On (maybe not really) near death experiences…

I’ve started and stopped this blog post ten times. A few times because I didn’t know if what I wanted to say would make sense to anyone but me. But mostly because I was worried about hurting other people’s feelings.

In the end, I decided to post it. This is my blog. It’s about my experiences. And truthfully, my feelings have been hurt a few times in the past week by well-meaning people who have made assumptions about what I needed to hear based on a 70-word post I put on social media. I don’t fault anyone for that — I am certain I am guilty of doing it to others. But in this case, I feel it’s important to share my side of the story.

Let me back up.

Recently, I flew home from a combined work and personal trip to the midwest. Once back in the safety of my house, I posted this on Facebook:


(That’s actually not a photo from the scary flight — it’s the flight before. The setting sun cast a gorgeous glow across a thick blanket of clouds, and it was beautiful.)

I always try to sit a row or two behind the wing. As silly as this sounds, it comforts me to watch the wing stay attached to the airplane. A superstitious part of me thinks that my vigilant eyes may actually help the wing stay attached. When I admit this to people, I joke that I assume there is another neurotic person on the other side of the plane watching that wing because I can’t possibly watch them both at once.

I’ve had two scary experiences on airplanes, which is pretty OK, considering that I’ve been on hundreds and hundreds of flights, thanks to a passion for adventure and a job that requires travel.

In 1998, I was traveling to London, and our plane hit an air pocket. The plane dropped, a flight attendant hit her head on the ceiling, and I don’t think I took a full breath for the remainder of the trip… though a mini bottle of wine from the beverage cart did help a little.

The second scary experience was the one that prompted the Facebook post. I was on a regional jet home from Detroit — a flight that generally takes 50-ish minutes. At an hour and ten minutes, passengers began whispering. It was a stormy evening, and the plane was also bouncing like mad, adding to the stress.

A few minutes later, I could see streetlights through the heavy blanket of clouds. We were close to the ground. Then all of a sudden, we were not. The plane rose abruptly, still bouncing. Five minutes later, we did it again. We were clearly aborting landings.

The whispering passengers got a little louder. I could feel my heart in my throat. In the absence of information, the brain fills in the blanks, and my brain was screaming, “something is wrong!

After one more failed landing, the pilot came over the system and made his announcement. Next to me, a woman waited for him to finish, and then leaned over and said, “So what if this doesn’t work?”

“I know,” I replied. “I’d like to know there’s a Plan B.”

Of course I knew there was a Plan B. And probably a Plan C, D, E, and F. My head — and my flying experience — knew that the likelihood of our flight ending badly was low. But in moments like that, the head and the nervous system don’t always agree. In this case, the nervous system won. It began trying to convince my brain that this might be it for me.

Inside the airplane, it was incredibly quiet except for the roaring sounds of the engine. Even a crying baby became silent. People were holding hands and clutching armrests.

I looked out the window and confirmed the wing was still attached.

Before all this started, I had been watching a movie on my phone. I now looked at the glowing screen. I thought about the worst case scenario — a fatal crash — and wondered if my phone would survive. It seemed somewhat likely. It’s in a fancy LifeProof case, after all.

I opened up a blank email, typed Scott’s address into the To: line, and began typing.

I’m a do-er. I’m hardwired to act first, reflect later. It’s always the way I have been. This can get me into trouble, but it also can be comforting in times of stress. If I’m doing something, my mind is occupied.

So I composed a goodbye note. Just in case.

Even in that moment, I felt silly. So silly that I deleted Scott’s name from the To: line so it wouldn’t accidentally send and freak him out.

But I didn’t delete the note. I saved it as a draft. Because you just don’t know.

What if?

What if?

What if?

That’s the nervous system playing tricks. I knew it, but I couldn’t stop it.

In the week since this happened, people have wanted to reassure me that I was never in danger. I’ve had landing and emergency protocols explained to me in excruciating detail. All based on that 70-word Facebook post.

It’s no one’s intent to make me feel stupid for believing I might be in danger. Quite the opposite, in fact. The conversations have all come from a place of deep love and compassion.

But here’s the thing: you can offer me a PhD in airplanes and that’s not going to do a lick of good. I don’t need reassurance now. I’m on the ground. I’m alive. I obviously know it all ended just fine.

