Posts Tagged ‘checking things off my list(s)’

Let’s start with the simple fact that I am not a natural when it comes to golf. Mini-golf has taught me that much. But, I thought to myself, how hard could it be to just go to the driving range and smack the shit out of the ball?

Answer: very.

As part of my 30th birthday weekend, Husband surprised me with plans to do several things that I’d never been able to cross off my past birthday lists – including a trip to the driving range.

We got our clubs and basket of balls, and Husband started giving me simple lessons on stance and swing. “See how my hands are here?” he explained, holding the driver, as I stepped in closer to get a better look. “This is how you want to hold it, and then you bring it back, like this.


It turns out that I was paying such close attention to how he was holding the club, that it took me by surprise when the end of it crashed into my face.

Luckily, he wasn’t gearing up with full strength, otherwise this fun birthday trip may have ended with broken teeth and a trip to the hospital. As it was, we finished our brief lesson (through tears, on my part), and I finally found out first-hand how unnatural a golf swing feels for me.

drivingrange - terrible swing

Photo courtesy of Husband, naturally

For every decent hit I got (and there were a few), it seemed that I also had a number of bloopers. One blooper in particular dropped barely a foot from where I was standing.

Just go ahead and pick it up,” Husband said. “You can reuse it.

So I did.

And as I was bending down, a baby bee stung me right in the center of my top lip.

In that moment, I realized that I’d forgotten how much a bee sting (baby or not) can hurt. Especially in such a sensitive area. That had already been hit with a golf club.

But after a brief rest and a well-placed ice pack, I was back in the game. And I only asked Husband to make sure my lip wasn’t swelling every other minute or so.

I found my stride toward the end, and hit at least a few balls past the 100-yard mark – a vast improvement from the complete misses and bloopers that I started with. And despite the minor injuries, the outing was ultimately a fun way to celebrate 30. Which is probably why Husband suggested: “Why don’t you take a ball to remember the day?

Oh, baby,” I told him, “after all of this, I really don’t think I’m going to have trouble remembering our trip to the driving range.

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When I was younger – think, about 7 years old or so – I remember taking an acting workshop. Nothing fancy, just a short class one summer at the local community center, most likely. (Mama can fill in the details.)

The point is, I remember one exercise where we had to come up with a character. We had to decide the age, sex, career, mannerisms, etc. of this persona that we were going to portray. When the teachers (who were probably in their early 20s) came around and asked me about my character, I told them, “I’m a middle-aged woman.

So about how old do you think that is?” one of them asked me.

Oh, you know, 30,” I responded, nonchalantly.

I don’t remember the teachers’ reactions, but I have to imagine that it was either a laugh, a groan, or somewhere in between.

I’ve thought about that character exercise a lot in the past few months, for one very specific reason. And that’s because today, according to my younger self, I have officially become middle-aged.

And I’m surprisingly okay with that.

I loved my 20s – a lot of good things happened. But, as with any decade, there were also a number of shitty things, too – things that I’m not sad to leave behind.

I’ve never really been one for dwelling on the past. I do love old stories, and can get nostalgic with the best of them, but more often than not, I focus on what’s ahead.

So in that spirit, I decided it was time for the birthday list to make a comeback – a little 30 for 30 of the non-ESPN variety.

It’s an ambitious list, but it’s worth a shot. I just hope my newly middle-aged body is able to keep up.

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I am the kind of person who looks at a restaurant’s menu online before she goes out to dinner. I like to have an idea of what I’m going to order ahead of time, to cut down on the on-the-spot decision making.

I am a planner.

But I found out over the weekend that it’s much harder to plan your meal when you’re eating dim sum.

This particular meal made it on my 27 list mostly because Husband has raved about it, and I’m always up for trying new things.

And, to a degree, I knew what to expect: servers pushing around carts full of food that we could say either yes or no to.


What I didn’t know was how competitive/frantic dim sum could make me feel.

The first couple carts came around fairly quickly, and we enjoyed pork buns and sticky rice – two of the best dishes of the day.


But then there was a lull.

The next carts I saw were loaded with clams and shrimp and beef and chicken…but they were empty by the time they got to us. And I think that made me even hungrier. I know it added to this frantic need I felt to have to choose quickly (and a lot) once the server stopped at our table.


Which is why, when the dessert cart came around and we had a choice between custard pie and custard in a bun, I practically shouted, “The bun! The bun!” to Husband, as if there were a time limit on the decision. Or as if someone else would take it if we didn’t act NOW. (Even though there were plenty available.)

In my defense, the custard bun was fantastic – possibly the best dish of the meal.


But it probably would have been just as delicious if I’d been a little calmer about the decision.


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When I listed this as a 27 goal, I didn’t have a set plan in mind. If pressed, I thought maybe I’d go somewhere for a week-long mission trip of sorts. And I’d probably go somewhere in Central or South America.

Somewhere relatively close, for a relatively short period of time.

Suffice it to say, I was a little off. And by a little, I mean by about 11 weeks and several thousand miles.

Because the current plan is this:

In roughly two months Husband and I will be leaving for a three-month volunteer stint with the Umbrella Foundation. In Nepal.


Photo credit: The Big Umbrella

We’ve both wanted to travel and volunteer, but it’s never been the right time – a common excuse. After reading Conor Grennan’s Little Princes (I can’t recommend it enough), we decided that we could make it the right time.

It was completely within our control to seize this opportunity and have our volunteering adventure.

So that’s what we’re doing.

We’ll be spending three months working with children who have been displaced, orphaned, or trafficked – living near them, sharing meals with them, organizing activities for them, and, undoubtedly, learning from them.

Part of the preparation for this volunteer work is, naturally, fundraising, which covers both volunteer and kid costs.

