Friday, December 27, 2013

52 More New Things: The List

As most of my friends and family know, in 2010 I embarked on a project that I called 52 New Things.  Dreamed up with the help of my former students and good friends, Leah and Siham, the basic plan was to develop a list of new places, experiences and skills, and try them -- at the rate of at least one per week.  Throughout the year the list was a work in progress, with new ideas being generated by suggestions from Leah, Siham and other friends, and all of it catalogued on this blog (the creation of which was itself a new thing). 

The list included things I'd always wanted to try, activities that had always intimidated me, places that piqued my curiosity, and new twists on previous experiences. As the year progressed, I would post upcoming new things in advance so that friends could plan to participate.  I discovered resources all around me I had never known existed, like the Saint Michael's College Wilderness Program, and the many skills of colleagues, friends, and especially current and former students who became my teachers. It was an amazing year full of all kinds of adventures, new pastimes, new insights into myself and the world, and a strengthened network of new and old friends.

In 2011 I followed the year of new things with one of challenges, and then ten months of adventure in the Middle East (teaching for the University of Jordan), and finally in 2013 a year of 5 big challenges. I blogged about all of those too. They were all great, but there was something especially powerful about the year of 52 new things.  And so, for 2014 I decided I'd like to try it again.  This time around I'd like to change the focus a little.  I'm always up for travel, but I don't plan to do as much internationally (8 new countries that year) and hope to concentrate more on my own backyard (Vermont) and surrounding area (New York and New England).  In 2010 I tried many new sports (all things athletic have always been a major challenge for me), and was surprised at some of those I took to avidly.  Now, I'm excited not only to try to do some new physical activities that still elude me (like learning to do a headstand and later, a handstand), but also new twists on activities I now participate in regularly, like rock climbing and ice skating.  I also want to push myself to give back more this time, with some new volunteer activities on the list, and to explicitly organize more activities as group experiences, such as starting a book club.

So, keeping in mind that the list is always changing and evolving, here, decidedly not in chronological order, is the New Thing To Do List that I'll be bringing into 2014:

52 MORE New Things

In my Own Backyard
1. Hike some less-travelled Vermont trails. In 2010 and 2011 I did a lot of the classics.  This year I want to hit some of those I've never gotten to in over 15 years of living in the state.  Spruce Mountain, Jay Peak, Mount Pisgah, Killington and Belvidere are all potential candidates, but I'm very open to suggestions from more experienced hikers on this one.
2. Hike one of the Presidentials in New Hampshire.  Never done any of them; clearly this one is way overdue.
3. Hike any of the 40 High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Cascade is the only one I've ever done, so any of the others is a prime opportunity.
4. Do an overnight hike.  I've done lots of day hikes, but never one where I had to carry stuff up for a night on a mountain.
5. Hike the highest peaks of Northern New England and New York.  This one was suggested by my boyfriend, Jon, and sounds like a lot of fun, especially if I could coordinate it with some friends over a specified block of time. The only one I've done is Mount Mansfield (VT).  That leaves Mount Marcy (NY), Mount Washington (NH), Katahdin (ME) and Mount Greylock (MA).
6. Visit prominent historical sites in Vermont and the region. I'm especially interested in Eleanor Roosevelt's home called Val-kill in upstate New York, and also presidential sites/homes in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
7. Visit some legendary quirky places in Vermont.  First on the list is Dog Mountain and Dog Chapel in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. I'm very open to more suggestions and co-conspirator offers on this one.
8. Canoe adventure on Lake Champlain.  Thanks to our friend, Lynn, I got to try canoe camping for the first time with Jon, Lynn, and Lynn's husband Ed, on the Green River Reservoir.  But Jon suggested a similar adventure on Lake Champlain and I'd love to try it.
9. Enjoy a winter sauna.  When she learned of the list, our friend Sharon offered up their outdoor sauna as a new experience.  Somehow, I always think of Finland when I think of winter saunas, but then again, winters in Vermont and in Finland are not really very different.
10. Take a moonlight cross country ski.  My former student and current friend, Michelle, suggested this one, and offered to join me, so it's definitely one I'm looking forward to on the list.

Further Afield
11. Panama. Jon and I will be starting 2014 in a new country for both of us -- Panama!  Looking forward to seeing the canal, doing some hiking and rock climbing, hitting the beach, and hopefully meeting up with some pretty birds and slow sloths.
12. Tanzania. We're also planning to go to Tanzania in late May.  I've been a number of times before, so will need to think of some new ways to experience this awesome country.
13. Eastern Europe?  Don't know if it will happen in 2014, but it's been on my list forever.  It's hard for me to imagine a new country I wouldn't want to visit, so I'm pretty open to any other travel opportunities that come my way in 2014.

