August 04, 2019

"My List"

Within the past week or so, two things occurred that have given me so much food for thought that this post practically wrote itself.  First, Alan and I got into a Bucket List discussion which happens occasionally around our house.  Then, I heard an old Toby Keith song called “My List” written by Tim James and Antonina Armato that hasn’t been on the airwaves in a while.  In 2007, our kids, Ryan and Kyra, traveled on their first cross country National Parks camping trip with us.  Ryan was 13 and Kyra was 8.  When we returned, I created a DVD of photos and videos from that trip set to the music of “My List.”  (You’ll find some of them below.)  To this day, I can’t listen to that song without that DVD playing in my mind.  Memories of the trip and talk about our Bucket Lists started tumbling around in my head.  Here’s what I shook out . . .

Under an old brass paperweight is my list of things to do today
Go to the bank and the hardware store, put a new lock on the cellar door
I cross 'em off as I get 'em done but when the sun is set
There's still more than a few things left I haven't got to yet”

I’m a methodical and organized person, and lists have been an often used tool throughout my life.  I keep lists of books I want to request through the library, people we send Christmas cards to, new restaurants we’d like to try and the best campsites at many of the State and National Parks we’ve visited.  My regular To Do list is many pages long; each day, I create a short “Today” list of the things I want to accomplish.  Our lives are busy enough that I consider the lists to be tools, rather than crutches.  I can be easily distracted, and my lists help keep me focused so that I accomplish what I want and need to do.  Plus, they make me feel like I make the most of each day.

That being said, a list of household chores, projects and errands can be a frightening reminder of the herculean effort it takes to manage a household and, for those with children, raise a family.  Life, especially with kids, can be crazy busy.  What I consider a tool to help me stay focused might be considered a nasty reminder of all that remains to be done by someone else.  In either case, prioritization is one of the keys to successfully managing a cumbersome list – or two or three of them.

 “Go for a walk, say a little prayer
Take a deep breath of mountain air
Put on my glove and play some catch
It's time that I make time for that
Wade the shore and cast a line
Look up a long lost friend of mine
Sit on the porch and give my girl a kiss
Start livin', that's the next thing on my list”

Even before Alan and I were married, we knew that travel would be one of our top priorities throughout our lives.  Back then, Bucket List items accumulated at an amazing speed because we had only a couple of decades behind us with many more ahead.  We checked off two of our major To Do items long before our kids came along – we built our own home and we bought our first boat.  There were so many places we wanted to travel to that it was extremely easy to attach destinations to the annual vacation time allotted by our employers.  Although we traveled as frugally as possible, because travel was (and is) one of our priorities we happily scrimped and saved in other areas of our life so that we could apply those funds to our travel dreams.

“Wouldn't change the course of fate but cuttin' the grass just had to wait
Cause I've got more important things like pushin' my kid on the backyard swing
I won't break my back for a million bucks I can't take to my grave
So why put off for tomorrow what I could get done today”

When we began planning for our retirement early in careers, it didn’t take much discussion for us to agree on our life’s path:  Although we sincerely wanted to retire early, we didn’t want to forego the joy of living just to hit a particular age to withdraw from the workforce.  We knew too many friends and family members who had big plans for their retirement that never came to fruition due to health issues.  It was sometimes a difficult line to walk, saving enough to retire early but spending enough on pleasurable pursuits so that we didn’t feel cheated.  For us, the key to our success was much discussion along the way.  Fortunately, Alan and I have similar viewpoints in many different areas.  Our conversations related more to planning than compromise.  Still, that constant communication was critical to the ultimate achievement of our goal.  We did retire early, but not as early as we would have liked.  However, along the way, we checked so many wonderful items off of our Bucket Lists, that our travel in retirement has been much more relaxed and enjoyable than it might have been if we had waited to do everything on our lists until after we left the workforce.

"Go for a walk, say a little prayer"
"Take a deep breath of mountain air"

"Put on my glove and play some catch"

"It's time that I make time for that"

"Wade the shore and cast a line"

"Look up a long lost friend of mine"

"Sit on the porch and give my girl a kiss"

"Start livin', that's the next thing on my list"
Our philosophy of experiencing life as fully as possible throughout all of its stages not only served the two of us well, but it also trickled down to our kids.  From the time they were tiny tykes, they always traveled with us, no matter where we went.  From a campsite in the Maine woods to a 900’ cruise ship in Alaska, our family of adventurers spent as much time as possible getting to know this gorgeous country of ours.  Our mission was to share our Bucket Lists with our kids with the hope that they would develop a respect for our magnificent public lands, gain personal experience with the history of America, and learn that there is fun to be had in every small town and big city throughout all 50 states.  Bucket Lists are for dreamers – and for doers.  And that’s what we wanted for Ryan and Kyra – to know that dreams and goals can propel you through life, and the satisfaction of checking items off of your Bucket List – no matter what those items might be – will enrich your life to no end.

