Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Highlights

Well, another year has come and gone, and I have had many firsts this year. From finishing school to my first tandem skydive, I have slowly begun to come out of my shell and start living my life to the fullest. 

To summarize, here is a list of my top 2010 highlights:


Ouch! My first serious injury: 

Jan. 7 started out like any regular day. My last Christmas break was coming to a close, and I decided to take advantage of it by furthering my martial arts training with Halama’s Martial Arts, in Wausau. Each class ends with a few bouts of sparring, and that night was no exception. 

Now, my instructor always said to try the more complicated kicks when sparring against a lower belt because higher belts will be able to evade them. So I decided to try a tornado kick against Denise, a yellow belt. During the kick, there is one brief window when both feet are in the air. Unfortunately, at that point Denise hit me with a front kick. As a result, I landed sideways and fell and next thing I know, I can barely walk. After three months, I finally got the correct diagnosis: a sprain in my achilles tendon. It took almost a year, but is finally healed.


Polar Plunge: 

For the first time, I participated in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics. My mother told me that I should probably reconsider after my injury, but it was something I had wanted to do for years, but never knew about in time. I participated in the Polar Plunge in Whitewater, where participants jumped into a large pool instead of Lake Cravath, due in large part to the fact the lake is pretty gross. I wound up raising more than $350 for Special Olympics, and although I was jumping into a pool instead of a lake, it was still really cold, although not quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. 


Dubuque Tournament: 

I participated in my first martial arts tournament this past March in Dubuque, Iowa, and although I traveled with the Warhawk Karate Club, I represented Halama’s Martial Arts. It was different than I expected. The form judges only knew the black belt forms, so if I had made a mistake, they wouldn’t know. I also participated in the sparring tournament. It was point sparring, which was a little different than I was used to, but I tried my best.

As fun as the tournament was, that night was even better. Even though there were 23 of us, everyone wound up staying in a two-room joining suite. Twenty-three people, two rooms, four beds, it was quite smushed. Everyone was kind of just piled up together, like a litter of kittens. Of course, I didn’t really expect anything else with members of the UW-Whitewater Warhawk Karate Club. They really are the most wonderful and amusing group of people I have ever had the privilege of meeting.


Testing, my first motorcycle ride and just a little trouble:

Yet another accomplishment and another first. After months of training, I finally received my blue tips through Halama’s Martial Arts on April 1 - no fooling! My test included my form, sahm-jong, all the basics, free sparring and board breaking with a back dash side kick.                       

Afterwards, Mr. Ben Bryden, one of the black belts at Halama’s Martial Arts, gave me my first ever motorcycle ride. In my opinion, that stemmed my personal movement to overcome my fears and live life outside of my comfort zone.  In the end, it was one of the most exciting and thrilling experiences of my life, the wind whipping through my hair, the speed of the ride - it was so freeing.

At the end of the month, I had a chance to see Whitewater’s campus from a bird’s eye view. I’m not going to specify just where, or who, I was with, but let’s just say I had a chance to go adventuring on some campus rooftops in the middle of the night. I was at least two stories up at the peak, looking down on campus and I remember thinking, five years in college and I here is a whole part of life, of this city, I never knew. It definitely put a whole new perspective on things, an exciting perspective, knowing that I was seeing the university in a whole new way - a way most people never get a chance to see or appreciate. It was quite an eye-opener.


Officially done with school - Graduation day: 

Looking back, it’s hard to believe I am completely done with school. It seems like just yesterday I was a freshman, staying out late, occasionally skipping classes, hanging out with the boys of 1st floor Bigelow. Then all of a sudden, five years passed in a flash. All too soon, its’s May 15, 2010, I’m decked out in my cap and gown, crossing that stage, shaking Chancellor Telfer’s hand, smiling for the camera and taking my seat in the crowd. 

Even though it’s been more than seven months since graduation, it’s weird - on some level I still feel like I’m in college, like I will be going back to school any day now, but I know I’m not. Life really does pass by in the blink of an eye, so treasure every moment.


Officially a part of the workforce: 

Despite the poor economy, I happened upon a piece of luck. After graduation, I packed up and moved back in with my parents. Thankfully, it was very temporary. 

On Friday, June 4, I traveled to Sun Prairie, Wis. to interview for the Regional Reporter position at the Sun Prairie Star. My second actual job interview, I had no idea how long I could expect to wait before hearing back. Imagine my surprise then, when on Monday, June 7, I received a call back offering me the job. I was so shocked I couldn’t breathe, and a friend was like “Rachel, calm down, breathe.” 

They needed me right away, so the very next day I packed up the stuff I needed, loaded it into the back of my parent’s car and drove down to Madison, trying desperately to find a friend to crash with until I could find my own place. Thankfully, my friend Kyle agreed to let me stay a few weeks until I could find a place to stay and get moved in.

