Sunday, October 26, 2008

El Dia de los Muertos---Una Fiesta Espantosa!

In my classes on Friday and Saturday, we embarked on a journey 3,000 years into the past, taking ourselves back to an ancient Aztec tradition. As many of you probably know, there is a holiday in Mexico that is often (and sadly) confused with Halloween. For you gringos, it's known as "The Day of the Dead." Though it may sound rather grim, put all your assumptions aside and prepare to be enlightened! When the Aztec goddess, Mictecacihuatl died, this event was created in her honor. She is also known as the "Lady of the Dead" or Catrina. On this day, people honor their loved ones who have passed on by gathering together as a family, cleaning and decorating graves, creating altars in their homes dedicated to those passed on, and celebrating the life they lead with dancing, singing, and lots of great food! The most famous image associated with the Day of the Dead is a smiling skull, representing the joy a spirit feels when it can move on to the next stage in his/her existence. Some actually believe, that these happy spirits will come to visit them on these couple of days in which they're allowed to once again enjoy their earthly pleasures. When the conquistadores, plundered the Aztecs, they saw some merit in the holiday and added some catholic touches. Today, those of many cultural and religious heritages take part in this great celebration of life.

My students made "ofrendas" for people in their lives who had passed away. Though most were family members or homies, I also had some tributes to Selena, Heath Ledger, Bernie Mac, and other famous figures. I was impressed with the great job they did. They also brought in the traditional "pan de muertos" (Bread of the Dead) and horchata and all sorts of authentic treats. We had a great time. The actual days of celebration are the 1st and 2nd of November (at which time Brent and I hope to have our own little celebration) but we're currently on fall break, so I had them do the projects before heading off on their respective vacations and whatnot. Here are some pictures of the little tributes they created and my own life-sized "ofrenda" to my paternal grandmother, Betty Dunn. And yes, I burned candles and incense in a classroom full of teenagers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Denver & Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

We've been visiting a lot of gardens lately! First, we went to the Denver Botanic Gardens on free museum day, then enjoyed the Cheyenne gardens last weekend while in town, and yesterday I volunteered at the Pumpkin Festival in the Chatfield Botanic Gardens! Unfortunately I have no pictures of the latter. It was so much fun! Acres and acres of land were covered in cornstalks and pumpkins, and when they opened the gates, throngs of people swept in with their little kids dressed in costume (in spite of the drizzly weather). Each one eagerly searched for the perfect pumpkin. We are thoroughly enjoying all the colors of fall and the festivities that come along with it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

(Half) Marathon Woman!!

This is a story on why my wife is SO amazing!

Brenna and I have an annual tradition of officially inaugurating Autumn by attending the “Top of Utah Marathon,” where we take in the brisk air and marvel at the changing leaves in Logan Utah. Whereas I was still basking in the bliss of my newfound sedentary lifestyle (due to my rash post-ironman vow to never physically train again), I wasn’t too shaken up by the prospect of studying all the waking hours on Saturday instead of running 26 miles. But Brenna, ever nostalgic, hunted for a comparable event in Colorado and uncovered the “best kept secret in Colorado,” the Autumn Color Run.

“Hey, Brent, I found a half-marathon for you to do this Saturday,” Brenna informed.

I retort with an epithet in Spanish.

“No really, you could win this one!” she insists.

All that means is that it’s such a small event that nobody fast actually enters the race, and the pressure is on to not loose to the local AARP president nor the Red Hat Lady (who has won the last 58 years in a row—beat that Phelps!). This time the epithet is in English.

“Seriously, Brent, I think I might do it with you!” she proudly announces.

I check to see if I’ve soiled myself. All good. “Are you kidding me?” I ask as I have visions of Chariots of Fire meets Miracle on 34th Street dancing around in my head.

“Yeah, I can speed walk that far. The course is open for 6 hours, so I figure I can finish in that time,” she confirms.

So after going out back to unbury my running shoes, loading the ipods with angry girl music, and buying film for the video camera (which I left home anyway….) we got up at 4:30 AM on Saturday, September 19th and headed to beautiful Buena Vista, Colorado.

