Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 157: Books on Tape

In preparation for my trip to Lake Tahoe, Day 157's thing I've never done before was to download an audio book (read: book on tape) onto my iPod.

Another unexciting thing I’ve never done before, but this is what happens when it gets to be 11pm the night before you’re leaving for a 5-day trip you haven’t packed for.

I thought the audio book was a perfect option for several reasons: I’d never listened to a book on tape so it was perfect for my trip out west, plus completing the task would be quick and easy.

Despite having never listened to a book on tape before, the pros were not lost on me. Most downloadable books are cheaper than the print version. No book to keep up with, or hold on to (which actually is also a con in my opinion because I enjoy owning and holding a physical book.)

But the best part of an audio book is that you can download whatever you want and not be embarrassed to listen to it, because no one can tell what you're listening to. You can give people around you a discerning look like you're listening to War and Peace when really you've got Danielle Steel's lastest romantic exploits blaring in your ear.

The cons of an audio book, at least on iTunes, is finding the book that I wanted. Their selection is scarce. I decided I would be a good book club member and search for this month's selection, Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, but my search was in vain. They didn't have such a fine piece of literature. (I know! An outrage!) When that wasn't an option, I debated briefly on purchasing Game Change, a book about the 2008 presidential election. I know, how very intelligent and current of me. I do want to read that book, but I knew now wasn't the time.

I scanned the available titles by my favorite authors and decided on Augusten Burroughs' Magical Thinking, a collection of essays and memoirs. I knew it would be funny, and an easy read. Or is it an easy listen?
Another con about the audio book is the how quickly the sound of the author's voice reading me his book put me to sleep. I started the book right after I purchased it and I fell asleep within five minutes. That's faster than I would have fallen asleep had I been reading the book, and that's hard to do. My inability to stay awake while reading has nothing to do with the book not being hilarious or the author's reading style. I just run myself ragged all day between working, writing, and trying new things that when I finally crawl into bed, I'm ready to sleep. Perhaps this is why it now takes me six months to read a 200-page book?

The same thing happened the next day when I was on the plane and tried to listen again. I put my ear buds in, pressed play and within five minutes, I had drifted off, as the words I was still hearing in my ears became scenes in my dreams.

Listening to an audio book while already in bed or already reclined in a plane seat was a mistake. It was the equivalent of taking Tylenol PM. Perhaps I should try an audio book when I'm alert and driving a car far away when I can stay awake? Or is that just another way to distract myself from driving? What if I can't even finish an audio book? Again, another failure.

Here’s my question about audio books: after you finish listening to one, do you tell people that you've read the book or that you listened to it? Is there a difference?

I'm just wondering.

Anyway, not the best activity for me, or for you to read about, but it put me in travel mode for Lake Tahoe. I promise more fun adventures, with me wearing my tight ski pants from eBay are up ahead.

Day 156: No Phone Zone

Hello, my name is Stephanie and up until Day 156, I text-messaged when I drove.

I'm not proud of it, but isn't the first step in overcoming a problem, admitting that there is one? So go ahead, judge me. I deserve it. I was a multi-tasker who thought she was invincible to the dangers of distracted driving.

Truthfully, I didn't think texting and driving was such a big deal, but like those who swear they drive safely even after they've had a few drinks, I think I had an elevated view of my driving skills.

Until now.

I didn't see the episode, but I had heard about Oprah's campaign to stop distracted driving, so I went onto her website, watched a clip of the show, and read some of the stories of families whose lives have been forever changed because of distracted driving.

On principle, or perhaps out of spite, I try not to blindly do whatever Oprah tells me to do. I learned my lesson after getting sucked into reading James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces, telling virtually every single person how amazing his TRUE story that OPRAH loves was, only to find out weeks later that he was a huge fraud. That wasn't completely Oprah's fault, and I think she does a lot of really great things, but I question all of the people who listen to every single word she says as if it was the Gospel.

Plus, I was somewhat annoyed that she was so high and mighty about the "Texting and Driving" thing, seeing as how Oprah lives in Chicago and she's Oprah so I doubt she ever drives herself anywhere ever. And she doesn't have to be a multi-tasker like so many Americans do because she's Oprah and she pays people to multi-task for her. If she needs to send or read a text message, she can summon someone on her staff to do it on her behalf.

Still, the dangers of distracted driving are real and the stories on her show were compelling. Day 156's thing I've never done before was to follow the thousands that have signed Oprah's pledge and add my name to the list of people who are making a conscious effort to stop texting and driving.

I'm probably most guilty of reading texts while driving. I'd read emails on my Blackberry on the way into work and never hesitate to read a text message from a friend on my phone if it came in while I driving.

But I truly didn't realize how much I was allowing myself to be distracted by my mobile devices until I made a vow to stop using them.

Putting my name on the pledge was the easy part. Leaving my phone and Blackberry in my purse when I'm in the car, well, that's been a different story.

The day after I signed Oprah's pledge, I had to run errands and was mindful not to use my phone on the way. When I finally got out of my car and could use my phone again, I texted someone while walking from one store to the next, and tripped.

I immediately thought two things:

1. I'm a klutz

2. If I can't walk and text, there is no question that I shouldn't ever be driving and texting.

Weeks after signing the pledge, I still find myself reaching for my Blackberry to send a text message or read an email. Just like breaking any other bad habit, I'm learning how to spend my time in the car just driving and not allowing myself to be distracted by other things.

Though I can't recall any close calls that I've had as a result of texting and driving, I am 100 percent confident that nothing I've ever sent or read in a text message is worth risking my life or the lives of innocent other drivers and pedestrians. So I will continue to try and break this bad habit of reaching for the phone when I drive.

If you'd like to take Oprah's pledge, you can do it here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

***Psychic Rose Update***

In an unexpected and awesome turn of events, I've learned that Psychic Rose is the very psychic visited by Kim and the other housewives on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta."

Check it out here.

***Psychic Rose has requested her information not be shared, so I'm sorry I cannot provide it.***

Day 155: Psychic Reading

"My mom has a book, Linda Goodman's Sun Signs, that was written in the seventies, and despite using anecdotes that are somewhat outdated, it nails details about my Libra personality almost exactly. Through the years, we've enjoyed reading about my family members, friends and guys that I've dated, trying to decode their quirks based on their astrological sign.

I'm not foolish enough to live and die, or even make decisions based on what my horoscope says, and I don't take any of it very seriously. But I do believe in astrology and I believe who we are is somewhat rooted by our sun signs.

So with an already developed interest, on Day 155, I went to a psychic as the thing I've never done before.

I sought the advice of my friend Natalie, who now lives in Los Angeles, but has visited a couple of psychics in Atlanta. She was eager to help.

Natalie explained that she has been to two different psychics, both women who work out of their homes in Cumming, Georgia, a city about 40 miles north of Atlanta. For those of you familiar with the Atlanta area, you may be as baffled by the fact that there are any psychics living in Cumming. Well, there are. There are at least two.

The other part of our conversation that struck me was that Natalie went to see the psychic with her mom. My mom's idea of bonding with me is getting pedicures or discount shopping at Steinmart. I think Natalie and her mom are on to something.

Natalie explained to me the difference between the psychics. One woman named Denise charges $160 dollars an hour. She "hears angels" (Say wha?) and reads Tarot cards. Denise is from New York and is very opinionated.

Rose is an older lady who reads palms and Tarot cards. Her reading gave more concrete times for things, which Natalie liked. But, she confessed, "nothing that she said is going to happen has happened yet." Rose's readings are $20 for half an hour.

Twenty dollars to unlock all of the exciting news about me and what my life has in store? Rose it is.

Natalie and I went back and forth on email for a while, and she told me that if I'm seeking true guidance, I should probably seek a therapist, which I completely agree with. But she also said "Grandma" Rose had given her a lot of really good news about the next year, so she preferred her to Denise.

I like the idea of picking a doctor this way as well. Go to several, and pick the one that gives you the best news. I called Rose's husband and made arrangements to meet with her on Day 155.

I shared my plans with several people from work, telling them that I had just made an appointment to get a psychic reading. My friend Justin emailed back immediately.

"Why the appointment? Didn't she know you were coming?"

"No smart ass," I replied, "Rose doesn't make her own appointments. Her husband makes them for her."

My friend Kyle was supportive, telling me that she went to see a psychic, as a joke, right after we had first graduated from college.

She said she didn't really take it seriously, but she said, "I remember her telling me that I was going to marry someone I was already friends with."

At the time, that idea seemed far-fetched, and sent Kyle and our other friend Trish into a frenzy thinking about which one of our friends it could be. Turns out, Kyle's psychic was right, and she did marry her very best friend Greg years later.

I'm not even sure I believe in psychics, but I started to get excited about this experience and what Grandma Rose might tell me.

I left my house an hour before the appointment for the long ride to the suburbs of Cumming, Georgia. My directions led me to a normal looking house in a normal looking neighborhood. Part of me worried that Rose's house might be the one trailer in the woods off a dirt road, but I suspected Natalie would've shared that ahead of time. Rose's house looked like a house in the neighborhood I grew up in.

