Today is my birthday. I am 61 years old. Last year, I had a little emotional discomfort with the idea of turning 60. This advanced age disoriented me a bit. I never thought of myself as elderly before, even when I retired, but the 60th birthday did mess with my sense of self. I found myself challenging my perception of reality.
Little did I know that my birthday disorientation was a precursor of things to come. My 61st year was a mix of muddle and misadventure for me and for the whole world. There is no way I was wishing for a worldwide pandemic when I blew out the birthday candles last year. Hiding in my house with only minimal human contact was not what I had in mind. Learning to breathe through several layers of sweat-soaked cloth whenever I ventured outside was not on my list of #lifegoals@60. Cancelling a long-anticipated trip to New York City was not on my agenda for my 61st year. Re-engaging with remote learning and virtual gatherings, after giving them up when I retired, was not something I would have ever imagined, much less desired. All in all, my 61st year has done a lot of sucking.
On the other hand, it has not been all bad. Things seemed like they were going pretty well at the end of 2019- a trip to Las Vegas, a visit to California to see my brother and his family, a Christmastime getaway at Disney World with a first time (and, at this point, maybe my ONLY time) opportunity to go to the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and a growing enjoyment of my retirement life here in Florida were all great starts to my “over 60” life. I grew in friendship and fellowship with my new church. My relationships were all doing great. I had plans and excitedly looked forward to numerous new adventures.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. My birthday candle must have fizzled out because my plans all went to hell in a handbasket.
This year, I am approaching my birthday celebration with cautious optimism. The celebration is kind of a moving target. When we had to cancel our New York City trip in May, we decided to go crazy and book a one-night stay in a premier room at Disney’s most luxurious resort, the Grand Floridian. We have visited there often, marveling at the water park area, the beautiful views of the Magic Kingdom, tales of the nightly water pageant in the bay in front of the hotel, and the cool dining options, including breakfast with Mary Poppins. We have never actually stayed overnight there because it is wildly expensive. Since we cancelled our even more wildly expensive trip to New York, we booked the Grand Floridian room as a consolation prize.
As time passed, it became increasingly clear that the pandemic-tempered Grand Floridian experience would be significantly lacking in cool factor. Disney was allowing limited access to the resort, so the fancy room we booked was not going to be available. There would be no fireworks or water pageant to view. Character meals were cancelled. The lovely up-scale dinner house is still closed. The water park area is still open, and the Disney people offered us a villa instead of the fancy schmancy room we booked. Still, for the money it was going to cost, I felt like any whittling down of the experience meant we should just cancel. Sadly, I cancelled that trip at the end of August.
Last year, we spent my birthday at the Magic Kingdom, participating in a behind the scenes tour. I had always wanted to experience the tour and my 60th birthday seemed a good time to empty that particular item from my bucket list. This year, there are no tours running and we 86ed our overnight splurge stay at the Grand Floridian, but we are again going to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom with friends. It will be a more laid-back day than we originally imagined, but I am sure we will all enjoy it. We have dinner reservations for Raglan Road at Disney Springs, which is another place I have wanted to try for a long time.
So, all in all, I am sure it will be a good birthday. At least, I am hoping it will be. One thing that the pandemic has taught me is that it is often better to live in the moment and to enjoy what is, without too many pre-expectations. I think many of us have spent too much energy over these past seven months or so trying to plan around the world-wide circumstances. We have been holding our collective breath, waiting for circumstances to change and for the lives we have planned to come together.
I think I am just now deciding that I would rather change my life to accommodate the worldwide circumstances than wait for the worldwide circumstances to change to continue living my life. The life I live, just like my birthday celebration, may not end up being what I expect or completely the experience I would choose to have, but there is something to be said for embracing the sweetness of discovery!
Just a reminder that you can get my second book, Random (A)musings on Amazon. If you never ordered my first book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement, and would like a copy, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is out of print, but I do have some copies for sale. Come on, folks, throw me a bone! It’s my birthday! Make me happy and buy a book!
Have a happy birthday or happy un-birthday, as the case may be!
I broke my toe recently. People ask me how I broke my toe. I broke my toe by having the coordination of a two-year-old and the strength and bulk of a sixty-year-old woman. That’s how I broke my toe.
I was doing my walking in the living room the other day. Some of you may remember that, since my brother got me a Fitbit for Christmas a few years ago, I am somewhat obsessed about my step count every day. I typically walk 6 to 7 miles a day, mostly across my living room floor in front of the television set. Walking for one’s health is all fine and good and everything, until one slams one’s foot against the wooden foot of the sofa. I immediately doubled over in pain, as if folding my abdomen in two would have any effect on my foot. It did not. At first, of course, I thought I had simply stubbed my toe. As painful as stubbing a toe is, there is no long-term impact. After the first few seconds of torture, the pain recedes and everything is back to normal. Except when the pain does not recede. That usually means a broken toe.
