Challenging Status Quo

On Monday I decided I was going to do something different in my life.

It began when I wanted to add a cover image to my LinkedIn account. I know, nothing big, especially because I’m not sure what the value of my LinkedIn account is, and I’m pretty sure no one in my “network” cares about the cover image on my LinkedIn page, at least, not as much as my FB friends would care if I changed the cover photo on my FB page.

My niece learned of my true identity...  But is she right?
My niece learned of my true identity… But is she right?

It was the process of finding the image that mattered. Into my disorganized iPhoto library I went, to look for one of my favorite photos from a trip I took to Scotland in 2013. I scrolled through hundreds of photos. Some I wondered why I hadn’t deleted. Others, I wondered why I hadn’t printed and framed. Then came the photos of people, of me and my partner, in particular.

“We looked thinner back then.” he said,  while sitting on our sagging couch, a few feet in front of the HDTV, cable box, and Blu-ray player, remotes splayed across the scene, as he looked through the pictures on my laptop with me.

He was right. I saw it too. The milliseconds the images were up on the screen was enough time for our brains to pick up on the fewer inches of pudge that wrapped his mid-section or my back-section “only a year ago.”

The last year was fraught with so many – I need to work out more’s and I need to drink less beer’s – that it sounded like a broken record. Obviously, we were eating, sitting, drinking and wishing, more than we were sweating, walking, standing or doing.

So I went to the gym on Monday morning and sweat. I was sore on Tuesday, but I went to the gym again. I stayed away from those tantalizing carbs. I didn’t stop at Grateful Bread – whose current scone is the best in Seattle. I didn’t “celebrate” my second day at the gym. On Wednesday, I was feeling good, so when I went out to lunch I had a lovely cup of white bean and pesto soup with a think slice of homemade bread  and shared a little pizza with my partner at Element in the UVillage. Simple, small, healthy but loaded with carbs. The rest of the day I felt bloated . “Damn I think I do have gluten intolerance,” I thought after feeling massive in a pair of jeans I squeezed into the next day. Those jeans that were a little big “only a year ago.”

Was it all the traveling I did? My dad’s death? The “too hot” summer in Seattle? The amazing IPAs of the Pacific NW that I just can’t seem to stop drinking, especially during the “too hot” summer in Seattle?

Why did I gain weight?

I got lazy. My mind was not aware of my growing girth. My mind was too preoccupied with the stress of life. I failed at balancing recreation and work. I failed at balancing being active with being sedentary.

When my mind finally recognized that the girth of my ass had grown, I played a game with myself. Telling myself – “It’s not that bad.” or “I can work that off in no time.” Was I buying me some time? Or killing me softly, slowly?

My niece somehow knows of my challenges with the evil - Status Quo.
My niece somehow knows of my challenges with the evil – Status Quo.

I am going to the gym, I am starting to be conscious of what I am eating and drinking. I have a birthday coming up and I will not be “one year younger.” I’m challenging the status quo – I’m challenging the way things are or have been. I’m challenging the sloth within.

What are your challenges with status quo? What are your plans of action to defeat it? No plans? That’s okay, sometimes we just have to “do it,” to “act differently than usual,” to create the change we all so desperately want to achieve.

Challenging Status Quo – make it your mantra too.

Preparing for a pilgrimage

Maps – check
Rain gear – check
Thermals – check
Cameras – check
Passport – check

I have been on countless trips, yet I still find packing a challenge. I check the weather. It will be cold and rainy, just like Seattle. I visualize the terrain, hills, beach, mud and sand. What shoes do I bring? I anticipate events, visiting cemeteries, museums, maybe a nice dinner out. What shall I wear?  Can I just wear jeans, a Seahawks knit cap, fleece and hiking boots?

Allied Invasion June 6, 1944

The focus of the trip will be part treasure hunt, belated funeral, and self discovery. The treasure is my grandfather’s grave. The letter from the German government states that his Grablage or grave location is Cemetery of Marigny in Manche within the province of Normandy, France. One of many World War II cemeteries in Normandy.  Block 4, Row 19, Grave 737 – are the coordinates we were given.

The document states he died on July 17th, 1944 at Fort La Varde near the town of St. Malo along the Brittany coast. This contrasts with information in a letter sent by a fellow soldier to my step-great grandfather in 1948. He states my grandfather was killed in Saint Lo, 137 km away.

After the D-Day invasions of June 6th, 1944, Allied forces throughout Normandy and neighboring Brittany, were charged to clean out the rest of the German strongholds such as the coastal outpost at St. Malo and their land-based outpost at St. Lo. The battles that happened in Brittany including St. Malo were to liberate port cities that were held by the German Army. The Allied forces were also concerned the Germans would demolish railroad bridges.

On July 17th, the day my grandfather died, Allied bombs ripped through the area around St. Malo, and Fort La Varde. This would corroborate the information the government sent.  On that same day in a flattened Saint Lo, having been bombarded by Allied air strikes in early July, the letter states my grandfather was in a foxhole with other German solders as Allied tanks advanced.

A flattened Saint Lo July 1944.

