Sunday, April 5, 2009

Since you've been gone...

Allow me to channel my inner Kelly Clarkson. A couple weeks back, the wife and kids were visiting my sister Heidi and her conveniently-aged kids in Colorado Springs. When I'm home alone for a few days, I always try to find a way to surprise my wife upon her return; I believe last time I did some painting around the house. This time, I wanted to be a little more aggressive, so I decided to completely renovate our laundry room. I enlisted the help of some of my wonderful friends and family whom you will see depicted below.

The first step was to rip out the awful shelving solutions we had been using for years, which left a great many (otherwise known as THIRTY) pencil-diameter-to-dime-sized holes in the drywall. I also ripped out the baseboards and the existing drain pan for the washing machine, for reasons explained in excruciating detail here. Here is a shot of the room in its most destroyed state - the before picture:

The impetus for getting all of this done was our defunct washing machine, which had decided it no longer wished to fully expel water used during the washing process, thanks to a faulty drain pump. While I figured this repair would constitute the most difficult task in the renovation, it turned out to be one of the easiest - 10 minutes to diagnose, 20 minutes to fix - though it did look pretty scary in the process:

While I was busy fixing the washing machine (and after repairing all of that drywall destruction), my friend Gretta Hansen was painting like it was going out of style, using a periwinkle hue chosen by Rachel herself:

Next up was flooring. The existing linoleum was very, very sad indeed, and needed an overhaul. Rachel and I have a dream of someday owning a house with its flooring entirely consisting of wood and/or laminate, so I figured this would be a good trial of my installation skills. My partner in crime was my brother Eric, with whom I often trade labor for household projects. It went in relatively easily once we figured out what we were doing:

The baseboards were probably the trickiest bit to figure out; for some reason they weren't terribly interested in adhering to the wall properly. So, we resorted to adhesive caulk in a couple places that (hopefully) will never again be beheld by human eyes. Eric spent nearly an hour making the only visible corner just right:

The next night my excellent father stopped by to lend his IKEA furniture assembling expertise. We carefully built two massive wardrobe frames in the tiny laundry room itself, as they were too large to build outside and then maneuver them into place. Action shot:


Meanwhile, my wonderful mother was laundering all of our disgusting clothing that had been sitting for, well, a bit, while our washing machine was out of commission:

Next up was the brand new, never-been-inhabited-by-cockroaches-swimming-in-laundry-detergent, washing machine drain pan, this laundry room being on the second floor and all:

It was then time for the moment of truth - installing the newly-repaired washing machine and (gasp) turning it on. It's worth mentioning that this particular model washing machine is of roughly the same girth and heft as a small Mongolian yak. After a bit of groaning and heavy breathing from my father and I, thankfully everything went perfectly on the very first try. And there was much rejoicing (yay). I installed some very nice wire baskets in the wardrobe frames, and the project was complete - at 11:00p, approximately eight hours before I left on a business trip to Orlando. (Of course it had to be done before I left because Rachel and our trio of children would return home before I would.)

The finished product:

I would like to again thank all of my helpers for their assistance - I could never have done this without you. Rachel absolutely loves it - and she was extremely surprised. Just how I wanted it. :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's that time again...

Time to make a bunch of New Year's Resolutions. I made only one resolution last year - to lose 36 lbs. and thereby get down to 200. Despite some ridiculous-yet-fantastic holiday binging, I ended the year at just over 180. I think that's officially the first one of these little goals I've ever accomplished. Go me. ;) That's cool and all, but I'm still not quite where I want to be. So with that in mind, here are my resolutions for this year:

Hit 170 pounds by April 1st
I haven't been able to break 174 yet despite several close encounters, but I'm going to do it, and I vow to never see 175+ again. Ever. After that, I'll probably give the P90X program a shot, if only because I'm getting pretty bored with my current weightlifting regimen.

Complete Associate's Degree
It has always been a goal of mine to complete my Bachelor's degree, but in focusing on my career after high school, I ended up dropping out of school halfway through my third semester at Arizona State University. Last year I started taking classes at Mesa Community College in hopes of a) finally making some educational progress and b) figuring out what sort of education I want. I have decided to pursue a B.S. in Political Science. It will provide little-to-no benefit to my career, but I find politics endlessly interesting, and I can do it entirely online through ASU once I finish my generals at MCC. I have three classes remaining to finish up my Associate's Degree in Something Or Other, and darn it, I'm going to do it, if only by inertia. That will be a nice milestone before the real work (and interesting classes) begin next decade.

