new year, same me

1935470_10154609999312715_9146527296301029446_nThis year, I have resolved to do more of what makes me happy.  I’m sharing my “resolutions” (though I hate calling them that because of the connotation so let’s just call them goals) here for accountability to myself, and in the hopes of perhaps inspiring you to set a few goals for yourself this calendar year.  It’s never too late to start doing more of what you love!

  1. Prioritize travel.
    • Travel has been a huge priority to me in the past, and I’m off to a good start with it for this year, too.  I’m headed to San Francisco next month and New York City in March!  I’ve also got a trip to Orlando on the agenda for a very special wedding I’m in during April.
  2. Spend more time outdoors.
    • I’m trying to be intentional about getting outdoors, and got off to a good start last week with a hike at Percy Priest Lake with Alli!  My (rough) goal is to seek out one outdoor activity a weekend, whether that be a long walk around my neighborhood, a hike or something more adventurous.
  3. Continue to send snail mail and be a good pen pal.
    • Mail brings me joy, period.  I love stamps and stationery and the post office and my mailman and everything about it.
  4. Read a lot of books.
  5. Listen to a lot of podcasts.
    • I adore podcasts!  I’ll be posting soon about some of my favorites.  They’re great for passing the time on a road trip and helping keep focused (I spent a lot of time in the car in 2015 so I can really vouch for this).
  6. Write a book.
    • I haven’t shared much about my desire to write a book here, but it’s on the 101 in 1001 list that I created about a year and a half ago.  I love to write and read, and this is the ultimate challenge for myself – to see if I can combine those passions into one creative project!

I have others goals, of course, that are practical and ongoing, like developing consistency in my exercise routine again, continuing to push toward long-term financial security, establishing clear career goals, etc.  However, the six goals above are the ones that bring me true joy and are for pleasure rather than practicality (like the goals I just mentioned).

What are your goals for this year?  I encourage you to write them down formally and share them with someone.  The act of doing so makes them real and is (in my opinion) the first step toward making them happen!

defending myself and climbing rocks

I woke up this past Saturday with a strange feeling.  What the heck am I going to do today?  I’ve spent so many of my past weekends traveling or going to events that I had no clue what to do with a wide-open Saturday.  I decided to seize the day and conquer some more of my 101 in 1001 list!

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I guess I should disclose, I actually conquered a bit of it on Friday night too.  Maddie and I hosted a game night at our place.  We used to host these a lot at our old apartment, but it had been quite a while.  It was good to be back at it!

Back to Saturday…Once a month, my gym hosts an instructor from the Global Mixed Martial Arts Academy.  The instructor teaches a one-hour self defense class for women where we learn about strikes (hitting with our elbows or knees) or escaping attacks.  It was intense!  We learned how to get out of a chokehold, a bear hug from behind, a knife-to-the-throat…pretty serious stuff.  It was actually invigorating to do!  Obviously the hope and goal is that I’ll never have to use these skills, but at least I’m prepared.

After class, I headed with my friends Justine and Alex to the Gainesville Rock Gym for an afternoon of climbing.  We bouldered and did top-rope climbing (after getting trained in belaying).  It was awesome!  I have been rock climbing before (on actual rocks in Alabama back in high school and on the Lake Wauberg rock wall in college) but doing it indoors was a new experience.  It was an arm workout, for sure, and a fun bonding experience for Alex, Justine and myself.

makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice

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If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably know about my 101 in 1001 list.  I started it officially on July 13, 2014 and have made some major progress since then, especially in the last 10 days.  Here is an update!

15.  Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway with Sam Utesch 

I met Sam back in early February 2013 at a conference in Atlanta.  I went to the University of Florida and he went to Appalachian State University (we were both ambassadors for our schools).  We hit it off and spent all night hanging out.  We kept in touch after, and I saw him one day when he visited Florida a couple of months later.  Since then, we have not seen each other but have kept in close contact.  Well, that very first night we met, Sam told me how much I would love Boone, NC where he lives.  A few months later, he told me about the Blue Ridge Parkway and how he would take me for a drive on it when I visited.  This month, that visit finally happened!  We packed a whole lot in between Friday morning when I flew in and Monday when I left:  we went to some of the most popular bars like Galileo’s (karaoke goodness), Klondike (literally in a trailer) and TApp Room; we ate a lot at places like Come Back Shack, Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock, Bojangles (believe it or not, my first time) and more; we went to tailgates and part of the App football game; we drank a lot of Yuengling; I got to meet tons of his friends all of whom were so friendly, warm and fun; we shopped on King Street; and last but not least, we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway!  I’ll be honest, the view was…nonexistent.  We drove through intense fog.  But, it was the parkway nonetheless and I checked it off!  Come to think of it, the weather was pretty terrible the whole time I was in Boone…pretty foggy, misty and cool.  But I figure if I can fall in love with an area in that kind of weather, I would really love it on a nice weekend!

