Monthly Archives: August 2012

GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO VS. BEN STILLER

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I’ve been trying to get rid of a few pesky pounds that will just not leave this body.  I walk, I bike, but I figured I needed some heavy-duty cardio, so I signed up for an aerobics dance class. I walked into my first class confident, but then, again, it was an entire class of low impact, so what’s to be scared of?  Piece of cake I thought afterwards – let’s go onto something a bit more challenging. Famous last words.  The second class was very “Mama Bear” kind of just right comfortable. Felt great – no problem. Let’s just stick with this, I think. But then on a whim I felt like going the other day and went to a random class in the afternoon. Big mistake…

As I explain this scenario, try to picture me as Ben Stiller doing the salsa dancing scene in Along Came Polly and my aerobics teacher as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Why Ben Stiller? Have you seen Along Came Polly – the scene where uncoordinated Ben tries to impress his new girlfriend by learning salsa dancing?  This is not unlike what I look like in this class.  You have to rent the movie to get the full effect, but this is a snippet. (Press back key after video to continue reading):

http://www.youtube.com/embed/p43QPnYAkXE

Moving on, Dragon Girl greets me at the door with a bright smile and warm hello.  Her eyes are as jet black as her hair.  Who is this, I think.  This girl with the tattoo-covered body and piercings?  Then she goes up on the stage and somehow I sense that something is going to go awry. Uh oh…well, she seems nice enough. I try to warm up on my own with my ever so cool yoga downward facing dog, and I know people are probably wondering why I’m doing a yoga stretch in aerobics class.  Doesn’t matter. Works for me.

Dragon Girl turns the music up to a full blast.  Wait, I think, this is just a warm up.  Shouldn’t we start with something softer?  “OK,” Dragon Girl shouts, “LET’S DO IT!”  The warm up is fast and a little on the furious side, and the music is kind of dark.  Stretch left, stretch right, again, dip, over, left, right.  This is just the warm up?! Suddenly we’re inching our way into the more difficult routines. The music is thumping and pumping. I’m off flying here, tapping there, sashaying to the left, turning, grapevining to the right, pointing up, down, back, forth. I’m getting dizzy.  My head is whirling.

The next few songs play as the routines are revved up. I have a stitch in my side.  I think how embarrassing it would be to go into cardiac arrest in front of everyone. The pace picks up even more. My hip is popping in and out.  KEEP MOVING! She screams.  I look up and swear I see the eyes of Clint Eastwood in “Heartbreak Ridge” screaming at his troops.  I stop to get a drink. KEEP THOSE FEET MOVING!  I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO PERFORM CPR!  I start shuffling my feet in place while I down a gulp of water and sashay back to my spot. I’m going to need ibuprophen tonight.  I just know it.

I feel like the DRAGON GIRL is watching my every move because she shouts corrections, and her eyes seem to be always on me. I try to get out of her field of vision by moving sideways but bump into the woman next to me who gives me a dirty look, and I am forced back.  I stand directly behind the girl in front of me, but she’s moving so fast, I can’t keep up.  I go in the opposite direction of everyone else with the opposite foot and fall short of causing a three-girl crash and pile up.  People seem to be avoiding me. KICK TO THE LEFT!  KICK TO THE RIGHT! HIGHER!  I wasn’t aware that kick boxing was going to be part of the program.  Damn, there goes my hip again. Oh no, I think I have to pee…kegel one, kegel two…I can hold this, I know I can.

She demonstrates a low impact version (probably for me since I’m convinced I look like a buffoon), which I mimic only to have her say NOT LIKE THAT!  She mimics a whimsical spaghetti-like dance with arms and legs flowing, which resembles Jerry Lewis in the Patsy.  I step it up again to a fast speed, because I feel she is just daring me to do low impact.  Her eyes are burning a whole in the back of my head.

GET YOUR MATS AND WEIGHTS!  Oh, finally a slow down, I think. But no. We do a routine hoisting five lb. weights until I’m sure my limbs will break off.  FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE. NOW LET’S DO IT ON THE OTHER SIDE! My muscles ache.  DOWN ON THE FLOOR.  LEGS UP; LEGS DOWN; ROLL ON YOUR SIDE.  NOW THE OTHER SIDE. This can’t be the cool down.  CROSS YOUR LEGS AND JUMP UP!  This I cannot do. I roll to my side and lift myself up like I used to do after giving birth by C-section when I had no stomach muscles.  I’m hoping nobody’s watching, but I see the dark eyes narrowing.  I get distracted by the tattoo in the middle of her chest.  It looks like a sunburst. What is that on her ankle? This one moment of tattoo distraction causes a total mix up for me. I’m just about ready to surrender, and it’s over.  THANKS, EVERYBODY! Dragon Girl shouts. YOU WERE TOTALLY AWESOME!!!  I smile.

