So, I’m afraid of heights. Nothing new. Lots of people are. So, when choosing a “Big Thing” to experience each month, lots of ideas tend to focus on conquering this fear. That’s why I chose ziplining in June and flying in a powered hang glider in July (during which I got as high as 4,060 feet, thank you very much).
September was ticking away though and I still hadn’t found a suitable “big thing” for the month. I happened to be in Japan on a business trip when I learned about SKYTREE TOWER. It’s the second highest structure in the world, the highest tower ever built at a height of 634 meters. People can go up to 451 meters high inside the tower (that’s METERS people). I immediately decided that I must do this. Then I immediately decided there was no freakin’ way I was going to do that.
I am really afraid of heights. Here’ some examples.
Know why I’m smiling? Because we’re on our WAY DOWN! I wanted to puke the entire time I was in the air. But I couldn’t… had to save face in front of Mgazi. (183 meters)
This is me at the type of the Eiffel Tower. Drinking champagne in a vain attempt to quell my irrational fear of the entire tower tipping over right at that very moment. My smile is fake fake fake. (324 meters)
I was not afraid while in the powered hang glider. I don’t know why. (1238 meters)
This is me in Belize. At the top of a very tall tree. Why am I sitting down? Because I’m scared to death! (30 meters)
This is the rock at Waimea Bay. See me at the top? I’m frozen in fear. I wasn’t able to build up the nerve to jump. Had to take the walk of shame back down. (a zillion meters… or maybe less than 20)
After laying in bed in my mini bed in my mini hotel room in Japan having a mini conniption about going up in the very tall tower, I texted my husband. He reminded me that I’m post-Paris Kristine.
I didn’t have a choice. I had to go to the top of the Skytree Tower.
I read somewhere that on your 100th blog post you should write 100 things about yourself. So, in honor of my 100th post, I present to you…
100 Things that You Probably Don’t Know About Me
I am embroiled in an unhealthy and one-sided love affair with cheap wine.
A colleague and I were once driving in South Africa when we were pulled over by men carrying big guns. When I tell the story now, I say we were pulled over “at gunpoint.” The guns were pointing somewhere… just not at us.
When I was a kid, I wanted to name my future daughter Phronsie Brett, after a character in The Five Little Peppers.
The first time I cried from joy was when my parents told my sister and I that they were going to have a baby. I was ten years old. It was Christmas morning, 1980.
The happiest hour of my life was the hour after my husband proposed to me.
I can flip a quarter off my elbow and catch it in my palm.
I learned to drive on a stick shift.
The only time I ever heard my father swear was when he was teaching me to drive.
During the summer between fifth and sixth grade I read 52 books. I thought I was a shoe-in for the Summer Reading Contest. Turns out I was wrong. Another girl won. She read 53 books. Her name was Sally Sokolowski.
Some of my favorite family memories consist of holding séances with my cousins at my grandparents’ house.
The last time I cried from happiness was when I received a 21-seond personal video message from Sean Stephenson.
I once broke up with a boyfriend the day before my birthday. That night a girlfriend took me out to get drunk. Then we decided to dye my hair. It didn’t turn out well.
The hardest I’ve ever laughed was the afternoon that my sister, Angela, and I decided to wax our underarms. I lost my nerve and couldn’t pull off the wax. We spent over two hours trying to melt it off my right armpit using matches.
I am an expert in absolutely nothing.
When my sister, Cori, was a baby, I used to take toys away from her before she was done playing with them. I then handed her something else that I thought was more interesting. When I was in college I was an intern for a PhD student doing a research study on this exact behavior. Turns out mothers who do not allow their children to naturally choose which toys to play with do serious damage to their kids. Sorry, Cor.
I was once slapped by an old woman in the streets of Nepal.
When I was a teenager I would regularly fantasize about going to a pep rally before the “big game.” In my fantasy I would be overcome by the heat of the bonfire and faint into the arms of a cute boy who would instantly fall in love with me.
I’m judgmental and petty. Not all the time. But more often that I like.
I have epilepsy. Several times I’ve lost consciousness and was caught by a cute boy. It sucks.
I am terrified of screwing up my children.
I broke my nose in high school when I was playing right field in a softball game. Pop fly. I lowered my glove for some reason, which allowed my face to catch the ball. When I tell the story, I played shortstop and the batter hit a line drive.
The six weeks I spent in Africa were simultaneously the best and worst six weeks of my life.
I’ve walked barefoot over hot coals three times, walked barefoot over broken glass twice, and broken an arrow with my throat.
