Friday, November 30, 2012

Thwarting the Grinch Who Sells Christmas

(A brief blog post diversion.)

I'm afraid we've been sold a bill of Christmas goods. And we seem quite jolly about the whole thing.

Television, radio, newspaper, magazines, advertisements and entertainment all tell us what Christmas should be,,,
  • Bigger, more breakable toys. 
  • Copious amounts of alcohol. 
  • New clothes and fashion accessories that we'll only wear during the holidays.
  • Excessive holiday food. 
  • Parties with people we're not so crazy about. 
  • The latest rage in games, gadgets and technology, soon to be frustratingly obsolete.
  • Spend, spend, spend.

I don't have TV. Tell me, have the commercials with a new car with a huge red bow on top started yet?
Honestly, people. Get a grip! Where did we get so far off track?

Of course, for the most part, the businesses behind the messages on TV, radio, in newspapers and magazines stand to rake in gigantic profits if we buy into their version of Christmas. Many of us grew up, just following along the Profit-Driven, Retail Party Line. The insane and mindless frenzy of the shopping season. I wonder which retailer first coined the phrase " .... shopping days left until Christmas." As if shopping was the point.

And that is, indeed, one way of doing it. Christmas commercialism.

It would be so easy to just keep writing in a snide, preachy manner about the ridiculous expectations and 'traditions' we've come to accept as acceptable in our backward holiday culture. And I've been as guilty as anyone, in the retail realm. But instead I want to point down the Christmas Road Less Traveled, where gift giving is concerned.

This is the way my holiday energy is leaning this year. Choosing a break from the overcompensation and consumerism aspect. It will take more thought and planning. And specific intention. Even a bit of work. Because it's definitely more effort than just sitting at my computer and clicking the Add To Cart button in my Amazon account. Or stepping into some huge chain store, grabbing the latest DVD, slapping paper on it and tossing into someones lap, "Ho ho ho." I think that kind of ordinary effort and investment 'rewards' itself in all parts of life, don't you?

My partial list of alternative ways to 'give,' this Christmas:
  • Give items purchased from local, small business owners. No chain stores. 
  • Give items from thrift or consignment shops. (Think of it as being spelled Shoppe, if it makes you feel better.) You can't find genuine vintage items at Target or Kohl's. 
    • Last year, I bought my son-in-law The White Album on vinyl. He recently told me it's the album he plays most on his old school turn table.
  • Shop specifically for fair trade merchandise.
  • Support local artisans. Purchase your gifts from art studios, craft fairs and festivals. (Here's just a few that turned up with quick Internet search.)
  • Buy homemade items from Etsy and similar sites.
  • Find some cool old books at a Used Book Sale. (I hear your local library has these.)
  • Buy a service for someone: 
    • A professional massage, housecleaning, yoga class, pedicure, dog grooming, personal trainer, a shared day at a spa.
  • Perform a service yourself: 
    • Babysitting, dog walking, vehicle tune-up, housecleaning, closet organizing, handyman-ing.
  • Give an experience: 
    • Northwest Trek, ice skating, ZooLights, The Nutcracker Ballet, a flight around Mt. Rainier or in a fighter jet. (*wink, wink*) 
  • Do you know someone who is great at something: baking, knitting, painting, crafting? Send your holiday 'business' their way. 
    • Last week, I had a taste of a pie that a co-worker made. It was so good, I asked if I could pay her to make one for me to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. My friend made some money, and I got to offer this amazing homemade treat at dinner. I hope she found it flattering that I'd thought so much of her talent. I know if someone said to me, "I really like your writing. Could you write me a short story to give to someone I love?" Holy smoke, right? What a high complement.
    • A few years ago, I enlarged photos that my daughter had taken for her photography class in high school and gave them to almost every one on my list. Shots of the EMP and Space Needle in the Seattle Center. Dandelion seeds blowing in the wind. The alley behind the Alibi Room in downtown Seattle. I framed and wrapped them, then paid my daughter for her talent and her work. Win Win.
  • Or use your own special talent: sewing, photography, woodworking. Give your gift.
  • Decorate your tree and home with found objects or home-made ornaments. 
    • Our family used to string popcorn and cranberries. We made paper chain garland.
    • Pay Alice to make those amazing origami paper globes in your preferred holiday color. (And pay her well, because Heaven knows I tried to learn how to make those treasures and failed miserably. They are beautiful but a bit like trying to successfully complete a Rubik's cube with both hands tied behind your back.)
  • Instead of getting your kid another video game, buy that same game and give it to the local teen center or transitional housing organization. (Okay, I know, still retail but for a good cause.)
  • Estimate the dollar amount you'd spend (and have spent for years, each year) on your family gifts this season and use that money instead, to sponsor a family who wouldn't have Christmas otherwise. 
  • Spend your time volunteering in someones name. Homeless veteran resources, homeless teens programs, recovering addicts transition shelters.

