Tag Archives: boston

[Passion Forward] Sports (Exclamation Point!) with Victoria

Last Tuesday night Pedro Martinez’ number was retired at Fenway Park and Vickie was there for it. A text flashed up on my phone reading “SPORTS!” and was accompanied by a photo of her and her boyfriend, Matt, at Fenway wearing their Pedro shirts and smiling brightly. They had decided to go to the game after they realized they couldn’t make it out to Cooperstown for Pedro’s Hall of Fame festivities the prior weekend…because Vickie had boxing training (I’m sure Matt had some stuff, too.)

980395_10152122890066944_36355956_oOne of the best parts about this project is discussing possible options before settling on the thing they want to ultimately discuss. The options are usually unrelated, but one of the things I realized during this particular interview is that sometimes a love for something can lead to a love of something else and that’s a pretty interesting road to go down.

It was hard to imagine that we would sit down and not talk exclusively of her love for the Boston Bruins. A table in her dining room is dedicated to autographed hockey gloves, pucks and other memorabilia. Her family have been Bruins season ticket holders for a few years now and she’s made a tradition of arriving to games early and taking photos during warm-ups. The idea for practicing her photography skills in this way came from her dad, a former Patriot’s season ticket holder, who used to take dozens of shots throughout the game and file them away in albums.

Photo Courtesy of Vickie

Photo Courtesy of Vickie

She’s managed to take some incredible action shots primarily using only two lenses. “If I have my camera with me I usually have two lens the fix 50 which is really good for being good at being able to get crisp shots. You can get really nice shots if the light’s not super great. It takes having dim lighting and turns it into an asset. I’ll have my standard 18-35mm that comes with most cameras that you can kind of adjust.” Recently she’s posted some amazing photos from her trips to Brazil and Eastern Europe proving she has an excellent eye for photography regardless of the subject.

Vickie is not your typical Red Sox fan. Shortly after moving to Boston from her home state of Vermont in 2007, she became a weekend tour guide at Fenway Park. How did she land that gig? Lots of follow up e-mails.

Having taken a few tours with her I can verify that her Sox knowledge was on point. “I could tell you the day that Ted Williams hit the home run 502 feet  into right field. That’s where the red seat is up now. I knew at that point who the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers was and what the count was.”

She spent a few weeks studying and cramming Fenway facts prior to the start of her tour guide tenure, but it was impossible to learn everything. “The alpha dude would definitely want to come up with that questions and try to stump the perky blonde tour guide. If it was a little kid I would turn that into a thing where I would kind of celebrate the kid and be like ‘You know what I’ve been doing this for a really long time and this kid [is the] first kid ever to stump the tour guide’ and get everybody to give him a round of applause.” With parental permission, she would get the kid’s email address, do some research and get back to them. One question that stumped her was how many lights are in the light towers, so she just went and counted them.

Of course the job came with some incredible perks. She joined the organization just after the Sox won their second World Series and was able to take part in the dress rehearsal for Opening Day.

Clockwise from Upper Left: Fenway Park (Red Sox), the ice at the Garden Bruins), Celtics court, and the field at Gillette Stadium (Patriots)

Vickie has set foot on all Boston sports surfaces. Clockwise from Upper Left: Fenway Park (Red Sox), the ice at the Garden Bruins), Celtics court, and the field at Gillette Stadium (Patriots)

“They needed people to stand in for the people who were going to be getting the rings. So one of the days I was a guy who was like one of the trainers [the next day] I was Coco Crisp and my brother was JD Drew.”

Despite her involvement, she has yet to attend Opening Day and a World Series game, but she came so close to making it inside Fenway Park for their third championship win in 2013. Vickie and her brother were 20 people away from being able to get inside. Since it was a few weeks before her birthday, her brother really wanted to get her in for her present. Instead, she watched the game at home with her friends and boyfriend. Her brother continued to wait in line, but never made it in.

Prior to meeting her boyfriend, a huge Liverpool FC fan, she began to research what English Premiere League football team she wanted to follow. “I said to him ‘I want to learn about things and see what’s going on, but just because you like Liverpool doesn’t mean I like Liverpool. I’m going to try to find my own team.’ He said ‘Don’t let it be Chelsea. Otherwise we’re good.'”

In the end she ended up choosing Liverpool because of their similarity to the Bruins. “[They have] that storied tradition where you have guys that won before and are focused on playing hard and not necessarily being the flashiest and recognizing your price.” She’s a member of the Liverpool Club of Boston often watching games early on Saturday mornings with other local supporters.

She’s not always a spectator. For the past four years Vickie has played in a social dodgeball league. She’s completed a Spartan Race (at Fenway), runs on the Slumbrew team for the Cambridge run series and ran the Chicago Marathon in 2010. Every now and then she contemplates running the Boston Marathon, but the fundraising commitment and training are challenging. Right now she’s putting her time and energy into boxing training and raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society through Lights Out 4 Leukemia.

A few years back she purchased a Groupon for The Ring boxing gym – primarily because Shawn Thornton trained there. It was not the idea of running into Shawn Thornton that was so appealing, but being trained by the guy that trains him. (I also want to see she ran the stairs at Harvard as part of the November Project for the same reason…) As most people can attest, walking into a boxing gym is intimidating. “I remember walking up to the club and seeing people walking out the door and I was like ‘Okay’ and promptly walked past the place and walked around the corner to the little football stadium area for BU and hung out there until I could actually gather the courage to go back and walk in,” she recalls.

If you’re considering trying out boxing, remember that no one is going to punch you directly in the face the minute you walk in the door. You do not have to spar if you do not want to (a question The Ring’s paperwork asked her TWICE) and you can concentrate on conditioning. There’s so much to learn and be aware of and there isn’t a trainer that would force you into the ring to spar if they didn’t think you were prepared and could execute a safe fight.

Since she started training with Lights Out back in May, she has earned three black eyes and a bruised sternum proving herself to be incredible tough. Despite those injuries, she has continued to push herself as much as she possibly can. She knows she can learn something from visiting the basics while she recovers and learn from watching others.

Despite her previous experience at The Ring, she didn’t arrive into training feeling ahead of everyone else that had never had a fight before. “Going from ‘I kinda have a sense of maybe what I’m going to be doing’ to ‘I know absolutely nothing’ and really having to be okay with that and recognize the fact that it’s a process. Over the course of time I’ll learn enough to be able to get into the ring and hold my own and learning how to take punches, which I am growing very good at being able to do as my face will attest.” She’s going to rock it on September 19th.

Now all she needs is a basketball team.

You can view her photos over on her Flickr page. If you’d like to follow her on her boxing journey, check out her website The Hummingbird Chronicles and her Lights Out 4 Leukemia donation page.


