Friday, July 31, 2015

a year of savings

Before I moved I decided to purchase the AAA membership at $52, not for the roadside assistance since that came with my car, but because I knew I'd be traveling a lot and hoped the discounts would exceed what I purchased the membership for.

I also knew I wanted to see a lot this past year, and therefore I purchased the National Park Pass early into my trip knowing that in twelve months, it should pay for itself.

So, let's see if there was any savings from July 2014 - July 2015.

National Park Pass Purchase Price:  $80
  • Lincoln Boyhood Home  $3 me and $3 guest = $6
  • Badlands $15
  • Scotts Bluff NM $3
  • Rocky Mountain National Park $20 (aug)
  • Florissant Fossil Beds NM $3
  • Rocky Mountain National Park $20 (sept)
  • Maroon Bells $10
  • Rocky Mountain National Park $20 (jan) --> pass paid for itself +17 savings. Everything else is additional savings.
  • Colorado National Monument $10 (may)
  • Canyonlands National Park $10 (may)
  • Arches National Park $10 (may)
  • Great Sand Dunes $10 (july)
  • Mesa Verde $15  (july)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park $20  - my roommate (july)
Total National Park savings: $92.00

AAA discount Purchase Price: $52
  • Corvette Museum $4 (two people)
  • Hotel in Ohio (July) $10
  • Hotel in Kentucky (July) $10
  • Graceland Admission $6 (two people)
  • Hotel in Tennessee (July)  $5
  • Hotel in Kansas $13 (two nights)
  • Hotel in South Dakota (July) $5 ....already saved $1.  Everything else is additional savings.
  • Hotel in Nebraska (July) $15
  • Squirrel Cage Jail $1
  • Stanley Tour $6 (two people)
  • Campsite (May) $11.50
Total AAA savings: $34.50

AAA automatically renewed at the start of my end month, so I had to write a letter, explain I moved and mail back my card and hope they refund me $52.  

Total card savings:  $126.50.  I'd say it was well worth it!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hiking the Sand Dunes

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is pretty amazing.  I was there back in 2010 I think and went back this month with visiting family.

what you see as you approach the park
As we drove up, I was slightly disappointed, they looked so small from my memory.  But it is pretty nestled up against the mountains.

But I remembered how difficult it was walking up them, and how I wanted to go farther but we weren't prepared.  At that time, I didn't know about elevation sickness, and we did this the day after we arrived in Colorado.  We also only had one water bottle between the two of us.  So, I prepared a little more for this trip.  I told my family to start drinking water before they flew out, it was not on the itinerary until day 3 or that would help.  I also got a few extra camel backs.  Originally it was scheduled earlier in the day when the sun wasn't as strong...but it ended up being midday the day, I'd figure it out.

Medano Creek
We arrive at the park and the Medano Creek was wider than I thought.  Some family seemed annoyed with me that they had to cross this and didn't want to get their shoes wet.   Two went back to get flipflops...but how far can you walk in hot sand in flipflops?  The others crossed the creek in their sneakers no complaints, and a handful of smarties took off their shoes walked across and put them back on.  It was only about 1 - 3 inches deep in certain areas.

Probably doesn't look as steep as it was
The walk to the beginning of the sand dunes was a bit away from the parking lot.  A handful of my group did their thing at the closest dunes.  I left one water pack with them and the rest of us carried on.  It takes a while to walk across the sand...and which of the boys were pushing their limits and out challenging each other to climb not across the crests, but up vertical that took a while.  They climbed up....I ended up climbing horizontal to meet them...which I thought would be faster than hiking up the crests, which would have zigzagged back around and would have taken too long to the parched kids.

The highest dune in the park is Star Dune at 750 feet.  I'd say that my brother-in-law and a nephew made it to 725 feet to one of the peaks.   I probably made it 680 feet or so...but stayed behind with some of the other kids who were exhausted.

