Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kibbles n' Bits

I think Boss is getting spoiled.

It’s not his fault. It’s mine. He’s just so darn cute I can’t say no to him.

(secretly my husband wishes he had four paws)

But come on – have you seen my dog? He is adorable. He has floppy little ears that speak their own language of I am happy, I am submissive, I hear the UPS delivery man. He has little white paws that are very sensitive. When I caught Chris squeezing them each a few weeks ago and asked why he was hurting my dog he said it was part of an elaborate paw desensitization program.

It hasn’t worked.

He makes noises when he yawns and garbles when he’s upset. And when he’s pissed – you’ll know. He’s like a little human but he’s a…dog.

It’s not just me. The neighbor girl – is obsessed with my dog. Robyn tells me that is how you know your dog has truly arrived – someone else obsesses over him. She rings our doorbell to see if Boss is home to play. Then they proceed in 20 minutes of crazy laps. When she had to tell her 1st grade class what she was thankful for by putting feathers on a turkey – guess who was her #2 feather?

Boss


(you should know that her #1 feather was friends, #3 was her parents, #4 was her OWN dog)

Not only that but she bought Boss a present for Christmas. A Santa suit. Made for a 20 pound dog complete with hat and boots. But it’s the thought that counts no matter how much he hated us for making him wear it while she took him sledding down a hill while he sat in her lap (funniest thing I have ever seen).

Boss, however, was not amused.

He did give her a gift as well – a picture of himself with Santa. Which now sits in her bedroom.

No comment from her own dog.

Seeing that we are starting to love Boss like a child, we have become pickier about what he eats. Now, understand that Chris’ mom gets the gold medal for dog food pickiness. Kibbles are clearly not good enough for her two small dogs – so every week she cooks up some chicken thighs and chops up some broccoli. The dogs feast on a small plate of chicken and broccoli twice a day. Chicken for protein, broccoli to keep them regular (though in my experience I have never met a dog with a regularity problem) and pumpkin sometimes just…because.

When Boss returns from their house it is like he has spent a week in Shangri-La. Constant company, a little pink house where I-Chi stores her treasure (pens, plastic bags, tissues, bones), chicken, broccoli. He comes back to our house with a disgruntled look in his eyes and looks at his bowl of kibble like what the f*ck is this shit.

Paupers.

So then it began. Chris started adding a teaspoon of pumpkin to Boss’ kibble every day. He went from a dog that could care less about his food to a dog obsessed. Soon later it just took someone opening the refrigerator at 7 am to get out the pumpkin and he would start jumping up and down in the kitchen. No sooner did the pumpkin hit the kibble than he was making excited circles in the kitchen with a wagging tail.

First it was pumpkin once a day. Now twice a day. But I drew the line there. I feared that every time we sent Boss to Camp Schaller, Camp Schaffner, Camp Grandma or Shangri-La we would have to send explicit directions to not only poop him twice a day but to dole out a teaspoon of pumpkin.

Instructions for a dog? No. (unless you are ABK then you will post a two page document on how to care for her dog while away – someone should seriously publish that)

Well it hasn’t stopped. And it got worse the other night at Christmas Eve when someone (nonWaterstraatsomeonethatshallremainunamed) gave Boss…prime rib.

At least they asked permission but thus began a slippery slope. Now that he’s tasted prime rib, well….you know how it goes. He got a taste of the rich life and he wants more.

Meanwhile we just ran out of kibble. With a dog like Boss it takes about 6 months to go through a bag. He eats ¼ of a cup of kibble twice a day. That’s not much. When I watch Brenda's French Mastif, Hooch, he eats about 2 cups of kibble from a bowl big enough for Boss. Twice a day. We took Boss over there one day and put him in Hooch’s bowl to prove a point that Boss could fit into Hooch’s kibble bowl. On top of the kibble.

Monday night got very exciting when I decided to go to the store for kibble. Learning that the kibble we were feeding him was mostly chicken beaks, floor sweepings and cow dung, I decided it was time to find a higher quality kibble. So I went to the only store I know that sells higher quality things…

Whole Foods

Understand that part of me was just beside myself that I was going to Whole Foods to shop for my…dog. Really. But the other part of me was feeling like a responsible pet owner for caring what goes into the little animal. Perhaps it was putting Cookie to sleep the other day and watching her on the vet table laying her head down one last time which tugged at my heart and made me realize these are more than animals in our house. These animals become our family and friends.

Sniff

I grabbed myself a short cart (whoever invented the short cart – brilliant marketing idea, it makes me feel savvy, hip, speedy, able to dart up and down the aisle with its sleek design that promises nothing but young sexy green short cart wheeled fun) and headed to the pet food aisle.

My first impression was confusion. I looked at the bags of food and thought to myself – what the hell is with the cat pictures on all these bags? Who sells dog food with a picture of a cat? Then it hit me – I was looking at cat food. The dog food was on the next shelf.

Oh.

Feeling not smart enough to be shopping at Whole Foods in the first place, I made up for it by pretending to study each bag. Shortly thereafter I realized I had no idea what I was even looking for. There had to be 5 different choices – some in cans, boxes, big or little bags. I had nothing to go off of except the color of the bag. Which is not really a bad way to choose anything. Kind of like choosing a book for its cover. Or a bike because it’s red (not that I’ve done that). So I found the prettiest bag which ended up being salmon flavored (yes it was for dogs) which sounded disgusting so I put the pretty bag back.

And found myself back to square one staring at a bunch of kibble bags.

Ok, Newman’s Own. I know who Paul Newman is and he makes good spaghetti sauce. So that means he makes good kibble? Wait, what does Paul Newman know about dog food? I decided the answer was not much so I skipped over that brand and found other fun things to look at. Cod Liver Oil pills, treats, green supplements. Part of me really cares about my pet but the other part is thinking – WTF. These are dogs. Did they take cod liver oil in the wild?

Probably not.

So what would they eat? Probably some raw meat. That’s it. I am leaving raw meat around my house and Boss can fend for himself.

Not so sanitary. Plus I’m scared of worms. So I finally settle for a bag of kibble that promises me there are no byproducts – no floor sweepings, no chicken beaks and nothing I wouldn’t want to eat myself (but not proving that theory any time soon).

This morning was the test. Would my prime rib spoiled dog take to his new kibble? Early this morning I scooped the new kibble into the bowl and went downstairs to ride. About 20 minutes later, Chris is standing next to my bike.

“Did you throw kibble all over the kitchen floor?”

Absolutely not. I've done a lot of crazy things in my life but throwing kibble is not one of them.

Chris explains how there is kibble all over the floor and Boss is under the ottoman. It’s his favorite hiding spot – because it’s too small for us to crawl under there and because there is a heating vent that he believes is his own personal electric blanket.

Chris goes back upstairs and I hear a lot of barking. A short while later, his sister, Meredith, appears (she is one of the highlights of Boss’ day; every day she comes over to drive to work with Chris and Boss thinks it’s the best thing since prime rib).

“Chris wanted me to tell you that even with pumpkin Boss does not like his new kibble. He ate off all the pumpkin and pushed the kibble aside.”

DAMMIT! I shop at the fancy pants store for no by product kibble and it turns out he likes chicken beaks and rusty nails instead.

After my ride, I go upstairs. I notice that Boss’ bowl is empty with the remnants of some pumpkin and a few shreds of what I assume was left over filet mignon. Oh for goodness sake. Like he’ll starve if he misses a meal. There are new kibbles scattered on the living room floor which I find sort of odd considering Boss actually had to take them from the bowl in the kitchen to the living room.

And where is Boss? Under the ottoman. Either hiding from me or hiding from his new kibble.

But I’m not backing down. I’ve got an entire 5 pound bag of new kibble and someone is eating it. Someone.

Sigh.

So I will try again tomorrow and depending on how that goes I might be finding creative new ways to add more kibble to my own diet or cleverly disguise each piece in a broth of pumpkin.

It’s just a dog, Liz.

I know.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes

I had the most untasty culinary experience of my life on Saturday night.

I had nothing to do with it (in my defense I make a much better dessert than I do dinner). My mother had nothing to do with it (in her defense she makes damn good Blueberry Buckle). My mother-in-law had nothing to do with it (in her defense…uh…yeah….like at Thanksgiving when I tried the cookies and had to do a napkin hurl and Chris said well what did you expect look at who made them!).

None of that. No – I actually paid money for this.

Saturday night. Time to eat. Again. Do you ever feel this way? Like, must we eat – again? But we have to. If not for survival then to get through the workouts the next day. It’s a holiday week which means the grocery shopping has been neglected for about a week while we sponged off of other people’s holiday tables instead. That left us with a box of withered spinach, a can of pumpkin, some pita chips, lentils and a gallon of milk that I swear has been in the refrigerator for three weeks.

None of that spells dinner so I made a suggestion – let’s go out to eat.

