19. Mow the lawn... for the first time... in my 32 years on earth...

I will be 32 years old in 1 week. Until now, I have never mowed a lawn. I feel like I should be embarrassed by this. Having minored in Women's Studies, I have this whole equality thing, and generally shirk typical gender roles. For example, at my house, I am the one who wields the power tools. I am as crafty with home improvements as I am with the laundry.

Matt and I have our jobs worked out. We never sat down and divvied it up - it wasn't part of our vows, but we know who does what without discussion. Bathrooms are my job. If we need to hang blinds or put something together specifically with the use of an allen wrench, all mine. Lawn work, kitchen cleaning (with the exception of cleaning out the refrigerator), and oil changes - that's Matt's. Matt lets the dog out, makes the coffee, and waters the herb garden in the morning, and I get the little man dressed and ready for preschool. See, we know who does what. We dance seamlessly through life by getting our "jobs" done, and who am I to mess up the natural order at the Lindstrom house? Besides, I have this belief that once someone learns to do something new, it becomes their job... FOREVER. Trust me, I do not want to be the official lawn mower of the Lindstrom family, so I'm going to have to be pretty careful with this task.

Seriously though, to be 32 years old, and never have mowed a lawn. I feel a little pathetic. I LOVE vacuuming. I love seeing the clean lines on the carpet. I love hearing the sound of dirt, gravel, and whatnot being sucked up and bouncing around inside that plastic tube and then going over the same spot over and over again until I hear nothing but the hum of the vacuum. I have a complex and torrid love affair with my Dyson (here she is, isn't she pretty?). So, I have reason to believe that the experience of mowing the lawn will bring the same satisfaction.

In two weeks, Matt and I will have been married for 7 years. In those 7 years, he has never heard me say the words, "I'm going to mow the lawn." So, imagine his excitement as he guided his green wife out to the smelly garage, and taught me how to pull the little cord thingy that makes the mower... mow. (I never promised that I'd learn the language.) I had to explain to him why I was afraid:

Despite my current love of the vacuum cleaner, I haven't always been so fond. When I was young, I was often told the story of my brother's first experience with the vacuum cleaner. He vacuumed his sock off his foot. I have no idea how this happened, I only know that it was extremely traumatic for him. As a result, it was years and years before I would even touch the vacuum cleaner, afraid that it would suck something off me. A vacuum cleaner is only suction, the lawn mower has blades. I told Matt that I was afraid I was going to mow my foot off. He laughed. I didn't think it was funny.

It took me a couple pulls of the cord thingy to get the mower... mowing. I didn't realize the force it would require - but felt victorious. Once it was going, Matt gave me a couple of quick tips about the mowing pattern and left me alone to conquer the lawn. When I was young, my brother and I bought my dad a t-shirt for Father's Day that said, "I fought the lawn and the lawn won." I chuckled as I got started, wishing I had that shirt as a reward for my efforts.

I found it amazingly satisfying to mow over the dandelions. I found myself forgetting about the mowing pattern and just going after the dandelions. I had to remind myself that this was serious business, and not a game. I learned a couple of things from this experience:

1. Lawn mowers smell like gas. That is disgusting.
2. Lawn mowers are poorly designed. If I could redesign the lawn mower, I'd make it just like a vacuum. It would turn on a dime and you would be able to do it with one hand. This would make the experience more satisfying. In fact, I think Dyson should expand their market and design lawn mowers.
3. I have bad allergies.
4. I totally understand why a lot of men perform this task without a shirt. You will be thankful to know that I kept my shirt on.
5. While I'm glad I did it this once, I don't want this to be my job.

Matt and I talked about it afterwards. He gave me a thumbs up for the job I did, and I told him that I would do it once in a while, like if he ever breaks both legs or something, but I'm not doing it all the time. I'm glad I did it, that I kept all my limbs in tact, and that when I admire our house from the curb for this week, I can also admire my landscaping prowess. I am comfortable now, having this skill. It was easily earned. The bonus of having done this is that my husband can never report to his friends with an eye-roll that his wife has never mowed a lawn. In fact, that might actually be the biggest reward.

Next week, I am going to get kind of crafty. I call myself a knitter even though I only knit scarves and hats. I'm going to challenge myself to knit something other than a scarf or a hat. The perfectionist in my is terrified.


