Ask a stupid question…

Well, I didn’t think it was a stupid question. It was a legitimate observation from a non-sports enthusiast who was making an honest effort to better understand what she was seeing.

I only wanted to know why the basketball players kept touching the bottoms of their shoes.

Maybe I asked rather too loudly, because I immediately sensed everyone within earshot collectively whip around and gape at me in all my appalling ignorance. You’d have thought I had just blasphemously lauded the competition. I suppose I should have known that in an area of the country where people live and breathe high school sports, ignorance is blasphemy.

Apparently, it’s common knowledge that players wipe their sweat on the bottoms of their shoes for better traction.

C’mon, surely I’m not the only one who didn’t know that??? 

Gadgets galore

I’ve just had an eye-opening revelation about exactly how dependent my family has become on portable electronic devices. I’m packing for our road trip and it looks like we’ll need a separate suitcase just for the gadgets we require to stay connected and entertained. The list includes:

  • 1 digital camera w/ spare batteries (to capture the memories for eternity)
  • 1 digital video camera w/ charger and extra tapes (because still photos just aren’t enough)
  • 1 portable DVD player w/ car adapter and remote control (because far be it from me to actually LEAN OVER in my seat to start the movie)
  • 1 iPod w/ cassette adapter for the car (because finding a good radio station is simply too much trouble)
  • 1 PDA (which holds all the addresses of the family members we’ll be visiting)
  • 1 Blackberry w/ charger (to remain tethered to work)
  • 2 cell phones w/ car charger (to be instantly available to friends and family; and, in the case of the Blackberry-less spouse, to stay tethered to work)

We’re only two people. And we’ll only be gone two nights. Who knows what additional gear our traveling companions are bringing? This is a sad, sad state of affairs. Somebody help us! I love my toys, but have never before so bluntly realized how electronics have completely taken over my life. When in the world did we turn into such "gotta have it" consumers who must be plugged in everywhere, to everyone, at all times?

The laptop, at least, is staying at home. I might go into withdrawal, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

A blog classic

I have no time at all to blog this week. Much to do in the next 24 hours at work and at home in preparation for our road trip. I plan to have some good new material when I get back, but in the meantime I leave you with a repeat of this comical lesson in why families should never do even the smallest of home improvement projects together. It’s one of my personal favorites and has already become a classic in my family.

Don’t try this at home 

  

Ask and ye shall receive

Chaos at work STOP 80 bazillion urgent projects all dumped in my lap at once STOP All due in the next two weeks STOP Already losing two days due to road trip next week STOP That’s what I get for complaining to others that work has been slow STOP God heard and delivered in overabundance STOP The blogosphere will be temporarily minus my presence while I dig myself out STOP Carry on and I will post and visit others as I can STOP

The other night, Maia and I were having a serious conversation about God, faith, and church, when she said the funniest thing about our minister. She said he screams. Well, he doesn’t exactly scream, but there was more than a nugget of truth in her observation, because he can be a pretty passionate speaker and has been known to get a little worked up. He even jokes about it. But unlike some of the televangelists I see on TV, I really believe he is speaking directly from his heart and deeply means every word.

Then she went on to insightfully add that she felt like he was talking right at her, like he wanted to make sure she was listening.

I know, Maia, I feel exactly the same way. All the time. 

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I often feel our minister has the uncanny ability to read my mind, because the sermon is nearly always about exactly whatever topic I have been thinking about recently. Yes, it seems he really is talking directly to me, and he makes me want to listen up and change. All the time.

Road trip!

It was a spur of the moment plan, but we are going on a road trip next week, without the kids! It will be a quick trip that will have us in the car almost longer than we’ll actually be at our destination, and I can’t wait! I’ve always loved a good road trip. There is something so calming about listening to the hypnotic hum of the tires on the highway, being lulled into a trance by the droning vibrations of the open road, and just losing myself in my own thoughts for mile after uninterrupted mile, free of the demands of the outside world. Then there is the equally enticing prospect of sharing hours of good conversation with our traveling companions or making great headway into a good book. And no matter how many times we’ve made the trip, I never get tired of admiring the changing scenery as we move from the flat terrain of Florida into the rolling countryside of Georgia and South Carolina and on into the striking beauty of the Smokey Mountains, as we cross North Carolina into Tennessee.

