Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Run Free

"I always loved running... it was something you could do by yourself,
and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." ~Jesse Owens

I see runners at the park or on the street and I envy them deeply. As I watch them, I think if they needed to get home quickly they could. Or if it was pouring down rain and their cars were a block away, they could race to cover. I think, if there was an emergency, they could be the first ones on the scene or the first to get help. If someone was chasing them, they could get away. they just seem so free. And I envy that. All of it.

I remember back in college when my basketball coach would yell at me to get down the court in a game or to run suicides in practice and I would do it reluctantly. I hated running. I was fast when I ran but I just didn't like doing it. Carrying this big ol' body is tough enough. Trying to carry it any distance in a hurry... well, the thought alone used to make me want to just sit down.

Ten years ago, this August, an ambulance arrived at my home. I was taken from the house on a stretcher, unable to walk or even stand. Shortly after, I laid in a hospital bed with every muscle in the lower half of my body contracted. I was in excruciating pain. Doctors plied me with drugs, trying to relax the muscles and provide some relief. Nothing worked. Four hours later, when the pain finally subsided, emergency back surgery was scheduled.

15 minutes after my surgery, my nurse woke me up and helped me to my feet. Thankfully, I could walk again. But I couldn't feel anything on my left side. The muscle on the inside of my calf had atrophied completely and I couldn't use my left foot. And I could no longer tell when I had to go to the bathroom. Doctors gave my body 18 months to recover. It never did.

Today, I walk with a limp. Some days, it's more obvious than others. I have regained the use of my foot but I still have no feeling in my toes or heel. I joke that you could set that foot on fire and I wouldn't know it. My lower left leg is skinny, unlike the rest of me... And if you are going to try to get my attention by slapping me on the butt, you'll have to aim for my right side. I can tell when someone touches me on the left but there's no sensitivity at all. And, I can't run.

Ten years ago, I didn't run because I didn't feel like it and now... I wish I could. I guess it is true what they say... You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I've heard it said that if you sit on the fence long enough, you'll get splinters. Or you'll fall off. Either outcome is tragic when you consider the fact that by making a choice, you can save yourself the trouble. Making choices is not always easy and there may be some short term pain involved. But it has been my experience that prolonging the decision can also prolong the pain.

If you find yourself in a situation that repeats itself and ends badly on a regular basis, it might be time for you to get off the fence and make a choice. Sitting on the fence can be toxic for you and the people around you. It can stir controversy and often forces you to play two sides of a controversy just for the sake of being neutral which in my opinion either makes you weak or makes you a liar.

Everyone can't be Switzerland. Sometimes you MUST choose.

The other day at work, I approached a co-worker and said, "Can I ask you a question?" His response was, "Am I going to have to pick a side?"

My gut reaction was "HELL YEAH! You're gonna have to pick a fucking side." But I said no. I really just wanted an opinion against which I could weigh my own. Contrary to popular belief, I don't always think I'm right. Just because I have an opinion on just about everything and I blog about those things... That doesn't mean I always think I'm RIGHT. It's just my opinion. I am fully aware that there are other opinions out there. The point is, I didn't need my co-worker to go all Switzerland on me. I needed an opinion and maybe a reality check.

I deal with the same issues with my friends. Sometimes you just can't be friends with everyone. Because when you play both sides, you do end up lying because you don't want to hurt people. Or you tell the truth and you end up stirring the big ugly pot and you hurt people anyway. It's a double edged sword. It's a fence FULL of splinters. You can't just ride it out. It evokes drama and senseless arguing that could be avoided if you'd just make a damn decision.

The saddest part of all this fence riding is that by remaining neutral, you alienate others. Then, who's going to pull out those splinters or lend you hand when you fall on your ass?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Less Than Fortunate?

The history of the fortune cookie is long disputed. Some say that during the 14 century fortune cookies were used to deliver secret messages regarding an uprising to overthrow the Mongols. Others trace the cookie's origin to 19th century Japan. Most of my fortune cookies come from a tiny Chinese restaurant on South Kingshighway in St. Louis.

The messages inside have varied throughout the years but most tales confirm that most fortune cookie messages spread good will and tell of good things to come or they are filled with words of wisdom. I found a database of fortune cookie messages and they included things like:

Every decision you make tomorrow will be a good decision.
You will travel to many places.
Broke is only temporary. Poor is a state of mind.
Dream lofty dreams. As you dream, so shall you become.

