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01 January 2009

Learn 50@50, or 45@45, or [email protected], you get the idea.

Patti pencil I think they’re wonderful. They have so much courage! Here they are, hurling through space on a molten rock at 67,000 miles an hour, and the only thing that keeps them in their shoes is their misplaced faith in gravity." —John Lithgow as Prof Dick Solomon, in Third Rock from the Sun

As the clock struck midnight last night, I entered into the year I will Officially Turn 50. I may have mentioned this fact once or twice or twelve eleven hundred times before. I'm thinking I will only turn 50 once, in this lifetime at least, and so why not make the most of it? So, plan to celebrate repeatedly as we hurl through space this year. I'm just sayin'. And be on the lookout for giveaways of some of my favorite things this year, most likely 50 of them. I like symmetry.

Warhol surprise (The first giveaway will be coming up sometime during this first week of our new year, the year 2009 and not the year 2010, as Tess is trying to convince me it is). It will be a brand new fantabulous felted scarf by Chad Alice Hagen, mentioned in Life is a Verb and talked about here on 37days many times including the time I first saw one of them and had to have it, even though it was wound around the neck of the artist at a Mary Oliver poetry reading at the very moment I first saw it. Chad is donating a beautiful gold felted scarf and if I can pry it away from my lustful little fingers, I'll actually give it away to one of you! I'll post photos and tell you more about the giveaway as soon as I wake up from the fog that was 2008.)

Happy new year And so, back to 50. I think continual learning is the thing that keeps us young. (That, and laughing a hell of a lot). I'm convinced of it. Not Botox or bamboo steamers or reading about Angelina's tattoos in People magazine, but learning--and everything that comes with learning, like dissonance and being uncomfortable and saying "I don't know," and "flow" and celebration and pride at achieving a new skill. And so, to celebrate my 50th year believing in gravity on this hurtling planet, I will learn or do fifty new things, many of them things I've never done before.

I need your help. What can you teach me this year? Perhaps you can teach me how to make roti (Suganthi, can you help?) or carve a rubber stamp (Edie, are you listening?) or knit (Maxine and Aurora, are you up for this?). Short videos of instruction, perhaps, that I can share with everyone?

I'm working on what my three words are for 2009 and suggest you try the same. Those three words will be a distillation of the direction of my intention for 2009. One of them will be "learn," I know for sure. In the meantime, my 50@50 list is a work in progress and I welcome your suggestions:

1. Learn to run (walk/crawl) a half-marathon (the LIAV MaraTeam!)
2. Learn to knit (Maxine? Aurora?)
3. Learn to carve a rubber stamp (Edie?)
4. Learn to speak Spanish (and re-learn Chinese so I can talk to my friend Ye Gongxian who I've recently reconnected with after 25 years...)
5. Learn to speak Sign Language
6. Learn to trapeze (please, someone find Sam Keen and talk him into teaching me)
7. Learn to eat vegan more imaginatively
8. Learn to document my 50th year in art (I'm creating an art project using 3"x3" squares of paper, one of which will be decorated each day this year to document the ebb and flow of this year, the colors of my days, an art journal, of sorts)
9. Learn to firewalk (okay, Emily, you're on...)
10. Learn digital storytelling (Elizabeth...I need you)
11. Learn to make podcasts and learn how to download tunes onto the iPod that I don't know how to operate, dear god how hard could this be?
12. Learn how to write poetry or at least appreciate it more (starting with Ted Kooser's brilliant book on the same...)
13. Learn to make the perfect loaf of bread (Kim?)
14. Learn to make a mug on a pottery wheel, glaze it, and fire it
15. Learn to write a play (David, are you listening?)
16. Learn to say no to things I really don't want to do, that make my stomach ache the moment I say yes, those things.
17. Learn to say yes to things that scare me but thrill me. (This does NOT include skydiving, Emma. Just in case you were wondering. It also does not include bungee jumping or other things having to do with heights).
18. Learn to lose 50@50. There. I've said it.
19. Learn to see food as fuel, not as comfort, celebration, or avoidance.
20. Learn to speak my truth.
21. Learn how to manage money. Learn why I avoid it.
22. Learn what wellness really is. Not a weight goal, but wellness.
23. Learn what I am yearning for, beneath the surface of what I say I want.
24. Learn to cook palak paneer like Heritage India in Washington, D.C.
25. Learn how to get organized and stay organized.
26. Learn how to get 8 hours of sleep every night.
27. Learn how to create an e-newsletter.
28. Learn how to set up an artists' co-op store online.
29. Learn how to sew well enough to make little cloth pouches.
30. Learn what Feynman had to say.
31. Learn from Richard Powers about writing by reading everything he has written.
32. Learn where Johnny Depp lives. Okay, I'm just kidding. I already know that.
33. Learn to stop making excuses.
34. Learn to stop deflecting from what is mine to do in the world by doing everything else BUT that.
35. Learn to make the perfect cup of tea.
36. Learn really basic Photoshop skills like how to paste my head on the bodies of people like Gabrielle Reece or that undeserving twiglike French woman that Mr Depp hangs out with.
37. Learn how to change gears on my bike and how to fix the chain when it slips off.
38. Learn to make roti and how to peel a mango (that has bothered me for years).
39. Learn to turn off the computer.
40. Learn to listen more fully.
41. Learn to assume positive intent.
42. Learn to drop the barrier between art and work.
43. (Re)learn how to kayak.
44. Learn to meditate.
45. Learn how to ride horses. They scare me. (Emma, this is all yours).
46. Learn to play the guitar (Robin? long distance teacher?)
47. Learn to change the tire on a car, something that would have come in real handy on that 21 degree morning on I-85 South on November 20, 2008.
48. Learn what is mine to do in the world - and, more importantly - what is NOT mine to do.

