Friday, July 18, 2008

The Fifty, Three Years In

About a week before my 49th birthday (which was July 1, 2005) while driving home from the gym, it hit me that I was about to enter my 50th year of life. For a business, this is a big thing ... 50 years ... half a century ... not a lot of businesses last that long. Some people don't last that long. I decided that I should celebrate as a business might, for the whole year.

When I got home, I explained the concept to the family (all men) and asked their opinion of what I could do to make a whole year of it. Younger son (the truly creative one) immediately proposed that I make a list of 50 things I wanted to do and then do them in my 50th year. So I did. Well, I made the list, which was the easy part. About halfway through my 50th year, it became apparent that I wouldn't finish the list, at which point I extended the celebration to two years, centered around my 50th birthday. About halfway through the next year, it became apparent I wouldn't finish the list in that year. But since it's my list and my celebration, I can extend it as long as I want. My goal now is to finish by my 59th birthday, because by then I plan to have a list of 60 things to try to do in my 60th year.

I've shared this idea with many people. It's caught on more with some than others. Debi has adopted it for her own purposes, and expressed an interest in seeing my list, which it the motivation for this blog. I intend to set up a post for each item. For the ones I've completed, I'll describe or show what I did. For the others, I'll say how I might intend to accomplish it. I won't get everything entered in one day, obviously, but will try to fill in the details regularly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

1. Learn to play basketball.

COMPLETED 19 July 2005

This was the first one I put on the list and one of the first ones I accomplished. Back in college, I worked for the intramural program, which meant that I hung around the gym a lot. I got quite good at playing H-O-R-S-E; my shot from the top of the key was particularly wicked. I never learned how to play basketball, though, just how to shoot a basketball. I never learned about the dribbling, passing, moving up and down the court, etc. that really makes a basketball game. I can watch a game in a fairly educated manner, but I never learned how to play one. ACAC, the gym to which I belong, at the time had someone in its youth division who did basketball lessons for kids. I called the youth division (Adventure Central) and asked whether the basketball guy would do a couple of sessions for a 49-year-old woman who wanted to learn a bit about playing basketball. The person who answered the phone was, I think, a bit taken aback but set things up. I learned about dribbling, passing, and even more about shooting. It was fun. I haven't actually played much since then, but I at least can think I know more about how to play basketball and not just shoot the ball.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2. Run 10 kilometers, or get a black belt in a martial art.

COMPLETED 21 November 2009

It's my list, so I can change items at will. (My blog, my rules.) I put the "run a 10K" on here thinking that I could do it. I used to run a lot, and had run several 10K races. I sort of stopped when the kids were little. When I got back to it some 10 years ago, I'd run a bit each day, increase the distances, and then suddenly, I'd start to have a problem with my right foot hurting in a funny way. It felt something like an electrical shock going through one part of the foot. The real shocks came when I wasn't running. I'd be in bed at night, for example, when bam! foot shock! If I stopped running, the pain and shocks eventually went away only to return the next time I started running. I finally went to a sports medicine doctor about it. An x-ray and an MRI later, it appeared that at some point in my life I had broken a bone in my right foot, a break that didn't heal properly. I spent a month with the foot immobilized and not bearing weight, did various physical therapy things, and started running again. I thought it was going to be okay to the point of listing "run a 10K" among The Fifty. Alas, the pain and shocks returned after some months of regular running. The docs had told me that if immobilizing it didn't work, the alternative was surgery to put in a plate to hold the bones together.

Since I'd rather give up running than have surgery, I've accepted the fact that I won't be running a 10K. Getting a black belt in Myo Sim kendo seemed an appropriate alternative accomplishment. The physical training needed to get me to the black belt level was more than would have been needed to run a 10K, so I'm calling this one done.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

3. Play tennis again.


Monday, July 14, 2008

4. Go ice skating.

COMPLETED 21 January 2006

Some items were added to The Fifty because I had done them earlier in life and thought it would be fun to try them again. Ice skating was one of these. Growing up in Great Falls, Montana, I skated a lot as a child. We would take family trips to the pond in Gibson Park and spend a winter afternoon skating. Later, after we moved to the country club area of town, we would skate on the water hazards of the golf course. I was never into the figure skating aspects of skating, and would have aspired to speed skating had I ever pursued any form of skating seriously.