Friends of mine have used great ways of honoring the non-retail side of the holidays.
  • A couple years ago, my supervisor, gave me baby chicks for Christmas. I never got to meet the chicks as they were purchased (in my name) for a family in Africa to raise so they would have eggs to eat. I loved this gift. I went around telling everyone that my supervisor gave me chickens for Christmas. It sparked a lot of discussion and awareness of Samaritan's Purse
  • As an early Christmas gift this year, a friend of mine gave money in my name to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy. I am honored.

These are just some thoughts and suggestions. I'm sure you have more.

Quote from the 1966 movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas:
"He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!"
What's say we consider a different Christmas mentality this year? 

Celebrating Christmas 
with a mindful spirit instead of mindless spending.

I confess to one concern....I think Sequoia will be fully supportive of this Thinking Outside the Shiny, Superficial Christmas Box. But the grand boys? They may not completely understand what BB's thinking when they open their gift to find a donation in their name. We'll see how this goes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

13th New Thing ~ Barbie Without Borders

Thing 13

Way back at Thing # 6 or 7, someone asked what I would be doing for my 13th New Thing. I had no definite answer but since 13 is my favorite number, it felt like I should be deliberate about my choice. I had a couple of #13 ideas floating in my head but 10, 11 & 12 came upon me speedy quick.

When I finished #12, I saw a bit of a New Thing break on the horizon and was relieved to have a couple weeks to catch my breath. Nothing New scheduled or even contemplated. So I wasn't really worried about 13.  With a lot of writing to do, pictures to screen and organize, people to contact for more information and details, it felt good to have a clear view ahead. Time to get catch up.

Two days after the Flash Mob, I had a rough day. They're bound to happen. And this was one.
Wanting to take my mind off the unfortunate events or  perhaps wanting to vent to someone who could take it, I was on the phone with my daughter. Soaking up her unwavering and wise support on my way home from work, I asked...

"What are you guys doing tomorrow?"

"Getting Sequoia's passport," she said. "Do you want to come?"

Ding, ding, ding.  We have a sudden and spontaneous New Thing.
I am nothing if not sudden and spontaneous.

And sarcastic.

Getting my passport was on the list from the very beginning. It was one item I had no doubt about. It fell into the column of things that I'd need to do a bit of research for. Where to go, what I'd need, what about that mug shot picture thing? I had no idea where to start but wasn't really worried about it. Plenty of time.

So those who know me, might guess that as soon as she said "Do you want to come?" I went straight to the Internet to do some 'getting your passport' research, but I had previous plans and couldn't. So quite unlike me, I barged straight ahead the next morning.

I awoke, gathered my 50 year old birth certificate and all other ID-type documents I could think of and drove into Tacoma...straight to Ciara's.

My daughter, her husband and their magic hobbit-elf baby girl live on the seventh floor of a converted hotel in downtown Tacoma. We packed up Sequoia ready for a morning stroll along the city sidewalks.

They live in a really wonderful part of Tacoma. An area, that I found intimidating at first: the parking law small print  and one-way streets. But over the last year and a half, I've grown to love and fully enjoy it.

Don't get me wrong, it's probably not where I'd choose to live but I do love to visit. Having a 'home-base' in this neighborhood. It often feels like an adventure. There is so much variety: in people, in energy, in commerce.

On our walk to the Tacoma post office at 11th & A Street that morning, we passed by one store front window display of Art Deco flower arrangements: calla lilies, tree branches and geometric shapes. And just next-door, a life-size cardboard cutout of Darth Vader for sale. I think there used to be an Indiana Jones. Across the street, an establishment called Hell's Kitchen. Newly reopened.

A few blocks later, we walked into the Post Office. I wasn't paying close attention as I was distracted, cooing and gooing with Sequoia. Taking turns sticking our tongues out at each other.

But just a few minutes into our business I looked around me and noticed that we're standing in an unexpectedly beautiful, old historic building.

We stood at a counter to fill out page after page of paperwork but I was distracted by the patterns and textures around me. "Look Sequoia, isn't it so pretty?"

Made me want to run my fingertips along the front of those mail boxes.

Okay. Focus, Barbie. Back to the paperwork. 

All form fields filled, we stepped up to the counter. It was not busy at all. A postal worker looked at our pile of papers with a smile. We explained why we're there.

Sequoia and I were applying for our passport. Ciara was changing her passport to her married name.  Ciara and Sequoia stepped behind the counter and into another room to get their passport picture taken. I loved this full service. I had no idea the post office would do the picture part. It was so much easier than I'd thought.

The man behind the counter was funny and friendly. Engaging.
"You're in good spirits," I said to him.
"Was I not in good spirits last time?" he said, as he was writing on and sorting through our applications.
"This is my first time here. I'm just very excited about getting my passport and didn't want to get an overworked, under appreciated, exhausted postal employee nearing the end of his rope."

"That's me," he smiled.
"Well, you hide it well," I said. "And I'm grateful."
He told me his name is Dennis. I told him about the blog. He said I could take his picture.

Ciara and Sprig returned and it was my turn to step to a back room. "Don't smile," the photographer instructed me.

