#17 Throw a Dart at a Map of Ontario and Go There

This was an easy little adventure as I’m always game for a road trip. Originally this item declared I had to go to both sides of the map where the hole pierced, but as northern Ontario is rather vast and much of it needs a plane to get to, I let myself off the hook. I think that’s important – hold yourself to a high standard, but be kind enough you’re not being too ridiculous about it.

The timing was absolutely perfect – I tossed the dart in a friend’s garage this summer, but waited until the fall to venture out. I’m a sucker for the fall colours. (And I’m the queen of procrastination.) The target was somewhere between Bob Lake and Little Bob Lake in Haliburton.

Dart_Toss

Leaving a road trip up to fate, highly recommended. Unless you end up in Wawa, those big geese freak me out.

The weeks leading up to the road trip had been a whirlwind.  All the typical stuff, job stress, running around like a lunatic, pretending to look like I know exactly what I’m up to. Toss in a trip to eastern Europe to drink, hang out with monks and meet a bunch of new friends and I was ready for a bit of solo, quality time with the bug. Peace and quiet, fresh air and gob-smacking scenery, that’s my happy place.

Bug

Are you ready YET? The bug is always itching for a ramble.

Jet lagged, I awoke far too early for a day off (Thanksgiving Monday). Normally this is acceptable as I will bask in my warm blankets, all cozied in with a good book and a cup of tea. But despite my exhaustion, I was restless and unsettled, and had finished up my books on the plane. And I had this giant list and was running out of days.

The Lakes Bob were about two and a half hours away from my cozy blankets. I fixed a thermos of tea, grabbed a snack and off I went. As I set off, my head my head was full of squirrels. I sorted through the post trip task list and wondered how I could possibly procrastinate it all, and sifted through my social-butterfly to-dos, (hmm, a solution right there – I can’t do laundry while I’m out for dinner! This was going to be a very productive road trip.) My mind raced along as quickly as the bug.

Then, my favourite road trip side-effect began. Instead of my brain prattling along, rhyming off all the things I needed to do over the next little while, it slowly started to shut up, and let my eyes do all the work. Trees were competing against each other to be the most dazzling, forests were exploding with fiery colours. Lakes were so very still, perfectly mirroring the sunny sky above. I’m shocked I managed to keep the bug on the road, rather than veering off into the gorgeous surroundings, or suddenly bursting into applause.

Haliburton_Lake

Sometimes Mother Nature just shows off.

I wound my way down an unknown road, trying to figure out where exactly the dart pierced map was sending me. I found a little nook between two lakes, and there just happened to be a little stairway leading to an abandoned dock. I crept down the creaky stairs, and a splash broke the glass-like still of the lake as a loon dove beneath the surface. A heron stuck around to say hi, welcoming me to his peaceful sanctuary. My brain was finally at a loss for words, best I could do was just sit and take it all in.

I think we all need moments like this. There’s talk of nature deficit disorder, the idea that the lack of time spend in nature is having a detrimental impact on us, particularly screen-hooked children. Without a bit of fresh air and some quality time with dirt stuck to the tread of our shoes, our health suffers. It’s more than the lack of vitamin D making us cranky, it’s argued that being cooped up all the time makes us more prone to anxiety and depression, along with a host of other issues. For me, spending time outside is akin to spending time at a mental health facility, without that gross industrial cleaner smell and green jello.

Dockside

My dockside sanctuary.

I sat for a while on the dock, enjoying the silence both inside and outside my brain. The crisp air coursed through my lungs, the sun poured vitamin D all over me, and I oozed gratitude – for living in such a beautiful country, for having the ability to run away from home sometimes, for the dear friend with a dart and a map, for the fates landing me here in this little piece of heaven. This was easily one of the greatest gifts of the birthday list.

Go, right now. Dig that ratty old map out of the drawer. Find a dart – or make it fun with a spitball through a straw – and see where the fates will take you. It’ll be good!

Tell me where you end up?

#29 Censored

Ok, so I didn’t accomplish the censored thing I had originally set out to do. I did put some effort into it but in the end it just didn’t work out for a variety of reasons… one being that I’m not keen on ending up in jail or risking my well being.

So, to make sure I still got my check mark, I did something equally scandalous and worth plenty of secrecy. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

#13 Dance in a Crow’s Nest

Ok. This was not a cheat. I was simply being resourceful.

As I’ve mentioned, my friends added many of the items on the list. If they added to the list they also had to facilitate or participate. Sometimes my friends procrastinate as much as I do, which impresses me that we ever get anything done.

Crow’s nest – there’s a bar up in Barrie called The Ranch. Apparently they have something called a crow’s nest. When dancers get drunk/brave/foolish enough, they climb high into this crow’s nest thing, and do their best 60’s style go-go dancer impression. Somehow, my sidekick Rhonda felt this was an important addition, though she denies this now.

