December 2018
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Holding a Dream … Lightly

Bucket List


a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying



It doesn’t seem as if it were that long ago that I started hearing about bucket lists. People would ask me what was on my bucket list. I could not answer. There are always lots of things that I want to do. Did I have to choose? If I tried to enumerate every idea that came to my mind, I would have a list that no one could accomplish in a lifetime.

The notion of keeping a bucket list seems too inflexible to me. My hopes and aspirations are fluid. Circumstances change and I want to be able to change my dreams accordingly. So I think it is good to have dreams, but to hold them lightly.

Sometimes interests change. Back when I was in my early thirties, I bicycled with three friends as far as I could go in a week. Two of them were bicycling across the country. I had only a week’s worth of vacation time, so I went with them from Seattle, WA to Libby, MT. For a long time after that, I had the dream of one day bicycling across the country. That dream got modified – taking an entire summer off did not seem feasible – maybe I would bicycle across the country in stages, a week at a time. Pete even offered to be my sag support. When we moved to the midwest, the thought of driving out west to spend a week bicycling seemed like too much effort – too much driving, too much time away with both the driving and the bicycling. So I didn’t pursue the dream. For a while, a long while, I felt badly about abandoning that dream. Was I was just giving up? Was I not persistent enough? But, in fact, my interests had changed. Holding tightly to that dream brought about feelings of guilt and shame. I’m glad I realized that I’m in a different place now and I don’t have to be tied down to that dream.  I’m happy to just go bicycling along the roads and bicycle paths in Albuquerque.

I don’t want to hold on to a dream so tightly that I would be devastated if, for some reason, I could no longer pursue it. I have hobbies that give me a great deal of pleasure and that I’ve always thought I would continue doing for the rest of my life. I love to spin and knit and play the recorder. But my thumb joints are giving me problems. They ache when I overuse them in any kind of gripping motion.  Right now, I’m trying to figure out if there are modifications that I can do (hand position, equipment, materials) to alleviate the problems. I know that my thumbs are likely to continue to get worse. So I am also thinking of other activities that I can do that won’t put strain on my poor thumbs. I want to be able to transition (and plan that transition) from one dream to another.

Sometimes, holding on to a dream too tightly blinds us to other possibilities. For many, many, years, I’ve held the dream of, one day, having a little residential–sized pipe organ. Such things do exist. I’ve played on little pipe organs in practice rooms at music schools and dreamed of having one of my own someday. Being a bit of an organ snob, I didn’t even consider anything other than a pipe organ. Then, a year ago, when I actually had the opportunity to buy a small pipe organ (albeit a bit bigger than I had envisioned), I started re-evaluating that dream. Though I now have tall enough ceilings that a small pipe organ would fit the space, I live in an apartment building now. I have neighbors who share walls, ceilings, floors. I realized that I wasn’t playing the piano very much because I did not want to disturb my neighbors, especially at odd times of the day or night. Only then did I start to think that a digital organ, with headphones, would be much more practical. Technology has improved a lot and I found a digital organ that I really liked. I had to let go of that dream of a pipe organ to fulfill my dream of just getting an organ of my very own. Holding on tightly to that dream of a pipe organ had not allowed me to think of any other possibilities that would have given me joy and fulfillment.

Do I still have dreams? Oh, yes. Pete and I think about going to France for a year. But that may morph into something else. Perhaps exploring all  the Amtrak routes, stopping off at places we’ve never been to and then hopping on the train again to go to the next place. Perhaps it will be buying a little camper van (an old VW would be perfect!) and traveling around the country for a year. France is still a dream – but one that I am holding on to lightly. And, in the meantime, we can go to Paris for a few days on a vacation.

I’m fortunate to have many interests. I’m fortunate that I get excited about the prospect of doing many different things. If accomplishing one of my dreams does not work out, there are a number of other dreams that can take its place.

So hold on to those dreams … but lightly.


Mum’s Legacy of Canning Tomatoes

This year, I once again have many tomato plants in my garden, tomato plants that I started from seed. And I’m looking forward to having enough of a tomato harvest to be able to can some tomatoes for the upcoming winter.

It was my mum that taught me how to can tomatoes. Until the last year of her life, she helped me with the fall canning. I miss her.

First  published on on December 15, 2012

I come to her apartment and find her trying to stand at the sink, legs shaking a bit, and then sinking back to her wheelchair. I wheel her to her desk and see her hands fumbling as she tries to open Christmas cards. She starts asking me a question but has a hard time remembering the words. And I wonder. Will my mama be able to can tomatoes with me next fall?

I didn’t start canning until my mum, Nina, moved to Goshen in the spring of 2000. She was the one who had the equipment: large pots to cook the tomatoes, the canning pot, the brilliantly designed jar lifter such as I’ve never seen anywhere else, and the all important Ball Book of food preserving. Most importantly, she had the experience, so she could guide me in the ways of canning tomatoes.

Before the deep freezer came into our lives, my mum and aunt canned blueberries, cherries and tomatoes. After the freezer, the blueberries my family picked went into the freezer. Other fruit became more readily available all seasons at the grocery store year round. But they still canned tomatoes. Later, they stopped canning altogether as tomatoes, fresh and in tins, could be purchased as well. But my mum still kept all the canning tools and equipment and that equipment moved with her from Washington to Indiana.

We developed a system and it hummed like a well-tuned production line. We all had tasks to do. All of us, Pete, my mum, and I, would peel the tomatoes. While the tomatoes were cooking I would set up the table for filling the jars. And then the canning production would begin.

  • I would bring a hot jar to Pete.
  • Pete would fill it and pass it to my mum.
  • My mum would make sure that the jar was filled to the correct level, run the rubber spatula to get rid of air bubbles, wipe down the edge of the jar and put on the lid and band.
  • I would take the filled jar back to the stove and the boiling water canner and bring another empty hot jar to Pete.

As I grew other vegetables in the garden, we introduced my mum to other canning recipes, and she gamely went along with all of our experiments. All our canning occurred at her house, using her pots and canning tools. There was the year of the cucumber. Who knew that planting one row of cucumber plants would yield more cucumbers than we could possibly eat? So we made dill pickles, sweet pickles, cucumber chips, bread and butter pickles. Three years later, we are still eating some of those pickles. We made blueberry, cherry and raspberry jam.We bought a Victorio strainer and made tomato sauce. We made pear chutney one year and pear sauce two years later. We canned habernero peppers. We made a sweet hot sauce and salsa.


Over the last couple of years, my mum started slowing down. She spent more and more time resting. But she still wanted to be part of the canning process. Last year we did about three runs of canning tomatoes and she did her part.

I’ve only ever canned with my mum. I think she has taught me well what to do. But as I see her now, I wonder whether she will can tomatoes again. And I wonder also, will I?