For The Fifty, I went ice skating with my younger son's Boy Scout troop at the Charlottesville Ice Park, about the only way to ice skate here, even in the hardest of winters. Having only skated a time or two since I left Montana (right after fifth grade), I wasn't as secure on my skates as the kids or most of the adults. Still, I survived and even managed to have a good time. The photos aren't great since they were taken with a disposable camera, but they prove I was there and skating.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

5. Swim a mile.

COMPLETED 28 July 2005, 14 August 2005, 17 August 2005, and multiple times since then

I put this on The Fifty because at the time I was coming up with the list, I'd only swum a mile a couple of times and usually only once in a summer. I would swim a quarter mile, then a half mile, and work my way up to the full mile over the course of a couple of weeks. Wuss I was! It turns out that a mile is no big deal, especially back in the days when I could do half of it breaststroke and half freestyle to break the monotony. Now, after a meniscus repair, I've been advised that breaststroke is not good to knees as old as mine and that I should stick to freestyle. The only problem with swimming a mile now is sheer boredom. That line on the bottom of the pool while freestroking is just not as interesting as was the sea monster breaststroking through the waves toward the unwary prey. Hey! I had to break the boredom somehow!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

7. Go horseback riding.

COMPLETED 24 February 2010

The husband and I went to Iceland to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and one of the activities we booked was riding Icelandic horses through a lava field. I described it here and here, the second time with photos.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

10. Visit Montpelier.

COMPLETED Spring 2006 but not really.

Montpelier is in Orange County, Virginia, about 21 miles from my house. I've visited there a couple of times over the years. Historically, it's best known as the home of James and Dolley Madison. In the early 1900s, it was purchased by the duPont family, who added 33 rooms to the 22 that had been there before. Those extra rooms have now been removed, and the house is being restored to the condition it was when James and Dolley lived there. I haven't visited since the duPont rooms were removed, which is why I put this item on The Fifty.

As to why I said I have completed this "but not really," I did visit the Montpelier grounds in the spring of 2006; I just did not tour the house. I went to Montpelier as an adult sponsor of the Monticello High School Envirothon team; the team was competing in the regional finals on the grounds of Montpelier. Below are some photos I took in the very impressive gardens as I followed the team during the various rounds of competition. (Though it has no relevance here, the MHS team won that day.) As nice as the gardens are, I still want to go back and tour the house.

Monday, July 7, 2008

11. Visit Morefield Gem Mine, or White Sands, New Mexico.


As I just noted under the "run a 10K" entry, it's my blog, my rules here. Morefield Gem Mine is a place that my husband went with the sons on a scout trip. You take your own bucket, fill it with sludge, and then dig through it looking for gems. It sounded like great fun, so I put it on The Fifty. At the time I put it on The Fifty, the sons had probably passed the age at which it would be oh so very much fun to go do that, and it's not really the sort of thing I'd suggest to the husband for a date. In other words, I'm probably not going to make it there.

I visited White Sands National Monument while visiting with friends in New Mexico. It's a mystical, magical place. The white sands appear snowlike at times until the heat and lizards remind you otherwise. I loved it so much that I engineered a return trip to New Mexico three months from now just to be able to see White Sands again. I did take my share of photos there; unfortunately, they're on a different computer I don't feel like moving to right now. Check out the photo album on the national monument website I linked to above; the ones there are probably better than mine anyway.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

12. Visit Lexington, VA or Mesilla, NM.


Lexington, VA is about an hour away from here. It's home to Washington and Lee University, the Virginia Military Institute, and the Virginia Horse Center. I've had more than one person tell me that I should visit there, that it's a very pleasant town. Well, my blog, my rules. I haven't yet made it to Lexington, VA, but I did make it to another very pleasant town, Mesilla, NM, so that's the one I'm counting as "done" here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

13. Visit Williamsburg.

COMPLETED Fall 2006 but not really.

When I included this in The Fifty, I was really referring to Colonial Williamsburg, a place we went with the kids on several memorable trips, including one where my husband was stung on the lip by a bee, elder son split his chin open on the edge of the hotel pool, younger son got a stomach virus and threw up twice--on me both times, and I came home and got sick probably in response to the trip. On another trip, we had all the other parents in the crowd upset with us after we allowed our kids to participate totally in the brickyard including stamping the mud to help mix it to the proper consistency. All the other kids wanted to join in, but it seemed that none of the other parents shared our "Dirty kids? Happy kids!" philosophy. (Not to mention that the kids were learning something--even 15 years later, than can discourse on length about how bricks were made in Colonial days.) Anyway, the "Visit Williamsburg" listed on The Fifty really meant "Visit Colonial Williamsburg." I still haven't done that, though I did spend three days in Williamsburg City in the fall of 2006 at a Marriott, attending the annual meeting of the Virginia Association for the Gifted. So while I technically did "visit Williamsburg," it was not in the intent of the item.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

16. See a stunning sunrise and sunset.


This was originally listed as "See a beach sunrise and sunset" because we used to vacation at First Landing State Park on the Chesapeake Bay where the sunsets were stunning and, I would imagine since I never got up that early, so were the sunrises. Interestingly, we haven't been back since I put this item on The Fifty. But since it's my list, I can change it, and after seeing the sun rise over Angkor Wat, I find it hard to imagine any old sunrise at a beach could beat that.

