Saturday, July 30, 2011

excuses vs. context

I confess...I just wrote out a post to be used be a fellow blogger and endo warrior while she's recovering from an endo-related surgery.  In it, I ramble about relationships and chronic pain.  I'm not going to write the same ramble here (I will link to it when it is posted or soon thereafter if our blog-free days overlap), but I do want to take an element from it.

Years ago, I hit on a magic phrase (or magic sentiment...uncharacteristically, I'm not tied to exact words).  It may have been when I was writing a note to some of the legal support staff at my firm when I knew the upcoming week would be a hard one for me.  At the time, I did take one week off the BCP every four months (I no longer do) and I knew that week would be very painful.  I also knew I'd likely become a bit snippy and that grumpiness trickles down.  So I warned some folks ahead of time and apologizes in advance.  The concept I hit upon that I've loved since: It's not an excuse, it's an explanation.

I love this concept.  I don't get a free pass when I feel crappy.  I'm still responsible for my words and actions.  But there is some context and I do think that has relevance.  On the personal side, I might blow a little thing out of proportion when the pain has worn me down.  I won't necessarily disavow the sentiment (still don't like that the glass I was using disappeared), but I will admit I took it too far.  The pain doesn't excuse this.  But it does explain why it happened.

I was once on a Miss Manners style chat to ask a question about public transit.  Another guest was asking about what to say when her son, who had underlying issues, acted inappropriately.  She wanted to be able to acknowledge it was wrong (and would let the son know too), but also let the other people know the background.  Miss Manners didn't have a great response and asked if anyone else had thoughts.  I shared my context and said I thought the same concept of explanations instead of excuses.  The mother really liked it, as did Miss Manners who said she might have to steal it for her own arsenal. 

It really is a versatile concept.  It fits my pain days when I'm not at my best.  It fits conditions that can lead to awkward social moments.  It can also fit coming home after a bad day at work and snapping at a partner or child.  It doesn't ask for a free pass.  It also, where appropriate, doesn't suggest there's nothing relevant underlying the outburst.  It can be tough to remember in the moment sometimes (almost by definition you aren't thinking fully when you need it), but it's a great addition to the arsenal. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

bulletpoints are enabling tools for the rambler

I confess....totally time for some bullet points.

  • I love my red wine, but I've also long wanted a "signature drink" as well.  I love the Friday's version of a Sidecar but it hasn't always come out well elsewhere.  A couple weeks ago, heat inspired a move away from red wine and a tiny alteration to a classic totally worked for me.  You should order "The Cheryl"...cranberry and VANILLA vodka, lime optional.  The vanilla softens it up and I can pretend it is healthy due to the juice (esp since one bar had light cran so less extra sugar).
  • I'm in love with Say Yes to the Dress.  I'm not a reality show watcher and I am also not the girly-girl type who is obsessed over wedding stuff.  I partly like the family dynamics that are showcased but I think I really just enjoy watching women of all shapes and sizes light up when they find something that makes them feel beautiful.  Yay for flattering rather than hiding and for celebrating beauty beyond supermodels.
  •  I have long pondered how we talk to little girls.  I've tried to steer away from a knee-jerk comment calling a young girl pretty or even praising her cute clothes or hair.  I was gratified to find that an online article raised this issue and got people talking about it.  But I still struggle with it a is simply easier to tell a kid they are cute than find a more constructive comment, especially in the context of a quick meeting.  Is it better to say nothing at all or fall back on a focus on the physical?
  • The back doc said it is likely I'll be a smidge taller post-surgery, partly from standing straighter without pain and also from the insert.  He laughed when I suggested I wanted to be 5'6" (I round up to 5'4") but I'll take a few millimeters.  He also laughed when I asked if he could remove the "pooch" since they are going in through the lower abdomen.
  • Toenail polish is definitely one of the perks of being a girl (well...controversy-free polish).  I tend to be a pretty simple gal in terms of clothing and I rarely paint my fingernails, but I love fun colors on my toes.  They are currently quite blue (bonus points for covering yet another injured toenail) and they make me smile.  I have especially enjoyed a fun color like silver on them in the winter when no one sees them so they are my little secret for myself.
  • A bit back, a website with lot of little posts had a story on a woman nabbing a guy trying to rob her store, tying him up, feeding him Viagra and raping him for days.  The story turned out to be a hoax but that didn't leave me any happier since my true shock was at the comments.  A good 75% of the replies said it was hilarious, awesome, or justified (he was an unarmed burglar).  Beyond disgusted by the replies that NEVER would have been there if there was a gender flip.  This may become a larger topic in the was an especially severe example of tolerating disparate treatment that includes "Fix My Man" segments, Dumb Husband TV ads, and an ad with a girl cyber-stalking the boy who "doesn't know he's my boyfriend...yet."
  • I am still applying to a range of jobs.  My focus is simply things I would do well, where my skills would transfer to a new settings, and things I might enjoy.  It made me smile to get a reply from one hiring person noting I was a lawyer and applying for quite a non-lawyer gig.  Loved that he ASKED rather than tossing me aside.  And that he seemed to really enjoy my lengthy reply.
  • I'm mentally creating a lineup of On Demand TV episodes for recovery.  I'd suggested the upgraded cable in the bedroom wasn't really needed, but I'll appreciate the docs say even 20min of sitting will be a struggle for some time.
  • Still debating the blog revamp mentioned yesterday. I kinda like being free-flowing but I'm also quite the fan of structure (I know, you're shocked...).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pre-Op -- Bloodwork Done, Mental Prep in Progress

I confess...I got scared.  And I'm not the scared type.  I don't tend to get a ton of nerves, though that also means I don't get super-excited either.  I'm not sure why.  It may be control-related....while I crave control, I recognize when I don't have it.   If I can control it, I fret.  If I can't, I usually don't.

