After such an eventful Saturday, Day 195, Day 196 was not going to be as exciting. As much as I want to believe I'm a happening girl, the chances of be doing something as big as sky-diving two days in a row are slim to none.
On Day 196, I woke up sore, like I'd worked out for several hours in the gym. So in addition to not making it out on Saturday night, I made it a lazy Sunday, not unlike many Sundays that came before.
Thanks to the United States government, however, I did have to do something I'd never done before on Day 196: fill out my census form.
I find it somewhat humorous that the day after I cheated death was also the day that I chose to inform the goverment that, "Yes, I'm still here! I exist!"
The form looked a little intimidating with a lot of bubbles to fill out. I felt like I'd heard the rumblings of controversy surrounding the census, and I wondered if the boxes were the reason why.
But when I started reading through the questions. "What is your name?" Where do you live? How many people live with you?," I wondered, what's the big deal? Am I missing something that's controversial?
Stephanie, Atlanta, One (well, two if you're counting the squirrel, but I was not).
Census form, done. Blog entry, also done.
Or so I thought. When I returned from being out of town weeks later, in addition to stacks of mail, I also found slips of paper indicating that a census taker had been at my house looking for me.
Wha? I was annoyed, and kind of nervous. I already filled out my form! Why were they looking for me?
Then I went out to run errands and returned to find a census taker, presumably the woman leaving notes on my door, standing on my porch.
I was on a conference call, and didn't want to deal with her, especially since I'd already participated in the census. I asked her to come back the next day.
"What time should I come out?," she asked me.
Gah, what is their deal?
"Um . . .um . . .afternoon?" I would be out of the house by the afternoon, I thought. I was really trying to lose this woman, though I'm not sure why.
When I went inside my house, I almost immediately saw on my kitchen table the reason for the notes and the visits from the census taker. Genius over here may have filled out the census form, but she never sent it to its appropriate recipient.
I dropped the filled-out form in the mail an hour later.
The census taker, looking all of about 12-years old, arrived the next day, in the afternoon, and I told her that the reason I'd been on the government's black list is because I forgot to mail it.
"But it's in the mail now, so we're all good," I said, smiling.
"Nope, not gonna work," she said, "They'll just throw that form away since it didn't meet the deadline. We're going to have to do this now."
I sighed loudly, expressing my annoyance which wasn't at all fair because it was my fault she had to come to my house at all.
She went down the list of all the questions I'd already answered.
Name? I told her my name.
29. (Yeah, that's right, 29. NOT 30. Not yet.)
"And your race?" she said, looking up at me, "Asian? White? African-American?"
Seriously? I was tan from my vacation, but give me a break.
"Alright that's it," she said, and then she turned and walked away, likely to bust the rest of the neighborhood deliquent with the census.
And that was it. I'm here. I'm alive. I'm white, 29, and I live alone. And I didn't die skydiving! Hooray!
I know you've all been waiting for it. And on Day 195, the time had finally come to take the plunge.
Day 195's thing I've never done before was to go skydiving.
Sorry for the less than suspenseful build up, but the day was eventful enough, there is really no need for extra drama. When I tell people I'm attempting to do 365 things I've never done before, skydiving and bungee jumping are two of the most suggested activities for things to do. I knew when I started the project that at some point during my 29th year, I would do at least one of them. I also knew that when the time came, I'd be scared to death.
Thankfully, God knew this too, and he blessed me with one of the busiest weeks of my life at work so I had no free time to think about the fact that I had willingly signed up to jump out of a plane. I didn't even have any time to tell anyone that I was going to do it, which was also good, because in case I decided to chicken out, I didn't want a lot of people asking me how the jump went on Monday.
But on Friday morning, the day before the jump, I decided that for an activity like this one, like the trip cross-country with someone I barely knew, I needed to tell at least one member of my family in case something went horribly wrong.
I told my brother first, which was a bad decision. Jeff hates heights as much as I do, so him knowing what I was going to do meant at least 24 hours of uneasiness for him, as well as for me.
"I really wish you'd waited until you were done to tell me," he said.
I called my Dad next and told him about both the skydiving adventure and about the blind date with FF scheduled for later that night.
"Honestly, Dad," I said, "I don't know what I'm more nervous about, the blind date or the skydiving."
This statement made him laugh silently into the phone, something he does often when we talk. His silent laugh always makes me feel like a stand up comedian.
“Who are you going with?”
“My friend Lisa.”
“Remember the girl who danced with you at Trish’s wedding to ‘We are Family'? That’s Lisa.’”
"Well I think you're going to love skydiving," he said. Not exactly the response I was expecting from the man who once said, "Why would you want to go there? None of those people speak English," when I begged him to let me live in Spain for a summer during college. I completely thought he’d try and talk me out of it, but he kept talking about how much a woman he works with loves skydiving.
I told him the jump was planned for 12:30pm and he told me to call him when I was safely on the ground. The last person I talked to was my friend Kyle, who couldn't come along because she had to work, but thought skydiving would be fun. She wasn't overly surprised by our decision to do it, but she had a piece of advice that caught me off guard a bit.
"Wear long sleeves," she said, matter-of-factly.
"Huh?" I responded, certain I heard her instructions incorrectly, or that she misunderstood what I had just told her.
"If you're getting the video," she explained, "Make sure to wear long sleeves."
She, having already seen other friends' skydiving videos, had witnessed enough arm fat flapping in the wind to know that covering my arms before falling through the sky was imperative.
Silly me, I had only thought I had dying to worry about. I had not considered that the second worst thing that could happen after jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet is arm flap.
Kyle is always looking out for my best interests, though, as it pertains to my life and my appearance, so I packed a long sleeve t-shirt. Trish was present when Lisa and I confirmed that Day 195 was the day we would drive to Monroe, Georgia to jump.
Since she sadly couldn't skydive herself (apparently doctors recommend pregnant women not jump out of planes), Trish said she'd come along for moral support. So on the day of the big jump, we met at her house before jumping into my car and heading out.
Trish, proving that she will be the best mom ever, bought me a Chik-fil-A chicken biscuit like it was the first day of school. She also packed a lawn chair, several magazines, a novel and bottled water, so she'd be prepared to sit and take pictures with her super fancy high tech camera.
On the way to Monroe, I learned how differently Lisa and I handle our nerves. Whereas, I awkwardly laugh when I'm nervous, Lisa, we found out, asks strange questions about random topics.
"What kind of panties are you wearing?" Lisa asked me. "What did you just say?" I asked, looking at her in the rear-view mirror.
"I wore the nicest panties I own, in case I die," she said, certainly.
I looked at Trish, who was sitting in the passenger seat, and we burst out laughing.
Minutes later, Lisa spoke again, "Have you guys ever done a body shot?"
Again, we laughed. "Where the hell did that come from?"
I have not done a body shot, for the record, though I seriously considered it on my senior trip to Cancun. Apparently Lisa had been offered the opportunity to do a body shot a few nights before and her decision to turn it down was still weighing heavily on her mind.
We continued on our way, and I was thankful that I was driving because it gave me something to focus on. Lisa kept reminding me of where we were headed, however, and threatened to back out several times, before making a request right before we arrived at our destination.
"Steph, I only ask one thing," she said, seriously, "I want to jump first. Before you."
I sighed before quickly responding, "Fine."
I was disappointed by her request only because I had wanted to ask her if I could go first. The thought of watching her and anyone else jump in front of me gave me anxiety. But she asked first, and I didn't want to give her any reason not to participate, so I agreed that I would jump after her.
When we arrived at the hangar, we saw a group of college-aged kids waiting on the grass, all looking up to the sky. Before too long, a female voice came over the loud speaker and muttered the words, "Two minutes till skydivers. Two minutes."
That prompted everyone to look up in the sky and start pointing at little black dots floating through the air. We watched the first of what would become many groups of skydivers.
