Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Did What?

Someone recently asked if I could provide my list of experiences for The 52/52 Project. I realized it changed quite a bit since I posted it months back, so here is the full and final list (last item still pending). I smiled as I recalled some of these, and sighed deeply after I typed a couple:

1. Taking Belly Dancing Lessons
2. Competing in a Pizza Eating Contest
3. Watching a Peep Show and Conducting “Research” at an Adult Bookstore
4. Attending Services at Three Churches or Temples of Unfamiliar Religions
5. Enduring a Week without Caffeine
6. Auditioning for “Survivor”
7. Eating Insects
8. Having a Professional Shoot for My First Author Photo
9. Being Hypnotized for Past-Life Regression
10. Having a Brazilian Wax
11. Going Camping Alone
12. Getting an Extreme Haircut
13. Crashing a Wedding Reception
14. Taking a Homeless Person to Lunch
15. Online Dating
16. Going Vegan for a Week
17. Going on a Police Ridealong and a Raid with the SWAT Team
18. Taking Professional Voice Lessons
19. Appearing as a College Mascot
20. Shooting at a Range with a Gun Dealer
21. Spending the Night in a Convent
22. Volunteering at a Nursing Home
23. Zip-lining
24. Undergoing a Colonoscopy
25. Performing in Public as a Mime
26. Going au Naturel at a Nude Beach
27. Dark Dining
28. Singing on Stage with a Band
29. Bell-Ringing for the Salvation Army
30. Going Totally Unplugged for a Week
31. Taking a Polar Bear Dip on New Year’s Day
32. Tackling My First Major Home Improvement Project
33. Doing a Radio Show
34. Being Zoo-Keeper for a Day
35. Taking a Road Trip with My Ex Husband (and Another with His Girlfriend)
36. Staying Up All Night to Watch Horror Flicks Alone
37. Hosting a Party for All Strangers
38. Floating in an Isolation (Sensory Deprivation) Tank
39. Spending the Day in Public in Pajamas, Slippers, and Curlers
40. Babysitting Quadruplets
41. Taking the First Available Flight Out—Wherever It Was Headed
42. Bartending on St. Patrick’s Day
43. Attempting a High Ropes Course
44. Attending a Frat Party
45. Driving a Segway
46. Giving the Keynote Speech at My Alma Mater’s Academic Banquet
47. Running a 5K
48. Ghost Hunting with TV Professionals
49. Riding Shotgun in a Race Car
50. Bee-Keeping
51. Undertaking a Week of “Speed-Dating”
52. Going on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

So, out of curiosity, which of these would you a) most like to do, and b) be most likely to say "Hell, NO" to?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Speed-Dating: Solo-Style

As many of you who have been following The 52/52 Project on Facebook know, the Gods of Finishing Projects on Schedule have been messing with me. It seems I can't control the winds which dictate my hot air balloon ride. However, rather than wait around for the next scheduled speed-dating event--and risk that being cancelled again too--I've decided to take that item into my own incapable hands. And I've chosen also to up the ante.

Enter Sherry's Solo Speed-Dating Venture.

Over the next week, I plan to visit seven bars to interview men. (And no, "interview" is NOT a euphemism. Honestly, you people.)

Here are my rules:
- I must sit by myself up at the bar.
- I must strike up a conversation with at least two guys at each establishment.
- I must stay for an hour.
- I must work a few of my preplanned questions into our conversation. For example, "Out of curiosity, how many cats may a woman own before you would label her a crazy cat lady?" Also, "Have you ever been actually convicted of an ax murder?" (OK, I promise to have a more boring line of questions included.)

And, here's the clincher: If a (presumably) single man piques my interest and doesn't run away, I must ask for his phone number.

If I were 22 instead of 52, this venture would be only slightly pushing my boundaries. Now? My fingers are a bit shaky just typing this.

I think what makes this experience so far outside my comfort zone is that I'm really not searching for a man in my life. I'm very independent and fairly satisfied being on my own. If I were actually focused on finding someone, I'd probably enter into this more easily.

Still, if there's one thing The 52/52 Project has taught me it's to push ourselves beyond our status quo. Some of my best experiences in the past year resulted from bad odds and low expectations. As my friend, Murf, who suggested this escapade, reminded me, "You never know what you'll find when you're not really looking." Maybe. At the very least, the journey usually proves interesting.

