Category Archives: Done! Crossed-Off Items

Stories of the cross-off adventures. Lottery life moments achieved!

When Things Go Amiss – The Launch of a Book

In just a few hours there will be a pre-release party, just one of several events launching the Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket book into the realm of public view. Eight months after the initial Kickstart, the words are written and the printing press finally finished, yet the real work is far from over. But for now, today, it’s time to curl my hair, put on some cute shoes, and raise one of many toasts in celebration to those who have pulled and cheered for this project. I am humbled, grateful, and a little embarrassed by all the support. This is amazing.

The Amazon pre-order link posted slightly earlier than originally anticipated (thanks Amazon robots), leading to a “temporarily out of stock” situation just days before the planned release happening September 22, this Monday. On one hand, I can freak out. On the other hand, it’s actually worth a smile. This book is full of failure stories. Maybe a highly inconvenient time to be “out of stock,” but completely worth a giggle because I could be battling an entirely different problem…a book no one wants to read sitting in a warehouse somewhere in Indiana.

No matter what Amazon does or does not have at any given moment, I have several opportunities over the next two weeks to hug real live souls who have been pulling for this, rooting for this, or are even just plain curious. And for that, I am extremely grateful. It takes a village to publish a book (thank you to the teams of people, brilliant minds, and talented individuals involved in this!) It takes even more to fight fears, distractions, disappointments, self-doubts and naysayers. But we’re here. We made it. It’s happening. I was told to go get it, and it’s officially been “got.” Thank you Lord!

So whether Amazon gets it together in time for Monday’s official online release or not, whether people show up at the upcoming launch events or not, or whether this thing moves or not–I can smile and say the risk was worth it. Check. I am trusting this book and the words in it will make it into the right hands with the right hearts at the right time and be exactly what’s needed at just the right moment. (Or whenever Amazon feels the need to do so. *giggling*)

So cheers to book launches and all that goes with it!

Life Before The Lottery - Amazon Launch

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AMAZON Online Party Sept 22 & 23

It’s officially happening! The “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” book is ready to go…and now it’s time to launch this thing. For those not able to attend one of the three launch events in Colorado (listed below), you have options!

Amazon likes a big boom, so we’re hosting an online launch party Sept 22nd & 23rd to see just how far up the rankings this can get. There’s a 24 hour window to do this, so we’re focusing on the 22nd & 23rd. Thank you for helping to get the word out. I’m believing that these words and these stories in this book will get into the right hands with the right hearts at exactly the right time. You can help that happen. Share, post, re-post, tweet and email away the amazon link and let’s see what happens. (http://tinyurl.com/amazonashleebratton)

Amazon Purchase Party Sept 22 & 23rd
Amazon Purchase Party Sept 22 & 23rd

(Kickstarter backers who participated in a package that included book perks can pick up their “thank you goodies” at one of the events. Or for our out-of-stater supporters, fill out the upcoming form coming to your inbox so we know where to send your goods!) This has been an amazing experience, thank you for being a part of this.

Let’s celebrate.

LAUNCH EVENTS

1) The Pre-Release Happier Happy Hour – South Fork
Friday, September 19th 4:00pm-6:00pm
Rio Grande Club in South Fork, CO

2) Official Launch Party – Denver
Friday, September 26th 5:30pm-7:30pm
The Book Bar: 4280 Tennyson Street, Denver, CO 80212

3) Book Release & Signing – Vail Valley
Friday, October 3rd 4:00-6:00pm
The Bookworm of Edwards: 295 Main St, Edwards, CO 81632

AMAZON Link to share:
http://tinyurl.com/amazonashleebratton

Thank you, I stand amazed.
Ashlee Bratton

Are You Pursuing Something That’s Worth Pursuing?

You are a pursuer. The Declaration of Independence recognizes and declares the fact that we were endowed by our Creator for the pursuit of happiness. But what exactly is that? In pursuit of happiness, what are you pursuing?

There’s a lot of things in this world to pursue. Not everything can be caught. (Nor should it.) Every day when we wake up, we are going after something. What is your something? Is it more money? A promotion at work? A bigger house? New car? Better education? Something for the kids? A better bod? Healthier bank account? Better relationships? A new relationship? That cute girl? That amazing guy? Peace? A dream?

Are you pursuing something that's worth pursuing?

In pursuing the publication of this upcoming 30×30 book that’s now just weeks away from launching, I was asked that very question. What exactly am I pursuing and what does success look like to me in the book world? I had a really tough time answering that. It’s almost easier to tell what I’m not pursuing or not wanting than what I do. Sometimes it’s easier to identify what’s not right or not working than what is.

I do not want a ton of books sitting in a warehouse somewhere. I do not want to be the lonely author twiddling her thumbs at scheduled upcoming book signings because no one showed up or no one cared. I do not want to bug and bother friends and family and be a burden in this whole process in any way. I do not want to find a bunch of errors in the final edition after the major print run (although I’ve been told errors will surface no matter what or regardless of how many editor eyes have been through it. *sigh*) I do not want to be axed out of Amazon for a bad book. I really don’t want a chain of bad reviews. I do not want to be seen as arrogant, come off as vain, or become full of myself because of any type of success or self-promotion that’s required to do this. Yuck. I do not want the Kickstarter backers and supporters of this project to be disappointed in any way.

I do not want to fail.

Huh. That was easy to define. Even if every single one of the things mentioned above happened, I know in my heart of hearts this book was worth it. Had to be done. As with a lot of other things in life, it’s so easy to label and identify what I don’t want. But the question still lingers, what does success look like to me on this and what am I doing to pursue it? Because at the end of the day, if I don’t know what I’m pursuing, how will I know when I actually get it?

Is it a dollar amount that will be the signal of success? Is it a number of copies distributed? Is it getting on any certain best seller lists? Is it positive reviews or feedback from the readers? Is it a lead in for the next book? Is it being recognized publicly or attributed some type of “fame?” The answer to these for the moment, at least for me, is no. That is not in my pursuit of happiness.

After much thought, I decided what I really wanted out of this whole thing is change. I would like to see change in people’s lives. Change in their own pursuits. Change in their own directions, perspectives, and dreams. This of course can’t happen if the book never reaches people’s hands to begin with, so for the moment the immediate goal is to somehow get it out there and trust it will get into the right hands at the right moment, hitting the right hearts and producing the right results. I want to hear stories, letters, posts and tales of how this 30×30 project affected someone else. For me, that will be my success. (That, and not sitting on a pile of books in a warehouse. Even better, a second print run.)

...for the moment the immediate goal is to somehow get it out there and trust it will get into the right hands at the right moment, hitting the right hearts and producing the right results.

I’m also looking forward to seeing what type of change this brings to my own world. Writing this book unleashed a new list, new dreams, new desires, and a new beginning. Incredible sacrifices were made in pursuit of the 30×30 book dream. More than I ever care to admit. Something important hinges on this book and I can’t wait to find out what it is and what’s on the way. On that particular note, I really don’t know exactly what’s on the way or what I’m to pursue next…but I’m in motion and excited to go get it, whatever “it” is. So cheers to change, book launches, the pursuit of something that’s worth pursuing and all that goes with it!

Go ahead, pursue something that’s worth pursuing.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN MYSELF

Go Ahead. Let The Inner Princess Out.

Recently I experienced one thing that every little girl dreams about…pretty pretty princess hair. (Okay, girls dream about a lot of things, but I’m referring specifically to pretty princess hair.)

A friend conned me into attending a festival that in order to feel legit, one should really have a child under 10 years old with them. That apparently did not matter to us. Instead, we decided to make a day of it and I was treated to an entire afternoon of  full on “kid fun.” This included riding an elephant, chowing down on a fair-style turkey leg, enjoying a deliciously dripping ice cream cookie, waving at a parade, seeing a magic show, and getting my hair professionally braided (complete with flowers AND glitter.) For those who have not fulfilled this childhood dream, I highly recommend it.

Pretty Pretty Princess Hair
Pretty Pretty Princess Hair

Although not officially on the Next List, there were several events that day that got crossed off an unofficial “mini-list.” (C’mon, not everything can make the official next list. There are however, bonus items that can be enjoyed as opportunities crop up. Actually, now that I think about it. I just might add it to the Next List just so I can cross it off! *te he*)

Little Back Story:
Years ago as a little girl I remember going to this same fair with wide eyes and wonderment wanting to experience all of this. I don’t know if it was the no-frills attitude of my mom or maybe possibly due to parental budget reasons, but for some reason I have good memories of the fair itself but I just never got to have the “whole” experience. There was left a longing for the hair flowers, the exotic elephant ride, and the overall princess treatment.

Fast forward years later and I found myself laughing as we flitted through the festival in the hot summer sun with a checklist in hand. We were on a mission. Giggling, we paid the $4 and rode the floppy eared gentle giant, staked out the perfect spot for the parade, and I tried so desperately to sit still for the intricate hair magic. I may be well into adulthood, but there’s definitely a little girl heart that wants to enjoy every bit of moments like these. That’s the beauty of being a full grown adult — should you choose to release the “inner child”, you have the power to make childhood dreams come true with your very own adult resources. The only thing you need to get is permission from yourself.  It’s important to play. Always remember to play.

Who knows, maybe there are childhood desires that seem so menial but somehow deserve a spot on your list. Put them on there! Maybe it’s a museum, an art class, or a certain kind of animal that needs to be petted or hugged. Maybe it’s touching a slimy sting ray, swimming with dolphins, or getting your face painted.  Ever want to ride in a parade? Meet Mickey Mouse? Win at tether ball? See a shuttle launch? Get a baseball signed at a game? Maybe it’s time to do it.

It doesn’t matter what the childhood dream is, don’t bury it. Resurrect those buried childlike desires. Create that list and let that inner geek out. Go play.

Seriously, go play!

 

 

 

The Green Monster Fight

“Looks like fun. Must be nice,” they said in such a tone that didn’t make me feel so nice.

I didn’t quite know exactly what to say. They know how hard I’ve worked, I thought they’d be happy for me in crossing off a long-time dream. What do you do when someone asks about something you’ve been working towards and before you can answer, you can tell they don’t really want to hear about it? They asked, but they don’t really want to know. The jealousy is palpable.

I’d like to say that this has been a one-time occurrence and a one-time wound, but I cannot.

I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in making progress on my 30×30 list. In choosing to go after goals and enjoy the life and the journey along the way, there will be some that will not smile or cheer you on. No matter how happy some may want to be for you, how much some may love and support you, how big the sacrifices you’ve made, or how hard you’ve worked…on occasion the little green monster will make an appearance and can turn things weird. Sometimes it can come from some very unexpected sources.

It’s true, misery does love company. If someone is not enjoying the same success or enjoyable moments in their own lives that you are being blessed with, sometimes deep down there’s a part of them that, uh, rathers you didn’t. That’s human nature. (Think about it–jealousy and envy go back to the beginning of time. It lead to the first murder between two brothers over sibling rivalry and a fruit basket when Cain killed Abel…and has been going strong ever since.)

Actually, it may not necessarily be that they don’t want good things for you…it may just be that there’s a wee bit of jealousy that it’s not happening for them too. It’s not so much that you “do”, it’s that they “don’t.”

Be prepared that not everyone is going to have the best attitude or be as supportive as you would like them to be once you seriously start seeing success or make any kind of progress on your list or in your life. You’re going to have to make the choice to keep moving forward, or not. It may even be the people you love most or that are closest to you. A husband may not support his wife in her weight loss efforts, gossip may surround the purchase of a new car or dream home, family members may criticize you as you go back to school, some may not support your efforts to get back out there and scope out the dating scene, or a friend may not attend your baby shower. Ouch.

No one sees the years of loneliness or the bad breakups  and heartbreak before the happy wedding day. They’re not witness to the years of sleepless nights, mountains of homework, lack of a social life, or the student loans taken on in order to finish a degree. They can’t always see all the hours at the gym, the 6:30am workouts every Saturday for over four months, and the self-discipline needed while training for a 26.2 mile marathon. There’s no parade while you’re eating in, canceling cable, and shopping garage sales in order to get out of debt. No one sees the endless prayers and countless tears shed in secret. It’s easy to want what someone else has but not be willing to do the work or make the sacrifices that they did to get it.