Now you should know something about me. I do not like going out to eat. For one thing, it’s really not healthy for you. Even if they say it is – it’s not. I know this. How? I’ve worked in restaurants. I know that nothing spells flavor like three sticks of butter into a giant vat. Use two and it’s low fat. Another thing, I really don’t like other people touching my food. I get REALLY freaked out at the idea of someone touching something that I will eat. Why? Because I know that my hygiene in the kitchen is marginal at best. There is a dog. Sometimes I pet him. Then I cook. Notice a step missing? Right, wash your hands.

Not a big fan of the eating out.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. So I suggest we not only go out but we try something new. The sirens should have gone off right there. You see, to get around my fear of eating out, I stick with my safe places, about 4 restaurants that I can rely upon to sell me somewhat tasty, consistent and moderately priced food. I order the same thing to keep my anxiety low and satisfaction high. I know that there is no such thing as a safe place but work with me here – I have found 4 places that I think are ok.

Tonight I say to Chris that I want salad. I want a giant salad with lots of good stuff. I love salad. Eat it every day but not your namby pamby lettuce leaves, tomatoes and crouton salad. No, I like a hearty, fancy pants if you will, salad. Give me a bed of spinach, grilled chicken, sliced avocado, mango chunks, greek yogurt, cinnamon – more than just a bunch of leaves, I'll make salad into a meal.

Usually when I want a meal-type salad we go to Whole Foods. Sure it’s overpriced but if you hit it at the right time you have some tasty and fresh choices on their salad bar. Go too late at night and you get crusty overcooked remnants. Most of the time, though, it’s decent and worth it. How often can you get rosemary roasted harvest vegetables in your salad? Grilled tempeh? Cranberry couscous? Not often – that’s what makes it worth going to.

For some reason I’m feeling risky tonight. I say to Chris – let’s not pay 30 bucks for salads at Whole Foods. Let’s try something new. How about ___________(enter name of restaurant that shall remain unnamed)? I don’t know – I drive by it often enough and the sign looks nice. It looks healthy. And it is a place for salad. So why not?

GarbleGRRRR(#$()@#*($)#($)(#*@(!!!

The first thing that should have tipped me off was grabbing a tray. Ok. But I play along. I come to a bowl of spinach. Fair enough. I like my dark leafy greens. Then I come to your standard fare salad vegetables. Things like green peppers, cucumbers, broccoli and mushrooms. At this point I’m getting a little confused. This is all nice but I had envisioned a mecca for salad. You don’t call yourself a salad restaurant and put carrot shreds on the salad bar. I expected things like grilled chicken, balsamic roasted vegetables, fruits, nuts, special cheeses – things you might actually go out to a restaurant to pay money for to put on top of a salad.

Right?

Instead I find sunflower seeds next. Garbanzo beans. Peas? Cheddar cheese? The freak out is starting. This is not good. Buckets of dressing. Low fat ranch. BARF ICK ACK! LOW FAT RANCH!??!

I just realized I have possibly walked unknowingly into the salad version of Old Country Buffet.

It gets worse. There is no chicken. No meat. No fish. No non-meat meatless substitutes. But but but but but where is the tempeh? The sesame tofu? But…..harvest vegetables? No walnuts?

I wanna go to Whole Foods! (I’m gonna throw my tray, really, try me, I’ll throw it…far)

But I can’t. I’ve got the tray and I just happened to slide it right in front of the cash register. Meanwhile, Chris has piled two dishes high with what looks like picnic food – creamy salads with potatoes and macaroni and…get me a napkin. I need to do the napkin hurl.

I pay for this stuff. It costs over twenty dollars. You are kidding. I might have said that. I also might have grabbed the wrong beverage cup. Apparently you can only drink water out of the blue cup not the clear cup. I was told this twice. When I finally realized the mistake I made I just said “gotcha” and put my clear cup back.

Sorry.

It gets better. There is a bar full of soup (rule #239879384 of eating out: never ever eat soup on a buffet bar). There is a baked potato bar (do those really still exist?). A pizza bar (no comment). A pasta bar (do one thing and do it right – is this a salad place or a potato/soup/pasta/pizza place?). And, as if all of this wasn’t enough to make you want to go back for seconds or thirds….there it is:

Vanilla pudding

Someone call for help. I am eating at a place that considers vanilla pudding a high demand item. And it’s not my dad’s nursing home.

Before I get to all of those good eats I hunt for protein. Besides garbanzo beans there MUST be a source of protein here. Grilled chicken. It is nowhere. Did I look desperate or crazy when I mumbled NO CHICKEN to one of salad bar-rettes? (really what do you call someone that replenishes canned soup and peas on a salad bar) – because he said the chicken is over there.


Oh. There. I realize I didn’t see it because it is in little plastic cups with a label that says $1.25. You have to pay extra for 6 little pieces of (cold and rubbery) grilled chicken? So what exactly did I pay 10 bucks for? Oh, right. Having the choice of not one but two types of croutons. I cut in the line (don’t make me throw my tray at you), bought my chicken and sat down.

Chris meanwhile is in buffet heaven. So much that he tells me he has big plans for going up for vanilla pudding. He has about 10 different salads that he is trying – commenting that the tuna one is not so good. REALLY!?! I am scowling. I am concerned I will get salmonella, botulism, hepatitis C, strep, if not bird flu from eating at this place. I can feel myself getting sick already. Germs. Bacteria. The guy – him! – the salad bar-rette, I know he did not wash his hands! Chris tells me not to worry. The only thing that I could possibly get sick from is the spinach or mushrooms.

BOTH OF WHICH ARE PILED HIGH ON MY PLATE!

In my head I am plotting to wash my mouth out with Windex when I get home for cleansing when I notice something to my right. It’s a woman rubbing her hands with antibacterial Purex. Excuse me, ma’am – you do know that you are eating at a salad bar. A place where people touch things, scoop things and change their mind about things all while breathing maybe drooling all over those same things that are on your plate? And what will Purex do for THAT on your hands!? Cover the entire dish in Purex. Be super safe. And when you’re done with it, hand it over so I can rinse it in my mouth!

Chris distracts me with conversation but all I can see is a sign that says “cottage cheese” at the bar in front of me. And then…it comes into view…it can’t be…oh my god it is…a soft serve ice cream machine.

I haven’t sat in a place with a soft serve ice cream machine since I lived in a college dorm. Do you remember eating in the dining halls? A place with so many choices that were just so wrong that you lived for two straight years on nothing but Golden Grahams (true story)? A place so wrong that you got yourself a job in the catering department just so you had a fair chance at edible food each weekend as you hoped there would be leftovers from the receptions? A place where if you were feeling risky on a Friday night you would switch from Golden Grahams to Crackling Oat Bran (really high fiber on a Friday night is NOT a good idea).

Does anyone else remember that?

I do. All too well. I still cannot touch a Golden Graham.

I look around and realize it’s not just like the dining hall, it’s like a high school lunchroom. There are trays, counters and lots of noise. The only thing that is missing is a rack holding Little Debbie’s and a really large woman wearing a hair net and holding a spoon.

Help?

Then it hits me. What’s really bothering me here. It’s standard crap food guised under the cloak of “healthy for you”. It’s once again giving people what they want (permission to be bad) and making them feel all good and green about it. The place was literally covered in “it’s healthy for you!” signs. Sure, it is but then finish it with Cranberry Apple Cobbler and wash it all down with pink juice and….no. And when was the last time a healthy salad was covered in cheddar cheese, bacon bits and ranch? It’s like an edible oxymoron and it costs over 20 bucks. Not saying that any of my “safe places” are any better but I sure do feel a lot better under their cloak of “healthy for you” than surrounded by tray clatter, sprinkles and all you can drink Pomegranate juice made with organic green tea.

What?

At that moment, Chris comes back with a bowl full of vanilla pudding. We make a pact – never to return again. I make a pact to myself – grocery store tomorrow to buy all of the things I like to eat. Another pact – wash my hands, a lot. And the next time I want a salad away from home - I’m sticking to my safe place.

Can we go now?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Full of Festivus

Tomorrow will surely be a holiday hangover.

Yes, I indulged on many levels with all things chocolate and…chocolate…and…I am not sure if there is a piece of chocolate in a 10 mile radius that I have not eyed or touched today. It is 9:40 pm and still I find myself craving more…chocolate.

My motto was it only happens once a year – Christmas that is – so might as well get while the getting is good. And while there is a smorgasboard of chocolate in front of me. There was. Really. It was sick – it was like every form of torture was placed on a table within my reach – box chocolate, chocolate covered cookies, chocolate chip cookies and damn Meredith made buckeyes.

They were really, really good.

You know that movie Four Christmases? In the past few years my life has been Five Christmases. In a 24 hour period, Chris and I would start at Uncle Bill’s on Christmas Eve. Up to his parent’s house on Christmas morning, my mom’s house Christmas mid morning, my dad’s Christmas early afternoon only to finish up at Aunt Denise’s on Christmas night. Count them – F.I.V.E. Christmases.

That’s a lot of festivus.

