Safety Is No Accident

Some time ago, we unwrapped the many ways I felt blessed to still be alive—despite my parents’ lackluster effort on that front. Yes, they loved us and fed us and didn’t allow us to drink arsenic, but I think we can all agree there was some iffy judgment on their parts when it came to trampolines, nunchucks and furnace safety.

floorfurnace

We had a floor furnace similar to this. We three kids would sit around the firey-hot metal grates to warm up. It was so hot that if you stood on it, grate lines would melt into the soles of your shoes. So let me repeat, we’d sit around it in our non-flame retardant pajamas to get warm. Didn’t my parents ever worry that “warming up” would escalate into “catching fire?”

furnacefire

My imagination is overly vivid at times, but this is actually how I remember it.

Side Note: When the blazing fire pilot light would go out, I’d watch—in absolute horror—as my dad descended into the bowels of hell to re-ignite it. I was forever certain he would get blown up, and we’d be left with no Daddy and no heat.

As an adult, I can get around my parents “letting some things go,” but it’s harder to understand why our very schools and city parks were so negligent.

Times have changed in a major way. What use to pass muster—playgrounds, p.e. activities, safety measures—is somewhat mind-blowing.

Shall we head down that road?

Remember these scary-go-rounds?

merrygo

If not, let me tell you how these worked. A few kids would hop on, while a few other kids grabbed a led-poisoned pole, and ran in a circle until they reached top speeds. Once maximum speeds were attained, the runners could do one of two things.

They could either let go and watch the ensuing melee, or they could hoist themselves up to enjoy the ride. Unfortunately, a third option sometimes presented itself. Once in a while, a runner wouldn’t be able to let go, and he’d end up losing his footing and getting drug through gravel—and if he was extremely unlucky, a limb or two would get stuck under the death trap.

As for the gullible crew riding the giant sit-n-spin—well, their outcomes also ran the gamut. Generally, one or more kids would lose their grip and fly off (and I mean FLY.) The ones who were able to successfully battle inertia were either throwing up or getting pelted with other kids’ saliva and tears.

Thanks City.

Remember climbing ropes in p.e. class?

ropes

Well aren’t those images just adorable. A spotter? A mat? Assistance knots? A harness? Not one depiction in these lying images rings a bell in my mind.

I remember hardwood floors, a 40-foot rope and a lot of yelling. I do not remember being told what to do if I did made it to the top of the building to ring the bell. I do not remember any warnings about the ensuing rope burn caused by descending it like a fire pole. I do remember logging the memory in the category, “The moment I realized my childhood was over.”

Does this red rubber ball bring back memories? This was the kind of weapon we used in dodge ball.

dodge6

Cut to today’s cozy foam ones. You can pinch off pieces of these. The red rubber ones pinched off pieces of you.

Are you kidding me? I'd use that for a pillow.

Are you kidding me? I’d use that for a pillow.

This is how the boys looked when they took aim at you. In all fairness, it’s how I looked, too. I flat-out loved dodge ball and lived for days we got to play.

dodgeballthrowing

I’m not even sure it’s played in school anymore. If it is, I’d bet the farm the rules have changed. I’m quite certain there’s a heavy penalty for throwing today’s soft foam balls at an opponent’s face. You know what happened when you hit someone in the face when I was young?

They were out.

metalslide3

Some of you may be looking at this like it’s a photoshopped joke—saying, “I’ve never seen a slide that’s not red or yellow chunky plastic.”

When I was young, the slides did one thing all day—roasted themselves in the baking hot sun.

They were dangerously hot. They were also not regularly inspected. Some of them would have a split in the hand rails, which meant that if you were a nervous newbie—who slid down holding the sides—you could very easily end up with a laceration between your thumb and forefinger.

Yeah, too bad for you—they were painted with a color called “Tetanus Grey.”

You also had a pretty big decision to make, once at the top—and once you verified the surface temps of 150. If you pulled your knees up to your chin—to keep your calves and hammies from suffering second degree burns—you would descend at rates a 4th grader can’t successfully negotiate. Your landing would range from heroic, to one where your friends assessed your dislocated bone situation.

These teeter-totters—or see-saws, depending on where you grew up—look fairly harmless, right?

teetertotter

Well they are, if two well-intentioned, equally weighted kids play on them. Anything short of that left one or more participants nursing an injury. We used to add people to one end, if the other end had a “sturdy” occupant. I’m sure that would be grounds for juvie these days.

“She, she, she said she needed to add at least a first grader to her end so our weight would be even! She basically called me fat! Suspend her!”

Back then, evening out the ends was just basic street smarts. No harm, no foul.

We’d ride up and down forever—talking and laughing. These were good times with good teeter-totter friends. There were also some bad times, with bad teeter-totter friends-turned-foes.

About the meanest thing you could do to a partner was get to the bottom and jump off. It would send the high person crashing dramatically to the ground.

