Catch-Up Post: Weeks 35 — 38

Sadly, I find myself again writing a brief post to catch up on chronicling my New Things adventures in the past few weeks. Work, life, and novel-planning have shoved this blog to the back burner. Without further due, during Weeks Thirty-Five through Thirty-Eight,  I … 

  • Participated in a “Lagree Fitness” class at Studio Novo in Nashville, TN. An offshoot of pilates (which I’ve also never done), Lagree fitness is all about SLOW, controlled movements – a very different experience to a CrossFitter like myself. During the workout, I was most concerned with keeping my balance while standing and stretching on the machine’s sliding platforms. I was surprised to be VERY sore the next day, particularly in my inner thighs and my core.
  • Attended a “VIP” event at the National Zoo featuring an acoustic O.A.R. concert.  To start, my friends and I supped on free appetizers (including a selection of raw oysters, which one of the girls had never tried – she was instructed emphatically to “TASTE THE SEA!”). Of course,  also browsed the various animal exhibits. I even held a rather scary-looking Australian stick bug – which took a bit of bravery on my part, since it looked suspiciously like a scorpion (my biggest fear). Later, we watched (read: danced) just 10 feet off the stage as O.A.R. performed.
  • Went horseback riding in Rock Creek Park. Although my friend Dani rode as a child, this was my first time ever mounting a horse. I had a spirited black steed and Dani was given a stubborn giant named “Andrew.” Poor Dani spent the entire ride digging her heels in; however, Andrew simply wanted to go at his own pace. It was an interesting experience having my mode of transport be a living, breathing thing with its own unique personality. The ride itself was quiet and picturesque. Deep in Rock Creek Park, surrounded by trees slowly turning from green to red, gold, and brown, we forgot for a moment that we were still in the District and lost ourselves in the soft “clop clop” of hooves on the dirt path.
  • Saw my first performance at the Ryman. During Week 38, I traveled back to Nashville to celebrate my (26) and Caroline’s (3) birthdays. On Friday, my sister and I enjoyed up-scale birthday dinner at Kayne Prime in the Gulch – where the filet and the “risotto tater-tots” really stood out. Saturday evening my brother-in-law’s brother Mark and I saw Alt-J perform at the Ryman Auditorium. While waiting for the show to begin, I scanned the small, historic venue. With Johnny Cash blaring from a speaker, I noted that the Ryman was reminiscent of a southern church with its wooden “pew-like” benches. When the entire crowd (demanding an encore) pounded in unison on the benches in front of them, the entire place boomed and shook.

The real star of the show during the Week 38-end was the littlest birthday girl, Caroline. At 3, this was the first birthday she really understood. During breakfast, she listed off the names of all her “best friends” who she was excited to see at the party. Dressed in purple polka-dotted pants and befitted with a purple crown, we spent an hour bouncing around the “Hippity Hop” (a local children’s party venue) before unwrapping purple presents and eating cupcakes with purple icing.

The following afternoon, my family and I went for boat ride on the lake. As we sped across the water, Caroline stared ahead with an almost trance-like expression. When we asked her what she was thinking about, she replied with the honesty of a toddler – “… cookies.” While we were seated a nearby lakeside restaurant, Caroline and baby Andrew attempted to make each other laugh – Caroline pulling at the sides of her mouth and Andrew throwing his chubby baby arms forward, pointing and saying “No!” (with a smile to show that he’s kidding).

Later, Caroline sighed and said to me, “I wish my birthday would come back.” I responded, “Well, Saturday was just your birthday PARTY. Tuesday is your real birthday.” Delighted, Caroline asked, “So… Tuesday is my PURPLE BIRTHDAY?!?” Yes, baby girl, your purple birthday.

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Week 33 and 34: Flying Trapeze and Starting My Novel

Week 33: A Flying Trapeze Class

During a trip to O’ahu last November, my friend Julie and I hiked to the top of Makapu’u Point. After taking a moment to enjoy the breathtaking view of the island’s southeastern coastline, Julie ventured away from the railing and plopped down with her legs hanging over the side. She beckoned me over. I was reminded of the fact – brave as I may believe myself to be – I am not a huge fan of heights. I sat down and slowly inched my way to the edge. After posing for a photo and spending thirty seconds watching the waves crash on the rocks below, I retreated ten feet back to safety. Julie, on the other hand, remained perched there for several minutes while nonchalantly biting into an apple.

During Week 33, Julie joined me for a two hour Flying Trapeze class near the Navy Yard. Once again, she was fearless. Apparently, as a child she dreamed of being a trapeze artist. We received a brief lecture in the basic maneuvers. As Julie and I each waited for our turn, one of the trainers told us how he left home to join the circus – much to his parent’s chagrin.

When I climbed up the ladder onto the platform, I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. My stomach dropped to my knees as I jumped – my body weightless, suspended midair for a brief second. At the instructor’s command, I hooked both legs around the bar and … let go. In that moment, I forgot my fear. I simply thrilled in the experience of flying. Next, we built up to dismounting with a back-flip onto the net below. My confidence grew with each attempt.

As two of only three members of the larger class who were able to master the basics, Julie and I were given the opportunity to release ourselves from the fly bar and be caught by an instructor. The timing of this trick is everything, however, and unfortunately I hesitated just long enough so that I was only able to grab one of the instructor’s arms. Julie, on the other hand, did her five-year-old self proud. When she succeeded in linking arms with the instructor, our fellow classmates erupted in cheers.

I left the class with windswept hair, rope burn on my left elbow, and an ear-to-ear smile. It was freeing to break through my initial unease and do something I didn’t know I was capable of. I realized that this was simply a more pronounced example of what I do each week – stepping outside my comfort zone to accomplish something entirely new.

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Week 34: Starting my Novel

One of the side benefits of the New Things resolution is that it gives me a reason to write outside of my day job. I love fiction – whether it is reading a novel, writing a short story, or simply taking the time to immerse myself in a daydream. During class in college you’d often find me scribbling furiously – ostensibly taking notes, but in reality I’d be exploring a story idea that just grabbed hold of me.

For almost ten years now, I’ve wanted to write a novel. I had a particular story in mind – the story of my grandfather’s life. My grandfather was the youngest child in a large family from a small coastal town in Alabama. He was raised during the Great Depression. A talented athlete and an industrious worker, my grandfather went on to serve in the CCC and later in the Navy on the USS Hornet. Clearly, I had a rich plotline to work with; yet in ten years I have never put pen to paper.

To many, the idea of writing a novel seems like a herculean task. I’m no different. However, I think the larger reason for my hesitation has been the idea of turning my grandfather into a fictional hero. My memories and my father’s stories can only take me so far. I need to fill in innumerable gaps that will allow the story to flow and have meaning for the reader, while still staying true to my grandfather’s character.