On Wednesday, June 9, I had my first day of work. It was such a whirlwind - I had my job interview, got offered the position and started work in a five-day span. Every day I’m thankful for my job. I take it as high praise that I got the position, especially considering the poor economy and competitive journalism job market.


My first skydive! 

In what might very well have been the most insane and life-changing decision of my life, I decided to go skydiving this past summer. On Saturday, July 17 2010, I headed to AtmosphAir Skydiving School in Jefferson, Wis. to conquer my biggest fear - falling from heights. I’m not going to go into too much detail because I already did that in a previous blog, but it was the most intense, amazing, exhilarating and life-changing experience of my life. There is nothing quite like willingly paying someone to take you up 12,000 feet in the air and then jump out, with nothing but a parachute on your back and air below you. I have since gone three more times and hope to one day get certified to jump solo. Fly on!


Troublesome Calvin. 

At the end of August, I adopted a kitten, whom I named Calvin, from the Jefferson Humane Society. A little troublemaker, he stole my heart when I held him in my arms and he gently put his front paw up on my lips as if to say, “shhh, shhh, don’t say anything. Just adopt me,” and looked up at me with those big amber eyes of his. About a week later, he was mine. Roughly 2.5 months old when I got him, he quickly turned my life upside down, waking me up 2-3 times during the night, playing with my toes and fingers, pouncing on me unexpectedly. But in the four months I’ve had him, he has calmed down quite a bit and is mommy’s good little boy...most of the time. 


Aaaah, I'm Over the Edge!

While not a new experience entirely, I rappelled down the Hilton Hotel in Madison for Special Olympics of Wisconsin’s Over the Edge Media Day. While inside the building, I put on all the equipment: the gloves, the hat, the harness, everything, and then went on the roof to first practice rappelling down just one floor. Once my practice rappel was over, I climbed back in the window, feeling pretty badass. In my head, I was thinking “I feel like I’m breaking into a museum to steal the crown diamond before rappelling down the side of the building. Cool!” And while no crime was actually committed, it was pretty amazing to see everything from up high. The people were specs, the cars were like toys, and I couldn’t believe I had a chance to rappel down an actual building - it was something I had jokingly talked about doing for years. The first step was the hardest, but once it is over, it’s easy sailing, er, ahem, rappelling. 


Best birthday ever! 

Although I spent my actual birthday at Cardinal’s Nest in Sun Prairie and Nitty Gritty in Madison throwing down some free drinks, the real party wasn’t until a couple days later, when some friends and I went skydiving Oct. 10. 

We met at 9 a.m. in the morning at AtmosphAir, and after the class, went one by one up in the planes for some freefalling fun. My fourth skydive, my tandem instructor and I hung onto the outside of the plane, let go and then did three backflips in the air before stabilizing. As with my third jump, I was able to keep an eye on the altimeter and pull the cord to deploy the canopy at 6,000 feet. So much fun and I cannot wait for them to open again in April.


A Slithery Friend

Well, they can’t all be huge accomplishments, but even the small ones are cause for celebration. This time, I held a ball python in my hands. It was still a baby, only about a foot and a half long, but I’m not exactly fond of the slithery creatures. Just in case it was capable of sensing fear, I tried to calm myself down and take deep breaths, but whenever the snake turned around and fixed me with those beady eyes...(shudder). There is something so primal about snakes, like no matter how many years pass, they will never change, never evolve. Anyway, I survived my encounter and am braver for it.

November was also the month I met my first friend in Sun Prairie, Jena. After a grueling work day and after listening to a five-hour budget meeting for the paper, I went to Cardinal’s Nest for a relaxing drink, where I met her. Although we haven’t known each other long, she’s proved to be a good friend, and I’m thankful I met her.


What a shock! 

December was quite a shocking month, in more ways than one. On Wednesday, Dec. 22, I attended the Dane County Sheriff Office’s Use of Force presentation. Now, I know I just published a whole long blog about it, so I will be brief. While there, I had a chance to feel the keen sting of a Taser and try out the Fire Arms Training Simulator (FATS). While the simulator was a lot of fun, the Taser shot was extremely painful. Not all life’s experiences are pleasant, but they all add up to the person we will eventually become. Similarly, even though the Taser shot was not pleasant, it was another chance for me to step out of my comfort zone and experience life. However my life ends up, no one will ever be able to say it was boring!

The UW-Whitewater Warhawk Football team also played the Mt. Union Raiders for the Division III National Football Championship title for the sixth straight year Dec. 18, 2010. The Warhawks came out victorious, 31-21. The Warhawks will be going into next season on a 30-game winning streak, currently the longest in the NCAA.