Posts Tagged ‘bucket list’

A couple of things have happened over the last year that have made me re-examine my life and goals. Besides the Trumpocalypse, that is. That’s a whole ‘nother bag o’ worms I don’t want to get into right now. Plus there are people out there who do a much better job at explaining and poking the bear than I could possibly hope. (Some favorites: Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Jim Wright. Humor is definitely the best medicine in this case.)

First, my middle niece has been to Europe and Asia in just the last few months. She and her best friend spent New Years in London, after a quick side trip to the Eiffel Tower in France. Then several weeks ago they both went to Japan via the Great Wall of China for the friend’s sister’s wedding. Barely legal-to-drink Millennials, they scrimped and saved and planned, and are doing things I’ve always wanted to, but could never afford. You go, ladies. Do it all now, while you’re still young and able.

Second, I had a bit of a health scare. Over the summer I was having problems with my joints – especially my knees – swelling. It turned out to be a side affect of some new medication (which I have since stopped), but in the process of making that discovery we had to weed out a few other things. Since I have artificial knees, I was worried that carrying so much weight might have damaged them, so we did x-rays to check. The knees are fine, but just above the left knee, in the marrow channel of my femur, we discovered an anomaly. The radiologist defined it as a “sclerotic lesion” approximately the size and shape of a small egg. My primary care doctor immediately ordered a bone scan and referred me to an oncologist. I proceeded to freak out.


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The next few months consisted of long waits between appointments as I dealt with referrals for tests, referral from the oncologist at my primary care facility to an orthopedic oncologist at Cedars- Sinai, my insurance, retrieval of old x-rays from before my knee replacements, and indeterminate answers. I’ve been questioned, examined, x-rayed, MRI’d, and, finally, biopsied. (Yes, that entailed drilling through my leg into the bone while under CT scan. And sedation – Yay!) Thankfully, the biopsy determined the thing in my leg was a benign growth called an enchondroma. While there is a remote chance it can become cancerous, the odds are highly in my favor. And given that I have no noticeable symptoms, the doctor recommended we just keep an eye on it. That will mean periodic x-rays, but at my age I probably glow in the dark already, so that’s not an issue. Sure beats the hell out of the alternatives.

Between being reminded of all the things that could go wrong in life (and how short it can be), and all the things I haven’t accomplished, my bucket list came roaring back to the forefront of my attention. We all have one, whether we actually call it that or not. Things we want to do before we die (aka: “kick the bucket”). Some items might be kind of mundane, such as getting married, or graduating college. Others might be more adventurous, like climbing Mount Everest or swimming the English Channel. And the list often changes as we ourselves change. When I was a kid my list included making All State Band (done), graduating college (done), and riding in a helicopter (done). Now… well, now it tends to lean more toward the adventurous than not. Being on the wrong side of middle-aged and middle-class means a lot of them probably aren’t going to happen. But who knows? Maybe the gods will grant me a favor.


bucket-list-project (1)

What’s in your bucket?


So here, in no particular order, are some of the things on my bucket list:

  • Hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Yeah, that’s a lot of hiking, especially for someone who’s longest walk most days is to the kitchen and back. But it’s still within the realm of feasibility. And the new treadmill has been installed. I’ve even used it. Hubby thinks it would be cool to do, too. Once I can do a couple miles in one shot on the treadmill, we’re going to start looking for short local hikes we can do, and work our way up. Even if we never make the PCT, getting up and being more active will only help.
  • Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. Thanks to all the fat I carry, my buoyancy is pretty extraordinary. Plus I lettered in swimming in high school. All I need is a burkini to keep my lily-white skin from broiling off in the Australian sun, and I could spend days with my face in the water looking at all the cool stuff. Probably should do that soon, given the damage pollution and climate change are causing the reef.
  • Visit Machu Picchu. An Incan city in Peru known for its finely crafted stone walls and the grueling trail to get there that tops out at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. Stunning views and archeological finds make it a must-visit-in-person, while being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site helps justify the very limited visitor roster.
  • Canoe the rivers of Alaska. Our 49th state is the last bastion of true wilderness we have. I want to smell that air, feel that chill, and witness the herds of caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before our government sells the last of it off for drilling rights.
  • Bicycle through Europe. I did a ton of riding in high school and college. It was my primary form of transportation and at one point I was racking up over 100 miles a week, between school, jobs, and student teaching. And there’s so much I want to see, especially in the Germanic and Scandinavian countries. Bicycling through it all would allow a more leisurely pace from which to witness the world of my ancestors.
  • Horseback ride across the US. Probably the least practical of my fantasies. But, like bicycling Europe, a great way to see the states. Plus I love horses. What could possibly go wrong?