SUNSET COMPLETED 22 February 2010

I figure that seeing the Northern Lights in Northern Iceland is as good as a sunset just about anywhere would be. Now if I can just remember to add a photo or two when I'm on the appropriate computer. Or, if you can't wait, you can see them here, on another of my blogs.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

17. Reread Exodus.

COMPLETED 12 July 2005

Monday, June 30, 2008

18. Reread Mila 18.

COMPLETED 6 July 2005

Sunday, June 29, 2008

19. Reread A Tale of Two Cities.

COMPLETED 12 February 2006
We had to read this in 8th grade English, and I fell in love with Sidney Carton and his making the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loved and the man she loved. I still think the opening and closing lines of this work are some of the most moving ever written. I will admit, though, that rereading this as an adult was a bit of a chore. I bought an annotated edition and could not resist reading all the notes it contained. It might have been easier to avoid the notes, but that's not the sort of person and reader I am. I also found it quite interesting that whereas we read this in 8th grade, it was summer reading for my younger son's Advanced Placement English class. Does this mean high school has dumbed down five years in just a generation? It does make one wonder.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

20. Read or reread 26 books.

I picked 26 as the number figuring one book every two weeks. Here's the list (I didn't count the specific books listed in The Fifty on their own):
(1) Being Perfect
(2) The Twelfth Card
(3) Cross Bones
(4) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
(5) The Historian
(6) R Is for Ricochet
(7) The Egyptologist
(8) The Pythagorean Solution
(9) The Pegasus Secret
(10) Checkpoint
(11) Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids
(12) The Unlikely Spy
(13) Predator
(14) A Certain Slant of Light
(15) A Mind for Murder
(16) The Pale Horseman
(17) Prince of Fire
(18) Glamorous Disasters
(19) S Is for Silence
(20) The Labyrinth
(21) Crash Course
(22) Mitla Pass
(23) Snakes on a Plane
(24) The Magdalene Cypher
(25) Gone
(26) At Risk

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

22. Read a play.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

24. Write 12 letters.


I put this one on The Fifty because back in the days before e-mail and cheap long distance, I used to like to write letters. I figured one per month for my 50th year would be a good number. Between my brother (who did not at that point have a computer), my father, and some birthday cards to faraway friends, I did manage the one per month, though it never felt "right." Interestingly, in the past year, I've written regularly to a kendo friend doing a Mormon mission in Japan and to another friend (who also once did kendo) attending law school in London. My only way to communicate with the missionary is via snail mail; the law student could be e-mailed or Facebooked instead, but we're both very much enjoying the writing. I've also been sending regular cards to My New Hero at the US Air Force Academy. I've recaptured the magic of paper correspondence much more this year than I did in my 50th, when it felt more like something I had to do than something I looked forward to doing. I can't imagine going several weeks without writing a letter. It also makes the trips to my own mailbox much more exciting, because she who writes letters also receives them!

Monday, June 23, 2008

26. Write an essay.

COMPLETED 13 February 2008

On my official list of The Fifty, the dogeared and stained one I carry in the notebook in my purse, I have this one checked off with a reference to my blog post about the presidential primary in February. There are certainly other blog posts that would probably count as essays; this is just the one that I counted. And in truth, it probably was the first thing I posted that could be considered an essay since my earlier posts had pretty much been book reviews, memes, or the like, not really essays in their own right.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

27. Write a letter to the editor.

COMPLETED 11 September 2005, 14 November, 2005, Spring 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

28. Write a story.

COMPLETED November 2005, November 2006, November 2007

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

33. Do 12 sketches.

COMPLETED March 2009

One of the things I wanted to do while on the great adventure in Hue was to try to do more drawing. I won't say that all or any of them are great or even good, but they've been fun to do, so I'm crossing this one off.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

34. Make a sculpture.

COMPLETED January 2006
I'm not sure some people would call this a "sculpture," but since this is my list, I can count it. A few years ago, with the help of an art teacher friend, I did a plaster cast of my face. I had painted it as a mask, but one night got inspired to create what I call "The Techno-Goddess" using the mask, repainted, and some odds and ends from a box of gadgets and old computer parts. The eyes are dials, the hair is multi-strand wire that I separated, the earrings are other gadgets, and the base has letters from old keyboards. After a stint sitting in the living room, The Techno-Goddess moved to the closet in the master bedroom when my younger son said she was "creepin' me out, Mom."

For an alternative, though much simpler, entry in the sculpture vein, I also molded an old LP into a vase for some silk flowers.The how-tos are the same as for the record bowls I often use as candy or other gift baskets; I just shaped the soft record into an interesting shape instead of into a bowl.