When we were all back to the counter,
Dennis was busy working on all three applications at once. Flipping and shuffling our forms back and forth.

"Sign here."

"Birth certificate, please."

"Initial this."

"I don't know how you keep it all straight?" I said.
The counter between us had become covered with loose papers.
"Neither do I," he said with a wink.
"Reassuring." I laughed, relieved at how much I was enjoying this process.

Sequoia thought he was funny, too.

As we finished up, I was still quite smitten with the design and architecture of the post office. As I'm taking pictures of the beautiful old building, Dennis told me that it's 102 years. That there's a school upstairs and plans for a restaurant or bistro in another part of the building. 

We said Good-bye to Dennis.
I shook his hand and thanked him for his great service. 

Then we headed outside.

The passport application process was painless. Enjoyable. I was so sure it was going to be confusing and stressful.

In fact it was so easy that I was a little confused.
"What do we do now?" I asked Ciara.
"Nothing. That's it," she said.
"Just watch your mail in a few weeks," she said.

Sequoia and I do a little Happy Passport Day Dance 
to celebrate.

Grandmother & Granddaughter! 

Getting their passports together made it extra special.
I could not have planned a better 13th New Thing.

Now all we have to do is wait, wait, wait for the mail to arrive. So exciting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks Giving

The enthusiasm and support I've received from people the last few months and continue to receive, has been overwhelming. It comes in many different forms.
  • Ideas. 
  • Offers. 
  • Emails. 
  • Conversations. 
  • Comments & feedback. 
The first time someone said, "Great idea! I wish I'd thought of that!" it made my eyes water.

I am so thankful it's difficult to articulate. And I'm pretty good at the gratitude thing.

Thing 10, Thing 11 & Thing 12 came back-to-back. To back. (Reminds me of Dr. Seuss.)

It wasn't intentional but they fell on the same weekend. Each became possible and offered to me weeks earlier without my knowing all the details. I said, "Yes!"

When it came down to it, I needed to be at the Puyallup fair grounds early Friday, up in Seattle later Friday, back at the fair grounds early Saturday and for a good part of the day, then work on Sunday and straight back to the fair grounds, that afternoon.

The idea of driving out to my house, then heading back into 'town' between each event felt like a sure way to set myself up to fail. Bad self care.

Months earlier someone, that I treasure, looked at me and said, "If you ever just need a place to stay for the night so you don't have to drive so far, stay at my house. Seriously."

There's a very common social dynamic that I find particularly annoying: 
Saying things we do not mean.

Verbally offering something we never really intend to give.
We all do it to different degrees. But it seems we've become a society of repeat offenders. Some of us are outright felons. Feeling quite magnanimous as we throw out meaningless and insincere 'offers,' It's a way of life for some. I trust and intend that I am at the lesser end of this scale.

Having those three New Things happen over three days, just about kicked my ass. I'd been tired going in. When I finished #12, I'd done five New Things in less than two weeks. A New Thing about every three days.

There are a good number of individuals on this planet, who can safely, and without fear of lightening strike, place their left hand on the Bible, raise their right hand in the air and testify that, "Barbie is a picky bitch."

Kind of like Goldilocks. "This porridge is too hot." "This porridge is too cold." "This porridge is just right." I know exactly how she feels. Especially when it comes to comfort.

  • I want comfortable clothes, regardless of the latest insane, edgy trend.
  • I crave comfortable temperature and climate, not too hot, not too cold.
  • I enjoy comfortable conversation, which is genuinely a physical thing for me. That natural & easy emotional connection.
  • I love comfortable meals. I rarely eat on my feet or scarf down my food. I seek to relax while I enjoy a meal. Take my time. Get comfortable.
I am not, nor do I aspire to be, one of those people who can wad up their coat, and use it for a pillow under their head in order to sleep on the ground. No thank you.

I don't tend to stay at other people's houses. "It's late, why don't you just sleep here?" It has nothing to do with the person or the house. It's because I want my comfort. My book, my jams. My brownie and ice cream in bed. The scent of my body lotion. The fell of my warm mug in my hands. I want comfort, as I know it. Surrounded by the nest I've created for myself. My customized escape from the rest of the world.

One of my top comfort priorities is bed. A bed that invites peace, sinking into comfort and deep sleep.

A few weeks ago I helped a friend move. On his first night in the new place, I gave him the best advice that I know, about such things, "Get your bed set up first. Then no matter what else is a mess, you have your bed."

It's the first thing I do when I stay anywhere. Prepare the bed. Where I'll close my eyes.
Staying with a friend. Family. A hotel. A new home. I first make sure that the bed is ready.

When my kids were little and didn't want to go to bed, I'd remind them, 'You grow when you sleep.' I believe this. Whether it's spiritually, physically, emotionally. In whatever area we need, growth, re-energizing, renewal.

That crazy New Thing weekend, I needed a safe place to land, physical support to get me through. To rest, to exhale. Elise gave me this. Opening her home, so inviting and peaceful. It was precisely what my spirit called out for. I was able to breathe deep and sleep well.

