Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Journey to Cooperstown: Part One

About 5 years ago, I decided to stop giving Christmas presents to my friends and family and to start giving them EXPERIENCES. It's a decision I will never regret because it has allowed me time with the most precious people in my life. My favorite adventures include a drive down Route 66 with two friends and our family trip to South Dakota which prompted my dad to start thinking about the places on his bucket list that he'd like to visit, like Mount Rushmore.

This trip to Cooperstown was not my original plan for our family vacation. I intended to fly my parents to Florida for St. Louis Cardinals spring training. However, just a few weeks before Christmas, my mom announced that she would not be able to get on a plane. Total panic! Three weeks to start all over with my planning and booking. Thankfully my coworker, Ryan, came to the rescue suggesting a weekend at Cooperstown. What a brilliant idea! My parents love for the Cardinals rises far above for their love of any other sport. That's saying something given they had season tickets to the former St. Louis Cardinals football team and the St. Louis Blues. They rarely miss a Cardinals game (from the comfort of their couch, of course) and they greatly admire Tony LaRussa who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame this year. 

Even though about 15 hours of our trip thus far has been spent in the car, we have had a great time. We spent the night in Cleveland where we shared a hotel with the Cleveland Browns rookies, my nephew got in a good swim with his parents and we all relaxed on the patio, enjoying 60-something degree weather. Part two of our drive included a detour to Niagara Falls which wasn't nearly a big as I remembered from the summer after my 7th birthday. Mom and I took a selfie by the crashing water while my brother-in-law served as photographer for a number of visitors from abroad. The time there, though short, will be cherished.

We finally arrived at a little farmhouse in Oxford, NY late last night after a breathtaking drive through the New York country side. Our route took us through farmland and quaint, adorable towns. To say we are amazed by the beauty of this country is an understatement. The roads are lined to rows of corn, vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see and hops farms which was a new sight for me.

Our farmhouse, nestled in lovely Oxford is the centerpiece on an alpaca farm. Antiques and other old things clutter every room. It smells like my Grandpa Aben's house. Or at least the way I remember it. It's dusty and dirty but the beds are comfortable. The dishwasher is broken, the toilets don't flush correctly, the lake that was supposed to be behind the house is nowhere to be found, the bathtub doesn't hold water and a number of the lights don't work. But we gathered around the dining room table last night, ate sandwiches, and played three rousing hands of UNO, forcing each other to DRAW FOUR MORE and SKIP turns while we laughed until someone peed a little. 

You cannot manufacture these moments. They are grown from pure love. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Whose Body?

ESPN The Magazine has released its latest Body Issue featuring the nude physiques of famous professional athletes. This year's issue includes tennis player Venus Williams,  swimmer Michael Phelps, soccer star Omar Gonzalez and many others.

But the athlete creating the most stir is Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder. Why the fuss? Well, Mr. Fielder is a big dude. He isn't lean and slender like nearly every other athlete featured in the magazine. He has thighs for days and a firm round stomach and giant rolling hills for shoulders. He doesn't look like the others.

All athletes are not created from the same mold so allowing for some diversity is a welcome change. All too often, society creates parameters for athletes in each sport that might limit participation by children who feel like they don't look the part or whose parents feel like they don't look the part. If you are really tall, you play basketball. If you are short and speedy, soccer is your sport. Rough and tumble kids with long hair and a blatant disregard for the importance of a full set of teeth are hockey players. There are exceptions to every rule, however. Spud Webb long reigned as the height exception for basketball players and I think big guys like Prince Fielder demonstrate daily that lean might be mean but being husky isn't an obstacle to success on the playing field.

I don't expect that the inclusion of overweight athletes or those who are bigger than the average will become a trend. We won't see weight lifters and sumo wrestlers in the buff any time soon. We probably will never see a thick woman gracing the pages either. Back fat and love handles probably disqualify an athlete immediately. But I love that ESPN The Magazine included Fielder in the Body Issue this time.

Three cheers for the big and beautiful!