Sunday, November 7, 2010

I am not a quitter

Leading up to today's race - the Amica 19.7 triathlon in Lake Pleasant - I felt confident. I'd been in Bartlett Lake a couple weeks ago and swam 300 or so yards easily, without stopping for breath. I felt calm, confident and like a swimmer.

This morning, I took that confidence with me right up to the start.

As we walked down the boat ramp into the water, I was smiling and talking with other female athletes. "Is this your first?" That's a common conversation opener at these events.

I waded into the water and noted that it was, in fact, still quite warm. I'd held my bladder for an hour by then, in anticipation of using it to warm myself up in my wetsuit. Ew, I know, but don't knock it until you try it.

Within 5 minutes, we were off, splashing our way to the first buoy. I had problems immediately. My wetsuit was tight and restricting my breathing. Never a problem before, but today it's a problem. I can't breathe, and the water is incredibly choppy. Not only that, but there are arms and legs everywhere. Each time I lift my head to breathe and sight to the buoy, I take in gulps of water. My heart starts racing, and I find myself gulping for air. I roll onto my back and I'm fighting back tears.

I try a few backstrokes and get tossed around in the water. I'm now feeling sea sick and dizzy. I turn back around, tread water and see that the sea of lime green swim caps has left me way behind.


I don't want to be last.

Even more shit.

I don't want to be in this friggin' water.

A lifeguard paddles over and asks if I'm ok.

No, I'm not. I want out. She suggests that I loosen my wetsuit and tells me she'll paddle along side me to the end. Really? OK. Don't give up, she tells me. Her name is Rachel.

I do a few arm strokes calmly, then suddenly my heart rate is racing again. I flip on my back and little angel Rachel is gone.

I try a few more strokes and realize that I'm in way over my head. Literally. I doggy paddle to a guy in a kayak and tell him I want out.

I wasn't ready for this today. I have more work to do.

I was OK with my decision until I got back to my transition spot and saw a text message from my son. That brought up a flood of tears in anticipation of telling him I'd quit. I don't want him to think it's OK to quit just because something is too hard. But I also can't lie.

When I got home today, I looked at my heart rate monitor and learned that my heart rate got as high as 211 in the water today. My max heart rate when I bike is usually around 155-160; when I run it's in the 170s. When I swim, it barely breaks 120s. Except today. Today, I was in a zone I thought I'd swam out of months ago.

I have work to do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

As my son cruises through puberty and becomes a man, I find myself challenged to keep up with his many personalities.

Some days, he is my sweet-faced little boy who comes up with great ideas for fun things for us to do. A couple of weeks ago, he chided me for slacking on leisure reading.
"You need to read more," he said. "When was the last time you read a book?"
I couldn't remember. So he came up with a plan where each night that he is with me, we read from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. He even offered to help me find a book. He was adamant about it, in a role-reversal kind of way. I appreciated his concern and was up for the weekly reading assignment though concerned about my ability to stay awake long enough to read one chapter. (First night, I made it 20 minutes; this week I made it four chapters!)

Last night, I told him it was 8 p.m. and we should start our reading.

"Mom, we're not doing that," he said, as if it was the stupidist idea he'd ever heard.

Suddenly, sweet-faced boy was gone and replaced with pimply surly teenager. And the next chapter begins ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Say, "Cheese!"