Both documents agree my grandfather was killed by artillery shrapnel. The letter being more descriptive, stating the shrapnel hit my grandfather in the neck, killing him instantly.

The government document states my grandfather was in a Panzerjäger an anti-tank company. A frightful job for a man who was an artist, a craftsman, a violin maker. But why was he in a foxhole in Saint Lo? Why wasn’t he in one of those Marder anti-tank tanks?

Anti-tank – tank – Marder I

Luckily, both documents agree his final resting place is the Cemetary in Marigny, location of the funeral. The days between now and the funeral, plus the days afterward will be a journey of self discovery.

Post high school football – 25 years in the making

Yesterday, I went to my first football game since high school. My university really didn’t have a team, well they did but they were sad, very sad… University of Chicago is known for their “strong academic programs” in other words not their sports. They were probably the most intelligent football players in the country, but they couldn’t play football for the life of them. I always thought my old Tigers from high school could whip the Maroons with their eyes closed.

Why now? Well, I have been adopted by a family that attended colleges with good sports teams. I was invited to attend, as a family bonding experience, to a game of their college against the University of Washington. I was eager to go, both for the bonding opportunity and for the experience of a post high school football game. The game was in Seahawk stadium and I was excited to visit the stadium purchased with my taxes. Note: I will not call it by the “sponsor of the year” name, it will always be Seahawk stadium to me.

We started the afternoon at F.X. McRory’s a famous establishment near the stadiums in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. The eight of us had a leisurely lunch and several drinks as we whiled away the hours before game time.

“I’m excited to go to this game.” I exclaimed at one point. Showing how I was all for family bonding. “I can’t wait to have an $8 pint of beer and sit and watch the game.” I continued.
They all turned toward me in unison with looks of dismay. “They don’t sell alcohol at college games, Rebecca.” They scolded me, as if I broke the first cardinal rule of college football.
“Really?!” I responded, trying not to sound too upset.

I was beginning to wonder how this adventure would turn out. Not only was I wearing the color red amidst a sea of purple, but now I had to do it sober. I took a deep breath and told myself this would still be easier than being stuck on a fishing boat in the middle of the Bering Sea during a storm. I extended the warm buzz I was beginning to feel from a couple of beers with dessert, a bourbon coffee. The warmth of the bourbon coffee helped me face the sea of raging purple people I climbed through as I exited the restaurant. At one point a short female collegiate screamed something up at me and I looked down at her and just smiled. She ceased her screaming. The calm bourbon aura surrounding me must have stupefied her into submission.

Walking toward the stadium
Walking toward the stadium.

Walking towards the stadium, I was beginning to realize the dangerous situation I had subjugated myself. There was purple everywhere, not just on people, but on cars and trucks. For 16 years I had no idea that purple was the unofficial color of Seattle.

Purple everywhere
Purple everywhere!



As my group of red color wearing people neared the stadium, I felt myself walking taller, a soft smile on my face but a slight meanness around the eyes. I was happy I lifted weights earlier that day so I felt strong, I was happy I grew up in Chicago, my city sense, don’t F*$k with me attitude, rising ever so slightly. I felt relieved momentarily by people wearing pink t-shirts and giving out pink beaded necklaces in recognition of breast cancer awareness month. “My mother is a survivor.” I said as I grabbed some beads. The purple and pink person snapped a glance of surprise at me, then smiled and said they were happy my mom is a survivor. A short moment of bonding between opposing teams.

I felt their eyes
I felt their eyes on me throughout the game.

We found our seats up in the nosebleed area. “Visiting team seating” a sign should have said. I felt more comfortable now as I was welcomed with smiles and two fingered hand gestures (which were for victory or something like that) from complete strangers wearing red and gold. I finally found my adopted tribe, all because I was wearing a red jacket.

Red people
My adopted tribe of red people.

As we ascended up to our seats, I only had to pop my ears once. I was amazed that I could still make out the players on the field from this altitude. When the UW marching band began their pre-game show, I watched excitedly as they formed letters, a flag post for the flag of the U.S.A and at one point what I think was the ribbon used to signify solidarity for breast cancer awareness.

Flag post
Very cool flag post and flag as the Star Spangled Banner played in the background.

I do have to say that attending a football game in person, is far more rewarding, at first, than watching a game on TV. To hear the pigskin smacking the hands of a receiver for the first time, was a religious moment. The energy of that coupling reverberated throughout the stadium – a hush of awe was in the air. It seemed to play in slow motion, because as soon as it was over the stadium was roaring with pleasure. Is this the “12th man” affect I always hear about?

The excitement of those first moments at a football game began to fade by the second quarter. Could it have been because the effects of my pre-game beverages had worn off? Probably. I tried to get back into the game by buying some red vines, the only thing besides beer and hot dogs I crave when at a ball park (although hot dogs are for baseball games not football). After the first half I found myself watching the large video screen to see where the ball went after leaving the q-b’s hands. By fourth quarter my eyes were glazing over and I had to blink several times to focus on the field.

All in all it was worth it. I have earned a badge of honor from my adopted family and that is priceless.