It was an exciting, adventure-filled but EXHAUSTING weekend of Three New Things. A weekend I would not have been able to get through without help from Elise and other New Thing Supporters like her.
I can't thank them enough...
  • Elise & Jack, for their generous spirit and comfortable home. Allowing me sanctuary. An emotional embrace for my spirit. And the first bath I'd had in over a year. (More on that soon.)
  • Kim, for doing all the driving and parking for the Storm game. Handling all the practical details. I didn't have to decide anything. Just soak it up. 
  • Tami, for organizing communication with Dean, getting me in the right fair gate at the right time, sharing her fair admissions and parking passes with me. 
  • Juston & Dean, for letting me join them. Helping me through. 
  • C & C Studio for welcoming me into the Flash Mob at the last minute. 
  • Dellie, for her incredible and unwavering enthusiasm. And her sweet dance moves. 
  • Gary, Dellie's husband, who took pictures and the video. He was incredibly patient. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

For each new morning with its light, 
For rest and shelter of the night, 
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

And for those, like myself, who prefer a good movie quote to a poem:

"Those who don't push the caravan from the muck, 
become one with the muck."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

12th New Thing ~ Mob Mentality

When creating the list of 50 Things, there were three that felt like they might be particularly difficult to make happen:
  1. Fly in a fighter jet.
  2. Set up an outdoor bath tub on my deck overlooking the water.
  3. Participate in a Flash Mob
As elusive and near-impossible as these seemed to me, I kept thinking, "Man, it would be incredible if I could manage to pull these things off." Like winning the 50 New Things Lottery.

There are some items on the ever-changing List that I may not be able to do only because they are probably going to be financially prohibitive. We will see what happens. I hate being skunked by price. In fact, it tends to make me more determined.

But the Jet, the Tub and the Mob aren't about money; but instead, more like pulling the right Chance Card:
"Second Prize in a beauty contest. Collect $10." 

Luck of the draw.
Right place at the right time.
It's not what you know; it's who you know.

Now, if I'm convinced something is going to be difficult or impossible, then it will probably become difficult or impossible, where it might not have been otherwise. Like a mental block.

So, in spite of my mind suggesting repeatedly, 'These things are going to be hard,' I wrote them on the list anyway. Telling my voice of negativity to hush. Sending the three 'wishes' out into the universe, choosing to believe they're possible.

*Fighter jet, bath tub, flash mob.*

*Fighter jet, bath tub, flash mob.*

*Fighter jet, bath tub, flash mob.*

Fighter Jet:
Riding in a Fighter Jet feels tough to pull off because I don't know if it's "allowed." Can civilians go up for a ride-along in a military air craft (aside from local media promoting an upcoming air show or SeaFair-type event)?  I don't know the answer to this question. I'm afraid that the answer is no. And as long as I don't ask officially, I won't get an official answer. Therefore both answers are possible. Schrodinger's Cat.

Outdoor Bath Tub:
A bath tub on the deck overlooking the water? This also seems so difficult. I think it's because quite a few things would have to fall into place.
To make this happen, I would...
  • Need to find a tub that someone is looking to get rid of. Or sell me, for an amazing price.
  • Need the owners of my home to be okay with a clunky, old heavy tub sitting on the deck
  • Need help moving the tub to my place.
  • Need help setting it up: moving, placement, plumbing, drainage.
Feels like a lot of difficult ducks to get into a row. What are the chances, right?
But IF I could pull this off? Totally worth it!

Flash Mob:
According to Wikipedia, "A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression." Read more here: Flash Mob Wikipedia Article

My first exposure to a Flash Mob was this link someone sent me a few years ago:
Historic Flash Mob In Antwerp Train Station - YouTube 

I was hooked. How amazing!  And how cool would it be to be part of a Flash Mob?
Rhetorical question....SO COOL!

There are many Flash Mob videos online. And like anything....some good, some not.

My favorites are the ones that give me chills. Make my eyes water.
Here's a great link for that:
Christmas Food Court Flash Mob - YouTube

Quite a few have been done in downtown Seattle. One example, click here; See You in the Crosswalk - YouTube

(I'm going to stop adding links now. There are just so many cool ones. The search can be addictive: Holiday Flash Mobs. Glee Mobs. Airport Mobs. Marriage Proposal Mobs. I could watch for hours. If you are going to wander around You Tube, Flash Mob videos are my recommendation. Oh wait....just one more...nothing like a man who knows how to this link...Denver Airport Holiday Flash Mob - YouTube)

Naturally, I've wondered what goes into making them happen. If the nature of a Flash Mob involves secret and surprise and stealth, how do people who want to participate ever hear about them? Is there a secret society of silly, special, spirited folk, organizing and orchestrating these events? An underground culture of social subversives? How do you go about practicing the choreography for a top-secret event in a otherwise undisclosed public place?

And most importantly, where do I sign up?