It's easy to want what someone else has but not be willing to do the work or make the sacrifices that they did to get it.

They may attend the celebration party or see the smiling pictures, but they weren’t around for the difficult decisions, the sacrifices, the hard work, the tears and the effort that came before it. They weren’t there for the fight. They can’t see the surrounding circumstances that lead up to the reason and the need to celebrate in the first place. All they can see is the fun part or the season of celebration…and hate it.

Or maybe they were around for the fight, yet the monster surfaces.

This can be confusing. And hurtful. At no point in my life, or especially on this entire 30×30 journey, have I ever intended for someone to feel bad about themselves or inferior in any way. And if I have caused someone to feel that way, I am very sorry. My intentions in sharing my story are just the opposite. My goal and the desire of my heart is to encourage, inspire, elevate, and motivate into passionate action. In fact, when asked to write this book and publish the 30×30 story,  I had extreme reservations about being labeled as vain, to be seen as bragging, or having anyone think that I was selfish or “better than” anyone. It took me years before I could ever even let someone else read it.

It was an incredibly personal decision to make the choice to publish my story and put myself out there. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it. I avoided the call as long as I could, but in the end had to succumb to the nagging pull on my heart. Nothing in me desires to go through the self-promotion, scrutiny, judgment, and “look at me” or “lookie at what I did” marketing mentality that seems to be required in doing this. How unattractive and ugly. The attention that can go with that type of success makes me squirm. *nose crinkle*

Sometimes I don’t even want to talk about my list at all, that I was blessed to have crossed off 29 of my 30 items, or let anyone know when I cross something off of the Next List. I don’t ever want someone to feel bad because of something I’m doing or have done. Ever. That’s the thing about progress and success–it’s admired, encouraged, and applauded…yet hated and despised at the same time. Success, no matter how small, is tricky.

That's the thing about progress and success--it's admired, encouraged, and applauded...yet hated and despised at the same time. Success, no matter how small, is tricky.

Is that a reason to not move forward, to not change, to not go after the dreams placed in your heart or take steps of faith in pursuit of progress? I hope not. But it is a reason to pause for a moment and be sensitive to situations that others may be going through. Everyone’s story and journey is different. Just like they don’t know the difficulties that you’ve walked through, you also don’t know the internal and external struggles they may be dealing with. We’re all dealing with something.

Don’t worry, in time it will be their season to shine and you may be the one having to fight off the mean green envy beast.

 

Booties, Boudoirs, and Bachelorettes…Oh My!

In a brilliant act of stupidity, what did I do the other night? In a moment of sheer boredom I watched the season opener of The Bachelorette. Forgive me, but this TV show brings back good memories of a certain friend in California who’d bring over bad wine on a Monday night and giggle on my couch while we sat and laughed at our trashy choice in TV shows. After all, if you can’t be judgy with a girlfriend, who can you be judgy with? I digress.

Stupidist show on the planet. Whose bright idea was it to create a modern-day harem and sell it as an idea that a loving, lasting relationship can come out of it…with millions watching? And after umpteen seasons, who really watches it anyways? Apparently the other night, I did.

Dating or looking for “love” from a group of eligibles separated out and kept in waiting just for you, not a new concept. Harems. This concept has been around almost as long as…well, you get the picture, a long time. Check out the book of Esther in the Bible. Although not her choice–as a maiden in the king’s harem she saved a nation, but not by being catty and making out on the beach on national television. Interestingly, her story has redeeming qualities and some very valuable life lessons. (For a good study on Esther, check out Beth Moore’s take on it. Love it!) Not so the ABC version. Sadly, like the train wreck it is, I watched it anyways.

Here’s the pathetic part.  For those that don’t know my background, my singlehood and recent “unattached” status can make some uncomfortable. I’ve had people on multiple occasions tell me I should actually be on the Bachelorette. No joke. Bless their hearts, but really? Ummmm…what part of me shouts out, “I want to be in a harem?” Really. The type of man who is attracted to that type of girl or  would want that type of scenario…not exactly the type of guy I’m looking for! Besides, as a girl who loves to keep her private life private, what part of me shouts, “I want to make my dating life public and make out on national TV?” No parts. Zero. Negative.

Admittedly, like every other girl on this planet, there is a part of me that wants to be affirmed and be seen as beautiful and attractive. We women are wired that way. Our girl hearts want to be seen as desirable, attractive, and worth fighting for.

Admittedly, like every other girl on this planet, there is a part of me that wants to be affirmed and be seen as beautiful and attractive. We women are wired that way. Our girl hearts want to be seen as desirable, attractive, and worth fighting for. I think maybe that’s why I chose to go through with the opportunity to do a photo shoot a few weeks ago. As an event photographer, I’m used to being on the other side of the camera, where I’m more comfortable. This was a big deal for me.

There is a part of me that goes through all the “what-if” scenarios and wants to know–needs proof that if for some reason later on down the road if God asks me to remain single, if for some reason the white dress experience isn’t a part of the program and I’m asked to go through life without a “plus-one”…I need to know that it’s part of His plan and it’s not because I wasn’t cute enough. Sexy enough. Or not attractive enough. Sometimes a girl just needs to know–or needs to be reminded–she’s got it. *wink*

Before judging these statements, there is a constant battle out there assaulting our hearts with every magazine, advertisement, and product placement telling us that very thing. You’re not attractive enough, buy this to become so. Do this to become so. Keep your man happy by doing this or buying that or looking like her. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

If we somehow manage to not give in to these lies that bombard us around every corner, we’re seen as vain, haughty, delusional, over confident and conceited. If we do give in to these lies of not being enough, we become insecure, petty, needy, not confident and self-conscious. Either end of the spectrum is out of balance and unattractive. Every woman has beauty, is valuable, and has something to offer. Balance, ladies. Balance. (For more on this subject, check out the book “Captivating” by Stasi Eldredge. It’s a fascinating take on this subject.)

Every woman has beauty, is valuable, and has something to offer.

So anyways, in a moment of needing to validate my own personal cuteness, I had a little fun in a boudoir photo shoot. Never imagined I’d do something like that, but in a weird turn of events, I did it. And it was quite fun. *wicked smile*

Little background: As a wedding photographer, I often get approached to shoot boudoir sessions for brides who want to do a little extra something special for their man. Love the concept, just not my type of photography and not necessarily the type of business I want to promote or make money from. I decided a long time ago when a shoot accidentally took a turn in that direction that I wasn’t going to delve into that side of the business and that’s not how I was going to pay the bills. Not my thing.  However, I did need to have someone trustworthy and professional to refer them to for those ladies who want to spice up and enjoy that part of their marriage. Soooooooo, I chose to check out and test out a photographer who specializes in that type of photography when I booked my bio portraits for the book. Two birds with one stone, perfect. I had to get professional bio shots for my upcoming book…and I also got to step into and have a little bit of fun feeling cute.

These pictures are just for me. Even if not a single soul ever sees the prints but me, I will know. I was beautiful. I got it. *winking* Don’t worry–I know I am worth more than a pretty picture, but I also need to know and remind myself when those attacks on my heart come that God made me beautiful and I am worth it, even if for the moment He doesn’t give me  a solid long-term relationship or a man in my immediate future. Shallow, I know. But I need that right now.

That, and how much fun will it be to gift that man that gets to open the real package a little preview of what’s to come? For now, these pictures are just for me. Later on, for his eyes only. *evil grin*

Hooker Make-Up & Pasta Rejection

When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

No really, when was the last time? Was it something significant, like starting a business, moving to a new city, starting a new relationship, or maybe ending one? Or maybe something a bit smaller and not so scary, like trying a new type of food, taking a different route home from work, saying hello to that cute girl in class, or even a new haircut?

 

Where The Magic Happens (Hint: Outside The Comfort Zone)
Where The Magic Happens (Hint: It’s Always Outside The Comfort Zone)

There’s just something about stepping out and trying something different that gives a little spark to the soul. It’s always outside the comfort zone where the magic happens.

I had to laugh at myself as I walked into a Noodles & Company this afternoon with my heart set on the penne rosa and allowed myself to be talked into trying one of their new entrees by the clerk behind the counter. It wasn’t just about the pasta. I laughed because I had literally walked in to the restaurant after figuratively stepping out of my own comfort zone earlier in the afternoon to get professional portraits taken for the bio of the “Life Before the Lottery” book being published later this summer.

As a wedding photographer, I am so used to being on the other side of the camera that I couldn’t help but squirm as I was on the wrong side of the lens. I did not enjoy the thought of being the center of attention and having a zoom lens in my face. Apparently I can dish it but I can’t take it. I thought about going about the cheap route and tossing a friend or family member my camera to take the required snapshot. That would have been comfortable…and cheaper. But then I decided to suck it up, buckle down, and actually book professional portraits. I obviously haven’t gotten them back yet, but I’m sure they’ll be worth the squirm.

So there I was, in full professional make-up that looked like hooker-wear and bigger-than-life fluffy hair ordering penne rosa at 3:30 in the afternoon. Fabulous. As I took the first bite of the new entree I immediately regretted caving. Dang it! The clerk was nice enough to see me struggling with my new choice and brought out my original go-to. No harm, no foul. Don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry.

As I sat there starving and sitting alone full make-up and all at the corner table, I decided to pat myself on the back. It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone on multiple levels. So go ahead, make a left instead of the usual right. Get that new haircut. Apply for that promotion. Call the girl. You never know what may happen. No matter what, chances are it won’t happen in the comfort zone.

It may not have worked out with the new pasta–and who knows, it may not work out with the pictures either–but life is way too short to not take risks. Even if it’s only pasta.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

30 Day Update On The 30×30 Publishing Project

30 Day Update: Life After Kickstarter

To all the backers of the 30x30 publishing project…THANK YOU!
To all the backers of the 30×30 publishing project…THANK YOU!

It’s been 30 days since I sat in the chair in my living room staring at the computer screen, pinching myself after hearing the news that the 30×30 publishing project on Kickstarter was fully funded. I could hardly breathe. I can still hardly breathe, but for different reasons.

Over 54 people joined forces in just 30 days to be a part of putting this dream in print. That’s a lot of thank you’s owed. Each one is an answer to prayer, and each one has a unique story as to why or how they got involved. For the moment, that’s for me to know and you to maybe someday find out. Right now my heart is still smiling and my head is overwhelmed with what is next. From my heart to yours, thank you.

So exactly what is next? Just to let you know, it takes roughly three weeks for all the Kickstarter funds to be processed and released–a lot of account verification and financial hoops to go through. To make sure everything’s legit, the funds are frozen and put on ice for a bit. Nothing too ridiculous, it just takes a little time, and for those of us (ahem) who are a little impatient to get started, it felt like three years.

Now that it’s official and the funding is in…it’s time to make a book.

It’s written–over 30,000 words to be exact–there are just a gazillion steps to actually getting it into a product and package that is worth putting in front of public eyes. This last week I met with the design team and we hashed out the preliminary plans including, artwork ideas, official book title, proposed timelines, estimated costs, and immediate next steps. The 30,000 word book monster is being sent to the editor next week and will be officially in que for the first round of slice-and-dice edits, and will then be sent back to me for approval of said slicing. It was fun and a bit overwhelming to talk possibilities on layout of what the pages and chapters will look like, artwork ideas, and what the book will actually look and feel like. If all goes well and according to plan (and everyone meets their proposed deadlines), it looks like this Life Before the Lottery dream will be in print this July! Part of me wants to snap my fingers and fast forward to the day when I see the dang thing in print while the other part of me is enjoying being jittery and the process of walking through the unknown. Weird, I know.

In the meantime, preliminary steps are being taken on the marketing side with things like domain name registrations for the website, launching the “official” Facebook page, and signing up for webinars and getting review lists organized. I’m learning about ISBN numbers, copyrights through the library of congress, and how to write official acknowledgments for the back of the book. All this is new to me and more than anything I pray that I can make these decisions wisely and efficiently. This book is not just about me. It never was…there’s a heavy responsibility to the 54 backers and many many others who supported this project before one ink splotch was ever made. It’s exciting, humbling, and sometimes downright terrifying. I love it!

