30 Before 30

Updates on the progress I’m making with my 30 Before 30 list of goals.

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30-Years-30-Lessons

Guten Tag, y'all!

Sorry this post is so late. I've been recovering from the most awesome birthday weekend ever: I got my hair done (more on that next week!), The Man made me a surprise chocolate cake, and the Babycakes serenaded me and gave me flowers.  So forgive my tardiness. :)

Anywho, y'all know I turned 30 yesterday, and I must say that it feels way better than 21 ever did. I was gonna write a recap of my 30 Before 30 failures and achievements, but after reading Olivia Wilde's article on turning 30 (hat tip to Leslie!), I decided to write this instead. Thirty lessons I've learned after being on the planet for thirty years. Here we go! ...continue reading

As you can tell by my incessant use of the word "y'all", I'm from the South. And anyone who's spent time below the Mason-Dixon line can tell you that in the South, football (the American kind) is king. But if football is king down south, then soccer is, at best, a stableboy. Growing up, I didn't know anybody who watched or even cared about soccer. It was That Sport that Nobody Plays. ...continue reading

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Hallo y'all!

So. Seven months have gone by since we set our goals for the year. I had planned to give y'all monthly updates on the progress I'm making on my 30 Before 30 goals, but sadly, I slacked off. Which may be part of the reason why I haven't done as much as I could have. With these kids of lists, out of sight means out of mind. So going forward, it's back to monthly updates, and if you catch me slacking, please call me out! Now--on to the good stuff.

My 30 Before 30 list! How's yours coming along?

WHAT I'VE DONE

WHAT'S IN PROGRESS

  • Learn German
  • Complete a manuscript (I'm on this for the month of August, thanks to Tayari Jones' #WRITELIKECRAZY initiative.)
  • Run twice a week (I started this, then I stopped. This is a pitiful pattern with my fitness goals.)
  • Start doing yoga (See above.)
  • Visit 10 castles (Four down, six to go!)

GOING FORWARD

In addition to monthly reviews, I'm going to be a little more meticulous in my planning. In fact, I've written out a tentative calendar so that I can try to finish at least one goal a month between now and next August. I've got one scheduled for Saturday, and I can't wait to share it with y'all.

So how have the last seven months been for y'all? Did you make as much progress as you wanted to?

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Number 8 on my 30 Before 30 list: Publish a short story.

DONE!

This is one of the most important goals for me on my 30 Before 30 list. I LOVE to write, almost as much as I love to read. A few years ago, I was inspired by my friend Cassandra Love to really get serious about my writing. So I applied for and got accepted to the VONA writers workshop in 2008, which was a literally life- and writing-changing experience. I've been working (more or less) steadily ever since, and I'm very happy to have published my first short story this month in Specter magazine, an online literary magazine that publishes really cool work.

On a train headed to VONA.

An excerpt:

You are a skinny black girl.

You are belong to that rare breed of women whom rappers claim don’t exist: you wear a size zero, sometimes a three, and do not fit anyone’s definition of “thick.” That skirt you wore to your high school graduation? Still fits. You have never owned a girdle.

Other people might be accused of having

a ghetto booty,

a donkey butt,

a badonkadonk.

Not you. You do not have the whole world in your pants. You hate Beyonce’–not because she’s beautiful, but because of that stupid Uh-Oh dance. You tried it once, and it looked like you were having a seizure. | Tatiana Richards, For Skinny Girls Who Have Considered Cornbread When Their Thickness Isn't Enough

 

Check it out, and let me know what you think! And keep in mind that I'm an artist, and I'm sensitive about my ish. :)

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Guten Tag!

A few weeks ago, the man and I took a more or less spontaneous trip to London for the weekend. It was MARVELOUS! I have wanted to see London for a long time. As a kid, most of my "travel" was done through books, and many of my favorites, from Charles Dickens' novels to the Sherlock Holmes stories--were set in London. So when I was composing my 30 Before 30 list, it's no surprise that London was one of the first places I wrote down. I'd always imagined it as a bustling, energetic and somewhat mysterious place; I found it to be all of that and then some. I think this is a city that I'll be visiting time and time again.

 

En route to London, on the train from Stanstead Airport.
We passed Olympic Stadium. I wish we
One of the things I loved most about London was the juxtaposition of the old and the new. It makes for surprising, contradictory scenes...
...like this monument in a small park, stuck in the middle of the city's financial district.
We made a trip to Brixton Market on a Saturday--such a fun, energetic experience.

 

We caught a movie at Picadilly Circus (The Avengers, it was awesome.).

 

Of course, I HAD to take a picture by one of the iconic red phone booths.

 

And we definitely had to eat fish and chips.

 

We could have easily stayed for a week; sadly, we only had a weekend.
But trust me, London--we WILL be back.

Check out my Facebook page later in the week for even MORE photos!