John and I decided to treat ourselves to a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese over some healthy dish we concocted - I can't remember what it was, but I remember the cheese. I looked up the caloric and fat content of a tablespoon of Parmesan and found that it contains only 22 calories and 1.4g fat (.9g saturated fat). We were stoked. Dairy is not normally part of our diet, and I'm lactose intolerant; however, a small amount of Parmesan won't hurt.
On the day of our Parmesan-dusted dinner, I came home to find my beloved mid-preparation for our meal (is there anything sweeter?). Spying what looked like a small pile of dust on a plate, I asked, "What is that?"
Our cheese, he said.
"That's it?!"
That's a tablespoon each, he said.
And here is an area where he and I differ. A tablespoon to him means a level tablespoon, just like your home economics teacher taught you as she scraped the spoon level with the flat side of a butter knife to measure EXACTLY one tablespoon. (Do they teach home ec anymore?)
A tablespoon to me means as much as you can heap onto the spoon without spilling as you go from cheese container to bowl. THAT'S a tablespoon. Half the time, I don't even use a tablespoon; I eyeball it. (One tablespoon of olive oil equals a one-one-thousand count, right?)
I know what you're thinking: "Are you kidding me? Twenty-two calories?"
No, I'm not kidding. I quickly outgrew my super-fast metabolism that carried me through the first 17 years of my skinny life. As soon as adulthood hit, my waist, bust, face and arms started carrying a nice layer of fat that expanded and contracted with every diet and exercise routine I'd pick up between stints of eating Wendy's Big Classics, smoking Marlboros and hitting happy hours. Then I had my son, shed my post-baby weight, became a stay-at-home mom, took gourmet cooking classes and put it right back on. It's been up and down since.
I try to look at frittering away calories like I do frittering away money. That change that accumulates in the bottom of my purse? It can add up to a nice lunch out. Without cheese, sugar and sour-dough rolls smothered in butter, of course.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eat me.

My job requires me to attend client meetings with the sales teams because I help them get the creative juices going, as well as explain our production process.

Lately, one of our sales managers has started a tradition of bringing cookies to these meetings. Not just store-bought boxed cookies, but some of the best baked goods a buck can buy.

A recent meeting in Sun City was accompanied by a dozen mixed-variety little sweeties from Paradise Bakery. For those of unfamiliar with the chain, PB stores appear in malls and shopping centers and serve sandwiches, bagels, salads and the most delicious cookies that have ever passed these lips. Ever.

For me, these cookies bring a level of noise to meetings that distract me from doing my job. The noise sounds like this: "Eat one. Just one. It would be rude not to. No, you aren't going to eat one, because if you eat one, you'll have to eat another, and then you'll feel sick. Look, she's eating one and she's just chipping away at it, eating it bit by bit. I bet you could break off a piece of her cookie and just eat that. Take just half a cookie and leave the other in the box ..."

It goes on and on.

For some people, a box of cookies on the meeting table is just another tool to be used or discarded during the meeting. They either take a cookie or they don't. No big deal. My son is one of these people. He loves chocolate, but if he's not hungry, he doesn't eat it. And if he wants half a cookie, he'll enjoy half and walk away from the plate.

For others for whom food has an emotional and habitual attachment, a plate of any favorite food comes with a big cartoon bubble that reads "Eat me. Love me. Obsess about me." We can't eat just one cookie - we have to eat all of them, and we never leave crumbs.

It's like any addiction - a moment of euphoria followed by misery and regret. My brain tells me that I need that cookie and I'll feel better if I eat it. ALL of it. Tucked too far away in the file drawers of my mind are the memories of the stomach upset, nasty gas, headaches, self-loathing and just plain over-sugared feeling that cookies bring.

Just the other day, we met with a client in the atrium of a beautiful hotel lobby, which is adorned with water features and high ceilings. The acoustics were terrible (who picked THAT place), but nothing was louder than the designer cookies in a paint can in the middle of the table. "Isn't someone going to OPEN these?!" I kept hearing in my head. My eyes were drawn to them like my boyfriend's are to a TV that's showing a sporting event.

In both meetings, although I was distracted and more than tempted to eat the cookies, I did not. The second time, I was able to resist because no one opened the friggin' can.

I'm a work in progress. I'm pushing to the front of my brain that filing cabinet packed full of memories of how cookies look on my abs. I look forward to the days when I will be able to sit at a table and choose not to eat a cookie or choose to eat half of one and not let it be an obsession. I'm also going to make sure I never go to a client meeting with an empty stomach.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on rules ...

