UPDATED: 30 before 30

My lovely and talented wife suggested that we each come up with a list of things we’d like to do before we turn 30 later this year. I have included mine below knowing that I may not get all of them done before 30, but with any luck, I’ll knock out a good number of them before September 4th rolls around again.

1. Perform a wedding.

I did this on New Year’s day for a really great couple from our church. It was very cool getting to be a part of such a big life milestone experience between to people. I’m honored they asked me to do it and I will happily marry anyone else who asks me in the future. Now be sure to ask them if I did a good job before you go calling my booking agent.

2. Dropout or fully commit to grad school.

Dropped out. For the story, read On quitting my Ph.D. program

3. Run a 10k.

I ran the first leg of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in just over one hour, which is not bad considering it was the first time I’d ran in almost 10 months.

4. Lose a 20 pounds.
5. Read the entire Bible.
6. Start a mentoring relationship with someone younger than me.

I now have a handful of guys who are younger than me who I regularly try to stay in contact with. This has probably blessed my life way more than it has theirs but that’s OK for now. The important thing is that I’ve made myself available.

7. Start a class at church on how we should respond to homelessness.
8. Play with Izzy in the ocean.

Check! I think she preferred the pool over the ocean this year. That’s OK though. We’ll give her another shot or two before we start questioning whether or not she’s really our child.

9. Write a poem.

Done. It’s called, “You Can Always Come Home” and it’s dedicated, obviously, to Isabella Grace.

10. Start a side business and give away all the money it makes to other people or good causes.
11. Have a conversation with a complete stranger.

I did this while getting new tires earlier this spring. It was a pretty one-sided conversation as the stranger did most of the talking, but I’m going to count it anyway. I also did on the plane ride home from Los Angeles in June with an old man who happened to be from Midwest City.

12. Start blogging again.

Boom Sauce! Done.

13. Spend a weekend in complete solitude.
14. Slap a bull.
15. Build something with my own two hands.
16. Host a block party.
17. Back up our home computer on a weekly basis.
18. Chase a tornado.
19. Camp in the wilderness.

Joshua Tree National Park, June 24th – June 26th

20. **** * *** ***
21. Travel to a new place.

While I was at Joshua Tree, I took a little two-hour excursion in the heat of the day up into the San Bernadino National Forest and Mountains. I drove from 1900 feet above sea level and 102 degrees Fahrenheit to above 6700 feet and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. I made my way over to Big Bear Lake, took off my shirt, jumped in the icy cold snow melt runoff water, got out, dried off, and drove two hours back to the desert. I will take my family camping here some day.

22. Try 10 new restaurants.

1. Mercado Juarez in Ft. Worth
2. 1492 in OKC
3. Nhinja Sushi & Wok in OKC
4. Cafe Kranzler in South Padre Island
5. Thai Talay in Los Angeles
6. S & B’s Burger Joint in OKC
7. Kaiser’s in OKC
8. The Beatnik Cafe in OKC
9. Kamp’s 1910 Cafe in OKC
10. Hefner Grill in OKC

23. Start saving money for a trip to Greece for our 10th Wedding Anniversary.
24. Resurface our front porch.
25. Take the lovely and talented wife fishing.
26. Attend the funeral of someone I didn’t know very well (or at all).
27. Walk 20 miles.
28. Get in touch with a long lost friend.
29. Take a vacation without making any reservations or take an overnight road trip with the top down.
30. Create a new family tradition.

If anyone wants to join me on #’s 3, 10, 14, 18, 19, 26, 27, or 29 let me know. I better get cracking. I’ve got less than 9 months.

#20 is personal for now, but I will reveal what it is if it actually happens.

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30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 13

Today I’m thankful for a great day of fishing with a bunch of awesome dudes.

On Saturday morning (which was actually yesterday as I am writing this a day late) David and I, along with six of the college guys from my church pulled out of my driveway at O’ Dark Thirty (translated 4:45 a.m.) and headed east to the beautiful waters of the lower Illinois River which is located just north of Gore, OK and just south of the Lake Tenkiller Dam.

We fished (with breaks for lunch and a run to the Gore Dollar General to buy ice for our catch) from about 7:30 a.m. until around 4 p.m.

Mark, arguably the most ingenuitive in our group, off in the distance fishing with his homemade boot extenders made of trashbags and duct tape.

