What's on YOUR list?

ETA: As soon as I published this post, I immediately thought of more things I want to do and places I want to see. Rather than keeping track of them elsewhere, I will add them to the lists here.  I will also cross them off when I’ve completed them (except for the last list, because most of those things are ongoing rather than one-time).

For my 300th post, I decided to write a Bucket List – things I want to do before I die.  I divided the list into three (loose) categories of 100 each:  1) Places I Want to Visit, 2) Things I Want to Do (many of which include specific places), and 3) Ways I Want to Make a Difference in the World.

Making the first list was a snap.  I did not allow myself to include places I’ve already visited but want to see again, and even so, I had no trouble choosing 100 places.  I could never travel enough or see enough of the world.  I would go to every last corner of the earth of I could.  So I guess it’s good that I now have priorities!

The second list was more difficult.  I really had to stretch myself and give myself permission to dream big without allowing the censor to whisper, “Oh that’s not possible!”

The third list was by far the most difficult.  I always think in the nebulous terms of, “I want to make a difference,” but I never specify HOW exactly.  Now that I’ve reached 40, I realize it’s time I start not only thinking about it but doing some things.  For that reason, this was a very good exercise for me.  I think we should all think about not just what we want to do for ourselves but what mark we want to leave on the world.

One final comment: I did not include things that would require others to make specific choices.  For instance, I could easily have put, ‘See my kids get married’ or ‘Watch Michigan win a National Championship Game live’, but that would require outcomes I have no control over.  So I kept the list tightly focused on things that I would be capable (theoretically) of doing without being dependent on the decisions or actions of others.

Places to Visit

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara
  2. Egypt – Cairo, Pyramids, Red Sea, Nile
  3. Morocco – Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Sahara
  4. South Africa
  5. Tanzania/Mt. Kilamanjaro
  6. Mauritius
  7. Namibia – Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast
  8. Zimbabwe
  9. Bwindi National Park, Uganda
  10. Seychelles
  11. Australia

    Sydney Harbor

  12. New Zealand
  13. Madagascar
  14. Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara
  15. Thailand
  16. Vietnam
  17. Indonesia/Bali
  18. China – Shanghai, Beijing, Great Wall
  19. Tibet
  20. Nepal
  21. Bhutan
  22. The Taj Mahal, India
  23. Mumbai, India
  24. The ghats of Varanasi, India
  25. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
  26. Windsor Castle, England
  27. Cornwall, England
  28. The Lake District, England
  29. Scottish Highlands
  30. Ireland
  31. Crete, Greece
  32. Santorini, Greece
  33. Zakinthos, Greece

    Zakynthos, Greece

  34. Rhodes, Greece
  35. Symi, Greece
  36. Barcelona, Spain
  37. Sevilla, Spain
  38. Valencia, Spain
  39. Cordoba & Granada, Spain
  40. Provence, France
  41. Carcassone, France
  42. Normandy, France
  43. Amalfi Coast, Italy
  44. Bologna, Italy, March 2012
  45. Siena, Italy
  46. Tuscan countryside, Italy
  47. Sicily, Italy
  48. Lake Garda, Italy
  49. Salzburg, Austria
  50. Vienna, Austria
  51. Berlin, Germany
  52. Black Forest, Germany
  53. Swiss Alps
  54. Lucerne, Switzerland
  55. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  56. Croatia
  57. Budapest, Hungary
  58. St. Petersburg, Russia
  59. Sweden
  60. Norway

    Norway Fjord

  61. Iceland
  62. Hebrides Islands
  63. Rio de Janeiro
  64. Amazon Rainforest
  65. Argentina – Buenos Aires
  66. Chile
  67. Peru
  68. Macchu Picchu
  69. Patagonia – Argentina and Chile
  70. Alaska
  71. Many Glacier Lodge – Glacier National Park
  72. Charleston, South Carolina
  73. Savannah, Georgia
  74. Cape Cod, Massachussets
  75. New Hampshire in the autumn
  76. Moab, Utah
  77. Monument Valley, Utah
  78. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  79. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  80. Florida Everglades
  81. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  82. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
  83. Hawaii – Big Island, Maui, Kauai
  84. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  85. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  86. Finger Lakes Region, New York
  87. Badlands, South Dakota