I broke my toe once before on a trip to Hawaii. On my first day there, I was walking through the waves and rammed my foot into a large underwater rock. Note to self: when you fight with a rock, the rock is going to win. The rock is the very definition of an immovable object. Being younger and even more stupid than I am now, I kept on keeping on through my whole trip. My rationale was that I had paid a lot of money for the vacation and I was not going to waste it nursing a sore foot. I continued to walk all over Waikiki and beyond for an entire week, dragging my injured foot behind me. It was agony, but it was agony in the name of vacation, so I was not going to let anything stop me including my throbbing, swelling toe. Funny, it never occurred to me to rent a car, take a cab, or get on a bus. I just kept walking.
When I returned home, my pinky toe was roughly the size of the rest of my foot. It still hurt like a billy-be-damn (no, I don’t know what a billy-be-damn is, but my father always used to say that) and I was starting to develop calluses on my ankle from turning my leg in to avoid pressure on the pinky toe. I went to urgent care, where the nice doctor ordered an x-ray to establish that I did, indeed, have a broken toe. It turns out that there is not much anyone can do to treat a broken toe, other than take ibuprofen and wait. It also turns out that the optimal treatment for a broken toe does NOT include walking all over Oahu. Who knew?
Anyway, with some rest and ice and a week of NSAIDs, the toe did begin to heal. Apparently, despite my ignorance and stubbornness, I did no permanent damage. I may have learned a few lessons about taking better care of myself and thinking outside the “walking everywhere while on vacation” box.
This experience came back to me when I smashed my foot against the sofa the other day. Being much older and maybe a trifle wiser, I knew better than to continue my physical activity as if nothing had happened. I have done a better job of staying off my foot and giving myself time to heal. I am still not able to wear a regular shoe and I still have some pain, but the bruising is fading and the discomfort is much more manageable. I have faith that I will, at some point, be able to walk without hobbling. Dr. Google says that, with a broken pinky toe, the pain and swelling usually resolve in a week or so and the bone heals in about a month. I can live with that.
The problem is that, since my injury, I have learned that I only have two speeds- “run around like a chicken with her head cut off” and “lay around like a lox.” I can walk 6 miles a day, do water aerobics, hop from one activity or errand or meeting or chore to another throughout the day, and rush around fueled on adrenaline or I can recline inertly on a sofa riding the waves of lethargy. Neither mode is very satisfying and, certainly, the “run around” speed is on the blink just now. I feel distinctly discombobulated and disoriented. I do not know how to manage the middle ground.
I need some help. Since neither “chicken” or “lox” is working for me right now, I need someone to please find me another animal to emulate that is appropriate for a person with a broken toe… and a pulse!
How do you find and keep the balance between rest and activity? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
Maybe I am finally becoming a Floridian. This is the sixth summer I have spent in Florida and I have managed to squelch my annual whine about the weather until the beginning of September. I am sure the new air conditioner I installed a couple of years ago has not hurt my climate adaptability, either.
Whether my increased tolerance of Florida’s summer weather stems from my disposition slowly morphing into “Floridian” or from a better air conditioning system, I am proud that I have held out until now. June, July, August… you have not heard me bitching about the heat, humidity, thunderstorms, or general sogginess of the climate. Still, I now have to say I have reached the end of my tolerance.
It’s freakin’ hot.
The news says the temperatures this summer have been well above normal. In fact, for most of the summer, the mercury has been breaking records. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions and closures, it did not make much difference since I was mostly inside, enjoying the air conditioning and the highest electric bill I have ever received. I always said that I figured the COVID-19 quarantines would lift just about the same time as our summer weather comfort quarantine would hit. I was right. In the summer, the weather is often too hot, too rainy, too humid, and too unstable to make plans. It is not that the weather ALWAYS keeps people from doing things, but it COULD keep people from doing things at any time. You can sometimes get lucky and spontaneously enjoy some outdoor activity, but you can never rely on a plan to do something because the weather will likely make other plans. For someone like myself, who is not that spontaneous, it is frustrating. This year, the whole outside world is frustrating and unstable, so maybe the weather is not infuriating me as much.
Recently, though, I have started to wilt noticeably. Part of my challenge is that I have started going out to do things that I have missed since COVID-19 shut down the world. To add to the weather challenges, these activities require me to wear face coverings. Central Florida in the summer always makes me feel like I am breathing water. With a mask covering my breathing apparatus while wandering around a Disney park on a “feels like” 106-degree day, it is like I am breathing an old, wet, soggy, wash rag. Funny, my lungs seem to prefer air. At least, as I recall. It has been awhile since my lungs sucked down some unhumidified air.
