Tag Archives: bucket list

What’s #1 On Your List?

go do them

Yep.

You should.

And you CAN!

What’s the number one thing on your bucket list?  Mine used to be “Be someone’s mother.”  Check!  “Go skydiving.”  Check.  “Sail the Greek Islands.”  Kinda Check (it wasn’t a sail boat!).  Right now, my number one adventure dream is to see the Northern Lights, preferably from one of those glass igloos in Finland.

I’ve learned four essential principles for crafting a bucket list over the last 13 years.  Click on this sweet kitten in a bucket to go over to my post at Work It, Mom! and get to the bottom of the bucket!

bucket kitty

Terminal Velocity

This post is my response to the writing prompt “What’s the scariest thing you ever did and why did you do it?  Here goes…

“So…what if something goes wrong?”

My skydiving instructor tugged the four hooks on my harness and said, “Each ONE of these is capable of holding both of us.  It’s fine.”  His name was Bruce and he was a retired Marine and he had jumped 2000+ times.  “It’s fine.”

“What if you bang your head on something and pass out and I don’t know how to pull the thing to open the chute?”

“It’s got an automatic trigger set to a certain altitude and if I haven’t pulled it by then it will deploy itself.  It’s fine.”  Bruce left me standing in my harness and strolled over to the other side of the hangar to get that magic parachute he was soooo sure about.

sky diving

That’s Dan in the blue do-rag. I believe my facial expression says it all. Bruce is the fellow on the left in black and red. He was totally cool.

By that time on that sunny Saturday morning back in May 2001, I had already sat through a class about tandem skydiving, watched the safety video, signed a LOT of releases, practiced my landing tuck, paid $200 and punched my friend, Dan, for talking me into this.  Dan is a parachuting fiend–stopping on his way home 2-3 a week to go up in the sky and dive.  He evangelized for it as a way of taking life by the horns and reclaiming my sense of adventure after that boring and claustrophobic decade with my ex-husband.  (You know, Fartbuster?  Perhaps I’ve mentioned him before…)

So there I was, with Dan and two other friends from work–Emily, who was celebrating her 40th, and Jennifer, who at 24 had just finished cancer treatments.  Oh, and Richard, who came along for the show.  We had been dating for about three weeks.  In his first career, Richard had been an aerospace engineer doing research for the Army, so he had jumped a time or two but had never been high enough to experience freefall.  He wanted to dive, but tandem was the only option.  He told me out of the side of his mouth, “I don’t want to be strapped to a guy.”  As luck would have it, at that moment a six foot blonde Amazon of an instructor walked by and said, “You can ride with me, Sugar!”  I’ve never seen a man whip out a credit card and pay $200 that fast.  He was like SIGN.  ME.  UP.  So there was all 5′ 4″ of Richard dangling from that woman like a baby in a Snugli.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of that.

Our adventure weekend was special because Skydive Monroe had a big plane available with an open deck on the back, like a cargo plane.  Instead of having to waddle out a little door in a small plane, we would be able to leap, flip, sail and plummet right off the deck into nothingness.   Sweeeeet.  Right.

I cut my eyes at Richard and said, “Just how fast will I be going?”

“Oh, I’d say about 100 miles per hour, maybe 120 in freefall.  Much slower under canopy.”

“He said we would freefall for a full minute.  Don’t we pick up speed as we fall farther?”

“No, you’ll reach your terminal velocity pretty quickly.”

“I’m sorry….WHAT?”  Nobody wants to hear the word “terminal” stuck right up against “velocity” when she’s standing there in line to get into a plane with no back wall.

“A falling body can only go so fast.  You can calculate an object’s terminal velocity–its highest possible speed–by taking into consideration the drag of the air, the pull of gravity and the weight of you and Bruce strapped together.”

I gave him my best English major blank stare.

He planted a little peck on my pale, clammy cheek.  “It’s fine.”

That was a long ride up to 16,000 feet (that’s about as high as you can go without needing oxygen).  My camera guy (oh yes, I had paid extra for the camera guy) interviewed me on the way up and let’s just say I was looking a little twitterpated.  We were THREE MILES up in the air, y’all.

Bruce told me it was time to hook up.  I had to stand.  My legs were water.  Water vapor.  I mean seriously…THREE MILES UP, no back door on this plane, a dude filming me, and my new boyfriend tied to Xena the Warrior Princess.  We were third in line, inching toward that gaping hole at the back of the plane.  Nothing but blue past it because I sure as hell wasn’t looking down.

Because the deck made stunts easier, Bruce wanted to try a back flip for our exit.  Who was I to express any doubt?  Is there a safer, more practical way to hurtle out of a plane?  He pretty much dragged me to the big red line on the floor by the entrance to oblivion.  I crossed my arms over my chest and tucked my chin like we had practiced.  He gripped a long silver horizontal bar for balance and we shuffled out into the wind.  “Wind.”  HAH.  There is no word for that feeling.

Bruce screamed by my right ear, “OK on three.  3, 2, 1…….”
Look at that smile.  Going 100mph really makes my cheekbones pronounced.

