Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I am at a weird place with Project 29 to 30.

On one hand, I am super stoked to tell you how my year ended and all about my big birthday weekend and how I had several mini-breakdowns on my way to turning 30.

On the other, a month into being 30 years old, all I can think about lately is where I was a year ago at this time. Back when I was energized about being a mere 29 and ready to tackle new things everyday. I'm not really a huge Halloween fan, but thinking about last year's trip to the Haunted House and making pumpkin pie and my Festival 8 trip to Palm Springs and San Francisco and Boston has made me insanely nostalgic. I'm sure it's nothing more than wishing I was headed out of town for a two week whirlwind trip of music and adventure instead of going to Columbia for the night to hang out with my parents (though they are awesome too).

I told Katy recently that I wondered if I was stalling on writing the blog because maybe I'm subconciously trying to keep the blog going forever.

"What if," I tearfully asked her, "This past year is the most interesting thing that I ever do?"

She comforted me kindly and assured me that there was no way that would ever be the case. Project 29 to 30 was merely the kickoff to a whole new realm of possibilities, she said with certainty. If that's true, then, I wonder why I am so hung up with where I was a year ago?

I don't know why, I just feel strange.

So for those of you who have been here since the beginning, and for those of you just joining us, won't you humor me for a moment and go back a year to enjoy the days leading up to Halloween last year?

You won't regret it. I promise.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 288: Not So Modern Fan

After completely dominating the Disco Jazz class at Dance 101 on Day 262, I made a vow to get back into the dance studio more often.

And on Day 288, I did, making that day's thing I've never done before was to take a Modern dance class.

Actually the name of the class was, "Liquid Motion," but once I arrived at the class and saw everyone taking their shoes off, I realized that they may have named it something clever, but it was still Modern.

I should've known, based on the description on the website: Liquid Motion is a contemporary movement class that teaches the dancer technique and physicality while executing with great flow. This class is a creative and positive environment that allows the dancer to move through the space with a liquid quality and achieve a great workout.

That's a lot of words to describe a dance class that was all over the place. The warm-up was honestly the only time that I felt like I knew what I was doing, and unfortunately for me, it only lasted 10 minutes.

"Suck in your ab-damn-inals, everyone," the teacher shouted to us. Everyone laughed.

She said it several times, encouraging us to get the best cardio benefit from the class by strengthening our cores. Her intent was serious, but the way she said, "abdominals," was humorous, and all of the dancers in the class laughed. Thank goodness for her comic relief during the warm-up, because that was the only time I laughed during the entire class.

Modern is, by definition, a more abstract, more free-flowing genre of dance. A lot of dancers like it because it's very free and emotionally driven. Moving to the beats of the music as opposed to specific counts is key. While I enjoy watching this kind of dance (usually performances are extremely moving and powerful), I felt strange while taking this class.

I fear that in dance, as in life, I'm in need of a little more structure, and more direction.

I know, I know, it pains me and surprises me to write this about myself as much as it probably does for you to read it. I am as spontaneous, fun-loving, and laid-back as they come and I certainly don't always follow the rules. But I need to know what the rules are. Or in the case of a dance class, what the counts are.

The instructor would just sort of tell us what we were supposed to do while she was doing it herself, but there wasn't a whole lot of direction. We were forced to simply watch her, and then copy. I don't want to be needy and require this much step-by-step instruction, but this was not what I had in mind.

I prefer a class more along the lines of, "Put you hand on your hip on the first count and then in the air on the second count. Walk towards the mirror on counts three and four, then shake your hips on five and six. On seven, kick your right leg and on eight step down." There is a good chance that I'll ignore that instruction completely, or do the wrong thing on the wrong count, but at least I'll know where I stand.

I'm not sure I like this need-for-rules quality about myself, and I'm still sorting through what it exactly means outside the walls of a dance studio, but it was a significant revelation nonetheless.

Dancing, regardless of its form, always brings me joy, so while I struggled in this class, I would've rather been there than anywhere else. But next time, I'm going to try and pay closer attention to those class descriptions.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 287: They're Just O.K.

Day 287's thing I've never done before was to make the black bean burgers I intended to make on Day 283 but never did because I abandoned my grocery cart in Kroger.

The diner where I work makes really good black bean burgers and when I noticed I'd eaten them three different times in one week, I started to wonder if I could make a comparable burger at home. So I went to the Food Network website to get a recipe, went to the store, and made them.

(Disappointing sigh.)

They were just okay. I mean, I followed the recipe, I made black bean burgers. And they weren't terrible, but overall, I was unimpressed.

Perhaps my inability to execute the task on Day 283 had nothing to do with my needing to leave the store early; maybe it was the universe's way of saying, "Don't make this recipe because it's really not that good."

I think I'm going to let the ladies at the diner make my black bean burgers from now on, unless someone can give me another black bean recipe?

Day 286: Take Me to the Drive-In

When I think of the drive-in, I always think about the scene from the movie Grease when Sandy and Danny get into a fight after he tries to cop a feel after giving him her class ring in the front seat of his car. When I think about Grease, I think about my best childhood friend Danielle and I watching the movie on repeat one summer and memorizing every sexually overt lyric and every suggestive dance move to all the songs in the film.

Our parents never seemed to be bothered by the fact that we performed Grease concerts daily that summer, mimicking the characters in the film. I guess something about it taking place in the 1950's when everyone wore poodle skirts made inappropriate songs seem more okay?

Anyway, that scene with Sandy and Danny is always what I thought of when I thought of a drive-in--teenaged boys in letterman jackets and girls in bobby socks "necking" in the back of '57 Chevys. I assumed that the drive-in was something that like sock-hops, had gone away over time. But thanks to Starlight Six Drive-In on Moreland Avenue, I learned that the drive-in is still very much alive and well.

Day 286's thing I've never done before was to channel my inner-Pink Lady, and go to a movie at the drive-in.

I knew ahead of time that my drive-in experience was not going to be like the scene in Grease. First of all, this was a group outing, so nobody was trying to get "fresh" with each other, at least not as far as I could tell. I mean, there were married couples there, so I suppose it's possible, but my friends Amy and Jeff had just completed a three-week cross country tour in a camper, so I think they were looking for some outside conversation, and since Emily and Scott had asked me to ride with them, I'm pretty sure they weren't looking to score either. At least I don't think.

Not to mention, unlike the drive-in movies that I'd imagined, at this drive-in, we actually got out of the car to enjoy the movie. Most people around us did too.

And for this group, the drive-in was more like a cook out, in an enormous parking lot, with dozens of strangers, where there just so happened to be movie playing on a big screen.

So, yeah, not very Grease-like at all. But I was pumped, excited to be doing something different on a Saturday night, and very much looking forward to making my own drive-in experience.

We went to the grocery store ahead of time in search of our bounty, which included chicken breasts, bagged salad, and ingredients to make cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon.

Yes, you read that correctly. We (well, not me, but others) decided to cook chicken and bacon wrapped stuffed peppers on a homemade grill. In the parking lot. Of the drive-in. I marveled at my movie team's enthusiasm and decided that I, once again, have picked the right people to hang out with. I still can't decide if I am a lazy person, or if I have the most ambitious friends ever, but regardless, once again, the company I chose worked strongly in my favor.

Had it been left up to me, we would've simply picked up sandwiches from a deli, and 40 oz. beers from a gas station, and been on our way. But if my super ambitious friends want to make a hot meal (appetizers included) on the grill and drink summer specialty brews, I have no choice but to support them.

I assumed, incorrectly again, that the drive-in would show one film and we were at the mercy of whatever they were playing. But on the way there, I found out that not only do they have six screens to choose from (get it, Starlight Six?), they also show two movies on each screen back to back. So for $7 a piece, we could drive our own cars, park directly in front, grill our own food, drink our own drinks (alcohol included) and see two movies in a row. Starlight Six Drive-in, then, has to be one of the best entertainment values in town.

We pulled our cars in when it was still light outside and immediately the boys started getting to work assembling the grill (a disposable aluminum lasagna plate and a brought-from-home grill grate). Jeff began marinating the chicken, while Scott stuffed the peppers and wrapped them with bacon, securing them with a toothpick. Amy and Emily and I took a step back and let them do their thing. We looked at pictures from Amy and Jeff's cross-country adventure and sipped on brews.

The crowd at the drive-in was extremely diverse. All ages, races, socio-economic statuses were represented. What seemed clear, and would remain pretty clear throughout both movie viewings, was that the tailgating and fellowship aspect of the drive-in was far more important than watching the film. This is probably why people talked throughout the movie and were constantly driving in and driving out while the films were in progress, sometimes driving right underneath the screen. We even had friends show up midway through the first movie, casually walking up to our cars with a cooler. When you're outside, under the stars, with your own food on the grill, the drive-in becomes more about that, and less about the cinematic experience.

