The Book That Started It All

On December 1st I joined an amazing accountability group to keep us slightly more healthy going into the holidays. The best part of this group this time was that we set goals that often had nothing to do with our fitness and health.

It was going into the second week of this challenge, when I completed a book I had started less than a week earlier, that I decided to challenge myself to reading one book a week until January 1 of 2016. I have always loved reading, and I have often not made time to read. So in 2015 I’ve decided there are no excuses! A book a week, or at the very least 56 books by January 1 of 2016. At the end of each post in this series I will add that week’s book so as to keep track of the numbers.

Thus, the book that started it all…drumroll please…The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. How did I come to this book? Why this book to start?


As I said, I didn’t come up with this goal until finishing this book. So it by no way has hugely significant meaning. I found the title on another blog that I often peruse (being new to this blogging world, I’m not clear if there is a protocol to referencing other blogs, so for now, let the motif of vagueness continue).

My feelings towards it are as follows (don’t mind the lack of any grammar rules): “Wow I don’t usually read books that are solely about relationships,” “I can totally relate to this girl in my lack of any understanding of relationships,” “Her brother would really bug me,” “Not loving this relationship with a much older man,” “What’s the deal with this random chapter about someone else,” (SPOILER ALERT) “And of course, in the end, she finds someone who instantly appears to be her soul mate,” “Wait, but really, what is the deal with the random chapter about someone else?!”

All in all, it was an easy read and I enjoyed it. My only issue with it is that, due to some extreme empathy (there’s proabably some more correct word for this), I take on the feelings (and sometimes the dialect or accent) of whatever book I’m reading (or show or movie I’m watching). I kid you not, this is 100% real. I’ve been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls lately and I have noticed my annoyingly witty banter has increased dramatically. It’s harder to pull off when I don’t have an equally witty and bantering counterpart, but hey, I’m the queen of one-sided conversations. Anyway, there was, what I felt, a generally gloomy feel to the book until pretty much the very end. I didn’t love that. It left me feeling dejected and gloomy, happier ending and all.

Oh, and that random chapter, I did some research to see what other readers thought of this chapter. Some, much like me, thought they had imagined it. I really enjoyed one interpretation which said that the chapter was thrown in there to show us how self-absorbed humans can be. The main character of this book is only referenced once in this chapter and it’s a very shallow reference. I kind of liked the idea of this interpretation, mostly because it gave meaning to something that appeared completely random otherwise.

56 Books in 56 Weeks:

  1. The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks (12/1/2014-12/6/2014)

Overcoming Fear

Continuing in a somewhat chronological order I will move on to “Do something I was too scared to do last summer.” I really love how vague I was in titling this because there were approximately two things that this was specifically referring to. And I’d like to clarify that I only had to do one to achieve the goal. Considering efficiency is extremely important to me, I did exactly one of the two things. I mean I had to leave something for next summer, right?! Are you sick of this yet?


This Fourth of July was my second annual Fourth of July on the river – specifically at my friend’s house on a river outside of Pittsburgh. That was slightly more specific…This year more of the Michiganders joined the adventure. In preparation, and celebration of my friend’s birthday two of use created the fabulous cake pictured above. One of my many potential future careers when I decide to grow some balls and quit engineering is cake decorating. What do you guys think? This is with no training!

And getting back on track! So last summer (to clarify the first annual visit to the house) I was one of four people at the house. Everyone there was more adventurous than I was, and I was happy to keep watch of the boat when adventures took place. One of the long standing traditions of the river house is jumping off this porch that hangs over the water. It’s really not super high up. In fact it’s probably a shorter jump than the one I took for the Tough Mudder last summer, but that involved a lot of adrenaline build up and a very very different atmosphere. So when the first annual visit came to an end I promised myself that the next time I was there (ie the second annual Fourth of July on the river) I would jump off that porch and into the water.

Just to clarify a few things: in jumping off the porch you actually climb on the railing of the porch and jump off that. As in you, in theory, have to first gain balance on a 2×4, look down into the river, and feel confident enough to make the leap. Keep in mind also when you look down at the river while balancing (in theory) on the 2×4 railing you will see rocks. So really you’re not so much jumping down but out, to miss the rocks. When I was in high school Spanish we watched Mar Adentro, a movie about a man who dives off some cliffs, hits the rocks, and becomes a quadraplegic. Remember the start here button above. The one that leads to the post where I explain this blog and my amazing tendency to make a tragedy out of anything. You see how easy it was for me to reason not jumping off this measly railing and to my potential paralysis?

