Month: May 2012

You Must Be This Tall To Ride

Tonight we took our boys to Lakeside Amusement Park and, as we walked around, I realized that it was their first amusement park visit. Well, we did take them to Disneyworld when they were 3 and 5, but since they were both so small we didn’t get to ride as many of the rides. Oh, sure. We’ve let them ride on coasters and log rides in the Mall of America and on those small, portable coasters they set up for fairs, but for the most part my boys have been devoid of amusement park memories. I started to feel a bit bad about it.

Then, as we were in line for the Wild Chipmunk, I got a reminder about why we haven’t been in a hurry to take them. Our boys are tiny. Both have late spring birthdays. Both have been under the 25th percentile in height from the very beginning. We gave both of them a chance to attend junior kindergarten so they could catch up in stature. Still, both boys are the oldest and the smallest in their classes. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Hubby and I are considered to be average height. And, yet, our children are borderline Oompah Loompah (they’re just missing the orange skin and white hair). As we were waiting for the Wild Chipmunk, the roller coaster Luke had been dying to ride, a park employee came by and delivered the disappointing news. Luke was 4 inches too short to ride. He cried. It broke my heart. And THIS is why we don’t take them to amusement parks, I thought.

Then, I thought about it again. Luke did get to ride quite a few other rides. He loved the Tilt-A-Whirl and had a blast in the Labyrinth Crystal Palace. He rode the Matterhorn and the Scrambler multiple times. He had a blast flying his own little plane on the Satellite. He even rode with Joe on Joe’s favorite ride, the Ferris Wheel. (Seriously. The Ferris Wheel. What 11 year old kid loves that ride?) And, he would have missed all of that if I’d kept him from going to the park tonight. Then I realized he would have missed more than that. He would have missed the opportunity to face disappointment and to work at getting beyond it.

I need to do a better job at giving my kids room for disappointment and freedom. They need to be able to deal with adversity and heartache, responsibility and reward. How are they going to do that if I don’t allow them small opportunities to build their skills? So, as hard as it was to watch his heart break, I’m glad I let my barely over 4 foot tall Luke attend this privately hosted night at Lakeside, courtesy of my college roommate Michelle who proffered the invitation. It was a good experience. Life is full of “you must be this tall to ride” experiences. Sometimes we don’t measure up. But, you can judge a person’s true stature by how they deal with their disappointment. In time, I hope Luke’s experiences on the short side prove that he’s actually 7 feet tall.

When The American Dream Becomes The American Nightmare

Two little things I’m grateful for every day.

Just finished a long phone conversation with my youngest sister, the kind where you talk about life on the grand scale, where you are, who you’ve become, and why. I like to have conversations like that every once in a while, a little come-to-Jesus meeting with myself where I take a good hard look at my life and figure out where I’m at. My sister is a person for whom “bored” is a four-letter word. On some level, I think she’s unintentionally sought out drama in her life because she simply doesn’t know how to live with dull, humdrum, it-is-what-it-is life. But, that is the stuff life is made of. Life is not always parades and fireworks. Sometimes it’s leftovers and dirty diapers.

I think that we Americans truly mess ourselves up with an unrelenting focus on the fabled “American Dream.” We’ve come to believe we’re entitled to life in the highest order. We expect that we will be able to have it all. It’s a tall tale. You can’t have it all. There’s not room in life for it all. It’s like trying to cup running water in your hands; you can only hold so much and what you don’t have room for will fall away. Most people on this planet pass quietly through their lives, and their names don’t go down in history’s annals like DaVinci or Aristotle. Most people touch only the lives around them. That’s it. Somewhere along the line that stopped being good enough. It’s too bad.

We should have dreams and plans. We should pursue them. But, we should also accept that life is beautiful even without parades and fireworks. We’ve lost the ability to treasure the little things because we’re waiting for the next big thing. When was the last time you sat down in a forest and paused to hear the wind in the trees and to smell the pines? When was the last time you watched a ladybug in your hand and wondered at it and appreciated its small life? When was the last time you stopped thinking about what you were missing out on and honestly marveled at how much you have? I think, for most of us, it’s been far too long since we last took the opportunity to be grateful for the down times. What we’re missing in our run-around, 24/7 active lives is the peace that comes from being still and not asking anything from life, but simply existing momentarily in it without demands.

The happiest people in this world aren’t the ones who have it all. They’re the ones who are sincerely happy with what they have. When we keep looking for the next big thing, we’re missing the myriad little ones that are given to us daily…the parking spot close to the store on a snowy day, the first cup of coffee of the day that someone else pours for us, the unexpected hug. It’s only when you stop expecting big things to fulfill you that you can let the little things that have always been there fill you up.