This year we – like good little swimmers – (well, not really good swimmers but you get the point) – clasped our hands over head and streamlined off the wall. A streamlined, sleeker Christmas. We atteneded three Christmases which we decided was really quite nice. And just as festive as five.

There were no workouts today which made Christmas even more of a festival of fatty fat foods and chocolate. I know that no workout days should be low calories days but…but…once a year.

ONCE A YEAR!

It was my present to myself – indulgence.

Cheers!

Speaking of presents, there were many – thank you mom – for yet again giving me the Christmas every 6 year old dreams of. I’m 33 and I get showered with gifts that I still think Santa brings on his sleigh. My mom is crazy into Christmas in a way that makes Santa look weak. In her next career she will be Santa’s personal shopper and put him to shame.

Chris and I do not exchange gifts. We even confirmed this the other day. Yet every year he has a gift for me. This year it was a new IPod. I have been told that now I need to buy him a new IPod to make the gift giving circle complete.

But I thought we didn’t do gifts?

Everyone gathered at Aunt Denise’s house tonight. Thor and Boss wrestled each other until they collapsed in respective corners on the couch. Mr. Tom got a new book about trains. I tried on Meredith’s 6 inch heels and for the first time in my 33 years I could see what was actually on top of the mantle. My husband fell asleep on the couch after too much liquid holiday cheer. Uncle Mike fed Boss prime rib but at least he asked permission first. Betty exclaimed that she ate too much. Frank and Thor wore matching Christmas sweaters too.

The buffet table was everything a classic Christmas should have. There was meat, potatoes, casserole, a creamy salad and puppy chow. If you don’t know what puppy chow is you do not know what you are missing. It ties Buckeyes for perhaps the most perfect form of junk food.


I thought about stealing baby Jesus from the nativity scene but really was more interested in the sheep. There had to be 6 sheep and they were so small and white and cute…..until I found this. Something much easier to steal and way more versatile than a ceramic sheep. I found myself a new crazy hat...

Then in an ironic twist of really I should just learn to keep my mouth shut – I opened this:


This, my friends, is an Irish Santa in a canoe. With a Christmas tree. When Denise saw it she just laughed because it wasn’t…a snowman and the non-snowman in the canoe was wearing a Shamrocked-hat.

I couldn’t help myself but to say but I’m not Irish.

Doesn’t matter. I am now.

I’ve decided this ornament reminds me of what Christmas is all about – good times, good laughs and memories. Even though it’s not a snowman, it will make it on my tree. Perhaps even a prime real estate spot on a front branch of the tree just because.

Tomorrow is back to the real world. No more holiday. No Christmas sweaters. No more gifts. But with one last final hurrah next week – New Years Eve before we can sweep 2008 behind us and move on from here.

I am ready for that.

It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy looking back – for all good and not-so-good things are always lessons learned – it’s just that it’s so much more exciting to look ahead. A year of possibility, renewal, hope, 12 months of what ifs and what could be.

Until then, happy post-Festivus everyone. Hope you had a magical day of Wii's, iPhones, race wheels, Lulumon, Garmins and whatever else Santa gifted to you.

(and if anyone saw Santa, did you happen to notice if he was wearing an Irish hat?)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Balanced Thoughts

Friday night I found myself at yoga again.

It’s becoming a guilty pleasure to end the week with yoga. At the end of the class I find myself laying in a dark room with a little mat like a kindergartner on a carpet square hungry for a nap. I do the shavasan and again nearly fell asleep until the teacher sounded the bell.

Not kidding – she has a bell.

Anyways, this week’s class was a series of back stretches and one very, very hard pose but not nearly as painful as pigeon pose. Pigeon pose last week = evil. Half moon pose this week = hard but dammit I was going to win. The teacher warned at the start of class that yoga is not about competition (was she speaking right to me?) but come on, it’s December – I have to put the competitive urge somewhere that won’t bite me in the ass come April.

I’ve noticed when it comes to balancing on one leg I can kick half the class’ ass. This is important to me again because I need to put that competitive rage somewhere and if I can do it on one leg – all the better for me. Mustn’t fatigue both legs. I have learned that my tree pose is where’s it’s at. I can turn myself into a mean, well-rooted tree. Perhaps it was 7 years working at a tree museum that I became more tree like. Or perhaps my ability to balance on one leg is a sign that in life I am balanced but I also know that saying that would be complete crap. Balance is a work in progress. Maybe next time I feel overwhelmed by things I will stick my leg up like a flamingo to prove that I can balance and be ok.

That would work. Right?

Somewhere in the middle of standing tree pose and extending arms overhead to become a taller tree, the instructor said something that struck me:

Holding on is harder than letting go.

Of course she was referring to the fact that curling your toes and gritting your teeth to stabilize yourself is really harder than just engaging your abdominals, standing strong from your core and letting go. But it struck me as something you could draw out to the rest of life.

Try it. Try it now. Stand tall and correct your posture. Tuck your pelvis under, pull your shoulders back and draw your abdominals down. Now look at yourself. Are you clenching your butt cheeks? Are you straining in your back? Loosen all of this – and let go. You can achieve the same strong posture without the strain. And when you strain less you free up more attention for other thoughts or actions.

Let it go.

Holding on is so costly in terms of physical and emotional energy. How many habits, patterns or behaviors have you held on to this year? How many worked? How many didn’t work but you kept them anyways because it’s easier? Yet how many things worthwhile in life are easy? So what is it that you fear about change?

Or is your resistance to change there because change involves “work”? Work that requires reflecting on yourself, admitting your flaws, accepting that there is a better way. This is not easy. It involves digging into yourself to find your flaws or peel away the layers to reveal the uglier parts of yourself. At that moment you are entirely exposed and vulnerable.

But if you are strong in yourself and faithful in who you are – you know that this is simply part of the process of improving yourself. How many of you are not willing to give up your illusion of confidence, security and control because of what you know is underneath yourself – the truth, a series of bad habits or attitudes, a resistance to change?

Change is never easy. Uprooting ourselves (get it, like tree pose?) involves discomfort and uncertainty. There are so many unwilling to make a change because of this uncertainty. Often because uncertainty means relinquishing control. It means giving up your hold on your world and trusting it with someone or something else. It means trusting there is a better way. Taking a risk. You hear so many say after a big risk that they got burned. They suffered, so to speak, because of a risk that went wrong or a mistake.

Though the last I checked the only way to get burned is to stick your finger directly into a flame.

Make a change to improve yourself today. Take action! You will not get burned. Even in all the mistakes I have made, I do not regret them. Instead, I look for a lesson. There is always something to be learned. In everything we do, there is so much to be learned in the process – as long as you take as much as you can from it, it’s not a failure. It’s just sort of a painful lesson.

Let go of what you know to search for something else this new year. What is it you want? Personal contentment, athletic success, a better job…what? Decide to do it and move forward to your new place. Along the way there will be failure, success, both of which move you to a better place than if you had just held on to the same place. Because in reaching the new place you are…wiser.

In working closely with athletes in the past year, I find those who progress and reach goals are willing to accept the change and uncertainty that accompanies the process of improvement because they have faith. You can easily spot a potential success by examining someone’s faith in themselves. Success disregards speed, age, V02max...all of this means nothing without faith. Faith is strongly believing in the choices you make and loyalty to yourself. Faith is essentially confidence.

Have you noticed how hard it is for some people to have faith in themselves and the choices they make? Have you ever noticed that people will work terribly hard to tell you all the reasons why they will fail? Or hold on to all of their bad habits or negative beliefs just because it’s easier? Is this you? People will spend energy in writing emails or having conversations filled with 100 reasons why they will not/cannot do this. You know what – I agree! If you are putting all of your energy into why you won’t get somewhere, you won’t get there. You’ll be too busy getting somewhere else – to one of those 100 reasons!

Yet that is so much negative energy and time towards something unproductive. Time and energy that they could have just worked on having more faith in one’s self. But negative energy is easy energy. It doesn’t take much stretching outside of one’s self or change. To truly change something, you must change the energy that creates it. To find yourself in a better place you must change how you will get to that place. Again – change.

Let go.

Years ago someone passed along a saying from Buddha: You cannot travel the path until you become the path itself. We sit on the edge of a new year and so many of us will be seeking success this year. We tell ourselves – it’s another chance! This year I will get there! But we go about it the wrong way. We think it takes a secret workout, a magic bullet, swearing off a particular food group. But it’s not as complicated as that. The answer is right inside yourself. You will not travel the path of success until you truly become a success.

How do you do that? It’s not by an interval you hit in the pool or a certain weight you achieve – it’s by the faith in yourself, confidence in your choices and believing you will get there. Walking the walk, acting as if, waking up and saying – what would a successful person do today?

Again, this probably involves change. Means waking up and changing the way we act, think or talk. Change is so freakin’ hard. It takes vigilance and it freakin’ hurts. Involves some soul searching, self-reflection, and a heck of a lot of honesty. Quieting your mind. Asking questions of yourself. You say “self, what is it you really want?” And then you follow it up with “self, why have you not gotten those things?” There it is. Reality.

