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a blog about hope


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Skating on Thin Ice

As a child, I wasn’t much into team sports.  I was terrified of dodgeball (how is it a sanctioned sport to hurl a ball at a 40-pound child hard enough to make her fall down?).  I dreaded basketball (how realistic is it to ask a 4’9” child to heave a basketball into a regulation-height hoop?).  And I especially hated sprint races in swimming class (how realistic is it to set the same child in a race against a child with the equivalent arm-span of Michael Phelps?).  Cruel jokes all, to said child.

As much as I hated sports and as much as I hated (and still hate) winter, I also had a need for speed, loving ice skating, downhill skiing, and tobogganing.  Since Michigan spends so many months with snow on the ground and ice on the lakes, you couldn’t escape outdoor activities.  All the major parks had ice rinks and toboggan runs (steep hills with stairs to make your climb back to the top easier), and while real hills for skiing are few and far between in the glacier-leveled state, to a child, any rise was good enough to strap on child-sized skis and zoom down the hill.

Dads across the region moved snow around and flooded backyards to make personalized skating rinks for ice hockey and figure skating.  It was a real art to make the ice lump free.  Our next-door neighbors had an in-ground swimming pool, which they lined with logs along the edge in early fall, to protect it from the points of our skates, when the ice froze.  How I loved to skate figures and words into the ice and glide, spin, and leap across it.  Well, I was spinning in my mind, not exactly speedy sit-spins or flying camels.

Grace under pressure

Grace under pressure

In the 1960s, I imagined myself to be Peggy Fleming, gliding regally across the ice.  Never mind that I didn’t have her athleticism, artistry, or beauty.  Never mind that my ankles were as wobbly as Bambi’s and that I was as lazy as sin, I longed to be accomplished and elegant.  Then, my adolescent hormones were seized by the seductive nature of pairs skating, with the spectacular married couple Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov (so rampant were those hormones, evidently, that I could remember “Protopopov” but had to google his wife’s name).  Such a perfect pairing, but I was troubled that they represented the Soviet Union, the “enemy.”

Behind the beauty of sport was the ugliness of Cold War political intrigue that infused international sports at the time.  Since Adolf Hitler seized his country’s hosting of the 1938 Olympics as a showcase of its skewed vision of ethnic superiority, sports had become a battle of moral supremacy.  The triumph of goodness over evil.  Of hard-working amateurs over subsidized athletes.  Of freedom over communism.  Of natural ability over drug-enhancement.  (That one still haunts sports today.)  The total medal count seemed to be the key to the survival of the planet.

Of course, figure skating has also had its zany moments.  Witness Aja Zanova and the Bic Pen Commercial.  Is this camp

Zaniness of skating

Zaniness of skating

or what?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVwOBFN8mgA 

Who could ever forget the obsession over Dorothy Hamill’s hair?  Scott Hamilton’s relentless grin?  Oksana Baiul’s smeary eye makeup?  Anyone skating as a cartoon character in a giant, plush head?  Even Blades of Glory couldn’t match the reality of skating snark.

Or the drama, when handsome Sergei Grinkov dropped lovely Ekaterina Gordeeva on her head and how she persevered in her career after his untimely death.  Or Rudy Galindo came out as gay.  (Well, maybe that wasn’t such a surprise.)  And, twenty years later, they still dredge up the drama of Nancy Kerrigan vs. what’s her name. (I refuse to name her; she’s had enough undeserved fame.)

Now, figure skating is everywhere, even in the summer.  I’ve been casually watching this “Grand Prix” competition (when the Ravens aren’t on), where they travel each week from country to country, competing.  It seems like overkill to me.  Too many injuries.  I miss the skill of compulsory figures that gives the sport its name.  I hate seeing skaters so worried about not completing quad jumps (men) or triple axels (women) that they can’t complete a clean program of grace and skill.  Falling is rarely entertaining, even on America’s Funniest Videos.

The music has become a snooze fest.  The other day, two Japanese skaters competed to the same music from Phantom of the Opera, because, according to the commentators, the music is wildly popular in Japan.  Even I can’t listen to Moonlight Sonata, Waltz of the Flowers, or a montage from Carmen any more without wanting to throw something at the television.  Bolero always makes me think of Torvill and Dean, the hottest couple ever to do anything on the ice.  The music should be retired.  No one will ever use it better than they did.

Take my advice, International Skating Union and sports broadcasters everywhere, bring back the artistry.  Bring in new music.  Bring back sophisticated Dick Button and Peggy Fleming to commentate. Just don’t bring back the Cold War.