A short, stocky bald man walked over to us and introduced himself. I told him who I was and that I had an appointment to skydive at 12:30pm. He said I needed to check in with Debra, or Vicki. I can’t remember her name, but she was a heavy-set woman with wild blonde hair, long purple painted fingernails and she smoked a lot of Menthol 100 cigarettes.
I did and Debra/Vicki told me she’d call me when she was ready. I returned to my friends who were now engaged in a conversation with stocky guy.
Stocky guy was very nice, but it became apparent to us pretty early that despite having jumped many times before, he was relatively new to the skydiving scene that he so desperately wanted to be a member of. He struck me as someone who so desperately wanted to fit in with the “in crowd,” that he spent his weekends, with his kids, hanging out at the hangar, waiting for an opportunity to jump, and learn from the pros. His goal, I think, was to become an instructor. He gave us bios on everyone that was there.
His kids looked bored, and I would be too if my dad dragged me to the hangar every weekend so that he might get a chance to skydive.
“Oh they love coming out here,” Stocky guy said, “Look, they even help pack the chutes.”
I’m sorry, what?
I like kids as much as the next girl, but I felt terribly uneasy that this guy’s kids were packing the chutes that are the only thing keeping me from crashing to my death. He became our friend for the rest of the day, and calmed our nerves when we needed him to.
Eventually, Vicki/Debra told us to come into a room next to her office where she handed us both clipboards with a stack of forms to fill out. She also asked us if we wanted to purchase a video and still photos of the jump. While filling out her forms, Lisa asked me, "Are you getting the video?"
I didn't hesitate answering her question.
"Oh yeah," I told her.
My mind was made up by the time I arrived at Skydive Monroe, but only because I'd already been going back and forth about buying the video. The video was an extra $85, a miscellaneous expense that seemed a bit excessive. I had no plans of hosting a viewing party for all of my friends to watch the video, so what's the point?
On the other hand, how could I not get the video to share with all of you? And how could I not document what I was certain would be a one time activity in my life? Clearly when I paid this woman my $85 I forgot to insist that they make me look good while filming. So, you’re welcome. I look like a pale, redneck loser in the video. Enjoy.
As we were initialing the forms, and there were a lot of forms, Lisa wondered allowed, "What does all of this mean?"
"Basically," I explained to her, “It’s in case we get hurt, or die, we can't sue them."
"But that's the thing," she said honestly, "I will sue them." She signed the forms anyway and we paid the woman our money. After filling out of the paperwork and paying the lady our money, we watched a video that basically reiterated what the forms already said: "Skydiving is risky. We assume no responsibility if you get hurt or die."
Only, as if we weren't freaked out enough, the man on the video delivering this message was possibly the creepiest guy I've ever seen. He had beady eyes and a salt-n-pepper beard that was so long it touched the table he was sitting behind. I wasn't sure if he was a skydiving guy or a cult leader.
After watching the video, which said a whole lot of nothing, we went back out to sit with Trish who had set up a lawn chair in the sun. Her goal, in addition to supporting us, was to get a tan.
For the next several hours, we waited. We waited so long that Trish’s tan turned into sunburn. Pregnant women are more susceptible to the sun, she told me. Even if the jump was a bust, I thought, I’m learning new things.
I was prepared that we might have to wait and it wasn’t likely that we’d jump right at 12:30pm, but watching group after group go ahead of us became frustrating and I kept thinking, if we don’t go soon, I’m going to chicken out.
Let’s get this show on the road, already.
The free time allowed us plenty to time to talk about several topics, including the possibility of a Charleston beach birthday party to celebrate my 30th and the end of Project 29 to 30. Details to come, but everyone’s invited, including Trish’s unborn baby, who will be one month old by then. I hope he likes keg beer!
At one point they brought us into a little room with some other skydivers to explain what was going to happen and what we needed to do during the jump. There were a lot of instructions, “head back,” “arms crossed,” “arch back,” “arms out,” “feet up,” “legs straight.” I asked Liam, the Australian instructor, to repeat some of what he was saying, sure that if he said it one more time that I’d remember it, but who was I kidding. This class was useless, because once the jump happened, I forgot everything he said.
And then there was more waiting.
A few more rounds of skydivers took off and landed, we eventually suited up in skydiving jump suits and I met the man that I would be attached to for the jump, Bruce.
I took a good look at the man who would be responsible for my life for the next half-hour, and felt good about that because he was a father himself. He had people counting on him to live, so I felt confident that he wasn’t going to try anything risky with me attached to him.
He also had an ample supply of jolly ranchers, which I ate non-stop waiting to board the plane.
When I was trying to review with Bruce the instructions that Liam had given me several hours ago, he said, exasperated, “Come over here and get on your knees.”
“Say what?,” I asked. What a creep!
“Stop,” he said, rolling his eyes, “Just get on your knees.”
Then he got on his knees right behind me in front of every man, woman and child in the place and acted out exactly what we were going to do, which put me in several compromising and therefore embarrassing positions. I appreciated his willingness to go the extra mile but I’m not sure the dress rehearsal was necessary.
Lisa was dying of laughter. I was dying of embarrassment.
Within minutes of this little stunt, Liam, the spirited Aussie who was tasked with the duty of videotaping my jump, told us it was time to go. And then Debra/Vicki came across the loud speaker and said the same thing.
Walking to the plane was scary, so I listened intently to what Bruce was saying, none of which I can remember now.
We crawled into the small plane and sat, almost literally, on top of each other. There were no seats, and no way to stand up inside. Bruce sat on the floor next to the pilot, facing the back of the plane with his knees bent. He instructed me to sit, like he was, in between his knees. Awkward, especially after our little “trial run” back at the hangar.
Then Lisa’s videographer sat in between my knees, and someone else sat in between his. We were packed onto this plane like sardines. Lisa’s tandem sat beside me, and then she sat in between his legs. My friend Dan, who tried to get me to come skydiving with him for his 30th, said the worst part of the experience is the plane ride. He was right.
We talked all day about how many times these instructors likely heard from scared jumpers, “I can’t believe I’m about to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.” I’m sure it’s a lot.
Lisa and I had to endure cheesy jokes at the hands of our instructors though, the entire flight up, including, “Whoops, I forgot my parachute!” and “Whoa, the plane’s never done this before,” and “This parachute had trouble opening last week, I hope they figured out the problem.”
Lisa and I were the only women on the plane, and the only two who had never skydived before. At the very back of the plane, by the door, were four middle-aged thrill seekers who had already jumped several times that day. Before boarding the plane, they were practicing some tricks on the ground that they planned to execute in the air, Point Break style.
I wish I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up the entire time, I would’ve liked to enjoy watching them do their thing.
At one point, I turned around and looked at Bruce and said, “I want to do this, but there is no way I’m going to jump out myself, so I give you permission to throw me out.”
He said ok. Then he said, “Alright, it’s time.” I felt him clip his harness to mine and I was scared, but I was also terribly uncomfortable. My stomach flipped.
Once the door of the plane opened, everything happened really quickly. The four superstars literally jumped out of the plane one right after the next, and the next thing I knew, Lisa and I were on our knees headed in their direction.
"Someone farted," Lisa yelled, as she made her way to the door. I was following behind her, but could barely hear her and though I yelled back to her, "What?" within 20 seconds, she had shimmied to the door of the plane and then she was gone.
Long after the jump when we were driving back to Atlanta, Lisa pointed out that had something gone wrong, there is a very good chance that her last words on earth would've been, "Someone farted."
We laughed a lot at this thought, but I couldn't help but imagine how awful it would've been if things had gone tragically if when her mom and dad asked what their young daughter's final thoughts on earth were, I'd have to tell them, "Well, she was wondering who stunk up the plane."
I watched her tumble out of the plane through the air and before I could turn around to Bruce and say, “You know, I think I’m good, let’s just head back down,” we were on our knees at the edge of the door. The next part was extremely blurry. I remember seeing the videographer hanging onto the edge of the plane filming me. I remember trying to remember all of the things that the instructor had told us so that I wouldn't mess up. And before I knew it, I had forgotten everything, Bruce was moving my head back and then we were off.