Initially, my New Thing for Week #34 was supposed to be drafting a short story – one that could stand alone but which would also serve as the starting point for the novel. However, as I began to map out this first chapter, I realized that I was doing myself a great disservice. In both my work and in my free time, I’ve never been one to outline. Rather, I am what some writers call a “pantser” … I become inspired by an idea and simply start writing. Although this may work for a short story, a blog post, or a snippet of a scene, I suspected that this was a recipe for disaster for a 200+ page manuscript.

I started by reading. I filled my Amazon shopping cart with seven how-to books promising to help the reader turn an idea into a breakout piece of fiction. The 90 Day Novel* by Alan Watt has proved to be my favorite (although, don’t hold me to that rather ambitious time-table!). To begin, this book instructed me to “hold it loosely” – allowing myself an hour or so a day to simply daydream about my story and what might happen.

* Early on in the book, the author warns“Don’t tell anyone you’re writing a novel.” Whoops.

The 90 Day Novel also prodded me into considering some deeper questions – for example, writing as my fictional hero, I had to answer the following: “the most important thing I ever did was … What I need to be forgiven for is … One thing you need to know about me is …” My responses have been impulsive, organic. Often I was surprised by what I wrote. Holding my story “loosely” has helped me discover new characters, explore themes and craft my overarching message. 

At the moment, I’ve written about ten pages of handwritten notes – including my thoughts about my protagonist’s motives and weaknesses, character sketches, and specific scenes that have come to me during my morning walk with Callie. I’ve created a time-line of events in sticky notes on my bedroom wall. I’ve even made a list of aspects I need to research – for example, “what are the symptoms of malaria?” and “what was it like to be in the Battle of Midway?”

Coincidentally, several of my research tasks should bring me full circle. Starting my novel was a New Thing – finishing it will require a host of new experiences – visiting my grandfather’s hometown, taking a boxing class, listening to episodes of the Lone Ranger radio show … and I’m sure ultimately many more. I look forward both to discovering my story and better understanding how my grandfather became the great man he was. Whether it takes me 90 days or a year, it is a story that deserves telling. 

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My grandfather, Clarence Moore “Bob” Logsdon is pictured above in a famous photo depicting a bomber taking off from the USS Hornet during the Doolittle Raid (he is the shorter man leaning against the railing). 

Weeks 30 – 32: A Sunday NYT Crossword, Raw Foods Diet, and the Dog Day of Summer

Week 30 and 31 – A Sunday NYT Crossword and the Raw Foods Diet

         The New Things journey cannot always run smoothly. During Weeks 30 and 31, I made valiant – but ultimately unsuccessful – attempts at New Things # 50 and # 45 Finish a Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle and Eat a Raw Foods Diet for Seven Days.

         I have 20 years of schooling under my belt. I am a voracious reader … I enjoy history and I – at the very least – skim the top news stories every day. Once, after one of Sarah Palin’s infamous media flubs during her ill-fated VP run, I proved that I could name 50+ seminal US Supreme Court cases in under two minutes (not one of my cooler moments). In sum, I KNOW THINGS. And yet, I was completely and utterly humbled by the Sunday Times crossword.*

          * Note: I belatedly learned that the Sunday puzzle isn’t the hardest, as I originally thought. However, it is the largest. So that is something?

         I spent the better part of two hours alternately staring at the page and straight ahead – perhaps, if I furrowed my brow enough, the answer would appear in a spectral form in the air above the coffee table. Thankfully, I was flanked by two friends – one offering moral support, the other dropping hints.

You should be able to get 16-down – a five letter word for unkempt.”

How do you know what 16-down is?”

I saw it.”

Oh.” (Yeah, for thirty seconds twenty minutes ago, you freak of nature!)

         I learned that there are some tricks and rules that a newbie like me can only hope to guess at. For example, a question-mark at the end of the clue may indicate that the answer is a play on words. I was perplexed by the number of clues that ended like the following – Tip for a reporter, maybe. “Maybe? Maybe what? MAYBE that’s the clue???” In the end, I gave up and went to bed with less than half of the puzzle completed. I enjoyed the challenge, however. Perhaps once I make it through this book, I’ll be ready to use crossword as a mental exercise when I am riding on the metro, sitting at the dog park, etc.

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         The day after being schooled by the New York Times, I tackled an entirely different challenge – a week eating nothing but raw food. Although I’m a fan of vegetables, I typically like them seasoned (especially with bacon!) and cooked. I begun the week armed with a bushel? peck? of fresh produce purchased from a vendor affectionately known as “Grandma” in the local farmer’s market. Knowing that rabbit food alone wouldn’t keep me going, I bought an assortment of nuts for when I was feeling peckish.

         I quickly learned – not every item on the New Things List is necessarily a GOOD idea. Jumping in to a rather radical diet with no foundational knowledge may have been a little silly. Particularly because I’m a big fan of protein. The first day, I was fairly happy munching on slices of tomato, carrots, and red and green peppers. By the third afternoon, I felt weak and had a splitting headache. I unashamedly tore into a spinach, mushroom and BACON omelet that evening. Despite my failure, I learned to appreciate the taste of unadorned vegetables in their natural form. Most notably, I never realized how much flavor a red pepper has. (I also noted that I seemed less dehydrated than usual during those two days). I happily continued to snack on raw veggies the rest of the week.

         To bookend the experience, I ate a raw-food meal done right at Khepra’s Raw Food Bar in H Street. My first impression was surprise over how much FOOD I was given for only $11. My meal easily weighed a lb and a half. The meal was surprisingly complex in its flavors, and much of it was delicious. My favorite sides were curried peas and sprouted grains, and “fried” plantains with a spicy fig-based sauce. The main – a “meatloaf” made from almonds – was also tasty. However, it tasted absolutely nothing like meat. Sorry, Khepra. Overall, I was a fan and would certainly go back – particularly since they were out of the raw cookies. Even if they’ve never seen an oven … I don’t discriminate when it comes to cookies. 

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Week 32: The Dog Day of Summer

         For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a proud dog-mom to a 3-year-old poodle mix named Callie. With my busy work schedule, it takes a bit of planning to ensure that she gets enough exercise and attention every day. Although caring for a dog takes commitment, I never consider it to be a burden because Callie gives me so much love in return.

         I recently read that the modern-day dog descended from wolves living near early human settlements – specifically, those wolves that made eye-contact. with us Feeling a deep connection with these animals, man domesticated them. This theory rings true personally, as most dogs – Callie included – seem to me to be well-versed in the language of human kindness. After all, how better to show kindness, empathy, and love than to look someone in the eye and offer a hand – or paw, or wet-nosed nuzzle? For all the joy she brings me, I felt that my beloved pup deserved her very own New Thing, namely # 51: “Give Callie the Best Doggone Day Ever.”