Look at that smile. Going 100mph really makes my cheekbones pronounced.

And he let go.  As we fell backwards, I blacked out for a second.  The force of the wind, our increasing velocity, flipped us around a couple of times then Bruce got us into flat position.  The nothingness of air pressed so hard against my chest, my face, my cheeks that I couldn’t have screamed if I had wanted to.  And oh, I WANTED TO.  Bruce tapped my right hand to signal that it was time to spread out like an X.  He deployed a drag chute and even with that little brake on, we flew downward at well over 100mph for a solid minute.  When I finally caught my breath, it all came back out as giggles.  The rush and roar.  I have never felt so alive.

Then, holy HELL, I bumped into something.  In the air–I bumped into something.  That crazy Dan had jumped right before us.  His terminal velocity must have been less than ours because we all ended up near each other and that fool SNUCK UP ON ME and grabbed my hand!  I’m falling at 100mph, tied to a Marine and yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”  I thought we were all going to bang heads.  But those guys knew what they were doing.  Dan posed for the picture then sailed off.  Leave it to me to jump out of a plane and still run into someone I know.

Dan swooping in to grab me.

Dan swooping in to grab me.  Not smiling anymore.  I believe I was snarling, “GET OFF ME!”

At the end of the minute, when I thought my heart would explode with the giggling and the adrenaline, Bruce tapped me again to let me know that he was about to pull our chute.  WHAM!  It looked like we shot up through the air in comparison to the other solo divers around us but really their terminal velocity remained much higher while ours slowed with the greater drag coefficient of the chute in relation to the constant of gravity.  (BOO YA!)
After the rush and the roar, there was silence.  We didn’t talk.  Just floated.  Bruce let me pull the steering handles a couple of times to twirl us around.  I could see the curve of the Earth at the horizon.  A 360 degree view of Georgia countryside on a sunny Saturday morning.  I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

There’s one word you don’t want to hear your jumpmaster say when you’re about 150 feet above the ground on your first skydive and about to land.  That word is “SHIT.”  Bruce had us all lined up for a solid landing, but another dude came sailing in hard and fast directly opposite us.  Bruce adjusted quickly, but my brain clicked off at “SHIT” and I forgot to pull my knees up out of his way.  We hit the ground running (literally!) and my feet tangled with his.  I landed hard on my knees and got the wind knocked out of me for the first time in my adult life, but I staggered up with the biggest grin on my face and a new-found respect for gravity, wind and silence.

I stayed giddy for days!

I stayed giddy for days!

I stayed high for three days.  It’s been 12 years since that jump and I can still make my stomach lurch by remembering the 3-2-1…letting go.

Richard and I went back to my house and ate strawberries, drank champagne and fell in love.  That skydiving adventure was the first of our adventures together.  I pulled out my bucket list and wrote that day’s date next to “#2.  Skydive.”

Reaching my terminal velocity from three miles up was pretty scary.  But that skydive was not the scariest thing I’ve ever done.  It created the most adrenaline, but it wasn’t the scariest.

When Richard was diagnosed with leukemia three years later–that was the scariest thing I’ve ever lived through.  It, too, had a rush and a roar and confusion and panic at the beginning.  So much effort to get him BETTER.  To get him cured.  Then he reached his terminal velocity and there was the slow fall, the silence, the hard landing.  Having the wind knocked out of me.  Staggering up again after he died.  THAT was the scariest thing I ever did. 

 

To read more of the scary stories generated from this prompt, click on over to Mommy Loves Martinis where we’re all linked up!  Her tale of being a broke ass teen mother in Spanish Harlem is not to be missed.

A Bucket, A Baby, A Ball Gown

very_old_computer

Me, looking for love in 2001.

March 8, 2001.  I wanted to celebrate the fact that I hadn’t been murdered by the stranger who had picked me up on the side of the road when my car broke down.  And since I was single again and he had a cute butt, I decided to celebrate with him!  I did a little research first.  Now kids, gather round because MeeMaw’s going to tell you a story about a time before Google!  No Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitterverse.  Since I couldn’t google him, I had to Altavista him.  It’s a primitive mating ritual.  I found him on the University’s faculty list…so that checked out.  I linked to a couple of his posted class syllabi…he really did teach in the business school.  I found a copy of his CV and all the education and jobs he had told me about were there and in order.  No unexplained gaps that might mask an incarceration or long term psychiatric stay.  I found a couple of fraternity pictures (hazy and scanned because our phones only made calls back then) and he appeared to be aging well.  Oh, and on the bottom of his resume, he listed “Eagle Scout,” so that explained why he stopped to help an old lady with a busted car.  

I made a note to myself that I might have a couple of teensy trust issues (or a promising future in stalking) then I emailed him to see if he’d like to have coffee some day.  He said yes.