Watching these, I marvel at the teamwork involved. What must go on behind the scene to pull them off? I want to get to know the kind of person who would spend so much time and energy to brighten the days of unsuspecting passers-by. Creating random acts of kindness. Paying it forward. The kind of people who look beyond their small, insular lives with a heart for joy and celebration and the smiling faces of strangers. Creating a sense of spontaneous community. I want to know that person. I want to be that person.

The possibility of making this a New Thing felt even more difficult than the Fighter Jet thing.

Just before my 50th birthday, I started searching online using different keyword combinations but only managed to find Flash Mobs scheduled in Florida, Texas and California. I genuinely considered trying to make it to the Florida Mob; it was for some one's 50th birthday. Felt appropriate.
But in reality, it just wasn't going to work. Schedule-wise. Cost-wise. The Internet search for something local wasn't very encouraging so my hope and searching slacked off. Eventually weeks had gone by since I'd looked for anything. I guess I decided that if it was going to happen, it would have to be serendipitous. If it was meant to happen, then it simply would.

One Monday at work a few weeks ago, after Flash Mob had slipped off my radar, I noticed a few of my favorite PAC people gathered around a single computer, watching something, quite intently. I peeked over Dellie and Sally's shoulder.
"What are we watching, girls?" I asked.
"There I am," said Dellie, pointing to the screen. "Right there!"
"I see you," said Julie.
This is what they were watching. Link:  Flash Mob at the Puyallup Fair - YouTube

Just a few days before, at the opening of the Puyallup Fair, Dellie had participated in a Flash Mob.

Holy Crow!! A Flash Mob in my own back yard. And I'd missed it. So much for serendipity.

"That's incredible, Dellie," I gave her a squeeze. "Good for you!!" We continued to watch (on our break time), trying to catch glimpses of Dellie in the mob video. Someone from the department formerly known as HR walked by and saw us gathered around this work station. I said in an overtly loud voice, "And that is how Windows7 works. Any questions?" We laughed but weren't kidding anyone. We dispersed and went to our separate corners of the building. I talked to Dellie later about sending me the link, congratulated her on the amazing accomplishment and mentioned how green with envy I was.

It was at this point that she uttered those 11 Magic Words:  "There's another Flash Mob on the last day of the fair."


The questions came tumbling out of my mouth...
"Can I do it?"
"Who do I talk to?"
"What do I have to do?"
"How can I learn the dance?"
"Who do I talk to?"
"Can I do it?"

My flustering all over myself didn't seem to phase Dellie in the least. She totally set me up. Told me about C & C Studios in Sumner. A Zumba class where she heard of the Mob and learned the routine. The class that I could take to learn the choreography. The dates and times. The location of the studio. Who to call, who to talk to.
"Would they be okay with me joining for the sole purpose of doing the Flash Mob?"
"Yes, yes!" Dellie said. "You should do it."
"Are you doing the Closing Day one?" I wanted to know.
"Yes," she said. "We'll do it together." I wanted to cry, I was so happy. This was now the second New Thing that had made me want to kiss a girl right on the lips. I couldn't believe my good fortune. Serendipity comes through for me again! I never doubted.

So I called C & C Studio. Carla answered. I explained about the 50 New Things, the blog, my hope to participate in a Flash Mob. That I probably wouldn't join the class except to practice for the mob. C & C is quite far away from where I live and work. She was completely enthusiastic and welcoming. "Absolutely," she said. "Join us."

The next day, I went to the studio just off Hwy 167. Over the next week and a half, I attended a couple classes, stayed after for extra practices, watched the practice video over and over, practiced at home (as most of the classes conflicted with my work schedule).

I was stressed and scared, wondering if I could learn it well enough to participate. It came during an incredible busy time. Between the day I first learned of Dellie's video and the last day of the fair, I had four other New Things lined up. There was a lot on my calendar. I was completely overwhelmed. So through out my September 11th Thing, the Writing Contest, the Storm Game and Showing Sheep, in the back of my mind I keep thinking about how I had to learn this dance. A dance that most of the other Mobbers had been practicing far longer than I'd been.

I was so excited to do a Flash Mob; it was important to me that I give it my very best energy.

I was probably more nervous for this New Thing as I have been for any. Or maybe it was just because I had those many days leading up to it. Auto Cross was scary as hell but I didn't actually know I'd be doing it until Matt held open the door and said, "Jump in." Not knowing ahead of time for some of the 50 Things has been a true advantage. If I'd have know how stubborn sheep could be....I may have chickened out.

The Storm game Friday night, the Sheep Showing Saturday morning, a week of work, regular life in all the moments in between...I was tired. Overwhelmed, even.
The Flash Mob, for which I did not feel prepared, had me nervous.

Sunday, the last day of the fair, was suddenly upon me.

I met Dellie by the carousel inside the Gold Gate. Dellie and her husband, Gary. The Mobbers gathered in a staging area tent. We sat waiting. We ran through the dance a couple times. Heard last minute changes and details. Practiced one last time. Waited some more.

I was so nervous. I was being given too much time to think about it. It's easily the closest I've come to backing out of a New Thing. Changing my mind and walking away. Telling myself whatever story I needed to, in order to justify acting on my cowardice. You know how it is, running away with your fear wrapped neatly in your excuses.