I wondered, looking at the relatively normal surroundings, if Rose's neighbors knew what she did for a living Did the revolving door of guests looking for guidance confuse them? Maybe she gives them free readings?

I walked to the front door and rang the doorbell. I could see through the glass door that there was a cat hotel set up in the rear of the living room and tons of crafts hanging on the walls.

Rose's husband greeted me wearing a hunter green sweatshirt and navy blue sweatpants and house shoes. He opened the door and invited me inside and told me to have a seat on their white leather couch, which felt like a cross between "Miami Vice" and the "Golden Girls." The whole house did really. There were lots of knick knacks which normally I can't stand, but in this house, seemed appropriate. Sweet, even. I felt like I was at my grandmother's house. Only my Grandma wasn't a psychic. In fact, I suspected my Grandma was looking down on me from heaven extremely disappointed that I was seeking Rose's advice instead of the advice of Jesus.

I had a private conversation with my Grandma just to assure her, and myself, that this is just another experience for the blog.

Rose's husband, whose name I still don't know, sat down on a chair up against the wall and I watched their pets, a couple of cats and a fluffy chow dog mill about. We both stared at "The Price is Right" which was playing loudly on a flat screen television hanging above their fireplace. Psychic reading business must be doing just fine despite the economic downturn, I thought to myself. This was a nice TV. Rose's husband told me that he had been playing solitaire on the computer when I knocked on the door, as if he was explaining why it took him so long to answer. And then we talked about Drew Carey taking Bob Barker's hosting job on the "Price is Right" as we watched an extremely excitable woman win a new car.

He asked me questions about myself, likely just making friendly conversation, but I was convinced he was asking me these questions so he could filter information to Rose ahead of our meeting. So I kept my answers short, limiting them to one word.

Just when our interaction had reached an all-time high level of awkwardness, a guy, likely a few years older than me, blew the basement door open and stormed through. He stopped briefly to acknowledge me, and then Rose's husband. He was holding a cassette tape and a small notebook in his hands. He looked so happy, so eager, like Rose had just told him he was going to win the lottery and he was rushing out to buy a ticket. We all said goodbye to each other and in an instant, he was gone.

The front door slammed behind excited guy and Rose's husband told me it was my turn to head on downstairs. So I did.

I walked downstairs to the basement, a little freaked out about what I was going to find down there, but also amped considering I could soon be rushing out of Rose's house with great news just like the other guy. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, standing before me was a little old lady next to a round table. On the table was an old-school cassette player, a box of cassettes and two decks of cards.

She reminded me of my Grandma's best friend Ruth. She said hello and asked me to have a seat across from her at the table. Rose slipped a cassette into her player and pressed "Record." Then she said she was going to take a look at my palms, so she put out a stack of table cloths and asked me to turn my hands over.

"Are you right handed?" she asked me.

I told her I was.

She pointed at my left hand and said, "that's where you've been," and then she motioned to my right hand, "and this is where you're going."

She went on to explain that the left hand is important to see where I've been and to see if there had been any negative forces or experiences ("garbage," she called it) that I might've carried over to my present and future lives.

On my left hand she said that right after I was born there was a health problem with me or my mom, liking having to do with food. My issues with food came much later in life, and I was unaware of any health problems I might have had as a baby. I made a mental note to ask my mom about this, but I didn't think Rose was off to such a great start.

Rose: Around ages 13, 14, and 15 was an emotional time. You're emotions seemed to scatter.
Well, of course they are. Isn't it that period of every girl's life full of emotional highs and lows?

Rose: Around your later teenage years, you attached to someone. It was a strong attachment and I see some negative energy around it. And then around seven or eight years ago, you separated from that person. Not sure if it was a physical separation like a move, or just an emotional separation.
Ok, Rose, now we're talking. Yes, there was a guy, a best friend, that I attached to during that time and we were separated by distance. This is all starting to sound like my life.

Rose then told me that I am headed in a better direction. "It's like a light bulb went off and you knew you needed to change course," she said.

She said I was a strong person with a good mind who reasons well.
Not sure I reason well ALL of the time, but I do feel like I'm a strong person and I do have a good mind, I think.
Rose: You're a bit of a people pleaser. All the lines on this side of your hand indicate people who have caused you stress that you've tried to make happy in your life.
Yes, I am a people pleaser. And a pushover, too!

Rose inspected my hand like a seasoned mechanic looking at a broken down car. She was nonchalant and confident, like what she was saying she knew was the truth. I couldn't help but to believe everything she said.

Rose: You've had one surgery, so your health troubles are minor.
Tonsillectomy, age 6. Damn, she's good.

Rose: You're moving line shows me you're not from Georgia. Someone must've dragged you here kicking and screaming.
Preach it, Rose. No, I'm not from Georgia and that "someone" was a job, but close enough.

Rose: The star indicates your dad has either passed or was good for you in some respect.
My dad is thankfully still around and has been good for me in many respects. What a confusing star, though, to present two completely opposite scenarios. Good for me or Dead?

With the exception of a few blunders, Rose was pretty much on target so far. She ended looking at my left hand by telling me she sees my mom and another woman as strong female presence helping raise me. I have a great mom, and an arsenal of aunts and older cousins and at one time, Grandmothers, but my immediate family lived so far away from them, I don't know that they helped raise me necessarily. Maybe Rose is having an "off" day.

She allowed me to relax my left hand and she moved on to my right, indicating there wasn't a lot of abuse or too many negative experiences that I carried over to my life now.

Rose: You're learning. You're learning about money, like how to hold on to it.
Of course I am. Aren't we all?

She told me I was a controlled person, but not to the extreme. I only control what is affecting me. She is right.

"Look at your emotional line," she said, pointing at my hand. "You were a little basket case over the holidays, weren't you?"

At the time, sitting there in front of her, I thought, "Wow, she really knows me." I was a basket case over the holidays. And 2010 has not been my year so far. I laughed out loud, shocked that she could tell this about me just by looking at my hand.

Since then, though, I've been less impressed with this observation. The holidays are stressful and therefore an emotional time for a lot of people.

She went on to tell me that I needed to let whoever or whatever was responsible for my negative feelings during the holidays go.

Rose: You need to open the door for this new person. He connects to your line of Venus. Do you think you've met him already?
Uh...uh...no. I don't think so. Crap, what if I did, but didn't know it?

Rose: I'm sensing more scattering of your emotions. Like you want to feel something, but you're scared, you want to attach to someone but you don't want to get hurt.
Isn't everyone scared of that? Am I more so than others?

Rose said she sees a lot of trips in my future. Several short trips and one long one on, by or over the water. Considering the world is 70 percent water, she just about covered any possible trip scenario there is, but still, I was intrigued. I was leaving for Lake Tahoe in a few days, and my friend Maribeth and I had just discussed a trip she wants us to take for her 30th birthday in April.

Rose: You're going to have help in making the decision on where you're going. And it's going to present itself in April.
Wow. Freaky.
Rose nailed my love of travel. Even if she got everything else wrong, I was a believer.

She pushed my sleeve back and looked at the lines on my wrist.

"Oh God, you're gonna live for forever," she said, as if I was cursed. "Like into your nineties."

This news made me happy. If I'm going to live to be in my nineties, maybe I can stop freaking about turning 30. I have plenty of time (60 years) to do all of the things I want to do.

My unity line showed her that I'm destined to be in a "Till Death do you part," marriage. "You better choose your partner wisely," she warned, "because you're only getting married once, and you don't want to be stuck with the wrong person."

At the end of my hand reading, she told me she thinks I'll be entering into a business partnership probably next year.
With a book publisher, perhaps?!

She said she sees two money lines, one secure line (presumably from my job) and one extra line (from another source, which at this point is to be determined). Money, for me, won't be an issue, she explained.
Hmm...isn't money always an issue? Do we ever have enough?

Regardless, I like what Grandma Rose has to say so far.

She told me to shuffle the tarot cards and then choose 13 and hand them to her. She turned each of the 13 that I chose and laid them out on the table. And this is the part of the reading that became a big blur.

Rose reiterated that I am a strong person with good judgment, but I should guard against carelessness. I need to watch my diet and watch my temper. All great pieces of advice, but none of what she said felt like it was specifically for me.

She turned over a card with a scary creature on it.

"An enemy," she said. I raised my eyebrows, startled.

She turned another card over.

"The end of an enemy." I exhaled.

She turned over a card with a scene by the ocean.

"That's your trip," she said. "And it says, 'hope by the water.'"

She went on to say that the guy that is going to come into my life has something to do with my trip by the water. Or, she said, maybe he's a water sign? He has something to do with water. Tahoe, perhaps? The not-yet-planned trip by the water with Maribeth? Is a sailor? A plumber? He drinks water? He showers? Rose, you're killing me!

On one of the later cards, she said a man will cause me trouble. Was the water guy going to cause me stress? If so, I want him to stay away.