A good friend read my post "My Rules for Dating" from 9/27/10. Within minutes of seeing each other last week, he said, "I read your blog about rules ..." Then he paused and prepped himself for what he was about to say, and I got nervous because I'd possibly offended him.
"If I should be so lucky as to some day find myself in a situation where I get to experience a first kiss, I don't care if it's in front of a car or where it is! I'll just be so grateful to be there," he said.
Therein lies the problem of writing an opinion piece. Even seasoned and talented columnists from the former Scottsdale Tribune forget that an opinion is "a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty." (
Another male friend posted a comment, "You have too many rules."
Consider that my "rules" come from somewhere. Consider that I've had enough experiences with something that I raised my bar. Two more rules: (If were still single) no smokers and no drug addicts.
I never said that my rules for dating made sense. I never said that everyone should adopt my rules. I never even said that my rules were right.
They're mine. Not yours. Get your own.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Girl I date"

My mom calls me and tells me that an ex has changed his Facebook relationship status to "in a relationship."
I'd defriended the ex, but she didn't. In all fairness, I'm FB friends with his mom, too, and have no intentions of de-friending her. Outside of FB, I'll likely never see her again, nor will he ever see my mom again, yet we hold onto these people as digital friends. What can I say? I like his mom, and once in a while she sends me a message that is full of wisdom and insight. I wouldn't want to miss that.
The whole FB relationship status thing seems silly. Apprently, we're not in a relationship until we declare it on FB.
I suppose there is something validating about expressing yourself that way. Like, when you see in writing that your significant other claims you, there's a permanence ... or commitment ... in that.
Another ex - from many, many years ago - recently found me on FB. Our romance was short-lived, but we have had fun remembering those times. We really dug each other, but he wasn't ready for a commitment, which resulted in a lot of silly drama. That showed up when he received a cordless phone for Christmas (this was pre-cell phone days, so that tells you how long ago this was) and happily programmed in his friends' numbers in the 10 speed dial positions.
"I'm not on here," I said.
"Yes you are, you're in position 1," he said. Position 1 was blank. He'd programmed in all of his friends numbers and wrote their names, but he didn't write my name in position 1.
Needless to say, that led to a major discussion about commitment, validation and permanence. (The next time I was alone in his house, I wrote "Girl I date" in position #1 ... :o) ... )
I don't know if declaring your relationship status on FB or a cordless phone makes it any more real or not, and I certainly wouldn't let the absence or presence of either of those define my relationship ... but it does take me back to junior high school ... maybe I'll write "I love John" on my tennis shoes ... I'm feeling silly ...

Friday, September 17, 2010

My rules for dating

Soon after we started dating, John asked me, "Do you have any rules?"
I knew what he meant. Chick rules. The question surprised me. I mean, guys aren't really supposed to know we have rules, which is silly because we know you know them, but we don't want you to let us know that you know them. We like to think we are smart and running the show and you are silly boys who do everything we say.
But, since he asked, and we're building a relationship based on trust and honesty, I answered him.
I told him my first rule: The first time a guy kisses a girl, it cannot be in a parking lot. If he turns out to be The One, I don't want my memory of our first kiss to be one of me buffing my car with my backside.
Second rule: All other firsts should be performed completely sober. You want them to be memorable. You know what I'm talking about. Wink. Wink.
Third rule: Do not let the first time you say "I love you" to happen during the heat of passion.
Fourth rule: The guy should say "I love you" first. Here's why. We women usually know we love you before you guys know you love us. In fact, we women usually know you love us before you know you love us. To avoid potential freaking outage followed by hasty exits, hold your tongue until he says it to you. Be patient.
A couple other rules ...
Fifth rule: Don't ask her on a date via text message or e-mail. Pick up the phone, dial her digits. Ask. Vulnerability is sooooo attractive.
Six: Speaking of texting ... let's not use that as a forum to discuss our relationships, mmmmmkay? If something's wrong, get face time. If you can't do face time, pick up the phone.
Seven: Farting isn't funny. 'Nuff said.
I'm looking for more rules. What rules to you live by when it comes to dating?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My first day on the job