         The morning of Callie’s big day, I woke early, but didn’t immediately leave the comfort of the covers. Instead, I pulled my canine bedfellow close and gave her an indulgent belly rub. After making a dog-approved breakfast of scrambled eggs and turkey, we headed out on a 3-mile walk to the Capitol building and back. I avoided walking at my usual brisk tempo. Instead, I let Callie set the pace – stopping to greet every passer-by, sprinting to catch a taunting squirrel, etc. She carried a stick in her mouth for a solid half-mile, turning in place every minute to proudly show me her prize. On the way back, we stopped by the local park and played fetch until she dropped, panting happily in the grass.

         Callie went everywhere I did that day. She joined me at a friend’s barbeque, spending the first 20 minutes swapping laps and giving kisses before a playmate arrived. Rather than tying her to a tree at my weekly kickball game, I let her stay by my side behind home plate. Overcome by excitement, at one point she made a break for the pitcher’s mound. Per usual, my friendly pup stole everyone’s heart. Another team even adopted her as their mascot for a running-of-the-bulls themed “spirit week” photo. At the happy hour after the game, she lounged on top of the outdoor tables and accepted scraps as tribute.

         Unsurprisingly, my little pup was pooped after our long day. She curled up in her favorite spot on my lap and stared up at me until her eye-lids drooped. As she slept, Callie’s tiny paws twitched and she let out several muted “woofs.” I like to think that she was reliving her doggone-good day. 

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Week 27, 28, and 29: Shedding the Excess, Touring the National Building Museum, and Making Something Useful out of Wood

Week Twenty-Seven – Shedding the Excess

A few weeks ago, I traded my cramped studio in Logan Circle for a sunny one-bedroom with a patio in Eastern Market. When I began to my things, I balked at how much extraneous STUFF I own, particularly in my wardrobe. Although I’ve moved six times in the last eight years, I am notorious for throwing clothes into the “keep” pile, because … maybe … someday … you never know, I might wear it again!? Ironically, I always seem to throw away household items that I know I’ll immediately need in my new place – such as cleaning supplies. (Seriously, who wants to pack a used sponge?).

            And so, I decided that my New Thing during Week 27 would be to strip myself of anything and everything I haven’t worn in the last year. After much internal struggling, I was left with four (!) overstuffed garbage bags filled with clothes. Setting aside one bag of items I thought may suit my sister and/or friends, the other three were offered on Craigslist to the first Size 4 willing to show up on my doorstep.

            As I scrubbed my kitchen with a soon-to-be-discarded sponge, the new owner of half my wardrobe arrived in a beat-up sedan. “Are there any work-appropriate clothes?” she asked. I assured her that there were and helped her load up the car. In the end, not only did I clear out my closet – my old clothes went to someone who truly need them. An hour after the girl left, I received the following text message:

Thank you SO much for the clothes! Everything fit perfectly. I just moved to the area and didn’t know how I’d afford new clothes for this weather and my new job. God Bless!!!

Week Twenty-Eight – Touring the National Building Museum

           In my experience, DC cabdrivers are an interesting lot. A recent backseat conversation inspired two New Things, one of which I accomplished during Week Twenty-Eight. During a short ride downtown, the driver and I swapped stories about more obscure, but notable sites around the District. I told him about my visits to Jones Point Lighthouse in Alexandria and the Old Stone House in Georgetown. In response, he insisted that I check out President Lincoln’s cottage near Rock Creek Cemetery. Peering at me through the rear-view mirror, he asked “have you seen the National Building Museum? Beautiful!” As we arrived at my office building, he waved goodbye and gestured ahead – “its only a few blocks away from here!”

         Not to disappoint my enthusiastic cabbie, I ventured to the museum a few days later while on my lunch break. I was thrilled to trade the cloying humidity for the cool, open air of the museum’s Great Hall. Equipped with a self-guided tour downloaded to my smart phone, I wondered through each exhibit. I peered up at the massive Corinthian columns, which I learned are among the largest in the world.  Aside from the grand view of the main hall, its most notable feature is the frieze that adorns the exterior of the building. The ornate stonework depicts a solemn parade of Civil War soldiers in full battle array. This tribute is explained by the fact that the museum is located in the old Pension Bureau Building. On my way out, I attempted to snag a “selfie” with the museum in the background. After I took my snapshot, a nearby bus driver asked “Are you from Europe?” When he saw my bemused expression, he explained – “typically, its Europeans who take pictures of yellow school buses because they’re a novelty over there.” Apparently, its time to tack on another New Thing to the List – Learn How to Operate An iPhone.

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 Week Twenty-Nine – Making Something Useful Out of Wood

            A few months ago, after an enjoyable Monument Bike Ride (See Week Fourteen) I took the plunge and purchased a bike of my own. I. LOVE. My. Bike. My new ride is a lovingly-restored Japanese road bike that is almost 35 years old. A perfect blend of vintage style and speed, the bike suits me perfectly. Apparently, it is also unique – when I came in with a flat tire a few weeks ago, a bike shop employee told me that my bike is “beyond cool” before calling over his colleagues to check it out.

          Obviously, I’ve been eager to ride my beyond-cool bike around town as much as possible. To facilitate this, I’ve modified an old backpack to serve as a makeshift carrier for my dog, Callie. A bike basket was the next item on my list. However, I wasn’t impressed by the basic (and expensive) wire baskets in stores. So, I set out to make my own bike basket by re-purposing an old milk crate I found at Eastern Market. First, I painted the crate a faded brick red. After using a small saw to create holes to line up with my bike rack, I fastened the crate securely using hose clamps. Viola, an easy and vintage-looking bike basket!

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            Because this small project let me feeling quite handy, I decided to create some personalized wall art to cover up the bare walls in my new apartment. I started with a pair of 80-year-old window panes (can you tell I like old things?) and a vintage copy of my favorite book from childhood – Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. Using a thin layer of decoupage glue, I covered the glass panes with the yellowed pages. Finally, I strung cable lights around to add to the beauty and provide some ambient lighting. Now every time I walk by, I’m reminded of my favorite sentiment from the Anne series:

After all … I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.

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Week 25 and 26: A Bed and Breakfast Getaway and Exploring my Revitalized Hometown

Week Twenty-Five – A Bed and Breakfast Getaway

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Now that my sister, Lindsay, is a mother of two children, our time together is often punctuated by feedings, diaper changes, and plaintive requests from a toddler. So, we decided to take advantage of an impromptu – and baby free – recent visit to Florida by getting in some much needed sister bonding.

