101 Things to Do in 1001 Days – 6 Month Update

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(Image courtesy of catiworld.wordpress.com)

Those of you who know me well know of my pathological need to create lists and cross things off them. This is a trait I inherited from my dad. I come from a long line of list makers, and the rush that I get from crossing items off my To Do lists is indescribable. About 6 months ago, I posted a list of 101 Things to Do in 1001 Days. I figured it was time to report back on what I HAVE been able to accomplish. How am I doing?

Crossed-out text indicates a completed task (some of them have completion dates next to them. Sorry for the inconsistency). Items added in blue are parts or the entirety of sub-lists, which should be fairly apparent. I am hopeful that with the start of the new year, I can make some real headway on the rest. (The holiday season is a total wash that way. I’m lucky if I can get laundry done!)

READING/WRITING

  1.       Join a book club
  2.       Put together lunch cookbook
  3.       Blog twice a week for 3 months
  4.       Read 35 books
    1.   Still Life with Breadcrumbs
    2.   The Good Luck of Right Now
    3.   Small Victories
    4.   The Invention of Wings
    5.   China Dolls
    6. After the Flood
    7. The Children’s Crusade
    8. Delicious!
  5.       Organize writing samples
  6.       Go through all the blogging pins I’ve saved on Pinterest

Cooking

  1.    Try 5 new veggies/fruits from the farmer’s market (Romano beans,
  2.    Learn to make dumplings (dim sum)
  3.    Make Cioppino
  4.   Make/can chow chow
  5.   Make a new-for-me cocktail once a month for 12 months
  6.   Make tamales
  7.   Make mozzarella cheese with Elaine

CULTURE

  1.   Go to the Schulz Museum
  2.   Go to the Steinbeck Museum 6/21/15
  3.   Go to the Computer History Museum
  4.   Visit art museum in Santa Clara
  5.   Visit the Jewish Museum in SF
  6.   Visit the DeYoung museum
  7.   See 3 concerts (Kelly Clarkson/Pentatonix,
  8.   See 5 local bands play live (Sage, Ric Hines and the Ones, Tortilla Soup, OTR, Misspent Youth )

PARTY

  1.   Host a tapas party
  2.   Host a sushi dinner party
  3.   Host a dinner for cul-de-sac neighbors
  4.   Host a paella party
  5.   Organize VRS reunion

SELF-IMPROVEMENT

  1.   Do one really well executed push up
  2.   Walk a 10K for charity
  3.   Squat and balance on balls of feet and then stand up again
  4.   Learn Spanish (conversational)
  5.   Learn to swim (better)
  6.   Learn to jump a car battery
  7.   Learn to use a power drill
  8.   Try all the workouts I’ve saved on Pinterest
  9.   Take another archery class
  10.   Finish a crossword puzzle
  11.   Learn to play Charlie Brown song on the piano

OUTINGS

  1.   Try 4 new restaurants in SF
  2.   Go to Passport Day in the Santa Cruz Mountains
  3.   Visit Alice’s Restaurant
  4.   Explore places from Hwy 17 book
  5.   Tour the Recycling Center
  6.   Go to a wine/painting class (11/22/15)
  7.   See the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo
  8.   Explore a garden I’ve never been to
  9.   Romantic dinner at Bella Vista (closed)
  10.   Try 5 new restaurants with new-to-me ethnicities Belgian (Mussel Bar) (Burmese? Moroccan? Ethiopian? Nepalese?

TRAVEL

  1.   Plan Napa or Sonoma weekend
  2.   Have a romantic dinner in Paris with LJ
  3.   Implement Napa or Sonoma weekend
  4.   Plan a road trip on Route 66 with Margo

TECHNICAL GEEKERY

  1.   Consolidate all digital photos onto one computer
  2.   Back up all digital photos onto external hard drive
  3.   Back up all digital photos onto Flickr
  4.   Create yearly photo albums (snapfish?)
  5.   iPhone photo course
  6.   Learn iPhone editing software
  7.   Get all files off rosebridge and onto laptop
  8.   Update LinkedIn profile
  9.   Get all blog plugins to work properly

CRAFTY BITS

  1.   Make a table runner for the 4th of July
  2.   Make a table runner for Spring
  3.   Make a table runner for Valentine’s Day
  4.   Learn to use serger
  5.   Make backyard travel signage
  6.   Finish ancient embroidery project

SPORTING EVENTS

  1.   See the Penguins play in person (12/1/15)
  2.   See the Orioles play in person again
  3.   See a soccer game in person

HOUSE/GARDEN

  1.   Sand down/refurbish deck
  2.   Get serial numbers off 2 fans and contact Casablanca
  3.   Clean out closets
  4.   Look into Vonage versus Magicjack
  5.   Get rid of swing set and old stairs 6/11/15
  6.   Investigate laundry to landscape (greywater) Currently not cost cost effective
  7.   Investigate rainwater irrigation for rose garden
  8.   Redo corner of the yard
  9.   Create outdoor movie space
  10.   Get a dust buster for the living room