18. Fire a Hunting Rifle?

You know how it goes when your eyes are bigger than your stomach? When you're at a buffet and suddenly you think, "yeah, I'd like to try that caviar," only you've never tried caviar, and generally you don't like anything fish related. Even so, you dump the biggest scoop of caviar on your plate, and then you bring it back to the table, where you realize that you have no intention of putting it anywhere near your mouth. Not ever. Not even once just to try it and see if it was good.

That's what happened this week. Months ago, I put this on my list. I have a friend who has some land up in Northern Minnesota. They do a lot of hunting on the land, and he offered me the opportunity to shoot his gun. I didn't like the way it made me feel, so I said yes. I have now realized that there is a difference between feeling nervous about something, but still being excited to do it, and feeling nervous about something, and really having no attraction to the activity at all.

First of all, let me tell you, I am an enthusiastic carnivore. I love meat. A lot. I greatly respect vegetarians for their beliefs and their choices, however, I have different beliefs and make different choices. I love meat. I have often been the lucky recipient of the fruits of my friend's hunting labor, and have happily consumed every last morsel. I recognize that in order for me to reap the benefits of said game, it has to have been killed at my friend's hand. Specifically using his hunting rifle. I have no objection to that. However, when I envisioned myself holding that rifle and pulling the trigger, I got an unmistakable pit in my stomach. What I had ignored at first mention really began to nag at me.

My grandfather (affectionately named "Boppa") fought in World War II. I don't know much about his experience, we simply don't talk about it much. I am certain that the memories are so painful and beyond my comprehension. I know that he was in the platoon that liberated Dachau (the first concentration camp to be liberated in Nazi Germany). All I've ever heard him say about the experience is that he couldn't believe that people could be so cruel to one another. I revere my Boppa. He is easily the most fun loving man, with the biggest heart, and he has a knack for always seeing the good in people. I always said that if I ever met a man like my Boppa, I would marry him on the spot. Although I believe they broke the mold with my Boppa, my husband is about as close as you can get. I feel very lucky to have such wonderful men in my life. You are probably wondering why I'm telling you all of this. It has everything to do with the reason I couldn't go through with this task.

I remember the first time I realized that my Boppa had held a gun. It was in junior high school when we were studying World War II and I saw a picture of a soldier holding his rifle. I had seen pictures like this before, but this time, I imagined that the young man in that picture was my Boppa. Young, innocent, in love with a woman whom he had left behind to face who knows what, and armed. It struck me. The image of a young man carrying a rifle denotes violence. My Boppa is the polar opposite of violent. Reconciling this new revelation was nothing short of impossible - and it still is. I have the deepest and most abiding respect for what my Boppa did for our country, what all soldiers who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom have done for our country. However, that honor, juxtaposed with the violence that is involved is a lot for the human heart to make sense of.

This may seem like quite a leap to you. I was going to shoot a hunting rifle, I wasn't going to war. I wasn't even going to point the rifle at living beings. I was going to shoot cans. It is that image of the young man with the rifle that gives me that pit in my stomach. That pit that I wish I hadn't ignored. However, that is what I learned from this week's challenge; the gut doesn't lie. Your intuition is there for a reason. In the end, I did trust it. While this would have been a challenge to be sure, it is not one I would have been so proud of in the end. Having not done it, I am proud. I am proud of my friend who shoots five-point bucks that I get to devour in community with great friends, I am proud of my Boppa - a hero, whose contributions in the Service were so important to so many people and shaped the way we live today, and I'm proud of myself for following my instinct, and deciding that shooting a hunting rifle was not something I needed to do in order to feel accomplished or complete.

My husband is ever so excited for me to deliver the news that my challenge for next week is to mow the lawn (yes, I'm just shy of 32 years-old, and I've never mowed a lawn, you won't want to miss this blog).


17. Go a Day Without Swearing

I have a potty mouth (the first step is admitting you have a problem). This is very certainly my least flattering feature. I have nobody to blame but myself. I really like the way swear words are constructed. The way the hard consonants of a swear word feel on the tongue always seems to mirror the frustration or passion I feel when I say an offensive curse word. It is possible for me to keep myself from swearing when it's totally inappropriate (right now my mother is reading this and arguing that it is NEVER appropriate -- it's important that I point out that this is my ultimate rebellion. I was raised to know that it's not polite to swear, and so I do it... a lot. In most other areas of my life I am a by the book gal). I never swear in church, in front of my grandparents, in front of children, or on the radio (I really value my job). In all other instances it is all systems go. I am known for my creative use of the swear word, and have taken pride in my swearing prowess. That said, I will repeat, it is my least flattering feature.

