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 3 of The Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties Tour: London Edition


London is amazing. I am not sure what I expected it to be but it far surpassed anything that I had imagined. The buildings are gorgeous. Everywhere you turn there is a picturesque little street or a fabulous structure with architectural details that awe and delight! We’ve done a tremendous amount of walking averaging 6-10 miles a day, and Mike even more as he’s run a couple of early mornings through the streets of London. My verdict: London is a bucket-list-worthy destination without a doubt!

This week has truly been memorable. We started Monday by paying a visit to the Museum of Natural History. The structure alone is worth a visit. It is incredibly detailed in carvings which are unique from one another. The building very much represents the natural world which it was intended to showcase. It is a mind-blowing piece of architecture. Richard Owens, the naturalist who founded this museum campaigned for it as a “cathedral to nature,” which it truly is!

Highly ornate and stunning facade.
Each column has intricate carvings representing various forms of flora and fauna.
A close up to show the detail. Amazing!
The main entry from above showing the Blue Whale skeleton that hangs in the front hall. The skeleton alone weighs 3 tons and is impressive to view from every angle.
This was the moon exhibit. It was a glowing replica of the moon hung in the center of a darkened room. Here is Mike “holding up” the moon (as did almost every visitor to the exhibit) There is so much to see at this museum, but I am going to keep it to these few photos as I’ve still got so much of London to share with you.

We spent several hours at the museum and then our next stop was the iconic Harrods. Harrods department store is huge, but my favorite part is nestled in the middle. There are little food shops for cheese, coffee, teas, chocolate, flowers and other specialties. The smells were amazing. These little shops were the busiest in the store.

After Harrods, we grabbed an Uber to Knotting Hill where we ducked into a pretty authentic neighborhood pub called The Elgin Pub and Dining Room. We split a burger and fries. The locals were loudly enjoying a soccer game (football here in the UK). I was observer rather than participant yet felt lucky to be a part of it all! This place has the distinction of being the only place we came across which showed the way to the bathroom with the word “Loos.” I had rather thought it would be more common to see it. We enjoyed taking a stroll through the streets of Notting Hill where the buildings were cute and colorful, full of character.

This quirky little building had Freddy Mercury, Elton John, John Lennon, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Lady Gaga all hanging out in their windows.

Tuesday morning we were up early, catching an Uber to make our bus connection for a tour to Stonehenge with pitstops in Bath for the Roman baths and the English county of Berkshire to see Windsor Castle. How extraordinary to see these baths sited on a geothermal spring, built 2 millennia ago. We toured the building and then on to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.

Windsor Castle was completed in 1528 and is the final resting place of many British Royals including Henry VIII.
At the Roman baths in Bath.

Stonehenge was a bucket-list item and it lived up to my expectations. If you’ve visited Stonehenge in the past, the grounds surrounding it have been redone to include a visitor center, and parking has been re-located a bit away from the stones with a shuttle bus or a short walk to reach the site. We had plenty of time to walk around the whole site and really take in. It is speculated to have been built in the Neolithic age. The stones were thought to have been placed 2,000-3,000 BC and though many theories have been floated as to it’s method of construction and even it’s purpose, there is no certainty. The site felt mystical to me but it raises as many questions as it answers.

The following day we went on another excursion, this time by train. Up early, we had breakfast on the train and 2 hours later found ourselves in drizzly, chilly Liverpool. Another bucket-list destination. It couldn’t dampen the spirits of two Beatles geeks though. We started with a visit to the Beatles Museum. We enjoyed the exhibits and learning more about the group we both love. The Beatles, more than any other group, have truly been the soundtrack for our lives. We danced to “Here There and Everywhere” for our wedding dance. Our daughter Jenna danced to “In My Life” as her senior recital song and also for her Daddy-Daughter wedding dance. She had the string version of “Here, There and Everywhere” playing as I was seated at her wedding. So much love for the Beatles. After our Museum visit we met the bus for The Magical Mystery Tour where we visited Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and we went past each of the Beatles childhood homes. Surprisingly “working-class hero” John Lennon, grew up in the nicest house of the four. But the climax of our day, and arguably our whole trip, was a visit to The Cavern Club, the place where the Beatles got their start. It was really quite a visceral experience. You make your way down more than one flight of winding stairs. There were a series of labyrinth like rooms and in the far back one, there was a young man singing “Blackbird” very much sounding like a young Paul Mccartney. It was just so cool to be there where it all began!

