Would you want a young person you love to follow your example?

If you’re like most people, your answer is…sometimes.

In some ways.

And if you’re like most people I’ve asked, your face is slightly pinched right now because you’re thinking of the negatives first. The “I’ve dones” that you wish you could turn into “undones.”

Join the club, pals. We all have our stories.

Back when I was young and foolish, my husband, Ben, and I went to a costume party dressed as John Travolta’s character, Danny, in Grease, and Mickey Mouse. (I just couldn’t pull off Olivia Newton-John’s look.)  We had a great time, and came home with some extra un-consumed refreshments from the party, most notably an enormous jug of cider.

As we pulled up to our house, I grabbed the cider, and Ben said, “Now don’t drop that.”

Let’s pause right here.

Wanna play?

What did you used to do for fun as a kid?

Stop and think about it for a minute.

I’m not even in the same room with you, but I can see you smiling…because fun will do that to a person.

And kids are such experts at the joy of playing around–like the three-year-old boy of Beth Levine, a writer who tells my favorite story ever:

One day, she says, “Our son decided that not only was underwear objectionable, the rest of his clothes were as well. I found him running around the house stark naked, only pausing long enough to grab a treat from the kitchen table.

‘Mama!’ he cried, with soul-soaring glee. ‘I’m naked! Naked with CANDY!’

‘What more can you ask of life?’ she asked her husband. ‘I feel like being naked with candy myself.'”

Maybe you feel like it too.

And if you don’t, maybe you should.

Because my guess is that you’ve been a responsible grownup for a while now, and you may well need a break from all that adulting. Adulting can suck the life out of you.

Playing around, however, can blow it back in.

What have you always wanted to know about, but were afraid to ask?

How did you learn about the “facts of life”?

It’s a question that’s almost guaranteed to perk up any boring gathering.

Answers will vary. And I can just about guarantee that hilarity will ensue.

Or awkward silence.

Shoot, just asking the question is an adventure in itself.

You might have learned about the facts of life from a book–like The Wonderful Story of How You Were Born, which I got when I was a kid. I was fascinated with it, but was slightly baffled by a glaring omission. The narrative went from “mommy and daddy love each other” to “the egg and sperm get together and grow a baby,” omitting the crucial step of exactly how they come to meet up.

A few years later, I found a book on our bookcase called Love and the Facts of Life, which I sneaked off the shelf and into my room, and read from cover to cover. (Many years later, my mom told me she told me she put it there on purpose so I would do just that.)

Well, that filled in a few important gaps in my limited carnal knowledge.

When I was a teenager, a book called Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) became a bestseller. I didn’t actually buy it, mind you, but I may have found a copy somewhere and read every single word. Maybe.

On the other hand, you may have received your information from other types of “literature.”

‘Nuff said.

Or you may have had insightful, enlightened, wise parents who sat you down with total ease and explained the details.

Lucky you.

My guess, though, is that, despite enlightened parents and a profusion of pre-internet reading material, most of us procured at least some significant (mis)information from friends.

What are you waiting for?

Someone once told me that if you can’t find joy living “in the meantime,” you won’t find joy at all.

But isn’t all of life lived “in the meantime”?

Think about something you yourself are waiting for: a vacation? a new job? to finish a project? to finally reach your ideal weight?

Or perhaps you’re waiting for pregnancy or parenthood.

For a soul mate. Or a friend.

Maybe you’re waiting on test results. Or chemo to be over. Or healing.

Or life–in one form or another–to resurrect.

Whatever you’re waiting for, I think it helps to know there’s actually a rhythm to most “meantimes.” You know this if you’ve ever experienced, say, a power outage during a storm. Like this:

Having grown up in the Midwest, I was used to tornadoes: they form quickly, move quickly, touch down, devastate, and move on. Hurricanes, however, are a different story, as I have learned after living in Virginia for a while: you know they’re coming days and days ahead of time. This gives everyone plenty of opportunity to prepare for and obsess about the impending doom.

Just as challenging—if not more so—than the actual hurricane is the aftermath.Following are the brief chronicles of one such storm at our house. Perhaps you can relate:

Thursday

–Hurricane arrives.

–Sit in house ALONE, while storm howls, since husband went far away to a FOOTBALL
GAME.