Shortly after we arrived in our hometown of Deland, Florida, Lindsay and I drove to nearby New Smyrna Beach and checked into a quaint Bed and Breakfast called the Black Dolphin Inn. Although I’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in some historic and grand hotels, this was my first ever B&B getaway. Lindsay and I exchanged excited glances as we pulled up to the picturesque Spanish-style home overlooking the river. The owner’s son carried our bags through the sleek, modern common area and gave us a bit of history – “It took my parents four years to get this place perfect. My dad actually did the decorating, he was inspired by the Louisiana-French style.” Later, I asked if owning a B&B had been a long-standing dream of theirs. He replied, “You’d think so, but really it was an opportunity that fell into their laps. But they jumped at it, and they love it.”As we settled in, one of the owners poured us glasses of pomegranate lemonade – her own creation – and told of us all the goings-on scheduled for that weekend on the beach.

After a day by the pool and an evening out, Lindsay and I gratefully retired to our luxurious king-sized bed. Although the homey surroundings and the amicable service stood out, what made our stay a truly singular experience was breakfast the following morning. This was not a uninspired spread of bagels, muffins and fruit. The owners hustled between the restaurant-grade kitchen and the dining room table, trading plates for smiles. I poured myself a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice while inspecting the menu. We ultimately shared two southern favorites – biscuits with sausage gravy and shrimp and grits. Exclaiming over how delicious everything was and eating way more than was good for us, we discussed the details of the quaint B&B that we would run together someday.

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Week Twenty-Six – Exploring my Revitalized Hometown

I loved growing up in DeLand, Florida. It was the kind of town that completely shut down when there was a big football game at the local high school stadium, and where the construction of a Wal-Mart became front-page news. However, since I now spend the bulk of my holidays in Nashville, I haven’t seen much of my hometown in five years. As became apparent during my sister and I’s recent visit, DeLand has undergone a great transformation; it was time for us to become reacquainted.

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Historic Downtown DeLand is comprised of a single main street framed by 19th Century storefronts. It is a sight burned into my memory. As a child, I loved to pick a quiet corner and sit “indian-style” with a dusty tome in a removed corner of the Muse bookshop. I spent lose change unearthed from the couch cushion at the Candy Castle. During high school, I flipped through CDs in Steve’s Downtown Music. As I checked out with my latest Top-40 selection, I shrugged aside more obscure recommendations from the owner – a Weird Al lookalike known for his telltale glazed expression.

Although Downtown DeLand has held onto its quaint, historic spirit, it has adopted a more eclectic and vibrant aesthetic. During a mid-morning stroll down Woodland Boulevard, Lindsay and I browsed the wares in trendy boutiques. Ten years ago, downtown DeLand would hardly be considered an ideal shopping destination – unless perhaps you were a character from the Golden Girls. Today, some of our childhood friends have returned home to open businesses like Pinup Parlor and Sportsanity, which cater to a younger crowd. Outdated shops have given way to places such as The Nest – a dual-purpose establishment where patrons can browse restored, hand-painted furniture while enjoying a glass of (“secret recipe”) sangria. For lunch, Lindsay and I ate at Dalley in the Alley, a restaurant that creates imaginative dishes from locally-grown produce. That evening, we joined our aunt for an authentic Mexican meal at De la Vega. After sampling home-made Churros while sitting outside along the lighted street, we caught a live band in the courtyard at Cafe De Vinci. Affectionately called the “Athens of Florida,” it seems that modern-day DeLand has opened up to a wide range of international influences.

The recent revitalization of DeLand extends beyond its main street. Although DeLand’s history Garden District was settled in the late 1800s by well-to-do Yankees who built large, beautiful homes, the neighborhood became blighted by the 1980s. Today, however, many of these homes have been restored to their former glory. My sister and I drove around, eagerly pointing out our favorites. I gave Lindsay a (perhaps unwanted) history lesson, explaining that the large porches would have once served as screened-in sleeping areas to make the muggy summer nights tolerable before the advent of air-conditioning. The two of us paused when we encountered a “For Sale” sign outside a weathered green colonial-style home. It turned out to the oldest house in town – built in 1883, only a few years after baking soda magnate Henry DeLand purchased the surrounding land for $1000 and founded the town. My sister had to bring me down from my lofty imaginings – no, it would not be advisable to abandon my fledgling legal career to run a B&B in an 150 year-old home.

On my last day in Florida, I had a pleasant beachside lunch with my Grandfather. Afterward, I peeked into the gallery at the Athens Theatre – a building constructed during the Vaudeville era of the 1920s that, much like the surrounding neighborhood, eventually fell into disrepair. This was my first opportunity to see the old theater since it was restored and reopened in 2009. When I was growing up, I thought the facade was beautiful despite the boarded-up windows. There was much to love about my hometown – even the areas that were a bit time-worn. When I first drafted the 52 New Things List, I never anticipated that one of my new experiences would involve traversing streets I’ve walked down a thousand times before. I’m thankful that so many people (native DeLandians and transplants alike) have recognized DeLand’s potential and have transformed it into a thriving, artistic community.

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A Month of New Things – Catching up on Weeks 21 – 23 and BonnaroOo 2013!

Weeks 21, 22, and 23:

          In the month that has past since my last New Things blog post, summer arrived in DC with guns (suns?) blazing. Each weekday at 5:00pm, I ache to escape my windowless office to grab a drink with friends on a crowded roof deck or bar patio. Sadly, law firm life is rarely amenable to the District’s infamous happy hour culture. I’ve compromised by spending the bulk of my weekends outside. And so, my long absence from the blog can be explained by both my busy work schedule and my Florida-girl proclivities.

         Never fear, I’ve stayed true to the 52 New Things mission. During Week 21, I fired a handgun at a gun range in Tennessee. Although my hands shook as I gripped the barrel for the first time, after a few rounds I became more comfortable and tested my ability to survive the zombie apocalypse. In Week 22, I ate brunch at the historic Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria – a quaint establishment frequented by George Washington during the late 1700s. My friend and I sipped on beer that was allegedly brewed to bolster the spirits of Revolutionary troops. Finally, during Week 23 I attended my first-ever Washington Nationals game. While I cheered on our local team against the Twins and feasted on spicy corn-on-the-cob, my smart-phone met an unfortunate end on the hard concrete of the “standing room only” section.

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         The most memorable moments from those three weeks, however, occurred during my brief visit to Nashville for my nephew’s first birthday. My sister placed little Andrew in a highchair in the yard and presented him with a “smash” cake. The birthday boy was not amused – apparently Andrew is the only one-year old who isn’t delighted at the thought of shoving cake into his ear. Fortunately, big sister Caroline was happy to take over the role of taste-tester.

