Monthly Archives: May 2013

#35. play a sport

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m the black sheep in my family. My brother was born with a football in one hand and a baseball in the other, while my sister was a young Mia Hamm in the making. My mom played softball growing up and my dad was on the wresting team.

Me?

I’m the least athletic person you’ll ever meet. I was born with two left feet and zero hand-eye coordination. I’d participate in neighborhood games of kickball and baseball but I have never, nor will ever, be the sporty type. I was much more the “creative type” that pursued dance and art, acting and poetry.

In a desperate attempt to make my family proud, I decided to join the tennis team in seventh grade. It seemed easier than baseball, there didn’t seem to be too much running involved and I really loved that the girls got to wear cute little skirts.

As the tennis team was brand new that year, and nobody really knew each other’s talent level, I elected myself as team captain. Mind you, I had never even played a game of tennis in my life.

I’ll never forget my first match, going up against the opposing school’s captain. A kid who clearly knew what the terms “love” and “fault” meant. I had spent the week leading up to the match finding the perfect navy blue tennis uniform, with crisp white visor and sneakers to match. I figured looking the part was half the battle.

Boy, was I wrong. My mom sat there clapping for me on the bleachers as I embarrassed myself over and over and over again, unable to return the ball and get a point for our team.

After the season was over, I decided I wouldn’t be going back.

Sports are completely unnatural to me. They make me wildly uncomfortable and bring out a lot of my weaknesses. Which is why I wanted to put “play a sport” on my 213 in 2013 list. Part of this entire process is about facing the things that I wouldn’t typically have the nerve to do.

It sounds so simple, right? Playing a sport that is.

Mike and I’s apartment complex has two tennis courts and rents out balls and rackets for free. With the beautiful weather over Memorial Day weekend, I thought it would be the perfect time to seize the opportunity and go out and play a game or two.

Before I turned into a grumbling grump.

Before I turned into a grumbling grump.

I threw on some oversized yoga capris and a t-shirt, put on my soaking wet (and filthy) sneakers (see my previous post about paintballing), and threw my hair up in a bun. In other words, I looked like a hot mess. But I told myself that it didn’t matter considering I was going to be running around on a court, not strutting down a catwalk.

One of the two courts was open and there were a few kids sitting on the benches around the fences. The last thing I wanted was an audience, but Mike told me I couldn’t yell at them all to go away, so I sucked it up.

After refreshing my memory on how the scoring works for tennis and getting myself in position, I served the ball. Fault.

Lots of faults.

Lots of missed balls.

I think I even tripped a few times and nearly fell on my face once. Oh and there was that time I hit the ball so hard it flew into the next court and hit someone on the head. Woops.

My shoes were bothering me so I took them off and played in my socks. But the ground was too hot from the sun, so it resulted in me jumping back and forth a lot. My hair was still wet and kept falling out of its bun into my face. My pants were too big and kept falling down. And I was out of breath and out of shape and sweating like a pig.

All the while Mike and I looked like fools as we couldn’t even hit the ball back and forth to each other more than once or twice at a time and the kids outside were snickering.

So I did whatever I do when I’m frustrated and things aren’t going as “picture-perfect” as I had planned. I threw my racket down and I quit.

And I walked away grumbling and angry and annoyed and embarrassed.

99% of my experiences for this 213 in 2013 have been positive ones. I’ve learned to relax, or let go or find more balance or happiness in the small things. But every once in a while, things don’t go as planned. And my weaknesses and my fears and my insecurities are thrown in my face and I can’t hide from them.

And I like when it happens.

I soak it all in and I take a good hard look at myself. And I think about how I can get over these insecurities to become a better person.  While it may be something as trivial as a tennis game that brought all of these emotions to light, it tapped into a much bigger issue, and that’s my problem with accepting that I can’t be perfect at everything, or even good for that matter. Or my frustration when something doesn’t come as easy to me as I want it to and instead of working hard and pushing through to learn it, I choose to quit instead.

comfort zone

I will never be an athlete. Nor do I want to be. But I hope that this experience has taught me to not give up so easily, to have fun instead of always seeking perfection and to challenge myself with things that continually put me outside of my comfort zone.

Because that’s the only way to grow.

