And with no further ado, here is Part II (See Part I for a better introduction to this post) of the highlights of taking on the Art of Manliness 30 Days to a Better Man involving my tackling Days 16 through 30.
Day 20: Perform a Service
Only a few feet from my driveway was when I saw her. A motionless furry lump rested in the middle of the road. A bit of pain hit my heart as I jogged past her during those early morning hours as thoughts of opossums ran through my head. There were the ones that used to come up to our sliding glass door. Then some would appear outside of my grandparents’ window to eat the cat food my grandparents would leave out for wild felines. Those memories were followed by my times in college when I would take a opossum out to schools and the such to talk about the American marsupial as one of my duties as an Emporia Zoo docent. I remember how adorable it was as it munched away on grapes. Needless to say, I was one of the strange ones who really finds the American opossum to be great (meanwhile, there is, of course, the extremely adorable Australian possum, and I have fond memories of watching them in Carlton Gardens during my Australia days).
Those thoughts then led to others as I went on with my morning jog. It was already past 6:00 AM, and I had to be at the Chamber Breakfast by 7:00 AM to show support as a board member for the Hutchinson Community Foundation who was sponsoring it. It wasn’t long before one step after another took me close to my starting place, and she was still there. I watched a morning walker shine a light on the opossum before walking on. Thinking she didn’t deserve to be smashed further into the ground by other cars or be spotted by children on their way to school, I decided it would be best to dispose of her body, so I grabbed a shovel from a storage shed and went to pick her up.
The shovel barely touched her side when her eyes opened and some gasps came from a blood-covered mouth. The bloody spot on the road and her inability to move anything besides her head let me know there was no hope she would recover. Standing there, I contemplated what to do, knowing the best solution was for her to be put out of her misery. That is when I saw near her body was a baby opossum that death had already stolen away from this world. Moving the mother just a bit more towards the side of the road led to my seeing something moving in her pouch before a little face peaked out. Instantly, I did my best to move her out of the road before running inside to send a frantic Facebook message to Ryan, the fantastic Hutchinson Zoo Director; Katie, his wife; and Corey, the Hutchinson Friends of the Zoo Board Chair with my hoping at least one of them may be up at 6:32 AM in the morning. The amazing Ryan quickly responded and let me know I should put her in a box and take her to the zoo at 8:00 AM where he would have someone there to help her and me.
Quickly, I found a plastic storage bin, an old blanket, and gloves all while sending a frantic text messages to Aubrey and Kari to let them know I wouldn’t be making it to the breakfast. The mother opossum did not even try to fight me when picking her up to place her transport shuttle. She just continued to cling to life while gasping for air. I tried to cover her up a bit, hoping that would help. Then I left them on my front porch as I quickly showered and dressed for the day.
At a little after 7:00 AM, she was in the back of my car, and I was in the driver’s seat. No word from Kari and Aubrey led to my worrying they would think I flaked, so I made the decision to head to the breakfast simply to let them know my plan of taking the opossum to the zoo at 8:00 AM. During the 5 minute drive there, I could hear her in the back, pulling in each and every breath that she could, as I tried to explain everything to my mother during my morning phone call to her.
Sounding like probably a crazy man, I then explained to Aubrey I had a mother opossum in the back of my car that I needed to take to the zoo at 8:00 AM. She was amazing as always as she pointed out I had some time between when I needed to leave so I should stay for at least part of the breakfast. She then helped me find a seat near a door so I could exit when needed.
I grabbed some food from the buffet before sitting back down at the table. I chatted a bit and then tried to listen to the presentation by Patty Clark, Vice President of the Kansas Leadership Center; however, my thoughts were with the mother and the babies waiting for me. How many times my watched was checked is unknown, but finally, it showed 7:46 AM, and quietly snuck out. After checking on the mother to see if she was still alive (she was), I headed towards the zoo while calling into work to let them know I would be a little bit late and once again probably sounded strange while describing my current mission.
And it was there Becky, a great zoo employee, found a guy dressed in a suit holding a large plastic tub with a mother opossum holding to dear life with her babies depending on her will to live. As I completed some paperwork, she went to work pulling one after another baby opossum from their dying mother’s pouch before her milk turned bad and killed them all until there were 8 adorable little fur balls moving around under another blanket in another plastic bin. With their being in great hands, I now left to head to work, but it wasn’t until hours later during the lunch hour I checked to see what the day’s challenge was to find it was committing an act of service.
After the initial thanks to Ryan, I was afraid to check in to see how the little guys and girls were doing, for no news meant in my mind the eight all lived. However, my hopes were confirmed by this amazing honors student I have who volunteers at the zoo who several weeks after that fateful morning let me know all of the opossums are doing great and have not been imprinted so they will be able to be released into the wild.
And if you are even thinking it was crazy to save the live of opossums, stop right now. These marvelous marsupials eat thousands of ticks per season. That right there alone makes them fantastic with their helping us avoid tick-borne diseases. Then there is the mother opossum who fought on with each dying breath for hours, and I like she did that for her eight babies who are still alive because of her will to live as long as she could. To me, this is quite fitting to think about over Mother Day’s Weekend.
