Well, since it said it on Facebook… (part I)

I have heard it said that there are truly no unselfish acts, and maybe it’s true. Why would someone help another person without some ulterior motive? Be it guilt, compassion, fear, sympathy–there is something driving you to help another soul.

Helping others is a funny thing. In my line of work, I help people all day long. It does appear, at times to the patient, that the “help” they are receiving is actually fancy torture techniques.  But no, we do the same thing to everybody and are doing all that we can to fix them.

How do you know if you are truly helping someone? Are you doing/giving/saying something that helps you more than it helps the other person? What if what you decide to do seems helpful, but really is not. How do you know…?

In October, a friend sent me a video over Facebook and she wrote: “This reminds me of you”. Now, I was a little hesitant to watch said video for fear it would be about an overweight, super bossy, critical, middle-aged woman with a lot of cats who watches way too much tv. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be this:

 

As I watched this, two feelings came over me. First, I was very touched that someone saw me as this type of person. Second, this was something I wanted to do as an adventure. So, on November 1, 2016, I embarked on item number 5 on my list: How Can I Help month.

How Can I Help month started pretty simply–I just posted on Facebook that if anyone needed help with something to let me know. My housekeeper commented jokingly that I could come over and help clean her house. A few more people thought it was a cute idea. But, I didn’t get any requests for help. I put some parameters on myself for the helping–I was only going to do things I felt were worthy of my time and I was going to “be helpful” using the skills that I had and not just spend money in an effort to be helpful (ie, giving spare change to bums standing at the intersection holding a sign).

Here is the list of helpful things that I did:

  1.  I held a clothing drive for the Salaam Cultural Museum a collected 756 pounds of clothing and other goods to help their work with Syrian refugees in Greece.
  2. I offered free babysitting at my house on a Saturday night for anyone who wanted to drop their kids off and go out for a night on the town.
  3. I gave free makeup lessons to anyone who wanted them–to either get a new look or learn how to apply makeup in the first place.
  4. I started Helpful  Cupcake Day (which will now and forever will be November 16!) and gave away a dozen cupcakes to three luck commenters on my FB post.
  5. I delivered a “Positivity Basket” to a friend recovering from surgery (I would have done that anyway, but it happened to be in November, so I’m including it)
  6. I collected blank, leftover Christmas cards from people to send to Servicemen and Servicewomen stationed overseas.
  7. I recruited two friends to help make 40 hygiene backpacks for Olympia homeless youth.

Those are just the big things I set out to do.There were lots of other little things that I did to be helpful–finding someone’s glasses on the floor at SeaTac airport,  making cupcakes for a foster kid’s Christmas party–lots of stuff like that. Since it was the holiday season, it was quite easy to be in a “helpful” mood, and I ended up extending How Can I Help month through December.

But… Being helpful was not as easy as I thought it was going to be.

Most people do not or will not ask for help. I should have thought of this because I am someone who will not ask for help. I can always figure out a way to accomplish something, or I will pay someone to do it for me. A perfect example of this was during the month, a friend texted me and asked if she could help me with something. When I asked what she had in mind, she just said that since I was helping everyone else, could she help me? I was confused at first–and couldn’t think of anything I needed–but then realized that maybe my actions were starting to make people more aware. I’ve never considered myself all that inspiring of an individual, but if what I was doing could make people stop and think about what is going around them, I was happy about that.

I also did not get any takers for some of the items I offered help on, mainly the free babysitting. I am not married and do not have any children, so a lot of people assume that I don’t like kids or that I don’t know how to handle them. I don’t like bratty, wild kids. But in general, I do like kids. I am also the oldest of four children and have been changing diapers since I was 8 years old. I have taken care of my twin nieces, at the same time, since they were infants, and then added their little brother three years later. I can handle kids, but no one showed up to my house that Saturday night. One friend did comment that she didn’t want to burden me with her daughter because she can be difficult. And I get that. I think that is a big part of accepting help from someone–you don’t want to make them regret that they offered in the first place. But I knew what I was getting into, screaming kids and all…

 

…I’ll just sit over here and try not to throw up…

In my forty years, I have come to the conclusion that I am made up of two parts: my mind and my body. They are really two separate “beings” that tend to operate quite independently of each other and I just kind of watch. More often than not, my mind comes up with some grand idea and then just drags my body along for the ride.

