Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 270: Wal-Mart Shake Down

I can't figure out a way to say this without offending my mother who hates when I talk about drinking, so I'm just going to come right out and say it: I drank too much on Day 269. On Day 270, like every "day after," I paid for my sins of the night before with an enormous headache and complete worthlessness.

Just getting through the day was my main focus. Doing something new was the furthest thing from my mind.

Only I refused to let hitting a golf ball on Bobby Jones' grave be the reason I let this entire project go up in flames. I couldn't give up on Day 270 just because I don't feel well. So I called on the two men who got me into the previous night's shenanigans in the first place and demanded that they help me out.

"Let's go to Wal-Mart with Justin and buy him his birthday present," Mo said.

I had absolutely no idea how this was going to get me to the thing that I'd never done before. Hell, I didn't even know there was a Wal-Mart in Atlanta, but I figured with these two guys and a discount superstore, something new is bound to happen, right?


The Wal-Mart in Atlanta is tucked in the back of a large shopping center north of the city. I noticed when we pulled in front that just like every other Wal-Mart I've ever been to, this one was bustling with activity. Only I couldn't help but be surprised to see men, women, and children of all ages coming and going as if it was the most natural thing in the world to be buying cheap crap on a Thursday night at 9:30pm.

Shouldn't most of these people (especially the children) be in bed?

I do not have children of my own so I'm in no position to judge (wait, yes I am, it's my blog), but could someone please explain this to me? Again, these judgments are brought to you by the same girl who putted on a famous man's grave the night before, but still. What was so important that it warranted bringing entire families to a Wal-Mart Supercenter so late in the evening? I remember being angered at seeing young kids in line at Brandsmart USA on Black Friday and that happens once a year and the discounts really are substantial. This was Wal-Mart. I'm pretty sure that any deals these families were getting at this hour would still be available at 9am the next morning.

A lot of the families were dressed in pajamas, which tells me two things, 1. they are aware that it's late and they should be in bed and 2. they have horrible taste.

Along with providing an ample supply of characters for people watching, Wal-Mart really is a playground for someone like me, who is on a quest to do new things.

Within the first five minutes, we found Justin's birthday gift and I did the first thing of the night that I'd never done before, and that was to give the "As Seen on TV," Shake Weight a try. A Shake Weight is a weight you hold with two hands and shake back and forth like a maraca to tone your arms. You've probably seen the weight on late-night infomercials.

The Shake Weight couldn't have weighed more than 15 pounds, which I found humorous for Justin's sake because he works out a lot. In fact, he's stacked and likely wouldn't reap the benefits of an exercise bar intended for women. Oh well, Mo and I assumed, this present could simply be a conversation piece.

We mosied through the aisles, heading to the toy department where possibilities for fun would be endless. I hoped I might find the bouncy balls that you sit on so that I could recreate the scene from, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, when Christina Applegate's character and her boyfriend go to a toystore and bounce through the aisles. I'm not sure if they make them anymore, though, because I couln't find any. At least not at this Wal-Mart.

I did, however, stumble upon an entire shelf of hula-hoops. Jackpot.

Day 270's thing I've never done before was to hula-hoop in a Wal-Mart.

I did not hesitate throwing my purse down and reaching for hula-hoop, and I couldn't help but think while I repeatedly flung the hoop around me trying to keep it waist high, that this is what this blog, and this experience, is all about for me. Less about checking off a list of things I have to get done before I turn 30, more about seizing opportunities when they present themselves and living spontaneously.

Instead of saying, "No way! I can't hula-hoop in the aisle! What if someone sees me and thinks I'm ridiculous?," now I'm saying, "Yes, I'll hula-hoop right here, right now. Because it's awesome."

Guess what? People did watch me hula-hoop and they probably did think I was ridiculous. But who cares? I don't know any of those people and I wasn't hurting anyone. Plus, hula-hooping, even when you're bad at it (as I am), is so much fun. Seriously, try to frown while hula-hooping. It's impossible.

I was a little disappointed in my performance on the hoop, considering we all know what a good dancer I am. And I like Phish and those concerts are full of hippies with hula-hoops. But for some reason, I just couldn't keep the hoop circling around my waist, and had to pick it up off of the floor often. I had a couple of good runs, though, and Justin took some turns as well, before stacking the hoops back and moving on.

We wandered through sporting goods and tested baseball bats and tennis rackets. I decided that in my post-blog life, in addition to improving my golf game, I really want to play tennis again, after an 18-year hiatus.

In the camping equipment section, I announced to everyone that I'm not really a camper. I've been before, and I'd go again, but I likely wouldn't ever organize a camping trip. I picked up bags full of dehydrated camping meals that reminded me of space food I ate in a science class once. Mo suggested I buy one to try as something I'd never done before. He pointed out that camping food is something I could do when I didn't feel like doing anything else. This was a good idea, and I bought lasagna for two in a plastic bag.

When we made it to the pharmacy section, we each picked up some personal items that we needed (toothpaste for me), and I sat down at the blood pressure machine to get my blood pressure checked for free.

I'm not sure if I did it right, but 106/82 was the reading, which I think is pretty normal.

Never was the circus of people that hang out in Wal-Mart late on Thursday more apparent than when we were waiting in line to pay for the items we picked up along our Wal-Mart journey. The inefficiency of this Wal-Mart was also apparent, and we were forced to stand in disorganized lines behind the only three registers that were open for a while.

Families dressed in their pj's, a man wearing a t-shirt that said, "When I drink I get horny and you get beautiful," and women in shorts so tight I wondered how they could stand, much less walk from one side of the store to the other. Many of them were yelling at their husbands and boyfriends. Probably because they were uncomfortable.

Ahead of us in line was a guy with six gallons of milk, ten cartons of eggs, and a watering hose in his cart.

He seemed a little shifty and I wondered if he was headed to play a fraternity prank, or if these seemingly unrelated items had anything to do with some insane terrorist attack. Sad, I thought that because of the times that we live in, these were the only two possible scenarios. Couldn't have been scrambled eggs and gardening, must be terrorism.

We finally made it to the front of the line to pay for our items and then all headed home to get the sleep we so desperately needed.

I left with a smile on my face, though. Happy that this was likely my last Thursday night trip to Wal-Mart, that my blood pressure is ok, and that when a hula-hoop beckons me from the aisles again, I'll know exactly what to do.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 269: Sneaky and Debaucherous Wednesdays

There is a sign taped to my computer at work that says, "29 to 30 Jackass." This is the story of how it got there.

Day 269 was a normal Wednesday. The fact that it was a Wednesday is significant, I think, to the story. So I'll say it again: It was Wednesday. A normal Wednesday. I went to work, I worked out, I blogged. Typical behavior for me in my 29th year.

Mo had, during his last hours of work, recruited some of our colleagues to get together for dinner at Six Feet Under, a restaurant near my house. He tried to sweeten the deal by telling everyone on the email that my blog activity was to be determined, and that anyone who came along would most certainly be tagged.

That Mo used this tactic to get people to come to dinner was not surprising, because he and Justin love getting tagged in the blog. But considering the only other people to show up that night were Katy and Nick, I'm pretty sure they are the only ones who really care about winning the, "Let's see who can get the most tags in Stephanie's blog," game that they invented.

So there were just five people total in our party. Don't be fooled, though, where we lacked in numbers, we made up for in complete dedication to fun, and to the blog.

We sat on the deck at Six Feet Under overlooking Oakland Cemetery. After talking about work for the first few hours (which we always do), the conversation shifted to the blog, and what I would do, with their help, as the thing I've never done before.

Moon someone, play credit card roulette were some of the suggestions that were thrown out.

Or, Mo asked me, glancing over my right shoulder, "Have you ever been to Oakland Cemetery?"