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By far, my favorite part of The Flux Project is hearing about the goals that you plan to accomplish. It's very inspiring for me to see what your goals are, and to know that I'm not in this alone! Here are a few of the things you guys want to accomplish this year. I'm sharing them so that a) you can get just as excited as I am by reading other people's goals and b) you can lend a helping hand to a fellow Flux Crew member. If you see a goal that you can help out with, whether it be with advice or volunteering, leave a comment! And if you haven't listed your five goals yet, feel free to tell us about 'em today. :)

Without further adieu...my favorite goals from the Flux Crew!

Erica | Volunteer with the elderly

Tanekia | Go to a firing range

Candace | Become an avid tea drinker

Misty W.| Be more proactive and focused on career and professional growth

LaToya | Design a shoe

Diana | Take photography courses

Desiree | Master conversational Tagalog

Jhinezka | Become a crazy coupon lady

Adrienne | Sing at a karaoke bar

Jessica W.| Stop the procrastination

Viajera | Get better in Dutch

Caneeka | Re-present my healthy relationship curriculum to local high schools in order to speak to young adults about Dating Violence, etc.

Nicole | Gain corporate sponsorships for Belles Inc (www.thebellesinc.com)

See anything that inspires you? Something you can help with? Leave a comment!

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PART 1: JANUARY ASSESSMENT

At the end of 2011, I laid out the goals from my 30 Before 30 list that I want to accomplish this year. How'd I do? Well... I did aight. Some stuff is going splendidly; some stuff, I am sucking at. Here's my assessment.

WINNING!

1. Learn German | So far, so good. My weekly lessons with my conversation partner are going full force, and all of my German friends and family say (unsolicited!) that they are impressed with how well I'm able to carry on a conversation. I need to really work on my grammar, but thus far I'm pretty pleased.

14. Watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s | Done, son.

12. Learn HTML | I signed up for Code Year, a free program that emails you a coding lesson every week. I haven't been devoting a whole lot of time to it yet, but it's been laying some good groundwork/basic knowledge for when I do.

Guten Tag! Mein Deutsch ist viel besser, Homie!

 

LOSING :(

These are goals that I should have made more progress on. The fact that I haven't is no one's fault but mine.

10. Complete a manuscript | So, first some good news: I looked back at the work that's already completed, and most of it doesn't suck! It actually looks pretty good. However, I haven't been devoting enough time to finish it. Which is unacceptable, because finishing a book is near the top of my list of things to do before I die. I have to be more disciplined.

11. Publish a short story | My plan for this was to submit a story at least once a week. How many have I submitted? ZERO. That's a #fail, any way you look at it.

27. Start doing yoga | I have a DVD. I have not used the DVD, not even once.

This yoga lady is not impressed with me at all.

STATIC :|

These are goals that I don't necessarily plan to complete in the first quarter of 2012, so little to no progress is ok with me.

4. Take a train to Paris

5. Visit London

9. Visit Amsterdam

16. Learn how to play soccer

18. Learn to cook 5 new things (bleu cheese sliders, engagement chicken, mousse au chocolat, macaroni and cheese, wedding soup)

19. Learn how to roller-skate

20. Visit Brussels

22. Go to a professional soccer match

So that was my January. I'm gonna have to be a lot more disciplined if I want to make this year a success! How'd you do on YOUR goals? Leave a comment below, or tell me on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

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So one thing nearly everyone wanted to do was travel abroad. Awesome!

1. Get a passport

Sounds very common sense, but according to this CNN article, only 30 percent of Americans have passports. That's strikingly low when compared to the 60 percent of Canadians and the 75 percent of UK citizens who have passports (stat from CNN). If you don't have a passport and you plan to travel this year, know that it could take up to 6 weeks for your passport to arrive; it can also cost up to $165 (USD). That's not including the cost of photos (which are actually pretty cheap; I took mine at FedEx). You can do this online for adults, but if you plan to take a little one with you, you've  got to apply for their passport in person. I took the Babycakes to my local post office to apply. You can learn all the gritty details and get the process started right here.

2.Research and prepare

One of the best things about traveling abroad is the discovery that takes place, but it's always good to know a few things ahead of time. Some of the sites I like to use for research are Lonely Planet, the CIA Factbook and good ol' Google.  You should also make any preparations necessary, such as getting vaccinations (if it's required), buying a disposable cell phone if yours won't work where you're traveling, and learning a little bit of the language if you don't speak it. One resource that I LOVE (and that I somehow forgot to put include in the post about learning a new language) is a good language Sparkchart. I have one in Spanish and one in German. You can download them online, but I bought mine at Barnes and Noble.

 

3. Learn from the experts!

This is my favorite part of today's post. Remember how I was harping on the value of other people's stories? Well, their stories are even more valuable when it comes to traveling! Official guides may not tell you what it's like to travel alone as a woman in a certain country, or to beware the con artists in another. That's where bloggers come in! Here are some posts about travel from my favorite bloggers.

