Monday, January 13, 2020

Week 54: Conversa -- Learning Spanish in Costa Rica

One of the final goals of my 60 until 60 project is #29 from my list:

Go to a foreign country and practice speaking the native language

After doing a little online research for a place to go where I could practice Spanish, I found Conversa in Costa Rica.  They had a Spanish immersion program just for retirees and after a few emails with Andy Kaufman, the owner, I decided it would be the perfect way to accomplish this goal.

I fell in love with this beautiful campus, high on a hill, the moment I arrived.  Everything about this learning vacation has exceeded my expectations. Here are some of the highlights:

Making new friends

I'm not usually a big fan of going on a trip alone because.. well.. it's lonely.  However, this wasn't a typical trip or vacation and there were several reasons that I was able to make friends here at Conversa:

  • We're sort of like students in a dorm. We have common areas and a cafeteria in which we all gather and share stories
  • Though there are some couples, there are also other people who have come here alone and were interested in socializing and getting to know others
  • Most of the other students are interested in the same kinds of things I'm interested in: Communication, Travel, Learning, New Experiences, and, of course, Spanish!
  • There have been social activities and excursions on the weekends, so we're getting to know each other outside of class.
On a Coffee Plantation Tour
Even though I've only been here a week, I feel I've made some good friends! In fact, I'm already making some plans to visit some of my new friends and I hope they'll be visiting me.

The teachers and all the coordinators and staff at Conversa are extremely friendly and helpful, too.   Everyone is so welcoming and warm.

The campus

What a beautiful place! I just can't say enough about how much I love the surroundings here. Of course, it's wonderful to have perfect weather in the 70's every day in January! But, I love the quaint houses, porch swings, beautiful views, hammocks, and just the overall feeling you get at every turn.

I've made it a habit of doing a 6:30am walk down and up a very steep hill of the street leading into the campus - quite a healthy workout routine! There's a pool and flowering bushes and trees that I pass as I make my way up for breakfast each morning before our daily classes start.

Before our morning workout up the big hill
I'll only be here another few days and I already miss this little piece of heaven. I think I'll make it an annual tradition to come back each year.

Costa Rica

The country, as well, has so much to offer, from beaches, to volcanos, to rain forest hikes, to birdwatching and such a vast array of animals and plants. Last weekend I enjoyed a long day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park with several of my classmates.


 Learning Spanish

I'm loving my Spanish classes, but I must admit, I'm disappointed that my oral skills are still so poor. I feel good about how much I've learned, but I still have a long way to go. That's OK, though.  I'm motivated to continue to learn and I feel lucky that I have so many new friends to practice with!


Saturday, January 04, 2020

Week 53: Awesome Delights in the New Year

Yay! It’s 2020 and so far it’s been a fabulous year. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting on a First Class flight headed for Costa Rica! The upgrade was a surprise. I’m a United MileagePlus Premier Member and that means I randomly get upgraded if the flight isn't full. Free drinks (I go with Baileys and coffee), yummy breakfast, and comfy big seats! I feel so pampered and like such a jet-setter!

New Luggage Tag Christmas Gift from my sis!
That’s just one of many happy surprises I’ve had this week.  Let me do a quick summary of some of my favorites:

Receiving "The Book of Awesome" in the mail


Awesome surprise gift from MB



One day last week, I was texting with my Anonymous Commenter Friend, Michael Bolé and told him that I liked the word, "quotidian," and I'd first learned the word when I read the description of "The Book of Awesome" - a book of quotidian delights! A few days later, the book appeared in my mailbox as a surprise gift! Is that awesome or what? 

Having a Zoom “Virtual New Year’s Eve Party” 


I’ve been trying to figure out what options I have for communicating using Wi-Fi so I can avoid the international data rates. Matt and Stella (my son and daughter-in-law) experimented with me and we played an online game of codenames using Zoom and it worked great! I’ve also tried WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime and they all have worked without any problems!  Isn’t it amazing to live in an age when we can make these International video calls for free? 


Walk2Connect New Year’s Day hike



Walk2Connect is an co-op I discovered last year which combines two of my passions: Walking and Connection! Here’s one of the owners, Jonathan Stalls, (who actually walked across America!) giving a little rundown on what the New Year's Day hike was all about:




I showed up in my colorful, cool, “Carp”e Diem hat that Stella had made me as a Christmas gift! I just love my colorful new hat, and was happily surprised when I found some other kindred Mad Hatters who showed up with funky hats of their own.

