Monday, October 28, 2013

Honk if You Pretend to Like Mimes

As I headed out to a busy Kentucky shopping center, clad in full mime costume and makeup, my sister DC suggested I carry a sign reading, “Pretend to Honk if You Like Mimes.” Clever play on words, but considering most people I knew had few kind words to say about street-side pantomimists, I wondered if a more appropriate sign might be, “Honk if You Pretend to Like Mimes.”

I, too, have never had a real affinity for mimes. Consequently, I geared myself up that morning for feeling awkward, out-of-place, and unloved: much like my adolescent years.

Popularity be damned, I knew I at least looked fabulous. I'd assembled a nearly professional costume: navy-striped Parisian boat shirt, red suspenders, white gloves, and beret. And the caliber of my makeup, done by an artistic family friend, left me speechless.

But looking good wasn’t good enough. I would need to manage a routine, acting out a series of stories simply through body motions. Being silent for the duration of my performance would especially be an effort, considering none of the women in my family can stay quiet for more than, say, two minutes.

So, I spent the previous evening in a hotel room, studying mime routines and tutorials on the internet. I found over 270,000 Google hits on “mime skit.” Currently, the most popular pantomime trend appeared to be something called “twerking.” Apparently, this gets a real rise out of an audience.

I doubted I could pull off twerking. Regardless, as I approached
the outdoor shopping center in Kentucky’s Newport-on-the Levee, which would serve as my stage, I knew I should focus on more kid-friendly fare. Dozens of families wandered about, many headed to the aquarium. It was time to dive in, even if the humiliation killed me and I ended up sleeping with the fishes.

I danced, mime-fashion, toward my first victims, a couple with two young sons. As they spied me, they paused. I stopped in my fancy-footed tracks, too, suddenly apprehensive.

I realized this wasn’t just about taking on a crazy, funny lark of an experience. It was about succeeding at actually being funny and crazy and clever. If there was one thing I’d learned in the past several months, these new life experiences didn’t mean much if I didn’t give them my all. I wanted to be a good mime. A skillful mime. A classy mime. Wait, was that an oxymoron?

I straightened and took a deep breath. Then, I bent my arms, reached my palms out, and attempted the most famous mime skit of all: being boxed-in. It wasn’t much of a stretch. At that moment, I did indeed feel trapped. I could fail on the spot, and there would be no way out.

But the boys and their parents smiled. I felt a rush of adrenaline.

Next, I pretended to eat an apple and pull out a worm. This was met with head-cocked, squinty-eyed expressions from my audience. Clearly, this move was a losing ball of confusion.

Ball of confusion? An idea struck me. I improvised and pretended to toss a baseball at the older boy. I pounded my “bat” on the plate. His eyes lit up, and he pitched the pretend ball. I swung and stumbled in circles.

The boys laughed. Even their parents grinned. My impromptu baseball swing was a hit.

I relied heavily on the baseball sketch for the rest of my gig. It proved popular, as did my swimming in front of the aquarium. Another hit was pulling strings out of ears and using them as a jump rope. I was way better at fake jump-roping than I ever was at the real thing. While my childhood jump-rope skills never made me any fast friends on the playground, these kids were enchanted with watching me hop and trip over a pretend rope.

The comments from the kids made my day. My favorite was from a young boy who turned to his mother, laughed, and said, “She’s having a hard time talking.” Oh, if he only knew how hard of a time I was having not talking.

By the end of my nearly ninety-minute routine, I was exhausted. Given the nonstop hopping and twirling and keeping my mouth shut, this proved far more a physical ordeal than I expected.

The physical exertion wasn’t the biggest surprise. I was amazed by how much the children—and even many adults—enjoyed my performance. Dozens of people stopped to watch, and some went out of their way across the plaza to interact with me.

Oh, sure, a few adults brushed past, trying to not make eye contact. I chased after them. And, a few children shrieked and hid behind their parents. I chased them, too, until my observing family members wandered over and suggested I not be quite so aggressive, for fear I be mistaken for a white paint-faced pedophile.

The biggest surprise of all was that I actually proved good at this. Whodathunk that being a mime could be so difficult, and yet I could still somehow pull it off?

Miming may not be the greatest gig for the faint-of-heart or the loud-of-mouth. Considering I’m both of those, it’s not something I’m ready to replay again soon.

Yet, it did serve as a lifetime reminder that the craziest, most random ideas often prove to be the most memorable.

And when it comes to being a mime for a day, no words can express that unexpected amount of fun.