Spend a few quiet moments reflecting on the why. The answer is there. Of course it’s there because all of the excuses we make to cover up the root problems are really just one’s way of trying to convince one’s self there isn’t a problem in the first place. If we stopped trying to convince ourselves and just started admitting things would be a lot easier. You’d get a lot further in less time.

I spent my time in college looking for answers to life by burying myself in a book atop a stairmaster or recumbent bicycle. Friday nights I would find myself at 10 pm in the Rec Center spinning away while holding a book in a pen. I scribbled pages of notes with ideas and quotes about meaning in life. Somewhere in my sophomore year probably after hundreds of miles I found Bruyere, a 17th century French moralist.

All of our evils befall us because we cannot be alone: this is what causes gambling, lechery, dissipation, wine, women, ignorance, slander, envy, and what makes us forget ourselves...

Why do I bring this up? Because to truly make change you have to quiet your mind and sit by yourself. Until you do you will just spend time with all sorts of stimulation and chatter that helps you forget yourself. Instead, sit quietly and think it through. Ask yourself the questions and be brave enough to stick around to hear the answer. And then listen. Chances are you hear the answers every day. But you never listen. For once, at the start of this new year listen to yourself.

I must have read a lot of French philosophy that year because I also found this by Pascal:

…man's unhappiness springs from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room.

In my experience, those that succeed have the ability to sit quietly in their own room and experience contentment with themselves and the choices they’ve made. Those who grasp towards but never reach success see the process of improvement (letting go, taking action, having faith) as an endless struggle with themselves. They sit in their room wondering what the person next door is doing. Or wonder if they are sitting the right way. Or how much longer they have to sit. Or if they should be standing instead.

What would you think if you sat quietly in a room? Try it.

Come full circle now back to yoga class. It’s not competitive. It’s not about forcing or holding on. It’s about quieting your mind, letting go and focusing on yourself. Do you need to go to a yoga class to make this happen? Absolutely not. But you can follow the principle. Going to these classes reminds me of the principles and things I discovered reading books so many years ago – that the answers, our future, our successes lie entirely within ourselves. You need not look anywhere else.

Whatever you are seeking this next year, you can get there. You can start today. Begin first by actively pursuing yourself. Sit quietly and ask yourself the questions that you have probably been answering all along – what’s holding you back, what would happen if you made a change, what would it take to get to that new place, what is keeping you from having full faith in yourself. Seek out the answers - and when you find them listen. Then let go of where you are and begin it. Have faith in your choices, learn lessons along the way, keep moving forward without regret.

There’s no better time to start than the new year ahead.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wintry Weekend

If I look at one more picture of the sun or a palm tree on Bree Wee’s blog I will officially start throwing things at her on Facebook.

It’s winter. Wait, I take that back. It’s not even winter yet and there is more than 8 inches of snow in my front yard. We had two major winter storms this week. Really they are late fall not quite winter storms but I think we in Chicago have just had too much craziness to deal with lately so we’re letting the details slide.

Last night an Arctic cold front arrived and left us with minus 6 degrees and a negative 25 degree wind chill this morning. In case you are wondering how that feels – super.

In an effort to make winter more exciting, we in Illinois like our crazy hats. Here’s the latest:




Looking at the picture now I realize I was wearing a bear hat surrounded by an aisle of pills. Those two conditions had nothing to do with each other.

Boss has completely put his middle paw up at late fall/winter. He’s brilliant I say because he’s learned to generalize that a tree is a tree is a tree. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors it’s good enough for going potty by. As ridiculous as it sounds, we implemented a behavior mod program to get him to potty outside that includes lockdown after meals and at night. Along with going outside in snow/sleet/cold wind while singing the “Make – a – The – Potty” song. Sometimes it works, sometimes Boss just sits in the snow carefully lifting one paw at a time to relieve it from the cold while we sing.

Life in winter is so cruel.

In between keeping warm and cursing Illinois we have been busy lately. The holidays are creeping up whether we like it or not and the fact that neither of us has started Christmas shopping is becoming harder to hide from. But we’re holding out, kind of like Boss and the potty we are hiding indoors until Christmas so we are not faced with the need to buy things.

We did get out last night to the annual swim team party. The head coach pulled me aside at the gym yesterday to request that I bring something ‘healthy’. No one else will, she said. Do you know how popular it makes you to walk into a party surrounded by brownies, fudge and booze with a tray of vegetables in your hand?


Not very. But one or two people did walk up to me and say thank you for bringing something healthy. I’m so glad I have that label now – that’s the chick that brought healthy food into holiday food buffet hell.

Curse her.

We missed the memo that said this was a black tie affair. Of course we showed up wearing jeans whereas everyone else was really dressed up. We also missed the memo that the party would be a Wii Bowling Bowl Off. I watched about a dozen adults play Wii for 4 hours straight.

Chris stared to get his drink on (just like Bryan – but unlike Bryan he was not naked at the time) quite early. It was Chris’ turn to drink himself silly. I drank myself silly the other night with my old co-workers. Someone asked why I wasn’t drinking and I told them that. They said but wine is good for you. And I said yes but not when you have 4 glasses. The way I felt the next day was enough to remind me that you overdrink about twice a year. Once because you forget and the next time just because you need to remember.

While Chris was drinking and touching people (he’s kind of a touchy when he talks drunk), I was skittishly eyeing the buffet table waiting for the buckeyes to arrive. I even asked the coach if the person that makes the buckeyes would be there and she said yes. False hope. Or reason for me to check the door every 5 minutes or walk around the buffet table eyeing the sweets.

You don’t understand – buckeyes are the most perfect form of food. Chocolate covered peanut butter balls. They are called buckeyes because – duh – they look like the nuts on buckeyes which actually do look like the eye of a buck. Whatever. They just taste really REALLY good and the moment they walked in the door I would be all over them. You know you’ve got it bad when someone actually mentions that you keep looking at the sweets on the table. I didn’t deny it and told him I could easily clear off the entire table in under an hour.

Meanwhile the party partied on, bowling continued and Chris kept drinking. I do believe the funniest moment of the night was when a small Asian woman that swims on our team asked our friend Beth who is the handsome Asian young man sitting on the couch. Beth looks around and says “Chris?” Then the woman says yes, he would make a nice handsome boyfriend - FOR HER EIGHTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER! Beth tells this woman that Chris is 35 but she still persists. And finally she points me out as Chris’ wife and still persists that Chris would make such a good boyfriend.

Perhaps she missed this….

I call this the "I should have been cut off 3 drinks ago" face. While my husband continued to drink and got man trapped by a conversation involving indoor baseball domes, I took a walk around.

Do you know what this is?


This is me stealing the baby Jesus. Actually I’m not stealing him, I’m just correcting the nativity scene:


For all of your non-Christians out there, this is a nativity scene. Growing up, my grandma had a similar scene that she would set up on top of her television every year. Of course the manger would remain empty until Christmas morning. As kids we would sit there wondering when baby Jesus would arrive which looking back I find hilarious because it’s not like he showed up on the same day every freakin’ year. Still, the element of surprise was never underrated and Christmas morning there he was snug in the manger by immaculate arrival of my Grandmother’s hand.

I did end up putting baby Jesus back. Recently I heard stealing baby Jesus is a lot more common than you think. In fact, in the city they started putting GPS tracking devices into the baby Jesus for if he got stolen. I’m not sure what you would do with a stolen baby Jesus but it is an area that Trakkers could consider growing into for the off season. Rather than tracking triathletes you could track stolen baby Jesus’.

Just an idea.

The buckeyes never did arrive and by 11:30 pm I was tired of waiting. I pulled my drunken husband away from flirting with Anwar and Jackie and drove home. Boss was still on protest and decided to hold it until the next morning. And he is still holding it. I wonder how long he can hold it before it just explodes right back out his mouth? We have tried many times to get him to go outside protected by his favorite sweater.


The look on his face says it all: get this f-in nancy-ass sweater off of me. N.O.W.

Today I might not leave the house. Why? Because an episode of Home Improvement is unfolding right before me. I will watch Chris do house repairs. He just pulled this out:


Do you know what this is? You could tell by Chris' hand that he couldn't believe I didn't know what it was. Uh, yeah. You should know that when it is turned on a little red light shines and it makes a humming noise. Any guesses? A lantern. A French press. A fly zapper.

All wrong.

This, as I was just informed, is a level.

And this is my husband trying to “prove” his theory that the ceiling is crooked.



This is what engineers do on really cold days. I suppose this is also how you cure a hangover. You do something so mind numbingly dorky that it cancels out the pounding in your head.

As you can tell, it is going to be a five star day around the house. Getting the small dog to crap. Proving the ceiling is crooked. Putting away laundry. You all can keep you beautiful beach pictures and surfboards. Around these parts we know how to really seize the day.

But wait - it gets better. Chris told me my task today is to go to the pet store to buy Boss some booties. The last time we went to the pet store, I got a little off track.