I fit right in with my "Carp"e Diem Hat crocheted for me by Stella

3AM Ride to the Airport


3AM ride to the airport is another awesome gift!

My housemate, John, heard me on the phone talking about my 5:20am flight out of DIA and offered to give me a ride to the airport! I almost always take the very convenient SkyRide bus, but the first one this morning didn't leave until after 4am, which was really too late.  My friend, Sue, also texted and told me she'd give me a ride, even knowing it would have meant a middle-of-the-night drive. I feel so blessed to have such thoughtful friends!

Conversa

I safely arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, and was met at the airport by José who picked up me and a few others and drove us to the Conversa Campus in Santa Ana. I'll be writing more throughout the week about my stay here, but so far, the lodging and people have exceeded expectations! 
José giving us a tour of the Conversa campus


Monday, December 30, 2019

Week 52: Update on Final Goals

Here we are in the final week of the year... the time of year that I'm usually picking out my favorite pictures and creating photo albums and slideshows, reminiscing about all the fun I had, and planning for next year's resolutions.

However, this year is a little different because I still have 8 weeks left of my 60-week count-down until my 60th birthday.

I only have 6 goals left on my list that I have yet to blog about. Here's an update on these:


  • Create a course about using Agile in everyday life
I actually did a couple of boot camps at the beginning of the year that used Agile concepts, so I may "count" this as complete.
  • Put DIY walls in basement that will allow me to hang pictures, etc.
I discovered ways to attach pictures to the basement walls with Velcro. I also found spots that I was able to hang hooks or picture hangers. I love my "photo gallery" and I got a couple of new frames from my grandchildren for Christmas so it can keep growing!



  • Create a Girl Cave
I contracted out to have the dry wall and electrical work done, but still have to redo my botched up paint job. But I've picked out my new colors and created my pretty wine rack. 
  • Go to a foreign country and practice speaking the native language
I'll be leaving Saturday for the Conversa Spanish Immersion Program in Costa Rica!
  • Put together a playlist of at least 60 songs by gathering songs from friends
I've been working on this since the beginning of the year.  I think I have about 50 songs now but will do my "final reminders" to friends and family to finish this up.
  • Plan and host my 60th virtual/real birthday party
Yay!! The big day is less than 2 months away! 

I'm very proud of myself for blogging every single week this year and taking my 60-until-60 goals very seriously!

Next year, I hope to keep to my weekly blogging habit, and I'll post updates about my final goals and figure out some new goals for 2020!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Week 51: Thrift Store Fixup

My pretty purple wine rack



We are in Christmas week, which means I'm in the midst of all that last minute shopping. I have a tradition to pick up a new (well... used.. but new to us) family game at ARC so it was the perfect opportunity for me to accomplish #55 on my list of 60 goals:

Buy something at a Thrift store and fix it up

Sadly, I'm not very crafty or artistic, but it's super easy to make something old look pretty, just with a fresh coat of paint.  I've been wanting a wine rack for my new "girl cave' (which is still a work in progress) and I found the perfect one at ARC for 3 bucks!  

3-dollar wine rack I found at ARC

On to Michaels, to peruse their spray-paint colors, and there I found this beautiful silver-lilac spray-paint.  A couple of coats of paint later, I have a unique wine-rack that will look stunning in my 'girl cave'!

A couple of coats of paints later and Voila! It's beautiful!

What worked well:
  • Very easy to spray paint and turn something old into something pretty
  • I've wanted a wine rack and this was a great find!
  • I love the new color!

What could have been better:
  • If I had more artistic talent, I'd add some unique design to this
  • When I'm so busy trying to find and give gifts, it would have been nice if my fixer-upper project was for someone else, but it's a nice gift for myself!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Week 50: Trip to Sacramento

Mom and Neal
This week I accomplished goal #12 on my 60 until 60 list:

Visit my Mom and brother in Sacramento as well as others in Northern CA who are available

I often go to my childhood home in Sacramento at this time of year. My Mom's birthday is December 9th which is right at holiday season, so over the years it has become a tradition of mine to visit at Thanksgiving or early December. This time, since I didn't have to run back to a job, and I'm doing my big "60 until 60 project," I had a bit of an extended visit and was able to have some special "celebrations."  