Not a problem for me, especially when the films we opted to see were the animated film Despicable Me and The A-Team. In our defense, there weren't a lot of great options out there at the time. But these were great for the drive-in. They were both entertaining, and not in need of serious attention.

When the sun had started to set, Scott and Jeff fired up the grill, and began to cook our feast, starting first with the stuffed peppers. I was impressed that he attempted such an aggressive hordeourve, not so impressed with the peppers taking so long. I don't think that any of us really knew how much time grilling on a homemade grill would take. And before we knew it, before our meal was entirely cooked, the sun had set.

One thing that is funny (or scary depending on how you look at it) about grilling our own food at the drive-in is that once the sun went down, despite the glow of the movie on the screen, we were unable to really see what we were eating, and therefore couldn't really tell whether or not it was fully cooked. We basically threw caution to the wind and went for it, convincing ourselves that as long as it looked, and tasted done, we were fine. And we were, though I'm not sure cooking and eating this way is the safest way to go.

We all settled in with our plates full of delicious food and settled in for our first film, Pixar's Despicable Me, about a supervillian (Steve Carrell) who changes his ways after becoming an unlikely dad to three young girls. I loved it. So funny, so cute and sweet. I may have cried. No, I definitely cried.

I honestly thought (and secretly hoped) that after the first movie, we would do what a lot of other cars were doing around us, and leave. But it became pretty clear that no one was going anywhere; they were all excited about watching the A-Team. So I sat back down in my chair and got ready for another feature film.

I'm not sure if it was the hearty meal, or if I was tired from the icing the night before, or The A-Team is just a really bad movie, but I had a hard time staying awake to tell you what it's really about. I may have dozed off in my beach chair several times. Again, not very Grease-like and the farthest thing from cool that I can think of-falling asleep at the drive-in?

But don't let my inability to stay awake fool you. The drive-in is a blast, and such a different, fun way to go to the movies. I will be back.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 285: What Goes Around, Comes Around

After seeing Bronson get iced on Day 280, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would attempt to ice someone myself.

Day 285 was the day, Philip was the victim.

He and I and some of our other friends had been at a first birthday party for Karen and Ged's daughter, Jane. So naturally, after eating cake and ice cream with all of the kiddos, the next logical place to go to continue the party would be a dive bar (Mr. C's) to have some drinks.

So we did, demonstrating how my life continues to be a contradiction in terms: one-half 1st birthday parties, the other half seedy bars with tax-paying, contributing adults who act like irresponsible children.

It was at Mr. C's that the "icing" went down. I bought the Smirnoff Ice and made Paul present it. He secured the Smirnoff between his back right hip and his pants. He walked over to Philip and lifted his shirt slightly asking Philip to have a look at something's that had been irritating his back.

Philip did, found the Smirnoff, and was, therefore, iced. He took it down like a man, like Bronson had, but refused to get out of his chair to take a knee. We hazed him for a second, but eventually let it go.

I sat back, pretty excited, and proud, that Day 285's thing I've never done before was to ice someone. I don't know why it never occurred to me that this would be enough for everyone. I should know that I shouldn't dish it out if I can't take it, because as I was leaning back to enjoy the rest of the evening, my new friend Doug came over to where I was sitting with a bottle of Smirnoff Ice poking out of his pants.

"You're up!" he said.

"What?," I asked, "No way!"

Day 285's thing I've never done before was to ice someone and then get iced myself.

I had no choice to take it like a man just as I had seen Bronson and Philip do it.

I even got down on one knee, despite the fact that I was wearing a dress and we were in Mr. C's. And then about halfway through I realized I was wearing a dress and I was in Mr. C's, so I stood up to finish the Smirnoff Ice.

Is it crazy to say that I actually like the way Smirnoff Ice tastes? There is something very redneck and high school about it. Perhaps that's why I like it.

"I'd like to get iced," Mindy said. We all gave her a look like she was crazy.

"You can't be serious," I said, taking my seat at the table.

Then she smiled as she looked at us and then at her boyfriend, Charles. I realized she wasn't talking about the Smirnoff kind of ice.

And sadly, this is where my icing career ends.

I think.

I hope.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 284: Decisions are the Worst

Back on Day 207, I watched the NFL Draft for the first time and was completely annoyed that I lost hours off of my life watching such a gross display of arrogance and wealth. I vowed to never get involved in such a charade again.

Unfortunately, all my attempts to stay away from overly dramatized, emotionally charged professional sports decision making were unsuccessful when all anyone could talk about was LeBron James becoming a free agent and whether or not he would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for another team.

I'm not really much of a professional sports fan period, and of all the professional sports out there, I enjoy basketball the least. So I tried to ignore the seemingly endless LeBron "Will he stay or will he go?," nonsense, certain that it was a bunch of chatter from another professional athlete who makes too much money. But I, like the rest of the world, couldn't help but pay attention.

And on Day 284, when I found myself at home on a Thursday night with nothing else to do but watch television, I tuned in, as the thing I've never done before, to watch LeBron James' "The Decision" special on ESPN.

Worst. "The Decision." Ever.

This hour and fifteen minute long special, that drew 9.95 million viewers, is in my opinion, what's wrong with people (myself included) and with America.

While watching, my mind darted through a laundry list of questions: Is this guy serious? Is ESPN serious? Why are you watching, Stephanie? Aren't there more important things you could be doing? Is this guy so good that an hour (and 15 minutes) should be dedicated to where he plans on playing next year?

In typical hyped up TV special fashion, it took 22 minutes of build up until ESPN anchor Stuart Smith actually, "turned [the terrible] program over to Jim Gray, who was with LeBron at the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. What? Why is he in Connecticut? There are no basketball teams there.

Jim Gray, forced to take even more time from my precious life, proceeded to ask LeBron a lot of really stupid questions.

When did you decide? How many people know what your decision is? Do they know that they know what your decision is? Do those who don't know what your decision is know that they don't know what the decision is and how you arrived at this decision?

Do you know that the President wants you to play in Chicago? (What? President Obama is weighing in on this? Doesn't he have better things to do?)

"Come on already!," I wanted to shout at the television. And then LeBron said it wasn't until he spoke to his mother that he actually made the final decision. I paused long enough to consider that was sweet, and I'll bet his mother appreciated it. Then I thought I should probably call my mom.

At 9:27pm, after what felt like hours of nonsense, LeBron James announced that he would leave Cleveland to, "Take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat."

That one statement infuriated the citizens of Cleveland, and made folks in Miami jump for joy. I know, because I saw people burning LeBron James' jerseys for weeks on the news in a split-screen next to dance parties outside Miami bars.

How does this one guy have this much power? Because we allow them to. We (read: I) bought into that display hook, line, and sinker, along with the other 9,949,999 people in this country. Disgusting.

So for an experiment, I have decided to tell you all that I'm going to end the blog in Atlanta, and I'm going to take my talents elsewhere.

What? No response? No fury? No excitement?

It's okay not to care THAT much. That's the way it should be.

Side note: A few days before Day 284 I accidentally bought waterproof mascara, which, in my opinion, is one of the most annoying accidental purchases one can ever make. I end up either tearing my eyelashes out individually in an effort to take it off, or just wearing day-old mascara everyday like I shacked at a fraternity house.

So . . .while watching "The Decision," I decided to try an at-home recipe for taking off waterproof mascara.

Olive oil. It works. Finally, a good decision.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 283: It's Not You, It's Me

"I just feel like this is starting to move in a serious direction and I'm not sure I'm ready for that."

Though I had been preparing myself for this conversation after communication had changed significantly starting the night of July 4th, his words still stung. The usually responsive FF had suddenly, and rather abruptly, become difficult to reach. I did my best to blame it on the long weekend, and a tough time getting back into the swing of things. But when we finally connected on Day 283, I could tell instantly that something had changed. And after talking for half an hour while I was driving to the grocery store, he confirmed that indeed it had.

He cited bad timing as the reason, and I couldn't argue with that. So we said our good-byes, good lucks, and even extended some well wishes to one another that were uncharacterstic of most conversations of this nature. At one point I actually had to stop myself from saying, "Have a nice life," because that sounds sarcastic, but I really did, and do, want him to have a nice life. I instead said something to the effect of, "I know that the last few years have really sucked for you, and I think you are a nice person and I hope that you do find happiness. Because I think that you deserve it."

My voice cracked at some point during that last part and my eyes welled up with tears. I so did not want to cry about this, or about him, but I just couldn't seem to stop myself. Upon realizing that I was crying in the Kroger parking lot, I ended the conversation as quickly as I could. And then I got myself together and went inside to retrieve items for the black bean burgers I had planned to make for Day 283's thing I've never done before.

I grabbed a cart and immediately took off to the produce aisle, replaying the conversation in my head.

Personally, I felt somewhat vindicated that there was a reason for my initial concern that I hadn't heard from him in a few days. The few people I'd told had tried to convince me that I was crazy for thinking anything of it, but in my gut I just knew something was up. Something was different. Our final conversation that night was disappointing, but was also proof that my instincts were right, and maybe I should learn to trust my gut.