Imagine you have a friend who is in a car and is T-boned in an intersection. Maybe she manages to walk away from the accident with just a few scratches. She tells you the story, and says her life flashed before her eyes in those few horrific moments. And you respond, “Don’t be silly. The hot-stamped steel in your car is around 1,500 megapascals, and it’s designed to dissipate and redirect crash forces. You were never in any danger!”

Nothing anyone says now will erase what I felt on that airplane then.

But I have a bigger — and perhaps more surprising  — point. This is what wasn’t on Facebook.

Real or imaginary, I had a near death experience.  And I am grateful.

That’s right. I am grateful.


Because I have never had a moment like that where I have felt more peace with my life. I have never experienced that level of clarity about what matters and what does not. All of the B.S. dropped away. I thought about Scott. I thought about my parents, my brother and sister-in-law. I thought about my Grandma B, my in-laws, my extended family, and a few of my closest friends.

There were a good 15 minutes in which I felt true fear. That’s a long time. But I didn’t sit there, taking stock in life or making lists of things I am grateful for. The conversation in my head was not “Oh I love Scott… and gosh, I have good parents… and what else? Oh, Steve and Elizabeth.. they are great too… hmmmm… oh, I love the cats and would miss them terribly.”

It wasn’t like that at all. It was a tsunami of beautiful memories and emotions. I felt it all at once — all the love, all the gratitude, all the happiness.

It was amazing.

Perhaps most shocking to me are the things that never even crossed my mind. It didn’t occur to me that I have a job, much less what it is. I didn’t think about how embarrassing it would be for my loved ones to go through my belongings and find out how much crap I keep. I didn’t think about bills, my car, American politics, stupid people who have wronged me or any of the other things that cause stress on a daily basis.

I also did not think about some of the great things that, if I had time and a clear mind, I might identify as “My Life’s Best Moments.” I didn’t think about honors I have received, adventures I have experienced, or places I have traveled. I didn’t think about our beloved church house, quiet evening paddles on calm waters, or the beautiful places we have lived.

I thought about people. A handful of them. Everything else just fell away like oil running off a teflon pan.

Can you understand what a gift that is?

I felt no regrets. None. Not a single nanosecond was spent thinking “If only I had…”

Consider that I know now that if I die tomorrow, I die knowing — really knowing — that I lived a happy life. I don’t know if I could have said that with 100% confidence two weeks ago.

One of Scott’s favorite authors, Tim Kreider, wrote an essay about his experience being stabbed in the throat and nearly dying. I re-read it this week.

“I wish I could recommend the experience of not being killed to everyone,” he says. Nothing sums my feelings up better than that.

He goes on to talk about how, once the threat has passed, so does the clarity:

“Maybe people who have lived with the reality of their own mortality for months or years are permanently changed by it, but getting stabbed was more like getting struck by lightning, over almost as soon as it happened, and the illumination didn’t last. You can’t feel crazily grateful to be alive your whole life any more than you can stay passionately in love forever — or grieve forever, for that matter. Time makes us all betray ourselves and get back to the busywork of living.”

This week I got back to the busywork of living. I felt aggravation at work, got angry at someone who cut me off in a parking lot, and did a lot of stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run.

I’ll get back on airplanes. I would have gotten back on an airplane the next day if I had needed to. My wanderlust outweighs my anxiety, and I am extremely grateful for that.

As long as there is a wing to watch, and people who love me, I am OK.


50 before 50: Steam Show and Wobble Wagon

Just as I had trouble deciding how to end 40 before 40, it’s been difficult for me to pick something that starts 50 before 50. There’s probably something deep and philosophical to say about how I find it hard to both commence and finish long-term projects. But that’s not what this is about.

Because in the end, my Grandma made it very easy: she declared what I would be doing. The 47th annual Fall Festival and Steam Show, which takes place a few miles from her home in central Illinois, was scheduled the same weekend I planned a visit to see her.

I should add that Grandma herself had no desire or intention of attending the Steam Show. “I’m not going,” she said firmly. “I got very sick the last time I went — but you should go! And then you can write about it as your first 50 before 50!”

