Tag Archives: bucket list

#23. go skydiving

When I was a little girl, in Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade class, we were asked to write an essay on what animal we’d like to be for a day. Some students chose to be lions while others chose to be giraffes. A classroom full of bright-eyed second graders lost in their imaginations as they dreamed about being any animal in the world.

Me? I chose a bird. A bluebird to be specific.

One by one each student stood in front of the class, telling everyone about their amazing day as the animal of their choice – from roaring across the jungle to hopping across Australia.

When I went up, I talked about being a bird. How fantastic it would be to fly across great expanses, thousands of feet above the earth, with nothing but clouds and blue sky in sight. My teacher went on to frame my essay and told me how wonderful I made it sound – being a bird for a day.

As I continued to grow up, while I realized I would never be a bird, the thirst for that kind of uninhibited freedom that came with flying never left. For years and years, when people would talk about the biggest items on their bucket lists, mine always remained the same: skydiving. I wanted to fly.

A charm my sister bought me the night before I jumped out of a plane.

A charm my sister bought me the night before I jumped out of a plane.

The problem? I’m a total chicken. I’m talking major scaredy cat, cries on rollercoasters, gets faint at the top of a high set of stairs, big ol’ wimp. I’m the girl who while her head is dreaming in the clouds, much prefers to have two feet safe on the ground. Which is why I shocked about every single person who knows me when I told them I had purchased a ticket to go skydiving as part of conquering my fears and jumping (literally) out of my comfort zone for my 213 in 2013 Project.

Luckily for me, I was able to convince my brother and my sister’s boyfriend to jump with me, so on Friday night my sister and the two boys drove down from Pennsylvania for an adrenaline-filled weekend.

My boys and I getting ready to jump.

My boys and I getting ready to jump.

I woke up pretty early Saturday morning thanks to a dream I was having about my parachute not opening (because dreaming about dying hours before putting your life at risk is totally normal). As we were getting ready to head out the door, I received a text from the skydiving center alerting me that due to high winds, they were pushing jump time back by an hour. As if I needed any more reason to be nervous.

Literally signing my life away.

Literally signing my life away.

When we finally arrived it was all a whirlwind – filling out form after form, literally signing my life away. Sign here if you understand that you can die. Sign here if you understand that if you die, your loved ones can’t claim your life insurance. Sign here if you promise not to sue if you wind up falling to the earth, breaking every bone in your body and spending the rest of your life as a vegetable. Check, check, check.

Before I knew it, Vince, AJ and I were getting suited up in our harnesses and going over instructions that would make the difference between life and death. We practiced arching our backs, safety positions, how to land without breaking your legs off, you name it. And while I was yelling at my brain to pay attention with all my might, my thoughts were stuck somewhere between complete terror and excitement.

My amazing instructor Kurt, who sort of resembles Hulk Hogan, came up to me and stuck a video camera in my face asking if I was ready and who I wanted to say “goodbye” to. Somehow his constant jokes about being terrified to die and only having three days experience made me feel better. I know – I’m weird.

The plane we jumped out of.

The plane we jumped out of.

Hulk Hogan and I were the first to climb into the plane and AJ and Vince filed in shortly after. The plane was small, old and rickety – the kind of plane I wouldn’t even dare to get in to, yet alone jump out of. After the entire group got into place, the blades on the plane started turning and before I knew it we were climbing rapidly into the air.

500 feet. 2,000 feet. 7,500 feet. 12,000 feet.

I watched as the first pair slid to the edge of the plane and within a matter of seconds, they were gone. My hands were sweating, my legs shaking. I could barely find the strength to breathe.

Before I knew it, I was sitting on the edge of the plane. My feet were dangling 12,000 feet above the ground. When I looked up, the clouds were so close I could practically touch them. My hands were glued to the rail above me – the only thing keeping me from falling out of the plane.

My instructor yelled ‘Let go!’

And in that moment, that tiny, no more than a single second moment when my hands let go of the bar and there was nothing holding me back – from the 12,000 feet below me, from the years and years of fears that had built up and resulted in “I wish” or “What if” – all of it for that single moment was gone.

I let go of it all.

And I jumped.

And even though I was falling…

…I felt like I was flying.

Free-falling.

Free-falling.

I cried nearly the entire way down. Certainly some of those tears were out of fear, but most of them were reserved for the overwhelming pride I felt. For the once-in-a-lifetime view, with the mountains in the distance and treetops as far as the eye could see. For the freezing cold air that was rushing past my skin as I plummeted towards the earth in free fall. For doing something I had only dreamed of for years.