#34. grab drinks with old friends

You will often hear people talk about high school being some of the best days of their lives. And that makes sense with all the hub bub over prom, and homecoming and “senior week” and house parties full of cheap booze.

Not for me.

Unlike 99.9% of the population, some of my best days were lived in middle school. Those three awkward years where you’re still growing into your body, sleepovers with your girlfriends are a mandatory weekend ritual and you get in trouble for things like stuffing kids into lockers, putting your friends in trashcans and flinging mashed potatoes on to the cafeteria ceiling. (Okay, maybe that was just at my middle school.)

A group of sweaty, emotional teenagers the day I left for Pennsylvania.

A group of sweaty, emotional teenagers the day I left for Pennsylvania.

I went to Godwin, a not-so-fantastic place that was rife with all sorts of problems. My middle school made it “cool” for 13-year-olds to get pregnant before any other school and there were usually 10 fights…a day. Nonetheless, in the middle of all the craziness, there was a group of nerds, (I use that term in a fond way), part of a “super smart advanced IB program.”

And in that group I found a family.

A completely dysfunctional family that laughed together, cried together and dated each other to the point where it was hard to keep track of who was dating who.

My JAU girls and best friends in middle school.

My JAU girls and best friends in middle school.

Some of my favorite memories are around that old worn gym track, where I’d have heart to hearts with my girlfriends or sneak a kiss in with my boyfriend. Or in Mr. Stoebe’s science class where I got in trouble more times than I’d like to admit for attacking him with silly string or ruining his pants because I soaked his seat with water. Or at lunchtime where my friends and I would have impromptu food fights and get banished to the cafeteria stage.

Middle school may have ended ten years ago, but thanks to the powers of Facebook I’m still able to see how everyone’s doing and what everyone’s up to. This past December, we decided we wanted to have a reunion and it was incredible. Nearly 30 people showed up, who I hadn’t seen for a decade, and we spent the night reminiscing and laughing, just like old times.

First Godwin reunion, circa December 2012.

First Godwin reunion, circa December 2012.

A smaller group of us got together again this past weekend and caught up over food and drinks, sharing stories about the “golden days of Godwin” and where life had taken all of us. From job offers at architecture firms, to people earning their master’s degrees, to others pursuing a career in politics and doing life-saving research for HIV. It was amazing to spend a few hours reliving the glory years of gold and blue and hearing about the exciting paths everyone was taking from moving to marriage.

We toasted to our dear friend Brian, who would have just turned 23. (Happy birthday again, Gomez.)

We drank and laughed until our bar tabs were outrageous (ok, maybe just mine…) and then we hugged each other goodbye until the next time.

Last weekend's get together.

Last weekend’s get together. Governors for life.

It’s crazy how there are just some people in your life, no matter the time or distance that comes between you, who will always have a special place in your heart.  A place that’s painted gold and blue, all wrapped up in silly string, gym uniforms and detention.

Cheers to all my Godwin Governors and all the wonderful things life has brought you.

#33. reach 10,000 blog views

10,000 blog views

To many people, a goal of hitting 10,000 blog views isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, there are people who get 10,000 blog views in a single day. It took me quite a few months to get here, but that doesn’t make me any less proud. Especially because I never started this blog to obtain any sort of internet fame. I don’t even feel comfortable with calling myself a “blogger” because I feel that title is reserved for people with more page views, or those that generate money, or have a large internet following because they offer amazing pictures or perfectly bulleted advice – of which I provide none of.

I write here for personal enjoyment and nothing else. Because I love writing and sharing stories and hearing from other people who share similar experiences. Which is why I am blown away that this tiny little blog, without much direction or structure, existing for the sole purpose of my own slice of happiness, received 10,000 views.

thank you

So to everyone who has stopped by and visited, even if only for a post or two, or maybe even every day – thank you for your support and thank you for reading. Thank you for your words of encouragement along the way. It means more to me than you know.

Here’s to the next 10,000!

xox0

#32. go to a sporting event

Happy Tuesday that feels like Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a great Memorial Day Weekend. I had a big dose of Instagram envy with everyone’s photos of cookouts, beach trips and pitchers of sangria. Since Mike and I just got back from Texas, we spent the weekend being broke and catching up on things like grocery shopping and laundry. Thrilling, yes?

