Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Forrest Gump Runs Like a Chump

This is a post about running. For a lot of you, or the two of you reading this, I might as well have said this is a post about paint drying or antiplatelet therapy (when you neither need nor have ever heard of antiplatelets). I’ll be Frank and not Shirley: I don’t give a shit what you think. I’ll also tell you I mean that in the most loving way, and that I have a couple of blogs I infrequent. In these distant spaces, I can write about anything I want (e.g., antiplatelet therapy), without worrying about whether my sentences end in prepositions or if I’ve dropped some colossal cliche like it’s hot. (Okay, I still might worry and maybe I do care about what all two of you think. Don’t tell anybody.) 
Anyway, I haven’t blogged in a while, and I realized a big part of the reason for this blog-slacking is my feet hitting the pavement. Quite honestly, I can’t believe it myself. If you’re one of those people who say, “I hate to run” or “Fuck running” or “Runners are a bunch of morons who like to wear tight aquamarine tights and discuss anti-chafing strategies” or maybe something less harsh—the takeaway here is running isn’t your thing—let me say you’re not alone. Let me also say I once uttered (or thought about uttering) things like that, too. I never thought I’d be a runner and definitely not a runner in my 40s. 

Despite the aches and pains, the plantar fasciitis (which thankfully doesn’t require antiplatelet therapy), and yes, the chafing, the god-awful chafing, particularly in my armpits (got you to think about my armpits), running has become something I look forward to. Ha, and there it is, I think I ended a sentence with a preposition, and I will resist the urge to look it up or fix it. Maybe I’ll even start a sentence with a gerund or an and someplace, too. Who knows? I’ve already had two spiked eggnogs. (Just kidding. Eggnog is nasty, regardless of your exercise regimen or penchant for grammar-correctness. People on antiplatelets should also think about avoiding it all costs.) 

Since I mentioned Forrest in the title of this post, I should probably say something about him, and well, running. Because of that one long and boring scene where he runs. A lot. Like across the country. I suppose all I can say about Forrest’s epic foot journey is I used to loathe the idea of running out of doors, anywhere. I’m not sure why other than maybe I just didn’t want people looking at me. Running. Out of doors. Or it sounded like it would hurt. A lot. 

Fast-forward to now and I can hardly stand to run inside. 

In fact, one of the main reasons I’ve taken to running is the act of being outside, to pant the fresh (and sometimes not so fresh) air, free to thumpity-thump like an old lady (#OldLadyRunning) over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. I’ve heard roosters crowing and cows mooing and the crunching of new snow under foot, I’ve jumped over road kill and potholes and what appeared to be vomit, I’ve shared ridiculous conversations with dear friends and my dog and random deer, I’ve smelled everything from manure to bacon, I’ve been scared by lightning and shoved by gales, I’ve willingly eaten something called gu and downed shots of maple syrup, I’ve grappled with the endings of stories I’ve written and those I haven’t written yet, I’ve doubted my parenting abilities and said “thank you” out loud to that wide expanse above, I’ve sung out of breath and out of tune, I’ve laughed, cried, winced and cursed, I’ve touched and tasted and smelled and felt the world outside. All while running. Yeah, I could’ve done these things while skipping, galloping or segway-ing, but I didn’t, and I guess that’s why running has become something pretty meaningful to me. 

My husband is both relieved and annoyed I’ve been stricken with yogger’s plague. For years, he tried to get me to lace up my sneakers and I always had the perfect reason to scoff at him: “Whatever. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights.” I was an anti-runner, the 0.0 to his 13.1. Then one day, maybe from a friend’s encouragement and camaraderie, maybe from stupid competitiveness (“If that dude in jean shorts and loafers can schlep through a 5K, surely I could stumble and zigzag along.”), maybe because the loss of my father at 62 to heart disease weighs a bit heavier these days, especially with a certain 3-year-old in my life. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I’ve run the miles. (Yes, glad is another word for tickled pink.)  

Don’t get me wrong, I use the term “run” loosely. The goal is to keep my feet moving, and if you’re somebody considering yogging, that’s the best cliche and shred of advice I can give you. Just put one foot in front of the other. Repeat. You’d be surprised how well that mindset works, even if you start by doing it 60 seconds at a time. And yes, there’s some truth to that feeling called “runner’s high.” Going out for a run in the morning has often infused the rest of my day with a beautiful and magical emerald aura (if you believe in that crap). Really though, it has been a great alternative to my stress-reliever standby: alcohol. Not that I’m going to forgo having a cold one anytime soon, but running has become a different way to socialize, engage, experience and decompress ... without the hootch and the possibility of a hangover. 