You can hear our entire conversation over here! We briefly mentioned the Derek Jeter story, but never went in to detail. Feel free to ask either of us to tell you the story next time you see one of us. We also talked about U2’s Beautiful Day and how it ruins fun things, favorite (and least favorite) karaoke songs, attending private Catholic universities and choosing an entrance song for boxing (tell her to use Natasha Beddingfield’s Pocket Full of Sunshine.)

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[Passion Forward] Dragon Boat Racing with Matt!

A few months back my friend Alicia set me up on an “internet blind date” with her friend Matt. Her reasoning being that Matt and I were practically the same person living on opposite sides of the country. He reps Portland, Oregon, the hipster city of the west coast. While I hold it down in Somerville, Massachusetts, the hipster city of the east. We share a love of beer, sports related charity events, being busy forever, basketball and doing random things that no one has ever heard about before.

Medals and Trophys: A Typical Weekend (Photo Courtesy: Matt!)

Medals and Trophys: A Typical Weekend (Photo Courtesy: Matt!)

When I asked Alicia how she knew Matt, her response of “he asked me to join his dragon boat team” was enough for me to confirm her reasoning and message Matt if only to find out what this “dragon boat team” thing is all about. Turns out, this Olympic sport has been around for 2,000 years. I couldn’t find any hard data as to how many teams there are in the United States, but there are 40 teams in the Portland area alone. So, let’s just say there are 2,000 dragon boat teams in the United States and 378,000 worldwide. Matt’s team, Team Fushion, has roughly 45-50 paddlers which means, by my estimation, there are 18,900,000 international paddlers! Only some of that is speculation/completely wrong. Most teams train three times a week, year round through all types of weather. This might seem excessive for an occasional two minute race, but how many people get to do what they love three times a week? This is why he and I chatted about his passion for dragon boating.

We’d had this interview in the works for a while, but Matt was too busy off winning medals with his dragon boat team, Team Fusion – a name which Matt loves because “it connotes teamwork and togetherness – both traits key to paddling!” Last weekend, he won his first gold medal at the World Beat Festival in Salem, Oregon. The weekend prior Team Fushion won the bronze at the largest dragon boat festival in North America where they raced against teams from Oregon, Washington and Canada. For Matt, winning, while enjoyable, is secondary to his participation. It’s rare that someone finds an activity that meets all their needs, but dragon boat racing is just that for him.

Matt joined Team Fusion in 2013 after moving back to his hometown of Portland from Seattle. He had spent a little over a year working for the University of Washington Alumni Association when he decided that he wanted to return home. One of the things Matt has always loved about his hometown is how easy it is to escape the big city feel by venturing out to the mountains or coast. He remains an avid hiker and cyclist, but when he had returned to Portland, he was dealing with a foot injury from running that prohibited him from participating in those activities.

After seeing a Facebook post from a friend about how much she enjoyed dragon boat racing, he asked to join her team. At first he was concerned that his size would be seen as a disadvantage, but his friend assured him that there was a spot for him as stronger guys had that ability to pull more water. (I would just like to point out that Matt lost 100lbs through working hard and changing his eating habits and managed to keep that weight off for a few years now. Go Matt!)

Similar to any large rowing vessel, there are a few different positions on the dragon boat. The caller stands at the front of the boat calling out inductions for the paddlers. The tiller stands at the back of the boat and steers using a longer oar. Some boats also have a drummer who works in tandem with the caller to keep the paddlers in sync and serve as a cheerleader. Matt’s team has never had a drummer and he doesn’t see the point in adding one now as it can be too distracting during races. They’re doing just find without one.

In addition to his role as a paddler, Matt is also one of a handful of council members for Team Fusion working alongside the team captain to ensure operations are running smoothly and help with any decision making. There are ways for everyone on the team to have their voices heard. “We also have a rotating group of ambassadors who act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the council in a way, they talk with paddlers, solicit their feedback and let us in the council know how that’s going at each monthly council meeting.” Matt’s teammates are the thing he loves most about being a part of Team Fusion. “[We are] very, very, very close. We hang out after practice, on weekends, before and after races, you name it. It’s a really tight-knit group, and there’s a lot of camaraderie among the paddlers.” Social sports have always been a great way to meet people and make friends if you’re finding yourself in a new city or in limbo as friends have moved on to different life phases.

Dragon boating may look easy on the surface, but Matt find that he is still learning new methods or improving upon skills that he already has learned. The intricacies of the sport continue to be a draw for him. “I love that there’s so much to master. Whether it’s stabbing the paddle into the water, pulling it back, returning and starting the whole stroke over again, using your legs, engaging your core, or keeping your head still, there’s always something to learn.”

Matt’s passion and enthusiasm for dragon boat racing was enough to convince me to seek it out myself. Unfortunately, since he lives 3,000 miles away he could not demonstrate his love of the sport or teach me a few things. Instead I participated in a free clinic on the Charles River with Dragon Boat Club Boston.

I'm in there doing my best Too Many Cooks impression.

I’m in there doing my best Too Many Cooks impression.

The first part of the clinic focused on paddling form and drilling the rules into our head. The number one rule: Never stand up on a dragon boat! (Spoiler Alert: No one ever did.) The paddle were much shorter than I anticipated. The hand thats on the inside of the boat is still responsible for the t grip, but you’re holding the paddle right at the top of the blade and digging in with each stroke. The required paddling is completely different than any other variant of rowing, kayaking or canoeing I had either learned how to do correctly or made up on my own. The method used by DBCB is more explosive relying on quick, short strokes. Matt’s team uses a slower, more powerful stroke propelling the boat at a faster rate because they’re pulling more water.

You really do use your body with each stroke. Since this is a more learn by doing activity all you really need to know is that your body is twisted towards the water in an A shape and your obliques will kill for the next week. And if you have short arms, you are going to feel like each stroke is going to pull you face first into the water. Be prepared to get in to it, but do not ever stand up!

Our group was composed of people of all ages, sizes, athletic abilities and ethnicities. One woman had been studying up on the sport and couldn’t wait to join a 40+ team, but was a little nervous about going in without any experience due to their overly competitive nature.

We all managed to catch on pretty quickly. We could follow the short list of commands without a problem, although I struggled with the timing – I may have been a little too eager – I was there to win! We became faster and more fluid with each race, but just as we really started to get the hang of it, it was time to return to the dock for a quick debrief about what everyone enjoyed about the day. Most people agreed that being out on the Charles on such a beautiful day was fantastic, but the focus on teamwork brought in the most votes. I have to agree. You do learn by doing, but you also need to solicit tips from experienced paddlers in order to grow. One of the seasoned vets who was out in the boat with us said that when he first started, he sucked, but he loved it enough to stay with it and has improved greatly over time. It’s just a perfect reminder that we’re not always going to immediately be great at whatever it is that we want to do. That while this is a competitive sport, it’s so much more to many of the people involved. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, acquire new skills and be a part of something truly unique.

