Week 52 : Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Wrap-Up Edition

This last year has quickly passed and, like everyone else, it wasn’t the year I expected. Since Covid-19, I think we’ve all had more time for reflection. In thinking about my bucket list experience, there has been so much positive that has come from it. First of all, I have always been drawn to self-improvement projects that span over the course of a few months or a year. For instance, I’ve done Simple Abundance and I re-do it every few years and I am alway surprised at the different perspective a few years can bring. I’ve also embraced The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve done P90X to get in shape, which is a workout program which spans 90 days. I’ve done Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home and the Happiness Project with time spans ranging from 9 months to a year. There is something intriguing about taking a chunk of time and using it to re-shape yourself. I also feel, as an obliger, publicly acknowledging a goal makes me more accountable. So the year has come to an end and now it’s time for the reckoning. Let’s go back to the year’s beginning and I will try to do a quick summary of my successes and failures.

Here are my results:

  1. Create a blog to document my year. Obviously, mission accomplished on this one. For the first 31 weeks, I posted weekly. As my list dwindled, my post frequency lessened as there was less to write about. So I give this one a big checkmark!
  2. Go skydiving. Checkmark here as well. (week 15) What an experience. To be honest, I didn’t do it to conquer a fear, I’m not afraid of heights. I did it for the adrenaline rush. I especially loved sharing the experience with my daughter. Now quite a few years back, I faced a fear by scuba diving. That for me, was a much scarier experience!
  3. Do 50 random acts of kindness throughout the year for family, friends and/or strangers. Check mark here. I did not share each act of kindness because I am a believer in keeping the nice things one does a little more private.
  4. Finish modernizing our house. Checkmark. We modernized our lower level and remodeled the bath. We still need to redo our wood floors on the main floor. That was waylaid by Covid. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it soon.
  5. Do a 5k. No check mark here for two very good reasons. One is I waited too long and Covid canceled the runs. The second reason is I was recently diagnosed with arthritis in my hips and my doctor recommends no running or high impact exercises. As it hurts when I run, I will be following that advice.
  6. Keep up my Duolingo streak. Well I’m not sure what magic allowed this to happen but on my birthday, May 13th, I have a 1,000 day streak on Duolingo! I have completed the whole program but go on it every day to refresh my skills.
  7. Lose 10 pounds- hahahaha. Ok, Covid, I see you. I was VERY close to reaching this goal and then….Covid. Damn you! I am back to watching my weight with Noom, but I am not sure I am going to continue with it. I am committed however, to getting the weight back off!
  8. Complete 50 workouts on my Nordic Track treadmill. Gold star here! I have completed 76 workouts on my NordicTrack. The last few were very interesting. One was a walk through Salt Lake City Utah with a couple of comedians. They weren’t hilarious, but made they did make interesting guides. The other was a meditation walk through southern Utah’s Scout Cave Trail with Dr. Shauna Shapiro. I did enjoy being able to walk and meditate and check off two of my daily line items in one fell swoop.
  9. See Stonehenge. This was done early on, week 3. What a wonderful trip for so many reasons!
  10. Keep attending French Class at the Alliance de Francais, Detroit. Well I’m giving myself a checkmark here. When I traveled to our Florida home over the winter, I switched to private FaceTime classes with my instructor David. And of course, all classes are online still with Covid. I definitely enjoy one on one classes though they are a little more expensive, they are worth it. I’m able to converse with and ask my questions of my instructor, a native French speaker. I think this is one of the things that I enjoyed the most this year. It definitely took me out of my comfort zone!
  11. Try one “new to us” restaurant a month. Well, check, until Covid reared it’s ugly head.
  12. Organize our storage room. Proud to say that Mike and I worked together to get this done! (Weeks 44, 45&46)
  13. Meditate daily. Check but I have to be transparent and say that I may have missed a day here and there. I am enjoying it though and plan to carry it forward. I use Headspace and also meditate on my own.
  14. Create my own signature cocktail. Yep. See Week 18 for the recipe for “The Tropical Bae.”
  15. Learn the alphabet in sign language. Done! Here it is.
  16. Decorate our Florida retirement home. This was such a joy to do! It is spread over several different posts. I am still working on selecting a few paintings and decorative items. Week 19, Week 30 and Week 37
  17. Go hiking. See week 13 for this one. We hiked to the Au Sable Pointe Lighthouse and the Pictured Rocks area.
  18. Read 50 books in 2019. I read 72 books. I’ve set my new goal for 2020 to 75 books. I am currently 5 books ahead of schedule. I am currently reading “Love and Ruin” by Paula McLain. It is a fictional account of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and journalist Martha Gelhorn. I’ve always been intrigued by Ernest Hemingway and have visited his home in Key West. I enjoyed reading The Paris Wife also by this author which imagines the relationship between Hemingway and his first wife Hadley.
  19. Build a capsule wardrobe for Florida. Done, though I won’t say I’m entirely finished. I’ve enjoyed adding a few more pieces into the mix. If you want to see what I selected, check out week 22.
  20. Entertain friends and family in said Florida retirement home. Check! We enjoyed visits from our kids, our new neighbors, my parents and our old friends. It’s been amazing! Weeks 40 & 41.
