Friday, September 19, 2014

The Hula Hoop Diaries

Life throws some weird curve balls. Sometimes that curve ball is injuring yourself to the point of not being able to exercise using your arms or legs.

Without going into great detail, I injured both of my arms and my left leg on separate occasions, and this has greatly limited my ability to work out at the level I'm used to. Or any level. This is really difficult for me because I'm a pretty active person; I'm a runner, former "Beach Body" exercise enthusiast, and overall like to be out and moving around. And now I am limited to walking and whatever I can do with my torso that won't add strain to my arms or leg. In general, I'm going a little stir-crazy.

In need of ideas I turned to my peers, AKA, Facebook. My sister-in-law suggested I try hula hooping, which was the most intriguing suggestion by far. Also, it was the only actual feasible suggestion.

Let me start by saying, I never really hula hooped before. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I can't recall a single moment in my life when I successfully hula'd a hoop.

My earliest and most prevalent memory of hula hoops is in the basement of my family's first house in Idaho, watching my brothers play. My oldest brother started hula hooping and the next thing I remember was intense pain like flashing sparks radiating from my nose and warm blood running down my chin. Apparently at 5-years-old I was at the perfect height to get smacked right in the face by a hula hoop.

Who gets smacked in the face by a hula hoop?

Everything after that was a series of failures, and I eventually lost interest in hula hoops for the purpose of anything other than creating "safe" zones in a game of tag. Or so I told myself. My second strongest hula hoop memory harks back to my stick-like preteen body feverishly trying to hula hoop in the midst of what was obviously a very important scavenger hunt race. It was the first day of summer camp and my team couldn't move on unless I could hula hoop for the entirety of a song. The hoop would spin just as long as gravity would allow it, like tossing a ring around a pole, my gyrating attempts doing absolutely nothing to keep it whirling. My competitor had no problem keeping it balanced, and for added sting of failure one of the women in charge of this absurd challenge was hula hooping like the hoop was magnetized to her waist. I failed my new comrades in the challenge and they let us proceed out of pity.

So, those are the things I think of when I think of hula hoops; physical pain, and that woman standing on the sidelines slowly moving her hips side to side while the hoop remained perfectly balanced, mocking me. Or hippies.


Luckily I've upgraded from flailing pre-teen to flailing 20-something. Despite past fails I've taken a Barney Stinson approach to life: "Challenge accepted!"

I learned a couple things in my initial search for hula hoops. For one, a possible reason I failed so frequently hula'ing has to do with hoop size. By the time I was a pre-teen I was the same height as the average adult woman, and while I was thin I was probably still too big for a child-size hoop.

Secondly, I was told adult-sized hula hoops aren't easy to come by, and making your own is both easy and bad-ass. I have a hard time turning down opportunities to be more bad-ass, so making my own hula hoop was the obvious choice.

I succeeded at learning more about this bad-assery on a hippie mom's webpage where she not only has a video of her six-year-old daughter detailing how to make hoops, but promotes her very own hula-hoop album. So. Bad. Ass. (No but seriously, her website's kinda cool if you're interested in homesteading and simple living and craftiness----> SouleMama)

All you need are three items to make a hula hoop: poly pipe, a connector, and tape. And really, the only reason you need tape is to decorate it, so in truth you need two items.

I went to a local hardware store where they sold pipe by the foot instead of grouped in 100 ft bundles. I mean, I just need one hula hoop, guys. I'm not starting a club. (Unless people want to start a club, then maybe we should all go halvsies on that 100 ft poly-pipe.)

You know, hardware stores aren't my usual haunts, but I hate propagating any sort of stereotypes that women don't know much about handiwork or tools, so I try to sound as confident and knowledgeable as possible when going in one. I walked in the store, head held high, and upon being asked if I needed help I said, "Yes, I need 10 feet of poly-pipe."

"Okay, what size?"

Damn. My whole foundation fell out from underneath me.

"Well," I said taking in a deep breath, weighing my options on how stupid I wanted to look. "I'm making a hula hoop..."

"Oh, 3/4" is usually what people go for. It's a pretty popular request."

Soon I was in the very back of the store where the hardware clerk measured out 10' of pipe while I helped hold it and a series of "That's what he/she said" phrases were dropped in such succession I don't know how I managed to not just fall over right there on the dirty hardwood floor. It was possibly the greatest feat of strength yet.