This is all part of Matt’s desire to lead an “epic and meaningful life.” In the short time that I have been acquainted with him, he has orchestrated creative ways to help his community. “I want to have a positive impact on the communities in which I find myself. I want to make a difference, leave me mark and be a positive influence.”

Dragon Boat Club Boston hosts free clinics for new paddlers every few years throughout the season. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

Courtesy of DBCB

Courtesy of DBCB

2014: Concert Recap

One of my favorite things to do is to attend live shows of any musical genre. Gwar, Amy Grant, Steely Dan, N’Sync, Tori Amos. Let’s do it. Every year I set a goal to see at least twelve shows encouraging me to explore new music. I’ve fallen in love with acts that I went to see only because of one or two songs.

There weren’t a whole lot of blockbuster or well known artists on this years list and, having seen many eyes glaze over when I mention who it was that I was going to see, I decided to create this list as an introduction to some lesser known acts.

There is something here for everyone: rock, soul, funk, indie rock, rap, acoustic singer songwriters and others that I can’t quite categorize. I hope you enjoy browsing the list, watching the videos and listening to the all encompassing Spotify playlist I created. I would love to know your thoughts and get recommendations on people I should check out.

February 6th
Charles Bradley
The Columbus Theatre, Providence, RI

I feel so incredibly lucky to have attended this show. Bradley started his career as a James Brown impersonator and that is glaringly obvious from his performances. He came out on stage in a sparkly red, tight fitting suit and gyrated on stage while performing songs that would make you laugh/cry/horny. The audience for this one was particularly diverse with an entire high school basketball team, drunk bros dancing in the aisles and older men falling asleep. My friend, Sam, was stuck sitting in the back, which was better for people watching.

 

May 22nd
Mirah
Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA

Having only seen Mirah perform as part of Thao and Mirah – my favorite “Oh my gosh, they came together!” musical duo, I was elated I was finally getting the chance to see her perform solo. There’s been a growing trend among artists to perform an entire album at their show instead of a sampling of their tracks. Mirah played her new album Changing Light from start to finish and closed with one of her oldest songs,”Mt. St. Helens.” I wasn’t familiar with the album going into the show, but I left obsessed with it. Her style is overly artistic. Songs tend to seemingly deconstruct and find their own catastrophic ending.

 

May 24th
Jenny Lewis
The Head and the Heart
Frank Turner
The Decemberists
Death Cab For Cutie
City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA

I finally got to see Death Cab For Cutie!!! Jenny Lewis is the front woman for my All Time Favorite Band, Rilo Kiley, and I freaked when she played my All Time Favorite Song of theirs “A Better Son/Daughter.” Frank Turner was delightful – even though that’s a strange way to categorize him. The Head and the Heart held the entire audience captive. The Decemberists were fine – they’re not my favorite.

June 20th
Salt n’ Pepa
City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA

This show was bizarre. Salt n’ Pepa and SPINDERELLA (!!!) came out and kinda played their songs and then kinda spoke to the audience about treating women with respect while playing clips of Erykah Badu songs. Everyone left when they closed with a prayer instead of “None of Your Business.” And that’s why they’re doing GEICO commercials now.

July 24th
Puss N Boots w/ Dwight and Nicole

The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA

This was one of the shows I was invited to and had minimal interest in. The ladies of Puss N Boots are adorable, but I was more impressed with Dwight and Nicole. A fist fight broke out towards the end of the show and I made my friend grab the set list since he loves Norah Jones so much. And then I think he threw it away.

July 26th
Veruca Salt
Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA

As this show neared, I didn’t want to go. There was an exhibition boxing match at the boxing gym I had been training at and I was bummed to miss it. I’m glad I did – this show was incredible. Plus, I almost got in a fist fight of my very own. I wrote a whole thing about the show here.

September 7th
The War on Drugs

Lake Street Dive
Twenty One Pilots
The Replacements
Nas and The Roots
City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA

This ticket was given to me, for which I am forever grateful, and I had such a great time at this show. For a musica festival taking place in the heart of the city, Boston Calling is well organized and safe. There are water stations, affordable snacks and coffee, enough bathroom, phone charging stations, and everything starts on time!

Going in, I was only familiar with Nas and The Roots. Lake Street Dive is just a conglomeration of powerful voices. Twenty One Pilots reminded me that I am 32 years old. The Replacements aren’t my thing please don’t yell at me about it. Nas was great. Like, really, really great.

November 14th
San Fermin

The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA

You guys. The Sinclair is my favorite venue in Boston and I will see anything there. Excellent variety of beers, great sound, A/C and perfect views. It’s hard to go someplace and feel like you’re the only one there while being surrounded by tons of people. I love this place.

I also love San Fermin. A friend of mine raved about them, having seen them at Boston Calling in September, so I wanted to check them out. They’re incredible. When I’m asked about this show, I place my hand on my chest and gasp before speaking. They’re that good. Plus, practically every member favorited my instagram photo of their performance. BFFs now with San Fermin.

December 6th
Har Mar Superstar and The Pizza Underground

Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA

Last time I saw Har Mar Superstar he had stripped off three layers of clothes and was wearing a Prince Purple Rain tour shirt while standing on a bar and singing Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” acapella. He is a national treasure.

The Pizza Underground sings pizza themed songs originally by the Velvet Underground. I believe the show was sold old partly because The Pizza Underground features Macaulay Culkin and people think that yelling quotes from Home Alone at him are hilarious. I know this because the gentleman next to me screamed “BUZZ, YOUR GIRLFRIEND! WOOF!” repeatedly in between attempts to light his joint and point emphatically at whoever in the band was singing. The bros next to me in Christmas sweaters kept saying “Dude, remember Home Alone, dude?” No. No one remembers Home Alone. Especially you guys who kept saying the reason why you were there was to “see Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone.” GO HOME!

I was right up against the stage so I managed to snag some of the pizza they handed out to the audience as well as a pixie stick from the Candy Boys, who were called up to perform a few songs. At the end of their set I felt inspired to start my own Ani DiFranco cheese themed cover band: Anbrie DiFranco. I will feature such songs as “32 Cheeses” and “Boursin Hands.”

All of the terrible people left when Har Mar Superstar came out and the fun people stepped up to dance with me. He rocked a few glittery ponchos before toweling off and performing shirtless. He even sang a few songs posed in a sideways handstand type thing. An audience request for “Too Many Cooks” was granted. By the end of the show I was covered in Har Mar’s sweat and the Corona that Macaulay Culkin shook and sprayed on me. I think that’s what 4D means.

The show was a blast and I’m having a hard time refraining from saying this was the best show of the year. I love watching people have fun on stage and, since this was the last show of their six week tour, the camaraderie that they had formed performing together was evident when they closed with one giant, fairly improvised number that sounded a lot like this.