Fortune cookie messages also offer Chinese lessons for those who are eager to continue their education while trying to hang onto their fried rice with their chopsticks. And, if you have used up all of your lucky numbers, you can find numbers for your next lottery ticket.

Tonight, I got a fortune cookie with my dinner. Like most people, I saved my cookie for dessert. As I cracked the cookie open and looked inside,I realized it was empty. Fortuneless. Nothing.

What does a fortuneless fortune cookie mean? Is there a message in the fact that there's NO MESSAGE? Perhaps it means that I am already so fortunate I don't need more good fortune. Or maybe my luck has taken a turn for the worse!?! Or maybe it means the future is up to me...

Hmm... I'll take that. The hidden message in my cookie probably means there's an uprising coming, just like in 14th century China. Only instead of overthrowing the Mongols, I'm overthrowing the past. And the future is up to me.

Monday, July 07, 2008

know me

I've long said that my biggest frustration in life is that people don't really know me. They borrow impressions from others or make assumptions rather than taking the time to know me.

I suppose I've always assumed that others take as much of an interest in really knowing people like I do. My fascination with others started at a very young age. My parents have always told me that I was drawn to kids who were different from me. And that holds true to this day.

There's something innate that drives me to discover people and not simply get to know them. While school never was my "thing," I love to learn, especially about others. Where do they come from? Who do they come from and who are their people? What excites them about life and what bores them? What do they want to be when they grow up? Are they making dreams come true? Who were they before I met them? And what are they not telling me that will explain their quirks and foibles and every day stuff that just makes them THEM?

That scares some people. They question my motives. But I promise it's merely curiosity. I like meeting knew people but I love finding out who they are. Sometimes I am disappointed that the presentation is not nearly representative of the real person. But most times my fascination proves valid and I am warmed and surprised by the depth of the people I meet.

I am convinced that the story behind each and every one of you is a story worth telling. There is something about you that is interesting and dynamic and impactful. The world should know who you are. And if they can't, then at least I want to...

I don't expect everyone I meet to google me or read my blog or do the research to discover me as I might them. But sometimes I think it might be nice. I am the kind of person about whom others make assumptions. But I am who I am and you get what you see and it really is that simple. There are no hidden agendas, no manipulative motives, no mincing of words.

I have a new friend who seems to really get me. I'm sure he hasn't googled me or read either of my blogs. I know he's never seen me sing anywhere or watched me play volleyball (at which, I might add, I am phenomenal). But he sees me. Recently he smiled at me and told me that what he likes about me is that I am real. At a loss for words, I chuckled with relief. Yes, I am... I am so real that it's scary sometimes.

Perhaps getting to know me is a lot less work than most people think.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Warm Welcome or Cold-hearted Boos?

This past weekend, the Chicago Cubs paid the St. Louis Cardinals a mid-season visit. Their arrival stirred up the city and local sports writers, not only because any time this long-time rivalry comes together it's eventful but also because former Cardinal Jim Edmonds is now a Chicago Cub.

The biggest question of last week was "to boo or not to boo?" Some, like local writer Bernie Miklasz took the position that welcoming Jim Edmonds with open arms would not be the wisest choice. Should we boo? Perhaps not. But ovations and admiration were uncalled for. Jim Edmonds is now a Cub. And St. Louis fans hate the Cubs.

Others, like me, appreciate Jim Edmonds and recognize that he did not leave St. Louis by choice but by trade. In his 8 years in St. Louis, Jim Edmonds not only contributed to St. Louis Cardinals history but also to the St. Louis community. He was one of us for a very long time and long before he pulled on that Cubs uniform.

The entire time that Edmonds played in St. Louis, I had season tickets in the right field bleachers. Every time he took the field, he tipped his cap toward the left field bleachers and then to the right. After every amazing catch, the bleacher fans offered ovations of appreciation and, again, Edmonds acknowledged the fans by tipping his cap.

On Friday night, when Edmonds stepped on the Busch Stadium outfield for the first time, bleacher fans rose to their feet and applauded. And when he stepped up to the plate for his first at bat, the crowd erupted in cheers.

The Cardinals lost that game to the Cubs, 2-1. Miklasz contends that our acceptance and welcoming of the new Cubbie gave Chicago home field advantage, helping them take game one of the series. I'd like to point to our meager 6 hits and 10 men left on base as a possible problem when trying to win a tight game.

Many a night, I have applauded the great play of a visiting player. I was there to applaud Tony Gwynn on his quest for 3000 hits. I cheered for Ken Griffey Jr. as he knocked homerun #500 into our right field bleachers at Busch. most recently, I applauded for So Taguchi when he returned donning Phillies garb.