I texted Ciara. "Tell me again why I'm doing this?"
"Because you are brave and you want this! It will be amazing fun. You can do this! Just have the best time!"

That's my girl. She has a real knack for the support and magic words thing! She is God-given.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I got this!

Sweet Dellie and her patient husband Gary, probably thought I was on meth. Jittery. Chatty. FREAKING out.

We made our way to the mob site. Under the Extreme Scream. Appropriate.
We mingled in the packed crowd of Last Day Fair Goers. Checked the time. Mingled, mingled, mingled.
"Dellie, what time is it?"
Mingled some more.

The idea with a Flash Mob is that you appear to be just a member of the crowd, that you are as confused as anyone that something spontaneous and unexpected is happening near by. All nonchalant, like. Then suddenly you jump right in.

Our music cue blasted through the overhead speakers. The area was packed. Two or three people started dancing together. Then another group joins them. Then more and more. It was crowded but suddenly we were all dancing. Laughing, singing, smiling like crazy.

Some of the last minute changes had us turning in directions we hadn't practiced so there was a bit of scrambling to be facing the right direction and moving all together. It was hilarious. Dellie and I tried to stay close to each other. Poor Gary tried to keep us in the view finder as he recorded us. Bless your heart, Gary!

At one point, maybe about 2/3s of the way through the dance, I was on the most right edge of the mob. Pressed close against people who were watching us. Right next to me there was a young girl, looking up at me. I had to be careful not to run her over. She was probably eight or nine years old. She stared at us with wide eyes. It was crazy loud but I bent down and said, "Do you want to dance too?" I could tell she did, but she shook her head, "No." I said, "You can if you want to." She never did but I like to think she'll be in a Flash Mob herself one day.

The energy was incredible and infectious. We were all completely caught up in the moment. I was so emotionally moved by the experience. I wonder if there was anyone else there who was crying as she danced.

This link is the 'Officia'l video of the Final Day of the Puyallup - You Tube and it's great; I keep watching it for glimpses of Dellie and I.

One thing I didn't realize until after....I had practiced and practiced. I was as prepared for that dance as I could be, given the time I'd had. But it turns out, what I should have practiced was the nonchalance. Behaving like I didn't know what was about to happen. (I'd make a terrible actor. I have a hard time pretending. Especially when I'm nervous and excited.)

Gary recorded Dellie and I. It probably wasn't easy as she and I kept moving to different areas. (Well done, Gary!) Then he got the video to me on a disk later that week. I struggled loading in the blog directly. And was ultimately unsuccessful. Thanks to Darcy, who uploaded it to her YouTube, you'll see the link below.

But before we watch it, I need to tell you, as I finish writing here and am about to add the link, I'm terrified. For such a public event, it felt very personal. As nervous as I was before the Flash Mob itself, as nervous as I've been for any of the 50 Things so far, posting this video link, here for all to see.... is scarier. Scariest so far!

I can't explain why but it's true. Linking to a video where I'm lost in the crowd takes no courage. But letting you see my wrong turns, mis-steps and nervous energy? Frightening. But then I remind myself that putting myself out there for public scrutiny (see the sheep post), showing the real stuff is where the excitement it. The release of joy. The satisfaction of accomplishment.

Without Dellie, this would not have happened. If it were not for her infectious optimism and open nature, Flash Mob would still be on the list of 'unlikely' New Things. Dellie, you are an angel and I am so blessed to know you. Thank you!

I also want to encourage you to visit C & C Fitness Studio at this link. Corrine and Carla could not have been more welcoming and encouraging. I knew very little about Zumba before I went but it was a great experience. I've been to the studio class a couple times since the Flash Mob just because it's so energizing and fun. I've thought about looking up classes closer to home but for now I'll keep driving the distance. It's worth it.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

11th New Thing ~ Sheep Whisperer

From: Tami
Sent: Tuesday
To: Barbie
Subject: 50 Things

Here’s a thought. Have you ever shown an animal at a fair? My brother and nephew will be in town the 19-23 and may need a handler for one of their sheep. It is a bottle fed little guy so he is pretty gentle. Interested for one of the 50 things?



From: Barbie
Sent: Tuesday
To: Tami
Subject: RE 50 Things

Wow, this is one of the most original New Thing ideas I’ve received. Is it a full time thing? Or are people handling the sheep in shifts? More info, please please.


From: Tami
Sent: Tuesday
To: Barbie
Subject: RE: 50 Things

When the sheep are judged you have to stand there with them while the judges look them over. It involves about an hour of your time on Saturday (I think). You can spend more time with them if you want and learn what it takes to get an animal ready, I know my brother Dean loves to teach/talk about his animals.


From: Barbie
Sent: Tuesday
To: Tami
Subject: RE 50 Things

Okay, but if I do a terrible job ‘handling,’ does it affect the judging of the poor sheep?
PS: I'll send you my schedule.