I'm working on this project at work that celebrates and recognizes women business owners. These women are entrepreneurs. They serve on boards of nonprofits, raise families, run businesses and win all kinds of awards. They show up at networking events with their nails manicured, clothes perfectly tailored. You never see their gray roots, and you never see them fidget in their chairs because they can't stay awake during a meeting. Nuh-uh.
One year ago, I was stretched so thin that I suffered from chronic tension headaches that lasted well over a month without relief. At one point, it got so bad that vertigo kicked in, and when I walked, I had to stare at the ground and follow an imaginary line so I didn't bump into walls or coworkers.
I took inventory of my commitments and relieved myself of a few and told myself I'd practice saying "no" when people asked me to do something. So far so good. I have full range of motion in my neck and I haven't had a headache in 10 months.
How do these women do it?
I imagine these women as superheroes whose children never leave socks in the cracks in the sofa ... who stay up late to watch Letterman and wake at 4 a.m. feeling fully rested as they hit their treadmills ... who never snap at their coworkers, family or friends ... who show up 10 minutes early for every appointment.
I'm deluding myself, I know. No one is perfect.
But it's made me take a look at how I show up for other people. I'm tired of apologizing for being late and forgetting commitments. I get times screwed up all the time because I still think I can remember on my own.
I'm getting on my own nerves.
I'm a low-level employee whose income hovers around the middle five figures, a single parent, Big Sister and fledgling triathlete. I'm someone's girlfriend, someone's daughter, someone's sister, niece and cousin. I'm friend to more than 300 (according to Facebook). I should be able to handle all of this.
Yet, I forget commitments, forget birthdays, show up late and let you down.
Just this weekend, I had a conversation with a good friend about my problem with commitments. We devised a way for me to break through the problem.
My first day "on the job," I let down my friend Mark. I was supposed to deliver some brochures to him yesterday afternoon. I didn't forget the appointment, but I forgot the brochures and let him down.
So, here it is, in black and white, my commitment: If I tell you I will do something and I forget or show up late, you have my permission to let me know that I disappointed you. I need to hear it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You just gotta push through that.

I swam about a mile this weekend, which consisted of six 300-ish-meter (or yards ... whatever) legs. My first half mile was weak. I continue to struggle during the first 300 meters (or yards ... whatever). The second half mile felt strong.
In talking to a guy at work who has been doing triathlons for a while now - he's even completed a few Iron Mans - I told him I still struggle with that first leg. I stop several times to roll onto my back and catch my breath.
"You gotta just push through that," he said.
Why didn't I think of that?
Seriously. Why didn't I think of that?
I push myself through so many other physical endeavors, so why don't I push myself through that first 300 meters (or yards ... whatever)?
Each time I enter the water, I know that I will struggle through the first half of my swim. Then I know that I will find my stride, relax and enjoy it.
I've been swimming now for nine months. I thought I'd ridden myself of the water anxiety. I no longer use my wetsuit as a crutch, and I look forward to swimming, especially the weekly lake swims.
Yet I continue to allow myself to feel anxiety for the first 10 minutes of my swim.
This morning, for my pool swim, I tried something different. I told myself I was going to push through the anxiety.
After all, when I'm doing my track workouts, I push through running the stairs as my heart rate spikes in the low 180s. Talk about pain! And, I push myself to maintain 10 mph when I hit big hills on my bike and my heart rate hits record highs. Shoot, when I'm in the pool and I experience that initial anxiety, my heart rate hasn't left the 130s! I'm no where near running out of breath.
This morning I pushed through the first 300 meters (or yards ... whatever) and did just fine. Isn't it funny how something so simply stated by someone else is like a thump on the forehead to you?
Now, if someone could simply tell me the difference between meters and yards (whatever).

