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33 New Things: Take A Flight Lesson

Each year on my birthday I make a list of new things I want to
try.  Some of them are challenging, some are easy, some are shockingly
mundane.  You can read about previous adventures here.


Sometimes, when I’m undertaking these New Thing adventures I’m totally nervous – I’m looking at you  pole dancing class – and other times I’m bizarrely nonchalant.  “What’s up, Scientology Church?  Sure, I’ll take your weird personality test and accept your flyers with wizards on them.”  “Oh hai, frozen lake!  Yes, I will be jumping into you today!”And I was feeling 100% no-biggsies when my dude and I showed up for our Groupon-ed flight classes at Twin Cities AviationWith all the traveling I do, I’ve flown a gajillion times, experienced my fair share of turbulence and even the occasional tiny airplane that seats 12 people (one of whom is an old dude who spends the whole flight starting at me, chewing his cuticles, and throwing candy wrappers on the floor.)

So I was quite surprised at myself when, during the take off of our teeny, tiny plane I was totally overcome with The Fear.
  Like, oh-my-god-why-isn’t-there-something-for-me-hang-on-to-this-is-how-i’m-going-to-die fear.  My boyfriend and I had rock/paper/scissored for who got the first lesson and he won.  And I was amazed (re: frightened) when the instructor said “Okay, now we’re going to take off.  So you pull that towards you once we get up to speed.”

YOU’RE GOING TO LET THE DUDE WHO’S NEVER FLOWN BEFORE BE IN CHARGE OF TAKE OFF?

Of course if anything went wrong, the instructor is literally sitting thigh to thigh with you in the cockpit.  But still!  The Fear!  I haz it.  And those first few stomach-dropping dips?  Fear.  The first few turns and banks?  Fear.

But eventually things leveled out and it was just like flying in any plane, anywhere.  If the plane we’re talking about is the size of a smart car and is being flown by your boyfriend.  I calmed the eff down and looked out the window and got excited about taking my turn.

We landed at the tiny airport in Eden Prairie, switched seats, and then it was my turn.  I spent most of my time climbing up to 4,500 really, really slowly and banking really, really gently as we navigated our way through the air space right above MSP international airport.  When it came time to land and we had to descend and bank quite steeply, I spent most of my time trying not to puke.

All in all, an excellent puke-free, mostly fear-free adventure.  But it’s good to do things that scare you, right?

Have you ever taken a light lesson?  Would you?

32 New Things: Go To The Symphony

Every year on my birthday, I make a list of new things I want to try.  Some of these things are difficult, some are easy, some are shockingly mundane.  You can read about past adventures here.

 


I have never been particularly enamored with live performances.
  Rather, I want very much to be enamored with live performances, but about half an hour in I usually find myself fussing with the waistband of my pants, looking at the performers’ shoes, mentally creating a back story about the violist who appears to be 22 and is wearing an oddly sexy shear shirt.

As such, I’ve never (of my own volition) attended a symphony.  I imagined it would be two hours of shifting in my seat and becoming increasingly obsessed with the facial expressions of the conductor.  But!  How was I to know if I didn’t try?

Here are five things I learned while attending a performance of Haydn’s The Seasons


1. The symphony isn’t just for Richie Riches – at least not in St. Paul

For $10 each (!) my dude and I got Awkwardly Close to the stage.  Like, I’m-making-eye-contact-with-the-percussionist close.  Isn’t that nice?  I love it when traditionally ‘fancy’ things are reasonably priced.

2.  Not all conductors are painfully serious and tightly wound
In fact, some of them conduct in a black dress shirt with no tie, have a face like a friendly hedgehog, and are so clearly joyful that you want to hug them.  And they encourage you to applaud between movements – which isn’t normally done.

3.  A well-performed symphony sounds like a CD
At least to my totally untrained ear.  You know how when you see your favorite band live, there’s a 70% chance that you’ll think “Well, I guess they really cleaned up that song in post production”?  I was floored by how clean and crisp and amazing the orchestra sounded.  And the vocalists who performed?  Insane.  Amazing.  Inhuman, almost.  How is that sound coming out of your body?

4.  When you make those faces, Dear Tenor, I can’t stop looking at you
I realize that part of being a professional vocalist is being emotive.  But when you sing with one arched eyebrow or use Joey’s fart-smelling method for navigating long instrumental interludes, well, that face I’m making is stifled laughter.  Because I’m 13.