I am sure many of you are yelling at your computer screen and calling me all sorts of names because, really, what do I expect, wandering around a theme park in the middle of the summer? I would normally never go to Disney in the heat of the summer. There is no way I would pay regular admission to get the truncated Disney experience right now. With the annual pass, though, it does not cost me anything, and I really, really wanted to experience what “Disney without crowds” feels like. I have been able to get on all the rides that were unavailable prior to COVID-19 due to massive attendance. I also find it fascinating to examine the creative strategies Disney employees to manage social distancing and other safety protocols.
But I digress. This blog is not about Disney World. It is about my ability, or lack thereof, to weather the weather.
As I said, I’ve been a pretty good sport about the weather this year. I have maintained a sunny disposition and avoided weather-induced crankiness, for the most part. The last week or two have been my Waterloo, however. It was like, suddenly, the immensity and oppression of the “heamidity” whacked the constitution clear out of me. I have valiantly wrestled with the weather for the past three months and now, the weather has me pinned. Somebody slap the mat, please! Put me out of my misery.
We are slowly slugging our way through the humidity to autumn, at least by the calendar’s reckoning. I have been in Florida long enough to know that the climate usually does a pretty sucky job reading the calendar, but a girl can hope. I am three weeks away from a sudden trip and Fall. At least, I hope I am.
In reality, September is often the worst month because there is little if any relief from the heat and humidity. Every hurricane that has been a realistic threat for our part of the state since we have lived here has occurred in September, which makes me a little hesitant to proclaim September 21 the end of the Florida summer boil.
At some point, I look forward to not sweating while actually in the shower. I look forward to days when my air conditioner will run a sprint, rather than a marathon. I look forward to being able to walk out my front door without my glasses fogging up. I look forward to not feeling sticky icky every hour of the day.
Right now, all these goals seem like impossible dreams. There is some hope that autumn will come, and the weather will eventually change. Starbuck’s has started selling pumpkin scones.
It is too hot and I am too lethargic to think of a question this week, but feel free to use the comments as a space to vent your own personal weather whine!
I have stepped up my COVID-19 reopening game. I have attended IN PERSON worship services!
Our church leadership decided to try to make some lemonade when the COVID-19 lemons closed our church building. Our church has been operating since 1889. In 1947, a fire destroyed much of the original architecture, but the congregation faithfully restored the structure in 1948. It is common belief that 1948 was probably the last time the building saw any major renovation. There has been the odd vacuuming and some air conditioning repairs, but evidence suggests that the place has been running solely on duct tape and the Holy Spirit for as long as most of us can remember. Our sexton and various volunteers have done a pretty miraculous job keeping the facility standing and presentable (as long as you didn’t look too closely), but there comes a time when band-aids do not suffice to treat a compound fracture.
We have a new junior warden on our vestry. For those non-Episcopalians out there, the vestry is the unpaid governing body of an Episcopal parish. The junior warden is the saint who typically gets stuck with resolving all things property management in Episcopal churches. It seemed a great opportunity to rope in that unsuspecting “volunteer” junior warden to project manage a major renovation. Besides, spending quality quarantine time beautifying and reinforcing our property was a productive use of down time. It also kicked that messy question of whether to reopen the building way down the road. We hoped that, by the time the building was ready, COVID-19 precautions would be unnecessary.
We now know that hope was a pipe dream. As COVID numbers have improved in central Florida, many of the churches in our diocese reopened for public worship with about a gazillion different rules and regulations about safety protocols. Our church renovations nearly completed, our parish decided to ease into official reopening by celebrating the Eucharist in person, with appropriate social distancing, in our parish hall. About a dozen of us pioneers have attended.
I do not know that I felt a particularly strong need to attend in person. Max and I have been watching two services on television each Sunday- his church, which is always a televised ministry, and my church on YouTube. We worship with each other and then meet a small group of church friends for an outdoor BYOL (Bring Your Own Lunch) picnic to maintain our connections and fellowship.
I decided to attend some of the parish hall in person services because I wanted to support the effort to reopen. I wanted our livestream of the service to show that people were enjoying worshipping together safely and without fear. I wanted to help put butts in the seats, basically. It is part of my conviction that “doing isn’t feeling” when it comes to “normal,” but feeling doesn’t start until we start doing.
At any rate, I believed I was going to the in-person service for other people more than for myself. I felt so brave and altruistic. I do not think I crossed the line into Smugness, but I may have come close.
God laughed at my pompousness and then put me in my place.
It turns out, I was missing in person worship services more than I knew. I felt like I was breathing fresh air again, after being in a smog-filled atmosphere for some time. It felt so easy and natural. Of course, it felt strange to not touch anyone. I had to restrain myself from hugging, patting arms, and shaking hands. The social distanced chairs and the mask-wearing is almost not weird now, we do it so much. The priest delivering the host to each of us in our places was different, but felt more bonding than distancing, despite the copious amounts of hand sanitizer he used. There was a brief moment of awkwardness when Max, having grown up in a Catholic church prior to receiving communion in the hand, stuck out his tongue for the priest to place the host in his mouth. The priest and Max both recovered quickly when Max realized that “force of habit” is not a good reason for someone to touch your tongue during a pandemic. No harm done.
