Mountain)
    • This has been something I have wanted to do for some time now but always find an excuse not to do.
  10. Read 20 books (of any subject)
    • This is more important than other things

I am off to a strong start over the past month. In the last 3 weeks I have lost 6 pounds, read 1 book, and taken stringent efforts to improve my financial security. This is the personal blog mentioned in goal #2 so judge for yourself my successes on that one. I have also managed to make 10 personal journal entries which have proven very therapeutic.

What are your goals for 2018 and beyond? Do you prefer thinking of them as resolutions or goals? Why? Share the you that you want to be with the world!

A Spur of the Moment Walk Through History…

Rinconada Canyon's end

I have lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the past 6 years – having returned to the Land of Enchantment after a 12 year hiatus – and have been doing a disservice to myself ever since. On only a handful of occasions, I have packed a backpack and laced up the hiking boots to tackle an easy to intermediate trail within 20 miles of the city. Most of my focus has been the Embudo Trail in Cibola National Forest along the westside of the Sandia Mountains which act as the eastern border of Albuquerque. The trail connects with a system of trails that lead to the Crest (one of my goals this year) and is challenging while providing beautiful panoramic views of the city.

However, on the opposite side of the city is the smaller (but not small) Petroglyph National Monument. When people think of the West Side of Albuquerque, they immediately conjure images of cookie-cutter sub-divisions, new construction, and wide open expanses of desert. Many of us who live on the east side of the river (you know, real Albuquerque) do our best to not make the journey to the West Side without good reason. Well, I found out today that Petroglyph National Monument is a damn good reason!

I was out doing a favor for a friend who lives on the West Side and decided to stop in at one of the shorter trails known as Rinconada Canyon. This is a short 2.2 mile loop which features over 300 petroglyphs ranging in age from 3,000 to 300 years old. The canyon is quiet despite having higher than I normally enjoy foot traffic. On a cool winter day like today, the wind howls through the canyon, smacking you in the face as you venture in and propelling you out at the halfway point.

There are educational placards dotting the first half of the trail, but you don’t need these to understand the historical significance of this imagery. Whether it was the ancient Pueblo people marking trade routes or Spaniards documenting their presence in the canyon with their sheep, the fact that these images still exist today is awe inspiring. We now live in a world of digital imprints and documentation – however, the nature of this digital storage is that it will decay much faster than a stone or piece of wood thus being lost forever. In 100 years, this blog will likely have left no permanent impact; it will be a blink in the history of mankind and forgotten without prejudice.

If you find yourself in Albuquerque, on the West Side of the river, plug Rinconda Canyon into your phone’s navigation app and take a break from the modern world. Take your time on the trail and think about the lives that the people who left their mark on the landscape led. Can we, despite our technology and modern conveniences, learn anything from these people? Will you make such an impact on the world?

Where have you been recently that made you stop and wonder about the world we live in today? Share your experiences in the comments!

The Bataan Memorial Death March

2018-01-01 (2)With such an ominous name as “Death March” one could wonder why anyone would voluntarily participate in such an event. For me, it is a simple answer: Bucket List item.

For those who don’t know, I served a little over 6 years in the Army as an Infantryman. One of the primary tasks an Infantryman must be able to perform at any moment is walking from Point A to Point B within a designated amount of time. Something that you practice time and again until you can go all day or night without thinking twice about it.

Sounds simple, right? Well, add in the requirement to maintain X number of meters between you and the person in front of you while remaining cognizant of the person (or people) behind you. Don’t forget to keep your head on a swivel to ensure the enemy isn’t going to ambush you and kill you and your friends.

Still easy? Okay, put a bag on your back that contains everything you will need for Y amount of time – clothes, shovel, water, food, sleeping bag, poncho, ammunition, rain gear, cold gear, more ammunition, parachute cord, magazines (for aforementioned ammunition), your buddy’s ammunition, maybe a tripod – and try not to think about the fact that all of this stuff weighs 65 pounds or more (really try not to think about that 65 pounds being a third of your total body weight).

Anybody can do that, what’s the big deal? I gotcha, carrying around all that weight and remaining hyper-vigilant of your surroundings (for an enemy attack – you know, the kind that want to kill you) is easy. Now stop and go, never taking the weight off your shoulders, only being able to take a knee – no sitting for you hard ass – or hunch over for a moment’s relief for 12 hours through the night and over two mountains.

Maybe that’s got you thinking, “okay, maybe not for me”? But wait, that’s not all! After walking as far as you walked with all that weight on your back and ensuring nobody ambushed you or your friends along the way, you now get to drop that bag! Only to prep weapons and perform a furious, violence on the objective filled assault on a target. Sounds fun? Imagine walking a marathon carrying what amounts to the lower half of your body on your shoulders then sprinting 2 miles. All without sleep or any meaningful amount of food or water.

Not so easy, right? So why would I put a lighter version of all this on my bucket list? That answer is a bit more complicated.

My experiences in the Army showed me what I could do physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, as bad as it sometimes was, I never had to experience the sheer hell the men captured in Bataan had to endure. Those men were tougher than nails, harder than granite, and committed to preserving not only their lives but the lives of their fellow man. In the Army, we put ourselves through pain and undesirable physical conditions to pay tribute to those men who have done so much more than most will ever do. This is my tribute to those soldiers.

Another reason for voluntarily walking 26.2 miles with 35 pounds on my back through southeastern New Mexico desert in late March is: the challenge. Have you ever wondered, “how far can I go?” or “is that my limit or do I have more in me?”. These questions have always pushed me to take risks and pursue less traveled paths in life. I am by no means a pioneer or adrenaline junky who jumps off cliffs in a wing suit – I simply want to know how far this body and mind can go.

If you are interested in joining the thousands of people who participate in this event each year, you can register here for the 2018 Bataan Memorial Death March. The price of registration goes up in February!

What is the most challenging physical feat you have ever done? Why did you do it? Share your thoughts and comments below!

 

The “List Book”

List Book Cover - AverageLuke - Post 2I started something new at the end of last year to help me accomplish the long list of personal goals I have for 2018 – a book to hold all the lists I create. Now, admittedly, I am a list maniac who enjoys checking things off a to-do list or creating an inventory list of items being packed for a specific type of trip (business for 2-days, business for 3-days, personal camping for 3-days, etc.) so this evolution of consolidation was not a giant leap forward from what I was already doing (writing lists down in or on whatever I had available at that moment). However, I have already found it interesting how enlightening a consolidated source of lists impacting my life can be.

List Book List - AverageLuke - Post 2For example, the first list I wrote in the book was something that most people list out: a grocery shopping list. It is amazing how little a couple needs to buy to cook enough meals for a week.Admittedly, we already had the meat which reduced what we needed to purchase, but it was still a remarkably short list. Some vegetables, canned products and long-term use items and boom, you have meals for a week.

In an effort to expand my own horizons and meet my long-term goals, I have started a list of things I need to learn. This is a “living” list and will likely never be “complete”, but it helps me visualize what I know I don’t know. The devil is in what I don’t know I don’t know which should be helped by this list. I’m sure I will write a follow-up post describing my adventures in learning a great many of these things over time.

Continue reading “The “List Book””