She gave me another deck of cards, asked me to shuffle and then divide them into three separate piles and make a wish.

I did and she pointed to the numbers on top of the cards indicating that my lucky numbers are 4, 6, and 9. The number "4" has always been my lucky number, so I was into this.

Rose said there is a family quarrel that I should look out for in the coming months. She told me to stay out of it.

"You’re going to want to try and fix things because you're a fixer," she said. "Don't. Just let it work itself out."

My family doesn't really fight much, so I was intrigued, and scared, by this.

She also said I need to be more vocal about what I want, and in relationships, to be as mindful about my needs as I am about the other person's needs.

"I hesitate to tell you to be more demanding, but speak up about what you want and what you need," she said.

At the end, she asked me if I had any questions and I laughed out loud.

"Uh...yeah, I have a lot of questions."

We went back and forth and she gave me more insight about some of the things she saw in the cards and on my hand.

This is a year of power for me, so the wish I made will come true and anything that I want to have happen should be easy for me.
Great! If only I knew specifically what I wanted.
As for the mystery person by the water, there will be a sense of familiarity around him. I asked her if I already knew him and she said she wasn’t sure, but I will have a sense of knowing him. She’s not sure if he’s been married before, but he’s very good-looking and he’s a catch.
Of course he's good-looking, Rose! The men in my dreams are always good-looking.

So what about a man causing me trouble? Is it the guy on the water? She said water boy isn’t going to cause me stress. But there is an arrogance surrounding him, because he is so good-looking. The arrogance might cause me stress. So water boy is arrogant? Damn.

The skeptic in me had to wonder, “Does Rose ever give anyone any bad news?” So far, I was loving this experience, but I wondered how I would feel about it if she’d told me “You’re going to marry multiple times, and some of your husbands are going to be poor and unattractive and possibly abusive. Your career is questionable and money problems will plague you forever.”

So I asked her, "Do you always give people good news?”

She assured me she didn’t and that she has to deliver death, divorce and bad health news often, usually to ears that don’t want to hear it, or believe what she telling her.
Well, duh, Rose. Who ever wants to hear about any of that stuff?

While writing this entry, I revisited the emails Natalie and I exchanged and re-read what she told me about her meeting with Rose. Turns out, Natalie is also a people pleaser, who was raised by two strong females, and that she is destined to meet Mr. Right, who is attractive and educated. She could be planning a wedding by the end of the year, according to Grandma Rose.

Damn, either Natalie and I are destined to live the same life, or Rose sees two 29-year old lively women, both somewhat uncertain and concerned with how life is all going to shake out and sees more or less similar outcomes. Don't get me wrong, Natalie is awesome and she and I are a lot alike in many ways. So, if my life and hers are headed on the same track, that's just fine with me. I guess I was hoping that all of this good news Rose was telling me about my life wasn't so generic.

But then again, I suppose it makes sense. Of course Natalie and I are going to be successful at money matters and matters of the heart. We're intelligent, attractive, fun, sweet girls. Our lives are going to work out. Not because Rose read it on our hands or saw it on some cards. But because it will. It has to!

Before I left, Rose handed me the cassette tape of our meeting. I said goodbye to her and her husband in sweatpants and headed back to Atlanta.

I called every single member of my family on the way home, with the exception of my sister-in-law Katie because she's only been in our family officially for a few months and I thought if I bombarded her with this insanity she might start looking for a way out.

My parents laughed. My dad laughed a lot. Both were interested in what Rose had to tell me, but I think they were relieved that I wasn't taking it too seriously.

My brother Jeff was intrigued. He was also fixated on the "family quarrel."

"What? Like a fight within our family?"


"Like our immediate family? Or our relatives? What's the fight about?"

I don't know. Can we get back to me and this guy by the water?

Jeff listened to all of the details about the reading and he said, encouragingly, but also in a you-wasted-your-money-going-to-see-this-lady tone of voice, "Well, of course all of that stuff is going to happen to you. Because you have a lot going for you. And you want it to."

My brother believes, wholeheartedly, in the message behind the book, The Secret. If you visualize success and believe that it will come to you, then it will. Maybe not as quickly as you would like, but keep seeing it, keep imagining it, and whatever you want will be yours.

My own belief that everything in my life is going to work out just the way that I want it to changes with the weather. So hearing someone else, even a senior citizen psychic, tell me that it will felt good. If that's crazy, or ridiculous, then maybe I am.

I'm not sure I buy all the specifics of what Rose had to say, but according to her, I'm right on track for success, even if Mr. Right doesn't have anything to do with water or I never write a book that gets published.

I'm going to keep lingering by the water cooler at work, though. Just in case.

***Psychic Rose has requested her information not be shared, so I'm sorry I cannot provide it. Even if you beg.***

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 154: Lots of Little Steps

On Day 154, I agreed (read: got suckered in) to come into work on a Sunday.

The extra shift did not fit in with my usual Sunday lounging, blogging, and exercising activities. So I had to get creative, but also make the thing I'd never done before easy, since I didn't have a lot of time.

Unfortunately, when days are busy, the first thing that I omit from my day is exercising. That wasn't always the case, but since I've been behind since I started this project, blogging has now moved up on my priority list. I fit exercise in when I can.

Not good, considering I have a weight-loss goal I'm trying to achieve.

All of the fitness magazines I've ever read suggest adding little bouts of exercise to your daily routine, so the idea of going to the gym for an hour doesn't feel so daunting. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, do squats in front of the copy machine in the office (seriously, does anyone really do this?), use an exercise ball instead of a desk chair. I decided, with limited time and zero creativity, I would give one of these activities a try.

Day 154's thing I've never done before was to park in the absolute last spot of my office parking lot.

I know, you're mad. You feel let down by this blog already and I don't blame you. This was a lame day. But I bared my soul, I booty-danced, I beer carnivaled. I needed a break.

This idea was one that I didn't think needed much planning. I didn't think I need to plan it at all. Just park the car in the last space. But the perfectionist in me wanted to make sure that I picked the absolute very last spot. So when I spent fifteen minutes driving around the back of the parking lot like a weirdo, alerting the security guard to come see what kind of shady business was going on, I started to think that maybe I should've planned this a little better.

Finally I chose a spot and enjoyed a nice extended walk into work. Challenge completed.

Until I had to walk out from work to the very last spot, and then I realized again how poorly I had planned. Next time, I might reserve this activity for the daytime. Last parking spot + darkness = not smart.

Ok, so maybe this wasn't the most adventurous day I've had. But I can tell you, that this is one of the few blog activities that I have tried and done nearly everyday since.

And I agree, it's an easy way to take extra steps in the day and therefore burn more calories. But I'm kidding myself if I think I can add a few more feet between me and my office and still manage to get my body fat percentage in the teens.

Every little bit helps, though, right? I may just start lunging around my office and sprinting up the stairs during coffee breaks.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 153: Beer Carnival Without Spreadsheets

The weekend had finally arrived and on Saturday I had plans to see the Trey Anastasio Band (T.A.B.) at the Tabernacle. For those of you following along, this is the concert I bought a single ticket to on Day 106, in an effort to stop buying concert tickets in bulk.

Though nerve wracking to go out on my own, I had a feeling buying one ticket to this show would probably be fine, because there would be a lot of friends interested in going that I could cruise with.

Sure enough, I was right.

Not only did a T.A.B. crew come together in high numbers, they also made plans for a blog activity ahead of the concert.

Day 153's thing I've never done before was to attend Atlanta's first annual Winter Beer Carnival at the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center.

Two of my favorite things, beer and carnivals, combined? Count me in.

Only I think I set my expectations a little high for the event, and therefore the day didn't exactly get off to a great start. Or maybe I'm just old and grumpy and would prefer drinking at home than get out and deal with traffic, parking and people.

The organizers of the beer carnival, according to Melanie, made it clear on their website that parking was limited down by the contemporary arts center, so they encouraged taking public transportation or carpooling. Apparently they forgot we live in Atlanta and public transportation here doesn't really go anywhere.

Moral of the story: I had a difficult time finding a place to park. I was met by road blocks, police officers, one-way streets, all keeping me from my final destination. Once I did find an illegal place near Georgia Tech, I headed towards where the carnival was being held. Only not really, because I just ran into a long line of people waiting to get into the carnival. My friend Mike warned me about the line and said they had managed to accidentally skip ahead of everyone waiting when they went to pick up their tickets.

This is when I started to feel old and grumpy. I try to get out and enjoy the festivities that the city has to offer, but when faced with adversaries like long lines and traffic, I assume give up and go home. "Enough with the gimmicky festivals and carnivals! Just let me drink a beer!" But I already had my ticket, so I had to wait with the crowd overly-excited recent college graduates ready to party in the afternoon.

Gah, I'm an old bitch.

When I finally got to the front of the line and had my ID checked, and one of the staff members handed me a plastic Dixie cup and five tickets. Having just stood in line for 30 minutes, I could feel my blood boiling and I started to get irate, assuming that these five tickets were to be cashed in for five, four ounce beers.

