New thing(s) #31: Last Day Wrap-Up

IMG_4643I had big ideas for the last day of March and this new things project. I wanted to go out with a bang, but none of my ideas seemed to fit. I thought about a helicopter or hot air balloon ride (something about a greater perspective), but it was a bad weather day for that. I thought about doing something crazy like skinny-dipping in the bay, but, just… no. I considered dyeing my hair a new color or taking an epic hike, but none of it felt quite right.

I think it’s because I don’t want the project to be over. It was exhausting, and things didn’t always go the way I planned. Frankly, sometimes the whole thing was a gigantic pain in the ass. But someone asked me today why I started this to begin with, and I think it was about more than celebrating my birthday. It was about wanting something more. Being hungry for something but not knowing exactly what it is.

I am a very contented person most of the time. I am beyond grateful for everything and everyone that I have. But the older I get, the more I think about the responsibility I have to myself to make my life what I want it to be. I usually try to go for what I want, at least in small ways, but too often I let fear, doubt, routine, and just plain laziness keep me from doing. I squander opportunity on a daily basis, and this month was no exception.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of myself. I did try a lot of new things. I did go out of my comfort zone. I did post on this damn blog every single night. But there was always something more I could have been doing. More ways I could have been braver or stretched myself. Places I could have gone that I’m not yet (and maybe never will be) willing to go.

I guess there’s always something more we all could be doing for ourselves, more ways we could let ourselves grow. That’s why I don’t want to think of this as an end. It’s not really a beginning either, just a continuation. Which is why I decided, on this last day, to make sure that I continue.

I spent the evening booking things on my list that I didn’t have a chance to get to this month, including the following:

 

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Plan a trip to a new state. If you read the About Me section, you know that I want to visit all 50 states. I’ve been on and off planning a trip to Utah in my head for months, and today I went the extra mile to pick some dates, and book a hotel. I’m planning for a September fall foliage road trip. This will be my first real solo vacation, and I think state #25, which means I’ll be half way there!

 

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Golf lesson. I love swinging a golf club, and I’m not too bad at it either, but I’ve never taken a lesson, so I finally booked one for the end of April.

 

 

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Go to the de Young Museum. This is one of the most famous museums in SF and I’ve still never been, so I finally bought tickets. Fun fact, the first location of the de Young opened on March 24th (my birthday), 1895.

 

 

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Apply to the Amtrak Writer’s Residency. I haven’t officially applied yet, but I started my application statement. To read about the program, click here. I’m definitely ready for another train trip.

 

 

Special thanks to:

-Everyone who read, commented on, liked, and followed this blog.

-Everyone who participated in one or many of my new things. It meant so much to have you there with me to hold my hand and laugh at with me.

-Everyone who cared enough to ask how things were going, and what my new thing was for that day. Your interest was influential in this.

-My family, especially my parents for their never ending love and support.

-My friends. I know you’ll love me no matter how many crazy things I try or stupid blogs I start.

 

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New thing #16: The John Muir National Historic Site

I have wanted to visit the John Muir house ever since I realized it was only a town away from me in Martinez, CA. I grew up hearing John Muir’s name, but it wasn’t until I was older that I really began to understand his legacy. Not only has he had a tremendous impact on the world as the father of the national parks system (not to mention as a writer, artist, naturalist, inventor, conservationist, scientist, etc.), he has also had an indirect impact on my life.

When it came time for my parents— both environmental studies majors and outdoor enthusiasts— to name their first baby (yours truly), they had a few names in mind, and almost went with Sarah. They decided though that they wanted something more unique, and wanted to name me after something they both loved. Ultimately they settled on Sierra, after the mountains.

As my dad pointed out to my brother and I when we arrived at the site today, the Sierra’s would be a very different place today without the influence of John Muir. There would be no Yosemite. No national parks at all. I think my dad, a nature lover who grew up with John Muir as a hero, might have even grown up to be a different person, and therefor I would be different. At the very least I would likely be Sarah Machado.

I don’t know if it’s because of my name that I feel some kind of obligation to love the outdoors, but I really don’t think so. John Muir wrote a lot about that inner peace that comes from spending time in nature, and I really feel that. Sometimes it’s such a profound and overwhelming joy, so I wonder why I don’t spend more time outside. I guess I get too comfortable settling for mild contentment.