"Yes," I said, "Remember on that cold, rainy day in January? That place is depressing."

"Have you ever snuck into Oakland Cemetery after dark? You should putt a golf ball on Bobby Jones' grave."

I don't remember who spoke these words, or how the entire group decided that this was the right thing to do, but the next think I knew, I had retrieved my putter from my golf bag in the trunk of my car, and with a boost from Mo, I was climbing over the brick wall that surrounds it.

Day 269's thing I've never done before was to sneak into a graveyard and putt on Bobby Jones' grave.

Before you stop reading, disgusted with the fact that I could've defaced someone's grave at night, especially a member of Atlanta royalty like Bobby Jones, please understand that there is actually a cup on the grave and a pile of golf balls left by those paying their respects. I brought my own golf ball and club, but had I forgotten them, there were plenty of balls and clubs to choose from. We may committed some disrespect having snuck into the cemetery, but putting on this grave apparently isn't frowned upon it's encouraged.

Now, I haven't been shy throughout this project about the fact that my golf game needs a little work. When I sunk a putt on a PGA golf course, it took me four (err, maybe five) tries to get it in, and when I played a full round with my dad, I did a better job at swearing than I did at playing.

Not surprising then, that my golf game did not improve in the dark, after a few cocktails. in a graveyard we weren't supposed to be in. My game was downright terrible, as a matter of fact.

After several tries, too many to count, I finally got the ball in the cup and hit a couple more for good measure. And then it was time to go. Only making a clean getaway over the brick wall was completely impossible. There was absolutely no way to get out of here with any sort of finesse or grace. I heaved, clawed, grunted my way over, right onto Memorial Drive, a popular road, where cars are constantly whizzing by. I was bruised and sweaty.

After finally sinking the putt and making it over the brick wall, two monumental tasks at that hour of the night, we probably should've called it a day and headed home. But we didn't. No, we were pretty proud of ourselves and our sneaky ways, so we continued the fun in East Atlanta (to the Graveyard Pub, no less).

When we arrived, eager to play some of our favorite hits on the jukebox, we were disappointed to find that the machine was "broke." Not "broken," but, according to whoever wrote the sign that was taped to the music box, "broke."

I stole the "broke" sign and taped it to my forehead, because Project 29 to 30 has made me just that: broke. Lucky for us, Katy came prepared with her iPod, hoping she could convince the bartender to play the oldies she was dying to hear. Whatever she said, worked, and we all got down to raging songs like, "Jimmy Mack," by Martha and the Vandellas.

After wearing out our welcome there, we took the party (read: the debauchery) to Mo's house for late-night, "Club Mo."

Did I mention that this was Wednesday? And that I'm 29?

When I got into work on Day 270, twenty minutes after I woke up, Mo had a sign on his computer that read, "35 Jackass," Justin's read, "30 Jackass," and when I got to mine, it said, "29 to 30 Jackass."

Yep, I'd say that about sums it up.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Really Freaking Did It!

As most of you probably know, today is my 30th birthday, and therefore the end of Project 29 to 30. Only it's not really the end because I still haven't written about everything I did this year. That's still to come, but today it felt appropriate to write a blog in real time. A blog about September 27th, on September 27th. Now that's definitely something I've never done before.

Today I woke up a 30-year old, knowing that in one year I accomplished my goal to do 365 things I have never done before. I would have loved to have finished writing about all of those things too, but I refuse to be disappointed in what I have done so far and have vowed to finish writing the 96 posts I haven't yet, even if it takes me until I'm 40. Just kidding, I'm still vigorously writing, so buckle up, because come hell or high water, I'm finishing this project.

There is a part of me that is sad that I'll wake up tomorrow without having to try something new, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not looking forward to relaxing a little bit, working out regularly and doing some of the things that I tried and liked for a second time.

I spent the last four days surrounded by friends and family at the beach and this weekend I will enjoy another celebration with more friends. To say that I am overwhelmed by the people in my life and their support of me and this project would be a gross understatement. Oh, and today I was on the freaking radio. How lucky can I get? You can listen to the segment here.

To those of you who have followed this blog, given me your suggestions, and encouraged me along the way, I cannot thank you enough for your support. This truly has been a year that I will never forget.

Some of you have asked me, "What about a Project 30 to 31?" Well, I can't answer that until Project 29 to 30 is over, but I've got some ideas for sure. And as always, yours are always welcome.

Thank you for helping me get to 30. I made it, and so far, it feels pretty good.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 268: Life is Peachy

I got a mere four hours of sleep from Day 267 to Day 268, so to say I was uninspired to try new things would be an understatement.

Thanks to co-worker and Project 29 to 30 supporter Sara, I didn't have to venture very far from my comfort zone, or from my desk, to make something happen.

Day 268's thing I've never done before was to eat a peach cupcake.

It's lame, I know. Trying food at work that other people made and brought in is hardly new, but a peach cupcake? With fresh bits of peach in it? And brown sugar cream cheese icing?

That's is new. And it's delicious, warm fruit and all.

It really is.

Check the recipe here. Sara says the icing recipe makes way too much, so it's best to half it. And add more vanilla to taste.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 267: Conserving Nature, Kind Of

I woke up early and drove back to Wilmington to got back from the beach just in time to go straight back to work. Not much time to do something I'd never done before.

Feeling particularly nostalgic about the beach, I participated in the Save the Gulf Oil Spill Telethon on Larry King Live and donated money to the Nature Conservancy as Day 267's thing I've never done before.

I've said before that this blog has made me the most self-centered I've ever been in my life, always thinking about writing and doing new things. Simultaneously, though, it has also made me the most charitable than I've ever been. When the ideas are stagnant, donate money! I'm happy that I have had my eyes opened to new organizations who are working towards the greater good.

I am not happy with the fact that I am now on yet another mailing list and have since the time of my donation, been bombarded by an influx of emails and snail mail. Is it just me, or do weekly mailings from an organization called the "Nature Conservancy," seem a little inappropriate? I'm trying not to judge, but I fear my $50 donation may have already, and not to help the Gulf, but on postage for these mail-outs.

Day 266: Adult Swim

Like the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston every spring, the annual Gallman Beach trip to Oak Island, North Carolina (formerly Long Beach) is a part of who I am. My extended family has been coming to this beach for a week during the summer since 1982, when I wasn't even two-years old.

Not surprising, then, that Oak Island is the backdrop of so many of my childhood memories. Looking through my Aunt Margaret's photo albums is like looking through one big book of gross teeth, bad fashion decisions and terrible hair, but the pictures, good, bad, what the hell was I thinking, tell the story of my life.

To be at the beach and find something to do that I've never done before was going to be difficult. Not because there aren't always possibilities everywhere, but because I like this trip exactly the way that it is.

I mean, all we really ever do at Oak Island is sit on the beach, read books, and talk to each other. And then we take showers, go to dinner and go to bed. The next day we get up, and we do it all again. And in 28 years, that hasn't really changed. We've rented different houses, we've all reached the crucial age of 21 and exchanged sodas for beers, my cousins have added spouses and children, but overall, this beach trip remains the same.

And that is why I love it.

I also love it because it's usually the only time during the year that I ever see my aunts, uncles and cousins. Busy lives, hectic schedules, and geography prevent us from making visits during the other 51 weeks of the year. Luckily we're able to easily pick things up right where we left them the year before, regardless of what ups or downs the previous 365 might've given us. One summer I said goodbye to my newlywed cousin Andrea and the following summer, I said hello to her and her new baby girl. I never once saw her pregnant.

Because my stops at the beach lately have been brief, I often feel like the tornado of the group. I'm the wacky cousin from Atlanta who blows into town, tells a bunch of crazy stories about the last year of my life rapid-fire style, and then I leave. In 48 hours, I'll cover my job, any relationships, friends, successes, failures, hopes, dreams, throwing in random stories about funny things that happened to me (and as you know, there are a lot.) I don't know if they are just satisfying my affinity for story-telling, or if they truly enjoy my shenanigans, but they make me feel like a stand-up comedian.

