Adventure-ing: Surf Lessons, Day 1

A few weeks ago I thought “hey! why don’t I try and see if I can take surf lessons somewhere in the Bay Area?” huh, fancy that… and all this time I had it stuck in my head I couldn’t take surf lessons unless I was in Hawaii or something. And I live a few blocks from Ocean Beach… where there are surfer’s a plenty. What was I thinking? I think when it comes to my life list, I end up putting road blocks between me and some of the scarier or harder goals. I didn’t just make it “take surf lessons”, I created this whole scenario in which the surf lessons would happen – in warm water? on vacation? certainly not here. But I don’t want to just have a list! I want to live an adventurous life! And the list is just an avenue to that life.

A quick google search confirmed there were plenty of companies that gave surf lessons, and look! even one in Pacifica, just a 25 min drive from San Francisco, with reasonable rates, and an opening for the next weekend. Did I jump on it? I did not. I actually… sat on it. And twiddled my thumbs because it turns out that accomplishing big things (actually the FIRST big thing) from my life list is hard… and scary.

Suddenly I was faced with accomplishing something I have wanted to do since I was 12. In junior high I somehow got it stuck in my head that I wanted to go to surf camp. I blame the internet. I begggged my parents to send me to San Diego (I grew up in Seattle). The camp was for a week and was about $3,600. The answer was no. And it was the same answer I got the next year and the next year I asked to go. So now, as a grownup, I was actually capable of doing it. I was going to be taught how to surf. But what if it was really hard? What if I embarrassed myself? What if I didn’t wear the right thing? What if I was in a class full of 5 year olds and the instructors thought I was a total noob (hello, it’s a beginners class, I think that’s a pre-rec) and laughed at me? Surfing is only for cool people! Suddenly, I didn’t want to do it anymore.

But it was on my list. And so simple to complete. The idea of crossing something off eventually won out over my total anxiety-ridden neurosis. So I booked the closest weekend for a TWO day beginner’s surf clinic and the entire week before fretted over it. The whole night before my day 1 of surfing I had bad dreams, and then woke up at 6am and begged Kamel to not make me go. He was way, way, way more excited than I was. He’s an enthusiastic guy. And through his excitement I was coaxed into putting on my bathing suit, eating breakfast, and getting into the car.

And let me tell you… day 1 of surfing was really, really fucking hard. All morning I kept marveling at how similar surfing was to using a netty pot. The water shoots in, every thing else just kind of pours out. Salt water in my ears, my nose, my mouth, again and again and again.

See? Yeah, that’s me… eating it. Thankfully, Kamel was there on the beach with his zoom lens to capture the whole thing. He totally froze his ass off for 3 hours, while I was actually quite warm (via a thick wet suit) in the water.

Learning how to surf, is surprisingly hard work. I had muscles burning in my arms and back after that first day I never knew existed.

But even after all of my many, many wipe outs, I still couldn’t keep a huge goofy-ass grin off my face. Because surfing? Is really fun. Very salty, very tiring, but a total kick in the pants.

And when you stand up? When you finally lug your soaking wet, tired as fuck, body up and onto your board, it’s like I won an Academy Award or something.

This is a picture of the only time I really rode a wave for any substantial amount of time, and instead of paying attention to what I was doing, I took the opportunity to celebrate my victory. Plus, with surfing, I think you look equal parts ridiculous and awesome, so why not work it when you got it? When I got home from day 1 I was also equal parts thrilled to be going back for a second go, and totally worn out to the point of wanting to do nothing but sit, watch netflix and eat Doritos.

The happenings of day two …. tomorrow.

All Those Visitors

On Monday I had exactly 2,841 views on this here blog. About 2,741 of those views were from APW readers I had a flood (to me) of comments on both Monday and Tuesday, so if you’re wondering who those people were, they’re now my new, awesome friends.

On Tuesday I had a post up on APW, the first in a wedding planning series I’m doing over there, and I spent a huge chunk of my evening reading those comments and swelling, like a big red balloon, with so much joy and love and holy-shit-people-actually-enjoy-my-writing-ness, that I felt a little like I was floating. That, and I had to keep reminding myself to close my maw because, in the world of writing, you don’t get a lot of positive feedback. When you ask for feedback it’s mostly to tell you what you fucked up on and should change, immediately.

On Monday I was straight up overwhelmed with the number of visitors, with the increased followers on twitter, with all the comments, and then on Tuesday I was filled up to the brim with gratitude for all of those kind, finny, unique, gracious strangers. It’s taken me a few days to let it all soak in, and to gain a little perspective.