On the way we stoped in bustling Leadville, where the temperature was 18 degrees at 7:30 AM, and the landscape was frosted. Well, we thought, we are ascending to 11,000 feet to start the race, but maybe it’ll warm up in the next hour. Suprisingly, it did.

We started in a mountain canyon on a dirt road (only 4 miles of the 13 were on paved surfaces). The vistas were truly “Buena.” The aspens were a glowing gold and the scenery was breathtaking! We ran down into town over bridges, around lakes, and through the mountains.

Brenna was planning to finish in around 5 hours, so I broke out my anatomy materials and studied while I waited. A chatty toddler came over to make friends until his dad yanked him away when he saw that I was studying pictures of the anus and scrotum of cadavers (People just can’t relate to the phrase, “I cut dead people.” Well, maybe Macy Fowler could).

Then, less than 3 hours into the race, I spotted Brenna hauling toward the finish line! She came in so fast that I hardly had time to get the camera out. The champ finished her first half-marathon in just under 3 hours when her goal was 5!! I couldn’t have been more proud. She finished strong, walking in at the same pace at which she began! Other than being a little emotional for having finished, she was happy and healthy. How amazing is Brenna, who only took up regularly speed-walking 5K’s recently. (This was the first time she has done an event longer than 3 miles.) To celebrate her victory we went spice shopping at the local organic food store and got Brenna some new Keen mountain sandals.

Congratulations, Brenna, I love you so much and am so proud of you! Just another example of why you are an esposa perfecta!

Brenna's note: Brent failed to mention that he took second in his division and achieved another Personal Record (1:35)! My hubby is a star!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back in the Symphony Again!

Brent finally got me to go audition for the Aurora Symphony, after years of letting my violin collect dust. I was reluctant because of all the activities I'm already involved in, but I found out very quickly that it was the perfect situation. The symphony mostly consists of professional moms and dads who don't have a ton of time to practice but just love to make music. We only rehearse once a week and have maybe a concert every couple months or so. The principle cellist is the orchestra teacher at my school, and when she found out I played, she got on me too! Anyway, I'm jumping in just in time for the October 11th "Tribute to the Silver Screen" concert. We're playing music from Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Schindler's List. I'm really excited for our December concert, as we're playing holiday music from the British Isles featuring a renowned Celtic vocalist as well as a handbell choir. Very festive! If you want to know more about the symphony you can visit this site: I'm so excited to get back into something that was such a huge part of my life from about 5th grade up until my freshman year of college. Yay!

Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Visits Eaglecrest High School

On Thursday, our school was blessed with the visit of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient! It was quite the occasion. Our driveway into the school parking lot was lined with probably fifty American flags, a red carpet was put down, art students created beautiful works depicting the experience of the soldier's crowning moment, and even our live mascot, Free Spirit (an eagle) was on stage during the National Anthem. It was an incredible occasion. I was so impressed by this man's bravery and unassuming nature. We were all dressed in suits and dresses for the occasion, and he had on jeans, tennis shoes and a sport coat! He truly didn't believe that he was necessarily worthy of the grand honor. He spoke about the need to serve either our church, community, or country. An official flag folding ceremony was held---something I had never seen before. What a beautiful experience! I was surprised at all the deeply religious symbolism. I'm in a district now where it's tough to mention Christianity or anything to do with it, so if any of you know what is said in the flag ceremony, you can imagine how surprised I was! What shocked me when I started to read his story was that he had so much in common with my own father. He was a Marine in Vietnam who left from California. Who knows, maybe they crossed paths! Here's a little blurb on Richard Pittman:


Rank and organization: Sergeant (then L/Cpl.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF. Place and date: near the Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Vietnam, 24 July 1966. Entered service at: Stockton, Calif. Born: 26 May 1945, French Camp, San Joaquin, Calif. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While Company 1 was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged marines' calls for more firepower, Sgt. Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machinegun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy position. As Sgt. Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from 2 automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded marines 50 yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machinegun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up an enemy submachinegun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his platoon. Sgt. Pittman's daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Naval Service.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Jackson was a wonderful family reunion! It was fabulous to just relax, enjoy the best of company, eat great food and enjoy the beauties of nature. I always say that I'm the luckiest girl ever, because I just ADORE my in-laws...every last one of them! I don't have any of those horrible in-law stories to tell. They're all so incredible, and I love them dearly! Thanks for an amazing time in Jackson!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

White Coat Ceremony

On August 14 we celebrated the start to a lifetime of medical service at the CU Medical School campus with Brent's white coat ceremony. It's almost like a graduation, in that all the students get to march across stage and receive their white coat and stethescope, and there are speakers and whatnot, but they haven't quite done anything except for get into med. school yet! I was incredibly impressed by the resumes of Brent's classmates. There are lots of IV league grads, people who have a master's or PhD, and students who had accomplished amazing feats all over the world. I was so proud knowing that my baby was counted among them!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Brent is an IRONMAN!!!

On August 2nd, Brent embarked on the most difficult physical task of his life! We got up before the sun to travel from our Santa Rosa hotel to the small, wooded town of Guernville, CA where thousands of triathletes were setting up transition stations, slicking their bodies with sunscreen and sport shield, downing Cliff Shots and Gatorade, and donning their first outfit of the day, a full body wetsuit. Brent was lucky to have an old friend and race buddy with whom to share the pre-race jitters while I eagerly filmed anything I could. (Video footage yet to come.) The start was announced and Brent hopped in the still waters of the damned Russian river along with his heat of men from 18-39. Brent was one of the youngest, as endurance sports seem to be an older man's domain. In spite of all the kicking and heavy breathing and splashing, the morning seemed so serene as I stood on the bank, watching the steam rise off of the warm water into the cool morning air. Brent was easy to spot, as he wore a green swim cap that stood out among the white caps that were mandated for his age group. Brent never really has let people tell him what to do. After an hour and sixteen minutes in the stroking his 2.4 miles, Brent stepped out of the water smiling and ran on to his transition into the bike. A lengthy 5 minute transition gave him time to change, throw on some more sunscreen, and find his center. His 112 mile, hilly bike trip took him through forests, towns, and the beautiful vineyards that characterize the area. I was able to see him at about mile 59, driving the car alongside him as he rode and ate a cherished sub sandwich---a nice relief from all the Clif Bars and Shots he'd been downing at every aid station. I offered him cheers and pumped music and wished him my love as he continued on. At the end of 6 hours and 25 minutes, I had gone shopping, read, eaten lunch, driven all over Windsor, CA and probably could have even squeezed in a pedicure. Meanwhile, Brent was more than ready to be off his bike, and it showed as he pedaled into the transition area. When compared to the hours that it takes to do an Ironman, I guess his nearly 11 minute transition wasn't too indulgent!!! He was so excited to be off the bike, that 26.2 miles on foot didn't seem so bad! The run course of the Vineman loops three times, so it gives the viewer plenty of opportunities to see their athlete. He always ran by, cheery and excited, and acting like more of a goofball that taking himself seriously like many of these hardcore triathletes. Brent's best marathon in the past brought him to the finish line in 3 hours and 19 minutes, but having done everything that he had before this marathon started in 80+ degree weather, he knew to pace himself at a much slower speed. I anxiously waited at the finish line with friends, hoping that he hadn't injured himself in fatigue on the last loop. Soon enough, Brent Fowler finished 4th place in his division after a 4 hour and 25 minute marathon, leaving him with a total time of 12 hours, 23 minutes and 46.5 seconds. He was weak and exhausted, but in good spirits and ready to eat some FOOD! The finish line was an emotional experience for us both. Shortly after, Brent said that he was done with Ironman triathlons, but I knew better than to believe him. When the post-race fatigue wore off the next morning, Brent was saying he couldn't wait to do another!!! Thank you all for your prayers and support during this immense experience! You can view the official race photos at, type in Vineman and his bib number is 20.