Monday, April 22, 2013

Monkeying Around

Today someone asked me how I spent my weekend.
“You can tell a lot about a person by how they answer this question” he said, and looked at me inquisitively.

I did not have the guts to tell him that my husband had rented a gorilla suit, and donned it for the better part of Sunday afternoon, while I followed him around with a camera. I did not tell him. Yet, that is exactly what I did. If this says anything about who I am. Well, quite frankly, I’m a little scared.

A few months ago, as we sat in the movie theater, one of us had a bright idea. “Wouldn’t it be funny if we were sitting here in Gorilla suits?” I’m not sure who said it. I will admit we both laughed.  But, John couldn’t let it go. So last week after lots of gorilla talk he sent this email to my Minnesota hotel room:

Gorilla Suit….just ordered it. It will be here on Thursday. I have it all weekend. I am going to the mall, Costco, Home Depot, grocery store, etc. Grab your camera ‘cus this is gonna be fun!!!!! J

All action…and minimal good sense….now that is my kind of guy!

One gorilla suit later, I have learned a few things. First, he was right. It was fun!

… and in some ways strangely disappointing. This weekend I realized the world is largely immune to rubberized, fake fur, Gorillas in public places. It was odd to see how many people, including little kids had no reaction at all. I think this says something about the world….and, I’m not sure I like it.

Still, there were lots of laughs and even more stares. I was especially amused by the people who earnestly tried to figure out why a guy was walking around in a Gorilla suit on a perfectly good Sunday afternoon? Bewildered, they asked each other questions like:

“Why do you think he is wearing that?”
“Do you think he’s part of a social project?”

I wanted to say, “Lighten up…This really isn’t a problem solving moment people. Just enjoy the show.”

By the end of the day, 
  • John the Gorilla made a few kids cry. (Something he is not proud of)
  • He made a group of teenage girls run screaming. (Something he is VERY proud of)
  • He made the Blockbuster checker laugh as he tried to buy a copy of Planet of the Apes.
  • He joined a random family photo…
  • …and he created a pretty funny moment in Harmons when he walked in and purchased bananas.

Given another choice, I’m not sure I could have come up with anything better.
So what did I do this weekend?

 I guess you could say I monkeyed around with my best friend. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013


A week ago, Mariesa and I decided we needed an ice cream cone before heading home. We pulled up to the Dairy Queen drive through and a teenage boy asked if he could take our order.  When he repeated it back he no longer sounded 17. Instead he sounded ninety three and a lot like the fairy tale witches of my youth.

 It shocked me. My face must have registered surprise and I started to laugh.  Obviously the star of some hidden camera feed, the boy on the other end of the microphone started laughing too.

I tried to place our order, but found that I could not stop laughing. Every time I tried, I laughed harder.
 “I’ll haaavveee  aaaahhhh..heeeehehehe….hahahahaha….aaaahhh …..heeehehe… snort….aaahhhhahaha.

 It did not help that my daughter had slid out of the passenger seat and was half sprawled on the floor in her own fit of merriment.

Nor did it help that every time I tried to compose myself, I could hear shrills of laughter coming through the microphone. One 17 year old had turned into at least 3-4 boys who were yucking it up over the joke played on me.

In a matter moments, all of us, my daughter, me, the guys inside the Dairy Queen…all of us had completely lost our composure. We were no longer obeying established rules of decorum and politeness.  Like a bunch of college kids on a drinking binge, we had run amuck.

And for the few minutes that it lasted, it felt AWESOME!

It also felt a little scary. Cars were piling up behind us. The responsible part of my brain kicked in. We couldn’t keep laughing forever.  I either had to get the order placed or I had to hit the gas and charge Pell mell past the drive through window.

I finally regained enough control to place the order. As I drove up, four guys came to look at us. I shook my head in mock disgust and said,”You are an idiot” to the boy that grabbed my credit card.

 This time I was the one producing the shocker. Still, laughter had created a bond between us and he immediately knew I had name called with love. He threw his hand to his mouth and then doubled over. We all burst out laughing again.

“Hey”, another guy said,” we gotta do something to have a little fun around here.” He shrugged his shoulders as he handed us our ice cream. We exchanged one last smile and then it was over. A few minutes later we were back to reality, lots of decisions to make, too many things to do.

But for a moment a little laughter made the weight of the world go away. If we’d had known it was that easy, we would have saved the calories. Turns out we didn’t need our vanilla twisty cones at all.

Did you know studies show that kids laugh 400 times a day? The number of times adults laugh? 15. Yet, the health benefits are numerous and more studies show that nothing breaks down cultural barriers like laughter. Laughter is a universal language that can forge an instant bond.

Those Dairy Queen boys reminded me how great it feels to laugh, how good it feels to be human, how lucky I am to be me.

If you are an adult, chances are you need to laugh more too. So find a kid, look at the world from their perspective or do something unexpected and create a reason for someone else to laugh.

 LOL! It really is the best medicine.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Because of You. A Tribute to My Dad.

Today is my Dads 70th birthday and I have been thinking all week about what gift I can give him. But nothing comes to mind. I know that he has every material thing he needs and wants. I also know that he is getting older and though he is in great health, dads don’t live forever.
As a mother, I long to know the legacy I have left on my children. I can’t help but wonder, despite all the things I tried to teach, what will they take away from me?
It made me think that my dad might long for the same thing. But, I’m not good at saying this stuff out loud. As much as I might want it to, it never seems to come out right.