That I, Stephanie, the youngest cousin, the baby who used to sleep in a crib at the beach and who used to follow them wherever they went is turning 30 this year might be even more of a trip for them than it is for me. Being the youngest has its advantages in that any milestones I reach aren't being held in comparison to anyone else. Of course I'll be the last to get married and have children and buy a house. I'm the baby! And even though I may be concerned that I haven't done any of those things, my family never makes me feel like I might not be living up to my full potential of a normal 30-year old. They take me just where I am, ridiculous stories and all.

There is always a little anxiety interacting with my cousins' kids, however. Not because they're not cool, sweet kids, but because they don't know me. And seeing each other once a year doesn't work for them the way it works for their parents and me. We don't have the history there, so there isn't the opportunity to simply pick things up where we left off the year before.

"Hey A.J., remember when we caught all of those minnows and put them in the bucket?," doesn't sound like distant relative trying to make conversation. It just sounds creepy.

So over the years I've been trying to manage these relationships a variety of ways. First, I tried to be their friend, meet them on their level, and talk about things that I thought kids liked. Maybe I came on to strong, because they were not impressed. I'm still not sure if I simply annoyed them, or actually scared them. Regardless, it was a rookie move and it didn't work.

One year I tried to take my dad's approach and simply do my own thing and ignore them. My dad is like the kid whisperer, though nobody really knows why because having no grandchildren of his own, he doesn't really know how to behave around little kids. So he just acts like he would if there weren't any kids around. And kids can't get enough of him. I tried this; I acted like I was too cool, and didn't really pay attention to what they were doing. The result: they ignored me right back.

This year, I wanted to strike a happy medium. Be nice, and be available, but play it cool, don't seem overeager to be their friend, and don't force conversation. Let it happen naturally. Recognize that not all of them are going to be interested in you. Just focus on the ones who are. Funny, I think I've been given that advice as it pertains to my dating life. I guess it works in a variety of different scenarios.

My Aunt Margaret suggested that I should act as the lifeguard for all 14 kids in the pool as Day 266's thing I've never done before. I immediately shot down the suggestion, explaining to her that I only put my own life in danger for this project, no one else's, especially children that I'm distantly related to.

Instead, I casually dipped into the pool where they were all playing and observed the insanity, finding myself exhausted almost immediately. They're all yelling, and splashing each other, squirting me and each other with water guns. Though I didn't particularly enjoy all of that, I want these kids to like me, and I enjoy laughing at the hilarious things that they say. I think the water gun fight was a step in the right direction, but I still wasn't sure that they really know who I am, or if they understood how I fit in to the whole group. Again, the whole tornado metaphor applies here. I blow in, I blow out, and they don't see me again for a year. And I imagine they're all left wondering, but are too afraid to ask, "Who is that weird red-headed girl?"

The oldest generation (my dad and his siblings) was watching the pool pandemonium from the chairs on the patio. No one wanted to come near the water with so many young kids throwing Nerf balls and squirting each other with toy guns. There was a lot going on in that pool. But it was hot outside, so in search of some refreshment, my dad took matters into his own hands. He stood at the edge of the pool and yelled, "ADULT SWIM!," signaling it was time for all of the kids to get out of the pool and let the adults have a turn.

I laughed at my dad's clever maneuver, and stayed put in the deep end, quite pleased that by being 29, I've managed to earn a permanent spot in this pool; still young enough to squirt the little ones with water guns, and old enough to qualify for "Adult Swim."

But as the little ones swam to the side of the pool, my cousin Bethanne's daughter Tara looked at me and said, "You know, you're really not an adult."

Wow, I thought. All this time I thought these kids didn't really know me, but with those five words, I discovered, as Day 266's thing I've never done before, that Tara knows me a lot better than I thought. Maybe the other kids do too. Their parents' baby cousin is really just an adult-sized big kid.

After a full long day on the beach, we split up as a big group to celebrate Father's Day with our dads (not because we didn't want to hang out with each other, but because taking 33 people to a restaurant is a disaster.) Father's Day for me involved several more things that I'd never done before: asking my dad to edit my blog (about the NFL draft), drinking a Manhattan cocktail with him (disgusting, huge mistake), and watching the biggest choke in golf I've ever seen by Dustin Johnson at the U.S. Open.

And then, just to prove that we are either the most boring, or perhaps the most awesome family ever, we capped off the evening with some brownies, ice cream and home movies. First was the slideshow I made for my brother's wedding (followed by a reenactment of the toast I gave at his rehearsal dinner, which lacked in inspiration and authenticity considering it was a year later and Jeff wasn't even there. They didn't care, they ate it right up), and then a corporate "explainer" video all about my cousin Jason's wife Mindy's company. Apparently she was tired of explaining what she does for a living, and she preferred to have us watch for ourselves. I was actually into it, especially getting a kick out of all the different characters/employees they chose to narrate the film.

And that was it. A lot of ground to cover in two short days, but like always, I came, I shared, and I left. And I can't wait to do it again next year.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 265: Vacation, Family Style

I arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina early on Day 265, having gotten very little sleep the night before. Thanks to not checking my luggage, I walked off the plane and directly to my rental car with several hours to kill before anyone else in my family was planning to arrive.

So I decided to tour Wilmington as the Day 265's thing I've never done before.

To be fair, I have been going to the beach near Wilmington since I was two-years old, so there is a good chance that I've toured the city before. But since I didn't remember, and my mom couldn't either, I'm counting it.

I drove into the downtown, which was every bit as quaint as I imagined the southern coastal town would be. On the way, I saw lots of old homes with big porches and big oak trees with branches that shade the streets. I parked my rental car and walked through the streets, down by the water and the weekend farmer’s market, snapping pictures of things that looked old and therefore significant.

Despite its quaintness and laid back feel, Wilmington had a touch of Nashville added in since becoming, over the years, a popular site for television producers and filmmakers. Shows like One Tree Hill and Dawson's Creek were filmed there. I kept looking around expecting to see someone famous walking down the street. And then I remembered that I don't watch shows on the WB, so even if they did I probably wouldn't recognize them anyway.

I wandered into a local diner, and popular breakfast spot, the Dixie Grill, sat at the bar and ordered a vegetable omelet and a coffee. My seat allowed me to split my time watching the World Cup and watching people coming and going.

After eating, I did some more walking around town, window shopping at some of the upscale boutiques. I was fading fast, though, and decided to leave Wilmington to start making my way to Oak Island, which was about half an hour away. I pulled over in a bank parking lot and took a nap for a little while, but after receiving clearance and directions from my mom, thought maybe it'd be better if I napped by the pool at the house we'd rented.

So I headed that way, and made Day 265's thing I've also never done before to change from regular clothes into a bathing suit in the front seat of a Dodge Neon.

I was sitting on the steps of the pool when a woman who worked for the Realtor arrived to make sure the house had been cleaned properly. She seemed surprised to see me. I explained to her that I had arrived early, and that my family was on their way in a couple of hours with the key and that I was just going to sit by the pool and wait for them to get there. Still looking skeptical, she took out her cell phone and began making a call.

I could only hear her side of the conversation. She repeated exactly what I had said to her. That my cousin Bethanne was bringing the key in a couple of hours and I was just going to hang out until she and the rest of my family arrived.

I wasn't sure if she is a stickler for the rules, or didn't believe me when I told her that all I wanted to do was to take a nap by the pool. Maybe I just look like I'm up to no good. But after she hung up the phone she said, "We're going to have to ask that you vacate the premises until your family gets here. It's just a liability that we can't take on."