Although I’m shell shocked, I feel stronger. I’m actually feeling proud of myself just for surviving. The next morning I wake up with only a little tightness and a touch of lower back discomfort, which surprises me considering I was expecting a paralytic state.  In my own demented mind, I find myself looking forward to the next class with DRAGON GIRL.  She was awesome, too! Better practice those sashays…

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HARRY THE HILARIOUS

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Great leaders of England:  Edmund the Magnificent, Richard the Lionheart, William the Conqueror, Harry the Hilarious…Wait, who?!?

I started off the day with a good laugh after watching the news reports of Prince Harry partying in Las Vegas. At first I thought, so what else is new? The words partying and Prince Harry seem to go hand in hand, don’t they?  When the report continued on to show nude pictures of Harry (appropriately blacked-out, of course) in his VIP suite playing strip billiards (allegedly his idea) with his friends, my chuckle turned into a belly laugh. Oh, man, this new generation of English royalty are certainly doing their best to entertain us, aren’t they?!

I couldn’t help but imagine the Queen Mother’s reaction to the news with her tea cup shattering to the floor as she choked on her crumpet. That poor old lady certainly has her hands full with these quirky grandchildren, doesn’t she?!  And imagine dear old dad, Prince Charles, reprimanding him, “Now Harry, my lad, we mustn’t sashay about without our knickers on, shan’t we?  Be a good boy, then.  Carry on.”

I’ve actually been amused by this blue-eyed, flaming red head with the devilish grin almost from the beginning.  My kids were born around the same time as William and Harry, so I was always interested in royal reporting of those two gregarious heirs to the throne.  William always seemed to be more subdued, although I do see a glint of mischief in his eyes, especially when he’s around Harry.  As a kid, Harry was always the rough and tumble one wandering off in his disheveled clothes causing a raucous.  He was always the one you had to keep an eye on.

Now, in his defense, Harry’s only 27 and by today’s standards, 27 is still partying age. I know this from observing my daughters…  Hec, my own brother made front page news while streaking nude across his college campus when he was just a couple of years younger than that. To see him today you would never imagine that someone so reserved and upright would do such a thing, but there are pictures somewhere to prove it.  It makes you wonder what faux pas Prince Charles or even Queen Lizzy committed as youngsters.

We all have our skeletons in our closets, but Harry seems to enjoy dancing about publicly with his. I think for the sake of Grand-Mummy and his royal English heritage, he’s going to have to do a better job of “watching his p’s and q’s.” (A phrase which ironically comes from English pubs and taverns of the seventeenth century wherein bartenders would keep a watch on the alcohol consumption of their patrons by keeping an eye on the pints and quarts.)

Let’s hold out hope for Harry the Hilarious while we may.  He will grow up…some day…and become an upstanding English gentleman. I, myself, hope he always holds onto that ember of fun.  But as far as the new generation of leadership in Great Britain goes, thank God William was born first!

BE STRONG, BE BRAVE, BE HOPEFUL

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Back in May I wrote a blog entitled, “Memorial Day Remembrance” about a POW bracelet I used to wear during the Vietnam War in support of an American prisoner of war, Lt. Col. Louis F. Makowski. I repeated the story in my column in the Forked River Gazette for the 4th of July issue as an “Independence Day Remembrance.” Wearing the POW bracelet in his honor became a symbol of strength, bravery and hope for me, and when I had the privilege of watching Lt. Col. Makowski arrive home on TV, my heart leapt with pride and thanks to God for bringing him safely home.

It’s been almost 40 years since his release from that prison camp in Vietnam, where he was incarcerated for 6 ½ years. I’ve often wondered since then what became of him. So after the story was published, I decided to do some detective work and find out. I wrote him a letter and sent him a copy of the essay. I am happy to say I received a response from him just yesterday and wanted to share the good news with you. I am pleased to report he is doing well. Now retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Colonel, he lives a quiet life with his wife of 58 years, has four children and four grandchildren.

Among other things, Colonel Makowski wrote that he has hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God given American values. My heart was humbled by his very kind words to me, and I thanked this courageous and wonderful man for taking the time to respond. The lesson he has taught me through this experience is no matter what your circumstances are and how hard life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful.  You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.