Then we headed back down.  Going down was easier than going up of course.  I wish I thought to bring/rent those sand boards because it looked fun...and cardboard didn't really work so well.  There is a restaurant/visitor shop right before the entrance that rents don't need to go as far as Alamosa first.

Our little sand hike took about 2 hours.  Our trip ended right before the afternoon rain.  I wish we got there earlier so we had more time...but it was another fabulous trip!  One I know the family will talk about for a while.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

almost accidental mis-dial

Mountain Man's name is S.  I talk to him somewhat regularly...less now than before, but still a few times a month.  I think my phone automatically made him a favorite.

My brother-in-law's name is S.  I see him at family things and when I go over, but very rarely do I have a need to email or text him.  Holiday, party or fantasy football emails are about it.  When I was on a trip with my sister and her family a few weeks ago, I did need to text and call my brother-in-law S about an item in the store, location, whatever.

During the trip, there was an incident when I was composing a text to Mountain Man, where I did not respond to a text, but rather took a picture and then sent it to him.  But as I was typing in S....SI's name came up.  They are listed a little different, one by full name, one by nickname.  But I am SO glad I realized that before I hit send!  It was a great scenic picture....but you don't send a random person a picture for no reason!

And a day later when I was calling my brother-in-law about a grocery item, I selected SI.  I swear this never happened before, I don't think. I don't think I've ever accidentally called or texted him.  Again, thank goodness the call didn't start and I actually looked at my phone before hitting the green button...because most times I just put the phone to my ear without looking.

So I started to wonder, why is SI still in my phone?   Then I syncs my contacts.  So while I may have removed him from my phone the several times I got a different phone, he still ends up back there.  Do I remove him from my email contacts?  I don't know. I mean, sure, I have no need to talk to him, but I haven't deleted anyone in never know when you need to contact someone.  Do I still know his phone number?  Yeah, the phone number he had when we were together will forever be stuck in my head...just as my childhood phone number or my aunt's number is.  Maybe he doesn't even have it anymore and my almost accidental phone call and text wouldn't have been answered by a confused ex-boyfriend!

But what if he did answer?  What if he answered and I had no idea I called him.  Would he even believe that?  And most likely I would have been like"  him: "this is S." or "hello"  me: "so, they don't have strawberry flavored, what is your next choice" or "I am all done, pull around and I'll hop in"  or some other ridiculous in the moment conversation that would make no sense to someone I haven't talked to him years.   He'd call me out on calling the wrong S...and I'd be left a few thoughts behind, stumbling, sounding not only embarrassed but flaky.  Wrong impression. If I were to converse, it needs to be on my terms, when I have time to think, not be all confused!!

Maybe he would respond that I am a stalker and clearly not over him and I need to get a life.  I think some of that was our last conversation...but funny thing was he initiated contacting me!  Whatever happens, I doubt he'd be nice about it.  He had a bit of an egotistical problem way back when.

Anyway, mistakes happen.  I should end this post by going to my phone and removing him....just in case something like that happens again in the future.  

But two different kinds of incidents only a month apart...what is going on universe???

Saturday, July 25, 2015

driving up America's Mountain

In 2010 I took the Cog Railway up to Pikes Peak, so when I had family in town, I suggested the train ride because it was fun and you didn't have to make that 19 mile drive.  But when we arrived we were told a train derailed near the station and no further train would be running that day.  What to do? That was all we had planned.  

I sucked it up and decided we would drive up.  Driving saved us a bunch of money, only costing $40 but I was a little nervous to drive up America's Mountain.  I asked the toll gate lady about the drive and she said "there are guard rails where they are needed"that made me feel better and we began our ride.  

Our first stop was the big foot sign just after Mile Marker 3.  This sign was placed on the highway to mark the approximate location where a visitor spotted a Big Foot like creature in 2001.  I know that sounds crazy....a sign for one sighting?  But no, apparently there have been multiple sightings (read here).  Are you curious how to report a big foot sighting?  I know I was so I looked it up.  Go here.  
The drive continued through an aspen forest with little elevation gain, I was happy.  I thought, I got this no problem! But I knew I'd be going above the tree line soon enough.  We stopped at a dam (which would offer an even more beautiful view in the fall when the aspen's change) then continued up.  