I don't know that I've ever been bothered so much by swearing that I've wanted to stop altogether, but I am almost 32 years old, and I'm a parent (to a sponge-like toddler), and I'm supposedly a lady, so it's probably wise to put in an effort, right? It may seem ridiculous to you, but the task of going 24 hours without swearing is enormously daunting for me. In theory, I should be able to do it, I have the ability to flip the swearing switch off, I do it all the time, but somehow it's not that easy.

I deliberately chose a day that had many activities where I would potentially find myself swearing. I swear when I am happy, mad, confused, excited, and frustrated. So, it was important for me to select activities that would provoke any or all of those emotions. Most importantly, we invited some friends over to dinner who I usually find myself swearing a lot with. I also moved something heavy, did some cleaning, talked to friends on the phone, got excited, and tried to find something.

I swore 15 times that day. Mostly the F word (my mom calls it "the purple word," and I still am not quite sure why). I am being honest here, I might not be the kind of girl you want to bring home to meet the parents. The worst part, the first 8 times were out loud... to MYSELF. There was nobody else around. Which, of course, begs the question, if a person swears in the forest and there is nobody there to hear it... you know the rest. I counted each time, because part of being self aware is being brutally honest with yourself. The ninth time I swore I was talking to my girlfriend Liv on the phone. I hadn't told her before the conversation that I was trying not to swear, but when that glorious F word slipped out, I caught myself. Naturally, what I wanted to do was swear because I swore. Instead I defaulted to my swear word alternative (the one I use when my little boy is present), "CURSES." It's funny, isn't it? That the word I use in place of a curse word is actually "curse"... the word. It seems like I should be able to employ that more often. Liv asked how I had been doing, and I told her that I was failing miserably. Her observation was that if I'd already sworn that much, what is a normal day like. It's true, if I actually slipped up 15 times, and I was TRYING, what is a normal day like?

I give myself credit for being aware. It did draw my attention to how much I actually swear, and most importantly, it did get me thinking about how those words land on other's ears. I can't imagine that everyone is so impressed by it. Again, not my most flattering feature. I had a friend once who took a cool approach to quitting smoking. She made a list of every place she smoked, and then started to eliminate them one by one. For instance, she knew she always smoked in her car, so she worked on not smoking in her car. Once she mastered that, she moved on to the next location where she smoked a lot and started cutting down in that area. I have a leg up, because I already know that I am capable of not swearing in certain situations. This is nice incentive. So, I think I might employ this technique in an effort to cut down on the potty mouth. It's about time for me to grow up. I'm going to start by not swearing when I'm alone. I know that seems backwards (after all, isn't the point of cutting down on the swearing to keep other's from hearing it), but I learned that that is where I do the bulk of my swearing. So, if I can master that... the rest should be cake. Maybe that will be my reward, a big F#$%!in' cake. (That didn't count, right?)

Next week, I'm hopefully going to do something so completely out of character, and shoot a hunting rifle.


16. Have Sexy Photos Taken

This is me. I almost can't believe it, but it's true - and there are more where this one came from.

A few weeks ago, I tried (and failed) to find my sexy at a pole dancing class. A few weeks prior to that I wore a bathing suit in public. Both of these experiences proved to be particularly challenging, but I learned a lot from trying it. Still on a quest to find my sexy, I thought I'd combine what I learned from wearing a bathing suit in public with what I had been searching for in the pole dancing class, and have some boudoir photography.

I had heard recently about someone having this type of photography done, and they had been so pleased with the results. My immediate response was, "I'm so glad she did that and had such a great experience, but I could never do that." It sounded like the perfect opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. And so, I called the ladies at Sugar and Spice Photography. Angela and Cyndi are the best of friends who shared a common desire to have some sexy photos taken. After finding that there weren't really any women that specialized in this type of photography, they decided to become experts and take the pictures themselves. After taking photography classes, they only had the intention to take these photographs for each other. Once they shared their work with friends, the word spread, and soon they were doing these photographs for friends of friends. Finally, they found space, opened an official studio, and the rest is history.

