Prone to reflect: A year on the list

30 before 30I celebrated the end of my 20s a week and a half ago, and consequently, the formal end of my “30 before 30” pursuit.

Though I didn’t complete everything I set out to accomplish, there were some lessons learned along the way. Here are my three main takeaways, followed by a run-down of the completed items.

  • People want to help you reach your goals, which is good, since one of the reasons I put the list together in the first place was to bring others along with me and spending intentional, quality time with people.
  • I’m OK with incomplete items, as much as I love checking off everything on any particular list.
  • My ambitions often outweigh my abilities, and this list was no exception. But you would think I would have learned that by now.

Now, here’s a recap of this past year…

Completed items

St. Augustine “You didn’t visit that while you were in grade school?!” No, gentle reader, I didn’t, and that’s why I put it on the list in the first place. Evidently my plucky little elementary school was one of the few that didn’t take an obligatory trip to the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States, and as a Florida native, I had never been there. Even still, it was a great day spent with friends!

sunrise It wasn’t until after spending a few hours on the road making our pilgrimage from Cocoa Beach to Clearwater Beach that someone had the bright idea to do this in the Florida Keys next time, only requiring a jaunt across the island and not the entire width of the state. You know what they say about hindsight…

HP Count me among the Harry Potter nerds. I really enjoyed these books, and it was a great fiction distraction for someone who always prefers nonfiction.

Grand Canyon Unlike the hike in Colorado that wasn’t meant to be, this one actually happened, and it was fantastic!

#15–Do something generous for someone
I did this one, but saying anything more about it makes me feel like a tool, so we’ll let this one be.

Disneyland A weekend trip to the original happiest place on earth in early April with my best friend from college was an awesome way to start the birthday festivities!

Amadeus Interesting movie. I watched this one with my friend, Mariah, as she was healing from foot surgery. She got some company, I got an item on the list marked off. I love being efficient.

#22–Teach a class or speak somewhere
I’m counting this as my time spent with my seventh grade guys this year at church.

Bucket List #24 It doesn’t get much better than Sir Paul McCartney, even if the air was a bit thinner from way up top.

#25–Volunteer for 30 hours
Like #22 above, this one is covered by my time with these special snowflakes called middle school boys. I honestly don’t care of you disagree with my decision on these two completed items. It’s my list and I’ll do what I want!

2014-04-21 22.26.28 Did this one with my friend, Mariah, as well last fall. While the education and the sessions were excellent, my biggest takeaway from the event was all the great FOOD.

#27 from the 30 list The first completed item way back in April 2013!

Partially completed items

San Sebastian This one may be a stretch. I had high hopes of making it out to Napa Valley sometime during the year of the list, but alas, that wasn’t in the cards. So, on our day trip to St. Augustine, we stopped into a winery. There are no grapes grown at this facility, so I guess it doesn’t technically count as a vineyard, but they do make wine here, so that counts for something.

Canning While I watched my friend do this (and she makes some GREAT stuff), I didn’t actually participate. Even still, I could probably make a decent go of it just from my crash course with her, so if they gave out “partially completed” ribbons, this one would be a winner!

Honorable mention

Hike It literally took an act of God to keep this one from happening, so I’m counting this one as “E for effort.”

Counting the “partially completed items” and the “honorable mention,” I accomplished half of what I set out to do over the year. Considering all the places that this took me and the people I got to bring along, I’m calling this a success.

Thanks for sticking with me through this year.

The 30 project: Hike a 14’er in Colorado

This is a tale of well-made plans and good intentions.

You see, many months ago, I decided that I wanted to celebrate the 30th anniversary of my birth in a special way–by accomplishing some goals that I had wanted to do for a while. And I wanted to do fun things with fun people.


Several friends have moved to Colorado over the past few years, and I’ve had the good fortune of getting to visit them about once or twice a year, normally in the winter so we can include some skiing. One of the friends and I hiked Yosemite several years ago. I had heard about the mountain peaks in Colorado and knew that my friends would be up for the challenge. Thus, the goal of hiking a 14,000′ mountain was born and added to the 30 list.


Plans were made. Schedules were arranged. Plane tickets were purchased. And expectations were high.


On Tuesday, two days before I was to fly out to Colorado, I got word that my friend–the same one who I had hiked with years before–had torn his ACL in one of his knees playing indoor soccer. “Disappointed” doesn’t begin to describe it–not for my sake or the possibility of the hike, but I hurt for my friend, especially since he had suffered a similar injury to the other knee several years before. Not to worry, his wife informed me, there was still a group interested in hiking. Nick would ride with us to the mountain and accompany us back to town.


And then it flooded.


Shortly before I arrived on Thursday night, many parts of the state were underwater, suffering the worst flood to hit the area since 1976. I flew in on Thursday night just before they closed portions of the interstate. We didn’t realized this little gem until Friday morning, when we discovered that there were few options for us to make it very far outside of town.


Between my friend’s injury and the terrible weather, I began to question whether this hike was meant to be.


My friends and I spent much of Friday considering various options: different mountains, or different routes to avoid flooded areas. But by the time we had to decide whether to make the drive on Saturday morning, the roads out of town were still closed. The hike wouldn’t be happening on Saturday.