I also marveled at his directness. I've told this story so many times now (since FF started appearing in the blog everyone wanted to hear about him), and I've described it as the "most adult break-off I've ever had." (We weren't ever boyfriend/girlfriend so break-up feels a little strong. I prefer break-off.) I am so used to a passive-aggressive and gradual ending where phone calls and text messages just become less frequent over time. I'll be sleep-deprived from worry and 15 pounds lighter from not-eating before finally facing the inevitable, "He's just not that into me." But in this case, after less than 72 hours of wondering what happened to him, FF cut to the chase and let me know where he stood. And though I was bummed, I had to appreciate his honesty.

When I rolled my cart towards the strawberries, I decided that I would trust that what he said was true, and this was, simply, a case of bad timing. I challenged him on the phone, "Are you not ready for a serious relationship, or are you not ready for a serious relationship with me?" I'm not sure I was ready for the answer either way, but in that moment, parked under the bright Kroger lights, I wanted the truth. Even if it hurt.

"I promise this has nothing to do with you, Stephanie," he said. "I'm just not ready for this right now."

I stopped the cart, replaying that last line several times. He threw some other words in there, perhaps to confuse me, but right there in the produce section, it all became crystal clear. FF had said the equivalent of, "It's not you, it's me."

UGH.

The line that has been used and abused by men and women taking the path of least resistance in hopes to spare the other person's feelings so many times that it has become a punchline in sitcoms and romantic comedies had just been used on me. (George Castanza, anyone?) Part of me wanted to laugh at the absurdity. Most of me felt sick, though. Like I wanted to throw up.

Of all of the hurtful things that have been said to me over the years, I think this one stung the most, because everyone knows that when someone says, "It's not you, it's me," it usually means that it's you. Or in this case, me.

My brain immediately went into a tailspin of possible things that I could've said or done over the last five days that would've sealed this fate.

I shuddered to think that maybe my mom was right, and my leaving town for four days to see Phish put the nail in my relationship with FF.

"I mean, don't you think he might've thought that was a little weird?," she asked me.

It's definitely possible. But those plans had been made long before I ever even met FF and I don't really think this had anything to do with Phish.

I did wonder if maybe it was something I said, or did, during my four days away. I went back to my phone to make sure I hadn't placed any drunk dials or insane text messages. From what I could tell, I did not.

When I read the very last text I sent before communication from him went dark and in the midst of my pain, I had to laugh. The text said, "Well, at least you're not taking your shirt off like a meat head, which is more than I can say for some of the people that I am with. Yikes!"

Maybe he was turned off that some of the people I was with take their shirts off, or maybe he takes his shirt off when he's had to much to drink and feels like I called him out, or maybe in the four hours between our text messages, he met someone else and realized she would never see some band four nights in a row or send messages about shirtless people?

I forced myself to stop agonizing over the stupid text messages (which might be my least favorite form of communication) and face the reality that at this point in our relationship, there wasn't a text message that could've caused him to walk away from whatever it was that we once were both walking towards. I mean, he knew me and my shenanigans (including performing dance moves at nearly every location we'd ever been together), both in person, and electronically. I don't think a text about meatheads taking their shirts on would've turned him off that much.

No, I fear this "thing," about me, if it is a "thing," may not be so specific, and therefore harder to identify, and even more difficult to change.

But at 29-years old, after being let down in this way before, I couldn't help but consider, "Well maybe it is me. I remain the common denominator in all of these scenarios. Who else could it be?"

That realization was far too upsetting to deal with at Kroger and when I looked down at my cart, I could feel tears starting to well in my eyes again. Not just because I'd arrived at the all-too-familiar lonely place, albeit in a healthier, more adult way, but also because I'd been mindlessly filling my cart with random things as I wandered up and down the aisles and when I looked down at all of it, I didn't know what any of it was or what or how I was planning to make anything with it.

I had to get out of there right away. So I left my semi-full cart of random items right where it was, bought a bottle of wine and a Gatorade, and left the store quickly.

Day 283's thing I've never done before was to be told, with a whole lot of words, "It's not you, it's me," realize that it probably is me, and subsequently abandon a cart full of groceries in Kroger.

This is my heartfelt apology to the stockboy that had to restock all of the items in my cart, and who probably wondered, "What happened here?"

I am the one who left the cart behind. It was me. Isn't it always?

Day 282: Blog Celebration, with Fanta

One of the first people that I met after I started Project 29 to 30 was Julie.

I liked her immediately. She was fun, cool, and so tiny I wanted to put her in my pocket. Plus she also recently started a blog; a hilarious blog called Julie Versus Vegetables where she set out to tackle her fear of produce, one vegetable at a time. She and I ate beets for the first time together way back on Day 5 (Oh my, that feels like a long time ago). Though I have a feeling she and I would've been friends with or without our blogs, our love of writing and doing cool shit has bonded us in an extra special way. And as far as I’m concerned, Julie’s been with me on my journey since the beginning.

Sad for me, and the entire city of Atlanta, Julie decided over the summer that she was ready for a change, and she has now relocated her fabulous self to Los Angeles. Her move coincided with a lot of big changes in her life, including the end of Julie Versus Vegetables.

On Day 282, as the thing I've never done, I helped Julie celebrate the end of her blog in a big way at a dinner party at her house.

Time out for another story. While I was getting ready to leave for Julie's, I heard a great deal of commotion out on my front porch. I heard children's voices yelling and laughing; I could hear the scampering of their feet on the hard wood. I also heard my landlords' dogs barking hysterically. Not surprising, since I've lived here for five years and the dogs still bark at me, but regardless, I knew something was going on outside before I even opened the door.

I gathered my things to leave and opened my front door to find eight children ranging in age from four to 11. My landlords do not have kids; I'm not even convinced they like kids, so imagine my confusion over these wild children using our porch as a playground.

My sudden presence startled some of them who stopped rough-housing to stare at me. As I pulled my door shut behind me, staring right back at them, a few began to approach me, carrying bowls full of cheap candy. Two others were carrying bowls with two cans of grape Fanta.

"WTF?" I thought to myself.

I looked around to see if there might've been an adult standing on the sidewalk that could explain this little charade. There was none. I was beyond confused.

"You wanna buy some candy?" one of them said to me as I tried to walk through their madness to get to my car.

"What?" I asked, confused. "No, I don't want to buy any candy."

"How about a soda?," another one shouted, showing me the Fantas in the bowl.

"Nope," I replied, "I'm all good."

By this time my landlord Scott had opened his door to face the children. He looked both horrified and disgusted.

"Please stop pestering the dogs," he said to the kids.

I'm confident that I've never been asked to buy Fanta on my front porch, so I could count that as the thing I've never done before. It was so weird, and such a metaphor for my neighborhood and the stuff that goes down here. Not unsafe, just strange.

Back to Julie and her party though.

I arrived at Julie's excited for the evening; excited about celebrating Julie, exciting about meeting the other characters in her blog, and most excited about eating a meal that I didn't have to buy or cook myself.

The party kicked off oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing about Julie and her new found skills in the kitchen. If you read Julie Versus Vegetables from the beginning, you know that Julie cannot cook, so in addition to tackling vegetables, her blog was also about her overcoming her fears of becoming domesticated.

Because she did such a fabulous job of telling the story of the last supper herself, I won't try and reinvent the wheel and do it again. Instead you can go to Julie's blog and read Cage Match Fight to the Death (Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4) for yourself.

I will tell you that in addition to a super gourmet menu that included homemade hummus, soy-glazed salmon on an orange, watercress, and Swiss chard salad, Julie had to tackle another vegetable, her last vegetable, which she had kept secret from those of us coming to her party.

The "surprise" vegetable she'd planned to prepare was onion rings, which wasn't really a surprise at all because the only thing standing in the way of Julie claiming victory over vegetables was onions. And the only way to win a vegetable that you hate (and Julie hates onions) is to deep fry it.

The entire process of her heating the oil, staring at the onion and eventually trying to slice the onion (a task that was eventually delegated to Mark P.) was quite humorous to watch, and I felt for her, having to conquer her fear right in front of everyone. I'm lucky in that I do a lot of my blog challenges on my own, so for all you know, I could be making up all of these stories. (I’m really not, I promise.)

Once she dropped the battered onions, we waited. And then we waited some more. And then we talked about how awesome Julie is. And then we kept waiting. But apparently we didn’t wait long enough the first time around. The onion rings got stuck in the pool of oil.

The second time around was better, but when Julie pulled the fried onions from the fry-daddy she still looked at them with a great deal of uncertainty. I've truly never seen quite a physical reaction like the one she displayed to a vegetable before. Julie held the onion ring in her petite, trembling fingers like it was causing her serious pain. Her friends, who weren't acting very friendly at that moment, had more or less backed her into a corner and were shouting words of “encouragement” that sounded more like military orders to me.