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I was walking in downtown Phoenix to meet a good friend for lunch recently, when a woman crossed paths with me and handed me a small tome. "Would you like a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs?" she asked.
"Sure, thanks," I said, and I really meant it. I tucked the light-blue pocket-size book into my purse, and since then have moved it from purse to purse, bag to bag. I haven't opened it and read it, but I like having it with me.
I thought about what my reaction might have been as recent as a year ago, had I been "accosted" by a "religious zealot."
Several years ago, when my son was a first grader and I was married to his dad, we were living in a tree-lined street in Holt, Mich., when two women knocked on our door.
"We have an important message to deliver," one of them said. "Are you happy with the way the world seems to be moving these days?"
I glanced down at their name tags and saw they were there on behalf of their church, the Latter Day Saints. Our street seemed to be a favorite route of Jehovah's Witnesses and members of the Church of LDS.
"I'm not interested," I said firmly.
"But, ma'am, don't you care about the world?"
"I'm not interested in what you have to say," I said.
"Our message is really important," she insisted.
This time, I raised my voice and said, "I'm not interested in what you have to say, and I want you off my porch immediately."
"But, ma'am ..."
I closed the door, slid the lock in place and turned around to see my sweet-faced son staring up at me.
"Mommy, what did those ladies DO?" he asked. I'd used my angry mommy voice with those women, and he assumed they'd done something REALLY bad.
In those few seconds between sliding the lock in place and turning around to see my son's innocent concern, I went from feeling violated and angry to feeling like a complete asshole.
"They didn't do anything wrong," I said. "They believe in something so strongly that they want to tell the world about it because it makes them happy and they want everyone to feel that happiness. I didn't handle that very well."
"No, you were good! You were really good!" my son said.
I still don't like it when someone knocks at my door and pushes their agendas on me, whether they are political, religious or business-related - and whether I agree with them or not. That's my home!
But I've softened my defenses because, one, I respect their beliefs; two, I believe we cross paths with each other for reasons; three, I actually admire someone who can embrace any cause or issue enough to take it door to door (thought I still prefer they'd skip my door); and four, I feel better about myself when I handle something with grace and class, versus being a complete asshole about it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ducking sucker punches

A couple of weeks ago, a group of us traveled to California for an ocean-swim clinic in San Diego. Another first for me - swimming in the ocean - despite having lived in West Palm Beach, Fla., for nine years.

I spent plenty of time on Florida's beaches, but my purpose was more of a bikinied decoration in the sand. Yes, I went INTO the ocean, but my feet always touched the ground. My most athletic experiences then were trudging through the sand to the tiki bar to order another rum runner.

The woman who's been teaching me to swim, Anne Wilson, led the clinic. Eight of the 18 people in attendance were from my fitness community here in Phoenix, and all of us are novice triathletes of varying abilities looking to improve our skills. For many of us, this was a first ocean swim.

The clinic was divided into two parts, a morning swim at La Jolla Cove and an afternoon swim in Carlsbad at the beach.

California's mild temperatures were a welcome relief from the triple digits we've been experiencing here in Phoenix, but 60-something-degree water was less inviting than the Atlantic temperatures I knew in south Florida.

We began our morning in La Jolla Cove, a popular spot for scuba divers, swimmers and seals. We suited up in our wetsuits and after everyone introduced themselves, Anne talked to us about what to expect when we hit the water.

The wetsuit was wonderful. Not only does it add buoyancy, but it really does insulate your body. As the water fills the space between your skin and the wetsuit, your body quickly warms it. If you want a little added warmth, release your bladder. Sounds disgusting until you're standing in 60-degree water, teeth chattering, lips blue and toes numb. Yep, I thought, sounds good to me. It took a few tries, but once I was able to relax, I filled my wetsuit and tried not to think about it as the warm liquid worked its way down my legs and up my torso.

Anne divided us into groups - advanced, experienced and novice. I hung back, thinking for sure I'd be in the novice group. "Noelle, why don't you go with them," she said, pointing to the experienced group.


