Thursday, February 25, 2010

In a Two-Horse Open Sleigh

We experienced quite an adventure this past week--a hay-wagon ride out to a nearby snow-hill. It was a group activity for the youth of our ward and the leaders of the deacons had decided it was time for a little outdoor fun. (Their group was in charge of this activity.)

The challenge was the freezing temperature. For a couple of days, it had hovered below zero. It was somewhat warmer the night of the wagon adventure, but not much. A few brave souls still gathered at the church anyway, most of us dressed like a character from "A Christmas Story."

Despite the chilly temp, we still had a lot of fun. We met out at a local dairy, and climbed aboard an open hay wagon. Bales of straw had been set in place on top of the wagon for our riding comfort.

Two larger sleds were attached behind the wagon and the even braver souls among us, took turns riding on them. They were dumped out along the way, but seemed to enjoy the spontaneous spills into the snow.

Finally we arrived at our destination near a good-sized hill of snow. Everyone unloaded and helped carry off the containers that had been stashed. These were filled with refreshments for later on, and included a butane stove to warm the hot chocolate.

Earlier, a farmhand had lashed several large posts and slats in place, forming a tall teepee This was lit on fire after our arrival and it formed an impressive bonfire. This aided in keeping everyone warm.

Then most of the youth grabbed their respective sleds and headed for the hill. It proved to be a thrilling ride for them. The cold temperatures had effectively crusted the snow. As the kids came down off the hill, most went flying . . . and loved it. Only one disgruntled deacon returned to the fire grumbling about the cold weather, a few bumps and bruises, etc. He was shamed into trying the hill again by some of his peers and leaders, and he had a wonderful time. ;)

Later, we all gathered around the fire for the much-needed hot cocoa and doughnuts. And about the time we decided to head home, our fire collapsed. The good news is that no one was hurt. The interesting news is that it resembled an art-form featured at this year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver. We took it as a sign that we had done well that night. ;)

Friends and family will be delighted to know that I, for once, was not injured in any fashion during this adventure. Everyone was proud of my accomplishment. =D I mostly wandered around, taking pictures, minding my own business. See, miracles can happen! ;)

What a fun blast from the past. During these days of hurry and scurry, it's a refreshing change to savor an enjoyable pastime from days gone by. We loved the wagon ride home, and I, for one, was sad to see this adventure end.

If there are any lessons to be learned from this experience, I think it would be to reflect on what was missed by those who didn't participate. Taking the easy way out isn't always the best thing. Sometimes you glean grand opportunities by going the extra mile and risking a little discomfort. Remind me I said that. ;)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

That's a Lot of Bull . . . or Why Cheri Should Stay Away from Rodeos

So there I was, minding my own business, watching a miniature bull rodeo. It was a first for me, something my husband has been after me to witness for quite some time. One of his co-workers owns a herd of miniature bulls and he takes them around to various rodeos for youngsters. Kennon has attended at least one of these youth-oriented rodeos during the past year, and he couldn't say enough good about it.

Last weekend, one of these events was taking place near where we were staying in Blackfoot, in an indoor arena in Pingree, Idaho and we decided to attend. The miniature stock was provided by Casperson's Miniature Rodeo Bulls owned by Kennon's friend\co-worker.

It was interesting to watch. As a mother of all boys, I did my share of wincing as each young lad climbed aboard one of these feisty beasts. ;) Several boys were launched into the air, but only one seemed to limp for a while, after the bull he was riding rammed the poor kid's knee into a post. But in true cowboy fashion, he shook off the injury and insisted on another ride. Go figure.

People who know me well are stunned when I forget to bring along one of my trusty cameras while traveling. =) Well, I totally spaced bringing one with me last weekend. As I sat watching the miniature bull adventure, I found myself wishing I could snap a few photos. Then it occurred to me that I did have a small camera nestling inside my purse . . . my cell phone.

"Eureka," I thought as I pulled it out. Anyone familiar with using a cell phone camera knows that they come with certain limitations. Despite this, I was determined to get at least one good picture. I stood up in front of where I had been sitting in a camp chair and aimed the cell phone camera at the arena. I found that I couldn't zoom in very close at all from that location, so I moved closer. Pretty soon I was standing next to one of the metal panels that formed the rodeo arena. If I stuck my arm through the opening between the metal bars, I could zoom in closer for a better picture. My next challenge was holding still enough to take a clear shot, which is rather tough to do with a camera phone.

