Monthly Archives: September 2011

Fun in Six Flags St. Louis

Remember when I promised you I would share more about my St. Louis trip? Well the time is nigh, my friends. Now that I’ve made you wait in anticipation for several weeks, I feel I can at long last wrap up the St. Louis recaps. This post revolves entirely around Six Flags, and who doesn’t want to read a detailed account of fun at an amusement park while sitting at their desk on a Friday afternoon? That’s what I thought, so let’s jump on in.

You can’t really go to St. Louis without dedicating a portion of your visit to Six Flags, so we did what any respectable tourist would do and spent a full 13 hours there. If a little is good, a lot is better, right? Of course it doesn’t hurt that we all love rollercoasters and hadn’t experienced the joy of riding one in entirely too long. So, we arrived early and headed straight for the Batman immediately upon entry. We only waited probably 20 minutes before zipping through five head-over-heels loops and a zero-gravity roll with our feet dangling in the air. Let’s get this party started!

Next, we rode the newest addition to the park, the SkyScreamer, then hit the Screaming Eagle rollercoaster. From there, we hopped in line for Superman, which is in my opinion the scariest ride there. Not that I’m complaining. I love that stomach drop feeling, and the Superman is most certainly in the business of providing it. The machine slowly draws you higher and higher upwards to a surely unsafe 230-feet, then suspends you in air for an agonizingly long wait, toying with your emotions. Just as the anticipation becomes almost too much to bear, you are dropped in a 60 mph free fall. The descent is so fast, it absolutely takes your breath away.

We then came across what turned out to be my favorite roller coaster of the day, The Boss. It is a wooden coaster (the best kind, if you ask me) and is seemingly endless, super fast, and boasts great hills. Just when you think the ride should be coming to an end, it starts another series of crazy turns. So. Much. Fun. At this point, we decided to break for lunch. We came prepared with a smorgasbord of sandwiches and snacks packed in the car for exactly this purpose, and I’m telling you, this is the way to do it. You are saved from eating the overpriced junk at the amusement park and get a chance to recuperate before returning to the fun.

We picked things back up in Hurricane Harbor, where we rode pretty much every water slide multiple times. After our hands were sufficiently wrinkled, we headed back to the park for another dose of rollercoasters. We started at the Ninja, which was fair but not worth elaborating on. We then went to Mr. Freeze, where we endured our longest but totally worthwhile wait of the day. The Six Flag’s website describes the coaster as such:

Mr. Freeze uses super-cool new linear induction technology to catapult you from zero to 70 mph in about four seconds. You’ll blast out of a 190-foot icy tunnel and travel through 1,382 feet of track at spine-chilling speeds, twists, and turns. Then do it all over again – in reverse.

From there, we may or may not have hit a couple other rollercoasters (it’s fuzzy now), but I’m certain we took another visit to The Boss. Wouldn’t forget something that awesome. Gave Xcalibur a try, and I can honestly say it’s the worst ride I have ever been on. Sure, it spins and catapults, but it doesn’t offer an ounce of fun; it just makes your brain hurt. By this time, we were exhausted from the day’s excitement and only had about 20 minutes until the park closed, so we rode one last twisty rollercoaster then called it a night.

 A very, very good one, at that.

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What I’m Loving Wednesday

And now, your weekly update on some random little happies I’ve uncovered this week:

I am loving that I was able to give blood today after a year of banishment. Much to my consternation, my Costa Rica trip last September resulted in 12 months of ineligibility, and now I’m ready to bet back into the blood donating routine: two pints every eight weeks, like clockwork.

I am loving my newly adopted habit of eating cereal for breakfast. It came about when I realized that I have cut milk almost entirely out of my diet, and that is just not ok. It’s not that I don’t like milk, because I really, really do, it’s just that I never think about it anymore. Over are my days of neglecting milk, I vowed earlier this week. And since then, I’ve spent my mornings enjoying a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and calcium with blueberries sprinkled on top. 

As a side note, I used to be unhealthily crazy about cereal. Borderline obsessed, like to the extent that I ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner an entire semester of my freshman year in college, purely because it was simple, inexpensive, and tasty. Never again.