Bad foot and arthritic knees willing, and with any luck, I’ll keep this kooky habit called running going. If you know me well (not an easy task considering I’m both shy and an introvert), you already know I tend to chokehold things once I decide to hold onto them. So watch for me, honk at me, twerk at me, or better yet, join me. Out there. (Yes, out there. Yes, running.) 

I’ll be the one plodding along in tight aquamarine tights. 

You'll have to just trust me when I say we all enjoy running. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When I R.I.P.

Death and taxes. Those things are certain. Those things and the eternal shelf-life of Spam and Twinkies. By the way, eating those things alone, or perish the thought, together, will probably cost you. Not in taxes, but in life expectancy. 

Three words of advice (sourced from your standard fireworks warning label): Do. Not. Eat. Ditto for antifreeze. Ditto for that breakfast waffle taco thing-y.  

I promise nobody will serve Twinkies or Spam at my wake. Or breakfast waffle taco thing-ys. Wait. I can’t make any promises, because, well, I’ll be dead, and what the rest of you choose to eat or not eat won’t be my biggest concern. Remember, you’ll still have the freedom to stuff your faces with processed delights to your heart’s dismay. 

I’m not writing you about Twinkies or Spam or Twinkies and Spam or Twinkies/Spam though. I’m writing you about funerals. Specifically, my own. You see, all writers must write about death, directly or indirectly. I’m sixty-three percent sure it’s a rule. I’ve done both, and for the moment, I’m going to just go ahead and hit the nail on the coffin. 

Yes, I still need to fill out an advance directive, but I’m hoping these words will serve as added documentation, in case there are questions or disagreements about my wishes, or maybe they will just help you get through the loss of me in some small way. Not that I’m that narcissistic. The loss of me is no greater than the loss of _____________. I am as extraordinary as any other human being lucky enough to have people care about her. 

If I am also lucky enough to live many more decades, please remind me to peruse this letter again. Opinions have a way of shifting with age, so I might not feel the same at ninety-five and a half as I do today at forty-one. Blessed is the art of revising. 


On the subject of amen, please do say a few prayers at my funeral. Have somebody of religious authority speak a little. I’m fine with reading a few verses from the good book, but to be honest, I’ll have to get back to you on which ones, or if you know me well, maybe you could try to pick out something that speaks to my essence. I do consider myself a spiritual person, I do think there’s power and virtue in faith, but I have never been a huge fan of organized religion. There just seems to be too much judgment in it. 

Regarding reading in general, I’m a fan of it, so read something you love at my funeral. If several people are game for this, be patient. Make the time. You must also read something I love on the subject of death and dying, and that something is, “Tract,” the last essay in the book The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch. If you haven’t read it, I recommend doing so. Here’s a sampling of why:  

“Whatever’s there to feel, feel it—the riddance, the relief, the fright and freedom, the fear of forgetting, the dull ache of your own mortality. Go home in pairs. Warm to the flesh that warms you still. Get with someone you trust with tears, with anger, and wonderment and utter silence. Get that part done—the sooner the better. The only way around these things is through them.” 

Be advised: There are some of Lynch’s words that might seem brutal to you. Maybe brutal isn’t the right word. Raw might be better. Yes, raw. If they make you squeamish, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to read them anyway. All of Lynch’s words from “Tract.” Keep in mind, that’s what Amie Heasley wanted, and although Amie Heasley won’t be available to argue, it would be swell if you didn’t like piss her off, okay?

Wait. I think that’s nostalgia wafting in from the kitchen. I hear music. Old school Ben Folds Five on the iPod. Reminds me of my early twenties. Hashtag carefree. Hashtag bliss.  

Music is another important part of funerals. First and foremost, you have my permission to skip the traditional hymnals. I want something played that actually made me feel, something that made the hairs along my arms stand in ovation. You also have my permission to TURN IT UP. Here are some quick ideas: “Windows Are Rolled Down” by Amos Lee, “Old Before Your Time” by Ray LaMontagne, “Jesus, Etc.” by Wilco, “Murder in The City” by the Avett Brothers. And something loud, like say, from Songs for the Deaf. (Yeah, I’m serious. I like to rawk, too.) I think the band Arcade Fire is pretty fantastic, but I haven’t a clue if any of their songs would work for a funeral. Then again, does it matter if songs “work” for a funeral? If you’re looking for a more obvious song about death, I think Brett Dennen’s “When I Go” would suffice.* 

I could go on, but I’m placing my trust in you. As long as you don’t play mainstream country, I probably won’t haunt you forevermore. Yes, Garth Brooks is mainstream. Three words of advice (sourced from Amie Heasley’s standard warning label): Do. Not. Play. Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson are more than acceptable though. If he’s still alive, please ask my husband for some suggestions. Ditto for my brother, who is an absolute whiz in musicology. 