  • Attend both Summer and Winter Olympics. TV coverage can be great. You get interesting back-stories, jump straight to the finals, and don’t have to deal with the crowds. But sometimes you just need to experience some things first hand. And maybe this way I’ll see some of the events I like that don’t often get covered that well.
  • Attend all three Triple Crown races. More horsey stuff. When I was a teenager, one entire wall of my bedroom was covered with horse pictures. And my scrapbook has a ton of articles about my favorite, Secretariat. I watched his races live at the time, and remember being overwhelmed by his power. To this day I tear up a little when I see those races again. I’ve always wanted a horse, but between constantly moving and finances, it just never happened.
  • Learn to fly both fixed wing and rotary aircraft. Especially helicopters. Something I’ve wanted to do since childhood. Even toyed with the idea of joining the Air Force so I could get flight school paid for. Later I did all my ground school courses at the local junior college, getting instrumental and commercial ratings. Finances ruled against me getting actual flight time, though. And being that ground school was over 30 years ago, I’ll have to start from scratch again, anyway. Hey, Harrison Ford was my age when he got his license, so I’m not out of time yet.
  • Go to space. And I mean more than a ride on the Vomit Comet. Spend some time on the ISS, or a moon base. Or Mars. Don’t let the grey hair and cellulite fool you; inside there is a starship captain waiting to escape Earth’s gravity. Why do you think I’m a science fiction writer, for fuck’s sake?
  • Publish a novel. Ideally, more than one. It would be especially cool if I could actually make some money with them, too. Don’t need to be huge, like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Just would like a sort-of regular income. Right now I’m making zero off my writing, so anything is an improvement. Yes, I still have queries out. Need to do more of that writing, thing, though…
  • Own a castle. With radio-controlled alligators in the moat, and an automated dragon belching fire on a turret. Just kidding! (maybe…)

As you can see, I have pretty expansive (and exPENsive!) fantasies. Plus most of them require me to be in a whole lot better condition than I am. And while there are always possibilities, it’s the probabilities that work against you. But as one of our favorite space rogues once said:


Never Tell Me the Odds

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No, I haven’t just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, or anything else that might cause me to leave these mortal coils sooner than initially scheduled. But I am now firmly in my second half century, and, sadly, have already had several people of my generation dear to me make that final journey across the rainbow bridge. Every one of them left with unfinished business in their bag. I’m not talking about the usual stuff that those left behind deal with. I’m talking about untaken trips, incomplete projects of the heart, unchased dreams, unfulfilled wishes.

“As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.”

Zachary Scott

Regret has been my biggest motivator for returning to writing after such a long, strange trip away from it. Like every other human on the planet, I’ve made my share of mistakes. None of those things I did have given me the level of regret the one thing I didn’t do has given me. I had the opportunity to attend the second year program at the American Film Institute, one of only six screenwriters that were accepted that year. I could have had my MFA and another year immersed in that amazing creative environment. I could have continued as a reader with Sanford/Pillsbury Productions (I got the [unpaid] job when they tested me on Eight Men Out, a project they already had in development) and perhaps moved up the ladder from there. I could have spent the last twenty-five years solidly in the business, scrambling from job to job and either long since proven myself or learned I didn’t have what it took at a much younger age when I didn’t have so much to lose. I coulda, I woulda, I shoulda…

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

Sydney J. Harris

            Some might argue that if I hadn’t taken the path I did, I wouldn’t have my amazing husband. While a good point, I like to think we’d have found each other regardless because it was just meant to be. Maybe things would have been different; maybe I would have been a successful writer and allowed us to live a little better than we are now. Or maybe not. That’s the thing with regrets. The possibilities haunt you.