Who needs booties when you could have these fabulous antlers on your head? Of course they really don’t do much to keep you warm but they are so cute!

I know, I know. The day will possibly be so exciting that we’re going to have to save some of this stuff until tomorrow. But as for today, if we still have time left, we might just go steal a baby Jesus.

We’ll see.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rules of the Gym

‘Tis the season to spend a lot of time at the gym.

Yoga, strength training, treadmills, spinning, masters, pilates classes of sudden core muscle death…all at the gym.

I love the gym. I walk in and I feel like I’ve found my mothership. The whir of the machines, the bright lights, the sound of weight plates lifting up and down. It’s a language that I can speak and understand no matter where I travel in the world. Makes me feel right at home every single time.

But when you spend enough time there – like every single day – you start to become aware of the little things. The grunters, the excessively naked people in the locker room, band aids in the pool. These little things add up to big annoyances that make you want to scream or run away.

Since many of you are likely spending time in the gym, too, I thought I’d put together a survival guide for the gym. I’ve found myself in all sorts of awkward situations in the gym and it makes me feel better to know that someone, somewhere might learn from it and not have to experience the same.

Here goes…

Rule #1: Even though you are a cyclist, you are a not a spinner. Spin class is really just a place where pent up, overzealous people who are tolerant of having a sweaty person within 1 inch of them sit for an hour and sweat it out. The goal is to simply see how high your heart rate goes before you implode or how fast your legs can spin without losing a crank. Do not attempt to spin unless you are ready to exceed zone 5c for the entire time. And understand no matter how fast you spin your legs to get away from the sweaty man next to you – you will never be able to drop him. You got people right on your wheel the entire time. So much for draft-free.

Rule #2: Nudity and conversations do not mix. It is never appropriate to engage someone in conversation when naked. Lucky for me, I seem to be a magnet for this. There I am attempting to covertly dress myself under a towel big enough to cover a two year old and someone asks me about my lotion or when I learned to swim. At that point, I lose my grip on the world’s smallest towel and I’m talking about something from Bath and Body Works with all my goodies hanging out. I don’t want to come across as rude but I also don’t like the awkward energy that seems to happen between two people when one is COMPLETELY NAKED and talking.

Rule #3: Beware the (non)psychostalker. It’s happened to you, you just don’t know it yet. A friend was showing me how to use the cable machine the other day. Meanwhile, we notice someone off to the corner watching us. We do a few more moves and that someone is still there. I take my turn – still there. Finally I make eye contact with her and I ask if she’s waiting for the machine. She replies with a “no, and I’m not stalking you.” Thanks. Because it didn’t look like you were ready to pounce and come in for the kill or anything. Remember, nothing says psychostalker like admitting you are not one in the first place.

Rule #4: Avoid anything with the word “hot” preceding it. For example, hot yoga. Hot tub. Hot stone massage (think about it: you are probably paying good money to have someone’s pet rock microwaved and rubbed all over you). Hot boys in the gym (if they are hot and in the gym chances are they are half your age – for legal reasons, stay away). And, if your husband is being courted by a hot high school swim instructor half his age in the hot tub – do not attempt to stop it. Instead, every time you enter the hot tub tease him about his hot tub hottie for…..oh about the next 4 years.

Rule #5: Anyone holding a clipboard has no idea what they are doing. Enough said.

Rule #6: 10 televisions going in the place and none that have anything you are remotely interested in watching. Golf? Can you think of any quicker way to make people hate exercise even more than most already do? Soap operas? Seriously? I used to work in a men’s prison and they would watch soap operas all afternoon. Need I make more of an analogy? Oh, and the treadmill with the television 3 inches from your face? Not a good idea no matter how tempting it sounds.

Trust me.

Rule #7: Realize and accept that anything but swimming has top priority in the swimming pool. There is no sense in arguing this with the aquatics teacher. If you choose to ignore the teacher you can expect to have the lane line pulled right over you while swimming. If you choose to argue the logic of taking up 2 entire lanes for 4 people not swimming in the swimming pool you have just wasted 10 minutes where you could have just exited the pool and hopped on the treadmill instead. In other words, you will not win.

Rule #8: Don’t laugh at the old people in the therapy pool. One day that will be you.

Rule #9: Just say no to the steam or dry sauna. Both are hot boxes of hell. Enter the steam room – first clue that you should not go in – you can’t see inside. Second clue – there’s a sign on the door that says no shaving, no nudity. As for the dry sauna – it looks like no one is in there then you go inside to find a strange man laying on the bench covered in towels, wearing a heart rate monitor and squirting himself with a water bottle every 5 minutes. Sound the creepy siren and get the hell out.

Rule #10: 280 lockers and guaranteed that someone will be RIGHT next to you when you are at yours.

Rule #11: You are allowed to hate anyone that brings their own yoga mat, blanket, special socks, a block, a belt, an extra shirt for Shavasan all to just go in to a room and…stretch.

Rule #12: It doesn’t matter if what they are doing doesn’t make sense, really won’t work or will eventually kill them. If they believe it works, they will keep doing it. This includes the man doing jumping jacks in the dry sauna. The guy climbing the stepmill backwards. Or the guy swimming 25s while grunting (how do you grunt and swim) in a style that makes you want to jump in an perform rescue breathing.

Rule #13: Can we talk about bench hogs? You have 20 lockers in a cubicle-like area and a bench big enough for two people to sit on. Correction: a bench big enough for one woman, her towel and her gym bag. As she sits on the towel while taking off her socks – carefully – you stand there trying to find everything in your gym bag on the floor when all of a sudden the world’s smallest towel falls off of you and once again you are naked with your bare ass right in front of her face. Right then she asks what lotion you are putting on.

Awkward conversation involving nudity – yet again.

Rule #14: You have the right to be disgusted by Cheerios in the locker room sink. First explain to me how someone felt it was even hygienic to eat in the locker room. Then how they thought it was acceptable to pour Cheerios into the sink. Lastly, answer me why a grown adult was eating Cheerios in the first place.

Rule #15: Do not expect clean conversation on the basketball court. The men playing have no idea that the curtain separating you from them is not a concrete wall. What they say and do will be broadcast to the entire gym no matter what type of sign is posted. Also you should not do sit ups near the curtain or you risk being steamrolled by a grown man that has gone out of bounds. And if he has his shirt off (ick), it’s kind of like being naked steamrolled – something you’d rather not talk about.

Rule #16: All of the bitter, angry people in the world are right now collected in your gym’s pool. That has just been my experience.

Rule #17: Don’t fool yourself – cleanliness and your gym’s pool do not co-exist. I was once politely reminded (scolded) not to wear street shoes on to the pool deck because what is on your shoes goes into the pool. Yeah, like what is in the pool in the first place is sparkly clean. Have these people any idea how many people are peeing in the pool? And when was the last time you showered before you got in? The person that complains might as well lick my shoe. I’m just saying don’t complain about what is on my feet or on the pool deck because what’s on most everyone’s body is probably 10 times more disgusting.

Rule #18:
The mirrors in the weight room are for checking yourself out. Duh.

Rule #19: No matter how tempting – never, ever pick up a gym magazine. Like a man’s socks once they enter the laundry basket, the journey is long from done. That magazine will – within a week – catch someone’s sweat on a bike, become someone’s tissue on the stepmill, used as an eye cover in the steam room, lose about 10 pages from dry heat crinkles in the sauna, and if that’s not enough, get turned by the hands of dozens of sweaty people that probably didn’t wash their hands after eating Cheerios out of a baggie in the lockerroom.

Rule #20: And most importantly. If you see me there, I am not looking for my soulmate in the hot tub. I found mine years ago sitting on the side of the hot tub and every week for a year he wooed me into thinking we were meant to be. Maybe it was heatstroke, maybe I should have followed rule #4 and avoided anything hot in the first place. But I’m pretty sure my hot tub hottie and I were eventually meant to be. Because, after all, I married him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dear Santa

The other day, I got a message in my spam box called:

Custom Santa Letters

At that point, it hit me.

I have been a very bad girl.

I forgot to write my letter to Santa for the year.

Perfect. As if life wasn’t expensive enough I’m going to have to express air ship my Santa letter to the freakin’ North Pole. You’d think an elf would get discounts on things like this but no such luck. Turns out that elves that escape their toy assembly line life to become more important things like a multisport coach or an orthodontist are definitely frowned upon.

I’m paying full price.

Seeing as I’m already behind, I better get writing. So here goes…

Dear Santa,

(wait, scratch that)

Dear nondenominantional non religious possibly overmedicated because he is so happy love-me-as-a-large man in a red velour suit with a pair of fabulous black patent leather boots,

(yes, dear him)

I am writing to tell you I have been a very good girl. I know that may have come into question from time to time most notably from my husband (for the record he has never taken the time to write you a letter) and secondly from my mom (really, I do not screen my phone calls no matter what she says).

Take my word for it, Santa. I've been good. Really good.