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” –John Muir

As we strolled through the orchards on the 10-acre property, explored the house, and learned more and more about John Muir’s amazing life, I kept saying how it blows my mind that remarkable/gorgeous/historical (pick your own adjective) places like this just exist in our own backyards. Like, John Muir’s house is just… there, sitting across the street from the Valero gas station. He lived in the same city my dad’s whole family grew up in. I seriously can’t get over it.

After we walked the grounds and ate a little lunch on one of the scattered picnic tables, my dad gave me my (early) birthday present. I unwrapped the small box, and inside was a “ticket” for one new thing of my choosing that he will fund. Very creative, Dad, and very much appreciated. Thanks again for coming with me today, and for being the man and father you are.

 

New thing #10: Seabreeze Café and Frontage Road

IMG_4583I think that most Californians who spend hours on end in their cars commuting and sitting in traffic, as I do, have those certain places that they drive by all the time and always think about stopping, but never do. I have a lot of those places, so I thought I would check two of them off my list today since they are right next to each other.

The first place is the Seabreeze Café on University Avenue in Berkeley. I pass this place every day on the way home from work, and always think about going there for lunch. After years of just thinking about it, I finally made it happen, and my two awesome co-workers, Jamie and Nikki, came with me. The café is less than a 5-minute drive from our office, and still none of us had ever been there before.

The menu was bigger than I expected, with sandwiches, burgers, seafood and salads. My tuna sandwich was really good, and I’ll definitely be going back to try more. The name Seabreeze was perfect for this place, and we had the wind-blown hair to prove it.

My second stop was after work. I drive along Frontage Road every day to avoid heavy 80/580 traffic, which runs right along the water. There is a small road/trail for runners, bikers, dog-walkers, etc., and every day I fantasize about stopping there to walk and take sunset pictures of the Bay. But there are always excuses not to stop. I have to get home, I’m too tired, I didn’t bring the right walking shoes. I have stopped there before for a couple minutes at the little beach, but I’ve never walked the trail or spent any real time there. So today I parked my car, came armed with walking clothes and shoes, plugged in my ear buds, and spent two full hours walking around the area. I walked the whole road up and down, as well as a couple of the nearby trails, went to the little beaches, and I even walked over the University pedestrian bridge/overpass for the first time. And of course being the picture nut that I am, I brought my camera and took about a bazillion shots.

It’s amazing to me how a simple walk can have such a rejuvenating effect. But it was more than just a walk, it was taking time to be there and savor how thankful I feel to see this view every day. I worry and complain a lot about my “first world problems,” as a lot of us do, but in this rare moment of consuming gratitude, all I felt was peace.

So you know that place you always see? The one you drive by on your way home? It’s time to stop.

Honorable mention new things:

– Watched a sunset with a stranger

IMG_3975I met Christian on my walk. He was sitting on a log on the beach playing the guitar. I was deep in picture taking mode at this point, and how can you resist a silhouette shot of a guy on a beach at sunset playing the guitar? That’s right, you can’t. I went up to him to ask if I could take his picture (I felt like Brandon Stanton of HONY- click the link if you don’t know who/what that is). He smiled a big smile and said, “Yes, absolutely!” He was one of those exuberantly friendly people that I think you only meet once in a great while.

We ended up talking for a few minutes as the sun went down. I think he thought I wondered why he was out there with his guitar, because he immediately starting talking about how important it is to do things for yourself, and to take the time to make your life a full one and feed your soul with what you enjoy, and to appreciate what comes into your life and recognize that it came into your life for a reason. It was a very apropos speech considering the spirit of this new things project. I sat down with him and he played me one of his songs. While he sang, I couldn’t help but be jealous of how at ease he was. I thought about how rare it is that I go up to a stranger and chat with them (let alone sing to them). I bet he does it every single day.

– I met Amalia

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Before going home tonight, I stopped by Ria’s and met her new niece, Amalia, for the first time.

She is seriously, freakin’, stinkin’ cute. Her aunt is going to spoil her rotten.

 

 

 

 

 

New thing #3: 31 Random Acts of Kindness

First, I freely admit that I stole this idea. There are people doing random acts of kindness every day all over the world and posting them on the internet. It’s practically a movement. There’s even a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Second, I realized last night as I was planning out some of my “random” ideas, that this project might be more about making myself happy than others. I love doing these sorts of things. I like to plan, give gifts, and surprising people. So really all this “kindness” is just selfish— ha!—who knew? I confessed this to my mom and she said, “Well, can’t it be a win-win for everyone?” I don’t see why not.