So I guess that actually fits quite well.  I had my pre-op appointment yesterday and the big day is August 8.  I'll be having an anterior lumbar fusion at L5/S1.  They use titanium and a bone growing medicine so I don't have the problems associated with a bone harvest (and titanium means it doesn't interfere with things like MRIs and should be okay in airport scanners and such, though I get a note in case).  The anterior part means they go in through the belly.  This does mean another surgeon is involved to help the back doc get to the spine, but it is actually much easier than going in the back since that means dealing with a lot of muscle.  They can actually go in between the abdominal muscles (I think there are some in there under the not-muscle!!) and that all makes healing easier.  I'll be in the hospital 2-3 days and then stay with my Dad and step-mom for a couple days (in Lancaster, PA).  Mom and Step-dad will be there for the surgery and next day...though I'll see them in recovery, not pre\-op since Mom will be nervous too and is self-aware enough to know it would add to my stress beforehand so is letting MM, Dr Dad, and step-mom take that shift.  MM will be there Mon and Tues and then may go work a bit since I'll have folks around and he will come pick me back up Friday or so. 

I've had five surgeries so I'm a vet, but this is a much bigger deal (prior were two ENT-related and three pelvic laporoscopies for endo) and the first overnight.  As with the prior ones, I am not really worried about surgery itself.  I tend to trust that doctors can do their jobs, especially since I'm a pretty straight-forward case.  It's an unusual day for me, but it is a regular day for the doc (well, maybe a little different since he's got his partner's daughter on the table).  I am, however, beyond needle-phobic.  I think that's partly b/c I had several childhood bugs that left me really dehydrated and necessitated IV rehydration.  I don't have great veins (they hold up for little things but not for IVs) and they would be even less friendly when I was dehydrated so it often took several tries leaving bruises on my arms and eventually ending up with the IV in a hand.  I always warn the IV giver and find they are usually better than I expected, though the last one (for one of the tests) was pretty awful.  I am totally a watcher (control again) but just remind myself that I get some meds to help me relax as soon as it is in.

But the part I'm really dreading (and, fitting my theory, the part I can control) is the recovery process.  I was a bit surprised to find they usually tell people to wait TWO MONTHS before resuming a full time desk job.  I have some nibbles on the would be a slow enough process but the other will require some maneuvering.  I might suggest a trial period of PT work...clearly for the purpose of proving I rock since I'm a non-traditional candidate.  One of the quirks that people might not know about back pain is that sitting is actually pretty much the hardest thing, way more so than standing, and it will be a while before I can handle long spells.  Luckily, we just upgraded the cable package in the bedroom :)

Then there's the gym habit.  Truly, the gym addiction.  They very much encourage walking, but I'm pretty sure they don't mean my 9mile, two hour, marathon treadmill dates.  They haven't yet said much about limits but it sounds like it'll be pretty obvious I can't do much at all (and they'll give more details after).  I need to reframe things a bit.  I'm used to working through pain.  As a chronic pain fighter, I'd never workout if I waited till I was pain free.  I've also fought through it because the workout was not going to be hurtful...neither the endo nor the back injury itself were made worse by activity.  That won't be the case after surgery....balancing the right amount of rest and movement will be crucial to proper and speedy healing.  I'll also have a brace to wear when I'm out of bed for more than a quick bathroom jaunt.  Maybe keeping that sweat-free will be another aid in taking it slow.

I am contemplating a blog revamp post-surgery but haven't really decided yet.  I follow a lot of blogs and find the best and most-visited have some regular flow to them.  I'm pondering a thrice weekly schedule with Monday Musings (assorted ponderings, bullet point fun, pain/ED/body image stuff, and my take on random issues), Wednesday Weekly Reader (I loved the Weekly Reader...this will have reviews when ready, updates or just general book-related rambles other times), and Friday Finds (stuff I'm digging whether fancy or dollar-store style).  Does that sound cheesy or interesting?  I can always try it and revert back if it fails....I was into the idea at first but I'm feeling more in doubt now.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Examining Personal History and Family Unravellings - Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern

I confess....I was a bit ambivalent as I began reading Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern (via an advance copy from Harper).  My previous journey into a novel marked as gothic had not gone well.  It isn't fair to place that weight on a book, or a genre, but I like to admit my biases.  In this case, the admission probably gives more weight to the fact that I ended up quite enjoying this book and giving it 4 (of 5) stars.

The story is set in Southern France and alternates between two women residing in the same home, a present-day narrator who is referred to as Eve by her new boyfriend with whom she's just relocated and an older woman reflecting on her life at the estate that had long been in her family.  I do enjoy dual narrator tales generally and appreciated that it wasn't difficult to keep them distinct in my head.  The modern-day narrator jumped in fast with her fellow and is left wondering what she really knows about him when he clams up about his past and his former wife.  The second narrator tells of her family's difficulties and watching the family and the home fall into disrepair.  The stories do eventually weave together in a way that felt more satisfying that I would expect since I tend to dislike such "neat" endings.