If there's good baseball, no matter who is bringing it, I appreciate it. And if a former Cardinal player shows back up in a new uniform, playing for a new team, even if it is the Cubs, I'm going to cheer the first time he steps up to the plate. I am going to let him know that I recognize and appreciate his time spent in the Cardinal uniform.

And when he strikes out or pops out to left, I will cheer then as well.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Full Service

When I was a little girl, my mom drove a gold, four-door Oldsmobile that we fondly called Frank. Every time Frank needed a fill up, my mom would pull into the full service pump at the Amoco on Chippewa, a few blocks from our house, and some young kid would bounce out of the station, fill up her tank, wash her windows and check her oil.

In my preteen years, the Amoco was the station where all the cute boys in the neighborhood worked. My dad knew the owner of the Amoco who repaired our cars, changed our oil and rotated our tires himself. It was a seemingly old fashioned, small town setting in the middle of the big city.

Today, I went to fill up my Jeep Liberty all by myself. No help from cute boys in crisp white shirts with their names on the pockets... Just me. Standing at the pump, picking a flavor, and smelling like petrol when I was done. Just before I got in the car to leave, a little old lady approached me.

"Ma'am," she said, "I've never pumped gas before and I can't find a full service station anywhere. Will you help me?"

That simple request nearly brought me to tears. Of course I would help! Who wouldn't?

She went inside to pay and I stood by her car thinking about the situation. How frightening it must be to live in world that changes and grows technologically on a daily basis. How sad it must be to watch simple comforts and familiarity slip away.

I pumped her gas. She stuffed a dollar in my hand and thanked me over and over.

"No problem at all," I said as she climbed into her big gold sedan.

As she drove away, I thought of my mom. And now I can't stop thinking that they had it right. The full service stations and sit down diners... The person to person contact... Relationships with the owners of the small businesses in your neighborhood... Old fashioned worked and people were kinder to each other back then.

Technology is great. Speed & convenience work too. But I'd like to know my neighbors and maybe slow down a little. Maybe stop in at a full service station even... If I can find one.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


On July 2nd, 2008, the St. Louis Cardinals took on the New York Mets at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Cardinals, a much underestimated, young club was making a push toward the weekend when their division rival Cubs would come to town to duke it out for first place in the National League's central division.

On that same night, Rick Ankiel started in center field and in the fifth inning, he belted a homerun that screamed into the right field bleachers, bounced off the jaw of a loyal season ticket holder and rolled under my seat. I bent over and picked it up. It was Ankiel's 17th homerun. Just another day in his career. A nice day and a nice surprise but just another day and just another homerun. And it just rolled under my spot on the bleachers and I just bent over and picked it up.

Immediately, my face was on the jumbo scoreboard in center field and on televisions across the country. Not once. Not twice. But, apparently, three times. Me... holding the ball, looking into the camera.

I am THE WORST person to catch a ball on a nationally televised baseball game. There are three reasons why I am the worst. One, I am not a jump up and down and get excited kind of fan who is dying for tv time. I don't scream and holler and point my index finger in the air while tugging on my jersey and yelling to the television audience that my Cardinals are number one. I love my boys and I am loyal to them but... I just don't do all that crazy fan stuff.

Two, there's a part of me that doesn't really get it. What's the big deal? It's a ball. I adore that Rick Ankiel. Years ago, during the spring following Ankiel's initial signing with the St. Louis Cardinals, I met Rick at a gas station in Florida. A teammate of his, who was a friend of mine, introduced us. I believe he was introduced as the "four million dollar boy." I have followed his career. I have cheered him on the way up and on the way back down. I prayed for him when times got rough because I realize that the ballplayers are people with real lives, not just entertainers. And I was proud and thrilled when Ankiel made his way back. I am a fan. But that homerun ball was just a ball.

Three, I don't know what to do with it now. I got a ball two years ago from Randy Flores who threw it up from the bullpen and it is in my underwear drawer. I'm afraid Ankiel's ball with be joining it there. Is there something else I'm supposed to do with it? Am I supposed to hunt Ankiel down and get it autographed or put it in a case on a shelf? Maybe I should give it to the guy who got hit in the face...

Please don't be confused. Homeruns excited me. Cardinal wins are the best. And I am proud of the team and honored to sit in the stands 50 games out of the year. I am just the wrong person to catch a homerun ball. Or to lazily pick it up from under my seat.