What’s on Your Bucket List?

The other week, my friend Karen posted to facebook that she had checked off another item on her bucket list. She and her husband had attended the Bible study class taught by 92-year-old former President Jimmy Carter at a small parish in Plains, Georgia. Other checkmarks? Seeing Nathan Lane in a Broadway show, visiting Ireland, viewing the recent solar eclipse and experiencing a talk by the Dalai Lama in person. Their next bucket list adventure? Going to see the Northern Lights this coming winter.

I started thinking about a bucket list and its importance. The Oxford Dictionary online defines “bucket list as: “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.”

I realized that, other than my wish to travel to certain places, I’ve never really developed a bucket list. Most of the items I’d put on my list simply happened without it being an actual goal… taking ballroom dance classes, learning to create stained glass, hearing Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble live, producing a TV show…. They occurred by circumstance or a spur of the moment decision, rather than by design.

What I’ve realized about bucket lists is that they keep you motivated. They encourage you to learn new things, to search for new experiences, to ensure your life remains interesting and fulfilling. Writing down goals inspires you to achieve them, just as a ‘to do’ list urge you to accomplish tasks. A written bucket list rewards you, not only through the experience of doing the activity, but also through the zing of reward when you check the item off, knowing it has been achieved.

One of the most robust bucket lists I found was on a blog called Bucket List Journey, written by Annette White. Annette has over 800 items on her bucket list. That’s probably a few too many for most people, unless, of course, you’re writing a blog or book (she wrote Bucket List Adventures). What she’s done, that may offer encouragement if you’re just starting a bucket list, is to break the list into categories such as Creativity, Location Specific Travel, Personal Growth, Food, Animals and Nature, etc. Creating categories may help broaden your horizons to think beyond  the top-of-mind and easily doable. Each item should be challenging enough that it causes you to stretch. Don’t feel you have to add items as adventurous as her listings of eating fire and skydiving. After all, it’s your personal list, so it can be whatever you’d like to do.

So, I’ve just started working on my bucket list. What’s on yours?

P.S. You guessed it! Returning to Paris has already been added to the top of my list. (image courtesy of Ryan Hamrick)


Written as Editor of  BeyondtheNest.com and published in the September 7, 2017  issue of the Newsletter


It’s Only a Click Away

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how hackers can get into my online accounts, when I can’t.

You’ve probably had that experience of trying to place an order, typing in your surefire password, and getting one of those flippant little messages: “The password you’re trying to use belongs to your dog. Please try again.”

Well, it’s possible you made a typo – when all the letters appear as ******, it’s easy to make a mistake.  If they’re going to camouflage the pin, the least they could do is use dollar signs.

With your next attempt, the message reads: “You just don’t give up, do you? Try again.”

They might as well say, “Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect the goods in your shopping cart.”

After one more insult-ridden attempt, you beg for your password to be sent to your email. You open the email. At last…the magic key to the magic door of the wonderful magic shopping cart!

Instead of your password, “Click to reset password” appears.

“That’s not what I want!” you shriek at the computer along with a few choice words, as if expletives work as well as “Open Sesame” in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

You try your old password twice more. The final attempt reveals the real reason you can’t get in: “Password expired. CPR will not help.”

Resigned, you give in and reset the password to something you hope you’ll remember, but “just in case,” you add it to your spreadsheet of 373 other passwords.

Then, as if it’s a Magic 8-ball, the message slowly appears: “Password invalid. Password must contain two rhyming words, three consecutive syllables, five numbers that add up to seven, your blood type, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

At last, you find a password that passes muster. You click “submit,” and a box appears next to the message: “To confirm your password, do three laps around the house, shine your kitchen windows for Pete’s sake, and enter the 74 digit code we just sent you to an email you probably no longer use.”

Finally, short on breath and having jumped every single hurdle, you access your shopping cart, delighted to finally have the satisfaction of clicking “submit order.”

Across your screen appears the message every online shopper dreads: “Time expired.  Please start over.

