Wednesday, 8 May 2013

It's like turning 40

You are handed a knife, some rope, and three Tootsie Rolls and are dropped off in a vast swath of forest outside your hometown.

“I’ll pick you up right here in two days,” your father says and then starts the four-mile trek back through the forest to where he has parked his truck at the end of the dirt road. He leaves you alone.

You look toward your right and see what appears to have once been a path; you look left and see a continual slight incline, which may lead you to a vantage point. You look straight ahead and know you would only have to run a little while before catching up with your father who would take you home. Which path do you take? Right? Left? Straight Ahead?

I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was young. And even now, whenever I am in my parents’ attic, I inevitably end up at the old box of my childhood Choose Your Own Adventure books where I start to read at least one book and continue until I’ve read at least a couple of endings. More often than not though, I read all the endings, even though 1) I’m an adult now, and the language is far below my reading level and 2) I’ve already read them all at least fifty times each.



I like being in situations where you have to make the best decision based on what you have and what your choices are at that moment. Such is life, right? And that is why turning 40 is not scary: Choose Your Own Adventure books prepped me for turning 40 at an age when I viewed 40-year-olds as ancient beings who were nearing senility. The Cave of Time is just the beginning.

A couple of my friends have confessed to me that their impending big 4-0 birthday frightens them already. They want me to tell them it’s going to be okay, that 40 is lovely and with a mild temperament. She certainly can be.

Or she can be a pathological liar with a mean-girl streak. It’s really up to you. And although you sometimes can’t go back to that choice on that page that you’re holding with your thumb, you can always create another choice. It’s ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ with a ‘Write Your Own Choice’ option. Another reason to embrace turning 40: better writing skills.

To my friends suffering slight discomfort at the sound of their 30’s quietly exiting the room, think of this: 40 means more pages in the continuing story of a ‘Write Your Own Adventure’ book. As long as you’re writing a story that you would want to read later, then don’t care about any number. If Choose Your Own Adventure books can reinvent page numbers, then certainly you can reinvent one number. 

These things are 40:

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Both this statue and I are 40. Really! 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


I've never been to the circus, and I've always had my doubts that any circus is "The Greatest Show on Earth." I also don't have a penchant for clowns, so it's quite surprising that I have a fondness for their tricks -- well, really just for juggling. After all, who doesn't love a juggler?

Scenario: a guy over at my place. We're making dinner, having rather normal conversation, when he casually picks up three tomatoes and starts juggling. Suddenly, he moves from being a slightly dull, uninspiring suit to a guy with magic. Yes, 'magic' may be slightly hyperbolic, but to me juggling represents an ability to keep hold of the childhood desire for fun and creativity even while we shuttle through adulthood with -- as some people choose -- all its mundane routines and responsibilities. Thus, the wondrous hold that juggling has on me.

What I didn't realize about learning to juggle: it's incredibly stress-relieving. I expected dropping balls over and over again to be frustrating, but how can you get frustrated at something that, at its premise, is designed for no other purpose but fun? And fun it is.

So, how exactly does one learn to juggle? 

1) First step, Google "learn how to juggle." 

2) Next, go to the first website from the search, a website aptly titled "Learn How to Juggle."

3) Then, ask your co-worker who juggles for advice, which includes things like: juggle in front of a door in order to stand still and not 'chase your balls' (these were probably her exact words) when juggling.

4) Of course,keep practicing...

5) And finally, have fun!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Cupcake

I could have been drunk every night for a week. Instead, I chose a week-long sugar high.

One of the recent suggestions added to my 40-Before-40 List: create a signature ‘Heidi’ drink. I could have done that, could still do that, but as someone who is simply content with a draft beer, a glass of good wine, or a refreshing gin and tonic, I didn’t think I needed to establish a drink of my own. Plus, a drink named ‘Heidi’ would seemingly need to include heavy cream or a pound of cheese or a mountain goat. And I don’t think I’m ready for that.