So to all my backers, it’s really now a “hurry up and wait” process. I look forward to sharing more as we continue to reach new levels in this publishing project. Can you say summer book launch? *big grin*

P.S. The “Life Before the Lottery: 30×30 Project” Facebook page mentioned above can use all the help it can get during this building stage. Like it, share it, and even post your own two cents, pictures, or stories of your own bucket list accomplishments. If you’ve been a part of one of my 30×30 adventures, post it! I’m looking for shared pictures, adventures, and your own “I did it” stories. The more content on it the better. Currently it’s all sad and lonely, so the faster we get to 100 likes (or even 500) all the better…and the more legit we’ll look for the book launch! Thank you for being a part of this journey. Smooooooooch!

Become A Fan
Become A Fan

Saying Yes to Loonies n’ Toonies

Saying Yes to Loonies n’ Toonies

Canada invited me up to visit…and I said yes.

Ok, that’s not exactly what happened. What really occurred was an out-of-the-blue invite from a long-time friend to join her for a long weekend up in Vancouver after she saw “Canadian Passport Stamp” on my Next List blog. What a pleasant surprise! I could’ve come up with a million reasons why I shouldn’t and couldn’t go. Instead, I dusted off my documents, set the date, and before I knew it we were giggling on the plane.

This reminds me of a lesson learned from my original 30×30 list…when given the opportunity, jump. Some things go in the “just because I can” category, and this particular cross-off is one of them. More than one item on my 30×30 list was crossed off simply by saying yes when it was time to say yes.  The funny thing is, once my list was officially created, written down, and communicated and not just some idea in my head, opportunities started coming out of the woodwork to actually do them. The thing is, you just never know if and when the opportunity will arise again. Some of the best things in life happen when you choose to say yes when you could’ve said no.

“Some of the best things in life happen when you choose to say yes when you could’ve said no.”

In this particular case, my friend’s parents were temporarily stationed in the heart of Vancouver for a project for the next 6 months and were open for a visit from their lovable daughter…and apparently her friend. (That would be me. Growing up I was kind of the Kimmie Gibler of this family, and I guess even in adulthood nothing really changed. Maybe I’ll expand more on that some other time!) What it ultimately boiled down to was the fact that more than likely I would never have an opportunity to experience Canada quite like this ever again. The excuses had to go.

And I am so glad they did. Over the course of the trip I can now say that I’ve added a Canadian stamp to my passport (little mini lesson: you have to actually ask the customs agent for this…and hope you get a nice one), managed to purchase a Canadian lotto ticket, had a coffee in Whistler and waved to the Olympic rings, have officially eaten a Timbit, experienced a Canadian aquabus, molested some nice Canadian statues, walked over 14 miles in one day while playing tourist at the breathtakingly beautiful Stanley Park, and now know what loonies and toonies are. (For those of you who don’t know, loonies and toonies are Canadian money. Yeah, I didn’t know that either and quite honestly find the money titles a little amusing too.)

More than anything this was an opportunity to take a breath, nab a passport stamp, bust out my camera, say hello to some long-time friends, and enjoy a different part of the world I’ve never been to before in a way I will probably never get to experience again.

And all because I said yes.

True Loonies and Toonies. No joke.
True Loonies and Toonies. No joke.
View from the apartment - hello Vancouver.
View from the apartment – hello Vancouver.
Whistler - Olympic Plaza
Whistler – Olympic Plaza
Timbits - and they come in pumpkin!
Timbits – and they come in pumpkin!
Don't ask. No comment.
Don’t ask. No comment.
Welcome back. Why thank you!
Welcome back. Why thank you!

 

The Suckee Part of Crossing Off East Coast Fall

The Suckee Part of Crossing Off The List

If there’s one thing I can pass along to those creating their own lists, it’s that random check-off opportunities will arise and when they do, no matter how ridiculous, scary, or ill-fit the timing…take them. This is something I am re-learning as I create my “Next List” and am watching unexpected check-off opportunities unfold.

Celebrating crossing off “East Coast Fall” by taking a selfie with the nation’s capitol.

Today I am officially unpacking from a journey that included almost four weeks, 7 cities, 6 flights, 4 states, 2 bus rides, 2 countries and ending in the overall culmination in the crossing off of 3.5 “Next List” items. (The .5 goes to the addition of 3 more states to my “visit all 50 states” goal. Pennsylvania, Washington, and if I really choose to count it–technically Delaware.) I must say, after all that I have an intense date with a stack of mail and a rather overwhelming laundry pile in my future. But that can wait–for now, I write.

This particular adventure, as exciting as it sounds on paper, was an emotionally charged and at times rather draining and challenging experience. As difficult and heart breaking as some parts were, I would not trade them for anything.

You see, not everything on my list is about good times and fun adventures. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? True story.

Due to some ex-boyfriend issues and some painful memories from the past, there are parts of the country and some specific places that I personally made off-limits and have chosen to avoid up until this point. It wasn’t until just recently that I was able to have the opportunity–and the courage–to face some of them head on. Ever dread a high school reunion, an encounter with a past love, or drive past an old childhood house and have to process both good and bad memories and feelings that go with them? Yeah, this trip was kind of like that.

When I put “East Coast Fall” and “Annapolis” on my Next List, they were items that were fully loaded with behind-the-scenes reasons as to why they made the list. I knew crossing them off would mean facing some ghosts from the past as I replaced them with new experiences in the present. Thankfully I was armed with some phenomenal support from friends and family as I did that. Fighting emotional battles like that unarmed is not a wise idea…gather your army and bring your own weapons.

Go ahead, let your freedom flag fly
Go ahead, let your freedom flag fly (Old Glory in Church Falls, VA)

I am a firm believer that we are designed and meant to live in freedom, but that does not come easily and we have to intentionally make an effort and fight for it. Some people choose not to fight, and their world becomes increasingly limited, restricted, and eventually stifling. Avoidance and procrastination can only last for so long until the very method we use to protect ourselves causes problems and hinders opportunities for good things in the future. Fighting for it comes in drumming up the courage and finding reasons to face the tough stuff. And as tough as it is, the rewards are worth it. They are so worth it.

Holy cow Batman! They get a little out of control here on the East Coast, don't they?
Holy cow Batman! They get a little out of control here on the East Coast, don’t they?

If I wasn’t willing to make myself (and sometimes those around me) uncomfortable while facing some of those less-than-pleasant memories, I wouldn’t have been able to create and add new ones to the mix. Like photographing the Washington Monument on the last night it was lit in full scaffolding, getting lost while driving at night in less-than-stellar parts of D.C., running off eleven miles of tears through autumn leaves and cobblestone bridges, wine tasting at a friend’s winery in the afternoon sun in the hills of Virginia, trying three different versions of bad clam chowder, eating world famous crab cakes overlooking the Chesapeake bay, or waiting in line to get your picture taken (and sneak a touch when the guards aren’t looking) with the Liberty Bell.

Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)
Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)

Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)

Freedom  and liberty often comes with cracks
Freedom and liberty often comes with cracks
Cheers from Hillsborough Winery
Cheers from Hillsborough Winery, VA

None of these would have been possible if I was not willing to be uncomfortable for a moment. It’s in moments like these where growth happens. It’s in choosing to take a stand and fight through the tough stuff where freedom and life and new beginnings are found. So cheers to the “tough stuff” items and those who take a chance in order to move forward. And on that note, it’s time for me to move forward on that laundry and mail pile.

This is Mojo's way of welcoming me back after being gone almost 4 weeks...by knocking off the counter and dancing in the mail pile. Thanks buddy.
Mojo’s way of welcoming me back after being gone almost 4 weeks…knocking off the counter and dancing in the mail pile. Thanks buddy.
Walking (the very rainy) streets of Philidelphia
Walking (the very rainy) streets of Philadelphia

East Coast Fall…check!

East Coast Fall...check!

Crossed off a biggie on the “Next List” and celebrated by taking a selfie with the nation’s capitol. East Coast Fall…check!

Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)
Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)
Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)
*Sigh*

*Ding* You are now free to move about the country.

Sliding through the airport at 6:00am on a random Tuesday morning sans coffee, I noticed far more than I probably should have at that hour. As we were going through the standard stripping of shoes, belts, coats, jewelry and metals, I couldn’t help but notice the woman behind me becoming more and more agitated and riled  up. Riled up is an understatement. Close to causing a scene would be a more appropriate way to describe the situation. Those she was talking to were not helping.

The scene of the crime
The scene of the crime

As one who was bitten by the travel bug long ago and had a good chunk of my 30×30 list heavily weighted in the travel bucket, I am no stranger to the airline industry. And as one who had a job requiring over 80% travel, over the years I’ve been stripped down, detained, missed flights, had luggage lost, and have all around been inconvenienced in all the standard ways travelers can be delayed and inconvenienced. Clearly she was upset at the inconvenience of the traveling policies in place at the airport and she was more than willing to voice them to anyone who would listen.

As I slid my trays through the x-ray, I decided I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I calmly turned around to her and shrugged my shoulders as I said with a smile how grateful I was to be able to have the freedom to fly at a moment’s notice. Slightly louder I voiced how I loved living in a country where we have access to 50 states without visas, green cards, or months of paperwork and  how I couldn’t believe how easily I can go from one end of the country to the other simply on a whim. And with the sweetest smile I could flash, I finished my little speech by saying that if all I had to do for that freedom is take off my shoes and prove my identity with a simple state driver’s license…I was more than willing to do that.

Needless to say that shut her up.

Does the 3 oz plastic baggie liquid rule make sense to most people? Or the shoe stripping and computer check? Maybe not to the average traveler. Can we ask questions and make snide comments regarding the ridiculousness of the inconvenience? Sure. Are there reasons these rules and policies are in place? Two towers and multiple non-disclosed prevented incidences that we’ll never ever know about say otherwise.

Yes, there are a lot of problems in our country. There are a lot of other blogs that can get into that. But if you want to complain about the travel troubles of our country, I highly recommend taking a trip to any other continent and country and attempt to jump through their hoops and abide by their travel policies and then tell me how awful the United States is. I dare you.

I double dare you to do it before I’ve had my coffee.

The tack board that saved the day.

LESSONS LEARNED From Creating The List:
Tell the world and put it in writing. And pictures.

I kept my 30×30 list to myself for a while. For a long while. I’m a fairly private person, and although I can charm a room and engage almost anyone in conversation, I keep my personal life and thoughts locked away. After all, it was just a bunch of ideas created while having a bad day and playing hookie from work at a coffee shop. Honestly, I didn’t really think I’d ever be able to do all 30 items, let alone in such a short time frame. I thought it was a list just for me that no one really needed to know about, but I quickly realized that to do some of the stuff on my list I couldn’t do it alone. Who wants to go on a cruise or go skydiving by themselves? I personally believe that we are not meant to do life alone. Maybe that’s why I was so miserable, I was trying to do life alone to avoid the pain of being disappointed and judged by others.

So I crossed off some things on my list without ever telling anyone what I was really doing. After several of the “easier” items got checked off my list and I was on a roll, I began to tentatively tell more people about my list. I was surprised to learn that people were actually intrigued and interested on what I wanted to do. And the more I talked about it and the different stuff on it, the more others lit up and said, “I’ve always wanted to do that too!” I soon discovered that I was not crazy and that things I wanted to do were actually common dreams and desires for other people. Why not cross things off together? After all, it’s harder to quit when someone else is involved and counting on you.

As I became more and more excited about my 30×30 list and actually brave enough to tell people, a friend let me in on a winning secret of her own–a vision board.

What on earth is a vision board? I had to ask her more about it.

Basically, her vision board was a tack board decorated with important pictures, lists, and her hopes and visions for the future. At first I thought it was a juvenile and cheesy idea–I hadn’t had a tack board since I was an awkward teenage girl and thought I gave up the cut-and-paste décor look when I moved out of dorm life in college. But a vision board is a silly concept with a very serious purpose. Accountability and hope.

Vision Board Example

First I had to choose to actually create it. Vision boards do not create themselves. I’d already created my list. In fact, I posted my list on my fridge, e-mailed it to my family, and I even e-mailed it to myself so it would be in my inbox every time I check my e-mail. But my friend told me that there was just something magical that happens when you create a way to see your goals in picture form with tangible images, and it hits home when created with your own hands and with your own style. She was right.