Read 1 book per month
I read two books during my family's annual jaunt to Santa Barbara - Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis, and Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg. Both were excellent and eye-opening, and they reminded me how much I enjoy learning by reading; for some reason I only seem to consume non-fiction (insert super-funny joke from Dad disqualifying books by liberal authors). I will attempt to read one book per month, and I plan to alternate secular and sacred. First up is Freakonomics, a gift from my friend and then boss Dave Waxberg two Christmi (yes, that's the plural of "Christmas") ago; after that will be Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage.

Magnify my Church callings
This year I plan to give extra attention to my Church duties as Sunday School Presidency Second Counselor, Elder's Quorum Instructor, and especially Home Teacher. I have unfortunately been known to slack in this area more than would be prudent.

Magnify my more important callings...
...those of husband and father. I have been blessed with a lovely and wonderful wife, and three beautiful and fantastic children. Time for me to step up and be the husband and father they deserve. Not that I am abusive or derelict, but certainly I am occasionally less-than-optimally-enthusiastic when I arrive home from the office to find three tired-and-therefore-nutty kidlets and a wife understandably at the end of her rope. Honey, I'm going to work on it.

Blog once a week
We'll see about this one. It's a goal. :)

Golf once a month
Well, except maybe when it's 115 degrees outside. I really enjoy golfing in Santa Barbara every year, but I'd like to not completely suck by next winter.

Readers, have a wonderful and prosperous 2009, and hopefully I will too. I've got my work cut out for me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Grand Canyon is deep

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been spending the last month getting in shape for a Grand Canyon hike. Last weekend, the time finally came to give it a shot. My good friends Jacob Hansen and Justin Prideaux and I drove up to the lovely Holiday Inn Express (too bad we didn't find anywhere to use our newfound, HIE-fueled brainpower) in Tusayan, Arizona on Friday night.

Saturday morning, bright and early, we arose and caught the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trail, which descends from the South Rim to the Colorado River. On the bus, we met a guy (I believe his name was Tim) who was attempting to break the world time record for traversing the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim. That's 42 miles and about 18,000 feet in elevation change, folks. And he was trying to do that in 6 hours and 30 minutes - roughly a 10-minutes-per-mile pace for about 1.6 marathons with 3.5 miles of elevation mixed in for good measure. Absolutely incredible - I am so curious to know if he made it ... or even survived it!

Of course, this makes a trip down to the river and back seem positively pedestrian. But of course, it really isn't - it's a pretty tough hike. It's 16 miles, and about 9,000 feet total elevation down the South Kaibab Trail, over the bridge, down the river a ways, back over the second bridge, and all the way up Bright Angel Trail. In fact, there are signs all over the canyon warning against attempting this exact thing:

We started our descent to the river at 6:50a, reaching the river at about 9:20a. We messed around at the bottom for almost two hours, taking a refreshing dip in the Colorado River and resting and fueling up for the long trek back to the top.

13 miles into the hike, three miles from the top, we felt great, but that last stretch was very tough, the last mile in particular. We got back to the top at 2:40p, completely and utterly exhausted, and were very happy to see Jacob's WRX. We spent the next hour in a jacuzzi at the hotel, followed by an enormous and extremely mediocre meal at the adjacent hotel's sports bar (Rays vs. Sox Game 6 was on). We finished up the night enjoying monstrous ice cream sandwiches in our room, watching the end of the game. I was out for the count at 7:00p, and I didn't wake up until 8:00a the next morning - probably the first 13 hour night I've had in 5 years.

I really enjoyed the hike and would love to do it again, perhaps next spring. What a beautiful place!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Views from Piestewa Peak

My friend Jacob Hansen has conned me into hiking the Grand Canyon with him later this month, so I figured I had better train a bit. Piestewa Peak is situated in North Phoenix, and from the top you can see the entire valley. The Summit Trail gains 1200 feet of elevation in 1.2 miles of hiking, averaging roughly a 19% grade - not a particularly easy hike.