Friday, June 13, 2008

35. Make a collage.

COMPLETED Summer 2009

It's not a huge, grand collage, but here it is. I started it with a calendar page and the "if today is your birthday" horoscope from July 1, 2009, my 53rd birthday. The fortune cookie slips are from some Chinese meals we ate in the weeks following. The fortune cookie slips especially ended up pretty appropriate for my path to a black belt. I've also made a couple of small collages from wine labels I've saved, but I thought this one was more appropriately counted as the one for The Fifty.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

36. Dye something.

COMPLETED November 2005

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

39. Make a felted something.


"Felting" refers to the process by which wool becomes felt under the influence of hot water, soap, and agitation. Put simply, you knit something in a huge size, felt it, and it shrinks to the desired size. It's a pretty amazing process. Cut into a knit something, and the knitting immediately starts to unravel. Knit into the same thing after it's been felted, and it's like cutting into heavy fabric. The knit stitches have sealed as the scales in the wool fiber lock together, and there's nothing to unravel.

The first two things I felted after listing The Fifty were these two bags, made from yarn from my friendly neighborhood sheep farm, Mangham Manor. The pattern for the bags came from the Vogue Knitting book, Felting. The even more fun thing about these bags is that my older son thought that the pre-felted bag made a pretty awesome "big hat" which led to my making such hats for most of the members of the high school's academic team one year.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

40. Do the needle-felted wizard.

COMPLETED 9 January 2009
The wizard came from a kit I gave myself for Christmas some years ago. The tag on the present actually said that it came from the sons, but I picked it out myself at the December open house at my friendly neighborhood sheep farm. I had never done any needle felting or felting of any kind at the time, so it actually took over a year for me to get up the nerve to even start making it. I started it during the first year of The Fifty, but it was one of those things I'd work on for a couple of evenings then put away for nine months or a year. Since one of my New Year's resolutions was to finish five of the remaining items in The Fifty, and I knew that the wizard was close to being done, well, this is the first of the resolved five.

Here's the wizard in all his glory. There's nothing in the photo for scale, but he's about a foot tall. Needle felting involves sculpting with fleece by poking it with a special needle, barbed so that it gets the scales on the wool to hook together. Because the needles (they come in different sizes) are so sharp, needle felting is not something to do while watching television or with your attention otherwise diverted, a fact that contributed to how long it took me to do this. The wizard's body started as a cone of fleece, needled until it became firm, with layers of more fleece needled on to give it some shape.

Some of the details are pretty fine and might not show up here, but he even has the whites of his eyes, as well as a nice mouth in the midst of the beard. I also tried to add some nice detail to his cloak and hat. I may do some more work on the wizard, because he doesn't stand on his own as well as I might like. I put a broad base on his staff to help support him, but I can still make the bottom by his feet a bit flatter. This would help if I decide to replace the felted staff with a branch to make the staff more realistic. Having finished the wizard, I see various things I could have done differently. I could actually re-do these since needle felting is a somewhat forgiving technique. I think that I'll leave him as he is, though, except for possibly replacing the staff. He's a fine first effort at needle felting, and I know from finishing him that there will be more such efforts. I've got some fleece left over from the wizard and some newer fleece to go with it. Felt on!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008

42. Attend a lecture, speech, or talk.

COMPLETED 15 February 2005
From the flyer announcing the talk:
The Institute of Mathematical Sciences presents David Goldschmidt, Director of the Center for Communications Research in Princeton, NJ, speaking on "Communications Security: A Case History" (Talk intended for general audience. Talk includes a demonstration of a German WWII Enigma machine.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

43. Take a cooking class.

COMPLETED 28 February 2006 DIM SUM (Cantonese finger food served in tea houses); 21 March 2006 (Made from Scratch); 11 April 2005 (Easy Thai To Make at Home)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

44. Make a snowman.

COMPLETED 6 December 2005

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

45. Make a snow angel.

COMPLETED 6 December 2005

Monday, June 2, 2008

46. Do something on a whim.

COMPLETED 8 October 2005 (An open road, windows down, "Forty Licks" by the Stones in the CD deck, volume = 10 which is as high as it goes); Summer 2006 (Citizens Police Academy, Albemarle County Police Department)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

47. Do something illegal (thanks, Steve).

COMPLETED Unspecified date ... it was a victimless crime and, per Steve's instructions, it did not involve a motor vehicle and high speeds

Saturday, May 31, 2008

48. Enter a photography contest.

COMPLETED December 2006 with a photo I took for older son to enter in the Library Thing Christmas photo contest. Completed again, in my own right, 17 July 2009, with a photo submitted to the Washington Post Travel Section Photo Contest. You can see which photo I entered here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

49. Decline two requests to do something.

COMPLETED Fall 2005; Winter 2006, May 2006

Thursday, May 29, 2008

50. Attend a play.

COMPLETED 19 November 2006