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lisa marie corley | greenville, sc

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December 2008

Neverdone #12 :: Asheville affluence

(Yeah, I know….those of you who hop over to mm regularly know that I’m posting this in the new year rather than the 31st. The OCD part of me just wouldn’t allow my 12th neverdone of 2008 to be filed, wrongly and in perpetuity, with 2009. Forgive me, please.)

As close as I live to the famous historical landmark, I’ve never visited Biltmore Estates in Asheville. I always wanted to go, not so much because I thought I’d have a blast, but just to be able to say I’d been there. I sort of viewed it as something that senior women’s church groups did to really blow out a load of fun. The most appealing thing to me was the wine tasting, and even that I viewed with a take-it-or-leave-it flavor.

Well, good buddy A recently said, “Let’s go!!” So, on a fine fall day right before Christmas, I took a day off work to hightail it up the mountain with her.

The curvy drive to the big house was beautiful, with a well-manicured woodsy wildness characteristic, I remembered from my college architectural history classes, of the picturesque movement in architecture and landscape design. I always liked the naturalness of that particular theory and practice as compared with other schools of thought, but there still seemed to be something “off” about it. Untouched but pruned. Genuine but contained. Pure but processed.

We parked and took the shuttle to the house. Rounding a curve and entering a small gate, I caught my first glimpse of the structure….and was surprised that it was so small.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Small?? It certainly is not small. My friend said, “Wow. You must have a BIG imagination.”

Jumping out of the warm, comfy van, I meandered my way along the facade, photographing the gargoyles and stone carvings. That sort of stuff just fascinates me. I found one little stone group of bad-attitude creatures just perfect for magicalmonkey — the head-honcho gremlin in the center is naked and looks like he has an erect little wallywanger. Ha!

I could’ve stayed out there for two or three hours, but the main attraction was supposed to be the interior part, so we sauntered on in. I can’t decide if the no-photography rule was frustrating or freeing. It certainly helped speed our visit along! Inside, most interesting to me were the architecture and architectural details. I enjoyed the period furniture, holiday decorations, and everyday-life items, but they didn’t hold my attention for long.

As usual when I visit very old buildings pregnant with history, I found myself imagining the people from long ago who walked the halls of the place when it was just a big ol’ summer party home. Did a young female servant ever squeeze in the little window cubbyhole across from her bedroom, wistfully watching wealthy guests arrive in carriages? What went through the Vanderbilts’ minds as they hung out beside the massive window in their bedroom-suite family room, surveying the miles-long rolling hills of their backyard? Down the hall, were eccentric guests playing naked, perverted games in their own private suites, tossing clothes, bedcovers, and linens willy-nilly about the room?

Moving out to the gardens and greenhouses, I wielded my camera once again and went to that happy-creative place in my head. Statues and trees and plants, oh my! My very patient bud A had an awesome amount of tolerance — anyone who indulges my Nikon and me for that long deserves a huge whompin’ “Fabulous Friend” award. I’ll post the better shots later, after I’ve had time to cull the 250 or so images.

Then on to the winery, where we greeted nightfall. During the free belly-standing-up-to-the-bar wine tasting, I discovered a couple yummy white wines. Now if I can just remember their names for future reference….

By the time we left, I’d scored a little holiday shopping as well as a brand spankin’ new awesome-deal season pass.

Yep, I’m sold and I’m going back! Who’s in?

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Pushup challenge, phase 2

[12.25.08] Progress — bad. I don’t think I was ready for boy pushups. Will need another plan in the new year.

[12.5.08] Boy pushups are grim, man….they are MILES harder than girl pushups. If they were a color, they’d be a bleak, monotonous, dull gunmetal grey. Yuk. I hate them. I can’t do them correctly, either — my floor bud tells me I need to go down another two inches. Grrrrrrrmph. I’m still at it, though. If for no other reason than to say I’m still at it. But here’s something positive: While Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are dreaded pushup days, Tuesdays and Thursdays are now sunshine-happiness plank days. Yeah!