Last Saturday I hiked it for the first time, and reached the summit in 30 minutes - not bad for a beginner. Today I hiked it twice back-to-back, the first time in 27 minutes and the second time in 31 minutes. Oddly enough, the second hike seemed easier since my legs were already numb and my heart was already pumping.

Here are some views from the summit, unfortunately taken with the camera on my cellphone:

And roughly one hour later, after reaching the peak for the second time:

It was an absolutely beautiful morning, with temperatures in the mid-70s and a nice breeze. It's times like these that remind me why I live in this desert!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Iris Olivia Dixon

Well, it appears my wife and I have spawned another offspring. Iris Olivia Dixon was born yesterday, 9/23/08, at 6:03p at our home in Mesa, AZ. She checked in at 7 lbs. 15 oz., and 21 inches long. Mom and baby are doing well, and her siblings were very happy to meet her. Welcome to the family, Iris!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mission (#1) Accomplished

At the risk of sounding like our wonderful President, I hereby declare that Mission #1 has been Accomplished. I set out last August to lose 55 pounds, and much to my surprise, I've actually done it. I started out a fabulously rotund 255...

...and dropped to a much slimmer 200 as of Tuesday, July 15, 2008:

That picture was taken last night after a brutal 20-mile bike ride from home to Mesa Community College and back (I'm taking night classes in an attempt to finish my degree). I biked the 10 miles one-way only to discover that the instructor was absent due to car trouble, and the exam I was supposed to take was now a take-home test. That's all well and good, but I was expecting to get a nice 90-minute break (not to mention 90 minutes to allow the Arizona sun to set) between the two legs of my bike trip. Oh, well - I made it home in one piece. But I digress....

I lost about 20 pounds last year, just by cutting out soda, trying to limit my portions a bit, and going to the gym twice a week or so, but by November I had fallen completely off the bandwagon. I remained somewhere between 235 and 240 lbs until a friend/co-worker turned me on to The Daily Plate (thanks Ryan!). I started tracking my food intake and exercise on April 8th, aiming to lose two pounds per week, and lo and behold, the remaining 36 pounds I had to lose are officially gone 14 weeks later (2.57 pounds per week).

It turns out all I needed was a little accountability; having to enter everything I ate into a diary really changed my behavior. Yes, I still eat plenty of ice cream and donuts, but on the days I do I'll eat smaller meals or work out longer. I have also discovered the wonders of the banana and the apple, both very filling but lacking in calories. Of course, changing my eating habits was only half of the equation; I also spend a lot of time and energy at the gym, lifting weights, riding a bike, swimming, and playing basketball. It has been an incredibly positive change for me - I feel better, look better, and have had to buy an entirely new wardrobe. :)

I could never have done this without: my lovely wife (for encouraging me), my friend Ryan (for turning me on to The Daily Plate; he's down 45 pounds himself), the author of this article, Krispy Kreme and Dairy Queen (for keeping me sane), LA Fitness, Mike at Mike's Bike Chalet, the folks at Kashi (for their excellent granola bars, my breakfast every day for the last couple months), my dad (for inspiration), Jacob Moffat (likewise), and my fellow Elders (for Tuesday night basketball at the church). I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty of people, places, and things - my apologies.

Onward and, well, downward
So where to go from here? Much to my surprise and dismay, I'm still rocking a nice gut, albeit a substantially smaller one than I am used to. I have set a second goal of 185 pounds, which will put my Body Mass Index in the normal range (I'm still in the overweight group). I've adjusted my weight loss goal on TDP to 1.5 pounds per week (allowing me around 1900 calories a day - 1600 was getting pretty old there for a while), so hopefully I'll hit 185 sometime in September/October. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

No, I suppose I'm not a girly girl.

My lovely wife talked me into determining which Disney princess I am and posting the results on my blog.

Strong and spirited. You're no one's girly girl; actually you are very determined person with a strong sense of self. Never let go of that! The only thing that equals your sense of self is your family, but the traditions of society can always be bent to protect something or someone you love.

That description is actually fairly accurate, especially the part about my not being anyone's girly girl. :)

Now, you go take it, and embarrass yourself on your own blog.