Fear Factor
14. Dancing. In 2010 my friend Crystal and I took a semester-long beginning ballet class that intimidated me about as much as anything on my list, but turned out to be a great experience.  I am, however, still a terrible dancer.  My friend David has offered to give me some instruction in swing dancing and I'd like to (sort of) give it a try.
15. Introductory lessons on a musical instrument. I pretty much have no musical knowledge or ability at all.  But I'd love to at least try a little. My friend Julia has offered to give me a few piano lessons, and another friend, Michelle is thinking of trying guitar and invited me to give it a shot as well. One way or another, this may be the year to attempt it.
16. Bike and/or car mechanics. During the year of 52 my friend Nigel taught me to change both a bike and car tire, but I am sad to report, neither skill "stuck". This would be an excellent time for a do-over.
17. Things with tools. Truth is, they intimidate me a lot.  I am always sure I will break something, injure myself and/or make a general mess of everything.  But I do have at least two excellent role models on this one.  Jon is a carpenter, and is willing to teach me how to use some power tools, and Lynn, among other skills, totally knows her way around a chain saw for her conservation job. I hope to take up both their suggestions and offers of help in the coming year.
18. Mountain biking. This one is filled with visions of going over handlebars and broken collarbones, but this may be the year I finally give it a try.
19. Back country skiing.  This one combines the fear of falling/injury with my fear of activities requiring a high degree of athleticism.  With such a high intimidation factor, it's a good candidate for this year.

20. Animal shelter. A terrible thing that happened in 2013 was the death of my wonderful and beloved kitty, Peanut. I still miss her very much.  Though I have no desire to replace her with another animal friend, I think it would be great to volunteer with some cats and dogs awaiting their new homes.
21. Nature/Trail work. The year of 52 got me outdoors and I've been playing there ever since. It also gave me an appreciation for the work of people who maintain the trails and natural spaces we enjoy.  This year I want to give back a little. Lynn, who works at the Nature Conservancy has offered to help make it so, and I hope I'll be boundary marking, tree planting, trail maintaining and/or invasive species-pulling before 2014 is done.
22. Volunteering on a fun run. Last year when I ran the Burlington City Marathon (a very big first for me) I discovered what an enormous difference enthusiastic, supportive volunteers made.  This year I want to return the favor, and especially to be there for slower runners like me, for whom battling self-consciousness of our pace is as daunting as the run itself.
23. Bread and Puppet. One of my favorite Vermont events is the end-of-the summer annual Bread and Puppet show season in Glover, Vermont.  This will be the 50th anniversary year, and my friend Paul suggested this one for the list.  It's pretty far away, so I don't know if I can make it happen, but I'm definitely open to exploring the possibility, especially if I can find some friends to join me!
24. Baked Love.  I actually stole the name from a volunteer group at my school, Saint Michael's College, because I think it's so clever.  But the thought has recently occurred to me that I have never cooked as a volunteer, though my community is full of opportunities to help make, serve and/or share a meal. This year I will.