"Are these for the be-?"

The guy cut me off before I could finish.

"Those are for the games."

The day was starting to improve. I headed inside and ran into some other friends I wasn't expecting to see and talked to them for a bit. They pointed me in the direction of the T.A.B. crew and I was able to track them down. My friend Mike is 6'6", so that helped considerably.

And then the beer tasting commenced.

The week leading up to the carnival, super-planner Melanie suggested, and crafted a spreadsheet like she did back when we were headed to Palm Springs and I scoffed.

"Isn't the goal of a beer carnival to try them all?" I asked in an email.

"Well, yes," she said, "but a spreadsheet will help you mark the ones that you like, don't like, ones that you want to try again."

I'm sure I rolled my eyes at my desk. But then I thought of all the fun I had with Melanie and Team Spreadsheet/Temecula in Palm Springs on Days 33-36. I scoffed at their spreadsheets back then too, but thanks to all of their planning, I ended up partying at a mansion on a golf course. So I agreed that though I may not participate in keeping up with a spreadsheet, I'd at least support Melanie's cause and print off copies like she asked me too.

And then I left them at work.

Thankfully, no one asked me for one (and no one at work found them and assumed I was an alcoholic either).

The event was about what you would expect from a beer tasting. Lots of tables with beer reps filling everyone's small plastic Dixie cups with their special brews. It was fun. I didn't try any beers that changed my life, but I had a good time.

As advertised, the beer carnival did have carnival games, and despite no natural athleticism, I was on fire playing them. Well, most of them. I used all of my tickets and Bug's to knock down milk jugs, beer cans and puppets, all with great success.

Until the Histriker game.

I don't know that this is actually what it's called, but it's the game that Popeye used to always play, and win, to impress Olive Oil. The game where you take a mallet to hit a base with enough force that it will send a puck/chaser up to ring a bell.

Bug took the mallet out of the facilitator's hand, hit the base and the bell rang. She did it several times, and made it look easy.

I had never played this game before, but I am pretty strong, so I thought I'd be able to at least give it a good effort and not embarass myself. Plus I was dressed like a lumberjack, so I thought I'd have no trouble.

I was wrong.

I can think of several reasons why I was so terrible at this game, despite its easy concept. First of all, the mallet was much heavier than I thought it was going to be, and I wasn't quite sure the best way to swing it. Plus there were several people standing around watching me to see if I was going to choke, and they were standing so close to me, I felt crowded even though I really wasn't. And finally, it occurred to me when I stepped up to take a whack at it, that I'd been drinking beer for a few hours. The possibility for injury to myself or someone else was quite high.

On my first try, I whiffed. Didn't hit the target at all.
The mallet hit the ground and all I could do was turn around to look at my friends and laugh at myself. I also started to sweat, my heart started racing and though I couldn't see it, I'm sure my face was bright red.

I should've stopped right then, acted like a complete damsel in distress and passed the mallet to some cute guy to save the day, but of course, I didn't think of such a move until after the horrible experience was over.

No, instead I tried it again. And I whiffed, again. I tried it a third time and hit the target, but the puck didn't move much higher than the second line. That's two out of a possible ten to ring the bell. Embarassing.

The fourth and fifth times were much like the others. I can't remember exactly, but I either missed the target completely or hit the target and barely moved the puck.

Melanie had considered giving it a try, but after watching my piss-poor performance, she passed. Smart move on her part.

After a while, we completed our marathon day by heading to the Tabernacle to see the T.A.B. Once again, weak link over here managed to be with the group who already secured a place in line to get front row balcony seating at a General Admission show. I love my friends who think ahead, and I fear the day they figure out I'm adding little to their organization.

I've seen the Trey Anastasio Band before, several times, but this was the first time I'd ever seen them cover "Sultans of Swing," one of my favorite songs by the Dire Straits. Another thing I've never done before and a great time. A great day of firsts.

Day 152: Booty Dancing Fools

On Day 152, I met some friends at Cavern in the Highlands for a going away party. I usually hate this bar, because it's always crowded and difficult to move around in, but since the crew that I was meeting was already there and had already established a place right in front, I actually enjoyed it.

My friend Andrew asked what the thing I'd never done before was for that day and I told him I hadn't come up with anything yet, so I was open to suggestions.

Robbie, who I had only met a handful of times before, was sitting next to me and he appeared confused until I told him about the blog and my goal to do something I've never done every day for one year. His eyes lit up and I could tell his mind had kicked into overdrive as he tried to think of a way to get involved.

"Have you ever booty-danced with a guy in a wheelchair?" Robbie asked me.

I've booty-danced with a lot of people over the years, so I had to think about it.

"Well, no, I guess I haven't," I replied.

And immediately, he wheeled back from the table and away we went, making Day 152's thing I've never done before owning the dance floor with my new favorite person, Robbie.

Surprisingly, the best thing about this night wasn't the dancing. I mean, that was great too, because Robbie's dances better than a lot of people that I know, and we have the same taste in music. And though he grabbed my ass far more than I would normally allow someone that I just met, I really can't blame him. I mean, it was right there in his face. What else was he supposed to do?

No, the best part was that I have an inkling that when I met Robbie, I met someone who is going to become a big part of this blog. He's down for whatever, whenever, two qualities that make for a good blog participant. Among the other things we started planning, included paying a visit to the Tupac Shakur Center for the Arts in Stone Mountain.

We also considered including Robbie's cats, Mr. Pickles and Olive in our adventures, though I'm not sure exactly how we're going to do that.

I'm thinking, with permission from the people who run the Robbie Svoboda fan club on Facebook, the name of my blog may soon change to "The Adventures of Stephanie and Robbie."

Things could get very entertaining and/or very illegal pretty soon.

Stay tuned.

Day 151: Letter That I Never Sent

"But in a box beneath my bed is a letter that you never read..." -Taylor Swift

Echoing the sentiments of country crooner Taylor Swift, and several friends who have written such letters, on Day 151 I wrote a letter that I'll never send as the thing I have never done before.

I didn’t plan on becoming a living, breathing country song, and trust me when I tell you quoting Taylor Swift on this blog hurts me more than it hurts you. But when I found myself watching John Mayer's Storytellers on You Tube at 1am, crying the tears of 2010’s suckiness, I knew the time had come to take serious action. Time to get the thoughts causing me so much anxiety out of my head and onto paper.

I am actually surprised that I hadn’t ever written a letter like this, seeing as how I enjoy expressing myself through writing. I like to express myself, period. If something's on my mind, I talk about it. And if I’ve ever taken the time to craft an emotional letter or email before, I’ve seen it through, sending it to its intended recipient.

I have no problem communicating. In fact, many forced to endure seemingly endless rants about my feelings might call me an "over-communicator.”

But for whatever reason, this particular circumstance was different, and for the first time ever, my desire to keep my feelings to myself far outweighed my desire to share them with anyone. Perhaps I’m turning into the aloof, mysterious person I always wanted to be? Nah, unfortunately not, because I knew I’d eventually have to share it with all of you.

Only I don’t have to tell you what the letter said, and I won’t, because I’ve already shared far more about this experience than I wanted to. But having forced myself to participate in this activity that so many others have already participated in, I can tell you there is a reason why writing a letter like this sparked a song lyric. All the hype is true. Writing the letter helped.

Putting it out on paper was, not surprisingly, emotional, even though I knew the only person who would ever see it was me. But it was cathartic too.

And I had to laugh, that despite being sad about having to write my feelings down, a moment came when I couldn’t help but wonder, and sort of hope, in a sick a twisted little way, if anyone had every written a letter to me but never sent it.

Self-centered and ridiculous, I know.

Days later, I shared with my friends what Thursday's blog activity was. I knew some of them had written similar letters and I was hoping for a vote of confidence that this was a healthy, sane thing to do.

Maribeth nodded in understanding, "Oh yeah, I've written several letters like that."


"Yeah, and then you put the letter away, find it three years later, and cry all over again."

Wow. I'm so glad I decided to participate in this exercise. Sike.

So is the letter about letting all these feelings go? Or just a way to perpetuate the sadness and revisit it for years to come? Why doesn’t Taylor Swift write the letter and then burn it, or tear it up and throw it away?

Or, as Maribeth suggested to me, “Why don’t you just send it?"

Because I was, I am, fighting the urge to over-communicate. And though there are many things that I still haven't said, questions I haven't asked, I had a feeling that the letter wouldn't solicit the response that I was looking for. There is a huge chance it wouldn't solicit a response at all.

So the letter was more for me. An opportunity to put my thoughts on paper and get them out of my head. So that I can move on. And, fingers crossed, like Maribeth, I can revisit this disappointment in the future.

This is fun. I’m glad I did this. Really.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 150: South African Reality TV

Since first appearing in Day 135's blog about King Cake, my friend Tray has longed for more blog appearances. He actually offered to join me on Day 149's outing at the Glenwood, but that would've defeated the entire point of me going to the bar on my own. We made plans to hang out on Day 150 instead.