["Do you want me to help?" "Yeah, maybe if you grabbed the end." "Okay, just hold it?" "No, maybe pull on it a little.." etc etc etc]

Upon returning to the front after sounding ridiculous swearing up and down to this man that I "have never hula hooped before" (why was I so adamant that he know I wasn't a hula hooper? I sounded like someone going to a brothel for the first time) the other clerk took one look at my items and said, "Hula hoop?"

"Really," the clerk helping me said, "it's a very common request." Obviously my plan for conquering the hardware store with confidence had failed me.

Another man shopping in the store then began to giggle so much he ran down an aisle to hide. A full-grown Carhart-and-flannel-wearing man, giggling.

No matter how the hardware store went (which honestly, while slightly awkward, was hilariously awesome) I made out like a bandit with supplies to make my very own hula hoop for $3.69, and upon arriving home it took me all of 5 minutes to put it together and clear enough space in my living room to awkwardly try what I have failed at so many times before.

I don't know how to explain what it was like, but how does one describe falling in love? A bit clumsy and awkward at first, but after having them in your life you just can't seem to let go. Watching a show at night, waking up and grooving to some tunes in the morning. It all just seems better with a hula hoop.

It's been all my life, but I'm finally enjoying what everyone else did all those years. What can I say? I'm a late bloomer.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Harvest Moon Still Rose

Last year's Harvest Moon snuck up on me. I didn't realize what day it was until I was standing in the middle of the street with her rising between the houses and trees, a picturesque moment of closeness that made the cliché movie lines seem totally plausible. Full moons always stop me in my tracks, persuade me to think of life in strange and different terms, and don't easily let me sleep. 

I was finishing a run when I saw her. This wasn't a run for the sake of being in shape or training, but one I'm sure many runners go on. It would be safer to say it's closer to masochism than running (although one could argue that runners are, by nature, masochistic) but I left my house at sunset to make my lungs spasm for air, my throat raw, my stomach ache, and my legs fail. I wanted to hurt. I wanted my physical body to feel something because my heart felt too much and my spirit was hurting. 

Loss had pockmarked my re-entry into the US after finishing my Peace Corps service. Loss on levels I wasn't prepared for; of family, of dear friends, of my own identity. And it wasn't even over yet. 

So as I tasted iron in my mouth and my legs all but refused to move forward and I came around the corner to my house, the moon surprised me and seemed out of place. When you grieve a lot of times you come to wonder how the world continues to move on around you. And here she was, oblivious to my pain and the pain of others, going on as if nothing had happened. 

It may sound strange, but for the first time ever it struck me; she always would. She wasn't out of place, she was doing exactly what she was meant to. Civilizations have risen and fallen. Wars have been fought and families scattered and countries renamed. The moon still followed course. I suddenly felt myself sharing a connection with the entire world and all of history; the connection of standing on this earth and looking up at the same moon. Maybe in 300 B.C. a woman would've looked up in the night sky after suffering a great loss and felt the same way? Loss is not personal, it's universal. And no matter where you stand, the moon will still wax and wane. 

Somehow that was comforting to me. The world has suffered and still suffers such tremendous tragedies, and yet some parts--like the moon--are unchanged. They bare witness, and carry on. It's not that it made my loss insignificant, but showed me I shared a place with people long forgotten. It stitched a line between myself and all of humanity. 

Upon returning indoors I wrote a poem. Poetry isn't really my forte, but I knew there was no way I could clearly explain what had transpired while standing in the street, wishing I could climb over the rooftops and reach into the sky. How many times had the Harvest Moon already risen, and how many more times will she rise? 

When I saw the Harvest Moon tonight I couldn't believe she'd already returned. Despite my epiphany a year ago, it still feels so bittersweet to see her again. 

Harvest Moon
by A. Rodgers 

The Harvest Moon still rose tonight. 
It's as if she didn't yet know you were gone.

The first of many that will come and go,
but this time it will be without you.

I tried to walk nearer hoping to cradle her,
but really I wanted her to cradle me.

They say, "to everything there is a season,"
and I know it to be true.

But the moon is here because she has to be.
She couldn't rise if she knew.

The Harvest Moon still rose tonight,
but tomorrow she'll be gone.

She'll return once again because she has to;
because she still has children to guide on.