Juvie for that, too? Please. It wasn’t even worth mentioning to a parent, much less a teacher. It would be like saying, “Sara said she doesn’t like my shirt!” … “Yeah? And? Get back to your desk, you little snitch.”

scooter

Anyone remember these little gems? Was there anything better on God’s green earth than scooter-relay day?

Yes. Three things.

  1. Days when you didn’t get your baby fingers run over by Angie Brown’s scooter.
  2. Days when you didn’t get overzealous in your attempt to swim your arms faster, faster, faster—and catapult yourself chin-first into the germ-laden gym floor.
  3. Days when you didn’t get kicked in the teeth by Rodney Wheeless, who always took wide and wild left turns.

scooterracescooter2

How about tetherball? We spent countless hours on this fun, yet ill-conceived game. The chances of it going well were next to nil. You’d literally spike the ball, with all your might, directly toward your close opponent. Yes, the intent was to pass her head and wrap the ball around the pole—but more times than not, her timing had yet to develop, and she’d end up getting tattooed with the unnaturally hard tetherball.

tether_ball

Did any school officials ever consider that some little nugget might actually get the rope wrapped around his nugget head and choke to death? Doubtful.

Did you ever play on these guys? We did “cherry drops” from them.

monkeybars

We’d hang from our knees and start a swinging motion. We’d work back and forth until we were swinging high enough to let go and stick our landing. There was a 50% chance we’d land on our feet. There was a 100% chance our bars weren’t on a grassy playground—but on a concrete floor in the gym.

We were never once told to stop doing cherry drops.

grrr

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m so thankful I grew up when I did. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite the “dangers” and “life-threatening situations” and “abject negligence,” I feel like one of the blessed ones.

I love that back then, we were allowed to play, explore and simply figure things out. I also love that it was permissible to nail people in the face with red rubber balls. I could use more of that.

Let’s link up on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Uniting In Fury (Again)

Remember when we United In Fury a while ago? I shared with you some things that made me a LOT madder than they should (misbehaving clothes hanger, I’m looking at YOU.) I found out that we truly did unite, because many of you expressed getting unduly upset by things way less serious than a canceled flight or your favorite team losing. It’s true, anger towards bad weather on your vacation is entirely warranted; however, fury aimed at your phone for using initial caps against your will, is ludicrous.

Yet. Here we are.

1. Go ahead and tell me I can change the settings. I know. But, how about when you fill out a medical history form online or sign up for a jibjab account—what then? Where is the logarithm or other techie rule, so that when you fill in your email address, it doesn’t assault you with an initial caps? I want to venture a guess here and say that maybe 2% of the population chooses an initial caps for their email, so let’s please not cater to that misguided bunch.

I don’t mean to be judgmental towards this potentially marginalized group—I know they’re just living their lives and bleeding the same blood as the other 98%—but I don’t agree with their choices and I don’t want to be inconvenienced by them.

2. I am vehemently opposed to football players getting water squirted in their mouths when they come off the field. It’s so embarrassing to see the trainers nurse them that way. They might think it gives off an air of importance—like the little people are there to cater to their every need—but I think it gives off an air of you-just-lost-your-man-card.

This must stop.

This must stop.

How can they pile drive a 240-lb running back, who is sprinting full speed ahead, and then run off the field and open up like a baby bird? It’s one of the dopiest things I’ve ever seen. Professional athletes’ eye-hand coordination is second-to-none, but somehow they can’t negotiate their own drink of water?

Side Note: If we’re not going to demand an end to this insanity, can I at least get someone to swing by my cube and hydrate me, while my precious hands type mind-blowing copy?

3. While we’re on a sports wave, let’s unpack some more nonsense. It infuriates me when football players don’t dress for the weather. The edge they gain from being a Mr. Tough Guy in short sleeves, when it’s 0 degrees is, oh I don’t know, nothing. None. Not one guy out there thinks, “Dude, Jason Witten doesn’t have sleeves on … like, his arms are just … out in the elements … uncovered … I can’t compete with that kind of toughness. I’m going back to the locker room.”

At least 10 knuckleheads I'm mad at.

At least 10 knuckleheads I’m mad at.

All they do, when they hit the blizzardous conditions in short sleeves, is make the rest of us extremely uncomfortable—to the point of anger. I get mad and so do my friends.

A text I got last week: I’m uncomfortable with the temperature of this game and displeased with the short sleeves I’m seeing.

We are incensed with their blatant disregard for our comfort. Do they know what happens when they get hit and slapped at and punched by a corner trying to strip the ball from them? WE FEEL GENUINE PAIN BECAUSE WE KNOW THEIR SKIN HURTS. We’re cheering our hearts out for them—the least they could do is meet us halfway.

Please don’t tell me the players’ adrenaline warms them up, because the coaches do it, too.