    South Dakota Badlands

  88. Yosemite National Park, California
  89. Santa Barbara, California
  90. Quebec City, Canada
  91. Niagara Falls, Canada
  92. Banff National Park, Canada
  93. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  94. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  95. Baja California, Mexico
  96. Chiapas, Mexico
  97. Nicaragua
  98. Belize
  99. St. Lucia
  100. St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  101. Basque Region of Spain
  102. Cuba

Things I Want to Do

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

  1. Publish many books for children
  2. Write and publish travel articles
  3. Write and publish personal essays
  4. Make The New York Times Bestseller list
  5. Write a novel (at least one). I almost don’t even care if I ever publish one.  I just want to write one.
  6. Write down my father’s “Greatest Hits” (i.e. his best stories)
  7. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  8. Dive in the Red Sea, Egypt
  9. Dive in Palau, Micronesia
  10. Camel-trek in the Sinai desert
  11. Go cage diving to see Great White Sharks
  12. Dive in a kelp forest
  13. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu during a full moon
  14. Ride in a hot air balloon
  15. Take my kids to Disney World
  16. See a wolf in the wild
  17. Go to the Rose Bowl when Michigan is playing
  18. Ski Jackson Hole
  19. Ski at every resort in Colorado
  20. Ski the Dolomites in Italy
  21. Ski the Alps
  22. Learn to ski moguls like an expert
  23. Learn to ski in powder like an expert
  24. Go heli-skiing
  25. Take a photography course
  26. Stand on the field at The Big House
  27. Perfect Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) pose in yoga
  28. Take an Italian language immersion class in Italy
  29. Take a flamenco dancing class in Spain
  30. Learn to speak fluent Italian
  31. Read The Divine Comedy in Italian
  32. Take surfing lessons
  33. Touch an elephant

    Photo from my brother

  34. Swim with dolphins
  35. Attend an Eckhart Tolle retreat
  36. Meet the Dalai Lama
  37. Attend an Olympic Games
  38. Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh
  39. Spend a few nights on The Royal Scotsman
  40. Compete in a “mini” triathlon
  41. Run another half marathon
  42. Oktoberfest in Munich
  43. Take cooking classes in Italy and France
  44. Do wine-tasting tours in Italy and France
  45. Wine-tasting tour in South Africa
  46. See the Northern Lights
  47. Successfully grow broccoli in my garden
  48. Learn how to build an Excel spreadsheet
  49. Perform in a play
  50. Become a writing coach/teacher
  51. Attend at least one World Cup game
  52. Earn a living from writing and writing-related work
  53. See a whale in the wild
  54. Take my daughter to Rancho la Puerta
  55. Attend the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park
  56. Do yoga in India
  57. Make meditation a regular practice in my life
  58. Write and e-publish a travel memoir
  59. Finally read David Copperfield to the end
  60. Learn Colorado history
  61. Polar Bear safari in Cape Churchill, Canada
  62. Bake a cake at altitude that doesn’t sink in the middle
  63. Go Deep Sea fishing
  64. See an opera at La Scala in Milan
  65. Carnavale in Venice
  66. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  67. Stand on the North Pole

    Absolut bar at the Ice Hotel

  68. Stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden
  69. Take my kids to see Les Mis
  70. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert
  71. Take a helicopter ride to see a live volcano
  72. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  73. Bush-walking in Seven Spirit Bay, Australia
  74. Hike in Tasmania, Australia
  75. Hike The Grand Traverse and Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  76. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  77. See the Iditarod – Anchorage, Alaska
  78. Kayak in The Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, Alaska
  79. Ride the Durango and Silverton steam train
  80. Swim with Manatees in Florida
  81. Attend the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua
  82. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
  83. Go to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM
  84. Go back to Camogli, Italy for the Sagra del Pesce
  85. Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula
  86. Learn to play poker
  87. Ride a zipline in the jungle
  88. Put all of our home movies together so we can watch them on TV
  89. Digitize all of my “paper” photos
  90. Organize all photos into digital albums
  91. Complete all twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way
  92. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  93. Bag one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners.” Preferably Long’s Peak, which I can see from my front window
  94. Write poetry more often – not for publication, just for myself
  95. Climb a 50 ft. indoor rock wall (which my daughter can do!)

    la Tomatina - Bunol Spain

  96. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
  97. See a meteor shower
  98. See every Michelangelo sculpture
  99. Participate in la Tomatina – Tomato fight!
  100. Learn more about my family history/geneology
  101. Attend a local “festa” in rural Italy
  102. See a Harp Seal in the wild