Since the hike wasn’t happening that day, we found ourselves with no plans on Saturday–a rarity for this group. The weather improved considerably, and we attempted a morning run (at least those who could stand the altitude), and spent much of the afternoon in the park. But according to the forecast, there was still more rain to come.


Conditions improved. Roads opened. And we started talking about one last possibility: make the hike on Sunday morning. But I would have to do it solo.


The scenario would go like this: wake up well before everyone and drive to the nearest, most accessible mountain that we felt the roads would be open for. Admittedly, there was more than a fair bit of reluctance on my part as my friends and I discussed the options. I wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea of driving in the rain. I didn’t come out to Colorado to do the hike by myself (though this protestation was less about safety and more about community–we picked an easy hike that would be entirely doable solo). And there was no guarantee that the mountain would even be open.


But after considerable convincing from my friends, I agreed to make the effort. I had come too far not to make one last attempt. Whether I climbed the mountain or not, I had to try.


Sunday morning arrived. I checked the website–all of the roads to the mountain were open. I put on the warmest clothes I brought, filled up a mug of coffee, and started to 2ish hour drive southwest. I arrived at the trailhead just as the sun was coming up, though the only way I could tell was that the clouds were getting brighter. There was no sun to be seen, and the rain was still coming down, alternating between a light mist and a heavy drizzle.


I turned onto the road up the mountain–a winding, 9 mile stretch that would finish about 2 or 3 miles from the summit, leaving just the last stretch to climb.






I talked briefly with an official looking guy in an official looking truck, who had no idea when or if the mountain would open that day. I walked around, misting rain mixing with a touch of disappointment, and finally succumbed to the realization that the climb was not happening.


There was nothing left to do.


I drove away knowing the next chance for a climb wouldn’t be until next summer, well after my April 10 deadline. The seasons would soon be changing to winter, and I had several other trips already planned, which made it virtually impossible to make another Colorado visit anytime soon.


As hard as we tried, it wasn’t meant to be.




I made the drive back to town realizing that I can’t look at the weekend as a failure: I got to experience a weekend in Colorado with great friends and make some new ones. And ultimately, that’s the point of many of the items on my list–to prioritize time with people. There will always be mountains to climb. And there will always be friends to visit. Just because the dream doesn’t happen according to my schedule doesn’t mean the dream is dead. It just means that the outcome is different.


And ultimately, that might have been the lesson God wanted to make in all of this. One of my biggest struggles is “holding loosely” to the plans I make. Every now and then, I need to be reminded that I’m not in charge. That I can make the plan, but God directs the steps. That we don’t always chose whether our plans succeed or fail, but we chose how we respond.


The 30 Project: Go to a concert

Bucket List #24Paul McCartney is incredible.

When I assembled my “30 before 30” bucket list, I knew that I wanted to attend a big concert as part of the project. I like concerts, though I don’t attend many of them. I wanted to see a legend, or at least someone I considered legendary.

As luck would have it, Paul McCartney announced a tour stop around the time my list was finalized. He definitely fit the requirement of being a legend, and he rarely comes to Orlando. With little hesitation, I decided that this would fulfill item #24 and purchased two tickets, because reaching goals is more fun with people (more on that later).

To be honest, I’m not a huge McCartney fan. Don’t get me wrong: I like the Beatles, and I like his solo music and material from his time with Wings. But I don’t own much of his music. I can pick out the tunes and recognize the songs and I know many of the stories, but I’m definitely not “fanatical” about Paul. This was more about the rare opportunity to see a musical legend.

So my friend and I met up and started the evening with a terrible dinner experience: yay! But after eating only part of the food we ordered, we walked to the Amway Center where we were among the lucky concert goers that got to ride TWO escalators up to their section! It was at this point that I made the astute observation to my friend that on the Titanic, the peasants were at the bottom of the ship; at concerts, we’re shipped to the top.

Paul McCartney Orlando

And our seats…let’s just say it’s not possible to sit any higher in the Amway Center than we did. They should advertise these seats based on this benefit: “Hey look! No one sits behind you! No bumps on your chair!”

We had a good laugh about the seats, and the fact that the audience wasn’t exactly…diverse. And that’s saying a lot, considering I’ve seen Neil Diamond in concert. Twice. (Don’t judge: he has great music and the tickets were a gift. You’d go, too.)

The show starts. No opening act. No fanfare or flashy entrance. Sir Paul walks out to a cheering crowd and serenades us with “Eight Days a Week” and 36 other songs for more than 2 hours and 2 encores. He performed many of his hits to the sold out show. The staging was beautiful and the effects were excellent.

Simply put, it was incredible.

I’m extremely glad that I added this to the bucket list, and that it turned out to be a Paul McCartney show. If you ever have a chance to see him in concert, do it. You won’t regret it.

Now it’s on to tackle the other 28 items still left to do in the next 320 days. Who’s with me?

What’s the last concert you saw? Or maybe the best one? Who’s on your “concert bucket list” that you’d like to see sometime? Let’s hear it in the comments.