When the parachute opened, I breathed a sigh of relief as we floated down. My heart was beating so fast I was sure it was going to explode. And for the next 60 seconds or so, I enjoyed the view. The view that millions of people will never get to experience – but that I will get to hold on to for the rest of my life. The view that was mine and mine alone.

When we got to the ground, we wiped out (despite my best efforts at practicing), and when my face hit the earth, I wanted to cry again.

Who would have thought 15 years after writing that essay, I would finally get to be a bird.

Even if only for a minute.

[Looking for a good laugh? Check out the video below.]

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this is your life – so live it.

live the life of your dreams

All too often, we let life get in the way of living. I know I do. I see dishes that need to be washed, bills that need to be paid, to-do lists that need to be finished. I see paychecks disappearing quicker than they come in as I struggle to pay back my disheartening amount of student debt. To pay for gas and car repairs and groceries and health insurance. These responsibilities can eat you alive… if you let them.

Until the start of this new year, I was being swallowed whole by myself – my stress, my anxiety and my self-doubt. My friends and family didn’t like the person I had become. And to be honest, neither did I. Instead of trying to blame it on my job or not liking my new city or the stresses of post-grad life, I realized I needed to take responsibility for my own unhappiness. I was at the center of it. The one creating it and letting it manifest itself. I was the problem.

So I decided to come up with a solution. The 213 in 2013 Project. A list of things I’ve wanted to do my entire life that I’ve been putting off for years because I was always so full of excuses. Because I was too afraid or told myself I didn’t have the time. That it could wait. Until I realized that it can’t – because this is life. It’s happening right now. And you only get one shot to do it right.

I’m three weeks in to my project and I’ve already crossed 8 things off my list and have a queue of others already planned in the weeks and months ahead. I’m waking up every morning so excited about the potential each day holds. I’m letting the unimportant little messes like a sink full of dishes sit on the sideline while I revel in the messes that will leave a permanent mark on my life like getting paint under my nails or pizza flour all over my clothes. I’m letting my DVR fill up with TV shows I used to watch while I’m out exploring new restaurants in the city or strapping on a pair of skates to go ice skating under the stars instead.

My biggest wish for this project, besides regaining my own passion for life is that others who are experiencing similar ruts will find their passion for life again too.

Stop making excuses.

Stop telling yourself it can wait until tomorrow, or next month, or next year.

Stop letting your fears hold you back. From trying something new, chasing your dreams and achieving greatness.

This is your life and the time is now.

The time to become the best version of yourself.

To challenge, push, fail, and succeed.

To unlock your potential.

To do more of what makes you happy.

To seize the day.

To live exquisitely. Boldly. Fearlessly.

To live.

#8. make a 3 a.m. diner trip

Back in the days of high school and college (that makes me sound so OLD!), a 3 a.m. diner trip was a routine thing on the weekend. After traipsing along the cobbled streets of Old City until closing hour at the bars, you’d walk the 10 – 15 blocks over to South Philly and cozy up in a booth at the South Street Diner to nurse your intoxication with a giant plate of greasy fries.

I never realized how drastically everything changes after starting a 9 – 5 full-time job. I once longed for Fridays as a chance to go out and get crazy with my friends. Now, I long for Fridays as a chance to throw on my pajamas, watch a movie and go to bed early to catch up on all the sleep I’ve missed during the week. My ability to pull off two or three all-nighters in a week has been annihilated and I now consider myself lucky if I can stay up past 11.

While I understand that this change in schedule is a reflection of me joining society as a responsible adult, sometimes it’s worth pushing through the heavy eyelids and mental fog to spend an entire night staying up with your friends – laughs and memories you wouldn’t have otherwise had if you were asleep. Which is why I included a 3 a.m. diner trip on my 213 in 2013 Project list.

Nothing hits the spot more than a steaming hot bowl of tomato soup.

Nothing hits the spot more than a steaming hot bowl of tomato soup.

After two hours of laser tag, Katie, Kevin, Mike and I all trucked over to Founding Farmers (one of my absolutely favorite restaurants of all time, might I add) to enjoy a homey, delicious dinner. After our tummies were full, we went back home for a night of revelry. And by that, I mean staying in, whipping up delicious cocktails and playing games all night. It’s one of the many reasons why I absolutely love hanging out with Katie and Kevin – we always manage to have a fantastic time at home in our pajamas without having to go out to a crowded club. That plus they both make drinks that taste WAY better than anything you could order at a bar and you don’t have to spend $100+.