         Per usual, I spent my first night sharing Caroline’s “big-girl bed” with the diminutive toddler. At 3:00am, Caroline tossed and turned in the throes of a nightmare. Before I could gently wake her, she sat up, rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and whispered into the darkness, “I’m not scared.” She then curled her tiny body into my chest and went back to sleep. The next morning, my sister’s husband explained that Caroline recently started saying the same thing whenever she becomes frightened. No one taught her to do this. Chalk it up to yet another life lesson from a two-year old – facing your fears with a bit of bravado is often the key to overcoming them.

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Week 24 – Bonnaroo 2013.

         During Week 24, I crossed off a big-ticket item from the original 52 Things List (#28 – attend a large outdoor music festival) and spent four days camping in the blistering June heat at Bonnaroo 2013 in Manchester, TN. The lineup was strong – with Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and Mumford & Sons serving as headliners. And from noon until 3am, each day was packed with lesser-known artists who often help me wile away the workday – Alt_J, Phoenix, Beach House, Delta Rae, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Lumineers, and of Monsters and Men.

         The first thing that struck me about Bonnaroo was the logistical puzzle it posed. In the weeks leading up the trip, my friend Mark and I attempted to compile the perfect supply list. Yet, half of the things we bought went unused. We arrived on Thursday afternoon to a welcome sight – a screened-in area filled with foodstuffs, a large grill, and chairs and hammocks protected from the sun’s glare by two large canopies. Mark’s cousin Ferrol, the recognized “mama bear” of the group, smiled and said “This is my seventh year at Bonnaroo. Every year you learn another lesson about how to do it right.”

         On the supply side, my crowning achievement was the purchase of 800 baby wipes and dry shampoo. Four days in the hot sun on dusty farmland leaves you feeling like you’ll never be clean again. I went to bed shivering under a towel because I didn’t expect the nighttime temperatures to drop as much as they did, and was forced out bed by 7:30am when my tent became an oven. Yet, on Friday morning, I gave myself a baby-wipe bath and declared that this wasn’t so bad. By Saturday, however, I gladly waited in line for 30 minutes to pay $7 for an ice-cold shower. Although I returned for a (blessedly) warm shower on Sunday, by then Mark had fully embraced his inner hippy. Clutching his knees as we sat watching Beach House, he said “You know, after four days, you really get used to being dirty and hot and uncomfortable. Keep the music coming and I could be this gross forever.” Although I’m not sure whether I’d embrace a week-long ‘Roo, his next comment made me think – “We’re too used to being comfortable all of the time – controlled air, hot showers, three square meals – but its okay to be uncomfortable sometimes, I think its a good thing.”

         Another remarkable thing about Bonnaroo was the attendees themselves. I would call it a “human tapestry,” however, that may an overly grandiose way to describe a woman with a painted face dancing in a lace wedding dress or a 70-year old man strutting unashamed in a tie-die loincloth. On the first night, a girl with whom I’d had a pleasant five-minute conversation exclaimed, “It was really nice to meet you, I’m going to name my first-born child Lacey!” In such company, I wasted little time worrying about being judged for my rather dubious dance moves. It is impossible to feel silly at Bonnaroo. As I watched the crowds pulse with movement, I thought about how innate the love of music and dancing is in all of us. For example, even as a one-year old, little Caroline would wiggle and stomp her feet to music while laughing from the sheer joy of it.

         And now we’ve come to the music itself. Mumford & Sons, one of my favorite bands and a Bonnaroo headliner, had to cancel their set at the last minute because their bassist needed surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. Jack Johnson filled in for them. Although admittedly I enjoyed “Bubble Toes” when I was 16, at 25 I was less than enthused about the replacement. It seems I wasn’t the only one – at 7:00am on Saturday morning, I overheard someone outside my tent remark to a friend “That skeleton costume of yours is sick dude. You should wear it tonight, maybe it will scare Jack Johnson away.”

         I wont waste words trying to break down the nuances of particular acts. If you’re eager for a recommendation, Alt_J is a band that I’ve been listening to with ever growing frequency before and after the festival. I was also struck by the unique make-up of the band Delta Rae – rather than having a single front man, five members of the six-piece band share the spotlight and, consequently, their unique sound. The result is an extremely varied album featuring the melodic and soulful “Morning Comes,” and the dark and gritty, “Down By the River.”

         However, the high point of Bonnaroo was Paul McCartney’s performance. At almost 71 years old, Sir Paul is no spring chicken. Yet he put on an amazing show for 3 hours. I got a bit emotional as the band played “Blackbird” and “Hey Jude” – I never thought I would see a BEATLE play the Beatles.* Between songs, McCartney told a story about Jimi Hendrix’s on-stage request to have Eric Clapton tune his guitar. On playing in the Red Square decades after the Beatles were banned in the USSR, McCartney remarked “Those ruskies sure like to party.”

When you’re growing up, you never think you’re going to meet the Defense Minister of Russia … The defense minister comes up to me and say, “The first record I ever bought was Love Me Do.”

McCartney then recalled another officer telling him that he’d learned English from Beatles records – the man shook his hand and said in a guttural Russian accent, “Hello … Goodbye.”

         After a powerful performance of “Live and Let Die” replete with fireworks, the band made their exit. The crowd didn’t move. Slowly we began to sing “Hey Jude” – beckoning Sir Paul back to the stage. At first, he returned alone, a guitar strapped to his torso. “You want to party some more?” he said, shrugging, “Okay.” McCartney then proceeded to pluck a fan’s toy Walrus from the crowd and serenade the toothy stuffed animal with the ballad “Golden Slumbers.”

* On a side note, McCartney is playing at the Nationals Park on July 12th, I’ve convinced several friends that they NEED to go, so I’ll be seeing Sir Paul perform again shortly. Yes, it was that good.

         On Sunday afternoon, Mark and I rested our aching feet and watched some the last few performances while reclining on the grass. I climbed into the car that night, dusty and dirty and yearning for my own bed. Since our cell phones had been dead for days, we called our parents to let them know that we survived. When asked about the experience, Mark intoned – “Oh, It was awful. And I’m definitely going every year.” My sentiments exactly. 

Roooooo

Week Nineteen and Twenty: My First Offer on a House and Baking an Apple Pie

Week Nineteen – My First Offer on a House:

Over the few months, I’ve been exploring the possibility of buying a home. As much as I love my quaint, surprisingly well-lit walkout basement in Logan Circle, I worry that the money that I spend each month in rent could be put to better use. Accordingly, I’ve spent a good chunk of the spring pouring over real estate listings and making pleasantries at open houses.