What else? What can you teach yourself, me, and others, this fantastic new year we've been handed, just like gravity?

(hat tip to Jack Yan, on whose blog I found the fabulous quote from Third Rock)


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I too am turning 50 this year,(a mere 38 days before you.) I love the list. I have so many things I too want to do. First is learn Italian. I think I'll start today. Thanks for the inspiration, as always.

Yay for firewalking! (by the way, I think the Center for Creative Living does a firewalk workshop every New Years Day, and maybe at least one other time during the year? I'll let you know for sure!)

And the mango peeling thing - did you know they have peelers for that?? Took me years to learn and then I found a mango peeler/corer invention ever :-)

Happy New Year! I would love to teach you how to traditional rug hook (not latch hooking which you have mentioned in previous posts) - I am not a professional hooker but am hard at work on a mermaid rug. When you come to NH for your book signing :) I will give you a lesson or two. I will introduce you to some other 'hookers'. I will be turning 52 this year and I think I am going to take a pole dancing class with a bunch of my girlfriends - want to join us? I can guarantee it will be a 'Depends' event! Celebrate.

So much to think about and I thought my resolution list was getting out of control before I read this post...yikes! I have one word right drive. Yes...that works for me. Thanks, Patti!

Wishing you courage as you leap feet-first (head-first?) into this list to celebrate your half-century. ;)

Happy 50ith birthday! It's a good one. I did it a while back so I know!!!
I will help you learn to knit by telling you how I did it. go to as join the chat there, and see the many videos that show you how to do everything from casting on to more difficult stitches.
Post a question and someone comes to you quite quickly with the answer. It was so helpful to me. I also learn by reading books and looking a good photos of stitches one. Been knitting four years now!
Self taught at age 64! ;-)
Your give aways sound so generous.

so much doing on the list. and this is good, don't get me wrong. i can remind you how to have fun no matter what it is you're up to. i'm good at that. so if you're doing something or not doing something, i can remind you of the importance of play and stuff like that so you're having a good time. (buy a WWII map of a bunker and get a free ice cream cone!!!)

Learn! Me too for #s 5,19,23,26.
#29 I can teach easy and rewarding. I like seeing all those "learn"s at the beginning of each line of the list. I used to teach my students to say, "I need to learn" rather than saying "I don't know." Completely changed the classroom environment. They went from a passive admission to an active declaration. (Change your verbs!) I really loved it when a student would say "I want to learn."
My hubster could teach you #37 and for #47...isn't that why Triple AAA was invented?
Thanks, Patti, for a great year of posts. Looking forward to 2009 with ya!

I can help with the mug on the potter's wheel. I did it all through HS and then last year through our rec center as a gift to myself. DH bought a gift certificate for me to our local pottery wheel shop near by for Christmas. I was thrilled!! It's very therapeutic once you get the hang of it. :)

I can help and/or support you with No. 46, Patti. First step, do you have a guitar?