Out the door free falling through the air for what felt like a mere 10 seconds, but I am told was more like one minute. During the free fall, Liam, the videographer, was right underneath me trying to take photographs and video. I know that I screamed at least once, but no sound came out.
I think I just kept saying, “Oh my God!” over and over again.
I also tried to wave, blow kisses, but evident by the video, none of that was really possible. I was falling so fast that my arms were thrown back against my will. Once the instructor opened the parachute, our bodies went from a lying position to an upright position extremely quickly. So quickly, in fact, that it felt like whiplash when it opened. When the free fall was over and the parachute was open, the next ten minutes were awesome. Drifting through the air, looking at the earth below, watching everything start small and gradually get bigger as we made our way to the ground.
Bruce could pull on one of the cords and make us dip to the right or to the left. I felt like I was on a roller coaster. A nice and easy roller coaster. Everything was nice and easy and strangely peaceful. That is, of course, until the landing.
Before heading up in the plane, the instructors had explained that because of the wind, sliding in on our butts was probably the best way to land. They told us to extend our legs in front of us as high and as straight as we could and just let the instructor do the work. At some point during our floating through the air, though, Bruce said the wind had let up and we’d be able to go ahead and land normally on our feet. Only I didn’t hear him say that, so I went into the landing thinking that we were going to land on our butts. Bruce stayed standing, however, which made for a less than graceful landing.
Lisa, on the other hand, landed after me and she did so with the grace of a trained ballet dancer. Like she’d been doing it for years.
I've been asked several times, "What was it like?" or "Describe it to me." And I’ve tried to tell people what it’s like, but it’s hard. I mean, I could, and have, used all of the generic adjectives like amazing, breathtaking, unreal and it was all of those things. But it was more than those things and less than those things all at the same time too. And it all happened so fast. After waiting all day to jump, the entire plane ride and skydive was no more than 30 minutes long.
Some people who have taken the plunge describe sky-diving as life-changing. And while I knew that facing my fears and death head-on had the potential to change my life, I didn’t feel all that different after doing it. I was happy to have done it and definitely open to doing it again, just as long as someone else pays for it. Skydiving is expensive!
And while I was scared to jump out of the plane, deep down, I knew everything was going to be fine. I knew I wasn’t going to die. If God is going to take me sooner than I’m ready, he’s not going to do with a man named Bruce strapped to my back.
Once on the ground, Trish, with her camera around her neck, broke into an all out sprint across the field to congratulate us on our jump. She was like a proud mom, and we were like her kids. Speaking of moms and kids, my nervous energy had taken over me all day that I completely forgot to update everyone that at 4pm, we still hadn't jumped.
When I went to my car to retrieve my phone, it was close to 5pm. I had six text messages and five voicemails, most from various members of my family, all wanting to know how the jump went.
They started kindly, "Steph, we're dying to know how it went! Call us!" from my sister-in-law, Katie. Interesting choice of words, I thought.
My mom seemed friendly, "Hey, we all want to hear from you. Please call us whenever you get done.”
My dad's second and last message was not friendly at all, "Seriously, Stephanie. This is NOT funny. Call me."
I was somewhat annoyed at the fact that my parents think my idea of a hilarious joke is to not call them after skydiving and making them worry. Also annoyed that they didn’t assume that if something bad happened that Trish wouldn’t have called them. I called home right away and my mom answered. She was happy to hear from me, and happy that the jump went well, but her reaction was somewhat lame, I thought. Maybe lame is the wrong word. Maybe “understated” might be more appropriate. The woman confuses me. Jumping out of a plane couldn’t really get her excited, but when I’ve mentioned coming to work without makeup on, she nearly loses her mind.
With everyone properly notified that the jump was successful, we waited for our videos to be processed (again, you’re welcome) and headed back to Atlanta, ready to hit the town and get drinks paid for because we skydived today!
Only the exhaustion, both mental and physical, was too much and Lisa and I went home and crashed. Facing my fears, facing death with a 180 pound man attached to me. It ain’t easy.
Several weeks ago I got an email from an old friend of mine, Tom. Tom and I knew each other in college, but had lost touch over the years. He found me on Facebook, and told me he had been reading Project 29 to 30.
I was happy to hear from him, and flattered that he is such a fan of the blog.
"I think I know who this guy by the water is that Psychic Rose is talking about," Tom's email said, "Minus the arrogance."
"Oh really?" I thought, intrigued.
"Yep," his email went on, “His name is (A), he's from (B), He works with my wife at (C), he used to (D) and has been in Atlanta for (E) years. He is (F), and I'm not sure if that is a problem for you or not, but he's a great guy and I really think you two would hit it off.
I kept reading, "Oh, and he was once on Family Feud. I've seen the video."
Hold. The. Phone.
I had to read it again, several times actually, to make sure I was reading what Tom wrote correctly. I emailed him immediately back.
"Tom," I wrote, "Great to hear from you. Thanks for reading the blog. Obviously, I do not care about A, B, C, D, E, or F. In fact, this guy could be addicted to crack and I probably wouldn't care. If he was on Family Feud I have to meet him."
Day 194's thing I've never done before was to go out on a date that came about thanks to the blog with someone I'd never met or talked to. But really it was about going out on a date with someone who was once on Family Feud.
My date, "FF," and I met for dinner at Top Flr, a great place I had been to before, but never for dinner. I was as nervous as I always am for any blind date, but also excited to find out about the Family Feud. Like weirdly excited.
We talked about a lot of things, most of it usual date stuff: our jobs, our families, PT Cruisers. He was interesting, smart, all of the things that Tom said he would be.
All of this conversation, which was flowing quite naturally and nicely, was all building to what I was dying to know.
And when I could wait no longer, finally I said, as lame as ever, "So, Tom tells me you were on Family Feud."
He laughed. Clearly this wasn’t the first time he had to answer questions about his game show experience. If he was annoyed about talking about it, he didn't let me know. I was thankful for that, and thankful that while pleasant when recounting the experience, he wasn’t over the top proud of it either. That would’ve been weird, I think.
He explained that his little sister was the one who got his family on the show. I immediately wanted to meet her too, certain that she was awesome for having such a great idea and executing it.
Before he knew it, he said, FF and his entire family were flying to Burbank, California, to meet Louie Anderson (who is extremely unattractive, he confirmed) and play the Feud. Being on a game show was as cheesy as one might imagine, he said, and just like all of television, not as spontaneous as it appears on the screen. There were a lot of “redo’s” when the teams didn’t react like the director wanted. Unfortunately FF’s family did not win and never got to play for fast money, but enjoyed the all expense paid trip to California.
I am a little sister myself and I wondered if I ever wanted to put my family on a game show if they would play along as willingly as FF's family had. I know my mom would, and my sister-in-law Katie would probably too. My dad and brother, on the other hand, would likely not go for it.
I’ve said repeatedly this isn’t a dating blog, and it’s not, so I’ll have to leave you all in suspense about how it turned out with FF. Plus, the first wasn’t really about the date, it was about the Feud. The Family freaking awesome Feud.
My hell week at work had started to subside slightly, so Day 193 I was ready to tackle something a little bit more challenging than writing letters to celebrities or thank-you notes.
I was walking through my office and as I was turned the corner, I saw what appeared to be a very serious conversation taking place between several of my colleagues. So I did what I always do when I see conversations like this taking place: I eavesdropped.
I listened closely and soon discovered that the conversation was even more serious than I had originally thought. Clearly sides had been taken and people on both sides were eagerly making their case to the other.
The conversation was about Peeps.
Having no opinion about the popular Easter candy, and somewhat confused that the little marshmallows had drawn such a large and spirited crowd, I kept walking to my destination, casually mentioning to everyone involved, "I've never tried a Peep."
Participants on both sides finally found common ground in their disgust with me for never having eaten a Peep. They were staring, and some of their mouths were wide open in shock.
"You've never had a Peep?" someone asked me.
"Well," Jackie said, holding up the container, "Have you done the thing you've never done before for today?"