“You can do it!”

“It’s just an onion!”

“What’s the big deal?”

Julie put her lips on the onion and nibbled the smallest "bite" I've ever seen and then she spit it right back out.

I would like to point out, in case it's not clear, that Julie is 31-years old. She's not a child, but an adult. With a freakishly strong aversion to onions.

The entire kitchen yelled at her as if she was a child, though, and without wasting a lot of time, she went back for another bite, this time chewing it completely and swallowing it.

Success!

From her perspective, which you should’ve already read by now on her blog, the reason Julie was able to overcome her fear of onions is because onions coated in beer batter and then deep fried in oil actually don’t taste anything like onions at all. But who cares? A win is a win.

Upon winning, Julie's sister presented her with a trophy, a material symbol of all that she accomplished over the course of the year: learning to like (or at least tolerate) vegetables and so openly sharing her challenge through her blog. I wondered where Julie planned to display her trophy. And then I wondered if my brother will present me with a trophy at the end of Project 29 to 30.

After enjoying Julie's handiwork on the onion rings and toasted pound cake chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches (I'm not kidding. We are so fat.), I headed home.

As I was driving back to my house, I thought a lot about Julie and the end of her adventure. I also thought about what a difference a year makes. Last year, she only ate meat and potatoes, and now she's not only eating onions, she's frying them herself.

I don't think Julie or I really understood how much we could change, or that we would change at all simply by choosing to take on year-long adventures and writing about them. But we did. A lot.

To my dearest Julie, my blogging partner in crime, oh how you are already missed and you've only been gone for short time. Congrats on winning (though no one ever had any doubt that you wouldn't) and best of luck in Los Angeles. You really do have great hair.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 281: Married Man Dinner

By 281, my Phish Magical Mystery Tour was over and I had to go back to work.

Returning to regular life was difficult after four fun-filled, action-packed days, but there was a small part of me that was ready to get off the party train and get back to a regular schedule.

I was not ready, however, to find something new to do.

So I went a rather scandalous route and bought a married man dinner as Day 281's thing I've never done before.

Don't freak, I'm no homewrecker. The married man was Stephen, and he's married to my friend Amanda. She suggested it, and she even went with us.

It was a hot date. At Great Wraps. And I spent $21. At Great Wraps. Gross.

This is a lame post for what was a lame day for me and all of my co-workers who had to work the day after July 4th. But I'm dedicating it to all of the married women in my life who have offered their husbands to me in various capacities to achieve 365 things I've never done.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 280: Lot Food Denial > Ice, Ice, Baby

Day 280 was the last day of the Magical Mystery Tour.

The last day for me to achieve what I'd hoped to achieve during my four-day Phish run. My friend Liz, who had come to town for a show with her husband Nick, had proposed the idea via text message, "Why don't you make and sell lot food?"

What a damn fine idea, Liz.

"Lot food" simply refers to food (anything from burritos, quesadillas, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) that hippies sell in the parking lot ahead of, and following, a Phish concert. Many people who sell lot food are "on tour," and the money they make is how they afford to move from one show to the next. The thought of eating concoctions made by strangers might weird people out, but I think "lot food" is one of the greatest elements of the Phish experience.

When Liz proposed the idea, I think she imagined me buying the ingredients and selling my own lot food. But I was not at all interested in doing that. I had been travelling for several days and didn't have the time to get it together. Plus, my plans were so up in the air at that point, I didn't even know if I'd have my own car, or who I'd be going to the concert with.

In my mind, I would simply introduce myself to someone already selling food in the lot and offer to help them. I'm extremely charming when I want to be, plus I'm a good cook. I would be a valuable asset to any lot food operation.

Or at least I thought so. As I was leaving the concert on Day 279, Emily and I went in search of someone I could assist. I didn't have to look very hard. Immediately I saw a guy standing behind a charcoal grill in the middle of the pathway. He was surrounded by hungry concert-goers and was telling them that what he was selling was, "Vegan sausage dogs." So Phish-friendly!

Immediately I noticed that this grill had clearly been fired up for a while. Some of the hot dogs were already cooked, meaning this guy must've left the concert long before it was over. He certainly didn't wander back to his car after the show like we had. This operation had long been underway.

I felt awkward approaching him, but I had to. I was running out of days, out of opportunities. But he was clearly in the zone, if there is such a thing as it pertains to selling lot food.

"Hey," I said, timidly, "Can I ask you something?"

He didn't look at me, but instead eyed the crowd for his next potential buyer.

"Yeah, but make it fast, I've got work to do," he snapped, using tongs to turn the vegan sausage dogs on the grill.

Emily and I looked at each other, surprised by his reaction. What happened to the fun-loving, laid-back, friendly hippies that used to sell food in lots? This guy was mean. For him, this was it, survival of the fittest. Like he was a challenger on an episode of the Apprentice.

In case anyone was concerned about the state of capitalism in America, there is no need to. It is alive and well in Phish lots.

There was a part of me that thought maybe this guy thought I was just being ridiculous, or mocking him, or that I might slow down his operation.

Regardless, he made it very clear that he wasn't interested in my help. Or in talking to me. Or in breathing the same air as me.

I walked away, in the direction of the Zingo driver, feeling defeated. Who knew finding a hippie that would let me make lot food with him would be such a challenge?

On my walk, I found another guy selling food. He seemed much more relaxed, and friendly; he happily gave me the information I was seeking.

Yes, this food (veggie burritos) was his livelihood. He'd been on tour all summer long.

Yes, he wakes up early to prepare the ingredients and leaves the concerts early to get his station set up and ready for business.

Yes, he'd let me come help him the next day. He even gave me his phone number.

So on Day 280, I called him, thinking that could be thing things I'd never done before. He didn't answer, sending Liz's idea up in flames. But not because I didn't try.

Have no fear, though, something I've never seen before happened before the day really even got started. Day 280's thing I've never done before was to see someone get iced.

The phrase, "getting iced," was, until late in the summer, foreign to me. But once I heard about it from FF, who heard about it from his summer interns, I couldn't stop hearing about it. On television, on Facebook, on the radio.

I overheard my drunk summer intern discussing it, and eventually Mountain Man revealed he had been icing his friends and had been getting iced all summer.


I was eternally grateful to everyone who shared what they knew about icing since I was so late to the game. But I couldn't help but think how sad it is to get older. I'm no longer doing the "cool things that kids are doing," I'm hearing about them months after the fact from all of the young, cool interns.

For the final Phish day, I met Paul and Bronson at Bronson's house so that we could catch a cab up to Alpharetta together. As we were trying to pack up all of our stuff, one of Bronson's sister's friends, who was staying behind, offered him her backpack cooler to take to the concert.

"There might be stuff in it," she said, "But you can just take it out and fill it with whatever."

Bronson unzipped the backpack cooler to reveal one lonely Smirnoff Ice.

The girl who had tricked him into finding it raised her arms in victory and started laughing. Once we all saw the Smirnoff and understood what had just happened, everyone erupted into laughter and applause. Bronson got down on one knee and chugged an entire bottle of Smirnoff Ice.

This is the game that is sweeping the nation. It's what all the cool kids are doing. Icing.

Confused? The rules (according to Wikipedia) to this most fabulous, completely juvenile, greatest marketing ploy for Smirnoff are simple:

One of the players "Ices" another by either presenting him with a Smirnoff Ice or hiding a Smirnoff Ice and having the other player find it. The other player can perform an "Ice Block" by grabbing a Smirnoff Ice within arms reach (e.g. on his person, on a table). Once he presents this "Ice Block" to the original player, the original player must drink both the Smirnoff Ice he presented in the first place and the "Ice Block". If an "Ice Block" is not performed, the player who was "Iced" must get on one knee and chug the entire bottle. However you can not "Ice Block" and "Ice Block". Refusal to do so results in excommunication, meaning that that player can no longer "Ice" anyone or get "Iced."


There is no exception to the rule. If you refuse to consume the ICE on the spot you are banned for life unless the territory allows you back in the game (usually a form of initiation will be involved).

Bronson took it like a man, and he drank that Smirnoff Ice like he'd been doing it his whole life. I both delighted in seeing this mysterious activity happen in my presence (maybe I'm not as old as I thought) and feared that now that Pandora's Box had been opened, I might be icing all summer.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 279: Zingo All the Way Home

For the third and fourth days of the southeast Phish tour, the band came to Alpharetta, Georgia, a suburb north of Atlanta. On one hand, their decision to play there made perfect sense because the venue is new and clean and nice. But I was also confused because this was Phish, and the amphitheatre felt almost too new, too clean, and too nice.

The venue choice also presented a dilemma to those of us who live inside the city because it was close enough to not necessarily warrant buying a hotel room, but far enough away to require safe, alternative transportation for anyone planning to consume adult beverages.

I opted to sleep in my own bed that weekend, so Day 279's thing I've never done before was to use Zingo Transportation.