If you feel so inclined, please visit our fundraising page, where you can also learn a little more about the trip and the inspiration behind it. If not, that’s okay, too, but I still encourage you to read Little Princes if you get the chance.

It’s rare that I call a book life-changing, but for this one, I can’t think of a better way to describe it.

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Up until now I’ve only seen races from the runner’s perspective. I wasn’t especially privy to all the behind-the-scenes organization and set-up.

That changed this weekend.

On Sunday I volunteered at the Girls on the Run 5k, with Heather, Kate, and MJ. We volunteered to help at the finish line – particularly with passing out the medals to the finishers. I can’t speak for all of us, but I know that I was thinking of how it felt to finish the Marine Corps Marathon and have that medal placed around my neck. I might not be a marine, and this might not have been a marathon, but there’s still an awesome sense of accomplishment for finishing a race, and I wanted the girls to feel that.

At the starting line...

At the starting line

The first step to handing out the medals, however, was unwrapping them. Each medal had its own individual plastic wrapping, and there were roughly 1,000 medals.

GOTR medals

Step two was figuring out where to stand to distribute them. Were we meeting the girls right at the finish? Were we funneling them toward the food and water? Were we a line across the course, or two receiving lines on either side? Honestly, I’m still not sure. We ended up in each of those places at one point or another.

The third (and arguably most important) step was identifying who got a medal. We’d first heard that it was just girls who were part of the GOTR program. Then it was all kids.  Then it was everyone. At the end of the day, we still had medals left over.

Part of what you don’t always see as a runner is the communication confusion among the volunteers. During our finish line stint, one race official told us one thing, another contradicted her. And then both changed their minds.

When all was said and done, though, the runners didn’t seem to notice the confusion. The girls got their medals and had huge smiles on their faces, even after sprinting to the finish.

They were so incredibly proud of themselves, and they had every right to be.

And that – plus seeing those final sprints – made any frustration from the confusion completely worth it.


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My previous 10k PR was from 2008, from the second race I’d ever done in my life. I ran the 6.2 miles in 56:16 and was fairly proud of myself (even though I really didn’t have anything to compare it to).

I expected to get faster, but subsequent 10ks were slower, and I started to feel that maybe I had already peaked. Maybe 56:16 would always be my fastest.

But after some recent PR success in other races, I figured it was about time to (try to) update the 10k, and began looking for a race in which to do it.

Enter Heather.

Through her blog, she alerted me to the Run for Shelter 10k, and I decided that now was as good a time as any to go for speed. As Husband has noted, I’m a slave to the weather, and fall is far and away my peak race season.

The race was billed as fairly flat, an easy out-and-back. The organizers also offered free parking and indoor facilities in which to wait for the race start. After many many races of waiting outside in the cold, this was a very welcome change.

My favorite part, however, was the size of the race. There were only 414 10k finishers. That means no weaving, jostling, or crowding on the course. It means that you can focus 100% on you.

Which is exactly what I did.

Aided by a few key running songs (these two are perfect) I pushed myself along, glancing every so often at Guillermo, to make sure we were on track.

My reward was a final time of 50:23, and a brand new shiny PR.

I also managed to finish in the top 10 (okay, #10) of my age group for the first time in…well, ever. So there’s that.

Bottom line: Saturday was the perfect combination of a well-organized race and ideal weather.

And I couldn’t have asked for better PR-setting conditions.

Heather’s far more photo-friendly recap is here.

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I don’t do a lot of research before I set my birthday goals. They’re kind of a gut decision – things I want to do, ideas I’ve had. That kind of thing.

So when I added “Take a bike ride out to Mount Vernon,” I wasn’t thinking of how far it was, I was thinking, A bike ride! That sounds lovely!

Turns out, it was beautiful, but I don’t know if I’d call it lovely.

You see, Mount Vernon is about 20 miles (a little more, as we found out) away from the apartment.

The longest ride I’d ever done was also about 20 miles – and that included a wipeout.

I did not think about these things in conjunction until we were already on our way to Mount Vernon.

Husband had done the Mount-Vernon-and-back trip before. He told me it would be about 40 miles total, but I must have just let that wash over me, not registering that 40 miles is SO FAR.

I was also anticipating that this would be more of a leisurely ride, where we would stop and rest and relax for a bit along the way. You know, no hurry to get to the end.

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

But, for the first 10 miles or so, I was peachy. We rode down Rock Creek and picked up the Mount Vernon Trail. We passed the airport, which was as far as I’d been on that trail before, and ventured into new territory. And it really was beautiful.

We had a perfect day for riding and only minimal crowds on the trails, so we weren’t dodging people left and right.

Just after we passed under the Woodrow Wilson bridge, however, I started to feel it. We’d been riding for more than an hour, and my butt was beyond sore. If we’re being honest here, that whole general region was sore because my bike seat, while comfortable enough for a daily commute, was not built for use for hours at a time.

That, and I still haven’t bought padded bike shorts. And that’s on me.

Regardless, the next ten miles to Mount Vernon were filled with me alternatively shifting in my seat, cursing myself for this idea, and wondering how such a beautiful ride could be so painful.

But we made it.


I was stalling, trying to prolong getting back on the bike for the ride home, so we wandered around the visitor center for a bit, trying not to collide with the tour groups.

Eventually, we had to go. It was getting cooler and windier and, by that point, we both wanted to be home.

I’d be lying if I said the ride back was easy. It was still painful and made me appreciate the cushy-ness of our couch more than I ever have before.

But I did it. And now I know what 40 miles feels like.

And I know that if I ever want to do it again (which seems unlikely right now), padded shorts are a necessary investment.

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