  21. Complete the complicated puzzle that my husband Mike bought me at Christmas that sits untouched. Week 22 saw the completion of this puzzle. If only I had waited it would have made an excellent corona virus activity.
  22. Bake a loaf of bread from scratch. I completed this on week 25. I’ve made a couple loaves since then. It’s a lovely skill to have acquired! (Thanks Deana!)
  23. Try a new recipe at least 1-2x a month. I’m giving this one a provisional check. I was rocking it all the way until Corona virus hit. I feel like I am blaming this miserable virus for quite a bit but it complicated my methods. I usually select my menu for the week and then go shopping. Well, with shopping being hit or miss, I am having to come up with menus around what is available. I still enjoy trying new recipes though and will continue to do so.
  24. Find and attend a French Meet-up event. Again, enter Corona Virus. I saved this for my return from Florida and meet-ups are currently out of the question. I did attend a virtual Zoom Happy Hour with some of my classmates though, so I’ll give myself credit after all.
  25. During our annual family trek to the Les Cheneaux islands, take a day trip to somewhere we’ve not been before. Check! See week 13.
  26. Organize and catalog all of the photos sitting in a jumble in the storage room. A great big project that I was happy to wrap up! See week 28.
  27. Re-enact the Beatles walking on Abbey Road. Done! See week 2. I was so tickled to be able to check this one off on our awesome trip to London.
  28. Reach out to a friend or extended family member in person or online at least once a week. This has been even more so since Covid. We are zooming with family and friends probably at least as often, if not more so than usual.
  29. Daily Visualization. Done!
  30. Finish a course in the Masterclass online teaching series. I have finished several Masterclass courses and have enjoyed them all! My most recent was an interior design class by Kelly Werstler. I also did a Storytelling and Humor class by David Sidaris and am looking forward to taking a gardening class and a Mixology class. Perhaps I’ll come up with another new signature cocktail!
  31. Teach our dog Kobe a new trick. Check and here it is! His new trick is playing dead.
  32. Ride my bike from the Lower Huron Metro Park to Lake Erie and back (about 40 miles). Done, see week 14.
  33. Host a fun event for all of the ladies in my family. Well this one did not get done, sadly. Again with the Covid thing. But I am really looking forward to doing this at some future point. I am envisioning a Hallmark movie night sometime before Christmas, with cookies and cocktails!
  34. Learn to play a simple song on the piano. OK. Here’s the thing. I did make a HUGE discovery. I haven’t any talent or ability here. I also have no desire to try to acquire any. I am happily crossing this off my bucket-list and placing it in the “don’t ever do this” list.
  35. Learn how to use the Overdrive app to borrow books from the library. I have been enjoying the heck out of Overdrive/Libby. I use it almost exclusively, unless there is a book I am dying to read and the wait time is too long. I’ve also showed my mom how to do it and hope to help Mike’s mom with it as well. It’s a money saver and really allows me to indulge my reading without feeling guilty about spending the money on yet more books.
  36. See Buckingham Palace. Again, this was done early on when we made the trip to London. Week 3
  37. Work on our Family Tree through Ancestry.com. Done! Well, I’m not actually done with the family tree. It’s still a work in progress. But the interesting thing is extended family I’ve not met in person on both sides of my family have reached out asking to be in touch. I’ve been emailing back and forth with a couple of them. Such an unexpected benefit!
  38. Try the restaurant The Woods on our annual family trip to Mackinac Island. We were happily able to do this on our family trip to Mackinac Island. Week 9
  39. Take our kayaks on a romantic paddle leading to a picnic in the park. Yes! I discussed this one on week 15.
  40. Keep an herb garden and use it in cooking. This was done over the summer. What is surprising is the chives that I planted wintered over and I have a full crop already. I didn’t realize they were perennials. Week 6
  41. Try something new I’ve never done before. My spontaneous thing was asking my mom to pick a destination for her birthday for her and I to travel to. We had an awesome time in Williamsburg. (See week 17)
  42. Actually take out the jet-ski instead of letting it sit in the hoist un-used. Nope. This did not get done. I did take it out once. But we didn’t end up bringing it up north and I usually preferred a boat ride over the jet ski. I am hoping to get some use out of it this summer.
  43. Plan a sunrise breakfast on the pontoon. Done on week 8. Mike and I often enjoy spontaneous last minute boat rides. Having our boat at the dock, uncovered except for the canopy on the hoist makes it easy!
  44. Take our dog Kobe on a walk through a nearby park. Kobe was delighted with this one. He also enjoyed a whole lot of walks when we were in Florida as there is a dog park in our community located about 3/4 mile from our house. (See week 12)
  45. Watch a movie in French. Done. In fact, I’ve watched several and through the course of the year, my comprehension has definitely improved, though I still use the subtitles as I don’t pick up every word.
  46. Discover a new favorite wine. I was happy to have been gifted this wine aptly called Shady Lane. Alas, it was a limited edition from a private vineyard. I will stay on the look out for more wines of this varietal from their Shady Lane vineyard. Week 11
  47. Do a high-ropes course. So fun! If you remember it took two attempts due to inclement weather. But if you are thinking of doing it, I highly recommend Treerunner. It was fun for our whole family. (See weeks 17 & 20)
  48. See Liverpool. Again, I tackled this early on during our memorable trip to England. Week 2
  49. Go sight-seeing in Boston. We loved Boston and I discussed our trip during week 10.
  50. Do yoga at least once a week. I may have missed a week or two in here but especially now with arthritis, I am planning to practice it even more regularly.