I am loving this magazine I picked up at my dentist’s office yesterday: Outside. I actually find myself excited over the prospect of going to the dentist because I know copies of this bundle of literary goodness will keep me company in the waiting room. The magazine touts itself as, “America’s leading active-lifestyle and adventure-travel magazine dedicated to covering the people, activities, gear, art, and politics of the world outside.” Right up my alley. Yes, please. Doesn’t hurt that my dentist gave me an A+ for yesterday’s visit, either. Guess you could say I love that, too.

Lastly, I am loving my early morning workouts. For the past couple days, I’ve mustered up the strength to drag myself out of bed at 5:30am to squeeze in a workout before heading to the office. Despite the sleep deprivation, I have to say, it feels good. I am all about a good night’s rest, so cutting my sleep short is a difficult task for me, but I really like accomplishing physical activity before the day dawns. Makes me feel productive and invigorated, and it really helps supplement my schedule on those many evenings when I’m busy after work. Bonus: running into a stunning sunrise on a cool, misty morning is one of the most beautiful ways to start your day. Second only to surfing on a beach in Costa Rica.

Lots to love! What are you loving today?

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Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon boat racing is my new favorite activity. It is made of excitement, intensity, focus, camaraderie, endurance, and skill and involves playing outside with your friends, gliding across the water, and challenging yourself in a unique way. No wonder it’s the 8th fastest growing sport in the world.

This past weekend, me and 20 of my buddies joined together to row an authentic 46-foot dragon boat in the Mississippi River. It sounds bizarre because it absolutely is. We collectively had zero experience with the sport, no knowledge of the proper technique, or really any idea of what we were getting ourselves into, but boy are we glad we took that leap.

Friday evening we met on Mud Island for our first and only practice before the next day’s race. We learned how to strategically arrange people in the boat for maximum efficiency, perform the proper paddle stroke (which turns out to be nothing like canoeing or kayaking), count out our race start, and row in synchronized unity. Beyond those very basic skills, our two-hour practice session taught us that dragon boat racing is a lot more strenuous and involved than you might originally think.

The next morning, we gathered under our tent, went over some last-minute details, then made our way over to the marshalling area. We took our official group picture, practiced our counts, and then it was time to don our life jackets and load into the boat. In the seconds leading up to our race start, I was consumed with a giddy rush of excitement and nervousness. I poised my paddle an inch above the water, listened intently for the command, and immediately dug in at the sound of the horn. We instantly found our rhythm, chanting in sync, paddles flying. Throughout the duration of our 200 meter rush, I had no other thoughts than to row deliberately and at the exact same time as the paddler in front of me, to my left (I was sitting starboard), and in the front row and opposite me. No time to dwell on the increasing fatigue; just listen to the drum cadence, reach the paddle as far forward as physically possible, stab the water, pull with every morsel of strength you have, recover, and repeat. For precisely 1:09.969, we rowed our faces off until our coach yelled, “LET IT RUN!!”, the welcome command that means we have crossed the final buoy. 

Although our run only lasted a little over a minute, it left us winded, sore, and….ecstatic. We won our first heat! Our team was beyond thrilled, and the excitement in our boat was tangible.

We had an hour break between heats, and we spent our time snacking, excitedly rehashing the race we had just finished, and devising a new and improved strategy for round two. A while later, we found ourselves on the dock gripping our paddles and mentally preparing for another round of intense rowing. Again, the race started with a blast of the horn, and we immediately hunkered down to work. I’ve decided that dragon boat racing is akin to sprinting. You hardly have time to catch your breath, you just set your mind to 200 meters of pain, you do it, and you don’t think about it. We shaved roughly 2.5 seconds off our previous time, clocking in at 1:07.267, which was enough to win our second heat but not enough to push us into the final race.

No big deal. By this time, we were so smitten with dragon boating, we were just happy to have been a part of the event. It also didn’t hurt that we were awarded a gold trophy for winning our division.

I cannot fully describe how much fun we had with this. I highly, highly recommend you get in on the action next year. We were so taken with the sport, we discussed the farfetched option of purchasing our own dragon boat and becoming a traveling racing team. More realistically, however, almost every member of our team enthusiastically committed to participating next year.

Cannot say it enough: dragon boat racing is the coolest.