Another text from last week: Anna, can you and Jocelyn please unite in refusal with me? It’s 15 degrees and UM’s coach is wearing a short-sleeve shirt and no coat. Literally, a polo and khakis. 15 degrees with blustery wind—please help.

Side Note: I’m actually mad at anyone who doesn’t dress for the weather. Shorts at the mall in December? Get outta my face. Short sleeves in any restaurant, at any time of the year, in Texas and not shivering? Off with your head!

4. Now my anger is escalating and it’s about to get gross up in here, so consider yourselves warned.

I have a really strong stomach. I don’t puke when others puke (I’m too busy laughing for some very weird reason.) I don’t lose it when I see blood. I can watch surgeries on TV without covering my eyes. But I cannot, under any circumstances, abide a nose picker. I’m ALREADY queasy just typing it. I will turn my head like a damn owl, risking injury to my sternocleidomastoid, to escape the sight of a nose picker.

And make no mistake, I’m crazy coo-coo for babies and kids, but when I see a child picking his or her nose, I full-on abhor that child. Sorry. I will change their rancid diaper and accept their throw-up on my person, but I cannot tolerate a nose-digging brat (sorry, that’s the anger talking.)

Side Note: If pinned down, I think I know the origin of this contempt. My college team played a couple of games in LA one year and our coach drove us down to Hollywood Boulevard and the Rodeo Drive area. He wanted to drive by as many sites as possible before letting us loose to explore on foot. For reasons that are now a blur, one of our rental cars was a minivan, with a rear-facing back seat.

Like this, but not remotely as nice.

Like this, but not remotely as nice.

I jumped back there with a couple of teammates and a kid who was with us on the trip. Seeing the sites was awesome, but the more we drove—with me riding backwards—the more semi-motion sick I became. And then I turned to point out the Hollywood sign to the child and she was digging for gold like it was her J.O.B. But wait! My timing was so immaculate that I not only caught the tail end of the digging, but also the front end of the consumption. Bang. I’ve been haunted ever since. Now I live in fear that every picker will have the same follow-through and the quality of my life will implode.

5. I feel actual anger when I read blogs or Facebook status updates where a girl calls her husband “Hubby” or “The Hubs.” I realize it’s simply a matter of taste and lots of people don’t feel similar anger, but it actually taints my opinion of that person. I don’t truly believe her husband would think it’s cute, either. I bet he’s never said, “Babe! I saw that you called me ‘The Hubs’ today—aww! You’re the freakin’ best, Babe!”

What’s wrong with “My husband” or, I don’t know, “John?” Is it just simply not cute enough for you?

A Facebook status update that makes me want to roundhouse kick your hands away from the keyboard:
The Hubs and I are heading out for a fun weekend get-away!
An Instagram that makes me want to comment with a throw-up emoji:
Hubby and I are heading out for a fun weekend get-away!
A better Facebook status update:
John and I are heading out for a fun weekend get-away!
A perfectly acceptable Instagram:
My husband and I are heading out for a fun weekend get-away!

You get the idea.

Stop—I know. Now you’re mad that I’m mad. I get it. But channel that anger into something positive, like calling your husband by a name that’s not going to injure my eyes as they roll.

Side Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t call attention to the guys’ equivalent. Nope, not “Wifey” … that’s minor, comparatively. I’m talking about the use of, “My Bride” when it’s not YOUR WEDDING DAY. She was once your bride, but now she’s your wife. You don’t hear her calling you her Groom. Or wait, do you? Hurry, someone help me … if I see that on Facebook, I’ll need to be restrained.

6. Ladies. I say this with loving tenderness … but I know you’re still going to be mad (join the club.) If you can’t walk in heels, then YOU CAN’T WEAR HEELS. Sorry to yell, but it’s that important—ssshhh—it’s also non-negotiable. I’m not saying you have to be able to walk exactly the same as you do in flip-flops or running shoes; but, if you feel yourself walking like an inebriated Clydesdale, then you’re canceling out efforts to lift your butt. Please believe me on this. If a guy sees you walking with the grace of toddler who got into Mommy’s liquor cabinet, he’s probably not even going to notice your butt. I feel super solid about this assertion.

oops-heels

I guess it’s wrong to say this makes me mad. I’m more disappointed than mad. Truthfully, I’m disappointed in you for making me mad. The fact that you think it’s sexier to be a one-woman stampede in heels, than to walk like a fully developed human, with some measure of graceful agility, angers me.

Side Note: As distressing as it may be, we all have to give up things that don’t work for us. Take me and my fivehead for example. Would I like to grow my hair out so I could just pull it into an easy ponytail? Every once in a while, yes, but I can’t, because my fivehead would make you mad. It’s called being thoughtful. Would it be an easy hairstyle? For sure—but it’s not worth making you mad every time you have to look at the unabridged version of my forehead.

