{April 7, 2013}   A Bucket Book for Dad

My dad turned 80 last month and I struggled to think of an appropriate gift for the occasion. (If you regularly read my blog, you might know I like to come up with unique gift ideas like a salvage yard find for my husband’s 50th birthday.)

Needing inspiration, I Googled “ideas for 80th birthday gift for man” but wasn’t thrilled with the suggestions. There were the “Kiss Me, I’m 80” T-shirts and the “I’m 18 with 62 years experience” coffee mugs. Nah. What about a “Yoga for the Elderly” DVD, “Car Caddy” to help him get out of his vehicle or Superman bath robe? I don’t think so. (OK, I kinda liked the robe.)

When I started my 47 and fearless project, I compiled a list of lifetime experiences—things I’ve already crossed off my bucket list. It was fun to be reminded of things I’ve done, especially at a time when I felt it had been a long while since I had moved outside my comfort zone to do anything adventurous.

My dad is active and in good health, but I thought maybe he’d like to be reminded of the cool things he has done in his 80 years. So I decided to make a “bucket book” for him—a scrapbook of things he has already crossed off his bucket list (a list he didn’t know he had.)

With help from my mom and siblings, I came up with a list of milestones in his life, places he has traveled, outdoor activities he has enjoyed, etc. I printed out the list and placed one item to a page, adding family photos when possible and supplementing with generic pictures as needed to create the scrapbook.

Before his birthday celebration, I bought several black buckets at the dollar store. I put the scrapbook and a DVD of “The Bucket List” movie into one bucket for him to unwrap. I used the remaining buckets to hold other gifts—items that would help him complete other items on a typical bucket list. For example, one bucket included two tattoo sleeves and temporary tattoos so he could cross off “get a tattoo” from his list. Another was “celebrate 80th birthday” and included the Dr. Seuss book “You’re Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children” and silly gifts like an Over the Hill Decision Spinner (spin it to decide whether to take a nap or drive really slow. Ahh, choices, choices…) A third bucket held six cans of silly string that he could use with his grandkids to “have a silly string fight.”

Dad enjoyed paging through the scrapbook and got into the spirit of the gifts, wearing the tattoo sleeves to pose for a photo at my request. I hope the silly string fight will occur the next time he gets together with the grandkids. Who knows what other items we can add to the book in the years to come? But don’t suggest skydiving. He’s already declined my invitation.


{May 30, 2012}   50 Shades of Gray

If one person’s trash is another’s treasure, is one person’s boring to-do list another person’s bucket list? Is a ho-hum part of one woman’s routine a huge leap outside another woman’s comfort zone? The short answer is yes. Everyone is different. What you find scary—say scaling heights or squishing a spider–I might do without batting an eye.

So I understand you might not relate when I tell you what I find downright frightening: coloring my own hair. First, if you’re shocked to learn my hair is not naturally this color, take a moment to process the fact, then read on. Second, if the headline led you to believe I was inspired by the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey to share my first BDSM experience, let me assure you I’m not. Yet anyway…LOL.

I discovered my first gray hair when I was 26. When the grays became more noticeable, I went straight to the professionals. I wouldn’t trust anyone—especially myself—with covering the gray while keeping my color looking natural. In my opinion, salon hair color is worth the price. More than a few times, friends who took the matter into their own hands reinforced this belief.

Fast forward to this week. My professionally colored and highlighted hair has grown out, so my grays are showing and my dark roots need a touch-up. My regular appointment falls on a day next week when I’ll be in New York City.  (It’s my first visit to the Big Apple—yay for me!) My stylist, Kelly at Signature Salon & Spa, is in Hawaii this week getting married (yay for her!) So I’m in bit of a hairy situation. Do I trust my tresses to a different colorist before my big trip? Or do I color my curls with an over-the-counter product to hold me over until I can see Kelly in a few weeks?

I do a little online research about refreshing your roots at-home. Revlon has Root Erase. L’Oréal has Root Rescue. Clairol has Root Touch-Up by Nice ’N Easy. Obviously, women do this all the time. How hard can it be?

Clairol’s version promises easy application! Permanent color that blends seamlessly! Works in 10 minutes! I decide on this product but struggle to select a shade. There are 18 to choose from and they all look similar. My natural color—medium mousy brown—is mostly covered with a lighter brown, plus I have blonde highlights. (The camera’s flash makes my hair look red in the photos. It’s not.)

Will “light ash brown” be too dark? Will “dark blond” be too light? Ugh. I wing it and pick “light golden brown.”

I want to do this before I lose my nerve. I open the box and read the directions. Does anyone read much less heed the warnings that accompany these products? Let me paraphrase a few. (The SHOUTY CAPS are my emphasis.)

· DO NOT USE this product until you have completed an ALLERGY test. Apply the enclosed noxious CHEMICALS to the tender skin at the inside of your elbow and refrain from washing the area for 48 HOURS to determine any ADVERSE EFFECTS.

· Perform a “strand” test before coloring your hair. HACK OFF a chunk of hair from a place it won’t be missed (WHAT? WHERE?) then apply the CHEMICALS to these strands to determine the length of time your color needs to process. DO NOT SKIP this step.

· PERMANENT hair color can STAIN or DAMAGE skin, clothing, towels, bathroom surfaces and small children in the area. DO NOT WEAR clothes you care about and be sure to wear the HUGE plastic gloves (enclosed) that will hamper your ability to hold the PRECISION ANGLED BRUSH as you apply the CHEMICALS.