On the day that I called, I was wise to have not given much thought to what I was getting myself into. I had a great conversation with Angela and she made me feel so comfortable and at ease. "I have to tell you something," I said to Angela, "I'm really fat." I couldn't believe I said that word, because that word is so full of hate and disgust, and I have worked so hard to use more supportive words when talking about my body. Angela assured me that they find beauty in everyone and they shoot women of all shapes and sizes. I have always been a fan of the 1940's pin-up look. I love the way those photographs celebrate the female form by playing up the natural curves, and tastefully suggesting a hint of sexuality. Intrigued by this look, I committed to becoming a pin-up girl for a photo-shoot. I booked an appointment and gave my credit card number for a deposit. After I hung up, I had a moment of regret. I couldn't believe I was really going to do this. This was so out of character. Having worked in radio for the past 6 years, I have had my share of photographs taken. I absolutely HATE it. I have never seen a photo of myself that I actually like. Even my wedding photos, on the day that I felt the most beautiful, there are only a handful that I really love. What on earth was I thinking? Having pictures taken in my underwear? I hardly look at myself in my underwear. But, the damage was done, I had put down a deposit, scheduled a shoot, and told my husband I was going to do it. There was no backing out.

Sugar and Spice Photography is located in Buffalo, MN. This is easily a 55 minute drive from my house in South Minneapolis. This means 55 minutes of time alone behind the wheel of the car to think. Time to work up the nerves, and consider chickening out. Believe me, had I not put down a deposit, I would have called them from the car to tell them I was too scared, headed back home, and happily stopped at every Taco Bell on the way for a chili-cheese burrito or two (and believe me, there are many Taco Bells on my route). Instead, I kept driving toward Buffalo, cranked up the radio, and tried to drown out my inner voice. That loud mouth can be pretty hard to get away from.

When I arrived at the studio, I met the two most beautiful women. Angela and Cyndi are seriously gorgeous on the outside (within minutes, I would find out how absolutely beautiful they are on the inside, too). I felt the most faint instinct to make a break for it and employ my plan to stop at every Taco Bell, leaving them to laugh at this goofy girl who actually thought for one moment that she could look sexy. Instead, I defaulted to my humor and said with a gesture, "do you think you can make this look sexy?" They assured me that it would take minimal effort and sat me down in the make-up chair. They take care of the make-up, the clothing, and the coffee (when you go, have Cyndi make the coffee - Angela knows that it's not her strength), and your job is to relax and get ready to have fun. I felt like I had connected with long lost friends. The three of us did all the things that girls do; talked about shoes, make-up, our kids, and diets. I almost forgot that they were going to see me in my underwear, and then... we were picking out my underwear. As I was getting dressed, Angela asked me, "what is your favorite part of your body?" She asked it so nonchalantly and I felt like I had been socked in the stomach. "I don't have one," I told her honestly. I hadn't thought about that, do people have a "favorite part" of their body? Should I have one?

I was relieved to find that the last thing they were concerned with was how I looked in my underwear. In fact, it was such a non-issue. They were busily focusing on how to compose the best shot. They are artists, and they had spent the time getting to know me, and assured me that we were going to find my inner vixen, and make her the star of some seriously sexy photos. Much to my surprise, it happened! This shot at the right was seriously among the first shots. Look at me, do I look the least bit uncomfortable? I was having a blast! Angela and Cyndi showed me one of the pictures they had just shot as long as I promised not to be critical (they reminded me that they would get rid of the hail damage on my thighs when they touched the photo up - and they are masters at the touch-up). I couldn't believe that they had found this vixen inside of me, made her come out, and then caught it on film. I let my guard down, and trusted them. They were generous with the compliments, "that's hot", "you're sexy", and "look at how gorgeous you are" are commonly heard in the Sugar and Spice Photography Studio. The best part is that Angela and Cyndi don't just say it, they mean it.

When I was gathering my stuff and getting ready for the drive home, there was another woman just arriving to have her photos taken. She looked as nervous as I felt on the way there. I asked her if she was scared, and naturally - she said she was. I told her not to worry, she'd have the time of her life. Seeing her reminded me of the journey I had taken in those couple of hours. From timid to sex kitten.

In the car on the ride home, I cried. I cried because I haven't felt this beautiful in a very long time. Maybe I haven't felt this beautiful ever. On the one hand I feel a little ashamed of saying that because my husband makes me feel beautiful all the time. I realized that he makes me feel like he thinks I'm beautiful. This experience actually made me think that I am beautiful. There is a difference, a huge difference. Now I have photographic evidence of this revelation, and what I paid for the experience is tiny compared to the value that these photographs have to me. Now I can tell you if you ask, that my favorite part of my body is the whole darn thing. Everything that God gave me. Every little bit, and big bit. Because this girl, in these pictures, she is really me.

Next week, this little sailor is going to try to go a day without swearing. Not once.

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