MEDIA

  1.   Watch Breaking Bad
  2.   Watch Game of Thrones
  3.   Watch House of Cards
  4.   Watch Orange is the New Black
  5.   See all academy award nominees before the 2016 awards
  6.   Watch a TED talk
  7.   Watch 5 documentary films
  8.   Find and watch 5 televised concerts (Pete Townshend’s Quadrophenia,

NOT FOR ME

  1.   Perform 10 random acts of spoilage
  2.   Donate blood
  3.   Find large print word searches for Mom 7/14/15

REALLY RANDOM STUFF

  1.   Replace the zipper pulls on all the luggage
  2.   Trying using a diffuser at night (10/29/15)
  3.   Fix pearl earrings    
  4.   Find the most ridiculously named nail polish and try it (Hands Off My Kielbasa)
  5.   Bake cookies with friends’ kids
  6.   Get a new bathing suit 6/1/15
  7.   Send in 23 me test 6/15/15
  8.   Find a new board game to play
  9.   Do some genealogical research (talk to cousins Alan and David)
  10.   Create a flower arrangement a month for 6 months

GOOD FOR THE SOUL

101.Attend Friday night services twice a month for 3 months  

So what do you think? How are you coming with YOUR To Do lists? Got any suggestions for how I can make better headway on these? I’d love to hear from you.

It Took a Village to Give Me My Day of Rock Stardom

(Sorry for the lack of postings for a while; life intervened. Here’s just one of the ways in which it did…)

I have come to realize that in order for me to grow as a person, I need to do things that aren’t necessarily comfortable. I find that while this process may be good for me, it’s really hard for me to do. It’s so easy to not challenge myself and be complacent. But there was this one nagging idea I’d had that wouldn’t go away….

About 2 years ago, I had a wild (delusional?) idea that to celebrate my 50th birthday, I wanted to have one moment in the spotlight – where I could be a rock star. Clearly this idea occurred during one of my less-than-lucid moments; how do you transform from a meek, middle-aged housewife to a rock star? (I may be about Sheryl Crow’s age, but I sure don’t look anything like her…)

The other fundamental problems with this plan are: 1) this is completely out of character for me; I’m not a performer. 2) I’m definitely not a singer, and 3) I haven’t regularly played the piano in 35 years.

I mentioned all of this to my friend, Chantelle, who is a gifted music teacher/choral director/all-around awesome person, and she didn’t even bat an eye. She just replied, “Count me in!” I was encouraged, but then I proceeded to do virtually nothing about this for the next year and a half.

By Spring, 2012, I started to wonder if this was really an endeavor I could pull off. I had a tentative set list of songs that I liked (some of which had special meaning for me), and asked Chantelle if I was being completely nuts in even thinking about this. She thought I wasn’t nuts (!!) and then proceeded to line up backup singers, accompanying musicians and even tentative rehearsal dates within a matter of about 20 minutes. I was blown away.

Then I realized I needed a venue. I had waited too long to book our local synagogue and discovered that I had waited too long to book a LOT of places. Panic began to set in.

The more I thought about what I needed to do, and all the logistics involved, the more I thought about backing out. It all seemed way beyond what I could do; I didn’t have a venue, and it just seemed to cause undue stress. But that’s when my friend, Lucille, stepped in.

Lucille and I have been friends since we built a sugar cube castle together in 3rd grade. We know each other far too well, and when she realized I was completely thrashing, she suggested that we have the party at her house. Her comments were, “Just have it here. Parties are easy. The only part you have to figure out (besides the music) is how to get people up and down the driveway.”

You see, the driveway isn’t trivial. It’s 1/3 mile long, and the house sits atop a fairly sizeable hill. But there was plenty of room on the property, so we just had to figure out logistics of getting guests up and down the hill. Enter younger daughter, who called up some of her friends and they graciously agreed to form a shuttle service (as well as help out with food).

Various friends also stepped up to help out with providing chairs/tables, schlepping all sorts of items, baking my birthday cake, etc. My friend Kent agreed to photograph the event (and even provide backup videography). My family continued to be amazingly supportive. (I am still in awe of elder daughter’s organizational lists.) Both of my girls agreed to sing with me – and younger daughter even wrote a song. Even my sister-in-law, Ilene (a professional singer) agreed to sing while I attempted to play the piano.

But I still felt grossly inadequate to the task. Because it really was all about the music, and my skill set was at best incredibly rusty. It doesn’t help that when it comes to music, I am a perfectionist. I may not have that great a voice, but my ear is good enough so that I can tell exactly when I go off key. The 35-year-hiatus in playing the piano regularly made me feel like I was using someone else’s hands on the keyboard. And there was always the underlying worry of embarrassing myself in front of all of my friends. What was I thinking, trying to be a performer when I’d never really done so before?