[11.26.08] I’m in the middle of Week 1, Level 2. My 12 pushups in the initial test actually earned my entrance to Level 3, but….yikes, that looks too hard! This morning I did the workout at home because of the Thanksgiving holiday, and for some reason it felt extra-hard — in fact, I couldn’t finish a couple of the sets. I’m wondering if the boy-pushup decision was a wise one. For about a year now, I’ve noticed an occasional, disconcerting “catch” in my right shoulder when doing some types of strength training moves. While this hasn’t happened yet with the boy pushups, I get an odd, on-the-verge feeling…..

[11.17.08] OK, here I go. After three months of following the program outlined at hundredpushups.com — and working up to 30+ girly-on-my-knees pushups — I’ve decided to start over. This time, though, I’m going to do them boy-military-style. I mean, what’s the point of ultimately being able to do 50 or 100 of the damn things if I have to include a disclaimer that I’m doing the EASY version? Nope. I’m going hard-core, baby. I only have one floor buddy left at work, but we’ve promised to keep each other on top of our goals. Today we did the initial test, and I made it to 12. I feel a little guilty that my form is not totally on point — I just can’t seem to make it ALL the way down to the floor — but I’m hoping the proper form will come in time.

Nooooooooooooo!

Look what I missed. Damn.

This is where I first learned of the…um, special celebration. (What, there’s something wrong with surfing the internet on Christmas morning?)

Actually, my damn-I-missed-it reaction was premature. Follow the “this” link in the previous paragraph to read….

Ooooh fuckity fuck fuck fuck … Are they actually going to ruin orgasms? … I’m sorry, but there is no way I’m donating an O to world peace framed in this shit. I’m giving my orgasms to the terrorists and the war-machine just out of spite now. … And let me also warn you, don’t cruise the site unless you want the sexy stolen from your life for a good while. I’m starting to wonder if the dude sauce can be some sort of antidote, like an anti-snakebite kit.


Well. Alrighty then.

Neverdone #11 :: Sharing my bodily fluids

For days and days afterward, I stayed all warm and fuzzy from this neverdone. Aglow with good tidings, I was! It also gave me an excuse — no, wait, a directive — to eat Twinkies and be lazy. How can you beat that?

Oh, and then there was that opportunity to be on TV. I turned it down for myself, but was thoroughly pleased to shove my neverdone-bud into the limelight instead. :)

I donated blood….yep, for the first time ever.

As I walked into Greenville’s Blood Connection, I wasn’t really nervous about the needles or the fact that someone was about to drain buckets of blood from my veins.

(Hey, before you complain about my choice of words, I didn’t mean *gallon* buckets, for heaven’s sake. I meant those tiny little decorative buckets you find at Michael’s or Garden Ridge. They’re small buckets, but they’re still buckets.)

I think my neverdone partner — let’s call her P — was a little nervous, though, because she hates, hates, hates needles. But she seemed calm as we completed the required paperwork, and pretty quickly I was called to begin my adventure.

A blonde, blue-eyed, cordial-but-quite-serious lab tech with a ponytail and perky gazoongas took me into a tiny little closet of a room with a desk and two chairs. It was one of four or five similar rooms all lined up in a row, I assume for the sake of privacy. But I could hear every word that was spoken in the room next to mine, so I think they should reassess the effectiveness of these little isolation areas.

She asked me question after question after question after question until she began to sound like a rapidfire auctioneer…..which made me laugh. And the questions got more and more ridiculous as she went on and on and on…..which also made me laugh. I wanted to explain to her why I was laughing, but she wouldn’t stop with the questions. Finally, she had to take a breath and I said, “Wow, some of these questions are giving me the giggles…do you think I could get a copy of them? Some of them are funny.”

She did smile at me briefly, but declined my request. “They won’t let us make copies,” she explained. “I’m not sure why.”

Well, darn. I was hoping to share them with you. The best I can do is recite — to the best of my recollection — the question that sent me over the edge: “Have you ever been to Africa and acquired the oogaboogadoodoo virus?”

(Yeah, yeah, I *know* that wasn’t its actual name. But it did have a singsongy sort of silly flavor to it, and she pronounced it soooo precisely.)

The nice little serious blonde chick guided me from the room to one of the dentist-chair blood-sucking stations and asked me to drink a carbonated beverage. I asked her if I had to, and she said yes. It was while I was sipping the diet cola — yuk! — that I started to pay attention to the young newscaster-dude and his video camera-toting buddy.