Baked goods, however, I’m always ready for. So I’ve been trying to create a signature cupcake. The beauty of this idea? It could take all year, and even the mistakes will be delicious.

Cupcake #1:
Lemon sour cream cupcake

                                            Blackberry filling


Blackberry cream cheese frosting


Cupcake #2:

Chocolate cupcake

Chocolate cream filling


Blackberry cream cheese frosting 
(I had extra from the lemon cupcakes and didn't want to waste it.)

Days: 20 & 24
Countdowns: 21 & 17
Suggestion: create a signature cupcake

Holyoke St. Patrick's 10K

As we walk down to the starting line for the 1 p.m. start, there is already a strong scent of alcohol in the air.

"Wow, people are already drunk.”

“No, they’re still drunk. Welcome to Holyoke!”

Nearly 6,000 runners, many dressed for St. Patrick’s Day, created a sea of green at the start of the Holyoke 10K. For about a mile, I followed a woman wearing a green tutu. Some spectators were handing out beer to thirsty runners. There were a couple of bands playing along the way, and a tuba player (a.k.a. TubaMan) running –- with his tuba. It was the most spirited 10K race I have ever run. 

Nothing inspires me during a race quite as much as loads of happy people cheering on all of the runners for the entire course. Strangers happily invested in my success on a Saturday afternoon? I love it!

A huge thanks to all who donated to FAIR Girls, the non-profit for which I was running.

Jack McCoy Photography: Start 10k &emdash; Start_0285
Jack McCoy Photography: Start 10k &emdash; Start_0304
Jack McCoy Photography: Finish-under 46 minutes &emdash; Finish_0184Jack McCoy Photography: Finish-between 49-52 minutes &emdash; Finish_0918

Day: 21
Countdown: 20
Suggestion: raise $1,000 for charity

Monday, 11 March 2013

My favorite suggestion

Day: 15
Countdown: 26
Suggestion: Climb a tree

Some trees nearly beg to be climbed, especially on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon.

My friend and I had just finished our brunch of delicious crepes and were walking the bike path that runs along Lake Champlain in Burlington. There were trees. Lots of trees. But I liked one in particular, as soon as I saw it; it seemed to wave its branches at me, beckoning. (Yea, it was really windy.) I looked at the tree, looked at my friend, and said, “I really want to climb that tree.” She answered as a true friend should, with no hesitation and a commanding: “Do it!” 

Done. And I'll do it again.

Bring on the Burlington!

Date: March 9, 2013
Day: 14
Countdown: 27
Suggestion: Go somewhere you’ve never been before

Sure I’ve been on safari in multiple countries in Africa, seen glaciers in Alaska, and visited hot springs in remote places on Hokkaido. But have I ever been to Burlington, Vermont? Never. Not until this past weekend.

Burlington is so close with so much to offer

                                 There are multiple breweries… 

               Lake Champlain…

                                                       ...and a very lovely walkable downtown area.

Plus, the people are genuinely nice!

Of course, every great city has at least one record shop, and Burlington did not disappoint. Better yet, there was a record shop with a ‘$1 records’ bin with this:

For so many reasons –– a newly-discovered and so-delicious-I-nearly-cried beer (‘Forbidden Fruit’ at the Burlington Brewery); a lovely run along the waterfront on Sunday morning; and a creperie with a menu that made it nearly impossible for me to choose one crepe –– Burlington is my new favorite nearby place.

Paper Airplanes

Date: March 7, 2013
Day: 12
Countdown: 29
(my own) Suggestion: Learn to make a damn good paper airplane

I took inspiration from a student.

I took inspiration from a student who made a really big paper airplane.

I took inspiration from a student who made a really big paper airplane out of my desk calendar, using the month of March. 

Obviously, March isn’t over yet, but this was more important. Clearly.

I studied the folds.

I studied the folds and folded my own.

   I studied the folds and folded my own, but it just didn’t fly the same.