Day 26: Take the Marine Corp Fitness Test
To say I have let myself go would seem like an understatement to me. Sure, I am not horribly obese (yet), but beyond my short morning jogs and riding my bike to work, my exercising has been nothing more than 20 minutes here and there. With that said, I still had quite a bit of confidence going into the Marine Corp Fitness Test, which involves a mix of total number of pull-ups, total number of crunches in two-minutes, and time for a 3 mile run. To get full points, one has to complete 20 pull-ups, do 100 crunches, and run 3 miles in 18 minutes. I knew the last one wasn’t going to happen. Even in my cross country high school days, I wasn’t that fast. However, I cockily figured a full score for both of the others though . . . and I was wrong. Well, I did barely squeak out 20 pull-ups, but figuring the crunches would be easy. It was around 30 when the burn started and the struggle really hit around 50. I made it to 71 when the alarm sounded. I will just say the 3 mile jog was much, much worse. Needless to say, this was a good wake up call to get back to a better and consistent exercise routine while watching the amount of food I have been devouring. It’s been pretty bad, so turning this ship around would be a very good thing to do.
Day 27: Start a Book
Living in a house with hundreds of books I have never read made for this task to be both easy and difficult. The options were many, but the problem was picking which one. Then I ended up going with none of the above. Rather, while chatting with a classmate, he asked me if I had ever heard of Major General Smedley Butler. Thanks really to the fact Hutchinson has a bar named after him, I had, which then led to my classmate recommending War Is a Racket, which seemed very much relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1935.
Day 28: Write a Love Letter
So there is absolutely no one in my life who has a hold on my heart. Not even a silly infatuation exists right now, so writing a love letter to someone wasn’t really a possibility. The directions then recommended writing a love poem, but a letter seemed much more intriguing, which led to my deciding to write a love letter to life. It detailed how we had almost lost each other several times in the past before going to some of the great experiences we have had together. With this post already being longer, I won’t go into much more detail now, but perhaps, one day I will post it in full. Until then, here are the first and last paragraphs to give you a bit of an idea:
To be honest, we haven’t always seen eye to eye. Your plan and mine greatly conflict at times with my wanting to go one way and your pushing me another. Ultimately though, you always win, and ultimately, you always seem to know best. Sure, I question you often, but at the end of the day, I am extremely thankful for you, and today I want to take the time to write this love letter to you . . .
. . . Oh, I know you are a fickle, fleeting thing to say the least, but through it all, the hardships and the glories, you have been right there with me, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
With Much Love,
Day 29: Conquer a Fear
Fears are fascinating to say the least, and I definitely have a couple. While an appreciation for snakes is in me, and for a while the fear of them had been overcome. However, six months with my accidental pet ball python Spartacus put that fear back in me, and there are no plans to work on conquering that fear again.
So I turned to another. Putting it in words I am not sure how, but it is something about how I can be outgoing in some situations and then be extremely reserved in others despite a desire in me to be right out there looking like a fool. It is sort of a fear of being judged or a fear of what other people think. However, more than likely, it is actually a fear of rejection. This fear paralyzes me time and again. There are some specific memories that from time to time haunt me about when I hesitated and should have gone for the kiss (different stories for a different time) or crowed at the rising sun (another completely different story for a different time). To try to conquer this fear though, I was going to put myself out of my comfort zone by singing karaoke at Social Saturday at 21 Santa Fe.
Let me begin by saying I can’t sing. Well, I can and do often around the house or in the car, but in front of others, it is best to save them from that. One person once told me she thought I could do anything I set my mind to except for being a singer. Another person who was stuck in a car with me for a very long road trip told me I sang with quite a bit of passion. When I asked if that were a good thing, he remained silent.
These episodes and a few more would be the reasons why I keep my singing to myself. However, there are few songs I have been practicing in my car and in the shower just in case I were ever brave enough or was forced to sing karaoke.
So I walked into Santa Fe that night with a plan to sing a song and conquer a fear in front of my friends, but then something better happened. Well, actually, first I found out the song I had been preparing to sing, despite it being a popular country song, did not appear among the thousands upon thousands of options in the karaoke book. Slight panic started to form as I was about to ditch my plans. That, though, was when Erin’s brother, Paul, threw out the idea of a group of us singing Proclaimers’ “500 Miles (I’m Gonna Be),” and soon there I was with a group of friends singing my heart out and conquering my fear through the power of others.
And those would be the highlights of my taking on the Art of Manliness 30 Days to a Better Man for my New Year’s Resolution #10 involving monthly themes. The question, of course, is am I a better man after all of this. While the jury is still out about that (I also still need to get a straight razor shave to meet Day 30), I do know it led to many great experiences, memories made, and clarity about some areas of my life that have been quite fuzzy for some time. Plus, I am now armed with a bucket list, an imaginary mentor, a more decluttered life, eight opossums out in the world eating thousands of ticks, and a step towards conquering my fear of rejection.