The prose is lovely and definitely makes the reader want to journey to the region.  I didn't find it too arty or pretentious, just well-crafted and chosen.  There are hints of the supernatural throughout (which I guess gives it the Gothic label) but they aren't too overwhelming, something I disliked in my prior attempt at the genre.  It felt more akin to what I call "literary mysteries" like The Thirteenth Tale and The Forgotten Garden, more about uncovering the past and considering how it impacted the present with the ghosts both figurative and literal than about creaky doors and evil spirits.  Recommended to folks who like novels that explore family, personal history, and character.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reality High (School)...or, perhaps more accurately, Rambler Reality High

I confess...I watch Glee.  Aside from the fact that we never burst out into song, I'm often caught by how different TV high school is from my own experience.  I think there's two primary sources of discord here, one that is simply about who I was as a young teen and the other is about how my school stood quite distinct from any I've really seen on TV. 

Although they've since caught on to the error in planning, at the time I went through the doors, my district consisted of nine elementary schools (flooded and flowing out into trailers), three junior highs (the same), and a single high school (jammed in tight).  I do think it is typical to have more lower schools, both because they serve a larger number of grades and to represent the desire for keeping the small ones close, but this was simply poor planning.  Our high school only served grades 10-12 and even then we were busting at the seams.  I was in the "tiny" class with about 800 students, the school overall encompassed about 2500 teens.  My mind boggles at the amount of hormones in that place.

The size in itself accounts for some differences.  The Saved By The Bell kids lingered in the halls and talked between classes.  Not so much at my school.  Granted, my social status came into play in my hallway experience, but everyone pretty much had to book it just to get across the building in the five minutes allotted between classes.  I'm not sure I ever visited my locker other than before lunch (which 2 of the 3 years was around 1PM, just before the last class of the 10th grade, it was more like 10:30AM), let alone had deep conversations there.  In fact, I tended to walk with my elbows turned out a bit in order to avoid being swept along with the crowd in the wrong direction.  At my tiny little liberal arts college, you were sure to run into anyone you wished to avoid.  In contrast, I heard names at high school graduation that I hadn't heard since 4th grade.  Kelly could totally have avoided Steve after a mistaken hook-up and Brenda wouldn't see Dylan on the way to every class.

Until the funding fights unravelled on Glee, cheerleaders abounded.  I met a cheerleader from my high school last year, during my stop back at my parents' house.  I'm really not sure I ever knew one before.  I'll admit the bias here that I was in a pretty narrowly defined group of Honors Class kids so really only attended class with a small portion of my peers and we probably had our own social world (though I am fairly sure several dance crowns went to a fellow honors kid).  But I still don't recall skirted cheer-gals parading around.  There was no room for the crowds to part in awe as the Mean Girls walked by.  

In every TV show, the high school world includes a lot of heads-in-the-toilet, kids-stuffed-in-lockers, and (the latest trope) of the Slushy facial.  It would be hard to be less popular than I was in those days.  I could chat with some of my classmates, but I can count on one hand (maybe half-a-hand) the number of times I ventured out socially.  But none of that stuff happened in my high school world.  Junior high got vicious at times.  I was pants-ed in gym class, popped between the shoulders daily by a boy in my homeroom every day of 7th grade, and relentlessly mocked until I'd ask for a pass to the nurse to escape.  But this was done by high school and I'm fairly sure this wasn't unique to me or even to my school.  By high school, I was just ignored.  The teasing pretty much stopped.  I simply didn't exist.  Which isn't fun either, but is quite different. Of course, it makes for pretty boring TV (and a bit of a boring three years from a social standpoint).

I never had to carry a sack-of-flour baby.  Or plan for a science fair.  Slater, Jessie, Zach, and Kelli didn't head EVERY club and pull off a stunt for every assignment.  We didn't eat on the lawn or run to the Peach Pit during study hall.  I heard about study hall, but never knew anyone who had onel.  Despite these obvious gaps in my schooling, I did have some amazing teachers and cannot complain these. I read stuff in high school that other people didn't encounter until their graduate programs (Kant, Chaucer, Upton Sinclair).   I was VERY well-prepared for college.  I was used to working.  Hard.  A lot of my teachers held graduate degrees. Tracking kids into ability groups bothers me in theory, but I sure as heck benefited from it (as I've rambled on about before).  I don't know what our football program cost, but I give the school the credit of assuming that the AP program cost more. 

I hid in the crowd for my three years in high school.  I'll own that and own that my actions shaped my experience.  I chattered with the other honors kids but didn't really ever ASK to be included in their non-school world (and they did have one).  I wasn't a Rambler then (though I probably raised my hand too much), but I was a Watcher.  And I'm pretty sure none of the creators of TV High wandered the halls I walked.

I'd say you couldn't pay me to go back, but I doubt that's true.  You could.  But it'd take a lot.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Quick Reads, Very Different Reviews: The Family Fang & This Beautiful Life

I confess...few things make me smile more than a nice stack of books on my "To Read" pile.  It did diminish more quickly than normal though b/c these were both quick reads.  I've mentioned it before, but I only put my ARC (fancy speak for Advance Reader Copies) reads here, though I have pondered a sub-blog on books after seeing one recently.  Anyway, I do review most books I read and the other reviews go on Amazon (though they don't let me post before publication) and also Goodreads.  You should "friend" me on GR (and be a follower here...'cause I'm obviously fascinating).

I really wasn't quite sure what to expect when I opened this book (which Harper provided to me in return for my honest review).  What I found was an often comic look at a family with an edge of commentary on society, art, and parenthood.  Caleb and Camille Fang have dedicated their life to their unique style of "art" which generally involves creating some sort of unannounced public spectacle and watching the unsuspecting "audience" react.  They initially feared children might be a barrier to their unusual work, but instead they found adding the children (Annie and Buster, or "Child A" and "Child B" in showcases where they display film documenting the events)to their events gave them even more to work with.