                                     So I gave up and just did this:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Founding fathers and Post-it notes

Days: 9 & 10
Countdown: 32…31...
Suggestions: Enroll in writing course; reread the Constitution

I refuse to accept that having alcohol and sundaes for dinner two days in a row had anything to do with my getting the flu a few days later.

However, as result of said flu, I haven’t left my apartment for four days. During this time, I’ve texted nearly everyone I know, with the tacit plea of ‘Please amuse me, I’m so bored!’ Yea, I’m sure everyone has appreciated that. Sorry?

In between naps, feverish dreams, and mindless spacing out, I’ve actually been trying to do things. Important, adult things, like my taxes and responding to work emails. And not so serious things like watching the worst movie ever made starring David Tennant. (Note: David Tennant’s sex appeal = time well spent, regardless of how bad a movie is.)

Yes, it's as bad as it looks.

I have even (barely) managed to do a couple more of the suggestions on my 40-Before-40 List: 1) sign up for an online writing class and 2) reread the Constitution.

I won’t bore you with the simple details of signing up for the writing course at UCLA. And at the moment, since my head still feels like it’s a giant lead ball, I won’t attempt to write anything cogent about the Constitution.

So I'm going to write about Post-it notes, in relation to the Amendments. Sort of.

When I think of the Amendments made to the Constitution over time, I think of how fortunate I am to live in a country where such changes can be made and where -- as  cliché as this sounds -- one person really can make a difference. And now, I also think of Post-it notes.

Last week, one or more students secretively posted positive affirmations, on Post-it notes, all over the school’s walls. Although this furtive undertaking was a surprise for the rest of the school the next morning, it was not surprising. These young women are changing and are going to change the world for the better. 

What these young women already know is that changes don't just happen, they are created. Whether it's a community river cleanup, a refusal to change seats on a bus, or a march on Washington, changes are made. We just have to choose to help make them. Even if it's one Post-it at a time.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Photoshop, Moby-Dick, and the word 'vagina'

(Day 7 has been lost in the Flu. May be found later.)

Day: 8
Countdown: 33
Suggestion: Learn the basics of Photoshop

I used the word ‘vagina' in a scholarly essay I wrote about Moby-Dick in graduate school. 

Yes, yes, I did. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just float the word around for no reason; it wasn’t as if I were referring to my vagina. But what I wrote still took a risk.

So after handing in the essay, I called my professor and left an urgent message begging him not to read it. An hour later, I left a breezy “hey-ya-know-that-first-message-I-left-sounding-panicked-and-crazy?-Just-ignore-it” message for my professor.

Well done, I thought to myself, now you don’t seem like complete nutter at all.

However, a week later when my professor handed the paper back to me, I learned a huge lesson in risk-taking: he called my paper 'brilliant.'

The real brilliance, obviously, is Moby-Dick, and the real risk-taker, Melville. This is why I decided to combine my desire to learn the basics of Photoshop (yes, I've gone this long without learning) with showing people just how incredibly brilliant Moby-Dick and Melville are.

Challenge: to choose five completely random pages in the book and find a quote on each page that – even out of context – shows Melville’s skill as a writer and depth as a thinker. In short, it would be good, thought-provoking stuff.

Second challenge: create a multi-page collage in Photoshop using those quotes.

(Yea, I know it ain't pretty, but I learned as I did. Such are beginnings, sometimes.)

"Old man of oceans! of all this fiery life of thine, what will at length remain but one little heap of ashes!...'Well, well; I heard Ahab mutter, 'Here some one thrusts these cards into these old hands of mine; swears that I must play them, and no others.' And damn me, Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die it!"

"...that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second; and a second ended only begins a third and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort."

"I was told there were still smaller ones [whale vertebrae], but they had been lost by some little cannibal urchins, the priest's children, who had stolen them to play marbles with. Thus we see how that the spine of even the hugest of living things tapers off at last into simple child's play."   

"Now and then he stooped to pick up a patch, or save an end of the tarred twine, which otherwise might have been wasted."


“At the end of everything, good or bad, is you, so dance.” 
                                                                                           – Al Hagger