5.  Some of the musicians do nothing for 90% of the performance
Because really, there’s only so much tympani that’s called for.  Of course, I became of obsessed with this fact, and watched various performers stare into the middle distance or pick at their cuticles while they waited twenty minutes to play for 45 seconds.  Are they bored?  What are they thinking about?  Do they ever get so lost in thought they forget to come in when they should?  These are the things I was thinking about instead of paying attention to the music.

Have you ever been to a symphony?  Do you ever struggle to pay attention during long live performances?

32 New Things: Ride A Segway

Every year I compile a list of new things I want to try.  Some are difficult,
some are weird, some are disappointingly normal.  You can read about
past adventures here.

Ever since Gob rolled onto Arrested Development in his Segway I knew I had to experience this two wheeled wonder of dorkdom for myself.  There’s actually a Segway tour that runs through my neighborhood and I see them all the time – in their helmets and yellow-shirted tour guide, zooming along the sidewalk and signalling with their arms to indicate before they turn.  It was all so weird and dorky I could barely handle it.

So when a Groupon for a two-hour Segway rental arrived in my inbox, I was sure it was Providence at work and goaded my dude into joining me.  You guys?  I haven’t had so much fun in months.

Here’s what you need to know about Segwaying your way to joy:

1.  There’s maybe a 90-second learning curve
Get on it.  Lean forward to go faster, lean back to slow down.  Pull the handle in the direction you want to go.  Annnnnnd now you’re a master Segway-er.  Done!

2.  They top out at 12 mph
I know this because my guy and I spent much of our two hour rental trying to drag race each other on Minneapolis’s greenway.  But when both your Segways top out at the same speed, it’s a pretty anti-climactic race – despite our best efforts to crouch down and make ourselves more aerodynamic and paddling through the air to gain momentum.

3. 70% of the population will grin/cheer/laugh/yell when they see you
Why?  Maybe because we were grinning like idiots the whole time?  Because Segways are just so dorky and awesome?  Because it’s hilarious to share a lane with super serious lycra-ed cyclists, while we stand fully erect, calmly zeeeeeewwwwming along?

4. Try to rent a Segway, rather than take part in a tour
Tours are lovely, but you’ll have to stop all the time and toddle along at a sedate six miles an hour.  It’s heaps more fun just to rent one and zoom all over the city.  And then you can take them to a dirt baseball diamond and write your name in the dirt and make donuts.  You know, hypothetically.

5. You are going to have The Most Fun Ever – if you can get over looking like a fool

Travel has made me almost immune to looking foolish – I can spend hours speaking a language badly, getting lost, getting sunburned, making social faux pas, so it takes a lot to make me embarrassed.  Sure, Segways are dorky.  But you’ll also experience that visceral, almost physical joy that we only seem to be capable of from ages 9-15.  Really, truly your face will ache from grinning.

Have you ever ridden a Segway?  What would you like to do, but won’t because you’re afraid you’ll look silly?

New Things: Run A 5k

Every year on my birthday I compile a list of new things I want to try.  Some of them are really difficult and obscure, some of them are shockingly mundane.  You can read about previous adventures here.
Why yes, I do wear eyeliner while running obstacle-riddled 5ks!
If you’ve been reading Yes and Yes for any amount of time – or keeping your eye on that sidebar of new things I should be trying – you might know that ‘Run a 5k’ has been on my list for, oh, three years.
Despite the fact that I was on the track team and dance team in high school (and I still take dance classes!) I’ve always believed that I Am Not An Athlete.  I’m not good at catching and throwing things, therefore I must be a failure at all things that involve moving my body.  This is also part of that super cool If I’m Not Immediately Good At It, I Don’t Want To Do It school of thought.  Are you a student there, too?  Awesome.

I’ve been putting off doing a 5k for all of the usual reason – I was traveling, the weather was bad, I hate sports bras.  But while looking through my own blog archives, I came upon this post and decided that it was time to make that business happen.

So how do you convince yourself to do a 5k after three years of avoidance?  You spend money on an entry fee, you have a specific race date, and you have too much pride to fail.

A good friend from high school was sweet enough to sign up with me and as soon as I got my confirmation email for LoziLu, I signed up for their (free!) daily training emails, bought some running capris and started aiming for mediocrityBut here’s the weird thing:  I wasn’t particularly mediocre.  I was, like, good-ish!

On the day of the race, my friend and I arrived awkwardly early and spent an hour appreciating all the costumes of the other runners (cows! tutus!  jean shorts + mustaches!)  When our heat was called, we lined up with about 40 other runners and trundled our way up and down three miles of hills, through two ponds, a giant slip and slide, two mud pits, a cargo net and several more obstacles. The race officials didn’t time the runners but my photo-taking, encouragement-yelling mister timed us – and we finished the three mile, 10-obstacle course in 33 minutes!