"Vacate the premises?," I'm pretty sure in 29 years I'd never had anyone say that to me. And no one has ever accused me of being a liability right to my face. Apparently this woman, or her bosses back at the realty company, mistook me for 21-year old Stephanie. Couldn't they tell that I'm older now, almost 30, and responsible? I guess not.

I was annoyed that I was forced to leave the pool, but somewhat relieved that despite the fact that I'm almost 30, I still look young, stupid, and capable of doing serious damage to property or physical injury to myself. So much so in fact, that without the renter of the house there with me I simply couldn't be trusted to nap, which is all I wanted to do.

So since I couldn't stay at the pool, I decided I'd raise hell out on the beach. It was 11:30am, after all, and I'd slept at least two hours the night before. I didn't have a beach chair or a towel to lie on, so I took a walk on the beach and waited for my parents to arrive.

They did, signaling that it was safe and appropriate for me to return to the premises. Shortly after, the rest of the extended Gallman family arrived.

And then chaos ensued.

Not because of any one person, or any event, specifically. But because when 33 people who have been cooped up in cars all day arrive at the same place, at the same time, with a week's full of luggage, snacks, drinks, beach chairs, paper products, board games, and beach toys, to unload, chaos abounds.

Oh, and 14 of those 33 were under the age of 18.

I wished that the cleaning inspector woman had returned to see the insanity so I could look at her and say, "See, lady, who's the liability now?"

I escaped briefly to buy beer for everyone, my contribution to the week's vacation, but for the next few hours, we unloaded cars, stocked pantry shelves that looked like they were meant for a shelter, and geared up for vacation, Gallman Family style.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dark Side of the Moon

I had a dream last night that I won a trip to the moon. Rarely do I remember my dreams, but this one was extremely vivid, and I woke up able to recall nearly every detail, right down to someone stealing one of my golf clubs before I left. (Rarely do my dreams make any sense either.)

What a let down to wake up and realize I’m not going to the moon. I don’t even want to go to the moon, but I realize a trip through space is infinitely cooler than the 365 other things I’ve done this year.

In the dream, as we took off in a space ship that on the inside looked like my car but with airplane windows and roller coaster bucket seats, I felt all the same feelings that I’m feeling about turning 30: a little nervous, insanely reflective, extremely excited, and immensely grateful.

I’m officially in the home stretch of my twenties. And it is completely bittersweet moment for me, planning the last things I’ve never done before and getting ready for what I am hoping will be a week-long birthday celebration.

Lucky for me, and for my mother, who also having difficulty facing the end of Project 29 to 30, when I turn 30 a week from Monday, I will still have many days of adventures still left to tell you about. I joked with someone recently that I'll be writing about my 29th year until I'm 40.

Like it or not, though, the end of this adventure is near. But here's hoping that the dream about a trip to the moon means that a new one is just beginning.

Day 264: Traveling Light

One of the first times my sister-in-law Katie traveled out of town with our family was for a weekend-long family reunion in Ohio. She and my brother Jeff were just dating then and flew in from Charleston, South Carolina, where they live. I flew in from Atlanta, and was waiting with my dad in the rental car when my brother called to tell us they had arrived.

I could only hear my dad’s side of the conversation, but after he asked the question, "So you’re waiting at baggage claim?,” I could tell that my brother’s response surprised him, and pleased him greatly. He put the car into drive and began driving towards the airport.

When their phone call was over, my dad put his phone down, looked at me with a little smirk and said, matter-of-factly, "They're already standing outside. Katie didn't check a bag. She carried on." He was beaming all the way to the front doors of the airport and barely put the car in park before jumping out of the driver’s seat to envelop Katie first, then my brother, in a big warm hug.

Now my sister-in-law has a lot of wonderful qualities. A lot. So many, in fact, that her ability to pack for a weekend trip in a single carry-on wouldn't even make the list if I were to ever write one. But clearly the fact that she and my brother had walked off the plane carrying everything they needed for a weekend away in their four hands had impressed my dad so much, he could hardly contain his excitement.

Nor could he contain his own disappointment that his own daughter (me) had checked her (my) bag and had packed close to everything she (I) owned.

In my defense, I was continuing my travels to several other locations after that reunion with my family. I was going to be out of town for a week, so a weekend carry-on was simply not a plausible luggage option. I tried to explain this to my dad, but he was uninterested. He just seemed so elated that finally my brother had met a nice girl who was decisive enough to choose exactly what she needed before she left and low maintenance enough to fit it all into a 22" x 14" x 9" travel bag.

Also in my defense, I only own two pieces of luggage: a duffle bag I take to the gym, and an over sized suitcase on wheels (the same huge suitcase that took me to Palm Springs, Boston, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Panama.)

But it is true, unlike Katie, I consistently over pack for trips. Since I usually put off packing until the very last minute, I'll toss things randomly into a suitcase without a lot of thought, and when the suitcase is full, that is when I know it's time to stop. My affinity for procrastination paired with a natural indecisiveness is a recipe for disaster.

But on Day 264, after a conversation with my dad that involved telling him that I’d likely have to check a bag for my trip to Wilmington (North Carolina, where I was headed) because all I had was my big black suitcase, I pondered for a moment the possibility of me packing everything I needed in a single carry-on.

Doing so would mean changing everything that I am as a person. But simplifying my traveling self, limiting my weekend belongings to one duffle bag that I carried on was Day 264’s thing I’ve never done before.

The whole task was challenging. Packing for the beach in and of itself can be hard between day wear (swimsuits, cover-ups) and night wear (shirts, shorts, sundresses), not to mention the things that I need regardless of how long the trip is (makeup, shoes, jewelry, contact solution). I was limited. I actually had to think about what I was packing and make a case for each item before putting it in the duffle bag. Every time I’d start to put something in there, I’d have to tell myself, “It’s just one weekend, Stephanie; just two days.”

Once I arrived at the beach with my limited wardrobe, though, I felt liberated. There was no fussing about which swimsuit I was going to wear (I only packed two) and no stress over what to wear to dinner each night; I knew exactly what I was going to wear because I had already chosen it ahead of time. I didn’t particularly like lugging my laptop, purse, and carry-on bag through the airport, but not having to wait at baggage claim was quite nice.

And by traveling light, I earned a great big bear hug from my dad when I saw him at the beach, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with him being excited to see me, and less about my luggage.

Regardless, could this mean that I actually am low-maintenance, after all? I guess if I have to ask that question, then the answer is probably no.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 263: Pilataaaaaaaze

When my brother and I played golf with my dad on Day 244, I noticed a new fluidity to my dad's swing that he credits to his new workout regimen that he isn't bashful talking about. He'd swing the club, and if he hit a good shot, he'd look at one of us, nod his head, and say, "Pilataaze."

My dad is a guy's guy, so the fact that he ever agreed to participate in workouts that included yoga and Pilates (or Pilataaze, as he likes to say) is amusing to me.

That he told me, or anyone, that he did is downright shocking.

But he not only tried both in an effort to get fit, strengthen and stretch his back, he credits yoga and Pilates with also improving his golf game and improving his flexibility.

When he first told me he was taking Pilates, I assumed it was the mat classes that I'd taken before, but he said no, he was actually on the real deal machines, with an instructor's help, gliding his way to a stronger core and long, lean muscles. I was envious, and a bit surprised that my dad had tried it before me.

So on Day 263, I took a real Pilates class, on the machine.

I arrived at Intown Pilates and met my instructor, Kathleen. She was everything I wanted in an exercise instructor: young and gorgeous without an ounce of fat on her anywhere. She led me to the room in the back, where there were four Pilates reformer machines, and three other students waiting.

The three other ladies were friends with each other, and also friends with Kathleen. They clearly had done this before, so I was slightly intimidated. Since I'd rocked it in Disco Jazz on Day 262, I was still confident in my abilities.