I think there was a certain amount of altruism in demonstrating to the people who are on the comfort level fence about returning to in person worship that these differences are easy to manage. The barriers are not as bad as they sound when you get right down to it. Maybe some people are more inclined to participate in our IRL worship services after seeing some of their brothers and sisters jump the hurdles and enjoy the experience.
Still, despite the more altruistic motivators I had to participate at the in-person worship services, I found out that I needed them much more than anyone else needed me. I had no idea how much I missed the presence of other people praying with me. Even though our parish has done a great job of fostering community during this time of separation and I pray with others regularly on Zoom, I found the experience of worshiping with other people in the same room, with the same voice, to be overwhelmingly powerful. My hands might not have been touching anyone, but my heart and soul certainly were. I was sitting on a folding chair. Huge bottles of hand sanitizer figured prominently on the tablescape of the makeshift altar. Fake flowers decorated the space. We had two singers and a pianist instead of a beautiful choir. There were some audio and livestreaming glitches to be resolved. None of that mattered. I might as well have been in the most beautiful cathedral in the world because God was there.
Our church renovations are done now. Last Saturday, a bunch of us spent the morning cleaning the sanctuary for about the eighty millionth time over the past several months. I had it easy. Other people did a great job in an earlier round of cleaning, so there was not as much leftover postwar grime from 1948 as there might have been. The most disgusting thing I encountered was vacuuming up a desiccated creature that was, at one time, either a lizard or a frog. Hey, every house, even a house of God, needs a thorough cleaning every 70 years are so.
We’ll be back in our newly beautified worship space on September 13. I will be there. Pray for us!
What have you started doing “IRL” again that you have been doing virtually since the COVID quarantine? How has it worked out for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Little by little, I am escaping the confines of my four walls. I am doing more and more “normal” things. We go to restaurants once a week. We have gone to outdoor and indoor malls. I have attended some real-life meetings for church committees. We have been to Disney Springs and even to the Magic Kingdom. I rode in the same car with two friends and stayed with them in the same hotel suite on our overnight trip to Amelia Island. It was a big day when Max and first sat inside a Starbuck’s with our beverages and pumpkin bread.
It is tempting to believe things are “getting back to normal.” That is not the case, though. Doing isn’t feeling.
A weird sinister vibe accompanies our furtive ventures out of the house. We do not do anything without analyzing the risk/benefit factors. No matter how you look at it, life is certainly painted in a vibrant shade of “weird” when the notion of going to Starbuck’s is a potentially dangerous activity. Everywhere we do go, there are reminders that the world is still considerably off-kilter. While we are trying to right ourselves, our entire culture is working up quite a sweat from the effort of playing “let’s pretend.” No hugs or handshakes. Masks covering smiles. Following one-way directional arrows in the supermarket. Learning to speak up because no one can hear me from an appropriate social distance. Fitting rooms closed at department stores. Strangely quiet and empty streets, stores, and other venues.
There is also the “social acceptability” factor of returning to previously normal activities. Watching the news and social media, reactions to real life are mixed. There seems to be one camp of people insisting that the virus is taking over the world and we are all going to die. There is another camp that is insisting that there is no danger and taking any kind of reasonable precautions is unnecessary. I know I should not care, but I do tend to worry about what people will think if I post pictures of us at Disney World or suggest an in-person meeting for a church group. I want to be respectful and comforting. I also want to not be judged.
All in all, things in the area where I live and are doing fairly well. News media and prayers for full annihilation of the virus aside, causes for concern seem to be receding. People are aware that the world is not normal, but they also are beginning to feel the need to live outside the box… literally. People are beginning to stop waiting for things to return to normal to continue with their regularly scheduled lives. There are adaptations and adjustments we need to make, but society is restarting some form of regular life. That is a hopeful sign. The more we can do that, the more doing will be feeling.
It is another weird transition time that we are experiencing now. When the world first went on lockdown, the changes we had to make to our normal lives were so massive and intrusive, many of us felt our sanity sensors wobbling. I know I felt like I was kicked in the gut back to the last twelfth of Never. Now, we have adapted very effectively to zoom meetings, social distancing, and avoiding non-essential human contact. We might be having a hard time starting to climb back from Never. We may have become a little lethargic and rut-bound. In some ways, it is easier to remain securely in hunker down mode. It is a bit like COVID-19 spooked the horse of our lives and we got thrown out of the saddle. We toppled to the ground and hurt ourselves. For a time, it made sense to stay off the horse and heal. We could even decide to stay off the horse permanently if we did not enjoy riding. On the other hand, unless we want to give up riding forever, we must get back on the horse at some point.