I remember the night I made my vision board. I still couldn’t believe I was doing it. I bought a tack board with a thick black frame that looked like a picture frame for art, a booklet of colorful photo album paper, and some nice pens. I turned down offers to go out on a Friday night and chose instead to stay home, have a date with myself, bust out my scissors and arts and crafts supplies, and watch my favorite movie as I cut and paste my vision board into being.

As I printed up countless clipart images to represent the various items on my list, I began to organize them into categories. I dedicated a section of my board to travel with an “I heart NY” pin, a picture of the leaning tower of Pisa and a picture of the Italian flag to represent my dream of traveling overseas. In the financial section of my board I put a picture of a cap and gown and an icon of a backpack with dollars flowing out of it to represent school loans and financial provision for my master’s degree. I printed out pictures of beautiful homes to represent my dream to own a home. I raided clipart pictures of dumbbells and skis for my fitness goals, and even created a section devoted to romance. After all, what’s life without love? If I was going to put in the effort of creating a cheesy vision board, I was going to go all out!

There have been a lot of Friday nights in my life, but that is definitely one for the memory books. Something so simple as decorating a tack board and hanging it in my bedroom made my dreams seem tangible and attainable. It literally took the ideas in my head and in my heart and allowed me to see and touch them on a daily basis. I took a picture of my work of art and e-mailed it to my family and friends living out of state so they could see it. When my sister came out to visit a few months later, I asked her to write my list in calligraphy. My chicken scratch handwriting just wasn’t worthy enough for my board. By that point I had crossed off about 10 items and it was fun to literally put a check mark and date next to each one that had been accomplished so far.

My vision board was a way of bringing my dreams floating around in my head and heart into a tangible world where I could see them. To step it up a notch, I found inspirational quotes and scriptures and put them all around the frame. I committed to God my dreams and asked Him for His help. Uh oh, now I committed to God—I better do my part and make an effort! I asked Him to take away anything that needed to not be on the list and then asked Him for His help on just how to go about doing this.

Fast forward several years and I am very thankful I did. Twenty-nine down. Can’t call that silly. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. Cheers to tack boards, vision boards, and dreams that come in clipart!

My Question To You:

What is your vision board going to have on it?

If you were to have a date with yourself, what would that look like?

What’s stopping you from creating your own vision board?

What are you going to do about it?

Someone's Dreams

Quotable Quotes From Those Much Smarter Than I:

  • And then God answered: Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision message is a witness pointing to what’s coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Message Bible)
  • God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20
  • “God has not called us to stay the same and be stagnant, but to abound more and more.” –Psalms 115:12
  • “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” –Hebrews 11:1

 

Uh oh, somebody got a tattoo.

Uh oh, somebody got a tattoo. *Te he*

Image

In all fairness, I already had one. I just got it expanded and upped its cuteness factor. The original artwork was less art and just…well, old ink. Not a regret by any means, it just needed a little updating and TLC with an ink master. So onto the Next List it went.

Why? Really, I get asked that a lot. Whyyyyyyyyyy? Oh yeah, I see the judgment and snarky attitude behind the question. No, this item doesn’t go under the “just because I can category,” there was actually a lot of thought and effort involved in this one. And an appointment. Fully sober. With a pre-sketch. I will admit the actual re-inking took place in Vegas, but where else is one supposed to find a legit tattoo artist?

The whole re-ink experience did not exactly go as I had pictured. This seems a little scary since the decision–good or bad–is permanent. Believe it or not, there are expectations that need to be met when getting a tattoo.

Tat Lesson #1: Pick your shop and your tattoo artist wisely.
I researched and reviewed many tattoo shops in the area and was very specific for what I was looking for. I wanted a shop off the strip, had been around a long time, was appointment only, and of course clean and hygienic.  When I had picked the shop and called to make an appointment, they put me in touch with one of their shop artists after I described what I wanted. With a little back and forth with texts and pictures with the artist to secure the appointment, I finally had a date to check another item off the Next list. I was a little less confident though when my chosen artist wasn’t on the website, didn’t have an example album of his work in the shop when we went in the day before to check the place out, and upon arriving the shop looked closed.  I knew this whole thing was a little risky, but it was a risk I was willing to take. I just wanted to make it a calculated risk. Don’t worry, turns out he wasn’t on the website because he was the newest guy to the shop coming from a different shop in the area, had been tattooing for over 23 years, the shop wasn’t closed (just dark, it was an 8:00pm appointment after all), and his name was imprinted in the window and the logo. Relax. If getting a tattoo wasn’t a little sketchy it wouldn’t be as much fun.

Tat Lesson #2: Brush up on your social skills
I was on the table for over 3 hours. That’s a lot of time to stare at a ceiling and the same wall. You want to be nice to your artist, keep him happy, engaged, and awake (just kidding). Really, I now understand why people have ongoing relationships with their tattoo artist–you bond. This guy found out the backstory on the original tattoo, why the new one was important to me, made suggestions to improve the artwork, found out about some of my 30×30 and Next List items, what I wanted to do next…and all with a needle in his hand. Just know that it’s going to take longer than you think. It will always take longer than you think. That’s ok, you don’t want to rush greatness.

Tat Lesson #3: Know what you want
Don’t be that girl and don’t be that guy who goes into a shop and picks something off a wall. C’mon, this is permanent. Put a little thought and meaning into something you’ll have forever. Or until the next laser surgery. My tattoo artist entertained me with funny stories of what people had chosen…or how. (These stories were part of tat lesson #2: social skills. Yes, I completely laughed at other people’s expense.) I walked in with examples of two different sketches of the style I was looking for, along with giving him pictures ahead of time of my original tattoo. Unexpectedly, during the pre-consultation he actually talked me into a little something different than what I originally had planned. His suggestions made sense. He’s the expert, he’s been doing this for over 23 years, he’s seen the stupid decisions and mistakes, and he helped create something that I would ultimately be happier with down the road. Way to go tattoo man!

Tat Lesson #4: Know that it’s going to hurt
I’m not just talking about the actual pain of getting it done, needles and all. I’m talking about the after-care. I was tender for over a week and had to choose my wardrobe carefully. Good thing I was just seeing friends in California the next few days–sweats it was! I did bring a friend to this little artwork session, but even they couldn’t handle it the entire time. Just know, no pain, no gain. Watching the process of the body healing is quite fascinating. Like a good girl, I followed the after-care instructions to a T. I really do like my new addition. I’ll like it even better when it’s fully healed.

So what did I get…and where? That’s for me to know and only an invited select chosen few to find out! C’mon, you really thought I’d post a picture? No way! I’m not that kind of girl. Sheesh.

Bonus Blog #3: At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

When people ask me about what was on my list, the first things I rattle off tend to be some of my travel adventures. Swimming with dolphins, rafting the Grand Canyon, or being a jet setter and flying somewhere and back in one day just because I can. But what doesn’t usually come up in conversation are what I call my “non-sexy” items. The one’s on the list that are like vegetables–they’re good for me and I know they’ll make me stronger, but they don’t always taste good or are as much fun to talk about. So today I’m talking about finances.

On the original 30×30 list were a lot of travel items and adrenaline experiences, and honestly I could’ve decided to whip out a credit card and get almost all of them done in 3 months. That was one option. Not a good one though. Also on the list I had decided to put “be debt free.” Uh oh, now I was really in trouble. How on earth was I going to accomplish my 30×30 list (with some very expensive dreams) and also become debt free at the same time? Honestly, I couldn’t. But God could. I submitted my 30×30 list in prayer and asked for His help and wisdom in this whole process. I figured if He was the one giving me the dreams, He would be the one to give me the tools, wisdom, and resources to be able to do them…in His order and in His timing. And He did!

Boo
Boo

Setting out to pay off my credit cards and school loans was something that I wanted to accomplish but not something I was looking forward to actually doing. I sat down one morning with a spreadsheet and an internet connection and looked up what I owed on each loan and each credit card, and then used online calculators to determine various payments and payoff dates. I did not like staring those big numbers in the face. But if I didn’t know where I was currently at, how would I know how far I had to go? At the time I had a car loan, student loans from my bachelor’s degree, and about $3,500 in credit card debt. I first calculated how much extra it would be each month in order to pay off my car loan a year early. Surprisingly, it was only an extra $55 a month. Then I decided that a percentage of every extra bonus I received from work would go towards my other debt. To keep myself on track, every quarter I labeled the various debts and totaled them into “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.”  I would revisit that spreadsheet and update it with the new amounts every 3 months so I could see the progress I was making. The first time I was able to label a column “paid in full” I thought I was going to fly to the moon. There were many more columns to attack, but this kept me motivated to continue with my game plan. Some quarters were better than others, but by the time I was 27 years old I was completely debt free and had opened a 401K to boot. Not bad for a twenty-something little girl.

I remember how liberating and freeing it was to make that final payment. This lined me up to be able to accomplish some of the bigger ticket items on my list. I had a personal party and took myself to the nail salon to celebrate. I was officially debt free! Sadly, I was debt free and got to enjoy it for only 20 days. I decided to go back to school and get my master’s degree and signed the paperwork for my school loans less than three weeks after making my final payment. It wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it, but it was time to put my big girl pants on. By paying off my bachelor’s loan, my car, and all my credit cards I had lined myself up to be able to go back to school and get a master’s degree (one of the hairy scary goals on my 30×30 list.)

So was I surprised that I put “be debt free/pay off car & school loans” back on this next list? No. I don’t believe we’re meant to live in the bondage of debt. It causes stress, can hinder relationships, and can limit you from going and doing other things in your future. Admittedly I felt kind of dumb for getting in debt again and needing to put “pay off loans” on the list one more time.  If I can do it once, I could do it again. But managing money and being financially responsible is an ongoing thing and a constant work in process. Financial balance and freedom is an ongoing battle. But this debt I had now was different than the debt I had in my 20’s. I had taken it on with prayer and a plan in place, had set up healthy habits and started putting into practice things like automatic savings and tithing.

The thing about life lists is that when you get serious about doing something, set your mind and become determined about allocating your resources (time, energy, finances, prayers, etc), it’s amazing how things begin to line up and fall into place. When we give our plans to God He truly is faithful to give us the desires of our hearts and take care of us…He just usually does it in a way we would never expect. More than likely it won’t ever look like or happen how it’s pictured in your head. And that’s ok! Be determined, be flexible, and give God room to work. Do your part and He’ll do His. It’s a partnership–it takes both you and God. You can’t do His part and He won’t do your part.

A reason to smile
A reason to smile

Two weeks ago I made the final payment on my car and received the title in the mail yesterday (the big girl car that was on my 30×30 list). And yesterday I went online and made the final payment on my school loans from my master’s program (MBA–also on my original 30×30 list). Busting out the calculator I added up over $90,000+ in loans for the 3 cars and 3 degrees I bit off and had taken on over the last decade. That’s not including all the travel, rent, and daily expenses of living on my own in southern California for seven years. I may have taken on all that debt on my own, but I certainly didn’t get out on my own. Praise God–yesterday I paid it all off…again! It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sexy. There have been a lot of bumps and derailments along the way,  but I decided to be debt free and to owe no man anything but love. *smiling* Now THAT is a good feeling. I have not only put my big girl pants on, but for the first time they actually feel like they fit.

Quotable Quotes From People Much Smarter Than I:

Bonus Blog 2: Crossed another one off the list!

Question: Ever put things on your daily to-do list that you’ve already done? I know it’s cheating, but I do that. Probably more often than I should. If I’ve taken out the trash, I will mark it on my daily list just so I can cross it off. It’s satisfying. There’s something motivating about looking at a to-do list that has some to-do’s already done.

I also find that there are some things on the next list that fall into the “just because I can” category. Things that aren’t necessarily difficult or have a significant reason behind them but earned a place on the list because I do actually want to do them at some point and for some reason just haven’t. Like visit Durango, Colorado.

Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado

Durango is a cute little mountain college town with main street shopping and an overall great little getaway. Durango is only 99 miles from where I live. So why haven’t I been there since I was 12? I don’t know. No particular reason. Why did it make the next list? Because it would be just silly for me not to go and enjoy this adorable mountain town while it is so close and easily accessible. I don’t know the future and I don’t know how long I’ll be graced living in this particular area, but while I’m here I’d like to keep a tourist mindset and enjoy all the perks this area has to offer.