7. When I pull up to a car wash and the attendant asks which wash I want, and I say, “Just the basic $5 one, please” and he says, “You don’t want your wheels done?!” … am I just completely out of my mind and expecting too much, in thinking my tires are very much a part of my car and that yes, of-freaking-course I want my tires washed?

If you go to a hairdresser and say, “Just a trim, please” … they don’t reply with, “You don’t want your bangs trimmed?!”

8. I know this shouldn’t make me mad, but when I’m at work and someone nearby pops open a Coke, I’m suddenly incapable of thinking about anything beyond how much I want a Dr. Pepper—right. here. and. right. now.—and I hardly ever even drink them! Is it too much to ask people to open their super fresh delight somewhere out of earshot? You don’t pipe in dreamy island sounds around me or waft spa scents through my cube, so why would you tempt and tease with a can of Dr. Pepper? Your thoughtlessness enrages me.

9. This one should make everyone mad—but if it’s new to you, hopefully you’ll be mad after you read it. I feel irrational anger towards celebrities—and especially a celebrity’s offspring, when they Instagram or Facebook a picture at work (or working out) and caption it, “Just tryna put food on the table” or “Out here grindin’, tryna feed the fam.”

WHAT? You’re Sean Combs’ son. Your dad is Diddy, and worth over 500 million dollars. Food is not, and never will be, a problem, Son.

We get it, Justin—you're starving.

We get it, Justin—you’re starving.

By all means, Instagram a photo of yourself in the studio or at the gym, but please be honest and tell us you’re out there “grindin’ for a Lamborghini Aventador,” not Top Ramen.

In no way am I suggesting living off your dad’s money, but you do know Taco Bell and McDonalds have dollar menus, right? You play for UCLA and your dad is a mogul—you and your family will be eating just fine, well into your 90s, whether you’re “out there grindin’ to feed the fam” or not.

10. I’d like to close with something that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, will have you nodding your head ferociously up and down, in united fury. I practically forget.my.own.name. when I go to pull a paper towel or Kleenex and only the part I’m pinching breaks free.

Only Kristin Wiig can accurately portray my anger.

Only Kristin Wiig can accurately portray my anger.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter … then we’ll all be happy!

Would You Rather

I think I’m hard-wired to make a game out of nearly everything.

If Jocelyn asks me to grab a new roll of paper towels, I will, but only if she yells, “180! Set! Hike!” and I’m able to hike them across the kitchen. Like, why would anyone just hand over something they can hike?

I’m also not interested in dropping something in the trash when I can just as easily juke around a bit before executing a banana peel jump shot.

When I’m waiting in the ice machine line at work, I peruse the vending options to the left and make myself choose the three items I’d live on for one month, if I had to. I thoughtfully scan and ponder, immediately ruling out anything sweet (I’d rather eat a sock than a honeybun.) It never fails; I always pick pretzels, beef jerky and anything with “Flamin’” in the name.

Or these. I'd exchange vows with Takis if I lived in Vermont.

Or these. I’d exchange vows with Takis if I lived in Vermont.

Sometimes on my commute home from work, when my mind is wandering, I’ll tell myself that triplets will be on my doorstep and I have to figure their names out NOW. I’m not giving any of you free-loaders my ideas—you can name your own triplets—but I will tell you that my three cuties would not all share the same first letter.

I’ve found that others aren’t always as eager to play my random games.

“So which Property Brother would you pick?”
“For what?”
“I don’t know. Just in general.”
“But why?”
“Because I need to know.”
“Well you have to tell me what for because obviously I’d pick one for my realtor and the other for my builder.”
“Not for that! I mean, like, if you were gonna play Twister with Baby Oil.”
“Oh—Probably Drew.”

There is really no wrong answer here.

There is really no wrong answer here.

I also like to spend time thinking about whether I’d rather be an Olympian or a professional athlete—and what my specialty would be. A quarterback? Pitcher? Wide receiver? Golfer? Tennis player? Would I want to do the uneven bars? Synchronized diving? I weigh out the pros and cons of each, considering travel schedule, chance for failure, injury rate, income and possible endorsements.

Side Note: I also consider uniforms, and because female Olympic swimmers have been saddled with unflattering suits (and unsightly swim caps), I’ve ruled out trying to medal in the 400 butterfly.

Allison Schmitt is awesome—this gear is not.

Allison Schmitt is awesome—this gear is not.

It’s disappointing to play with someone who just blurts out an unthoughtful answer.

“NFL quarterback for sure!”
“Really? Have you considered all the hours of film you’ll need to watch of other teams? Will it bother you to snug your hands up to that big’ol booty 100x a game? Are you prepared to take the blame for the failures of an entire multimillion dollar organization?”
“Oh. Ok then, I guess golf.”
“Yeah? Are you sure? Are you willing to endure a lifetime of shoulder and hip issues once you make your millions?”