Mom



The priority, of course, was my celebration with Mom since it was HER 84th birthday! Her present from many of us was a new laptop. She'd been using my Dad's old computer since he died in 2010, so definitely it was time for something new. My 'present' also included helping her pick something out (picking out a laptop is overwhelming! We settled on a chromebook.) and giving her 'lessons' on how to use it.  Well, of course, this is almost like a present to me, too, because I LOVE giving computer lessons and Mom has been a great 'student,' so I feel glad that I've been around to help her.

Neal


My brother, Neal, the baby of our family lives in nearby, Folsom. He shares my love of swing dancing, so on Tuesday night he took me out to his weekly dance place and we had a blast! Neal introduced me to a bunch of his "swinger friends" and we danced until the place closed down. So much fun!

Tor and Sally


After dancing, I spent the night at Neal's Folsom home and the next day was able to visit our old childhood friend, Tor, and his girlfriend, Sally. Tor is almost like an adopted member of our family. His parents died when he was quite young and I know both my Mom and Dad have felt a parental love for him and his siblings for as long as I can remember. It was great catching up on all that was happening in our lives..  as well as with our kids and grandkids!

Dee


Dee is another "adopted family" member who I've known since childhood. She and her husband, Ed (who passed away many years ago) were best friends with my parents. Dee often refers to herself as "my fairy godmother" and that's a good way to describe our relationship with her. I'm in so much awe of her resilience and spunk. At age 87, despite breaking a hip and her arm earlier this year, she is still traveling and living life fully! 

Jack

Jackster (and I am "Yvettester" to him) is a good friend who I met in my sophomore year (1979-1980) at UC Davis when we both were in the "H Building" dorm. Even though Jack and I have been friends all of these years, this was our first longer "visit." When I talked to Jack on his birthday in September, I told him about my 60 until 60 project and that I wanted to have a special celebration with him. He asked if I'd be interested in going to see a Garrison Keillor Christmas show in San Francisco on December 14th. Perfect!  In fact, I got to spend most of the weekend with Jackster, taking a long hike with him in Pacifica and enjoying holiday traditions at his childhood San Francisco home.

What worked well
  • Created lots of new memories with old friends and family
  • Even though it was rainy most days, it was a lot warmer weather than Colorado
  • Nice that I could stay for a longer visit than usual
  • I was included in a neighborhood Christmas party and saw some friends from high school that I hadn't seen in years.
  • Happy that we were able to find a laptop that Mom likes
What could have been better


  • I had a cold for the first week I was in Sacramento
  • I didn't get to visit as many people as I would have liked
  • I always miss my Dad when I visit home

Monday, December 09, 2019

Week 49: Walk 2019 miles in 2019

2019 Mile Bib Video from Run The Edge on Vimeo.

This week I accomplished what was probably my most challenging goal on my list of 60:

Walk 2019 miles in 2019

When the doctor told me a couple of years ago that I should give up running, it really depressed me. Running was really the only athletic thing I've ever done that I felt I was pretty good at.  It also helped keep me fit and sane. When I was going through stressful times, it's what I'd do..  In fact, I remember when I was in the midst of my divorce, after a particularly stressful day, I went for my usual run at warp speed. When I finished and looked at my watch, I had a moment of joy: Wow! Look how fast I am when I'm mad!

When I was depressed about not being able to run any more, I couldn't do what I usually do to cure my depression.  I couldn't run so I decided to walk instead.

As it turns out, walking is almost as good as running, and in many ways better.  As a runner, of course, I always wanted to go as fast as possible. But now I realize, going fast is not as important as just going.  Walking is just slow running and you can go a lot farther and enjoy it a lot more than running.

In order to walk 2019 miles, I had to average over 5.5 miles a day, which hasn't been easy!  This is the only goal I've had that required exercise every single day..  and not just a quick thing that like a plank. It usually takes at least an hour and a half of hiking, walking, or dancing to get in 5 and a half miles.

Even though there were days that I really didn't feel like walking because of the weather or my mood or my health, I did it. Mostly this is probably because of my somewhat neurotic "upholder" personality, but I made it!