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What I’m Loving Wednesday

It’s Wednesday, we are halfway through this work week, and I can’t think of a better time to focus on the fun things, the small things, and the happy little comforts that are making me smile this week.

This week, I am loving Philippians 4:8. What a true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable reminder!

I am loving these très stylish rain boots Jax picked out on his own and gave me for Christmas last year. Earlier this week, we went to an outdoor folk festival at the Levitt Shell to see the likes of Sons of Mudboy, Jimbo Mathis, Lucero, and North Mississippi Allstars. The ground was soaked from rain earlier in the day, but I was secretly pleased, as it offered the perfect opportunity to finally wear my cute water-resistant boots.

I am loving how perfect this chocolate fills in as a post-lunch treat. It’s unfortunate, but I generally don’t feel satisfied with a meal unless it’s capped off with something sweet. I’m a fan of pretty much every dark chocolate in existence, but this particular variety is especially tasty. It sounds odd at first, but that touch of sea salt makes for a sweet/salty combo that’ll make your taste buds sing.

I am loving that the first day of autumn is this week. Autumn means layers of clothing, boots, dazzling tree colors, fire pits, hot soups, pumpkin-flavored everything, stepping on crunchy leaves, watching football, and bushels of other happy things. Not to mention how comfortable it is outside – these cooler temperatures are doing wonders for my running routine! Warning: I’ll probably only feel this way for a short span of time, as the minute we enter into the realm of remotely chilly, I’ll promptly be retracting these statements.

So, what are you loving this Wednesday?

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Amani ya Juu

That’s Swahili for “Peace from Above.”

Last night, I had the privilege of worshipping with and hearing testimonies from a group of Amani ya Juu women visiting from Kenya. Prior to this special evening, I had zero knowledge about this project, and now that I have learned about their commitment to meeting the physical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs of marginalized women in East Africa, I feel moved to share their story.

Amani ya Juu is a sewing and reconciliation project that equips and empowers women with tools to improve their lives and communities. They are taught sewing and marketing skills so they can sell handcrafts in order to earn a just wage and provide for their families. Amani goes beyond fair trade, however, to see women flourish. As the women learn practical skills to improve their quality of life, they also experience God’s healing, moving them beyond their traumatic and difficult pasts and into a personal relationship with the God who provides hope and peace. As the women work together towards sustainability, they become friends, mentors, and sisters in Christ.

They come from places of brokenness and hopelessness, telling of the same emotional hurts and insecurities we experience in our own lives, and it was a beautiful reminder that women are the same the whole world over. It was inspiring to hear their stories of emptiness and the eventual healing and redemption they experienced in the arms of their loving Father, our great God. It is so easy to put God in a box, to think of Him as the God of my country and my continent, and it is humbling and awesome to expand that vision and proclaim that He is King of this entire earth. What a mighty, mighty God we serve!

The women brought some of their gorgeous craftwork to sell, and when I say gorgeous, I mean breathtakingly gorgeous. I left with the most beautiful handmade quilt, I am absolutely smitten with it. It’s bold and massive and hand stitched, and 100% of the proceeds go to the woman who sewed my quilt; her name is Beatrice. I don’t really have a dire need for a quilt, and I usually don’t make $200 purchases on a whim, but I was so moved by these women and what that quilt represents, I felt called to contribute to their ministry. I internally debated whether to buy or not to buy, and the Holy Spirit won out. I figure if I can drop a bill on a new pair of running shoes or getting my bike fixed or buying baby shower presents, then surely I can spend $200 to support these women and further God’s kingdom. 

Above is a snippet of the quilt I will forever cherish as a reminder of the Amani women, their impression on me, and God’s omnipotence. Amen.

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St. Louis and The City Museum

I haven’t yet told you about our recent St. Louis trip, because the moment we returned I plunged back into the work routine, and both kickball and softball seasons started back, and I just plain haven’t found the time to cuddle up with pen and paper, or keyboard and monitor, for that matter. It was such a fun weekend, though, it really would be a pity to not preserve the memories for posterity so that I can look back and remember that great Labor Day weekend I spent with my brother in 2011. So yesterday after church I spent some time in my backyard enjoying the crisp sunshine and rehashing the weekend, and this is what I came up with:

We had been tentatively planning this recess for months, but due to the realm of activities we hoped to accomplish during our visit and the inevitable time constraints, we pushed our road trip out to Labor Day weekend, which gave us an extra vacation day to work with. Turns out that was a most excellent decision, as we used every hour we were given, and the weather could not have been more cooperative. Except for that time we ran through the pouring rain on our way to dinner, but who doesn’t need to get caught in a downpour every now and then?