I know that point will be different for everyone. I know that everyone heals differently. I know some horses are gentler than others. I know some people are better riders than others. I am not here to advise or judge, just to hope and pray that, someday, I can hug people again. And that I will feel “normal” doing it!
What activity or condition would help you to feel “normal” again? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. Alternatively, you can email me at email@example.com.
When COVID-19 broke out all over the world, an international debate about the wearing of face coverings also broke out. Some people believe that wearing masks will slow the spread of infection and that the masks are critical to containing the virus until there is a vaccine. Others believe masks do no good and represent an infringement on our civil liberties. Others believe that masks probably have some impact on stemming infection and that there is little downside to wearing them. Personally, I believe they do have an impact. I believe that we are seeing the positive results of wearing them in places that have mandated wearing masks in public. I wear my mask, not intending any political statement, but simply because I want to do everything I can to give us all more safety, peace of mind, and freedom.
For people who are not completely convinced of the public health advantages of wearing a mask when venturing out into the big wide world, I have compiled a list of ten other benefits that may be more compelling.
You save a lot of money on lipstick.
When worn with sunglasses, you can make faces at people without them knowing it.
You can have a bad hair day and people will just assume it is the mask.
You can buy a whole wardrobe of them and use them as fashion accessories.
You can talk with your mouth full and no one knows the difference.
You can rent out space on your mouth for advertising.
There is now finally something you can buy at Brighton Collectibles that actually costs less than the “free” $25 gift card they send you for your birthday (okay… that one is a little esoteric, but, as someone who routinely ends up using her $25 birthday credit to buy something that costs over $200, it is a considerable benefit for me).
Orthodontia may become a thing of the past.
You have an excuse when you meet someone in the grocery store and can’t remember his or her name (as in, “oh silly me; I didn’t recognize you with the mask on!”)
You can take Tink-ering to a whole new level.
What benefits of wearing a mask have you discovered? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can leave me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Max moved in with me in 2002, we had a talk about keeping our relationship lively. Before we cohabitated, we lived about an hour away from each other, with traffic. We got together for a date every Saturday. It was the highlight of the week for both of us. When he moved in with me, I wanted to make sure we still had that special dedicated time to have fun together. I made him agree that, even if we were living in the same home, we would still have a date at least once a week. I am happy to say that we have kept that agreement, almost without fail. Since my retirement, we’ve even upped the ante and have spend two days a week doing something fun together. Since the COVID-19 invasion, this has been a little more challenging, but we’ve managed to pull off some form of a date a couple of times a week even during the pandemic.
However, when I talked to Max about my need for a weekly date way back in 2002, getting a COVID-19 test together was not exactly what I had in mind.
The other day, we set out on an admittedly low-key date day. We went to Starbucks and sat in the café. We chatted, sipped our beverages and shared a slice of pumpkin bread. It is still kind of a thrill to be inside the Starbucks, so I suppose that, in itself, might qualify for a date. We had even more exciting plans, however. Our original schedule involved going to Home Depot to return a towel bar and then wander the tiny, not-quite-a-mall in our town. Whoo-hoo!
When we got to the Home Depot, Max spotted a white tent-like structure in the parking lot. We wondered what it was and drove around it to investigate. It turns out that it was a pop-up COVID-19 testing facility. Max suggested we get tested. I was not quite on board because I could not think of any reason we would be at risk. As far as we knew, none of the people with whom we are in contact has the virus. Neither of us has any symptoms. The infection rate in our county has been decreasing. Still, I could not think of any reason not to get tested, so I agreed to undergo the procedure to please Max.
The operation was efficient. A masked and shielded greeter registered us and explained the processing and results procedures. There was one person ahead of us getting tested when we arrived. Max took the first turn and the technician ushered me in right after finishing with Max, before I had a chance to even ask him what it was like.
As a public service, I am going to tell you what it is like. It is like having a tiny eggbeater pushed up your nose into your brain for ten seconds in each nostril. I am glad I only have two nostrils.
I would not say it hurt exactly. “Pain” seems too strong a word. It was more that it was such a weird sensation than that it actually hurt. It is sort of like the eyeball, nose, and ear equivalent of chewing on aluminum foil. My eyes certainly watered and I felt my face doing some weird contortions, like when you taste something extremely sour. I later found out that there is sometimes a problem with testers who want to make the test more comfortable so they end up not going far enough up the nostril to get a valid specimen. I do not think my technician had that problem. That night, I looked it up on the internet. Apparently, if your eyes water, that is a sign that the technician is performing the test correctly because the process puts pressure on the tear ducts. Gold star, COVID-19 tester outside of Home Depot.
