Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moving Day

No, not moving as in boxes & bubble wrap - moving as in not allowing my body to sit in a chair in front of the computer all day.

I'm SO sedentary, it's not funny. I need to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 lbs. My diet is reasonably good, and changing it has only yielded temporary improvement. What I need to do is exercise. But I don't. Probably my most active years (true for most Americans, I think) were from birth through about 13. My parents wanted me home & safe, so they installed a swing set in the back yard, and a succession of swimming pools. We had a very large above-ground pool with a rim you could walk around, and a slide, and it was used for at least three years. When we took it down, I was still walking the mile or so to school most days, and it was easy to walk to local stores. But once I got that driver's license, I lost most incentive to walk, and the pounds started to creep on. After childbirth and gallbladder surgery, the gain was steady. Now, more than ever, I'm feeling the multiple effects of being too heavy. Sleep apnea; acid reflux; fallen arches; general achiness and lethargy because my frame is simply bearing too much. Not to mention the frustration of trying to shop for clothes. And the interesting thing is, while so many women have body dysmorphic disorder, in which they are not terribly overweight but visualize themselves that way, my problem is the opposite. I'm always surprised when I look in the mirror and see my "wide-load" self, because in my head, I'm still that rather stringy-looking individual I was for so many years.

But today I resolved to get moving. The local park has a fitness center that costs only a dollar to get into. It's pretty basic, but pleasant, and the only requirement is that you wear gym shoes. "No work boots or sandals" the sign says; I can only imagine some people thinking they can use an elliptical machine wearing work boots...

I got on the treadmill and did 2 miles. About half of that was at 3 mph or slightly above. For any lower speed, I raised the incline to about 4 degrees. It really felt good. I used to do 10K's, but a few years ago, tried a 5K and came in second to last. Humiliating. So I have plenty of incentive to work out, and the fitness center is open until 8pm, so I can go there right after work. Tomorrow I'm skipping church and doing some walking along a local trail. If I'm such a "morning person," I might as well put that to some use.

One of my co-workers has lost a fair amount of weight over the last several months and I think it's about time I started following her example. Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One of those "Signs of the Apocalypse"

It's almost a cliche nowadays -- people use "this must be a sign of the apocalypse" to describe an event that was so unlikely, so improbable, it never would have been predicted. Something that upsets the balance and order of the world as we would like to imagine it.

Something like a couple I've known since the beginning of my first marriage (hint: Reagan was enjoying his first term) who are about to finalize their divorce. She's a few years older than he, but both are in their 50s. Always viewed from without as slightly bohemian, though she consistently held down 9-5 jobs while pursuing some artistic pastimes. They seemed absolutely "made for each other," and it did last over a quarter-century. No kids, but lots of pets.

I've only gotten her side of the story, but she described objective, provable events, rather than a slanted POV, so I'm inclined to believe her. It sounds like a classic midlife crisis, complete with a long-distance affair revealed via cellphone records; makeovers; separate vacations and finally just the vaguely expressed desire to be single.

And so, now two people who seemed like puzzle pieces that fit seamlessly to create a pleasant picture are now having to rethink everything about themselves.

It's disturbing because if this couple can call it quits, there are precious few others I know out there that offer any real assurance of permanency. Click Here to Read More..

Monday, June 22, 2009

Two Rants for the Price of One

When I think of two things to be annoyed about between the grocery store and home, it's time to get on the soapbox.

Rant #1: Actually, this is a twofer, dealing with a couple of dumb usage mistakes that I frequently read and hear.

  • When you are trying a different approach to something, you do not "take a different tact." The word is TACK -- from sailing, in which you adjust your sails to catch wind so as to sail in a different direction. I think people who use this are thinking of "tactic," which is, of course, another word for strategy or approach... and then they get the two mixed up and come out with "take a different tact." Noooooooo!
  • When you are narrowing your aim toward a particular object, you do not "hone in on" it. You HOME in on it. Again, almost understandable. To hone is to sharpen, so yes, you want to sharpen and refine your sights to find exactly what you're looking for, but the word comes from HOMING pigeons, with their natural ability to find their way to a particular destination, and then later, such navigational aids as radar and sonar.
Rant #2: In between the grocery store and my house is a hospital. They apparently have adopted the same sort of no-smoking rules that most other medical facilities have nowadays -- NO smoking anywhere on the grounds. Fortunately, the place covers one small city block and the emergency entrance is quite close to the street. The smokers simply walk outside (taking care, presumably, not to get run over by a speeding ambulance) and smoke out on the public sidewalk.

