{April 29, 2012}   No comparison


“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Do you believe this statement is true?

When I first read this quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, shared by Patron of the Arts on Facebook, I thought “Yes! I can see that!”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has finished a project only to feel it falls short in comparison to what I had envisioned, to the photo I’d torn out of a magazine, to the work of art I had hoped to emulate.

Maybe you became disheartened after finishing a great novel because you felt you could never write even a chapter that’s as authentic and moving as the ones you just read.

Perhaps after several attempts at painting landscapes, you became frustrated when you couldn’t capture the light and shadow as well as an artist you admire.

Or maybe you became envious of a neighbor who had a greener lawn, a more colorful garden, a more inviting or organized home.

Comparing your efforts to another’s can lead to disappointment, frustration and envy. And those feelings will steal the joy you feel in writing, painting, gardening or any effort…if you let them.

But I’m not convinced comparison in itself is bad. Maybe your reaction to comparison is what counts.

Comparison can be motivating. It can spur you to improve. It can prompt you to make a needed change.

One of the reasons I decided to push myself outside my comfort zone this year is because I compared my life to the lives of those around me. From my perspective, their lives were much more interesting; they were traveling, exploring, doing.

In contrast, my everyday life had become routine. I was doing the same things, day in and day out. I wasn’t living life to the fullest. Was someone else to blame for my ho-hum life? Absolutely not! Comparing my life to others’ lives made me realize not only could I do more…but I wanted to do more.

Although I’m less than a month into my project to try 47 new things before my next birthday, I’m happy where the comparison has led me. I’m trying things I wouldn’t have considered a year ago. The activities I’m doing may not be the same ones you would put on your bucket list. But this is not your list.

I have friends in their 40s who can’t believe I’ve never rollerbladed and are not impressed I strapped on inline skates for the first time. Another friend felt the opposite; she said reading my blog makes her feel like her life is “dull.” (On second thought, maybe she said reading my blog was “dull”…I’ll have to double-check on that.) Others have rolled their eyes and told me they have no desire to operate a backhoe or questioned why I’d want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. That’s just fine.

For all those who don’t understand my project, there are just as many who say it resonates with them. One wrote: Your blog “is quite inspirational to a 47-year-old peer who is completely way too comfortable in her life as well.” Another emailed: “I was telling a dear friend about your 47 and fearless blog. You have inspired us to try and do 52 new things or accomplishments in honor of our 52 birthdays.”

Whether you get it or not, whether you’re inspired or not, that’s OK with me. I’m not doing these things to impress you. I don’t want to make you feel bad for being comfortable where you are. I’m not pushing you do things you don’t want to do. I’m not suggesting a project like mine is right for everyone.

My project is about me—trying new things and discovering what makes me happy. One friend wrote: “You reminded me that limericks make me happy, and I need to write one per day. I’m counting on all my friends to demand that I stick to my commitment.”

What makes you happy? Do it. Once a day. Once a week. Once a month. Just do it.


{April 26, 2012}   Discomfort = Growth?

Discomfort = Growth?

Does pushing yourself outside your comfort zone cause you discomfort? That might not be a bad thing. Read on by clicking the link above…

{April 22, 2012}   Baby Got Backhoe


It might be a stretch to say I tried my latest new thing in honor of Earth Day today. But it does have to do with earth (moving it) and planting trees (eventually.)

Here’s the scoop: When I returned from our son’s soccer game yesterday, I found an honest-to-goodness backhoe parked in our driveway—a J.I. Case 580D Construction King loader/backhoe to be specific. I normally don’t get excited about construction equipment.  But my first thought was: “I’ve never operated a backhoe…another first! This will be great!”

My husband, Doug, had mentioned a friend was dropping off a piece of machinery for our landscaping project. We had a terraced area in our side yard that was bordered with painted railroad timbers. They’d been in place more than 25 years and were no longer attractive. The paint was peeling and the wood was rotting. We decided to remove the timbers and grade the area into a gentle slope. Then we’ll plant grass and a few trees or bushes.

The plan was to use the backhoe to scoop up and set aside the good top soil. Then Doug will use his own tractor to move the less desirable fill into place to create the slope, then spread the top soil over the slope.

Doug could see the gleam in my eye when I walked in the door and agreed to show me how to operate the backhoe before his friend got to work. After he helped our sons dig up a few buckets of dirt, the boys explained the controls to me.

The left control is a joystick that swings the entire backhoe from side to side and moves the boom up and down. The right control moves the stick (the arm attached to the boom) and the bucket, allowing the operator to maneuver the bucket to scoop and dump the dirt.

My husband gave me only two warnings: don’t dig too deep and don’t hit the well cover.