Bonus: Between sets Anchovy Warhol played a video set to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” featuring adoptable cats whose names sounded like lyrics of the song. For example, “Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo” became pictures of “Chubby, Checkers, Psycho, Belle, Gin, Indigo.”

Okay, I wrote much more about this show than I expected.

 

Hopes for 2015: Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, Sleater Kinney, Neil Diamond, OutKast and Prince. Always Prince.

Smell Your Fingers, Throw Your Hip

There’s a reason why this has taken forever for me to write. I had foolishly assumed that training for a charity boxing match was just going to be added to the list of things I did. When I sat down to write this I couldn’t manage my thoughts well because they were all over the place. I needed to step away from it and gather them. There were so many things to take into account from that night and it has taken me close to a full month to process them. I went from anxiety to frustration to sadness to happy I could eat pizza and drink beer again. I thought often about cucumbers and combos that I should’ve landed during the fight. (As well as Combos the snack. You’ll see why later). I had regrets about my own doubts and kicked myself for not making it to the gym in my off time. Instead of concentrating on the things that I didn’t do, I had to take some time to reflect on what I did accomplish. And, holy crap, how did I actually do any of this?

For those that don’t know, I signed up for the Young Professionals Non Profit listserv at the suggestion of a friend to help me try to gain some focus as to what type of Masters Degree I eventually want to pursue. Naturally I gravitated towards the email entitled “Looking For First Time Boxers.” Boxing was something I had always wanted to try, but couldn’t push myself to invest the time in. As soon as I read that I would be training three times a week (for free!) and raising money it was a match made in heaven. Volunteering and learning a new skill while meeting new people is tops.

And so training began. The first workout was grueling: step up push presses, lunges, what felt like nineteen different types of push-ups – and all of us trying to prove that we deserve to be there. As the weeks went on I got punched in the face more and more. The first time I sparred, I cried for absolutely no reason after the first round. I wasn’t hurt or embarrassed, I had actually done pretty well. The trainer refereeing our match yelled “What are you crying for!? You wanted women’s rights in the 70s!”

Some people went up against Golden Glove winners while others were placed in the ring sparring with a girl nicknamed X, who was super nice and knowledgeable, but very dangerous. She would smack her gloves together and yell “COME ON!” and when I landed a punch she’d say “Yeah! There you go!.” She was awesome, but good luck to anyone that gets in the ring with her. There were days I left feeling confident in my abilities and days when I contemplated never going back. Ultimately, this was about raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and not about me at all. My goals shifted the closer we got to the event from trying to be really good at boxing to wanting to win to just being able to finish the fight to not tripping getting into the ring.

In order to cut weight before the fight I ate a banana for breakfast, a dressing free salad for lunch and a cucumber every two hours. I would bite the end off, spit it in the trash and eat it as is, savoring every bite and making it last as long as possible. I may have been cold all the time, but I lost 11lbs. Due to cucumber diligence, my opponent and weighed in at less than 15lbs apart and we were able to have a USA Boxing sanctioned fight. After the weigh in, eating mouthfuls of plain, wheat protein pasta and a quick medical assessment – where my blood pressure was 170/110 and I was diagnosed as “just really nervous” – I made my way downstairs, gloved up and worked the mitts while I waited for our match, the second of the night, to be announced. I figured we had about ten minutes to prepare since the first match had just started, but 30 seconds in a knock out was declared and I was asked if I was ready.

“Nope,” I replied. And then “Army of Me,” my entrance song, played and I had to figure out where the hell I was supposed to go. I safely made it through the ropes and into the ring. Achievement unlocked. My opponent and I touched gloves, retreated to our corners and were called into fight when the bell rang.

Now, if you’ve ever seen a boxing movie, you’ve noticed that the fight is always a close up of the boxers throwing punches in slow motion against a backdrop of darkness and bright lights. It feels exactly like that when you’re in there. I tried to do everything I was taught: control the center of the ring, go for the body (my opponent was much, much taller and therefore impossible to hit in the head), block punches and not fall into a trap of a flurry of punches from her. I heard people cheering for me specifically or just yelling “Come on, blue!” It was an entirely different change of pace from the energy of the first match. We were slower, far more tired and less experienced. I have no idea how we looked, but I felt great after. None of the punches that she landed on me hurt as bad as I had expected and I didn’t pee as much during the match as I thought I would. There was a hesitation in announcing the winner during which the referee asked us individually if we enjoyed ourselves, if it was our first fight, etc. You know, what we in the business call “boxing small talk*.”

I picked the one picture where it looks like I'm winning (Photo Credit: Lights Out 4 Leukemia)

I picked the one picture where it looks like I’m winning (Photo Credit: Lights Out 4 Leukemia)

My opponent was announced as the winner and I’ll admit to being bummed out, but I met half my goals and was happy overall with my performance. I stopped being bummed out when I went to see my friends and family in the crowd and was greeted with drink tickets, pizza, flowers, pizza,  lots of hugs accompanied with an “I’m so proud of you” and pizza. Training and getting in the ring had never seemed like that big of a deal to me, but everyone’s reactions proved otherwise. I made it a point to run over to the exit after each match and high five or hug everyone while congratulating them on their matches – unless I was eating pizza, but even then I managed to bring the pizza with me.

The rest of the night was so much fun. A friend of mine was the MC and my cousin, the DJ, unknowingly played my favorite jam, “Return of the Mack,” during intermission. The event flowed so smoothly and was practically flawless. To top it off, a bunch of my friends won raffle prizes! Could it seriously get any better!?

Yes! It could!

As we all know, one of my favorite wrestlers ever is Daniel Bryan. He became my favorite in 2012 when he started chanting “Yes!” on his way to the ring as a over the top heel. This phenomenon caught on, created a “Yes Movement” to make him champion and arenas would yell “Yes! Yes! Yes!” while raising their arms and pointing their fingers in the air.

YES! YES! YES! (Credit: Me. I took this!)

YES! YES! YES! (Credit: Me. I took this!)

My friends did this as I walked into the after party. It was amazing that some threw or attended a fundraiser to help me raise money or  that they donated to the cause in addition to purchasing tickets. I was humbled by the number of people that encouraged me throughout the way and showed up to cheer me on. It might be silly, but I was not expecting a “Yes!” chant to happen.

I am so appreciative of everyone’s donations and well wishes. I am so grateful to the trainers, who I can now count among my friends, and to Boston Boxing for giving me an opportunity like this. Likely one that I will never have again. And to everyone that fought that night, you are incredible and I am so lucky to have gone through this experience with you all. Learning, commiserating, flipping tires,  trying to get the courage to sing “I Will Always Love You” as a group to cut down on our workout time. (Only one person did it, the rest of us knew we needed that workout) and making up songs. If you’re going to do this, and I highly recommend that you do, you need someone with a similar sense of humor. Thankfully, I had Chris (who just wrote a BOOK) to help rewrite lyrics to Lil’ Jon songs using ridiculous things the trainers yelled at us during workouts (see title of post.)