What else happens at funerals? Oh that’s right. People at funerals say nice things about the deceased. Please say nice things about me, but don’t go overboard. I am not and will likely never be a saint. Think: She’s a regular gal who tried her best to do right. Sometimes, she succeeded, and sometimes, she failed. Okay, she failed a lot, but sometimes, she made people laugh. Okay, she made herself laugh. 

Laughter is the best medicine, so be sure and do some of that at my funeral. I swear I won’t think it’s disrespectful. Really. Don’t just cry for me. Or Argentina for that matter. Laugh with each other. This is also your chance to go right ahead and guffaw at me, not with me. 

Guffaw yourselves all the way to the pub. That’s where I want my wake. Bell’s Brewery, if it’s still around, would be a great place to gather. Don’t fret about things getting a little awkward. There will be no body to view or worry about. (That's no body, not nobody.) Take a decent photo of me along for the ride if it makes you feel better. Don’t forget to order me a Two Hearted. Somebody make a good toast about something I said or did or stood for or cried over or mocked lovingly. Somebody else make a good toast about love and life and still being alive and able to love.    

At some point after the official business of my death is done, gather again. If I haven’t already made some sort of home there, drive my ashes up north. Scatter me at Old Mission Point. If you can bear it, pour a little of me in the water, bury a little of me in the sand and sprinkle a little of me in the woods. Then go for a drive. Yes, more driving. Drive to the village of Empire. Yes, on the other peninsula. Watch the sunset with the locals. After you’ve witnessed the dying sun dip into Lake Michigan, head to Sutton’s Bay to Boone’s Prime Time Pub. I pray that place still stands for you. Sit at the bar and order a cheeseburger. Believe me when I say you won’t regret it. 

Amie & Al Heasley, Old Mission Point
One final note: try not to regret too much, okay? Give of your hearts willingly. Be kind when it practically kills you. Put yourselves way the hell out there in this amazing world of ours, especially if it embarrasses or terrifies you. Divulge what you want in life and in death. 

Now is your chance. Go. For. It. 

*I just realized Brett is a ginger and that this particular song rambles over six minutes. My condolences for the song length, not for the color of Brett’s hair. Because gingers are people, too, and they happen to be awesome. 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Keep Calm and Sparty On

Let me introduce you to a C- Basketball Player. This power forward’s nickname was not Buzzer Beater. The best skills I had were defensive. When you picture me on the court way back then (which you probably don’t or won’t), imagine capital d dash white-picket fence. 

Yes, I preferred defense. In fact, I remember my knees shaking and my armpits cascading when my coach put me in to “perform” this set play we had. It was an out-of-bounds play designed to score a three-pointer. We had a great shooting guard who usually performed this play with confidence and grace. I had to take her place for a reason I can’t recall, and when the ball hit my hands, I’m pretty sure I heaved it up into the florescent-bulbed sky with my eyes closed. 

I’m also pretty sure this is the only time I made a three-pointer in my illustrious high school career. 

Maybe this is why I didn’t get that basketball scholarship. Maybe it’s also why I love college basketball so much and why I can’t stand pro ball. Bobby Knight said: “I think that to stop an offense, you must go to the heart of that offense. If it is a particular move, a screen, the break, an outstanding scorer, whatever it is that they like to do and rely on, you have to work in your plans on taking that completely or as much as possible away from them.”

Yeah, yeah, Bobby Knight may have choked a few players and trashed a chair or six, but he’s an analyst now, so it’s getting a smidgen closer to being okay if I say he was right about something, and for the purpose of my point, I’m going to say that something is defense. Choking people is never ever okay, okay?

Defense, at least in college hoops, wins games. It also makes the games a hell of a lot more interesting, ITBLHO (in this brick layer’s humble opinion). Besides defending one’s “goal against the opposition in sports,” defense is defined as the “action of defending from or resisting attack.” And now, my fellow ballers (melon or otherwise), we’re getting somewhere. You didn’t think this was going to be a post about my glory days as a lackluster student athlete, did you? 

Sorry to disappoint. Would it help if I let you polish my track medals and “Unsung Hero” trophy? In truth, I was a Parchment High (Class of ’91) B'nai B'rith scholar-athlete. But this post isn’t about bragging rights or Judaism either. 

