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The Northwoods, haunted castles and a day at the water utility: Creating your own bucket list

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Catherine W. Idzerda
January 2, 2010
— Climb Mt. Everest.

Spend a week in Paris.


Jump out of a plane.


This year, instead of making New Year's resolutions such as "lose weight" or "run a marathon" or even "be nice to my sister," consider making a "bucket list."


A "bucket list" is a list of thing you want to do before you die or "kick the bucket."


It requires a different kind of thinking than a New Year's resolution and is especially difficult for our instant-gratification, multi-tasking, fast-food-fast-living culture.


"My bucket list is just to make it through the day," joked Kim Kostka, UW-Rock County Chemistry professor and mother of two.


Understandable. We're all trying to make through the end of the day, hold on to our jobs, keep our kids in line, deal with the latest in a series of minor crises that involve the bathroom sink, the weird noise the car is making or icy sidewalks.


The notion of the bucket list comes from the 2007 movie of the same name. Two men who are dying of cancer take a round the world trip in an attempt to cross off all the items on their lists.


The idea took off, and Web sites such as Reaperlist.com offered people a place to share their lists and brag a little when they check off items.


Other Web sites, such as your100things.com, uses the bucket list idea, but are more focused on the self-improvement. Your100things.com, for example, is also the Web site for Caroline Adams Miller, life coach and author of "Creating Your Best Life."


In some ways, the bucket list is distinctly American in its stress on individualism and self-fulfillment. It also seems to be a continuation of the "self-actualization" movement of the 1970s, said David McKay, UW-Rock County lecturer in history.


"There's the sense that there's certain things you have to do to live a complete life" said David McKay, UW-Rock County historian.


Still, if we only have a limited time on the planet, why not embrace life's opportunities?


Many people we talked to, however, said they were fully engaged in the pleasures of their current lives.


Here's what they shared:


-- Tom H. Klubertanz, associate professor of zoology at UW-Rock County, confessed he was, in many ways, living his dream. He likes his job, likes his students and loves his family.


He's never sat down to make a list, but if he did, "it would have something to do with nature, because that's who I am."


But family first.


"I'd like to get all the kids off to college and see them graduate," Klubertanz said.


His children are 9, 11, and 15 years old.


He'd also love to have a cabin and a boat up in Wisconsin's northwoods and spend time fishing.


Travel would be on the list, too—the Rockies and Hawaii.


-- Laura Gottlieb, Hedberg Public Library reference librarian, insisted she was born with the "dull gene"—and didn't have any adventurous plans.


Like Klubertanz, she is engaged and enthused about her work.


"I want to input all of these news clippings into our database," Gottlieb said.


Gottlieb and a co-worker are currently putting old Gazette clippings into the library's local history database.


When pressed, she said she'd like her kids to be "healthy and happy."


"There are quilts I want to make, too," Gottlieb said.


In an effort to be helpful—that's what her job is about, after all—she remarked, "My husband knows somebody at his work who wants to read a biography of every president."


Then she sent me to the children's section, convinced that somebody there could help.


-- Jamie Swenson, associate librarian in the children's section, said she does have a bucket list—but not something written down.


"I'd like to publish a children's book, and I'd like to sleep in a haunted castle in Ireland," Swenson said.


She'd even settle for a castle that wasn't haunted.


"I've always been interest in Ireland and history," Swenson said.


She's already completed one of the big items on her bucket list: She got her master's degree in creative writing.


"That was a huge one," Swenson said.


-- Dan Lynch, director of Janesville's water and wastewater utility, was another person happily engaged in his job.


"This is a very interesting job," Lynch said. "Every day something different is happening."


Broken water mains? The upkeep of the sewage plant? The flood of 2008 that affected all city departments?


Yes, he likes the challenges, likes the people and likes the planning for the future.


"I have no desire to climb Mt. Everest," Lynch said.


When pressed, he said he'd like to travel to Europe.



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