"No," I said, and I happily breezed back to her desk, making Day 193's thing I'd never done before to sample a Peep.
Cameras came out and both sides looked on, hoping that my first would mean a new addition to their team.
I took a green Peep out of the container and ate it.
"Isn't it amazing," Team “Yah Peeps” member Amanda asked, wistfully.
"Peeps are poops," Sara said, obviously a member of “Team Hates Peeps.”
I chewed it thoughtfully waiting for a burst of flavor that would force a strong opinion from me on the Peep. But it never happened. I am apparently one of the few people in the world who doesn’t have a strong opinion about the Peeps. For me, a Peep is what it is: a marshmallow covered in sugar. I don't find it to be particularly flavorful or delicious, but I'm certainly not repulsed by it either.
"I don't hate it," I said, confused that this nondescript thing that I was eating was so polarizing to most people.
I'm indifferent to the Peeps. As far as Easter treats go, I definitely prefer a Reese's Peanut Butter cup or a Cadbury Egg, but Peeps are fine. They're festive and fun.
Of the many things I have to thank my mother for growing up, her forcing my brother and me to write thank-you notes is at the top of the list.
While all of our friends in the neighborhood were out and about the days after Christmas showing off their new toys and new clothes, Jeff and I had to stay inside until all of our thank-you notes were written.
She had but few rules in our house, but she was a stickler for appreciation and thanks to her, I have grown up to be an appreciative adult. In fact, one of my former bosses actually told me that one of the things that impressed him most about me was the fact that after our interview, I sent him a hand-written thank-you note, a practice that has seemingly fallen by the wayside now that email is so popular.
Since I was physically able to write, I have written countless thank-you notes over the years for gifts I've received. But never had I written someone else's thank you notes. Until Day 192, when I offered to help my friends Amanda and Stephen write their thank you notes for their wedding gifts as the thing I've never done before.
Stephen and Amanda were married back in February. Their wedding was a part of this blog, as it was the first wedding I'd ever been to for a co-worker. Like most newlyweds trying to enjoy their new lives together as husband and wife, they've been bombarded with gifts, and therefore also bombarded with thank-you notes still left to write.
I haven't yet purchased their gift, but I figured what better way to celebrate their union than to assist them in their thanks. Little do they know, this is my wedding gift to them: another mention in the blog and 10 less thank yous that they have to write.
We agreed to meet at the Bookstore Pub for some drinks and to tackle this task. Great bar, great food, but possibly one of the most poorly lit establishments that I could've picked, making it extremely difficult to write and see anything.
Like every organized bride, Amanda had a detailed list of all of her wedding guests. Next to each person's name was a description of the gift they'd bought.
She gave me a stack of cards and a list of people she wanted me to work on notes for, all of whom I already knew. Apparently she was willing to take my help, but not if it meant I would be writing possibly inappropriate thanks to her distant cousins.
I can't blame her. Her plan made sense.
"Now can I write whatever I want?" I asked her.
"Sure," she said, cheerfully, obviously just relieved to have some help.
The possibilities were endless and since I knew everyone that I was writing to, I planned on pushing the limit as much as possible. But I promised to share what I was thinking about writing with Amanda and Stephen before actually committing to it on paper.
But as I quickly learned, they were pretty open to whatever, so I went for it, starting with Justin.
Dear Justin, Thank you so much for your very generous gift. We took your check, cashed it and bought one hundred MDA Shamrocks at Kroger, in your name. All for the kids. We're really trying to be more charitable as a married couple, and your gift is helping us to do that.
"Perfect," Amanda said.
True, Stephen and Amanda actually spent Justin's wedding gift money on cocktails in Belize on their honeymoon, but this just sounded better.
Dear Jackie & Matt, Thank you for the silverware saver. It will definitely preserve our new silverware for years to come and we truly appreciate it. We also hope it will keep all of our illegal stuff hidden should anyone try and find it. Just kidding, Officer Matt! Thanks so much for coming out to the wedding. It was great having you guys there.
We almost nixed this one, since Matt was in the process of becoming a police officer, but he and Jackie have a sense of humor so we went for it.
Dear Jessica and Andrew, Thank you so much for the Panini press/sandwich griddle. We will use it to make delicious sandwiches often. We also used it to brand "Ws" into our backsides, because sometimes rings aren't enough to say, "This union is legit." Thanks so much for coming out to the wedding. It meant a lot to have you there.
Anyone that gave money for a gift would obviously be subjected to the wilds of my imagination. My often inappropriate, sometimes offensive, imagination.
Dear Sara and Keith, Thanks for the generous wedding gift. Thanks to you, Stephen has been "making it rain" for several weeks now. Your presence at the wedding meant so much to us both, and made the day so much fun. Can't wait to hang out with you guys as a married couple!
Mo was next, and though on one hand he would be easy because he would be least offended by my antics, the possibilities with him were endless, making it also difficult.
Dear Mo, Thanks so much for making our wedding so memorable. Your performance with the pickles and the gummy bears was unforgettable. Thanks also for very extremely generous gift. We immediately cashed your check, threw the money on the floor, and, well, you know…
Dear Mayra and Devon, Thank you for the very generous wedding present. We took the money and purchased a brand new tiara for [our cat] Coco Chanel. Everyone deserves to feel as special as we did on our wedding day, after all. It meant so much to have you there.
Those who sent actual presents were not exempt from this little exercise, though.
Dear Jill and Bryan, It was so nice of you both to make an effort to come to our wedding. It made the day so special to have all of our work friends there. Thank you also for the wine chiller and saver. We have already put the gift to good use. In fact, we're drunk right now writing these notes of thanks.
Dear David and Sally, Thanks so much for coming to the wedding. It meant so much that you made an effort to be there. And thanks for the cheese knives. I'm sure we will get a lot of use out of them when we have visitors at our house. Thank you, most of all for allowing me an opportunity to say, "I can't wait to cut the cheese."
Even those who hadn’t yet sent gifts got notes.
Dear Anna Rhett and Robert, Thank you so much for coming to the wedding. Even though you haven't yet bought us a gift, we know that when you do we're going to love it. (Editor’s note: Anna Rhett and Robert have since sent a gift, so an appropriate addendum will have to be added to their note).
Amanda promised me she really is going to send the ones that I wrote to their intended recipient, though the fact that she hasn't done so already makes me a little nervous. She claims she is waiting until she's done with all of her thank-you notes before sending them all at once. We'll see about that. If I find out my notes weren't used I will be very sad that my creativity went to waste and that I didn't really help her the way I intended to.
But who knew, after years of griping to my mom about thank-you notes that writing them for someone else's gifts that I will never get to use myself, could be so much fun?
I should offer my note-writing services to others.
The thing I've never done before had to be something easy and something I could do late at night once I finally made it home.
So I did something that Lauren suggested I do when the project began. I've been meaning to do it for a while, but always felt stupid. Truthfully, I still feel stupid, but what's done is done.
Day 191's thing I've never done before was to write my favorite celebrity, Kelly Ripa, a fan letter.
Here is what it said: Dear Kelly,
Happy Spring from one of your biggest fans in Georgia.
My name is Stephanie Gallman and I am attempting something big for my 30th birthday that is quickly approaching in September. Everyday for one year, I am trying to do something that I've never done before.
Today's thing I've never done before: to write my favorite celebrity and ask to meet them (you).
I tried to get tickets to your show back in December when I was in New York, but all the seats were taken. I did go to Physique 57 to take a class and loved it. No wonder your arms are the envy of so many. It was super hard!
Anyway, if you say the word, and are game, I will come to New York whenever and we can meet. For a jog in Central Park. Or for some pizza. Or a beer. Or some wine. Whatever. I’m flexible.
Or, if you prefer, I can co-host for you and you can take the day off.
My mom is convinced that I am completely qualified to take your place if you’re ever ready to retire. I imagine every mother thinks this about her daughter, and while I’m not convinced I could do what you do, it’s endearing she thinks that I can.