Oh, and the perfect cup of tea only requires one thing--Coconut chai... ok, not really. But, it went out today!

(However, I really DO know how to make the perfect cup of tea and will gladly show you how.)

Happy 50ith birthday! It's a good one. I did it a while back so I know!!!
I will help you learn to knit by telling you how I did it. go to as join the chat there, and see the many videos that show you how to do everything from casting on to more difficult stitches.
Post a question and someone comes to you quite quickly with the answer. It was so helpful to me. I also learn by reading books and looking a good photos of stitches one. Been knitting four years now!
Self taught at age 64! ;-)
Your give aways sound so generous.

Hi Patti--
Fabulous list. Except for the trapeze thing. I know it's a great metaphor and all, but.

Like someone else mentioned...lots of 'doing' here! Hope that doing-ness is not part of the distraction-factor from being what is uniquely yours to be?

Love your pea-pickin' heart-ful-ness, Patti!

hi Patti! I am gald you have chosen to celebrate turning 50! as one who has passed that milestone...I can tell you the 50's are good...
and I would love to teach you to knit! are you planning to come out to Portland, Or in 2009? I think beginning knitting is something best taught in person (but I am a visual learner--so that method works best for me) and I would love to sit down with you over a cup of tea and teach you how to knit and purl....

Happy turning 50!!! What an inspiring post, Patti! Three words for 2009... one that keeps coming back to me is 'Balance'. It's only one word but it is bursting with all kinds of things! I need to achieve and maintain a good balance between making art and making a living, working digitally and working 'analog-ly' (you know, without computer!), working and living, indoors and outdoors, sitting and walking (yes, I mean exercising!)... and so on and so forth. The 2nd word seems to be 'Working' - but I have yet to ponder deeper on this. I'll let you know when I found the 3rd word. But 'Learn' is such a good one, I might borrow it from you ;).

Anyhow!!! A lot in your list I am needing to learn too! IF you need more suggestions... How about...
- Learn to do digital scrapbooking (well, first you will have to master the basic of Photoshop... which I will be happy to help... online... via Skype perhaps? That'll be fun! Seriously!)
- Learn book and box making (I love it - have to get back to this someday soon!)

Happy learning! Happy turning 50! :)

Let me get this straight: you are planning to lose 50 pounds?!?! Are you nuts? As for learning to meditate, I'm sure you already know about sitting, position, clearing the mind, etc. but Eckhard says all you really need to do is be intentional. When you wash the dishes, be with washing the dishes, not thinking about what you want to do when you're finished. Whenever you free your mind from thoughts you're meditating. Peace.

Today, after my training run for the half that we are training for, I am going to finish my own "49" list and then head to a local knitting store to sign up for classes.
Thanks for the inspiration, as always.

# 25. You might want to reconsider. Organize/plan enough to get done what keeps you from spontaneously doing what you feel like doing. EVERY thought and action, however apparently rational, has what we feel like doing at the base of it.

# 32. Now that it's empty, give yourself BIG hope for the planet's future by checking out . Now funded and on track.

# 35. Talk to a Japanese expert. The finest tea, gunpowder green, should be brewed at 168°F (75.6°C). The lower the quality of the tea, the closer to boiling the water must be.

# 45. Read about "horse whispering". It'll change your whole attitude towards horses.

#49 or 50. Learn about and follow up on IGAS. It'll add a HUGE capability to your life.

Hey, Patti!
Happy New Year. If you're not already familiar with it, you might want to check out Veganomicon for number 7 (as a vegetarian, I received this as a gift this Xmas - GREAT recipes and it's huge).
For number 28, you may want to check out for a benchmark.
And, for number 3, if Edie is unavailable, our whole family does this on a regular basis (you can see letterboxing. org to understand why). Here's to a fruitful year!

Uhhh. Your list is interesting but it sounds so, well, so oughta.

I read Anthony Adverse at 40. What struck me, beyond being a wonderfully compelling story, was the hero's recognition that only when we are traveling from one place to another are we truly present in the present. The rest of the time we are reflecting on the past and planning for the future.

Is it possible to save about 10 slots for learning what you didn't know you needed to learn -- those things that come up when you're not really paying attention to your list?

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