This was a green and growing time of my life.  The day of the coffee date, I was talking to my friends Craig and Tom about things we’d like to do in our lives (we didn’t even have the phrase “Bucket List,” kids!).  It dawned on me that we were doing a whole lot of talking and no acting.  Dreams stay dreams until you put them on a To Do List.  I arrived early to Jittery Joe’s coffee shop and happened to have my notebook with me, so while I waited for Richard, I wrote down what I called my Life List–50 things I wanted to do in my life.

The first thing I wrote, without hesitation, was “be someone’s mother.”  Next was skydiving and white water rafting and sailing the Greek Islands and skinny dipping and learning how to do a card trick and owning a cashmere sweater and teaching someone to read and wearing a ball gown to a real ball and hiking the Appalachian Trail and sleeping in the desert to look at the stars and learning the constellations and eating all the shrimp I ever wanted in one sitting and reading a story out loud in public…you get the idea.  It was a solid list and I was excited about it.  In mid-scrawl, I felt someone standing near me and looked up to see my new friend.  He pulled out the chair opposite me and asked what I was writing.  Instead of hiding it or trivializing it, I told him.  His response?  “Let’s hear it.”

We spent the next hour talking about the things on my list.  There were a few that he had done (skydiving, skinny dipping, Greece) that he highly recommended and a few things he had done (sleeping in the desert) that he didn’t want to do again.  It was a great first date!  And guess what?  Over the first few months of our relationship, we knocked several things off that list!  Because he knew that they were important to me–I had claimed them.  I had declared that I would devote energy to the pursuit and he believed me.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Skydiving.  A couple of guys at work talked me into joining their skydiving adventure at Skydive Monroe.  Best $200 I ever spent (except maybe on therapy).  Richard went along to cheer me on then decided to join in.  We went back to the house and ate strawberries and champagne and I couldn’t stop giggling.  I giggled for three days.  My stomach still lurches if I recall that moment of letting go into the void.  And you won’t believe how quiet it is when the parachute deploys and you’re floating.
Robert Doisneau, Kiss at the Hotel de Ville (1950)

Robert Doisneau, Kiss at the Hotel de Ville (1950)

  • Sharing a long kiss on a crowded sidewalk.  After 10 years with someone who didn’t believe in PDA and after one too many Robert Doisneau posters in college, I put this one on the list.  We crossed it off one day after lunch, right downtown as hundreds of people walked by.
  • Cashmere sweater.  On sale for $50!  Still have it because it’s red and tight and makes me feel sexy.
  • Give a gift to my college.  While I was redoing my beneficiaries after the divorce, he suggested I make Wesleyan a beneficiary.  Done and done!
  • Own a piece of original art that I love looking at every day.  I bought a painting in a silent auction for a literacy group.  It’s still hanging in my bedroom.
  • Learn the constellations.  I bought myself a book by H.A. Rey, the same guy who wrote Curious George…also an astronomy buff!  Orion is a friend to this day.
  • Skinny dipping and sailing the Greek Islands.  That’s a longer story for another day, but let’s just mark it a two-fer!

There were things we didn’t get to.  Things I still have on my list.  Things I’ve done on my own or with someone else.  But the lesson that sticks with me was that I knew, right from the start, that this person would honor my dreams.  It meant that I had to put them down on paper and put them out into the universe, but I had a partner who thought them important.

bucket baby

Baby…in a bucket!

When I found myself divorced then widowed then still childless at 36, I believed that #1 on the list would never come true.  The Baby Store would have nothing but empty shelves.  I spent many nights looking up at Orion and crying over this “fact.”  Then one day, I went back to my Life List and read it again.  The first entry didn’t say, “Have a baby” or “give birth.”  It said, “Be someone’s mother.”  I could do that on my own.  I resolved that, if I hadn’t met anyone with whom I wanted to have children by the time I was 40, I would adopt a child.  Once that was settled, the space in my heart that had been occupied by fear eased up a little.  And guess what happened a year later?  At 38, I had a perfectly healthy baby.  Then another one at 42.  I know there are people who struggle to get pregnant later in life, but there are also people who don’t!  If you are feeling hopeless about growing older and having children, focus on being someone’s mother.  There are many paths to motherhood and they don’t all pass through your uterus and they don’t close down right on schedule.

I’ve been thinking about that list a lot today because I was reading an interview with The Bloggess and it mentioned The Traveling Red Dress Project. A few years ago, Jenny bought herself a wildly inappropriate and impractical red ball gown because she wanted to know what it felt like  just once, to wear a bright red, strapless ball gown with no apologies.”  She bought it, enjoyed it then shipped it around to her friends and online community so that they too could experience the joy of wearing a stunning red ball gown.  One woman wore it to celebrate overcoming her agoraphobia…the pictures are awesome.  I still haven’t crossed off my “wear a ball gown” item on my list (and I was beginning to second guess it after Jennifer Lawrence almost bit it at the Oscars) but it might be time.  Vivi and I can go out in the grass and twirl until we fall down.  I am someone’s mother and we are prone to twirling.

Would you do your Baddest Mother a favor today?  Write down five things you want for yourself.  Start believing in them.  Then jump!