How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

See the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - DID IT

Our tour guide told us we could take pictures anywhere in the Vatican, EXCEPT in the Sistine Chapel.  Let me just admit that there is a "Bad Girl" that lives in me that always wants to do exactly what I've been told I can't.  So the urge to snap a shot was overwhelming. Talking wasn't allow either, and the guards in the chapel constantly yelled at people to stop talking (what's wrong with that picture?)  Anyone caught trying to take a photo was tapped on the shoulder and escorted from the room. I had to be careful but I was up for the challenge. My Canon EOS Xsi, hung at waist-level from a strap around my neck.  It was set to the highest resolution and widest lens setting possible. I melted into the packed crowd in the middle of the room.  Then I nonchalantly tilted the camera toward the ceiling without bringing it to my eye  (of course) and pretended to be intently studying the ceiling as I snapped away, hoping I would capture something worth saving.
Yes, I know it's wrong, consider this my "confession."  I got some great shots and the high rez setting allowed me to crop out some of the classic vignettes you see here.  Beyond the photos, I was stunned by being in the presence of one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of all time. The feeling of standing where Michelangelo stood, walked, and painted for four long, reportedly miserable years was overwhelming. The work defies belief, even when you see it with your own eyes.  The ceiling is barrel vaulted, yet the figures appear in perfect perspective when viewed from below.  When you consider that Michelangelo was a sculptor, not a painter, and he had to learn the plaster painting technique as well as the unique perspective required of the project, it's even more unbelievable.

Of all of the museums and art on my list of things to see, the Sistine Chapel has always been at the top and always seemed like one of the least likely, so I was thrilled to be able to check the Did-It box and to have illegal photos to prove it.  "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ride on a Fire Boat (and truck) - DID IT

Most kids dream of riding in a speeding fire truck and holding the giant water hose, and I'm certainly no different.  It wasn't until I saw the Seattle Fire boat spraying huge arching fountains of water in Elliott Bay that I added "Ride on a Fire Boat."  Getting to spray the hose was an unexpected bonus!

The Seattle Fire Department's premier fire boat, the Leschi, was heading out for an orientation run with a batch of new fire recruits.  The Deputy Chief, who had been promising me a ride for over a year, put me on the boarding list.  Accompanied by my buddy, Captain Charlie, I took a thrill ride around Puget Sound with the Seattle skyline as a backdrop. I was in the bridge watching the fireman spray the forward water cannon, when he turned to me and asked, "Do you want to spray it?"  Are you kidding me?  Of course!!!  The water jets are all controlled by a joystick from inside the heated and dry pilot house, there are no hoses involved.

I couldn't resist the urge to go the water ballet route.  I performed artistic figure 8's, swirls and spirals with the water stream.  I figured anyone who saw it from onshore would think the firemen were drunk or crazy.  Later I discovered that a friend of mine was driving on the Alaskan Way Viaduct at that exact moment watching the odd display and wondered what was up with the fire boat, not knowing it was me at the controls.I tried spelling my name with the water, but apparently, that wasn't obvious.

Back on shore, they let me to climb into the cab of the ladder truck, sit in the driver's seat and play with the steering wheel.  I realized I was entirely too old to make siren noises out loud... so I made them very quietly so no one else could hear.  It was a great day on the water.

Many thanks to Charlie and A.D. for helping me cross three things off my DID-IT list in one day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Explore the Airplane Boneyard - DID IT

In the middle of the Arizona desert far from the public eye is a graveyard of sorts.  It's where unwanted airplanes go to die quietly. I visited with a camera guy to make an airline training video, the gist of which was "Look what happens if you don't take care of business." Airlines don't want the public to see their logos and brand names on the bodies of partially dismantled and rusting planes, so access to the boneyard is strictly monitored - no lookey-lou's, no cub scout field trips.  The identifying marks of active airlines were painted over in a mostly-failed attempt to hide their ownership, but planes belonging to bankrupt companies are left exposed without a decent burial.

As graveyards should be, it was silent except for the wind whistling through the empty doors and windows. Dust swirled around piles of passengers seats, wing skeletons and flat tires. Like a human graveyard, there was an attempt at order, noses faced into the wind, tails toward the sunset, one in front of the other, staggered side by side to maximize the use of space.  The desert seemed capable of swallowing them all and many more. It is a shrine to wasted resources in a disposable society.

