If only I were a ninja

There’s just something about a ninja.

Wouldn’t it be cool to do backflips off buildings, to take down your enemy with a kick, to wear the cool ninja costume? I think I’d like to be a ninja.

Did you happen to catch the season premiere of Psych tonight? I couldn’t wait, and I must say I was not disappointed, especially with the show taking on a ninja theme tonight. Ever since writing The Edge, I’ve had a tiny little fascination with ninjas. Blame on the parkour research, I suppose. Oh, if I could only move that way. If you didn’t see the show, I recommend you check it out online. It’s worth the effort.

Apparently, the main character, Shawn, the somewhat psycho pseudo psych, has his own fascination with ninjas, stemming , in part, from his father’s refusal to let him take karate as a little kid. Shawn attempts to take on a real ninja, and the results are ridiculous. (The main character in The Edge, TJ, and his best friend DeAndre remind me a little of Shawn and Gus, especially when they accidentally kill a local legend, or so they think.)

Do you ever have situations like that? I’m talking about situations in which you strap on your best ultra cool and confident demeanor and then you go forth in denial and take on a challenge that you know good and well is ten times bigger than you are. I’ve been there and done that about a million times. It never fails. I always walk away feeling like a complete idiot. Let me give you a few examples.

Shortly after we were first married, Kenny and I were moving to a different apartment, and we needed empty boxes. One night after eating dinner at a pizza restaurant, I told Kenny to go raid the restaurant’s garbage bin to pick up some empty boxes I saw the workers throw out. We were broke, and I was shameless. Anyway, who would care if we took some boxes that were being thrown out?  Kenny immediately said no, but I insisted. He gave in. So I sent him for the boxes while I stayed in the car. Little did I know, but we found ourselves right in the middle of an undercover drug sting. Yes, apparently the cops were doing surveillance and thought WE were criminals there to pick up the stashed drugs. Do you know what it feels like to be frisked? I don’t, but Kenny does. I didn’t believe they were real cops, so I refused. Too much TV I guess. But the officers’ shiny badges turned out to be real. I was fortunate that I wasn’t handcuffed and taken downtown.

Then there was a time when I had to deliver important information to a good friend of mine. I’m a little bit impulsive; I don’t like to wait. I knew she was directing a play in town, but I thought I could reach her backstage in between scenes. Get in. Get out. Get the job done.  The play was held in a real upstairs court room to make it seem authentic. So what did I do? I ran inside the building, punched the button and climbed aboard an elevator full of people. Only when we were going up did I realize I was the only one NOT in costume. All the people around me were in character, preparing to make their entrance into the courtroom as they stepped out of the elevator.  All eyes in the audience—and the spotlight—would be fixed upon them. How was I to know I had stepped into a scene from the play? The actors were panicking. I was panicking. It was one of the most humiliating moments in my life.

Finally, I guess the reason why I like to write is because I am a hopeless romantic who dreams of adventure. But dreams are easier to manipulate than reality. Haven’t you ever wanted to be an undercover detective? To be a crime fighter? To be a hero? To be privy to top secret information? To be a spy? Oh yeah, that’s my kind of life. During our more adventurous days, Kenny and I owned our own crime-fighting vehicle, an old maroon and silver Dodge Ram Charger, the only Dodge vehicle that has ever let me down. (I do like a Dodge.) We used to drive the truck all around looking for trouble, but we never really expected to find it.

One night, however, we accidentally ran upon what appeared to be a drug deal going down, and the culprits saw us. And they knew that we knew that they knew we saw them. So we took off in the old Ram Charger with the “drug lords” chasing us through town. We made a turn, and they made a turn. On and on and on. We finally made our getaway and thought we had lost them. And then the truck broke down. The Ram’s shifting forks had a nasty habit of going out, and the only way to fix them was to crawl under the truck and to do a quick repair, which Kenny did in time to save us. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time the old Ram Charger broke down. There are landmarks all over the country where we could have found ourselves in serious trouble. One time the right front tire rolled right off with no warning. How often does that happen?

Life is definitely an adventure. There will be times when the load we have to bear is almost insurmountable. Then there are other times when our obstacles are mere bumps in the road. I say we should take every moment we can to laugh. There will be plenty other times to cry. Alan Alda once said, “When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other.” I tend to agree.

How about sharing your close calls and “ninja experiences”? We really want to know.

I’m NOT saying you should stalk, but….

So, not to ruin your last days of summer, I just thought I’d break it to you gently. School starts in just a few weeks.  If you’re like me, you’ve got mixed emotions. I dread getting up early and going to bed early. I fear not being able to keep up with the new schedule. I tremble at the thought of having to work. Pushing aside those feelings, I know from personal experience that life is what you make it. A person can choose to be miserable—or not.  It’s all about attitude.

I care a lot about my journalism students and the way they handle their assignments. I’ve already had a few of them text me this summer about leads they have for future stories. Man, that excites me! The last thing an editor or adviser wants to hear is “I can’t think of anything to write.” I look at this way. When I’m armed with a pen and a reporter’s notepad, I have a license to slip in a new world with every assignment. And I’ve gotten to do some pretty fun things, especially when I was writing for several Christian music magazines. I’ve seen what it looks like from inside a mosh pit. I’ve attended posh *sniff, sniff* parties to celebrate celebrity achievements. I’ve eaten from the spread reserved for the media backstage at awards shows. I’ve had FUN on assignment.

If you like to write and you like adventure, then I’m sure that at least once you have experience the adrenaline rush that comes with being on assignment.

When I’m on assignment, I like going into stealth mode.  Again, there really is a certain rush that comes with it. Once I was in a HUGE crowd in downtown Nashville, and I needed to get to the stage to get photos. I’m 5”. I am not intimidating. I am also not a quitter. I HAD to get to the stage. I saw a Coca Cola man delivering his wares, and I fell right in step with him. He took me right up to the stage. Don’t ask me why a Coca Cola man would be pushing a cart in the middle of thousands. Call it serendipity. Well, you could call it a terrorist attempt. Hmmm. Back then the thought never crossed my mind.  Fortunately, I believe the man was just delivering Coke. The soda. The real thing.

On another occasion, I needed an interview with a California band. I couldn’t get through via the publicist, the manager, the A&R people. So I played private investigator. I tracked down the drummer’s MOTHER and sent her a box of Goo Goo candy bars from Tennessee. She set up the interview for me. How cool is that?

So you’re going back to school, back to all those nouns and verbs and formulas and theorems and historical facts and biological details and definitions and….Am I depressing  you? I’ll stop now. The point is I urge you to make whatever you are doing an adventure.

Before I taught high school, I taught a couple of English classes at MTSU. Yeah, I know that was a long time ago. I wanted my students to feel the spirit of adventure that comes with writing. Thus, I asked them to people watch and write a detailed descriptive paper. Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t you like to go to the mall and just sit and watch? Well, my student took the assignment a little too far, and for a week he STALKED a girl he secretly admired. I am very fortunate to say neither of us was arrested. But don’t you know he had a good time until I told him that he could go to jail! (I am not, I repeat, NOT encouraging stalking.)

I’m simply saying you can choose to be miserable—or not. Check your attitude. Everything you do is an assignment—maybe some of these mundane assignments are even divine appointments from God.

How will you handle it?

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done to complete an assignment for school, newspaper or otherwise? Tell us about it.