62. Go on a tour of a brewery &
100. Visit a zoo

Part of my job is helping coordinate a leadership development program for business and community leaders in my area. Each month, we have a different program day—social services, government, medicine, etc. This month, our program day was split between agriculture and quality of life. We started the morning at a ranch, seeing cattle, calves and horses. After that, we went to the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo for a tour. My favorite part was, of course, the monkeys! I love them. After, we went to a planetarium for a show. It was trippy but awesome—and a little too relaxing. I almost dozed off several times. We ended our day at Swamp Head (a local brewery and tasting room in Gainesville – look for their pale ale at Publix all over the state). The tour was pretty brief but interesting to learn about their brewing process and capacity. This day was absolutely great: who wouldn’t love a Tuesday getting paid to check a couple of items off the ol’ bucket list?

63. Go to a fair &
52. Treat a friend to a pedicure

I went home to Pensacola this weekend and it was fantastic! On Saturday morning, I hung out with my mom and little brother Reid.  I took my mom (who I definitely consider a friend) to get a pedicure that morning, went to a baby shower with her that afternoon and then spent the night with one of my best friends since high school, Drew.   We ate dinner, went to the beach at night and went for a long drive with the windows down and the music up; it was my kind of night. I also got a chance to celebrate Reid’s 16th birthday with him on Sunday! I can’t believe how old he is getting (or how old it means I’m getting). Before all this, though, on Friday night, I went with Reid, Maddie, Michelle and Ada to the PENSACOLA INTERSTATE FAIR! This was a huge first for me. Much like I always wanted a sock monkey for Christmas growing up but never got one (thanks Lawrence for finally fulfilling that dream back at age 17), I have always dreamt of going to a fair. The food, the rides, the games, the people…I was born ready (so I thought). What I actually found at the fair was that I loved a few rides (the super high swings, the ferris wheel, the swinging pirate ship) and that was about it. There was much people watching to be done: massive amounts of camouflage, about 90 percent of the Pensacola area middle and high school demographic, several parents with babies who should’ve been in bed hours earlier and quite a few creepy carnies. One thing I was really disappointed in was the lack of an elephant. I thought fairs had them but evidently that’s only carnivals or circuses? I didn’t know there was a difference. I also couldn’t find any signage for a pig competition (which I thought was definitely a fair thing).

breathe through your thighs

Thrilled to be done with power yoga and putting the mat away (and pointing at Calm Eric).

So there I was, in a darkened group fitness studio, taking my first ever power yoga class.  I was wearing my lucky gnome socks and was ready to check something new off the bucket list.

“Breathe through your thighs,” he said.  I suppressed a laugh.  He let out several long, dramatic breaths.  Were those coming through his thighs?  The breaths sounded like fairly normal respiratory function to me.

We were in the first 15 minutes of the class, the portion devoted to stretching and breathing and listening to Eric talk in what I suppose was a soothing voice.

I was bored in those 15 minutes but in hindsight, I should have savored them, because the following 45 minutes were grueling.  Have you ever heard of the crow pose?  What about the side crow?  THESE ARE NOT BEGINNER POSES.  But these are what Eric was doing in this class.

We were warriors and side warriors and reverse warriors and children and trees and tables and IT WAS JUST A LOT.

And as we contorted ourselves, Eric spoke nuggets of “wisdom” and “inspiration” and “relaxation.”

Eric: “Visualize a white light seeping through your scalp.”
My thoughts: “Man, I’m so glad I don’t have dandruff.”

Eric: “Picture a red rose blooming slowly in your heart.”
My thoughts: “Roses have thorns.  This is what Jordin Sparks was talking about in Bleeding Love!”

Eric: “Picture a light blue color right between your eyes.”
My thoughts: “Ow. Why do my eyes hurt?  Am I crossing my eyes with my eyelids closed?!”