I got caught shoplifting from Wegmans grocery store when I was in middle school. Turns out that eating from the bulk food bins with no intent of paying for what you’ve eaten is considered stealing.
I make killer ice cream.
Parenting doesn’t come naturally to me. What? You didn’t know?
I fish for compliments.
The most emotional years of my life were in 1984, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2009, and 2012.
I accidentally flooded my class toilet in Kindergarten because the bathroom was out of toilet paper. I used paper towels instead. The teacher was pissed. She made all the students in class put their heads down on their desks in silence. The intent was that we stay that way until the culprit confessed. I never did.
I care terribly what you think. (It doesn’t even matter if I like or respect you.)
I became engaged to be married at 5 years old. My marriage proposal came from a boy of the same age. He sent it by mail. It was written in white chalk on black construction paper.
My first concert ever was Captain and Tenille.
When Zaffron was born I was terrified of her. Russell took care of her almost exclusively for the first three days.
When I was a kid I had a huge thing for men with mustaches. HUGE.
I had a very happy childhood.
I idolize Harry Chapin.
I won “Most Original Costume” in my elementary school’s costume contest. I was a McDonald’s French Fry Guy. When the local newspaper lined up the various winners on stage to take a photo, my ping pong ball eyeball fell off and bounced off the stage.
I’ve travelled to thirteen countries: Canada, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Swaziland, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Australia, Belize, France, and South Korea.
I’ve fallen in love exactly three times. I’ve never fallen out.
When I was a kid the worst punishment I could receive was being grounded from the family typewriter.
I was a horrible mother to Mgazi for the first 6 months.
I do a mean imitation of a horse.
Last August, I climbed the Waimea Bay rock with the intent of jumping off into the ocean. I lost my nerve. I’ve been marinating in self-imposed humiliation ever since.
I once told a joke to a captivated crowd of family friends that lasted over twenty minutes. The joke was about a giant pink gorilla. I killed it. (The joke, not the gorilla.)
When I was in high school I had a pin on my denim jacket that read, “Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.” I thought it was original.
My sixth grade class had an ornament-making contest. I made a balsa wood Christmas tree hanging in a balsa wood oval frame. I got disqualified because the teachers thought I didn’t do the work myself. The winner was Sally Sokolowski. She made a God’s eye. Have you ever seen a God’s eye? I could have made a stupid God’s eye in my sleep.
In high school I had a pen name. Myrtle T. Clearwater.
My favorite vacation with my husband was on a Disney Cruise. Don’t ask me. I’m baffled too.
I cried during the last chapter of the last book of Harry Potter.
I have a horrible memory. I don’t know how old I was when I lost my first tooth or got my period.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid.
I was 26 years old before I realized that things don’t always turn out “okay.”
I sucked my thumb until I was in sixth grade. The only reason I stopped was because I picked up a fan (while it was plugged in and turned on) and sliced all the skin off my thumb.
I’m not one of those people who have no regrets.
I have seen the Monkees in concert six times. No, this is not one of my regrets.
I’m sometimes embarrassed to say I’m a blogger.
My mom worked for NutraSweet when I was a teenager. Several types of candy used it as an ingredient at the time and they used to send her logoware. I used to walk around wearing a t-shirt that had “WHOPPERS — The Original Malted Milk Balls” printed across the chest.
I think my first memory is of falling down the basement stairs.
A 911 operator once hung up on me during an actual emergency. (Well, it was my friend, Sam, that they hung up on. But the story flows better if I substitute myself for my friend.)
In sixth grade I auditioned for the lead in the Christmas play. When I sang “O Holy Night” for my teacher, she stopped me short and remarked, “Boy, you sure do sing with your mouth wide open, don’t you?” I didn’t get the part. Guess who did? Sally Sokolowski.
I once had a “run-in” with Owen Wilson in a bar in Waikiki.
My favorite joke of all time is The Pig with the Wooden Leg.
If I knew any famous people, I would definitely name drop.
I think I’m funnier than I actually am.
I have a horrible memory. I have no idea how old I was when I experienced my first kiss or what I said in my wedding vows.
In sixth grade I had the best friend in the world. Sally Sokolowski.
My dad taught me that you never boo at a hockey game. And you always clap for a player who makes a good play. It doesn’t matter which team that player is on.
In high school biology class I dissected a grasshopper and wore his leg on my yellow sweater the rest of the day — like a gruesome corsage.
My favorite and boldest Halloween costume was a short dress accompanied by a a bow with a simple gift tag tied around my neck that read, “To: Men. From: God.”