Zingo was founded and exists on the understanding that one of the reasons that people drive after having too many drinks is because they don't want to wake up the next day without their car. A Zingo driver will actually drive your car home for you.

I give all the credit to my friends Philip and Scott for this idea. They use the service for a lot of Georgia games geting to and from Athens. For the Phish concert, we drove my car up to Alpharetta, tailgated for a little bit and then went into the show.

After the concert was over, the plan was to meet the Zingo driver back at my car. It occurred to me just before meeting him that I wasn't exactly sure how this service worked, or what was going to happen when we got back to our destination in Atlanta. Once I saw the driver in the parking lot, though, wearing a helmet, holding a clipboard, and sitting on a folding motorbike, it started to make sense.

That's right, I said, "folding motorbike."

I feel the need to repeat it over and over again because I did not know such a thing existed until this night. Once I did, and once I took a seat on it, I wanted everyone to know about it. I was so fascinated by this piece of machinery, and by this driver and his clipboard, I didn't know what to do with myself. I think I asked the driver a dozen questions about how it worked, how long he'd been a Zingo driver, what's the craziest thing that ever happened to him on a pickup, and of course, more about the folding motorbike.

I took so much time asking him questions about the service and the motorbike, that it didn't occur to me that my entire group was waiting for me at the car. Philip had called my cell phone repeatedly telling me to bring the driver to the car so we could go. If it was up to me, I would've ditched my car and everyone else to take the motorbike back to Atlanta, but I don't think the driver was up for it.

So we went through with the original plan to pile into my car. The Zingo driver put his folding motorbike in my trunk, and he drove us home. Like any cab driver, he had to endure us shouting at him and at each other about how awesome the show was and what our favorite part was.

When we arrived at our destination, we paid him, he took his super awesome motorbike out of the trunk and sped away. We were safe, nobody drove irresponsibly and in the morning, I woke up and my car was right there.

Everyone wins with Zingo. Especially the driver with the folding motorbike.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 278: Going All the Way

On Day 278, Magical Mystery Tour traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we met up more friends, including my brother, Jeff and sister-in-law, Katie. This was the first Phish concert I'd ever atteneded with Katie and her second time ever seeing the band. She proved, again, that she can have fun wherever she goes. Hanging out with her at a Phish concert was something that I'd never done before.

But it wasn't the thing I've never done before.

That thing, that most glorious idea came after the concert, when we decided to introduce Laney, currently a southern California girl, to one of the greatest things the south has to offer: Waffle House.

For those of you who don't know what Waffle House is, I consider that a shame, and I'm sorry. It's a popular restaurant chain found on nearly every interstate exit in the south; Waffle House restaurants are open 24 hours a day and they serve up an array of greasy breakfast foods: eggs, bacon, grits, sausage, and of course, waffles.

One of the novelties of Waffle House is their hash browns, which they offer a variety of different ways:

Smothered (with grilled onions), Covered (with melted cheese), Chunked (with diced ham), Diced (with grilled tomatoes), Peppered (with jalapeno peppers), Capped (with button mushrooms), and/or Topped (with Bert's chili).

I'm usually a smothered, covered, and diced kind of gal, but on Day 278, as the thing I've never done before, I ordered my Waffle House hash browns, "All the way."

Believe it or not, eating hash browns was on the list of things I wanted to do in my 29th year. I think I've always wanted to order something, "All the way." It just sounds cool. Like going up to a bartender and saying, while nodding, "Just the usual."

Only I never said, "All the way."

When the waitress came to take our order, I told her that I wanted a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich and then reading off the menu, said triumphantly, "And I'd like my hashbrowns scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped and topped."

"All the way?," she asked, almost annoyed that I decided to recite all of the words. I didn't care.

"Yes," I said, smiling, "Scattered, smothered, covered, chopped, capped, diced, peppered, capped and topped."

The waitress nodded and walked away. She put our order in and we waited. We talked about the show, and I may or may not have played "Special Lady," an original Waffle House song on the juke box.

When I saw our waitress carrying our plates of completely unhealthy, completely delicious fried food, I was excited. The hash browns were grilled to perfection and even with all of the extra ingredients, I couldn't wait to dive in. That is, until she turned towards a vat of chili, dipped a stainless steel ladle inside and poured a heaping scoopful of it all over my perfect hash browns. My stomach turned.

She put the plate in front of me and I stared at it for a little while. The chili was daunting, and I knew that once I moved past the generous helping, I still had diced tomatoes, grilled onions, mushroom caps, chunks of ham, jalapeno peppers, and cheese to eat. I think I got heartburn just looking at it.

I took a bite, slowly, hoping that if I tried, maybe I could taste each individual ingredient. I quickly realized that this was a lost cause, and likely not ever going to happen. So I treated this experiment like my own "Woman vs. Food," and I dove right in.

In all the years I've been enjoying late night fare from Waffle House, I had yet to be let down. I also hadn't ever really strayed from my standard order. But going all the way paid off as far as these hash browns go. They were good. I don't know who Bert is, but he makes tasty chili. It's a good thing, too, because sometimes the chili was all I could taste.

As we were leaving to head back to the hotel, Laney, pleased with her first Waffle House experience, announced to everyone in the car, "Well that was just slightly less than amazing."

Though I think she was talking about her own meal, I'd say that applies to my scattered, smothered, covered, chopped, capped, diced, peppered, capped and topped hash browns too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 277: Phish Explainer

On Day 277 I began what FF had started referring to as the, "Magical Mystery Tour."

Four Phish shows in four days in three different cities.

Day 277's thing I've never done before was to go to Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh, North Carolina for Day #1 of the southeast tour.

This was also the first time I'd gone to a Phish concert with someone who had seen the band less times than I had.

Her name was Patty, and she had recently married a Phish fan, so while she had heard their music before, this was her first time ever seeing them live. Her husband, my friend Andrew, has been seeing the band since he was in high school. I'm pretty sure anything she wanted to know about Phish, he had already told her.

Yet my excitement at not being the newbie or the first time ever took over and I decided to take it upon myself to drop as much Phish knowledge on her as I could.

Patty, because she's a nice person, smiled while she listened to what I had to say.

"When they play 'Harry Hood,' everyone launches glowsticks into the air. They call it a glowstick war."

"During 'You Enjoy Myself,' (lead guitarist) Trey and (bassist) Mike will jump all around on mini-trampolines while playing their instruments."

"Some people think of (lighting director) Chris Kuroda as the fifth member of the band because what he adds to the show."

"A lot of my favorite songs that Phish performs come from Trey's senior thesis at Goddard College. The songs are all about this guy Colonel Forbin who has a dog and he finds himself in a mythical place called Gamehendge . . ."

As these things were coming out of my mouth, I realized two things:
First, I had likely succeeded, with my unsolicited remarks, of stripping Patty of her will to live.

Secondly, this band, that I've dedicated a great deal of time and money to seeing for the last seven years, sounds both completely ridiculous and like the most fun band ever. For 6-year olds.

Maybe Phish, like the Internet, and sorority t-shirts with Dave Matthews Band quotes on them, isn't meant to be explained or understood. It's just meant to be fun. I decided I'm better off just enjoying the fellowship, enjoying the music, but flying under the radar as it comes to the this band.

And just like that, I heard, "Free," one of Phish favorite songs. I took it as a sign to free Patty from my insanity and leave it at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre as the thing I've never done before.

Day 276: Premiere Night

My friend Kim is the busiest person that I know.

In the course of one week, I've heard Kim mention casually in conversation (she rarely complains about her busy schedule) about working 12-hour days for her regular job, interviewing musicians for her website Mixtape Atlanta, promoting two concerts at two different venues, directing a music video and auditioning for a movie on her lunch break.

Kim makes me completely unimpressed with other people who claim they have too much on their plate. She makes me especially unimpressed with myself for trying new things and writing about it while maintaining a full-time job. Her schedule exhausts me. She's the hardest working person I know.

So when Kim invited me to the Atlanta premiere of an independent movie that was filmed in Atlanta, The Fat Boy Chronicles, I knew it had to be because she had something to do with it.
When I asked her she confirmed what I already suspected.

"Please come," she said, "This is opening night for the movie I was the music supervisor for."

Part of me had to laugh that once again, Kim was involved in another project outside of her real job and her 16 other side jobs.

"Of course she's the music supervisor for an indie film. Why wouldn't she be?" I thought to myself.

Another part of me was absolutely floored. Completely impressed, but utterly shocked. I couldn't help but think about 27-year old Kim, and say, "What the hell, Kim? You were the music supervisor for a movie? Like a real deal movie? Are you even old enough to do that? How did you even know what to do?"

She played it off, claiming she was distant friends with the director of the film and that's how she got involved in the project. She said the job simply entailed listening to music and working with the director to insert tracks where it seemed like a good fit.