From: Tami
Sent: Tuesday
To: Barbie
Subject: RE: 50 Things

Ok, here’s the scoop.
When my nephew shows, he is in 4H so his partner will have to be a child. BUT, Dean would love to have you help him out in Open Class. He will give you a run down about how to show them and what to expect. You have to wear a white shirt and black pants and closed toed shoes, although he did suggest that the judges would like a low cut top and a short skirt. My brother is odd. As far as I have heard and he knows, the judging is on Saturday. We can coordinate more as I know more and we get closer to the 22nd.

I have done this in the past and it’s actually rather fun! Plus you get to be a part of the fair and get poop on your shoes. Good times.



From: Barbie
Sent: Tuesday
To: Tami
Subject: RE 50 Things

Okay, I need to go shop for black pants. I only have the short skirts, you know. :)
Keep me informed.

~ B


For those who know me at all, you’ll agree that it’s a little ironic, the joke about wearing a skirt.

So….Sheep Handling. Who didn’t see this New Thing coming? Me, that’s who!
It’s amazing the unexpected intersections in our lives. And this one came out of the blue.

The date for the 11th New Thing was Saturday morning, the last weekend of the Puyallup Fair. But to get an idea what to expect, I needed to be there the morning before.

Tami and I meet at the fairgrounds, early Friday. Before the gates opened for the public. She introduces me to various members of her immediate and extended family.

“Dad, this is Barbie. She’s going to help Dean show his sheep tomorrow.”

“You’re not wearing that, are you?” he asks me.

Not exactly what I hope to hear just before I walk, head first, into a New Thing.
Well, honestly, it’s not what I hope to hear, pretty much….. ever. You?

The very nature of New Things, is that they are new. By definition: strange, foreign, unfamiliar.

I’m already a bit off center, each and every time I step into an unknown experience. As I’m standing at the starting gate of something I’ve never done before, I really don’t want to be second-guessing my choice of attire, outfit, uniform or Kevlar vest.

“You’re not wearing that, are you?” Straight to the point. I do appreciate knowing where I stand with someone.

I look down at the clothes I happen to be wearing for the Pre-New Thing:
Black tank top, black & white eyelet skirt and red Keds.

“I don’t know,” I look up at him and shrug my shoulders. “I might.”

I’m trying not to wonder, “What have I gotten myself into?”

I wear skirts the same way most women wear blue jeans. Pretty much every day. This has not gone unnoticed for some of the 50 Things:
· “A skirt on a Harley?”
· Coveralls offered for the oil change.
· “I’ve never seen you in anything but a skirt,” at Auto Cross.
· Dancing at The Tempest ….was I the only one in a skirt? Oh wait, that wasn’t an official New Thing.

Tami’s early email had said: “white shirt, black pants and closed-toe shoes.”
“Closed-toe shoes for safety?” I asked Tami, sometime the week before.
“Probably more because you’ll be stepping in poop,” she said.
Say no more. Closed-toe, it is.

White shirt and black slacks is self-explanatory. It’s a classic and crisp look. Creating a striking, uniform and professional appearance. Before I even meet him Friday morning, this standard tells me something about Dean.

I like what it tells me about him.
What I don’t like, however….is pants.

After I met Dean, his son Juston and the rest of the family, I meet the sheep.
America and Ivan, a ewe and a ram, are sweet, young sheep for Juston’s 4-H project. Quite docile and happy. I think Tami used the term “bottle fed.” I wonder if there is such a thing as house sheep. You know, like house cat. I think America would make a great House Sheep.

America and Ivan are not, however, the sheep I’ll be assisting with. ‘My’ sheep all have names that were also numbers. #204, 205, 209 or something close.. I think this type of name makes it easier to invite them to dinner at a later date. As the entree. (Ask Tami which number is in her freezer right now.)

After Dean goes over the plan for the next day, my next New Thing, it is time for Juston’s 4-H presentation. “Do you want to watch?” I do. I follow the family to the Pavilion.

Juston’s presentation is on the ukulele. He introduces us to the different constructions and sizes. The one he holds is a tenor, I believe. He points out its various parts. Tells us the origin and history of the instrument.

The presentation was quite impressive. Public speaking is one of the most common fears in our culture. Right up there with fear of height and even death. Juston stands on the platform before the judge’s scrutiny, in front of his family, other 4-H presenters and the public. Countless fair-goers, leisurely looking through the Pavilion exhibits: talking, texting, wrangling small children, navigating SUV-sized strollers. Juston is impervious.

Then, in addition to his remarkable speech, Juston plays the instrument. In the midst of a pavilion full of people, he plays the ukulele and he sings, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The Israel Iz Kamakawiwo'ole version. I love this song. It makes my eyes water, watching Juston’s confidence, his courage. I don’t think I could have done it at any age, must less at his.

Afterward, Juston’s calm is unwavering as the judge walks him through, not only, what he did well but (and this would be the deal breaker for most people) also what he needs to do better. She is tough but fair. I watched, we all watched, as he patiently took in the judge's comments and suggestions.

When was the last time you were scrutinized publicly? Most of us are so soft, this way. Constructive criticism is more than most adults can handle in private, let alone in front of family, friends and a building crowded with strangers.