Soon my sister in the back seat started to panic.  The road  started to get windy as it weaved up the switchbacks.  Where are those guard rails?  
where are the guard rails?????
When we crossed the tree line I told my passengers to keep their eye out for wildlife.  And sure enough we saw mountain goats.  One was even in the middle of the road (which is why we started looking around).

After a bit more, we finally reached the summit.  I was glad to have a break from driving!  While my passengers had things to tend to, my nephew & I went into the visitor center and got a few doughnuts hoping that would calm...or rather distract everyone else's bellies.  We took in the views from the "America the Beautiful" sign and then made our way to the Pikes Peak Summit sign for photos.

We only got a short time for viewing the scenery before the clouds moved in.  They kept rising and soon it even started to hail.

After spending about 40 minutes in the visitor center looking around and standing in a line, which took forever, we headed back to the car.  I was dreading the ride back down.  I put the car in low gear, and I knew better enough to ride the brakes the whole time, but there are signs posted for those that don't know that.  It was still a little scary driving down, but it wasn't as bad as I thought, and I actually enjoyed the view a lot more, maybe because I knew what to expect.

 When we got back home, my family presented me with a certificate that I made it to the summit for driving up there.  In a way I am glad we couldn't take the train and I drove up.  I have been very curious about driving some of these mountains after driving through Rocky Mountain NP a few times.  Next up is driving up Mt. Evans, which is the highest paved road in North America.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

work accomplishments, finally

I've been at my job about five and a half months.  It has been a long, fast, and overwhelming 5 months.  The office was so outdated, with way too much paper, antiquated systems, and just overall needed a huge makeover.  I still remember my first day when I wanted to cry looking around at how much work this was going to be.   How long would it take?  Would I quit before I finish some of the projects?

Finally, this past two weeks, I had my first accomplishment, our organization was approved to be included in this other organization for fundraising purposes.  They attempted to get approval a few years ago, but it was a lot of work.  It took 2 months before I was able to submit our application, and then another 3 weeks to revise it before final approval.  One huge thing off my to-do list.  Now I need to focus on getting it out there and hope that people will donate.

My second accomplishment was three months in the making, a new website.  I didn't want to tell people where I worked because they would google it and it could come up and I'd be embarrassed.  It was that bad.  The website was atrocious.  It was probably the original website.  The lady before me hated to throw anything away, and the website was no different, our events page was filled with events that took place like 8 years ago.  At one point she highlighted, in many different colors, the days and times of events.  It was such an eyesore. Instead of just fixing the pages, we decided it would be better to start fresh.  And, with everything going digital the website needed to be mobile friendly too.  Sadly, we don't have a lot of money, they didn't want to pay anyone and they just assumed I would do it even though I told them over and over again I am not a web developer.  You know how long it would take me to learn how to do that? And that would suck up so much of my time.  I was expressing my concern and a friend suggested some of those cheap drag & drop websites.  OK, sure, it isn't ideal for our organization, but I was going to make it work.  I told the relevant work people to send me their updates...but no one ever did.  There was no committee.  There was no help.  It was frustrating, but I did it.  And while it isn't the nicest most professional website, at least it is an improvement over the old website.  And it is much easier for me to update, which is important.

After creating a color scheme (that was based on my shower curtain colors), I created a new newsletter design.  The previous newsletters were standard Publisher templates and they just switched up the color themes for each edition.  I went through them and they didn't change the format for 10 years, I figured it was time.   I took the initiative and started to redo it and figured I'd send it for approval after they saw what an improvement it was instead of being wishy washy having too many opinions.  I still using publisher, but I've reorganized the layout and I told our newsletter editor that we don't need articles that take up a whole sheet of paper.  Sometimes shorter is better, or a mix. We are way late in getting the newsletter out, but once it does, it will have the same colors as the website, hopefully this will help.  Maybe no one will ever notice.