That was actually part of the mentality in birthing the original 30×30 list years ago. I was miserable and this close to pulling the trigger to move out of California when I asked myself, “What would I regret not doing while I had the opportunity and proximity to do so?” As I penned those items the list quickly grew to things that weren’t just California based, but to what I really wanted to do overall. And then I capped it with a deadline to do those things before turning 30. I’m the kind of girl that can procrastinate with the best of ’em–I need deadlines. It worked…I crossed off 29 of those 30 items!

So yesterday as I was running errands in Pagosa Springs (the next town over, just over Wolf Creek pass), I sat in my car while waiting at the bank and looked at the clock. I was already halfway to Durango, do I do it? *evil grin* Yes.

So I did. I pumped up the tunes and cruised the remaining 50 miles and found myself parking along Durango’s main street. As I walked up and down the street with my iced chai tea, I paused as I saw the old time photo shop. I smiled as I remembered being 12 years old and dressing up in pioneer style and posing for a funny family photo. We traveled often with another family and I remember having so much fun on that vacation in Durango. Good times. Did I plan on going to Durango by myself when I put it on the next list? Absolutely not. But I had an absolutely fantastic random afternoon crossing off an item on my list…just because I can.

Bonus Blog 1: Continuing the cross-off…

It’s time to celebrate in my world. Yesterday the 30 day self-imposed blog challenge was completed, which was a big win in and of itself, but that’s not the only reason to smile and do the dance of joy. Today I crossed off an item on the next list–one that I thought would take awhile to do due to the nature and difficulty of the endeavor. No, not hiking a fourteener (I attempted that the day before and failed. Big bust. More to come on that amusing story later.) Today is about Wheeler.

Wheeler Geologic Area - Near South Fork, CO
Wheeler Geologic Area – Near South Fork, CO

Wheeler Geologic Area. This natural wonder of rugged terrain and beautiful geologic formations is hidden in the 1.86 million-acres of the Rio Grande National Forest and is only accessed through 28 miles on a difficult to expert level ATV 4×4 trail or a 14 mile hike. For the past 1 1/2 years I’ve lived in Southern Colorado just minutes from the highway turnoff to Pool Table and Hanson’s Mill–the access trails that lead to the trailhead–and I just couldn’t quite seem to ever make it happen. Wheeler Geologic Area has called my name and beckoned to me and yet at the same time eluded and evaded me, somehow remaining just out of reach. Until today.

Let me take a second to brag on God and the mysterious way He sometimes works. For the last 1 1/2 years my office at the South Fork Visitor Center flooded with tourists who I’ve pointed in various directions, telling them where to go to enjoy the best parts of the area. Ironically some of the very places I would send people with such authority and confidence I had actually never been. Wheeler in particular. I have an unofficial list of places I want to visit and experience in the area while I have the opportunity and geographic incentive to do so–a secret list. Although not everything I want to do has made the official “next list,” Wheeler was a big enough gem to officially make #25. But I don’t own an ATV or know of very many people that are physically capable or willing to hike 14 miles on a whim.

So imagine my surprise just one day after miserably failing in the attempt to hike a fourteener (#26 on the list) of getting a 7:00am phone call with an opportunity to go to Wheeler that day. The local ATV group (aptly named the Silverthreaders Outdoor Club with most members of the retiree 65+ variety) was heading out at 9:00am and one of the riders had an extra seat! Whaaaaaaaaat? After almost two years of trying to beg, borrow, bully, and bribe my way to Wheeler I had an immediate and surprise invitation to go in less than two hours. I love it when God opens doors!

Two hours later as I sat on the back of a roaring and rumbling ATV trekking the 28 miles to the coveted destination, I had to laugh. When I put Wheeler on the list I had envisioned hiking in and experiencing this wonderment with a group of good friends, celebrating our athletic journey and determination–maybe even on a camping trip with s’mores and stars and good beer. Instead I found myself sharing the adventure with a group of generous and well-seasoned outdoor lovers with more wrinkles, grey hair, and good stories than an AARP convention. Today’s reality was completely different than the vision I had in my head when putting it on the list. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It reminded me of the lesson I learned when completing #29 on my 30×30 list…hot air ballooning. As a twenty-something putting “hot air balloon ride” on the list I had envisioned more of a romantic experience with a special someone, maybe in wine country or an exotic vacation location, and not what really happened.

For the hot air balloon experience I had always envisioned an incredibly romantic date with champagne and kisses and lots of bright colors and flames. (Can you tell I’m a hopeless romantic?) Reality was, at the time I was just months away from turning the big 3-0 and so stinkin’ close to crossing off the final items on the list, but had chosen to enter back into singlehood with no special someone to fulfill  the romantic balloon dream in my head. (That’s a whole other story.)

I had a decision to make. Was I just going to let that item slip by because in my dreams I had hoped someone would surprise me with it? Was I willing to risk not crossing off one of the very last items on the 30×30 list that I had been working on for years just because it wouldn’t be how I envisioned it when I penned the idea years ago?

I had to make a decision. I could wish and hope for someone to plan my balloon adventure and run the risk of being disappointed when it didn’t happen, or I could choose to face the current disappointment of doing it differently than how I originally imagined. Face it, there are things within our control that we have the power to manipulate and change, and there are things that are out of our realm of influence and we just have to make do with what we have been given. I realized that I had been given an incredibly fabulous set of friends who had enjoyed the 30×30 journey with me and had been extremely supportive throughout the years—why would I not want to include them in one of the last items on my list? No doubt some of them had lived their dreams vicariously through me as they encouraged me to keep ticking them off the list. Why would I want to disappoint them by giving up on the last item and not finishing what they helped me start? I had wanted the balloon ride to be a special, romantic, and a private moment when in reality I had the power to make it a memorable event to share with lots of people I cared about.

As I kept thinking about it the more I got excited. I had the power to turn a disappointment into a celebration. It was then I decided for my 30th birthday I wanted to celebrate it with all my friends in a hot air balloon. Why stop there? Why just make it about me when we could celebrate the birthdays of all my friends who were also born in the Fall? We could all have a big balloon for our birthdays! To my surprise, as the save the dates went out an overwhelming response of support flooded back in. There were people who had no intention of going up in a balloon themselves but wanted to come anyways and help celebrate with both feet firmly planted on the ground. I lovingly nicknamed our non-flyers “cooler jockeys.” One friend said she was so excited to help cross off one of the last 30×30 items and she couldn’t wait to find out what was on my next list! And so what began as a rather disappointing goal started turning into an opportunity to not only celebrate the end of an era with loved ones, but to literally look towards the sky and kick off the next set of adventures, along with the next decade! Yes, we even made t-shirts.

A fellow 30x30 balloon participant...and fall birthday baby
A fellow 30×30 balloon participant…and fall birthday baby
30x30 hot air balloon celebration
30×30 hot air balloon celebration
30x30 Celebration T-shirts
30×30 Celebration T-shirts

So today I sat on the back of an ATV for 28 miles crossing off a much desired item on my list in a not-so-desired way and couldn’t help but laugh. Had I not learned my lesson from my balloon experience? It won’t always look like the picture in my head. Again, it won’t always look like the picture in my head. I thought that I learned long ago that God will fulfill the desires of my heart…but it doesn’t mean that He’ll do it like how I pictured. Actually, more often than not He won’t. God is way too big and way too amazing to be put in a box and limited to my small imagination. Maybe one day I’ll finally learn that for good.

Waving to Wheeler
Waving to Wheeler
Fellow Wheeler participant
Fellow Wheeler participant
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Wonderful Wheeler Participants
Wonderful Wheeler Participants28 miles on one of these

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 30: Navigating through the fog…

Thirty-one days ago I took on a self-imposed 30 day blog challenge to get moving in the right direction on finishing the unfinished project of writing a book on my 30×30 experience started years ago. It all began with a bad attitude in a California coffee shop, turned into a list of 30 things I set out to do before turning 30, and ended with 29 of the 30 items being checked off…and one very happy, very blessed girl. Fast forward two years later and I was in a fog on where to go next–both on the book and on the next chapter in my life adventures. Stuck and not knowing exactly how to move forward on the 30,000 word book monster, I was inspired by a friend who had taken on the 30 day blog challenge and thought I’d join the ranks of those who blog. Thirty-one days later, it’s time to take a brief look back over this online journey.

Let’s see–several stories were told about memories and lessons of items on the completed 30×30 list, along with a few painful flashbacks, followed with some personal victories and wins in my current situation, and finishing with some admitted challenges along the way. Throughout the last thirty-one days of this blog challenge my next list grew from ideas in my head, to eight items written on a sheet of paper, to thirty-four items publicly posted in the blog…and it’s still growing. This is a really  big win. So how does that work into the ultimate goal of falling back in love with writing and finishing the 30,000 word book monster? It’s currently off to an editor for round one editing and I have a standing appointment on the calendar in September to discuss the next steps in the editing process…and there’s currently talks in the works for the book cover. I do however still need to connect and follow up with some other bookie items and contacts that I’ve been avoiding and procrastinating on. That will come. But more than anything, I am closer to the overall goal than I was thirty-one days ago. That is a big win.

Interestingly, I headed out to walk the pooch the other morning and found myself in the most beautiful cloud of fog that engulfed the canyon that I walk almost every morning. Everything but the steps right in front of me remained hidden. The cliffs, the river, the familiar pastures  and fence lines that I know are there, and even the road ahead. I smiled as I realized that sometimes in life when the fog settles in you can lose sight of the big picture and what’s ahead. This is not always a bad thing. There are times when it’s okay to slow down and focus just on the steps in front of you and not necessarily on the distance you need to go. Sometimes you need to stop altogether and dig your heels in just not to lose any ground. This is the time to breathe deep. Eventually the fog will lift. It always does.

The foggy view

I realized I was in a fog with my book project. I had been too concerned with the big picture and all that needed to happen that I was distracted with the overall view and the end result. The “I don’t know what to do” fog forced me to slow down and focus on the smaller tasks right ahead. It’s okay to feel lost and a bit disoriented, but all will right itself when the fog lifts. And the fog will lift. Fog is always temporary. When it does eventually lift, it usually leaves things refreshed, hydrated, and glistening when the sun comes out.

I look forward to the sun coming out and shining on this project. Keep checking in to find out how it’s all coming along. This isn’t just about the 30,000 word book monster anymore. This is about the next list and the journey of progress towards shaping the next chapter. Cheers to the next list, the next chapter, and all that goes with it!

Day 28: If I should die before I wake….

Not everything on my list is “fun.” A few items on the 30×30 list actually weren’t enjoyable at all. Like creating a will/living trust and paying off my credit cards and bachelor loans. Yucka yucka. Skydiving and swimming with dolphins are way more exciting, why would I put things on the list that I really didn’t want to do? Because the benefit of doing them far outweighs the yucka feelings that go with them. That’s called growth.

I remember sitting in the lawyer’s office practically in tears as I had to sign paperwork and make decisions having to do with my death. Depressing doesn’t even begin to describe it. Who really wants to think about death, let alone their own death? There I was, a twenty-something planning my own funeral arrangements and last wishes. It felt so unnatural. Why was I doing this? It wasn’t like I had a lot of assets at such a young age. Because I loved my family enough to fight through the hard stuff in order for them not to have to later on. If I didn’t choose to be the big girl now and deal with the ugly, it would hurt those I love later on. This was no one else’s responsibility but my own.  I could choose to tackle it or I could choose to procrastinate and avoid it. By putting those items on the list I forced myself to face them.

My list was a better list because of it. I was better because of it.

There were side effects to the 30×30 list and what I put on it. As the 30×30 list became a bigger and bigger part of my life, I noticed the effects went far beyond just me. When I sent my own documents to my family, it forced them to look at some of the tough stuff they’d been avoiding too. My parents, who hadn’t adjusted their will since my sister and I were toddlers, finally updated their documents too. (It was really funny to be in my mid-twenties and still being willed off to my eighty-something grandma should anything happen.) It’s not the kind of thing you think about on a daily basis. It’s not the kind of thing you want to think about at all. But just like eating veggies, it’s good for you and makes you stronger. You have to train yourself to be able to handle the tough stuff. The consequences of avoidance and not doing so are far more painful than the temporary discomfort of going through it.