A Pilates reformer machine looks like it could be a variety of things: a torture device or an oversized sex toy. There is a seat that glides called the carriage, a foot bar, and a spring system used for resistance. There were four springs on my reformer (I'm not sure if that's standard), each color-coded red, blue, yellow, and green.

At the other side, there is a head rest, complete with shoulder blocks and two leather straps or ropes connected to a wooden frame. I told you, this machine is strange and it looks like it is anything but a piece of exercise equipment, and something far more kinky.

Kathleen led the class in a friendly manner, and she was extremely helpful to me, especially in helping change the resistance with the springs. But she announced to the four of us that she was in an exceptionally good mood. I thought this would translate to an easy day, but when Kathleen is feeling upbeat, she likes to take it out on her students.

Most of the time we spent on the reformer, using our own body weight as resistance, gliding back and forth, pulling the leather straps back and forth with our arms and legs. Each movement is deliberate and controlled, engaging the core muscles.

A lot of the exercises we did while lying down, which makes the a case for Pilates being the greatest workout ever. But it's not easy. I learned pretty quickly that just because the movements are slow and there isn't a lot of jumping around, doesn't mean that it's not challenging. I could feel my muscles really elongating.

The only thing negative thing I can say about Pilates, and what might keep me from taking more classes in the future, is the price. The drop-in class that I did was $25. I pay $30 a month for a gym membership, so I don't know if I could swing these classes every week.

But since my Dad is such a fan, maybe when I'm back in South Carolina we can get our Pilataaze on.

P.S. When it comes to fitness, my weeks are four days long. This is where "Fitness Week" ends.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 262: Queen of the Disco

After such a lame at-home dance class on Day 261, I decided I really did want to dance for real. I wanted to take a dance class. In a dance studio. Just to prove to myself that I could still do it, and not just in the context of the spontaneous, sometimes inappropriate dance parties I always throw.

So Day 262's thing I've never done before was to take a Disco Jazz class at Dance 101studios.

I have taken classes at Dance 101 before, but the studio offers so many different styles, I could've knocked out several blog entries in one day just there. I opted for Disco Jazz, Level One. Disco because it just sounded like fun, and who doesn't like disco? Level One because who am I kidding? Despite a class or two here and there, I haven't danced in a dance studio in probably ten years and I didn't want to make a fool of myself.

Plus, I've spent the last year being the worst participant in whatever I was doing (rock climbing, anyone?). I was hoping that if I aimed low with a Level One class, then maybe for one of first times this year, maybe I'd have a chance to be one of the best.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the class was secure a dance space in the back. The second thing I did was check out all of the other students in the class. Part of me, admittedly, was sizing them up, assessing their dance abilities based on their physique and attire.

But most of me was genuinely curious about what kinds of other people were attracted to a class called, "Disco Jazz." As you might imagine, it was a mixed bag. Lots of young people (I'm including myself in that category), some middle-aged moms, and at least one woman in her 60's or 70's wearing shiny leggings and a leotard. She looked like she hadn't eaten since Disco was popular, which made me sad. What made me happy was her over-processed, teased hair and full face of makeup complete with red lipstick. I appreciated that she was there, decades older than most of the others in the class, letting her hair down and helping to keep disco alive.

Bubba, our teacher, sauntered out to the middle of the dance floor and explained how the class was going to go. I was surprised that his name was Bubba, as nothing about him, except for his thick Alabama accent, fit that name. He was fabulously flamboyant and hysterically funny without meaning to be. Bubba, I later learned, is the Artistic Director of Dance 101, and has an impressive dance resume which includes choreography and performing gigs with Cher and Prince, just to name a couple. I loved him.

Bubba started us off with a warm-up and then instructed us to move to one side of the room so that we could, "go across he floor." I had to laugh, as, "going across the floor," has been, at different times in my life, my least favorite and my most favorite about the dance classes I've taken over the years. When I was younger, I hated going across the floor and hated people watching what I was doing for fear that I looked ridiculous and that they would make fun of me. Once I got better and more confident with myself and the other girls I danced with, "going across the floor," was the most fun exercise ever, the source of much laughter and immense joy. This time, I felt a little apprehensive, but definitely enjoyed myself, only wishing that my old dance buddies were there with me.

After we moved across the floor, Bubba moved us back to the center where he began teaching a combination, or a mini-dance routine. The moves were simple, but a lot of fun.

He was moving along with his instruction, and then he paused. He sort of stood there with a mischievous look on his face and then he turned around to face the class.

"I'm hesitating on this next move because it's just so . . . so gay," he said. And then he paused, grinned, looked at all of us in the mirror and said, "Eh, who cares? This is disco!"

And then smiling all the way, Bubba taught us a move straight out of Saturday Night Fever. It's hard for me to describe it, but the move is heavy on the arm movement. Left arm out, right arm does this kind of swing around pumping thing. Like I said, I can't really describe it, but I loved the move so much, I have now incorporated into my dance repertoire, and I cannot perform the move without smiling. I've since showed several of my friends, including Katy, who asks to see it often. I even showed it to FF, who seemed more amused than weirded out, which was a relief, as I'm sure it so easily could have gone another way. If you'd like to see the move, just ask me. I'll gladly show it to you.

The class went by really quickly. Bubba taught fast, much faster than I would've thought for a beginner class. I suspect this was because he wanted to give us plenty of time to do the routine with the music. Once he turned it on, I understood why. The song was so much fun, and the class made It was so much fun. There was such a sense of camaraderie among the other dancers and me. None of us were trying to secure a spot on the front row, or battling for a solo; we weren't even rehearsing for a performance or a recital. This class was all about the childhood fun of dance that I remember, minus the stress of getting it perfect every single time.

But make no mistake, I came to prove that I've still got it. And I did just that. I mean, I wasn't busting out switch leaps or triple pirouettes or anything, but I nailed these moves just like I did in the 1990's.

Oh, and who said disco died? In Atlanta, thanks to Bubba, disco is alive and well!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 261: Not So All-Star Workouts

Day 261's thing I've never done before was to complete an exercise class on Fit TV from start to finish.

The class was All Star Workouts. I'd seen it advertised as a class with the, "hottest teachers," teaching, "cutting-edge dance moves." The peppy people in the commercials made the classes look exciting and energetic. I expected the instructors to be one of Justin Timberlake or Madonna's back-up dancers, and that I'd be learning some hot new routine that had never been seen before.

Instead, the class was ballet fundamentals.

It was boring. I barely broke a sweat.

But I can honestly say, I did the whole class without stopping. I exercised through the commercial breaks and even completed the stretch at the end. Which is far more than I had ever done before on an at-home workout.

Fitness week was off to a solid start.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 260: Blast 900

Day 260 kicked off Fitness Week on the blog.

The first stop on the workout train was Blast 900, a treadmill class that uses, "unique interval-based training," to, "shock" the body. Circuit training meets boot camp.

The class also claims to burn 900 calories in one hour.

900 Calories in one hour?!

Count me in.

When I watched a demonstration video on Blast 900's website, I was impressed with the workout, but knew it wasn't going to be easy. I had a feeling Blast 900 was intended for more intense exercisers than me. Kyle told me she once threw up in the class it was so hard. Then I met one of the class instructors at a party; she was ripped, and she placed 2nd in the Atlanta ING Marathon.

There's a reason why Blast 900 burns so many calories. Because it's really freaking hard.

Still, I enjoy working out and I'm in pretty good shape, and I needed a change, so I recruited Kyle to return and made Day 260's thing I've never done before to take a Blast 900 class.

Kyle had explained to me the general concept of the class, but also said every class is different and varies with each instructor. Our instructor was very nice, and looked like Eddie Citibran, the guy who cheated on his wife with country singer Lee Ann Rimes.