So, we did our best to procrastinate. I’d like to think now that we’re 37, we’re all mature and avoid such drunken debauchery. But the truth is, we’re just lazy.  The deadline was looming and our schedules were cram packed but we couldn’t sacrifice a precious Sunday for the colossal hangover that would result from this task.

Enter resourcefulness. I called Rhonda up with a solution. “Hey, remember the birthday dinner you came to a million years ago in Newmarket? That pub just happens to be called the Crow’s Nest! Come for lunch?”

Ever the sidekick, she made her way down to help me get the check mark. The nice part about this lunch was that it had been nearly 8 years since we were last there celebrating my birthday, and while our lives look vastly different now, our friendship remains the same – always up for some shenanigans, constantly trying to solve the mystery of boys, and pondering the next adventure.

Once our bills were paid, and we were sure no one was looking, we did it. We wiggled and danced at our table, laughing all the while, foolish as ever.

Check!

#10 Make Jam

Ok, I’m not sure if I’ve cheated on this one or not. There is a raspberry concoction in my fridge, and it’s a great addition to peanut butter sandwiches, so I think it counts.

Chia_Jam

Mmmm, just add peanut butter.

The trouble is, the recipe is so ridiculously easy, it seems like a bit of a fib to call it jam. My understanding of jam includes hours of toiling over a hot stove, reducing berries, sterilizing jars, crossing your fingers.

This one? Nope. Mash up some berries, toss in some sweetness and a scoop of chia seeds, and ta da! You have raspberry jam. One little jar of goodness.

Here’s the cheat sheet.

#9 Bake Cookies for the Hospice Around the Corner

To be honest, I felt a little weird about this one – and I was the one that added it to my list. While I firmly believe in random acts of kindness, (is it random if it’s on a to do list?) delivering homemade food to strangers might be a little odd. Would you eat cookies a stranger handed to you? We’re taught at an early age not to do this.  “Hey little girl, want some candy?”

But, one of the best things my mom ever taught me was that if you have the opportunity to do something nice for someone, you darn well better do it.

I chose the hospice around the corner. I don’t know them, nor have I used their services or programs. However, I have had the unfortunate experience of losing people I love. And in those heartbreaking moments, angels appear. They hide their wings well, under nurses uniforms, or tuck their halos on a hook behind their office doors. Those that work with people either at the end of their life or devastated by someone enduring a loss are exceptional. They’re even built differently – their rib cages are bigger than the average human – in order to hold their giant hearts.

hospice_cookies

Sadly, there wasn’t enough room in the box for all the cookies. I had to eat one. Or two.

So, who better than to send a little sunshine to? While all the focus is on loss, who is focusing on them, shining a light on their spirit, their gentle touch, their warmth?

I popped over before work yesterday. Handed a box with a card to a lady who was a little perplexed by this sudden gift. I scampered off before she could ask too many questions or open the box, but I heard a little squeal of joy as I ran out the door. Mission accomplished.

What will your random act of kindness be today?

#25 Go Skinny Dipping.

Don’t bother peeking, there will be no photos of this little adventure.

Of all the things on my list, when I shared it with my friends, they were all shocked to learn I hadn’t done this – which leads me to wonder what they actually think of me. Turns out though, they were simply surprised because apparently everyone on the planet – except me – has gone skinny dipping. It seems there’s no shame in skinny dipping, but loads in not having done so.

Little Miss Procrastination that I am, again waited till the last possible moment. You’ll read in another entry that I’m not overly keen on swimming, so I was happy to push this one off. All the same, I’m even less keen on freezing my ass off – to actually get me in the water, it must be like soup.  So timing was key – the last possible warm day of the summer. And with the crap summer we’ve had, that’s a tricky call to make.

Again, I had a teammate for this little exercise. A dear, brave friend, who has perhaps, just maybe, seen the goods before, so I didn’t have to deal with the additional freak out burden of having to reveal my pasty white, too many dairy milks body to him. And frankly, I’m comfortable in my body.  Still, I somehow found myself with the silly shyness of a 2 year old.

It took some cheerleading, promises that it’s really no big deal, and strong assurances that the fish wouldn’t touch my girly bits. I crept into the water… cheating of course, with my little sundress on. I looked around the gorgeous isolated lake just to be sure I would have no audience. I mustered up all of my courage, repressed all of my knowledge about aquatic invertebrates and waded a little deeper.

Still I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t my fault though. There was an enormous dock spider that had been basking on the dock. Like huge enough to carry off a small child carrying a boulder. Except at that moment, I couldn’t see him. And I have very, very strict rules about nudity and spiders.