— Power goes out.

— Feel like Ma on Little House on the Prairie, when Pa has to forge ahead into the blizzard
to find food for the family (not, however, go to a FOOTBALL GAME).

Friday

–Survive.

–Begin to clean up debris in yard; dump it in driveway.

–Visit extensively with neighbors who are also cleaning up debris.

–Get sweaty.

–Want shower, but no running water.

–Need to use bathroom, but no running water.

–Go in woods.

–(Feel like Ma again.)

–Eat lunch: peanut butter and dry cereal (can’t open fridge; hope that
power will come on before everything spoils).

–Talk to Mom in Indiana; so glad land line still works.

Saturday

–Land line goes dead.

–Use cell phone.

–Clean up debris in driveway. Make 200 trips to dump.

–Get sweaty.

–Accept invitation to use the shower of kind friends whose power just
came on.

–Drive around looking for somewhere to eat that doesn’t have a two-hour wait.

–Eat at Baja Bean Company.

–Realize eating at Baja Bean Company not a good idea when you can’t flush.

–Cell phone goes dead.

–Return home to darkness, which surrounds us like a massive, claustrophobic
cloak.

Sunday

–Go to church, even without power. Great service: windows up, fresh air,
birds singing, no sound system to worry about.

–Notice how people are getting to know each other better; neighbors talk
to neighbors they haven’t spoken with in weeks.

–Adversity bringing people together in wonderful spirit of helpfulness and
camaraderie.

Monday

–Sick of comaraderie; just want to flush.

–Begin inventing fun, creative ways to go to the bathroom.

–Use Grandma Ellis’ chamber pot (get old CD’s out of it first), and dump
contents in woods.

–In afternoon, spy power trucks in neighborhood. Rejoice.

–Eat dinner with more kind friends who have electricity.

–On way home, notice that first two houses in neighborhood have lights on.

–Turn corner onto our street.

–Dark.

–Get tired of making trips to woods. Throw contents of chamber pot out
bathroom window into back yard. Whatever.

Tuesday

–Wake up at 6 a.m. to more howling winds and driving rain. Tornado
warnings.

–More power outages.

–Instead of sympathizing with additional people who have no power, whine about how much longer it will take to get our lights on.

–middle of the night: Ben tired of propriety when it comes to “no flushing”:
goes out into front yard to take care of business TOTALLY WITHOUT BENEFIT
OF CLOTHING.
–Around midnight, bored out of my mind, decide to get creative with camera, and take pictures of household objects in candlelight. Beautiful. Especially the flaming fake deer head which by day looks pretty darn tacky, but by candlelight morphs into something quite lovely.

Wednesday

–Rumor afloat: The power won’t be on for another four
weeks…maybe never, ever.

–4 p.m.: lights come on. Run around house flushing
toilets just to hear the sound.

Honestly, these rhythms of waiting for the power to return aren’t really much different for an outage than they are when we’re waiting for just about anything else.

There’s hope, then despair;

excitement, then boredom;

fear, then peace;

“Oh no!” followed by “Thank you, God!” followed by “How long, O Lord?”

And always, there’s the opportunity to stop and notice that something ordinary has become kind of lovely in a different light.

So how can we make a proactive adventure out of the meantime?

Try doing something that brings you joy–like experiencing a little camaraderie with friends.

Embrace some wonder in front of you–like a flaming fake deer head. It may look different in the darkness of waiting, but it’s still there, in all of its fairly lovely glory.

Boldly venture out of your box to find creative ways to do the mundane and necessary–like target practice in the back yard with a chamber pot.

Or even moseying out to the front yard naked and unafraid.

Whatever helps until the lights come on.

 

If you’re just joining us, check out the very first post (Your Epic Adventure Starts Here), where you’ll learn about starting a yearlong (52 questions) quest to practice living a life of adventure. As a bonus, you will also find the backstory for that ridiculous herd of buffalo on the header photo of this website…

 

What about winter in your soul?

Freezing temperatures, black ice, dark days, cabin fever. What’s not to love about winter?

Plenty, according to some people. If you’re one of those folks (and even if you’re not), maybe you’d like to brighten your winter up with a little adventure.