I’ve known for most of my 40 years that there is no point in fighting Grandma. It never ends well for me. One of my favorite examples is when I was about 12 years old and expressed my fear about walking alone down a country path… in the pitch dark at 10:30pm… to lock up the laundromat that she and Grandpa owned.

“Chicken! You’re a chicken! CHICKEN!” Grandma yelled, as she began flapping her bent arms and kicking her legs awkwardly like fowl.

I should mention that Grandma is the sweetest woman I know — this chicken dance was totally out of character — and now you can appreciate why I learned at an early age to accept her suggestions for the good of everyone, and particularly for my ego. (I love you, Grandma!)

Luckily, I have lots of aunts, uncles and cousins in the area, and they were game to go — in fact, I’m fairly sure my Uncle Greg and Aunt Sherri really didn’t care if I was in town or not. They already had plans to attend the show for the infamous lunch of all-you-can-eat ham and beans.


But I’m getting ahead of myself. The ham and beans came after we began to right a wrong that occurred some 30 years ago. That’s when my beloved Uncle Greg — who took me to the Illinois State Fair every summer, a tradition I deeply cherished — began dating a woman named Sherri.

Quite abruptly, Sherri became Greg’s real date to the state fair. She got to ride in the front seat of his car, and I was sent the back. We did things Sherri wanted to do, rather than standing and staring at the butter cow for hours, which is what I like to do. Greg won stuffed animals for Sherri, sat next to Sherri on rides, and treated her to corn dogs.

I didn’t know the phrase yet, but I was clearly the third wheel.

So yes, I’m 40. I should be over this. And I actually adore Sherri, and we have gone on several girls’ weekend trips together. We laugh a lot, and she was one of two aunts who were with me when I learned about my sister-in-law’s cancer last summer. We were in Vermont for a few days, and after I relayed the news, she and my aunt Laurie wrapped me in huge bear hugs and reassured me that everything would be okay. I paced around our B&B in circles, totally incapable of making a decision or processing this scary new information. Meanwhile, they packed up my bags, got everything into my car, wrapped me up some food, and focused me for the drive home. They checked in with me via text constantly that night and through the weekend to make sure I was okay. That’s stuff that true friends do, family or not.

BUT… all of that said, a great injustice was done to me at a very young age, and I hold grudges for a long time. As soon as Grandma suggested the Steam Show, and declared that Greg and Sherri would take me — oh, it was game on. 

I first suggested Greg could help heal my wounds by strapping Sherri to the roof for the car ride. Sherri was actually relatively amenable to the idea, probably because she thought it might be a way to end this feud once and for all. But Greg has too much compassion and love for her so we negotiated another arrangement:


Once at the Steam Show, we headed straight for the beans and ham, because… well… beans and ham.


As the lone vegetarian — possibly in the whole fairgrounds — I went for the “pie and drink” option. It was phenomenal — homemade and delicious.


Now stuffed with far too much food, we did the next logical thing and got into line to ride a Wobble Wagon.

I had never heard of a Wobble Wagon (although I learned my grandfather built a “crazy wagon” in the 70s, so apparently this is a real thing). I had no idea what to expect, and wasn’t 100% sure it was safe. Balancing those fears was the fact that it was free and children seemed excited about it: that’s enough for me.

IMG_3090 (2).jpg

It looks totally legit, doesn’t it?

I am lucky to have an uncle who is willing to entertain the whims of a niece who is still trying to prove she’s the best family member to take to outdoor fairs and festivals. And without hesitation, Greg climbed in line to ride the Wobble Wagon with me.


The Wobble Wagon is basically a very long and skinny wagon that is built with wheels and axels that are off-center. I don’t know how else to describe it except to say that “wobble wagon” is a pretty accurate description all by itself.

We had noticed that no one ever looked happy when they rode by on the wagon. It didn’t take us long to realize there was a good reason for that — it’s quite a bumpy ride, and not one I would want to take if I had a belly full of ham and beans.

Perhaps this explains why I look like the only person over the age of 6 who is enjoying the experience.