I made my friend go find the spider. With a thousand promises that the spider was still hanging out where he always does, I had run out of excuses. Luckily, I had not run out of gin fueled inebriation. The dress was slipped off, and I embraced my inner mermaid, swimming off oh so naked into the lake.

To be honest, it was quite nice.  Until of course, something touched my leg and I became a total chicken-girl again. (Seriously, I’ve camped with bears, swam with crocs and won a yelling match with a babboon, I’m usually not so ridiculous. I even like nature!) I escaped the water and found safety (and sunscreen…) on the dock. With the spider. One fear at a time…

So, now I’ve conformed. I’m one of the rest of you – I have swam in my birthday suit!

#18 Go on a blind date

Ok, without question, this was going to be the most horrifying one on my list. While I had pestered friends and family into helping me out with so many of my other tasks, I had hoped no one would notice this and it would just slip by. But, as I mentioned earlier, I have cruel friends. So cruel that they insisted I follow through with this one, knowing how much time and effort have gone into all the other items on my list, and how important it is to me to finish it off.

The tricky bit is that when you come to the ripe old age of 37, so many people are already in relationships… or are meant to be single. So my friends were at a loss when it came to man-shopping for me. (I am trying to ignore the possibility that they feel I’m too much of a freak for them to inflict upon anyone they like…) However, one extra cruel friend took matters into his own hands. He’s extremely lucky he lives in another time zone or I would have hunted him down.

“If you can’t find a friend over there to set you up, I’m going to put you on Plenty of Fish,” he threatened. Plenty of Fish is one of those online dating sites. I can’t imagine anything more horrifying. “Don’t you dare. I will slice you,” was the response.

He dared. He put up a mortifyingly charming profile of me, including several shots captured from my Facebook profile. Even the one of me in a bikini jumping into Victoria Falls, despite my enraged ranting. I sounded lovely. I hate him. The next day he called. “16 people have sent you messages, a handful have sent you a ‘flirt’ and countless men want to meet you.”

Ok, I get it. Huge numbers of people have met their special someone online. I have friends that I have met online, and clients that I have never met in person. But for me, I much prefer an organic experience, encountering someone the normal person-to-person way, rather than having some computer program spit out a ‘hey, check out this guy!’ option. Calculations have no place in my love life (or lack thereof).

Enter the hilarity, and deeply disturbing part of this adventure. I find it wildly unsettling what some men felt would be the magnet. Here’s a picture of my snowmobile. Take a look at these cool rims. Here’s my motorcycle. Others felt it important that they show me their amazing abs. (Ok, I was a little grateful for that.) Half nude shots of men who felt quite confident that belonged in magazines. Any type of magazine.

Some men were even snippy at me when I failed to respond to their query. “How far are you from Toronto” one asked. After two days of no response – “Fine, don’t respond. We’ll see how well you succeed here!” Yikes. Most men can’t spell. I know I’m no grammar queen, but I at least try.

My favourite moment though was a message that popped up a few days into this horrible experience. “Hey, nice profile picture. I wonder who took that?” Upon closer inspection, my worst fears were realized. Someone I knew had found me. This someone had taken that very photo. Not only was this someone I knew, this person has suggested we get together a number of times, to which I would consistently respond that I don’t date. And here we are, chatting a dating site. Not awkward at all.

I explained my dilemma, and we laughed it off. He too was having a rough time in digital dating land, plenty of married women keen on showing him their ass. He’s a really nice guy too, skanky married ass just isn’t his cup of tea.

Days after this wildly uncomfortable experiment started, I was bitching and moaning about this to some friends at a networking shindig. A new friend, a take charge sort of girl, had an immediate solution. She texted her single guy friend who she simply couldn’t stop raving about. Within moments, I had fetched a potential blind date. This was even more petrifying than the online dating world – the real life dating world. I did my best to ignore the new friend who was scribbling down out a rough outline of the wedding speech. I went home and immediately deleted my POF profile.

BlindDate and I swapped a few texts, some witty banter and charm. He has a plant, I have a cat, we’re both trying to keep them alive. We like zombie shows and serial killers. A couple of days later what I had feared most happened. My phone buzzed. The text read “What are you up to tonight?” Um, hiding under my couch in sheer panic, of course! He even had the absolute bravery to suggest we get together for dinner. Terrified isn’t a big enough word. And then the worst possible thing happened. He actually picked up the phone and called me. Who does that?

Well, I put on my big girl panties and went on a blind date. He was a delight. Intelligent, funny, willing to share his stories, and a total gentleman. A delicious dinner and a stroll through the Distillery District. We shared our desserts. He did his best to put me at ease, knowing I was rather nervous (though I almost tripped when he asked if I wanted kids). He even knew the main motive behind the date, and was still game. In the end, a lovely evening, at some point I stopped trembling. (And yes, those are the only details you’re getting.)

Check! Damn this list.