God bless you, Colonel Louis F. Makowski, and God bless America!

HEAR YOU ME

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I’m having one of those days when I’m wondering what it’s all about and whether anything I did in my life was worth it. Then I get an email from my daughter Megan who lives in Florida.  I don’t get to see her much, but she’s flying home tonight. Along with her flight info she writes:

You know I remember my first day of college, you were driving me, and I put in my Jimmy Eat World CD and they play a beautiful song “hear you me,” and you said, “What is this?  This is nice.” And you turned it up, and we both listened to it and started crying because I was going off the college. Well to this day (including right now) I can’t listen to this song without crying and thinking about that day when I ventured out into the world on my own, and you were there with me. Thank you for always being there for me; can’t wait to see you tonight! Here is my flight info… talk to you soon… love you-

Yeah, it was worth it…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95jkCdOeIy0

 HEAR YOU ME

Jimmy Eat World

There’s no one in town I know.
You gave us some place to go.
I never said thank you for that.
I thought I might get one more chance.
What would you think of me now
So lucky, So strong, So proud?
I never said thank you for that,
Now I’ll never have a chance.

May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads,
The sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.

So what would you think of me now
So lucky, So strong, So proud?
I never said thank you for that.
Now I’ll never have a chance.

May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads,
The sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.

And if you were with me tonight.
I’d sing to you just one more time.
A song for a heart so big,
God wouldn’t let it live.

May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads,
The sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads,
The sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN SIGNS?

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Do you believe in signs?  I mean, when you find a penny head-side up on the ground, do you feel you’re in for some very good luck?  How about that first robin in spring – does it fill you with hope?  Does seeing a big, beautiful monarch butterfly or the smile in a full moon make you feel that a loved one who has passed is watching over you? Does a brilliant rainbow in the sky beckon a pot of gold?

Do you think I’m crazy?!?  If so, then I’m pretty sure you don’t believe in signs. But I do. I, personally, am always looking for signs wherever and in whatever form they may take, and I usually take the advice they dictate. One day, while questioning all the worries in my life, I drove past a church marquee that said: “Be still and know that I am God.”  I took a deep breath and turned my troubles over to God.

In the movie,” Fools Rush In” starring Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry, a man is drawn back to the woman he has loved and lost by a series of signs. He meets a priest on the street who tells him he looks lost and that there are signs all around him to guide him where he needs to go and all he has to do is follow them.  He then sees a series of signs including a billboard with a desert scene that is like where she lives, a Chihuahua dog being walked that resembles her dog, and then finally a dark-haired little girl in the airport who chases after him to the door – her name, Isabelle, the same name as the woman he loves.  As a follower and seeker of signs, this is one of my favorite movies.

Recently I went to Lancaster, where the shops are filled with hand-made wooden signs carved with inspirational sayings. I was going nuts trying to read them all. I thought I’d share a few of them with you, along with a few of my other favorites.  Maybe they’ll guide you to do what you need to do or find an answer to a question that is in your heart.

Everything is going to be all right – maybe not today, but eventually.

Find the one who makes your heart smile.  (My heart actually leapt when I saw this one.)

When you get to your wit’s end, you will find God lives there.

In trying times, it’s important to keep on trying. (Truer words were never spoken.)

Do what you can with what you have where you are. (Theodore Roosevelt)

Life’s greatest risk is never taking one.

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. (Basil King)

Leap and the net will appear.

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Keep your eyes, your ears and your heart open.  God is directing you – whether it be a verse in a song you hear like Foreigner’s “Don’t stop believing” or Wilson Phillips, “Hold on for one more day cause things are gonna change,” or Sting’s “Love can mend your life.”  It could be a thoughtful word from a wise friend, “You need to cut your ties, get out and move on.” Or a phrase from a scripture verse, “Trust in God and in His goodness in all circumstances.”

My favorite sign, which I purchased in Lancaster that day:

Look, listen and follow the signs.  They’ll take you where you need to go.

 

 

 

 

 

REMEMBRANCE OF A SIMPLER TIME

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Katie fishing at the lake in the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When my kids were young, we used to spend our summer weekends camping with friends at Lake-in-Wood, a beautiful campground set in a densely wooded area just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Our friends had two girls just the same age as ours, so you can imagine the fun they had together exploring the campground, swimming in the pool, fishing in the pond, browsing around the general store or playing bingo. There was always some kind of fun activity going on, and it was a magical place to experience.

