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 10: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Hello from Boston where I am tackling item #49 on my bucket list, sightseeing in Boston! Well, actually by the time you are reading this I will be back home in Michigan. Mike and I were in Boston for a long weekend so he could attend a conference of some of the nations’ top Invisalign providers. I got the better end of this deal because while he was pow-wowing, I was out exploring Boston. Well, actually I was “in” exploring Boston. Because of unseasonably high temperatures prompting heat advisories, I decided it might be an excellent day to visit the New England Aquarium and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts topped off by a shopping trip to the Prudential Center. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Actually, we rolled into town on Thursday, and due to a flight delay made a bee-line for our dinner reservation at the Top Of The Hub, luggage and all. The restaurant is located in the Prudential Center on the 52nd floor. Thankfully they were more than accommodating in storing our luggage for us. Apparently this must not be too uncommon. We were fortunate enough to have 7:45 dinner reservations and a window seat to Mother Natures’ finest floor show. This was a perfect way to start our trip because we began with a daylight aerial view of the surrounding area and ended by watching the sun fade below the horizon, changing the city into a dazzling array of twinkling lights. I was somewhat concerned that the view may be the big draw, but that was misplaced as we both agreed our meals were spectacular. I enjoyed Lobster ravioli and Mike had a tuna steak. We topped off the meal with Boston Creme Pie of course, which really helped cement my fan status of Boston. Come for the delightful accent of the citizens and stay for the lobster and Boston Creme Pie!

Mike with the yummy Boston Creme Pie.
Our night time view of the city. It was memorable watching the sky go from dusk to darkness.

Friday, we had much of the day together and decided to explore the beautiful Public Gardens and Newbury street, which we had noticed on our Uber ride back to the hotel the night before. We stayed in Waltham at the Westin which was about a 25 minute Uber ride to downtown, as that is where the conference was being held. I understand that many people stay in the suburbs and opt to Uber in because of the high prices of the downtown hotels.

Public Garden, adorned with statues and it also boasted a small pond with swan boats (if you like that sort of thing.)

We visited their public library. I love seeing libraries in major cities as it reveals so much about the values and intellect of it’s citizens. This library looked much like a museum. It boasted murals by John Singer Sargent, and was engraved with the names of famous authors throughout history, both on the inside and outside of the building. A library is a bit like my personal church, I approach them with reverence and awe, and this particular library deserved both.

If you look carefully you can make out the names of famous authors engraved on edifice of the building.
What an awesome place to study and read!

We wandered up and down Newbury, stopping for lunch at a little sidewalk cafe, MET Back Bay. I had to have a Lobster roll, because, well, we were in Boston! It was yummy but definitely a bit overpriced for the lobster to roll ratio. ($32). We did enjoy sitting on the sidewalk (well a few steps down from the sidewalk, which seemed to be a thing here in Boston) and people watching while sipping our cocktails, which were the best! Mike had a watermelon margarita, and I had a coconut mojito and both were amazing.We did a little shopping at the Prudential Center then headed back so he could make cocktails and dinner with his colleagues.

Lobster roll, sweet potato fries, watermelon margarita and a coconut mojito, well done Boston!

Saturday, Mike was in conference and I did some exploring. I understand they have an awesome Science Center but I opted to go a different way. Both the New England Aquarium and the Fine Arts Museum are world-class. I highly recommend a visit. I was lucky to stumble on to the Toulouse Latrec exhibit, which I enjoyed. The museum also had a Jackson Pollock installation and an extensive collection of John Singer Sargent, an artist I was only slightly familiar with. I left there a big fan of his work.

Jackson Pollock installation.

I ended up eating at the museum’s dining room as opposed to the aquarium and that was a wise decision. I enjoyed a wonderful vegetable tart. The aquarium had the regular fare you would expect, nothing exceptional. You ordered at a counter and found a seat. The museum however had several different dining options, from family friendly to a little more elegant. I ate at the New American Cafe which had table service and a delightfully unexpected menu, offering both wine and craft beer.

Vegetable tart. I’m a fan.

What the aquarium lacked in culinary delights it made up for in an extensive display of both the unusual and the endangered. They did a fabulous job of enlightening their visitors as to the impact of global warming on these animals and what measures we as individuals could take to reduce our carbon footprint (paper straws, reusable water bottles, etc) For instance, penguins feed in cold water, as global warming affects their feeding grounds, the penguins must swim farther out to get food. They feed their young by regurgitating their meal upon their return. With penguins having to swim farther away, many times the meal has already been digested by the time they return, leaving nothing left to feed their chick. This is endangering the penguin population. This is just one of the examples they provided. The aquarium boasts a large center tank which has a ramp going up four stories culminating at the turtle exhibit at the top of the tank. One highpoint was watching as scuba divers entered the center tank and hand fed the fish. The stingrays were pesky fellows, rubbing right up against the divers, basically begging for food like a dog might. It was a remarkable thing to watch! I ended my day with a little shopping at the Prudential Center, which holds not only Top Of The Hub and an observation tower but a mall. Much to my delight Mike decided to skip out of the dinner with his colleagues and joined me for a stroll down Newbury street where we settled on dinner at Joe’s, a blessedly air-conditioned establishment that was able to seat us after a short wait. I enjoyed chicken piccata and Mike had the special, blackened mahi mahi. Both accompanied by the requisite glass of Riesling for me and a cocktail for Mike. Our meals were very good.

The New England Aquarium. Notice the queue for tickets is empty. The line was relocated inside due to heat advisories. It was a good day to be inside!
Diver feeding the fish.

Sunday, we were up early for breakfast and had the hotel store our luggage. We took an Lyft out to the start of the Freedom Trail, which sounds easier than it was. After a mishap with the Lyft App and a change of driver, we finally made it to our destination. We enjoyed watching history come alive, visiting important historical sites that played vital roles in our American history, such as the old South Meeting House, the site of the tax protest that ended with the uprising known as the Boston Tea Party or the Old State House which held the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston. What struck me the most was the numerous locations which served as public forums, and the very strong emphasis on freedom of speech, even unpopular speech. The focus was on the right to speak, even if you didn’t care for what is being said. Our founding fathers recognized the importance of that from the start both, for free speech and freedom of the press. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

The second stop on the Freedom Trail: The State House. The dome is coated in 23 karat gold. My only question is why 23 karats? Couldn’t they spring for that extra karat. “24 karats? Too much, we can’t do it.”

We also saw the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house and the graves of Paul Revere, Sam Adams and several other well and lesser known Patriots. Seeing these historical figures come alive for me was the best part. They were actual people, not the mythical Gods we revered from the pages of our elementary history books. They were brave people that took risks, and I can’t help but wonder what I would have done. Which side would I have taken, Loyalist or Patriot? I like to think I would have been among the Patriots but of course, who can ever know?

Statue of Paul Revere in the foreground. In the background is the Old North Church. The steeple of this church is the sight where the lanterns were hung from the famous “one if by land and two if by sea.”
Paul Revere’s tombstone.

We also made a quick pitstop to check out the Harvard Campus, an event we also shared in Mike’s office’s Instagram story.

Harvard’s library is unfortunately not open to the public.

As this post is rather long, I am not going to overly detail my other bucket list items this week. I will mention that I used cilantro from my herb garden to garnish a big batch of white bean chicken chili. The only other accomplishment I wish to share is my 700 day streak in Duolingo. I am waiting until I reach the 2 year mark at 730 days, to celebrate. Finally, if all goes well, I should be ready to share our bathroom remodel before & after next week.

Signing off for now with these wise words from Benjamin Franklin: “Our Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

So get on out there and pursue your own brand of happiness! See you next week.