J. Dawg Journeys

Working on My Bucket List

Bucket List – A list of things to do before you die (i.e.,”kick the bucket”)

My bucket list is pretty informal and fluid.  I don’t keep a formal written list of big travel destinations or adventure activities.  There’s no trips to the Louvre or jumping out of an airplane on the Dawg’s list.  Mine is just a small collection of near term to-dos that happen to pop in my head.  They’re more like short-term goals, things I want to learn, or places to go in the next few months.  And, it can change at a moments notice based on reading something or seeing something.

Before I left on this years snowbird journey, I put five items on the bucket list.  These were things I wanted to do this winter while I was down in Florida.  It’s pretty simple stuff.  Some new stuff to learn, a couple of things to see, and something to enhance.

Learning Some History

The first item was to learn more about the history of southwest Florida.  I’ve been coming down to this area for five years now.  I’ve been to most of the popular places so I’m no longer a tourist trying to visit the must see attractions.

As a part-time resident, I wanted to form a stronger connection to the area.  Being interested in history, I wanted to learn more about the origins of the area.  When and how things got started. Where the names came from.

For the first few weeks, I spent time in the local Library reading history books and looking at old pictures.  I also visited some historic sites.  Now when I venture out I can view the area through a historical lens.  Seeing old buildings being used for new purposes and better appreciating how places got their names.

I wrote a post about what I learned.  You can read it here – Some Fort Myers History.

Learning a New Game

The second item was that I wanted to learn how to play pickleball.  I’ve read much about this sport that’s become the latest activity craze of retired geezers.  I joined the local Bay Oaks Recreation Center in Fort Myers Beach which has pickleball sessions on 4 days during the week.  I got myself a paddle.  There were no beginner courses offered so I had to read up on the game, talk to people, and watch how it’s played.

Bay Oaks Rec Center

Pickleball courts at the Bay Oaks Recreation Center

Bay Oaks Rec Center

Waiting to play

After playing my first game, I was hooked.  The game is easy to learn.  It’s fast paced and requires some good reflexes. There’s also strategy on playing shots.  It’s lots of fun and provides a good workout,  It also a social activity and I’ve met more new people.  I try to play 3 time per week.

Something to Enhance

This was not a typical bucket list item, but it definitely met the criteria of something that I needed to do before I die.  In the past few years, I’ve had a few health issues that have caused some intense personal suffering.  Lots of medicine, many health care professionals, and family members helped get me through them.  But the thing that helped me the most, when the suffering was the greatest, was spiritual faith.  There were many days and hours when the only thing that kept me from sinking into a bottomless hole of deep depression was prayer.

Religious practice had never been a big priority in my life.  I was raised in the Catholic faith and my parents were very religious.  I attended parochial school and did all the sacraments.  But for me, it was more of a procedural process that I never felt connected to.  I believe in God and have maintained spiritual beliefs.  I believe in living by a code of conduct and I’m guided by a strong set of values.  But once I got on my own, active religious practice melted away like an ice-cube on hot pavement.

It took 45 years and some serious illness for me to realize that I needed to shore up the spiritual part of my life.  I’m sure I’ll have numerous good days and many more good things to experience in my life.  But I also know that at my age, the risk of more illness and the eroding of my physical capabilities are things I’m going to have to deal with has some point.  A strong spiritual faith is one of the things that I’m going to rely on much more than in the past.

Also, I want to live by a strong ethical code that is all about doing good and being a positive person. It sounds so easy, but doing it every minute of everyday takes effort and character. Greek philosopher Heraclitis said – ” A man’s character is his fate.”.   Anger, vitriol, negativity, and disrespect emanates from so many these days.  Seeing all this abhorrent behavior just reinforces in me that it’s the type of behavior that I never ever want as part of my character.

So while I was staying in FL, I decided to find a church or religion that aligned with my set of religious beliefs.  I wanted to find a religious community that welcomed new people and that would provide a way to enhance my faith, beliefs, and character.  To undertake and be part of something that is all about being good and positive.

Before I went and “test drove” anything, I started doing some research on various religions, their originals, and theologies.  The one that seemed to appeal to me the most was the United Methodist Church.  I read about John Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church.  His theology and teachings based on the Arminian Doctrine aligned well with my beliefs.  I also like the structure of the church, using a pastor or reverend versus appointed elders or lay persons to run the church.

Beach United Methodist Church

Beach United Methodist Church

A few Sunday’s ago, I attended services at the Beach United Methodist Church in Fort Myers Beach.  Within the 30 minutes, I knew that I had found what I was looking for.  The church members welcomed me.  I like the low church worship with does not follow a set ceremony and rituals.  Reverend Jeanne is joyful and engaging person.  In Mathew 5:13, the Lord said – “Your are the light of the world” and Reverend Jeanne’s faith and action embodies that statement.

BUMC

Reverand Jeanne (center wearing the turquoise outfit) leading the women in song during Sunday service.

I feel very good about taking this action.  It’s been an enriching experience.  A good rejuvenating respite from what I see and hear in the news. I’ve joined a very positive community of exceptionally good people.   I’ve begun studying the Bible to help me live a good and positive life and look forward spending Sunday in service and reflection.

Some New Places to See

There’s a coupe more things that I put on the list that I have yet to get to.  Just about 60 miles south of Fort Myers is one of the largest National Parks in the country – Everglades National Park.  This place is the largest tropical wilderness in the US and the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi.

I never gave it much thought until a friend mentioned it.  When I saw how close it was, I figured it was worth putting in on my list.  I’m in the process of planning the visit and there will be writing a separate post of my visit.

The other thing to see is a MLB spring training game.  Fort Myers is the spring training home to two MLB teams – The Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox.  Both teams have ball parks in the area.  Being from New England, I am Red Sox fan.

Spring training starts at the end February.  I was able to get tickets at the Twins facility (Century Link Park) to see the Twins play the Red Sox on March 11th.  It should be a fun experience.

So that’s the major new stuff I’ve been working on during my snowbird time.  Stay tuned for updates.

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