I took several shots, most of them a blurry mess since my chosen subjects refused to hold still. Wanting to get at least one good shot of the miniature bulls, I tried again, this time bracing my body against the metal panel. Finally I was taking shots I figured I could send to my sons later on, showing them what we had done for entertainment that weekend.

The miniature bull bucked and performed nicely for me, and the rider was still attached. The bull moved closer to where I was standing and I silently cheered, knowing I was getting another good shot. This is the picture I snapped just before the silly thing plowed into the panel where I was standing:

Yep, suddenly I was the one who was launched into the air. It all happened so fast, I wasn't sure what had taken place. One minute I was taking the bull's picture, and the next thing I knew, I was flying end over end backwards. I managed to hit into a space-heater along the way, effectively knocking it over. Nice.

Amazingly, I wasn't seriously injured, aside from my pride. Everyone who saw my graceless moment, roared with laughter when they saw that I was okay. My sister-in-law helped to break my fall, and dusted me off as I stood up. The next problem was the space-heater which was lying face-down in the dirt. People were freaking out about that, and I felt bad, knowing I was the one who had knocked it flat. So I reached to pick it up, and discovered that it was extremely hot. The good news is I only burned two fingers while trying to straighten it into place. And the heater wasn't damaged.

A few bruises formed for me later on, and I had popped a rib out of place compliments of that little adventure, but all in all, I was lucky. From what everyone told me who witnessed this event, I really could have been hurt\and\or\burned.

I know this, despite the small size of these critters, they pack a wallop, and they are to be respected. Or as my mother was always telling me as I was growing up, "Good things come in small packages." ;)

Add Image

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh, The Saints Marched Right On In!

Okay, I'll confess . . . not only did I watch last night's Superbowl game, but I've become a huge Saints fan the past few years. So if you are acquainted with what happened during last night's game, you'll know that it was a great moment for anyone who loves the New Orleans' Saints. (For those who didn't see that game, the Saints won against the highly favored Colts team, 31—17.)

For years I had never been much into football. Then my youngest son insisted on participating in this sport all through middle school and high school. He was the shortest center our high school team had ever featured in that position, and earned a couple of awards for his efforts. (His nickname was Mighty Mouse.) I spent most of his games covering my eyes whenever he went up against players who were twice his size. I'll never forget the freshman game when someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me to watch the game. I had closed my eyes because my son was up against a huge giant of a kid, someone who weighed around 300 pounds and stood at well over 6 feet tall. My son weighed 120 pounds if he was lucky and was about 5' 3” at the time. You can understand my dismay. Devin was going against this guy on offense and defense. As a result, I brandished my purse a great deal and threatened to swing it while marching out into the fray.

When people kept insisting that I pay attention to what was taking place during that game, I looked out onto the field, and saw that my son had hold of the giant's leg. The guy was literally dragging my son along as he hurried toward the goalposts with the football. Devin refused to let go. When the rest of the team saw how hard Devin was trying to hold onto that huge receiver, they ran after both players and helped Devin bring the guy down, preventing him from scoring another touchdown.

I felt like I was watching a similar struggle last night. The Colts came out, anticipating an easy win. And they quickly made the first few points---the score was 10 to 0. My husband, who is an avid Colts fan, was ecstatic and told me to not feel bad when my team lost. When I informed him that a certain lady hadn't sung yet, he just grinned.

Then suddenly, the Saints came alive, and they played their hearts out. They ran plays that caught the Colts totally off-guard. And they won!!! I'm still grinning. ;)

I should explain. I spent two weeks in New Orleans when my husband was sent there on a special assignment for his company. We arrived nearly a year after Katrina had wreaked havoc and what I saw has forever touched my heart. Not only did I fall head over heels in love with the area, which is gorgeous, but I came to have a healthy respect for the residents who were determined to rebuild. I saw boundless courage and raw optimism. I witnessed firsthand some of the heartbreaking damage that had occurred in that area, and the outpouring of civic pride as strangers helped each other out as best they could.