Side Note: Actually, now that I think about, maybe I’m the one who is disappointing to play with.

babynaya

My desire to play games goes back many years. I used to get my teammates—in high school and college—to pay me to eat concoctions at team meals. They could not believe what I’d ingest or how often they were swindled into handing over their money. They’d mix together Ketchup, sugar, salt, Dr. Pepper, ice cream and then dunk a half-eaten hamburger bun it in.

No problem. GULP. Pay up, Losers. I was very good at this game until about five years ago.

We had a big family dinner at our house, and one of the appetizers was shrimp cocktail. We arranged it on ice, in a circle, with a bowl of cocktail sauce in the center.

Everyone devoured the shrimp pretty early and then moved on to other foods. The night went on and right before everyone left, my dad said he’d give me $20 to take a big drink of the ice that had melted into water. I was like, “You’re going to PAY me to drink melted ice?”

I felt kinda bad for him, wondering why he was just wanting to give away money with no real pay-off for him. I chalked it up to him being less seasoned than I and just not knowing the scope of my capabilities—poor guy.

I moved the bowl of cocktail sauce, picked up the platter and tilted it to my mouth, still feeling sorry for my sweet dad who just didn’t get it.

I took a big swig and immediately started aggressively heave-gagging and fighting with all my might not to throw up the surprisingly warm and shockingly pungent FISH WATER. My eyes were running with tears and my dad—oh so victoriously—handed me $20.

I couldn’t eat shrimp until last year—and it’s still not a sure thing.

I thought my dad loved me.

I thought my dad loved me.

Most of my friends know that if we’re going to spend time together, there is going to be some game-playing. “Would You Rather” is a shoe-in because it can be big fun in its G-rated-niece-and-nephew-version or its X-rated-my-friends-are-perverted-perverts version.

“Hey Sweet Pea, would you rather have super lush, gorgeous hair, but it’s cobalt blue or two noses, but one is on your tummy?”

“Hey Dirty Bird, would you rather …”

Side Note: Ok, what I nearly wrote is not fit for upstanding citizens or a blogger whose mom teaches Sunday School.

Bonus Side Note: If we’re playing WYR and you answer “neither” to my question, you are dead to me.

My brother and I decided that people will do anything for the right amount of money. We, not very creatively, call this game “How Much.” The idea is that someone will hand you the exact amount of money you demand for a particular task or activity.

A couple of easy examples:

  • How much would it take for you to swim across that swamp at dusk?
  • How much would it take for you to get a tattoo on your shoulder—in comic sans font—that says, “Soaring On The Wings Of A Gluten-Free Diet?”

You can learn a WHOLE lot about people when playing this game—sometimes to the detriment of your once-high opinion of them.

Where you might demand $1,200 to reach into a garbage can and eat some tossed out french fries, your friend might wave it off like, “Oh please, I’d do it for twenty bucks—I’ve eaten stranger’s left-overs off a room service tray at the Hampton Inn.”

All I’m saying is, make sure your friendship is strong before you dive into “How Much.” You are likely to find people are much grosser—and way more sexually adventurous—than you once thought.

shock

Often times, in bigger work meetings, I try to decide who I’d pick as my conjoined twin (if I had to). My first thought is usually, “Uh, none of them.” Then I remind myself that I have to play the game or lose two fingers. Next thing I know, I’m staring a hole through Jake and wondering if he’d be handy around the house.

After the meeting:

Lauren: You were looking at me funny, were you wanting me to bring up our issues with the new system?
Me: The system? Oh, no, I was just wondering if being attached at the neck would hurt our friendship.
Lauren: Huh?

Playing games alone isn’t as much fun as playing with a close co-worker.

Me: (quietly and discreetly) Who, from that whole row, would you kiss—if you had to?
Co-worker: Ugh, I don’t know—gross! I don’t want to kiss any of them!
Me: Of course you don’t—none of us do—but you have to.
Co-worker: So, the row that Gina’s on?
Me: Yep.
Co-worker: Ugh, really? Why … why them?!
Me: Because this PowerPoint has about 90 hours left, so GO.
Co-worker: Grrr, I guess Craig.
Me: CRAIG?! Why?!
Co-worker: I don’t know, he seems tender.
Me: Tender? Gross. You’re not a porcelain figurine!
Co-worker: I don’t know—I guess he has nice lips.
Me: Oh. My. Gosh. You’re in love with Craig!
Co-worker: Well it’s not like I planned it—it’s news to me, too!

Honestly, I can’t imagine not finding ways to make each day more fun. Life is too short to not use your turn-around jumper to get socks into the dirty clothes hamper … or see if you can shave five minutes off your morning routine. Why go through a day without asking someone, “Would you rather have a hearse for a car or a tree house for a home?” Just don’t ask suggestive questions about Judge Judy or Bill Clinton unless you’re really prepared to hear the answer. (Please trust me on this one.)

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Wanna Play?

I’ve lived and breathed competitive sports for most of my life, but I’m surprisingly not that competitive.