Ways I Want to Make a Difference

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

  1. Raise responsible, independent, compassionate children. If I fail at this, nothing else will matter.
  2. Ensure my children receive a good education so they can contribute to the world.
  3. Love my children boundlessly
  4. Teach my kids to be appreciative
  5. Encourage the kids in their natural sense of wonder
  6. Expose my kids to as many experiences in the natural world as possible
  7. Expose my kids to as many cultures as possible
  8. Read as many books to my kids as possible
  9. Look my kids in the eyes when I speak with them
  10. Be as good of a mother to my kids as my mother was to me
  11. Donate a portion of my personal proceeds from the sales of my (future) books to benefit related charities
  12. Make an annual donation of food and blankets to the Humane Society
  13. Adopt another dog or two (eventually – Rocky is enough for now!)
  14. Continue teaching critical thinking skills via the Junior Great Books program
  15. Help bring healthy, whole food to all school cafeterias by supporting the School Food Project and Food, Family, Farming foundation
  16. Donate annually to National Public Radio and PBS
  17. Donate annually to National Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife
  18. Donate annually to The Sierra Club
  19. Shop for gifts through organizations such as Unicef and National Wildlife Federation
  20. Advocate sexual and reproductive health education and rights for women around the world – through donations and Kiva lending
  21. Continue making micro-loans through Kiva
  22. Vote in every election
  23. Take Volunteer Vacations
  24. Teach creative writing to children
  25. Teach writing workshops for adults
  26. Mentor new writers
  27. Lead writing retreats that inspire women to give time to their creativity
  28. Create a scholarship for these retreats
  29. Help others live creative lives with passion
  30. Support small, family-run businesses as much as possible
  31. Grow vegetables in my garden every year
  32. Plant trees in my yard and in the community
  33. Each time I shop, buy one item for donation and put it in a box.  When the box is full, take it in to the food bank.
  34. Buy organic food as much as possible
  35. Shop at farmer’s markets more often
  36. Continue serving on the PTO at my kids’ school
  37. Support fellow writers by buying their books
  38. Be “responsible for the energy I bring” – from Jill Bolte Taylor – more info here
  39. Be a better listener
  40. Practice patience
  41. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people who are important to me
  42. Volunteer to spend time with an elderly person
  43. Practice living in the present moment so I can bring my full attention to the people I am with/what I am doing.
  44. Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge for charity
  45. Complete A Course in Miracles
  46. Continue my Gratitude Sunday posts
  47. Consistently donate clothing, toys and other items that we no longer use
  48. Sponsor families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year
  49. Find ways to volunteer with my kids
  50. Write letters to authorities advocating my views on issues that are important to me
  51. Help Em sell Girl Scout cookies
  52. Pick up litter at every opportunity
  53. Participate in 5K, 10K and other runs that benefit charity
  54. Donate my talents (writing critiques, editing, etc.) to online auctions to benefit charity
  55. Make eye contact with people and smile
  56. Whenever possible, say people’s names out loud to them
  57. Remember to say “thank you” for each and every kindness and courtesy
  58. Use my blog to create awareness of important issues
  59. Read banned books and make sure my kids read banned books
  60. Support the arts by providing funding for Kickstarter projects
  61. Use my public speaking skills to motivate people
  62. Recycle and compost as much as we can
  63. Solar power our home
  64. Use only non-toxic cleaning products
  65. Always take re-usable bags when I go shopping
  66. Tip well for good service
  67. Give compliments often
  68. Do nice things for strangers for no reason
  69. Promote the good work of others
  70. Don’t ignore people who are suffering – instead reach out to them
  71. Conserve energy – turn off unused lights, unplug appliances, etc.
  72. Write more Thank You notes
  73. Get my Christmas cards out every year
  74. Participate in Crayons to Calculators each year
  75. Participate in Turn Off the T.V. Week each year
  76. Start collecting Box Tops for education
  77. Write notes to authors of books I love letting them know
  78. Volunteer in a disaster recovery effort
  79. Keep the computer turned off from the time my kids come home from school until they go to bed
  80. Once a month, have a family game night
  81. Read out loud to the kids as a family activity more often
  82. Treat my family with respect
  83. Do not buy meat from factory farms
  84. Give without expecting anything in return
  85. Observe the beauty in the world aloud to others
  86. Practice forgiveness – work on forgiving those who have hurt me
  87. Invite a neighbor over for a cocktail
  88. Talk to my aunts and uncle so I can record stories of their childhood
  89. Cook meals for friends more often
  90. Teach the kids how to cook traditional family recipes
  91. Volunteer in a women’s shelter
  92. Volunteer, at least once, among the very poor
  93. Volunteer to promote literacy among both children and adults
  94. Read, with an open mind, articles and books written by people whose views are very different from my own
  95. Value experiences over stuff and teach my kids to do the same
  96. Help educate others about the importance of wild predators in the food chain
  97. Write more book reviews to support books (and authors) I love
  98. Learn about Feng Shui so I can apply some of it to my house
  99. Do a better job of remembering the birthdays of friends and family members and to actually send cards
  100. Advocate for art and physical education in public schools