If Anne has confidence that I can swim a half mile in the cove, then she must know what she's talking about. I joined the group and slowly made my way, trailing behind everyone, to the .25-mile buoy. The cove is packed with sea and plant life, which makes for an interesting swim as you watch bright orange fish dart around the leafy plants. I stopped a couple of times to catch my breath and found myself getting a little seasick, which surprised me. Though the cove has no waves, the water steadily undulates, which threw off my equilibrium. Keep swimming, I told myself. You will not barf in the ocean.

Our afternoon swim was at the beaches of Carlsbad, which is very popular for surfers. So, the waves are rougher. With Anne's coaching and the comfort of having seven friends with me, I was dolphin diving under the waves. Diving under the waves was like cheating them from knocking me off my feet. Ducking sucker punches!

With knowledge comes power. Learning how the water shifts and how to position my body in the ocean took away the fear I've carried with me my whole life. As much as I've loved the ocean, I've always feared its vastness and strength. I have never had so much fun in the ocean, and I can't wait to go back.

Monday, June 28, 2010

You shouldn't be doing that. You're FORTY!

I find myself surrounded by people who are either going through a break-up or going through a divorce. Maybe it's a heightened awareness, as I have just gone through my own break-up.

Same thing happened when I first became pregnant with my son. I suddenly found myself surrounded by crying babies and out-of-control toddlers. I remember walking through the bookstore in search of information about being pregnant, and everywhere I looked, I found strollers, expectant parents and screaming children.

We go through times in our lives when we are going to weddings every weekend, then baby showers, graduations, funerals. Guess it's my season of the break-up.

As my son has witnessed a couple break-ups since I divorced his dad, he has declared that he will never date, never have a girlfriend, never get married. Because he's only 13, I'm not fighting this too much. If he's not thinking of girlfriends, then he's not thinking about sex, which I'm totally cool with.

But it does present a challenge. He doesn't want to see me date again because he doesn't want to see me hurt again. He sees relationships as something that end painfully.

"Why would you put yourself through that again?" he asks.

I point out all the people we know who are in long-term relationships and happy. And happy. That's the key.

"Because I believe in love," I tell him. And I explain that relationships take time and hard work, and they are beautiful when they are right.

I remind him that on the other side of sadness is joy, and I will be OK. I already am OK; I'm more than OK, in fact. And I will continue to be OK whether I meet someone or not, though I hold out hope that I find that lifelong fling.

He and I have a tradition of watching "The Bachelor" series on Monday nights. Bear with me. The show is NOT a good example of solid relationships, but I find it to be a good way to stimulate conversations about how to be and how not to be when one is wooing members of the opposite sex.

(Plus those reality TV show people are free fodder for scrutiny.)

One recent episode sparked a conversation about sex, which makes my son's skin crawl. I'm not allowed to utter the word in his presence. I said something - a general remark - about spending the night with a guy - no one in particular, just a general remark about sleeping with someone you care about.

"Mom, you shouldn't be doing that! You're FORTY," he said with serious disgust.
I wanted to tell him that 40 is when it gets good, but I didn't want to traumatize him further. Found my censorship button; pushed it.

Anyway ... I look for ways to encourage my son not to seal off his heart ... when he's much older, of course ... and be open to heartbreak. After all, heartbreak lasts as long as you choose to make it last. You get something out of every person who comes and goes from your life. What I got for my most recent experience is a respect for people who suffer from addiction. Lesson Two: I know addiction is not something I want in my world. Lesson Three: I have become a more compassionate person - or, I have become aware of my lack of compassion and I'm working to be consistently more compassionate.