My first attempt at maneuvering the bucket was not pretty—the movements were jerky, but I managed to scoop and dump a nice bucket of top soil. I learned working both controls at the same time makes for more fluid movements. With the second bucket, I moved the boom more smoothly, but I dug too deep and ended up with half top soil, half sand.

On the third try, I managed to scoop only top soil but failed to lift the bucket high enough. As I swung the backhoe to the right, I heard Doug yell and I stopped just inches from the well cover. Whew! It was a close call, but I moved the bucket back a few inches, lifted it and continued on to dump the soil where it needed to go.

After this experience, I totally understand the joy little boys find in playing with construction toys in the sandbox, and why big boys like playing in the dirt with bigger toys. It’s good, clean fun!

{April 22, 2012}   Inline—The First Time

It was a bright, sunshiny Saturday afternoon when my rollerblading coach, Brenda, and I met at the school park for my first lesson. We gave our 7-year-olds a game of ladder ball to set up and play in the grass while we changed into our inline skates on the nice, flat parking lot—the perfect place for a first attempt, Brenda assured me.

I had borrowed a pair of rollerblades and wrist guards from my friend Jen and was ready to hit the pavement—literally. Now, I may have mentioned I’m athletically challenged. Having experienced my lack of grace and coordination over the course of many years, a few close friends call me “The Flailer.” (I love them anyway.) So I was prepared for my share of spills and even planned to photograph the resulting scrapes.

Brenda, who has become a friend through encounters in our in sons’ second-grade classroom, Cub Scout Pack meetings and soccer team practices, hasn’t seen me in action. But she knows I have never been on rollerblades and haven’t roller-skated since I was in middle school.

Perhaps that knowledge made her especially patient and encouraging. (She’s also working with me on a more difficult endeavor, but I’m not going to share that until I actually manage to do it. Trust me, if I do, you will be jealous!)

She didn’t laugh at my first wobbly attempts to move forward or when I unintentionally started to roll backwards and couldn’t stop. She’s a great cheerleader, too. At one point, I made a turn but it wasn’t sharp enough. I couldn’t stop and rolled off the parking lot into the grass and sort of ran several steps in my skates. It wasn’t a graceful stop—yes, there was flailing—but I got myself back on track.

Brenda’s response: “So what if you went into the grass? You didn’t fall and you recovered…good job!” She gave me more positive reinforcement and compliments in the short time we spent together than I would normally receive in a year!

I probably surprised myself the most when I didn’t fall or injure myself during my first lesson. Even better, I had a lot of fun! This might be something I’d like to do more frequently. Brenda offered to rollerblade with me again. And my friend Mary has promised to join me, too. I think I’ll try it a few more times—and see how I weather my first few falls—before I decide if I’ll buy my own inline skates. But this “new thing” could become a regular thing for me, and that would be a good thing.


{April 19, 2012}   A Creative Challenge

When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m thrilled some of my friends and family subscribe to my blog by e-mail so they can follow my adventures. And I have my blog linked to my Facebook account so other friends can read it and share comments there.

But today I got my first official “non-friend” follower! Her name is Michelle and she writes a blog on WordPress called “Roaring Out.” (I hope she doesn’t think I’m creepy for writing about her.)

It turns out she and I have quite a few things in common: a background in writing and editing, a desire to push ourselves outside our comfort zones and furry fingerless gloves (though her red ones are more eye-catching than my gray ones.) At 25, she has much more insight into herself and life in general than I ever did.

She is working on a cool project called 25 @ 25: A Photo Challenge. Her goal is to take a new self-portrait every week to ramp up her creativity and sharpen her photography skills. The results are awesome: reflections, just boots, mid-air kickboxing and more. Learn what inspired her to do it here: http://roaringout.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/25-25-a-photo-challenge/

Her project has inspired me to rekindle my interest in photography. I’m adding “47 @ 47 photo challenge” to my Idea List. I’m not sure if I’ll challenge myself to take more creative pictures of my sons, focus on a different subject, such as architecture or nature, or maybe chronicle my 47 new experiences in photos.

I think this kind of challenge could be helpful in any creative endeavor (poetry, painting, etc.) one wants to refine. What about you? How would you like to challenge yourself? Please share your comments! You might inspire someone like Michelle did!

{April 17, 2012}   Less talk, more action!

C’mon. Admit it. You thought I was being a little dramatic when I promised to do 47 new things before my next birthday. You might have given me some credit for the idea, and you might have even believed I was going to stick with it for a few months. Then, after my second “new thing” post, all you saw were a few inspirational quotes and some talk about what’s considered “new”. Did you think: “Julie—How about a little less talk and a lot more action?”

I thought the same thing! Our family had planned to visit the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago last weekend. None of us have been there, so it seemed like it would be fun for all. But our 4-year-old spiked a fever Thursday. His temp was up and down for a few days, so we decided to hold off on the Chicago trip. He’s doing better now—his doctor said it was likely a virus that typically lasts 5 days. So the Chicago visit was postponed, but not canceled.