Since Tuesday my number have fallen back toward the place where my numbers were before Meg’s announcement and all of her benevolent linkage. The visits, though, are higher than they were before, so at least I have SOME retention.

The thing is, I’m a writer. Everyday I write, or think about what I’m going to write next. Sometimes it’s made up things, and sometimes it’s here, where I spill the beans about my daily life. And I don’t have a niche. I really don’t. I don’t cook, I shop like everybody else shops, I have a Life List but I wasn’t the first and I won’t be the last, and I write about wedding stuff because I’m getting married. And I definitely don’t write because I have all of the answers. If you’re here now and if you come back, it’s because I entertain you, I say things that you agree with, I show you parts of my life that you are curious about, I make you laugh, I (hopefully) make you think. I honestly don’t know if I will ever have the readership that APW has. But do I want it? Maybe. Having all of those readers and all of those comments was impressive and wonderful, but it also made me feel exposed. It raised the bar for the quality of writing here. Because, let’s be real, you all don’t stay for my looks. And that’s a good thing. I felt the challenge and I will meet it.

What I initially set out to say today, though this turned into something much large than I intended, was THANK YOU. Thank you for coming, and reading, and commenting. Even if you came just that once, thank you. Because you’ve pushed me to be better, write better, and entertain better – which really means living a more adventurous life. I really hope you stay to see the result.

Adventure-ing: Joan Didion

I have finally completed the second book, Where I Was From, in my “read all of Joan Didion” goal. And it was a lot like eating my broccoli. Good writing, smart writing, at times hard to chew and gag down. A small book (226 pages) took me… realistically… months to finish. But there is a good reason (many, many good reasons) why reading all of Didion is important to me. 1) she is, quite possibly, the number one biggest influence in my own writing. 2) she is a reader’s writer, a writer’s writer, the whole shebang. She uses amazing literary references to explore even her most personal and emotionally tragic moments (seen in Where I Was From and A Year Of Magical Thinking) and 3) she writes paragraphs like this:

Douglas had already, in 1993, moved part of its MD-80 production to Salt Lake City. Douglas had already moved part of what remained of its C-17 production to St. Louis. Douglas had already moved the T-45 to St. Louis.

(God, that’s so, so, so Didion)

It would be a while before I realized that “me” is what we think when our parents die, even at my age, who will look out for me now, who will remember me as I was, who will know what happens to me now, where will I be from.

Gagging down some of the dry non-fiction (for not all non-fiction is dry, my friends) was worth the gems I got out of this book, the moments of happy where I felt like I was visiting with an old friend, someone who I can exclaim “That is so you!” to, and the moments where she taught me, yet again, how to write a really fantastic sentence.

If you are from California, have any interest in the state’s social growth from it’s naming until now, any interest at all into reading theories on what makes California tick, I highly recommend it. I’ll always recommend Didion.

It’s Just Like Riding A…


No! A Bicycle!

It had been 11 years. ELEVEN YEARS since I had gotten on a bike. But we went on another weekend get away last weekend and the hotel we stayed at (Boon! You are amazing!) had free bikes for us to use for as long and whenever we wanted (as long as we were back before night fall as these did not have reflectors). On Saturday morning I donned my bicycle outfit:

The dress from our date night the night before (Dress had pockets, huge perk), sans decorative belt, and the addition of Kamel’s plaid shirt, rolled up sleeves and tied at the waist. I was ready.

The helmet made me feel goofy and accentuated my fat head.

But, you know, safety first.

In the beginning I was sure to come home with scraped knees, or at the least, having run into some sort of shrubbery. I also couldn’t completely touch the ground with my feet, and that freaked me out too. But by the end I was a speed demon! My poor little butt cheeks were nearly raw from over use and I had sufficient helmet head. It was a a success. Now I want to bicycle on all vacations, especially when cars are unnecessary and a general pain in the ass. I’m still afraid of traffic and cars and I’m a sweaty person so bicycling for my everyday (to work, etc) wouldn’t really work for me. But weekends? And for outdoorsy excursions? I think I’m in.