The Beatles Story Exhibit
The Cavern Club
In the winding staircase on the way down.

Our day had started at 6am and after a two hour train ride and dinner on the train, we arrived back at Euston station around 9pm. It really was the trip of dreams for the two of us.

The following day we went to St. Pauls cathedral and climbed up to the Golden Gallery, a staggering 528 steps, not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. The staircase is very narrow and winding, and allows a one person width, at times it even requires you to duck a little. But once at the top you are rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of London! The cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren on the site of the previous church destroyed by The Great Fire of London starting in 1675 and completed in 1708. It’s an astounding architectural feat which has undergone some refurbishment to ensure it’s continued stability. It was the site of Winston Churchill’s funeral and if you’re as old as I am, you may recognize it as the venue for the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles.

That evening we enjoyed cocktails and hors’doeurves in the Red Room of our hotel hosted by Invisalign for all of the attendees and their wives. The following day Mike was in classes all day and I spent the day shopping and sight seeing. That evening we enjoyed dinner with all of the American Delegates on the 28th floor of the Hilton overlooking Hyde park and watching the sunset. It was a memorable experience.

The last day, while Mike was still in class, I did a Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour solo. I chose the top level of a double decker open air bus as the day was sunny and warm. There were several options which offered walking tours or a river tour as well as the bus tour, but I decided just to do the bus so I would be free when Mike got out of class. I wandered over to Hatchards, which is not only the bookstore to the royals but is the oldest bookstore in London, dating back to 1797. They even have the table that Oscar Wilde used to sign his books on, and they use it for book signings even today. When Mike got out of class, we did a little shopping and strolled through Hyde Park. It was perfect summer day and the park was full of picnickers and people enjoying the day.

St. Pauls
View from one side of St. Pauls
London’s oldest bookseller
The table Oscar Wilde used to sign his books on.
Hyde Park on a Saturday afternoon

Each part of our trip was great. We explored London, which is my new favorite city. We met some wonderful orthodontists and a few wives from around the world. Mike attended an Invisalign symposium with the top 300 Invisalign orthodontists around the world coming from 37 different countries. We had conversations about the differences in the health care delivery system in the presence of England’s socialized medicine and what that means to the practitioner My assessment after these discussions: not good for the practitioner or the patient. But that’s a long and interesting conversation we’ll leave for another day. We learned about the public’s feelings on Brexit (it’s a polarizing subject) and were there on Friday, May 24th, the day the headlines announced Theresa May’s decision to step down on June 7th. England’s feeling about our president seems to be as polarized as our own country’s. In fact Trump was arriving in England on the heels of our departure and protests were being planned. We also met those strongly in favor of his presidency. Surprisingly for me, the question I was asked the most by individuals was why we don’t have gun control. A couple of people even expressed a reluctance to visit the states because they were worried about becoming the victim of gun crime. Sadly, the Virigina Beach mass shooting occurred towards the end of our stay, before we were even asked the question.

We made new friends and enjoyed learning about the wonderful history of London. Despite a valiant effort to find my new favorite wine, sampling vintages from Germany, France and Italy, I failed to do so. But I did managed to tick a few things of the bucket list on this visit: Abby Road, Buckingham Palace, Liverpool and Stonehenge!

The coming week will be back to reality. The next blog post will probably be much shorter as I’ll have no exciting destination to tell you about, but hopefully still a few more things to check off the list.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

One of my favorite things about our hotel was fresh flowers everywhere delivered regularly with different arrangements with each delivery!