After surviving the Wobble Wagon, we walked around the fairgrounds, which is also home to a museum that highlights early prairie living, a one-room schoolhouse, a general store, and other historical sites. I learned that my dad had always wanted to visit the show to see the vast display of steam engines, for which the festival is named. I had no idea what to appreciate about this area, but I took a short video because it seemed like something he would want to see (everyone else is welcome to skip this part):

By this time, Greg and Sherri’s 8-month-old grandson — a real trooper for several hours — was beginning to overheat, so we made the decision to drive back home to Grandma’s house, and swap out Sherri and grandson Parker for my aunt Laurie (mentioned above) and my 9-year-old cousin Carson.

I have to say, Greg really redeemed himself this day — taking me not once but twice in the front seat of his car to the fair.

Greg and I — along with our new companions — arrived just in time for the keystone event: the tractor parade! For about an hour or so, an endless parade of 100 (200? 300?) tractors, ranging from those manufactured in the mid-1800s until about 1960 or so, slowly cruised by the crowd. An announcer offered running and colorful commentary about both the tractors and their owners.

I know this all sounds really boring, but it was actually fascinating. Maybe this means I’m officially old. Whatever. 50 before 50, people! At least I was doing something new.

When the parade ended, we discussed what to do. There was really only one option in my mind: I mean, why ride the Wobble Wagon one time when you can ride it two times?! Laurie and Carson agreed, and we got to sit in the very front on the very last Wobble Wagon ride of the night.

As we headed out, I entered a raffle for a 1950s-era restored tractor. I assumed winning a tractor while 875 miles from home would be something that would happen to me, so I made plans to transport it back to New York. Those plans involved my cousin Brandon driving it slowly from Illinois to upstate NY on backroads and delivering it to my house. Since he wasn’t there to say no, I assume he’s totally on board, should I get the call that I won.

Carson and I got in a little silly fun, too.img_3217

All in all, it felt like a quintessential midwest day: hot sun, a potluck-ish lunch, farm equipment, family, and lots of laughter. A perfect way to kick off 50 before 50 and my new adventure in my new decade of my life.

It turns out Grandma was right. She always is.

Yes, I’m still here. No, I haven’t given up adventure.

If there’s something the past two months have taught me, it’s that I’m very loved. Or at least my words are loved.

When you have a project like 40 Before 40, it inevitably takes on a life of its own. As I trucked through the past 18 months, I felt a tremendous responsibility.  Not to you — the family and friends who read these posts, although I certainly didn’t want to let anyone down. But more, I felt a responsibility to myself.

I started something big — a project to prove to myself that life doesn’t end at 40. That new adventures, new people, new sights and tastes and sounds — they always exist as long as you’re willing to embrace them.

So I would have been pretty upset with myself if I’d gotten to July 16 with 26 Before 40. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

And of course, it was important to me that I do it right. You can do anything and claim it’s new — “I’ve never eaten dinner at 6:32pm on Wednesday, April 20, 2016!” Yeah, ok – that’s true. But not exactly in the spirit of a project that’s about pushing outside a comfort zone.

Anyway: I did it. I turned 40. I have a list of incredible new adventures, some of which I never would have tried if it weren’t for this project (paying someone to slap me with trees falls into that category). And I’m the first to admit, not having an active goal with a deadline has definitely caused me to slack in looking for new things to do.

So yes, to answer the question I am asked the most: there will be a 50 Before 50. I have not given up the blog. I did not turn 40 and stop doing things. I just needed a break from documenting them.

But with that said, I realize I have fans to impress! People to entertain! Ridiculous stories to share! (I’m writing all of this with tongue firmly in cheek.) But seriously, here’s a little taste if what I’ve been up to:

Kentucky and my 40th:

Our trip was amazing. Kentucky is amazing. Everything about this 10 days was bliss: it was relaxing, active, laugh-filled, history-filled, and memorable. Our rental cabin was on a river that was stunning at every hour of the day, and we took full advantage of the private boat launch. We kayaked almost every day, biked, fished, hiked, played mini-golf, visited my family’s ancestral lands, saw my in-laws, and of course, rolled down a hill in a giant plastic ball.