Watching Juston stand there, unnerved and without discernible fear, is a huge boost to me as I look to the New Thing just ahead. *I can do this. I can do this.*  Honestly, this pre-teen is more inspiring than many adults I know.

Whatever happens tomorrow I'm going to be okay. And in those inevitable moments when I feel TERRIFIED, I’ll just start humming Somewhere Over the Rainbow, quietly to myself. Feels good to have a plan.

I arrived early the next day. Dean may have thought this was the character trait of a reliable and efficient person. In reality, it was nerves.

*Humming….Some where over the….*

My attire? I wore closed-toe shoes, well, boots actually. But I did not wear pants. Of course, I wanted to do a good job for Dean. And for the sheep. But I also wanted to honor the person that I am in this adventure.

So I walked into the early morning fair grounds wearing new black boots, a white top with cardigan and my favorite black skirt. Maybe my slightly unorthodox livestock-showing attire would confuse those sheep into hypnotic cooperation?

We had a bit of extra time before the showing, so Dean gave me some introduction to grooming sheep. This was seriously intimidating to try just before they were to be judged. Grooming sheep with sharp shears in my hand is a skill I think would have been best practiced when the pressure was off.

You’ve seen those perfectly curved, immaculately prepared wool of fair sheep. You want to touch them to see if they’re real. And Dean let me hold the clippers. Yikes. Pretty scary.

People started to arrive. Suddenly, it was time. As I furiously hummed ‘birds fly over the rainbow…’ I wondered if there was still time to find the nearest exit. Next thing I know Dean, Juston and I were walking with the first few sheep from the barn to the judging area. We put the sheep in a hold pin, then into line, single file with the others being shown. Judged.

Was this hard? You have no idea.

I would never have guessed that sheep could be so uncooperative. Sheep, right? Aren’t they supposed to be easily led? I really cannot describe how difficult it is to get a sheep to move one direction when she doesn’t want to.

The process of showing was quite serious and quiet. When one of ‘our’ sheep won a ribbon, of whatever color, I wanted to cheer but sensed that would have been inappropriate. Too bad. I believe in cheering.

And on the subject of cheering, I can tell you that I felt like cheering when it was all done. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, I did. It was an incredible experience. I went into it pretty much blind to what was ahead. At the mercy of Dean, the judges, but mostly those sheep. But I felt a lot of pressure to do a good job for the sheep sake. For Dean’s sake. This was a single New Thing for me but I could see quite clearly how much Dean enjoys his work. When you love what you do for a living, it doesn’t feels like work. Instead it feels like an daily opportunity to do it well. To get better and better. To do it for real and from the heart.

I would tell you the details of the classes being judged, the criteria of the judging, how Dean's ewes and rams did in the competition. Color commentary. But it was all kind of a blur to me. Mostly I was hanging onto the sheep as tightly as I could. It was very moment to moment. Plus I don't tend to keep score for things I just enjoy doing.

Dean told me later that we got positive comments on our appearance. The professional black and white. I’m glad and I agree; we were the best looking group out there.

It’s been a few weeks since Sheep Handling Day. When I look at the pictures now, I see that I may have made the mistake of using the harness like a leash. Like I was walking a dog.

At the time it felt like sheep wrestling. Dean is probably more of a Sheep Whisperer. Knowing their nature. Not having to hum any show tunes to get himself through it.

I met my first sheep, up close. And my first Flock Master and son.

Post Script:
I stayed after the Open Class, in which I participated, to watch Juston show his ewe, America, for his 4 H project. It was nerve racking as an observer. He did a great job. This kid has amazing composure; All the 4 H and FFA kids did. Our culture seems saturated with saggy pants, unruly kids, shuffling through their teenage years, disrespectful and unappreciative of their parents, their education, their community.... thinking they’re the center of the universe...that adolescent arrogance and entitlement that many kids carry right into adulthood. Watching Juston and the dozen other young people restored a bit of my faith. I’m so grateful. 

My 11th New Thing ~ Sheep Handler

Leading the first pair to the arena.

Digging in our feet for tug-of-war.

Poor Dean. Handling his own charge and having to supervise me, as well.

I'm not sure if the sheep are smiling as much as we are.

Juston helping me stay in step.

Showing the herd. 

L to R: Tami, Andy, Dean, me and Juston.
Andy was a member of another group showing but he saw that we had five animals in the hands of four people so he stepped in and helped. I love when someone doesn't wait to be asked.

This is the expression on a sheep's face when a beginner is coming at her with sharp clippers.

Look at me. Who would have guessed?

Juston's ewe, America. 
Isn't she so pretty? Smiling.

Dean watching his son.

Juston & America in the center. Both smiling.

A happy bonus of helping behind the scenes at the fair, you don't have to wait in the long Ladies' Restroom lines. Sign me up for next year!!

There is so much about the sheep themselves that I'm leaving out. 
Details about Border and Miniature Cheviot Sheep. 
The lambs, the wool, the breeding stock.