So, would I do it again? Maybe. I love the classes I am taking at Boston Boxing right now and the culture there is really great. Everyone is supportive and the emphasis is on the technique and sportsmanship. There is no showboating allowed. If you’re looking to knock someone out so you know how it feels, then it’s not for you. I’m no where near ready to compete again and I want to make sure that I can be in an appropriate weight class for my height.

Lights Out 4 Leukemia is already looking for people to sign up to train for next year’s event. For more information, check out their website.

*No one calls it that.

“I Adore You, I Adore You”

When Veruca Salt announced a reunion tour a few months ago I made sure to put two separate dates on my calendar: The date the tickets went on sale and the date of the actual show. Unlike other reunion shows I have attended, this would be a smaller, more intimate affair. Brighton Music Hall – formerly Harper’s Ferry – a standing room only, 476 capacity club in Boston – would be the final stop on their three week long US Tour.

The first time I saw a show at BHM was back in May when myself and 75 others spaced ourselves out to watch a breathing taking performance by Mirah. Seeing the space that severely undersold bummed me out, though I was grateful for the personal space and sight lines. Knowing that Veruca Salt would be playing a sold out show there pumped me up for an entirely different experience.

You’re probably think that I’m some super hard-core fan that has been waiting forever for them to reunite. That I wore red converse all stars to their shows at Mama Kin in the mid 90’s, but I didn’t. At the height of their popularity I was fifteen years old and listening to WFNX in to the wee hours of the morning hoping to tape “Volcano Girls” on my boom box. I followed Nina Gordon’s brief solo career and dug that a little bit more, but I pretty much forgot about them. Their two radio mega hits (“Seether” and the previously mentioned “Volcano Girls”) remain on my work out play list and serve as a bit of junior high nostalgia on the elliptical. As I grew older my music tastes shifted and broadened. I’ve always tried to take advantage of the opportunity to see the amazing and diverse acts that roll through Boston. My goal is to average 12 shows a year, but I hope to avoid General Admission shows at all costs.

I’m old. I hate getting bumped into by people and have them spill a drink on me (bonus douche points if it’s mine). I hate it when people push their way to the front and act like dicks when I’ve been standing there forever. I’m short and someone taller than me always manages to shift right into that little sliver I had been able to enjoy the opener through. I hate standing for long periods of time because my back is bad these days. Every time I go to a GA show I forget about these things and just before the show starts I’m usually boiling with rage and a hatred for everyone born in a year I actually remember.

Yes, of course it happened this time, but it’s so not worth getting into – as the gentleman on the street told me when those girls tried to get into it with me again. Anyway, we were standing about three people deep and just off stage right. They took the stage. Man, even their drummer was close to me. Nina, in an updated baby tee showcasing the lyrics of a song by her own band, mostly hung to our side while Louise Post, wearing flannel, played a little more to the crowd on the opposite side. It was loud. They sounded fresh. Their harmonies were on point and their riffs sharp. What they acknowledged they lacked in verbal onstage banter they made up for in just straight up rock goddess stage presence. The hatchet was buried.  I always love watching people have fun on stage regardless of the medium. Their clothes, equipment, and overall style was a slightly updated grunge version of who I knew them to be 20 years ago. They remained true to themselves all these years later.

Veruca Salt

(As I sit here writing this I am listening to Veruca Salt through my tv on my Spotify. I’ve been having trouble with the forward button on the remote. Instead of skipping tracks it’ll just skip a few seconds of the song. My remote isn’t stuck and I’ve deleted and reinstalled the app multiple times. It’s some dumb glitch I can’t control and spotify can’t seem to solve. I am growing even more nostalgic for my mix tape of WFNX mid 90’s gems.)

The venue was perfect and it made me wistful for something I never even was able to experience. It is what I had imagined shows would be like when I was growing up. I always hoped for an all ages Liz Phair or Letters to Cleo show, but everything was always 18+. I saw clips of intimate, hard rock performances on MTV News and 120 Minutes. It sucked that I wasn’t allowed to see these bands. I wanted to be in the smoky depths of the Middle East downstairs and see Tracy Bonham. Just before I turned 18 Mama Kin shut down. Artists that I had loved, like Tori Amos, were growing in popularity and playing sold out shows at the Fleet Center. Tickets for shows started carrying several additional fees skyrocketing the overall cost. Avalon became the nightmare now known as that barf bag House of Blues. Great Woods and Harborlights have had several corporate names and I actually had to use my google to discover they’re now the Xfinity Center and Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. One of those sounds nice, but is about 20 miles away from Blue Hills and on the ocean. Beyonce is one of a few people I will shell out big bucks for because she’s going to zip line across the TD Garden to my absolute delight. That’s a show that I want to be staged, because it’s intricate and more of a spectacle. It requires pyro and dancers. Veruca Salt required instruments and just being there.

Additionally, I felt wistful for a decade of third-wave feminism. Though not part of the Riot Grrrl movement, Veruca Salt fell into that category along side other female artists who were singing about whatever they wanted to in whatever emotional tone suited them best. It wasn’t complicated. They screamed and growled  about what it was that made them feel good. They sang about complex relationships with significant others. Explicitly demanding what they expected from others and what they could offer in return.

When I wrote about what the ladies were wearing above the thought crossed my mind that someone would read that and think “Why is that important?” I felt it was an important observation because their clothing was a nod the decade they came from and in no way the focus of their act. No one gave a shit about what women wore during the grunge era. Baby doll dresses, flannel, corduroys. No one gave a shit about their personal lives, their “Cribs,” or their social media outreach. The focus was on the music they produced.

I feel like I missed the decade where it was about the music and putting on a good show. The whole reason an album was made to begin with was so that there was something to send the fans home with after they played the shit out of it. Veruca Salt still feels like a small time operation that just wanted a good old fashioned jam session with 476 of their closest friends. They were doing it for them and for us only.

 

“Live Out Your Dreams”

The title of this entry does not come from an inspirational TED speaker, a motivational fit blog image, or one of those giant sticker quote collages that looks beautiful on a living room wall. It came from a tampon wrapper. Of course my reaction was not “What sage advice you have, tampon.” It was to roll my eyes. Knowing the fate of that tampon, it should be the last one dispensing advice about making your dreams come true.

You’re welcome for that.

Anyway,  it got me thinking. I’ve been reading and re-reading a few books lately about happiness. I don’t particularly like to lump an entire year as being good or bad, but for some reason 2013 did me wrong in such a way that around August I gave up on it and decided to make some changes. Of course I would now refer to this as FY2014 and not 2013 – that bitch is dead to me. Looking back though, it honestly wasn’t all that bad. I just wish that I was in an entirely different place professionally, financially, and relationshipy, but doesn’t everyone wish for a difference in one if not all of those things?