 

Travel Inspirations: Lesia and Wendy - Two Jamaican Girls Taking on Europe, by Nicole is the New Black

How I Afford to Travel, by Oneika the Traveller

New Years Eve in Rio … and Around the World, by Fly Brother

What's in My Travel Bag, by 9to5 Chic

What's in My Travel Bag (Part II), by 9to5 Chic

What Greek Life Taught Me about Traveling, by C'est Christine

 

So--anybody else got travel tips to share?

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This is the third in a four-part series to help you get started with your Flux Project goals. Check out part 1 and part 2.

I remember it clearly, the night that I big chopped. It was a few days after I had gone to a salon with the request that the stylist cut off all of my chemically relaxed hair.

"Are you sure?" she had asked. "It's going to be really short."

"Yes, I'm sure. Cut it."

"I mean, are you sure? Sure you're not just going through something?"

"No, I'm not going through anything. I just want to go natural."

"Well...are you sure?"

After about 20 minutes of this, she finally just flat out refused to cut it, and I went home. That night, as I looked at some of my favorite natural hair sites, I kept coming across stories of women who'd decided to just take a pair of sicssors to their hair. "Hmm," I thought. A few nights later, I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror, shears in hand. Now, to be honest, I hadn't meant to cut all of my hair off. Just a little, to see a small section of my hair in its natural state.

I liked it.

So I cut. And cut. And cut some more until I had cut a patch in the center of my head that no amount of creative styling could camouflage. Since it was too late to stop, I chopped all the rest of it off. And--

"Oh sh*t. I look like a little boy!"

I consulted the natural hair sites again. They suggested taking regular pictures, so that you'd actually see your progress and not become frustrated. So I did. And my hair went from this...

 

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...to this!

The moral of the story? Be patient, and take pictures. If your goal lends itself to visuals, that can serve as a great way to measure your progress. Just ask Jen West. In an effort to lose weight, she started a blog, posting a picture of herself in a bikini once a week until she reached her goal weight. And look at her now. Even if your goal can't me measured in pictures, you still need to find a way to track your progress.

How are y'all measuring your Flux Project goals? (And you better be measuring them--at the end of the month, I'm going to ask you to give a report!)

There was one driving force behind my decision to minor in Spanish: hot guys. Sure, there was the challenge of learning to communicate in a new language, and the cultural and employment opportunites that opens up, but really, I was looking forward to the day when I could flirt with cute muchahos in Espanol (though, turns out, I should have been learning German).

These days, my motivations for language acquisition have changed entirely. Learning German is a must, since it's the official language of my adopted country (and my in-laws). Mastering Spanish is also a must because a)I didn't do it the first time around and b)I live (and will someday work) on a continent where speaking at least a second language is the norm, not the exception. English classes are a part of German education, sometimes as early as pre-K! So start looking for a job here, I want to make sure I'm as competitive as I can be.

After years of formal classes and self-directed learning, here are my tips for picking up a new language.

TAKE A CLASS--If it's at all possible, take an introductory course to the language you want to learn. It's a good, structured way to learn the basic grammar rules and essential vocabulary. Plus, having someone on hand to answer your pronunciation questions is invaluable. TAT'S TIP: If you live in a college town, find out if the school offer courses for nonstudents, such UCLA's Extension program.

GET A FEW GOOD BOOKS--If you don't have the time or resources to take a class, head over to Amazon.com and check out the basic language books. I found my first German language book, The Everything Learning German Book, on Amazon. TAT'S TIP: To find the most helpful book for your purposes, read the user reviews. They tend to be more helpful than the ones from the publisher.

FIND A CONVERSATION PARTNER-- Your ability to speak a new language can grow exponentially with a good conversation partner. Plus, the cultural exchange is invaluable. I've learned lots about German business culture from my weekly conversations with The Man's aunt. TAT'S TIP: Come up with themes for your conversation. For example, if you work in finance, have a conversation about what a typical visit to the bank entails. It's a great way to learn practical vocabulary.


LEARN THE 100 MOST COMMON WORDS--This is one of the most practical tips I've come across, as these words tend to be the most useful. TAT'S TIP: Conjugate the hell outta the verbs. You'll be a much more confident speaker when you know what tense to use.

TECHNOLOGY--There's a near endless variety of technological resources at the tip of your fingertips--literally. The BBC provides online material for self-directed learning in several languages.. You can also purchase software. My friend Desiree' has had good experience with Rosetta Stone. Or, if you've got a long commute, you can buy CD's that are specifically designed for audio learning. TAT'S TIP: Subscribe to a blog in the language that you want to learn. I read the Google-translated version this French beauty blog, and even though I'm not trying to learn French, I've already picked up a few words of French.
Your turn--got any language learning secrets to share?