And because I have been good I think I deserve things. Who am I kidding, Santa. I cannot tell a lie. I deserve a shitload of things. I’ve been so good this year that they’re thinking of sending bad people to me instead of jail. I’ve been so good maybe you should be writing a letter to me.

(waiting)

All right Santa, I’ll cut to the chase. I need a few things. I am writing them in no particular order (but you might want to consider #1 the most important to me):

#1 – Fat free peanut butter cups made with sugar AND whole milk. I realize you might think I am confusing you with god but I thought I would at least see what kind of pull you have with the big guy on this. Also if you could make an Extra Big Cup from Reeses that would be great because one Big Cup is never enough.

#2 – Swimming on the 1:15 interval. Not coming in on 1:15, I'm looking to send off on 1:15. Easy you say? Then take this: long course meter pool. I would be willing to give up peeing in the pool for a year if you could just help me with the 1:15 send off.


#3 – Porn star boobs. I don’t know. I just thought they might come in handy.

#4 – A wife to do things. What things? Something. Anything. Ok, everything. Santa I needs me a wife. She must be able to clean, walk the dog, check the mail, grocery shop and look pretty too. I can do all of these things or divide them up with husband but it’s much more fun to have someone else do it all and look pretty while also making it look easy. Only a wife can do this. Send me one!

#5 – Research that supports this statement: Egg Nog surpasses low fat chocolate milk as recovery drink.

#6 – My own barista in my own kitchen asking me EVERY morning “what size” or “how hot” or “do you need more”.

#7 – A feedbag to go with my saddlebags.

#8 – A chocolate river in my backyard like the one in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. If you have room, riverbanks lined with money trees (dream big, right?). Better yet – I just thought of this one – a coffee river. Dark roast please.

#9 – For all of my darling friends that live in states like Arizona, California and Florida to stop writing things on their blogs like “it was below 50 degrees this morning and I was so cold.” Stop it. Stop it now or Santa will send you what cold feels like. Santa, send them ice! It was 7 degrees this morning with a minus 10 windchill and it was so cold that my dog wouldn’t go out to crap, my car was (and still is) iced shut. And, Santa, is it really necessary to the temperature to fall below 32 degrees? Isn’t freezing just freezing and once you are frozen you are cold what is the point of rubbing it in?

7 degrees. Santa. SEVEN!

#10 – For Chris McCormack to please stop popping up as People You May Know on Facebook because it’s way too tempting to request his friendship and I feel like that would be the beginning of the end – a slippery slope of stalking fast guys and hotties to become my friends and where would it stop Santa? WHERE WOULD IT STOP? I’ll tell you how it would stop Santa, just deliver one hottie (your choice) down my chimney on Christmas Eve and we'll call it even.

#11 – Santa I wanted to keep this to 10 items but I just need too many things this year. Call it greed but you know I do live in Illinois so it comes with my territory. And so I ask you for my final thing: immaculate birthing. I don’t mean to get all religious on you but ’tis the season. Santa if I could just generate the baby without going through the process it would greatly please my entire family and get everyone the heck off my…ovaries.

Thank you.

By the way Santa, it was great to see you the other day. You were looking a little glum at Petsmart but I understand. Posing for 5 hours with a bunch of dogs can’t be the best gig but in these tough economic times you do what you gotta do. And sometimes that includes a little puppy breath and doo doo, eh? Well you made Boss feel like the most handsome and special little dog around (because he is). Perhaps you remember the small Chihuahua with wheat-colored fur and his fashionable Christmas sweater? He also smelled like oatmeal after a lovely morning bath with oatmeal shampuppypoo. He took that bath just for you! I know you had to sit through 20 photos but he did his best to smile for the camera. Really.

Let me say this, though - when he asked for his manhood back for Christmas and you laughed, well, Santa – that wasn’t very nice.

One last thing Santa. Not only do I have things I want. And a small dog. But I have a husband too. I asked Chris what he wanted from Santa. He said these three things; (1) for Liz to be happy, (2) a coffee maker, and (3) a healthy knee.

And here I was thinking he would say porn star boobs.

So much for knowing someone.

See you soon Santa,

ho ho ho

Liz

Friday, December 12, 2008

(A) Yogi Is Not A Bear

I’ve been doing yoga.

(go ahead, laugh)

Years ago, I went to Iyengar Yoga with my mom. It was ok – I mean we got all stretchy, quiet and pensive at times. But it was just….stretching. It was just yoga.

Since then I’ve avoided it. Mostly because I stretch on my own and I avoid being in situations where you're supposed to pretend like you're all quiet and by yourself when really you are in a big cold room surrounded by 20 other people all making weird breathing noises and the occasional….toot.

Really, I heard it. It happened one time.

And it wasn't me!

Enter 2009. I figured it would be good for me to stretch a little more. And relax.

I started two weeks ago. Went to what I would call a yoga class that changed my life. In a word it was awesome. The instructor, the music, the stretches. It was everything you wanted yoga to be. It made me want to go back for more. It utterly kicked my ass and had me shaking at times but overall it was peaceful and restorative. The class ended with the instructor bowing her head and saying:

Honor yourself and honor your practice

And that saying gave me chills. It wasn’t about going faster or farther, it was about bringing it back to myself, inside myself and just letting me be. For an hour.

I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to go next. So I tried another yoga class. Our gym has a class called “Fitness Yoga” that takes place nearly 3 times a day. The only difference is the instructor. So the next class had a new instructor. I will call them Fidel.

This was militant yoga. No sooner did we get into Downward Dog than we were into Warrier Pose, Child Pose, Cobra, Tree and finding our Downward Dog again.

BREATHE!

I got so confused and it moved so fast that at one point I just stopped. I sat on the mat. The bright lights, the constant commands, the coldness of the room. This isn’t yoga. This is a high intensity stretch led by communist Fidel.

No thanks!

Not only that but the yoga mat really smelled. I even got up to get another one in the middle of the class and it smelled too. So every time I had to touch the mat I freaked out because it smelled. Then I had to lay on the stanky thing and started to get really anxious that I would smell like the mat and that totally ruined the entire relax and breathe experience for me.

I’m getting my own yoga mat.

Then I attended yoga tonight. I brought Chris along. I was a little leary since my last experience but once again this was a new instructor so I had nothing to lose. Other than a hamstring from being overstretched.

The class was taught by a Scottish woman. I realized she was Scottish because she kept saying the word “belly” like Fat Bastard in Austin Powers when he said “GET INTO MY BEH-LEE!”

We were using our beh-lees. A lot.

Chris was on the mat in front of me and there we were in the remedial side of the room. Why? Because I realized I was surrounded by all men. Not that men can’t do yoga but they’ve got the blocks, the blankets, the bands, two mats and they still cannot reach their toes. And, you know because of this the instructor has an extra watchful eye on this side of the room.

Great.

We spend what feels like an entire day working on our breathing. Breathing in one-third, two-third, three-third. Somewhere along the way the math got off but this is yoga and we cannot talk so….whatever. Fine. Three-thirds it is. Whatever I’m bored. When do we stretch?

The instructor then reminds us to empty our heads of the thoughts of the day. Let them go. Not ignore them just push them aside for the time. To focus on the practice on the mat. To practice with intent.

What is your intent today?

I realize it’s rhetorical but I want to answer. She says that we do all things in life with intent. Why are you doing this? To concentrate on your purpose. To better yourself. What if I just want to stretch? Not good enough. I want to feel better about myself? Nope. I want to be grounded? Balanced and take time to stretch my mind out?

YES!

We start with the downward dog. Ok, yes, yes, I know this one. Next? Turns out that you do Downward Dog in yoga about 100 times each class. It’s a neutralizer. It brings you back to yourself. I get kind of tired of doing it but I play along.

Then we go through a series of stretches. The cues roll out of her mouth like there is a recording in her head that guides us along from pose to pose, shooting ankle back to knee forward to reaching arm over ahead. All this while she does the poses herself. Meanwhile I am shaking at times and struggling at others.

And then we reach the pigeon pose. We spend at least 5 minutes in this pose and you should know that a yoga minute is twice as long as a real minute. When I finally feel like my inner thigh will disconnect from my pelvis I sit on my mat and pick at my toe. Chris is still folded in pigeon pose along with the rest of the class. Then the instructor says:

“What comes into your mind when in pigeon pose? How you deal with the pain here is how you deal with things in life.”


Well that’s just great. I gave up on pigeon pose and instead picked my toe which apparently is a metaphor for my life. Here I am trying to do the ONE thing that doesn’t require evaluation against a clock, power meter or pace and I fail. How do you fail at yoga!?

I quickly get back into pigeon pose.

The instructor must have realized my willingness to just stop and pick my toe so she’s all over me. And Chris. All of a sudden she’s fixing my 200th downward dog (press your palms into the mat) and making Chris elongate his arms. If I’m suffering, he’s in the downright downward pain because he’s about 50% less flexible than I am. And we both did core yesterday.

Ouch.

