September Bucket List Life Dare: Back to School (Learn Something New)

I love learning – new facts, new skills, new technology. In the past year alone I have learned two new software applications, Scrivener and Screenflow. I learned the basics of how an 1890’s print shop was run and how to demonstrate it for museum visitors. I learned how to travel for less using hotel and airline points and miles.September 2015 Bucket List Life Dare

But watching my kids start a new school year of studies makes me want to learn even more. Do you ever feel that way too? Then you will want to join me in taking this month’s dare to learn something new.

Choose a topic, a skill, a discipline – something you have always wanted to know how to do or know more about. Then find a way to learn it. It is easier than ever to tap into learning experiences, both online and in your neighborhood.

My recent favorite online learning platforms are Creative Live and Udemy. Both provide easy access to a variety of subject matters. I like CreativeLive for the chance to watch for free while the course is first airing (live and in replays). And Udemy has an incredible breadth of topics and levels of learning. Another place where you can learn from amazing people about fascinating topics is TED, with their recorded presentations from TED events.

Locally you could visit your library or check out course catalogs from your community college or local park district. Even shops can be sources for classes (knitting classes at yarn shops, cooking classes at housewares stores, etc.)

Your challenge this month is to choose your subject, find a learning opportunity and sign up! Me? I’m debating between getting serious about learning Italian by finding a Level 1 course to work my way through or something else entirely. I’m open for suggestions!

The One Where We Sat on the Roof and Ate Ice Cream

In July I dared readers to step out and conquer a bucket list goal that required them to let go. To be wildly free. Something like dancing in the rain.

For me that expression of whimsical freedom came in the form of sitting out on my roof eating ice cream sandwiches with my kids – a daring bit of fun that always appealed to me, while at the same time sort of freaking me out. I put it on my bucket list long ago in hopes that one day I would get the courage to do it.

In response to the dare, I pledged to take my kids out on our roof for an ice cream treat by the end of July… And I did it (just barely before the end of the month)!

July Life Dare Accomplished2It was a sultry evening, thick with late July heat and humidity, but overcast enough that the roof wasn’t too hot to sit on, with a gentle breeze that stirred the warm air around.

I opened the window screen in my office, placed a stepstool under the window, and hoisted myself into the opening, one leg outside, straddling the ledge. Somehow climbing the rest of the way out became a sort of human origami act, me folding myself in half to duck out the window, while testing different bent configurations of my limbs in an effort to fit through without falling. I tried and got stuck. Tried again. And finally managed to squeeze through and pull my other leg over the ledge.

It seemed like it should have been easier, especially when each of my three girls popped out the window behind me with brisk efficiency. In my defense, having an ice cream sandwich in one hand did add a challenge to the process. That and a fear of heights.

Once outside all four of us lined up along the low roof above our garage, eating, chatting and people watching. I kept waiting for passers-by to spot us, but no one looked up in our direction. Perhaps it didn’t occur to them to expect anyone to be up where we were. But it seemed strange to me to see our neighbors pass by close enough to hear their conversation and yet not have them notice us. I’m used to the vantage from our driveway where we sometimes sit. There we share greetings with most who walk by.

As it was, it was a relatively quiet night. Very few cars, a handful of bikers, and a small number of walkers. The emptiness along our street wasn’t surprising though, since our little city tends to empty out in late July as swim, baseball and softball seasons end, and families finally take their vacations.

After devouring our ice creams we sat there for a bit longer, enjoying the night and the view. One of my girls suggested bringing a game out to play. But that went beyond my comfort zone. I guess I hid my anxiety at being up high a little too well.

I’m glad we did it, though. That simple act – eating ice cream sandwiches on the roof – whimsical as it was, made for a memorable evening. I can see us doing that again next summer and the one after.

Just don’t expect to see me walking around out there. I’ll be the one on the end, back pressed firmly against the house.

August Bucket List Life Dare: Seize the Summer Moment

It’s August. Our school district is clamoring for my attention again with registration forms in the mail and orientation reminders in my inbox. As much as I want to ignore it and pretend my mornings will forever be blissfully quiet with kids sleeping late, summer is winding down. School will be starting again. Soon. And that feeling that we haven’t done everything we wanted to for the summer niggles at me.

August 2015 BLL Dare_ Seize the Summer Moment (1)You too? I have some good news for both you and me: it’s not over yet. Even as we shop for school supplies, we can still complete something we had planned this summer that we haven’t gotten around to. And even better, we have a natural deadline to spur us on – the first day of school.

So that’s the theme for this month’s bucket list life dare: Seize the Summer Moment. Think back to the first day of summer. What did you envision the three months of June, July and August 2015 to look like? What did you hope you and your kids would be able to do or create or see or learn or visit or encounter?

Hopefully you can say your summer lived up to much of your vision. And maybe you were pleasantly surprised by experiences you hadn’t dreamed of ahead of time. But there are probably one or two things that you couldn’t fit in or just plain forgot about. That’s what this dare is about. Pick one or two things, preferably bucket list goals – things that you have never experienced before, that you still want to get in before summer ends. Then make them happen in August (or by Labor Day, if you want to give yourself until the official end of summer).

My goal is to take my kids to Magic Waters, a water park we have never tried. We pass it every summer on our way to my in-laws’ summer home, but since we go out there to boat and fish and swim, it never made sense to hit the water park. This year we were fortunate enough to be given passes to Magic Waters. But first summer school and its rigorous homework prevented us. Then vacation away, appointments, work and other obligations made it hard to get out there. Now we have no reason not to go – we just need to make it happen. And I can’t wait for the fun we’ll have when we do!