Better, Harder, Faster
This is a new category for this year's list. Here, I'm hoping to reach new levels on things I've started during or since the 2010 Year of 52.
25. Consecutive forward outside and inside 3-turns.  These are one-footed direction-changing ice skating turns.  I can do ones on an outside edge, but inside is much harder, and linking them harder still.  This year, I master them.
26. One foot spin. I can spin on two feet, but still have tons of work to get to one.  I will in 2014, though.
27. Ice dance. I'm envious of my friends in my early-Wednesday morning figure skating class who also have ice dance moves in their skill set.  This year I am going to take some lessons and learn some, too.
28. Solo or ice dance program. One of my favorite things I did this year was my first-ever ice show performance with six of the other Ladies of Leddy.  Next year, I definitely want to do another, but I want to take it one step further, as some of them have, and do a 90-second solo or ice dance performance as well.
29. 5K in under 30 minutes. As a slow runner, I am in the "run to complete, not to compete" category. But I'd like to have goals to work towards, and since I haven't run a 5k in under 30 minutes since high school, this year I will work towards it.
30. Half marathon in under 2:20. Same idea here.  I think I will try to do it with the unplugged half here in Burlington in early April.  If any friends out there want to train in tandem for this, please let me know!
31. Try trail running. Jon is a big trail runner, but I tend to spend my life searching out the flattest, smoothest terrain possible.  This year, though, I want to challenge myself and get some tutoring from him on this one.
32. Midnight run. One thing I learned in the year of 52 is that some of the greatest new activities are actually old ones, done new ways. Jon suggested this one, and I'd love to give it a shot, especially with someone else, or a small group.
33. Long distance team relay. Jon, and a number of my other friends have participated in long (100 miles or more) relay events completed by groups of friends.  If I could find a group of friends not worried about the overall time of the group, this would be fun to organize and participate in.  Maybe the Vermont 100 on 100, as Jon has suggested.  Anyone?
34. Sport lead climb at 5.6 or higher.  In 2013 I completed my first-ever lead climb, which was very exciting, at Rumney in New Hampshire under the instruction of the Wilderness Program.  It was a very easy route.  Now I need to learn to do it on some slightly more difficult routes.
35. Do a trad lead climb. Although lead climbing with bolts (sport climbing) is harder than top roping (hanging from a rope anchored at the top of the route), using traditional gear to anchor yourself as you go (trad climbing) is harder still, and I haven't done it. Yet.
36. Boulder a V2 route. Challenging as I find rock climbing, I think bouldering is even harder (and scary besides).  This one may be beyond me, but I think it's good to throw in some really hard aspirational stuff to shoot for.
37. and 38.  Two yoga challenges: crow pose and a headstand.  Can't do either, but this year I will work on both.  My friend Sharon, who is a yoga instructor, has offered to help me with the latter and in exchange I will teach her to ice skate backwards, which is on her list for the coming year.
39. Touch my toes. Here's how inflexible I am: I have never (at least as an adult) been able to touch my toes.  It's always driven me crazy, and this year I am going to get at least that flexible, or give it my best shot trying.

Brand new skills
40. Archery. Yet another of my friend Lynn's unusual talents is archery.  I've never shot a bow, but she's offered to give me a lesson.
41. Do a handstand. If I can pull off a headstand, this one would be next.
42. Organize and run a book club. Bunches of friends have expressed interest in this one, so I think I just have to show some follow-through.
43. Extempo story telling. There's this great monthly storytelling competition called Extempo that moves around the state.  My friend Kate has competed (and placed second in it) and before the year is over I will try it, too.
44. Acrobat/trapeze lessons. Jon and Lynn are both on fire to try this, and I think I am game.
45. Nordic skating. This is one I cannot wait to try!  It involves skating on extra-long blades outdoors.  I want to go to Lake Morey here in Vermont and try it on their 4.5 mile track.
46. Soap making. Suggested by my excellent friend and climbing buddy, Amanda,  I'm still up for it if she is.
47. Pottery. My friend Julia suggested this in the last year of 52, and offered to teach me.  I didn't get to it, but this time I will.
48. Cut down a tree.  My friend Ed is willing to show me how and let me help do it. I think it sounds really interesting, and one thing I learned in the original year of 52 is that most skills like this are more complicated than they initially seem.
49. Paint a room. My friend Leah suggested this the first time around, and it's another one I never got to.  But this time Jon is willing to walk me through the process.
50. Knit mittens. Another one from the first go-around.  My sister Katrinka taught me and I made one, then forgot how to thumbs, so never did the other. Hopefully, second time is the charm.
51. Silent retreat. Suggested by my sister Katrinka and several others, I'd like to try this potentially coupled with some mindfulness training.
52. Preserving food. When I was a kid, I helped with canning jam and pickles and all kinds of fruits and veggies.  But now I have no recollection of how it's done and would love to learn again.

So, there it is.  There will definitely be additions and subtractions as the year progresses, and I'll probably also incorporate a practice from 2010 suggested by Kathy, my brother-in-law's step mom, to also record "serendipity" experiences that arise as the year progresses. A major key to the fun of the list last time around was all the participation by the people in my life, so I'm inviting everyone to please take a look, make their own lists, and see what they'd like to do, learn and experience together.  Here's to a great 2014!



  1. OK I can certainly help paint a room as I'm quite good at this. I've also wanted to do a silent retreat but I'm not sure that this is a group activity. Also interested in nordic skiing, trad climbing (Eldorado Canyon when you and your lover visit me, I already know which climb you'll do). We should do a 14er when you visit (this is on my list)!

  2. This is a GREAT list and I'd be happy to do some of these things with you... Like climb Spruce up to the top of the water tower! And, perhaps you can join my Foundations of Meditation Class in preparation for your silent retreat. And, after our fall romp up Spruce we can make and preserve some piles of applesauce for the winter!

  3. Wow!!!!! I love your list; it is so ambitious with lots of cool and diverse ideas. I would love to take a chain saw "class"! Those babies are dangerous; nothing like knowing how to operate a tool safely.