He started the class with half of his students on the treadmills up against the back wall, and half us on the floor. The first interval was ten minutes. Kyle and I started on the floor, doing ten minutes of work on a bosu ball doing squats, lunges, and various arm exercises. She and I agreed after the class that we hate bosu balls. I understand their purpose, but they make me feel uncoordinated and nervous. Like at any moment I could fall and break my neck.

After our work on the floor, we climbed aboard the treadmill for ten minutes of walking, jogging and full on sprinting at various inclines.

The next interval was five minutes. More floor work, this time with an exercise ball filled with sand, which at first I thought was really cool. After doing arm curls while holding the ball and then throwing it up to catch it, the sand-filled ball became less cool, and more heavy and painful.

I assumed that the sprinting portion of the treadmill interval would be the part of the class that I hated the most, and what I would have the most difficult time with. The good thing about intervals, though, is they don't last that long. I can do anything for five minutes, even if it is terrible. And much to my surprise, the interval walking at a 10 percent incline turned out to be far more difficult than sprinting.

Going back and forth between the floor work and the treadmill was challenging in a, "my legs feel like jell-o, they feel unattached from the rest of me, but I must keep going," kind of way.

During one of the treadmill intervals I looked around to see several signs on the wall with various inspirational quotes.

They all seemed rather intense which fit with the intensity of the workout, but still made me laugh. My favorite, and the one that seemed to best apply to me was, "Pain is Temporary. Quitting is Forever."

I joked with Kyle that I had felt like giving up and quitting, but thanks to those inspirational words on the wall, I decided I'd keep going instead.

A few more intervals and the class ended with a long stretch.

I was sweaty. My face was red. I was tired.

The class delivered on the promise that it did shock my body and was completely different than any other exercise class I've ever taken.

I will be back. I'm no quitter.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 259: Runaway Fan

I didn’t have the heart to mention in with Day 258, but the super cool, totally Euro World Cup party eventually turned into Kyle's Craft Hour late night after we (she, Elizabeth, Momo and I) realized there was still a great deal that needed to be done ahead of the baby shower we were hosting for Trish the next day.

See how this blog sometimes builds on itself? I worked on crafts at Day 258’s World Cup party for Trish’s baby shower on Day 259. That shower was for Baby Will, who I just saw in 3D at Trish’s sonogram on Day 257. Get it?

Kyle set up an assembly line on her dining room table and we went to work on these beautiful crafts that she had envisioned for the shower. Menu cards tied with ribbon, mason jars full of cookie ingredients, a wish book. There was a lot of cutting, a lot of tying, a lot of me trying to make exact replicas of Kyle's prototypes and failing miserably.

True, I had never gone to such great lengths for a shower before, but that's not what Day 259's thing I've never done was. I'm simply telling you about the crafts to make the point that this baby shower was No. Joke. Southern Living would have been impressed.

And though I technically was a "host," of this party, I am ashamed that because I lack the creative prowess of others, my responsibilities for the shower were limited to cut-outs of the name, “W-I-L-L,” that hung from a clothes line full of other baby clothes.

Kyle, Momo, Elizabeth, Chrissy, Heather, on the other hand, they pulled out all of the stops. This shower was top notch.

But all of the creative touches and hard work could've been for nothing as we all watched the shower come to an abrupt, potentially fatal, halt.

What happened was not what I could've predicted when I arrived at Basil's, a quaint Buckhead bistro where the shower was held, an hour before the party was supposed to start. I was the first one there, a fact I'd like to shout loud and proud because seldom am I the first one to arrive anywhere.

Guests trickled in, all impressed with how gorgeous everything looked. Trish was blown away, touched at the outpouring of love from her friends and probably still in disbelief that in a few short hours, she would become the owner of items with names like binkies and booties.

Day 259 was a hot day. By the time everyone arrived, we were all sweating, nearly melting. Thankfully, the staff at Basil's set up our table in the shade and right under an overhead ceiling fan. We took our seats and brunch was served.

Eating at Basil's was a first for me, and I was not disappointed. I thought the food was great, and the service was friendly. Despite the heat, everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Everything was going along as planned, when out of nowhere . . . BANG! Everyone at our table, and likely other tables, gasped and screamed. It sounded like a gunshot went off.

Only it wasn't a gun that we heard, but instead, one of the blades of the ceiling fan we had been so thankful for had broken loose and propelled through the air to land mere feet from our mother-to-be.

Maybe I'm reaching here, but this little experience was Day 259's thing I'd never done before. My first meal at Basil's, followed by almost getting killed by an active ceiling fan.

The manager frantically ran over to the table where we were sitting.

"Did any of the pregnant women get hurt?!," the owner said.

An understandable question, as I'm sure beheading any pregnant woman is not the best way to get chosen as Basil's "Employee of the Month." But is it wrong that in addition to the pregnant women, I was also concerned about myself and the women who weren't pregnant at all?

Not to mention, he's standing over us asking us if we're okay and the fan is still turned on, ready to shed another blade at any moment while we looked on with horror as it dipped and swayed in the stagnant air.

For the next minute and a half, all of the servers fumbled over themselves, trying to make sure we were okay, making sure the fan was turned off. And then turning it back on. And then off. It was a scene. I tried to just keep my head down and go back to eating but the little episode killed my appetite.

Brunch was over. Time for gifts.

The rest of the party went on without any more drama. I had to chuckle that all of this work for this beautiful shower, and it all could've ended tragically with one faulty fan.

Thankfully, though, it seemed the Crafty Gods were looking out for us.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 258: Goooaaaaaaal (or is it Goooooooal?)

The 2010 World Cup soccer tournament kicked off on Day 257 and I, like most of the country except for my boss Paul who hates soccer/football, was super excited to cheer on the USA.

Why all of the excitement over a sport I no next to nothing about and barely follow any other time in my life except during the World Cup?

I don't know. Because everyone else was. And it felt like the right thing to do. And soccer players are hot. I think that's reason enough.

Day 258's thing I've never done before was to attend a World Cup viewing party, England vs. USA, at Kyle and Greg's house.

This day's, "thing I've never done before," was certainly less about this particular day, and more about this day's representation of a several weeks-long obsession with this sport and everything having to do with the World Cup.

I didn't just watch the games (or it matches?) with all of the gusto of a lifetime fan, I immersed myself in soccer. One of my favorite blogs, Stuff White People Like, said that I probably like the World Cup because it allows me to, even if just for a few weeks, pretend that I'm European so that I can drink at strange times during the day. I can't deny either of those things.

But here are my own observations as a new World Cup fan:

1. Vuvuzelas are annoying. Probably equally as annoying as a bourbon-drunk Georgia fan singing, "Who's that coming down the track," but still super annoying. There, I said it.

2. The red card/yellow card system is so perfectly passive aggressive, I may incorporate it into my communication with everyone.

Yellow card = you've hurt my feelings
Red Card = you've REALLY hurt my feelings

3. The endless conversation about why soccer has never "caught on" and become a mainstream sport in the United States is perhaps why soccer has never become a mainstream sport in the United States. Play hard to get and maybe the people will come around. If they don't, it's best to just move on to countries and people who love you. Like Slovenia. Where the hell is Slovenia?

4. Never has ending in a tie felt so good. I love soccer!

The party was fun and not unlike any other sports watching party I'd ever been to, minus about 80 percent of us not completely understanding what we were watching. I managed to take the momentum from Greg's and carry it over to several weeks of World Cup watching, forcing my productivity, along with all of my colleagues minus Paul, to hit record lows when the USA was playing. And thanks to my own research and asking countless questions from any current or former soccer player (Greg, Andrew, Chas, Ben, FF), I think I started getting the hang of it, just in time for the USA to get eliminated.