Anyways – today’s blog post will be the last one from my Texas mini-series and then it’s back to business as usual.

texas astros

The day Mike and I arrived in Texas, on the way to his dad’s house we passed the Minute Maid stadium where the Houston Astros play. I mumbled something from the backseat along the lines of “oh how fun would it be if we went to a game,” and before I knew it, Mike’s dad had secured four tickets to Monday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals. Mike and I were both excited to spend the last night of our trip downing hot dogs and beer and occasionally watching a play or two.

texas baseball

After breaking the bank at the concessions stands, Mike, his dad, his brother Evan and I walked around the entire stadium and eventually wandered over to our seats which were only a few rows behind the dugout. I’ve only been to one or two baseball games in my entire life and these were by far the best seats I’ve ever had. It made for an entirely different experience of the game.

texas baseball seats

Now, I have no shame in admitting that I:

1. Have zero interest in sports and,

2. Think baseball is a pretty boring sport at that, but there’s something about the comradery of cheering and booing with a large group of strangers that makes the experience a fun one, even if I’m not all that interested in the game itself.

texas mickey

There was a very large gentleman a few rows behind us who clearly had a few screws loose and maybe had one too many beers. He had several papers in his hand of what must have been Google translations and for the entire first half of the game, was screaming out phrases in butchered Spanish. It was funny for the first few minutes and downright unbearable by the time the first inning was over. Before I knew it, after people had gained their own liquid courage, the crowd began yelling obscenities back at the drunken, obnoxious Google translation fanatic.

To add to the night’s antics, there were four men in the row in front of us, one who had clearly overestimated his beer limit by a longshot and went through the four stages of drunk in a matter of minutes, from anger, to depression, to laughing hysterically to passing out. His friends continued to buy themselves beer with his money after he had checked out for the evening.

texas margarita

It was way more entertaining than any baseball game.

After a few more hotdogs and a yard long margarita (which was deliciously potent), we left the game around 9:15 in the hopes of grabbing some late night last minute barbeque. After getting stuck in traffic and missing our chance at some delicious Texas style grub, we stopped at Taco Bell, ordered some burritos and called it a night.

The Astros won the game.

It was the perfect way to end our trip.

#31. play a game of chess in the park

The day before Mike and I left Texas to head home, we decided to jump in the car and head over to Galveston, a city known for being the 3rd most haunted city in the country. Plus, it has a pier and beach. After getting up and leaving early, in the hopes of beating the typical Texas humidity (which I have now learned is futile), we made the hour drive to this tiny little town, untouched by time.

Beach bunnies in Galveston.

Beach bunnies in Galveston.

We had a very loose plan in place for the day, but knew we wanted to start off getting some breakfast as we were both starving. However, after parking and realizing the place was literally a ghost town, we almost gave up and walked back to the car. I was hangry (see hungry & angry) and hot, which is an awful combination to be and Mike didn’t feel like hearing me whine.

But then I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye. And I jumped straight up and down out of pure excitement.  Before Mike could understand what I had just seen, I was running across the street as fast as my legs would allow.

How cool is this?

How cool is this?

There it was. In the middle of this tiny little “park” square – there was a giant, “life-size” game of chess. Because playing chess in the park was one of my 213 in 2013 items and I couldn’t have found a cooler way to cross it off my list.

I’ve been a board game nerd my entire life. Monopoly, Scrabble, Checkers, Chess, you name it, I’ve played it. If I’m being honest, there are times I’d much rather play a game of Chess than go out for a night on the town. Some people may call that lame – I call it intellectually-stimulating-budget-friendly-fun. (Ok, that does sound really lame actually.)

Game face on.

Game face on.

Before Mike could even catch his breath I had already staked my claim on my side of the board and began pondering which piece I’d move first. I hadn’t played Chess in a few years and I was feeling a bit rusty (as in I called the rooks ‘castles’), but I was confident I could still kick Mike’s butt.

For the next hour or so, Mike and I enjoyed each other’s company as we played a giant game of chess. Other tourists stopped by and watched us for a while, some taking pictures, others offering strategies. I don’t remember the last time I had such care free fun. I didn’t look at my phone to check the time or obsess over email or my Twitter feed. I didn’t complain about the sweltering heat or my rumbling tummy. I had playful, silly, fun. And it was amazing because I don’t do it very often.

Realizing he's about to be defeated.

