Bucket Steps

I’m a couple of months into my bucket list, and I’ve made some definite progress on at least a couple of items.

First of all, something pretty great happened right around my birthday in late August. I was offered (and accepted) a full-time job as a grant writer. I had been working as a freelance writer for years, but I always had to supplement that work with other “regular” part-time jobs. Grant writing was something I had been interested in for a long time, but I didn’t know how to get my foot in the door. When this opportunity came up, it felt as if everything I had done previously – every various part-time job, all my volunteer work, even parenting – somehow came together in a nice little package that equated to the job description for this grant writing position. Still, I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting it. Until I did. When the HR director called me on the Friday before my birthday, just a day after my interview, I thought she was either going to tell me they had chosen another candidate, or -if I was really lucky – that I had made it through to a second round of interviews. When she offered me the job – enthusiastically, no less, saying they were excited to have me join the team – I sat there for a moment, speechless. It was a pretty great birthday present, and it felt like a good omen for the year ahead.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this job is a dream come true for me. Every day, I get to go to my quiet little cubicle and write words to try to convince large corporations and private foundations to put their money toward feeding hungry people. I have so much to learn, but it’s a challenge I’m excited to take on, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to go to work there every day.

So no, it’s not chemistry or advanced math, but I believe taking on this new challenge covers my bucket list item of “studying a subject that is difficult for me”, because this is, in the most wonderful way.


Also on my birthday (did I mention my 49th birthday was the best one ever?) Paul gave me tickets to a Foo Fighters concert for October. It was in Greensboro, NC, two hours from home, on a Sunday night, and I hadn’t earned any leave yet at the new job. That meant I would have to go to work the next day on less than four hours of sleep. The old me would have balked at the idea and found a hundred reasons why we couldn’t go. But I had my list, and I really, really wanted to change the way I think about (and do) things. So we went for it. And I was excited about it!

The concert really felt like a reset for how I want live my life from now on. It was an adventure, and I hadn’t been on one of those in quite some time. Paul and I sped off to Greensboro late Sunday afternoon, arriving about 15 minutes before the opening act was to go on. As we pulled up to the venue, we saw that the coliseum parking lot was full. For a second I thought we’d miss part of the opening act, but just then I noticed an elderly lady standing at the entrance of a small lot off to the side. We drove up to her, slipped her a $20, and pulled right into a spot just a few yards from the main lot. We ran inside, through the metal detectors, and made the climb to our seats with a few minutes to spare. The opening act was fun – I had actually seen The Struts two summers before with Anna, so I was familiar with most of their songs. They got us ready for marathon than was coming next. When the Foos took the stage, the energy that swept through the place made the hairs prick up on the back of my neck. Dave Grohl is a master at getting people on their feet; just a few seconds into the opening song, he was yelling into the mike, with that adorable grin of his, “You motherfu*&ers better get up and dance!” And we obeyed. For three glorious hours, over 20,000 of us yelled and screamed and sang the anthems of all things Foo:

Were you born to resist or be abused?
I swear I’ll never give in,
I refuse.

It was so good.

Later, as we sped down the abandoned highway toward home, Paul stopped at Sheetz for coffee. As if the night hadn’t been perfect enough, there was a big ole soft serve machine staring me in the face when I walked in.

There I was, eating ice cream at one in the morning, knowing I would feel like shit when the alarm went off at 6:00 but not caring one bit, because this was now, and I was going to enjoy every minute of it. That’s my takeaway from that night: Live now, scream for your favorite song, sing it at the top of your lungs, and always eat the ice cream without any guilt – even at one in the morning.

I fell into bed at 2:30 with no regrets. I didn’t even curse the alarm that woke me 3 ½ hours later.

So, yeah, I’d say I’ve got the rock concert item checked off for sure, though I hope to have a few more check-marks by the time my next birthday comes around.


The last item I can say I’ve at least made progress toward is the one about getting on a plane and flying somewhere. I haven’t gone anywhere yet, but I do have a passport now – the whole family does – so all that’s keeping me out of the air is a destination, and I’m working on that. I am nervous about flying, but I’m not going to let fear keep me from doing things that are important to me.


I feel like I’m living my life again for the first time in a long time. For too long, I was worn down by worry. I worried that I hadn’t done everything for Anna that I could have when she was recovering. I worried that Hope was forever scarred by what she saw her sister go through, and by the attention she wasn’t given during that period of time when Anna needed the most care. I worried about my parents and what they would do as they grew older and needed help with things. I worried about Paul and me, and what was going to happen to us when we became empty nesters.

Not anymore. Everything is opening back up. There will still be health problems and worries and bumps in the road, big and small; but I know we will get through all of it, and life will go on. Life has to be lived now, because right now is all there is.

I, I’m a new day rising.
I’m a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight.
I am a little divided.
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind?


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