Tray made several suggestions on where we could go and I chose 10 Degrees South in Buckhead. It was the place I had never been to, making Day 150's thing I've never done before to eat South African food.

According to the restaurant's website, South African cuisine is a fusion of French, Portuguese, Dutch, German and Malaysian cuisines with heavy Mediterranean influences. I've eaten most of those cuisines before, but a fusion of all of them was going to be interesting.

When we walked in, I was pleasantly surprised at how crowded and happening the place was for a Wednesday night. These are my kind of weekday party people.

Tray had been to 10 Degrees South before, so he led the way through the restaurant to the less formal bar area, where we were going to eat. On our walk to the back, I glanced to my right and through the glass doors in the hallway was a room full of television cameras, a crew, and lights.

I stopped abruptly and stared through the door.

"Are they filming a movie?" I asked loudly and excitedly to no one in particular. I was sure that I was about to make Day 150 about much more than South African food. If I could just get a hold of one person, a director or a producer, I could tell them all about Project 29 to 30 and they could make me a star!

Or at least just let me walk around in the background of whatever production was going on. I'll take what I can get.

I recognized one of the guys sitting on the couch in the room as Bert Weiss, a cast member of Atlanta radio's "The Bert Show." I don't listen to the popular morning show regularly, but the last time I listened, Bert was weighing the possibility of joining the cast of a reality program about men in Atlanta similar to the "Real Housewives" series.

Evident by what I was watching go down through these glass doors, Bert's decision had been made.

I marveled at how "unrealistic" this little scene seemed to be. Five guys sitting awkwardly close to each other on a couch, sipping on cocktails, trying to engage in conversation with at least a dozen people standing around them either holding cameras, microphones or simply gawking at their every move.

I'm certainly not naive to the fact that reality TV is somewhat scripted, but absolutely nothing about this scene appeared authentic. I was somewhat disappointed, as I had always secretly hoped that the women of the "Real Housewives of New York" are as terrible and nasty as they seem on television. But maybe it's all in the production and editing?

The shoot ended with an orchestrated toast that included all of the men rising from their seats at the same time and chinking their glasses together. I say "orchestrated" because I've never seen a group of men actually do something so cheesy before and I can only assume that some female producer came up with the idea and instructed them to do it.

I never had an opportunity to sneak my way into the production, unfortunately. I plan on keeping a close eye on Bravo for the release of this show, though, in hopes that I will see that scene, and be able to shout to all of my friends, "I was there! I was there when they filmed this!!!"

When we sat at the bar and spoke to the bartender, she confirmed that they were filming a reality show. We watched the "cast" exit the room and mill around the bar for a bit and I made Tray take my picture with some of them in the background before he ordered a drink. And then I, for the second night in a row, intently studied the wine list, determined to make the right choice.

Rigal Malbec was not on the menu, sadly.

“I feel like I should drink South African wine since we’re at a South African restaurant. You know, to get the whole experience,” I said to Tray.

Tray smiled, but he was probably thinking, "this girl is a loser." Regardless, he is certainly becoming more and more aware at how authentic I aim to be with the blog. He motioned towards the guy singing cover songs with an acoustic guitar and said, “I could see about replacing that guy with Dave Matthews. He's South African, right?"

Tray is catching on. What a fabulous idea!

We ordered the sliced rump steak served over potatoes and the grilled calamari as appetizers. The steak was great, for steak, but I loved the calamari. The only calamari I had ever eaten was fried, but I like it so much better grilled. It was light and delicious.

Tray and I consulted the bartender about what we should order for our meal. The appetizers were pretty filling, so we opted to share an entree. Going for 100 percent authenticity, we wanted the most South African item on the menu.

She instructed us to order Bobotie, a sweet ground beef curry topped with savory custard that is baked until golden brown. It was served with yellow rice and sambals.

We were about to tear into what was the equivalent of a beef pie, when Tray revealed to me that despite coming from Louisiana and enjoying cooking himself, he doesn't really have adventurous tastes in food. I was concerned and not at all confident about how this was all going to go.

We both took a bite and looked at each other for a reaction. Tray looked a little confused, which I understood. The flavor was strange, but not in bad way. Tasty, but odd. I was confused by the dish, too, really, and I kept taking bites to try and figure out if I liked it or not. It was beef, but it was sweet. I truly don't know what is in Bobotie or how it is made, but after several tries, I came to the conclusion that I did like it, even if I didn't completely understand it.

Tray, on the other hand, wasn't sold, I don't think. He said he liked it, but I wouldn't say this meal has moved to the top of the list of his favorite things to eat. I'm pretty sure we may go back to the more predictable and familiar Mexican or New Orleans cuisine for our next outing.

I'm sold on South African food, though, and I'd like to go back and try another dish on the menu. 10 Degrees South is a cool spot full of interesting people, and not just Tray and me.

We ended Tray's second blog appearance with Girl Scout cookies and a huge round of the name game with Tray's roommate's girlfriend. Not a bad Wednesday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 149: Solo Belly Up to the Bar

On Day 149 I wore a dress and curled my hair for work prompting unexpected responses from co-workers.

"Do you have a date?"

"Whoa, why so dressed up?"

"What were you up to before work?"

I didn't think my "look" was so over the top, but I made it a point to either start dressing better at work overall, or never wear a dress and my hair curly on the same day ever again.

Sadly, I didn't have plans at all that day.

In fact, I've all but given up on weekday activities anymore, after asking friends to hang out and getting shot down repeatedly. I'm fine with a "Sorry, can't hang out tonight," but the amount of fervor with which they've turned me down you would’ve thought that I asked them to drive to the worst neighborhood in Atlanta to smoke crack with strippers.

“What? Tonight? Stephanie, it’s Tuesday!!!”

To be fair, my schedule is not the easiest to work with. Getting off at 9pm does not lend itself well to workday dinners and activities, especially if you have to get up early. But I’m just looking for a drink. Just one.

Instead of wallowing in my misery, my friend Katy encouraged me to celebrate my independence with my fancy dress and fancy hair and on Day 149 I went to a bar by myself as the thing I’ve never done before.

I mentioned my plan to several people and once again the overwhelming response, was, “You’ve never been to a bar by yourself?”

My response, “Nope!”

But it should’ve been, “No, alcoholic friends, I seldom drink alone and I prefer going to a bar with someone to talk to. Plus, I’m a woman. Alcohol plus solitude equals depressing safety hazard.”

And then I should’ve advised them all to check themselves into rehab.

I went to a neighborhood establishment, The Glenwood, which is now my new favorite place ever. This is the same place where I had the impromptu wine tasting back on Day 80 with my friend Melanie.

There was a little anxiety about going to belly up to a bar without the intention of meeting someone else there. I could sit wherever I wanted to and talk, or not talk to whoever was there.

But then the question of, “who would I talk to?” presented itself. Would I sit there alone, swirling the wine in my glass, staring into nothing? Or maybe that’s the beauty of going to a bar alone. Not having to talk to anyone? Would people pity me for drinking solo?

Just like every other time I’ve done something on my own for this challenge, no one cares about what I’m doing or who I’m with.

I sat at the beautiful wooden bar and studied the wine list with great intensity, hoping that I would remember something that the manager, who looked liked Al Pacino, but whose real name is Bill, taught me back in December.

I was lost, when out of nowhere, Bill appeared. I asked him if he remembered me and he said, "Of course." I wasn’t sure if he was telling me the truth, but then he said, “Where’s your friend? The lawyer?”

I laughed and told him it was just me this time, and that Melanie was at home. And then almost immediately, without even asking me what I wanted, he kindly took me on another wine tour.

I've said it before, but I’m ignorant when it comes to wine. I like to drink it, but when it comes to really tasting it and appreciating it for all its flavors, I’m a little lost. When I purchase my own bottles, I do so based on which wine has the coolest label. That is, until one of four reds that I sampled stood out among the rest.

Thanks to Bill, and my first solo trip to a bar, I now have a favorite red wine, Rigal’s Original Malbec, something I’ve never had before. I haven't bought my own bottle or ordered it yet, but I look forward to the day when I ask a waiter, pretentiously, "Do you have Malbec? The Rigal Malbec?"

Bill is the biggest wine enthusiast I know, so I trust he wouldn't steer me wrong, but I truly have no idea where this wine stacks up on a quality list. As far as I'm concerned, Rigal Malbec could be the Pabst Blue Ribbon of wines, but I don't care. I love it.

Bill introduced me to my favorite wine and just like any good bartender, he handed out an ample amount of unsolicited but always needed advice too. "When you're ready to learn, a teacher will present himself," he told me.

"About wine?" I said, assuming he was talking about this evening specifically.

"About anything," he said. He went on, explaining that there are people in our lives ready to teach us things but we have to be open to hearing what they have to say. Before we can change, we have to be open to the change.

Not necessarily groundbreaking news, and maybe it was the Malbec, but when he said this to me, I felt like a light bulb went off. Suddenly a lot of the thoughts that had been creating noise inside my head were coming into focus. I thought I was a pretty open person, but even I had been failing to acknowledge what was right in front of me.