The book's present looks at Annie and Buster as young adults struggling to find their place in the world.  They both find themselves back home after having decided to leave their parents lifestyle behind.  When their parents go missing under curious circumstances, they have to decide if they are really crime victims or are just framing another Fang event.  The chapters go between this present and moments in the past featuring past Fang events.

This was an easy and quick read.  I can't quite say I loved it, but I did really enjoy it.  I think Wilson does a remarkable job of creating a comic and fun story with a really complex undercurrent that asks how the Fang lifestyle of spectacle and art impacted the children who were often pawns in their parents work.  I like that the reader is given a lot of room to make their own conclusions about the art and the social ramifications of it.  I'm torn on my opinion of the ending, which did have elements that caught me by surprise.  But I'm more than confident giving it a full 4 stars out of 5.  Quick read that will amuse and give you plenty to ponder.
I'll admit my bias here and note that I can be a bit skeptical of the "ripped from the headlines" style of plot.  I will glance at such a book with a bit of curiosity but tend to live my headline ripping to Law & Order types (though I really only like the Lenny-era reruns).  I was curious though and hopeful when I started this book, provided to me by Harper in exchange for an unbiased review. 

The Bergamot family is the picture of an upper-middle class family with a working dad, an educated mom who now stays home, a teenage son trying to fit in to a new school, and a kindergarden aged daughter adopted from China.  They recently relocated to NYC from the quiet world of Ithaca for the father to explore a job offering both financial and personal rewards.  This world, still one in transition as they all gain their footing in the city society, is blown apart when a younger teen girl (13 to his coming-up-on 16) sends a (disturbingly) pornographic email to the teenage son in an attempt to show him she's not too young for him (his rebuff of her at a party).  The son sends it to another boy, largely out of shock and not knowing how to respond, and it snowballs from there passing to the whole school and eventually pretty widely beyond that.

The author explores how this incident impacts the full family from the father's work world to the mother's social circle as well as the school lives of the children.  I appreciated that the author followed the whole family rather than focusing on one member and explored the different ways one event can hit different individuals.  I just didn't feel it went deep enough.  We do get to visit the thoughts of Mom, Dad, and Son with chapters focusing on each character.  I appreciated this tactic but it still felt substantially lacking.  I do not need to like characters in the books I read but I need to be interested in them and I just wasn't.  I will note (w/o any true spoilerage) that the ending gives a peek into the future of the characters that I actually found more interesting than the main book itself.

The last few pages aside, I'm inclined to round down on this one.  I want to give it 2.5 stars but neither GR nor Amazon allow halfs so I'm going to go with 2 stars out of 5.  I always feel a bit bad writing a negative review but also think good reviews are meaningless if one isn't honest with the other end of the spectrum.  This just didn't "do it" for me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

post 200+1...more fit tips

I confess...almost every time I post, I find myself wanting to come back and add more.  This time, I'm indulging myself and adding a few more tips for the exer-phobic.  Of course, these came to me during my workout...often the case but even more so here (and another pro to is a great time for thoughts to pop in your head).

(For ease, here's Part One)
  • If you use a plate-loaded machine or dumbbells, etiquette demands you put back the weights.  That said, you'll inevitable encounter a machine that you want to use where someone has left their weights on the machine.  Inevitably, the folks who leave them have left behind 100lb plates or other large-ish ones, never a 5 pounder.  Do feel okay asking for help moving them...I do it.  Most people (okay, I mostly ask men b/c they are more likely to be able to help) are happy to help.  I will admit I scope out the right person to ask to be sure: 1) they can lift them w/o getting hurt (or would be honest instead of macho) and 2) they will get that I genuinely need help and am not hitting on them.
  • If you are new, you might worry about stepping into a gym.  Here's the truth -- I do notice new folks, especially folks clearly new to the fitness front.  But I am NOT thinking anything bad.  In fact, I'm often wondering if there's a polite way to say "Go you!" and express my admiration.  I also know that it is harder to start at a higher weight...I admire those folks even more.  So I do notice you, but you should be PROUD to be there.
  • When I do weights, I'll switch between exercises rather than rest between sets.  For example, I'll do a set of biceps, then a set of shoulder presses, and then back to bis.  The experts will say this technique is good because it gets your pulse up and adds a cardio element.  Honestly, I like it because it gets me done faster!
  • There's no need to be fashionable, unless the cute clothes provide you with motivation.  I do, however, find it helps to where clothes made for fitness rather than an old tee.  The tech clothes will help wick away sweat and are less likely to get soaked and heavy.  I sweat a LOT.  Target has great deals...especially if you can get away with a Girls L or XL (not much shape to them, but I don't care at the gym).
  • If you run, get fitted for shoes at a real running store.  Sports Authority isn't going to do this.  Look for something specifically aimed at runners where the staff will examine your gait and help you find the best shoes to keep you injury-free.
  • I was initially scare by the machines that say "Hammer Strength".  Don't be!  They are GREAT, especially for newbies.  All it really means is the left and right each lift their own weight.  This means your strong side can't cheat and help the weaker side. These are often "plate-loaded" machines (you put the round weight plates on them)...those look scary but really are the same as the other machines, just with more options in weight load. 
  • In the last post, I mentioned that you shouldn't fear bulking up (if you are a woman).  Along with this goes the fact that you should lift weights that are heavy enough that you are tired after 10-12 reps and don't feel able to do much more.  This does mean you need different weights for different exercises...your biceps are likely stronger than your triceps so you need different weights for each.  Push yourself....stay safe, but a workout is WORK.  I often want to go over to a healthy young woman using 5lb weights for a bicep curl and hand her 10s...I bet she could do it. And get better results.
  • I'm a treadmill addict.  I know running outside has bio-mechanical benefits and has even been shown to be mood boosting.  But, again, it's about what works for you.  Frankly, I need the TV on to help me keep going...and the fact that I'd fall off the belt if I didn't keep moving.  I also like the feedback.  Calorie counts are HORRID on machines, though better on treadmills than others, but the distance and speed are helpful markers.
  • light

wherein I talk about building a healthy body (and celebrate post 200!)