Regardless, I think you are such a cool person. Beautiful, of course, yes, but also hysterical and a great example for working moms everywhere. I'm not a mom myself, but if I ever am, I hope to have a successful career and a grounded family life too. And as much fun as you have everyday!
Even if we never meet, simply by reading this letter (or having your assistant read it or some show intern), you are a part of the blog. So, thanks for that.
And thanks for keeping America (and Canada) laughing each morning. You’re the best!
On Day 190 had plans to celebrate the end of Passover by consuming an obscene amount of carbs with my Jewish friend Rebecca. She and I have been trying to make plans to hang out for several months and this seemed like a perfectly good excuse to do so.
And then work happened.
When it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to escape the job pile-on, I apologized to Rebecca for cancelling our plans and told her to enjoy her pizza without me. I think this may have been the first time work ever got in the way of a blog activity, though that’s hard to believe because sometimes I think I’m married to my job.
I had to think of something that I’d never done before that I could do at work, late at night, in front of the few co-workers that were still left behind.
I looked at my colleague Chuck, handed him my camera and said, “Can you come with me?”
A strange, downright creepy proposition from a co-worker at such a late hour, I realize, but I was desperate, tired, and delirious.
Chuck seemed willing to play along.
“Stand right here,” I told Chuck, “I’m going to need for you to take a picture of me doing a cartwheel.”
I know you’re cringing, embarrassed for me, and I’m pretty sure Chuck was too, but Day 190’s thing I’ve never done before was to do a cartwheel at work.
There wasn’t a lot of risk involved in this cartwheel, because anyone that I work for that might’ve been bothered by it had been home tucked in bed for hours.
Plus, I used to rock some cartwheels back in the day in my backyard at my parents’ house, but it had been some time since I’d attempted one. I wasn’t nervous about pulling it off, though, certain that just like riding a bike, my body would remember what to do.
And despite having been at work for 13 hours, it did.
I’m not positive it was my most graceful attempt at a blog entry, but cartwheels are fun and I promised myself I’d try and do more of them. Maybe not at work, since job security is something that I value.
I also value Chuck’s friendship, which I fear could be in danger after this little stunt.
Shockingly, Katy still wanted to hang out with me for Easter after I made her come to the International Pillow Fight with me on Day 188.
Ahead of Sunday, Katy, who is Greek, had decided she wanted to host a Greek Easter dinner for her friends in Atlanta that wouldn't be making it home to celebrate the holiday with their families. My family was just three hours away, and I could've made it home, but having been out of town, I was ready to stay put for a couple of days. After repeatedly promising my mom that church was on my weekend agenda, she granted me permission to stay in Atlanta.
Katy's Greek dinner would've been enough to count as Day 189's thing I've never done before, but I wanted to also incorporate something into the church part of the day. So Katy agreed to take me services at Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation to help me celebrate a full Greek Easter as Day 189's thing I've never done before.
The only thing that I know about Greek culture is what Katy has told me and what I've seen in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, so you can imagine I was expecting everyone at church to yell "Opa," on my arrival and to, at some point during the service, throw plates.
"Wow," Katy said when I picked her up.
"What?" I responded.
"Your dress, it's . . . um, it's loud," she said, laughing. She was wearing black.
"What?" I said, looking down at my printed dress. She was right, it was loud. But, I said, "It's Easter! It's a celebration. Jesus is risen, let's wear bright colors."
Honestly, as a child, that's what I thought about Easter. When resurrection was just a little too heavy for me to comprehend, I thought of Easter as the holiday when God granted us permission to wear white pants and loud prints. And, of course, Easter was also when that tricky bunny came to town sending me on a wild chase through my house looking for my Easter basket full of chocolate treats and Bonnie Bell lip gloss. Katy had been to services at the same church just eight hours prior, at midnight, and she told me it was a very low key, sedate ceremony. Everyone's clothes were subdued.
"But it was nighttime," she said, "maybe today is different."
I was freaking all the way to the service scared that I might offend I mean, my hair is loud enough, paired with this loud dress I could potentially look like a neon sign walking through. I knew I should've gone home to go to church with the Lutherans.
Thankfully, when we arrived and met our friend Derek outside, I saw that Katy's people treated Easter just like my people do: with the appropriate amount of pastels.
In fact one was wearing a white ruffled dress with a class black hat. Very fashion forward. Very Easter.
Inside the foyer to the right was a man behind a table selling candles Katy purchased five candles each for herself, Derek, and me in the foyer of the service. She instructed us to light them at the table before entering the sanctuary.
"I bought five candles," she said, "and I say a prayer for each member of my family."
I nodded. Sounds reasonable.
I too, lit each of the candles, placed them on the table, and said a prayer, realizing that after praying for the four members of my family, Mom, Dad, Jeff and Katie, I still had one leftover. That fifth candle was going to have to work overtime, because I used it to pray for all of my relatives, friends, Jeff and Katie's dogs Penny and Ron, and perhaps selfishly, for myself and my loud dress.
We entered the beautifully ornate sanctuary and followed Katy to the front to take a seat. I looked around and noticed that I did stand out, but not necessarily because of my dress. But because seated around us were dozens of other "Katys," beautiful men, women, and children with dark brown hair and olive skin just like her. If my dress wasn't standing out, my strawberry blonde locks and freckled skin definitely were. Several priests led the service, all dressed in robes, called undercassocks (I’m serious, that’s what they’re called). The head priest, Father George Alexson, wore a white undercassock that was heavily decorated in gold and red. He wore a square-shaped embellished hat, and with his long white hair and beard, he looked a little bit like Santa Claus. All of the other priests, along with three uninspired altar boys, followed him around during the service like a slow game of follow the leader singing vespers.
The service was heavily based in ritual, and I didn't understand 95 percent of what they were saying because most of it was in Greek. It really was, "Greek to me." But how I imagine Italian opera moves those that don't speak Italian, this service moved me in ways I never could've imagined.
At one point, each member of the clergy, along with volunteers from the congregation, read, or sang, the Easter story in about eight different languages. Only then, when they read in English, did I understand what anyone was saying.
Because I didn't understand the rest of the ceremony, the sound of their monotone voices became meditative for me. The service was an opportunity to not talk, just listen and let my mind relax, which I did. I didn't completely check out, but I felt very calm and at peace. I know the idea is to think about the meaning of Easter, so I did focus on that, but we were probably standing for at least half an hour at one point, so I admit my mind drifted to other places as well, and the experience was highly emotional for me at times.
After the service, I revealed to Katy that there were times when I got emotional. Like tears welling up in my eyes emotional. She said she had a similar experience the night before.
Before we left, Father Alexson gave each member of the congregation a red Easter egg, signifying the blood of Christ and rebirth. I like the idea that Easter is a time of rebirth. A kickoff to spring weather, to seersucker and as I would later learn, baseball. We were three full months into 2010, but for me, it felt like a chance to start the year anew.
After the service, I dropped Katy off at her house so she could start preparing the food for her Easter dinner and so that I could go home and put on another loud, but less formal dress. She’d actually already started preparing the night before, and when I got back to her house, I understood why so much preparation was needed.
First of all, she’d invited several people, Carolyn, Jeff and Derek, for dinner. And when Katy cooks, people come.
Secondly, she cooked her ass off.
Katy’s apartment has been the site of many memorable meals for me, including when I learned to tolerate beets and where I attempted to make pumpkin pies from scratch. Her Easter dinner was extravagant, starting with hummus and a fish roe dip called Taramosalata. For the main course, Katy roasted a lamb shoulder and potatoes, she glazed carrots and prepared a Greek salad, and sliced Tsoureki, a Greek sweet bread.
Everything was delicious and we stuffed ourselves, and lounged around for hours, talking and laughing about nothing in particular.
After being cooped up in Katy's apartment, Jeff suggested that we take advantage of what daylight we had with an afternoon drive. How very southern and unexpected from New Jersey bred, Columbia University educated Jeff, who also drives a Jeep wrangler, dips tobacco, and loves country music. Seriously? Who is this guy who seems to be a walking contradiction?
