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Life Lifters (282 posts)
This morning, those of us who were born just in time to take advantage of Title IX noticed one more small result of the 1972 legislation (prohibiting gender discrimination at schools that receive federal money). Back then, we heard from our mothers about "all" that we could do—and then we took to the soccer fields and running tracks, trying to figure out what the heck the "all" was. The potential was exciting, for us and our mothers, aunts and neighbors who weren't invited to join high-level sports and almost yanked out when they did (hello, Boston Marathon 1967).
And yet, seeing the U.S. Women's World Cup victory yesterday on the front page of The New York Times sports section and the U.S. Women's Open for golf covered inside has given us a whole new kind of joy, especially the soccer story.
It was also covered, via AP reports, in The Detroit Free Press, Atlanta Journal Constitution and elsewhere. With good reason: For the first time in years, the Americans aren't favored to win this World Cup (competition in women's international sports is heating up—drama!). The team played Brazil, who has Marta, perhaps the current Pele of women's soccer. The game itself had ups and downs, and the quotes afterward—from the players to the coach—were lump-in-your-throat inducing. (Really, go read them.)
But it was this sentence in The San Francisco Chronicle that got us: "Running low on hope and time, the Americans were surely beaten. ... And then, with one of the most thrilling goals in U.S. history, they weren't."
Not U.S. women's sports history. In sports. Full stop. Which is nice. But what's nicer still is that it means if you are 7 or 10 or 12 years old, you don't have to imagine a woman doing one of the most thrilling things in U.S. sports history. You can watch it here.
Elsewhere you can watch female Olympic hockey teams, LPGA golfers and collegiate lacrosse players compete at top levels, and you will read about their victories and losses in the papers. Also thrilling, no?
That was today's discovery. That there's a difference between hearing what women could do and seeing them do it this very minute. The difference between the girls we used to be and the girls right now, who can look at these mightily talented women and think, "I can do what she did...and I can do it even better."
Where were you at 22? Crashing in Mom and Dad's basement, hiding from an ego-piercing job market? Slinging lattes at the local espresso shop--an activity complicated by various piercings and projectile hair "experiments?" Racing off to work as an administrative assistant, hoping that somebody would notice your stellar labeling skills in the file cabinet and promote you to "MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THIS MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION?" (Okay, that one was me...and by the way, neither the job title, nor the accompanying gold sticker I so feverishly imagined, panned out.)
This weekend on NPR, I heard this story about Katie Davis and felt compelled to go hug my own kids--over and over--until they made me stop. Davis, at age 22, gave up her own dreams of being a nurse in order to remain in Africa, where she had been volunteering, and raise 13 orphaned or otherwise needy girls. Her plan is to one day adopt them.
"I think that's definitely something that I was made for," said Davis. "God just designed me that way because he already knew that this is what the plan was for my life--even though I didn't."
Her first child was an HIV positive 9-year-old who was injured when a mud hut collapsed. She asked if she could live with Davis--and Davis, then age 19, said yes. Thus began her new life, as a mother and full-time resident of Uganda where she and the girls live, complete with an oversized minivan.
In her spare time, Davis also runs a nonprofit called Amazima Ministries, a job supports the family of 14. There she oversees educating 400 other children, setting up community health programs and feeding more than a thousand children five days a week.
My first task tomorrow is to promote her to "MOST WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING" and send her a gold-star sticker--and a donation--that officially affirms the title.
Note: This article has been changed as of July 12, 2011.
Last week, the hilarious comedy troupe Improv Everywhere hijacked a carousel. I am a devoted fan of Improv Everywhere, who have pulled off such stunts as a public figure-skating display during which one man slips and falls all over the ice while romantic music plays, and the invasion of a subway car by Darth Vader and assorted characters from Star Wars.
"We try to keep the focus on doing something positive rather than something negative," says founder Charlie Todd. "We want to create scenes of chaos and joy."
The carousel, however, has a magical, feel-good quality that seems exceeds all others. Why is that? Is it simply by virtue of the fact that a giant bunny wins a horse race? Is it the dramatic slow-mo finish? In the other videos, I noticed there's a period of adjustment during which the crowd of adult spectators need to observe, digest, and understand that what is happening is a public prank. Then and only then do they react with laughter. But in the carousel scene, the adults plunge into the spirit of the enterprise almost immediately even more so than the kids, who seem perplexed, but willing to go along, slapping their animals into "galloping."
There is something so wonderful in watching grown-up people play as if still in preschool, where all of us were allowed to be firemen or doctors everyday. I plan on spending the rest of the afternoon at my desk with a thick layer of sunscreen on my nose and my sunglasses down over my eyes, playing lifeguard-at-the-beach.
Read More: Laugh Until You Laugh... What's Your Emotional Age?
That's what motivated John Carson, a triathlete who was struck by an SUV during a training ride just a mile from his home in Long Island, New York. He suffered a serious spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic. Carson threw himself into rehab, and (you know where this is going) within a few months, he stunned doctors by slowly, carefully putting one foot in front of the other. Carson still lacks sensation in his feet—his spinal surgeon refers to him as a "walking quadriplegic"—but just one year after his accident, Carson competed in the 2010 Lake Placid Ironman. He then raced in this year's Boston Marathon and, last weekend, in the Coeur d'Alene Ironman in Idaho.
Carson's near-miraculous recovery story provides inspiration for anyone facing insurmountable obstacles. But what really struck us was what Carson decided to do after he exceeded the expectations of his doctors, his family and himself. Carson told The New York Times last week that he was planning to retire from Ironmans after the Coeur d'Alene.