We spend 90 minutes stretching and twisting and breathing before it’s finally time for corpse pose. It has some name that sounds like Sha-Na-Na which by the way was a fabulous show that I watched growing up. Weren’t Lenny and Squiggy part of it? Or were they strictly on Laverne and Shirley? Anyways, can you see where my mind wanders and why yoga is good for me?

Or bad?

We are laying like corpses now and the instructor closes the lights. She is talking at us in a quiet whisper of cues to shut our body down. Somewhere along the way I believe I started lucid dreaming about bike workouts and Jeff Keil. Jenni, dear, I’m not out to take your husband but he and I exchanged emails today about a bike workout and I guess it really stuck with me because when I finally emptied my mind I found it filling up with bike workouts, Jeff Keil and the sound of a bell…

Bell? School time? Dinner bell? Should I salivate? Oh, the instructor is ringing a bell to wake us up. How long was I out? And how inappropriate would it have been to wake around with my eyes closed in a zombie pose stepping on everyone’s mats?

Totally.

We finish with an “ohm” and a Namaste. Honoring ourselves and our practice.

I’m sore, stretched, grounded and relaxed. I’m going to go back. To do a few more downward dogs and to hang out a little while longer in pigeon pose.

Plus I need a few more lessons from the mat. What you learn on the mat you take outside into the real world. There's more to be learned on the mat.

And for the record I am getting my own mat so it's not as smelly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh Fudge

…except he didn’t say fudge.

He actually dropped the f-bomb more than a few times.

I'm talking about our good old governor, Rod R. Blagojevich (pronounced “not – to – be – trusted – with – his – mom’s – credit – card – let – alone – the – finances – of - the – entire – state – of – Illinois"). Maybe you – like me – have always wondered what the “R” stood for as you drove under his most brilliant invention – the I Pass lane.

Who knew the “R” in the middle stood for “ruh-roh”.

He is our new Illinois golden boy. Correction: our new Illinois f*cking golden boy. Why? Turns out he was *allegedly* (innocent until proven guilty despite giant report that is chock full of colorful language suggesting otherwise), that's right allegedly trying to sell Obama’s senate chair.

What? What? Like that’s wrong?

The seat would go to the highest bidder. What would be your bid? I bid 10 bucks just to sit in the chair. Does that count? Not enough? Fine, I'll give you 20 to rub my tushy in the seat for a minute. 30 if you'll let me sit there for more than a minute to feel all smart and political. Another 10 to shout something inappropriate into the microphone, something like I could get 150,00 bucks for this seat on Ebay.

Huzzah!

Applesauce informed me that maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe he was literally trying to sell the chair. Like you would sell a chair from Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. As in, here sat Obama’s ass now give me 150,000 bucks. Yeah, something like that. In that case I was thinking about selling my kitchen chair. As in, here sat my ass every day and though I have done nothing politically great – yet – just give it time. The worth of this K-Mart kitchen table chair will grow.

Trust me (wink, don't trust me because I am from Illinois).

Times like this I love living in Illinois. It's like a guilty pleasure because there is always something dramatically political and morally defunct going on. It is, after all, the windy city. There’s a lot of hot air blowing around and always something corrupt. If it’s not Stroger saying something he really shouldn’t have said but doesn’t know any better because he pays other people to know things for him and sometimes there is a delay….if it’s not him then it’s any of the other political wahoos that seem to stick to this city like shit to flypaper. Or is it flies to shit?

Can’t recall.

Anyways, so allegedly Mr. Governor decides that since Obama’s seat is now vacant he can maybe make a buck. A big buck. Otherwise how is he going to fund his campaign. Or his nonfat nowhip extra hot venti 5 shot decaf soy sugar free ginger snap latte. Not that he orders that drink but why else could he possibly need $150,000?

(thinking)

I know....hair care. Can you imagine how much money it takes to maintain his haircut!?!

Maybe he needed the money because he didn't really have the money he promised the state would give to the Olympics should they choose to come to Chicago. And for the record, I absolutely think the Olympics should come to Illinois as it would make for a great story not because of the sports but because of the fact that Chicago somehow would find a way to sell each of the Olympic rings to a different company which might explain why if they do come here you would notice the yellow ring is missing from all logoed wear – the just couldn’t find a buyer for a color so hideous.

If I may make a suggestion for how to spend some of the money Rod gets for the senate seat? Buy a big bottle of soap and wash his potty mouth out!

(and a new hairdresser)

The news broke yesterday. Federal agents showed up at his home and took him away. I believe he was permitted to change his clothes so he chose a lovely ensemble of a blue jogging suit before taking him away. Makes you kind of think that we should all have an outfit stashed in the back of our closet just in case federal agents stop by so we don’t make the mistake of grabbing a blue jogging suit. Despite that fashion faux pas they still allowed him to be released on bond. And the next day went to work? Wait, the same work that he was just accused of doing corruptedly?

As a side note: through all of this, you just know that Judy Baar Topinka is sitting in her non-north side home thinking:

What was he thinking?

In the past 24 hours, the radio stations having been going nuts with talk about it along with both local and national television. This is big news. Very big news. Especially since the President Elect is from Illinois. Especially since Chicago is one of potential hosts for the Olympics. Especially since nothing else other than the crumbling of our economy is going on so it was sort of time for something more fun to talk about.

Ding ding ding – thank you for fudging up, Rod!

I'm not usually that interested in Chicago politics because I really don’t live there. I live about 30 miles west of the city in Lisle. I grew up in New York City and have about .01 percent interest in ever living in a city again (read: no interest) because it reminds me of all street noise, unsafe even in your own backyard and large cages on the public school windows to keep the crazy people out.

Or to keep us kids in.

Lisle is not even a city. It’s a village. I have no idea what a village really is but I do know that it takes one to raise a child. Yet I’m not sold. I would rather take a concrete nap at the junction along I-88 where you decide if you are going to get into the express lane to Winfield Road or continue west on 88. In other words, I’m not going to take my chances. Lisle is too much of a ghetto town. I mean village.

But it’s close to Chicago and as much as I don’t like the idea of the city I sure do enjoy its politics. Most of all because Mayor Daley is in charge. I believe he – or a member of his family – has been in charge of the city since before Christ’s birth and will continue to rule until his return. If you are Catholic and that offended you, don’t worry. It offended me – as a Catholic – too. But it just makes the point that this guy has been (and will be) around for a really long time because that’s Chicago and that’s just the way it is. And because he says things like “that’s just silly” when interviewed about serious topics.

How fun is that?

When I tell people I’m from Chicago I’m always surprised what they say. Last weekend in Seattle someone commented about my Illinois driver’s license. “Go Obama!” the clerk said. “Yes, he’s our boy,” was my reply. Her reply, “He’s our boy now too.” I couldn’t tell if it was just a leisurely comment or if it was – as I heard it – a little passive aggressive. It made me want to pull at Barack’s left leg, give a big tug and say “no, he’s OUR boy” while she pulls just as emphatically on his right leg.

MINE.

That topped by a few years ago when Chris and I were on our honeymoon. We took a cab from the Honolulu airport to Waikiki when the cab driver asked where we were from. Chicago, we said. He then went into his best impression of shooting a machine gun a la gangster (not to be confused with gangsta) style while also driving the car (if you’ve ever driven from the airport to Waikiki you know that you don’t really drive you actually just crawl along at speeds you could probably just walk so mastering the whole driving and pretend shooting thing is quite easy). Then he says something about Al Capone and I look at him like – oh yeah, any street corner in Chicago you see Jimmy The Snake and Nicky Two Eyes with their guns. And by the way, when we get to Waikiki will you kindly point out where Gidget is?

Ah, stereotypes.

So back to the governor. Perhaps the most strange of all of this is that he was taped having these conversations in his own home. On his own phone (side note: I wonder if it was an iPhone?). The same one that you have to know – as a political official – is subject to being tapped? Don’t you think he would have taken this secret business to a phone booth down the street? But then again – when was the last time you saw a phone booth? Either way, he had to know that someone was watching, and listening. He might as well have started the conversation by asking whomever was listening in “can you hear me now?”

F*ckin LOUD and CLEAR.

If I may make a suggestion to the Governor. The next time you want to talk political corruption and sneaky business, you might want to consider investing in a new phone:


One that is not actually connected to something.

Just a thought.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure what the lesson learned is in all of this. Don’t lie? Don’t cuss? Don’t wear a blue jogging suit in public? Who knows. But I do know that I have learned this: you can get a lot of money for a seat. Or you can think you can get a lot of money for it. So I have nothing to lose. I am going to sell the saddle to my bike. Hey – my saddle is a f*cking golden thing, I don’t just give it away for nothing. Where should we start the bids? 10 bucks gets you a sniff of the seat. 20 gets you a lick. 50 for the saddle. 100 and I’ll throw in a seat post.

And if none of you will take it, then I’ll just keep the seat for myself.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Designer Bags

The other day, I looked down in the shower and realized I was growing saddlebags.

Before you get all “no way” and “shut up” on me, hear me out. I have made a solid effort at putting on a few pounds this off season. Solid. For one thing, it’s time to just eat what I want when I want for awhile. For another thing, I needed to completely recover and reset my body systems. Rest is good for that but so is adding a few pounds.