”Who knew shopping carts were mind-controlled by stingy spouses?

Originally published in June 22, 2017 BeyondtheNest.com Newsletter

The Challenge of Our Digital Legacy

800px-Frederick_Douglass_by_Samuel_J_Miller,_1847-52At a VisitRochester meeting last week, Christine Ridarsky, the City Historian & Historical Services Consultant at the City of Rocheste , spoke about the City’s 2018 project to digitize the abolitionist writings of Frederick Douglass in commemoration of his 200th birthday. She spoke about how some of the collection was destroyed when his house in Rochester burned down, but her hopes that, in digitizing the current collection, some of the missing issues might surface and be restored.

In addition to being a prolific writer, Frederick Douglass was also the most-photographed man of his time. His significant legacy lives on in image and word, as well as in the collective memory of the community in which he spent 25 of the most active years of his life. Recently-found photos have added to that legacy.

800px-NorthStarfrontpageAcross the footprint of time, man has attempted to leave his legacy etched on the walls of caves, written on papyrus, carved into churches, sculpted in marble, penned into diaries, books and letters, filmed on celluloid, painted onto canvas, and most recently, typed into computers.

There are more communications options today than ever in the past. With blogs, digital memes, websites, social media, high-definition camera phones, digital video creation, virtual reality, texting, cell phone photography and more, communication today is ubiquitous. Anyone who has a desire can share ideas, thoughts and visual images with others.

Yet I often wonder what percentage of this wealth of communication will live on. In 200 years, we will still have the scrolls and the photos, early books, sculptures and paintings, but will we still be able to access the writing on websites, in blogs and on kindles, the photos taken on digital cameras, and videos that were posted online?

Developing new technology is easy, but preserving our digital legacy is the true challenge for technology makers.

#MeToo – No Fine Line to Misinterpret

Last week, I attended a press conference in Rochester. At the event, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and went to give him our usual hug. I sensed reluctance, but I have long been a hugger of friends, so I dismissed what I was sensing.  After we hugged, he confirmed what I’d suspected saying, “With everything going on, you have to be careful these days.

I had a moment of confusion, then understanding. Then I became disturbed, although I understand his caution.

I exclaimed, “We’re friends,” not as a dismissal of his concerns, but as reassurance.

Yesterday, I attended another meeting, and I had a sense of the world shifting. People of different genders were more wary of hugging and kissing on the cheek, although they had done so in the past. A lot of comments and uncomfortable jokes were made about Garrison Keilor, Matt Lauer and others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic, because I have my own #MeToo tales, and because of recent stories unfolding in the news each week. I’ve thought about it enough to want to write a word of reassurance for some, and warning for others.

My husband has commented on several occasions, “It’s a bad time to be a male.” I want to reassure him, “No…it’s a bad time to be a predatory male.”

You see, there are good guys out there and there are predators. Predators beware. The hunters are coming for you.

But I want to reassure the good guys: There is no fine line. There is no fine line between hugging and groping. Both parties know the difference. There is no mistaking the unwanted advance. Whether on the giving or receiving end, no one confuses an accidental or awkward hand brush with a genuine grope.  One doesn’t accidentally expose oneself or one’s private parts to another, and citing Big Bang Theory‘s joke,  it is indeed rare to stumble and fall into a woman’s “lady parts” (or a man’s male parts, for that matter). Drugging someone for sex is never consensual.

I want to say to those men who may be feeling anxious about being misinterpreted, “You know.  You really do know whether your actions could be perceived as predatory. Women don’t go around accusing men of treachery without justification. And women really don’t possess the bully/crowd mentality so that when they see one woman singling someone out, they just jump on the bandwagon for the thrill of it.

How can I be sure of this? Because in today’s society, when a woman says #MeToo, much of society is still quick to wonder whether she’s A) telling the truth, B) simply a “gold digger” looking for money or attention,  and/or C) how she “brought it on.”

Who, in her right mind, would purposely leave herself open to that type of scrutiny without justification?