These are the type of items I call the “non-sexy” items. Skydiving and dolphins–exiting, fun and sexy. Death and wills–definitely not sexy. Running a marathon and crossing the finish line–sexy. Going to 6:30am Saturday practices and choking down Gu packets, not sexy. At all.  But if there’s going to be balance and there’s going to be growth and health, there’s going to be both. There’s freedom in tackling the tough stuff. Who doesn’t want to feel freedom? Unfortunately, freedom isn’t free. We have to be willing to pay the price to get it.

More than anything, it’s my list and I am in control of it.  At the end of the day I will be better for it if I recognize and face the tough stuff head on. And when I do…it’s okay to celebrate! And who knows? Maybe there will be good side effects and it’ll help someone else out along the way.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 26: Run, walk, limp or crawl to the finish line…

Four more days until I cross the finish line of this 30 day blog challenge! I know you can’t see it, but I just did the dance of joy. It’s exciting when you get to a point of being so close to finishing a goal or something you’ve worked hard on. Pretty sure that’s how I became addicted to running and completed a full marathon and three half marathons in one year.

I lied. Truth be told I have never been addicted to running. I don’t even like it. At all. Still don’t. But that feeling and the rush of crossing the finish line is what is addicting, and in 2007 I begrudgingly caught the running bug. After being relocated in California for the third time for a job and a promotion, I had to start all over again as the new girl in a new city. I was struggling. Pretty sure my friends were tired of my complaining, as evidenced when one of them got sick of it and asked me if I had thought about joining a running club and training for a marathon. Funny girl. I had never run more than 2 miles in my entire life, so the possibility of running 26.2 miles was far beyond comprehension.

She’s a good friend and quite convincing. Before I knew it I had signed up to join a running team and was going to make the attempt to train for a full marathon through Team in Training–an organization that fundraises for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by training people to run or walk long distance events. Twenty-six point two miles…yeah, I’d call that long distance.

She thought it would be fun to challenge me to train out here in California while she trained back in Colorado, and then pick a race to run together. Not only would it be a healthy and stress-relieving activity, but it would also link me to a group of other active individuals with similar passions while being a part of a bigger picture and promoting a great cause. Sounded like a good plan. One problem, I hated running and had never run more than two miles in my entire life!  It’s not that I wasn’t athletic or pathetically out of shape, I just hated running. I admire people who do it, but I personally found it excruciatingly painful and boring. Apparently this meant nothing to my dear friend in Colorado because she signed me up to go to an information meeting at my local library that following Saturday, and sent me the address and meeting time. I got the hint.

Unsure of exactly what I was committing myself to, I took the challenge. When I told my family that I was going to run a 26.2 mile marathon and fundraise over $3,500 in five months to benefit blood cancers, they practically laughed in my face and patted me on the head. It’s not so much that they were unsupportive as much as they knew how much I hated running, let alone running 26.2 miles. But this organization and program was designed to help people just like me to do exactly that, begin a goal with no experience from ground zero. The coaches and mentors gave advice from what kind of shoes and athletic wear to buy to what to eat.  They even organized us into pace groups and gave us tailored training schedules so we would be with other people of the same skill levels. And to my surprise, there were people as slow and even slower than I was and having just as much fun. We met twice a week for training workouts that built up our endurance in slow and manageable increments, as well as gave us tools and tips for successful fundraising to meet our financial goals while at the same time hitting our fitness goals. Want to talk about commitment? Four months of 6:30am practice runs every Saturday. That’s commitment.

When I joined the running team I didn’t know anyone who had ever completed a full marathon, and now I was surrounded by people who were training to do just that! Each week after our Saturday workouts I would call my family back in Colorado and tell them how many miles I ran that morning and what it was like. They’re skepticism eventually turned into cheerleading as I entered into  the fitness level of being able to run double digits. The day that I ran ten miles I thought to myself, “It really looks like I might go through with this!” Although I don’t think anyone really believed me until I actually crossed the finish line and had the picture to prove it.

On January 7, 2007 my Colorado friend and I met in Orlando, Florida and crossed the finish line at the Disney World Marathon with our arms in the air, sweat in our eyes, and smiles on our faces. We were joined at the finish line by her husband, a friend who flew in to support us, and another of my Colorado friends who trained through Team and Training and ran the Disney  ½ marathon the day before. A first for all of us. I caught the race bug and ended up running four more races that year.

Crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles shifted something in me. Through that experience I learned several things: 1)  that it is possible to set big, hairy, audacious goals; 2) that I need the help of others to achieve them and I can’t do it all on my own;  3) that there is planning and preparation involved in order to achieve success and the desired results; 4) and that there will be obstacles to push through and many,  many temptations to quit. And most of all, that the effort is worth it. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is not normal. Less than .02% of the world’s population ever attempts to do it. But I found a group of amazing people who encouraged, motivated, and trained with me to achieve a goal I thought was unachievable. And in meeting my fundraising goal to benefit those with blood cancers I was actually able to help others in the process! Some of my dearest friendships in California came out of this experience. And several other friends have since trained and completed their first marathons as well. They looked at me and figured if I can do it—the very slow anti-runner—then anyone can do it. This one event set me on fire and gave me the momentum to cross off more than twelve items on my 30×30 list over the next two years.

Realizing it's actually going to happen--26.2 or bust baby!
Realizing it’s actually going to happen–26.2 or bust baby!

It’s okay to set goals that seem impossible. In fact, I dare you. And the best feeling is when  you reach the point where you’re almost there. Ok, the best feeling is actually crossing the finish line, but there is a magic moment and a tipping point when you realize how hard you’ve worked and that you are almost there and are going to make it. Don’t quit. And if you have, re-start. You may be just around the corner from the finish line. Crossing the finish line is worth all the sweat, tears, pain, and effort…it is.

Run towards your finish line even if you can’t see it yet. Don’t let it elude you. It’s there. Go get it.

Yep, we started in the dark.
Yep, we started in the dark. The short one, she’s the culprit–I blame her.
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey...
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey…
The hardest I've ever worked for a kiss!
The hardest I’ve ever worked for a kiss!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 20: Slap a number on it and call it good…

I like this concept of 30. The 30×30 list in and of itself was challenging and rewarding, but even in applying the number to this blog challenge has been quite entertaining. I have a very different feeling about this blog challenge sitting on day 20 than I did while writing on day 3. At some point during a goal there is a shift from “I wonder if I have what it takes to do this?” or “Is this ever really going to happen?” to “We’re not there yet, but this is really going to happen!”

I’ve noticed a change in my attitude and perspective from the old 30×30 list and the next list. After seeing the blessings and the accomplishments through the experiences of the 30×30 list, the next list seems a lot less intimidating for some reason. What’s different about this list than my last one? Do I have less demanding goals on this next list? Am I not challenging myself enough or taking the easy way out? Actually, those are all the wrong questions.  

I’m a numbers girl, I like being able to set goals and track something. Numbers allow you to do that. Saying, “I want to get healthier” is a far different goal than saying, “I want to reduce my cholesterol by 30 points,” or “I want to drink 80 ounces of water every day for the next twenty days.”  Or another example, saying, “I want to be rich” is harder to define than saying, “I would like $XXX,XXX in the bank by the time I’m age XX.” Defining what rich looks like to you is far more important than just using a generic term to set a goal. (Personally, the term “rich” to me is far more than a dollar sign and includes healthy relationships, peace of mind, fulfilling accomplishments or callings and more. But enough on that.)

I noticed on my next list that I left some items general and some are quite specific. That was on purpose. For example, some travel destinations I just want to check out, fulfill a curiosity, and be able to say I’ve been there–like Lake City or Telluride. Other destinations I have a specific activity in mind that I want to do while I’m there, like photographing Niagara Falls or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. For me, it’s not enough to just go and get the postcard, but I want to feel the mist, capture the beauty on camera, and experience the sea life of that part of the world. I did this on the 30×30 list too. I didn’t just want to see the Statue of Liberty, I wanted a picture with her. (I owe an apology to my girlfriends–we took 2 ferries and battled fog for half a day in order to check this one off the list. Thanks ladies.)

I have found that while creating this next list the questions that have helped me are more along the lines of  the following:

  • In ten years, what would I look back and regret not doing if given the opportunity to do so?
  • What specifically in my situation do I want to change?
  • What specifically do I want to experience?
  • What am I called to do?
  • How do I fulfill what I’m called to do?
  • What is scary to me?
  • What do I think will never happen?
  • What do I want to tackle right away and what is part of the long-term vision?
  • What am I going to look back and smile about?

The thing is, my list is mine. It’s not going to look like anybody else’s list. Sure, I have similar desires and dreams as a lot of other people, as human beings we’re wired that way. But the specifics are unique to me. And that’s why it’s important to be detailed on some items and to leave other items vague. Some goals I am focused on the “how” where other items need to have flexibility and room to breathe. All have faith involved. Years from now will the final list with dates and checkmarks look anything like the list today? No. But that’s half the fun.

One of the largest lessons I learned from my 30×30 list is what life looks like when we’re drifting vs what life looks like when there are goals and a plan. I don’t like drifting. I don’t mind relaxing or changing course, but I want to know there’s a destination. And what better way to put down on paper (or on a blog) what that destination looks like to you. The biggest lesson learned is that no matter what, learn to enjoy the journey…every step and detour along the way. Cheers to the goals attained, goals already in place, and the goals that are yet to be.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 17: Yes, I like pina coladas…and all that goes with it.

I like pina coladas. And this summer I had the unique opportunity of getting caught in a true Colorado rainstorm. Not on purpose mind you, but I couldnt’ have planned it better if I had tried.  A group of us had taken a road trip to Steamboat Springs to invade the trails and enjoy the holiday weekend.  (For those who have never been there, it’s a cute little Colorado mountain town that is completely worth the drive. Put it on your list.) Out of the seven of us, there were multiple personalities and plenty of varied interests, so our adventures included everything from shopping to hiking to even a tubing trip down the river. We even figured out a way to have a dance party in the tubes. It can be done.

One of the many daytrips included a group of us taking a little jaunt down to the flower sanctuary just over the train tracks and through a trailer park. Yes, I said trailer park. I think we went out of pure curiosity. Apparently not a great judge of weather conditions, we were barely there long enough to sniff three flowers when the thunderclouds rolled in and did what clouds to best. Let loose. With almost a mile to trek to our condo, I thought we were going to take cover in the nearest gas station, but apparently I was mistaken. I forgot I was with a group of ultra marathoners–they decided to outrun the storm. They’re so stinkin’ fast that I think a few of them might have succeeded. I however, am not an ultra marathoner, and not feeling all that ambitious I decided that running in wet flip flops was not the best idea. Especially considering one of my many nicknames growing up was “Crashley.” No one wants to be wet and eat pavement.  No thank you. So I slowed down, smiled wide, and got ready to get 100% soaking, sopping wet.

I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Quite frankly, I was a little overdue for a laugh like that. It felt like drops were coming up from the street they bounced so hard. I looked like a drowned rat by the time I walked up the hill back to the condo. Not a single stich of clothing was dry. Cars honked and I’m sure people pointed and stared. Ask me if I cared! And of course, I couldn’t complete my flip flop walk without singing out loud and on purpose the ever loveable pina colada song. It’s true, I did. In life storms are going to come and we are going to get caught. It is purely our choice whether or not we choose to dance.

I discovered that afternoon that yes, I did like pina coladas…and I absolutely like getting caught in the rain. Especially a Colorado mountain thunderstorm. Although it wasn’t officially on my list, I highly recommend adding this one to yours if you’ve never done it. And for bonus points, be sure and sing the song too.

We all know this girl's way too young for pina coladas. She can dance anyway.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Day 14: The days that leave scars…

Today the plan was to tackle the ugly and confront my procrastination. I always have good intentions to do that but always seem to find a reason to postpone it another time. *smiling* But today was the day. For reals this time.

This last April I was sideswiped by an unexpected loss through suicide which shattered my world and broke my heart in too many ways to count. For anyone who has gone through this kind of loss, you’ll understand me when I say that I went numb. Completely and absolutely numb. This of course is a part of the body’s emotional protection–and thank goodness for it, because if we were allowed to feel the depth and the entirety of the loss all at once it would be absolutely crushing beyond repair. In time, different forms of pain come through and emerge in layers later on as the shock starts to wear off, but the initial trauma just made everything freeze and stand still in my world. This particular pain will always leave a mark and a scar, forever leaving you changed.