Katie is one heck of a bartender -- whatever she put in this, it tasted like tropical paradise.

Katie is one heck of a bartender — whatever she put in this, it tasted like tropical paradise.

The first few hours of the night flew by as we sipped on our drinks, listened to music, played game after game and debated politics and the problem with the ever shrinking middle-class America (because we get smarter the more we drink.) After 1 AM hit though it was like time started to drag as my eyelids began to feel that all too familiar heaviness and I could tell Katie was starting to feel it too. But we were both so determined to relive the young-wild-and-free spirit of our college days and prove that we could make it all night. Cue more drinks and a game of truth or dare, and before we knew it the clock read 3.

We threw on our pajamas and coats and made our way outside as we began our trek to Tastee Diner down the street. It was eerily quiet outside and the fog was incredibly heavy, but Mike made a point to wake up anyone who might have been sleeping by singing at the top of his lungs as he danced down the street.

Photo credit to Katie who was awake enough to capture our exhaustion and crappy 3 AM diner food.

After getting to the diner, we curled up in a corner booth and everyone ordered their usual – something along the lines of eggs and bacon and I got my usual cheese fries and toast. At this point, we were all exhausted and barely buzzed, and if anyone has ever eaten 3 AM diner food – the only way to eat it and enjoy it is under the influence. I took one bite of my badly burnt toast and nibbled on an old, stale fry or two while the others finished up. I never wanted to go for the food anyways – I wanted to go for the experience. And a good one it was.

We walked back home and got in around 4:30. Everyone said their goodnights/good mornings and I laid my head down on my pillow as I pulled the blanket around my neck. I closed my heavy eyelids with the satisfaction of knowing that I was right… these are memories I never would have made and laughs I wouldn’t have shared if I had just gone to sleep.

#7. play an ultimate game of laser tag

As a kid, I can tell you there was no greater thrill than finding out one of your friends was having their birthday party at Laser Quest – ultimate laser tagging at its best. After wolfing down an entire Dominos pepperoni pizza, a 2 liter of grape soda and a pound of cake, you’d check that your shoe laces were double-knotted and make your way out to the “briefing room.” Every kid would come up with a ridiculous alias name (pretty sure I was always Mizz Kitty) and then you’d shake hands with your former-friends-now-turned-enemies, knowing that in thirty seconds it was every man for himself and you’d blast them with your laser gun.

I haven’t played laser tag since I was in 6th grade. The older you get, the creepier it becomes – the notion of an adult in a giant, dark obstacle course, ruthlessly laserbeaming a bunch of eight-year-olds that are a full two feet shorter than you. But, I’ve never been one to care about being awkward, which is why I included playing the ultimate game of laser tag on my 213 in 2013 list. Luckily, I had Mike and our two visiting friends, Katie and Kevin, to join me to make it less (more?) creepy.

Shadowland -- where all your lasertagging adventures come true.

Shadowland — where all your lasertagging adventures come true.

I found this place called Shadowland, which was only a short 25 minute drive away. From the outside it looked sketchy and the inside didn’t prove to be any better, but what laser tag place isn’t? As soon as we walked in the doors there were throngs of screaming children running in every direction and uninterested parents sitting on benches glued to their iPhones. We spotted a pretty large group of grown men (who looked pretty douchey), but were grateful to see other people taller than 4”.

After paying for our games, we filled out a “we won’t sue you if we trip, fall and get injured” paper and each of us carefully picked our aliases. Mike was Frosty, Kevin was Opaque, Katie was KT Sev and I was (maturely), Meow Poop.

Aren't I funny and clever? I clearly have the maturity of a teenage boy.

Aren’t I funny and clever? I clearly have the maturity of a teenage boy.

We made our way into the briefing room where I could barely pay an ounce of attention to the woman going over the rules and instructions because I was too eager to get suited up and unleash years of pent up childhood nostalgia. Row by row we were called into the gear room where we found our laser packs and got ourselves strapped in. As the 30 second countdown began booming from the speakers, I felt like I was in The Hunger Games and channeled my inner-Katniss knowing that if I had any chance of survival/winning, I’d have to find safety and stay away from the merciless children around me looking to bring us adults to our knees.

The doors slid open, our packs were initiated and before I knew it I had already used an entire dictionary of profanity (first rule broken) within the first 60 seconds as I was slaughtered by laser beams from my left and my right. Some kids named Babyface Killa and Fartz were out for blood and I was ranking an embarrassing 25th out of 30 only two minutes into the game (I later went on to finish 17th but my team, the Blue Team was a two-time champ.)

