Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The End

A little over a year ago I heard a radio program that changed my life.

When I listened an interview on NPR with Jen Mac, where she talked about her year-long project to do a new thing every day, I was fascinated. I was almost ready to turn 49 and I wondered if I could pull off a similar project. In less than a week I set up a blog (although I barely knew what a blog was!) told all my friends what I was doing, and solicited ideas for activities.

Now, a year later, the project is done. Three hundred and sixty-six activities (plus a bonus one) have been completed. I'd like to say thank you to everyone who's read this blog or left a comment. I've "met" so many wonderful people along the way.

The biggest thank yous, though, have to be for my family and friends. Hubby Tony was my partner in many of my activities, provided lots of moral support, and patiently put up with my daily writing. Sons Tony, Brian, and Donald also participated in a few enterprises, and supplied me with lots of ideas.

My wonderful friends kept me supplied with ideas, encouraged me, and were always ready to embark on activities with me. In no particular order, they are Dani, Kathy C, Dana, Stephanie, Patty, Debbie, Nicole, Peter, Joe, and Denise. If I've forgotten someone, I apologize; let me know and I'll include your name.

I'm finished posting here, but now I'm sort of addicted to blogging. If you're so inclined, you'll be able to find me at my NEW blog, The Second Half of My Life. I won't be posting everyday; I'm aiming for quality rather than quantity.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bonus New Thing #367--Ducky

Even though it's past my birthday, my trip still has a day to go; I can't finish yet!

After yesterday's full day at Epcot, I had hoped to sleep in. However, our hotel is expanding and the construction site we could see from our window, which was closed down during the weekend, started up again right at 7:30. I tried to go back to sleep, but it was impossible. Since Tony was already up, I decided to join him.

Our first objective was breakfast. We decided to eat in the hotel, at the B-Line Diner. Afterwards, because we could, we put on our suits and used the hotel's outdoor pool and hot tub. Even though the air temperature was in the 50s, it wasn't a problem; the pool was heated, and the hot tub felt great. The only bad part was getting out!

After we got dressed, it was down to the lobby to watch the March of The Peabody Ducks. I've seen the ducks leave their fountain in the hotel lobby (both at the original Peabody in Memphis, and on the day we arrived in Orlando), but I've never seen them march to the fountain at the start of the day.

Every day at 11:00 A.M., the Peabody Ducks are escorted from their penthouse home on the mezzanine level to the lobby via elevator. To the sounds of the King Cotton March by John Phillip Sousa, the ducks proceed down a red carpet to the hotel fountain. They're accompanied by their "Duckmaster", who makes sure things go smoothly.

This was one of the funniest things I've ever seen! At night, the ducks walk down a red staircase and leisurely stroll the red carpet back to their elevator to go home. In the morning, as soon as they turn the corner from the elevator they start running to the fountain; that's where their food is!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Thing #366--Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

When Tony was revealing all his secrets last night, he told me that we were going to a Disney park today; I got to choose which one. The pressure was on, but after much deliberation I decided on Epcot (the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). I chose it mainly because it had the latest closing time, and I wanted to do as much as I could on my magical day.

I'd seen the ads on TV about getting into Disney free on your birthday. Tony had, too, and had completed all the steps for me to be their guest. After I turned in the certificate at the Will Call, they gave me my ticket, and wrote my name on a "Happy Birthday" button. Almost every Disney employee I saw (and a few guests, too) wished me a Happy Birthday. At one attraction, I was told the office had a message for me; I picked up a house phone, dialed a number, and listened to Goofy tell me to have a great birthday!

On our last trip to Orlando, we went with some friends who had kids the same ages as ours. It was certainly a family vacation; every morning I'd make peanut butter or bologna sandwiches, and fill a backpack with lunch and snacks for the day. We got to the park when it opened, because we needed to be out of there by mid-afternoon to take a break for recharging. The kids had a big say in what activities we did and at what times.

In contrast, my adult day was perfect. The temperature made it up to 80 degrees. Tony and I got to pick exactly what we wanted to do, and when we did it. We got to the park about 11:00, a few hours after it opened, because we went to Mass first. I was a little concerned when our first ride gave us the option of standing in line for 55 minutes, or coming back with a Fast Pass at 3:30 in the afternoon (it was 11:30 at the time), but every other ride had a minimal wait. We did everything we wanted to in both Future World and the World Showcase, had a great dinner in the Moroccan restaurant, and saw the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks at the end of the night.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Thing #365--Revealed

Today is the day I went on a mystery trip.