How about you? What is one new adventure you want to still squeeze into your summer? Take the August Bucket List Life Dare and make it happen.

Lighthouse Bucket List Adventure: An Interview with Cheryl Lynn Cain

CherylLynnCainI have always admired Cheryl Lynn Cain for being a mom with a passion for making a difference. From hosting refugee families, to organizing a fair trade bazaar, to directing the compassion ministry at her church, Cheryl Lynn is a woman of compassion in action. The same is certainly true for her family bucket list – she steps out to engage in adventures that will make a difference in her children’s approach to the world around them. So I’m thrilled to share with you an interview with Cheryl Lynn about a recent family bucket list adventure she undertook: being a lighthouse keeper.

Tell us a little about your bucket list.

I know some bucket lists tend to be very specific but mine has really one over-arching principle: to experience drastically different lifestyles in order to raise children who have tools for greater compassion, understanding and perspective.  (I know, a little heavy!  LOL.)  I think I got there because living in the suburbs, I noticed how easily my kids can be convinced that everyone lives similar lives.  So whenever I find an opportunity to step into a whole other world, well, I try to take it!    

What made you want to stay in a lighthouse?

Lighthouses have had a certain allure for me.  I find the fact that people gave their whole lives, many times living in isolation, in order to hold out a beacon of hope for weary travelers.  And the job was not sexy at all; a lot of day in and day out chores, a lot of watching and waiting for that one day where it would make all the difference.

How long has this been a dream of yours? 

The idea started when I was researching places to stay in California and discovered that many of their lighthouses were actually hostels that even accommodated families.  So after staying overnight at a lighthouse on the coast of northern California, I thought, there has to be something like that in Michigan.  I think many people don’t realize that Michigan actually has more lighthouses than any other state because of their upper and lower peninsula.  So after a little googling I discovered that many Michigan lighthouses are run by volunteer associations that are always looking for keepers for a variety of stays.  The trick of course was that most require long stays or adults only.  However, Crisp Point Lighthouse, on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula allows families to volunteer.  So it was an easy choice.  However, as if serving as a keeper wasn’t enough of a departure, this lighthouse happened to be 18 miles from a paved road or electricity.  So of course this fit even more perfectly to my bucket list, we have never lived off the grid.

What did your duties as lighthouse keepers entail?

Now lighthouses aren’t quite what they used to be with solar lenses and all, so our duties mainly consisted of keeping in order the visitor center and bathrooms, locking and unlocking the lighthouse and becoming familiar enough with the history to answer questions.  However, the duties did not become nearly as challenging as co-habitating with the dense mosquito community of the north woods.  For all the things I planned for: the headlamps, the propane, bringing our own water and food, even planning for bears, I completely underestimated the bugs of the deep woods.  This definitely turned our service opportunity to a survival exercise.  (Our motto became: the more horrible: the more memorable!)  However, what we discovered is that we actually are survivors.  And honestly, with all the conveniences and ease of our everyday life, it was good to know that with a little help of supplies from the gas station 30 miles away, we can brave the elements and come out stronger for it.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t also emphasize that our civil war with the bugs paled in comparison to the beauty of the U.P., the Taquahemnon Falls, the beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the time travel of Mackinac Island and the serenity and dignity of Crisp Point Light.

What is next on your bucket list?

Our next stop on the bucket list will be the western prairie.  We’ll be heading out to South Dakota in the next few weeks staying in a covered wagon at the Little House on the Prairie homestead in DeSmet, SD and then staying at a working cattle ranch near Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park.  We will soon find out if cattle are kinder than mosquitoes and hopefully learn a greater respect for pioneers.

Cheryl Lynn blogs at www.raisingcain.wordpress.com.



July Bucket List Life Dare: Be Wildly Free

Recently I was talking with a group of moms when the topic of dancing in the rain came up.

“I have always wished I could do that,” one mom said. “But I just can’t seem to bring myself to go ahead.”

July 2015 Bucket List Life Dare: Be Wildly FreeEveryone agreed. We all yearned to be so carefree. But we all had to admit that we had never indulged in such a whimsical romp.

I would bet if you stopped to think for a moment, you have at least one bucket list dream of your own that relates to shedding your inhibitions or otherwise breaking free of rules, expectations or constraints.

Now is your chance! This month’s Bucket List Life Dare is to “Be Wildly Free.” If you choose to take this month’s dare, find something on your bucket list that allows you to drop conventions or somehow express your freedom in a way you haven’t before:

– Dance in the rain.

– Eat cake for breakfast or ice cream sundaes for dinner (I have done both!).

– Go up the down escalator.

– Compliment a stranger.

I remember as a young newlywed hearing a pastor’s wife I admired share a story of one summer afternoon when she invited her elementary-school-aged son to join her in having an ice cream treat while sitting out on their garage roof. A neighbor boy came by, spotted them and asked if he could have a treat with them. So she sent him home to ask permission and then allowed him to climb out her window to have ice cream alongside her and her son.

I loved this idea! It was so impetuous and rebellious and such a great memory-making activity. I swore I would one day do it with my kids. But I still haven’t. Now, thanks to this dare (plus a freezer full of popsicles, Klondike bars and ice cream sandwiches), I have no excuse. Think my kids will join me?

If you take this month’s dare and choose to blog about it, link your post back here. Or comment below that you’ll be taking the dare and report back about what you did when you check off your goal. We want to hear about your July dare adventures.