So on morning two of this visit, I woke up and made my way, with purpose, to the porch to face my scariest goal of the summer. The host knew very well that this was my plan for this visit. So he got everyone rounded up, while I stood there chickening out. Everyone was supportive. They offered to hold my hand while I attempted to balance on the 2×4. They explained that you actually don’t need to balance on said 2×4, you really need to use the 2×4 the propel you out and past those rocks that could lead to serious injury. So thus, I stepped away from the railing feeling defeated once again and contemplating throwing a few words to my grandfather so I don’t feel like the whole weekend was shot because of my failure. Several hours later with the help of a little bit of beer, I dramatically stripped down to my swimsuit and jumped off the railing. It really didn’t go that smoothly. After the dramatic removal of clothes, I dawdled on the porch, cursing the 2×4 and my inability to stand on it. Finally I accepted one of the hands being offered, looked down for a second too long, and leapt out. I then proceeded to try doing backflips off the dock and never succeeding. That’s the thing about facing your fears, it makes you feel indestructible, like you can do anything. Even though I never completed a single backflip, I still had a lot of fun trying, and a lot of fun knowing I faced one of my greatest fears by jumping off that porch!



Two Birds With One Stone (Great Lake and Paddleboarding)

There are random bouts of time in my life when I feel extra adventurous. It can last anywhere from several hours to a weekend (it’s never been longer than a weekend, not even a long weekend really). These are my favorite weekends to look back on and ponder. They are the weekends I really should strive to recreate. And as much as I would like to take all the credit for these awesome weekends, they are usually heavily reliant on another human being. Really one of two kinds of human beings. I either have to be with someone whose fear of doing anything disgusts me so much that I feel a need to separate myself from them in every way possible thus becoming adventurous. As an aside here, I feel I must clarify that I only feel this sense of disgust because I see myself in them, otherwise I doubt this would bother me one bit. The second kind, and the kind I enjoy much more, are those people that are so adventurous and fun that it’s literally contagious.

This story is a wonderful sample of the latter. One lovely summer weekend my good friends who were marrying each other decided to celebrate their singledom one last time. I was, of course, invited to the bachelorette party which consisted of several parts my favorite of which was day 2: go to the beach on Lake Michigan. The bride is lucky enough to have a good, and incredibly kind, family friend who owns a house on the lake. By a house what I should really say is probably one of the most beautiful lake houses in existence. Because I was in too much awe upon walking into this creation to take a picture, I will use the next paragraph to paint you a mental image. Feel free to skip this part, I haven’t taken creative writing since high school and I’m sure my skills are shoddy at best.

Really it’s not going to take a whole paragraph. This house looked pretty unassuming when we first arrived. We had to take a narrow stone stairway down to the front door. When we knocked we were told to come in and a cocker poo (looking very much like my own cocker poo) greeted us excitedly at the door. This ensured that none of us looked up when we walked into the house, which really made the whole effect much more dramatic. When we all got over the exciting presence of the dog, we looked up to see that the entire wall facing the lake was made of glass. And it was incredible and breathtaking and everything I would ever want in such a property. In fact I think I actually told the owner several times to let me know if they ever put the house on the market. I don’t know why they ever would. On a clear day, she kept telling us, you could see the Chicago skyline from that window. Upon further exploration I found that next to an outdoor shower outside the lower level of the house, there were also swings hanging from the porch that faced the lake. I love swings. They are one of my favorite things about being an aunt, because having nieces and nephews means that I can go to playgrounds again without being a creep (thanks brother and sisters!).


So this was my first visit to a Great Lake (upon typing this, I just realized that having gone to Put-In Bay last year I actually already visited Lake Erie, but I’m just leaving this as is for the dramatic effect at this point). We made our way down to the beach, set out some chairs, and proceeded to start consuming some beverages when I decided to explore a little. The dear family friend spotted me as I was checking out what I thought was a paddleboard (though I really didn’t know because as my list implies, I have never been on one) and asked if I wanted to learn. I think the lack of sleep from the previous night led to extra adrenaline in my system which led to extra adventurousness (have I mentioned I like making up words?). Really though, a lot of it had to do with this family friend. She was just so positive and excited to see someone show interest in this board that when she asked I couldn’t very well say no. She was also an excellent instructor. Really if I felt like I had any control whatsoever over this board I think I would have stayed on it all day, but when it started turning back towards the shore I figured I should take advantage of the tide and paddle like my life depended on it. I really would like to go SUPing again. And adventure to look forward to for next summer I suppose.

Until then, winter adventures (and more updates on summer ones) await!