I have never been considered as one who had any sort of athletic body. I am hindered, at times, by my right foot which has had a multitude of problems through out my life–starting with being born as a club foot. It was fixed when I was a baby and I don’t remember any of the surgeries or casts during the first two years of my life. I only know that I have a big scar running up the back of my heel and that my Mom would get mad every time we had to go shoe shopping, due to nothing fitting my foot. I think that is why I am not a shoe girl… As I have gotten older, it does cause problems here and there–sometimes I walk with a limp, or the time got plantar fasciitis in it for two years–but I just continue on.

It is with this non-athletic body that I have learned some tough lessons. As I have mentioned before, I don’t let fear get in my way of what I want to accomplish, but my body will create a hard stop every now and again. Like the time I signed up for the Susan G. Komen 3 Day breast cancer walk. How hard can walking be? It’s only 20 miles a day. I thought during my not so consistent training. Well, when I got myself shipped to the Emergency Room in an ambulance for shock on the second day, I realized that more training might have been a good idea. But again, I had never had my body fail on me like that before.  I kind of just keep going–dragging my body behind me.

In coming up with items for the adventure list, I try to keep my eyes open to things that may not be so mainstream. I saw a post on Facebook talking about beginner aerial classes. That’s it! I thought.That is so up my alley! I have always loved watching people perform on the silks and just knew I would become–in just eight short lessons!–one of those graceful bodies floating through the air.

Tonight, my body created another hard stop.

I really had no idea what to expect going to the first class tonight. I had emailed the owner of the studio and she assured me that all levels of skill and body types were welcome. The class was for beginners, so I figured that it couldn’t be too bad.

We spent the first hour warming up and stretching–and I seriously thought I was going to throw up all over the mat within the first ten minutes. Now, I have taken dance lessons since I was 4 years old and can easily replicate any sort of movement immediately, but during the special aerial warm up things were just different.

We started with jumping jacks and as I was doing them, my ankle was clicking every time I landed. It was so loud that I was afraid everyone would think I was weird and it threw me off my jumping jack game. So now I was making a strange noise and looked like a fool who couldn’t do jumping jacks. Then we moved into running in place, knee lifts, shoulder stretches of all kinds and extensive leg stretching involving splits. There were times I would just have to stop and sit on the mat because there was no way I could hold that stretch any longer. The teacher, Emily, then had us do back bends! It has been, maybe, 25 years since I last did a back bend. I just laid there until she came over to me and asked if I would be able to do one. I did manage to raise up on my arms and do what could be perceived as one, but my back did not agree with me that I should be doing them at all.

After all of the warm up, we then moved onto learning actual tricks on the silks and trapeze bars. I will just say this–it is sooooo much harder than it looks! The artists who do the aerial tricks make it look so effortless and graceful, but are, in actuality so strong that they could probably crush your hand with a really firm handshake. I tried the first couple of tricks but quickly came to the realization that I definitely am not cut out for aerial acrobatics. When the class ended, I went up to Emily and thanked her for being such a great teacher. I was grateful for her help with me, but this class is not for me. She understood and wished me well. I dragged my self to the car and sat there for a few minutes. My poor body was already starting to get sore from all of the strange activity, but there was one thing that was bothering me more: failure. I had failed at this adventure.

When I started this journey, I hadn’t taken into account failing at these things I chose to do. And it wasn’t like I was purposely picking things that I wouldn’t fail at either.  I had every intention of being the next famous flying trapeze artist and now had come to the painful realization that I was not going to be. It is a hard pill to swallow–and even harder to admit to people. But, I am not going to let that stop me. Bring it on, adventures, bring it on…

At least I could have been a cat…

People who get to know me, realize very quickly that I am NOT a holistic, earthy, touchy-feely kind of person. I will not even go sit through the schmaltzy rom-coms at the movie theatre with my girlfriends for a night out–they’ve learned not to invite me. Give me Western medicine and a pill to pop any day! So when I came upon the next item on my list, I was actually quite surprised that I went.