This was the view from our cabin:


My 40th birthday was incredible, and many of you helped make it so. I can’t begin to tell you how special your cards, letters, emails, and gifts made me feel. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Even the sign that greeted me back at home was perfect:


(For those of you who don’t know, this is payback for the sign I helped create 8 years ago for my beloved aunt Amy… who I might add, has now started a birthday embarrassment war that SHE WILL LOSE.)


And the birthday celebrations continued back in NY. My best friend from childhood, Emily, is a summer baby, too, so we spent a silly night in Syracuse celebrating our 4th decade of life.


If a picture is worth 1000 words, then let these explain most of my August to you.




Helping out at the farm:

We’ve been painting my brother and sister-in-law’s new house… and it’s almost done!


And I helped out by working (yes, WORKING — the cute animals are just my bonus) at a permaculture-themed weekend event.


Outdoor summer fun

The demolition derby has become an annual brother-sister tradition.


There have been lot of hikes these past few months, too. And weekly kayaks with my sister-in-law. We gossip far too much to stop and take photos though.

Here’s a photo from the Finger Lakes trail, which runs past our house and is great for an after-work hike if I’ve done nothing but sit behind a desk all day:



And finally, nothing beats summer camping… especially since Scott and I have been trying to go since June and we couldn’t find a weekend that worked.

If we could only squeeze in one trip before the start of fall, I’m glad it was on the banks of a beautiful river on a gorgeous night.img_3015

Till next time, friends!

40 before 40: Be a hamster

A few months ago, I realized that I wanted my 40th 40 before 40 adventure to be accomplished on my actual 40th birthday. A few weeks of research — and admittedly a little stress — ensued, as I tried to figure out what that would mean.

There seemed to be two routes to take:

  1. Find something epic — something that trumped all other previous 40 before 40 adventures. This presented some challenges — I’ve already jumped out of an airplane, gone on a hot air balloon, gotten scuba certified, learned how to trapeze, gone indoor skydiving… it’s getting harder and harder for me to find truly new and epic adventures that are accessible without significant travel.
  2. Embrace a moment, and be okay with #40 not being the most amazing, daring, or scary adventure ever.

In the end, I went with #2. It’s what this was all about, after all. And I have a lot of peace with the fact that #40 stays true to everything I wanted when I started this project a year and a half ago.

So… with all that said, here’s #40:

I found a website advertising a “Zorb” experience. It’s basically a giant inflatable ball that you climb inside with several gallons of water, and then you get pushed down a hill.


It’s totally legit. Just look at the entrance signs!

Not scary at all… not redneck-y at all. Not at all unsafe. (Best part? It’s run by a super nice guy named (I am not making this up) Kentuckyana Jones.)

We were lead into a makeshift changing room with foam board dividers and a shower curtain door. At this point, Scott really, really wanted to bail. And I’ll admit, the whole experience was sketchy as all get out.


But I was committed! We were DOING THIS.

And here we are… rolling down a hill in rural Kentucky. Because why not?! (If you’re reading this post via email, you’ll need to click into the actual blog to see the video. Trust me, it’s worth it just for Scott’s facial expressions alone.)

There’s so much more to reflect on about this whole project, what I’ve learned, and what I’ll take with me into my 40s. But for now, I’m signing off to enjoy the final few hours of my special day. Thanks to you all for the emails, phone calls, messages and Facebook posts… you’re awesome, and made me feel very loved!

Here’s to 40 — it’s off to a great start!

40 before 40: the sacred water hose

If you’ve never planned a road trip without a visit to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/, then I daresay you have never truly planned a road trip.

I love me some roadside attractions. From South of the Border on the east coast to the endless redwoods-themed sideshows in California, there are just so many wonderful (often brilliantly awful) places to stop that I can stretch a 5 hour drive into a multiple days-long adventure if you’re not careful to set boundaries.with me.

The best roadside attractions can be destinations unto themselves — and at their very worst, they at least break up a long day on the road.

Enter Euclid, Ohio’s National Shrine and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Here’s how Roadside America describes it“Pilgrims from all over the world come here to collect water that runs out of a garden hose over the feet of a statue of the Blessed Virgin.”

Let me stop here, and mention that in visiting this roadside attraction, I offer zero disrespect to Catholics. I grew up in the church, and while I have mixed feelings about many aspects of organized religion, I have a deep appreciation for the different roles faith can play in our lives.