I adore hyperbole.
My favorite books of all time are: A Prayer for Owen Meany, Life with Father, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Straight Man.
I value honesty more than almost any trait. Honesty made more attractive by decorative details is even better.
When I was a kid, I memorized the Announcer’s Test. My dad taught it to me and my sister during long drives. If we made a mistake, he’d stop and we’d have to wait until the next long drive to try again. My dad memorized it by listening to Jerry Lewis say it, just one time, on the radio. I can still repeat it to this day.
One hen. Two ducks.
One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese.
One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters.
One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters. Five corpulent porpoises.
And on and one until number 10…
One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters. Five corpulent porpoises. Six pairs of Don Alverzo’s tweezers. Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array. Eight brass monkeys from the ancient, sacred crypts of Egypt. Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth. Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who haul stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time.
When Russell and I were dating, I accidentally backed my car into his ex-girlfriend’s car in a parking lot. It was a total accident. I swear.
I have an intense dislike for the aloha shirt.
I scored in the 97th percentile on the verbal portion of my GMAT. Don’t ask me. I’m baffled too.
I once had a fist-fight with a neighbor boy on my front lawn. I was protecting my sister’s honor. In my version of the story, I won.
During my sophomore year of college I owned and operated a singing telegram company.
I was baptized when I was thirteen years old. It was a full-on dunking.
The first time I got drunk was in eighth grade. Gin.
My mother used to say I was never happy unless I was complaining. Thirty-five years later, I think I finally agree with her.
In sixth grade my friends and I put a girl on trial for stealing my Rubik’s Cube. We appointed her a lawyer and rigged the jury. The verdict came back guilty. We also planted the Rubik’s Cube in her locker. I’ve always wanted to apologize but I can’t remember who we did it to.
My first job was at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
I breast-fed Zaffy until she was 22 months old. By that time she could ask for it by name. (It got a little freaky.)
I believed in Santa Claus until I was in sixth grade. When my parents finally told me the truth I locked myself in the bathroom and alternately sobbed and shouted “YOU LIED TO ME” through the door.
I fervently defend my right to tell my children that there is indeed a Santa Claus.
In seventh grade I started drinking Diet Coke. I hated the taste but kept drinking it because I thought it was cool. Now I crave it.
At the age of forty-two I started drinking coffee. I hated the taste but kept drinking it because I thought it was cool. Now I crave it.
As a kid, I loved to play the 1980 Atari 2600 version of Space Invaders. I even remember flipping the game. (When you reach 10,000 and the score flips back to zero.)
Once I was trick-or-treating at a neighbor’s house and I stood on the wrong side (the hinge side) of the screen door. I could barely see out of my costume and when the lady in the house opened her screen door I didn’t move out of the way. The door knocked me off the porch and into the bushes. My arms were pinned to my sides and I couldn’t move so there I stayed, wedged between the house and her bushes until my sister grabbed my dad from the bottom of the driveway, and he came and pulled me out. The lady was mortified so I got extra candy. Such is the life of a french fry guy.
I’ve gone to a nude beach. I even took off my clothes.
Until recently, I believed that pride was a sin.
I have never had a cavity.
The best I ever felt about my body was when I was pregnant with Zaffron.
I’m a piss-poor long-distance friend.
Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I had a very sheltered childhood. Everybody I knew was white. There were a couple of black kids in school and one Chinese boy in church. (Where’d you disappear to, Peter Ho?) Except for the congregation at my church, everyone I knew was Catholic. 90% of the kids at my high school were Polish. Imagine my surprise when I got to college and discovered that the Italian boy I had been dating for three weeks was actually from India.
Okay. Not exactly true. I don’t love my flabby arms. But I’m trying not to hate my flabby arms and that should count for something. But my June “Big Thing” didn’t start out being about arm fat, so let me take a step back.
I didn’t do a lot of planning ahead for any of these big things. They just came to me. And I expected they would continue to do so throughout the year. So, I was quite surprised on June 20th when I realized that there were only ten days left of June and I didn’t have a “big thing” waiting and ready.
I wrote a quick note to Vincent Kellsey, the life and business coach who helped me become a firewalker, asking him for ideas on what my next big thing should be. He wrote back:
My first question to you would be: How many things do you need to do to prove to yourself ( or anyone else) that you can do whatever you set your mind to do?
When will you decide that it is enough?