For those men concerned about having actions misinterpreted, I say “trust your instincts, trust yourself, trust your friend.” You really do know whether you are giving cause to be considered a predator. If not, proceed as usual.”

Photo by torbakhopper

What’s the Highlight of YOUR Day?

Yesterday, I was walking the dog. She was having a glorious romp…chasing squirrels, sniffing something in every yard, happily encountering canine friends…. I thought, “This is the highlight of her day!” and she has it to look forward to every day.

Suddenly the thought occurred to me, “What’s the highlight of MY day?”

I was challenged to think of anything I have planned for every day that I would consider a highlight… something I do each day that brings me great joy. Yes, there are highlights monthly, even weekly, but don’t we deserve joy each day?

Then I wondered whether I couldn’t come up with a daily highlight because I don’t have a sweet spot planned into every day, or because I don’t appreciate the sweet spots that are there. Sometimes we get so busy, it feels as if we’re running from task to task. That makes it easy to overlook the special moments in each day. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

So if I were to ask you — as I did one of my colleagues — what the highlight is of YOUR day, would you have a good answer?  Rashida’s was that she looks forward to cuddling with her one-year-old at his bedtime, and shortly before hers. Great answer! And it happens every day, at least right now. When he’s three or five, she’ll probably need to find a new highlight, because preschoolers seldom hold still for cuddle periods.

That’s the thing about those sweet spots… as life moves on, we have to look for new ones.

So I’ve decided to add twenty minutes of dance or reading into each day, and relish those precious moments of “me” time. I also started savoring those precious moments when my husband and I hold hands right before we fall asleep.  I’ll be looking for more daily moments I’ve taken for granted to add to my cache of daily highlights.

So what’s the highlight of YOUR day?

Sedona Mother

Seventeen years ago this week, I lay awake in a hotel halfway around the world, staring at the ceiling long into the night. I wondered, with anxiety, how I was going to rearrange my life to become a good mother to the adoptive twin daughters I would be entrusted with the next morning. My husband was not plagued with such worries. He slept, snoring softly, in the twin bed across the way (in China at that time, twin beds were the norm).

I wanted to become a mother. That was not the issue. I had waited through not wanting children to desiring them deeply, but being with the wrong man. I had waited through breaking up with that man, dating, and finding the right one who wanted me, marriage, and children. I had waited through trying to conceive, fertility treatments and being told my eggs were “too old.” I had waited through 20 months of paperwork, expecting word “any day,” further delays, then receiving the joyful news of twins. The two-month wait to travel had finally elapsed, and here I was in China, filled with trepidation about my new role as mother.

I was a mature woman with a solid career as an executive at a trade association, a robust group of mostly-single friends, and a well-rounded list of hobbies. I feared I was too independent, too set in my ways, too self-focused and too career-oriented to become a good mother.

Somehow, I stepped up to the role of being the mother I’d hoped to be, and even excelled at it, most of the time. That is really the best we can hope for, since the role of parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

This week, seventeen years later, I found myself staring at another ceiling in a hotel in Arizona. This time, my husband snored softly at my side, and my twin daughters slept peacefully in a queen size bed across the room. We’d planned this vacation to Sedona, recognizing it might be the last as a family, at least for a while, as they set off on their own for college, internships, boyfriends and first jobs.

Again, I find myself wondering how I will rearrange my life to accommodate my daughters not being a significant presence in each day. While I never gave up who I was during the past 17 years, my career and hobbies ebbed and flowed around parenting, and into a life that better accommodated motherhood.

Like the wind and water that slowly carved and shaped the beauty of the red rock landscape that is Sedona, motherhood has worn away rough corners, unearthed vulnerabilities, and revealed an inner wellspring of emotion unknown in me before.

How will I weather the changes?


Sculpture by Arizona Earthworks, located at Los Abrigados Resort in Sedona, AZ; 

Sculpture and Red Rock Sedona Photos by C. White Llewellyn, 2017

In Our Ancestors’ Shoes

The S.S. Coronia
My grandfather arrived on the SS Coronia with his 5-year-old son. His wife was able to follow four months later with their second son.