I confess...I could write a book review but decided to delay it (and couple two reviews together) because I want a more exciting TWO HUNDREDTH post!  Thanks to anyone who reads this.  I like writing and I do it in part for myself, but I like being heard and I do think I have things of value to share (and want more people to be "followers" even though I know you see it on FB).  In that vein, I'm going to use this post to share thoughts on how to get and keep a fit body.

I'm often asked about what I do to stay in shape...especially, by folks who knew me when I was 35lbs larger.  This difference is actually bigger than the scale shows since I've added a ton of muscle.  In truth, this is going to be a bit of a "do as I say, not as I do" piece (though I'll make acknowledgment of that at points)...I have some not-so-great habits that I don't think others should share b/c they come from an unhealthy place in my head.  That said, I do have a lot of knowledge so here's some of it, aimed at someone looking to get started in the fitness game:

This will be long....but it will have bullets to help :P

  • There's lots out there on what is the "best" activity, both for weight loss and just for heart health.  The info can be helpful but I think it is better to start by thinking about what you can stick to.  If running is awful, try a kickboxing class.  If you are better working out alone, maybe an elliptical would work.  You need something you will keep doing.  I don't think you need to love it...that's ideal but not always realistic...but you need to be willing to stick to it.
  • In that vein -- It is GREAT if you love your fitness routine.  But plenty of folks don't.  I love the results and I love the feeling when my workout is finished (esp. when it was early AM and I had done a great w/o before the rest of the world woke up!).  That's enough to keep me motivated.
  • Likewise, don't worry about what time of day experts says is best.  Schedule your workouts when you are best able to maintain the habit.  For me, this has varied over Atlanta, I hit the gym on the way home; in Boston, it was early AM; now, I kick off my workouts between noon and one.
  • Make it a habit.  Making a habit is hard, but it is SO worth it.  It becomes routine, like a cup of morning coffee (okay, maybe not THAT easy).  Experts say 21 days makes a habit...I'd go more like a month.  But once you've got it as part of your routine, it is MUCH easier to keep it going.  In Boston, I'd often remind myself how hard the AM habit was to start and that would motivate me when the alarm felt way too early.  It is easier to stay on the bandwagon than it is to get back on if you fall.
  • That said, do know that sometimes rest IS best.  It can be tough to judge, but if you truly need the extra sleep or are truly over-sore, then REST (though sometimes I find a light w/o a better fix for soreness than total rest).  Just be truly honest about whether it is a matter of needing the rest or just being a bit lazy.  One tip I read a lot that I do think has merit (but works better for PM w/o...not so much for first-thing folks) is to start a w/o with the promise that you can quit after 15min if you still aren't feeling it.  Often, you'll keep going but sometimes it'll confirm the need to rest.
  • Make it EASY...well, as easy as possible.  When I went after work, I packed my gym stuff the night before and put it in the car.  When I got in the car, I put it right next to me to help resist the urge to skip (I also put my purse in the trunk to make it harder to divert to comfort food).  When I went before 5AM, I put my clothes out the night before...I even tucked the socks in the shoes (some are right/left specific but that took too much attention in the AM)....I could be in the building gym in about 5min which saved time.  I honestly wasn't truly awake until halfway through the treadmill date.
  • Like many women, my genes have me carrying some not-muscles on my middle...I doubt I could see a six-pack without getting to an unhealthy low weight.   My thighs were still a bit jiggly even at my very lowest weight (when losing more would have been unhealty).  It is sometimes important to recognize that our bodies are programmed to gain and lose in certain ways. Work for YOUR best healthy self...not a magazine cover.
  • I will admit I do too much cardio.  I won't tell you how much b/c I know hearing it from other people would hit a competitive bone in me.  My overdoing it is partly tied to the limitations of my injured body and also because unemployment makes for long days.  I do, however, always take a full day off each week and that is essential...both for sanity and for health.  I think most people looking for weight loss should aim around 4-5 cardio sessions a week of 30-45 min. 
  • Okay...this is tough to put in the right words.  A woman I knew in an online fitness forum once remarked about how slow she felt compared to other runners there.  I spent some time in phrasing it right when I noted that she was a good bit bigger than the women she compared herself to and that they'd have slowed down too if they carried a 75lb backpack.  The point here is that cardio should be a workout for you and at a pace right for you.  Heavier people work harder in many exercises (i.e. walking, running, aerobics classes).  Don't go too hard or push yourself to meet someone else's goals  Just work to steadily improve YOUR times. 
  • Intervals can be great.  The exercise scientists will say it is fabulous for your metabolism and it seems to be backed up.  But it also helps prevent boredom and it can help you improve over time.  I had never run (see this post for my history) and started by fiddling with the treadmill on a Manual setting and trying to run a bit longer each week.  I worked on increasing time first, it can be a bit too much to try and add time and speed at the same time.