On the almost finished list is cleaning/rearranging the offices.  Our space is not ideal for us, but I have to make do with what we have right now.  This will take a while longer, but I actually feel like progress was made.  For it to get where it is at today, I had to go through about 30 boxes of papers, keep or get rid of, and then figure out how to refile.  I still have more boxes to go through, it seems never ending.  We have so much paper.  We have all these things we needed....but in paper form so I decided we are going to start scanning everything, that would free up three huge filing cabinets.   The scanning process is extremely slow, it  might take us a year...but then we'll just have to reorganize the room again.  Here are some before and afters....
File Room Before
File Room After
Bathroom Before & After
Storage Closet Before & After
My office and the other office still need that those pictures will come at a later date.

So, what's still on the list?
  • we have two storage cages in the basement that needs to be gone through.  There are papers that need to be filed or tossed.  Many need to be kept, but they need to be organized.   
  • we have about 80 boxes of books that we are not using in our those will either be tossed, donated or sold.  If they are to be sold, I will create a 'bookstore' on the new website and hopefully reach other people outside our area.  This will take longer than I'd like it to because I am relying on other people to go through all these books - and they claim they don't have a lot of free time.
  • creation of policies and a policy manual...I started drafts of a few, but really the Board needs to review/approve them, that can take a long time.  More challenging...I need to do this for two organizations, not just one.
  • Fundraising.  This is an area I don't have any experience in....but it is something we really need.  One step was accomplished by setting up the account that I spoke about above, but that isn't enough, we really need to get the name out there a little more.
  • Quickbooks needs a bit of fixing. I started to fix line items and reclassify the chart of accounts, but it still needs a bit of work.   Our fiscal year just started, so, I'd like to get this done soon, or work on it throughout the year so it makes more sense.   Again, I have to do this for two or three organizations.
  • And of course there are the smaller projects.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I want to find love too

so let's see....Doofy got married last month.  Old Man went to Antigua with an official girlfriend last month.  Last year Greasy/Skeevy got married and had a baby.  I think Mountain Man is dating someone, although he hasn't said so but he talks to me a lot less frequently and doesn't respond as quickly to emails and texts.

Me?  I am still single.  I barely dated.

I am starting to wonder that maybe having a boyfriend or a husband just isn't my thing.   I can't get married if I don't date.  And I don't have luck with anyone wanting to date me that I might be interested in.

The two guys I attempted dates with this year were either secretly gay or a massive farter with slight fangs.

I just read this an article this morning about a man in the middle east who didn't shower for 60 years who is looking for his soul mate.   If he finds love before me....I really have a problem.  I shower.  I'm not 80 yet.  I don't smoke animal poop, or anything else for that matter.

What will this mean for my future?   I suppose I should really start looking for a bigger place to live first.  Well, no, I guess i need to decide if I want to stay in Colorado or not.  Once I have a place that has more bedrooms, I should really start taking the classes to get certified in foster care or maybe skip that and go straight to adoption.

While I don't mind living alone, I feel like my life will be very unfulfilled if I don't share it with someone.  All this time I was thinking I wanted to share it with a person of a similar age, a companion....but maybe looking after someone is what I need.  You know I love trying to help people, and there are so many kids that don't have anyone that need help.  BUT, as a friend recently pointed out to me that I get attached and give all my love and it would crush me if the foster kid goes back to their family.  So, I keep wondering, maybe temporary isn't for me.

Whatever happens in my future, I feel like I am always way behind everyone else.  Not that it is a competition.  Do I have unconscious issues that I need psychoanalysis for?  Did I mess up a past life and the one thing I want in this life I can't have?

I wish them all well of course, but I won't lie - I am a bit jealous, I want to find love too.