What's the most wild and random thing you've attempted? Mimes: Love 'em or leave 'em? Is this image of me why I only manage to attract clowns on

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Celebrating a New Life in Middle-Age

Tomorrow, I turn 52. On Oct. 25. With 25 of my 52 new life experiences now under my belt.

Other than playing combinations of two and five on a roulette wheel somewhere, how should I celebrate?

Thanks to all of my old and new friends who have jumped on The 52/52 Project bandwagon over the past five months. Your enthusiasm and encouragement have given me much to celebrate, even as I plucked another rogue gray hair from my temples this morning...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Over my year of new experiences, I’ve occasionally found myself mid-step into a situation wondering if it wasn’t such a terrific idea after all. Yet, I’ve never gotten all the way to the moment of execution and still been consumed by such fear that I seriously considered backing out: Until I was strapped upside down into a harness, seventy-five feet above the ground, with only an inch-thick cable keeping me from crashing to my death.

My friend, Murf, and her eighteen-year-old daughter, Leah, joined me on my recent ziplining excursion in Hocking Hills in southern Ohio. We chose the Super Zip option over the full Canopy Tour because it was cheaper and required less time. We discovered later that the Super Zip was also the highest, steepest, and fastest of all the ziplines. Final score? Research: zero. Stupidity: twelve-thousand.

We had little opportunity to contemplate the true terror of our half-assed planning as we ventured out onto the first of three rope and wood bridges, leading us up to the tower platform. As we wobbled forward, the first bridge swayed below us with every step we took. Even the fearless Leah mentioned turning back. If I hadn’t obsessively studied each footstep while clenching the rope railing, I would have slipped down the incline, knocking over both my friends in a domino fashion.

We reached the tower and climbed a couple flights of steps to the top. By then, I’d experienced enough thrills and chills for the day. I managed to safely traverse three treacherous bridges. Surely I could turn around now and simply count that death-defying experience toward The 52/52 Project.

As I watched the people in front of us being snapped onto cables and sent flying through the air, my stomach rolled in waves. I ventured damn close to crying. While I’m not afraid of heights, I have had a lifelong fear of the sensation of falling, which is why I just say no to rollercoasters and I struggle with airplane travel. Downing two Bloody Marys is a necessary precaution before facing potential turbulence.

I admitted later that if my two friends hadn’t been with me on that platform, I would have definitely climbed back down. I wasn’t the only one afraid. Murf held out her hand. It was visibly shaking.

But we soon found ourselves next up for the suicide launch. The zipline crew told us we had two options. One was to sit in an upright position. The other was to sprawl face-down, with our arms and legs extended, in what they called the “Superhero” position.

Seriously? I was so not Superman. Super Chickenshit, that summed me up more accurately.

I clenched the platform railing with both hands and murmured that the sitting position looked less scary.

The zipline cable guy, a twentyish rugged sort who probably bungee-jumped and hopped out of airplanes—fully sober—for a little kick, shrugged. “Do you want less scary or do you want safer?” He held up a simple strap harness. “This is what you wear in the sitting position. With the superhero position, you wear that, plus this, too.” He held up a heavy-duty looking vest with additional straps, buckles, and hooks.

Did I look like an idiot? Yes, give me two harnesses! Give me twenty!

Still, as I gazed at the mega-harness, dying remained a big concern. Vomiting first would probably prove inevitable, but I knew death would immediately follow. So, I would crash to my death while puking. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

As my friends were whisked off through the treetops though, I knew I had to go through with it, too.

I assumed the position. My head hovered over the edge of the platform and my body swung as I was hooked onto the cable. I repeatedly asked the young man who had my life in his hands to triple-check all the buckles and hooks. I closed my eyes and unpried my feet from the edge of the platform.

I told myself I wasn’t really doing this. I tried to step outside myself, to pretend I was observing someone else in a movie. I’ve done this before, say, during a root canal or a Brazilian wax, and surprisingly, it can work.

He counted down quickly: “Three, two, one.” And I was off.

I soared through the air.

I started off slowly before I picked up speed. Immediately, I was surprised to find I wasn’t experiencing that sickening free-falling sensation in which your stomach rushes up into your windpipe and consumes your last breath--just before you die.

Several seconds later, I opened my
eyes to find myself flying through the treetops. It was just like the nightly flying dreams I’ve had all my life—same position, same viewpoint—and shockingly, the same exhilarating and joyous sensation of flying.

I half-smiled. I waved my arms. If not a superhero, maybe I was at least an ostrich.

As I approached the landing platform, I remembered to pull in my arms and tuck my chin to my chest, as we were instructed. I swooped down.