Realizing he’s about to be defeated.

After Mike made a rookie mistake of letting up his Queen two moves into the game, we went back and forth with each other as the captured pieces began piling up. Poor Mike had only managed to take a few of my pawns and my rook, while I had taken the majority of his. I thoroughly enjoyed teasing him every time I snatched up another one of his pieces, dancing my victory dance like a little kid for anyone to see.

Checkmate.

Checkmate.

As if only a matter of time, Mike made a fatal mistake and I corned his King with my Queen and my Rook. I excitedly yelled “Checkmate!” and he slumped his shoulders in defeat, smiling and laughing at my childish excitement. He let me pick up my Queen and knock over his King so I could fully savor my victory.

We put the pieces back where we had found them for the next couple who wandered along to play, and went and grabbed some homemade old-fashioned ice cream to tame our tummies and fight the heat.

Cotton candy ice cream to match the dress.

Cotton candy ice cream to match the dress.

As we walked back to the car, melted ice cream in hand, I smiled to myself for letting six-year-old Niki come out to play. The one who laughed more, played harder and didn’t have a care in the world. The one who I hope to see more often.

#29. & #30. go to an expensive restaurant and enjoy a night of jazz

Mike turned 26 the second day into our trip in Texas. It’s crazy to think that we began dating when he was only 19 and now he’s more than half way to 30! I like to tease him about what an old grump he is and how lucky he is to have such a young, radiant 23-year-old as his fiancée.

Mike’s the kind of guy who never makes a big deal out of his own birthday, even though deep down, I know he secretly wishes people would. He’s always been very simple – dinner and a card. I on the other hand, consider myself a birthday fanatic. I love celebrating other people’s birthdays and I love celebrating my own. I think birthdays are awesome (which is why I recently celebrated turning 23 ½) because it’s your own personal holiday. It belongs all to you. Plus there’s always cake, and who doesn’t love cake?

That’s why I knew I wanted to give Mike his best birthday present ever – by letting him celebrate it with his family in Texas, whom he rarely sees.

I couldn't resist snagging a picture on this awesome bench.

I couldn’t resist snagging a picture on this awesome bench.

Mike, his dad and I spent the sweltering afternoon at Kemah Boardwalk, enjoying tropical beverages, novelty candy and laughing at Mike’s unexpected birthday present from a bird. Kemah is full of little shops, carnival rides, an aquarium and a nice view of the water.

Kemah Boardwalk - before the clouds cleared up.

Kemah Boardwalk – before the clouds cleared up.

texas daquiri

Is that not the biggest strawberry you’ve ever seen?

It was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon – relaxing and laughing while sipping on daiquiris and margaritas at noon.  We then spent an hour or so at a nearby Texas version of Dave & Buster’s, playing pool, shooting hoops and playing skee ball.

Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys.

We went home to get freshened up for dinner, as Mike’s dad and stepmom were taking us to Perry’s Steakhouse, one of the nicest (and expensive) restaurants in the Houston area. I’m talking Mike and I would only be able to afford to SPLIT an appetizer here. And to top it off, it was jazz night at the restaurant. It was perfect.

We were seated in the bar area where the band was playing covers of popular hits, and almost immediately Mike and his dad started an unspoken competition of who could name the song first as they’d sing along with the music. We ordered a round of drinks and some appetizers.

Mike's scallops, which he devoured.

Mike’s scallops, which he devoured.

Beef Carpaccio with arugula salad.

Beef Carpaccio with arugula salad.

True to picky form – the appetizers consisted mostly of seafood (bleh), so I ordered some extra cheesy au gratin potatoes while the others ordered beef carpaccio and bacon wrapped scallops. We also devoured some of the most deliciously warm bread I’ve ever tasted while we sipped on our various libations.

Giant bowls of potatoes are cheese are all I need in life.

Giant bowls of potatoes and cheese are all I need in life.

After getting tired of ordering the same old lemon drop martini, the bartender suggested I try one of their most popular drinks – the blueberry cucumber martini. I hate blueberries and I hate cucumbers even more, so I was skeptical, but figured I’d give it a shot. I’m glad I did because it was easily one of the best tasting drinks I’ve ever ordered. It was crisp, light, refreshing and strong. Everything you’d want in a drink.

My new beverage of choice.