So, if you are keeping track, I consider myself to have completed 46 of the 50 things I set out to do. Some things simply couldn’t be done thanks to Covid and others were interrupted. In the case of piano playing, I decided it really isn’t something I actually wanted to pursue. For me, this has been a worthwhile endeavor. In looking back over my 59th year, it has been filled with travel, novelty, leisure, enjoyment, learning, adventure, along with the unwelcome surprise of Covid-19. I think creating a list of desired goals and activities definitely added a richness to my year.

What have I learned from this year? I’ve learned I’m made of sterling stuff. I’m tougher than I thought. I am happy to welcome my 60th year, along with all it brings, both the joy and the challenges. We’ve got a new reality and while we are all learning how to adapt and adjust, I am going to keep reaching out to try new things. I’m going to push myself to look at things with different eyes, to challenge my body as well as my mind. I wonder what my 60’s will bring. What new challenges will be presented and what new opportunities will arise, or are they one in the same? Being diagnosed with arthritis makes me wonder about my genetic lottery, what other illnesses may yet reveal themselves? I hope my 60s are as wonderful as my 50’s have been. To tell you the truth if they are only half as good, it would still be more than I could possibly hope for. And for that I am so grateful. As my 50’s have drawn to a close, this will be my last post. Whether you tagged along for the whole trip or just popped in here and there, thanks for following me. You are appreciated. Stay well my friends. Cheers to the next decade!

Week 15: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Skydiving Edition – Wut?!

What a rush!

What a week! With summer winding down, I’ve been busy trying to check off those summertime boxes. This week’s blog post is going to be focused on the two things I managed to pull off this week. Let’s start with #39, a kayak ride and picnic.

We live on a lake, so kayaking is a fairly easy proposition and one I enjoy immensely. Unfortunately this summer has been crazy busy and I haven’t managed to get out paddling before now. We picked a gorgeous day and my husband Mike and I headed out, picnic packed and paddles ready. It’s about a half an hour paddle from our house to the park. To add to the sense of adventure, we were on the look out for an alligator that has reportedly been seen in Belleville Lake. Yes, really. Here’s the link: https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/weird-news/another-day-another-alligator-resident-sees-alligator-in-belleville-lake

And IF there is indeed an alligator here somewhere, I have no doubt this is where we would find it. You get to the park by going under a low-lying bridge which means no pontoon boats can navigate this area. This is an extremely tranquil part of the lake, no houses at all, loaded with wildlife and an occasional fisherman, and quite possibly an alligator with an impaired sense of direction.

Water lilies in the background.
Look at the size of those water lilies!
Mike paddling towards the landing to beach his kayak.
Beached and ready for lunch.
Lunch is served. Simple but yummy!
Not an alligator. (photo credit: Mike Lanzetta)
Water lily up close and personal by my request (photo credit: Mike Lanzetta)
Perfect water for kayaking!