Here is the awesome thing. I totally got to do one thing that I have always wanted to do without even realizing it in the moment. If you haven’t read Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, you need to stop everything right now and read it. If you’re not a reader, then stop what you’re doing and watch his presentation called Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Pausch recounts experiences throughout his life where his creativity and thinking outside of the box helped him achieve his childhood dreams. He was finally able to experience his dream of zero gravity when he accompanied a group of Carnegie Mellon students to NASA’s Vomit Comet. However, faculty were not allowed to participate so he agreed to do a write up for a website and was granted permission as a member of the press. Zero gravity achieved.

I also got creative and thought outside of the box culminating in one of my childhood dreams: Become a professional wrestler.

This is where it gets tricky. I did not DDT anyone off a top rope or go one on one with Sara del Rey. I arm wrestled some broads for charity as part of Boston Arm Wrestling Dames. After their debut bout a few friends sent me links to an article they found on Boston.com and suggested I do it. The pageantry! The attention! The do-goodery! The WRESTLING! I immediately emailed the organizer and patiently waited for what felt like forever. As part of BAWD I would have a persona, entourage, and entrance music. Creating my persona of Macho Ma’am Brandy Savage was easy. Finding a few friends that wanted to be a part of my entourage was also surprisingly easy. The entrance music was tough. I felt like I needed to keep Macho Man’s original music, but that was boring and I would be the one person there it mattered to. I had the option of making my way to the table with any song I wanted introducing me. The logical choice was to go with my favorite wrestling theme ever and one that made a statement about the damage I was about to cause to some biceps.

After some rearranging was done to the bracket, I found out that we would be making our entrance first. While I wasn’t thrilled with that idea, I figured that after I beat my opponent I would have a large amount of downtime to psych myself up for round 2. My entourage, consisting of my friend Vickie as Hulk Hogan and Tim as Miss Elizabeth, escorted me through the crowd to the stage. My attempts at high five’s were neglected by the audience. Despite my neon pink hot pants and friendly sequined tank top, they were terrified of me. “Fine, I’m a heel*,” I decided. After an epic stare down with my opponent that I can only compare to the one between Apollo Creed and Rocky in [insert your favorite Rocky movie here], it was time to get down to business. My opponent was a circus contortionist. “Piece of cake!” I thought.

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The bout consisted of three rounds. First up, right arm. We held each other for a while. She begged for mercy and the round was stopped. Second round, left arm. I was immediately destroyed. The last round was the right arm again and she, again, begged for the round to stop. It was during this round that I screamed “LET ME HEAR IT!” at the crowd because there is nothing more awkward than arm wrestling a circus contortionist on a stage dressed as a professional wrestler in complete silence. We would now have to go to Sudden Death: thumb wrestling. Ugh, fine, this is for charity.

Without going in to all the details, I fouled out of thumb wrestling and became the first dame to be eliminated. Childhood dream achieved!

I didn’t realize it in the moment though and I really wished that I had. I’ve always been someone that focuses on the end result and being able to say that I accomplished something rather than enjoy it in the moment. I end up with so much on my plate that I just want to rush through things to get to the next thing. Despite my epic loss, I actually really enjoyed the experience and will hopefully be asked to do it again.

By far the coolest part of this is that I somehow convinced people to dress up in drag for my entourage and come cheer for me. I am consistently humbled by how supportive my friends are. Also, we managed to raise a good chunk of dough for a local women’s shelter. You can read more about it, here. I hope you’ll be able to make it to our next bout!

So, go! Live out your dreams however you can and make sure you enjoy the ride.

*the bad guy in wrestling

#9 See Mickie James Wrestle (…and why it’s not happening)

Well, for the first time an item on my 30×30 list has become impossible to complete. I had hopes that at some point within a year Mickie James would make it at least as north as New York on a date that I could attend.

Why Mickie James? Wait, let’s back up. You’re probably asking yourself “Who is Mickie James?” Okay, let’s start there.

Mickie James is currently signed to Impact Wrestling competing in their Knockouts Division where she is a two time Knockouts Champion. In the WWE, she held the Diva’s Championship once and the Women’s Champion a total of five times. She is the only woman in the history of professional wrestling to hold all three titles.

Okay, so why? Well, I became acquainted with her during her stint in the WWE in 2009. I had started watching wrestling again after an eighteen year absence while laid up with a broken ankle. All I did all day was watch tv and wrestling was refreshing. It was an entirely different medium of television that I found intriguing and hilarious.

Before we go any further, I need to get this out of the way: Yes, I know it’s scripted. No, they don’t use steroids. Yes, they are real athletes. And if you come to my house to watch wrestling and say any of those things, I will get silent and then calmly ask you to leave my house. If you call it “fake,” you’re just being a dick and I will let you know that in the most dickish way possible. We judge things that we don’t understand or that we deem different. I’m not here to change your opinion about wrestling, but you can like whatever you like and you won’t hear shit from me.

Back to the story at hand. When I was a wee little WWF fan, there was no such thing as women’s wrestling. My role models were the Big Boss Man and the Ultimate Warrior. It was so cool to see that they actually had positive female role models that were athletic, strong, smart, and totally bitchy when they needed to be. It was awesome.

When Mickie James came out for her match, she was bouncy, happy, and the crowd loved her. I was like “Oh man, she’s the kind of person I want to be best friends with.” And then I was like “No, she’s pretty much who I aspire to be. A happy-go-lucky people pleaser with whacky outfits.”  And so a Mickie James fan was born.

If you read my entry on Sara del Rey, you’ll remember that I wrote that the Diva’s division is not at all what it used to be. Mickie James was one of the Diva’s that could hold her own in the ring. She competed in an awesome Falls Count Anywhere match with Melina. And if you want to watch  fantastic  Women’s Championship match between Mickie and Beth Phoenix look no further.

Then the WWE released her from her contract in 2010 and I never saw her wrestle. It needed to be added to this list.

The problem is that Impact Wrestling doesn’t tour as extensively as WWE does. Unlike WWE, Impact let’s her perform at independent shows, but those are mostly in the South.

So I was surprised when she was scheduled to be a part of Northeast Wrestling’s Wrestling Under the Stars in Upstate New York on September 22nd. However, her appearance was cancelled last night. Strangely, I’m thrilled. The rest of August and September are crazy busy for me and it will be nice to not have to drive a total of eight hours alone…and then attend another wrestling show the next day. Besides, she’ll be back.

With all that bummer business out of the way, let’s talk about something positive and stay on topic. No, I am not going to get into Wade Barrett’s imminent return and how he’ll become World Heavyweight Champion and I will pass out. Instead, we’re going to talk about the time I met Sara del Rey.