  • DO THEM!  I think the message has gotten around but it is worth repeating that the vast majority of women are not going to get crazy bulky.  Female bodybuilders work crazy hard to get that way.  A standard routine, even a tough one, won't make that happen.  We're not wired that way.  But strength training will give you such a great, fit appearance (I'd say "toned" but I get skittish with that word...building muscle and getting toned are the same but I feel like people treat them differently.  A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat BUT it takes up a lot less space so LOOKS very different.  It is also metabolically active which means it burns calories even at rest.  More muscle = more cookies without the guilt or gain.
  • If you can afford it, time with a good trainer is totally worth it.  I'm generally a solo gym gal, but I did learn the ropes first.  You don't need a long contract, a few sessions with someone who can show you the ropes is plenty and so much more informative than any article or blog.  Ideally, the training session can be wherever you will be working out regularly so it fits the equipment (or lack can develop strength with at home work too using body weight and maybe a few dumbbells to supplement).  Ask for recommendations and check they have a certification (other websites have better info on that).  Pick a personality that fits you....I couldn't deal with a Jillian Anderson yelling at me and I prefer a trainer who looks "real" and has an attainable figure, not a model type (both b/c I like some muscle and I just want a source of inspiration, not perfection that feels impossible in a normal life).
  • I've never been a fan of whole body workouts, but plenty of people like them and some particularly advocate them for beginners.  I prefer a "split" which just means focusing on different body parts on different days.  My current one isn't the most rational but I do two days a week with upper body on one and lower body and back on the other.  The following split is where I started though and more rational given that most exercises overlap a bit (i.e. back and biceps are often hit my split isn't good for consecutive days:
    • Day 1 - shoulders/chest/triceps
    • Day 2 - back/biceps
    • Day 3 - legs
  • I currently do two 30min strength sessions.  That's plenty to maintain.  When I did the three day split, it was three 20min sessions.  More is would be better, but that is enough to get results.
  • Do notice and applaud your progress.  Look at those new muscles in the mirror during the workout!  For me, my biceps showed a bit of definition first but it's the triceps that make me smile since they took longer to "pop".  Looking at them helps with motivation.
  • I do weights before strength.  People go back and forth on what is "best" but I ignore that.  I'd leave the gym without doing weights.  I wouldn't leave without cardio.  Therefore, I do weights first simply to make sure I do them.
  • I do core work after both strength sessions.  My routine focuses on "deep core" because it is more aimed at helping my injury than at bikini wear. 
  • I honestly can't give as much advice here because I am pretty messed up myself.  That's a tip in itself....DO work on feeding yourself right, but DON'T let it carry you away.  I think counting calories can be really helpful, but don't let it take over your life. 
  • If you do count, eat ENOUGH.  Magazines always warn women to not dip under 1200cal/day.  To many women, that then becomes a goal.  Perfection.  But, for most women, that's WAY too little.  Your body will NOT function well with too little fuel, just like your car wouldn't run on empty.  You will lose weight better on a bit more because your body isn't freaking out...our bodies are programmed to hold on to every morsel if we eat too thinks you are starving and protects.  If you eat more (but still less than you burn), it will behave better. 
  • And that's the versus out.  I think most women need at least 1500 calories a day to lose weight in a healthy manner, 1800 to maintain (more if you workout harder).  Of course, it varies by individual, including by age, activity level, and size.  And 210 calories of fruit may be the same number as 210 in a candy bar but nutrients are important too.  And healthy calories are almost always more filling so you are satisified longer after a salad than a cookie.
  • If programs help you, Weight Watchers is great.  I think it is more of a lifestyle shift than a short-term fix and short-term fixes don't last.  I think packaged food plans can help if you had a specific gain (i.e. extra weight due to stress) and they just get back to your norm.  You DO need to make the right choices on WW though....I tried for a bit and used my points poorly which meant I got WAY too few calories. 
  • Healthy weight loss is SLOW.  It might go faster at first, especially if you have a lot to lose, but ultimately one pound a week can be the best goal.  Yes, it is slow...but it will LAST because you are building a better lifestyle rather than using a temporary fix and then going back to old habits and regaining the loss.
  • I think veggies are magic.  They are filling and nutrient dense but low in calories.  Fruit is great too, but you do need to keep more of an eye on the calories.
  • I'm HORRIBLE about this, but to avoid judgmental language.  It isn't productive to talk about "good" and "bad"...try "nutritious" and "splurge".  Further, I hate that the word "diet" is unfairly tie to the short-term fixes.  I prefer to use "diet" to mean your overall eating style.
  • Have fun and allow yourself some indulgences. Michelle Obama got slammed for going out for a burger, fries, and a shake, but I admire her for it. A healthy lifestyle has room for some splurges.
I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a nutritionist.  I'm not a certified trainer.  But I have spent a lot of time both reading and learning by doing.  I hope this is helpul to others looking to start or keep on their journey.

(I gave in and made a Part Two with some added tips).

Friday, July 8, 2011

bullets are kinda like fireworks...well, in my head that makes sense

I confess...I have nothing to put in this spot but I feel compelled to keep my silly little formatting gimmick.