Soaked in sweat and out of breath -- I showed those kids no mercy.

Soaked in sweat and out of breath — I showed those kids no mercy.

I tried to remember some of my old techniques and began running up a ramp (second rule broken) before I tripped over my own feet, twisted my ankle and nearly slammed into a wall. Clearly I was no longer as limber and agile as I was once was, nor was I as fast or sly. But that’s alright, Katie and I made quite a pair smack talking kids half our height and age.

Two games later, ounces of sweat lost and several new bruises gained, I realized it was the most carefree fun I’ve had in really long time. While I can never go back to being a kid ever again, I know now that there’s nothing wrong with going back to visit every once in a while.

#6. throw a fabulous dinner party

I love entertaining and consider myself the ever dutiful hostess. There is nothing more satisfying than cooking up a delicious dinner, wrapping around a table with friends and enjoying each other’s company over a bottle (or six) of wine and a heaping pile of pasta. So, with the new friends I’ve been making, I thought it would be the perfectly opportunity to throw the fabulous dinner party I’ve been wanting to have on my 213 in 2013 list. It doesn’t get more fabulous than carbo-loading and wine-guzzling with a group of newly acquainted people.

One of my favorite parts about dinner parties? The table settings.

One of my favorite parts about dinner parties? The table settings.

The guest list in the week leading up to the party grew from four to six to at the last minute, seven people. The more the merrier, I figured. And luckily, as an Italian, I always cook too much food anyways so I ended up having more than enough.

After spending the entire afternoon cleaning every crack and crevice of the apartment, I started whipping up a feast. Sundried tomato, ricotta and pesto torta with garlic pita chips to munch on. Fresh oven baked bread to soak up olive oil and fresh herbs. Seven layer lasagna smothered with fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and crushed tomatoes. Green beans with sundried tomatoes, garlic and shaved parmesan. And a delicious, creamy, chocolate peanut butter pie. (Sorry there aren’t really any pictures…was too busy stuffing my face and having a good time!)

Mmm, peanut butter pie.

I was admittedly a little nervous about having all of these newly-minted friends over to my apartment. Not only did I barely know them, but none of them really knew each other. It had the potential to be incredibly awkward but I was convinced that good wine and food would be the ultimate icebreaker. And, I was right.

For five hours we talked, laughed, ate until the plates were empty and drank until the bottles ran dry. I didn’t fret about the lasagna not presenting itself perfectly on the plate. Or the fact that we were all so crunched together at the table we could hardly lift our elbows. I didn’t sweat about the sink not draining or the large pile of dishes in the kitchen.

Just one of a few (several) bottles of wine from the evening.

Just one of a few (several) bottles of wine from the evening.

Instead I spent the night talking about books and movies and restaurants and life. Taking pictures of my cats, starting book clubs and planning vineyard tours. I got to know each of these girls a little better than I did before and realized how lucky I was to stumble upon each and every one of them because they help make this city feel more like home. Because they are incredibly funny, kind and wonderful people. Because it feels amazing to genuinely connect with a group of people after feeling disconnected for so long.

The wine was good. The food was delicious. But the people…the conversation…the memories, they were perfect.

Making 2013 A Year for Living

While I’ve been making good on my promise to make 2013 my best year yet, I know I’m not the only one and I’ve been admiring other people’s goals for the year to come. My friends are planning on big changes this year — some are rightly taking the time to focus on themselves while others are looking to live by a set of values than a list of goals.

2013

Take some time today to check out each of their blogs and consider following them along on their own journeys.

1. Three Powerful Words for a Gutsy 2013: Jessica Lawlor (@jesslaw) writes this powerful and thoughtful blog about striving for a strategic vision for the year rather than a tactical one. I was inspired by this post because while my 213 in 2013 is very much tactical in nature, it made me think about the values I want to help guide me in my journey.

2. This Is My Now: Alex Crispino (@alexcharli), who has a heart of gold and who I have always known to put everyone else’s happiness and well-being before her own has decided to put herself first in 2013. As someone who has constantly witnessed Alex’s selflessness, I’m proud to see her making 2013 about her own happiness.

3. 13 Goals for 2013: Lauren Cox (@laurencox08) is someone who’s never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions as she writes in this blog post, but with all of the changes 2012 has brought her, she’s making this year different by setting 13 goals for herself to accomplish in 2013. My favorite on her list? Be more positive. Something I know I need to work on as well!