The Weekend

It was early August when I realized that the following month would be Kamel’s birthday… and I had no idea what to get him. The man has everything he’s ever wanted: a formidable DVD collection, every video game he could ever want, he never wants for clothing, he just got a new computer, I mean really, I was at a loss. But then I remembered our “list of things to do before 2010 is over”. Only a few more months until the year is out, and we’d only done one thing on our list. One thing that had me wide eyed with terror, and had Kamel giddy with excitement. It was time to cross something else off, so I booked a B&B and decided to take Kamel somewhere he had never been: Carmel By The Sea – a little village, with an amazing beach and lots of shops, just south of Monterey. I would have never known about this gem of a beach town if it wasn’t for my amazing boss Traci and her enthusiasm for the place. Thanks Traci!!

1.) Charter a boat
2.) Take Kamel somewhere he has never been (he’s always doing this for me, it’s time for me to show off a little)
3.) Go to Mexico
4.) Go to at least 1 concert
5.) Host a party in our new place

The waves made the most amazing crashing noises, big booms that echoed down the beach.

The water was rather cold, but the sand was warm.

And eventually you got used to the temperature shock, anyways.

Kamel rented a lens for the weekend and took some pretty adorable pictures of my feet jumping out of the cold, foamy water. By 6 oclock we were totally beat, and headed back to the B&B in Montery to play some Quiddler (A word game kind of like Gin Rummy that I HIGHLY recommend to all my word nerds out there!) on their rooftop deck in the sunset.

This was my first time at a Bed and Breakfast and the experience started out really well. When we checked in, the amazing smells of breakfast greeted us. Eggs and toast and bacon, mmm. I knew the extra splurge was going to be totally worth it. The reviews on the place said that it was really clean, incredibly friendly staff, but that the rooms were small. I always think this critique on a hotel is silly. It’s a room, in a small hotel, unless you’re in a resort – what are you exactly expecting? Boutique hotels might be small, but they are often very stylish.

Ok, so it was small, and you could hear everything anyone said in the hallway, and when you didn’t shut the door all the way an alarm sounded, even if you had just ducked out into the hallway for a minute, but it smelled so clean and happy in our room, and the bathroom was bright and tiled and lovely, and the room had these amazing hardwood floors, and the bed was just…. lounge-able ya know? With the greatest pillows ever created. Except the shower leaked. And I don’t mean leaked a little, I mean there was a space in the shower door that was about an inch wide all the way across where water would come gushing out. Kamel had to jam one of the bath mats into the door just to keep us from flooding the place. But the soap smelled nice, and I fell asleep watching tv, so things were still good in my book. When I fell asleep Kamel was still wide awake and the window to the room was open, and because we were on the ground level he wanted to close it before he went to bed so we wouldn’t be robbed and murdered while we slept. But when he went to close it, sometime after 10pm, the alarm sounded – the same annoying alarm that the door to our room had – so that no matter which way he moved it, the alarm would sound, so the window stayed cracked. This ended up being a good thing as I was very very hot and uncomfortable for most of the night. The bed happened to be a Full, and I have become rather accustomed to my queen sized bed, especially while sharing with someone else. This bed must have been on the small side of full, too, because with both of us lying on our backs, side by side, we were both at the edge. This caused a lot of rolling rolling rolling all night long as if we were meat on a spit. Very unpleasent.

But then the morning came! with the breakfast! that was paid for compliments of the room! and the part of the hotel where the breakfast was served was this amazing eclectic adorable picnic meets Victorian chandeliers type deal and my shitty nights sleep zoomed out the cracked window when the hotel owner poured me fabulous black tea and I got to sit in a booth with a pillow behind my back for extra support. Holiday Inn Buffet this was surely not. Then she brought out this tiny plate with a pastry wafer with baked on pecans and brown sugar sitting atop a bed of strawberries and cream. I thought, “Heaven. THIS IS HEAVEN.” But that was just the amuse bouche right? What was the main course going to be, oh bed and breakfast of mine?!

Bagels. With Salmon.

Wait, what? Where is my eggs and toast? Where are my waffles with powdered sugar? A bagel? I know they have these at the Holiday Inn, hell even at the Days Inn. So the plate was coated in salmon, yes I see this, but I just can’t do cold fish at 9am. I know lots of people who love it, and maybe my pallet is just not as refined as the rest of yours, but seriously…. I got the fancier hotel with the whole boutique ambiance and the breakfast at the bed and BREAKFAST is bagels? Bagels. Can you tell I’m STILL disappointed?