  • Responding to a comment I made about the distinction between "Not Guilty" and "Innocent," a former professor (and a forever model of an amazing woman) noted that some nations have a "Not Proven" verdict.  I think that a LOT of people need a reminder of that concept.
  • One more Casey-related bullet -- I am so angry about the awful backlash and horrid comments I see made about the jurors.  I don't envy them their role but admire the seriousness with which they clearly took their task. The quick timeline doesn't tell me they rushed, it tells me it was simply all to clear that the burden of proof hadn't been met and they recognized it, even if their hearts told them she was to blame.  I hope the jurors find support as they move back to their normal lives. 
  • I have continued to be impressed by Elizabeth Smart.  Such a poised young woman.  I hope that self-awareness truly runs deep and isn't merely a mask.
  • Apparently leaning forward repeatedly over several hours (as I did for this event), adds up.  I didn't feel too bad on the 4th (the harder point was getting to the ground to sit for the fireworks), but the 5th was about the worst I can remember.  A warm bath on the 6th was definitely a big push forward (and sweet since it was drawn for me, including lavender salts) and it is returning more to the "norm"...but I'm looking forward to no longer considering a 7-8 pain level a normal day.
  • The Doctors (warning: a talking ad starts when you link....those are a pet peeve of mine, ads are a tolerable necessity but please keep 'em quiet) is an odd guilty addition to my TV habits.  I do other stuff (umm, like writing draft blogs) while watching and doubt I could really make it a full-attention event but I somehow can't look away.  Not a big Jillian Michaels fan but I'll pretend I shall be employed before she joins.
  • Say Yes To the Dress is even more of a guilty pleasure.  It is so out of character for me...I don't watch wedding shows or The Bachelor/ette or any other reality shows (unless House Hunters counts...which is kinda a similar show).  I like the attention to emotion.  I also really enjoy the shows focused on plus-sized brides.  They totally focus on making the women feel beautiful as they are and finding a dress that flatters their curves rather than just hiding them.
  • One more TV show comment -- I hope they don't cancel Men of a Certain Age. I have the season finale waiting on On Demand. I think TNT has failed to market it well and I'm not sure their weird split seasons work well for it, but I think it is a great drama with so many nuances to the characters.
  • I did buy shorts.  I was desperate and committed to a one-stop shop which meant I ended up a size up since Ross seems to pretend I don't exist.  I did look in Juniors but I wouldn't have worn those at 16, let alone 33.
  • In true suburban fashion, our backyard opens to another house's backyard.  In true central PA fashion, across the street from the is a big field.  That field played home to fireworks last night (side note: I think the fire company having fireworks at their fair has a bit of irony to it).  It was a simpler show than we saw on the 4th, but it was pretty cool to be all of 250 feet away (put VIP seats to shame).  The walls of the house rattled with the booms...I wanted to run in for ear plugs but figured it might be over by the time I found them.  Related: There is a funnel cake truck parked less than a quarter mile from our door.  How cruel!
  • I hate the TV trope of dumb men and smart wives.  The Fiber One commercial where the man says "fiber makes me sad" and then the wife smirks when he eats a fiber-filled granola bar is particularly crazy-making.  On the other hand, I love the woman in a bug-control-product ad...her husband says "She has a problem with bugs" and the woman clarifies, "I have a problem with bugs IN MY HOUSE."  Totally me.
  • I am NOT a couponer.  I do follow one coupon blog because it goes beyond just clipping and the woman has an amazing spirit (sadly, she was hit by a car this week and is in the hospital...I wish her well).  But I totally got it during a CVS visit.  I had a magazine coupon for a free PowerBar Protein Plus.  CVS had a deal where you bought one and got the full amount back in a coupon to use on your next visit ("free" money, $2.59 towards just about anything).  So I got a free bar (well, actually I got the Bites...they were good for a driving day) AND made two and a half dollars.  I definitely got a rush and suddenly understood the couponer folks a bit.
  • I have a nice stack of books on my nightstand and it makes me smile just to see all the books waiting to be visited.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

true spirit, in a little package

I confess...I am conflict averse enough to overthink every post, especially with quite a range of views among my audience.  But, anyway...

After a party on the 3rd, I spent much of the 4th itself at Fourth Fest, a party thrown in State College with food and and a fair atmosphere and one of the country's largest fireworks shows.  I went with MM and helped out at the Operation Thank You booth manned by the Air National Guard (and some volunteers and partners) where they took donations for care packages and had people write notes to troops overseas. 

Most people looked up a bit as they tried to find what they wanted to say.  I get that.  I'm still a pacifist and I'm still not fond of our current wars.  But I have always supported our troops, recognizing that we do need people willing to sacrifice and take on the battles (even if I disagree with some of them).  We do need a defense system (even if I'm not sure we need the current cost level) and that will always mean needing people willing to risk their lives for the cause.  The littlest kids drew "pictures" and I suggested their adult companion help them write their name and age.  Slightly older ones asked for help from their parents or the booth folks. 

But one little girl stole the day.  She walked up alone and asked for a card.  She didn't have anyone telling her what to write.  I don't recall the second line right now, but it started "Dear soljer, Thank you for being brave."  She drew a picture too (and some adults paused on the spelling, she was certainly young enough for the effort to count).  Yeah, the pacifist nearly cried and a few of the folks in uniform got teary too.  There was just something so genuine and real.  It wasn't a totally different message but it was her own voice and her words and so sweet.  I actually saw Mom lurking and waved her up to share it and commend her daughter. 

I didn't read most cards.  This girl had just walked and written with an air that drew me.  Unlike the guy who I'd have been a bit scared to meet in a dark parking lot (yes, judgment....but honest).  He wrote for a while and fiercely.  I waited till he was gone and fished it out (they DO later screen can disagree with the politics but no need to send a mean message to someone on the ground).  The language made me lament our schools a bit but his got shared for this comment: "If you are male, I hope you come home safe to your family.  Same if you are female."