Having seen Sara wrestle previously at two Chikara shows in September and December of last year, this was long overdue. I’m terrified to meet people, but I’ve done it before and made it out alive. Mick Foley and Chris Jericho have the distinction of being two of the nicest, most engaging people I have ever met. You can now add Sara del Rey to that list.

A few weeks ago, Vincent and I attended another Chikara show. He, as well as many others, insisted that I finally pull the trigger on meeting her. Because I am a giant suck up, we stopped at Target so I could pick up some of her favorite gum (Dessert Delights).

It’s very common at indie wrestling shows for performers to hock their own goods. Self produced DVDs, 8x10s, t-shirts, etc. They’ll interact with fans, take photos, and ask their fellow performers for change for large bills. Sara was out signing before the show, but I was too paralyzed with fear to approach her. I would wait until intermission.

Chikara has the distinction of being one of the few promotions that doesn’t separate gender during matches. And why should they? It’s pretty bad ass that Sara can come out and fight a dude. Even if was Icarus (the most hated man in Chikara wrestling)…

I won’t get into too many details about the match because this is already super long. Here are two highlights:

She put Icarus in the LaBell lock. A move that Daniel Bryan uses in the WWE and calls “The YES! lock.” Obviously when Sara slapped that on, the crowd chanted “YES!” until he broke the hold. What a bunch of marks.

Sara lost. After the match she attacked Icarus, he rolled out of the ring, and she stood in the ring while the crowd chanted “Thank you, Sara!” She has yet to acknowledge that she signed a deal with WWE, but you know it, I know it, everyone knows it.

“It’s too bad she had to lose her last match,” Vincent said during intermission.

“No, it’s not. She had nothing to gain by winning, but that dude will be known as the guy that beat Sara del Rey. She put him over and that’s really cool.”

After a second of contemplation, he responded. “She’s pretty awesome.”

Vincent said he would take the picture of us and go over with me, but I put my big kid pants on and went over myself. “I brought you a present,” I said as I pulled a heap of gum out of my purse.

“You did!? Thank you so much!”

I asked if I could take a picture with her. “Absolutely, sorry I’m so sweaty.” I acknowledged that she put on a hell of a match. “Thanks. I have the same phone, but I guess everyone has an iphone now, huh?” I agreed, but my brain went “OH MY GOD I HAVE THE SAME PHONE AS SARA DEL REY!”

A nice gentleman took the picture for us, I thanked her, wished her luck, and bought her Best of DVD which she signed for me. If I had a Best of DVD, that moment would be on it. (You’re so lame, Dana.)

Ladyjacked!

(Photo Credits: WWE, Chikara, and me)

#21 Go Vegan For a Week

I was desperate to get this one over with. The past two weekends I had out of town guests staying with me and we ate and drank everything in sight. After a planned sushi dinner for my friends birthday, there were no food commitments on the horizon. Also, it was the perfect time to detox myself from those two weeks. And thus, my week of veganism began.

Going in to this I had two concerns. First, I was worried that I would fail this. I love pizza, Qdoba Chicken Queso burritos, and sushi. Sure, there are vegan pizza and sushi options, but how would they stack up next to my beloved Pepperoni slices from Pizza Days? Second, I was worried I would turn into a massive douche. When someone says they’re vegan, people have questions. Luckily, the majority of my friends knew that I was embarking on this great food feat and, even if they didn’t understand it, they were supportive. Friends offered up recipes and worked eating meals out into my dietary needs. Servers were also more than happy to answer any questions that I had about how their food was prepared. Given all the dietary restrictions, fears about gluten consumption, and allergies, servers are more knowledgeable than ever about what goes into their food. I’ll be honest, when I was waitressing in Texas years ago, I didn’t have a clue as to what was in most of that stuff because these concerns and restrictions weren’t as prevalent as they are now.

The first day I woke up said “Crap, I’m vegan today,” and went to work where I consumed my regular Special K Vanilla Almond with Almond Milk. Aside from the honey, it was vegan. And honey is a hot topic of debate among vegans (I assume) because bees make honey by working hard, but what are their work conditions like? Some aren’t so great. (I laughed too, but this is serious). After speaking to a vegan friend of mine, he wasn’t concerned, so I decided it wasn’t a big deal.



The first temptation were the cupcakes that someone left in the break room. The second temptation was the entirely gelatin based candy in the break room. At this moment I had a huge realization: I wasn’t allowed to eat these things. Looking at it from a diet perspective is far different. There is that mindset of “I’m going to the gym later so I can eat this cupcake” and then there is “I am not eating anything with dairy and I can not eat this based on principle.” Weirdly enough, it’s much easier to approach veganism from that mindset.

This theory was proven further during my trip to the grocery store that night. I had picked out some recipes on pinterest (my lover) and went shopping specifically for those items that I needed and some Tofutti Cuties to replace my Skinny Cow ice cream cups. When I made eyes at the French Onion dip I had made eyes with several times over the last few months, I wasn’t tempted to purchase it because I couldn’t. “Sorry, baby” I whispered as I brushed it’s cheek. “I’m vegan right now.”

My first mild panic was when I couldn’t find tofu in my local grocery store. I had to ask five different employees where it was. “I don’t know where the tofu is. I’ve never really gone looking for it.” Fair enough. My second and third panics were when I hadn’t prepared my lunch for the day and went looking for options. As awesome as the Boston area is with vegan options, there really aren’t lunch time vegan options. My other local grocery store had one easily preparable at work item: Spring Rolls. They were the size of my pinky, but shockingly delicious.

I worked my nighttime job three nights last week and settled on Life Alive‘s The Adventurer (no cheese) as my dinner. Tons of veggies, quinoa, tofu, and sesame oil. Absolutely delicious.

The second time they drew a shockingly accurate portrait of me on my take out container. Sweat and all.

Some other meals of note…

Vegan Pizza at Peace O’ Pie

BBQ something or other on the left and Artichoke Pesto something or other on the right. DELICIOUS.

A classic go to meal of mine before this challenge:

Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chik’n  and aspargus

Spring Rolls w/Broccoli Slaw, Edamame, Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, and Peanut Sauce

Given the time constraints and my work schedule, I didn’t get to work my way through all the recipes I had intended. If you’re interested in vegan recipes, please check out My Vegan Week board over on pinterest.

I’ve needed an excuse to get more creative in the kitchen. I was terrified to use those rice wraps for the spring rolls, but you put them in warm water for a few seconds and then twist them around it’s contents. It’s also like $1.99 for package of them. There is an idea floating around that it is far more expensive to have a vegetarian or vegan diet. While fresh produce is ideal, frozen works just fine. Canned veggies have far too much sodium. Plus, I find with frozen veggies, I always have vegetables available and easy to prepare. Plus, a bag of frozen vegetable medley would be great if I wanted to recreate The Adventurer at home.