The top was off of the jeep, the weather was glorious and we cruised through some of the nicest neighborhoods in Atlanta singing country music at the top of our lungs. Well, Jeff and I were. Katy was laughing at me, and Derek, well, to be honest, I'm not sure what he was doing because he was in the front seat.
I felt like I was 16-years old, and I even suggested we drive by houses of people we knew just so we could honk the horn, just to let them know that our Easter was better than theirs. Actually, I felt better than I did when I was 16. I was full of joy.
As if the day wasn’t awesome enough, we made our final stop at Smith's Old Bar to watch Major League Baseball's opening day game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Jeff is a huge Yankees fan and since I don't really have ties to any baseball team I told him and the others that I would pull for New York too.
Part of me felt badly, since I did just visit Fenway Park in November, the last part in an amazing cross-country trip, and thought it was great. Learning the history of the park was fascinating to me and I thought it was beautiful. But I've never seen a game there. And at that time, if my life or a member of my family's life, depended on it, I don't think I name player on the Red Sox roster.
Yet, as I sat back to watch the Yankees, the team I was supposed to be pulling for, I felt this tug in my heart for Boston. I kept it to myself, certain it would pass. I was surrounded by Yankee fans, I'd already announced that was pulling for them, plus I’ve spent way more time in New York in my 29 years than Boston, I couldn't figure it out.
I didn't tell anyone, and I suspect this news will be a surprise to them, but my support of Boston never went away. I felt happy when the Yankees blew their lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. I beamed as I sang along to “Sweet Caroline,” when Neil Diamond took the mic. And I was elated that the Red Sox went on to win the game 9-7, thinking about all of Beantown bursting with pride yelling, "Frickin wicked awesome." It was like I was a native Bostonian and not just some southerner who has spent no more than 72 hours in the city in my entire life.
My allegiance to this team that I know nothing about, while only apparent to me, was shocking. And I assumed it might be short-lived, special just for Easter, but I’m afraid I’ve become a Red Sox fan, destined for a lifetime of disappointment.
Crying in church and now I care about the Red Sox? What a weird day.
A superbly wonderful, completely awesome, weird day.
I wish that I could take credit for this one, but it was my co-worker Justin who emailed during the week with a link to an event going on in Atlanta on Saturday, Day 188.
"April 3rd is International Pillow Fight Day," the website read. "Bring a pillow and meet us at Freedom Park on Saturday at 3pm."
Now, I've had my fair share of pillow fights in my life (sorry guys, none of them involved lingerie or my sorority sisters in college), but never with strangers in a park and never on International Pillow Fight Day.
But I liked the idea. I thought it sounded like fun, so I sent the link to the masses and tried to recruit some friends to come with me. I couldn't find anyone that was interested. Not one person. Everyone thought the idea sounded creepy, so I gave up, and assumed that when Saturday came, I'd figure out something else to do.
But Saturday did come, and I couldn't stop thinking about the pillow fight. I really wanted to go.
I talked to my friend Katy on Day 188 and asked her if she wanted to come. "I don't think so," she said, not really feeling up to doing anything, much less something as strange as a public pillow fight.
Still, I knew Katy, who's had her fair share of setbacks in 2010, needed to get out of the house. The weather was gorgeous, and the Vitamin D would do us both some good. So I presented the outing as a simple walk through the park where there just so happens to be an International Pillow Fight going on.
Finally, Katy agreed to join me and Day 188's thing I've never done before was to participate in an International Pillow Fight.
I quickly grabbed two pillows from my bed, removed them from their pillowcases (I'm no fool) and threw them in the back seat of my car, just in case Katy had a change of heart and felt like getting in on the action. After parking the car, and lots of discussion, we elected to bring only one pillow for the two of us to share.
I thought it was humorous, and somewhat relieving, that on our walk into the park, there were several people also carrying pillows. Anyone driving by not aware of the day’s significance had to assume we were headed to some weird sleepover or something. But at least there were others on their way to participate in the International Pillow Fight.
When we finally reached the open part of the park, we were shocked. At the top of the hill was a mass of people running wildly whacking each other with pillows. Once we were closer, we saw that despite the website listing in its explicit instructions there should be no feather pillows, there were feathers everywhere. In the air. On the ground. Everywhere. Pillow fights, at least this one, are messy. I also noticed that most of the participants were either indie rockers or overweight people in pajamas. The combination was confusing to me, but also amusing that a park pillow fight had become the common thread between them. I couldn't understand why I was drawn to the event either, and I wondered what about this event had inspired them to get dressed (or in some cases, just get out of bed), and come out to the park that day.
I also realized that people wearing pajamas in public gross me out. I don't know why. None of the pajamas that I saw were inappropriate or revealing in anyway, I just hate jammies outside of the home. Plus, it's a pillow fight. Not a pajama party. I know the two events are related, but nowhere in the event description did it say anything about pajamas. Put some clothes on.
Part of me wanted to just stand back and watch, because getting into the action felt like what slowly merging into a stock car race already in progress likely feels like. Challenging. Scary. Downright stupid. But not participating would’ve made for a boring blog adventure. I knew I had to be more than a spectator to this insanity.
Katy jokingly gave me a little push into the action while she took pictures and directed me on whom to hit. I stayed close to the outside, taking a few whacks (mainly on people wearing pajamas) and then quickly got out.
Katy had decided ahead of time she wasn't going to participate, and I didn't push it because she had just had some serious dental work done and if she so much as accidentally bit her tongue in there, I would've felt guilty for the rest of eternity for asking her to tag along.
But after feeling pretty safe inside the masses, I asked her if she wanted to take a turn. I could tell she was intrigued by what she was watching.
"Keep your head down," I instructed, “and DON’T open your mouth!”
She did as I said, took a couple of turns with the pillow and got out quickly.
"Seriously, this is the weirdest thing I've ever been to," she said.
I agreed. It really was.
But in that mass of people whacking each other with pillows, I couldn't help but laugh, and Katy laughed. And we both needed that. I think I smiled the whole time I was there. I challenge anyone to hit someone with a pillow and frown while doing it. Impossible.
So weird or not, I'd consider that a successful little Saturday.
In honor of the day, and the good weather, I decided to focus on the good things in my life, especially the good people.
So Day 187's thing I've never done before was to honor those who make me feel good about myself by sending them thank you cards on Good Friday.
I am fortunate to have a lot of friends like this. My sincere hope is that everyone does. They are the friends who never seem to notice if my hair needs to be cut or if I put on a few pounds or if I've neglected to return their phone calls. They see me through rose colored glasses all of the time. Some of the people who received these cards included my great Aunt Eileen. She lives in Ohio, so I don't see her very often, but every time I do she makes me feel like both a movie star and a comedienne. I’m still a little upset with her (and my Aunt Betty) for picking up the throwaway bouquet from my brother’s wedding and shoving it into my hands so that I might be the next girl to get married, but she was so hilarious about it, it was hard to be really mad. Her laugh, her hugs, and the fact that she’s funny and doesn’t even know it have all made her a positive force in my life. Plus, I knew she'd be most surprised by the card.
I also sent one to my freshman year college roommate Kimberly, who I think might be the nicest person that I know. She's been making me feel good about myself since high school where we began our friendship. Regardless of what’s going on in her life, she always has time to lend a listening ear. Kimberly is married and has two gorgeous children, so we're definitely in different places in our lives. But when I'm with her, she doesn't make me feel like I'm behind. She thinks I'm right on time.
And another unassuming recipient was my friend and former co-worker Jeremiah. Since traveling the country alongside him working for Country Music Television, I knew we'd be friends for a long time. Something about driving a Ford 350 truck and gooseneck trailer to different fairs and festivals hosting karaoke contests bonds people for life, I guess. Despite not talking to him very often, I consider him one of the most supportive and positive people in my life. He's always in a good mood and always ready to encourage me when I need it.