The behind-the-camera guy was filming the on-camera guy as he went through the donating process — he, too, was doing it for the first time. I think it was first-timer day at the place….Besides P, me, and the on-camera guy, I’d heard a couple other donors confess that they were virginous.

(Can you believe “virginous” is not a word? It should be. I like it much better than “virginal.”)

The behind-the-camera guy caught my eye, smiled a big I’m-about-to-ask-a-favor smile, and asked, “Would you mind if we interviewed you?”

I shook my head and smiled my bummer-but-there’s-not-a-chance-in-hell smile. “Nope, sorry,” I answered. “But I’ll bet my friend would love to!” I pointed toward P, who was just being escorted out of her little closet-room.

He wasn’t giving up. “Would you mind if I just got some footage of you?”

“Nahhh, I don’t think so. Thanks, anyway.”

I looked to my right, and the nice little serious blonde chick was poking me. “You’ve got great veins,” she said, smiling warmly. Not many things in this girl’s work world made her smile, but great veins was one of them.

So I sat there as my blood drained into a clear bag. I’d drank a ton of water that day because I’d been told I would bleed faster. Apparently it worked. After only about 5 minutes, the bag was engorged with my deep red life-fluid. I blew it a mental kiss goodbye, and hoped that it would help someone. The blonde chick told me to sit there a few minutes, finish my beverage, and move over to the snack table when I felt like it.

Looking around, P was in front of me talking to the camera. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, though. To her right was a straggly-looking, blankfaced fella who either was coming down off of some sort of unpleasant high or was dead-to-the-whole-world tired. I wondered if he was here to donate blood for a friend or family member….he looked as if he’d been to hell and back. Or perhaps to the ER and back.

I heard a round of chuckles, and noticed that the newscaster dude, in the station to my left, was sitting up, looking around at everyone’s faces. “What?” he asked. “Do I look really pale? I feel OK.”

Yep, he looked pale, poor guy. I felt nothing. Just normal. So I decided to sit up, too, and made my way to the highly anticipated snack table. Once there, I looked for something healthy…..to no avail. Why would they not provide apples? Geesh, all they had were Little Debbie sugary crap-things. I considered the Twinkies, but, not being a huge chocolate fan, I opted for a cakelike square covered in vanilla icing. Yuuuuuuum! Crap-things can be so good.

I continued to feel fine the rest of the day, except for once — I felt a nanosecond of dizziness after getting up too fast from my chair at work. I probably could’ve gone to the gym that evening, but I’d been told not to exert myself so soon after donating, so I had an excellent excuse to be lazy!

I loved this experience because it might have helped someone hang onto life a little better….. :) It makes my other neverdones seem trivial and self-absorbed. Egotistic.

Hmmmmm.

Neverdone #10 :: Going down

Hey, y’all….wanna hear about my latest butt-kickin’, life-affirming, invigorating geocaching adventure? Did the title of this post pique your interest? Maybe you’ve guessed it already.

My neverdone?

I rappelled! Wooooooo!

Backstory
I think I’ll start my tale waaaaaay back when I first heard about a cache called Bradley’s Bottom. It was a little over 2 years ago, I think, and some people in the upstate geo-club were discussing it in the forums. They got a wintertime group together, adventur-ized, and came back positively euphoric. I’d really wanted to go, too, but…..well, I was a different person then. Fear — a hundred different forms of it, it seems now — paralyzed me quite a bit back then.

What scared me? Welllllll….you had to hike a steep mountain, cross a river by navigating rocks and fallen trees, and jump off a freakin’ enormous rock with just a skinny li’l rope for support. I was doubtful that I’d be able to handle the physical challenges. Plus I’d have to talk to a stranger or two. Or eight or fifteen.

This year, I’m ready
Fast forward to late 2008, though, and I’m a different me. No fear! OK, maybe some slight trepidation. But no fear!!

Happily, an adventure-bud — for no reason in particular, let’s call her A — decided at the last minute to join me (“Screw it — I don’t care how much I have to get done at home today. I want to go, so I’m going!”). So we got out of bed early on a brisk Sunday to haul ourselves, Mini-style, up to the NC mountains.