I like who I am on the other side of heartbreak. And now I'm over this heartbreak. Lived through it, learned from it, moving along.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What I want

I want someone who will fight whatever demons come his way just to be with me. I want someone who will never let any substance, person, place, thing, job or friend come between him and me. I want someone who doesn't have to be reminded to ask me how I am and who is really interested in my answer. I want someone who will take an interest in my son and remember his birthday and be his friend. I want someone who will cheer for me from the sidelines when I struggle with swimming, and I'll cheer for him in whatever endeavor he takes on. I want someone who will massage my feet at the end of the day, and I'll do the same for him. I want someone who will take out my garbage ... but I won't do the same. I want a relationship built on trust - mutual trust - and respect and love and passion. I want a best friend. I want to talk on the phone for hours and, at the end of the conversation, I want to realize that we covered more topics than the newspaper covers, and it wasn't all about him. I want him to have his own interests and friends. I want some space once in a while. I want to have my circle of friends and he has his circle of friends, and sometimes we make big circles together. I want someone who doesn't fart and think it's funny. I want someone who can afford to travel and go to dinner. I want someone who's over having drama in relationships. I want to laugh with him. I want him to see what a great, smart, funny and wise kid I have, even though he performs like an under-achiever. I want him to say, "Those people are horrible," when I vent about my family, and he'll make me realize I'm being ridiculous. I want someone who likes cats. I want him to take an interest in my work and ask to see my projects after they publish. I want to listen to his tales of his job and daily work dramas, and I promise to tsk tsk at the appropriate moments. I want someone who is honest with himself, even about his shortcomings, and who is, therefore, honest with me and the other people in his life. I want someone to tell me I look pretty. I want someone who will read this and not think it's all about him ...

Is this too much to ask?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Swimming in pea soup

Last Saturday, I did my first open-water swim. Remember, I've been swimming for only seven months. Prior to November, I was a lifelong closeted non-swimmer.
The lake swim was intimidating. Distances are difficult to measure and perceive. Swimming in the lake was a little like swimming in pea soup. Little fishes nipped at my ankle bracelet. ::Shivers::
I did a few drills parallel to the shore just to warm up. A few times, I stopped, realized I couldn't touch bottom and panicked only slightly.
This treading water thing eludes me. I work my ass off to keep my head above water, even when it's not that deep. Friends tell me it's my comfort level, but I don't get it. I'm fine floating on my back or stroking through the waves. My mom tells me it's because I don't have enough body fat. I'm gonna go with her answer.
Anyway, my friend, Keith, told me to swim out 16 strokes. I did, no problem. Flipped on my back, counted to five, flipped back over and then flailed my way back to shore. My heart raced as my arms stroked like a windmill back to shore. Trying to keep him in sight was a challenge, because in the pool, we're taught to keep our chins tucked, heads down. Now we have to lift a little, to avoid drifting. Keith told me to slow down next time.
Using the tempo trainer set at a slow stroke - 1.4 seconds - Keith sent me back out. Much calmer on the return. The swim out tends to be calmer. The swim back to shore becomes urgent because I know I'm returning home and my feet will be on sand again.
Last night, at the pool, I swam a 400 set at 1.4 just to see how it feels. I did it with no problem, and could have kept going for another 400.
As I swam last night, I thought to myself that I couldn't believe I had such a hard time with a 400 in April at the Tri for the Cure.
This Saturday, my friends want me to try a 600 in the lake. Think I can get one of them to paddle alongside me on a raft?
If I can keep the pace at 1.4, I'll make it through the 700 in July at the Flagstaff tri, no problem. I look forward to the day I swim a mile in the ocean and look back at this struggle and think, "I can't believe I whined about that."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Every strand shimmers with 3X highlights