· NOTE: If your hair is highlighted, immediately STEP AWAY from the product and CALL our experts toll-free at 1-800-GUD-LUCK for advice before continuing.

OK, maybe I exaggerate a little. But do you see how this process is fraught with peril? (I love that phrase.) What if my hair turns orange? What if it’s irreparably damaged or simply falls out? What if it looks like (insert friend’s name here)’s hair when she did her own color? What ever happened to “nice ’n easy?”

I had set aside a half-hour to do this. I am not performing an allergy test and waiting 2 days. I am not lopping off my locks for a strand test. It’s now or never.

I add the activating lotion to the tray and squeeze in the tube of color. I stir them together. Oh, no. The mixture looks orange. I refuse to give into fear. I use the brush to awkwardly apply color to the roots along my part. I divide hair in sections, brushing the mixture on to the root areas without precision. I check the clock—the color should process for at least 10 minutes.

At 6 minutes, I start to panic. I envision stripes at the roots. I start combing the chemicals through my hair, hoping it will help blend the new color into my highlights.

At 8 minutes, I freak. What have I done? I run to the sink to rinse out the color. I rinse my hair again and a third time for good measure. I wrap my hair in an old towel.

It’s time for the moment of truth. Did I pick the wrong shade? Did I leave the color on too long?

I comb out my hair and breathe a sigh of relief—no stripes. In fact, once my hair is dried, the color blends nicely with my highlights, and most of the gray is covered. Had I waited a few more minutes, the gray would be completely gone. Whew.

Has my first experience with home hair color turned me into a DIY beauty maven? Not on your life. My next color appointment is scheduled. I relish the two hours of “me-time” at the salon, relaxing with a glass of wine and catching up with Kelly. But it’s nice to know I can do this in a pinch. (For the record, I use that word much differently than it’s used in that aforementioned best-seller.)

Want to learn more about my 47 and fearless project? Read my first post.

{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 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.

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!

{April 10, 2012}   47 and fearless? Not so much.

I’m not writing this blog because I think my life is more interesting than anyone’s. I’m writing it because I think my life is less interesting than everyone’s…and I want to change that.

I turned 47 last week. On my birthday, I did something I do more often than I care to admit. I tried to get out of an activity I’d promised to do. It wasn’t anything big. Several days earlier, I had agreed to walk with my friend Jen. (If you know me well, you know I don’t like to exercise. I don’t go to the gym. I don’t play sports. I can’t remember the last time I ran any distance. It’s just not me.) But I figured it was just a walk, and it would be good for me.

When it came time for the walk, Jen texted me: “We walking today?” My response was something like, “Sure, unless you don’t want to. Then I’m fine not walking.” In other words, I like the “idea” of walking, but I’m pretty comfortable right now and don’t want to make an effort.  She didn’t let me get out of the walk. We walked more than 3 miles (uphill both ways, I swear). Jen and I share a similar sense of humor, so we had a lot of fun talking while we walked (though we agreed—only because it was my birthday—that I am marginally funnier than she is.) And my muscles, unused to any type of exertion, were sore the next day (or two or three). But I’m glad she didn’t let me get out of the walk. It was good for me.

When I came home, I realized that my “I’m OK if we don’t go” response had become a habit. I’d agree to something, but when it came time to actually do it, I’d try to opt out. I was too comfortable.

Comfortable sounds great, like fuzzy slippers: cozy and warm and relaxing. And frankly, comfortable is great! I’m fortunate to have a comfortable life. I’m grateful for good health, a warm home, a loving family, caring friends. But the more comfortable I became, the less I wanted to do. Did I want to meet a friend out for a drink after her late shift? “Sure, but I’m already in my jammies. Next week.” Did I want to try a new restaurant downtown? “Sure, but I’ll have to get a sitter…and directions… Well, maybe another time.” Being comfortable meant it was easier to stay home…it was easier to do nothing.

But my logical brain had questions:  If I’m reluctant to venture out and try new things at 47…what will I be like in 10 years? Will I be too comfortable to leave the house? Will I miss out on all types of experiences? And what kind of example am I setting for my boys, who are 4 and 7? Will they be afraid to try new things? If I want them to embrace life…if I want them to live it to the fullest…don’t I need to do the same?

So that day I decided I was going to push myself out of my comfort zone and try 47 new things before my next birthday. I will visit new places, sample new foods, try new experiences, learn new skills and have fun along the way.

The new things don’t have to be huge “bucket list” experiences.  Among the ideas suggested by my Facebook friends were:  take a hot air balloon ride (sounds fun), walk across hot coals (ouch!), ski the Birkebeiner (a 35-mile race on cross country skis? me?), visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia (the temples look amazing), hula dance (why not?), skydive (under consideration), surf or scuba dive (need to become a strong swimmer first), pole dance for my husband (scarier than sky-diving!) and blog about all my experiences.

So my first new thing, suggested by Lori, a former colleague, is this blog. For the record: I know about as much about blogging as I do about Angkor Wat. While that lack of knowledge might have deterred the 46-year-old me, the 47-year-old me is jumping in with both feet. At this point, I see this blog as a way to keep me honest. I’ve told you I’m going to do this, and if I don’t, you can give me hell. But if you’re entertained by my experiences and mishaps, that’s great. If you’re inspired by my successes (not likely), that’s even better! But if you inch outside your comfort zone, if even for a short time, that will make my day.Image

et cetera