One of my daughter’s new favorite phrases to type, say or shout is “YOLO.”
For the uninitiated — or those who don’t follow many teens or tweens on Facebook — that stands for “you only live once.”
Here’s how you’d typically use the phrase in a sentence:
“Staying up ’til midnight eating Cheetos Puffs and creeping Tumblr. YOLO!”
“Put my slice of pizza inside a taco shell to make a pizza taco because, you know, YOLO!”
And a recent favorite, posted by my friend Monica’s daughter: “When your mom throws a lemon across a restaurant and yells ‘YOLO.’ :) ”
I love the spirit and the philosophy behind the phrase, and even the way it sounds when you say it out loud, because it reminds me of those old Rolo candy commercials:
Roll a Rolo to your pal,
It’s chocolate-covered caramel.
Roll a Rolo to your chum,
It’s chewy and it’s chocolate and it’s lots of fun …
I imagine a similar advertising campaign for YOLO that shows people of all ages doing crazy but not life-threatening stuff, such as skydiving or dancing like Beyonce or wearing black with navy blue.
There’s something about summer — particularly the start of the kids’ summer break — that puts me in a YOLO kind of mood. I’ve written before about how our family compiles a summertime to-do list and posts it on the fridge, a loose agenda of places to go or things to do.
This year’s list got a boost from The Eagle’s guide to summer fun in Kansas, which was published last weekend. That list reminded us of things we still need to do, like attending the Flint Hills Rodeo, and ones we’ve done before and loved so much that we pledged to do them again every summer, like watching clouds of purple martins migrate through Wichita.
The time we first watched the purple martins was a typical evening in early August. We’d been at the pool and had dinner — probably burgers — and decided to go check out the urban wildlife spectacle some of my coworkers had been telling me about.
We told our neighbors we were going to see “a bird thing,” and I recall my friend Debbi giving me a strange look. Neither one of us is an avid birder.
“It’s supposed to be really cool,” I told her. “Thousands of birds. Tens of thousands. Wanna come?”
YOLO, I could have added, but I didn’t need to. Debbi fetched her husband and daughter and we all drove to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, where the purple martins gather to roost amid a line of trees at the edge of a parking lot.
It was magical. Breathtaking. And absolutely free.
Right there in the middle of the city, we watched the birds gather into a swarm, flitting and diving and circling overhead like a throng of tiny fighter jets. Some flew low over the parking lot, gracefully tracing the contours of cars.
We hadn’t come armed with hats or umbrellas or even lawn chairs, so the kids covered their heads with paper towels as protection from droppings, and we leaned against the car hood and stared skyward. We stayed well past sunset, until most of the birds were at rest in the trees.
This year I put a note on my calendar in late July: “Purple martins,” it says, a reminder to ask my birder friend Beccy when the swarm starts to gather.
My son, Jack, laughs and rolls his eyes at the whole YOLO phenomenon, especially whenever his sister employs the term, which is often.
“You only live once,” he told her recently, “but you have, like, 90 years to go.”
I’m glad he assumes the average lifespan is 104. And I’m glad we have time. But summers fly by faster than those speeding birds, so it makes sense to jump at interesting opportunities.