The 31 Acts

1) I brought two dozen Krispy Kreme for the office…

2) …AND DIDN’T EVEN HAVE ONE! (Someone left a thank you note on the box!)

3) I brought gluten free cupcakes to my gluten free friend and fave co-worker (shout out, Jamie!) from the best ever cupcake place: Sinful Bliss Cupcakes.

4) I gave anonymous “you rock” cards to four of my friendliest co-workers, along with $5 gift cards to the coffee place across the street.

5) I got Ria stuff for her cubical at her new job (in the building next to mine).

6) I brought my favorite umbrella to leave for someone to find and use.

7) I gave three $5 Peet’s gift cards to random people. The first two were walking inside to buy their coffee, and the third I gave to the group of men who sit outside Pete’s almost every morning. When I told them why I was giving it to them, they asked which organization I was with. I said no organization, I just felt like doing it. They looked suspicious but thanked me.

8) I gave a $20 Books, Inc. gift card to the woman shopping in the store (support your book stores people!). She looked teary eyed and told me she would pay it forward.

9) I was at the toy store with Ria, and I was going to buy a random gift for a random kid. But instead Ria found a little boy playing with a toy train, and insisted on paying her gift from me forward by buying it for him.

10) Ria and I anonymously paid for someone’s meal at the place we were having lunch. When the waitress told him, he looked so confused. But she said later that he was really grateful.

11) We tipped the waitress nicely too.

12) I put a lot of quarters in a lot of meters (the picture below is only the first handful).

13) I picked up some trash (didn’t get very far with that- there’s too much!).

14) Once as a graduation gift I got a jar full of “Kind Notes” (fortune cookie type messages) in tiny envelopes. I took the little envelopes out of the jar and hid them around my work neighborhood (and hopefully people will find them so I’m not just another litterer).

15) I also put some of the notes in plastic Easter eggs along with a couple bucks, and left them around popular homeless hangouts near by.

16) And put some along Frontage Road on the way home.

17) I left a Magic-8 Ball for someone to find, with a note that said, “Take me. I will help you make those hard decisions.”

18) I got my dad, a Giants fan, a book at the bookstore called “100 Things Giants Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” and left it in his mailbox.

19) I talked to my Grandma (who recently doesn’t drive) on the phone, and offered my services as driver for an errand when she needs it.

20) I went to a BART station and gave someone my ticket with $8 left on it.

21) I got my Mom some flowers and a thank you card for being awesome.

22) I sent my friend a postcard, because she always sends me postcards (shout out, Roxanne!)

23) I sent my friend a message with an offer to babysit again sometime soon (shout out, Veronica!).

24) I bought my friend across the country an online gift card (shout out, Katie!).

25) I sent my aunt a guidebook for her upcoming vacation (shout out, Aunt Karen!)

26) I gave lots of sincere compliments.

27) I picked up dinner at Panda Express for my brother.

28) And paid for lady in front of me in line. She said, “Are you serious? Like, for real? Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.” She was the only person all day who asked my name, shook my hand, and told me that it would all come back to me ten fold.

29) I donated to a classroom project online via DonorsChoose.org!

30) I sent a couple “thinking of you” e-cards to friends I haven’t talked to in a long time.

31) I signed up for a CPR certification class, and maybe that will come in handy one day for another very specific act of kindness.

Honestly, I am exhausted. It was a long, rainy day. I feel drained (energy level and bank account), but very full at the same time (heart and soul). I consider myself a kind person, so doing something nice isn’t exactly a new thing for me, but I’m so glad I was able to devote a whole day to acts of kindness (I also found out that it’s national “I Want You to Be Happy Day!” What are the chances??). You can tell by the looks you get from people when you tell them you want to do something nice for them, that it just doesn’t happen often enough.

New thing #2: War and Peace

Due to this being a really busy Sunday, my new thing for today is one of the smallest and easiest things on my list. Though, it’s literally the opposite of small and easy.

Today I started reading War and Peace. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is an epic Russian war novel by Leo Tolstoy, and is known as one of the longest and most daunting books of all time. “It is the seventh longest novel ever written in a Latin or Cyrillic based alphabet.” If you say so, Wikipedia.