The Saints football team helped a great deal with the effort to rebuild. And their success has meant the world to people who have lost so much. So yes, I cheered for them all night long, impressed with their tenacity despite the odds. Their win is a win for their city, a place of triumph and endurance where the historical theme of joie de vivre (joy of living) is inherent in their ability to survive challenging trials. I suspect there is a lesson in there somewhere for all of us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Forward Ho!

Have you ever noticed in life that interesting things happen at the most inconvenient times? This week has been a refresher course in this particular subject, at least for me. Among other things, just as my ward YW presidency prepared to meet with our stake YW leaders on Sunday, following ward conference, my blood sugar tanked in a dramatic fashion. Nice. For those of you who are not diabetic, this means my blood sugar level dropped drastically, causing an insulin reaction. The only way to remedy this situation is to consume carbs quickly to bring it back up.

So while everyone watched, I ran a quick check with my blood sugar meter to see exactly how low it had dropped, as I simultaneously unwrapped small pieces of candy that I keep in my purse for this very reason. When the number confirmed what I was experiencing, I hurriedly ate the candy, apologizing to everyone for this slight delay. My first counselor helpfully dug out some glucose tablets she keeps with her (one of her family members is also a diabetic) and she offered a couple of them to me. It all helped, but I felt totally humiliated. So I used humor to ease things for everyone. I knew they were nervous about what I was enduring, so I made light of the reaction, assuring them all that my brain cells would begin to function again soon. (It takes about 20 minutes to feel like a person after experiencing a reaction. I can usually bluff my way through after about 5-7 minutes.)

Everyone there was really good about that embarrassing episode, but it made me sigh internally. I had been planning for this meeting for a couple of weeks. We had spent quite a bit of time decorating our YW room in time for this annual visit from our leaders. (We were going to do it anyway, their visit just gave us an added initiative.) And we had important concerns to discuss. They had important new information to share. Then Murphy's Law took over the reins. I had even run a check on my blood sugar shortly before this meeting took place, and it had appeared to be okay. ;) C'est ma vie! (Such is my life!)

Yesterday I woke up feeling like the last chapter, with a raw throat, dizzy head, the works. It was an "aha!" moment. When I'm catching a bug, my blood sugar will bounce all over the place. No wonder I had put on such a performance the day before. =D

Yesterday morning, my oldest son also experienced a character building moment. He had to be to work by a certain time and he ran out the door about fifteen minutes before he needed to arrive. Normally, this would give him plenty of time. However, the weather surprised us all. During the night, about 8 inches of new snow fell in our realm. And when the snowplow went by to clear the snow from the road, it left about a two foot barrier all around my son's car, which he keeps parked out in front of our house.

After assessing the situation, he asked for help, and he was stuck with me. ;) Still feeling like I couldn't punch my way out of a paper bag, I threw on my coat and headed out the door. He asked me to climb inside his car to drive while he pushed. This proved to be a fruitless endeavor. Then our neighbor showed up with his trusty truck, equipped with a snow-blade, and saved the day. After we threw a blanket over the back of my son's car for protection, our neighbor pushed it through the snow and onto the road. We thanked him profusely, and my son hurried to work. He had already called to let them know he would be a few minutes late, and all was well.

It wasn't the way he had envisioned his morning. ;) I suspect the lesson for the week is that life rarely turns out the way we think it should. It's like a mystery novel; there will always be plot twists and turns. Evidently, these adventures are good for us. I know when I look back over my life, it is those unexpected twists and turns that have shaped my character the most. I think we learn more from unanticipated challenges, than those we painstakingly prepare for. That's when we truly see what we're made of, down deep inside.

When tornadoes hit our life, we show our true mettle. And I think in the long run, it's our attitudes that will matter most . . . how we reacted to the trials that were unpredictable. It will also count how we treated the people around us during the adventure, and how we continue forward when it's all said and done. It is tempting sometimes to place a paper-bag over our heads and pretend we're no longer in existence when things don't go our way. It takes a lot of courage to press on, despite our humiliating character building moments. (And yes, that is my cute little granddaughter in the picture above that is representing this concept.)

So this is my note to self for this week: try to be a sport even when my ducks are no longer all in a row. ;) Perhaps this is the best course for self-improvement. =D