I was feeling the urge when I signed up for ski lessons, where one of the first things we learned was a method of stopping called a snowplow, when you point your feet inward till your ski tips touch and form a wedge shape. “Cool,” I thought. “Sounds like an easy way to control my speed. I’ll be shushing in no time.

Of course, being a nonathlete, I took quite a few spills at first, but after a few hours, I was snowplowing my way down the bunny slopes without breaking anything. When I’d had enough for the day, I made my way over to a wide expanse of snow, where all the trails converged and led to the lodge. It was pretty high up, but I figured I could snowplow my way down and be okay.

Big mistake.

Is there a story you need to tell?

All right now, raise your hand and roll your eyes if you’ve ever heard someone at a family/friend gathering tell a story for the zillionth time.

But I beg you to show no disdain for the storyteller, because you know good and well you have a couple of these in your own back pocket. And even more important, chances are there’s a very good reason that tales like this keep resurfacing.

I say this because I myself have such a story. I’ve told it in A Hope Deferred and in The Embrace of a Father and in Born To Be Wild. My husband and daughter and many of my friends could retell it with no trouble.

And now I’m sharing it with you…for a very good reason. So put on your sweatpants, grab a hot mug of something and a leftover Christmas cookie, and gather around the fire. Aunt Jill is at it again.

Once upon a time…

Can you change your perspective?

Ever get some news at Christmas that tests your powers of positivity?

Me too.

Not so long ago, I’d been experiencing some hip pain, but I certainly didn’t expect to hear the doctor inside my phone saying, “Well, no wonder you’re in pain! You have pieces of cartilage all over the place in there, and there’s almost no cartilage in your hip joint. I recommend a total hip replacement.”

Whaaat?? Me?? Strong, healthy, invincible me??? Too-young-for-a-hip-replacement me? I was absolutely floored. Apparently I was born with dysplasia (yes, I know, dogs have it too) that, after a “number of years” (ahem) precipitated this wear and tear; finally, the cartilage made a break for it. A fast break.

We set the surgery up for January, and I spent the Christmas season on crutches. I searched hard for ways to get in the Christmas spirit; the best I could do was gimp around, brandishing a crutch and saying, “God bless us, every one!”

To tell you the truth, though, I was bummed in a big way. The nerve of God, letting this happen at the “most wonderful time of the year.”

How about a “humor adventure”?

It’s almost Christmas. Perhaps your life is not perfect.

A few Decembers ago we ourselves had a challenging Christmas season. Our daughter had some pretty serious surgery that required a lengthy recovery, so Ben and I took turns staying with her in her apartment in Boston.

We had all missed a bunch of festivities, and spent Christmas Day in her little apartment, sans friends and extended family, with a virtual yule log burning on a TV screen, and a daughter who was loopy on painkillers.

There was nothing essentially humorous about this situation; however, at one point, Ben and I decided it was time for a little adventure in levity.

What makes you uncomfortable?

Your answer to this question can tell you a lot about yourself.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about Spanx-type discomfort. (Although that kind actually does speak to me. It says, “No. Nuh-uh. Not doin’ this.”)

I’m talking about the kind that sits in your gut, saying, “Wish I would, maybe I could, I really should,” but then hesitates, because thinking about doing that thing makes those insides of yours churn a bit. And, let’s face it, we all prefer insides with a peaceful, easy feeling.

But haven’t you ever done something that made you uncomfortable, then in the end been glad you’d done it?

I’ll bet you have; and I’ll also bet there are more adventures queued up inside you, waiting for a turn.

So exactly what is making you uncomfortable?

Putting your thoughts out there in a book or a blog?

Flying?

Crying?

Asking?

Fear of lookin’ the fool? of failure?

You’re not alone. But consider this:

What can you find by getting lost?

Ever find yourself lost?

You might be a person who traditionally would prefer to cut your head off rather than ask for directions. You might also be a guy. Not that I am even hinting at a connection between gender and requesting assistance with global positioning. No. Not at all.

Siri has eased that tension a bit because, let’s face it, lots of people are quite fine with asking a fake person for directions.

The truth is, though, mostly nobody enjoys being lost.

However, my husband and I learned a while back that there’s a lot to be found when you’re ignorantly wandering around in the wilderness…so to speak..