Did I feel satisfied? Actually, yes. I felt clean and full. I found that I really didn’t really crave anything that I used to rely on. It really helped to change my perception about food. I’m also an iced coffee addict and I swapped out my usual caramel swirl iced coffee with cream/sugar for a blueberry iced coffee with a little sugar. I think I actually prefer it now.

It’ll be interesting to see just how long I can keep this up. So far it’s been a piece of cake – minus the eggs and milk.

#24 Take a Language Class

I cheated, you guys. I didn’t take a language class. I did something way better for myself professionally. I took a course to Teach English as a Second/Foreign Language (TESOL). If you’ve talked to me at any point over the last nine years, you know that traveling to a foreign country and teaching English has been a dream of mine. When I graduated from college I applied to the JET program, but was rejected. I took an online certification course and fell in love with making lesson plans. Then, I was supposed to go to China in 2007, but the program was uncooperative. I was going to move to Korea in 2009, but I broke my ankle.

When a groupon for Target Language School popped up, I jumped on it. TESOL classes usually run about $1600, which is an amount I’d never managed to save, and the time commitment of a week of 9-5 classes or every Saturday for a month never seemed to fit with my schedule.

Well, I finally made it happen.

Despite having to go Allston every week, it was awesome. My class consisted of nine girls – all far more well traveled than me and most had some teaching experience or were actually teachers. It seemed like every one of them had done a semester abroad in Ghana. “Oh, it’s so beautiful, right?” they cooed. I immediately became wistful for the same types of experiences. It’s not like I’ve never traveled outside the U.S. I’ve been incredibly lucky in that I’ve had the opportunity to travel to England and Ireland while in college and Amsterdam, Sweden, and Iceland in the last few years. But the idea of living somewhere outside the U.S. for a few months and having the time to really explore every square inch is an incredible opportunity that is afforded to the majority of college attendees. I was really bumming that my semester in Prague didn’t pan out.

Our teacher, Meghan, was fantastic. She’d spent some time in Spain (strangely enough, in the same program with one of the other students) and Thailand. Her knowledge of having traveled abroad and her experience working for international companies was just as valuable as all the planning materials in the books we were given.

Creating the lesson plans were still my favorite part of the class. I pulled most of my warm ups, follow up activities, and structured group learning from games I had learned from back when I was performing improv comedy. I will take any chance I can get to play a game of Big Booty. Teaching is awesome.

Throughout the course we had to create four lesson plans: Grammar, Listening/Speaking, Reading/Writing, and Wild Card! I put ample amounts of time into creating engaging and fun plans for every age group. I had a slight mess up with the grammar one, so I was happy to get that one over with first.

The biggest challenge was actually creating a lesson plan for children. My Wild Card plan was on transportation and involved singing, but I worried that the song was too complex because of verb tenses that were used. Instead, I decided to just focus on the vocabulary and being able to identify different modes of transportation within the song. I really wonder how it would’ve gone over had I been teaching it to children, but my classmates and teacher loved it.

Another challenge I found was creating lesson plans with the assumption that your learners all had some knowledge. This meant that you could pretty much start anywhere and say “We’ve already done units on [insert every possible topic here] except transportation. So, here is my unit on transportation.” I really wanted to challenge myself to create lesson plans that started at square one of something with no set previous knowledge.

I also worried about creating lesson plans for adults that could’ve been considered as condescending. Then I remembered that we all have to start somewhere. Personally, I love acting like a kid and being goofy. So, I chose to tailor my warm ups around that idea so that students would be comfortable getting a little weird with the material. I find that I learn best when I am engaged, moving around, and having fun. I loved being able to create the opportunities for future ESL learners.

Currently, I’m still in the midst of the last component – my online Business ESL class. Business ESL is perhaps the most lucrative form of ESL teaching and in high demand overseas. I’m a social workerish artsy type by day, so it’s been fun and challenging to learn all these business terms that I may have to teach some day.

Future Business ESL students, I promise to stay away from so-called buzz words and phrases like synergy, organic growth, and leverage. Trust me, you don’t want to do business with those douchebags. It doesn’t matter though. Chances are you’re having a meeting to buy that company anyway.

All kidding about the future owners of the United States aside, I really hope that I get an opportunity to use this at some point in my life even if it’s through teaching classes locally or volunteering for one on one tutoring. Although that game of Big Booty would be really hard with just two people. Anyway, when the opportunity presents itself to me, I am more than ready.

#22 Make My Own Sushi (Part Two)

Sushi time! Part Deux!

 

When Vincent said he was going to buy me an “experience” for Christmas I had a funny feeling he was going to take me to a sushi making class. Best present ever? It’s certainly up there. Especially since he’d already seen all the UFC fights that were on the DVD I got him.

 

Last Thursday, we headed over to Brookline for a sushi making class at Sea to You Sushi. I pride myself on being absolutely crazy about being on time, but I mixed up the start time of the class and we were half an hour late. Thankfully, we only missed the techniques and ingredients. It was on a hand out they gave us anyway. As long as we didn’t miss any sushi, we were in good shape. And hungry. We were so, so hungry.

 

After a quick demonstration on making a maki roll, which the instructor was kind enough to do for us again, we lined up behind our more educated classmates and piled our ingredients on a plate – salad bar style. For me, this meant lots of sweet potato and spicy mayo. For Vincent, this meant everything. I think it was his personal quest to use every ingredient they had on site. He also paid extra so we could have shrimp tempura (my favorite) for our rolls. YES! As you can see from the photos below, Vincent’s rolls were far prettier than mine. Mostly this is because mine are covered in spicy mayo (two things I hate separately, but together are magic on sushi)

Each sushi masterpiece we created went immediately in to our mouths. Since we were late, we missed the part of the class where they told us not to eat out sushi so that they could take a picture of us with our finished plate. Oops. You know what? I don’t regret a thing. It was delicious. And again, we were very hungry. Plus, since they needed to photograph us with something other than empty plates, it gave us an excuse to make an additional few rolls – which we then took home to eat.

Sea to You Sushi offers three levels of sushi classes. After Joe and Kim’s sushi making party we had a basic idea of what we were doing, but we needed to learn the basics like knife prep and rolling techniques. One girl in our class created a near perfect caterpillar roll – avocado slivers and all. MOVE UP TO LEVEL THREE, SHOW OFF. THIS IS FOR PEOPLE THAT WANT TO JAM AS MUCH SWEET POTATO AS THEY POSSIBLY CAN INTO A JUMBO ROLL AND THEN EAT IT WHEN THEY’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO….or something.

Much like my beer brewing post, I’m not going to go through the specifics of creating the near perfect sushi creations Vincent and I mustered up. My two reasons for doing so, again, are because I will probably tell you something wrong and I want you to give them your money. Plus, it’s a super fun activity to do with others (or alone, no judgements).