The 30 Project: Eat at a place from the Restaurant Bucket List

#27 from the 30 listI wasn’t planning on writing this post quite yet.

Even though this was my first completed task from my “30 before 30” list, it felt like a boring one to lead off with. It’s also the only one that was planned before I published the list back in April, so it feels a bit like cheating. But two of my friends blogged about the outing this week, and their posts have me all nostalgic about the restaurant and the evening with friends, so I decided to share.

There are several restaurants I always toss around as “someday/sometime” places I’d like to visit. Many of these are in central Florida. Some are well-known; others are highly recommended by friends. I decided to put together a bucket list of sorts: a running list of restaurants I’d like to try.

As with any goal that you want to accomplish, I attached a deadline for completion to eat at one of these restaurants. And thus was born #27 from my “30 before 30” list.

A little-known secret behind the 30 list: I’d like to complete each task with people. I’m going to write more about this soon, but it thrills my soul that I can build relationships with my friends and family and cross things off a task list at the same time.

As I was planning how I wanted to spend part of my birthday, I asked a few friends to join me at Prato up in Winter Park, FL. I had walked by this eatery several times. It always looked great, the food smelled excellent, and friends who had eaten there had great things to say about it. (See this previous post about other Winter Park fun.)

After spending part of the day at a book fair, I met my friends for an evening of good food and good conversation. Pretty much my definition of a great time.

This isn’t a detailed restaurant review of Prato. If that’s what you’re looking for, read about it from my friend Kathy. Or see my friend Mariah’s take on it. Needless to say, the food was outstanding, the drinks were great, and the company was delightful. They sat us at the chef’s table, which is actually used as a prep area when it isn’t busy. I know some people wouldn’t like sitting here, but for a bunch of foodies, it was glorious. We got to watch the open kitchen and see the hustle around the back of the house. I would even request to sit back here if we go again.

Prato tiramisuAfter being treated to tiramisu at the end of dinner, we walked down Park Avenue to our favorite watering hole and found a table outside on an absolutely gorgeous April evening. Fertile grounds for people watching, we sat and talked and sipped until dark.

It’s times like these that make me realized how blessed I am with the people around me–both physically close by and emotionally close by despite the distance. Take some time to do something fun with the people you appreciate. You won’t regret it.

What’s the last thing you did with friends or family that you really enjoyed? Which item from the 30 list should I tackle next?

My 30 before 30 list

30 before 30

Today is my 29th birthday.

I’m not really bothered by birthdays or “getting older.” But a few weeks ago, I started thinking about my 29th and 30th year, and I realized that I want to make the last year in my 20s significant. I’ve always been a fan of setting goals and making lists, and several of my friends put together lists of 30 things they wanted to do or accomplish before their 30th birthday. There’s LOTS of “30 before 30” lists and blogs around the interwebs. Seriously, just google “30 before 30” and you’ll be occupied for days.

So I decided to do the same thing. I spent a lot of time thinking through things I’ve wanted to do by this point in life. Some of the items are from lists I’ve had for years. Other things are new, and some are inspired by the lists from strangers that I read online. But all of them are things I’ve never done before–or never done in a very long time.

Surprisingly, it was rather hard to come up with 30 things. Generating this list made me reflect on the past 29 years, and I realized just how blessed I’ve been and how many great experiences I’ve already had in my life. It was a helpful perspective to have moving into this next year.

The plan is to blog about each of these items  as they are accomplished, and the goal is to finish them all by April 10, 2014. I hope you’ll stick around this year to see how it all happens. Now, without further delay, here’s my list of 30 things to accomplish in the next 365 days…

1.     Take a professional cooking course
2.     Take dance lessons
3.     Learn a song on the piano and perform it for people
4.     Visit St. Augustine, Fla.
5.     Climb a 14,000′ mountain in Colorado (attempted on 9/12/2013)
6.     Ride in a hot air balloon
7.     See the sunrise and sunset from the beach in Florida in the same day
8.     Re-learn French, and have a conversation with someone
9.     Read the Harry Potter series
10.     Hike the Grand Canyon
11.     Ride a train through Napa Valley
12.     Visit a winery and vineyard
13.     Learn to paddle board
14.     Learn canning with some type of vegetable or jam
15.     Do something generous and surprising for someone unexpected
16.     Pay it forward for a stranger
17.     Go to an NFL game
18.     Visit Disneyland
19.     Watch Amadeus, Best Picture Academy Award Winner, 1984
20.     Go on an airboat ride
21.     Learn how to drive a manual transmission
22.     Teach a class or speak somewhere publicly
23.     Start a garden
24.     Go to a big concert or music festival (Completed on on 5/18/2013)
25.     Volunteer for at least 30 hours
26.     Attend a blogging conference
27.     Eat at a place from the Restaurant Bucket List (Completed on 4/13/2013)
28.     (This one is a surprise item)
29.     Complete the “Exile” blog series and turn it into an ebook

30.     Successfully complete a game of golf.I’m looking forward to a fun year! Also, thanks to my brother, Jason, for the “30 Before 30” image up top.