I had voiced some of my concerns to my friend, Grant, who also happens to be a professional musician. He reminded me that I needed to acknowledge that the journey is just as much a part of the reward as the concert itself, and to just appreciate each moment as it occurs. If any mistakes occurred, it would just be part of the process and I needed to just go with it and move on. These words of wisdom sounded great, but I wasn’t sure if I could actually implement them.

And so the day came. Rehearsals had gone well (and had been a LOT of fun), but I had barely rehearsed with Ilene and realized that playing the piano with an audience was much different than practicing on my own. Mother Nature also decided to throw a monkey wrench into the mix by having the one heat wave of the year occur then. (The temperature had been in the low ’80s, and that weekend hit the upper 90’s. Heatstroke, anyone?)

It really did end up being all about the music. Despite the extreme heat (and my melting in the sun), the attack of nerves that made my hands shake uncontrollably during the piano pieces I played, and even missing the right notes vocally, it was glorious. And what an amazing thing it was, to look out at the audience and know that every single person there wanted me to succeed. I am still incredulous at the love and support I experienced that day, let alone the fact that we’d all pulled this off.

Who knew that a 50-year-old middle-aged housewife could be a rock star for a day? Apparently my friends and family did, even when I didn’t.

Maybe next I’ll try archery.

Too Old to Dream vs. Reinventing Yourself

I went to see Kenny Loggins at the Mountain Winery a few nights ago. His opening act, of which he was a part, is called Blue Sky Riders. Really good music, beautiful harmonies, but I was fascinated by the lyrics of one song, and Kenny’s description of how the band came to be.

Apparently a couple of years ago, Kenny hooked up with two Nashville-based songwriters (Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman) and their musical styles meshed so well that they talked about forming a trio. When Kenny told one of his buddies about this, that person replied, “you’re too old to form a new band.” This concept put Kenny into a tailspin, and when he told Gary and Georgia, not only did they disagree, they put together a song called “Dream.” Needless to say they’re now touring, and the song is a prominent part of their set.

The song resonated with me because the lyrics say, “Leave me in the rain, send me out to sea, lock me up in chains, throw away the key, the day I ever get too old to dream.” Those of us in midlife crisis can find that idea really appealing. But a passing comment Kenny made as he introduced the song strikes a dissonant chord with me. He stated something to the effect that you’re never too old to reinvent yourself. This bothered me on a couple of levels.

First of all, I can’t equate the notion of “reinventing yourself” with a man who has been in the music business for over 40 years and continues to record. He’s not becoming someone else, he’s not changing careers, he’s building on his existing skill set, popularity, and experience to set out on a new venture. (I happen to like this venture, but it doesn’t seem like he’s reinventing himself to me.)

Second, the notion of “reinventing yourself” to me typically means coming with a high price. I have seen plenty of people forced into “reinventing” themselves when their jobs disappear and they have to completely switch gears and find something entirely different to do. I see people who go from being a couple to being single (for a litany of reasons) who have to find out how to live differently both emotionally and financially. I see people with serious illnesses grappling with how Cancer, or disability, or other awful stuff try to figure out what inner strength they can draw upon to get them through their ordeals with grace and bravery. I see empty nesters trying to figure out what to do now, since everything they had spent so many years doing is suddenly gone. While reinventing yourself can mean changing your life for the better, it still seems largely like it’s born out of pain and struggle.

I suppose you could say that dreaming with a goal can equal reinventing yourself, but that seems like a gross oversimplification.

Those of us who have changed careers multiple times would argue that in some cases, you CAN be too old to reinvent yourself. I’ve done it five times. And it’s hard to measure the success of reinvention. Do you base it on a higher salary? (I’d epically fail there.) Do you base it on overall happiness level? Do you base it on how your life is enriched? What if you reinvent yourself and find that it doesn’t improve your life as you’d hoped? What is the cost in emotional energy for multiple reinventions/life changes? In this regard, you CAN be too old.

There are clearly exceptions to this concept; I know Grandma Moses started painting at age 80 and look where it got her. That’s great. But how many of us have that sort of success? How should we quantify success?

Maybe a better way to think about all this is not in “reinventing” yourself, but perhaps to “rediscover” yourself. I’m equating this to playing the piano regularly again after a 35 year hiatus. I’m not the same person I was when I took lessons all those years ago. I feel like I’m playing with someone else’s hands, which are far less agile than I ever imagined they could be. But there’s an amazing rush when I can get through a song without stumbling through it.

Maybe it’s really all about the journey. This is a tough concept for those of us who are goal oriented. But trying to recreate that feeling as you go through life is really the goal. And that’s an amazingly good dream.