The people at the testing site told us that we could set up an account on their website and would be able to access our results in 2-5 days. Less than 48 hours later, their website revealed that we both tested negative. Yay, us.
The other thing that the people at the testing site told us is that you should get tested every fourteen days if you are out and about in the world. Yeah, no. That’s not happening.
What is your idea of a romantic date? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
In my blog piece, Golden Hearts, I mentioned how sad I am that the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games had to be postponed because of the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. I said that I love the Olympics for the sports, but even more for the stories. I feel strongly that the Olympic athletes give us a shining example of what excellence looks like. The Olympians show us how the pursuit of excellence in peace can bring a brighter, more hopeful perspective to the world. It makes my heart hurt to think of those wonderful athletes and excellence creators who will miss what might be their only opportunity to compete in an Olympic games. I decided I would do some internet-trawling to learn some of their stories.
I looked at the Team USA website and randomly chose just a few athletes to research. What I learned touched me heart. I am sure that I could and will find similar stories no matter where my mouse chose to click. Let me tell you about some of the people I met.
Abdi is a long-distance runner, specializing in the 10,000 meter and marathon races. He is also 43 years old, the oldest man to ever qualify for the USA Olympic running team. He was born in Somalia and educated in the United States, becoming a citizen in the year 2000. He spent his high school and college years clothed in competitive running. I am sure that, as an immigrant from a third world country, he faced many physical, economic, and emotional challenges as he grew into the person he was destined to become. He would have been competing in his 5th Olympics this year in Tokyo. Given his age, he may very well not be competing when the Tokyo games open next year. One could say that at least he got the chance to be an Olympian four other times, but I am sure that having to say good-bye to your Olympic so abruptly is gut-wrenching. As a retiree, I know the satisfaction in leaving a career on my own terms. It is much more difficult and disorienting when one is forced out because of circumstances beyond his control.
Alexis would have been a first-time Olympian this year. She is an infielder for Team USA Women’s Softball. At 21, she will likely still be able to compete in Tokyo next year. Life is uncertain, however, and athletes can never be sure that an injury or bright up-and-comer will not scuttle them off the field. Alexis seems to have entered the “family business.” Her grandmother, Shelia Cornell-Douty, was a two-time Olympic gold medalist playing first base for Team USA. Alexis is from Hesperia, California. When I lived in California, I often drove past Hesperia on my way to Las Vegas. The locals refer to it as “Desperia” because it is so podunk and removed from the exciting rhythms of modern urban life. Coming from a small town, inspired by the excellence of her grandmother, and nurturing her God-given gifts, Alexis is following her own star.
Gil plays baseball. He was also meant to be a first time Olympian this year. At age 32, his opportunity to participate next year in Tokyo is a little more tenuous than Alexis’s chance. I have hope for Gil, however. His bio reflects a person who has a tremendous amount of family support, which seems to have instilled a deep commitment in him. He describes himself as “motivated, dedicated, and loyal.” He is the kind of person who may be able to let disappointment soak into him and allow it to make him stronger. I certainly hope so. When asked what it meant to him to represent the United States in the Olympics, Gil said, “Getting to represent the best country in the world is like no other feeling out there. It’s an honor and a privilege to wear those three letters across my chest.” How can you not love having someone like that represent you?
Laura represents an American breakthrough in a sport where we did not previously have much of a presence- rhythmic gymnastics. Many of us look forward to cheering the USA’s artistic gymnasts towards victory each Olympics. However, rhythmic gymnastics is lesser known, and the United States has not been a realistic contender in the past. Until recently. Laura was the first rhythmic gymnast from the United States to medal in the sport in either a junior or senior Olympics. She won the bronze medal at the 2014 junior Olympic games. Despite the time, energy, and focus she put into her sport, Laura also graduated from high school as a National Merit Scholarship and committed to Yale University.
These are just a few of the stories we can tell of our Olympians Deferred. What jumps out to me is not simply excellence in athletic ability; what stands out to me is excellence of intelligence, excellence of commitment, and excellence of character.
Do you have a favorite Olympian or Olympic moment? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is what we heard from everyone as we walked towards our destination. People waved. People smiled. People cried out, “we missed you!” You would have thought we were heroes returning from some war instead of crazed Disney fans returning to our happy place in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
Yes, despite the fact the COVID-19 infection is still plucking away at our world, Max and I trotted ourselves out to the Magic Kingdom for a special, limited capacity passholder preview event before the park officially reopened. It was not so much that we couldn’t stand to go another season without a Disney fix that prompted this act of recklessness. It was more that it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and feel what an uncrowded Disney park is like. As Disney reopened, they were severely limiting the number of people in the park. They did not publicize the number, but experts estimated the park would be operating at only about 25% of capacity. I have lived in the shadow of Disney parks all my life. Even with this wealth of experience and wisdom under my belt, I could not conceive of what 25% capacity would feel like. Short of having to fight an army of fire-breathing and vomit-spewing dragons to get in, there was not much that was going to stop me from experiencing a desolate Disney ghost town.