Claims are that some of them are just there temporarily. They will be coming home when things improve.  That felt a bit like telling an elderly relative that their stay in the nursing home is just temporary, they will be coming home - if things improve.  You say the words, but no one really believes it.

The supposed temporary residents of the boneyard are tarped, heated and dehumidified by a crew of graveyard attendants. Like newly dug graves in a cemetery, they are bright and well maintained, no grass grows under their wheels.  But little by little the sun and the wind, the cold and the heat take their toll and these temporary guests fade into permanent residency.  Then the buzzards start removing their organs for transplant. First it's the engines, then any resellable parts, then the recyclable metals until all that remains are the scraps - the bones.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buy French Pastries from a Boat - DID IT

Sometimes the items on the list are put there after the fact.  Who could know that there is a boat that cruises the canals of Barra de Navidad, Mexico, a sleepy fishing village on the Pacific Coast, offering fresh French pastries for breakfast.  Once I heard of the existence of this cultural oddity, I knew it had to go on the list, and I had to have some.

The boat travels down the short canal at about 8:00 a.m. just as the last of the oranges and golds of sunrise are rinsed from the January sky.  It tinkles a tiny bell as it approaches the residents' docks.  The day's selections of flaky pastries are displayed in red milk crates; plain croissants, pain au chocolat (croissants filled with dark chocolate), fromage et jambon (ham and cheese), l'almond (I think you can figure that one out for yourself).  Just for the fun of it, I politely ordered in my best French.

We sat on the dock letting the morning sun warm our faces as we munched our unexpected treats, scavenging every crumb off of our pajamas.  A nearby wild Iguana was doing the same, warming up and munching on his morning bugs - to each his own!

Isn't the world an amazingly diverse place?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ride a Vespa - DID IT

I loved those old Italian movies where everyone is zipping around on tiny motor scooters.  Watching Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday" looking so fabulous tooling around Rome on her Vespa sold me. Of course, she looks great in that gathered skirt too and those just make me look like a fire hydrant.

For our wedding anniversary my husband brought home a brand new, Barbie-doll pink motor scooter for me. He had it specially tricked out with black trim, it was the only one of its kind in town according to the Ducati dealership.  I checked our insurance to see if he'd upped the policy on me or something.  What was he thinking?  I can't ride a bicycle and he gives me a bicycle with a gas engine!

I bought a matching pink helmet and put a wicker basket on the front.  Perfect for carrying around a small terrier... oh, wait, that was the wicked witch from Oz.  Perfect for carrying a long baguette and fresh veggies from the market.  It was quickly nicknamed "Piglet" because it looked so cute parked next to hubby's giant Honda 950.

I had attempted to ride a scooter once as a teenager and promptly ran over myself - it's a long story involving a large pothole (Front tire hit the pothole, flipped me over the handlebars, bike popped out of the hole, continued on its path, and I was laying in its path.) The first time I jumped on Piglet, I rode it straight into the hedge. I got better.

I was concerned about riding it on the road, I felt so insignificant that no one would see me.  Hubby said, "It's PINK. Believe me, they will see you.  In fact, they might run off the road staring... or laughing."  That part is partially true.  I do get lots of stares as I go whizzing along.  The scooters come with a speed control that limits them to 25 mph, but it's easy to unhook, which we did.  I have gotten it up to 45!  The world just whips by.  I can't figure out how Audrey rode it in that skirt, though.  I tried it.  The skirt flew up in my face and blocked my view.

For good measure, and to complete the entire Pink package, I use strawberry scented oil in the gas tank so my exhaust smells good!  Every time it goes "putt-putt-putt" it expels little Pink Farts.

Friday, January 14, 2011

See King Tut's Treasures - DID IT

What I meant was to see the treasures from King Tut's tomb in their natural habitat, what I did was see them at the museum when the touring exhibit came through Seattle.  While I agree that it's a bit like saying I want to see a Wombat, then checking the box because you saw one at the zoo.  It's sort of true, but not exactly right.