The lone female service member looked ready to hunt him down.  Earlier in the day, MM and I had talked about those sentences that get away from you....the ones you start saying and get away from you and you backtrack to cover.  The added "same" felt like a backtrack, but WHERE was he planning to go????  I wondered if he was thinking about a wife and kids at home and then got the PC-bug and put "family" and went from there.  But I'm not quite satisfied with that story.

I normally am not a fireworks girl but we stayed and had VIP seats for free.  The Fest is self-funded so they do charge admission but we got free tickets (Aside: We also got food vouchers but a guy was cooking and invited us all over...when we didn't show, he started bringing LOADED plates...made me smile.  I often lament a lot about the state of our general public but enjoyed seeing some generosity of pocket and spirit).  I was pretty darn impressed.  Clearly, they've stepped up fireworks since I was a youngin' and MM told me it is something like the 3rd largest 4th show in the nation.  I also HIGHLY recommend watching fireworks next to two eight year-old boys.  The dancing was priceless and my sideshow totally competed with the light show.  Line of the show "WOW.  I'm gonna stop saying 'Wow' now...[thirty second pause]..WOW."

Hurting today.  I avoided bending and twisting but was still moving about a lot for the past two days and the ground is tough to sit on (even tougher just to GET to the ground).  I do want to push myself to get my strength sessions in during the next month to fend off lost muscle after, but lifting today isn't going to happen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

corny, cheesy alert...

I confess...I stole him.  We were at a NYE party and he was, apparently, slated to met a girl.  I'd actually jokingly requested a non-smoking boy with nice biceps to kiss at midnight.  He had a cigarette in hand when I walked in and I remember thinking that was a shame (he was more of a social smoker and has largely stopped for me so it was a false alarm).  But we talked a bit. 

Midnight passed with no kiss but later he was giving one hostess a backrub...apparently it was her attempt to show the target gal his talent. But I threw it all off by saying "Hey, not fair!" and he replied, "Don't worry, you're next."  My massage was longer (ummm...and a bit more thorough but still PG) and I didn't get a kiss that night.  But I did get one the next night when he invited me back over to the same house for a DVD night.  (aside: I'd hoped to hear from him but hadn't and finally gave in and got a huge cheese-stuffed stromboli-like meal as a hangover remedy...of course, he sent a message RIGHT after I finished and my belly was quite cheese stuffed...not ideal for hanging out with a new boy).

Today marks six months (another aside: I totally recommend 1/1 as a handy date for ease in calcuating such things).  I'm not one for monthly anniversary nods, but I'll make an exception at six.  And I'll risk making him blush by saying MM rocks and has made my heart fuller than I ever knew it could be.  I'd gone down the wrong road and I can't even describe how eye-opening the right one was...never knew I could feel so sure so quickly.  After the movie night, it was a week before he could come for a real date and we spent HOURS a night on the phone.  I hate the phone.  There were lapses and we'd watch food shows on silent but it was just easy and comfortable.  I love him dearly and shall include a few bullet points with some of the moments that made the last months so special:
  • He showed up for our first unchaperoned, real date with a single rose, red wine, and my cheese of preference (sharp cheddar).  He also had glasses, a plate, a knife, and a corkscrew so it was no effort for me.  He also scoped out a place that had tater tots because I'd mentioned them in our phone marathons.  The first time I drove out here (I despise driving and it was nearly 4h), he cooked (and is an awesome cook...totally the "hmmm...needs a dash of basil" type).
  • The first time he saw me in bad endo pain was when I was visiting him.  He sent a message offering to come home from work and bring me soup for lunch if it might provide some comfort.  The first time he saw me after I had a run-in with the binge monster (I'd told him about the issues in advance and let him know before he came home that I'd had a relapse), he was just perfect...he sat and listened but didn't try to hug me, showing an intuitive understanding that being touched is a huge no for me in that state).  He can't fix my demons and ailments but he helps me find the strength to fight them.  He also is great about my body image....listening to me and saying nice things without falling into the zone where it feels like my demons are being dismissed.
  • For Valentine's Day, he had a nice present and dinner plans but that wasn't what I'll remember.  He drew me a bath, with a rose petal path, lavender salts, and a towel pillow for my head.  Instead of trying to make it, ummm, more of an adult bath, he left me to enjoy it and relax.  And he made me a yummy egg white omelet with basil and feta.  Perfect.
  • He loves ducks and we fed them recently.  He preferred the ones that came close (I was a bit terrified by them), especially one that would grab bread from his hand.  But I was focused on Gimpy Ducky...a female with an injured foot who didn't have the speed to get much of the bread since the others snatched it first.  MM had better aim than I did so helped make sure Gimpy Ducky got a good snack by getting it right to her.  And he promised me Gimpy Ducky would be okay.  Some part-truths are okay :)  Gimpy Duck can go live on the farm with Cinnamon, the dog my folks had when I was born
  • He carried and assembled the treadmill I've always wanted.  And, in general, has totally made space for me in his former bachelor pad house.  He didn't hesitate to pull out a dresser for me and gave me lots of bathroom space (the four sisters helped him know even a non-makeup gal needs space).  He even understood or at least tolerated, my need for a personal safe-shelf in the pantry area.
  • More than anything else, I love that we can have simple time together.  I've realized that the word "content" is highly underrated....we can spend a quiet day on the couch, sometimes each doing our own thing (me: reading, him: playing video games or watching a car auction) and it is just easy.  And perfect.
I could go on but he's likely embarrassed enough.  Thanks, MM, for a wonderful start to 2011.  And thanks for the many more months to come.