What?!  I wasn’t innately awful at running?  In fact, I was slightly better than mediocre?

Well, now I have to do it all the time and become awesome at it, right?  Right.
I signed up for The Warrior Dash the next day.

What things do you assume you’re bad at?  Have you tried to get better at them?  How do you feel about sports and athletic stuff?

New Things: Put A Significant Amount of Money Into A Roth IRA

Every year on my birthday, I make a list of new things I want to try.  Some of them are exciting, some are difficult, some are shockingly mundane.  You can read about past adventures here.  Also, this post is NOT sponsored by Fidelity Investments in any way.  I just had a really good experience with them.

Like a lot of people, I’m intimidated by things like Investing and Money Market Accounts and Having A Diversified Stock Portfolio.  My money management technique goes something like this: spend less money than I earn, don’t buy things I don’t need.  And this has served me very well!It also means that apparently I have the same money management strategy as Liz Lemon.Because I’ve spent most of my adult life either:
a) in other countries
b) working at well-intentioned, but underfunded non-profits with no benefits package to speak of
I have virtually no retirement savings.  Like, I have enough to pay a several months’ worth of rent.  Which is a bit worrying.

So this year, I set about making things right.  Or at least very, very slowly start putting away money for my retirement.

If you don’t know, here’s the deal with retirement funds:

401k
A retirement fund that’s part of your benefits package at your job.  Both you and (hopefully) your employer contribute to this fund – they’re not legally required to contribute but most do. If you don’t contribute anything, neither will your employer.  Since I’m self-employed, this obviously wasn’t an option for me.

Roth IRA
An individual retirement fund; not tied to any employer.  You can put up $5,000 into your Roth IRA each year, either in one giant chunk or in small payments throughout the year.  You don’t pay taxes on the money in your account when you eventually take it out and use it.  Contributions to your Roth IRA are not tax deductible.

Traditional IRA
Is similar to a Roth IRA but your contributions can (usually) be deducted from your taxes.  But with traditional IRAs you do pay taxes on that money when you withdraw it.

I chose to open a Roth IRA.  If you’re feeling clever and brave, you can do the same (all by yourself!) at Fidelity.com but I wanted to talk to A Real Live Human and have things explained to me using pie metaphors and hand gestures.  I wanted to write a real check, with a pen, and hand it to someone.

So I did!  My super lovely Financial Adviser Katie, asked me all sorts of questions about how aggressively I wanted to invest (not particularly), how many working years I had left (about 30) and how involved I wanted to be in my portfolio (uh, not.)

“I want to write a check once a year and not think about it again,” I said.

So she hooked me up with a Target Date Fund which is a fund that considers an investor’s age and earning years.  When you’re young, it’ll put a higher percentage of your money into of (relatively) risky stocks and as you get closer to retirement it will automatically put more of your money into safer bonds.  You don’t have to switch anything around or constantly worry about it!  Awesome.

I’m still not an investment guru by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels good not to be entirely clueless.  While I was writing this post, I asked my uncle (who worked in business and finance for ages) to give it a once over.  He had this sage advice:

“It all gets very complicated, but in the end the most important thing (especially if you are under 35) is to save for retirement, and save lots
because the old folks are going to spend all of the
Social Security money.  There are lots of places to get good advice or
bad advice on saving on the internet; just use common sense as you would
planning a trip or deciding for whom to vote.”

Do you have investments?  How are you planning for retirement?  And exactly how overwhelmed are you by talk of portfolios and percentages?

33 New Things: Go To A Dog Show

Every year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some things are exciting, some are scary, some are shockingly mundane. You can read about previous adventures here. 

Though I studied literature and linguistics in school, my heart really belongs to Sociology.  I’ve been known to buy old Sociology and Anthropology textbooks for bedtime reading – because I’m super cool like that.  I love microcosms of culture that are totally outside of my experience.  Jargon that I don’t know, clothing I’ve never seen before, methods of measuring awesome that make no sense to me.

You know, like when someone is talking about the bloodline of their $2,000 Corgie bitch who appears to be wearing a sweater. 

I just love it.  I love seeing people so genuinely excited about something. I love eavesdropping on conversations that are in my native language but are totally indecipherable.  And, let’s keep it real, I love animals in sweaters.

So I obviously had to check out the Minneapolis Kennel Club Dog Show.  Please note that I’m wearing a thematically appropriate shirt with a tiny Scottie dog on it.

 

 

Have you ever been to a dog show?  Would you ever go?  And how much do you love Best In Show?

P.S. Remember when I went to the cat show?