He wrote a bunch more. Lovely stuff. Caring stuff. Intelligent stuff. But I got stuck on the first part. Why am I doing this? To prove something, as he said? When would enough be enough? It gave me a stomach ache to think about it, so, I did what I always do when I don’t want to think about something. I filed the email away in the “La La La” drawer.
Since Vincent was giving me the answer I needed rather than the answer I wanted, I moved to plan B. I took some girlfriends out for drinks for “big thing” brainstorming. And it only took three drinks (one for each of us, thank you very much), some fried calamari and a martini glass full of raw fish to come up with this:
Oh, ziplining scares the bejesus out of me. It was a good idea. A fear. A first. Something I have avoided in the past but actually would like to do if it weren’t so damn scary! (Don’t tell Russell. Back in 2010 he wanted to vacation in Costa Rica at an eco-lodge that had ziplining and white water rafting. I strategically steered him to Belize and an eco-lodge with canoes and tapirs.)
I could just picture it: whizzing through canopies of leafy trees, with the ocean on my left and picturesque mountains towering over my right. Problem was, Oahu has only one ziplining course and it’s over the Bay View Mini-Putt Golf Course.
Nuts. It would have to do because I was out of time. And you know what? It was a lot of fun! Check it out!
Fun, yeah? But really short and not as dramatic as I had hoped. While I was scared at the top the whole event didn’t feel “big” enough for a “big thing.”
Russell asked me how I liked it afterward and I answered, “It was fun, it was harder when I was putting my arms out, it was scarier. But then, halfway through, I just pretended I was flying.”
Even if it only lasted twelve seconds, it was an accomplishment of sorts. Maybe I could count it as half a big thing? I wasn’t sure and I was mulling it over later that night when Russell and I decided to review the video he had shot.
He did a admirable job keeping me in frame as I was zipping over the fake lake and paper mache mountains of the mini putt golf course. I was pleased with the footage and decided immediately that it was suitable for a blog post. Then we turned to the interview portion of the video… where he asked me what I thought of the ride. I looked happy in the video. Maybe even a little elated. I could use this for the blog too, I thought…
I noticed something awful. When I threw my arms wide to imitate flying, the skin on the back of my arms flapped in the wind like laundry hanging out to dry!
What the fuck was that?
“Did you see that?” I asked Russell, who stood there stupified, staring at the tiny screen.
I rewound. Yes! The skin on the back of each arm seemed separate from the rest of the arm as though it had a mind of its own. It didn’t move at the same rate as the rest of my arm did. If my arm moved forward, the skin below it hung back. As my arm moved backward, the skin below flew to the front like reverse inertia. The two parts of my body, that should have been one, were always at odds with each other. One going one way, the other going another.
Russell actually took a step away from the video camera and said, “Oh…,” followed by a slightly lower-toned “ohhhhhhhhh.”
It was horrifying! It was an affront to all the hard work I’d been putting in at the YMCA. (Damn YMCA.) This video was definitely not going to go on the blog!
I know I’m supposed to love my body and all, but geesh, that’s a lot to ask of anybody. If I put this video online I would not only be acknowledging my flaws, I’d be highlighting them! What would people think?
As the second half of my June “Big Thing” I present to you, my droopy triceps snapping in the breeze like Tibetan prayer flags on Mount Everest!
Nice, huh? You can see now why I slowed way down at the end of the zipline. My arm fat was acting as a sort of parachute. *smile*
Recommendedwine: Today I’m going to suggest you try the 2010 Windsock White Viognier by Fly High Vineyards in Jacksonville, Oregon. It’s bold and full-bodied, just like my arm flab.
I’ve been posting the funny things my kids say on Facebook for years. If I post about the state of affairs in Iran or where I ate for dinner, nobody responds but the crickets. But if I post that Zaffy thinks the Wicked Witch of the West is after Dorothy’s shoes because “she wants a splash of color,” the comments section goes wild.
I don’t like putting something “out there” and being met with silence. I rely on validation. I need to hear I’m doing a good job, or I’m doing the right thing. I need verbal support. That’s my crutch; that’s my incentive. So, I stopped posting much of anything except the funny or cute things my kids said. I basked in the glow of the replies and often friends would encourage me through the comments section to write a book or collect these sayings somewhere.
Then out of the blue someone said, “Are you and Russell doing okay? You never post anything about him. It’s like you live separate lives.”
Then another friend said, “How have you been? I mean just you… all you talk about is your children. They are precious, but what’s up with you?”
I was confused. What do you people want?
Wait. What do I want?
I want to be something other than a wife, mother, and nonprofit COO. Is it bad that I need more than the great stuff I’ve already got?