I paused to think that had I come to this bar with a friend, I doubt Bill and I would’ve had this conversation, which has really resonated with me, and is still making me think. Plus, after two wine tastings and his sound advice, I’m now calling Bill my friend.

So while I went into the experience flying solo, I wasn’t really alone at all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 148: Dry-Cleaning FAIL

On Day 148 I finally picked up dry-cleaning that had been at the cleaners for weeks.

Laziness, busyness, poorness had all prevented me from picking it up, forcing me to face limited clothing options. And when I finally did pick it up, I faced a hefty $75 dry-cleaning bill.

I was horrified that I could spend so much on having my clothes cleaned, and knowing I had more clothes that needed to be dropped off, I decided I needed to make a change.

Day 148's thing I've never done before was to do my own dry-cleaning.

My reaction to the big bill was not a surprise to me. My financial freakouts like this one happen with other aspects of my life too. After eating out every meal for a week, I'll look at my bank statement, have a meltdown, make a mad dash to the grocery store and vow to bring my lunch everyday for work.

And then the food runs out, someone invites me to dinner, and the cycle begins again.

But $75 is a lot to get my clothes cleaned, and if the at-home Dryell kit could ease the financial burden a bit, I was happy to give it a try.

The kit itself was $11, about the same amount as getting three garments professionally cleaned.

Included is a laundry bag, a "cleaning" pad, which seemed to be the equivalent of a wet dryer sheet, and a stain removing solution.

I followed the directions, which were simple. Remove the stains using the provided solution and absorbent pad (this was a disaster and did not remove stains at all), throw the clothes in the laundry bag with the wet dryer sheet and tumble it in a dryer for half an hour.

That's it? And my clothes are going to come back cleaned, pressed, on hangers with little orange tags? I've been around long enough to know that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

I talked to my friend Kyle on the phone later that night. I was sure that if anyone had ever attempted cleaning her clothes this way, it would be her.

She told me she had used Dryell, but she sounded less than enthused about it.

That makes two of us.

She went on to tell me that she uses her Dryell bag for sweaters. But blouses and pants will still have to be ironed, so she gave up using it for any of her nice clothes.

When I went to retrieve my bag of dry-cleaning, I remained hopeful that Dryell could be a cost-effective replacement for taking my clothes to the cleaners. My clothes were more wrinkled than they were before and there was no evidence that I could see that they were cleaned at all. They didn't even really smell that much better.

I looked at the bag full of wrinkled clothes and sighed. Did I just fail at laundry?

I wouldn't say I'm the most domesticated person in the world, but I love doing laundry. For me, it's instant gratification. The clothes start out dirty, and within an hour, they're clean. In a world and a life that sometimes feels like it's spinning out of control, I like that I can find success in cleaning clothes.

No, I decided, I will never fail at laundry. Besides leaving a blue ink pen in the pocket of my white robe a couple of weeks ago, leaving it now tie-dyed, I will always succeed at laundry.

Dry-cleaning, though, well that's a whole different story. One that should be left to the professionals.

Day 147: Anchovies Be Gone

My friend Maribeth called me on Sunday to see if I wanted to ride bikes through Candler Park and though it was difficult to pull myself off of the couch, I agreed.

We ended up riding our bikes for a while. So long, in fact, that we felt we had earned a pizza dinner break at Fellini's, which is down the street from Maribeth's house. I like to end all periods of strenous exercise with food, usually undoing any good that the exercise might've done. But I really put forth an extra effort when I know there is a reward at the end.

The bike ride with Maribeth through Candler Park could've been the thing that I've never done before. But that felt a little lame, so I had to make something new happen at the pizza place.

A new topping, perhaps?



Day 147's thing I've never done before was to each an anchovy.

I asked the guy behind the counter about anchovies, and how to order them. I told him I was a first-time anchovy eater and needed some guidance. Do regular anchovy eaters just get anchovies, or do they get them in addition to other toppings?

He was a little bit taken aback by my questioning. I didn't mean to put him on the spot, but based on his reaction, I think he thought I was cornering him.

"Do you like them?," I asked, trying to keep things light.

"Me?" he said, "No, not really. They're way too salty for my taste."

He went on to tell me that most people who order anchovies on their pizza do so with other toppings. So I added anchovies to what I usually get: onions, mushrooms and peppers.

When they brought the slice of pizza, I was horrified by the way the anchovies looked. They resembled slugs lying on a perfectly normal, appetizing piece of vegetarian pizza. And they stunk. Like fish.

If it's true that a food's appearance and smell affects how it tastes, I should've thrown up immediately. But I did not. I held it together.

Maribeth and I sort of stared at the piece of pizza. I think she was torn on how to feel. Sorry for me that I decided to tackle this challenge, but happy she didn't have to eat them.

"Are you challenging yourself to eat anchovies or something?," one of the employees asked me.

Well, yes. I mean, no. I guess, kinda? I had to tell them about the blog, and they seemed intrigued. I wrote down the blog's website address and gave it to them to check out. Shameless.

With no one else to pimp the blog to, I had to go ahead and do what I came to do. I cut a piece and ate it. The guy behind the counter was right when he said anchovies are salty. The fish/salt sort of dissolved in my mouth and not in a good way.

I tried to give it a chance, to stretch my culinary tastes, but the flavor was just so strange.

Maribeth asked me how it was, but the evidence was all over my face. Curiosity was getting the best of her and she wanted to try the fish too.

"It's not that bad, it's just salty," I said as Maribeth took a bite of one of the anchovies.

She looked horrified, "It's that bad."

I made a concerted effort to at least finish one anchovy, and I did. But it was a challenge. And I eventually took them off and put them to the side. But the smell was still permeating, so eventually I wrapped them in paper towels and threw them away. I tried, I failed to like anchovies, except when they are mashed up in Caesar salad dressing.

Pizza should not be ruined by salty, gross fish.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 146: Workplace Romance

Wedding Tour in 2010 is underway.

Yes, like a music group making multiple city stops, my friend Momo and I call our yearly treks from showers to bachelorette parties to engagement parties, "Wedding Tour."

Next stop on the 2010 tour: Amanda and Stephen.

After having attended, crashed or been in 60+ weddings over the years, what could their wedding possibly offer me that is something that I've never done before?

Day 146's thing I've never done before was to attend a wedding of a co-worker. Two co-workers, in this case.

I suppose a wedding is a wedding, regardless of who is getting married, and this isn't terribly monumental in any way. And it's not.

But when I think about Stephen and Amanda starting their relationship that eventually led to their marriage, I think it's pretty cool that I knew them both, separately, when they started dating.

I remember their relationship, like most office romances, was veiled in secrecy when it first began. Not in a weird, "we're ashamed of ourselves" kind of way, more of a, "trying to maintain some level of professionalism at the office" kind of way. When I found out they were dating, I did so after stalking facebook photos of the two of them together wondering what was going on. I confirmed their relationship from another colleague who told me in confidence like the news was insider information.

I can't blame them for wanting to keep their budding romance a secret, as when I think about office romances, I always think of them creating awkward scenarios for all parties involved. The phrase, "Don't shit where you eat," comes to mind. Not a classy, or pleasant thought, I know. But sadly, when I think of relationships in the workplace, I think not of the grand possibility of it working out like it has for Stephen and Amanda, I think instead of the bitter end.

Plus, despite working with a lot of great dateable people, I like to keep my work life and my outside work life, separate. I think it's just the whole world's colliding thing. When my personal life is a disaster, I seek refuge at work with my co-workers. The merging of the two could have dire consequences.

I don't have any hard and fast rules about not dating someone that I work with. I mean I spend a lot of time at work, so the potential to meet someone there is certainly high. So far it hasn't really come up, but I'd consider all workplace dating on a case by case basis and I would tread cautiously if the opportunity ever presented itself.

After all, Amanda and Stephen have proven that finding love at work can really pay off. According to Amanda, they've never really had a fight. I find this fact both adorable and annoying all at the same time.

They ride to work together everyday, which is also adorable and annoying, but environmentally friendly too. I have to think their union is cost effective for the company as far as health insurance, though I'm not sure how. And they take their dinner breaks at the same time, which is great for them, but doesn't really affect any of us or the environment that I can tell.

So maybe love in the workplace is a good thing?

It's been fun for me. I've personally enjoyed navigating their relationship from dating, to seriously dating, to taking trips to meet each other's out of town friends, to taking trips out of the country, to waiting for the engagement, to the engagement and to the wedding planning, all evidence that I need to get a life.

And Amanda and Stephen's love affair became an opportunity for all of my seemingly useless Atlanta wedding knowledge to become not-so-useless.

Amanda sought my advice on a wedding venue almost immediately, as I am now a professional wedding participant and attender. In fact, having just gone to a wedding at Roswell's Ivy Hall, I suggested it as a location for her nuptials and after she checked it out, she booked it.