No vomiting. No crash landing. No dying.

Anticipation aside, I actually enjoyed ziplining. Not enough to take a second flight though--not that day, at least--although Leah was eager to go. Murf announced she would never go again. Me? I was still recovering from the pre-flight trauma.

But, maybe I would return to fly through the trees again, another day. Because one thing I’ve learned is that the anticipation of something we fear is almost always worse than the reality.

If we’re brave enough to spread our wings, we may be surprised how high we can soar.

Zipping--Are you down with it? How many Bloody Marys do you think it took me to manage last year's flight to Italy? What's your lifelong fear?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Much a Doo-Doo about Nothing

I was due for a colonscopy when I turned fifty, but I disregarded it as a crappy idea. Two years later, The 52/52 Project gave me a little kick in the ass, and I added “colonscopy” to the list. Time to get this behind me.

The afternoon before my scheduled appointment, the office called, saying they’d have to pull the plug. Nothing was running as planned. I was shit out of luck.

“Butt wait,” they said. Their schedule wasn’t totally backed-up. Just two weeks later, they promised to get me in there.

It was a heavy load I’d been carrying the past two years, and it seemed time to finally relieve myself.

Still, I heard the cleansing preparation was a pain in the ass. I eyed the prescription drink which would get the whole process moving. I shrugged and murmured, “Bottoms-up.”

But considering what followed, the nasty ass drink was only a drop in the bucket.

The rest of the evening went down the drain. It wasn’t a straight fifteen-hour stretch of uncomfortable inconvenience. It just came in spurts.

I stomached the events of that night, which continued into early morning, with a fair amount of grumbling.

The colonoscopy itself was a breeze though. In no time at all, we were in and out of there.

A bit of propofol (Michael Jackson’s drug of choice) in my IV, and I quickly found myself in no position to retaliate. I guess I managed to turn the other cheek.

Next thing I knew, I was awake. I learned they found a polyp, which they successfully nipped in the bud. I was told I simply needed to eliminate some of the air that was pumped into my stomach before I could be discharged. They quickly sent me on my way, so apparently I passed that, too.

At the tail-end of the experience, I have to say it was much a doo-doo about nothing.

And next time I’m told I need a colonoscopy, I won’t be so quick to poo-poo the idea.

Was I too cheeky here? Has my writing totally gone down the crapper? Can you resist a bad pun?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Get Thee to a Nunnery

By the time I graduated from Catholic grade school, I’d had enough of nuns, and they of me. Most of my Ursuline order teachers—and my lay teachers, for that matter—would be stunned to discover I turned out responsible and nearly respectable. I’ve often wondered if I might view them differently, too, if I had the chance to know them outside the classroom and the church, on a more level playing field, now that I am an adult.

Would spending a couple days in a convent, as part of The 52/52 Project, be a hoot or a horror? Or would it simply provide me with a whole new insight?

I’d never met Sister Lourdes. While she’s my first cousin once-removed, she is twenty years older and left Toledo for the convent in Joliet, outside Chicago, before I was born. Even though she didn’t know me aside from recent correspondence on a family website and a few subsequent emails, she seemed enthused about my visit.

In just over twenty-four hours, I gained more insight about nuns than I did in my entire eight years at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns.

Insight Number One: Nuns have lives outside the church.

Somehow, in my thirteen-year-old Catholic schoolgirl mind, I once assumed that when they weren’t putting me in a corner of the classroom for my nonstop talking, the nuns spent the rest of their waking hours in the church, praying—and quite likely for my depraved soul.

When I accompanied Sister Lourdes for her weekly bowling league, I watched as she interacted with the rest of the women. “Sis,” as they called her, was just another of their bowling buddies. Although I proved to be a bowling jinx that evening, I learned she’s a skillful bowler who placed second in the state for the over-seventy division last year and competed nationally. When she wasn’t throwing spares that night, we both enjoyed a beer, a piece of rhubarb cake, and shared a plate of decadent “Bloated French Fries."

Afterward, Sister Lourdes and her convent neighbor, Sister Odelia, taught me how to play dominoes. We laughed and made small talk, like old girlfriends, while they totally kicked my ass at the game. Although neither of them used that particular language, somehow I know they won’t judge me for it.

Insight Number Two: Not all nuns judge or condemn others’ actions or lifestyles.

Those choosing religious vocations surely believe in and are bound to a higher set of morals than many of us. Yet all of the Sisters I met, the working ones and the elderly ones residing in the affiliated nursing home (my day volunteering there will follow as a separate story), were simply warm and welcoming. I may be a sinner, but they never made me feel like one.

