Sunday, February 3, 2013

My LifeScouts Badges, Part 1

These are some of my life achievements, represented in badges and short narratives. You can start your own collection (including physical versions of the badges if you're interested in such things) at the LifeScouts website. As for me, I'll make new posts periodically as I earn more badges. Fun!

So without further ado, my badges so far: 

#1 Sunrise

I am definitely not a morning person so I have to admit that I've never seen the sunrise on purpose. However, in almost every person's life there come times when we have to be up and out before dawn, so I've seen it rise many times in my life. It's a beautiful thing to watch and I highly recommend the experience at least once for everyone, even night owls like me. (Protip: Just try not to be driving east when it happens. That tends to detract significantly from the joy.)
#2 Driving

Due to various factors in my life, I wasn't able to get a driver's license until I was 20 years old. I realize that's not unusual for some parts of the country/world, but in my area it's highly unusual for anyone over 16 to be without one. Once I finally got it, I discovered that I LOVED driving, and I still do. It's among my very favorite activities and it's nothing for me to drive 6, 8, even 12 or more hours per day (with breaks of course) when I travel. If I could make a good living as some sort of driver (WITHOUT having to maintain a truck and/or lift heavy stuff) I'd be on it in an instant. That would be wonderful to me.

#3 CPR

I was first certified for CPR when I was in college, probably about 22 years old or so. I've let my certification lapse briefly a couple of times, but for the most part I've been certified continuously since then. I've had to use the skill a few times, too, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. In either case, though, I've been thankful that I was capable of at least trying. I'd definitely recommend getting certified if you're not already. (And it's actually a lot easier to do now than it was when I first started doing it. Research has taught us better techniques and it turns out that less is more in this case.) Saving a life is an amazing thing, and you just never know when it might happen to you.

#4 Parade

This is a fun one for me because I wasn't in a parade on purpose, but I was definitely a part of one once. Many years ago (in the early '90s) I was driving home from visiting my family for Thanksgiving and was about to pass through a tiny town along the way. It was nearly dark and I could see from several miles down the road that there were a lot of police lights flashing in the town. As I approached it looked like more and more of them and I could see that the road was blocked and I thought there must have been a terrible accident. I was unsurprised and even deeply sympathetic when I was detoured a block off of the main road. The two streets were completely parallel so I just kept going straight, checking at each intersection to see if I was past the blockage. After about 4 or 5 blocks, there was no police car blocking the way onto the main street and it looked dark over there, so I turned and got back on the main road.

As soon as I turned onto it, I could see that both sides of the street were lined with people for several blocks both behind and ahead of me and I was very confused for a few seconds, especially when I saw that a lot of the people were smiling and waving at me. Then I happened to glance in my rear view mirror and... holy crap, there was a float coming up behind me. I suddenly realized what was going on and took a better look around, and that's when I realized that I was smack in the middle of a parade to kick off the Christmas season.

I would have gotten off the parade route immediately, but the intersection where I had entered it was the ONLY one that wasn't blocked. I don't know why it wasn't, but the fact remains that it wasn't. All other intersections almost to the end of town (again, it was a very tiny town) were blocked either with cars or with people. So I had no choice but to finish the parade and I thought I may as well make the best of it. I found a radio station playing Christmas music and turned it up loud, rolled down my windows, and waved at people until I could escape. It was mildly embarrassing, but also hilarious and fun. It's certainly an experience I won't soon forget and I love that I can commemorate it with a LifeScouts badge! 

#5 Picnic

I've had many picnics in my life, both as a child and as an adult. At one point I even owned TWO fancy picnic baskets, each complete with its own dishes, etc., and I still have one of them. Amazingly, even though I'm not at all an outside kind of person, I don't mind going outside for a little while (as long as it's not too hot and there aren't too many bugs) for a meal with friends and/or family. It has a way of making a mundane meal time into a fun adventure. If you haven't tried it, give it a shot some time. You may, like me, enjoy it more than you think you will.

#6 Swimming

Oh man, swimming. I don't know if there's another thing on earth that I'd rather do than swim. I don't do it as much as I'd like simply because it's a pain in the neck taking care of my hair afterward (I have yet to find a swimming cap that will hold my hair, and yes, I've tried the ones that claim to be for long hair), but if I could eliminate that issue (without cutting my hair! I love my hair!), I'd be in the water at every single opportunity. 

#7 Fishing

I've only actually been fishing a few times in my life and it's not something I particularly love doing, but I HAVE done it and I'm claiming my badge, dagnabit! The two times that stand out the most in my memory are fishing in a pond that was on the property of the people who babysat me when my youngest brother was born. (My mother was in the hospital for about 10 days and I stayed with them that whole time. I was just a few weeks short of 6 years old.) I caught a little bluegill but it cut me with its dorsal fin spines while I was trying to take it off the hook and that (along with all the nastiness of the worm and the hook, etc., not to mention watching the men clean the fish that evening) pretty much turned me off of fishing altogether.

Several years later (my youngest brother would have been in elementary school by then) my parents took us to a trout farm where you could fish in the tanks and then take home what you caught. They gave us corn for bait (no worms!) and they cleaned the fish for us, but I still didn't enjoy it. For one thing, there was no sport in it at all because the tanks were bursting with fish so as soon as you dropped your hook in the water, you had a bite immediately. And secondly... yeah, I'm really not so much into catching my own food. I'm kind of squeamish about eating animals in the first place and was a vegetarian for many years, largely as a result of watching people do things like butcher hogs and clean fish. I don't have any ethical objection to it; it's just icky to me and I can do just fine without it. So yeah. That's my fishing story.

#8 Drive-In Movie

I've seen many, MANY movies at drive-ins in my life. When I was growing up in West Virginia, my parents were friends with some people who own a restaurant and drive-in that are side by side. We were very poor so we couldn't afford a lot of extras, but if we had dinner at the restaurant on a Friday or Saturday evening, they would let us into the drive-in for free, so we were almost always there. It was always a double feature, with the first film being intended for families and the second containing more mature subject matter, inappropriate for kids for one reason or another (Bonnie and Clyde, The Owl and the Pussycat, etc). After the first one finished, my parents would make us lie down in the back seat and (hopefully) go to sleep. Sometimes I slept and sometimes I didn't; my brothers always did.

The first movie I ever remember seeing at any other drive-in was Star Wars, which I saw in Texas. I was super-excited about the movie itself, of course, but it was also an unforgettable evening because on the way home we encountered a terrible car accident that had happened literally just seconds earlier. Someone had taken a curve far too fast in a residential neighborhood and had put his car right inside someone's house, on top of the bed of a little girl who was about 5 or 6 years old, as I recall. She was miraculously unharmed other than some bruises, burns, and abrasions, but it took them several hours to get her out. (We stayed until it was all over because we felt deeply emotionally invested in the outcome.) One detail that I don't think I'll ever forget: One of the firemen crawled under the car and stayed there with the girl, talking and singing little songs and anything else he could do to keep her distracted from the pain until they got her out. I've always thought that was a wonderful, caring thing for him to do.

I hadn't been to a drive-in for many years as an adult until about 5 years ago when one opened near me. (Well, I say "near". It's near by West Texas standards. About an hour and a half drive from me, but that's nothing for us.) I've been to several movies there and it's a lot of fun. The video quality is usually pretty poor and it's been so long since I've seen a different one that I'm not sure whether that's just them or whether it's just how drive-ins are. If they could fix that I'd probably go a lot more often. I really do enjoy the comfort of seeing a movie right in my own car.

So that's it for now. As I said above, more badges and stories will be added as I earn them. Stay tuned!

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