There were others that I sent cards to, and I could've spent the entire night writing more. Though I didn't have an opportunity to tell everyone on Good Friday how good they are to me, I made a vow to start acknowledging these people instead of focusing (read: obsessing) about the few people who make me feel badly about myself.
Why, I wonder, is focusing on the negative energy so much easier to do?
I don’t know, but it’s time to stop.
This last minute blog decision was a good one. What a good way to spend Good Friday by telling some of the good people in my life how important they are.
Before my brother and sister-in-law came to visit on Day 174, I went to great lengths to prepare for their stay, ensuring that my house was clean, and that there was food and beer in the fridge. I forgot, however, to tell them about my new roommate.
Because I had been hearing him for several weeks now, I was used to waking up to the sounds of little feet scurrying around in my ceiling and in the walls. But Jeff and Katie were disturbed by the noises they were hearing and urged me to get my landlord to evict my roommate sooner rather than later.
I told Katie and Jeff that I lived in constant fear of him falling through the ceiling and onto my bed while I was sleeping, but I assured them that the situation had been under investigation and would soon be under control.
Knowing that action was being taken to have him physically removed from the premises, I guess my roommate decided he wasn't leaving until he met me face to face. So one morning recently he made an appearance in my apartment while I was making a bowl of cereal.
And it was grand appearance indeed. On Day 186, April Fool's Day, my roommate, a squirrel that had found its way into the walls and ceiling of my apartment, jumped through the chimney in my living room. Chasing the little rodent out of my house became Day 186's thing I've never done before.
I've told this story so many times in person and every time I tell it, people want to know, "Oh my God, what did you do?"
The best way I can describe this horrific experience is by contrasting it to other experiences often over-dramatized by the movies. For example, when a woman goes into labor. In the movies, this scenario is always depicted by a hysterical pregnant woman screaming wildly, breathing heavily, cursing everyone in her path. I was with my friend Danielle when she went into labor and her experience was far from dramatic race to the hospital always portrayed in films and on television shows. She was in pain, but she was calm. There was no yelling, no racing.
I assumed, then, that if ever a rodent was let loose in my house, the scene would not be like that scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when all of the Griswolds ran screaming from room to room from the squirrel dramatically. But in fact, it is. That's EXACTLY what it's like.
When the squirrel tumbled down the chimney and to my living room, I threw my cereal bowl on the counter and I let out a moan that I didn't think I was capable of making. I truly don't even know what part of my body the sound came from, because it was one I'd never heard before. My heart was beating so fast, but I was paralyzed with fear, and I stood frozen, staring at the squirrel.
But if you've ever seen a squirrel, you know that they really don't stand still. They dart. In and out of the road, up and down trees. The same is true when squirrels are indoors. Before I could look at him for very long, he took off running through my apartment. And then I ran too. Towards him or away from him, I'm really not sure. I suppose it was a combination of both.
I knew that I'd never catch the squirrel, nor did I want to. I had just two goals: to open a door and let the squirrel run out and most importantly, to never let him touch me.
My apartment is designed "shotgun style," so all the rooms are in one long row, in this order: the foyer, my bedroom, the living room, kitchen, and bathroom in the back. There are two doors, one in the front in the foyer and one in the bathroom that leads to the deck out back.
So in my attempt to open both doors so that squirrel could run out, the rodent and I basically chased each other up and down the house, through all four rooms, lots of weird noises still coming from my completely terrified self.
At some point in the insanity, I texted my landlord "Uh, the squirrel is in my apartment!"
Landlord Scott came over immediately and I prefaced my tirade with, "I just want you to know that I'm hyper-aware that it's April Fool's Day. I swear this isn't a joke!"
He shook his head, and I could tell he believed me because I was more or less shouting at him.
And then he said, "I'm telling you, I've looked everywhere and I just don't understand how the squirrel is getting in the ceiling."
Now, I had acknowledged already the humor in this entire situation and had faced the likely possibility that this might be the most hilarious thing that will ever happen to me in life. In fact, there were times when I found myself half-laughing while also screaming running through my house.
But when Landlord Scott wanted to dive into how the squirrel was able to get into my house, I was not amused. I nodded that I understood, but what I really wanted to do was grab him by the shoulders, shake him and say, "Can we talk about how he got here later?!?!?! He's still in the house!" That's like asking someone, while their house is burning, how they think the flames ignited.
I mean, let's deal with the squirrel!
I should tell you that my landlords Scott and David are extremely conscientious about the upkeep of their home, they take good care of me and of the house and I think the not being able to crack the squirrel case was really weighing on both of them.
But like other unpleasurable things, squirrels happen.
And unfortunately, on this April Fool's Day, they were happening to us.
Landlord Scott eventually stopped with the explaining and the two of us faced the situation at hand. We both tiptoed around my apartment and tried to find the squirrel but finally we heard no more scurrying. I assumed that my genius idea to open the doors had worked and squirrel ran out during our conversation.
Scott left, but not before telling me that he'd go up in the attic and between the walls again and try and figure out how the squirrel had made our home his own.
I tried to go back to my cereal, which was now soggy, but I realized quickly that I didn't have much of an appetite. My heart was still racing, and I felt like I had run a marathon.
I tried to go about my morning as usual, so I sat on my couch and tried to write, which is what I do in the morning. I shared with a few friends what had happened and reacted to every noise as if it was the squirrel ready to rumble again, jumping up several times from the couch.
At some point I started to feel uneasy with the fact that I never actually saw the squirrel exit my apartment. So before I got in the shower, I did one last look through the house for the squirrel. Under the bed, under my couch, behind my book shelf. My stomach flipped when I looked behind my magazine basket and saw a little ball of fur sleeping soundly.
First of all, who knew squirrels slept? I had to assume that they did at some point during the day, I had just never seen it until now.
Second of all, DAMMIT. THE SQUIRREL IS STILL IN MY F-ING HOUSE!
My heart, which had calmed down somewhat since I thought the squirrel had left, started racing again. I text messaged Scott to tell him that the squirrel was still in the house.
His response, "I'm on a conference call. I will come over when I'm done."
Time was starting to become an issue because I had to get ready for work. I have an understanding boss, but calling to say, "I am going to be late today because there is a squirrel taking me hostage inside my house," is just not something that I wanted to do. I decided to get in the shower and hope that Scott's conference call was over by the time I was out.
Positive that the only thing worse than a squirrel in my house is a squirrel walking in on me talking a shower, I closed and locked the bathroom door.
Part of me expected to open the door after the shower to the squirrel running wildly all over the place. But he remained behind the magazine basket, still sleeping. I shared the latest with the squirrel with Lauren, Elizabeth, and Emily and asked for their advice.
"Holy crap. The squirrel is still here. Sleeping behind a basket."
Their responses were vastly different.
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA," Lauren laughed. And then she said squirrels are gross. No real idea on how to get it out, but she appreciated the story.
Elizabeth's response was my favorite: "Get the f*ck out of your house. Call the fire department."
I can't call the fire department over a squirrel. Or wait, can I?
Emily was concerned, especially when I told her I was out of ideas on how to get him out and that I was contemplating leaving the squirrel behind when I came into work. "No," she wrote, "Put on a hat and shoo it out with a broom. If you let it stay in your house while you're at work, it'll destroy everything."
When I told her that the squirrel was sleeping, she asked me if it was possible that the squirrel was dead. I said I wasn't sure, but it was certainly possible with all the trauma he and I had suffered together just hours earlier, there was a chance he could have died. Then I felt bad for the squirrel who possibly took his last breath in my sad little apartment.
When I turned my hair dryer on, I saw the little fur ball twitch, so I knew that the squirrel was still alive. And just like that, I wanted him dead.
At around that time, Scott had finished his conference call and come over to my apartment with a towel. His plan was to scoop the squirrel up with the towel and calmly release him in the yard. I was not confident in this approach, but without any ideas of my own, I was willing to go along with it.
Going along with it meant that I was going to stand in my bedroom and watch the action go down as far away from the squirrel as possible.