I’ve come to this process with a very specific idea of the home I am looking for – a metro-accessible three bedroom, with at least 1.5 baths (preferably 2), in one of the up-and-coming (read “transitional”) areas of NW at a purchase price that would allow the bulk of my mortgage to be paid by my future roommates. In my perfect picture of my future home, I imagine a few extras – a deck for entertaining, a small backyard for Callie, and that classic, Victorian style that makes the history nerd in me thrill. Oh, and exposed brick – if there only would be exposed brick!

Now I expect that some of you are rolling your eyes a bit. I’m sure every prospective home buyer begins his or her search with such rose-tinted glasses. As a single person with no true immediate need to find a home, however, I have the luxury of dreaming big. If I can’t find a home that is the right fit – well … que sera sera, a few more years as a tenant I’ll be. And so, my New Thing during Week Nineteen was to place my very first offer on a house.

My offer was soundly rejected, with good reason. I came in thousands of dollars below list and demanded all closing costs be paid by the seller. The home – a 3 bedroom, 2 bath semi-detached home in Columbia Heights featuring a back deck and a postage-stamp sized yard – had many of the features I was looking for. Yet, the third bedroom was more of a den and the flat brick facade lacked the charm of many of the Washington row-houses that I love. I was hesitant to make an offer at the top of budget this early on in my search. Nonetheless, even though I knew I’d made low-ball offer, it still felt like failure when the news came that this wouldn’t be my house.

A few weeks ago over lunch, a colleague warned me about this – rather dangerous – feeling. Speaking as someone who purchased a home for tens of thousands of dollars outside her budget at the height of the market because buying-a-home-is-always-a-great-investment, she counseled me against treating the process like a race or a lottery. I chose the right number, I win! I’ll admit, despite this sound advice, I continue to feel anxious each time a house that I kind-of-liked is listed on Saturday has 12 offers by Monday afternoon.

Whenever I pass by a particularly charming home on a tree-lined block, my heart aches a bit. Purchasing a home poses an intriguing struggle between my romantic side and my sensible side. Although I hope to stay true to my reasons for buying, I expect there to be some element of a gut feeling (Is this my home?). The process also forces me to think long and hard about my future – at least the next few years – and the amount of work I am willing to devote towards creating roots of my own. In sum, I expect the coming months to leave me with – if not a place to call home – at least a better understanding of who and where I’ll need to be when I find one.

Week Twenty – Baking an Apple Pie From Scratch:

During Week Twenty, I was supposed to accomplish #5 on the New Things List – Hiking Old Rag. Unfortunately, the Sunday allotted for this adventure dawned with gray skies and a foreboding forecast. The bleak weather left me with little motivation to do more than curl up on the couch with a novel. What New Thing is a girl to do on a dismal day such as this? Why – bake something warm and delicious of course!

 Pie

I decided to spend my morning learning to make a classic – an apple pie – from scratch. At the grocery store, I secured some of my favorite local apple variety and, on a whim, a few pears. I danced around the kitchen to my favorite Pandora station while preparing the crust (just flour and butter and egg, who knew?!?). As I cooked the spiced apple-pear filling, I imagined what it would be like to actually contribute something to Thanksgiving dinner this year. When it came time to transfer the crust to the pan, however, making a pie suddenly lost its pleasant, zen-like quality. I muttered some choice expletives when the soft dough tore yet again on my third attempt.

Thankfully, a friend arrived and came up with the novel idea of placing the pie pan upside down onto to crust and flipping both at once. The fourth-time being the charm, I was able to fill my pie with spiced apple/pear goodness and toss my masterpiece into the oven. I also made six “baby” pies in a muffin pan with the leftover dough and filling. The flaky, golden result actually tasted like homemade apple pie! I’ll admit, we had dessert with lunch AND dinner that day. But, what could be more perfect on a lazy, gray Sunday?

Week Seventeen and Eighteen – A Native American Powow and Stories from the Past

Week Seventeen: A Native American Powow

As some of my readers may know, I am extremely proud to be part Muskogee (Creek) – a people who were the original residents of of the American southeast, particularly Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. Most of my knowledge of Native culture, however, stems from what I sought out myself as an adolescent and young adult. During my undergraduate studies at the University of Florida, I studied Native history and lobbied the University’s Curriculum Committee to adopt an academic program in Native American and Indigenous Studies.  In law school, I organized panels and speaking events addressing legal issues that uniquely affect Indian Country. Finally, as a practitioner, I’ve spent some of my pro bono efforts counselling an Indian tribe on federal funding issues.

Upon moving to Washington, DC, I befriended a group of impressive young Native men and women who work in Native American policy (law, housing, youth outreach, etc.). Their commitment to and impact on Indian Country is both notable and humbling. Somehow, telling a Tribal leader at an event in the Native American History Museum that you practice white collar litigation doesn’t pack quite the same punch as it does at an ABA happy hour.

DreamFry

For my New Thing during Week Seventeen, I attended the First Annual Native American Pow Wow at Georgetown University. My friends and I browsed tables filled with vendors selling dreamcatchers adorned with feathers and beads, essential oils with healing properties, and jewelry made from silver and turquoise (I restrained myself – I have a bit of an obsession with turquoise). I enjoyed a delicious – if somewhat unhealthy – lunch of fry bread* with strawberries and whipped cream. As we munched, one of my friends shared the bittersweet history behind the tradition of making fry bread. 150 years ago, to prevent the Navajo people from starving during the grueling 300-mile “Long Walk” from Arizona to New Mexico, the US government gave them little more white flour, sugar, and lard. And thus, fry bread was born. Today, the dish is viewed as a cultural unifier. Native American writer and filmmaker Sherman Alexie is quoted as saying “Frybread is the story of our survival.”

* True story – A few years ago, I almost burned down my apartment building while making fry bread. Remember, throwing water on a grease fire is a bad idea. Oops.

With our stomachs satisfied, we sat in the grass to watch the dances. Native men dressed in ceremonial regalia stomped their feet in rhythm with the beat of the drums. Native women in jingle dresses created their own music as they traipsed across the grounds with light, graceful movements. I smiled as young children joined in – many wearing minute versions of the same traditional clothing. Sadly, the sky opened up and it began to rain, prematurely ending our visit.

Powow_Final

Week Eighteen: Stories from the Past

During Week Eighteen, I flew down to Florida to spend time with my family. The weekend was filled with many New Things for Caroline and baby Andrew. Both enjoyed their first ice cream cone, and Caroline willingly ventured into the ocean (brave girl!) and flew a kite. Caroline and I made bears, bunnies and birthday cakes in the damp sand. Although not talking yet, Andrew has begun to make himself known through baby babble and by gesturing with his tiny chubby hands*.

Icecream_Final

* In the second photo above, Andrew is saying “Hey! I wasn’t done with that!

