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Wed, Nov. 20

Column: On birthdays, bucket lists and skydiving

How do you celebrate your birthday? I have one coming up and my girlfriend does too, so she suggested we go sky-diving. I told her there wasn't enough alcohol in the world to get me to jump out of a moving plane. That's when she said three mean, heartless, sad little words, "You are boring." I guess that happens with age.

If growing old isn't bad enough, then there is the pressure to do something "exciting" to celebrate growing old. And then we are supposed to make bucket lists with lots of places we should go and things we should do. You know, like going to Pamplona, Spain, to run with the bulls! Zip-line through the jungle in Costa Rica! Go trekking in Nepal! Swim with the dolphins! Well I am not having any of it! I don't have a bucket list! Yikes, now the emails will come flying my way and people I don't even know will scold me because I am slipping into a dull and boring life.

I have a friend named Rachelle who wants me to go to France with her so we can take some cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu. She said it would be a "delicious" way to enhance our cooking skills plus have fun.

When I mentioned this possibility to my husband, Doug, he just looked at me incredulously and laughed, "But you have a Julia Child cookbook. What more do you need to know!" You see, it is not "normal" (in my house) to go flying off to Paris to learn how to make Coq au Vin. (Although I would like to wear a white apron and chef's hat for a day).

Do you like birthday cake? In Western cultures, particularly in the United States, we eat lots of cake. The American Institute of Baking estimates Americans eat 6 million cakes a day! This started out as a German tradition centuries ago and carried over from early Roman times when birthdays were celebrated with a gathering (for men only). Then candles were added by the ancient Greeks to make the cakes glow like the moon in honor of the goddess Artemis.

Today, birthday parties, balloons, cards and singing "Happy Birthday to You" are as American as apple pie. And aside from greeting cards and gifts, we also like to give (children} birthday spankings. Well in Brazil they pull earlobes (ouch), in Ireland they like to give bumps (kicks) and in Venezuela they like to push the lucky person's face into their own birthday cake (yum).

Getting back to being a bore, I wonder if taking more risks and going on a few adventures might actually stop the aging process. I mean, how old can you feel if you are parasailing? Which might be the key to life and longevity ... doing more fun things. Why bother with a birthday cake and going out to dinner when the call for spear fishing in Aruba is waiting?

I did go out and buy a pair of beautiful red high heels. That was sort of an adventure. When I brought them home and proudly showed them to Doug, he just rolled his eyes and said, "Wow - devil red shoes!" No, Doug, the exact color is "crimson spice!" Perhaps bright red shoes are one (safe) way to get out of my rut. You know, I may not have a bucket list but I still have a shoe list!

I told my grandson, Kevin, who is in the Navy, that I might go skydiving for my birthday. He said that was a great idea, but only if he went with me so we could jump together and then I wouldn't forget to pull the cord. Ha! I am not so old that I need reminding about pulling a cord at 12,000 feet! I asked another grandson if he thought I was boring and he quickly replied, "No." Then he paused and said, "But I am not sure what you do." Which means, "Yes, you are."

My mother's birthday is a week after mine, so I called her to ask about her most memorable birthdays. She has had 93 of them, so I figured she was an expert. She said she got sick and tired of celebrating birthdays about 30 years ago and that I don't need to seek a thrill to live a good life.

Mother is a great believer that age is just a number and not to get "too worked up" about that number. And she claims she has never been bored a day in her life - no bucket list required.

Well, I still might go skydiving with my girlfriend (doubtful). She said I could jump wearing my new red shoes (ridiculous). Look up, Dear Readers, because if you hear a loud, shrill scream coming from the sky, it might be me.

Come to think of it, maybe we all should plan an adventure. Give me a call if you want to do something really thrilling, invigorating and crazy that involves jumping out of a plane. A group dive! Of course, age before beauty. You go first.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at

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