This week, Donald Trump signed orders that attempt to close the doors on immigration, to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, to bar green card holders from returning to the U.S., to bar immigrants for seven predominantly-Muslim countries, and one meant to punish sanctuary cities. He is also threatening a Muslim registry. How many other actions will he try to put into place before he makes the U.S., not one of the more respected countries in the world, but one of the most reviled?

Most of us who live in the U.S., unless we are 100% Native American, are of immigrant stock. On my father’s side, I can trace my heritage back to the Mayflower. On my mother’s side, my great grandmother came from Germany. Her daughter married my grandfather, an English immigrant. Through Ellis Island records I was able to discover that he came to the U.S. in 1906 from England aboard the S.S. Coronia, with my uncle Ernie, then 5.  Four months later, his wife came aboard the S.S. Umbria with my uncle Les, age 11 months. My grandfather married my grandmother after his first wife’s death. I never learned what brought him here, but I’m sure it was not the ravages of war taking place across the world today that drive many to seek asylum in the U.S.

The fact that we are trying to close our doors to immigrants now has little, if anything to do with economics or fear of terrorism. In 2013, there were 406,496 deaths caused by gun violence and 3,380 deaths caused by terrorism. In either case, one is too many, but which do YOU think is the greater threat?  With regard to concerns over economics, immigrants generally hold different jobs than American workers, so they are thereby strengthening the economy, rather than putting a strain on it.

I am happy to say that I and my family live in what is considered a sanctuary city. Our city welcomes refugees from other nations, recognizing the value they contribute in terms of economics, cultural awareness and diversity, the Arts and more. I believe it is a win-win for this community.

I thank my daughters, immigrants in their own rights who came here as adoptees at 9 months of age, for giving me the opportunity to meet some of these refugees first-hand. As volunteers through invitation by their French teacher, they began tutoring refugees to assist them in improving their English and building math skills in order for them to go to college. One evening, additional tutors were needed, so I jumped in and began working with an ambitious young man, known to his friends as Dino. Dino is probably in his early 30’s, he stands about 5’8″ and he has sparkling brown eyes, an infectious smile and a very funny sense of humor. He is married, with four children. He works all day in construction, then goes each night, Monday through Friday, to the refugee center for two hours of tutoring so that he can start studies at Monroe Community College in the Fall. The online study program serves up a menu of some very challenging questions for someone whose native language is not English. When he correctly answers one of those difficult questions, we celebrate with a fist-bump or a high five.

Dino spent eight years in a refugee camp before he and his family were selected to come here. He doesn’t like working outside in the cold weather, but he doesn’t complain. He is happy to be earning money to support his family. This past week, he excitedly shared that next month, he will celebrate his first year anniversary of being in the U.S. His goal is to become a social worker, as he was in his own country and in the refugee camp, so that he can help others. I am impressed at how well he already speaks English, after less than a year here.  I tell him he’ll be a great social worker because he’s so wonderful with people. His already-radiant smile somehow brightens.

I look across the room on Monday evening. Each computer is occupied by an adult or student tutor alongside one or more refugees working hard to acquire the necessary skills for success here in the U.S. In each of them, I see the hope, perseverance and determination it must have taken our own ancestors who sought to come here, with few resources, a different way of life and possibly, limited English language skills.

I wish every person had this first-hand opportunity to work with these wonderful, warmhearted, ambitious people and experience, to some degree, what it must have been like for their ancestors to come here as refugees. Get to know these people, and it is easy to understand that the way to stem the tide on terrorism is not to close the doors and push people away, but to welcome them and help them become loyal, appreciated citizens and contributing members of society…like each of our ancestors.

Although the particular program my family is involved in focuses on tutoring adults, there are ample opportunities to assist through working with children, “adopting” families, donating clothing, furniture, appliances, money or time, and myriad other ways. If you want to get involved, search on “refugee services” and the name of your city.

It is a gift that gives back in so many ways.