Whoa! To those of you who know me and are yelling at the screen, hear me out. I love competing—games, sports, anything with an opponent (I also think smack-talk is a sport in and of itself. YES, even during board games.) It’s just that my favorite part of it all is the ride itself. I rarely get bent out of shape about losing, if the game’s been fun.

Side Note: I actually win a lot.

When I say I’m not overly competitive, I mean not in the way you hear about certain people—where you barely recognize them. You know, the ones who will stop at nothing to win even the most inane argument, like how many of Grisham’s books have “The” in the title? I mean really, if you have to Google it, then you didn’t win. Google won.

Google: 1
You And Anyone Searching For the Answer Anywhere But Their Brain Vault: 0.

I refuse to accept that the look of satisfaction on your face is because you were the fastest Googler. You’re better than that.

carrollstrut

I’ve heard many stories about people getting competitive with their workouts. Just regular fully grown adults who workout to stay fit. You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill, sneaking a peek at the screen of the person to my right and adjusting my speed so I’m running faster—because here is the thing:

1. We’re not actually racing. We’re on a conveyor belt that leads to a land called nowhere.
2. I don’t care, even in the slightest, what you’re doing.
3. Because this warrants repeating: We’re not racing.

Side Note: I could have stopped the original sentence after “You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill” because while I triple-love being active, I have to PLAY … racquetball, flag football, catch, tag, softball, in the pool … anything not in the monotonous family.

I laugh because sometimes Jocelyn will come home from a run and appear a little extra amped up as she guzzles water—telling me about the three people she beat. I cock my head, wondering if this calls for a high five or dap of some sort, but I’m too confused about why her run turned into a race at all. I usually think I’ll lay the conversation to rest by simply asking, “Did they know you were racing?” But she’ll catch her breath and reply with peaceful satisfaction, “No, but I did.”

See? I don’t have that need. I can’t fathom a day where I’d be on a run and thinking about anything other than how I’m going to make the torture stop. I wouldn’t even know who I passed or was getting passed by, because my one singular.laser.focus would be to get the suffering over with.

I know people (oh how I know people) who want to win everything … from games to arguments to how many shiny things they own. When I imagine that type of brain or outlook, it exhausts me. It must be so emotionally draining to feel the need to “win”—if we can even call reading a trilogy the quickest—winning.

competition

I’m trying to conjure up that existence and how it would feel if I “lost” at a few random things. I’m imagining:

  • Getting rip-roaring mad if my sister-in-law is able to open the jar of pickles I couldn’t. I’d huff around, saying under my breath, “Hmph, must be nice to have never fractured the thumb that helps you grip.”
  • Feeling completely defeated if I couldn’t swat the aggravating fly on the patio, but my dad could. “Yeah-yeah, go ahead and cheer him on, see if I care—he’s wayyy older than I am so he’s had more practice. Like, decades.”
  • Being livid if I can’t get my niece to stop crying but her mom can. “Whatever. That’s such an unfair advantage since you provided her an umbilical cord in your womb. Must be nice to have connections.”

I’m bone-tired just picturing it!

I mean, I have a healthy amount of drive, but it seems to stick close to me—living in and around my own personal goals. I rarely wonder how I can get what someone else has (unless it’s a big crock pot of buffalo chicken dip, then all bets are off because I WANTS.)

It's impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

It’s impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

But on the off-chance I do want what another person has … I don’t want to take it from them, I just want it, too.

  • Oh, you have a vacation home on the Italian Riviera? I hope to one day, too—do you have any advice?
  • Oh, you have a kegerator with perfectly cold, carbonated beer at the ready at all times? Where might I purchase this treasure?
  • Oh, you only have to visit your gynecologist once every three years? Is she taking new patients?

I’m much more competitive when it comes to team sports. I really love strategizing, working and winning as a team. I also like knowing that the losing team can pick each other up and have some help getting over the loss—unlike a tennis player or gymnast who loses and just has to sit there with her own stupid losing self.

tennis1

I never thought it was fun to beat someone one-on-one. Well wait, except tether ball. In elementary school, I was unstoppable and enjoyed the perks of tether stardom. But winning a dance off or Checkers made me feel no more good than bad. Even in racquetball, which I love, I prefer cutthroat or doubles, because it means 3-4 of us are playing—which cuts down on the awkwardness of winning or losing.

Winning is winning—we’ve all done it and it doesn’t suck. Losing is losing—we’ve all survived getting beat. But what I love is the journey … the game itself. Whether it’s a sport or a board game or air hockey, the most fun part to me is the process and every step leading up to the end. The outcome is relatively unimportant if it’s been fun.

Side Note: My sister does not feel this way and won’t hesitate to gain a suspicious advantage at every turn. And by gain a suspicious advantage, I mean cheat. Let me give you an example. Every Easter my fun, awesome parents have an adult Easter egg hunt for us “kids”, where they place gift cards in big plastic eggs and get our nieces and nephew to help hide them.