On the other hand, I don't have time for that level of perfection.  I checked this box after standing in line in the rain for what seemed like hours with my best partner-in-crime, Phyllis (she was Ethyl to my Luci for many years).  We each had a toddler by the hand and were very pregnant.  What possessed us to take two little kids with us is a really good question.  Likely we reasoned that since babysitters were expensive we could count this as an educational experience for the kids. I probably learned more about parenting that day than they learned about Egyptian history.

This little adventure and a few more like it taught me to listen more to what my kids needed/wanted to learn at that point in their lives, not what I convinced myself they needed. Why drag kids through learning experiences that are years beyond their ability to comprehend and remember when they would learn more by doing more age-appropriate things.  At this point, the toddlers were much more intrigued by Muppets than Mummification.  Don't give kids a 3000-year-old gold death mask when a gold star sticker will do.

Oh, and a two-year-old crawling under a security rope sets off alarms - word to the wise!

Make Cheese - DID IT

I missed out on the hippie pot-smoking/free-love era by a few years. But I did join the whole "granola, natural, organic, hippie, minimalist" kick that followed.  I embraced the idea of living on my little farm, growing my own food and living an organic life.  My city-raised hubby went along with the plan, not because he was committed to it, but rather he always picks the path of least resistant and going along with whatever wacky scheme I propose is usually that.  Sometimes I wish he would take a minute to point out the impracticality of my hair-brained ideas, but then, I guess, I would blame him for squashing my creativity instead of blaming myself for the inevitable disasters.  That might be his underlying plan.

We got a good deal on a milk goat.  "Good deal" is a relative term. I will detail the downside of owning a milk goat later, but for now suffice to say we had a lot of milk with which to make cheese. It's labor intensive to say the least; milk the goat, strain the milk, add the rennet, stir the pot while warming (cooked it - oops), incubate (spoiled - oops), strain curds, squeeze, wrap, then age (molded - oops).  Lots of variables means lots of ways for things to go wrong.  Finally a successful batch of creamy white soft cheese... that tasted AWFUL!  I threw it out and tried again... and again... and again.  Eventually I decided cheesemaking was not my path to wealth and fame in a foodie world.

Years later when goat cheese became a grocery store staple, I bought some organic, farm-made goat cheese and discovered it tasted exactly like the stuff I had made and thrown away.  Turns out it's supposed to taste that bad!  I've grown to like it on my salad and in some sauce dishes, but I didn't know that at the time.

Remind me to tell you about making goat yogurt!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Own a Horse - DID IT

I begged my parents for years to buy me a horse. No go.  We lived on a large farm with a barn and 65 acres of grassy fields.  Still, no go.  When we moved into town we had a tiny house on a 1/2 acre.  I asked again.  STILL no go.  Later my mother told me she was waiting for me to keep asking and she would have bought me one... sure, she says that later.  I gave up asking when it was clear to me it was never going to happen. (Early lesson; never give up.)

We had been married for a couple years when my husband and I bought a tiny cottage on 2 acres in the country and my husband surprise me with my first horse.  She was a big Morgan Quarter Horse cross, nasty tempered and sick and tired of people pestering her.  We paid $75 and took her home in a rented trailer.  I rode her in the tight confines of the pasture for a week or so before opening the gate and heading out into the big open field where she promptly turned into a rodeo bronc and sent me flying.

I came to with my hubby standing over me looking really concerned.  When his face stopped spinning in circles, I got up and retrieved the beast who was calmly munching grass a few feet away - and smirking.  All my city-boy husband said was, "You've got balls."  (Thank you, Nancy Drew.  See post below for an explanation of that comment.)
Eventually I settled on a sweet, two-year old, half-Arab named SurFear who would remain mine until he died at age 32.  He led a charmed existence for a horse.  As a foal he was born in the backyard of two little girls who would sneak him into their bedroom for tea parties.  They dressed him in hats and served him carrots on a plate.  He grew up believing that is how life should be for a horse.  I never broke that faith. 

He was an amazing animal, the kind of compact, patient and gentle companion horse every little girl dreams of.  More like a Golden Retriever really.  He followed me around the yard, nuzzled my pockets for treats and loved to go on long leisurely rides through the woods, over the streams and along the trails. Shake the bridle and he would come trotting over and put his head in it. He loved going for a ride as much as I did.  I referred to him as my Psychiatrist because he listened so patiently to all of my complaints.  My most enduring memory is of him eating the Christmas gingerbread house - it was his favorite treat, served annually. 

