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On my list – part 2.

A while back, I wrote about “my list” – a list of places I wanted to go, adventures I wanted to have, goals I wanted to achieve, and things I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime.

Since then, my husband and I have taken to discussing this nearly every time we open a bottle of wine together (so much so that we’ve started calling it “the wine list”). It is fun to share our individual dreams with each other (he, after all, will be my companion and encouragement as I chase mine, and vice-versa) and to come up with new ones together. Already, there are items I’ve been able to add that I never would have thought of, and items I’ve been able to check off that would have never been possible, without his influence.

As we near the completion of our third decade of life, we’ve honed our respective lists – and since a lifetime is a long time, we’ve settled on 30 items to complete by our 30th birthdays. So this January, instead of settling on resolutions for the New Year, I’m looking at my wine list and deciding what to check off next.

Jenna’s Wine List – 30 Before 30 (Deadline: August 16, 2014):

  1. Go skydiving *Completed*
  2. Complete a marathon *Completed*
  3. Become fluent in Spanish *Completed*
  4. Live in a Spanish-speaking location for at least a year *Completed*
  5. Go snorkeling *Completed*
  6. Learn to SCUBA dive *Completed*
  7. Shoot a buck (or other big game) and prepare a meal with it *Completed*
  8. Catch a trout on a fly rod *Completed*
  9. Hike in Alaska *Completed*
  10. Own a dog *Completed*
  11. Go to South America *Completed*
  12. Get an advanced degree *Completed*
  13. Learn to ski *Completed*
  14. Go lobster diving & eat the tail for dinner *Completed*
  15. Obtain a full-time job in global health *Completed*
  16. Attend Miami pro sporting events: Marlins (baseball), Dolphins (football), and Heat (basketball) games
  17. Attend the Calle 8 Festival in Miami
  18. Go sailing (to count, must spend the night on the sailboat!)
  19. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  20. “Read the world” – complete a book by an author from or about every country in the world
  21. Learn to play guitar
  22. Complete a triathlon
  23. Publish an academic article in a peer-reviewed journal *Completed – in press for February 2013*
  24. Swim with manatees
  25. Home brew our own beer
  26. Return to Glacier National Park
  27. Explore the Everglades National Park via airboat and/or kayak
  28. Ski in Patagonia (during North America’s summer!)
  29. Sip a Malbec in Argentinian wine country
  30. Watch Notre Dame play in the National Championship *This just got bumped up from the long term list! To be completed: Miami FL January 2013*

Jenna’s Wine List – Longer term:

  • Summit a serious mountain
  • Complete the “camino francés” of the Camino de Santiago
  • Visit all 50 states (left: VT, AR, MS, AL, OK, NM, HI)
  • Road trip from coast to coast
  • Learn a third language
  • Visit Greece
  • Become a mother
  • Earn a Doctoral degree (?)
  • Qualify for the Boston marathon
  • Work in sub-Saharan Africa (not necessarily long-term)
  • Own a chicken coop (and chickens!)
  • Visit Scandanavia
  • Visit southeast Asia
  • Live in the Pacific Northwest
  • Attend all four BCS bowl games (completed: Orange & Sugar, left: Fiesta & Rose)
  • Buy and renovate an old house

Note – the new “Wine List” tab at the top is where this list will permanently live – and be updated over time. In the mean time, tell me – what’s missing? what’s on your list?


On fate (or is it…faith?)

Let me start out by saying…I don’t believe in fate. I never have.

A year ago, when I realized I would be leaving everything I knew and moving to a strange city, I lacked the sense of adventure I usually feel before trying something new. I will admit it: dropping everything to chase after someone else’s dream – without a sense of purpose of my own – does not come naturally to me.

But I did it – with the help of my partner who lent me his unyielding optimism, and my friends who promised to visit, and colleagues who advocated for me among their networks. Last month, as we made the 13-hour drive to south Florida, not knowing what awaited us there, I found a tremendous sense of peace. Things were going to work out.

And I was right. Less than a week into my life as a Florida resident, I received a much anticipated phone call, and the voice on the other end of the line offered me my dream job.