On Sunday morning, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a homemade Mexican feast made by Carole Dahl Weidemiller at my Grandfather’s nearby condo. Seizing the opportunity to make the most of my time with him – and to check New Thing #13 off the List – I asked my Grandfather to tell me about his childhood. In response, he shared a sweet story that was entirely new to me.

My Grandfather grew up in upstate New York in the 1930s and 40s. “My father was doing well before the Depression – he built himself a nice big house,” he recalled. However, when the stock market crashed, his father was forced to move the family into his parents’ two-story home. “I loved it,” my Grandfather said. “I would come home from school and my Grandmother would have something delicious for me to eat. In the summer, my Grandfather would take me to the YMCA to swim and every two years I got to go to the dealership and pick out the color of his new car.” I pictured my Grandfather as a young boy, happy to be surrounded by three generations of love despite the hard times. As we talked, baby Andrew stood on wobbly legs while clutching my Grandfather’s chair. I understood.

Shifting focus, my Grandfather noted that his grandparents met as young children – “My Grandmother’s father died during the potato famine in Ireland and her mother died shortly after coming to America. She was an orphan and a member of our neighborhood, so my Grandfather’s parents took her in. My Grandfather grew up with her – “he loved her and she could speak fluent German and cook like his own mother, so of course they married.”

At this point, I interjected, asking – “didn’t you meet Grandma really young as well?” My Grandfather exclaimed, “we sat next to each other in the first grade!” Shaking his head and smiling, he said “that is just what you did back then – you fell in love with the girl next door and you married her!” Joining the conversation, my sister and her husband joked affectionately about the “could have been” nuptials with their childhood playmates. As I scooped Andrew up into my arms, I silently gave thanks that they found each other two decades later after being raised hundreds of miles apart. We parted with hugs all around and promises to meet again soon. Although we can’t all live in the same house, I’m glad that it is easy today to cross long distances to keep our family together.

MeandGpa_Final

Week Fifteen and Sixteen – Art Jamz Studio and a Solo Tough Mudder

Week Fifteen – Art Jamz Studio:

Initially, I intended New Thing #14 (Take an Art Class) to involve some guided art instruction. However, I found myself near the end of Week Fifteen without a viable option. So, I decided to find my inner artist and enjoy some free, undirected studio time at Art Jamz in Dupont Circle.

Clad for the first time this year in shorts and flip-flops, I savored the sundrenched walk from my apartment to the studio. In search of inspiration, I snapped a photo of an interesting flower along the way. After arriving at ArtJamz, I sipped a glass of white wine as one of the instructors handed me a bespeckled smock and showed me the range of painting supplies.

I loaded my palette with bright colors and got to work. It was gratifying to create something from scratch without any instruction or recipe to follow. When playing the amateur artist, there is no such thing as a “mistake” – if I didn’t like a particular color or paint stroke, I simply turned it into something else. As he brought me another glass of wine, the instructor exclaimed “This is interesting! You’re definitely artistic.” (I tipped the man well for his questionable but seemingly sincere praise).

At the conclusion of my allotted two hours, I was satisfied with the result. I liked the contrast between the organic shapes and the sharp lines. I also felt that my painting captured the spirit of the odd flower. Admittedly, however, a friend responded to my Facebook post showing off my masterpiece with – “I see you painted a chicken thing! Nice!” Regardless, I had a good time. Next time, I fully intend to bring along some girlfriends for an afternoon of Blush and brushstrokes!

Paint1

Week Sixteen – A Solo Tough Mudder:

New Thing #2 – Complete a Tough Mudder in Vibram FiveFingers shoes – has been on the books for months. Tough Mudder is an intense 10-12 mile race that incorporates about 20 challenging obstacles. My best friend Danielle and I completed our first TM in Maryland last September. After going through multiple water-based obstacles, our tennis shoes became waterlogged and caked in mud. By mile nine, it became difficult to keep my balance on the muddy path – turning an ankle became a real danger. Afterwards, I decided that the next Tough Mudder I ran would be in shoes better suited to the course. And so, I bought a pair of Vibrams – what my big sister jokingly calls my “caveman feet.”

If you aren’t aware, Vibrams are a type of minimalist shoe that are meant to replicate being barefoot. Learning to run properly in Vibrams requires months of training because you essentially have to teach yourself an entirely new strike – landing on the front of your foot instead of your heel. Barefoot running with a forefoot strike pattern has been shown to have many benefits – including increased balance and speed as well as reduced impact to/wear on your ankles, knees, hips and back. In preparation for the race, I’ve been wearing Vibrams as much as possible – walking to work, hiking, and running in them.

As it turned out, the most novel aspect of New Thing #2 had nothing to do with my footwear. Although I’d signed up for the race with a friend from college, leading up to the event I was unable to get a hold of him. Two days before the event, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be completing the Tough Mudder on my own. I had a few dark moments that afternoon. Many of the obstacles are very physically and mentally challenging – it was difficult to imaging facing them alone. True to her best-friend duties, Danielle quickly calmed me down. She said, “You know you can handle it physically. Think about how empowering it will be to do it alone. That is awesome!” It is funny how much a simple shift in viewpoint can change everything. In the span of five minutes, the prospect of running a solo race went from being terrifying to thrilling.

As it turned out, I only spent a third of the race alone. In the first four miles, I had to push myself. One of the early obstacles required me to jump off a 20 foot-high platform into muddy water of an unknown depth. It took some mental grit to throw my body into the open air without a buddy to chant “Together! 1–2–3, GO!”

Fortunately, while making my way down a steep slope, I tripped over a tree root and a fellow “Mudder” asked – “Are you alone? Join us!” Thankful for the offer, I kept stride with the group (7 guys and 1 girl) for the rest of the course. Befriending someone in this scenario was an interesting experience. The typical “Where are you from? What do you do?” small talk was interrupted by an icy plunge into the Arctic Enema, or climbing a Berlin Wall. During one obstacle – the “Wounded Warrior” – we even had to carry one another.

I’m extremely grateful for my newfound friends. The April day was unusually cool, and the water-based obstacles were frigid. As the race wore on, we took a few moments after each obstacle to huddle together for warmth. Many of our fellow Mudders ran with hypothermic blankets wrapped around their shoulders. We crossed the (electrified!) finished line in two waves with our arms linked. Afterwards, we each celebrated with a beer – half of which was lost due to our shaking hands.

The days following the Tough Mudder were rough. My body was incredibly stiff and sore, even the most basic task took tremendous effort. I awoke on Monday, bruised, battered and (seemingly) beaten. However, the mental challenge of facing a Tough Mudder alone left me feeling stronger than ever. I now know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to do. With that mindset, I have registered for a triathlon this fall.  (I suppose that I should put purchasing a bike on the to-do list!) So, be on the lookout for that New Thing in a few months!