I also discovered a wonderful Walking Group, Walk2Connect, and took leadership training for the group, so next year, I plan to lead some walks.  And I did a lot of hiking in beautiful places all year, seeing and experiencing many new places, thanks to this goal.

What worked well:

  • I got into the regular healthy habit of walking
  • I was able to meet new people in hiking Meetup groups
  • I saw a lot of beautiful places
  • Walking has helped keep me mentally and physically strong
  • I achieved a good physical challenge
What could have been better:

Now the big question? Since I've achieved this goal, will I continue my obsessive walking? The answer is...  I plan to still walk at least 10,000 steps until the end of the year..   After that?  Who knows? Maybe I'll try for 20K! (Or maybe not!)

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Week 48: Host a #GivingTuesday campaign for ALS Never Surrender



Looking for a non-profit to help on Giving Tuesday?

Please donate to ALS Never Surrender on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd!

Goal #16 on my list of 60 is to: Participate in efforts to help those with ALS and their caregivers. Since losing my friend, Craig Dunham, to ALS in 2010, I've been a very active advocate for finding a cure to this fatal and heart-breaking disease.

I got involved with the ALS Never Surrender non-profit a few years ago and was inspired by the founder, Steph Courdin, who gathered a group of colleagues and volunteers to create a mobile app that would collect valuable ALS patient progression data.

Though Steph lost his battle with ALS in March of this year, I was so excited that the organization received a $300K 3-year grant from the ALS Association.  All Steph's efforts were not in vain. The organization is currently working with Harvard Medical, Duke University, UCSD, UC Denver, and Barrow Neurological Institute to run clinical trials across the country.

I usually raise money for the ALS Association by leading Team Carpe Diem on the Walk to Defeat ALS. However, this year, I'm working with ALS Never Surrender on a GivingTuesday Facebook campaign because Facebook will match all donations made on GivingTuesday, Dec.3rd!

I feel so lucky to have met Craig and Steph and to be able to see the progress being made towards a cure. I feel confident that, with this app, a cure is in sight! Please consider giving on December 3rd!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Week 47: Basement Makeover Failure!

I don't like to admit to failure, but it's good "agile" practice to be comfortable with failure and view it as a "learning opportunity." A good number of the goals on my 60 until 60 list have been about cleaning up my basement. I've been debating about whether or not I should have it professionally finished for years. I settled on a little mixture of DIY projects along with hiring some professionals to do stuff that was too hard for me.

There's one room that had been partially finished and I went ahead and hired some contractors to put drywall in and texture the walls and ceiling.  I figured I could save some money by doing the painting myself. I bought a dark blue paint, wanting to make it dark since I'd planned to make it a 'theater room.'

Well, the whole painting project has been a disaster. The room currently looks as though some culprit came in and vandalized the room. As embarrassing as it is to post a picture, here goes:

There have been a lot of problems. First of all, I accidentally used two different colors of paint! I won't get into how this happened, but I assure you, I've been mentally saying "HOW COULD I BE SO STUPID?" every time I think about this.

Besides accidentally using two different colors, as you can see, I really had trouble with the roller getting the paint to cleanly and uniformly cover the walls. So, not only am I upset at my stupid paint color mistake, but that I don't even have the skill to paint walls. I know I can't paint pictures, but I thought I could paint walls!

Being an Agile Coach, I realize that it is inappropriate to call myself "stupid" or to mentally beat myself up about my obvious lack of home improvement skills. With more effort (and more paint), I could eventually do a better job with this. (How could it possibly be any worse?)

What did I learn? I discovered in all this, that I don't really like that color, and don't want a 'theater room.' Instead, I'm going to create a cozy 'girl cave.' So I'm going to change the color completely and (here's the important learning) hire a professional!

I had also planned to lay down "DIY" tiles:

However, I think, instead, I will also hire professionals to do the flooring in the finished room and stick to area rugs in the unfinished sections of the basement:


What worked well

  • I'm glad I didn't paint the whole room or hire someone to paint the room dark blue before figuring out I didn't like that color or want a 'theater room' anyway.
  • My daughter, Megan, is totally AWESOME with interior decorating and she's going to help me make my new 'girl cave' beautiful! She was so great when I told her what I mess of it I'd made and reassured me that she would help me fix everything.
  • I like my new cozy area rug and that's a lot easier than laying tile!
What could have been better
  • The 'finished' room currently looks terrible! (But it's all fixable!)
  • The flooring is also uneven which may be a result of expansive soil. I'm kind of worried that putting flooring in may end up being an expensive endeavor.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Week 46: Practice Kindness

This week included World Kindness Day, so it seemed the appropriate week to blog about goal number 14 on my 60-until-60 list:

Practice a mindset of kindness and gratitude and journal weekly about reflections

This is one of those goals that is more about developing a mindset than one that you can check off of a list.  However, I haven't missed a week of writing in my "reflections journal" noting the positive things that I experience on a daily basis!