Catch of the day!

Megan and Jill

When night fell, we would light a campfire and gather round to cook hot dogs or make smores and watch the girls do twirling routines with brightly colored sparklers. We’d talk and laugh and even sing sometimes, much to the girls’ chagrin! And the night sky was breathtaking – I’ve never seen a sky more brilliant with stars than in those days at that place. At bedtime we would douse the last ember of the crackling fire and turn in to be lulled to sleep by the sounds of crickets and tree frogs.  Some nights were louder than others depending on the creatures of the night.

Then – Katie, Jill, Megan and Jamie at the Freeze and Frizz

Sometimes we would venture out to the local shops and markets or we would visit educational places like the One Room School House, a working farm to learn more about the Amish culture or travel the Strasburg Railroad.  Horses and buggies traveled up and down the hilly roads, and the farms were meticulously patched into the countryside.  Houses were neatly kept with gorgeous gardens laden with brilliant arrays of flowers, and freshly hung laundry blew in the crisp, clean air. It was such a quaint and lovely place to explore.  The weekend wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the local Freeze and Frizz for the girl’s favorite grilled cheese and cheese fries with a milk shake.  And a few times over the summer we would visit the Shady Maple Smorgasbord to feast on a wide variety of Amish dishes. There were so many special memories of such a precious place and time.

Now – Katie and Jamie at Katie’s Kitchen (aka Freeze and Frizz)

Time has marched on, and the girls are now grown. Life has changed so very much since then. Recently my friend Jane and her daughter Jamie, my daughter Katie and I decided to go back and revisit the old haunts we used to know not so very long ago.  We were sad Jill and Megan couldn’t join us. We didn’t camp this time but stayed in a hotel. It was exciting to venture out and visit the old places we used to know. The Freeze and Frizz is now Katie’s Kitchen! But the Amish boy sculpture with the pigs and barrel are still there, and the grilled cheese, cheese fries and milk shakes are surprising just as good as we remembered! The Shady Maple Smorgasbord has quadrupled its size with 200 feet of smorgasbord and seating for 2,000.  The main drag in Lancaster now sports all the modern establishments like Wal-Mart, Taco Bell and Olive Garden among other chains. It was mind-boggling to see how commercialized certain places have become. But touring the countryside and shops with the familiar sights and sounds, seeing the horses and buggies and smelling the familiar scents like cinnamon rolls and handmade vanilla/caramel candles brought us back to the time we knew well.  It was a feast for body and soul, and we enjoyed getting lost in the quaintness of it all once more. We laughed until we cried remembering the comical things that happened way back when.

Katie and Jamie feeding the ducks at Kings Homestead.

In some ways everything seems to have changed but in another it has all stayed the same. The cultures of the Amish and Mennonites hold dear their past customs and way of life, and for that I am thankful.  It is because of these traditions that most of what we knew in the past is still the same today. We were able to go back and recapture a part of our happier past when our children were young and our families together. And my heart ached in remembrance of a simpler time when the most precious thing in the world was sitting around the warmth of a campfire talking and laughing with our families and friends all together in one loving embrace.

Dedicated to Katie, Megan, Jamie, Jill and Jane

 

 

 

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SWEET CREATURES OF THE LAGOON

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I live on a lagoon that is frequented by some very interesting and beautiful wildlife. Swans are one of the more familiar visitors to the docks. They float effortlessly from one waterway to the other, gliding along without rhyme or reason. They don’t seem to be bothered or afraid of the people around here because everyone treats them with respect and kindness. They are, for the most part, quiet curious creatures.  I am often caught off guard while working in the garden with a surprise greeting by one of these lovely creatures stretching its neck to see what I’m doing. Maybe it’s just to say hello, but most likely they are looking for a morsel of food.

The only time they make a lot of noise is when for some reason they take off into flight. It is a deafening, indescribable rush and squawk of maximum velocity. The first time I heard it without seeing what was making it was quite scary.  But for the most part they meander about minding their own business.

If we could take a lesson or two from a swan, I can guarantee life would be more tranquil.

Lessons like:

  • Slowing life down to enjoy the glide
  • Quietly listening and observing
  • Not being apprehensive about others
  • Visiting people often and without an agenda
  • Giving and receiving respect and kindness
  • Stretching our necks
  • Being curious
  • Saying hello
  • Making a lot of noise when needed
  • Going about our own business
  • Accepting gifts thankfully