Two: Publicly Committed

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 "It's not the flying you have to worry about," my friend Chip says, at the edge of the school playground where our fourth-graders are playing. "It's the crash landings."

"Thanks," I answer, now having yet something more to feed my intense fear of ballooning. At least I have until October, which is really a lifetime away. It isn't even January yet and I have already plotted out the year—matching up actions from The List with each month, and even, in true Virgo style, starting research on most of them.

The List. I found the list about a month ago, somehow, between shuttling my kids to karate and chorus, trying to keep the house clean and food on the table, running a writing studio, staying up to date--and dates--with my husband, and squeezing in exercise a few times a week. The List was the last thing for which I had time.

Yet . . .

Number 7. Quit corporate America. I had done that, not long after I wrote the list, in fact, in that Masters-level communications class at Georgia State University exactly eleven years ago, when I was thirty. 100 Things I Want to Do in Life, the assignment had been. I got an A. But how far had I gotten on it, in reality?

Number 16. Cheer my husband at his law school graduation. Yes, I had done that, too.

Number 23. Celebrate my children's birthdays. Yes, yes, both of them. I've done it.

Number 24. Win a Pulitzer Prize? Well, no. Ditto Number 26, win an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Number 33. Live abroad? I don't even like to fly anymore. Not since 9/11.

Number 36. Spend time on a kibbutz? See number 33, please.

Number 52. Meet my ex-friend at 9 W.57th Street on 9/9/99 as we agreed when we were eighteen. Well, yes, we did that, and I'm happy to report that she is back to being one of my best friends.

Number 91. Ride a camel. Not yet. Not yet. And many other not yets. Many other not on your lifes. And a handful of, well, why nots?

And so now I'm doing it. I'm committing a year to knocking off a dozen or so of the things on The List. And to make it interesting, I chose some things I really don't want to do. Like Number 40. Study cheese. Huh? Who cares?

Number 41. See all the original Star Trek episodes. My husband has been trying to get me to do that for fifteen years and I've never budged. Why now?

Number 5. Learn the Entertainer on the piano. You know, da da da DAAA, da DAAA, da DAAA . . . the theme song from The Sting? To date, all I can play on the piano is a very bad rendition of the Irish Jig.

Number 65. Read Mark Twain's complete works. Huck, Tom and the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County, here I come.

And, of course, Number 6. Go hot-air ballooning at sunrise. I'm dreading that one. Although my friend, Brad, gave his elderly mother a gift certificate for a balloon ride three years ago and she admitted that she's afraid to go. So he's selling me space in the basket, "a timeshare of sorts," he said, and I'm planning on going ballooning with Mrs. Catherman, a woman I've never met. Although my husband, the lawyer, says Brad ought to be paying me since without me, his gift would just go to waste. We'll have to work that one out.

I wonder. Would doing any of these things make a difference in my life? Would they teach me any important lessons, or propel me in a new direction that I didn't realize was an option? Would they make me rich, or at least enrich me with experience? To ensure they didn't make me broke, I give myself a budget of 100 dollars a month, maximum, for the various lessons, materials and whatnot. Plus, I publicly commit to the project, telling friends and family what I am planning on doing—a sure way to set myself up for success. Or failure.

First, the afghan, however dreadfully boring that sounds. I have a knitting lesson January 5 at a cabin in the woods where a lady named Kathleen tends sheep and sells yarn. She tells me to bring number 8 needles, which is not to be confused with any number from The List, and a skein--pronounced skane, apparently--of yarn. She says there's no way of knowing whether I'll like knitting until I try. I answer that it doesn't matter whether or not I like it. It is on The List. She suggests I can always just make a doll's afghan and that would count. I tell her I don't think I should be looking for loopholes so early in the game. "So come and I'll show you how to do a basic stitch and how to cast on," she says, clearly realizing that any other attempt at reason is futile.

Cast on. I'm about to cast on. Come join me on a journey that just might change my life. And yours.

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One: Taking My Life in My hands

Two: Publicly Committed

Three: You Have to Watch Your Tension

Four: Does the Right Hand Know what the Left Hand Is Doing?

Five: Milk's Leap Toward Immortality

Six: Unjustly Imprisoned

Seven: Word, Word, Words. I'm So Sick of Words

Eight: Wholly Ordered to Contemplation

Nine: Big Money Tonight

Ten: Only in America

Eleven: You'll Never Find an Old, Bold Mushroom Hunter

Twelve: Lucky for You, There's TiVo, Baby

Thirteen: You Get the Hoe-matic

Fourteen: Requiem for Methuselah

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