As I hesitatingly discussed my divorce, Sister Lourdes listened thoughtfully and nodded as I spoke. Even though we agreed divorce is never an ideal situation, she reassured me it appeared my former husband and I had done the best job possible raising our children.

During my visit, Sister Lourdes and I also touched—just barely—on politics and social issues. I wasn’t eager to go there, since some of my left-leaning beliefs often don’t coincide with those of the Catholic Church. Based on her comments about the negative and “very conservative” thoughts that people express on the Internet, I concluded she was more open-minded than I expected. I wondered how many other nuns and priests vary in their personal outlooks on politics and social issues.

We didn’t dwell on controversial topics for long though. Sister Lourdes segued into a humorous anecdote, and she got me laughing—not for the last time that day. 

Insight Number Three: Nuns can be pretty damn funny.

A few quips from Sister Lourdes:

As she turned a quick left into a parking lot, veering across a line of oncoming traffic, I sat up straight and clutched the sides of my seat. She grinned over at me, shrugged, and said, “It’s your side.”

While we studied photographs of the Sisters’ ways of dressing through the years, she pointed at a photo of nun habits from the sixties, featuring the tight over-the-forehead coverings, and mentioned that was the dress when she first entered the convent.

“I’ll bet you don’t miss that,” I said.

She laughed. “Oh, God, don’t you know it.”

Sister Lourdes’s sense of humor wasn’t an anomaly in her religious order. When I met the president of the congregation, Sister Dolores, she asked if I was interested in becoming a Sister. I stammered for a few minutes until Sister Lourdes cut in and briefly explained The 52/52 Project.

“Oh,” Sister Dolores deadpanned. “Guess I need to throw away that application I had waiting for you.”

Insight Number Four: We’re not so different.

The main thing that seemed to set the Sisters apart from me and most of the people I know was their lifelong commitment to serving God. As a fairly lapsed Catholic, I wanted to better understand that. I asked Sister Lourdes why she became a nun.

She shrugged and simply said, “I never had a desire to do anything else. I knew this was what I wanted to do since I was in the eighth grade. When you love the Lord, you love the Lord.”

I can’t say I came away from my experience with any element of these women’s commitment to their faith. I’m still a faltering Catholic. That may or may not ever change.

However, the experience did change the stereotype I’d held for so many years. The Sisters of St. Francis were real, normal people. They banter and disagree and laugh. They experience frustration with their daily work and with the things in life that plague us all. They find enjoyment in ordinary things. They find joy in life itself. That was made clear on my last evening in Joliet, when I attended the funeral prayer service for a ninety-three-year-old Sister, their friend and colleague. They mourn death, but more important, as Sister Lourdes pointed out, they “celebrate life.”

Who’d have guessed we’re not so different? As a thirteen-year-old girl at St. Patrick’s grade school, I would never have dreamed it possible.

But, twenty-one weeks into my year of new life experiences, I’ve learned almost anything is possible. And God knows I’m not that girl anymore.

Religious, spiritual, or not so much? Do you think this brings me one step closer to securing my spot in heaven? What have you learned lately?

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Match Made in Hell

A month and a half into my online dating experience, and still no prospects on In case anyone thinks I'm being too picky, here are a few unaltered snippets from the profiles of men who have recently viewed or liked my profile:

"some ne that free trustworthy truthful one woman man willing to take a chance again on life willing to share their life with movie dinning out have fun fishing camping walking in the park fle market watching the sunset not over weight good nature woman"

"realy dont know what to say never done this befor wasaired foe 25 yares she died 2 years ago like to go to dirt track races and camping but bean a long time cence i non that and out and listin to music sometimes"

"looking for a casual relationship at this time wanting to have lots of fun sharing things. having great sex together would be wonderful...looking for a friend with benifits type relationship"

OK, yes, I may be a grammar and spelling Nazi, but really? And the third guy, who mentions at least three times in his profile that he's looking for great sex, doesn't include a photo. His profile says he's "recently separated." I think what he means is, "momentarily separated; I'm in the living room and my wife is in the bedroom."

If any of these are going to work, I will clearly have to learn to speak a different language, form a friendship with "benifits" or take up camping.

I never thought camping would sound like the lesser of any evils.

But if I go camping with any of these guys, I'll require lots of s'mores. And even s'more beer.

Am I being too choosy? Could camping offer any benefits, even if you're with a friend with benefits? Anyone care to take a red pen to these profiles?