28 January 2016

How To Have More Fun (or at least look like it)

On a not-so-noteworthy ski day a few years ago, my friend Anne let me in on a little secret: "You know, if you open your mouth and throw your hands in the air it makes it look like you are having at least 30% more fun."

Anne having ALL of the fun.

Like everyone else with a social media account, I post mostly the fun things in my life. The face shots and beach vacay pics. The costume parties. The I'm-playing-and-you're-at-work-today-neener-neener pics. Based on these pics, you probably assume my life is fun, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret: it's not. Not all the time anyway. Sure I have fun, sometimes I even have capitol 'F' Fun! The kind of fun where your face gets sore from smiling and your abs hurt from laughing. Type 1 FUN! But I also do lots of boring things - like pay bills and go to the grocery and fulfill social obligations even when I'd rather be sitting on the couch watching Netflix - but I don't flood my feed with those trivial pursuits.

The truth is, I want you to think my life is fun. Everyone does. It's not like you're sitting there reading this thinking, "Kristina you're WRONG! I want to be boring and forgettable. I'm completely content leading an uninteresting life." No. You want to be interesting so people will be interested.

To that end, here are seven things you can do to have more fun (or at least make your photos look like you're having fun):
  1. Be A Gaper: Open that beautiful mouth of yours you sexy beast. Your parents payed a pretty penny for those straight teeth, it's time to show them off. Plus - scientific fact here - the open mouth accounts for a 17% increase in the perceived fun quotient of any photographed activity.
    Christy's mouth is open wider which means she is having more fun. Don't be the a-hole having less fun.

  2. Jazz Hands: Wave those hands in the air. Wave them like you just don't care. Throw them up. Throw them out. Make crazy octopus arms. I don't care, and neither will anyone else. The point is: arms need to be at an obtuse angle to their normal resting place to make up the other 13% of Anne's fun quotient theory. I've found if you really lean into it you can increase your FQ by an additional 4%.  
  3. Teaching my mama and sister the magic. Throw those hands UP!
  4. Cram it in: More people = more fun. Everyone knows that. So put as damn many people in your photo as possible. Bonus points if you can find someone with the shortest arm to take the group long arm photo.
  5. Winning at long-arming.
  6. Jump!: Your feet are always holding you up, and therefore deserve - at least for a few seconds - to be photographed off the ground. Give it a go - jump as high as you can and see if your friend is fast enough to capture it on film. Your friend will probably suck at this, and so you'll have to jump again. And again and again. Which is inherently fun (and looks like fun) and doubles as a workout. Sounds like winning to me. 
  7. Stephen CRUSHED this. And kudos to Jordan for capturing the magic.

  8. Bring the Props (and action figure mascots): Props add instant merriment to a photo. Wigs, silly glasses, finger moustaches, and tutus are all easily-accessible fun factories. Step up your game by traveling with an action figure mascot. It'll make even the most mundane activity more fun. Not sure how to obtain an action figure mascot? Don't worry, I've got a guide for that
  9. Hold on a sec. Kurt needs to take a closer look.
    Without Grandpa Max this is just a dirty picture. With Grandpa Max this is a really dirty picture.

  10. Drink Up!: Alcohol reduces inhibitions, making you more likely to have fun, but it also gives the immediate appearance of fun. You say to yourself, "They're drinking? I want to go to there!" Whether you're skiing or babysitting, holding a beverage in your hand will make it instantly funner.
  11. I am crushing this whole aunt business.
  12. Taste the Rainbow: Who doesn't love a good rainbow picture? What's that you say crickets? NO ONE!?! As humans, we seem to be genetically wired to love rainbows, so when you have a chance, embrace the rainbow. Or really a pattern of any kind. Make your friends line up in descending order by height, or put your shoes together to make a circle. The point is our brains are drawn to interesting things, and it's easy to create a little order in this world of chaos. Everyone will be jealous they weren't included.
Taste the rainbow.

There you have it - seven steps to have more fun (or at least look like you are). Bonus points for those of you who can cram three or more tips into a single shot. Rainbow-wig, reverse-rainbow-tutu group jumping while drinking long-arm photo anyone?

21 January 2016

Go Ahead. Hike in a Tutu.