I'm sure if I had tried I could have figured out where we were doing, but I didn't want to. My first clue came in the tram from the parking garage to the airport; the driver asked what airline we were taking. Based on Tony's answer (AirTran), he asked if we were going to Atlanta or Orlando (the two options from the St. Louis airport). When the answer was Orlando, he asked if "we were going to see the "Big Mouse". I asked Tony to stop there, because I didn't want to know.

We did indeed end up in Orlando. The mystery continued when we boarded the shuttle to the hotel. The driver was making several stops, and announced the order before he started. Tony asked me if I wanted to know which one was ours; I didn't. I soon found out, though, that our "home" for the weekend was the Peabody.

Tony had planned everything--he had dinner reservations and a suggested itinerary for the weekend. I think he was glad that the cat was out of the bag, and he didn't have to keep secrets any more.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Thing #364--Why Yes, It IS All About Me!

What do you do when you've come to the end of a year-long project? You throw a party for yourself!

The invitation said:
On my 49th birthday last January, I committed to do a new activity every day for a year. Come help me celebrate the completion of my project with food and dancing.
The whole experience was wonderful! Because I wanted to dance, we hired a DJ. Our house isn't big enough for dancing, so we rented a facility. I made mountains of mostaccioli, chopped and blanched veggies, and bought food, beverages, and cake.

Here's the table decorations. I started with paper bags I made myself, then added blades of ornamental grass from my garden that I spray painted gold, and pieces of garland with black "stems" and metallic discs.

I've made food for large groups before, but the events have always been at our house; tonight we had to take the food somewhere else. It was a challenge to keep the cold things cold and the hot things hot. Tony and I both took a car, and they were both filled to the brim!

It took a while to set the room up, but when the first guests showed up it really started to feel like a party. After dinner the dancing started; the DJ played a song from the year I was born and the years I turned 10, 17, and 20. Those were followed by a song from the year I got married and the year each of my children were born. The whole room was dancing along with me.

All too soon the night was over. We cleaned our stuff up and drove home. I'd turn 50 every year from now on if I could have another party like this one!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Thing #363--Singalong

I was at home by myself tonight, so it was time for a chick flick. I put on "Mamma Mia! The Movie", one of the DVDs I got for Christmas; in addition to the regular movie, one of the bonus features on the disc is a sing-along version. Tonight I sang with the sing-along version of a movie.

In case you're not familiar with "Mamma Mia!", (which is scripted around the songs of the '70s musical group Abba) it's about Sophie, who wants to discover her father's identity on the eve of her wedding. She secretly invites three men from her mother's past back to the Greek island they last visited 20 years ago. However, in this movie the plot is secondary to the music. There's one great song after another--22 of them, to be exact.

The sing-along feature was great! The lyrics to every musical number were subtitled on the screen, karaoke-style. Since there was nobody else around, I cranked up the stereo, and didn't have to worry that my horrible voice would disturb anyone else. The cats, though, were not amused with my performance:

There was one downside to the sing-along version, though. When I was able to read the words, I realized how some cheesy some of them were. In the song Our Last Summer, they manage to rhyme Paris restaurants and morning croissants. That still didn't stop me from bopping around the family room, dancing and singing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Thing #362--It's A Mystery To Me

I'm going on a vacation this weekend. I just don't know where.

Tony has informed me that I have to be ready to leave Saturday morning for a trip; we won't return until sometime late Monday. Today I started packing a suitcase for a mystery trip.

I was instructed to bring:
  • Jeans (for the airplane!)
  • Shorts
  • Jacket or sweater
  • "Church" clothes
  • Swimsuit
  • Toiletries and makeup
Tony is great at planning, so I know everything will be taken care of. I have no idea where we're going, but not knowing is part of the fun!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Thing #361--Doggie Depiction

Have you ever seen one of those images made out of text or patterns? I did that today when I made a picture out of text using Word.

Once again, I turned to wikiHow for my inspiration. The process was very easy. After I found a picture (I used clip art), I drew a text box around it, then made the box transparent so the graphic showed through. The next step was to completely fill the text box with small-font size letters. I used the word "dog" repeated over and over. After I typed the first row, I was able to copy and paste the subsequent rows.

Once the typing was completed, I went back and changed the text color; brown for the dog, and white for the background (which made it disappear). The most challenging part was deciding what color to make a letter when only part of it fell into the dog's outline.

When the project was done, I used the Zoom command to make my graphic fill up the whole monitor screen. It looked pretty good!

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Thing #360--Assistance

When I made the decision to close my tutoring center last year, I knew there would be a small number of students who wouldn't be finished with all the classes for their high school diploma. I told them (and their parents) I would be happy to offer support as they completed the requirements for graduation.