I went and had Intuitive Counseling & Energy Work.  In layman’s terms, I had a reading of my past lives!

I was really quite excited because I was SURE that I have been Marie Antoinette or someone equally as fabulous in a past life. Or even a cat. I live to take naps and can see in the dark, so I must have been a cat.

I came upon this adventure kind of by accident. My sister had given me a gift card to Oly Float to try their flotation therapy or “sensory deprivation” salt pools. I still had not used it and decided to look up their website and see what they had to offer. Now, the float pools would have been enough to make the adventure list, because I haven’t ever done it before, but…I kind of have an aversion to getting wet. (See, very cat-like..) But I then clicked on the “other services” tab and found a whole treasure trove of things I could try. The energy work sounded interesting, but the past lives really stood out to me. “Why the hell not?” I thought to myself and booked the first appointment I could get.

I showed up really not expecting a whole lot–really just waiting to hear what famous person I had been. Mandy, the therapist I would be with, was waiting for me. She actually looked like a normal, pleasant human. Not anything like granola-y mystic with a crystal ball I was expecting. We were off to a good start!

I sat down in her massage room and we just started talking. I told her about The Forty Adventures and all of the things I was doing. She sat and listened and then asked me what I was looking for. “I want to know what my past lives were!” I blurted out. She kind of laughed and said okay. She went over to a book shelf and pulled out a stack of energy charts and a small stick. “Is that your magic wand?” I asked jokingly. “No, but it does help me communicate and get answers to questions.” She replied. Hmmm, I was not quite sure what that meant, but I was willing to go with it. She sat back down and started looking above my head and using her wand through her fingers like a letter opener through an envelope.

“Was I a cat?” I asked, knowing for sure that she would say yes. “No.” She said. Well, poop. There went all of my cat-like thoughts and feelings right out the window. I tried again. “How about Marie Antoinette? Or someone like her? George Washington, perhaps?”      “No.” She replied again. My hopes were dashed that I was anyone of importance in a past life, but here is what she did see.

Circa 1915: A 32 year-old man in Marseille, France who was a dog trainer, and really preferred dogs to people. He loved someone from afar but due to strict societal constraints it never was to be. He died of a contagious disease.

Circa 1600s: A 40 year-old woman in Thailand who was married and had kids, but was also wealthy and a famous artist. According to Mandy, her art was beautiful and could probably be found if I did some research. She had a pretty good life.

Circa 1870: A 7 year-old boy, who was a member of the Cheyenne tribe and watched as his entire family was brutally killed by the US Calvary. He then died a horrible death not long after.

Wow… I didn’t know what to say when I heard those. Perhaps, if I am to take history into account, I may not live very much longer. So, I guess I need to make the most of the time I have left. Off to more adventures…

I just hope it’s not painful…

I am not afraid to die. I just hope it is not painful.

By nature of my job, I have seen people die. I have gone to the ER to get a patient that, for all intents and purposes, was dead and we were a last-ditch effort to bring them back. And we could not. One patient, J, rolled into my procedure room and looked terrible and said that he felt even worse. I said we would see what we could do. Two hours later I was madly laying blankets over all of the blood on the floor and him because I didn’t have enough time to mop before the doctor brought the family back for their final goodbyes.  I was with my Grandfather the last few days of his life and saw immediately when he was going to pass.  This is one aspect of life I never thought I would become well versed in.

I certainly have never thought of how I would die. I don’t really live a super adventurous, daredevil-ish life, so there has never really been anything that I thought would kill me.

Until I tried to fly home from Brazil in June.

The two-week trip for my friend’s niece’s Brazilian beach wedding had been fabulous. We were in Praia du forte, which is a “resort” type village that other Brazilians go to for vacation. The posada (bed and breakfast) was great with really nice staff who humored me trying to speak Portuguese and ask for the wi-fi password. They served breakfast everyday and some of my favorite selections were pigs-in-a-blanket and chocolate chip cake. Life really couldn’t get any better than that!