I̶t̶’̶s̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶v̶e̶n̶t̶r̶i̶c̶u̶l̶a̶r̶ ̶t̶a̶c̶h̶y̶c̶a̶r̶d̶i̶a̶. It’s about defense. 

More specifically, defending oneself from attacks, and hopefully, resisting the urge to retaliate or: fight back, hit back, respond, react, reply, reciprocate, counterattack, return like for like, get back at someone, give tit for tat, take reprisals, get even, get one's own back, pay someone back, give someone a taste of their own medicine; have/get/take one's revenge, be revenged, avenge oneself. 

If I resist the urge to tit for tat just once, I will consider it a lowercase v-i-c-t-o-r-y. You see, the Madness is about to begin and Mr. March (aka Tom Izzo, aka The Greatest Ever) has taken my beloved Spartans to yet another dance. Spartan Nation will be rooting and sweating right alongside me, and the fans of the Maize and Blue will be wishing for our team’s early downfall. Michigan fans, don’t lie to yourself. You do not root for Michigan State in the event your team loses, just as I don’t root for Michigan if Michigan State loses. We are rivals, and I’d argue that Michigan State has recently become a bigger rival to U of M than those silly folks who wear crimson and what looks like strings of animal turds around their necks. 

(And for the record, Sparty is the name of our mascot. We are The Spartans, not “The Spartys,” just as you are The Wolverines, not “The Wolvies.”) 

This is already beginning to sound pathetic. It’s pathetic to waste time and energy and good clean rage on the rival of one’s alma mater. Since having a child, I’ve begun to think about this wasted time and energy and good clean rage a bit more seriously. Methinks I've become a wee bit defensive and might take this shit too seriously. (I’m giving myself permission to use too many adverbs in this blog, even the same one twice, in consecutive sentences. The. Horror.) 

To give those of you who care nothing of sports some perspective, I think the taking of the shit too seriously began in earnest after, not before, I graduated. When I attended MSU, I didn’t pay that much attention to my team(s). Sure, I went to games ‘n such, but I was busy learning stuff and making new friends and saving the world and eating pizza and wearing Doc Martens with cutoffs and eating pizza and mourning the death of Kurt Cobain and eating pizza and navigating upside-down kamikazes. (Before you insinuate my school is just a party school, I would like to point out that I partook in and witnessed plenty of said partying at the school located in the delightful city of Ann Arbor. Yes, I really do think Ann Arbor is a delightful city.) 

So why did I start caring more instead of less? 

I started caring more because I happen to be proud of my education. I was raised by a single mother (and grandmother) who did everything in her power to ensure I went to college so I could take care of my own damn self as an adult woman. If I one day had a husband and he left like my mom’s did, I could support myself. Smart guidance from a woman who’s a ton smarter than she believes. 

Michigan State University is not an inferior institution and I got very tired of people—sorry, but I’m going to wave my bony finger at Michigan fans in particular—insinuating I was somehow inferior for going there. The insults began to sting and irritate on a too-personal level. Add to that that a lot of the insults came form people with zero affiliation with U of M (other than their great-great Aunt Shirley could have gone there if it weren’t for her bursitis). Add to that that our sports teams began winning more. A lot more. They beat Michigan in both basketball and football more often, and it felt, well, a little like sweet, sweet redemption. 

Michigan State was no longer little brother. (And I just used “that” seventy-five times in that last paragraph. Reminder: This is a blog. It is only a blog and you should consult your doctor if you want a more reliable source regarding ventricular tachycardia.) 

Michigan State University is no longer little brother. There, I typed it and chanted it out loud. 

It shouldn’t matter what anybody says to me about where I went to school. As it turns out, I’m doing just fine. More than just fine. Nobody can take the pride I have in my education away from me or the nostalgia I have for everything that is MSU.  

I have been blessed with a great life and an amazing little girl who I hope will one day go to college. Sure, I’ll dress her in green and white, and teach her to say, “Go Green!” But parents, we should all remember one chilling reality: Our Kids Are Not Us. Ava might go to another college. She might even (gasp) aspire to be a Wolvie. Or maybe (gasp) Ava will decide college isn’t for her after all. 

In the end, I want what most parents want. I want my child to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted. I want her to work hard and follow her bliss. I want her to fall in love. I want her to accept and learn from her failures. I want her to be respectful and generous and kind. I want her to be somebody who can have a copacetic relationship with people who might not share her favorite sports teams or political views or fear of lima beans or theory of relativity. 

I want her to be a fan, not a fanatic. I want her (and gasp, her mother) to spend more of her time defending things that really matter.

Methinks this Spartan selfie needs some work.