The students were all using a correspondence curriculum. They worked at their own pace, and the tests were mailed to the school as they got completed. However, one of the purposes of my center was to provide encouragement and assistance to the students. Now they'd be doing the work on their own.

Today was the first day back to school for many schools, and the first time I met one of my former students to answer questions he had about a test.

We arranged to meet outside the library of the community college that's closest to his house. He arrived right on time, and we went into the library to find a table. I was impressed with the amount of work he had done on his own; after I answered a couple of questions, he quickly completed a test. We agreed that he would call me in a couple of days and let me know if he needed help with anything else.

I think I'll be doing this for a couple of months, depending on how many students I hear from.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Thing #359--Noteworthy

I volunteered to help Tony wrap up a project at church tonight. He had to remove some things from the ends of each of the pews, organize them, and return them to the proper place. The church is a short drive from our house, so we left shortly before we thought the lass Mass would be finished.

However, when we got there we found out that the Mass, which is in Spanish, was only about halfway through. We took a seat in the back; as the remainder of the celebration unfolded I got to hear Christmas carols sung in Spanish.

I love traditional carols. Although they've been played on the radio since before Thanksgiving, in the Catholic church they only get sung between Christmas and Epiphany (a twelve day period, which is where the title of the song "Twelve Days of Christmas" comes from). It's always a treat to sing and hear them in a reverent setting every year.

Even though tonight the carol's language was unfamiliar, the tunes were still the same. The choir sang We Three Kings and Angels We Have Heard on High; one of the women had a mesmerizing alto voice that harmonized beautifully with the others.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Thing #358--Kraft It

Today I learned how to make a paper bag.

I used the tutorial "How to Make a Paper Bag" at eHow, which was very easy to follow.

One bag used a piece of paper 9 1/2" by 15". I found some pieces of Kraft Paper downstairs; each was 8 1/2" by 15", so my bag was a bit shorter than the directions indicated. My bag is also pretty crinkled, because the paper had originally been used as box cushioning, but it was just fine for my experimental purposes.

Other than the paper, all I needed was a ruler, a pencil, and some glue. The project only took about fifteen minutes, part of which was just waiting for the glue to dry.

My new found knowledge may (or may not) come in handy for a project during the next week...I haven't decided.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Thing #357--The Crib

Tony has offered to teach me a couple of times before, but today I learned how to play cribbage.

Cribbage is a card game that involves playing and grouping cards in combinations to earn points. A distinctive feature is the cribbage board (which has a series of holes and a set of pegs for each player) that's used to keep score. The object of the game is to obtain 121 points before your opponent does. This is accomplished by "pegging", or moving your pegs around the board.

The major rules of the game:
To start the game, each player is dealt six cards. Both players pick two cards from their hands and place them face down to form a "crib" that's used by the dealer at the end of play. The "pone", or non-dealer, cuts the remainder of the pack to select a starter card, which is used in counting the value of each player's hand and the crib.

The pone lays down the first card, then the players take turns laying cards down trying to get to 31 points. The cumulative value of the cards played is announced as each card is played. Face cards are 10 points, aces are 1 point, and everything else is its numerical value. When a player cannot play a card without the total exceeding 31, that player calls "go" and the opponent continues to play all cards possible.

After all the cards have been played on the table, the second part of the game takes place. Each player reexamines their cards, trying to get points for different combinations of cards in their hands. As points are earned, the peg is moved on the cribbage board.
Tony was a good sport as I tried to remember all the rules and the intricate scoring of the game. He even pointed out some points I missed, even though by some rules he could have taken advantage of my mistake and claimed the points for his own.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Thing #356--Hand It Over

Tony and I were walking this afternoon. I wasn't watching where I was going, stepped on a sweet gum ball, and almost fell flat on my face.

(In case you're lucky enough not to know what I'm talking about, a sweet gum ball is the fruit of the sweet gum tree. When the spiky little balls mature, they turn brown, drop their seeds, and fall off the tree. The balls aren't good for anything. The spikes hurt when you step on them barefoot and they don't decompose; they're still hard and firm months after they fall. In normal years there are a good number of balls under the trees in the fall and winter, but this summer we had enough moisture that the trees were able to produce prodigious amounts of fruit.)

After I steadied myself, I took a good look at the brown orbs scattered all over the sidewalk and decided to see how many sweet gum balls I could hold in my hand at one time. I stooped down and started grabbing, picking them up with my left hand and setting them in my cupped right hand.

The spines of the balls stuck together, so I was able to stack them really high. I stopped when I got to 37, but I probably could have gone higher if I'd stacked them more carefully. When I was done, I threw the balls back on the grass where I found them, and continued walking.