I’m not making excuses.  I just want to assure you that I’m bailing on my commitment. (Not yet, anyway…LOL.) But who knew these new things would require such planning, equipment and babysitters among other things?

When I started this blog, I thought it would chronicle my 47 new experiences, whether good or bad. I didn’t want to give away what I planned to do before I did it. I didn’t want to hype something and then fail to follow through…or produce disappointing results. But I’ve since changed my mind.

I’d rather get input from people who have tried some of the things I’m considering and invite others to join me in an experience. What’s really cool, though, is that talented friends have offered to share their expertise, show me the ropes or lend me the equipment to try something new. Some of the items I have in mind are way down the line, but here are a few activities in store for me in the near future:

· Go rollerblading. My friend Jen lent me a pair of rollerblades and wrist guards while my friend Mary agreed to take me out rollerblading for the first time. I’m packing the first-aid kit as we speak.  A big shout-out to these lovely and generous ladies! If I end up in a cast, it’s OK, because that would be a new thing, too!

· Taste limburger cheese. I have to give big points to my husband when I told him about my idea to try 47 new things. Instead of saying, “Clean the house” or “Do a sit-up”, he suggested I try limburger cheese. He’s a big cheese lover, but has never tried this stinky…I mean…pungent cheese. I was surprised to learn that Monroe, Wisconsin, is the only place in the U.S. that makes this cheese. So tasting it is on our agenda, and I welcome others (yes, that means you, Mike Beno, even if you eat it everyday for breakfast) to join us!  We could meet at the Chalet Cheese Factory where it’s made, but nearby Baumgartner Cheese Store and Tavern is open weekends and offers a Limburger sandwich (with mustard and onion on rye bread) for $3.25 that can be washed down with local brews (not that one or more will be necessary, of course.) So please let me know if you’d like to join us or add this culinary experience to your bucket list. https://baumgartnercheese.com/menu

· Visit the National Mustard Museum. If you think Wisconsin’s only about dairy products, think again. It’s also home to the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin. The fact that this condiment capitol is not far from my friend Jenny’s house might be a deciding factor in its addition to the list. She and her family are caring for the most adorable English cream golden retriever puppies right now…and any excuse to see them, I mean, her, is reason enough to head that direction. (Did I mention that becoming a puppy mama is one of the new things I’d like to do?) Besides, if I get around to making homemade soft pretzels with my boys (also on the list), having the perfect mustard to serve them with would be icing on the cake!  http://mustardmuseum.com/

What do you think? Would you like to join me on one of these adventures? Or another? Maybe you have something on your bucket list but need a companion? Let me know! I’d love to join you. And I’d love the company…and the chance to split that big limburger sandwich with another person. I’ll buy the beer.

{April 17, 2012}   What is your message?

What is your message?

Hmm…for now, I’ll say my message is “You’re never too old to try something new.”

(But after trying the 30-day shred fitness DVD, I have a feeling tomorrow’s message will be “Why does Jillian Michaels hate me?”)

What I’m Thinking: Bucket List.

I’m new to blogs…finding ones that interest me…following them…reposting ones that resonate with me…

But I have to say I love this college student’s bucket list. I love her sense of humor. I love that her list is a great mix of traditional and fun items. And I love that she thinks “pee my pants laughing” is something to include on a bucket list. It’s clear she’s not 47 and has learned that can happen with age–whether you want it to or not. 😉 Mostly, I love that she’s so open to adventure and new experiences…something that’s awesome at any age.

When I decided I wanted to try 47 new things this year, I received a lot of great suggestions. But some I automatically rejected, because I’d done them before. (See the “Lifetime Experiences” page I recently added for a partial list of things I’ve seen and done.)

My friend Mike suggested water skiing. I tried water skiing as a teenager. (One of the first times I got up on skis, I went a short distance before I fell, and then I didn’t let go of the ski rope until I’d inhaled part of the lake…oops!) So to me, water skiing isn’t a first.  Mike’s reply? “You need to do it…barefoot…over a jump.” I think he gives me more credit for being adventurous than I deserve.

My friend Marci suggested roller skating. “If you haven’t done it since you were 10, it needs to be on your list for sure! I just went yesterday and it was fun!”

What do you think?  To be considered a new thing, does it need to be something I’ve never done?

Or if I’ve done it, can I consider it new if I do it differently? (For the record, simply adding the word “naked” to things I’ve done isn’t going to fly.)

Or is there a time factor? If I haven’t done it in more than 20 years, can I call it new?

So tell me what you consider “new”. And if you have suggestions for other things I should try, share your ideas. Thanks for helping me move outside my comfort zone!

Planning to make some magic this year!

A Facebook friend shared this…love it!

et cetera