Facebook Is Simply Show-And-Tell For Grown Ups

One of my Facebook profile photos. What does it tell you about me?I don’t know and I don’t really care. I just like it.

I was thinking today that Facebook is the ultimate exercise in show-and-tell. Remember that from kindergarten? Stand up there, show off something you like or care about, and tell people all about it. And, I think that if you treat Facebook (or any social media) that way, it’s a fairly innocuous thing. But, if you find you’re concerned about the number of replies you get to a post or if you’re using your posts to validate your decisions or any other aspect of your life, it might be time to take a step back.

I’ve got 288 Facebook “friends.” The “friends” is in quotes for a reason. All that word means in Facebookland is that I have viewing rights to 288 other people’s lives. I joined Facebook in 2008, so I’ve had years to study the way people use it. Some use it as a soapbox. Others use it for braggadocio. Some, quite sadly, use it to pump up their self-esteem. Some use it to avoid loneliness. Everyone gets something different from it, which is why it fascinates me. But, it all comes back to the notion that we all like to talk about ourselves. With Facebook, we can do it all day and all night and our spewing about ourselves ad nauseam is never considered narcissistic or obnoxious. It’s par for the course. It’s genius, really. Everyone is the center of their Facebook universe. How appropriately human.

I’ve always liked this quote: “What other people think of you is none of your business.” I more or less live by this notion. I learned early on that I am not for everyone, which is just fine with me because there are oodles of people I can do without as well. It’s nice to be liked, but if I’m not it doesn’t affect how I feel about myself. I’m here to find my own way. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I was living someone else’s. Still, it’s easy to get sucked into caring too much what others think of you, especially when you throw yourself onto a social media site and pay too close attention to the responses you get. When you live that way, though, you’re not being authentic. I’ve seen my fair share of folks who clearly use Facebook for personal validation. I know, on occasion, I have been guilty of it too. But, what other people think of you is none of your business. It doesn’t matter. When it’s all said and done, the only person whose opinion about you should matter is your own. So, the next time you post something and no one seems to notice or care, throw yourself a dozen or so mental thumbs up Likes and move on. Facebook is show-and-tell. That’s all it is. Letting it be more than that is a waste of your precious energy on this planet.

That’ll Teach You To Keep Your Schweddy Balls Out Of My Bike Shorts

Hubby and I enjoy cycling and both happen to own size medium Pearl Izumi bike shorts. Not good.

My husband and I share a lot of things. I never worry that we will become one of those couples who have nothing to talk about once the kids leave home. One of our common interests is road cycling, which he got me into and which I have spent years using as my excuse to exercise. Cycling receives the highest accolade I can offer any type of exercise; I don’t hate it.

Today, hubby came home after a couple hours with the kids at his parents’ place and said he wanted to take a ride. I had hoped to get a ride in too, but because I could have done it while he was gone and chose instead to tackle the Everest-sized pile of ironing in our room, I was in no position to cry “not fair” on him. He got geared up and told me he was leaving. I was still ironing and lost in the middle of the latest episode of Mad Men, so I didn’t pay much attention to him before he left. In fact, I’m pretty sure that as he was telling me for the third time that he was leaving I uttered a barely interested, “Aren’t you gone yet?”

When he returned, he got showered and went downstairs. I again didn’t pay much attention to him as I was still ironing (did I mention this pile was huge?). When I had at last finished my epic pile of laundry, I realized it was too late for a ride and went to take a shower. When I walked into the bathroom, I noted with disdain that Steve had left his sweat-soaked bike clothes in a pile on the edge of the bathtub. I hate that. Then I looked at the pile again more closely. Those looked like my bike shorts. I felt my forehead crinkle, my brow furrow, and my head cock to one side. Had he really worn my bike shorts by mistake? Certainly there was no way that could have happened. I walked downstairs.

“Ummm…I think you might have worn my bike shorts on your ride,” I announced.

He looked at me. “No. Those were mine,” he answered confidently.

“I don’t think so. I think your bike shorts have a different type material in the crotch than mine do.”

“They were in with my stuff,” he said, as if the pile of gear he had in his office was impervious to mix-ups.

I didn’t feel like arguing with him, so I shrugged it off and went to get in the shower. First, though, unsatisfied with his pronouncement, I checked my sports-bottoms drawer. My shorts were not there. Curiouser and curiouser. I was now absolutely certain he’d worn my shorts. He must have suspected the same thing because he came up to inspect the dirty shorts. Then he confirmed what I already knew; he had indeed worn my bike shorts on his hour-long ride.

“Wow,” I said, unhappily. “That’s scary.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I think that I was actually faster today while wearing them,” he said.

“Nope. Not helping.” I paused thoughtfully and then continued. “I’m not sure if I am more disappointed that you’re small enough to wear my clothes or more depressed that my bike clothes are big enough for a man to wear.”