The next months included decisions about the food, the cake, a band, her hairstyle. Obviously she made all of the decisions on them, but I felt honored to have been included in the discussion, which was often just an affirmation of what she had already decided.

Even as a bridesmaid in other weddings, I had never been involved in so many of the decisions surrounding a wedding ceremony as I was with this one.

I even offered to get ordained so that I could perform their wedding ceremony, an idea that Amanda miraculously considered for a hot second, but then decided against. She said she would've laughed the whole time if it was me up there, asking them to recite their vows. But as I told Amanda, I know I'm a little ridiculous and silly sometimes, a wedding is serious business and I wouldn't have made it into a joke. So if anyone out there is in need of an officiant, I'm happy to do the work required to marry you. I'm serious. Think about it.

My involvement, or at least my firsthand knowledge of all of Amanda and Stephen's wedding plans made me wonder about all of the weddings that I've been in over the years. Several of them I knew nothing about prior to showing up in my bridesmaid's dress to walk down the aisle. For this, I'd like to apologize to all of those brides who I've let down over the years. I think I failed at my job as a bridesmaid, and I'm sorry that your co-workers, who may or may not have even been invited to the wedding, likely had to do all of the work that I should've done.

When the day finally arrived, I rode up to the wedding with Emily and we met some of our group at a nearby bar beforehand, which was completely unnecessary. I'm often accused of being anti-social when it comes to outside of work gatherings, though, so I didn't want to not participate.

When we arrived at the wedding, which was beautiful, I looked around at all of us, our big dysfunctional workplace family all dressed up, and I couldn't help but laugh.

I laughed a lot during the ceremony, in fact, which is what I do when moments get serious and laughing is inappropriate (not really making a strong case to become an officiant, but I am who I am). I'm sure those sitting around me who were able to keep their composure during a 15 minute ceremony were thinking to themselves, "Who's this jerk?"

The same question was probably asked again when two of our colleagues came in late and were forced to loudly shuffle across the wooden floor, sounding like two elephants trying to find a seat in church.

And once more when we started stuffing gummy bears from the candy bar into clear liquor drinks, and then spilling them on the floor (for the record that wasn't me, but I was guilty by association).

I imagine the questions, "Who is that?," "What are they doing?," "Why are they acting like that?" was asked by Amanda and Stephen's friends and family several times throughout the night.

Just like every other wedding I go to lately, someone, this time another colleague, tried to set me up with the only other single person at the party. Not because we have anything in common, but because we're both unattached.

As far as the actual nuptials go, this wedding was just like all of the others I've attended. All of my friends acting like jackasses, and a lot of people asking me why I'm not married. Par for the course.

I truly was honored to have been around when this romance started, to have been included in the wedding planning, and most of all, to watch Amanda and Stephen begin their lives together as a married couple.

Yea for them making a workplace romance work. Congratulations you crazy kids!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 145: An Azalea Bush Grows in Atlanta

In 1970 President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day, a day to encourage tree-planting and care. The day had long been celebrated, thanks to J. Sterling Morton, a journalist and nature lover, who named the tree-planting day in Nebraska "Arbor Day" back in 1872. Despite Nixon's formal declaration, several states celebrate Arbor Day on a day of their choosing, in order to coincide with the best tree planting weather.

Georgia recognizes Arbor Day on the third Friday in February. So on Day 145, I made the thing I've never done before plant a tree for Arbor Day.

Well, actually it was a bush. An azalea bush.

Planting a tree to observe this special day is something I could've pulled off without any outside help. Just buy a tree and plant it, right? Only in planting the tree myself, I faced two very big hurdles:

1. Where to plant the tree (I don't own a home and therefore technically I don't have a yard. My landlords take excellent care of the yard in front of our place. If I told them I wanted to plant a tree in it, I'm confident they would have laughed in my face and before emphatically saying, "absolutely not.")

2. How to plant the tree (I know nothing about gardening. Nothing.)

Thankfully, one of the many great things about the company that I work for is that there are always volunteer opportunities to get involved with. When I saw there was an opportunity to plant trees at Grant Park, I signed up immediately.

When I arrived at the event, one of the park's employees gave us a history lesson about the park that is in my neighborhood and that I run through often. I listened intently, for a while, but soon lost interest in how many times the land had changed hands and how it was named. I had to leave the event early to go to work, so I was ready to get planting.

The project leader divided us into two teams, one "easy" team that would head to the top of the hill and get started on some azalea bush planting and one "harder" team that would go elsewhere and plant something else (can you tell I wasn't really paying that much attention). Good thing I was in the "easy" group.

Only nothing was really "easy" about completing the project. Thanks to the night before, I was moving at about a third of the speed that I would have normally. Walking up the hill to the flower bed was an effort of great magnitude. Plus, I didn't really know anyone else participating, so I was forced to carry a shovel, gloves, and the plant all by myself. There were lines of little kids at the park that day for field trips and I was sort of weaving in and out of them with my arms full.

Once we got to the top we wasted no time in cleaning out the beds and digging holes for the azaleas to go in. The project leader told us to make the holes for the plants about a foot deep and two feet wide.

I was surprised at how difficult the digging was. There were trees already planted in the bed, so in addition to fighting my fatigue and the compact soil, I was trying not to damage the trees' big, strong roots.

I was getting into a groove, when just like adult guy with braces in my cooking class on Day 21, someone decided that they wanted to be the leader of the group. "Yard of the Month" was dressed for a marathon, and he was ready to attack the planting project with everything that he had. I'm sure he was bummed he got lumped in with the "easy" group, so he took it upon himself to share with us all that he knew about gardening. He self-appointed himself our gardening guru and soon he was leading demonstrations on what we should be doing.

I listened to what he had to say, because I could tell he knew what he was talking about and I certainly don't know anything about gardening. But I avoided making eye contact with him. And when I had the opportunity to move to the other side of the sidewalk and start planting in another flower bed, I took it.

Yard of the Month was adamant that we needed to break up the roots of the plants before planting them, which is fine, and makes a lot of sense. But this guy took it upon himself to stand in front of the group holding up the plant with one hand and demonstrating, with great fervor, exactly how to do it. He spent a great deal of time on the roots. Too much time, in my opinion. I was ready to move on and plant the damn thing, so I stopped massaging the roots and asked the real project manager if my roots were adequately broken up enough for planting and he said, calmly, "yes."

So I went for it.

My favorite participant was one of my colleague's sons, Cameran. Cameran is an active 5-year old who was really interested and excited about the project, but unfortunately didn't have the physical strength the handle the heavy shovel and carry the azalea bushes.

Cameran loved the worms, though, and soon, the whole team was alerting him to any slimy creatures we found when we were digging through the soil. He was a cute, cool kid and I liked him immediately.

And then he said something that made me like him even more.

"Hey Ma, look! A roly poly!"

I stopped shoveling and laughed out loud. I don't think I'd seen or heard the words, "roly poly" in probably 20 years. It's a phrase that I just stopped saying after I decided that digging in the dirt was gross and no longer fun. I'm honestly not sure if what he was calling a "roly poly," was indeed that, but when he held up the gray little bug that rolls itself into a ball, I nodded and smiled. That's what we used to call them too.

I should've asked Yard of the Month if what Cameran had found was, indeed, a "roly poly," but I was afraid he'd dive into an entomology lesson and I just couldn't deal with it.

I continued planting more azaleas until I looked down and realized I was covered in dirt and in sweat and that I had to be at work in half an hour. I don't know what idiot thinks she can breeze in, plant a couple of trees, and breeze out completely dirt free. Probably the same idiot that stays out too late on a school night at age 29.

Gardening is messy business, so I had to run home and change.

Not to mention, gardening is hard work. This project definitely helped me on my way to reduce my body fat percentage. I was working muscles I didn't even know I had. My back and arms were sore the next day.

More than one million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day in 1872 in Nebraska. Though I was responsible for just a few azalea bushes, I was happy to get out in the fresh air and observe Georgia's Arbor Day in 2010.

And though I'm mildly concerned that my incomplete root breakup might mean that my plants won't flourish, I'm excited to go back to check on them.

Plant trees, everybody. Happy Arbor Day!

Day 144: Unexpected School Night Fun

Traveling to and from Mansfield in one day (Wednesday) meant that I was back to work on Thursday just like any other day.

My plan to get ordained online so that I could fill in at a co-worker's wedding fell through because, unbeknownst to me, getting ordained to perform weddings is not a one-day task. In fact, it takes several weeks to achieve.

My backup plan, Day 144's thing I've never done before, was to go to the Drinkshop at the W Downtown with my friend John.

Because he is a drummer himself, John always knows about music playing in Atlanta. He usually knows the performers as well, and this night was no exception. A friend of his, John Pringle was playing at the bar and another band, Georgia, was the opening act.

Both John (Pringle, not my friend) and this band reminded me of acoustic groups I used to see play at Allen's in Athens, Georgia back then I was in school there. Plaid shirts, shaggy hair, scruffy beards. Everything I like in a musician, really.