So come August, around the time Nick starts his second year of medical school, I will start my first career job at an international women’s health organization, whose Latin America office happens to be right here in Miami. While he immerses himself in the systems of the body and prepares for boards, I will be on the front lines of women’s health and rights in a region of the world where women are dying needlessly in childbirth, of preventable cancers, of domestic violence, and suffering unspeakable injustices. The privilege of getting to do something about that is not something I take lightly – in fact, it scares me to death – but I am honored, humbled, and excited to roll up my sleeves.

In the meantime, we have a few trips to make, weddings to attend, and a new home to make our own….just this week, we signed a lease on a charming, 1920’s apartment in Miami Beach, just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic ocean.

Things have worked out so beautifully that people keep saying “well, it sounds like it was just meant to be!” I don’t believe that. It wasn’t meant to be…we made it be. We worked really hard. We waited. And when there was no more for us to do, we had faith. Yes, this is a story about faith, not fate. And now here we are – blessed beyond belief, and now, we get to live this part of our dream…just 0.2 miles away from the beach! We’re going to embrace this time of living in a unique place we never would have picked on our own, and see what Miami has to teach us.


A celebratory toast on the beach.


So come visit us!

On the bitter and the sweet.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not;

For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence,

as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

-Kahlil Gibran

Words can’t express how bittersweet this weekend has been – simultaneous feelings of leaving and of coming home as I reunite with my husband for our next adventure, and as we prepare to leave this last, beautiful chapter of our life in North Carolina behind. With the help of friends who have become family, we spent the weekend watching baseball, catching fireflies, swinging in the hammock, camping in the backyard, dancing in the living room, and oh yes – packing…so that tomorrow we can tearfully and hopefully leave our home of three years.

It is bitter, but it is sweet. There are a lot of unknowns but our hearts are full. We are lucky and we are loved.

On my list – part 1.

When I was in college, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I died. Some items were personal goals, others were adventures I wanted to have, and many were simply places I wanted to go. It wasn’t comprehensive – it was just a smattering of things that came out of day dreams and conversations with friends, and eventually got scratched on the back of a napkin one night (probably after $2 pitcher Tuesdays at Corby’s.) Still, it captured a time in my life when I was itching for adventure and figuring out who I was and what was important to me.

I stumbled on my list recently and was really happy to see how many I could check off after just 5 years:

Jenna’s List:

-Complete the Camino de Santiago

√ Run a marathon

Completed: NYC 11/1/2009.

√ Become fluent in Spanish

Meh. Fluent is as fluent does. I’m counting it.

√ Live in a Spanish-speaking country for at least a year

Completed: Puerto Rico 2007-2008. Not really another country. Still counting it.

√ Go snorkeling

Completed: Rincon, PR, 9/2007.

√ Go SCUBA diving

Completed: PADI certified in 2/2008.

-Visit all 50 states – Not done but making progress – only 8 to go! (AL, AR, HI, KS, MS, NM, OK, VT)

√ Go hiking in Alaska

Completed: Hatcher Pass, AK 6/21/2011.

-Shoot a deer or other big game and prepare a meal with it (Please believe me when I say that where I’m from, its less weird to say this.)

-Do service in Africa

√ Own a dog

Completed 8/25/2009. Gotta, wanna, need-a, get-a, have-a Bojangles.

-Go to South America – climb mountains in Chile, see ruins in Peru, go to the amazon in Brazil, ride horses and eat steak in Argentina…etc.

-Summit a serious mountain

-Go to Greece

-Road trip coast to coast

-Go backpacking in Glacier National Park

-Learn a third language

-Get an advanced degree (Hopefully this will get checked off in 5/2012…)

Although its fun to reflect on the things that have been checked off the list, its even better think about the checkmarks that I’ve made on items that never got written down because I didn’t even know that I wanted them 5 years ago. Life has brought some surprises that literally surpassed what not too long ago were my wildest dreams. I’m also struck by how much I’ve grown up…and how much more imagination I have in my late 20’s (yikes) than I did in my early 20’s – it was a great list, but I think I could write one now that is way, way better.

To that end, I think its about time this list got updated.

So – what should I add? What’s on your list?