I have never read it. I haven’t even come close to wanting to read it, which is why I put it on my list.

As an English major and all around lover of reading/writing/poetry/and all things written word, I often feel like I don’t challenge myself enough with what I read. I am easily seduced by bestseller lists and don’t get to the classics as often as I’d like. In my mind, this book for some reason has always stood out as the hardest and most intimidating read.

I mean, dude, it’s no joke long. The version I picked up from the used book store is 1215 pages, and I only got to page 30 tonight. Who wants to bet that I’ll finish before the end of March? I wouldn’t bet on me.

Not surprisingly, I like it so far (it’s a classic for a reason, and it’s always these kinds of small fears that turn out to be the most unfounded), but it hasn’t gotten to the heavy stuff yet. I’m especially enjoying the notes in my used copy, probably left behind by some well intentioned undergrad who dropped the English class he had to read it for (I couldn’t help but notice that the notes and highlighting stop before page 50).

So here’s to challenging ourselves in our hobbies, whether it be reading, running, cooking, beer pong, whatever!

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The Plan

I’ll be the first person to admit that I have always made a big deal out of my birthday.

As most kids do, I looked forward to my birthday parties all year. I wanted to wear a great dress (something with enough skirt to fan out when I spun in circles), hire top-notch entertainment (although most of the girls at my 4th birthday party hid from the clown), and eat as much cake as I could stomach (chocolate, always chocolate). From skating rinks and picnics, to sleepovers and scavenger hunts, there are so many standout soirees, it’s hard to choose a favorite *.

Even now as an adult, I love having a birthday. But before you dismiss me as a spoiled, self-involved brat, the people who know me best (get to know me better in the “About Me” tab) will tell you that it’s not because I want to be the center of attention or because I want lots of gifts. Far from it.

I just like to celebrate. Because, well, why not?

Even more so, I love to plan and organize, design themes, build traditions, and not just on birthdays. In my own, inherently innocent ways (my idea of celebrating usually doesn’t involve anything a Bieber or Lohan would be in to), I like to escape my routine and simply give special days their due.

This March 24th, I will turn 31. This is the year that I thought would put an end to my party planning appetite, at least for a while. Everyone knows that 30 is the big year, and the point after which most people start celebrating in fives (35, 40, 45, etc.), or stop counting all together. Or better yet, backwards! Who cares about 31?

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Turns out, I do. Without fail, I got that familiar late-February itch. That it’s-almost-time-to-plan-your-birthday feeling.

So, I’m going with it. Who am I to fight my nature? And again I ask you, why the hell not?

I decided though that this year I should do something different. Something I’ve never done before. For the past few years I’ve planned nice dinners, and fun days/nights out in San Francisco with my friends. They’ve all been great birthdays by my standards, but since I’m well over the 30’s cusp now, it may be time to branch out. After all, if I have to get older, I may as well be growing too.

I started making a list of things I’ve never done before, and the list eventually got so long that I thought about how hard it would be to pick just one. Then I thought, maybe I don’t have to.

My theme-drawn brain came upon the realization that since I’m turning 31 years old, and since there are 31 days in March, maybe I could try one new thing every day in March.

31 days. 31 new things.

And there it is, my 31st birthday plan.

I began by continuing my list of things I’ve never done, and the list is still growing every day. A lot of my ideas are bucket list type things— most of them small, easy things, and some are bigger (and possibly less likely to happen if I go broke half way through the month). Some things are random, some were suggested by others, and some are 31 themed. A handful of ideas are things I don’t really want to do at all, that I put on the list in the spirit of going outside my comfort zone.

Part of this plan is that I’m going to chronicle each new thing here in this blog with short posts and pictures, mostly to keep myself accountable. I’m notorious for getting excited about a project and not following through. If I tell myself that you, my friends, family, and possibly curious strangers, are taking 5 minutes out of your day to read about my adventures, it will inspire me to be braver, more creative, and most importantly to keep going. When I just feel like staying home and watching that Friends rerun for the hundredth time, I will think about you, dear reader, and how you are counting on me to get out there and do/see/try/experience something new.

*Who am I kidding? The hands-down winner is my 15th birthday party. A BBQ at the neighborhood park, and the first party I invited boys to. My friends and I filmed it, and over the years we have watched/reminisced the shit out of that old VHS tape.

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