Only in this completely modern, upscale fancy bar I felt a little strange. The crowd was young and hip. But listening to their music made me feel like I should be kicking through peanut shells on a sticky bar floor, instead of watching a bartender shave through an ice sculpture lit up from underneath. I shouldn't be drinking cocktails. I should be drinking draft beer.

I went for the fancy cocktail, at least at first, ordering the "El Diablo" because it had tequila in it. And I like tequila. El Diablo also had Ginger Club Soda and Black Currant in it. It was terribly overpriced ($13) and just okay.

The night was more than okay, though. We moved the party from the W to Star Bar in Little 5 Points and saw several more bands play, including Ponderosa, a band my friend Courtney has been telling me about for at least a year. Not too shabby for a school night.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 143: Up in the Air

On Day 143, I returned to Mansfield, Ohio (where Shawshank Redemption was filmed, and where Luke Perry was born, remember?) for a work assignment. The trip was a short one, making Day 143’s thing I’ve never done before to fly in and out of the same city on the same day.

I was excited about this prospect, because despite not loving to fly, I really love airports. The fast pace, the people, the convergence of business and pleasure.

And for some reason, traveling for work validates me in my job. The fact that they pay me every two weeks and gave me business cards should be enough. But when they asked me to go out of town (even to Mansfield, Ohio), by myself and on their dime to represent the company, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't flattered. Terrified that I would find a way to screw it up, but still honored.

I've lived on my own for ten years and had a big-girl job for seven, but there is still a part of me that feels like I'm a kid playing dress up.

I drove to the airport early Wednesday morning. So early, in fact, it was still dark out. Since I only had a laptop and a purse, I loved the ease of checking in and going through security without any bags to check.

Most people flying that early in the morning were doing what I was doing, and clearly headed out of town on business. I liked thinking about the huge career moves some of them might be making that day, or the big deals they would be closing.

Once I landed, my snowy day in Mansfield was busy. I drove from one end of the town to the other, amazed at how many people I could meet and how much I was able to accomplish in one day, yet still wishing there were more hours in the day to get more done.

I barely made it back to Columbus in time to fly out, and I had resolved that I was going to miss my flight. But thanks to a delay and no lines at security, I made it and got back to Atlanta.

Total trip time = 15 hours

The whole day was very Up in the Air, except for mine lasted one long day. And there was no cocktail hour in the crown room. No love affair. No George Clooney.

Day 142: Check the Fat

Jackie, my colleague who bravely tackled kickboxing with me back on Day 56, walked over to my desk back in February and I could tell she had a little plan up her sleeve. She was on her way down to the company athletic club and asked me to come along.

“I'm going to sign up for Fit Trip and you should do it with me!” she said. "You could win a $1000 travel voucher."


I had been seeing advertisements for Fit Trip all over the gym she and I belong to, but hadn't thought to ask anyone about it. Jackie explained that it's a 12-week fitness challenge designed to help individuals reach their health goals while winning prizes.

The $1000 travel voucher was enough to perk my interest to get involved. The idea of possibly beating my overachieving, but rarely modest co-workers in a fitness competition was also a huge plus. Plus, Jackie explained, they start the program by checking your body fat in a tub full of water.

"Say what?" I asked.

"Underwater," she said.

Forget the competition, this had blog opportunity written all over it. Day 142's thing I've never done before was to have my body composition tested by hydrostatic weighing.

I had my body fat checked years before as a teenager using what I call the "pinch method," where the checker pinches and measures skinfolds on several spots on your body (stomach, arms, back). It’s demeaning. And depressing. The hydrostatic weighing can also be depressing and demeaning, but there's no pinching involved, and according to the trainers at the club, it's the most reliable body composition test out there.

When I arrived on the day of the big weigh-in, I met one of the organizers, and my fitness consultant, Jen K. She informed me that the testing truck, where the weighing would take place, was parked outside of our office building. She told me I should take a towel and run out there.

Sure enough, when I headed outdoors, I saw, parked right in front of the building's largest thoroughfare, a truck, with a trailer behind it labeled in big letters, "BODY FAT TEST."

Just in case running into what is the equivalent of a mobile home on the side of the road in front of my office building and running out ten minutes later completely drenched isn't awkward enough, I'm so glad that they labeled the hut for what it is: BODY FAT TEST.


I went inside and was greeted by the test facilitator. I saw the tub of water in the upper left corner, and two dressing rooms to the right. The room was warm and smelled like a public pool. A guy who had just had his own body fat checked had just emerged from one of the dressing areas and was getting his results by a desk located immediately left of the door.

I went into the dressing room to get ready to weigh-in. And by that, I mean, strip down to my bathing suit. I don't care who you are or how good you look, getting into a bathing suit in the middle of February sucks. (Sorry, Mom) I mean it really sucks. I felt disgusted before we even started and I didn't even know what my numbers were.

I climbed into the tub like he told me to and was immediately pleased at the water temperature. Atlanta was, at that time, still experiencing chilly temperatures, so the warm water was a nice change. If he'd let me, I could've swam in the fat check tub all day. But he was all business, and when I commented about how nice the water felt, he sort of nodded his head and then quickly told me what I needed to do.

He instructed me to get into a push-up position with my head above the water, and then he placed a weighted belt on the small of my back. He said that when he told me to, I was to take a deep breath and then, while staying in the push-up position, submerge myself, letting all of the air out under water. When he was done getting the information he needed, he would knock on the side of the tub three times indicating that I could come back up.

Seems easy enough, but anytime I'm doing something that I've never done before, the simplest of instructions are always the hardest.

"Now when do I let the air out?"

Not till you're under water.

"And I come back up . . .?"

When I knock three times.

"And I need to stay in the push-up position?"


This guy probably thought I was the biggest idiot.

Regardless, I followed his instructions, only getting mildly freaked out one of the three times we did this little exercise that he was leaving me underwater for too long. I almost had to come up with or without his three knocks on the side of the tub. But he got the data that he needed.

He got it quickly, as a matter of fact. While I was drying off, he just blurted it out.

"You're body fat is 20.4 percent."

"WHAT?!" I felt outraged immediately, though I really had no idea what that number meant or if I was healthy. Anytime I'm at a doctor's office and they weigh me, or check my blood pressure, I always like to act surprised by what they tell me. I don't know why.

"Is that good?," I wondered to myself.

And then, as if he could read my mind, he said, "That's actually pretty good for someone your age."

My age? What do you mean, my age? I hated this guy. And I fear this may have been the first of what I suspect will be years of me being sensitive about my age.

Apparently individuals in their twenties are supposed to have a body fat percentage in the high teens, and individuals in their thirties are supposed to have a body fat percentage in the low twenties. So, at almost 29 and a half years old, I'm more or less in that range. Healthy, he said.

To think that twenty percent of my body composition is fat is weird though, I won't lie.

Probably because I really wanted him to say, "Wow! You're like a fitness anomaly and despite having slacked off on working out, you have absolutely NO body fat. Amazing!"

And then he would take a picture of me, in my bathing suit, and he would mail it to Shape magazine and I would become their new cover model.
He asked me if I was a runner, to which I responded "yes." Then he asked me if I was a competitive runner and I hesitated.

"Define competitive . . ." I trailed off. "I mean, I'll run a race or two a year, but I'm not usually winning any medals. It's just for fun."

He then went on to inform me that if I lost some of my body fat, I could actually shave time off my racing time, as if this was some groundbreaking information. Thanks, Captain Obvious, for pointing out that people with less body fat weighing them down actually run faster?! Certainly something to consider, though, and I nodded at him as if he just cracked some mystery code. Look out Kenyans, I'm coming for ya!

When I was a teenager, and borderline psycho about eating and working out, the pinch method told me I was 16 percent body fat, a number that completely devastated me in an unhealthy way. At that time, I was dancing for three hours, five days a week, and eating very little. All I did was think about how I looked. Now I'm 29, I have a full-time job, I enjoy my life and I'm not nearly as bent out of shape about being in shape as I was then. So, I considered, if four percent more of my body is fat than it was when I was 16 and I feel so much better about who I am and how I look now, then I'll take it!

Still, in the spirit of competition and the purpose of the Fit Trip program, I did set some personal fitness goals to lose about five pounds over the course of the 12 weeks and therefore shed my body fat by three percentage points. To be honest (and don't tell my consultant Jen), I don't know if it's going to be possible for me to meet this goal, as this blog is sort of my big goal, and I don't know if I can achieve two goals at the same time. But I will try. I am trying.

If I stand any chance at all, I'm going to have to rely on the blog to be a part of it. New exercise classes, perhaps? Surf camp? Rock-climbing wall? They're all on the list and may have to happen in the next 12 weeks so I can get my body fat down in the teens.

Or at least just beat Jackie. We have our own one-on-one competition going on that includes smack-talking and sabotage. Jackie bakes delicious food and places it in my line of sight and I swing my gym bag in front of her face and ask her if she's worked out yet today.

Good, friendly, healthy competition.