I don’t know.
This is me. Right before I leave the hotel to explore Paris for the very first time. I wonder if I knew at the time that life would never be the same.
A very dear friend of mine remarks often about our first world problems. I have food, clean water, shelter, safety, a loving family and a rich social life with friends who care about me. Why isn’t that enough?
No clue here either. Because I’m greedy? Maybe.
But what I do know is this. Until I went to Paris in September 2010, I was terribly unhappy wandering through my life on autopilot, checking in if things went too awry. If I remained unhappy, if I ignored it, what good was I doing anybody? What example was I setting for my children, who I want, very much, to grow into confident, self-fulfilled women?
So, here is what I did. I took the transformation that began in Paris and used it as a catalyst to become Post-Paris Kristine. I am now living, not merely existing. And suddenly, I am more than a wife. I’m more than a mother. I’m more than an adoption advocate. I’m Post-Paris Kristine and I really like me.
And I want to express myself.
So, I started this blog. And yes, the foundation is parenting. Many of the posts are the funny things that my kids say. After all, parenting is what I primarily do and it’s my most important role. But it’s not everything. I’m throwing in quite a bit of “me” into this blog. And you know what the response has been?
But that’s okay. I am Post-Paris Kristine and I don’t need validation.
The Dalai Lama came to Hawaii this week. It was perfect timing for me. I had decided that each month I had to do a “big thing.” Something that was extraordinary. Something that was Post-Paris Kristine. Something that mattered. I think seeing the Dalai Lama counts. It was mighty kind of him too, to schedule his trip right when I needed it.
The talk was exceptional. It wasn’t a religious experience but it was a humble one. I took notes. Here they are:
Prosperity comes through action not prayer
Success is in the mind
Healthy body <–> healthy mind <–> happy life, loop back
Any decision made during extreme emotion is rarely the best decision
He is very fond of George Bush. They like the same kind of cookies. But knowing that person is a good person does not mean that you agree with them all the time. A person’s motivations can be good but their method is unrealistic so the goal is not achieved.
The key to inner peace is warm heartedness.
Develop your own practice, your own views, your own convictions so that when everything around you is negative, you can remain strong and influence your environment.
Fear can be realistic (dangerous dog coming at you) or unrealistic. You can deal with unrealistic fear by being open so you can create possibilities and see what happens.
The best part of his talk was the Q&A. A person asked him if he smiled all the time, even when he was not in front of cameras. He said, yes. Then he added he smiles even when he is in the bathroom.
Yes, he said that! I’m paraphrasing because I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to quote the Dalai Lama from memory. But I swear to Buddha (can you do that?) he said it.
THEN HE SAID…
“Well, sometimes… when I’m having trouble with things coming out… when I have to assert a little pressure…” (Yes, I’m using quotes, but they’re just for show. I’m still paraphrasing and I’m totally not making this up.)
His Holiness pretended to squat over a toilet with a grimace!
Uh huh. That’s what he did. On stage. I swear on all that I hold holy.
THEN HE SAID… referring to when he has to assert a little pressue…
“Well, I’m not smiling then.”
!!!!!!!!! I kid you not.
The same person asked another question. How happy can anyone expect to be? The Dalai Lama answered that any event has many angles from which it can be viewed. The problem is that human beings tend to look from only a single angle. Therefore, we miss the joy and good that can come from the bad things. He instructed us to use our intelligence to look at things from different angles.
Yada yada yada. I had stopped listening. The Dalai Lama, one of the greatest men living on earth, had just pretended to take a poop on stage. And I was there to witness it.
Below is a video from Pillars of Peace. In it, His Holiness talks about the power of Aloha, and the fact that he didn’t know what the word meant at first.
So, I want to do one “big” thing each month this year. I want to make 2012 the year that I don’t let anything stop me. And when I look back at my 12 “big” things, I want to feel pride and accomplishment and joy. (January’s “big” thing was running my first ever 5K — and not coming in last!)
So, for February, I did three “big” things all in one exceptional night.
I walked on freshly broken glass — barefoot.
I broke an arrow with my throat – yeah, you heard me, with my throat!
I walked on fire – twice.
Many thanks to Vincent J Kellsey for being an incredible leader during this workshop that helped me see how fear can be turned into power.
Recommended wine: What? Are you crazy? Do you really think I’m going to recommend drinking alcohol when you are walking on jagged glass, breaking arrows with your throat, and walking barefoot over hot burning coals? No, my friends, no wine recommendation from me today.