Even though our route will already be planned, setting out on a road trip trip is always an adventure full of endless possibilities. We could go anywhere or do anything. But this time, we won’t be doing just anything. We’re traveling to Tennessee specifically to watch Kent’s nephew play basketball. He’s apparently quite the local hoops hero, being wooed by several college scouts. Not being much of a sports enthusiast myself, all I can say is that it’s fortunate I’ll have that good book along with me. We’ll be in country that lives and breathes high school sports so I know I’m risking incredulous stares from fervent fans who don’t understand my disinterest, but a girl’s gotta have a plan to avert mind-numbing boredom. Either that, or I’ll make up stories about the rabid fans to post in my blog. Maybe I’d better take a notebook too.

The candor of youth

Kids sure do tell it like it is. My favorite comment so far about my weight loss, because it was so refreshingly honest, came recently from one of my daughter’s classmates. I picked my kids up after work the other night and this girl, whom I haven’t seen since probably May, spied us walking down the hall. She popped her head out the door of the bathroom and blurted out, with total disbelief in her voice, “Maia! Is that your MOM? I thought she used to be bigger!”

I took it as a compliment and couldn’t help but grin.

Maia has recently decided that everyone has a superpower, and I was informed the other day that mine is reading. Reading? Really? A superpower? Who knew? All this time, I’ve been selfishly thinking that my love of reading was just for my own personal entertainment. But this is, after all, the child who, when I told her once that reading makes you smart, immediately exclaimed in reply, “No wonder you’re so smart!” So if I am to be gifted with a superpower by my superpower-granting daughter, I can understand why it would be this one.

As I presume anyone newly possessed of such novel talents would do, I’ve been contemplating how I might use this alleged reading superpower to benefit humanity, subvert the bad guys, and save the world. But first things first. I need a catchy alias. The Battling Bookworm? The Revolutionary Reader? The Paperback Protector? The Literate Liberator? So many good candidates to choose from! And, equally important, what about the requisite spandex costume? I certainly couldn’t practice my new powers without looking fashionably ridiculous. I’m picturing something in black and white, reminiscent of pages fresh off the printing press, with a cape meticulously tailored to evoke a book cover. But wait a minute, I watched The Incredibles. I’m afraid I’ll have to nix the cape. Finally, I’ll need some scholarly sidekicks to complete my new identity. They will help me carry out my mission to read every book ever written and use the acquired wisdom for good, rather than evil. Any volunteers?

As for how to vanquish the enemy, I’m new at this sort of thing, but I have some preliminary ideas. I mean, books would make good weapons, right? Especially the weightier volumes of hardcover variety. I’m sure with a little practice, I could aim well enough to take down an illiterate adversary or two with my specially crafted, one-of-a-kind, auto-firing book catapult. Except how could someone who loves books treat them with such disrespect? I’d probably be too worried about damaging them or not getting them back. Besides, the logistics would never work. How could I reasonably carry around a good supply of ammunition? Instead, when I really need to send a message to the masses, I can always lead a riot of… peaceful reading? I can picture it now. An angry mob reading silently in protest over some dastardly and evil book ban. Yeah, that’ll show ’em!

So maybe this particular superpower isn’t about what I do with books so much as what is inside them. That’s where the real power lies. Books open up new worlds of knowledge and imagination. With a good book I can learn something new, challenge myself to be better at any number of things, or just lose myself in a cleverly fabricated yarn. Reading won’t give me x-ray vision or superhuman strength or the ability to fly, but it keeps my intellect engaged and stimulated, which I hope in turn makes me an informed and productive member of society. Since the only foe I’m fighting is a stagnant mind, that’s good enough for me. And hey, if I’ve set a good example for my kids to be readers themselves, that’s really all the superpower I need.