"That's all it is," she said, not nearly as impressed with herself as I was with her.

I wasn't buying her non-chalantless and bought my ticket to the premiere that day.

Day 276's thing I've never done before was go to a movie premiere.

When I arrived to the Plaza Theater on Day 276, a Wednesday, I was not surprised to find dozens of people lined up outside. I milled about the crowd wondering if I would see any local Atlanta celebrities in the crowd. Usher? Tyler Perry? Kim Zolciak from the Real Housewives of Atlanta? None, at least as far as I could see.

I was perplexed as to why the doors to the theater weren't open yet to let people in. It was the dead of summer and it was hot outside. So far, it was not quite the movie premiere I had envisioned in my head.

In fact, one of the things I'd hoped to do during my 29th year was to walk a red carpet at a movie premiere or at some such event. The way I'd pictured it, I'd be dressed to kill and there would be hundreds of paparazzi snapping pictures of me. It occurred to me when I entered the Plaza Theater, that the purple carpet in the lobby might be the closest that I would ever come. And Kim's business partner, Jessica, who was taking pictures as people arrived, would suffice as the paparazzo.

While everyone made there way inside to their seats, I hung out close to Jessica, who was busy at work and likely annoyed that I'd made myself her assistant. She was the only other person that I knew (besides Kim and she was nowhere to be found) and the purple carpet was clearly where all of the action was happening, so I had no desire to leave.

I watched as audience members, production staff members and a group of teenagers dressed for the prom made their way through the door. Clearly this was a big night for them, and they hugged and squealed at each other and at nearly everyone who approached them, saying, "Congratulations." I deducted that some of these kids, maybe all of them, must be the actors in the film. Jessica confirmed that they were.

Finally, I saw Kim who was dressed up and looking snazzy. She also looked busy. She was holding a clipboard and was surrounded by people asking her questions. Periodically she would yell instructions to the crowd about wristbands, and then she would get bum rushed by eager audience members.

I soon realized that I should've brought a date to this event. Will I ever learn? Kim can't hang out, because in addition to supervising the music selections in the film, she's also running the film's premiere.

I told you, Kim is the busiest woman in Atlanta show business.

Luckily, just as I had resolved to sitting by myself in the film, I ran into another work friend, Adrienne. She walked the purple carpet with me, we had our picture taken, and then we took a couple of the last seats in the theater, on the very front row.

Before the film got started, there were opening remarks made by the director of the film. He gave a thank you speech fit for an awards show. I checked out his remarks and retrieved my suitcase under my seat to ensure my cell phone was on silent. I was shuffling in my seat and looking down at my lap when I heard a familiar voice speaking.

The voice threw me because besides Kim, Jessica, and Adrienne, I was 100 percent confident that I didn't know anyone else that had anything to do with this film.

But I'd recognize this voice anywhere. It was my friend Trish's dad!

I was beyond confused as to what his connection to the film was, but after asking Trish and doing some further research, I discovered that the writer of the book, "The Fat Boy Chronicles," from which the film is based, was written by a coach at Trish's high school. The book, and the movie, are based on a true story.

Trish's dad Roger was presenting the author of the book, and the director of the film, with a letter from Governor Sonny Perdue, congratulating them on the film's completion and future success.

I looked up and smiled at him. He caught my eye and stopped talking when he realized it was me in the front row. He was just as surprised as I was to see me there.

"I'm sorry," he said, apologizing to the crowd, "I just saw my daughter's friend from college sitting in the front row. I'd recognize that smile anywhere."

My cheeks burned with embarrassment and Adrienne looked at me like I was a freak.

"That's my friend Trish's dad. So random," I said.

Roger finished his presentation, my face turned back to its regular color, and then they got started with showing the film.

The coolest thing about viewing a film with the people responsible for making it, is that everyone in the theater was rooting for the movie to do well. So even if it had sucked, and this one didn't suck, the film would never have a more forgiving audience.

With every name that appeared in the opening credits came thunderous applause from that person's friends and family. The director, the lead actors, the producers, writers, all receiving hoops and hollers inside the theater. Adrienne and I were at the ready for Kim's name, and when it finally appeared, we joined everyone's excitement, clapping and shouting for our friend. I loved it.

Each time a new song was presented, the theater would erupt in applause again for the band that Kim had chosen. I tried to imagine the film without music, and I couldn't. Then I tried to imagine any other film without music and the thought depressed me. The soundtrack is crucial, and Kim was responsible for it. And though I don't know much about making films or supervising a musical score, I'd say she nailed it. I was beyond impressed. And so proud of her.

In general, I am not a fan of any film having to do with teenage angst, so The Fat Boy Chronicles is not, on paper, really my cup of tea. But it is an important film that about a relevant topic dominating the news headlines. Teenage bullying is real. And it's painful. And unfortunately, as we've seen lately, can be deadly. The actors, and the story they tell, make me believe it.

Plus, rubbing elbows with some of Atlanta's filmmakers and actors whose names I'm sure I haven’t heard the last of didn't hurt either. I think I could get used to attending movie premieres and walking the red, purple or whatever carpet is there.

Oh, and Kim Burdges, the Musical Supervisor. I know her. She's my friend. And she rules.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 275: Under Scrutiny, Under the Knife

According to astrologers, one of the worst traits of anyone born a Libra sign is vanity.

While I disagree that all Libras have an inflated opinion of themselves, when it comes to claims that, "Vanity may drive (Libras) to spend large amounts of money on items that will improve their looks," I would say that I'm guilty.

In 29 years I've managed to, at different times and to varying degrees, obsess about the insane color my hair, the not always clearness of my skin, and my too big, sometimes crooked smile. Paired with a lifetime love/hate/hate more relationship with my body, those obsessive fits have certainly cost me a lot of money over the years.

While some of my so-called, "problem areas," will probably always be just that, I have, for the most part, come to a place of acceptance about myself and the way I look. I don't know if that's getting older and maturing, but I'm pretty level-headed about what's important in life and it's not the size of my ass.

I'm still me, however, and if ever asked if I would have any work done to improve (not change) the way I look, my answer is always, "Yes, I'd consider it."

Day 275's thing I've never done before was to to see a plastic surgeon.

Now before you freak and cast me aside for being crazy, I didn't make this appointment so that I could spin the "Heidi Montag Wheel of Fun," and just pick something to have done for kicks. I wasn't looking to do anything drastic. I actually had a legit reason for seeing the doctor and it was a problem that had been bothering me for awhile.

About six months ago, I'd noticed that the hole where my ear had been pierced when I was 12, had significantly stretched out. I chalked it up to wearing heavy earrings and took a break from wearing anything in my ears, thinking that they'd go back to normal. They didn't. Once I realized I could actually see through the hole in my ear, and that the problem wouldn't fix itself, I started researching and came across a surgical procedure that would sew my earlobe back together.

So I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon that my friend Katy works for.

I arrived at the office, signed in, and took a seat in the waiting room. Across from me on a couch were two young children sitting calmly, each playing with a Gameboy. I suppose it's no different than any other doctor, but I found it odd that their mother had brought them a plastic surgeon's office. I wondered immediately if she was having her breasts done, after several of my friends with kids that they breast fed told me that their boobs were never the same. If so, did the mother resent her children for it? And then I wondered if my mother resented me for contributing to her not looking like she did when she was 25.

Who thinks these things? Crazy people.

I buried my face in my Blackberry for a while, but looked up as the little girl on the couch grew restless, throwing her Gameboy down and asking her older brother, "How much longer?" Despite her almost meltdown, I felt badly for thinking her mother resented her. She was a cute kid.

I looked up and saw other patients coming and going, to and from their appointments. I noticed that all of them, including myself, moved about the office somewhat sheepishly. Scurrying out the door to their cars with heads down, or quickly grabbing a seat and holding magazines up to block faces.

It was almost as if we were embarrassed to be there.

Sort of like how a holding cell at a jail might be.

Every time a different patient walked by me, I'd spent ten seconds trying to figure out what service she was probably seeking, and the other 30 seconds fighting the urge to grab her hand and ask, "So, what're you in for?"

"Boobs?"

"Botox?"

"Lipo?"

If plastic surgery were a crime, I'd say earlobe repair is the equivalent of petty theft or underage drinking. But this office clearly dealt with armed robbery and capital murder too, and I recognized that in a waiting room full of what seemed to be hardened criminals, I was a mere guppy.

I really wanted to meet someone who was going to serve some serious time. Like a full body lift or a significant boob job.

No one spoke to each other, though, and soon Katy had come to take me back to have my picture taken.

Though having pictures of the area I was seeking improvement on makes complete sense, I was surprised when she pointed at a stool pushed up against the wall and told me have a seat. Katy made me push all my hair out of my face, instructed me not to smile before she snapped pictures up close and far away, head-on and profile shots. Even though I knew no one would ever see these pictures, I was disappointed I hadn't freshened up my make-up.