As he got older and I couldn't keep him at my house, he spent several years at a camp for disabled kids where his willingness to lie down on the ground while his long "My Pretty Pony" style mane and tail were brushed by a bevy of adoring little girls made him a popular attraction at camp.

I always said, "I'll never be old as long as I own a horse."  Losing him was so hard.  I cried for days.  I've looked for another horse, talked about it, but in my heart I know there will never be another horse in my life.  I've had the best and nothing less will ever do.

Read All of the Nancy Drew Books - Almost DID IT

I completed 23 of them before life and school and mandatory reading assignments drew me away from my favorite girl detective.  The Lilac Inn, Clue in the Diary, the Tolling Bell, Secret of the Clock, the Hidden Staircase...  I read most of them while hiding under the covers with a flashlight so my mom wouldn't know I was still awake reading.  Nancy gave me courage and self-confidence, later bolstered by Anne Francis as TV heroine Honey West, these two women gave me a kick-ass mental attitude that would serve me well in later years.  Although I've never actually kicked anyone's ass, I always felt that if push came to shove, I could.... well,  probably not, but the outward appearance and belief in yourself is half the battle.

I always wanted to drive a sports car and have a handsome boyfriend who would stay out of the way until I really needed him. I wanted to be the smart one.  I wanted to have dramatic adventures without running my stockings or messing up my hair.

A few years ago, I read "Girl Sleuth" the autobiography of the many writers who used the Carolyn Keene byline to pen the Nancy Drew series.  It was disappointing to discover that Nancy was just a marketing gimmick for the publishing house.  Of course, I knew these were fiction books, but learning how the books were created really spoiled the illusion for me.  I wish I hadn't read that particular book.

Spit off a Bridge - DID IT

I was in high school when the opportunity presented itself while on a walk with a new "sorta" boyfriend.  A proper sort of guy, not prone to silliness.  I was overcome by the urge to fulfill that item on the list.  I waited and debated, walked and thought.  At mid-span I couldn't control myself.  It was a freeway overpass, so I had to be careful not to land a spitball on anyone's car.  That wasn't the point of doing it.  I waited until traffic cleared and as daintily as possible, hack a glob onto the pavement below.  I watched it fall slowly until it disappeared from sight.  My companion stared at me for a minute, then leaned over the edge and did the same.  "Why did we do that?" he asked.  I just shrugged. We walked on.

That's the funny thing about my List of Things To Accomplish, most of them have absolutely no reason - asked to explain them, I can't.

How it all started

Twenty-four pages, twenty-nine lines per page - that is a long To-Do List and it continues to grow. I've been keeping the list since I was 12 years old; that's.... well, quite a few years of daydreaming on paper.  The book is starting to fall apart and the penmanship changes from page to page. It isn't in any kind of order.  I didn't fill in the lines one at a time, but started new pages, then went back and filled in the blank lines. Some of the items are as simple as "Spit off a bridge," others more complicated, "See a space alien."  I love that that 12-year-old girl I used to be still talks to me across the ages.  She wished things for me that an older and wiser version probably wouldn't have considered and I'm so grateful to her wisdom, her sense of adventure, and her unflagging optimism that all things are possible... if you just put them down on paper.

As an adult, it's fun to read the things I wrote as a kid.  The things that seemed like fantasy to me then were surprisingly simple when they finally happened. If there is a message here, it is that you should never limit your dreams to the things you think are likely to happen - aim a bit higher - aim a lot higher.  Aim for the things you would like to happen, even if think they probably won't. When I wrote "Visit Paris" at age 15, I didn't believe that would ever happen to me - a dorky teenager sharing a Raggedy-Ann motif bedroom (at 15!?) with my sister in cookie cutter house in suburbia.  I've been to Paris four times now.  Some of the things on this list would never have happened if I hadn't put them on the list - I would never have dared to try them if they weren't on the list. "Sunbathe in the Nude" is not something I would have agreed to if it didn't happen to be on the list and I wanted to Check the Did-It Box!

It isn't a stagnant list with an end in sight, I add to it frequently.  Last week I added, "Blog this journal."  So here I am!  This blog is a series of short, short stories about the items I've crossed off the list, not just what I did, but what I learned from it as well.