            It’s those regrets that got me thinking about the other things in my life I haven’t done, but would really like to. That’s where the bucket list comes in. I haven’t actually committed mine to print until now, but it’s been running around in my head for years. Now is the time to open it up to the light and actually start planning and working toward some of them, especially the more physical ones. I ain’t getting any younger, after all, and while I can still do all the things I did when I was younger, it certainly takes me a lot longer to recover these days. So, in no particular order, here’s my list:

1)            Hike up to Machu Picchu. It’s intrigued me since I was a child, such an amazing construction so high up in the Andes. I’ve had friends make the trek, and come back changed. A highly demanding physical task, it’s something for which I’m going to have to diligently train. It’s a lot better motivator than just getting my blood work to my doctor’s satisfaction.

2)            Kayak through the major rivers of Alaska. I’ve always liked being away from civilization. Plus it’s cool and green up there. The last real frontier left in our country. Best to see it before the oil companies drill it to death.

3)            Hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Yeah, I know most people think of the Appalachian Trail, but I’m a West Coast kid and would have a lot more support for this trip. And there’s that hiking thing again. I don’t mind walking. And what better way to see our beautiful country?

4)            Attend all three races of the American Triple Crown in the same year. Yes, I’m a horse fanatic. I was the typical tween girl with a wall of horse pictures. I still have my scrapbook with all the articles about Secretariat, still the best racing thoroughbred ever as far as I’m concerned. I’d love to have my own horses but I’ve never had the land or the money, and I venture to say I probably never will. So I’ll just live vicariously through the Sport of Kings.

5)            Attend both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Maybe then I could see some of the events I’m really interested in, like biathlon (guns and snow – what’s not to like?) and eventing (the ultimate test of horsemanship), instead of what the networks think I should watch.

6)            Bicycle across the continental U.S., LA to Washington, D.C. Not sure why, just always had that niggling in my brain. Maybe for charity. I did a lot of time on a bicycle when I was younger. But I think for this trip I’d do a recumbent tricycle. Better stability for the long haul, and easier on the butt. I have a college buddy who’s really into this, so maybe take him along and see if he’ll teach me how to play guitar.

7)            Visit the Smithsonian Museums and Zoo. Especially the Air and Space Museum. I want to see our space shuttles. Take all the time I want, and see if I couldn’t arrange some behind-the-scenes times with some of the curators. So much stuff there, so much of our interesting history.

8)            Fulfill a degree program at the Royal School of Needlework. At least two full years of playing with string, learning how to design and work with all sorts of materials and stitches. Not to mention being able to examine all those fabulous historical pieces up close and personal. Orgasmic.

9)            Get my doctorate degree in Music Education. Yeah, that’s still on the list, and yes, I’ve already picked out the school. Sometimes I still miss teaching, and doing it at a university would be a lot nicer than public school. Most of my family figured I’d be the first to get that far, and long past, but my sister beat me to it a couple years ago, getting her Ph.D. in psychology. I’m still the smartest, though.

10)         Make a living as a novelist. It doesn’t have to be a J.K. Rowling/Stephen King kind of living. Just a regular income that could maintain our current level of existence without the constant bill juggling and panic attacks at unexpected expenses. I was making mid-five figures as an office schlub – it would be lovely if I could do the same off my words. The first novel is in submission with a publisher, while the second is (slowly, but surely) under way. Maybe this is the year for me.

Yeah, I have a lot of work ahead of me. Good thing my family is long-lived. But before I get to it, I do have one piece of advice for a young person just starting the path to their dream: DON’T STOP. Push for it with everything you have. If you want something bad enough, you find a way to make it happen, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to do that when you aren’t tied down by a mortgage and medical bills. Take the chances. Chase your dreams. Do it so you don’t end up middle-aged and filled with doubts and questions and regrets over what might have been.

