Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In my next 30 years...

My friend Jessica just wrote a blog detailing her Bucket List and it inspired me to revisit mine. I've always been a dreamer, of course, but when I hit 30, I decided to evaluate where I was in my life and where I wanted to be. During that self-analysis, I did a scrapbook layout that included my Bucket List. 

The list included (though wasn't limited to):

  • Parasailing
  • Have a [scrapbook] layout published in a magazine or book
  • Spend New Year's Eve in Times Square
  • Go white river rafting
  • Cuddle with a koala in Australia
  • Swim with dolphins
  • See a show on Broadway
  • Have furniture that isn't second-hand
  • Travel through Europe
  • Take my kids to Disney World
  • Visit the ghosts at Myrtle Plantation
  • Spend a week with [hubby] in Hawaii
  • Own my own home 5/1/05
  • Go camping in Yellowstone
  • Hike & camp in the Colorado Rockies
  • Gamble in a real Las Vegas Casino
  • Do the touristy thing in DC and NYC 5/8/09
  • Live long enough to see my children grown and married
  • Go stormchasing and see a tornado up close 11/06
  • Spend a weekend holed up in a cabin in the wilderness
  • Go on a cruise to Alaska
  • Live on a farm - complete with animals and a garden
  • Learn how to can veggies like tomatoes and pickles
  • Learn how to ski or ice skate
  • Tour Civil War battlefields and plantations in the South
  • Own my own scrapbook store
  • Write a book and have it published
  • Have my portrait painted
  • Be in a financially secure place to where all bills are paid ahead of time & there's money left in the bank
One might think this list is a long, but I don't. I think it's perfectly attainable...that is, if I still wanted to do those things. I don't. I couldn't care less about gambling in Vegas, any of the scrapbooking stuff or living on a farm. I'd happily give up the Alaska part of the cruise dream (and if I did, then that dream was accomplished in May 2011 when I cruised to the Bahamas). The koalas can go, too.

If I wrote a list now, it would include some very different things...things I left off the original list (but have since come true) and things I didn't even know I wanted until the opportunity arose. Things like:
  • Love more
  • Bitch less
  • Repair relationships worth saving and eliminate those that aren't
  • Rekindle old friendships
  • Don't be afraid to be honest with people - as Dr. Seuss says, “Be Who You Are and Say What You Feel Because Those Who Mind Don't Matter and Those Who Matter Don't Mind.”
  • Realize beauty isn't in the physical things
  • Take better care of my body
These are the "fluffy" ones, as I call them (all of which I've accomplished, by the way) - the ones that are just good points to live by. As for actual tangible things:
  • Get back to my high school weight (Yes, this is totally attainable.)
  • Meet New Kids on the Block 4/6/09 (Donnie & Joe), 5/8/09 (Donnie, Jordan, Joe & Danny), 7/14/09 (Jon), 7/15/09, 5/12/11 (all of them)
  • Redecorate my bedroom without the help of an interior designer
  • Visit Los Angeles
  • See the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person
  • Be an extra in a movie or a television show
  • Put my feet in the water of both the Atlantic & Pacific oceans Atlantic 10/2/95, Pacific 5/22/10
  • Live in NYC for a year
  • See a Celtics basketball game in person (courtside seats next to Donnie Wahlberg would be a bonus) 4/1/12
  • Have one of my photographs displayed publicly 8/11/11
The thing about a bucket list is this: for as many of my dreams that I acknowledge and recognize and strive to achieve, there are hundreds that lurk beneath the surface that I didn't even know I wanted until they happened.  Things like becoming friends with Sherri Shepherd, having Jon Knight seek me out during a concert, traveling to NYC on the spur of the moment (twice), an opportunity to travel over 6,000 miles in a year to see NKOTB perform. Every day is filled with surprises and encounters I never dreamed of.

So I guess if I don't accomplish everything on my bucket list, it's okay because I've been so blessed in so many other areas of my life. My cup runneth over.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I'm rarely without words, but in nine years, I've barely been able to write more than a few paragraphs of distant emotions regarding 9/11. I wasn't in New York City that day. In fact, I just visited the city for the first time in May 2009. Like many tourists, I went to Ground Zero. I started out with the intention of doing a round trip ride on the Staten Island ferry first, then walking slowly up to the WTC when I returned to lower Manhattan. It would allow me time to mentally prepare myself for what I thought I would see when I got to Ground Zero.