Pre-jump
When we got to the agreed-upon meeting point, 8 or so geocachers — many of them familiar from neverdones #1 and #7 as well as other geo-fun-times — were out of their cars, chatting in the cold. By the time we were ready to set out on the hike, there were well over 20 of us.

Here’s a fun fact to set the stage for you — a notebook was passed around, and each person was asked to share the name and phone number of an emergency contact. A “next of kin.” Ha! I accused them of just trying to scare us, but apparently they were serious. “You never know,” we were told.

The hike in was easy, at first, and very pretty. We’d chosen the perfect day to come! Yeah, it was a little chilly, but soon I was grateful that the nip in the air helped keep me decidedly un-sweaty. And the fall colors were gorgeous! Of course I had my Nikon with me, as well as my GPS receiver and — tucked inside the generous pockets of my handy-dandy cargo pants — extra batteries, a Sharpie, a Power Bar, and a small stack of tissues just in case my bladder decided to go Benedict Arnold on me (it didn’t — yay!).

We crossed a small stream, some of us by skipping across ottoman-sized rocks, others by wading through a shallow area containing smaller foot-sized rocks. I’d actually been much more nervous about water crossings than the impending rappel — people had fallen in during previous trips, and, considering my phobia about deep water and my usually sucky balance, I figured my chances of joining the ranks of “the fallen” were higher than normal. But, taking a deep breath and just doing it before having a chance to think too much, I crossed MUCH more easily than I’d imagined. Whew!

(Much later in the day, as A and I made our way back to the car, we joked about our mild apprehension when first traversing this area. With REAL rock-hopping under our belts, these tiny little skips were now child’s play. Ha!)

Remember the people who made us record our emergency contacts… “just in case”? Well, as we trekked closer to the cache coordinates, we began to notice prominent signs supporting the organizers’ caution. Check out the photo! Yikes! (Click it if your eyeballs go all fuzzy when trying to read smallness….)

Next came the steep downhill leg of our journey. I loved it!! My legs and glutes felt alive, and the cool air in my lungs was the mutha-freakin’ best. Yeah, baby!!

Before we knew it, we’d arrived at the drop location.

Main event
I peered over the edge, and it didn’t seem that far down. Someone had said 30 feet, I think. The vertical rock was craggy and seemed like a good-grip place to “walk,” and surrounding foliage and trees looked like they might provide a sense of visual security. At the bottom, I saw dirt — soft dirt, I told myself. It’s not like I’d be dangling off an overhanging precipice with dangerous, pointy, stairsteppy boulders below, eagerly waiting to bludgeon and pierce my falling body if I slipped.

As the skilled rappellers worked to prep the gear, members of the group sat down along the steep mountainous trail. Two of the strong, experienced types did the drop first in order to position themselves vigilantly below. Soon we were ready to get rolling! Camera in hand, I settled in a spot near the friendly, credentialed, guru-rappel dude who stayed at the top to be teacher, cheerleader, and gear assistant to whomever needed it.

One by one, each person harnessed up, got hooked to a rope, received a mini-quick lesson, and walked backward over the edge as people all around them snapped photos. Some people went slow, some people went fast, some people were scared, some people were fearless. Everyone reveled in others’ excitement. It was cool!

About two thirds of the people had gone down when it was my turn. Even though I’d watched everyone else, I hadn’t been paying close enough attention to be able to apply the knowledge to my own downward trek. So Mr. Guru-Rappel showed me how to strap on the harness, and then took me to the drop point to rope me up.

“Do you want one rope or two?” he asked.

“What’s the difference?”

“Two ropes slow you down,” he said.

Since it was my first time, I decided that safer was the better option, so I asked for two ropes. He looped ’em through some sort of figure-eight-ish thing as I stood with my back to the drop, and said, “There you go! Now just trust the rope.”

I leaned back, it held and felt very secure. I walked back and down a step or two, and I was comfortable on the rock.

“Now, with your left hand, hold the part of the rope that’s supporting you,” he said, ” and with your right hand hold the part of the rope that drops beneath you. To slow down, move your right hand behind you….and to go faster, move your right hand out to the side. It’s all about creating tension on the rope.”

