Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Falling from Leaps of Faith

I've lived my life by a simple motto: "Try everything once. If you enjoy it, don't stop." This adage served me well when I wrote my first story; not so much the night I tried my first rum and Coke.

My adventurous spirit took me to many highs and lows in my life. Yet none were as demeaning, demoralizing or dangerous as my athletic pursuits.

I attempted a wide range of physical activities throughout my youth. The most benign, like my second-grade ballet class, only resulted in public humiliation. The worst, such as horseback riding, ended with a trampled ribcage.

Some people are born athletes. Others can't manage the mere ability to clap in sync with the cheerleaders at a football game. I would be the latter.

Still, I continued to run (only figuratively--man did I suck at track) through the gamut of athletic endeavors. Once I realized I failed at every traditional activity, I attempted to diversify.

When snow skiing became the hot new trend in high school, I joined the ski team. My first trip ended, surprisingly, with both my body and my pride intact. So I signed on for a second trip, just confident enough to venture beyond the tow ropes and bunny hills to the chairlifts and "intermediate" hills.

My eyes traced the height of the hill, with some trepidation, as the chairlift approached. But as I ascended several feet upward, I quickly learned that my fear of losing control on the hill and crashing into a tree was fully unwarranted.

Because I fell off the chairlift.

(Note: I wrote this post last night, before I read today about a chairlift accident in Maine. Unlike that catastrophe, my fall cannot be blamed on any mechanical failure.)

The lift was stopped for several minutes while the ski patrol tended to me. And while the entire crowd watched.

Fortunately, nothing was broken. Nothing except my spirit. I spent the rest of the day in the lodge, sneaking contraband beverages.

My skiing career ending prematurely, I traded in the snowy hills of Michigan for the green hills of southern Ohio. I tagged along with a youth group to Hocking Hills State Park, where we planned to repel down a cliff. The good news was that we were already on top of the mountain--no chairlifts could turn traitor on me.

With my first leap off the cliff, I took my usual leap of faith, too. With each step down the rope, my feet landed safely against the mountain. My heart soared. Repelling down mountains--who could have guessed this might be my athletic calling?!?

And then, halfway through my descent, I happened to look down. The harness was caught in my shirt. Every step I took yanked my shirt higher. It was already hiked well above my belly button. I struggled to pull my top out of the harness, to no avail. My choices were either to slip out of the harness and fall to my death, or keep descending and provide the crowd below with a full view of my lace-trimmed bra. Wait. Was I wearing a bra?

Eventually, the crowd got its peep show, I plopped safely onto the ground, and I gave up that repelling shit for good.

I should have, right then, forsaken every physical endeavor forever. But through my typical marred judgment, I continued to seek my athletic fortune. Not one ended well. The workplace softball league in 1982 resulted in a line drive to my face, and the rollerblading incident of 1999 ended with a CT scan in the ER. (Some people still maintain the hospital missed my residual brain damage.)

So now, I will finally proclaim: I am done with them all. Through with dancing, horseback riding, skiing, repelling, softball, rollerblading and with any activities that even peripherally involve animals, mountains, balls, or anything clamped onto my feet. For my New Year's resolution, I vow to never again attempt such trickery.

I shall live the rest of my life purely as a sports spectator, even if I do clap to the beat of a different drummer.

The sad reality is, the Olympics wouldn't award me even a cheap plastic medal. And Bristol Palin dances far better than I could ever hope to.

Talk about the agony of defeat.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ho Ho Ho to All!

Ho Ho Ho! Happy Holidays to everyone in all my networks! (Click on the image below to see.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Letter to Santa, Reprise

OK, this one really, is a final blast from the past. Santa's elves promise you a new blog post for Christmas...

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I know it's been a few years since I've written. Thankfully, you haven't forgotten me. The vacuum sweeper you brought in 1986 was truly splendid, as were the ones you brought in 1993, 1998 and 2004.

