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DAY BY DAY: It's time to downsize the 'bucket list'

When I first heard about the idea of a "bucket list," I figured it would take more like an old-fashioned steamer trunk to fit in all the things I wanted to do before I left all this behind.

I mean I haven't really had a very adventurous life and there are things I would have liked to do before I die. But as I get older, I realize most of the stuff on that list weren't things I'd like to do as Meg, but things I'd like to do if I was anyone but Meg.

For example, there was a time when I thought about becoming a nun. Sr. Francis Cabrini, my fourth-grade teacher, was tall, athletic, beautiful and funny and she snuck behind a closet door every afternoon to steal a big bite of an apple. She was the first nun who seemed real to me and who did not seem mad about something. They seemed to be guaranteed an education, have their food and clothes provided and not have to worry about never being asked out on a date.

But by the time I got to boarding school in the late 1960s, women who were already nuns were abandoning the ship and those that were staying were a new kind of nun who didn't want to escape to a convent but get busy out in the world. Some of them even started to date -- after they weren't nuns anymore. I didn't know where that left me.

I would have loved to have acted or been a singer or stand-up comedian but there were a couple of complications. I don't have stage fright but I have always had "audition fright." Harboring a pathetic fear of rejection, I can't seem to get up the courage to even try for a part in a play. As for singing, I did well enough in St. Bede's madrigal group and other choirs but they always had to put me next to somebody strong since I never really learned how to read music. I was great, however, at mimicry.

As for comedy, Joan Rivers ruined it for me when she described all the dumps she performed in and how rude people were in the beginning. It would be nice if that kind of thing had tempered over the years -- I might consider trying my chances as a postmenopausal humorist but I think the streets are even meaner these days. The only thing worse would be working in TV journalism.

I thought about that job a lot when I was a young woman but I knew I didn't have what it took -- the right looks. I think I called that one right. Barbara Walters looks better at 80 than I did at 18.

I did do one thing I used to dream about doing when I was a kid -- tap dance. Some of you may remember my dancing debut at The Phipps back a dozen years ago and it wouldn't have happened if not for my son Cory. He decided at age 11 that he wanted to learn to tap dance. It surprised us but that was a surprising time of his life. While waiting in line to register, I told him I had always wanted to learn to tap dance and that I was proud of him for doing it. When we stepped up to register, he gave his information and then said his mom needed a class too. I started to object but he gave me a look I will never forget, one that meant no was not an option.

I did learn the basics from Hudson's very talented dance teacher, Barb Zak. And while I didn't ever intend to be part of any public recital, Barb and a wonderful group of tapping novices like me, made it seem like the right thing to do. It was -- despite aching legs I had to pack in ice for two days and a knee surgery years down the road. A little less weight and a little more fitness might have made the difference.

But those moments on the stage with a new bunch of friends and with other friends sitting in the theater, I got my moment, as the messy, messed up dancer, but my moment nonetheless.

I think that was about the time I started thinking differently about this bucket list stuff. First up, I decided to downsize from that trunk to something more akin to a five quart ice cream pail. I also decided that while I could do some things out of my comfort zone, a comfort zone is there for good reason -- not only to keep you grounded but to keep you safe.

I have decided my comfort zone includes a lot of things that I could actually do but have been too lazy or intimidated to act on. After 22 years as a reporter, 41 years as a wife, 24 years as a mother, and decades as a recovering Catholic, I really should have a book in me, at least a blog. In recent months I have run across three separate journals I've started over the years, none of which had more than three entries in it. But maybe when I retire...

So there is that to put in my new bucket and I'm thinking I'd like to work in a good professional restaurant kitchen, washing dishes while watching chefs. That sounds fun. And I'd like to keep interviewing interesting people. I'm beginning to realize that I already know a lot of them. They just need their stories told. I could do that.

This new list thing has taken a lot of pressure off and I can tell you my bum knee and arthritic foot are loving it. I just have to finish off the ice cream in that bucket.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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