The alarm went off before the sun woke up. GrandBob roused the troops with coffee in hand, ready to start the day. We dined on the best corn bran and milk available from the local grocery, eating with plastic spoons while sitting in the back of a 1998 camper truck. By 7:30am, with tutus lovingly donned around our waists, we were on our way. I guess you could say we were ready.

Bob married my grandmother when I was 10, after dating for 10 years. While we aren't technically related, he's the type of family you feel lucky to marry into,and grateful when you get to spend time together. He's full of incredible stories and loves to travel. My grandmother met him in the Sierra Club, where her adventurous spirit took her outside to meet other lovers of wild places. They got married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony and recently celebrated 30 years together. I feel lucky to have them both in my life.

Angels Landing: not for the faint of heart.

GrandBob still likes to travel quite a bit, and last year he decided he wanted to hike Angels Landing in Zion - for the fifteenth time. He also wanted to do it in a tutu. A purple one. Which is how I ended up eating corn bran in a camper at 7am next to my my 78 year old grandfather with purple tulle around his waist.

He'd been in the park a few days by the time we arrived (Bob's son John, who also lives in the Seattle area, came along as well), so Bob had everything mapped out for us. A short walk to the Zion entrance and a swipe of his senior National Park pass, and we were quickly on the inter-park shuttle. Twenty minutes through lovely canyon brought us to our departure point: Angels Landing trailhead.

GrandBob, John, Grandpa Max, and Me. Sounds like a fun adventure!

As a tutu aficionado, I'm used to people staring and asking questions about my choice in attire. I can recognize a judgmental look from a mile away. More often though, the tutu is an instant icebreaker and people will smile and engage with me in conversation. I have a handful of responses to the inevitable "Why are you wearing a tutu?" question. My favorites include:

  • It's for safety. I need my partners to know where I am at all times. Do you think I can be unsupervised?
  • My bottom was feeling fancy today.
  • It's my birthday!
Occasionally people will note how they "forgot" their tutu, in which case I chastise them appropriately for the obvious oversight. I also give a lot of advice on where to buy a tutu (Amazon) and note you can get pretty much any color in the rainbow, including a rainbow tutu! 

Everything looks better in a tutu.

GrandBob is much less used to this tutu attention, and so he balked a bit the first time I told someone we were hiking in a tutu to celebrate his birthday. Sure, it was September and his birthday is in May, and sure he was only turning 79 in May and I told everyone we were hiking for his 80th birthday, but math is hard when you get old and once you pass 25 sometimes you forget how old you are anyway, so I decided just to go with it.

The weather was perfect - sunny, warm but not too hot, and not a cloud in the sky. We stopped frequently to enjoy the views. We took our time on Walter's Wiggles, pausing for just a beat at the end of each wiggles - a series of 21 switchbacks in the middle of this 5.2 mile RT, 1500' ft hike. 

Just scoping out the scenery.

One of Walter's many Wiggles.

We reached the plateau where the "trail" turns into more of a ridgeline, sometimes only a few feet wide. From here, you can see the rest of the hike splayed out in front of you looking absolutely impossible. The path is steep and equipped with chains to help you along. Strangely it's a lot scarier going up than going down.

But my mind was elsewhere. By this time we'd passed a number of folks on their way down, and I'd lied about GrandBob's birthday no fewer than 20 times. My Uncle John felt all of my deceit was in poor taste and he wasn't keen to play along anymore. That made me sad.

But THEN he told someone it wasn't Bob's birthday after I just told the lady it was, and the look of sheer disappointment on her face made him change his tune. "Lying is fun!" I got John to say with me. He could see the light. No harm was caused through my little white lie, and suddenly dozens of people were "in" on the "magic" with us. We were spreading joy!

Skinny trail we're on. Sheer drops on both sides. You can see our destination just to the left of the tip of the tree.

Caw CAW!

Before we knew it we were standing on the top, taking in the view, and enjoying a lovely conversation with 100 new hiking friends. GrandBob was glowing, I was stoked, and John was thrilled. Happiness all around! The real fun, though, came on the way down...

GrandBob Showing off his new tutu!  


The three of us on a separate hike. We forgot to take a group trip on Angels Landing.