We arrived late Friday evening and settled into our hotel room in preparation for the jam-packed weekend ahead. Good thing, too, because once the alarm sounded Saturday morning, we hit the ground running. We (and when I say we, I’m referring to Jax and I, obviously, and our excellent travel companions, my awesome bro and his beautiful girlfriend) made our way downtown to grab a bite to eat before the 3:15 Cardinals game, which took place during the most comfortable game-day weather known to man, complete with refreshing and welcome raindrops and a 6-4 win.

After the game, we walked several blocks to dine on tasty grub at Schlafly’s Tap Room, then dedicated the rest of our evening to The City Museum, which is no ordinary museum, my friends. Let me be clear on this – this museum is light-years away from your mental schema of what a museum is, and there is really no intelligible way to communicate what, exactly, this phenom is all about. The best and most concise way I can think to describe it is as an oversized adult playground, but that barely begins to tell the story. As we approached the facility, we were not emotionally, physically, mentally, or imaginatively prepared for the adventure we were about to embark on, and that is not a joke. 

What we’re looking at is multiple levels of slides, caves, ladders, and a host of other craziness. We climbed through suspended tunnels and twisty caverns, slid down ten-story slides, and sat on a school bus suspended in limbo off the rooftop. We ran in a hamster wheel, stood on top of the world’s largest pencil, rode a ridiculously fast ferris wheel, and walked through a hall of mirrors. There were abandoned jet planes and live turtles and skateless skate parks. And that is only scratching the surface.

It doesn’t make sense, because there seems to be no rhyme or reason to this place. We  spent five full hours climbing about this topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland world, and left at 1am only because they were locking up for the evening. Our hands were raw and bodies battered from hours of contorting into small spaces and exploring the depths of the museum.

If you have never experienced this bizarre gem, you are severely missing out. It is a world of fun, and I highly suggest that you stop what are you are doing and immediately head to St. Louis to check it out for yourself. And please take me with you, because I’m itching to go back!

Side note: A supreme shout out and thank you to my cousin Brett for directing my attention to this wondrous museum many months ago and convincing me that my life wouldn’t be complete without a visit. I can respectfully attest that you were right. This is absolute fact.

Since I got a little carried away with all this chatter about The City Museum and have already written 701 words in this post, I’ll give you a break and return later this week with the second half of our trip.

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Labor Day Means…

Labor Day Weekend is dawning, and that means a couple different things in my world, such as:

  • I’m thankful for my job, for the opportunities it presents, for the flexibility if offers, and for the team that I work with. I admit that I’m not always as appreciative as I should be, but I know that I am lucky to be where I am.
  • There’s a long weekend just on the other side of 5:00, and all I have to do is make it less than 20 minutes before I’m heading out of town for a fun-filled visit to St. Louis.
  • This road trip will be my first dance with the new Garmin GPS Jax so thoughtfully gave me for my birthday. I’m considering naming it Garmin Electra (haha, get it?) but I’m not sure that I want my new device’s namesake to be a woman for whom I have very little respect. So, scratch that; still working on names.
  • Despite Labor Day being touted as the unofficial end of summer, I refuse to give up on it so easily. Every season deserves its allotted time in the spotlight, and I will proclaim summer’s glory until the first day of autumn.
  • Another year of disregarding the no-wearing-white-after-Labor-Day standard. I’m no fashionista, so I like to think those rules don’t apply to me.
  •  While football isn’t my absolute favorite sport, I do enjoy watching the occasional game, eating the standard game day munchies, and being a part of all the excitement that comes with it; plus, I have a good time submitting my *extremely well-thought-out* weekly team picks in the friendly pool I joined last year. More importantly, the start of football season denotes the beginning of a time of year that I absolutely love, and that is something I can get behind.

Happy Labor Day Weekend to you all!

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