All caveats in place, let’s talk about this…. this… this blessed garden hose?!?! Even the most devout Catholics have to admit that sounds a little… odd.

We arrived. We were one of three cars in a phenomenally large parking lot. Clearly, this is not something that people flock to see, although there is a gift shop open daily (run by nuns) so we assumed there must be enough traffic to warrant that.

We had no idea what we were looking for, so I took photos of what I thought could be the blessed hose.



As we wandered, we found a little display inside a shed that contains the testimonials of blessings received — mostly by children in the 1950s, 60s and 70s — who had come to drink from the hose.

IMG_2559We found the world’s largest rosary. We visited the gift store. We saw the stations of the cross. We went through a blessed door that I still don’t quite understand (the nice Sisters in the gift shop explained that it had to do with earning “indulgences” from the church leadership, but that concept is foreign to me — and I went to Catholic school for K-6 grades! and Sunday School for much longer — so I’m not sure really what that was all about).

After nearly an hour of exploring the grounds, I still didn’t know if one of the hoses we’d seen was the hose, or if we had missed it.

There’s an outdoor area where mass is held in the summer, which contains a rather impressive baptism pool.


I wandered around the pool, sat for a few minutes, and finally looked carefully towards the altar.

And there it was!


So I have to say, this was not quite the coiled-rubber-holy-water-hose I had envisioned. It was actually quite serene and lovely!

We purchased a small plastic bottle for $1 so we could take some of the water with us.


All in all, this wasn’t the kind of cheesy roadside attraction that one expects in America, and it certainly was not what we thought we would see when we pulled up on our way to visit a sacred water hose.

But it was definitely a beautiful, peaceful spot in which to take a break in the midst of a 12+ hour road trip. And who knows, maybe the blessed water helped create a safe passage for the remainder of the trip — I’m okay with that.


Let me take this opportunity to mention that this is experience #39! Tomorrow is the big day… and I hope #40 in my 40 Before 40 project will be as ridiculous and awesome as I have planned. Stay tuned…

40 before 40: the final countdown

Day 6: Dance in the rain!

It’s been dry in the Finger Lakes this summer. Like drier than dry. So when it sprinkled for a few hours last weekend, offering a beautiful break from the heat and humidity, I decided to do a backyard dance over the same patch of the grass you have watched not grow for the past 5 weeks. (We also can add this to a growing collection of videos I shall compile and call “Jen looking idiotic on the World Wide Web.”)

Day 5: Give myself permission to break my own rules.

It was a bad day at work, I fell behind on packing for vacation, I accidentally put a hole in a wall, and I was just generally wigged out. At 11:30pm, I realized that I still hadn’t done something new for the day.

I started reaching, and things got ridiculous. I tried to think through my day and pick out something, anything new. Maybe I’d unlocked my office door with my left hand, or had a conversation with a new barista at the coffee shop?

The minutes ticked by; midnight was fast approaching. The day would soon be over and I still hadn’t identified something. Did I eat something new? Did I wear a new item of clothing? Can I do a silly move in the living room right now?

And then I took a deep breath and told myself to idle down.

This is supposed to be fun. And in the past year and a half, I have done a lot of new things. These are my rules, and that means I can break them.

So I broke them. Nothing new today. Except the inner peace I gained by realizing it’s all okay.

I commemorated the moment with a photo of my favorite black cat, who is an expert in taking chill pills.


Day 4: Join Charlie in a suitcase.

Like most cats, Charlie likes boxes. But he also likes anything new that we put down on the ground. He will investigate it, and then he will lay on it, as though he wants to test it out to see if it’s a bed. He does this with plastic bags from the grocery story, clothing we’re folding, and random things like books and the TV remote… I’ve seen him do it with a toothbrush, an electric screwdriver, and a photograph I was trying to hang on the wall.

In Charlie’s mind, you can’t know something isn’t a bed until you try it out.

So while he was testing out a suitcase this day, I decided to join him.


Day 3: Find “question” hill.