View from the top!

As you young-bucks might imagine, hiking with a near-octogenarian involves a relaxed pace. As such, we were slower going than many of the folks we met on the summit. Our stroll down was leisurely and pleasant, and surprisingly peppered with 'Happy Birthday' pleasantries from nearly everyone we passed on their way up.

Turns out, one of our summit friends told everyone they passed about the 80 year old hiking in a tutu to celebrate his birthday! So everyone told GrandBob 'happy birthday'! The smile on his face was incredible, and reminded me why I wear this silly costume all the time in the first place: we gave other people something to talk about - a story to tell - and in term they gave my grandfather a day he won't soon forget!

When we got back to the truck he said it was the most fun he's had in a really, really long time. Me too GrandBob. Me too.

GrandBob - Already dreaming about his next purple tutu destination.

14 January 2016

Mi Familia

Last week my Madre and one-half of the "twinnies" came out to visit. We did many things and it was amazing. 

Our amazing 4-day family festival included: Book of Mormon, skiing & snowboarding in tutus (if you can call what Michele was doing snowboarding), a house viewing (I'm in the market), and a lovely boat ride. Oh, and we also shopped till we dropped, ran to catch the bus (like locals because we are just that good), and Seester cut my hair and styled me beautiful. 

Here are my favorite pics from the trip! Thanks familia for coming out! 

I believe!

Our chairlift looked like skittles!

Seester hanging on for dear life! And rocking my old board cerca 1999.

Chairlift selfie!

Family tutu time!

If you're ever in Bozeman, look my sister UP!

Clowning aroudn on Lake Union. Thanks Matt and Erin for taking us out!

Ahhh. Michele could get used to this!

07 January 2016

2015: An Introspective + Petra Update

I like data. I like spreadsheets and pie charts and visual representations of quantifiable information. I enjoy tracking my life on a calendar and using excel to track specific activities. If you've gone skiing, climbing, or running (and in some cases cycling or hiking) with me in the last four years I have record of it. I can tell you when we went, where we went, what we did, what the weather was like, and who else was with us.

This "activity spreadsheet" was inspired by my friend Kelly. She charted all of her ski days and I thought that was a darn good idea. Kelly moved to Norway a few years ago, but before she did we went on 6 runs together. After she moved, I visited her and we skied for 5 days overlooking the fjords together. And I know this because: Spreadsheet.

Kristina and Kelly do Norway.

Tracking can be an incredibly informative and powerful tool. While training for a marathon I could log my weekly mileage. When I was trying to step up my climbing - something harder to quantify - I started tracking the number of routes I climbed at the gym and their average rating. Over time, this allowed me to "see" improvement even when I didn't feel like I had made any progress.

I'm on the record as having not loved 2015, which is difficult enough for me to personally comprehend let alone try to explain to someone else. Now the year has come to a close, and I have the benefit of perspective to look back with a fresh set of eyes - and I have some good data to help me understand how I was feeling.

If you're a regular reader, you know I traveled to Thailand last Christmas and contracted a parasite (whom I named Petra) while I was there. I didn't know Petra had taken up residence in my belly until late-April, at which time I took a very heavy round of antibiotics to evict the illegal squatter. She was a fighter though, and a second round of antibiotics were needed in mid-May to get the last of it.

The antibiotics worked wonders. They gave my attitude an over-the-moon energy boost and made me realize just how far down I had fallen - just how sick I had become. My second day on the drug I was so happy that I called my mom elated. After 10-minutes on the phone with me, she said "You're annoying me. You're too happy. I have to go now." I didn't care. I felt GREAT!

Belly Bacteria. Turns out its something you want.

The inevitable fall came after my meteoric rise. I lost a tooth to infection and my stomach was completely chewed up, both from Petra and the antibiotics. It took months - nay IS taking months and might take years - to get my tummy back to normal. The "microbial imbalance" still affects my mood and leaves me feeling less motivated and more lethargic/fatigued. It turns out, your gut has a lot to do with pretty much everything in your life:
Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down our food; their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effects of prescription drugs. Biologists now believe that much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity....Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety." - New York Times
Which brings me back to my original point: data. Knowing all of this information about bacteria - knowing that it's supposed to take me 2-3x the length of time I was sick to recover my good belly bacteria (10-15 months) - doesn't make me feel better about the fact that I feel "off". It doesn't help me explain to my friends and family what I've been going through. But data - data is the key.