“Well, I think the key to remember here is that those shorts are spandex. They stretch a lot.” He was trying really hard to make us both feel a measure better.

“I’m going to need to go shopping tomorrow,” I told him.

“For new bike shorts?” he replied.

“Yep. I mean, I can’t wash those shorts in water hot enough to undo the damage you’ve done to them.”

“Listen,” he said, “this is as bad for me as it is for you. Let’s not speak of this ever again.”

I agreed. And then, for extra insurance that he never carelessly places his Schweddy balls in my bike shorts again, I wrote a blog about it. 😉

A Diversified Life Portfolio

A little path leading somewhere unexpected.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today is my birthday. I am forty-freaking-four. Trust me. There are a lot of “F” words there for a reason. While I can’t believe I’m this old, I’m grateful to have made it this far. This morning, after sucking down the latte hubby brought me for breakfast, I decided to go for a walk. We’re up at our home away from home in Steamboat Springs, and there are lots of trails within walking distance of our house. So, I leashed up the dog and headed out while Steve took the kids swimming.

The trails around here are not deliberate. They meander as if the persons first traversing the area weren’t quite sure which was the optimal way to travel. Each path ends in a fork. It’s quite easy to get turned around and forget from which direction you came. As Ruby and I traipsed along turning this way and that, I thought about how today’s walk was a metaphor for my life because I am a wanderer perpetually sauntering in a new direction.

I’ve always admired people who are driven, who found their calling early in life and pursued it with a relentless passion and a fervor for success. I have admired those people because I’m not one of them. Although I am motivated when I find something that interests me, I’ve discovered too many things that intrigue and inspire me. I’ve been a bit ADD and, throughout my 44 years, I’ve flitted from thing to thing seeing what each had to offer. Consequently, if you look at the sum total of what I’ve accomplished in terms of measurable career achievements, my work resume is fairly flimsy. It’s a hodgepodge of eclectic jobs, from retail manager to meeting planner, from library research assistant to communications specialist. I’ve cleaned houses, rented cars, and handled the drive-up lane at a bank. I’ve managed movie theaters, merchandise, and people. I’ve been all over the map, and my resume reflects that. It is what it is. I’ll never be a woman with an enviable career, and I’ve had to come to terms with that because before I knew myself better I planned to measure my success with a brilliant curriculum vitae.

My path through life has been like the flight of a butterfly, erratic and seemingly directionless. There is a beauty to the rambling that I’ve done, though. Because of my ardent, if temporary, interest in so many things, I’ve learned a little bit about a lot of what life has to offer. I’ve studied French, Spanish, and Italian, and spent a year and a half learning to translate Latin. I’ve been artsy and tried painting, jewelry making, paper crafting, scrapbooking, drawing, and needlepoint. I’ve taken classes in cake decorating, rock climbing, drama, baking, tap and swing dancing, cooking and culinary skills, and burlesque. I’ve tried my hand at athletics: tennis, golf, gymnastics, water skiing, snow skiing, snowboarding, road cycling, sea kayaking, mountain biking, softball, canoeing, and yoga. I can twirl a baton, bake an awesome pear and almond galette, and point out some constellations or tell you about your astrological sign. I can still turn a cartwheel and do a headstand at 44, and I think that’s pretty cool.

So, I guess what I’ve discovered about myself after all these many years on this planet is that although I may not have a very impressive resume, I’ve got a fairly diversified life portfolio. Without consciously acknowledging it, I’ve been taking Emerson’s advice and making lots of experiments. And, I’m not finished yet. There are a multitude of things I’ve yet to try that are on my long to-do list. For example, I’m still looking for a friend who is willing to jump from a perfectly good airplane with me on a future adventure. If you’re looking for something to add to your life portfolio, maybe a little skydiving is in order?

The Player

The point when Steve called in the big guns.

I like to play games. And, by games, I mostly mean board games, although any sort of game that involves mental exercise will do. There are all kinds of board games out there. My favorite ones are not the social ones where you interact with other people verbally or the chance ones where you’re relying on the roll of the dice but the ones where you try to outsmart and outmaneuver other people quietly. I openly admit that I used Luke’s birthday this year as an excuse to buy a board game I’ve had my eye on for a while called Qwirkle. The game has won a Parent’s Choice Gold Award as well as a Mensa Select Award. I figured that any game that Mensa found award worthy was probably something I should play, not because I’m a candidate for Mensa (I’m not qualified to be in the top 2% of any group unless you’re talking about the top 2% of wives that drive their husbands insane on a daily basis) but because this is obviously a thinking game and I am obviously a thinking gal.