Back to the shower. I looked at the side of my leg and thought – AH! What is THAT!? I looked at it. Looked at it some more and realized to myself that in the past few weeks, two of doing nothing at all, one of calling 40 minutes of swimming as my “training”, I purchased myself a Louis Vitton sized set of saddle bags.

excellent

For those of you that don’t know (men), the saddle bag is a special place on a woman’s body along the side of your leg where the butt meets the thigh. No matter how much you swim, bike or run it is always there to some degree. You can do all the lateral lunges and leg lifts you want but the bags will remain.

I think women have just accepted that it is yet another part of their body – like it or not – that they have to deal with. Also in this category would be ovaries and bunions. I understand the purpose of ovaries and I realize how I have made my own bunions. But saddlebags? Where did they come from? And why?

I look down again and wonder - what exactly is a saddle bag? Is it an extension of my thigh or an overgrowth of my ass? I had to find out. So I pick my ass cheeks up and realized that it was an overgrowth of the ass or a sudden drooping. Kind of like a fallen arch. My ass just fell. A few pounds.

A reason for yet another bra in my drawer. Or perhaps this is the point at which one decides it’s time to buy a girdle. Maybe this is what happens when you get old. And I’m convinced I’m getting old. It really is happening. I was in the airport this morning and thought it was really, really hot. So hot I had to ask the clerk behind the counter in a store: is it hot in here? She said it was but that it was also probably her hot flashes. I said that maybe I was starting to have hot flashes too. She said I was too young but I’m guessing she thought I was 12 when really I’m….closer to 60.

Really. Do the math. I am.

So first today I started hot flashing and then I discovered I have these new saddlebags. Right now I’m into that whole reusable bag thing at the grocery store so maybe there is a use for my saddlebags too. So I thought about the evolutionary purpose of saddlebags. Why do women need them? What purpose do they serve?

I know it’s an extra storage of fat and beyond the child bearing reasons there had to be something. Babies don’t crave your saddle bags, know what I mean? Imagine myself cave woman walking around with saddlebags…..wait a minute. I’ve got it. I wonder if it’s an extra reserve in case your next meal doesn’t come back. Let’s say your caveman mate goes out to kill something big and meaty but gets eaten alive by that meaty thing. You, as a woman, could exist on berries and roots but what about the fatty meat? That is when you start dipping into your saddle bag reserve.

Am I right? Or am I right?

I was so glad about my new theory because earlier in the day I had come home from a weekend away to find no food in the house. Let me back up. I called Chris to ask if there was food in the house and he said yes – then listed what we had; peppers, spinach, chicken and an avocado. Perfect! All of my favorites.

What he failed to mention was that the peppers were wrinkly, the chicken was canned, the spinach was ok but the avocado – that was just a pile of green mush being held in by a leathery outside. Until I picked it up and it exploded in mushy greenness all over the counter.

There was no (edible) food in the house.

What to do? I guess what I didn’t realize was that I had all I needed right at the bottom of my ass. My saddlebags. I could have fed off of them for the rest of the day.

In addition to the hot flashes, the sudden-onset-saddlebags (actual medical condition), I’ve just had one of those weeks where I feel like when I look in the mirror I look old. Like all of the wrinkles popped out in a week and all of a sudden I realized I have lines on my cheeks from where I smile. Seems like everything popped out in the past 7 days – lines, wrinkles and saddlebags.

For a day I tried to make a concerted effort not to frown, raise my eyebrows, look surprised or even smile. In preservation of my face I decided to be emotionless. Because all of that emotion is starting to show. There are two lines on my forehead that won’t go away. I tried to rub them away, get more sleep or moisturize them to death. But no dice. They were (are) still there.

Aging, gaining weight, is this what I have to look forward to in my post-athletic life? It’s not much fun to stand critical in front of a mirror every morning looking at lines and bags. And if I absolutely MUST get a new bag can it not be something made by Timbuktu? That’s much more functional. All of this makes me wish I didn’t have a mirror. Put this on husband’s list of things to do – remove all mirrors from house.

Because if we didn’t look we wouldn’t evaluate ourselves and if there was no evaluation we’d all be right. It’s a test we’d all pass and we’d all be pretty. Yes put us in front of ourselves and the inner critic starts to talk loud. Really loud. Too loud.

Shut up already

When I was in Seattle, I was watching the news with Pete and Melissa. At home we have some crummy old television so I have no idea how the world looks in high definition. On their fancy high definition television I realized we all look like crap! Holy too much detail! When did newscasters get so wrinkly? When did everything on Kathy Lee’s face start pointing up? It was enough to make me want to spend the rest of my life indoors with SP80 wearing a straw hat.

To protect myself from household bulbs.

But how ridiculous is that. I told Melissa that I would wear my furrow lines, angry lines, happy lines and sun tan lines on my face proudly one day (I guess one day starting this week). Because each line etches a memory of a story that I own. Each line in my forehead tells a tale of determination on a bike, each line around my eyes was built from focusing on a point far off in the distance that I ran towards on a hard run, each tightening of my skin from dryness is linked to yet another lap in the pool. I am proud of all of these lines.

Melissa said that we value so much the way people look that no one has any character – because we don’t value character any more. She was right. I can think of some women I know who spend a lot of time getting really pretty and keeping themselves pretty but sit down to have a conversation with them and it’s like talking to a wall. You can keep your pretty porcelain faces, my face one day will be full of character and emotion. Of living life without holding back. All of it will be right there boasting that I tried to live life to the fullest – even if that means being out in full sun.

And I guess this is how I should feel about the newly acquired saddlebags. I will say – there lies a few weeks of letting go. Of letting down my guard and letting anything in the form of chocolate, peanut butter, sweet and delectable into my mouth. Followed by a big old yum and when will I get more.

I suppose these are the consequences to enjoying yourself. You grow old, you get wrinkles, you find grey hairs, you develop saddlebags. But it’s not stopping me. I’m still going to live life full and eat until I’m more than full for a few more weeks. And to celebrate I’m going to put a big old Prada stamp on the side of my thighs and treat my ass to the best girdle money can buy.

When I finally do show up at masters again, they'll all be asking me where I got my new designer bags. I'm not telling them. I can't reveal all the secrets of my training plan.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday In Seattle

Sunday was my last day in Seattle.

I woke up early to drive up to Bellevue for an early run with Jason.

There was a light rain this morning but the temperature was perfect. Jason led us along a scenic trail that winded up and down some small hills and through patches of tall evergreens. It was a really nice place to run and the conversation made the time go by. Not only that but my legs seemed to have remembered that I actually know how to run. It felt great.

Afterwards we met up with JHS to work on run form. JHS is a good runner she just doesn’t know it yet. I’m trying to tell her but she’s not the kind of gal that likes to be told things. She’s got to find it for herself. And she'll find it when she starts looking for it. It’s actually right under her feet. As long as her feet fall directly under her body and she drives herself forward with each step.

(smiles)

Some work on swim form then more coffee. It's safe to say after this weekend I'm over coffee for awhile. Yes, I think I might have to give it up to reset my system.

I returned to Pete’s place to find the usual – Anabel walking around busy with things that 14 month olds like to do – ask you “what’s that”, warn you what’s hot (today there was a cardboard box that was dangerously hot – or so I was told), acting most uninterested in all but one toy that they carry around with themselves.

We decided to do some Christmas shopping for Annabel. First we headed to Target and picked out the most fabulously fashionable pink boots. Pete picked them out. Then he picked out some cool clothes for her. A trip to the bookstore for some baby books. Bought some diapers too.

Back at home, Pete and Melissa got ready for a holiday party. They left me with Annabel. Right now she is napping. And when she wakes up I know she will be ready for food. I’m prepared for a full on tofu and prunes war. That is what we are serving tonight. Melissa said if I was prepared for a mess I could also serve her yogurt.

I’m ready. Bring it on.

Tomorrow I go back home. I hear that it’s about 1 degree in Chicago. Gee I can’t wait. I’ll admit that driving back from Bellevue I was completely caught up in the beauty of this place. The sky was most intriguing blue and gray, tall evergreens stood in the background. Several groups of cyclists were riding – probably their Sunday morning group ride – and I was…sad. My wheels won’t touch pavement for another few months. Who am I kidding – for about half a year.

I’ll wrap this up with something I read yesterday. It’s from a book about Tao Tse Ching. Pete studied theology in college and his shelves are filled with all sorts of big thinking books. I liked this:

One who understands others is clever
One who understands himself has clarity
One who wins out over others has power
One who wins out over himself is strong.

Knowing others is intelligent.
Knowing yourself is enlightened.
Conquering others takes force.
Conquering yourself is true strength.
Knowing what is enough is wealth.
Forging ahead shows inner resolve.
Hold your ground and you will last long.

On cue, Annabel just woke up. Time for a yogurt war. I better put my goggles and swim cap on.