To quantify this "feeling" I've had for all of 2015, I went back to my trusty Spreadsheet. I totaled the number of days I spent climbing and skiing and running in 2015, by month, and charted it against 2014 data. What's the point? The data basically perfectly tracks how I had described my personal struggles last year. Take a look:

As I began to get sick, my activity declined. As my recovery began, it picked back up again, soaring into December when, late month, I finally had an incredible day that made me feel whole again.

If I had to describe how my year went, it would pretty much be like the chart above. A lot more up and down from day to day, but overall pretty much a bowl, with a really dark period mid-year. Here's a look at that same chart, with 2014 added in:

You can see the difference a parasitic infection can make. In 2014 I was much more active - not just in one month either, but in pretty much every single month. Even accounting for the fact that I quit climbing in June of 2015, my December numbers are almost identical for 2014 and 2015. To me, this indicates I am capable of the same quantity of activity days even if I cut out one of the activity types. Which is reassuring, but the bottom line is bacteria (leaving me fatigued, lethargic, unmotivated, depressed) absolutely impacted my life in a quantifiable way.

I also looked at my average pace of running, because I felt like that went down too. Here's that, plus one last look at the overall data:

I do want to say the year wasn't all bad. If I could eliminate the belly troubles, I might even be tempted to say it was a good year. I brought in the New Year in Thailand, spent a week on a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands with good friends and my amazing boyfriend in February, and introduced said boyfriend to the parents on a ski trip to Montana in March after summiting Mt. Shasta together.

Thailand. Shasta. Skiing with Popi. BVIs.

I *almost* climbed Glacier Peak in May, celebrated an extra-special summit of Mt. Adams in June, backpacked and kayaked in Alaska in July, met the parents on a great trip to New York in August, and hiked Angels Landing in Zion with my GrandBob (in a tutu!) in September.

Glacier. Hood from Adams. Denali. Atlantic Coast. Zion.

In October, I celebrated 4-years of Turns All Year and in November I hung out with Jim Whittaker and had a few articles published. And finally, December brought me back my mojo! I taught myself how to knit hats, spent the last three months blogging at least once a week as an exercise in reflection and appreciation, and was promoted to Director of Membership and Marketing at work!

Another year of TAY. Super happy faces. Hiking. Skiing.

So, objectively, not bad. Not bad at all. But when your year feels like an inverse bell curve it's really hard to have enough perspective to appreciate the good.

Which is why I'm happy to say goodbye to 2015. I feel like I'm nearing the end of this less-than-stellar spell. December was a very good month and has given me hope. My belly feels better (I'll give it an 85% for now), physically I feel less fatigued, and emotionally I'm feeling more motivated to get out there and get after it.

Since 2011 I've published a "Year in Review" blog. It's my chance to appreciate the previous year and set goals for the coming months. I talk about the things I climbed and the trips I took and the miles I ran. Only, I never published one in 2015 (to wrap up 2014), which to me really symbolizes the difficulty of 2015 from the get-go.

Skiing in the shadow of Shuksan to bring in the New Year.

So, in the spirit of looking ahead, here are my goals for 2016:

  • Make another attempt on Glacier Peak. Maybe finally climb to the top this time.
  • Continue to write one blog/week. It's proven to be a valuable exercise for me personally and will hopefully help me to become a better writer.
  • Find a new home for my blog. I'd like to create a custom site eventually. I'd love it if anyone wants to share tips and tricks with me!
  • Buy a house. I'm an adult and I'm tired of paying rent. Seattle is only going to get more expensive and I don't want to move out of the city. It's time to put down roots.
  • Get back to running with the run group. I pretty much stopped going when I started feeling weak, and I haven't been back. It's my goal to do at least two runs with the group per month. I figure with a conservative goal I can make it happen, and hopefully realize how much I miss everyone and jump back in full bore.
I'm really excited about all that lay ahead, and I hope you have some exciting things to cross off on your bucket list too. Now the real question is: I've shown you mine - care to share yours?