This year there happens to be an unusual amount of water lilies. It always surprises me how large they get. On our way to the park, before reaching the channel, we had to stop for a few photos. Once you reach the park, there is an area to beach your kayak. There are picnic and restroom facilities and it really is a great spot for a pleasant afternoon break. We spread our picnic under the shelter and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before heading back home. If you paddle just a bit further down, you’ll see the dam on the lake. We did not spot any alligators, just a few ducks, a heron and a turtle or two. If you have the opportunity to kayak out this way, it is an easy paddle from the DNR access located off of Rawsonville road. It makes a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Next up, bucket list item #2: Skydiving! Sunday morning started out with a light breakfast, serenaded by Sammi’s custom skydiving playlist, including Freefalling by Tom Petty and Live Like You Were Dying. Then at 9am, Mike and my daughters, Jenna and Sammi and I headed out to Jackson to Skydive Tecumseh where Jenna and I would be skydiving. I had planned to do this solo, but when Jenna volunteered to be my wing woman, I readily agreed. She was supposed to have gone skydiving with her husband last year on their honeymoon in Dubai, which is an iconic place to jump. But four hours later, after suiting up and watching several other plane-loads make their jumps, their jump was canceled due to 120 degree temperatures. When this opportunity came up, she was happy to tag along and I was happy to have the company! Unfortunately, she forgot her driver’s license and they require a state-issued ID. They would not budge on that requirement. Jenna offered a photo of her marriage license, and that was not acceptable. Thanks to Kelcie, one of her best friends who also happens to be our neighbor, for saving the day! She was able to text us a photo of Jenna’s license which was sitting on our kitchen counter. So first hurtle cleared and all systems were go!

Jenna and I waiting to get suited up.
Good luck hug from Sammi who says, “Oh, hell no!” to skydiving.
Let’s do this!
Kody being a jerk with the rabbit ears. J/K. He was awesome!
Inside the plane, approaching 14,000 feet. Jenna and I are ready to make that jump!

We met our instructors/tandem partners. Mine was a friendly young guy named Kody. He was an experienced skydiver who had a relaxed way about him that immediately put you at ease. He gave instructions in small bite-sized pieces making it easy to retain. I felt comfortable relying on his expertise to make the jump enjoyable and he didn’t disappoint. We were both suited up and a short while later headed to our ride, a King-Air, especially outfitted for skydivers. There were 10 people in all, 4 of us were sky-diving with 4 instructors and 2 videographers. It was a full plane. The plane is equipped with long bench-like seats along both sides and a plexiglass door that slides open like a garage door. You straddle the bench with your instructor behind you. We rose to an elevation of 14,000 feet, up beyond the clouds. The view was breath-taking! I happily volunteered to go first, so they slid the door open and I edged out to the slim black step that was just outside the door. Kody called out, “One, two, three” and then we jumped from the plane. The harness felt snug and I did as Kody advised, breathing through my nose, rather than my mouth. It was a free fall for what seemed like quite a while, though I’m guessing it wasn’t. We were diving head first until the chute opened, then he loosened up the rigging a bit to make it more comfortable and you could sit back like you were in a chair in the sky. Once the chute opened it was also quieter. The view was phenomenal and the floating sensation was great. I was even able to wear my glasses because they had special goggles that, while very unattractive, allowed you to keep your glasses on. I may have looked goofy, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss one second of that view! He handed me the controls and I was able to turn left, right and do a spin. The spin did make me a little queasy so I didn’t do it for more than a revolution or so. It was awesome to look around and take it all in. There was also a videographer jumping with us and she was there to capture it all. Jenna jumped right after me and we met up on the ground. The whole thing took about 2 hours total, most of that time was spent in preparation or waiting. It took maybe 8 or 9 minutes to reach the necessary altitude. Final verdict: It was AHHH-MAZING and I would totally do it again. Jenna loved her experience as well. Neither one of us were a bit nervous. If you are thinking about doing it, I would highly recommend it. I’m not sure what I could ever do to top this experience. It really is the ultimate rush!

Soaring, as close as I’ll ever come to human flight.
Heading towards the landing spot, just spotted Mike and Sammi. Giving them a wave!
Landing position, feet up!
High five for landing safely.
We made it!

If you want to watch the short video of my jump, here’s the link. https://youtu.be/wS7NGCTqha

In closing, I can’t believe it’s only been a little over 3 months since I started on this bucket-list quest. I’ve had so many amazing adventures and it’s been an absolute blast! I’m excited to discover what the rest of my 59th year holds. A heartfelt thank you to those who have come along with me for the journey. I hope you all have an amazing week. Until next week, may your chute always open and all of your landings be happy ones!

Skydiving: Check mark!