So what happens in April for everyone else that didn’t happen in my world? Taxes. Thankfully I was able to file for an extension and push that onto the back burner to be dealt with later. But sooner or later, “later” comes and today it came for me. Technically I have until this October to file, but I do not like having stuff like that hang over my head. I am an excellent procrastinator, but even I will only allow certain things to go so far. Things like that are a nagging to-do that tend to hang in the shadows and zap the enjoyment of any type of free time or pleasant activities. I want to be thought of as a good little law abiding tax-paying citizen. (We will not get into a political discussion on taxes, but no matter where you personally lie on the matter, I have chosen to take the perspective to be very grateful to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms that come with calling America home. Freedom isn’t free. Although not enjoyable, I will be grateful. Ok, enough on that.)

I would have tackled this task a wee bit sooner, but while I had everything laid out in my home office as I was getting it all organized, the fire evacuation happened and every bit of paper ended up in one big pile in a gym bag as I rushed to pack my car. (See day 2 blog posting for more on that experience.) So today was “tackle taxes” day. And guess what? I did! That in and of itself was a big win. Although not on the official “next list”, it still was one of the bigger to-do items on my personal daily list that required a bit of celebration.

To celebrate today’s victory over procrastination, I went to Clement’s Park in Littleton, Colorado (where I grew up) for a walk around the lake and to enjoy the fresh air. The 1.4 mile pathway around the lake just called my name and begged me to come play. I haven’t lived in Littleton since I was eighteen and I hadn’t been to visit this area in years. It was fun to see how things had changed and how strangely they seemed the same. What I did not expect was to trade one heartbreak for another.

As I was walking along the path I found myself taking a detour up toward’s familiar territory and old stomping grounds from my past, Columbine High School, and soon found myself at the edge of something I was unprepared to handle today. As my flip flops flopped closer I could already feel the tears welling up under my sunglasses. I was at the edge of the Columbine Memorial commemorating the 13 lives loved and lost during the shooting at the high school on April 20, 1999. Senior year. The memories flooded back–there was no numbness this time.

I stood by the stone memorial that seemed so peaceful and in such stark contrast to the hatred and violence that created it. Knowing this was going to sting, I just stood there, taking deep breaths as I read the quotes and commemorative comments etched in stone under each name. Touching each name, I remembered being shattered then too. Families were torn apart, the quiet community rocked, and innocence was lost that day. Over a dozen of us were crammed in a room glued to the television with a list of names being checked off in the “safe” column as we saw them on the newsfeed or heard word through the teenage grapevine. Not everyone was accounted for. Thankfully, the water feature at the entrance broke the silence, keeping a continual background ambiance that otherwise would have been eerily silent.

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

It’s in moments like these that reflection on life and the briefness of it invade reality in the most unexpected and uninvited way. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, life is a gift…and it is short. Very very short. Some are shorter than others and some are cut short in ways that will never ever make sense this side of heaven. I have learned that it is okay to ask our Maker the tough questions and take our heartbreak and tears to Him, but He  lovingly doesn’t always answer those questions in the way we expect. He promises healing, but the pieces very rarely get put back together the way they were before or the way we think they should. And some questions will never have answers to them at all. I believe that sometimes that is part of a protection mechanism too, much like numbness. In time, some answers do come–and in time, some answers don’t need to come anymore. That’s part of the beauty of the healing process. Either way, time seems to be involved.

I think that is partly why I have clung so tightly to the concept of the 30×30 list and the importance of goals and setting plans in place. The time we have here on earth is limited and valuable and I want to be a good steward of that precious resource. Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. Even when tragedy tears through our world, there is a hope that in time there will eventually be healing. And no matter the type of wound or how big and ugly the scar, it is a reminder that we are still alive.

And as long as I am still alive, I have been given the opportunity to cross one more thing off the list…and I’m going to take it.

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ImageImage

Photo by David Keyzer
“Never Forgotten” – Photo by David Keyzer

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

Day 12: If you plan it, they will come.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this Dirty Thirty experience it’s that people will come along for the ride. They will. I learned early on that if I took the initiative and planned something, no matter what it was, there was always someone else who would join in on the fun–but nothing, absolutely nothing would ever have been checked off if I didn’t first initiate the plans. Very rarely will people have the drive to make the effort and do something on their own, so stop expecting someone or something else to make arrangements for you.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised in how many people joined me on my journey. Yosemite National Park was one of those pleasant surprises. I have always wanted to go and see this outdoor wonder and found out that reservations needed to be made about 4-6 months in advance. I don’t know about you, but getting people to commit to something next week is difficult enough, let alone six months from now.

I asked around to see who was interested on a road trip to Northern California and didn’t quite get the huge response I was looking for. But knowing that campsites fill up quickly I made the reservations and put down the deposit to hold a tent cabin at Curry Village. (And yes, it is actually a tent-cabin. I didn’t even know they existed, but they have them at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park.) I decided I would rather make reservations and take the risk that the trip might not happen then wait and find out later on that there’s no availability and not be able to go at all.

I told myself that if I had to go alone in order to cross this off my list, then so be it. Obviously I would rather have friends come with me, but I was not about to let a lack of support stop me from accomplishing #25 on my list. I figured I was a big girl, I could handle a weekend by myself. It might even be good for me. I had come too far already to be thwarted by someone else’s lack of enthusiasm. Turns out, three girlfriends were game for a road trip, so we all piled in a car for a girl’s getaway to go camping in Yosemite National Park. I think we giggled the whole five hour drive up there.

This is not the only item on my list where I had to make the first initial plans to do something whether anyone else would do it with me or not, but it was the one that I realized that other people were counting on me for their own adventures. In the car ride on the way home they asked me what the next thing was on the list—they wanted to know where we were going next. “This was fun Ash, where are we going next?” These girls had helped me cross off New York, seeing a Broadway play, wine tasting in Temecula to celebrate graduation, and skydiving. But sitting in that back seat on the way home from Yosemite was the first time I realized that my list was not my own, I was not the only one looking forward to crossing things off my list.

I have since discovered that if I am willing to organize and take the first steps to plan and put things in motion, there is always someone who will tag along and join in on the fun. I like to call these people tag-alongs. (They won’t put in the effort or ever start their own projects, but they’ll always hitch on to someone else.) And that is okay. The world needs leaders and followers. Be the leader in your own life and invite others to follow you in your journey.

On the road trip of life, you can pack the car, pick the destination, and turn on the ignition long before and without the help of anybody else. Once all the preparation and menial tasks are done, don’t be surprised when other passengers want to get in beside you and tag along for the ride. Let them. 

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

Day 11: “A photographer I am not”…a phrase I need to delete from my vocabulary

Ashography Event & Portrait Photography
Ashography Event & Portrait Photography

Today I was reminded of one of the items on my list and why I like it so much–photography. Some clients vacationing in Breckenridge hired me to document an afternoon out by the lake with their extended clan. I love seeing families interact and play with each other. Each shoot is so different. It’s in the capturing of genuine smiles, laughter, and even tears that I find enjoyment. (When photographing toddlers, there is almost always a good shot of waterworks. I love it.)

With the digital era and the art of photography so easily accessible to the general public (and anyone with a smart phone), I almost feel guilty even remotely calling myself a photographer. I feel like a phony at times. But I get paid for it, so apparently I’ve done something right somewhere along the way. But that didn’t “just happen.” There was effort involved. A lot of effort.

Ashography - Vail Wedding
Ashography – Vail Wedding

First and foremost, my apologies to all the “real” photographers out there for all those like myself who poach on the art. I do not have $10,000 lenses or have an official press pass at sporting events, but I am extremely grateful that technology has allowed me to be able to pursue a passion and do what I love (and make a little extra dough while snapping those smiles.)

But it wasn’t easy to bust into the industry. No one likes wannabes.  Especially “real” or professional photographers. But how do you learn unless you start somewhere? Do not despise small beginnings. Thankfully, I had a professional California wedding photographer take me under his wing and who was kind enough to show me the ropes over the course of several years. I had to hunt him down, throw in some bribery and begging, and have divine favor to get my foot in the door, but it was well worth the effort! I learned more from interning under two wedding photographers getting hands on experience than I did during the photography course through the Ansel Adams gallery in Yosemite. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved that course! I almost didn’t take it because I was intimidated by it, but that’s another story for another time.)

Family Portraits - Baby Sam
Family Portraits – Baby Sam

I admit, there are times when I see someone else’s work or fancy equipment and have an extreme case of photog insecurity or jealousy. But then I have to remind myself that I may not be at their level but I’ve worked hard, have definitely come a long way, there is a reason why clients hire me…and I love what I do. I started from scratch on this one.  I look back at some of the work from my earlier shoots and cringe, but I have to remind myself that I am a work in progress and that I do have something to offer my clients. I do–otherwise I wouldn’t have any!

Ashography Wedding - Boobie Bride
Ashography Wedding – Boobie Bride

The best part about crossing off photography from the 30×30 list is that it’s actually never really going to be fully crossed off. When I put it on the list, I didn’t even own a DSLR camera. I had to research, learn, and save up for what I thought at the time was “photographer equipment.” Turns out, I bought all the wrong stuff. Oops. Don’t worry, my photographer mentor set me straight. But the beauty of photography is there is always room to upgrade…I mean grow.

The year 2009 was when I started making efforts to cross this off my list. Fast forward five years, two internships, several equipment upgrades, multiple classes, two websites, one logo creation, one business EIN, multiple trade shows and conferences, and roughly 30 weddings later and I have Ashography Event & Portrait Photography! Honestly, I can probably put it on my list again. And again. And again.

Ashography - Fitness Studio Shoot
Ashography – Fitness Studio Shoot
Ashography - Family Portraits
Ashography – Family Portraits
Ashography - Family Portraits
Ashography – Family Portraits

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Karl Lagerfeld “What i like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

Ansel Adams “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ― Ansel Adams
Abraham Lincoln “There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Ansel Adams “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”  ― Ansel Adams
Eudora Welty“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” ― Eudora Welty

Day 9: Don’t judge me by my golf game

Girlie goofy golf...my kind of game
Girlie goofy golf…my kind of game

Let’s talk about golf…and how I can’t. I was reminded of this recently when out on the range at the local golf club and found myself explaining to my golf partner why he was suddenly and unexpectedly playing best ball. (For all you non-golfers out there, best ball is when you play off of whoever’s ball is in the best location for the next shot. I kind of like to call it “free for all” golf. My favorite.)

Part of what has been so enjoyable about this 30 day blog challenge is going back through the old list and recounting the steps taken on each item. Ahhhhh, memories. I have to laugh when I come across “learn to golf” on the list because, really, at what point do you consider yourself “learned”? Golf is a lot like math or a foreign language–if you don’t use it you lose it. And since I pretty much now only go out for the annual Father’s day round with my dad, any skills I did have I have pretty much kissed goodbye. So how can I claim to have crossed “learn to golf” off of my list when obviously the only way I play is goofy golf? That’s simple. It was never about golf to begin with.

Golf, like photography, is one of those things that is a constant work in progress. The more you do it, the better you become. When I slapped that particular item on the list I was working in an industry where a lot of business is done out on the golf course. Being that I was one of the few women in a heavily dominated male industry–and I wasn’t a golfer–I was at a slight disadvantage. Golf intimidated me. I am totally ok with business meetings being held out on the green, I just don’t like not being invited to them.

On one of my business trips, some of my fabulous co-workers signed me up for a golf tournament as a joke, fully knowing that the only kind of golf I had ever played was putt-putt. A wise and kind soul took pity on me and gave me a heads up, secretly setting me up with two lessons at his country club. Friends, you cannot learn how to golf in two lessons.

I seriously thought about calling in sick, because quite honestly, I felt sick. The last thing I wanted to do was be the butt of all golf jokes with a bunch of executives. I was prepared to be mortified and dreaded the embarrassment I knew was to come. What I did learn and was not expecting at all, was that the joke was on them.