“Raise a little hell, laugh 'til it hurts
Put an extra five in the plate at church
Call up my folks just to chat
It's time that I make time for that
Stay up late, then oversleep
Show her what she means to me
Catch up on all the things I've always missed
Just start livin', that's the next thing on my list”

As for our recent discussion about our Bucket Lists, I can tell you that I’ve been able to cross off every single one of my major items.  There are still plenty of things I want to do on that list and I’m happily looking forward to future adventures, big and small.  But, I have to say, I’m quite content with what I’ve accomplished  so far.  As for Alan, he has one more major item he wants to tackle, and that’s to travel by boat throughout the Erie and Champlain canals.  We’ve done pieces of both, but the waterways are still calling his name.  No worries.  We’ll get there.  It’s on our list.

Just a quick note having nothing to do with today's post . . . Alan subscribes to my posts via email, and he noticed that he didn't see the last one come through his email account.  When he looked further, he found it in his Spam folder.  So, if that has happened to you, too, you may want to unsubscribe and re-subscribe to posts via email to see if that clears up the issue.  If it continues to be a problem for you, please do let me know!


  1. Your email was the start of my day and I can't thank you enough for your beautiful words! Thanks for always sharing and giving me some much too think about (all good) we need it in these crazy times.

    1. Happy to hear that your day started off on a good note! The Bouchards have already taken the message to heart - it's obvious from the warm and wonderful relationships you have with your kids and grandkids. Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. My apologies for being slow to respond.


  2. This makes me think back on the latest post on "retirementtransition - Living Un-busy?" A busy life isn't necessarily a full life and the song certainly attests to that with all the things we fail to put on the to-do list that truly makes a full life. Thanks for this beautiful post.

    1. Thank you for sharing that comment, Mona, and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding. It's heartwarming to know that the post was meaningful to you. Most of us have more than one "huge" moment in our lives (like getting married, landing a dream job, adding a child to your family, retiring), but they're the highlights. If we live for only the highlights, what will fill the rest of the chapters in our book of life? Thanks for stopping by!

  3. A note to all of you . . . Alan and I were on the road today and, despite several valiant attempts, I was unable to access the internet. It always bothers me when I can't monitor the blog for comments, especially when a new post has just been published. I love to hear from any and all of you, so please know that your comments are always encouraged. The thoughts and experiences you share here make Reflections Around the Campfire more enjoyable for all. I am always trying my best to publish and respond to your comments as quickly as possible, so be assured that, if there's a delay, it's never because I'm ignoring you. Thanks to all of you for your patience and understanding when things don't go quite right!

  4. A boat trip throughout the Erie and Champlain canals sounds wonderful! I hope you do it - and blog about it! I love your little note; we were traveling recently and I felt the same way. Travel WiFi can be tricky... or non-existent. It's most important to have fun on your journeys. We'll all be here when you get back... or at least until you get strong internet. :)

    1. Alan will be quite pleased with your reaction to the boat trip, Janis, and happy to have your support. The boating community is much like the camping community - it's easy to make friends along the way. The only difference is that the meeting places tend to be marinas rather than campgrounds; the camaraderie is exactly the same. As for the Wi-Fi issue, our truck has a hotspot so I can almost always access the internet through that. Sadly, we did not have the truck on Monday. Thanks for sticking with me, and have yourself a delightful day!

  5. Hi, Mary,
    This post was both fun and instructional. What would we do without lists? I used to make them on my phone, but now that I am retired, I find that pen and paper works best. My bucket list still resides in my head but, if I wrote it down, it would say "Plan the next RV trip to someplace I haven't visited." Hope your summer is going well. Great pictures BTW!

    1. For my lists, I use a combination of technology and plain ol' paper, but my brother (who is even more detail oriented than I am, if you can believe that!) has carried around a memo pad in his back pocket for as long as I can remember. I guess the trick is figuring out what works best for you. As for your bucket list, that one item will keep you and Helen busy for a long, long time! Thanks for taking the time to chat, Joe!


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