Odd Satisfactions in Life

cream-194126_1280We have accumulated a lot of stuff.  This is a first world problem and I want to say right away that we are blessed beyond measure and I am so grateful for our life.  It’s just that, over the years, our blessed life has generated an abundance of things.

Some of this accumulation is due to the strange course of real estate sales and purchases in the last 5 years or so.  At the beginning of this time period, we owned a 5500 square foot home with three car garage in Denver and a ski condo in Copper Mountain.  When we decided to move our son to the mountains to ski full time, we sold the ski condo and bought our 3200 square foot mountain home.  We sold the condo fully furnished and took only our personal stuff: soap, shampoo, hair dryer, etc. and linens/pillows/blankets/towels.  Since my husband and I were commuting to Denver, we weren’t sure whether to keep the Denver house or downsize, so we furnished our mountain home and bought stuff for it.  About a year later, we sold the big house and had to figure out what to do with all the stuff in that house.  Everything.  Furniture, TV’s, electronics, personal items, tools, cleaning supplies, you name it.  We already had a mostly furnished, well-stocked smaller home in the mountains, so this was a challenge.

Eventually, we rented an apartment in Denver as our home base down there, so some of the stuff found a home.  The rest, we pretty much crammed into our mountain house.  And it’s okay for the most part.  The most abundant items I’ve been working my way through over the years are cleaning supplies and personal items like lotion, soap, shampoo, hair dryers, hair products and medicine.  And towels.  For some reason, we have a whole lotta towels.  Cabinets full of them in the laundry room.  Some are well-used and appropriate for dog washes, but the rest …. they are perfectly good.  Do you know how long it takes to use up towel reserves?  Neither do I.  I’m still working on it.

I am trying my best to use up the excess stuff.  I celebrate each time I push the pump on a lotion bottle and it spurts the last glob onto my hand.  Praise Be!  Another bottle down, 999 to go.  Recycle bin time!  I really don’t want to throw things away if they are still perfectly good.  That bottle of aspirin looks just fine to me.  So what if it “expired” four years ago?  “When I was a kid, things like aspirin never expired,” I exclaim with righteous indignation as I tap out a few to try to mollify my migraine.

We are working our way through the boxes of Band Aids that now hold only the weird sizes that are no good for any normal person’s cuts and scrapes.  When one of us is injured, we cobble together a few of them and throw some medical tape on for good measure and I gleefully glance into the box and think, only five more to go — woo hoo!!!

Sometimes I do recognize that this strange obsession of using up stuff has gone a little too far.  My son is 17.  I still have a few partial bottles of Children’s Tylenol in the cabinet.  They expired a very long time ago.  In a pinch, though, won’t a good swig of the stuff have some effect on a grown-up headache? (Yes, Mom, I know that this is not good logic and I will dispose of the bottles soon.)

The other day I noticed that I have a remarkable supply of eye creams.  Over the years, those sets of skin care regimens I purchased always came with eye cream.  Despite my best intentions, I don’t ever use it.  It just seems like one more thing that I don’t really have to do, so why bother.  (And please no remarks on how my crow’s feet are evidence enough that I never use eye cream ….)  The important question is:  what am I going to do with them?  I paid a lot of money for those special, magical potions.  So, I Googled  “Can I use eye cream as a facial moisturizer?” thinking that no one would be so gauche as to actually smear the costly stuff on foreheads and cheeks.  Fortunately, everyone has already thought of everything and put helpful tips on the Internet and I got thousands of search results.  Some said no way, that eye cream would either be ineffective or actually harmful (!) to other skin areas. Others said, sure, go for it.  I had my answer.

Just as soon as I use up the remaining bottles of face cream (thank God they don’t have expiration dates … wait a minute, they just might … whatever) I am lining up those bottles of eye cream and using them on my face.  So there.  By the year 2020 I just may have used it all up.  Yay!


Taking One for the Team


Last night, Tyler Hamilton spoke to the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail community, sharing his story of doing what it took to be a winner, and the painful consequences he suffered.  You may not recognize his name if you don’t follow bike racing.  Tyler is the one who outed Lance Armstrong and the rest of the U.S. Postal Services Pro Cycling Team for its doping practices a few years ago.

Tyler’s story was gripping.  He was a quickly rising star in the pro-cycling community when he was first offered steroids by the team trainer.  He knew it was wrong, he said, even though everyone told him it was “for his health” and that he needed to take care of himself.  Doping was rampant, expected, and administered by the team and its physicians.  It was a necessary element to winning on the tour.  Eventually, doping was pushed underground by enforcement actions.  The methods became more risky to the athletes’ health and yet they continued.  He said that he began to focus more energy on his fear of getting caught than he did on winning.  But he was a winner.  He won an Olympic gold medal.  He was on the team that won the Tour de France.  He achieved the glory that most athletes dream of.

Even when he tested positive for doping, he said he “took one for the team” by lying and denying any wrongdoing.  He felt that he had to keep protecting the culture of cycling, his teammates and his friends.  He feared being blackballed and undermined if he told the truth.  He kept quiet for 14 years, even after his retirement.  He suffered depression, alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts due to the burden of holding the secret. He felt alone.  His ethical and moral core was at odds with his environment and he suffered from the inner conflict.

When he was subpoenaed about the team’s and Lance’s doping practices, he finally shared the truth, releasing the pressures of his secrets.  Eventually, he shared the story very publicly on 60 Minutes and felt the wrath of his former teammates and the cycling community.  He broke the unwritten rule of solidarity and betrayed those with whom he shared the bond of silent wrongdoing in the quest for greatness.

He says that he wishes he had been better prepared when that first pill was offered to him. He wishes that he could have seen how far he could have gotten without performance enhancements, although it’s likely he would not have been a winner.  He will never know.  Those decisions to dope altered his world forever. He lives a life of regret, but he seems at peace with himself now that he spoke out.

Part of Tyler’s message is his concern for our nation’s twisted focus on winning.  It is not enough to give one’s best effort if it doesn’t result in a win.  Only the winners get our attention and accolades. And human nature craves that recognition.  And it goes well beyond sports.  People in all facets of life will face pressure to do whatever it takes to achieve success: cut corners; break laws; risk lives.   In the quest for “winning,” people will feel the need to cheat in school, lie on resumes, or mislead investors.

Our culture is teaching our kids to win at any cost.  My son played lacrosse for many years, often at a highly competitive level for his age group.  One evening, I stood on the sidelines cringing as the other team hacked and pushed and tripped our boys.  Twenty yards from me, I heard a mom from the other team screaming at her boy to “Hit ’em! Hit em! Bring ’em down!”  And when one of our kids was laid out flat after a cheap shot, she clapped and cheered.  These kids were 10 and 11 years old, being taught to do whatever it takes to win.

How do we change this about our culture?  How do we encourage our kids to be the best that they can be, and push them to find their limits, without it being at any cost?  How do we shift our collective mindset to recognize the value in the one who never wins but keeps showing up anyway?  How do we arm our kids so that they can resist a shortcut when “everyone is doing it” and push back against the pressure to “take one for the team” when it’s not right or it’s unhealthy?  How do we help kids to find their voice in the face of an unwritten rule of silence? How do we teach a kid to take pride in an average grade that is achieved with her own mind and merit instead of an “A” that came from cheating?

Example is often the greatest teacher, and sometimes a lone voice can instigate change.  Tyler sharing his story, exposing the weaknesses in himself, admitting his regrets and shining a light on a pervasive problem is a good step.  Thank you for that, Tyler.