After my photo shoot was over, Katy took me into the examining room, which was nothing more than a room with a few chairs, a window to the outside and an enormous mirror on the wall, presumably for patients to stare at and decide what exactly they were unhappy about.

When the doctor arrived, I showed him my right earlobe and explained what I was concerned about and asked him what he could do.

He said the procedure is simple, and would involve him cutting the hole open before sewing it back. After six weeks, I would return and he could, if I desired, re-pierce my ears. Even though only one of my ears is stretched out, I'd probably want to have the procedure done on both so that they'd be re-pierced in the same place.

His explanation made sense, but also sounded like a quick way to get me to pay for a second ear when I only needed one.

"Is that all you wanted to talk to me about today?," he asked me.

I was there, he asked, so I decided to go for it. I told him what I was about to turn 30 and wanted to know what, if anything, he would recommend to help me look as good as I possibly could.

He handed me a mirror and asked me to show him what bothered me about my face.

When he held up the mirror to my face I looked terrible. Old. I started seeing things that I don't normally see when I look in my own mirror. I looked up at the ceiling at the lights and wondered if they were special trick lights that made me look this hideous? Or do I just really look that hideous?

"I guess right here," I said as I pointed to in between my eyes. "My mother says I sleep with a concerned look on my face and I have wrinkles from it."

"And my forehead."

"And around my mouth. From smiling."

He said I should probably start now with a few injections around my eyes and in between my eyebrows. My crow's feet are alright for now, but maybe a couple of injections around my mouth where the smile lines have formed.

"Now would that make me look surprised all of the time? Because I don't want that. I'm an expressive person. I'd like for people to be able to tell when I'm happy or when I'm sad."

He assured me that these would only tighten the muscles in my face, not make them completely devoid of expression.

The doctor pointed at Katy, who is gorgeous.

"See Katy's face," he said. "It's very expressive, but her skin is very taut, very supple."

"I've been getting Botox since I started working here 10 years ago," she laughed.

Katy does look great. Her skin glows. She looks like the happiest, healthiest version of herself. But is that the Botox? Or is that because of her happy marriage, her beautiful son, and a plethora of good friends? Maybe it's her life that's making her glow. Maybe it's a little of both.

I considered asking, just out of curiosity, if my dream of sucking fat out of areas of my body I think are too big and injecting them into parts of my body I think are too small would actually work, but I don't think my ego could've taken it, so after our conversation about Restalyne and Botox, I shut the conversation down.

Despite the doctor's willingness to do the procedures at a significant "friend" discount, I am not in a financial situation to fix my ears right away. I would like to eventually have it done, though, because I miss wearing earrings.

When I drove away, I couldn't stop staring at myself in the rear-view window, praying, and hoping that all of the imperfections that had just become so apparent to me in the doctor's office weren't as obvious to everyone else.

I found it sad that I looked in the mirror and instead of seeing the face of a vibrant, almost 30-year old person still young at heart, I saw a face that time was starting to march all over. And I considered that my childhood insecurities about being a pimply faced redhead never really went away, they've merely evolved into different insecurities. I wondered if there is a way to stay grounded in the things that really matter while living in a world that is constantly telling me, telling all of us, that the only way we'll ever be pretty enough or thin enough is if a doctor makes us that way.

I'm not here to dump on plastic surgery, and come Project 49 to 50, perhaps I'll really go under the knife as something I've never done before. Like I said, I'm all about maintenance as long as I still look like myself. Just the healthiest, happiest version of myself.

But for now, I think I'm going to sideline the injections and concentrate on feeding my soul and beautifying myself from the inside out. There are no needles involved, and it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 274: Sex, Drugs, & Rock n Roll

On Day 274 I woke up in pain.

Physical, full body pain from the fall on Day 272 that had left my backside, and my ego, bruised. I was also forced to face the painful reality that part of getting older is feeling the effects of such a dramatic fall two days after the fact.

I woke up aching from head to toe and moved around most of the day with the speed and agility of a 70-year old woman with arthritis.

Surprising to me was that the physical pain had caused me a great deal of emotional pain too. Is this my body wasting away? A fall on Saturday and I'm completely out of commission on Monday? Getting older is so depressing.

Due to my physical limitations and my body's desire to be horizontal, Day 274's thing I've never done before was to watch the Rolling Stones documentary, Stones in Exile.

In 1971, The Rolling Stones fled the UK to live in France as tax exiles. Stones in Exile tells the story, through the voices of the band members, of their time there recording of the album, "Exile on Main Street." The band literally locked themselves in Keith Richards villa NellcĂ´te in the south of France to get it done and result, some argue, was the Rolling Stones most legendary album.

I love this album, I love documentaries, and now, thanks to this Stones in Exile, I am hopelessly in love with The Rolling Stones. The film cheered me up immediately and made me want to be a rock star.

Plus, as bad as I felt, I decided that if Mick Jagger, at age 67, can still get out on stage after more than 40 years of hard living and performing, then by God, I refuse to let a set of stairs take me down.



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 273: New Location, Same Terrible People

I woke up at Kyle's on Day 273 to a call from FF.

"I'm going to Tom's lake house up on Lake Lanier. Come with me," he said.

"Absolutely not," were the first words that came to mind.

The first words that came out of my mouth, though, were, "That sounds fun . . .but I don't think so . . .I just woke up."

"Come on! The lake will make you feel better. You can sleep on the way," he said.

I could not argue with that point. Plus, I had no other plans that day than to lie on my couch and nap intermmitently (a favorite Sunday activity of mine), and I had a bathing suit and cover up in my car (a fact that both pleased and fascinated FF. I mean, really, who travels with swim wear all the time? Answer: those of us who still wish they lived at the beach.)

I had no more excuses left. I did not want to go, but in the spirit of this year, here's to saying, "yes" when I feel like saying, "no."

When we got to Tom's parents' lake house, I instantly remembered that I had been there before, years ago, when Tom and I were in college together. Visiting Lake Lanier was not going to suffice as the thing I've never done before.

"Do you want to set up T's (he and Taylor's son) Pack N Play?," Tom asked me.

"Tom, don't ask her to do that," Taylor exlaimed, before I could answer.

I'm pretty sure she said that because she didn't want me, the guest, to do any work, though it occurred to me later that maybe she was concerned that I'm a complete idiot and might do something during the set up that could unintentionally hurt her son.

"I don't mind. I'll do it," I said.

And so Tom walked me through, step by step on how to set up a Pack N Play. I didn't find it to be particularly hard, though now that it's months later, I couldn't tell you any of the steps. I follow directions well, though, all of you moms, so if you need me to baby-sit, I'm sure I could figure it out. I'm not as irresponsible as I look, or as some of my actions may reflect.

The next thing I did that I'd never done before, on the other hand, will stay with me for a long time, and it happened on a boat ride that Tom, FF and I took later that day.

Day 273's thing I've never done before was to visit Lake Lanier's Cocktail Cove.

The name, "Cocktail Cove," does a pretty good job of explaining what the place is all about--a cove on the lake where boats park and drink cocktails.

On second thought, if they really wanted to be clear perhaps they should've called it, "Cocktail Cove full of awful people with barbed wire tattoos and fake boobs wearing Confederate flag string bikinis dancing promiscuously while listening to Nickelback, smoking Menthol cigarettes and drinking Hunch Punch out of insulated cups donning their names in puff paint."

Tom prepared me for the outward cheesiness of Cocktail Cove, but I wasn't quite prepared to see a boat named "The G Spot," with the "G" in the style of the University of Georgia "G." Stay classy, fellow Bulldogs.

If forced to spend a day there, I would have, without a doubt, enjoyed myself. I've been told by others that I could have fun in a paper bag, and I believe it's true. I may have even joined in on some of the shenanigans that I experienced on my short trip, including, but not limited to, booty-dancing with strangers on other boats, screaming the lyrics to Bob Marley songs, and stumbling around wasted with my bathing suit barely covering my private parts.


But overall, Cocktail Cove for me is a lot like the Pavilion at Myrtle Beach. I'm glad I went to see what all the fuss was about, but if I never went back, I think I'd be okay with that.

According to Tom, this Cocktail Cove is different from the Cocktail Cove of a few years ago, but only in location. The people, he said, are more or less the same, and since I'd been to his lake house before there is a good chance I'd been to the old location. I'd like to think I'd remember a place so unforgettable, but apparently not.

If what Tom said is true, I think I have a way to market the new Cocktail Cove.

Cocktail Cove: New Location, Same Terrible People

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 272: Oprah! Pick Me! I'm a Party!

Day 272's thing I've never done before was to audition for my own show on the Oprah network.

I put myself to bed early on Day 271 so that I could wake up early on Day 272 and drive north of Atlanta to Roswell, Georgia where the auditions were taking place in the parking lot of Kohl's discount store.