Anyways – day two of Kamel’s birthday fun surprise was taking him on yet another boat ride. God, yes, I am a saint. But this time I scheduled it for 11AM, where the seas are bound to be less… frightening? bone chillingly cold? And the whole point of this sail boat adventure was that their were animals out in the water to be seen and discovered! And photographed! A 1 hr/45min sail boat ride to seek out sea lions, otters, dolphins, porpoise, and maybe even whales.

About 30 minutes into the ride I got bored. We had seen the sea lions and the pelicans and the otters. Amazing that they don’t only live in the aquarium. But their was little wind and we were on a small boat with just the captain and us, the captain who wasn’t very chatty or tour guid-y. Kamel took pictures and I looked around and enjoyed the slap of the water against the boat and the sunshine and swatted at the flies that kept bothering us due to lack of wind.

I daydreamed about lunch.

You know what the best part was? Managing to totally surprise Kamel, take him somewhere he had never been and having him love it, being able to get away from the city and have a few adventures. And it was only one night, and it was only a few hours away, and it was great.

Adventure-ing: Random Acts of Kindness

1,000 random acts of kindness. 1,000 is a lot. I figure it’s going to take me several years to complete this goal. Several years of intermittently being aware that I should probably do something a little less selfish, rather than sit on the couch and play World of Warcraft for 4 hours at a time.

A few months ago I was crossing the Bay Bridge and I, on a whim, decided to pay the toll for the car behind me. The toll attendant was happy to take my extra money, and then as I sat in traffic I watched the exchange behind me in my rear-view mirror. I had never done this before, although I had seen it on Oprah several years ago, and I’ve heard stories of it happening to other people. The couple behind me seemed happy and looked at my car, ahead of them, but didn’t wave or anything in particular. They just sort of turned to each other and chatted, and I imagined them marveling at the kindness of strangers, chatting about me, about how they were going to have a really great day. I dunno, it was kind of thrilling, even if most of it happened in my head. And it felt great! And it made me want to do happy things like that all of the time!

But then, I sort of forgot about it, because it really does take energy, thought, and being in the right place at the right time. And then I got to thinking, “well, what actually constitutes a ‘random act of kindness’?”. I spent an evening last week, while having trouble sleeping, discussing this with Kamel. We came up with a list we were sure constituted as such:

Paying for strangers’ bridge tolls (of course)
Feeding stranger’s parking meters (possibly illegal)
Buying groceries for homeless
Send packages overseas to the troops
Putting change in a vending machine, then walking away (no lauren, do not eat the cookies! BACK AWAY)
Opening the phone book and sending a random person something nice (a kind note, a gift card, etc)
Baking for the neighbors (who knows their neighbors? maybe I could start)
Dropping off teddy bears to Fire Stations
Sticking happy notes in books at a book store
Giving up your seat on a plane and flying standby
Donating to Locks of Love

Happy things that don’t actually count as random acts:

Donating all the clothes I really don’t like to the GoodWill (useful, yes, too self serving for this project, also yes)
Bringing in goodies for co workers (sorry guys!)
Doing anything, no matter how random or spontaneous, for family and friends
Donating money to organizations
Giving free hugs (it challenges my boundry issues, plus it seems a slight bit pervy)

Basically, I want to challenge myself and keep an awareness that involves helping. If you have an ideas or suggestions please comment!

On saturday, in a very hot, very crowded, very stuffy bus, I gave a homeless man one of the two nectarines I had purchased at the farmer’s market. He originally asked me for cash. I said I didn’t have any (Lie), but then offered him my groceries. This choice does not seem like a big deal on paper, but in real life it is shockingly hard to give up the things we perceive as “mine”. Giving the man my fruit did not immediately pop into my mind as an option. My first mental response was “I feel cornered by this guy sitting in front of me on the bus asking me for money, this is bullshit and I’m not giving him anything.” But he was also really dirty, carrying two heavy backbacks on a day where I was asking Kamel to carry my coat because it was just too hot to have any extra baggage. And after a minute, I thought about my life list and I thought about my goals, and compassion, and I wondered how often this man was able to eat fresh fruit. It was the only food I had on me, so I offered him both nectarines. He took one, and he wasn’t especially grateful, and that’s alright. It must really be difficult to not have the freedom to buy what you want, but to instead depend on what other people decide you should have.

I want to be a more giving person, I want to have more compassion for others, especially when they make me uncomfortable. Towards my goal of 1,000 random acts of kindness I have 2 so far.

1 purchased toll fare
1 gift of food to a homeless man

What can you do to help others? Do you want to help me help others? Let me know and let’s watch the count to 1,000 rise.