"Racing used to be the most important thing in my life," said Mr. Carson. "But ... this is a very selfish sport. I've done enough. That five or six hours I spend on a bike Saturday mornings, the run on Sunday, I want to take that time I'd be spending out there and put it to better use."
Carson, now 30, told The Times he would rather devote his energy to his wife, his family and his fundraising work with the Reeve Foundation.
It sounds as if his epiphany came not when he lost his physical abilities, but when he regained them. He reminded us that even when we go beyond where we thought we could...we still might need to go a little farther to get where we want to be.
I have this idea. I've had it for a while. It's a good one. Are you ready? A trampoline amusement park. You're probably thinking, "I want to go there." And you might also be thinking, "Lawsuit waiting to happen." And to that I say...well, it's possible that you're right. The thing about my trampoline amusement park is that I think it would be a fun place to visit, but that doesn't mean I have any desire to invest in real estate or equipment or liability insurance or even, for that matter, the time it takes to do a Google search showing me I would apparently have a number of competitors.
Imagine grocery shopping at your local megastore, reaching down into the assortment of dented, limp red onions and pulling out an envelope with the words "This letter is for you" written on it in loopy blue ink. Would you leave it there because you might not be the real "you?" Would you open it on the spot? Or would you look both ways, then scurry off with it hidden in your purse to read later?
This spring, Brooklyn artist Liz Medina has been dropping off these anonymous missives around as part of her Eternally Yours project. She tucks them into bushes and weaves them into the spokes of bikes. She hides them in old antique cannons and on the shelves of toy stores and—just yesterday—in the bill of her restaurant check.
Each envelope contains three things: (1) a love letter that asks how you have been and tells you how wonderful you are, which you are invited to respond to, (2) a drawing that you are invited to add to artistically by drawing or painting or writing on it, (3) a prepaid envelope to send your contributions back.
"I'm trying to address the breakdown in traditional communication, such as with letters and writing," says Medina. "I want to ignite a small spark in people's lives, for them to feel a flash of joy as they go back and forth from work—if not some mystery."
Eternally Yours volunteers now hide letters in states as far flung as California, Texas and Iowa. Medina herself has tucked over 500 on her home turf of Brooklyn. Her favorite response back from a reader was a tiny scrap of torn white paper with the words "try harder" written by manual typewriter. But over 20 other examples are posted on her site.
"I went to art school to paint and draw," she says, "I thought I would spend my life simply perfecting those skills. But when I moved to New York, I decided to act on all the crazy ideas that I think about but never do. I mean, why not, if it makes people happy?"
Her next project is a 20-foot-tall inflatable gumball machine.
Our response: Why not, if makes people happy?
Tell about your love letters—the sweetest, the strangest, the one you wish you'd written...
The longest day of the year is, not surprisingly, National Daylight Appreciation Day. You could take the easy way out and simply turn your face toward the sun (after coating it in sunscreen, of course). Or you could challenge the sun to a game of hide-and-seek, with glorious potential rewards. Here are 10 sometimes-underappreciated ways to see the light:
Today is the summer solstice. You can make the most of it with these quick, fun ways to honor our nearest, brightest star.
Do some yoga. How to do a sun salutation
Try a weird veggie. How to eat/cook/deal with a sunchoke
Make a little music. How to play "Here Comes the Sun" on the ukulele
Pretend you're at Stonehenge, partying all night with sun-worshiping pagans. How to build a backyard bonfire
Boost your IQ. How to measure Earth's tilt using your shadow
As of today, I'm no longer going to try to be a better person. For the next decade or two or three, I'm going to work on a life of minor crime. I'll shoplift candy, park in handicapped spaces and sneeze deeply on the salad bar at my local deli. I may even dress up like an exterminator and inform certain, select neighbors that they have bedbugs when they do not actually have them.
I'll leave the really violent, upsetting stuff to the professionals. Those are the people who will eventually die and be reincarnated as lice or algae. Sadly, I'll also have to forgo the really loving, compassionate stuff. That's for people who dream of coming back as Indian high priests or the Dalai Lama or perfect beings like Reese Witherspoon.
All I want to do is complete enough not-so-admirable acts that I can spend my next life as a lobster.
Last week, The Christian Science Monitor profiled these unappreciated crustaceans. After talking to biologists, the newspaper reported that not only can lobsters live up to 50 years (or more) but also "lobsters don't show any signs of aging."
Lobster do not slow down or weaken. They do not become infertile or get weird brown blotches on their foreheads that look kind of like Canada. In fact, at regular intervals, they shed their shells and create fresh ones, which makes them appear "as though they are brand new again."
The only downside to my new life after death: escaping the hungry seals and cod. On the other hand, fleeing madly to survive, on a daily basis, may leave me with 10 exceptionally toned, sexy legs.
On the list of things we love—a little before garlic and a little after lilacs—comes David Whyte. This Irish-born, American-bred poet makes us look, think and feel differently. Take his poem "Self Portrait", or this line from his poem "The Journey": "Sometimes everything / has to be / inscribed across the heavens / so you can find / the one line / already written inside you."
Sure, he gives seminars at Oxford and has been profiled by PBS. But today he's given Life Lift 10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away, questions that "almost always have something to do with how we might become more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated" and show us "when we might step through the doorway into something bigger, better, both beyond ourselves and yet more of ourselves at the same time." They might point your life in an unexpected, unforgettable direction.