What, really, do I have to lose? I mean, except for my dignity?

Advice, encouragement, sympathy, loud guffaws: I'll take whatever you have to offer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Giving It Your Best--and Then a Bit More

My mom and dad, in the mid-eighties. Handsome, yes?
With Father's Day approaching, I've been thinking a lot about my dad, who died at the far too young age of fifty-three. Here's my favorite Denny Stanfa story, which both my sisters remember experiencing, too:

Dad: Squeeze my hand. As hard as you can.

Me: (squeezing tight)

Dad: You're squeezing hard, right? Now, squeeze a bit harder. As tight as possible.

Me: (squeezing harder)

Dad: OK, now squeeze even a bit more.

Me: (squeezing, squeezing, squeezing)

Dad: Are you squeezing as hard as you can?

Me: (gasping) Yes, yes, as hard as I can.

Dad: (nodding) OK. Now, I want you to squeeze harder yet.

And, somehow, I managed to do just that.

This is why my sisters and I learned to never give up in most anything in our lives. My dad taught us that even when we thought we were giving something our all, we could always, always try a bit harder.

He may have been been gone for twenty-four years, but his life lessons live on. Thank you, Dad. xo

What's the best lesson one of your parents ever taught you?  Who in your life is gone and is missed the most? Could you have tried harder, that one time, before you gave up?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Catching a Buzz

As I pried open a box of bees to install into a hive, I hesitated. I tried to recall the last time I was stung. Maybe thirty years ago? I don't remember the episode clearly, but I know it was fully unpleasant. Yet, I was certain it was nowhere near the pain I'd endure if something went awry now, as 10,000 bees swarmed in front of me.


Although I was a newbee keeper and carefully coached through the ordeal by an experienced keeper, Christian Kuhl, I was outfitted like a pro. Thanks to another local reader, John Curtis, I was covered by a slightly snug bee-keeper suit (the diet resumes next week) and a helmet with face netting. It was a fabulous look. I resembled a Star Wars Stormtrooper--only minus that stoic courage.

Were these the drones I was looking for? I flinched and blinked twice. No, apparently, I was only looking for trouble.

But between the suit, a bit of smoke (sadly, not THAT kind of smoke), and some sugar water sprayed on the bees to help render many of them temporarily flightless, I managed my task successfully. After forty-five minutes, I escaped with only one--nearly painless--sting on my ankle (I failed to wear socks), which I didn't even notice until I left. And my EpiPen proved unnecessary.

The experience was so fool-proof, it almost felt like cheating. I vowed that next time, like Christian, I'd bravely attempt this with no protective suit or gloves. My friend Marion, who'd once been stung by a swarm of bees and trembled this afternoon as she took photos from about fifty yards away, made no such promise.

My biggest disappointments were accidentally smashing one bee and learning that all these little creatures--my tiny new friends--would die in about five weeks. *sigh* Such is the sorry cycle of life for a busy bee.

I gained a whole new understanding of and appreciation for bees. As I pulled off my bee suit and climbed into my car--holy hell, did I breathe out a huge sigh of relief.

And, it appeared I was more a Jedi than a Stormtrooper. Because---although it had failed me through so many of my 52/52 ventures--on this particular day, the Force was strong with me.

To bee or not to bee? When's the last time you faced one--or 10,000--of your fears? What's the buzz; tell me what's a happening?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scared to Live, Scared to Die

This post is outside my usual 52/52 Project material. And, I generally don't post sad stuff, preferring to go for the laugh or the simply thought-provoking. But in looking through some old high school mementos tonight, I came across this poem written by an old classmate, back in the late seventies. I encouraged him to let me publish it in our school newspaper, but I never read into it what I truly should have. Several weeks later, he committed suicide.

It punched me in the stomach when I discovered it tonight. I so wish teens back then would have been trained to look for suicidal signs from their friends.

"I'm scared to live
I'm scared to die
I just survive
By staying high.
Reality is what
I must face
To stay a part
Of this human race.
My mind is gone
but not my heart
For to live
Is where I must start.
I am dead
My feelings shot
But I thank God
For what I've got.
I have my friends
A family too,
They all wonder
What to do.
They do not know
What my problem could be
They're not blind
But they still can't see.