But it was a fun ride while it lasted, and I can't wait to do it again in four years (or maybe sooner if I can figure out how to watch soccer in the USA when it's not the World Cup).

Let's take a moment, though, to remember this highlight:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 257: She's Having a Baby!

In December, my friend Trish announced she and her husband Mark were expecting their first child in August.

It was awesome news and I was ecstatic for them, and selfishly excited for myself that after years of being a long distance aunt to some of my other friends' kids, this was my chance to be an in-town aunt. I wanted to be a part of the experience from start to finish.

Pregnancy and babies also opens up a whole world of possibilities for a blogger like me trying to do new things. I decided to test the waters and asked Trish one day, over the phone, "Would you care if I came with you to a sonogram, or did something with the baby, for the blog?"

Truthfully, I don't completely remember her response (it was a long time ago), but I remember not being able to read her reaction. We were on the phone, which can be tricky, and for all I knew, she could be rolling her eyes, shaking her head no, or completely checked out of the conversation entirely. She never really said, "No," but she never said, "Yes," either.

"Think about it," I said, "Talk to Mark, see what he thinks. It's not a big deal either way, just an idea."

At first I was somewhat surprised that she didn't immediately say, "Sure!," since Trish is one of my least modest friends, and she and I are really close. But the more I considered my own request, the more I felt badly for even asking.

If someone asked me if they could "tag along" with me to the gynecologist, friend or not, I would have emphatically responded, "Hell no. Absolutely not. Not a chance."

Even if it was for a blog, or for a million dollars, whatever, doesn't matter, I would have said, "Sorry, I don't think so."

And this is a baby we're talking about here. These doctor's appointments are important; they are special. We're not just checking on things downstairs to make sure everything is working properly. At these appointments, we're checking on a living person growing inside of another living person.

So when Trish didn't respond right away, I thought that maybe she felt like I'd crossed the line on our friendship and really put her on the spot, which I did. So I dropped it, feeling embarrassed and bad for having put her in that position. And for several months, we never talked about it again.

And then randomly, I got an email from Trish, telling me that she and Mark's 3-D sonogram was scheduled for Day 257, if I'd like to still come for the blog.

"I'll be there," I told her, trying not to sound overeager, even though I was jumping out of my skin excited to make Day 257's thing I've never done before to see a live sonogram.

I was the first to arrive at Stork Vision, where the sonogram was going to be taken. I told the receptionist, who (hopefully) could tell that I wasn't pregnant, that I was here for my friend Trish. I wondered if he thought that I was some sort of weird friend who was obsessed with babies.

Trish's parents, who I know very well, arrived next, bring the count of non-pregnant people in the waiting room to three. (The number of pregnant people was still zero.) Upon seeing them, I immediately felt guilty for barging into this very special family experience.

"I hope you guys don't mind that I invited myself to this family event," I said sheepishly.

Trish's dad, Roger, grabbed my shoulders, smiled and said, "Gallman, you ARE family." And then he gave me a big hug.

While we waited for Trish and Mark to arrive, we flipped through pictures of other babies who already had their 3-D sonogram pictures taken at Stork Vision.

Several things surprised me before we even got started with the sonogram. First, Stork Vision is in no way affiliated with Trish's doctor, or any doctor at all that I could tell. They are an outside company who make their money from curious families who want to see their still-cooking babies before they arrive. 3-D sonograms are not medically necessary, and Trish told me a lot of families elect not to do them at all.

The sonogram technician led us back to the examining room, which looked more like a living room set up for a sporting event. A couch, a love seat, and a huge flat screen TV. The only thing missing were snacks and beer.

"Have a seat," she told us, and we did.

Trish, now completely familiar with sonograms and exactly what to do when getting one, climbed up on the examining table in the corner of the room and laid down on the table.

She announced to the sonogram tech, and to us, that she drank a lot of water that afternoon. Apparently liquid helps the baby move around and makes him easier to see.

Well it must've worked, because after a few trips across Trish's belly with the scanning wand (that's what it's called, I looked it up), the technician found Baby Will.

Soon after she found him, we all saw him, right there on the big screen. I couldn't believe it.

I mean, yes, that's what we came to see, and I fully expected to catch a glimpse of the little bambino, but I just didn't expect to see him so well. And so quickly. The bottoms of his feet (which spent most of the day kicking Trish during her third trimester), his perfect spine, and his delicate chin resting on his little hand as if he was contemplating something super important.

We stared at his little face for a while. I marveled at his bow-like mouth and decided that I thought he looked like Mark, but with Trish's nose. And much to the delight of everyone, the sonogram technician pointed out that Will had hair.

She moved the wand again, pressing firmly on Trish's belly and settled in one place. I squinted my eyes, but couldn't really tell what I was looking at. I didn't have to wait long for the tech to tell me.

"And Dad, Grandpa, that's his penis," she said, "And there are his testicles."

"Wow," Mr. Wise said with all the earnestness of a proud grandfather. His response was so honest; his timing, impeccable. We all laughed loudly.

No surprise, she stayed on the penis for a while.

Later Grandpa Roger said that based on what he saw, "That little William is going to be one popular boy." I was loving it. I don't know what I loved more, the fact that I could see what Trish's baby looked like, or the family commentary going on in the background.

After a while, Trish lifted her head off the pillow. She said she looked at me because she was concerned that I hadn't said a word since the sonogram started. All she could see was my mouth. And it was wide open.

I was truly amazed. Stunned into silence.

"I'm in shock," I admitted. "This is most insane thing I've ever seen. I mean, you can see what he looks like!"

Trish and her family agreed at the awesomeness, and in case registering for gifts like a Boppy, a Diaper Genie, and an Exersaucer hadn't done the trick, seeing their child's precious face on a flat screen made all real. Really real.

"Babe, we're gonna have a baby," Trish said to Mark.

Indeed, you are Trish, and he's a cute one too. I know, because I saw him. I freaking saw him on a television screen!

William James was born August 17, 2010, weighing in at a healthy 8.8 pounds, meaning I did not reach my goal to post this blog before he was born. No surprise, he's even cuter in person than he is on TV.

Day 256: Military Shower

On Day 256, after a nice long workout, I took a military shower as the thing I'd never done before.

A military shower is simply turning off the water while soaping, shampooing, shaving, etc. Environmentalists encourage individuals to take military showers to save water. According to Brighter Planet website, taking a shower this way could cut water usage during a shower from 17 gallons to five gallons.

Who knew taking a regular shower required 17 gallons of water? Shocking!

I hopped in the shower, turned the water on and off while taking care of all of my shower chores. I wet my hair, then turned the water off. Shampooed, then turned the water on. Water off for the conditioner, on again to rinse. It was a little chilly when the water wasn't on, and I definitely didn't want to stay in there and hang out. But after a few minutes, I was clean and my shower was over.

Since I tried the military shower in the summertime, I wasn't ever terribly uncomfortable. I probably won't be enjoying military showers in the winter, however, since my apartment feels like an igloo and standing under hot water is one of my favorite wintertime activities.

I have no idea if people in the military are required to shower in this fashion, or if because they're thrown into one big room all together they choose to shower this way so they can get the hell out of there. Regardless, military showers are an easy way to conserve water, and I will definitely take one again.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 255: Everyone Deserves Music

Day 255's thing I'd never done before was to see Blitzen Trapper and the Moondoggies at the Variety Playhouse.

That FF invited me to the concert was a relief on many levels. I said, "Yes," immediately, pleased that seeing live music was on his list of "likes."

We hadn't yet had the inevitable, "Defining your relationship with Nickelback," conversation either, and so I still wasn't sure if I was willing to take this relationship any further. His invitation to a concert gave me a perfect segue to talk about music.