4. A Year for Living: One of the things I was hoping to accomplish with my 213 in 2013 project was to inspire others to chase after their own dreams and to start living their lives they way they’ve always wanted to. Katie has a list of 100 things she wants to accomplish in 2013 because as she says, “it’s time to finally start living again.”

If you’re looking to learn more about why I started the 213 in 2013 Project, check out my friend Matt’s blog post: Cool Things My Friends Are Doing: The ULTIMATE Resolutions List, and check back on his blog on a weekly basis for inspiring things that other’s are achieving this year.

TGIF everyone!

#5. make a pizza from scratch

As you read yesterday, this past weekend Mike and I knocked two things off my 213 in 2013 list thanks to the purchase of one Groupon deal for a painting and pizza making class. Since I’ve already told you all about the fun we had channeling our inner Picassos, today I’m sharing our experience channeling our inner Mario Batali.

The spread -- I had to try hard to resist eating the mozzarella before putting it on my pizza.

The spread — I had to try hard to resist eating the mozzarella before putting it on my pizza.

Immediately after drying our canvases, the painting instructor walked us across the pavilion to Oro Pomodoro, an authentic Neopolitan pizzeria and Italian restaurant. When we walked in the hostess greeted us with a cheery “Buongiorno!” and showed us to a long row of tables facing the kitchen. In front of us were all the ingredients you’d need to make a perfectly authentic Naples pizza: vibrant crushed tomatoes imported from Italy, chunks of silky, fresh mozzarella, aromatic basil leaves and the most incredible olive oil I’ve ever tasted.

Michael teaching us the secret to a good pizza dough.

Michael teaching us the secret to a good pizza dough.

The chef, Michaelo, came out from behind the coal pizza oven covered in flour and greeted us with a warm smile. In broken English, with the occasional slip of an Italian phrase or two, he began demonstrating how to make the pizza dough. I laughed as he went on a rant about Americans ruining pizza with their overly processed and enriched flour. He goes on to say that it’s the flour that is the true secret to making a fantastic pizza.

He’s truly an artist, although his medium is not paint but rather the spread of ingredients before him; sculpting the perfectly thin and round dough, caressing it as he gently molds the crust. He pours the marinara onto his canvas and begins to swirl it, painting every inch until he’s satisfied. Mike and I follow along, kneading and molding our dough. For a moment I forget I’m surrounded by others in my class and throw down a pinch of flour onto the table and yell “BAM!” as if I’m Emeril Lagasse. Michaelo just laughs.

My pizza before it went into the 800 degree coal oven.

My pizza before it went into the 800 degree coal oven.

After our dough has been sculpted and our marinara perfectly swirled, Michaelo comes over to inspect our work thus far. He nods as he walks down the length of the tables and gives me a “Brava” as he walks by my pizza. I beam with pride at his compliment. We then take the basil leaves and spread them over the sauce, followed by the mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan. Someone decides to not use all of their mozzarella, and being the opportunist that I am – I quickly grab it and spread the extra cheese on my pizza as others look at me, both envious and impressed that they hadn’t thought to do it first.

Watching Michaelo throw my pizza into the oven that he built.

Watching Michaelo throw my pizza into the oven that he built.

Michaelo walks us over, one by one; to the coal oven that cooks the pizza at 800 degrees. He smiles as he tells me that he built the oven with his own hands. He shoves my pizza into the oven and immediately I watch as the cheese begins to bubble. Michaelo is amused with how excited I am, laughing as I clap my hands in delight. The owner of the restaurant offers to take a picture of Mike and I with my pizza and tells me that if I’m ever interested, I could easily have a career as a pizza chef. Who knows… it could happen!

Mike and I with one of the two pizzas we made.

Mike and I with one of the two pizzas we made.

We rush back to our seats and I bring the first slice up to my mouth and sink my teeth in. I’m not going to even bother to try to put into words how absolutely incredible it tasted, because words honestly can’t do it justice. To put it into perspective, you know how you eat certain foods that transport you back to a particular place and time? The moment I tasted that pizza, I immediately found myself in Naples again, on the brick patio of the tiny trattoria where I had my first experience of true, authentic Neopolitan pizza. It was sensory overload… the smell, the taste, the memories, all cultivating into the perfect bite. I finished the entire thing. Not even a crumb was left over on the plate.

Bellisima... the finished product.

Bellisima… the finished product.

Call me crazy or overly sentimental… but that pizza, that moment, helped me find my appetite for life again. And I’m hungrier than ever.