Monthly Archives: August 2012

I Hated Sports, Until …

Well, to be honest, I don’t hate sports. It’s just that my body hates sports.

Don’t get the wrong impression: I can do lots of awesome things with my body, such as raise one eyebrow, touch my nose with my tongue and write with my toes. Yep, I am that talented. But before you ask for a toe-penned autograph, understand this sad fact: it would be easier to herd Palestinians and Israelis together for a cup of tea than to get me to catch a ball.

Fortunately, an auspicious call of fate summoned my family to Portland, OR, where spandex-clad men are more likely to be a bicyclists than football players. In this green utopia, hiking, biking and running are all revered as superior forms of athletic activity. Oh, you blessed hipsters who reject conventional, institutionalized sports! Thanks to you, even yoga has become an accepted recreational activity. My awkward limbs thank you.

But this was all before I attended the Special Olympics. That marvelous organization has forever transformed my outlook on traditional sports.

Particularly altered is my attitude toward baseball, which was previously #1 on my list of Easy & Patriotic Ways to Kill Oneself By Boredom. I understand it is practically treason to malign the iconic American sport, but watching plump men in tight clothing loll around … spit on the ground …  stomp the ground … signal the catcher … position the feet … ready the ball … munch something gross in their cheeks … debate over what to do next … wind the bat … is enough mind-numbing tedium to slay even those with the fiercest desire to live.

But back to baseball, where I am barely clinging on to life. If by some miracle I manage to stay awake for the first few innings, I can entertain myself through the remainder by counting the number of new freckles I develop during the game, comparing the lengths of my fingernail cuticles or dreaming about how much more interesting it would be to listen to someone talk in depth about a TV show I’ve never watched.

Thankfully, only the pros are boring. Watch a Special Olympics game, and I guarantee your jaw will ache not from yawning, but with unfettered laughter & delight.

Smitten from the first moment, it was as if I had stepped into a different world. There, most everyone is hampered by a mental or physical impediment, yet simultaneously are free to be exactly who they are. Unfettered by the need to impress, they exist liberated from the tyrants of beauty, wit, intelligence and success that the rest of us bow to. How refreshing it was to escape the charade of typical adult interactions, where so many words are mere shadows of our true feelings!

This raw display of emotion makes for exceedingly entertaining games. While Special Olympic athletes hit more balls than the pros do, they still miss quite a few. One young fellow upon hitting a pitch, neglected to run to first base and instead began pumping his arms up and down in excitement, ran in circles, and gave his coach a huge hug. His joy simply could not wait!

And oh, the dance party. I’ve been clubbing, swing dancing, ballroom dancing – in different states, in luxurious venues, with a variety of handsome men (that sentence was intended to make my life sound cooler than it really is). This celebration outshone every single one of them. In an open field in the cool, summer twilight,  a huge crowd of sweaty Special Olympics kids danced their hearts out. Not one of them (especially me) will ever make it on Dancing With the Stars, yet they all moved with such genuine joy and enthusiasm that I am convinced the very stars above us danced with delight.

What an honor it was to rejoice with ones so pure of heart! I left those games with a flame of joy as large as the Olympic torch shining brightly in my heart – it was if my soul had been hugged over and over again. With a myriad of mental and physical advantages, I was reminded by these ‘disabled’ ones that our value isn’t tied to skills or accomplishments, but to the very essence of our being. Every human is the temple of precious and worthy soul, whether they play in the regular Olympics, Special Olympics … or can do neither, like me.

I encourage you today to find someone who needs love, and give it wholeheartedly. It is far more rewarding than even hitting a home run … not that I would know :)

Why My Mom Thinks I’ll Never Get Married

“Heidi, why do you always burn the cookies?”

Well, I don’t every time. But in the eyes of  the 5-yr old I live with, enough crisp barely-edibles have emerged from my oven for her to doubt my culinary skills and pose the question.

Oh, did I mention she is 5? And I am 28? I don’t recall including ‘shaming myself in front of a kid 23 years younger than me‘ in my life plan, but I bet a burnt cookie that the British didn’t plan on getting whipped by the rag-tag American rebels. Life is full of unsavory surprises.

It happened one evening when I was babysitting Karis and her 3-yr old brother Titus. We had already tapped out the standard babysitting activities: hide & go seek, story time, arguing over which Thomas the Tank Engine movie to watch. (It is surprisingly difficult to choose between mind-numbingly boring and mind-numbingly boring.)

With an hour left until bed time, I decided a quick batch of cookies would be an easy time filler and secure me their love. No, I am not above bribing children. It is good preparation for their adult lives.

As Thomas the Tank Engine had just promised me that things always work out perfectly in life, you will imagine my shock when upon checking the cookies half-way through, I beheld what resembled a brown molten lava flow. Melding into one another, the nine cookies had lost all individuality as they bubbled and slithered like a gooey primordial mass over the side of the cookie sheet and on to the oven floor.

Shamefacedly, I presented the ooze to the kids. I’ll never forget the shock and betrayal that flickered across their faces. They implicitly trusted me to carry out a simple function, and I failed them miserably (in retrospect, I should have blamed the debacle on them).

Fortunately, mature emotions such as disappointment over adult shortcomings do not reside long in the hearts of children. With great alacrity, I capitalized on a more carnal sensation I knew would fully captivate their little souls: the fleshly pleasure of a soft, warm half-baked cookie. Remember what I said about bribing?

Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you are wondering why Karis asked why I always burn the cookies, if I had actually under-baked them. You see, the problem stems much deeper than that. She was confusedly referencing my habitual propensity to scorch the bean & rice dish I cook every few weeks. A simple recipe I make often, yet continue to botch, wafting a crisp, burnt aroma throughout the house from my basement lair of incineration.

My excuse for beggarly cooking skills? As a teenager, I was too busy reading War & Peace repeatedly to study a cookbook. So while I boast an intimate & extremely relevant knowledge of the chariots of Napolean’s army, I can’t even boil beans properly.

My mother often bemoans my paltry culinary skills – how will I ever get married if I can’t cook? Silly Mom. Her concerns reveal her ignorance about the ways of romance. Love must be tested. How can I be confident suitors aren’t pursuing me solely for my nominal good looks or lack of financial surplus unless I test their affection – in this case, through a burnt carcass they must ingest?

So the morals (or more aptly, lack of morals) of the story are: 1) Always bake with kids, because you can blame any mistakes on them, and 2) Read less Tolstoy and more cookbooks. Russian war stories are entertaining, but you can’t eat Napoleon.

Oh, gotta go. I smell burnt beans!

P.S. Never fear, Mommy! In all seriousness, I am making slow efforts to master the kitchen.  Just this week I whipped up a delectable batch of spaghetti, burn-free and completely edible! Now that is progress.

burnt cookie

Documentation of the carnage. Karis is bummed, but resigned. Titus is capitalizing on the situation to practice his sexy ‘Blue Steel’ look.