According to Oprah's website, which I had consulted many times in the days leading up to Day 272, her staff would begin handing out wristbands at 7am and would stop handing them out at 12pm. The application needed to be filled out completely before auditioning. Any hopes of speaking to the media giant herself were quashed, as the site made it abundantly clear that OPRAH WILL NOT BE IN ATTENDANCE AT THE ATLANTA AUDITIONS. If there was specific detail about exactly what the audition would entail, I forgot to read it; I simply showed up with my application and hoped for the best.

I was not surprised to show up to find hundreds of people in the parking lot, all hoping to become the star of their own show. Some were dressed to the nines, others were more casual like me. The whole scene was circus-like: there were members of the local media on hand, folks hugging and greeting each other, and people selling bottled waters out of coolers helping contestants to beat the heat. It was 7:30am. It was weird.

Once out of my car and in the mix, though, that despite drawing was surprised to find that despite the mass quantities of people, the entire operation was extremely organized. The amount of people who had come out to audition was intimidating and gave the impression of complete chaos and disorganization.

Leave it to Oprah, the most successful woman in television to bring a sense of calm, and class to the audition process. None of this American-Idol-sleep-out-on-the-sidewalk-for-days-in-advance bullshit. Nope, Oprah's approach was far more civilized. Come, in an orderly fashion to retrieve a wrist band, and then come back at the your scheduled time. Don't waste your whole day out here.

While waiting in line, I met a middle-aged attractive woman and her husband who had driven up from Destin, Florida. She was clutching her audition material in one hand, and a microphone in the other; her husband was holding amateur video equipment. She told me that she has a blog, inspiring women to embrace getting older and live life to the fullest. She excused herself for a minute, turning briefly into a television reporter while her husband filmed her showing her blog audience the parking lot full of Oprah show hopefuls.

When she was done taping her little bit, we continued our conversation. I told her that I also had a blog and explained its premise. My show idea was an extension of my blog, encouraging regular people, just like me, to step outside their comfort zone and try new things.

Side note: if you told me a year ago that I'd be discussing blogs with complete strangers in the parking lot of Kohl's in Roswell, Georgia, I would've said you were crazy, but alas, there I was.

Complete stranger blogger friend said she loved the idea of Project 29 to 30 and asked if she could interview me for her blog. Duh, I told her, of course you can. So she asked me questions about my show idea while her husband taped it.

When I made it to the head of the line, I received a wrist band for and was told to come back at 5pm. That time would've been perfect, if I had nothing to do for the rest of the day. But my friend Melissa's wedding was scheduled to start at 6:30pm in the city, so even if this audition took just an hour, and I suspected it would last longer, there was no way I would be able to make it back in time. I considered asking if I could change my time with someone else, but when I looked at the wrist band, I noticed there wasn't a specific time listed on it.

So I went home and slept for several hours, woke up and got a pedicure, watched a little bit of the World Cup game. Then I packed all of my things for the wedding, and headed back to Roswell.

I parked my car and walked towards a large tent where lanes were roped off. Like a bouncer, a staff member checked my wrist band and checked to see that I had my application in hand before instructing me to stand in one of the lanes. As I walked forward in the lane, I could see ahead of me eight or ten tents with other contestants sitting in a semi-circle around a table. Behind the table was an Oprah staffer. Everyone seemed very laid back and relaxed; there was even laughter coming from the tents. I breathed a sigh of relief.

While in line, I met a woman named Carrie who had driven from from Chicago. She is a social worker who works with at-risk youth helping to prevent teenage pregnancy. She told me her show would draw from the real-life cases she deals with to focus on teen issues, and helping young people reach their full potential.

She was spunky, and had a great smile, and we chatted until the Oprah staff said it was now our turn to go. In each lane, they counted 20-25 people off and sent them to take a seat under one of the tents. The seats were in a semi-circle around a desk with a chair behind it. On the desk were stacks of applications. Judging by the stacks, these casting agents had already had quite a busy day.
After we were seated, a young, skinny guy sauntered over to the tent; he loudly and gruffly introduced himself to everyone.

"I'm Billy. I'm 26. I live in Los Angeles and I work in casting. We're going to go around in a circle. Tell us your name. Your age. Your show idea. We don't have a lot of time, so keep it brief. If you're taking too long, I'll tell you to wrap it up so we can move on."

And then he collapsed into a chair behind the table, leaned back and pointed at the woman directly to his left.
"You're up," he said to her. The woman

"Wait, wait," he stopped himself. "One more thing. Keep in mind that I'm the one making the decisions here, so while it's nice to engage the others, you should be directing your pitches to me."

Little 26-year old Billy was humorous, but he was also an ass.

The first woman stood up and said her name was Annie. She lives in Nashville where she is an advocate for victims of physical and sexual abuse. She wanted her show to offer a lending ear for victims and serve as a platform for those issues.

Another woman that looked like soap opera star Susan Lucci stood up wearing a form-fitting red dress. She said she wanted to host a show about woman over their fifties, and call it "50 and Fabulous." I thought about my reluctance to turn 30 and smiled. This woman is definitely aging gracefully and though I've got a long way to go until 50, I think I could learn a lot from her.

One woman stood up and smiled at the group before dropping an enormous bomb on all of us: my husband is Georgia's version of Bernard Madoff. In 2006 he scammed all of his employees for millions of their retirement money. And then he left me for this secretary. I'm raising our 12-year old daughter on my own. I confess I have no idea what her show idea was because I was too shocked and too sad that chose to share this very private, very devastating information with all of us.

One by one, each member of our tent circle rose to pitch their story idea. The environment was friendly and even though we were all "competing," against each other for our own show, there was a sense of camaraderie among our group. Maybe because we all knew how nerve-racking an experience like this is or maybe it was because we were all nearly melting under the hot Roswell sun. Regardless, I found myself smiling at each one of them, proud that we'd all been so courageous.

One man wanted to host a show about money matters after having worked at a bank for years. Another extremely worked up man paced back and forth shouting like an evangelical preacher about kids refusing to wear their pants on their waists and ending up in prison. Apparently after a child "low rides" their trousers, prison is the next step. I tried not to laugh as I pictured Chris Farley's motivational speaker character from Saturday Night Live. One woman who called herself a "performance artist" got up and read a poem that she had written.

I meant it when I said everyone was putting out good vibes for each other, but I admit, as each participant stood up to pitch their show idea, I couldn't help but think, "My idea is so much better than that."

Despite my confidence though, when it was finally my turn to pitch, I was nervous. Really nervous.

"Hello, my name is Stephanie and I'm on a year-long quest to do 365 things I've never done before. Today, Day 272's thing I've never done before is to audition for my very own show on the Oprah Network!"

I tried to sound as upbeat as I possibly could, but I think my nerves got the better of me. My voice was shaking and my knees were too. But when I went on to explain that for every one of the last 272 days I'd done something that I'd never done before, Annie looked me right in the eye and smiled, nodding her head at me. I could tell she was interested in the project and her reaction gave me energy to get through the rest of my pitch.

"I have had such an amazing year, thanks to the people who have offered to help me try new things. I want my show to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone to try the things they've never done before. I can take someone sky-diving for the first time, or take them to the spa to get their hair dyed a different color."

I think Billy had fallen asleep at this point, and I noticed he never wrote anything down while any of us were talking. He barely even glanced at the 16-page application that everyone had filled out. Either he was not interested in any of our ideas, or, I considered when I left, maybe the decision for this contest had already been made.

As I was walking away from the tent to my car, a woman and her daughter, who had both auditioned under my tent, came up to me.
"Did anyone ever tell you that you look exactly like Uma Thurman?," one of them asked me.

"What?," I said, smiling coyly. I heard what she said, I just wanted to hear it again.

"You," she repeated, "You look exactly like Uma Thurman."
She leaned back and looked me over again.

"Yep, you sure do. Just like her."

"That's so nice," I said, "Thank you!"

I think I grew several inches taller on my way to my car. I drove to Kyle's house knowing, for certain, that I wasn't getting my own show on he Oprah network. In fact, I found out later that before the audition in Atlanta ever happened, a hilarious man with cerebral palsy had won the web submission contest and would likely be Oprah's choice.

When Kyle and some of our other friends asked me how it went, I told them I had fun, but they shouldn't hold their breath on my becoming a star. The casting agent was less than impressed with me, but what an experience.

"But," I went on to tell them, "Someone told me that I look like Uma Thurman, so I'm going to call the day a success anyway."

I think perhaps I might've been a little too excited, because while getting ready for the wedding at Kyle's house, I fell down an entire flight of stairs, bruising the entire backside of my body. I hit every single step individually, injuring both my back and my ego enough that warranted everyone at the house to the stairs to make sure I was okay.

First the audition, then the stairs? I was striking out.

I should've been exhausted, but I wasn't. Neither incident could keep me down, and neither kept me, or my friend Trish, who was 8-months pregnant, from hitting the dance floor, taking the dance party of two to an all-out throw down.

Oprah show or not, I remain a one-woman party.