My new beverage of choice.

We all proceeded to order our entrees – from crab topped filet, to scallops and sea bass to lamb. While we waited on our food, we talked about the kids, our upcoming wedding and life as the band continued to play in the background with its gently thumping bass and melodic keyboard. Mike and his dad continued to serenade the table as they correctly identified one song after another. Like father like son.

Horrible lighting - but amazing steak.

Horrible lighting – but amazing steak.

When our food finally arrived, Mike and I clearly savored every single bite as we both knew this was a meal we would have never been able to afford otherwise. Everything was absolutely delicious and unsurprisingly, Mike practically licked his plate clean.

Dinner is never complete without a fire hazard.

Dinner is never complete without a fire hazard.

Four martinis, cheesy potatoes and a steak into the meal, I felt I was ready to burst but we couldn’t leave without Mike enjoying a birthday dessert. A fan for the overly dramatic, Mike ordered a flaming desert, a Mont Beur Blanc (vanilla cake, topped with ice cream, white chocolate sauce and strawberries). The chef came out and prepared it table side as we all watched in awe when the chef lit the dessert on fire with flames that stretched five feet tall.

Mike's birthday dessert.

Mike’s birthday dessert.

After an amazing experience and four hour meal, we managed to pick ourselves up and head home for the evening.

On the way back, Mike whispered to me, “Thank you for the best birthday I’ve ever had. Thank you for giving me my family.”

All I could do was smile.

#27. & #28. visit Texas and meet a new member of Mike’s family

Howdy ya’ll. Sorry for the disappearance – as I mentioned last week, Mike and I went to Texas to visit his family. I bought him the tickets for Christmas and planned the trip to fall during his 26th birthday. Not to toot my own horn, but I thought it was the best gift I’ve given… for now.

I’m going to break our trip down into multiple blog posts, as I was busy crossing things off the list while we were out there. What can I say – I believe in multitasking.

I think we caught a 3 hour nap before taking off.

I think we caught a 3 hour nap before taking off.

Our boarding time was 6:30 am last Wednesday, which meant a wake up call of 3 am. Needless to say, it was a rough morning. However, with the help of an extra cheesy and greasy bagel, our tummies were full and our eyelids were heavy as we napped on the plane ride over to Dallas. After a two hour layover, we were on our way to Houston where we were greeted with the worst humidity I’ve ever experienced.

Necessary Instagrammed airplane picture.

Necessary Instagrammed airplane picture.

I’m talking, feels like you’re pushing your way through the air, drenched in sweat after 30 seconds humidity. I later learned that in Texas, 95 degree weather with 88% humidity is only considered “warm.” I also learned that their news consists of fat men with backwards baseball caps talking about American Idol, their radio stations are almost entirely in Spanish and that all the rumors about things being bigger in Texas are true. Cue my giant martini (it had to be around 16 oz.)

The picture doesn't do the size of this martini justice. This was drink #1 of many - raspberry lemon drop.

The picture doesn’t do the size of this martini justice. This was drink #1 of many – raspberry lemon drop.

Mike, his dad and I quick grabbed some lunch before heading home where we were greeted by the five kids and the newest addition to the family, Tiana. To say she was precious is an understatement. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a kid person, but Tiana’s smile, the way she danced and laughed and most of all, the way she ran to Mike, clinging to him with her tiny arms, made me remember why I bought these tickets in the first place.

Michael & Tiana ... so precious.

Michael & Tiana … so precious.

The older kids remembered me but the younger ones didn’t, who were just babies the last time I had seen them. So I spent the first hour going through old pictures of Mike and I’s trip to Vegas where I had met them and as I scrolled through they excitedly yelled “That’s me! That’s me!” Before I knew it, I had Bianca curled up in my lap, her beautiful curls brushing against my face as she played with my bracelets and twirled my hair.

Me and my diva-in-training, Bianca.

Me and my diva-in-training, Bianca.

We spent the rest of the first day curled up on the couch with the kids and even went to see them at their Tae Kwon Do practice which was a lot of fun. The best part for me however was seeing how happy Mike was to be surrounded by his family. By the little brothers and sisters who I know he misses on a daily basis. His dad who he admires more than anyone in the world.

It was a heartwarming experience – to be able to give him something so special after he’s given so much to me.