On the day we left, the weather was beautiful and everything seemed fine until the plane made this really loud noise on takeoff from Salvador. My first thought was ‘I really hope that noise isn’t going to be for the entire time’. Well… it didn’t get better and turns out that the plane had hit a bird on takeoff which had destroyed the right-sided engines. We flew out over the Atlantic and every time the pilot would try to go up in altitude, we would just drift further down towards the water. Announcements were made to us passengers–but only in Portuguese–and the pilot was making circles around the ocean trying to dump enough fuel so that we could, hopefully, land back at the airport. I didn’t understand the announcements, but the guy sitting next to me started crossing himself–which is never a good sign–and I saw that some kind of smoke/mist was pouring in through the air vents inside the cabin. After about 20 minutes, the pilot managed to dump enough fuel and get us in line with the runway for an emergency landing. It was one of the most scary things that has ever happened to me.

When I got home and was relaying the entire saga to my Mom, one of the first things out of her mouth was ‘You need a will! Don’t make us fight the court for your stuff’. I have to admit that I had never thought about it. Or if I did, it was for a hot second to determine that I didn’t need one. I have never been married, do not have any kids–well, three cats who are as obnoxious as kids– and no money. What could there possibly be to leave anyone? Well, it turns out, quite a lot.

Today was the first entry on my Forty Adventures list: getting a will made! It was probably the most adult-ish thing I have ever done besides buying a house and a car. A friend and fellow member from the Junior League of Olympia (JLO) is an estate lawyer and this kind of stuff is her specialty. As it turns out, two days after the whole plane incident I was sitting behind her at a JLO training and asked her if she knew of anyone who drafted wills. Turns out, she did.

And thus the saga begins…

It’s tough being a girl…

There, I said it. It is tough being a girl. I will not even go into the study I read about today which ranked the United States 32nd out of 144 countries as being a great place for girls to grow up. Apparently Sweden is the place to be in that regard. Now, I don’t think that my upbringing was bad at all. In fact, I think that Tom and Sallye did a pretty good job raising myself and my two sisters (we also have a baby brother, but since he is not a girl I won’t bring him in to this conversation). We three are all strong, independent, capable women–but that doesn’t mean it is still an easy go for us.

I really believe that I was meant to be a girl as I tend to be quite girly. I did, though, decide that had I been born a boy, I would have totally been a drag queen. They are fabulous!! I do love makeup–I even went to makeup school–and all sorts of “girly” things. But what gets me is all of the “upkeep” that goes in to being a girl in the society I live in. I run with the ladies who get their roots done, manis/pedis, eyelash extensions, eyebrow tatoo-ing, tanning, nips and tucks, and waxing of all types. It’s just what is expected. Is all of it required? No. But sometimes it’s just what you do.

Since this year-long adventure was about trying new things, one thing I came up with fell into this upkeep category.

I got my legs waxed!

Leg waxing was something I had been curious about, but never felt any real need to try. I’m really not that hairy of a person, but I do tend to not shave my legs for weeks at a time, since I value sleep over personal hygiene. In reality, I am usually shaving my legs as fast as I can about 10 minutes before I have to leave for somewhere in a skirt. Considering how many times I cut myself with a dull razor–usually quite a few–waxing might not leave me as anemic from all of the blood loss.

I am not a stranger to waxing, either. I have had my eyebrows professionally waxed since I was 20, in order to combat the almost-unibrowthat I rocked until I started waxing. I’m sure they were not as bad as I remember, but I can’t let them go back to their native state after all these years. Who knows what would happen…?

On last Wednesday, when I decided to do this, I managed to make an appointment for right after work. I took the first one that was available so as to have less time to obsess about it–and perhaps, chicken out. I asked some of the girls at work if they had ever had their legs waxed, but no one fessed up. I was going into this blind and alone. When I got there, it was at my friend’s new salon, but I was with a new girl. She seemed nice enough, but I wondered what she was thinking when I was explaining the real reason for doing this. And why I wanted to take pictures.