Do you have a Bucket List?  If not, do you want to make one?  Here are some additional resources to get you started:

43 Things

Barefoot List

Creating a Bucket List

Categories: Authors, Charity, Children's Books, College Football, Cooking, Creativity, Dogs, ebooks, Entertaining, Family, Friendship, Garden, Goals, Gratitude Sunday, Holidays, Parenting, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Self Publishing, Skiing, Social Media, Spirituality, Travel, Travel Writing, Volunteer/Community, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


September 11th has been on my mind a great deal this week, not just because today marks the ninth anniversary since the tragic events of that day, but because this week I have seen the community of Boulder respond to a crisis in a similar way — with an outpouring of compassion and a willingness to help those in need.  You may have heard in the news that the most devastating fire in Colorado’s history has been raging in Four Mile Canyon this week, just west of Boulder in the foothills.  The fire started on Sunday morning, and so far, more than 150 homes have been consumed.   Although this crisis is on a much smaller scale, the similarities abound.

  • Then, as now, the crisis happened in our own community.
  • Then, as now, the air was filled with smoke.
  • Then, as now, the sound of low-flying planes filled the air (then it was fighter planes since we lived just a couple of miles from the CIA building; this time it’s planes filled with fire-retardant and water).
  • Then, as now, the first responders were firefighters, police officers and emergency response personnel.
  • Then, as now, those people went straight to the scene with the singular goal of saving lives, and in the case of the fire, homes and property.
  • Then, as now, ordinary people everywhere turn into heroes.
  • Then, as now, people come forward from all walks of life to do whatever they can to help those in need.

The lesson learned is that, time and again, in the face of tragedy large or small – the overall goodness of people is reaffirmed.

Given the size and destructiveness of this fire, it is astonishing that the loss of life is almost zero.  This  is thanks to the quick response and dedication of the firefighters and emergency crews.  Many of these same folks have lost their own homes in the fire, but continue to battle it back to protect the homes of others.  Meanwhile, organizations helping firefighters, evacuees (human and animal), and those who have lost their homes have been flooded with donations and offers of assistance.

Yesterday I went to a drop-off center to donate toiletries and personal items to people who lost their homes, and there was a person directing traffic because so many people were donating. The Boulder Humane Society is sheltering many of the evacuees’ pets, so I dropped off dog and cat food today.  They had set up a tent on the lawn due to the sheer number of people coming by to make contributions.  I went inside to put my name on a list of people willing to provide more long-term shelter for the pets of people who’d lost their homes, and found 50 people already on the list ahead of me.  It feels good to be part of such a strong community.

If you are interested in helping in any way, here are some resources for you.