We’re quarantined during the hiding process, then let out and corralled until they say, “Go!” Well last time, right when the light was green and we bolted out, my sister “pantsed” me—putting me back a good 30 seconds and scarring my nephew for life.

I thought there was a lesson in all this for my sister, when I still scored iTunes, Home Depot and Amazon, but no … 4th of July weekend she was caught pinching our niece during 3-on-3 when we were one hoop away from winning.

Bottom line: I love sports, games, competing and playing. I enjoy winning but can handle losing if we’ve had a good time getting there, even if—especially if—I start out with no pants.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Thou Shalt Not Covet

When it comes to good things happening for others, I’m just not the jealous type. I believe there is enough happiness and success to go around—and I enjoy rooting for people.

But, as a child, I do remember coveting one thing. Speed skates.

Growing up in a small town, it was not uncommon to spend one or two nights every weekend at the skating rink.

I was a pretty fast skater and rarely hesitated to step up to the line—when they paused whatever Rick James song they were playing—and announced racing heats. But try as I might, I never won my heat if it included kids from the Speed Skating Team.

I never considered—even for a second—that they were just faster. I knew in the deepest part of my gut that they won races because of one thing: Those Bad.To.The.Bone. speed skates.

heaven on wheels

heaven on wheels

The low profile ankle, the wide wheels, the low, flat stopper. Swoon.

I loved those types of skates with a fervor unmatched by anything under the sun. They not only looked incredible, but they were more stable than the high-sitting tan-colored abominations I rented from the desk—the jokes with the wheel bearings that hadn’t been lubricated for 91 years. The ones with the jacked up stoppers that were different heights from the right to the left—something a true speed skater would never accept.

look at this disaster

look at this disaster

Didn’t my parents know I needed proper gear to be a true speed skater? I guess not, because it wasn’t happening. They were expensive. And much to my surprise, we weren’t rolling in the dough.

I had no idea. My brother and sister and I thought we were rich. My parents provided for us in a way that left me confused about our wealth. But even at that, somehow, speed skates hadn’t made the list of immediate needs. Weirdly enough, soap and pork chops always came first.

Had my intense longing gone unnoticed? Had my older siblings’ oscillating interests schooled them to the temporary longings of my heart—training them to adeptly turn a blind eye to my yearning? I see no conceivable way they’d have had the foresight to know my living wouldn’t be made by speed skating.

I remember asking my mom if we could at least go look at some and price them out. I told her I’d never wanted anything more and could not fathom a complete existence apart from them.

Side Note: I can neither confirm nor deny that this was around the time I was voluntarily wearing ankle weights to meet my fitness goals. My attempts to build what I considered acceptable quad muscles for 12-yr old were, of course, thwarted by my supposedly-not-wealthy, see-into-the-future parents.

I felt I was being held back in my attempts to be more than the Saturday night limbo champ. Sure, I could limbo lower than anyone else at the skating rink. I’d hear people coo and squeal when I shrunk to the size of a baby panda on my way under the bar. But my expert limbo skills were simply a product of my size and natural ability to balance on 8 wheels. In my mind, it wasn’t a bonafide talent, so I didn’t deserve the accolades.

I wanted to race.

I wanted to run my bony little fingers along the rink as I went into the turn. I wanted to cross the finish line first and be going so fast that I could coast an entire victory lap without any effort, besides what it took to wave to my fans.

And even though I knew my full potential could not be realized in rented skates, I had to let my dream die. I entered fewer races, because I simply could not abide 2nd or 3rd place when it was no fault of my own. Occasionally I still raced just so the breeze could cool me off before the DJ announced “Couple Skate” and spun an intense Chicago love song.

My young boyfriend, Brandon West (same last name, but not related—it’s not that small of a town) would roll up to me with his hand out and I’d take a few laps with one eye on his sweet baby blues and one eye on his rad speed skates.

And as I belted out Hard Habit To Break in my head, it was unclear if I was thinking of Brandon or how to pick up the pieces of my wrecked speed skating dreams.

Do you know how many races I’d have won in these? Spoiler alert: ALL OF THEM.

Do you know how many races I’d have won in these? Spoiler alert: ALL OF THEM.

I already know my mom’s going to read this in Emmy-worthy mock-shock, feigning ignorance and swearing she had no clue about the depths of my obsession. She’ll say, “What? When was this? All you ever seemed to care about was snack money and the limbo! Sweetheart, if we’d only known, we’d have gotten them for you!” And to this, some (cough-cough) x-number of years later, I say, “Well-played, Mother, well-played.”

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Game Day

I love sports. I’ve been involved in them since I was very little—played for fun, played on scholarship in college, coached for fun, coached in college as a profession. And I’m excited to watch the Superbowl Sunday—despite My Cowboys falling short this year.

But I’m here to talk about a different sport. Costco.