What I wasn't prepared for stood battered and broken in Battery Park.
Standing guard in the harbor was Lady Liberty, but she was as silent as I was as I looked at the only tangible piece I'll see of that terrible day. I was with a new friend I'd met that day, so I wasn't entirely alone as I read the placard and looked reverently at The Sphere. My emotions came out of nowhere and hit me like a sledgehammer to the heart. For as uncomfortable as my friend must've felt, I could tell she felt very much the same. I couldn't catch my breath and I remember just standing there silently with tears rolling down my face and an emptiness in my heart that I've never felt before or since. I didn't know anyone who died on September 11th, yet I knew a very large part of all of us did. And we would never heal completely from the loss.

As we walked to Ground Zero together, we talked quietly about how that day affected us personally - where we were, what we saw, how we felt. It was amazing to me how very different our lives were and how the disaster touched us, yet how it brought us together on that day as we stood at the fences staring at a construction site where two of the tallest buildings in the world had once stood.

A vacant ache began in my chest and quickly consumed what was left of my composure. I crumpled in tears just yards outside fire company 10 next to Ground Zero. I read the names on the wall of the firefighters and other civil servants who lost their lives that day. I wanted to offer some sort of thanks to those at Co. 10 who lost comrades, but couldn't even catch my breath, much less speak.

While I'd felt an empty ache before my trip to New York, standing there amidst the chaos still at the site, I felt something I can't even put words to. For me? That's big. 

To those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, I honor you. You will never be forgotten.

9/11 revisited

I was not there. I did not die.

I did not feel the tremors of concrete exploding above me in this morning's business meeting on the 56th story. The soles of my shoes did not melt to the floor as it was licked by the flames on the level beneath me. Jet fuel vapors did not saturate my nostrils when I gasped for clean air in my smoke-filled office. My clothes were not torn or ripped off my body when glass and debris pierced the safety of the stairwell. Rescuers will not scrape my splattered body off the sidewalk because I leaped to my death from a window a quarter of a mile in the sky. You did not see me fleeing in panic from the cloud of ash chasing me like a mugger through the streets of New York City. I did not yank every door handle looking for that one unlocked car to serve as refuge from the criminal grabbing at my sleeve. The gritty taste of soot did not stain my tongue in the snowy blizzard of ash that bleached my skin, hair and clothes.

I did not mutter the 23rd Psalm just in time for the nose of my plane to kiss the steel walls of a skyscraper. My throat was not slit with a box cutter by the man who held my fate. My cell phone wasn't dialed in the last minutes of my life as I hid in a tiny box of a restroom. I did not describe to my husband the terror I was encountering just seconds before my exit from this world.

Instead, I was here. I lived.

I gaped at the radio in disbelief when Tim McGraw was interrupted with a late breaking news story of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I surfed the radio stations searching for more information on this catastrophic event. When a journalist's voice was replaced again with song, I would punch the "seek" button on my Alpine until another somber voice was heard. I contemplated turning my car around and returning to the sanctuary of my home. Algebra just didn't seem quite that important anymore. Math won out as I parked my car on campus. The repeated stories echoed through the empty hallways from radios turned on a bit louder than usual. A television in the student lounge boomed ominously to an astounded audience of students, most barely old enough to recall the Oklahoma City bombing with any accuracy. Many had never seen disaster of this magnitude. For that matter, none of us have.

I don't remember sitting through Prof. Jensen's examples on the board today and I still don't understand #20 on the worksheet she assigned. I can't even tell you how I got home this afternoon. Somehow, I managed to pick up my kids and meet my husband at the door with a sigh of relief. The television became our Midwest connection to the horror on the eastern seaboard. We watched in grotesque interest when CNN rolled footage of limp bodies plunging to the ground in some twisted form of suicide. I didn't blink until the video was shown a third time as the plane suddenly appeared in the right of the screen, veered suddenly and exploded through the 83rd floor of the second tower. It wasn't until the whispered words became harmonized verses as this country's congressmen sang "God Bless America" that I finally felt emancipated enough to cry.

My six year-old asked me to show him on the globe where the "bad man crashed his plane." I did. I also showed him where we live. I repeated in "kid terms" what happened and whom they think did it. I attempted to explain why the person is mad. My son, a young man who at times carries the weight of the world on his shoulders said to me, "Mama? I don't want there to be a fire. I don't want to die." His body will not be laid to rest with the thousands who perished in this disaster. But there is a small part of him that will be buried. A small part of all of us will be.

Music of patriotic mourning steals the silence of my quiet home as it nears 3am here in the Heartland. Still a bit shell-shocked, I sit in this chair typing sporadically as ideas pierce the numbness of my mind. With tearstained cheeks, a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach that cannot be loosened I pray yet again. I beg God for some whisper of understanding or a sheet of peace to envelop me so that I may at last sleep tonight.

Today, someone took a proverbial bite of the Big Apple, but I was not there.

I did not die.

(written September 2001)