  • The Boulder Office of Emergency Management asks that people who want to make donations for firefighters call 866-760-6489. They should not drop off donations at local fire stations.  I called this number and they put my name on a list of people to be contacted once they have a better sense of what types of donations are needed.
  • A donation drop-off site for clothing, unused personal hygiene items, diapers and school supplies, has been set up at 3111 28th St., Boulder. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.  I went there to drop off some items and they made it incredibly easy – they direct you to a parking place and volunteers come and take your items right out of the car.
  • The Foothills United Way is accepting donations to support fire evacuees.
  • Sparkplace has set up an amazing site where people can post what type of assistance they are willing to provide or what type of assistance they need.  For example, if you have space to host evacuees in your home or to keep pets, etc. you can post it there.
  • The American Red Cross of Northern Colorado is accepting donations to help support Fourmile Fire evacuees. To contribute, visit northerncolorado.redcross.org or call 303-722-7474.
  • The Longmont Humane Society, 9595 Nelson Road, is asking for donations to support pets of evacuees. The shelter needs machine-washable blankets, towels, canned dog and cat food, pet toys and cash donations. To contribute, visit longmonthumane.org or call 303-772-1232.
  • The Humane Society of Boulder Valley needs blankets, towels, cat litter, canned dog and cat food, 6-foot leashes and cash donations. Visit boulderhumane.org to donate online or text “pets” to 50555 to add a $10 donation to your cell phone bill. Items can be dropped off at 2323 55th St. in Boulder.
  • The Boulder County Fairgrounds is seeking donations to support livestock evacuated from the fire areas. The fairgrounds needs hay, horse feed and other services. To help, contact Boulder County Parks and Open Space at 303-678-6200.
  • Volunteer Connection is establishing a volunteer list. For more information, e-mail services@volunteerconnection.net.
  • mGive, a mobile donation platform provide, through it’s mGive Foundation, have established a donation campaign to raise funds for the Boulder County Firefighters Association.  To contribute, text “FIRE” to 27722.  Donations raised through $10 text message pledges will assist the firefighters affected by the Fourmile Canyon Wildfire burning in Boulder, Colorado.
  • The Boulder Canyon Firefighters Donation fund has been set up at Guaranty Bank, 1650 Pace St. in Longmont, for the firefighters who lost their homes to the Fourmile Fire.
  • The town of Gold Hill, majorly impacted by the fire, is accepting donations for fire victims through Paypal, at goldhilltown.com.
You can also follow the Twitter hashtag #boulderfire for all the latest information and for more ways to help.  Thanks for reading!
Photo taken a mile from our house
Categories: Volunteer/Community · Tags: , , ,


After my previous bummer-esque post about why I don’t like New Year’s Eve, I figured I’d do a 180 and wish everyone a Happy 2010.  It turns out that a change of scenery was just what I needed to wring out the old year.  We spent the night in downtown Denver last night.  We kicked off the evening with a horse and carriage ride around LoDo, had burgers and milkshakes at Sam 3’s diner and capped the night off with the 9:00 family-friendly fireworks on the 16th Street Mall.

I watched the fireworks again at midnight from the windowsill of our hotel room while everyone else slept.  I have to admit it was a little magical.

After a buffet breakfast and a swim in the outdoor semi-heated pool (it can only be so heated when it’s below freezing outside), we came home to a big warm dog to hug.  I feel rejuvenated and thus inspired to list ten things I’m looking forward to in 2010.  These are in no particular order:

  1. Not having a real job anymore.  It will be nice to have more flexibility in my schedule.
  2. Writing this blog.  Perhaps sounds a bit self-serving, but I’m having so much fun I can’t wait to do more with it this year.
  3. Writing in general.  Given that focusing on my writing was my #1 reason for leaving the real job, I so hope that in one year from now I’ll be reflecting on how wonderful it was to have been published by someone – anyone.  Anyone???  I am especially hopeful about my children’s books, although I hope to publish some articles this year too.
  4. Family vacations.  Probably repeats of last year: skiing, Michigan, Rainbow Trout Ranch – but all good.
  5. Summer with the Kids.  Last year was so crazy trying to manage child-care, work, vacations.  I’m looking forward to having some good old-fashioned summer fun with the kids this year.  Please remind me I said this at the beginning of August when I’m at the end of my rope!!
  6. Running.  I want to get back into it this year.  I’ve continued the recreational runs, but I want to get fired up and do a few road races this year – the Bolder Boulder in particular.
  7. Having a DOG!!! Rocky is a fixture in the family already, and I can’t believe how happy it makes me to have a dog warming the hearth.
  8. Book Club.  I finally get to be in a book club!  I’ve tried multiple times to start one or join one, but the people I’ve invited have either already been in a club or the ones I’ve wanted to join were already full (or I’m just unpopular, which is also a distinct possibility).  This year, however, a good friend of mine is starting a new one and I get to join!  I know some of the women, but not all, and I can’t wait to meet everyone and get started!  Our first book is The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  This leads me to…
  9. Reading.  No matter how many books I’ve read the previous year, I love the open canvas of a new year and all-new books to read.  Last year, the first book I read turned out to be my favorite for the whole year – The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.
  10. Volunteering.  If I have any traditional resolutions this year, one is to get more involved in the community.  Now that I have a dog, the only other big hole is feeling like I’m making a direct difference in the lives of others.  I’ve never been huge on volunteering, mostly due to time constraints but also because for some reason it makes me self-conscious.  I hope to overcome both obstacles this year and get my kids involved too.

That’s all for now, folks.  Happy New Year!

Categories: Books, Dogs, Family, Former Job(s), Holidays, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,

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