DATE UPDATE:  Through match.com, I have a date this Thursday with a witty, intelligent man who suggested a really nice restaurant.  Lucky me!  Fingers-crossed that I have a good time.  (I know better than to start looking at wedding invitations.)  Plus, I see that the two men who never confirmed dates with me continue to check my profile.  Not sure what this means or if one of them is worth it, but, we’ll see.

At the suggestion of a friend, on Saturday, I ventured into Our Time, the sister site of match.com for people over 50.  Using the same profile and photos, I have been deluged with messages and “flirts”.  I dislike it because it doesn’t weed out the atheists and smokers in advance, which makes it trickier to read the profiles.  On the other hand, there have been some different prospects (and some the same).  And I may have accidentally shown interest in the ex of someone I know.  That’s a new dating dilemma.

Within hours of joining Our Time, about 1/3 of the messages that I received were from people with no photos.  Everyone who dabbles in online dating knows that you don’t respond to people who don’t post photos. We savvy online daters can tell a lot from a photo.  For instance, if you look like and claim to be college professor Alistair Winthrop, Ph.D., but write like a non-native speaker of English, I’m gonna delete you.  Likewise, if you have no picture or if parts of your profile are unanswered, I’m gonna skip right over you.

Unfortunately, my would-be stalker also found me at Our Time.  No, my life isn’t dramatic enough, I have a would-be stalker.  He first sent me a bizarre “secret admirer” note last year with his telephone number.  When The Daughter and I googled it, we were shocked to see that we knew him…and we know his wife!  On the advice of my attorneys and of law enforcement, I ignored it.  He wasn’t threatening, just needy, but that’s not my responsibility.  I added him to my prayer list.

Apparently, he was one of the “Mr. No-Profile Photos” that I had deleted on Sunday.  Without identifying himself, he messaged his disappointment to me yesterday, using my first name.  Now, if you’ve ever watched Dr. Phil or have two brain cells to rub together, you know that you never use any part of your real name or address in your profile.  Therefore, my dear Watson, it was elementary to me who it was.  His profile confirmed it, so I took a screen shot of it.

Since I was reading it on my phone, I had to wait to get home to block him.  Several hours later, his profile had disappeared, and the site’s security division says that, while they retain impressions of everything that occurs on their site, they are unable to prevent him from contacting me in the future.  This is why you never give people on these sites your last name, address, personal email address or telephone number.

Well, ladies who follow my blog, don’t worry about your husbands, who aren’t the kind who would be sneaking around on internet dating sites.  And if they were, I respect you enough to warn you.  On the other hand, if you don’t want to know, drop me a note.  In any event, rest assured that I am not interested in any more drama than I already have, so I’ll let them down gently.

This is a different kind of Cold War.  Maybe I should rustle up my own WMD.  I’ve been told that you’re guaranteed to hit something with a shotgun.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Batten the Hatches!

Batten the hatches!  My comfort zone is about to take a hit.  Apparently, the Polar Vortex has been kicked south by a mega-Asian typhoon over the North Pacific colliding with the Jet Stream, and something on Weather Radar bounced off a slow-moving front, shoving it into a Stationary High, causing it to flee south, around, and duck under, and according to the media meteorologists, disaster could, maybe, probably, be headed from Hudson Bay through Kansas, Dorothy, screaming like a freight train toward my neck of the woods, and it’s probably all my fault because I just can’t be trusted with weather.

Exciting!  Weather Channel map for November 11, 2014.

Exciting! Weather Channel map for November 11, 2014.

At any rate, some Weather Guru has determined that at least 42 states (Hey, who dared to offend eight states by leaving them off the list?) will be affected by something unpleasant, and, here in Maryland, we may have snow by the end of the week, just in time for my beloved Michigan State Spartans, who live with winter from November 1 to May 1, to journey here to play the University of Maryland Terrapins in their quaint little stadium in the middle of the night.  Advantage Spartans!    [Aside:  Who decided that sporting events should start at 8:30 at night?  Ridiculous!]

Has there never been cold and snow in the Midwest in November?  [Sorry.  I was laughing so hard at my own joke that I had to take a Kleenex break.]  Does no one own a coat, hat, gloves?  Ice scraper?  Spare roll of toilet paper?  Box of Kleenex for emergencies?  I suspect many of my old friends back in Michigan have snow shovels hidden in their garages.  Maybe even a snow blower or two.  I remember when the sidewalks were swept by the city with machines.  No snow days for us schoolchildren!  Now, everyone panics and huddles inside with cable or satellite tv, internet, and video games.