And if you’re already middle-aged with a mortgage and medical bills and all those doubts, DO IT ANYWAY. I can tell you from experience, living with a nagging regret over something you shoulda/coulda/woulda will only rot your insides. Go out kicking and screaming with as many things checked off your bucket list as you can. Just think of the stories you’ll have to tell on the other side.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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Back in January I was laid out for a couple weeks by what I thought was bronchitis.  I didn’t do a damn thing during that time, and because of that, January was a wholly unproductive month when it comes to just about anything besides killing monsters on my computer.  Then I had a couple weeks where I was feeling okay and tried to get back to normal.  About the second weekend in February, it came back, and with a vengeance.  The doctor said it was “a touch” of pneumonia.  Two urgent care visits, two courses of antibiotics, two bottles of cough syrup with codeine and over three weeks later, I’m finally able to sit for a while without hacking my lungs up.  Stuff is still rattling around in my chest, but I’m not aching like I was and can actually go the whole day without changing my underwear because I coughed so hard I peed my pants.  Yeah, that’s a sexy picture, isn’t it?

During this second bout with the plague, I spent most of my time between cough syrup doses watching the Olympics.  I’m a big fan of both the winter and summer games, so much so that attending them both in person is on my bucket list.  And being able to watch the coverage all day, every day was a real treat.  This not having to go to an office and work thing has its perks.  But it didn’t take long for me to learn the down side of witnessing this grand spectacle of sports achievement.  One of the things the coverage does is give you the back stories of various athletes, their trials and triumphs in their journey to this ultimate pinnacle of the sports world.  Stories that often seem as if they had come right off a Hollywood writer’s desk:  the American men’s biathlon team winning medals in their events for the first time in the history of the games;  a short track speed skater who just six months ago had crashed and sliced his leg so badly he wasn’t expected to walk again, much less compete and ultimately win a medal;  a figure skater who’s mother died suddenly on Sunday, and by Thursday had won a Bronze.  Stories of heroism and perseverance unmatched by mortal men.

Stories that make fat, middle-aged writer-wanna-bes sitting at home tucked into a nap blanket with two cats, a box of Kleenex, and a bag of cough drops feel woefully inadequate.

They also made me open my eyes and really think about what I wanted and what was important to me.  Every Olympian, whether it be the sole member of the Ethiopian team merely hoping to finish, to the medal-winning juggernaut that is China, has a desire beyond what any of us who sit on the sidelines can imagine.  They all are champions in their own right, on their way to crown the champion of champions.  And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.  Broken bones, torn ligaments, bruised bodies, food poisoning; all mere annoyances to these super-humans who laugh in the face of Death as they jump off perfectly good hills, careen down icy mountain slopes, or skate across thin ice as if the Devil himself were in pursuit.

And it made me realize that I had seen this kind of drive before, this single-minded focus on that one goal that will fulfill some deep need in each individual.  I’ve seen it in artists and musicians, actors, directors, teachers, parents, professional bowlers and even girl scouts.  We have all had moments of it, however fleeting they may be, when there was nothing to keep us from our goal.  But Olympic athletes are the purest embodiment of it,  living it every day, all day, unflinchingly.

I used to be that way with my writing and music.  I used to live, breath, eat, sleep writing or practicing.  Somewhere along the line, that drive has been diminished.  I got caught up in the world of safe choices and the expectations of a modern world that doesn’t understand what it means to dream.  I did the things that society told me would bring me happiness and prosperity, followed the lead of an unimaginative master into mediocrity, and barricaded that drive behind the locks and chains of fears and doubts and insecurities.  I made the biggest mistake anyone can make – I didn’t follow my own heart.

To paraphrase an old science fiction idiom, fear is the mind-killer.  Once you let it take hold, it will rot through even the strongest hopes, undermining every foundation you have built.  We mortal humans are very good at finding reasons to let the fear keep control.   At first blush you might think the difference between us and Olympians is that they don’t  feel fear, but that isn’t quite true.  While watching the ski jumping, the color announcer was describing all the technical things the athletes were doing to maintain themselves in the air for the longest possible jumps, while all the time their brain is screaming “Suicide!”   The fear is there, but those athletes don’t let it cripple them.  It is used as a motivation to keep doing better, a sign that they are still alive and challenging the world around them.  They live on that fine edge, pushing the envelopes, despite their fears, in defiance of fear.  They have chained the fear to serve them, and in so doing, have proven that any one of us can do the same in our given field of dreams.

Excuse me while I go break some locks and chains and see what it means to have that kind of power.

© 2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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