My only problem is me."

I'm so sorry, Ted, that we didn't truly know you and didn't understand.

Reach out, people, to those who might need you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Of Errors and Absurdities

As I come closer to completing my list of 52 new life adventures, I can honestly say I don't regret undertaking any of them.

A few had the best possible outcomes:
  • The eight total strangers I invited to my "stranger party" have become true friends, and we now get together on a monthly basis.
  • I still can't believe my great fortune that my unscheduled first available flight out of the airport--amidst a never-ending Midwest winter--took me to Fort Myers, Florida.
  • I am enormously relieved that I didn't get a spot on Survivor. Because, let's be honest: How long could I truly survive?
Yet, do I wish any of my ventures had resulted in a slightly different outcome? Oh, hell yes.
  • I wish I had managed just a couple graceful steps in my belly dancing classes.
  • I regret not finding some way to reconnect with the homeless woman I took to lunch.
  • I feel certain my tent-camping alone experience would have been far more enjoyable if I'd brought along a six-pack of beer.
  • I would like to say I got at least one freaking date on, though preferably not with a serial killer or avid camper.
I recently came across this quote, by 18th century writer Fanny Burney, which sums up the 52/52 Project fairly well:

"It’s a delightful thing to think of perfection; but it’s vastly more amusing to talk of errors and absurdities.”

The past year has been chock-full of errors and absurdities. Even when I've failed, I have still found most of my experiences enlightening and often amusing, indeed.

Who needs perfection?

What would you change about the last time you tried something new? Have you learned as much from your failures as you have from your successes? When's the last time you were able to laugh at yourself?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts

My friend, Marion, and me: BEFORE we were scared silly. 

A half-dozen celebrity ghost-hunters, 175 practicing amateurs and aficionados, and one paranormal virgin enter a haunted prison.

Oh, you're waiting for the punch line? No joke: This was one weird and eerie experience.

As a newbie who entered the old Mansfield Reformatory last night out of curiosity--being somewhat open-minded but fairly skeptical--I left there early the next morning thinking anything is possible.

Was there possibly staged or only imagined paranormal activity? Yes, indeed. Was there more to it? Hmm.

Strange voices who audibly answered our questions via "spirit boxes"? Check. An unexplained "orb" in a totally dark cellar? Check. Two knocks when the three of us asked in the same empty cellar for a spirit to tap on the pipes? Check.

A paranormal virgin and one of her best friends, clenching each other's arms in fear? Oh, HELL yes.

Who can say what can be easily accounted for and what might really exist, even if not so easily explained? Surely not me. Not now.

After our ghost-hunting experience, what clearly remains for my friend, Marion, and me are some creepy photos, a weird recording, and a couple welts we inflicted on each others' arms. Proof enough that it was one crazy and creepy night.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts.

Just the ones who might truly exist--and scare the living shit out of me.
Believer or not so much? Any paranormal experiences you can share?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Motoring Italian Style

So, my little training session at the Segway shop in Florence, Italy seemed to be going well. Until I tried to turn a corner in the lobby. Apparently, I attempted a wide turn when I should have taken a tight one, and I began spinning in circles. The harder I tried to stop, the quicker I spinned.

As the shop clerk shouted orders, the Segway bounced off walls. I tried jumping off, but hopping off this strange small motor vehicle--which was in gear, whirling uncontrollably, and slamming into walls--wasn't an option. Dizzy and disoriented, I crashed one last time into the wall and finally fell off, backwards. The clerk came to my rescue, perhaps a moment too late, and brought the Segway to a stop.

My mother ran out of the shop's bathroom, yelling, "What happened? What was that crash I heard?" But as the three of us glanced down, little explanation was necessary. The baseboards I knocked off two of the shop's walls--and which now lay broken on the floor--seemed to tell the story just fine.

Shop destruction and all, the clerk still signed off on my rental, and I headed out to the busy streets of Florence. Probably not a wise decision by either of us.

But I figured I'd already set the Segway-riding bar exceedingly low, so what did I have to lose? Per che' non?

Are you more Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday or Kevin James in Mall Cop?