Yes, smoking is legal and they have every right. I can understand a past, present or future patient smoking. Or the next of kin of a very sick person relieving their stress with a cigarette. I know how addictive nicotine is -- my mother lay dying in the hospital 20 years ago, with oxygen, and her last conversation with my father was an argument about why he couldn't bring in her cigarettes and let her smoke in bed!

But what annoys me, beyond all reason, is medical professionals who smoke. This evening I passed the "smokers' corner" and saw a woman in full surgical gear -- gown, cap, booties and even a mask, hanging around her neck -- puffing away.

Sorry, that's just gross. I can visualize the person doing what my husband does: Hold that last drag in the lungs as long as possible and then let it out just before going back inside the building. On goes the mask, and that grungy air gets exhaled into the fibers of the mask, just before the wearer leans down to examine that incision... Yech, ptui!!

I hate to encourage draconian employer policies, since we already have more than enough of those ... but medical professionals who smoke on the job? I'm sorry. I cannot muster up any degree of tolerance for that. Light up the second you clock out, if you must. Smoke all night at home, if you must. But please consider the workplace a sacred space and leave those damn things at home! If you can't go 8 hours without a smoke, you are in a very sad place and need to get some help.

This concludes the rant. Click Here to Read More..

Friday, June 19, 2009

Juneteenth - Check it Out.

June 19 is known as Juneteenth, a timely and forward-looking celebration that encourages education, knowledge and self-improvement.

It hasn't been publicized as well as it should be, IMO. I'd like to see it catch on. Click Here to Read More..

Monday, June 15, 2009

Good Weekend

The last two days had nearly everything one such as myself might hope for in a weekend:

  • A meal out
  • Lots of sleep (yeah, baby!!!)
  • Money-making potential, via the web
  • No crises
  • Spiritual uplift
  • New furniture (it was a hand-me-down from Billy, but less than 30 years old. Some space dilemmas ensued, but it still looks gooood)
  • Good weather. No rain, a little breeze, not too hot.
  • A chance to get together with some people I hadn't seen in awhile
  • A neighborhood association meeting with no drama (though several people tried to coax me back onto the Executive Committee. Can you spell "no," boys and girls?)
A decent weekend like this makes it possible to face a Monday at work. I'll check back at the end of the week and let you know how long it lasts. My co-worker is having surgery this week and will be out probably through the end of the month. This, of course, means overtime but also means TSQ will be in enhanced psycho mode.

Have a great week, everyone... Click Here to Read More..

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Celebration of Prudery, Nonsense and Illogical Legalese

Ellen Friedrichs on AlterNet offers a mind-boggling sampler of sex-related laws throughout the US - everything from "sexting" to what NOT to say when your students (or, for that matter, your own kid) asks you questions about the birds & the bees.

Scare - E. Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Messy? Or Messed Up?

One of my little fascinations is people who live lives of out-of-control clutter. Yes, I will gawk at Oprah's show (on the rare occasion I'm home to watch it), when her featured guest is someone whose home is subdivided into "rooms" made of stacked newspapers going back to the Kennedy Administration.

I guess this interest has its roots in my own youth. My dad was one of those people who were terrified of throwing something away. As he got closer to retirement, this propensity got much worse. He decided he had to start recycling, but didn't know how to go about it. His solution was to keep all the trash in the garage until he could get around to separating out the aluminum cans. It's a good measure of how tuned in I was at that age, that I never thought to volunteer for this job. Instead, Mom and I rolled our eyes at each other and shook our heads, watching the bags of refuse pile up ... until we started seeing mice and badgered Dad into just letting Sanitation pick it up.

Anyway, the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization has put together an interesting tool (downloadable .pdf format) for evaluating the degree to which a clutter-bug might be edging into the Need-Help Zone. It's called the Clutter Hoarding Scale - down along the left-hand side of the organization's linked website.