So I hope you won’t mind if I borrow this forum to share some thoughts about the legacy my dad has left to me.

Dear Dad,
Here is what I want you to know.

Because of you, I love to be outside. I love to walk up mountains picking up rocks, examining the shape and the color and trying to recall the names you taught me. Occasionally, I find rocks in random places in my home. They appear in pockets, in drawers and on window sills. Rocks I picked up on one of my journeys and rolled through my fingers while thinking of you, and unconsciously carried back home.

Because of you, I often dream of living on a farm. And because of you I know it is not a romantic, easy dream. I know my days would be filled with back breaking work, the mending of fences, the care of animals, thirst and sweat and tired bones. Yet, when you talk about these things I see where your strength comes from, your patience and your stubborn spirit. These are things that I love and admire about you. 

Because of you, I like the scent of tall pines, the smell of cut wood, and the way the light bounces off a rolling field of golden wheat. I like the sweet aged taste of choke cherry syrup and the pucker of a twelve lemon pie. And… because of you, I can’t ever eat plums without recounting in vivid detail, the day you fell while picking them.

Because of you, I love dogs. I’ve enjoyed their unconditional love and companionship all through my life. Time after time, you gave our family the gift of a dog. And every time, he or she turned out to be one of my dearest friends. I have Kayak today, because you taught me to love dogs so long ago.

Because of you I am slightly afraid of hitchhikers! But, I am never wary of offering a helping a hand. Through you, I learned tolerance and to see things from the “other guys” perspective. Through you, I learned to lay judgment aside and let love and service stand in its place. 

And though I am not always good at the details, I appreciate the value of them because of you. You taught me to slow down, to be more precise, to understand how and why things work. Because you taught me these things, and because details don’t come naturally to me, I actively seek for others to provide that balance in my life and my work.

Because of you I am not afraid to laugh so hard I cry.

And like you, I have learned to laugh at myself with grace and joy.

But, I’m also not afraid to sit quietly, watching the world unfold around me. I learned peace in observation, from you.

Dad, your example makes me want to preserve traditions, to tell stories, hold reunions and stay connected to people and places and things that I love. You have taught me the value of history. And because of you, I have gratitude and respect for the people who came before me. It’s important to me that they know that I remember. It’s important to me because of the stories you have told and the traditions you and mom have created for us.

From you, 

I learned love. 
I learned the pride of dirty hands after a long, hard day of work.
I learned to stop and listen; to soak it all in and then to be thankful.
I learned to be forgiving.
And I strive to be as humble.
It is my love for you and my gratitude for the things that you taught me that push me to be better and to try harder. Your example reminds me to be thoughtful, loving, and to strive for truth.

I know that we don’t always see eye to eye. Since I am a parent too, I am sure that there are times when you wish I would do things your way. But I also know you respect my differences and that you honor my right to make my own choices. And I hope you know I accept and appreciate these great gifts you have given to me.

Thank you for being my father. I am proud to be your daughter.
I love you. Happy 70th! 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't Forget the Small Stuff

A couple of years ago I got stuck in a car wash.
I drove my car in, the doors closed behind me and nothing happened. No water. No spinning brushes. No flashing lights. No colored foam. Nothing.
I sat there, all kinds of questions running through my brain.
Do I get out of my car?
What if I do and I become a human dish in an over sized human dishwasher?
Do I leave my car running, because it’s pretty darn cold in here and I don’t want to freeze?
How long does it take to be overcome by carbon monoxide?
What will the headlines say?

Local Woman Dies in Car Wash
Sandy Woman all Washed Up

I decided to get out of my car.
I pushed the “In case of emergency button”.
I pushed it again. Still nothing.
I walked to both doors and tried to pull them up but they did not budge.
I found a side exit, a glass door, frozen over with ice. After trying the handle, I slammed my body against it twice. The door remained tightly shut and my shoulder started to throb.
I heard a car drive up to the car wash and I started to yell.

“Hey, I’m stuck in here. Help! Help!”

I pounded on the door. I could hear the engine and the radio. I could hear someone punching buttons. Unfortunately, they could not hear me. The car sat for a few minutes as I yelled, then backed up and drove away.
I tried to call the gas station, but they did not answer. Finally, I called the police who connected me to emergency dispatch and my car wash rescue was under way.

In the end, I lost 2 hours. I got my 8 dollars back. My car remained dirty and my friends and family were amused. All in all, it was an experience. Not a good one, but not a bad one either. And yet, every time I go to wash my car, I think about this event. Like a child once burned by a hot stove, as I inch toward the car wash doors I think twice…I enter cautiously… and if it is even remotely cold outside…I just drive away. My life was changed by a car wash.

Walking past my oh so dirty car today, I had this thought:

“It is the unexpected things that so often change us most.”

When I look back on my life I am surprised at what sticks. I’m surprised by the simple memories that remain when I can’t recall even the slightest details of bigger events. I’m in awe of how inadvertently I learned some of my most important lessons.

I love the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” but I want to write a sequel. “Don’t Forget the Small Stuff”.
Don’t take it for granted. Don’t underestimate the power of little things.
Don’t forget to take stock of why love exists,
or strength appears
or where fear comes from.
Don’t forget to notice which unexpected things changed you for the better and which changed you in ways you didn’t really want to change at all.
When you realize the latter, do something unexpected. Adjust the outcome.

It is the unexpected things that so often change us most.

With that in mind, despite the cold weather, I’m going to wash my car.