I think the best thing about Facebook is the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. Recently, for instance, I have been able to get in touch with my college training partner, Laverne Schmell.
Communicating with Laverne made me think about how much gyms have changed over the years. The place we trained, a YMCA in White Plains, NY, was basically a basement. The walls were concrete block with peeling paint, the fluorescent lighting was dim and inadequate, and the ventilation was a few strategically place fans. There were no fancy machines, only weights, and lots of them. And there were no women. Back then I don’t think I ever saw a woman in the gym; it was the domain of men.
Nobody wore fancy or expensive clothing. Our t-shirts, shorts, sweat pants and sweat shirts were all well worn and well used. The place smelled of chalk and sweat and hard work. It was a noisy place, not so much because of the background blaring of rock ‘n’ roll from some cheap stereo, but because of the constant clamor of heavy weights.
The guys who made the descent down into the weight room at the Y were monsters, more mountain than man. On Saturday mornings they would meet and do stunning feats of strength, just for the fun of it. They would bend railroad spikes, tear phone books, and pinch one hundred pound plates between their thumb and forefinger and carry them around the room.
If testosterone levels really are dropping as some claim, maybe it is because places like this no longer exist. I miss those days. Part of it was I was young and strong and still believed I could pretty much do anything. Part of it was the camaraderie, rough and raw and elemental. Gone though those days may be, the memory of them remains, and I am thankful for it.
Sometimes it just seems to happen almost…naturally. Sometimes, despite the very best of intentions, even long term relationships go the way of the dinosaur with surprisingly little pain. In fact, sometimes their absence actually brings relief.
Take going the gym, for instance. Except when I was on vacation, I went faithfully every day for the last five years. But then one morning this winter I woke up at 4:30, it was cold and snowy, and instead of getting up and going to work out I rolled over and went back to sleep. It felt pretty good. So good, in fact, that I did it the next day too, and then the day after that.
They say if you stop doing something three times, it breaks the force of habit. And, of course, once the force of habit is broken, all bets are off in terms of future practices and behavior. It has now been over a month since I’ve been to the gym.
I know a person who was sober for 21 years. 21 years! Then one day they took a drink. The heavens didn’t collapse. It felt pretty good, actually. They had another drink the next day, then the day after that.
Stop doing something three times (in this case, not drinking), and the habit is broken. All bets are off. They have not returned to AA since, though I remain hopeful sometime soon they will.
I think maybe this is how some people stop going to church. It’s not that they stop believing, or that the church has done anything wrong, or that they don’t like the pastor. It’s just that one morning, for whatever reason, someone who may have gone to church their whole life long simply didn’t get out of bed or out of the house.
Perhaps that made for a pretty relaxing morning in an otherwise stressful life, so it was that much easier to stay at home the next week as well… and then maybe even the week after that. After three weeks, the habit is broken and all bets are off (especially if no one missed them or gave them a call).
Yep, sometimes, at least, breaking up is easy to do.
When my little sister was growing up, she came running home
clutching her plants.Finding my father
first, she exclaimed, “A chipmunk just ran up my pants!”I don’t think my father believed her, so she
opened her hand.Sure enough, a chipmunk
dropped down the leg of her pants and came scurrying out of the bottom.Turns out a cat had been chasing the beleaguered
chipmunk, and my sister’s pants had presented the surest means of escape.
A chipmunk in one's pants is one thing.But 44 lizards?! And not just in one's pants, but in his underwear?
Apparently that's what Hans Kurt Kubus did, stuffing 44 geckos and skinks in his underwear as he attempted to smuggle them out of of New Zealand.
I freely admit that I have never outgrown my childhood fascination with reptiles. But even I think this is taking things a little too far!!!
OK, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. But when I turned thirteen, my grandparents and I did spend 6 weeks wandering from place to place. And we did end up in Alaska, even if we didn't actually jump a train to get there (we did, however, drive on 1500 miles of gravel highway). Life on the road--that's kind of hobo-ish, right?
Here's an excerpt from Sunday's sermon on the importance of stories in our lives that perhaps you will find amusing:
And, of course, it is important that we don’t just tell other people’s stories, but that we tell our story as well. We need to tell stories that come directly from our lives as well as from books or magazines or someone’s blog. Some of you, for instance, have heard one the formative Merola family stories before.
It was a dark and rainy night—that’s how all good stories start out, right? But this one really was, and for some reason we were going out to eat. The plan was to make a mad dash from the car into the restaurant as quickly as we could.
“Ready? Set? GO!” I said.
Linda and I jumped out of the front seat as Mary, who was four, jumped out of the back seat, with Christine, who was 6, right behind her. We quickly shut our doors and prepared to bolt inside as Christine shut her door as well. But hers didn’t close. She tried again, all of us watching, all of us wanting to get inside, all of us getting wet. It still wouldn’t shut.
“Damn door,” she said bitterly, “It ain’t shutting!”
To which Mary began to wail, deeply upset by what her sister had said. “Mommy!” she cried, “Christine said”—and by now some of you have heard this story enough to also know how it ends— "Christine said AIN’T!!!”
It’s a story we’ve told over and over again in our family over the years because it captures an important part of what it means to be a Merola. As Merolas, we may on occasion curse, but we will never, never use bad grammar!
(I should probably add that the reality is that we didn’t tolerate cursing in our children either, but they had clearly learned that there was something even worse than saying a bad word.)
With two kids in college, making ends meet is something of a challenge. So we've been pouring over our expenses, looking for ways to cut back.
For starters, we quit paying for Blockbuster online. Now we just rent videos from the library, which works well enough. I am perhaps not as current on movies as I once was, but I can live with that.
Next we decided to give up our land line and replace it with a cell. Since we already had a family plan for our cell phones, adding another phone was only $10--a lot cheaper than the land line which was over $40. We should've done that a long time ago.
Then it was on to our memberships at Gold's Gym. I went in to the gym to cancel Linda's and my membership, but they offered me a deal that cut our monthly dues in half. I do enjoy working out, and it does seem like an important component in appropriate self care, so I took it. But maybe it was just vanity that made the decision.
Savings so far: getting close to $100 a month, over $1000 a year, all of it relatively painless. OK, let's see what's next...