We took family road trips to visit my grandparents in the midwest every summer. One year, just after my brother learned to read, we passed a hillside where someone had placed letters that spelled out “Christ is the Answer.” About another half mile down the road, Steve (who has obviously been lost in deep reflection) said, “So what’s the question?”

I had no idea where “question” hill was, so I was delighted to discover it… and shocked that it is a) still there, and b) just a couple hours from our house!


Day 2: Visit the world’s largest rosary.

In keeping with the roadtrip/Jesus theme, Scott and I stopped in Ohio at the world’s largest rosary. Because of course there exists a world’s largest rosary. (It’s within a few miles of the RNC next week, so I hope a few delegates also visit to reflect on their choice of presidential candidate.)

We didn’t actually pray the rosary — even if I remembered it all, it would have taken hours to get all the way around it. But we did enjoy the very beautiful and quiet walk.


Day 1: Take a (feet) dip in the Cumberland River, Kentucky.

This is it, the last day of my 30s!

We’re staying in a gorgeous location, right on a river which runs from Lake Cumberland to Dale Hollow Lake in the Cumberland Gap area of Kentucky. This is the view just outside our cabin’s back door:


And a refreshing dip of the toes for me… (So far… I MAY work up the courage for a proper swim later today, but WHOA, this is some cold water!)


40 before 40: one week to go

It’s official: I’m in the last week of my 30s! Typing that is both exciting and a little surreal.

Day 13: DIY with barn wood

Scott commented that our house entry way had become a cluttered mess because he didn’t have a place to put things like his wallet, keys, and other small items when he got home from work. I offered to use some reclaimed barn wood I had acquired for another project to make him this nifty little box. It works great!


Day 12: Sparkler Fun

It’s always fun to play with my real camera, and I’ve always wanted to experiment with long exposure photos using sparklers to “write” in the air. It’s a LOT harder than you might think — I had to set up a tripod, focus the camera (very hard in the pitch dark), create a 10 second delay for the timer, and then run into place to start writing in the air when the shutter opened.

My first attempt:


This one lead to me burning my foot when a tiny flaming piece of sparkler fell on it — totally worth it!:


And a very ambitious grand finale:


Day 11: Stand Up Paddleboarding

I had never tried stand up paddleboarding (also known as SUP). Elizabeth had done it twice. So we decided that it would be a brilliant idea to enter a race!


We did not win the race (that’s me in the middle, and Elizabeth on the left). Perhaps you assumed that. But it was GREAT fun.

Here we are at the end, sweaty and happy:


Day 10: Hung a big TV by myself!

I absolutely despise our TV stand — it is about 8 years old and from Target and I didn’t even like it much when we bought it in California. The fact that we moved it to New York, used it for another 5 years, and then moved it AGAIN to our house two years ago makes me cringe.

Scott was at work when the TV mount arrived, and I couldn’t wait one more second to get to work. So I hung our 42″ TV by myself — this was no small feat. It’s awkward and heavy! And to top it off, I embarked on this after a 60 minute circus conditioning class — looking back now, I’m quite lucky the project didn’t end in disaster.


Remember the reclaimed wood from Day 13? My plan is to use it, along with some wrought iron antique brackets, to make some shelves for the DVD player, the DVR, and the Direct TV modem.

Day 9: Peppermint Bark.



Day 8: Hill Cumorah Pageant

Every year, the Mormon church puts on a huge pageant in the Finger Lakes that retells the story of the founding of the Book of Mormon. More than 35,000 people come to watch one of the 8 shows that are put on each summer. Many of the spectators are Mormon, but many others (like me) are not. It’s a fascinating, fast-paced show that features Hollywood-worthy special effects, 650 (!) cast members, and a 10-level stage that’s built into the hill where Joseph Smith found the golden plates.

There are people who have been attending this pageant annually for decades. I doubt I’ll go again — 7,000 people in one area is not really my scene. But I’m glad I got to witness it once.


Day 7: The Windmill


The Windmill is a giant antique and craft market in the Finger Lakes. It’s only open on Saturdays in the summer. The more than 200 vendors sell Amish jams, t-shirts, wood furniture and pretty much anything else you can think of. It’s an impressive sight to behold– and I may have loaded up on enough gourmet mustard to last me until I’m 50.