Plus, I'd tapped into the fact that he was willing to leave his own neighborhood for the wilder side that is Little 5 Points, a trait that some of the other guys I've dated haven't always been so willing to do.

Before we went to the concert, I did some investigating on the band, and discovered that they're really cool.

So cool, in fact, that I wasn't the only person I knew with plans to see them that night. I ran into several friends, including my ex-boyfriend, that I hadn't expected to see. My complete shock and subsequent anxiety about these sightings was, now that I think about it, ridiculous. My friends like live music; of course they would be there! But still, I usually wait until much later for my world's collide, but here they were colliding, without my control, right at the Variety Playhouse.

I handled this unexpected run-in with all the grace and class of a bull in a china shop, vigorously drinking canned Pabst Blue Ribbons to quell my nerves and making hasty introductions and even hastier conversations with wild hand motions for the next couple of hours.

I later apologized to FF and explained why I was acting weirdly. He shrugged it off, and added, "Oh I wondered why it looked like you ran full speed into a screen door when we approached the stage."

Like I said, graceful.

But at least the bands were great. They really were. I think.

Day 254: Making Sandwiches, Helping People

After I returned from my volunteer experience in Nashville, I decided I needed to make community service a bigger part of this blog experience and a bigger part of my life in general.

So I registered on the website "Hands on Atlanta," where I was able to connect to a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities in my community. After a few minutes on the site, I signed up at Kashi Atlanta to make sandwiches and assemble lunches for the homeless as Day 254's thing I've never done before.

I left work that day feeling differently than I normally do, like I had a purpose. I was excited for the project, and I had a spring in my step. Once again, doing something for someone else was already making me feel good.

I arrived at Kashi, which looked like a house in Candler Park, and checked in at the front desk. I noticed that to my right there was a glass door where I could see that a yoga class was in progress.

Though admittedly I'd signed up for the service project unaware of what Kashi was, seeing the yoga class completely confused me. I have since learned that Kashi Atlanta is an Urban Yoga Ashram. They consider themselves a center for yoga, service, and community.

The receptionist told me to head downstairs and when I arrived there, I could see that there were already several people at the end of the table making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread.

The team leader, Allison, introduced herself and told me where to go. My job was to put the sandwiches into a plastic baggie, and then put them into a paper lunch bag with a napkin before sending them down the line to the next station. There, a woman and her 3-year old son stood to add a package of crackers, a cookie or some other dessert, and a boxed fruit drink to the bag.

These lunches, I thought, were much like the lunches my mother used to pack for me in elementary school.

The speed of the sandwich making was a bit intimidating. The volunteers already in place were moving quickly as if the ingredients would spoil if we didn't get them out immediately. I felt like stopping to ask the others if we were in some sort of race that I didn't know about.

Personally, I would've liked for the volunteers on sandwich making duty to slow it down a bit, even if that meant slowing down the assembly line completely. I mean, the guy next to me was just plopping grape jelly on the bread in spoonfuls, not even taking time to spread it all over the bread.

Then he would slap the jelly bread together with the peanut butter bread and tossed the finished sandwich into a pile. The result was a sticky mess all over the table, and sad looking sandwiches.

"Take it easy," I wanted to tell him. "The people are homeless. They're not animals."

Allison moved around the table as we worked and replenished supplies when we got low. She was an excellent team leader and as volunteers arrived to help, she'd welcome them in and told them exactly where help was needed. I was concerned that we might've reached a point of having too many hands in the project, but she was appreciative of all the help she could get. Allison was organized, but also cheerful and laid back; her job suited her well.

I asked her what would happen with the sandwiches after we left and she explained to me that a team of volunteers would come by the following morning and deliver them to one of the shelters downtown. If there were any leftover, volunteers spread out into the city and hand deliver the lunches to those they think might need it.

By the time we ran out of supplies, there were more than 20 volunteers there, all helping to assemble the lunch bags and get them ready for the next day's delivery. We agreed we were a good team who worked well together.

Among them were several Georgia Tech students from a collegiate service club. One of them took pictures of us at work. I gave the photographer my business card and asked if he would mind sending me pictures of the event, for the blog. He and I have exchanged a few emails, but I never got any pictures of my team.

Which is a shame, because like all of the projects I've completed for the blog, this was definitely one of my favorites and certainly one of the more rewarding variety.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 253: Simple. Delicious. Fried.

A last minute, going-away pot luck at work scheduled for Day 254 meant Day 253's thing I'd never done was going to involve making a food I’d never made before.

I considered a dessert, but didn’t really want to go to the store. I wanted to make something happen without leaving my house. I looked in my fridge and cabinets and only found orange juice, ketchup and tortillas.

For the record, I'd like to point out if my mother found these same items in her cabinets, she would've been able to pull off a five-course meal. Her ability to make a meal out of nothing is not one of the traits I inherited from her, unfortunately.

For me, not having many options is a good thing. And on Day 253, as the thing I've never done before, I used what I already had to make homemade tortilla chips.

I filled a stockpot (I think this is what it's called, I had to consult the Bed, Bath and Beyond website on this one) with oil and let it heat up. I cut the tortillas and when the oil was hot, dropped them in one at a time.

The tortillas cooked happily on the top of the oil, and after a few minutes on each side, I removed them and put them on a paper towel, salting them immediately. Done. Easy.

There is a reason why chips taste good and it simple: Because they are cooked in oil and covered in salt.

There is also a reason why I won't be making my own chips at home very often and that's because it made my house smell like McDonald's.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 252: Free Parking, Free Rice

Because I was so concerned making my recycled bridesmaids dress look like something other than a bridesmaids dress, I was almost late to Dan and Karen's wedding on Day 251. When I pulled into the Decatur Square, I found the first open spot I could find, and quickly parked my car.

The sign in front of the space read, "15 Minute Parking." My thinking was that I'd run into the wedding, then run out and move my car before the reception. If I know Dan, his wedding ceremony wasn't lasting much longer than 15 minutes.

As I started to leave, I told my friends where I was going and they all told me to stop. "Where are you going to move your car?," they asked. I didn't know, but certainly I couldn't leave it there.

Or could I?

"Don't move it," they all said, explaining that any ticket I might get would be cheaper than paying to park.

That reasoning seemed logical at the time, and I really didn’t want to leave the party to move my car, so I did as they suggested.

When I went back the next day to pick up my car, I imagined it might be covered in tickets, maybe even a boot, hell, it could’ve been towed for all I knew! But when Philip took a right into the Decatur loop right past the courthouse, I was delighted to see that my car was still there, ticket-free.

This story has nothing to do with things I've never done before. As someone who abhors paying for parking, though, I was elated that my 15 minute parking space yielded more than 16 hours of free parking. The city of Decatur rules.

After Philip and I grabbed lunch at the Brick Store, I returned to my house to do more lounging, because other than eating, that's all I really felt like doing. I was horizontal for most of the day, not thinking of doing something I’d never done before until it was almost too late.

I Googled, “stuff to do when you’re bored,” hoping that I could find something to do that I'd never done before. Sure enough, I found something. Thank you, Internet!

Day 252’s thing I’ve never done before was to contribute several pounds of rice to those in need via is a non-profit website that hosts word games anyone can play. For every correct answer, the organization donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger.

Educational, philanthropic, and easy. The ultimate blog activity trifecta.

Playing was easy, but the words were hard. Or maybe I'm just an idiot.

Festal means:


Festal = joyous (I got this one wrong)

Currish means:


Currish = snarling (Correct!)

conscript = draftee, numismatist = coin collector, Muhajara = prince, wail = lament, forsake = abandon, amulet = magic charm

I played for a while, taking frequent breaks to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, likely offsetting any educational benefit I could've gained.

But I've visited this website often since that day and continue learning words I'll never be able to use in conversation. And I've donated more than ten pounds of rice to those who really need it. is a winner.