Scott walked over to where the squirrel was sleeping and surveyed the situation. He is an animal lover and I could tell he had empathy for the little rodent who obviously was more scared of us than we were of him.
He gently pulled the basket back and spoke to the squirrel in a gentle tone of voice, "It's ok . . .it's alright."
No surprise, Scott's plan to scoop the squirrel up in the towel did not work. Sweet sleeping squirrel went immediately back to being schizo squirrel running wildly all over my house. Only this time, instead of just me running behind him screaming and making other weird noises, Scott joined in. Only he had the towel as a prop that he was using to guide the squirrel towards the door.
Thankfully, it worked. And after a few laps in the living room, the squirrel ran out the front door.
He ran onto the front deck and then he climbed up the screen of the porch. Scott kept telling him, "Run, run into the yard," and he used the towel to point him in the right direction. Only the towel waving in his face seemed to scare him more and from about ten feet up on the screen, the squirrel leapt onto the porch, missing jumping on Scott's face by just inches. The squirrel hit the porch with a thud and scurried away, his back legs seemingly injured.
I felt badly that the ordeal had to end this way, but I was happy to see the squirrel go, bum legs and all. If that makes me a bad person, then maybe I am. The next morning I woke up to the same scurrying feet in my ceiling, so the little squirrel obviously wasn't that bad off.
I went to work exhausted, happy that the thing I've never done before was already taken care of, but disappointed that I had no energy to play any pranks on anyone for April Fool's Day.
Elizabeth said it would've been funny if the squirrel had jumped through the chimney holding a sign that said, "April Fool's!" and I agreed. For a moment I thought maybe the squirrel was a joke carried out by Lisa as pay back for her Valentine's Day present.
Someone asked me if I was going to write about this in the blog and I said, "Yes, of course I am. I've never chased a squirrel out of my house."
Then the same person asked me, "Did you take a picture of it?"
What? Whoever asked me this (and I truly don't remember) deserves a little shake of their own.
No, while chasing the squirrel through my house, I didn't think to grab a camera and say, "Hey little rat with the bushy tail, smile for the blog!"
But admittedly, I was sad I didn't think of it. Because that would've been awesome.
One of the things that I knew that I wanted to do when I started this project all those months ago was to take a trapeze class. Since watching Carrie Bradshaw learn the trapeze in an episode of Sex and the City, I wanted to tap into my circus roots.
I couldn't find anyone who had ever taken I googled the words, "Atlanta" and "Trapeze," and found a link to the Trapeze Club.
"Sweet!" I thought. An entire club for trapeze swinging? I love it!
So I clicked on the link, while at work, expecting to find pictures of men and women learning how to fly through the air with the greatest of ease. What I found instead was a risqué photograph of a man and woman in various stages of undress. Since I was at work, I quickly closed the browser, and looked around to make sure no one was watching what I was doing. I was so mortified, and so confused.
In what language that I'm clearly not familiar with, does "trapeze" mean something dirty?
After asking several Atlanta natives (and possible freaks), I learned that the Trapeze Club in Atlanta is not what I was looking for. Instead of learning to swing from a trapeze, those interested in becoming members of Atlanta’s Trapeze Club just wanted to swing. Sexually.
I'd be lying if I told you that a real-life swingers club wasn't absolutely fascinating to me. So much so, in fact, that I forgot what I was originally searching for.
"What goes on there?," I asked those who told me what the Trapeze Club was.
"Do people swap keys and take different people home, or do they take care of business right there?"
"Does it cost money?"
No one could exactly answer my questions because they all claimed to have never been there before (yeah right), but I am fascinated by this alternative lifestyle, and am now determined to learn more about it. Not because I myself want to participate, I’m just interested. I swear.
For a while, I abandoned the idea that the kind of trapeze experience I was looking for existed in Atlanta, but recently I went back to Google to try again. This time I used the words, "trapeze," "Atlanta," and "LESSONS." This search yielded much different, more appropriate results. I was pleased to find that there is a class offered in my neighborhood.
So Day 185's thing I've never done before was to take an aerial fitness class.
I recruited my friend Amanda for this challenge, which wasn't easy. She wanted specific details about what the class was all about. I told her I didn't know much, other than what was written in the description. So I sent it to her.
She perused the website, and discovered the class was held at an old church, and contrary to what she once thought, we would not have to wear flesh-colored unitards. She decided she would go with me.
The next day, Amanda arrived at the church first and she called me as I was making my way over.
"Umm . . . where are you? I don't see anyone else over here, and all of the doors are locked," she said.
I pulled up to the church and together we tried all of the doors together, at one point actually stepping over some homeless guys who were hanging out on the front steps to get inside the building. Only one door actually opened and we walked through it, but the hallway only led us to construction, and no one could tell us where to go for our class.
When we walked outside again, we noticed a door was cracked that wasn't cracked before. We walked in and it felt like we'd finally arrived at our destination. There were ropes hanging from the ceiling, along with purple fabrics, and, of course, trapezes.
The instructor, Andrea, and I gave each other a second look when we met, certain that we had met before. We never could figure out our connection, so we decided we probably just recognized each other because we both went to the University of Georgia. Actually she decided that, I’m convinced we met more recently and possibly have mutual friends and I’ve been racking my brain since then to figure out when it was.
Andrea was beautiful and was living proof that hanging from fabrics all day does a body good, so I was ready to get started. I knew I couldn’t possibly leave there in an hour looking like her, but maybe this could be the beginning of a complete transformation.
There were three other people who showed up for the class, one woman and two men who looked like they had been there before. In fact, the men had been there a lot and when Andrea said the word, they started climbing the fabrics like they were ninjas.
Amanda looked at them and then she looked at me with her eyes widened, as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Andrea started us at the very beginner level, so Amanda and I took turns first familiarizing ourselves with the purple fabrics. Touching them, pulling them, wrapping ourselves around them. The potential for bodily injury was high here, I quickly realized.
I was, quite frankly, concerned about how these shiny purple sheets were going to support my weight. Andrea assured me that they would, and just like I believe everything that attractive men tell me, I had no choice but to believe her because she was pretty.
I was also concerned about how I was going to get a good grip on them, because after taking a few turns doing various beginner exercises on them, they seemed rather slippery. Andrea gave us some liquid to put on our hands that made grabbing the fabrics a little bit easier. I got a little aggressive with the liquid and poured far too much on my hands and onto the floor assuming that “more liquid” meant “more likely to become a trapeze artist.” No such luck.
For the next hour, Andrea would tell us what to do, then she would gracefully demonstrate it and make it look easy, and then Amanda and I would fight over who had to try the move first, and then we’d take turns humiliating ourselves.
The movements were quite simple, and undoubtedly a phenomenal workout. As beginners, we never really got very high off the ground, though she did teach us how to turn ourselves upside down (there’s something to be said for letting all of the blood rush to your brain) and how to climb the fabric.
At one point while we were hanging upside down, Andrea instructed us to do sit-ups. She demonstrated, again, with ease, and since hanging upside down was a move I did pretty easily, I figured this sit-up would be a breeze. I couldn't lift myself higher than six inches. Again, gravity is a big ‘ol bitch.
There were times when I became frustrated, unable to understand how I could be so bad at this. I’m pretty flexible, I'm in shape, what's the deal? Sometimes trying new things is a drag, as it’s a reminder of how many things I’m not good at.
On the other hand, Amanda and I laughed a lot, so even if we didn’t get the workout we hoped for, there were calories burned.
But, oh no wait, we did get a workout too, because when I woke up the next day, I discovered new muscles, especially in my stomach and arms that I wasn’t even aware existed.
I told Amanda that once I regained full control over my arms, I'd definitely like to go back and try the fabrics again. Perhaps we could advance a little further, to maybe not laughing at ourselves the entire time or getting more than three feet off the ground. The part of me that believes that I once was a graceful person believes that I could be good at it.
And besides not being very good at it, I really did think have a lot of fun.
Plus, I never actually took a swing on a trapeze, I just played on the purple fabrics, so I still have some swinging left to do. The good, clean kind.