Costco

What’s that you say? Costco isn’t a sport? Oh sweet, sweet reader. When something necessitates all the requisite preparations—like carbo-loading, mental imagery and a proper game plan—it’s a sport. In fact, it’s a contact sport on weekends. Don’t get me started.

If you aren’t a Costco or Sam’s Club member and think this doesn’t apply to you, I implore you to stay, read and learn—as preparation for the day you do join the team. You will be ten steps ahead of the game, which will expedite your acceptance on our aisles.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a shopping partner, take a little time to assess each of your strengths and play to them.

Let me offer up a few examples.

Carts. It should not come as a surprise to any of you that my electrifying presence causes the cart to shock me from here to Kingdom Come; therefore, we’ve established that I’m never the official cart-pusher. Don’t be a hero—if you’re a sub par cart-operator—allow your Costco date to take on those duties. It will hasten your store visit and keep you pain-free and available to grab monstrous quantities of short-grain rice and Greek yogurt.

Checking out. Under no circumstances are you to opt for self-checkout if you’re not up to the task. What does that mean? It means that you and your shopping partner need to know who is passing and who is scanning. My assist skills are second to none, so I’ve proudly taken on that roll at self-checkout. I strategically hand the merchandise over in a way that makes it easy to scan. I’ve got the next item on deck as soon as the pass is complete.

I don’t look around, I don’t get distracted, I don’t coo at babies. I do my damn job. People are waiting and I’m not about to let them down. Even if the guy behind me is the joker who nearly back-ended my achilles by the protein bars—I still execute a speedy checkout.

Full disclosure: I’ve called an audible and steered us to a human cashier when I didn’t feel I was up to the task of getting us in and out of the checkout line. I don’t beat myself up or hang my head. I do take some time later to assess what led to the breakdown. It’s this kind of awareness and desire to always bring your A-game that separates the Costco JV squad from us Varsity Elites.

Newbies and unknowing veterans alike, please don’t hang around the food sample tables. It’s not a trough and you’re not a cow. Take your freebie and get moving. Don’t shuffle around as you take in the flavor and pretend to be contemplating a purchase. You know dang good and well what Parmesan croutons taste like. Accept your small meal and move along.

For the love of all that is good, go in with a list and a planned route. Mentally plot your path before you step through the doors. The more you roam aimlessly, getting distracted by shiny objects, the more you disrupt the flow of cart-traffic. If you see a 60-lb bag of mulch you can’t live without, you can deviate from the planned path—but try to keep these variances to a minimum.

And please, I plead with you, please maintain awareness. The carts are big and everyone is counting on you to maintain focus. You can’t just pause in the main aisles and look around nonchalantly. Take all the time you want on the product aisles—peruse the luggage or Clorox wipes at your leisure—just don’t hang out obliviously on the main thoroughfare.

I love Costco and all that it offers and how it simplifies my life—that’s why I’m speaking on its behalf, as well as its patrons. I know not everyone “gets” it and I can’t stand love the person who (like clockwork when anyone mentions it) says emphatically, “Yeah! Like I need 10 bottles of Ketchup!” M’kay, well maybe you don’t, Sweetpea, but the owner of a restaurant does. I know this is shocking, but they’re not catering JUST to you.

That’s the beauty of it—some people need dog food and olive oil, while others need diapers and king prawns. It’s the size of a football field for a reason.

And why wouldn’t you want to get things like paper towels and laundry detergent? Do you ever really foresee a time when you won’t outfit your bathroom with toilet paper? What is it about milk or bread that makes you think its place in your life will eventually run its course?

“Shampoo? Yeah, like we’ll need that in 2017, Suckas!!”

It’s not like I’m going to wake up in February and decide vitamins are for losers. And I’d much rather buy all these things a few times a year, rather than once every two weeks. No, thank you.

My sister loves to go in our pantry and say, “Sure you have enough green beans? You’re cuttin’ it pretty close with just 9 cans left.” She derives great joy from opening a cabinet and questioning if we have enough toilet paper to get us through winter.

I used to get semi-offended when the workers at the exit door checked our receipt against the items in our cart—as if we were thieves—until the day I accidentally shoplifted a $130 container of chlorine for the pool. YIKES. Thank you, Costco Constable, for ushering me back to the cashier but please stop looking at me like I’m Winona Ryder and Lindsay Lohan’s love child—it was an honest oversight.

The last point I’d like to touch on is the shopper who is spatially unaware. That’s fine if you’re snuggled up with your wife watching Stranger Things, but you need to get off my back at Costco. We’re not in the pit at a Rihanna concert or a crowded New York subway—we’re in a 150,000 square foot warehouse—back up.

I hope this has been an eye-opener for old and new Costco members. If you’re willing to put a little forethought and effort into it—and treat is as the sport it is—we’ll all get along so well. And one day (fingers crossed) we’ll all be on Varsity, buying in bulk and not stealing chlorine.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.