Tm2

Week Thirteen and Fourteen – Time for Play: A Color Run and a Monument Bike Ride

Readers, I realize that you have been eagerly awaiting tales of my (mis)adventures, so I apologize for the two-week  delay!

I spent Easter weekend (Week Thirteen) with my family in Nashville. That Saturday morning, my sister joined me in my first “off-List” New Thing – participating in the 2013 Nashville Color Run (my first 5K!). Proceeds from every Color Run go towards local charities in each host city. The Nashville event benefited Amputee Blade Runners  – an organization that helps to provide free running prosthetics for amputees. As my sister and I approached the exuberant crowd gathered at the starting line, it was easy to see why the Color Run is promoted as “the Happiest 5K on Earth.” Kids and adults alike danced among the throng while sporting tie-dyed tutus, angel wings and other costumes.

During the race, each member of our group eagerly darted and twirled through the “color stations.” I reveled in the simple, silly joy of it all – “Pink! I NEED MORE PINK!” We arrived at the finish line 31 minutes later, bedecked in a rainbow of cornstarch powder. As we hugged close for the camera, my sister vowed that Caroline would join us next year. I smiled at the thought of a tutu-clad Caroline – who loves anything and everything purple – dancing in a cloud of violet.

1_ColorRun

Upon my return to DC, I was welcomed by a mountain of work. Each day I promised myself that I would write my Week Thirteen blog post. However, after a dozen hours spent on my office computer, wrestling with words on my laptop lost its appeal. Thankfully, my weekend afforded me some much-needed down time. On Saturday, some friends and I enthusiastically played (and lost) a game of touch football. The following morning, I joined another friend for Week Fourteen’s New Thing – a monument bike ride.

At the start of our journey, I became acutely aware of the fact that I haven’t ridden a bicycle since I was about 12 years old. Even then, I was the always sole rider on an empty tree-lined street. Riding a bike in a city like DC is an entirely different animal. I white-knuckled the handlebars and prayed that my next blog headline wouldn’t read “New Thing #53 – Mow Down a Toddler.”* As we eased onto Mount Vernon Trail, however, I began to relax and enjoy the sensation of flying downhill with the wind in my face. I thrilled and laughed as each rut in the ground jolted my body off the seat. My friend and I biked a total of 8 miles, stopping periodically to take in views of the Washington monument, the Lincoln memorial, and the Tidal Basin (framed by budding cherry blossoms). Before continuing on to join others at brunch, we walked around Teddy Roosevelt Island and read aloud from stone slabs engraved with the former president’s poignant words.

* Incidentally, this wouldn’t actually be a New Thing. Feel free to ask me about the time I broke my finger after careening out-of-control down a ski slope in Tennessee. 

1_bike

Both of these fun, novel experiences made me reflect on the need for PLAY in our lives. No one questions 2-year-old Caroline’s play. For a toddler, playtime is viewed as a necessary tool to learn about the world, to problem-solve and to build relationships. Sadly, conventional wisdom ignores the key role of play in being a healthy, thriving adult. Play is often seen as a luxury, an indulgence. However, play has many benefits that continue into adulthood. According to Dr. Stuart Brown – the founder of the National Institute For Play (NIFP) – making time for play as an adult reduces stress, promotes better sleep, and boost our immune system. Play also allows us:

  • To be more productive in our working lives;
  • To explore our interests and master new skills;
  • To foster deeper emotional connections; and
  • To be more creative and enhance cognitive processing.

You may ask, what constitutes “play”? NIFP defines play as a purposeless activity that is fun and which allows you to be fully “in the moment.” The concept of play is central to the 52 Things mission – after all, the “goal” of each New Thing is simply the experience itself. And most* items on The List are undoubtedly fun.

* Admittedly, the idea of a week-long a raw food diet (New Thing # 45) seems less-than-enjoyable. In fact, the mere thought of it makes me want to eat some bacon. 

According to Dr. Brown, there are several distinct “patterns of play” that adults and children alike should incorporate into their daily lives, including:

  • Attunement Play. This aspect of play is characterized by emotional connection and shared experience. Attunement occurs when I play “peak-a-boo” with baby Andrew or cheer on a friend during an intramural softball game on the Mall. Marriage counselors often encourage couples to engage in fun, novel activities because shared experiences strengthen relationships and promote intimacy.
  • Body Play/Movement. Body play occurs when you are testing your physical limits through sports, fitness, etc. Dr. Brown defines body play as “a spontaneous desire to get ourselves out of gravity.” This quote seemed particularly fitting in light of my recent exploits into the world of Crossfit. If you aren’t aware, Crossfit focuses on “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements.” A central idea behind the program is that moving in functional ways – ways our body was meant to – is both effective from a fitness standpoint and fun. In fact, I had my own “defying gravity” moment during Week Fourteen. While participating in a 7:00am WOD (“workout of the day”), our class was instructed to perform a series of handstands. I complied until my arms ached with protest – not because of any nebulous fitness goal, but simply because it was FUN to test my body while turning the world on its axis.
  • Object Play. Unsurprisingly, object play is a fun activity that is centered on an object. Playing Frisbee with a dog or operating a handheld video game would qualify. As a further example, one of my good friends will spend hours beading intricate jewelry. According to NIFP, object play increases cognitive function and enhances our ability to solve complex problems.
  • Social Play. Engaging in social play with others develops our sense of trust, empathy and social awareness. In a similar vein, Narrative Play involves the art of storytelling. When we engage in storytelling, we often reap all of the benefits of social play while simultaneously encouraging creativity and innovation. Narrative play also helps us understand ourselves and process the events in our lives. The 52 New Things blog is a testament to the benefits of storytelling – sometimes writing about my new experiences is a struggle, however, I always end with a better understanding of what I learned.
  • Imaginative Play. Imaginative play comes more naturally to small children, who aren’t hampered by knowledge of how the “real” world operates. When Caroline plays “doctor” and heals a beloved baby doll, she is developing her social, emotional, and language skills and building self-confidence. Although “pretend play” may look different at 30, it is nonetheless important because it provides stress release and helps us to shape our goals. This type of play can be as simple as taking a walk and letting your imagination run wild – dreaming up your perfect life 5, 10, and 20 years from now. I’ll admit, I do this pretty much every time I walk the dog or enjoy a cup of coffee.

In sum, my challenge to all of you is this – do something that “conventional wisdom” tells you that you are to old to do. Think about an activity that you enjoyed as a child and shape it to fit your adult life. Alternatively, follow the lead of a child that you know or your petForget about being productive or having a “goal” and make pretend, test your physical limits, goof around, be in the moment and have fun!

1_Doctor

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