In these stressful times of economic crisis, I have a hunch that more people than ever are finding themselves awash in this type of problem -- less ability to organize, combined with dwindling resources to maintain their home and make disciplined decisions about "stuff." We see more people moving "back home" as they become unable to keep up house payments, or downsizing to a trailer or one-bedroom apartment. Possessions suddenly take on heavier significance. Am I wasteful if I throw that away? I have so little already -- how can I afford to cast off still more? We live in thrifty times. I should save that old _____ and make a _____ out of it, like I saw in a magazine.

I subscribe to a news feed from Check it out if this topic draws you, too. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, June 06, 2009

You Can't Pigeonhole What's Personal

I suspect I'm not alone in keeping a running list of potential book titles in my head. One of those, which perhaps one day I'll actually write and publish, is called It's Always Personal. There's no such thing as "wholly objective" politics or ideology. The convictions that often turn into far-reaching public policy come from the personal experiences of one individual, who perchance connects with others who share similar experiences. When these people and their common bond find themselves in "the right place at the right time," you can end up with new paths in history.

My little thesis gets a boost from this article in the New York Times, comparing Supreme Court aspirant Sonia Sotomayor with the sitting 18-year veteran Clarence Thomas. Two minority Catholics, not too far apart in age, whose worldviews are at distant poles.

So what's personal? Experience and temperament.

Mr. Thomas learned he could rely only on himself. His father left when he was a toddler. A few years later, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents, dumping his possessions in grocery bags and sending him out the front door, he wrote in his autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son.”

Ms. Sotomayor also grew up without a father; hers died of heart problems when she was 9. But her mother was a sustaining force, supporting the family by working as a nurse. In a recent speech, Judge Sotomayor recalled her mother and grandmother chatting and chopping ingredients for dinner. “I can’t describe to you the warmth of that moment for a child,” she said.

And what if these two histories were reversed? Isolate little Sonia from nurturing family connections, and put young Clarence in a warmer, more close-knit and positive-thinking family, and what would you get?

We'll obviously never know. I suspect that with such an upbringing, Sotomayor would still have carved a niche for herself, still identifying with the underdog and championing their rights -- if not at Princeton, then perhaps among less prestigious, more subversive company. And Mr. Thomas may have gained the confidence to push forward and join those elite "insiders" who so intimidated and frustrated him at Yale, rather than hanging back and feeling permanently isolated from everything he really wanted.

It is as pointless to speculate about something that will never be, as it is to dismiss such factors and expect any individual to "put aside" their personal experience when called to the bench. Neither Sotomayor nor Thomas wears blinders that render them incapable of seeing the other side of an argument. Both are highly intelligent and idealistic.

In the final analysis, both are human. No one can expect anything more or less. Click Here to Read More..

Friday, June 05, 2009


I haven't blogged about my son in awhile. He finished his freshman year but may not get to be a sophomore anytime soon. If I thought a "smack upside the head" would make a difference, he'd have gotten one long ago from either his father or me. But he's locked into a pattern of making dumb, impulsive decisions and then lying when the decision starts to go wrong. As a result, he will soon lose his car and basically be disowned by his father, who says Wally has "worn out his welcome."

I think the only thing that will set him straight is being forced to be entirely on his own. No favors, no gifts, no safety net, no second chances, no benefit-of-the-doubt. He tells me a decent-paying job seems to be a sure thing, and I certainly hope he's right about that. He will need one. I'm a long way from giving up hope that he will start behaving in a mature manner. He has the foundation - he just needs a more immediate sense of the consequences when he hatches one of his hare-brained ideas. It can be said that both his father and I made decisions through the last 15 years that have contributed to Wally's mindset...but there is no way to turn back the clock. Even abject apologies from both of us would make little difference. I've used Carl (my husband, Wally's stepfather) as an example of things Wally shouldn't do -- quit school, start smoking, lock himself into a dead-end job and/or "up and move" when things get stressful. I think he understands the truth of this.

He has a girlfriend he seems to be fairly nuts over -- this is the first one he's really gone on about. But I'm uneasy that he may grab onto her as a life raft. I hope her parents are strict and protective, because if they're not, she could be vulnerable to the urge to rescue and take care of Wally as he bumbles his way along to stability. Click Here to Read More..