I'm not writing to complain (I've already written to Hoover twice). I do appreciate your continued generosity and thoughtfulness. Household appliances don't come cheap, I know, and besides--any guy who's willing to clean up after eight reindeer who've consumed 1,000 tons of carrots in a single evening is OK by me!

Anyway, thought I'd get a jump on all those greedy children. Although I must pass on the Twilight action figures this year, I've been thinking a few toys might be nice after all this time. Sadly, my mother sold off many of my favorites at garage sales ($2.50 for a prime condition Easy Bake Oven? I still haven't forgiven her). And my sister DC confiscated all my Barbies to use as voodoo dolls (I was too terrified of her to complain).

So, here is a list of my favorite toys from my childhood, which I've concluded would have new purpose and merit for a middle-aged woman. If the elves can't make these, Wal-Mart probably sells them cheap, and I promise not to tell the unions where you got them:

1) Sting-Ray Bike with Banana Seat: Because why is it that, as our butts grew bigger, the bike seats grew smaller?
2) Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots: After forty-five minutes of listening to a client's rants, even a pacifist wants to knock someone's block off.
3) Mystery Date Game: But don't bother including the "Dreamboat" in the white tux. What a goober. Give me the scruffy-looking "Dud" date. Yes, by my age I should have learned my lesson, but there’s still something about those Bad Boys…
4) Easy Bake Oven: Cooking's never been as much fun since; the calories in bite-sized cakes are surely too paltry to matter, and I need to make peace with my mother.
5) Creepy Crawler Oven: Can you make the goop liver-flavored? Because goopy edible creatures probably don't have the same horrific crunch as the live moths and spiders my cats now enjoy eating.
6) Magic 8 Ball: I'm way tired of making important decisions. I'd rather leave it up to the wisdom of a toy plastic ball. Sherry: "Shall I get that colonoscopy?" Magic 8 Ball: "My sources say no." Well, OK then!

If you can't bring all of these, a gift card would be fine. But no gift substitutes please. My vacuum sweeper, when I last used it a month ago, appeared to be working fine.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reflections on a Reunion, Reprise

One last look back on the past year:

Reflections on a Reunion

A few remembered everyone. Everyone remembered at least a few. We insisted a couple guests never even attended our school, clearly there just to crash a good party.

Some couldn’t be identified without our scrutiny of a nametag. Several retained a hint of their former selves. A few looked inconceivably young or simply damn good. We empathized and sympathized with the heavier, the grayer, the balding, because that comprised nearly all of us. We tried not to begrudge those who looked far better than we did.

Most appeared to have gotten through life with a few hiccups. Some flourished in lucrative careers or long, secure marriages. A handful hadn't fared so well. We made small talk with them before edging away, uncertain how to respond to their stories of misery and grief.

Several still live within blocks of our old school. Many converged upon the nearby suburbs. Others scattered to the coasts or to far-off homes in Germany or Australia. Those who remained midwesterners felt thankful to have family and old friends nearby, yet envied the more adventurous.

We made each other smile with high school tales of classroom pranks, football wins and unsanctioned parties. Some hungered to return to those days. Others were grateful to move on.

Eleven among us have died. Few remaining were spared the loss of a close classmate. Nearly everyone has also lost a mother, a father or even both. A number have parents who are ailing or impaired. All of us wished we’d appreciated them more.

Some are still raising young children. Several are grandparents. The majority of our children are grown, or nearly grown. We who are empty-nesters nodded in recognition at each others' contradictory sentiments of both weepiness and relief.

Most who were remembered as reckless or wild teenagers somehow morphed into respectable or more conservative adults. Others never made that transition. Nearly all of us still feel sixteen in our hearts.

Very few left early. Many stuck around until we were forced to leave. A good number continued the conversation and camaraderie at a nearby bar, staying late. As the bartender announced last-call, we disregarded the toll it would take the next day on our not-so-sixteen-year-old bodies.

And as we wandered across the parking lot, returning to our cars and to our middle-aged lives, two things remained clear.

We all changed. And we all remained the same.