So tonight I pulled out the game and forced hubby to learn it with me. I’m sure he was thrilled. He always loves it when I drag him into this stuff. But, I know he’s smart (although not quite as smart as me because he scored two points below me on an IQ test we both took), so it’s fun to play strategic games with him. We read the directions, gathered our tiles, and started play. Being the generous gal I am, I even allowed him to go first. The game started out slowly while we were still discovering the ins and outs of play and scoring, but it was intriguing enough to continue. I could tell I was truly going to like this game. About halfway through the game tiles, I started to pull ahead in the scoring and that’s when things really became fun.

“Let’s see,” I said, sizing up my scoring in a particularly good run, “12 points for my Qwirkle and then 3 points for that row and 5 points for that row. That’s…..”

Hubby cut me off. “If you can’t count high enough to add the points, then I don’t think you should get the points.”

“Har, har,” I said, adding 20 to my score column. “Your turn.”

He took his turn and scored 7 points.

“That’s good,” I said, trying to be encouraging.

“Don’t patronize bunny rabbits,” he said. “What’s the score?”

“You’ve got 134 and I’m at 177, but it’s my turn so we’ll see after that.”

Just then Luke walked over. “Who’s winning?” he inquired.

“Your mom is.”

Luke looked at Steve’s tiles and then at the table and then back at Steve’s tiles.

“I think I can help you, Dad,” he said.

“Hey…wait a minute.” I stopped him. “Do you really think it’s fair to play two against one?”

“Well, if Luke wants to help, we should let him. It is his game,” Steve answered.

“Well…if you need a 9 year old to help you win, that’s fine by me,” I countered.

The game continued. Luke was able to help Steve make up some of his deficit, but I still beat them by 30 points. As soon as the game was done, Steve started swiping the tiles from the table into the cloth bag to put them away.

I tried to get the boys to play, but it was after 9 and they were tired and ready for bed. I really hate it when I’m high on a victory and no one will humor me with another game. Some people prefer to quit while they’re ahead. Not me. When I’m winning, I’ll keep right on playing. When I lose, it’s time to find something else to do. Apparently that’s Steve’s M.O. too because he was off after our game faster than a dress on prom night. Oh well. I may not quite be Mensa smart, but I’m clever enough to know that if you want people to continue playing with you, you’ve got to be not only a good player but also a gracious winner. I can do that. I can take a break for the night. I can always kick Steve’s butt again tomorrow.

(PS…Another thing I know about playing games…a round of trash talk will get you another game faster than a polite request. Just saying.)

By Order Of The Queen Of LaLa Land

Joe…out and about as we did our Adopt-A-Highway time today

If I were the Queen, I would make quite a few changes.

1) Every person over the age of the 18 would be required to work at least one hour unpaid per month serving in their community by working at shelters (people or pet), picking up trash outside, assisting the elderly, or otherwise aiding the less fortunate.

2) Anyone demonstrating a lack of understanding between “yield” and “merge” would be put in the dungeon.

3) Gummi bears would contain no calories and comprise the largest portion of the Food Pyramid.

4) The punishment for tossing a cigarette butt of a car window would be beheading.

5) Every model would be a size 8, and not the current size 8 (which is actually a size 12).

6) Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, headwriters for the now defunct, popular ABC drama LOST, would have to explain every single mystery they left unanswered from the show. I’m not kidding. Just because the show was called LOST does not mean it should have ended with every single viewer actually being lost.

7) Every household would be required to recycle at least 50% of their household trash.

8) No man over the age of 19 would be allowed to wear plastic, white sunglasses…unless he was Shaun White.

9) Wolves would be reintroduced in all lower 48 states to help control the deer population. They might eat a few people too, but that would simply prove Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest postulation.

10) Justin Bieber and Lindsey Lohan would be placed in a rocket and launched into outer space where they might actually be happy together, but no one would care.

11) Women’s uteruses would be free from government legislation, same-sex marriages would be not only granted but socially accepted, and stay-at-home parenting would be the most highly regarded profession.

12) Tattoos of any Disney, Looney Tunes, or other cartoon-like character would have to be placed on a body part not seen by the general public.

13) All men would be required to lift the toilet seat before peeing and place it gently back down into place afterward. Any man caught in non-compliance would be forced to clean every toilet in their home every day for a full year.

14) My husband (who is not the king, by the way) would be locked in shackles for an indeterminate amount of time for stealing the covers and then complaining about how hot it was while he was sleeping.

Perhaps my queenly wishes seem a bit ridiculous. I suppose you think the only thing I am the Queen of is LaLa Land. There’s no way even a queen as powerful as I am could bring about the kind of sweeping change I’m espousing here. You silly fool! It’s not my job to figure out how to make these things happen. That’s your job. I’m the Queen and you do my bidding. End of story. Now, get busy or off with your head.