“Snap away” she said and instructed me to get up on the table. Since I had decided to only have my lower legs done, I didn’t need to take off my pants. I just rolled them up while she admired the good length of the hair I had. “This will be perfect!” she exclaimed. Never having someone comment so nicely on my unshaven legs, I was a bit taken aback. But I was here to go with the flow and laid back to start the service.

Oh, JESUS! Is what I screamed in my head when she ripped the first length of wax off. I had thought the wax was a bit hot, but my legs don’t ever see the light of day for 10 months out of the year, so I figured they were just a bit wax-shy. No, that was just a prelude of what was to come for the next 30 minutes. With my eyebrows, I have been waxing for so long, that it doesn’t even bother me. I barely feel anything.  This was a completely new unpleasant experience. I felt every hair being ripped out by the root and at the end of each wax strip I would still jump from the pain. By the end, I thought it would get better, but, it did not. I swore just as much in my head on the last strip as I did on the first one. But, to my credit and not wanting to tarnish the reputation of the new salon, I said all of the swear words in my head and did not scream them out loud.

One thing did come out of this experience. As I was laying there, I did come to the absolute conclusion that I would never be waxing anything beyond my lower legs. More power to you ladies, if you do go up higher–you are a stronger woman than I…

It could have been worse…

The dread started when I turned 24. You see, the minute I turned 24, I decided–and announced (which is my usual way of communicating with my family)–that I did NOT want to turn 25.

25 just seemed so old to me. It was a quarter of a century for God’s sake. I do get this reactionary thought process from my father, but in my mind I had not yet accomplished anything. Here I was, about to turn 25, living in (what I learned later was) Section 8 housing (I thought I had just got a really good deal on a 2-bedroom apartment!) in the not-so-nice part of town, working at the poverty level and trying to make my way through a medical program at the local community college. This was not what I had expected my life would turn out to be. I had graduated from college with my Bachelor’s degree and no plan besides waiting around to get married. Well, when that didn’t work out, I had nothing. My friends were moving on to Master’s degrees, buying their own houses, getting married–and I was working 12 hour shifts on the weekends at a minor emergency clinic. In my eyes, I had nothing to show for my almost 25 years of being on this earth and wanted nothing to do with it.

But, as we all know, time marches on and I did my best to cope. I worked as much as I could to save up for a “Treat Yo Self” day at the spa. The night before, I stayed up late making a birthday cake for myself, because I am not one to pass up an occassion for cake and decided to enjoy sleeping in.

The day I turned 25 was September 11, 2001.

When my clock radio went off, what I heard was “the second tower just collapsed”. That’s an odd thing to say on a classical music station, I thought to myself. But, as you know, it was so much more horrible. I got up and sat glued to the tv until I had to go to my spa appointment. When I arrived, there was a huge bouquet of flowers from my Mom and sister and they had paid for all of the services I had signed up for. There was soft, “spa” music playing in the treatment areas, but as I sat in the pedicure chair waiting for my nails to dry, someone had a radio playing in the employee break room with details of the day as they unfolded. My mind started to wander to all of the worrying and dread I had done the past 12 months leading up to this day. Thousands of people were running for their lives from collapsing buildings, and all I was worried about was appearing as a failure in my life.

Turning 25 was really not that bad and I have not dreaded another birthday since…

 

Wait, what are you doing?

If you could imagine the look on someone’s face when they say that sentence–that is the look I get from people when I tell them my ideas. But I don’t let that deter me. The Forty Adventures is going to be a year-long journey in which I do 40 new-to-me things by the time I turn 41 next year. Some will be stuff I have always wanted to do–like play the banjo. Some will be things I need to do because it is part of being an adult–writing a will. Some will be things I have been curious about, but never tried. Some will be scary, and some will be to help the greater good because helping people makes me happy.

I have to admit that I have only come up with about 7-8 things. I’m sure more will come to me as the year goes on, but I am open to suggestions. Please feel free to comment anytime! I am, also, going put up a master list with each thing and the month I completed it. To get everything done by  the end of September 2017, I need to average 3-4 (3.33 to be precise!) things per month. So… let’s get crackin’!