Eric: “When you embrace pain and hurt it turns to love and you become strong.”
My thoughts: “That doesn’t sound healthy.  That sounds like he is condoning domestic abuse.”

And so the class went, for nearly an hour.  Then, as we went into my favorite pose, the one where you lie flat on your back and just start to fall asleep because the class is almost over, the girl in front of me tickled my foot.  And I loudly laughed and interrupted everyone else’s peace.

Afterward, I told Eric it was my first class and he was shocked, saying that no one should begin with power yoga, and the friend who invited me (LOOKING AT YOU, AUDRA) wasn’t a friend at all.

To reward ourselves for the hour of Zumba (my thing) and hour of power yoga (clearly not my thing), I went with my girlfriends to Leonardo’s, ate two slices of pizza, then went to House of Beer, drank two beers and cried listening to romantic first date stories.  What a night.

surf’s (kind of) up

1743571_10152873962407715_919633151_nA week ago, I got a text from my friend Sean.

It said all it needed to in one word: “Surf?”

A short conversation later (and an internal debate on whether or not I should indeed skip my class to go to St. Augustine spontaneously), Sean was all set to pick me up.  I had tried to convince him that we should wait and go on Sunday afternoon instead but he was adamant that the waves were not to be passed up on this particular Thursday.  And seeing as it’s senior spring, and this was on my bucket list, I obliged.

We got to his house in St. Augustine, and after a quick meet-the-parents, I was putting on a wetsuit.  This is the first of many things people never tell you about surfing: wetsuits are totally awkward to put on.  My calf muscles have never felt more thunderous than they did as the neoprene legs of the wetsuit clung to them like that creeper from Plaza of the Americas clung to me back in January.  Following Sean’s lead, I left the top half of the wetsuit around my waist and prepared to load up for the beach.

We loaded the surfboards into Sean’s car and headed to the beach…where a red flag was flying and not a single soul was in the water.    Another thing no one mentions about surfing: carrying a 7-ish foot long surfboard is no monkey business, particularly when you are on a narrow beach walkover and trying not to hit anyone in the face as they try to walk past.

Sean knew that I had never surfed before and that he was dealing with a total amateur.  After we put our stuff down in the sand, I followed his lead and zipped up my wetsuit all the way.

“You ready to hit the water?” Sean asked me.

I was stunned.  In all the movies/episodes of Made on MTV I have seen, the rookie practices all of the motions of surfing on the sand before they even go near the water.  The instructor gives lots of tips and encouragement and then, only then, do they actually hit the waves.

1948210_10152873962472715_691846972_nBut Sean seemed to think this method was overrated.  He walked confidently toward the Atlantic, knowing I’d follow.

Let me tell you, that water was cold.  Yes, the wetsuit was miraculously effective at keeping my body warm.  But my poor hands and feet, and lower half of my arms, and neck and face and OH YEAH MY ENTIRE HEAD FULL OF COLD, WET HAIR were all freezing.

Then we began the painstaking process of paddling out.  The waves were rough and coming from all directions.  Sean made it look easily as I was repeatedly pummeled into the ocean floor and pushed backward (like one of those math problems from elementary school where you go two feet forward but slide back three).

At one point, Sean asked me if I wanted to go back to the shore.  No freaking way was I heading in after ten minutes of effort.

We finally got out past where the waves were breaking and it was the most peaceful, beautiful, awesome thing.  I was content just to sit on the board and soak it all in.  Sean was right when he said that it’s pretty tough to be stressed or upset out on the water.

If I gave you a vivid description of all that followed, you’d be reading until your hair went entirely gray, so I’ll be brief:  I never stood up on the board and caught a wave.  I did, however half-stomach/half-knees, clenching the board with all my might, ride several waves, literally screaming and squealing as I went.  I also cheered for Sean as he Johnny Tsunami-style made the whole thing look like a piece of cake.  The end of the day came when, as dusk was approaching, a giant wave came at me head on.  My board slammed into my nose and mouth, the wave pushed me under, then my board slammed into the back of my head for good measure.  Panicking, I went to the shore and Sean followed, concerned.

Of course, I was fine.  Of course, there was no blood.  My hands and feet were numb.  The board was heavy to carry back down the shore to the car.  My nose was throbbing.  My hair was a tangled mess.  My body was exhausted.  We were starving.  But I loved, loved, loved my first experience surfing, and I can’t wait to go again.