To further convince me that I should risk a potentially fatal disease or lifelong lung damage to go to Disney for this soft reopening, the fates decreed I should go. I have been a Disney passholder for nearly five years. In all that time, I have NEVER attended any of the special passholder events. I have never been one of the chosen few to receive the email invitation and respond within the first few minutes before the event reaches capacity. It is sort of like having to be the fourteenth caller when a radio station is giving away concert tickets. Odds are, it is never going to happen. A couple of weeks before this event, I was sitting at the car dealership waiting for an oil change. Bored, I was checking my phone lethargically. Coincidentally, I saw an email inviting me to register for the passholder preview event. I did not believe for a minute that I was going to be able to claim a space for Max and I because prior experience has taught me that, if you take an breath between the time the email goes out and the time you try to book a reservation, you are going to miss out. Just for giggles and because I had nothing else to do, I followed the link to register. To my utter amazement, I was able to sign us up for a day of Disney with a side of hand sanitizer.
We did think about whether going was an acceptable risk. There is so much drama in the media telling us that the Florida coronavirus numbers are climbing out of control. As I have said in prior posts, I have not felt particularly scared during this pandemic. On the other hand, I absolutely want to be responsible. I do not want to do anything that will put other people at risk, especially as I am doing volunteer work which does put me in brief contact with older, immune-compromised individuals. I decided to take a deeper dive into the numbers to analyze whether things are getting worse, better, or staying about the same. I looked at the Florida coronavirus infection rate for the middle of April. At that time, approximately 1% off the population had tested positive for the coronavirus. Today, the percentage is 1.92%, so there has been an increase. On the other hand, the percentage is still low, despite more testing and several months of reopened commerce in Florida. It has been around the 1.9% rate for several weeks. Less than 1/10th of 1% of Floridians have been sick enough to be hospitalized. In Orange County, where most of Disney is located, the percentage infected is about the same, but the daily infection rate amongst those being tested has been declining. For several weeks, the percentage of positive results of people tested has been below 10%. Additionally, ½ of 1% of all Orange County residents have been hospitalized.
Now, numbers are one thing. Depending upon what you look at and how you look at it, they can often tell you whatever you want to hear. I will not say that the virus is not a safety consideration. However, it did seem that the risk was reasonable for me.
Then, there is another factor… the pixie dust prescription. Disney has a whole lot to lose if they contribute to the spread of death and destruction. Disney also has a corporate culture that is about excellence and innovation. Disney also has a staff that is well-trained and resilient. Frankly, one of my motivating factors for wanting to go was to see the creative ways Disney employed to manage the risk while still spinning the magic.
So we decided to go, evaluate what we saw, and leave the second we felt uncomfortable.
We approached the entrance to the parking lot, excited and wary. The line to get into the parking lot was a bit of a struggle. I am not completely sure what was causing the delay, but I think it was due to the additional time it took to park the cars socially distant from each other. What was kind of interesting about the socially distant parking is that Disney came up with a way to do the social distancing without having people park further away than they would need to if the cars were traditionally spaced. I noticed when we left that the attendants must have shifted the flow of traffic to fill in the spots left between the earlier guests’ cars.
Once we got into the parking lot, everything was smooth and comfortable. Directed by smiling, waving, and welcoming cast members, we boarded the ferry to go over to the park. There were clear social distancing markers on the floor of the boat to indicate where to stand. Everyone was wearing masks. The cast members had masks AND face shields. When we disembarked, we stood in a fast-moving line so that only one party at a time could exit the ferry. Later, when we were going back to the parking lot on the monorail, cast members permitted only one party on each monorail car.
The first thing we noticed at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom was that there was no line. For any of you who have been to the MK, you know that it is a bit of an ordeal. Wait to get entry to the parking lot, park your car, take a tram to the transportation center, wait in line for bag check, wait in line for either ferry or monorail, wait in line to get into the park. Even though there are always multiple turnstiles available to enter the park, there are lines at every one of them if you get there anywhere near park opening time. On passholder preview day, THERE WAS NO WAIT.
And no people. At least, that is the way it seemed when we stepped foot on Main Street. It was almost spooky. There was almost no sign of life. Max really, really likes getting Starbucks when we go anywhere for a day trip. He is happily content to do pretty much anything I want for the rest of the day, but he really does want that latte first thing in the morning when we are on an adventure. He will forgo it if we have something critical that we must get to first, but the morning Starbucks truly is important to him. He does not ask for much, so I suck it up and factor waiting in the huge lines at Disney Starbucks locations as part of my plan for the day. On passholder preview day, there was no line. I think there were two people in the coffee shop. By the time I recovered from the shock and awe of this phenomenon, he had his coffee and we were on our way.