Although my two lessons did not make me a golf superstar, what they did do is impress the boys that I even made an effort to learn their game at all. Apparently they liked the fact that I even made the attempt and that I wanted to get out and play with them. And that day, in that particular tournament, I got a whole 18 rounds of golf lessons with some very intelligent and likable businessmen. Instead of making me feel like the annoying little sister tagging along on the course, they made golf fun for me and officially introduced me to the game. (And they even taught me how to cheat. Yesssssss!)

Over the next couple years I played in many many golf tournaments, learning the art of shmoozing on the course, and I now know the difference between an iron, driver, and pitching wedge. I can see why guys like the sport so much. There is nothing not to like about getting out and enjoying the outdoors for a few hours, partaking in a little smack talk, losing a bet or two, and of course, making skid marks in a golf cart.

Although my golf game will never probably look like a “real” golf game, I have to say I do like to make the attempt every now and then. The whole point of putting it on the 30×30 list was to not be intimidated by the game any more. Golf, and the fact that I knew nothing about it, intimidated me. I hate being intimidated. Especially by something as silly as a little white golf ball. Although I will never be the next Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, I can cross “learn to golf” off my list in good conscience because I am no longer intimidated to throw on my golf shoes, hit the green, or be bossed around by a little ball. Much. I do not need to have mastered the game to be the master of my list. (Although I need to make sure that those I play with know that we’re more than likely going to be playing goofy golf. I’ve even had a game of golf turn into croquet. Be forewarned.)

It's time to enjoy the journey
It’s time to enjoy the journey

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 5: Excuse me, that wasn’t on the list…

School of fear...I mean bungee jumping
The post-jump meltdown. Having a moment.

I have been to the school of fear. Some people call it bungee jumping, but I call it the school of fear. And I got schooled. Several friends in my master’s program were able to witness my journey as I crossed several things off my list over the years that we were together, and some of them actually created 30×30 lists of their own. (Side lesson: the 30×30 list can be contagious.)

Bungee jumping was never on my list, but when a friend wanted to cross the activity off of her own list the adrenaline junkie in me just couldn’t say no. As I was standing on the bridge I wish I had. I was more terrified to bungee jump and leap off the bridge than I was to go skydiving.  I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I was excited and nervous to go skydiving, but I did not have the paralyzing fear that I experienced during my bungee adventure. I was downright terrified—and this wasn’t even on my list!

Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that if something goes wrong while skydiving, life just ends with a really fantastic view. That, and I will have gone crossing something off my list, making me one happy girl. But if something goes wrong bungee jumping, the survival rate and the probability to receive injuries that can last a lifetime are much greater. These are the thoughts that went through my head. Completely rational, right? But I stared fear right in the face, screamed, and leapt off the ledge like only a crazy person would. And kept on screaming…I think there might have been a few expletives in there as well. Oops.

Jumping off a bridge is not normal.  But as I stared at the group of us that were lined up to do so, I realized there were a lot of us that weren’t normal. This just reaffirmed that although I am not normal in any sense of the word, I am not alone. I may be crazy, but I am not the only one. (I might as well have a good time and enjoy my lunacy, right?)

Actually, I did it twice. I jumped off a bridge of my own volition not just once, but two times. That’s not normal either. But I learned a lesson about myself that I may not have figured out as quickly if it weren’t for this experience. My first jump was a forward leap where I saw what I was doing and where I was heading (which was straight toward the rocks and the river below) and yet chose to make my body do something my brain didn’t want to do.

Crazies in jump school
The crazies in jump school. The pre-jump jump practice.

The second jump was a backwards leap where I had to make a conscious decision to let go of what was safe and fall backwards not knowing or being able to see where I was going, trusting the rope and harness to do its job and protect me. That was so much scarier! It took two countdowns and extra sweet talk from the bungee instructor before I could let go and just fall. This really surprised me. I didn’t think I would have such a hard time, especially after I had already jumped once. But there I stood on the bridge platform, paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t fall backwards.

"I'm sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?"
“I’m sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?”

Afterwards when our group of fifteen jumpers went to dinner to celebrate, I was even more surprised to discover that most people had an easier time falling backwards than jumping forward. I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe I’m not as normal as I thought. Oh great, I’m not even normal among crazies!” Then it occurred to me that even in life there’s not only a fear of moving forward into what we perceive as scary, but there’s also a very real fear of letting go and trusting that it will be okay no matter what happens.  Both are very different fears and very different kinds of trust, and both are also very, very real. It’s not that one is any better or worse than the other, but whether it’s moving forward or letting go, letting the fear paralyze us into inaction is never a good thing.

Doing nothing is still a choice. Inaction is still a choice. Even if I chose not to move or to freeze, the fact still remained that I was on the edge and I would continue to be afraid until I either jumped off or moved back over the railing to where I was before. Either way there were consequences. If I chose to jump I had to get over all the fear that entailed, but if I chose not to jump and get back onto the safe side of the bridge I would have to be okay with missing out on the experience and the adventure. I hate missing out on adventure. Ultimately I was not okay with that option and chose to move past my fear and make the leap, and I am so glad I did! Honestly, I don’t ever want to do that again, but I am very thankful that I took the opportunity when I had it and I know that I would have regretted not doing it. That’s the beauty and the power of choice—I can make the choice to do something and take the risk, and also have the power to choose not to experience that again. My personal philosophy is to try it once, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again!

Zero fun, can you tell?

So thank you bungee jumping, for making me realize that I have more trouble letting go and more fear of moving backwards than I do pushing forward. Good to know. And thank you to the crazies–I’m glad I’m not the only one. And thank you to my friend, for inviting me to be a part of her adventure. I had so many people support me as I was checking things off my list, it was really a treat to be on the other side and be able to do that for someone else. That’s the funny thing about lists, sometimes the best things aren’t even on them.

Post jump smiles
Post jump smiles

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Woody Allen

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
― Woody Allen
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

John Lennon

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon
Dan Brown

“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Day 4: Writing the vision…and how I didn’t.

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Okay, here we are in day 4. I have to be completely honest on why I’m doing this 30 day self-imposed blog challenge. When the last item on my 30×30 list was completed, I entered into a “now what?” mode, and I just put everything on pause and continued on with normal life. As in life, I was tossed some curveballs that kept even the slightest thought of getting back into list-making far far away. (A major break-up, a cross-country move, a new job, taking care of an elderly grandmother, death of a boyfriend…you know, life.)

But the entire time it had been put on my heart to write about my 30×30 experience. And like the good procrastinator I am, I ignored that thought and didn’t do anything for a long time and put that thought on the top shelf. And then people started asking me to write a book. And I did nothing. But after doing a photography shoot for an author’s conference creating bio portraits for author’s books…I got inspired. Over the course of a year I wrote sections and thought bubbles on the experiences and life lessons this 30×30 journey has taken me on–30,000 words worth–and then I did nothing.

I was stuck. The more I tried to get my act together on the final portions of the 30,000 word monster, the more I got frustrated and angry with it. So I set it down and left it there. And there it sat for over a year. Even though I knew the power of what the written word can accomplish–it was a key factor in completing the 30×30 list–I wouldn’t even look at it. The book, the unfinished product, the whole thing just made me feel like a failure. But the publishing siren kept calling and the feeling that I needed to do it just wouldn’t go away.

So here I am. This 30 day blog challenge is set to force me to re-visit the old list, re-open the rough draft, get going on the next steps in publishing, and to hopefully inspire me to begin setting the goals for the next list. What to call it yet, I’m not sure. But I do know that it has been laid on my heart to write, and so write I shall. I know this also means being diligent and disciplined to set aside the time to not only write in this blog challenge, but also to pick up where I left off on the actual book. It also means picking up the phone and making some very embarrassing phone calls to the publishing industry. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the financial side and costs of birthing a book! But before I get too ahead of myself and get caught up on the details, I will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and continue to do what I was supposed to do a long time ago. Write write write. Cheers to the power of the pen. Here we go!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man] —blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he.” — Proverbs 29:18
  • And then God answered: Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision message is a witness pointing to what’s coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Message Bible)
  • “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.” – Herman Melville
  • A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” – Sidney Sheldon
  • Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” – Henry David Thoreau
  •  “If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.” – David Brin
  •  “My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.” – Anton Chekhov

Day 3: Re-hashing the good times

Celebrating Crossing off #29 on the list
Celebrating crossing off the last of the last of the list…

I found a video I created awhile back, highlighting some of the good times in the 30×30 journey. Admittedly, I had to watch it through my fingers (the amateur status is that painful, really), but it was really fun to revisit certain things that I hadn’t thought about in years. Some things even got a nervous giggle and an eye roll or two. Cooking lessons? Really? I almost completely forgot that getting a fuzzy friend was on my list–I live and love on Mojo every day, yet somehow I forgot that he was ever on the list in the first place. Sorry Mojis! After watching the video and reviewing the list itself, I decided to post the list in its entirety–something I haven’t really shared with the “public.”

So here you are–the official list and all the dates that go with it right here on this very blog. (Check out the tab labeled “The List” for the big reveal.)  It’s been really fun to look back and remember the progression and the momentum that built up surrounding this personal challenge, and all the people involved in making it come to life. When asked about my list, some of the 30×30 items just naturally float to the top of the list–like skydiving and completing that master’s degree. But there are certain things that fall through the memory cracks and seem to get buried under what I call the “sexy conversation items.” Everyone wants to talk about skydiving and swimming with dolphins. Eyes light up when they hear of the 10 day raft trip down the Grand Canyon, cruising the Med, or camping in Yosemite. But somehow it just doesn’t seem as engaging to talk about the “unsexy items,” like drafting a will, setting up a 401K, or organizing photos. Boring, I know. But those snoozer items are still items that were important enough to make the list. They’re important to me.

My point to this whole nostalgia piece is that not everything on the list has to be blow-your-socks-off cool or difficult to the n’th degree. Otherwise you can just create a “places to travel” list. That’s fun, do that too. But as human beings we are multi-faceted and have different degrees and levels of interest, creating things that challenge us in varying ways. So why not have a list that reflects that? Face some fears, put on some dreaded tasks and items of procrastination. Why not throw on a couple “that’ll never happen’s?” I dare you. The thing is, it’s your list. Do with it what you want. But start it. Then maybe years down the road you can look back and laugh at what’s on there…maybe even through a couple of fingers and some eye rolls.

30×30 Montage Video – Proof It Actually Happened

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • “Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world: We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls.” – Prime Minister Winston Churchill
  • Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” – Henri Matisse
, French painter
 1869–1954

30×30 List – More Than A Bucket

A few years ago I went through what I now call a quarter-life crisis around age 25 and decided to make a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I was 30 years old. To address this funk head on, I played hookie from work and took myself out to coffee to get my attitude in check and a fresh vision of where I wanted to go. And thus my dirty thirty list was born–the 30×30 list, if you will…and so far I have been incredibly blessed to have crossed off 29 of those 30 items! The most recent was celebrating my birthday with friends in a hot air balloon. Not bad, not bad at all.

This wasn’t just a list of lifelong goals, I’ll-do-it-someday, or “bucket list,” but something much much more than that. Bucket lists or lists of goals and dreams are certainly not a new concept, nor are lists with distinct timelines (think New Year’s resolutions), but this 30×30 list of highly defined goals jumped off the page into my every day life and became a reality in the journey of setting goals for the different “buckets” that are important in my life. There’s my education bucket, financial bucket, romance bucket, travel/adventure bucket, fitness bucket, and spiritual bucket. I had lots of buckets that needed to be filled with dreams and ideas, memories and friendships. I quickly realized that I was not the only one out there with empty buckets waiting to be filled, and soon discovered people not only wanted to help me cross off my own 30×30 list, but create and accomplish lists of their own. Game on!

Skydiving, acting in a play, rafting the Grand Canyon, swimming with dolphins, and getting my master’s degree were just a few of the items on the list. I love receiving e-mails and communication updates of 30×30 lists from those I’ve met along the way. I am a firm believer on the importance of setting goals for every season of life, regardless whether you’re 18, 28, or 58. And the list for this decade will probably not look anything like next decade’s dreams. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Really. We all have dreams–it’s whether we have the courage, perseverance, drive, gumption (and stupidity) to go after them. One of my favorite parts of this whole 30×30 experience was meeting others with dreams of their own and helping them fulfill their own buckets…and that is what having a 30×30 list is all about. So the question remains…what’s on your list? What have you done or are in the process of doing? Tell me your list and I’ll tell you mine!