When did we become a nation obsessed with weather?  We’re like Goldilocks, never satisfied.  It’s too cold.  It’s too hot.  There’s too much sun/heat/rain/snow/ ________________ (fill in the blank).  There’s not enough sun/heat/rain/snow/ __________________ (fill in the blank).   The Polar Ice Caps are melting, endangering homes along the coast.  Should they really have built that luxury condo on a barrier island, defying God’s brilliant purpose of the barrier island?   They’ve been dredging up sand from the ocean floor onto the beach at Ocean City, Maryland since I moved here in 1976, saying that the destruction of the dunes for development is the culprit.  How is that my fault?  I drive a hybrid, after all.

Other than warning of an impending “weather event” of actual disastrous proportions, like a tornado, hurricane, or blizzard, I’d just as soon be surprised.  What can I do about it?  Not much.  The magic gene for weather control did not reach me in the great evolutionary process. How do I prepare for this?  Batteries, water, ice, bread, milk, toilet paper?

Boring!  Actual National Weather Service alert map.

Boring! Actual National Weather Service alert map.

Last February, an ice storm took out pine trees a half-mile away.  Their soft branches bent and snapped under the weight of the ice, taking out the lines that supply our little 20-house development.  (Ban pine trees!)  In July, a storm inexplicably took out the power for 51 hours.  Disasters?  Nope.  I’m still here, unscathed.

Unfortunately, we are insignificant to the power company because we have so few households, and, therefore, are some of the last to have power restored.  BFF Fiona and I have our survival routine down pat.  During the day, we go about our business, as usual (shocking, I know).  At night, we sit by the light of a Coleman lantern, with her snoozing at my feet while I read from my Kindle or from the Kindle app on my iPhone without the lantern.  Wait! We do that every night before we fall asleep.  No sweat.

I am not a camper, by any stretch of the imagination.  On vacation, I want to read books in a comfy lounge chair, wearing clean clothes, stroll through museums, have long lunches in nice restaurants, and drink lots and lots of soothing adult beverages.  I have done time on sailboats, freezing, pelted by hail, swatting at no-see-ums in sweltering heat, bathing with saltwater.  But I always had clean sheets on my bunk, a nice bottle of wine, a book, and, usually, a steak in the icebox or a beach restaurant in the next port.

Pellet stove+lantern=cozy

Pellet stove + lantern = cozy

My house faces south, with large windows, so, in the winter, the living room and bedroom warm up comfortably, if the sun is out, and my pellet stove runs off a 12-volt marine battery.  In the summer, leaves cover the tree branches and shade the house, so it naturally stays about 10 degrees cooler than the developments built in former cornfields.

What are my survival secrets?  I always have an Igloo-brand drink cooler filled with water, containers of solid ice stored in a spare freezer, and cooler packs frozen in the door of my freezer to protect its contents in the event of power loss.  I also keep water in old bleach bottles, which can be used for washing or flushing the toilet.  And, if I know that a tropical storm or blizzard is on its way, I am that woman who fills up at least one bathtub with water.  I see it as a talisman against the weather gods and have had to use it to wash dishes and flush the toilet more than once.  Of course, I have three low water-use toilets, so I can get at least three flushes out of whatever water is in the tank.

When power goes out in the summer, I move the block ice to my refrigerator, use my generator to run the freezer and refreeze the block ice.  The generator also is used to recharge a battery that I then use to charge my phone and laptop, run my television for the morning and evening news, and give me an hour of lamplight. I should have it set up to run the well pump and/or furnace, but I just can’t get motivated enough, because, news flash, it is rarely a problem.

When I designed my kitchen, I had a gas cooktop installed, which can be lit with a match and on which I heat water for bathing, dishwashing, and beverages, as well as cooking.  Of course, there’s always the gas grill outside or the charcoal grill in my dining room.  I’ll never lack for a hot meal, so, bring it on Polar Vortex!

DATE UPDATE:  Yesterday, I met a man for lunch at a nice local restaurant.  Upon my arrival at noon, we shook hands; he expressed surprise that I looked like my profile photos and inadvertently revealed that he had already consumed a beer.  During the next two hours, he drank three more.  I’m not sure if I was so awful he couldn’t stand me or if he has a drinking problem.  Since I can’t be more fabulous, I’m going to have to guess it’s him (plus he had exaggerated about a few things in his profile, like his occupation and his ownership of a boat, to name just two).  To ensure that there is no second date request, I played myself as silly, chatty, and as obnoxious as possible, finally throwing in my trump card —religion.  “Yes, you should know that I am the Senior Warden at my church and have seminary training.  My faith means everything to me.”  (All true, by the way.)  I think I actually saw him wince.  What a disappointment…he had such good grammar!

On the other hand, he paid for my $9 salad and glass of water (someone has to remain sober during a blind date).  My batteries are charged, my water is topped.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!