Between the 8 of us, we probably caught close to 50 or 60 fish and we ended up keeping about 25 or so in our cooler. More importantly though, it was simply a great day with a great group of men who I’m really thankful to have in my life. The weather was perfect. The water was perfect. The leaves on the trees were the perfect colors of autumn. And even the hole in the wall Mexican restaurant we stopped and ate dinner at on the way home in Henryetta was perfect. (I highly recommend El Charo for anyone who happens to be passing through eastern Oklahoma on I-40.)

But this day was about more than fishing and awesome Mexican food.

Don’t get me wrong… I thoroughly enjoyed getting my waders wet for the first time since March. The smell of my garlic powerbait was particularly delicious. I can’t even tell you how good it felt to cast my rod only to have to battle one in with my reel a few moments later on multiple occasions. And I know very few better feelings than battling wits with and eventually conquering the far mentally superior Rainbow Trout.

And while all of those things made Saturday a great day, what made it particularly great was just getting to spend a day outside in nature together with a group of guys who mean a lot to me.

After I finished my dinner, I sat in the booth at El Charo reflecting on the events of the day. As I watched the guys interacting with each other, I tossed one last salty, salsa drenched chip in my mouth and thought to myself, “Today was a long day and I’m exhausted and I’m ready to see my wife and daughter, BUT today was a good day.”

Manly Activities: At the Rodeo

This is the beginning of a series in which Michael and I will provide some ideas for manly activities. Some of these manly activities we’ll have done ourselves, some we’ll only wish we had done, but at any rate, they’re for Real Men.

Rodeo is such a manly sport. First, it finds its origins in actual, productive work. Second, save for one event, team roping, it’s one man against one beast, mano y animal.

Also, it’s highly dangerous.

An activity need not be dangerous to qualify as manly, of course. But it certainly helps.

However, the activity I’m discussing is not actually participating in a rodeo, only attending one. A rodeo is so manly, though, that merely watching one can prompt a little masculinity to rub off on you.

The most well-known rodeo circuit is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). According to the PRCA’s website, “over 600 [rodeos] are held throughout the country year-round, from small town venues to arenas in Las Vegas.” You can check this same website to find the event nearest you.

The PRCA holds its annual National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas every December. This is where the Best of the Best, the legends of rodeo, make their names: Jim Shoulders, Larry Mahan, Ty Murray. My dad has been to the NFR several times, and he always has a great time.

Several other rodeos allow opportunity to spectate as men test themselves against 1,000+ lb. hoofed and horned beasts. The International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) offers events throughout the country, and the organization holds its yearly International Finals Rodeo (IFR) in my very own Oklahoma City. My own childhood rodeo memories center around the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, held every Friday and Saturday night beginning the 1st weekend of June and ending the last weekend of August in the Dallas suburb of, well, Mesquite.

In fact, my childhood experiences at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo are the beginning of my fascination with the mystique of the rodeo. Even as a kid, I could get charged up from watching men (I went to the bathroom during the barrel racing event) stare down danger for prize money and a shiny belt buckle or stiff new saddle. Rodeo cowboys are also typically pretty compact and wiry (save the steer wrestlers), and their small stature made their daring feats all the more impressive. Plus they wore really cool hats.

My most recent rodeo-like experience was with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour, which had a stop last year in Guthrie, OK. I say “rodeo-like” because the atmosphere said rock-n-roll more than honky-tonk. The experience came replete with fiery explosions and synthetic fog-accompanied introductions. The photo below is from the opening ceremonies.

The PBR features, of course, only bull riding. This is generally the most exciting event for the casual fan of the rodeo, so the PBR is a great invention. It regularly appears on the Vs. network, and it has regular events around the country. I highly recommend the experience, as it’s family friendly, exciting, and a good value. And it’s quite manly, to boot.

Normally, merely being a spectator is decidedly unmanly. But going to the rodeo merits an exemption because there’s really no way for the average man to even approximate the experience of riding a bull (the mechanical ones don’t count). I say this having ridden a bull in an actual rodeo myself (I didn’t make 8 seconds).

So if you’re looking for a manly way to spend a Friday night with your bromigos or with the fam, and you don’t feel like seeing the latest musical or visiting the art gallery one more time, go check out the bulls and blood, the dust and mud, the thing they call rodeo (h/t G. Brooks).