Every day I have a goal of doing these four things:

  1.  Exercise (Always getting in at least 10,000 steps!)
  2.  Learn something (Haven't missed a day of Spanish study in over 250 days!)
  3.  Have some positive social interaction
  4.  Help someone in some way

The positive social interaction and helping people are pretty loosely defined. This might be as simple as smiling and giving a compliment to someone. But doing these things regularly have really helped me intentionally practice kindness. I was very pleased to see that many of my AirBnB guests have used the word, 'kind' to describe me!

And I feel so grateful to be the recipient of kindness constantly from friends, family, and even strangers.  Every text message, email, phone call, and conversation is an opportunity to be kind and to have gratitude.

I became interested in kindness and it's relationship to happiness many years ago.  I've been subscribing to a Random Acts of Kindness newsletter and  I've blogged many times about kindness including this post which included 100 ideas of ways to be kind.

A few examples of the kindnesses I've received and that I'm grateful for this week:


  • Getting invited to a delicious home-cooked dinner by a friend who's a great cook!

  • Attending the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum as an invited guest of a friend


What worked well 

  • Practicing gratitude and kindness has become a wonderful habit that has absolutely added to my happiness.
  • I feel like this goal is a lot easier for me now that I'm not working full-time. I'm much more patient and less judgmental these days.
  • Kindness is very contagious. It's interesting that even the tone we use when we speak to someone makes a huge difference in their responses to us.
  • Being more intentional about this has made me become a better person with stronger relationships.
What could have been better

Normally, I have at least one place at which I'm regularly volunteering. It's kind of ironic that this year, when I'm not working, I'm also not volunteering regularly anywhere. With all my travels and projects, I haven't done much that requires commitment.  


Even though I'm not a committed volunteer anywhere right now, I'm realizing that helping others is something we can all do every day, just by listening and providing words of encouragement and support.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Week 45: Read a Best Seller - You Are Awesome

This week the goal from my list of 60 that I accomplished was #40:

Read a book that’s on the best seller list

"You Are Awesome" by Neil Pasricha came out this week and since he's an author I follow, I had pre-ordered the audiobook from Audible and was able to listen to it as I was driving around Florida this week.

Now, I'm not sure that this book is on the best seller list yet, but I predict it will be! Neil Pasricha is a best selling author, after all, and writes about one of my favorite topics: positive psychology and happiness.

In fact, in one of the first chapters of the book, Neil talks about adding the word 'yet,' any time you start to think negatively about accomplishing a goal.  So instead of saying, "My book is not on the best seller list," you'd add the word yet, to say, "My book is not on the best seller list yet!" (implying, of course, that you have full confidence it will be!)

I also listened to the book rather than reading it, which was even better than reading it. I love audiobooks! Neil, himself, read the book, and I really enjoy the added benefits that come with hearing his voice. All the nuances in tone and delivery really added a lot! And it's great to be listening to an interesting audiobook while driving or traveling!

You Are Awesome was another entertaining Awesome book by Pasricha - this one tackled the topic of resilience. It had some great insights about how to establish a mindset of positivity, despite what challenges might come your way.

Besides listening to this book (and feeling self-assured that I Am Awesome) I reserved a couple of other 2019 best seller audiobooks on Overdrive: "Where the Crawdads Sing" and "Becoming."  Those will come in handy to listen to as I continue my Snowbird travels.

Speaking of Snowbird travels, Snowbird season has begun! My 10-day trip to Florida was somewhat spontaneous, and included 2 Disney Parties (both Halloween and Christmas), trips to both the east and west coast Florida beaches, daily walks in beautiful places, and fun with friends, both old and new!  I have so much to say about it all, that I may write my own best seller book: Single Snowbird! Stay tuned!