Cool, it seemed very simple and straightforward. With my right hand behind me, I stepped down a little further, then moved my right hand outward. Nothing. I moved it out a little farther. Still, I didn’t move. My hand all the way out to the side and slacking off on the tension significantly, I still didn’t move. I laughed.

“Why won’t I GO?” I implored.

I heard someone above me — I’m pretty sure it was a frequent mm reader — yell, “You don’t weigh enough!”

I jumped against the rock a little, and that seemed to help. I began to move backward again……slowwwwwlyyyy…. then it sped up little. Woooooooo-hoo! What a rush! As I neared the bottom, though, I found myself wishing I’d requested only one rope. AND I was ready to go do a longer, more adrenaline-boosting big-boy rappel!

Ahhhhhh, it was FABulous. See the bigfat grin on my face taken at the bottom? Ha!

Waterfall
Even though the drop was my neverdone of the day, it was only one of the highlights. After making the jump and continuing down steep terrain, we came to Big Bradley Falls.

While parts of the falls can be viewed from above, we now had access to the most beautiful vantage point. Wow! If only I’d strapped my tripod to my back! A timed exposure — along with a little more patience to find the perfect angle — would have given a photo an ethereal quality which I would’ve loved to capture. As it was, my drunken-pixie muse was AWOL, and I satisfied myself with a couple snapshots of the waterfall while continuing to amass people shots.

Continuing the journey
You’d think all that would be enough of a journey to find a cache, huh? Nope. The person who hid this particular ammo can has a bit of a sadistic streak, so from there we had to traverse the river by hopping, climbing, and crawling over fallen trees, rocks, and boulders the size of vehicles. Now, THAT, buddy, was a physical challenge. I loved, loved, loved it!

The only part that bothered me, really, was walking across a fallen tree. It had a large trunk — which helped — but there was nothing to hold onto, and nothing beneath you except the river…..and it looked deep. I purposefully did not look at the water closely, so it might not have been deep, but…..

Aaaugh! I just held my breath and moved over and beyond it, fast. It felt good to do it, though!

Just as when I tackled Athena’s Curse — I was struck by the “why” of all my sweat in the gym and on the running trails. Why do it? Why pursue the relentless cycle? Sometimes I get discouraged and bored by the repetitiveness of it all — not exactly enjoying the actual pursuit of sweat, only reveling in the brief after-euphoria. I know that it’s good for me, but it sure sucks a lot of time, discipline, and dedication. Occasionally I’m tempted to set it aside to devote more of me to other types of lifestuff.

But…..

Then I bag a challenging neverdone, and I remember. I work the fitness grind so I can get out in the world and engage. Fearlessly.

Anyway. Back to the story. Someone ahead of me found the cache, and the gang converged at the container. I signed the log, but this was one geocaching trip in which the cache was incidental. The journey was definitely the thing, man.

Do we have to go back?
Yep, when you hike, drop, and hop out to the middle of nowhere, eventually you have to turn around and go back to the car. The first thing that gave me a bit of a pause was going back up the rock. I don’t know why, but I’d spent so much time being excited about the rappel that it never occurred to me we’d have to follow the rope back up. See the black knotted rope in the going-down picture above? You simply grab that puppy and just walk back up to the top. Turned out to be way easier than I imagined.

It would’ve been great to hang for a long while and do a late lunch with the geo-gang, but A and I needed to get back home….we’d been in the mountainous woods for nearly 5 hours. So we headed back toward the parking area, the steep hike now traversing upward. Again, my body surprised me, and I handled it quite well. In fact, it wasn’t as strenuous as my spinning or super-circuit classes. At one point I did feel a familiar running-injury twinge in my hamstring, but with a quick rest and a stretch, I was fine.

An invigorating, deliciously good, deep-sleep-inducing day!

Announcement

I am currently interviewing muses. If you know any good candidates, please send them my way. This is a new position created because current drunken-pixie muse, dedicated to the visual-arts parts of my imagination, claims to be overworked. New muse will be responsible solely for blogging inspiration. Mythical creature with a clinically diagnosed insanity disorder and curmudgeonly disposition preferred. Bawdy, inappropriate sense of humor required. Must not emit foul odors, at least not on a regular basis. Compensation negotiable.

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