Such was the order of the day. We walked on to virtually every ride. I rode the Seven Dwarves Mine Train for the first time, with a 20-minute wait. The wait for Splash Mountain was similar. The queues on the other rides… oh wait, there were no queues.
From a safety point of view, it was amazing. Except for a few cast members and Max, I doubt I got closer than 10 feet to anyone the entire day. I think they expanded the space between social distancing markers to allow for antsy children and for large parties. There were a couple of times when I had to inch forward off my spot to peek ahead to see if I was supposed to move. The people in front of me were so far away, I could not see where they were! There was hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit of each ride. The cast members employed huge industrial containers of disinfectant attached to their backs to periodically spray all the ride cars. With ride vehicles designed for more than one party, they sometimes had one party in the first row and one in the back row if there were several rows in between. Usually, it was just one party for vehicle.
From a magic point of view, my reaction was a little more mixed. To be completely honest, there was an initial sense of weirdness and forced gaiety. Having so few fellow revelers did result in a slightly less festive atmosphere. Many of the eating and shopping dining venues were still closed. There were no Mickey-shaped pretzels to be had. The absence of shows and parades did seem sort of “less than.” On the other hand, having such short waits was uber magical. The seemingly genuine and extremely vocal welcomes from the cast members made me feel “especially special.”
As the day wore on, I found the magic. Every now and again, there was a pop-up presentation- a group of dancers, huge parade float carrying a character, or streetcar of singers. I cannot call them “parades,” because the very nature of a “parade” suggests more than one exhibit, one following behind another. These were more like parade snapshots- one band, one drill team, one float. The most magical moment of the day was when we ran across Tinker Bell riding atop a giant treasure chest around the circle at the end of Main Street. Because there were so few people, she could identify individuals standing below, smiling at her. She noticed my quarantined Tink shirt and pointed at me. She laughed, waved, and blew kisses to me. I walked beside the float all around the circle. It was like Tink and I had our very own parade.
It may not have been a personal, side-by-side visit with my Pixie Princess, but it was a new and different kind of magic.
Have you done anything wild and unpredictable as the world starts to reopen? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com
Last Friday, the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad were supposed to open in Tokyo, Japan. As everyone who has not been living on some COVID-free planet for the past five months knows, these summer games have been postponed until July 23, 2021 because of our worldwide pandemic.
I have always been an Olympics fan. I enjoy the pageantry and the passion. I enjoy the patriotism. I enjoy watching the sports, even the ones with which I am entirely unfamiliar. I watch sports I do not understand during the Olympics simply because it is the Olympics. For two weeks in the summer every four years, the world celebrates excellence. I have always wanted to attend an Olympics and never have. Gluing myself to the television screen every waking hour of the day is likely the closest I will ever get. This Olympic year, I am not going to even get that.
I know the Olympic games and the Olympic spirit is not cancelled, simply postponed. I know that my mourning for the vicarious Olympic community experience is selfish considering what is going on around us right now. It is especially selfish because I am sure that the athletes who intended to be in Tokyo competing right now are having it much worse than I am. For many of them, I am sure Tokyo was to be the shining zenith of their athletic careers. A year’s postponement will be the same as a cancellation for some of these athletes. The “sweet spot” of athletic achievement opportunity will not always linger for another year. For the people who worked so hard all their lives to achieve a dream, a postponement may crush the dream. All I can do is pray that they can take that commitment and passion and channel it into another dream.
To me, the most excellent thing about the Olympics is not the sports. It is the people and the stories. I love meeting individuals who rise above poverty, obscurity, and hardship to become the best in the world at something. I love hearing the stories of competitors who purposely slow their own progress to help another athlete. My heart expands when the commentators tell us about love stories that grow between participants. I even love the commercials- the ones that introduce us to the relationships between parents and children, coaches and athletes, country and competitor. The Olympics are games, but they are also a movement, a spirit, and a flame.
As much as I love the games, my real passion is the movement, spirit, and flame. That flame could ignite all of hearts. It could ignite our hearts with peace, excellence, performance, and perseverance. Even those of us, like me, who will never become the best in the world at anything in particular, can use that flame to fuel our efforts to be the best people we can be. I don’t want to wait another whole year to feel that fire.
So even if the games of the XXXIII will not be gracing my television screen this year, I am going to use this time to research the golden hearts of these postponed Olympics. I am going to search for the people, the passion, and the stories that would have been woven into this summer’s games. Those people deserve for us to know their stories. I need to know those stories to build my own golden heart.
The good Lord willing, I will be watching the athletes of 2021 next July. I know the delayed Olympics will still move and inspire me. However, it is good remember that there are always golden hearts out there if we look!
Do you watch the Olympics? What is your favorite part about it? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.