I live under a rock.
I’ve said it probably thousands of times…
“Do you watch Schitt’s Creek?”
“No. I live under a rock.”
“Have you been to that new noodle place downtown?” “No. I live under a rock.”
“Have you ever been to Devil’s Lake?”
“No. I live under a rock. But I’ve heard it’s awesome…”
It’s true. I just don’t get out that much. I’m not up on pop culture for the most part (though I tend to know of fandoms, I’m not exactly a part of any), and I can’t tell you the last time I saw a whole movie.
It doesn’t help that when I was a young adult, things like Netflix didn’t exist.The Internet existed, but not in nearly the form it does today-- people generally used dial-up and it was more of an add-on than the integral part of our daily lives that it is now. Plus as a broke college student/ recent graduate/ AmeriCorps member, my budget was tiny.
Sure, I watched more movies and TV and listened to music more when I was first married and Nolan was young… But as Nolan has grown and Kirk’s schedule changed so that he’s home evenings, my schedule's gotten filled with other things. By the time I’m home from work and supper’s been made and eaten, I’ve got Nolan in the bathtub and our bedtime routine is already well under way.
If I sit down to watch any TV, Kirk’s usually already turned something on after he finished the dishes. At that point in the day, I don’t have it in me to worry about what’s on TV. So we watch a lot of History Channel. It’s not exactly current events and doesn’t win me any conversation points around the water cooler at work.
But one of my goals over the last several years has been to get out and appreciate more of what’s around us. We live in an amazing part of the world, and as a kid and young adult, I didn’t necessarily know or appreciate that.
See, we live in the Driftless Region. While that sounds like it could be something out of one of those movies that they made half a dozen of that involve super fast cars (see how good I am at movies?), it’s actually a geographic region. I know-- it doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as action movies with sporty cars, but it’s amazing no less. Trust me on this one.
So in the last ice age, the glaciers missed the Driftless Region. This means we’ve got geological features that would’ve been destroyed by glaciers in much of the rest of North America. It also means that there are species here that are found nowhere else on earth, and they survived that ice age only because the glaciers weren’t here to wipe them out.
Combine that with the personality of the Upper Midwest, and there are treasures to be found all around us. The people here are hard-working, creative and quirky. We love art, wine, beer, spending time outdoors, celebrating our varied cultural heritages and just spending time together.
Before I turned 40, I noticed some of my high school classmates referring to “40 for 40 lists”. What that generally meant was that they wanted to designate 40 things that mattered to them in honor of 4 decades on earth. Things like “Here are 40 things I want to do before I’m 40” or “Here are 40 things I want to be sure my kids know” or even “Here are 40 foods I want to try.” For me, my 40 for 40 list was a bit like the first of those-- sort of a bucket list for midlife crises, but with a local twist.
But knowing me, I needed to be flexible about it. I didn’t decide to start a 40 for 40 list until maybe 6 months before my 40th birthday. And since we were heading into the coldest part of the year, I knew that would interfere with some of the outdoor items on my list as well as potential travel to some of the places I wanted to see (because no Wisconsin native is going to take a joy ride in a blizzard-- we know better).
So I decided to make my list and give myself at least until I turned 41 to finish my 40. Plus I knew I’d need some flexibility in the list itself, so I put more than 40 items on it and gave myself permission to add more. 40 off of that list would work for me. Of course, I’m now 42 and still working on that list, so my goal is to get my 40 in while I’m still in my 40’s. It works.
Most of the things on that list are things to see and places to take Nolan (and Kirk if he’s both available and wants to be a part of my circus that day). So far we’ve checked off quite a few, but there are plenty more to go. Plus I’m finding more adventures every day. Hopefully we can take you along for some of these adventures.
Of course our adventures, like everything else we do, are far from typical. Sometimes that’s an added challenge. Other times that makes it extra fun. Making sure we’re always prepared with extra clothes and battling public restrooms along the way? That can be a bit challenging. Experiencing the amazing and often overlooked gems around us while people try to make sense of us? Extra fun! For the record, we don’t have to make sense to anyone but ourselves--if we stress you out, that’s on you not us.
I’ll leave you with a few highlights of some of our adventures so far with a promise that there are more to come. Eventually I might share my list, but if you have any ideas or suggestions along the way, please share! Even if you think, “Well everyone’s done that…” we probably haven’t. Remember? I live under a rock-- that’s why I do this. I don’t want to miss out on the amazing, and I most certainly don’t want Nolan to either.
Jurustic Park, Marshfield, WI
Dunning's Spring Park, Decorah, IA
Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden- near Fountain City, WI
Wyalusing State Park, Grant County, WI