Fake kisses

My rascally son is such a little tease. His latest amusement is fake kissing. He butters me up with a snuggle and a real kiss or two, then pretends he’s coming in for another one, only to stop short and smooch nothing but air. He’s quite proud of himself for inventing this game, but of course, it’s only fun when it gets a reaction. If I feign indignation at the "fake" kiss, he positively cracks himself up laughing. Since this mother will not be deprived of her daily quota of kid kisses, I always respond with just the right degree of comic dismay. I’m usually rewarded with a couple of real kisses before he’s at it again. He entertained himself (and me) for a good half hour doing this last night. It sure beats bumping foreheads, his previous favorite way of expressing humorous affection. Ouch!

My travels

One thing I can reasonably claim about myself is that I am fairly well traveled, thanks largely to my parents, but also as the result of travel on my own, with my husband, and for work. I suppose you could say I’ve accumulated a bit of culture over the years, beginning in childhood. Among other things and in no particular order, I have admired the view of Paris from high in the Eiffel Tower, climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, speculated on the origins of Stonehenge at its feet, marveled at the construction of the Great Pyramids of Egypt, sat in the Roman Colosseum, wandered the ruins of Pompeii, stared in wonder at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and examined up close and personal many of Western Civilization’s great works of art and sculpture in museums throughout Europe. And there are so many other sights and memories that I am leaving out. Some of them, I wish I had appreciated more at the time. I have visited so far in my lifetime Spain, Mexico, France, Italy, Vatican City, Tunisia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Monaco, England, and Egypt. Several more than once. Plus a handful of Caribbean island nations interspersed on a few cruises. It would not be exaggerating to say that I’ve traveled more extensively internationally than within my own country. And yet there is so much more I would love to see, both here and abroad.

Most of my travel memories are fond ones. But there was that one harrowing experience aboard a train in Switzerland. It was the summer after I graduated from college, when I spent three weeks backpacking, solo, through Europe. I no longer recall my point of origin or final destination, but I clearly remember being alone in a train compartment when an older gentleman entered. I still remember his white tufts of hair and his somewhat short stature. This harmless looking, beret wearing, grandfatherly old man came in with his newspaper, sat down, and began speaking to me in German. Since I only speak English and hardly enough Spanish to get by, it was difficult at first, but through gestures and a few words in common, we managed to make a little polite conversation. He wanted to know where I was heading, so I told him. Then, he moved closer to me and began rubbing my back. This was more than a little unusual and way outside my scope of personal travel experiences! I had no idea what his intentions were, but I didn’t plan to stick around to find out. The train had not yet left the station, so I got up to grab my backpack. He tried to stop me. I wrestled my backpack down from the overhead rack anyway, then he tried to block me from leaving. By this time I was truly frightened. I managed to slip past him and exit the train, reboarding another car. I wanted to find a compartment where I would not be alone, but they were either empty or completely full. So, heart racing, I chose an empty berth, closed the door, and drew the curtains, hoping he would not find me. I saw what appeared to be his shadow walk by a couple of times, then he was gone for good. Or so I thought.

When the train arrived at my destination, I gathered my belongings, only to discover his silhouette beyond the curtain covering the door. He was standing right outside my compartment! Waiting for me? I didn’t know what to do. Should I stay where I was and go on to the next stop, or get off as planned and hope people would respond when I screamed if he tried anything? I was paralyzed with indecision (a common state of mind for me), but finally chose to get off since there were plenty of people around. I didn’t make eye contact, though he followed me at first and tried to talk to me. Again, I couldn’t understand because of the language barrier, but I gathered he was just trying to make sure I knew it was my stop. Then he went on his way.

I always wondered if he really was a dirty old man or if I simply misunderstood. I do enjoy my personal space, but I know Europeans are less concerned about such things in general than Americans. They are a touching, hugging, cheek-kissing bunch. At least the Spaniards are. I know, because I’m directly related to some of them. So maybe he was just a nice guy trying to help a girl traveling alone in a country where she didn’t speak the language. If so, did I offend him with my hasty retreat? Maybe he only wanted to detain me long enough to restore his good name. Or maybe I’m naively too eager to always give the benefit of the doubt. But as that girl traveling alone, there’s no way I was going to leave myself in any situation that made me uncomfortable. I’d have been stupid if I had.

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