I am shocked at how gray my hair is. For 20 years I've had the random single wiry gray that pops out like a jack-in-the-box, and in the last three years, the grayness has spread like an infectious disease, starting with great anger at my temples and tempering out as it reaches the back of my head.
My temples are solid white. Did you hear me? My temples are solid white, and I'm only 43. What the hell?
Yes, there are far larger problems in the world, and I'm all about sympathizing with the tornado victims in my home state of Ohio, being outraged by the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, wondering if the fighting in Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq will ever end ... but at the moment, I want to whine about my hair.
Before my gray days, I could stretch trips to the hair dresser to four times a year for highlights. Now that I'm living in Arizona, the growth rate of my hair seems to have doubled, and my roots demand attention every two months, and $60 to $80 every two months gets expensive.
Last weekend, someone I know said she has been coloring her own hair for years. "Really?" I said. "How long does it last?" Eight weeks, she said.
For three days, I've been thinking about her words. I can cleverly part my hair only so many ways and only for so long to disguise my gray temples. Eventually, they win, and I can't hide them.
I have no idea which formula to buy. Maybe the one that Sara Jessica Parker hawks? Garnier something? She's a Midwest girl; she wouldn't speak for something she didn't believe in, right?
At Walgreens, I am overwhelmed by the choices: Clairol, Garnier, L'Oreal. And within those brands, more choices: ammonia-free, 10-minute formula, cream, foam. The prices range from $3.99 to $14.99. I dismiss the low-price figuring you get what you pay for. The Sara Jessica Parker brand is near the low-end of the price spectrum, so I dismiss that too, remembering an interview I read where she spoke of her frugality. Not that that matters. But, I'm NOT spending $60 to professionally color my hair, so let's not go overboard with this living lean thing, I tell myself. I dismiss the most expensive brand because it comes with some confusing looking combination basting brush/hair pick.
I decide to use the same technique I used when I used to drink wine: look for cool labels, catchy names and pretty bottles.
I settle on L'Oreal's Feria Hair Color Gel, because I liked the name, and the art on the box doesn't look outdated. Feria. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds so stylish. And "every strand shimmers with 3X highlights."
If my hair-coloring adventure turns into disaster, I have a plan: I'll wear a hat tomorrow, call in sick and book myself with a professional. I look good in hats.
I follow the instructions to the letter, and I am happy to say, my first attempt at self-coloring my hair was a success. I am amazed at not only how easy it was, but also how quick and inexpensive!
I had a similar experience a few weeks ago when I bought Sally Hansen's wax strips to remove unwanted facial hair. Easy and cheap, cheap, cheap!
Maybe next I'll take on learning to change the oil in my car ...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I thought there was no crying in baseball.

Baseball isn't one of my favorite games. It's near the bottom of my list of favorite pastimes. Ok, honestly ... it's not even on my list.
I do enjoy going to the ballpark and catching a game or two during the season, but I've never made it to the end of a game, and, really, I'm just there for the socializing and to look at athletes in tight pants.
So last week when the Cleveland Indians, my home team, played in Detroit against the Tigers, my Facebook page was filled with outrage at Jim Joyce's blown call. I had to know more. Ninth inning, and Cleveland was not only scoreless (no shocker there), but it hadn't put a man on base. Detroit was looking at a perfect game - the first in its history. Though "perfect game" conjures yawns from me, it's a big deal to the cute guys in tight pants and their true fans.
Outrage. Fury. Name-calling. Fans and players were pissed off!
Joyce, who could have fought for his call, "manned up" and admitted his mistake, apologized for it and, get this, even CRIED publicly.
(I thought there was no crying in baseball?)
This got me thinking about another news item that has grabbed headlines lately - that BP oil disaster in the Gulf.
The oil company has become The One To Hate for not only the spill but the way its executives have handled the disaster. I initially thought, "Boy, those BP execs could learn a thing or two from Joyce." Then I realized I was kinda off-base. BP did take responsibility for the oil spill right away, even though it pointed fingers at Transocean, the company that owns the rig, and Halliburton, the contractor that works on the rig. Those companies pointed fingers right back.
BP's stock has been on a decline since the end of April, when the oil rig exploded and killed 11 people. Its PR folks and Tony Hayward launched an apology campaign last week in newspapers, Facebook and on TV, though the apology is framed like this: "BP takes full responsibility for the clean-up in the Gulf." It doesn't take responsibility for its role in the spill. And Hayward says, "I'm sorry," which sounds like "I"m sorry this has happened to you," as I'd say to a girlfriend whose man just walked out on her.
The apology comes about six weeks into the debacle, after angry Americans began boycotting the company and staging protests. Too little too late? Mmmmm hmmmm. BP must have some sleepless PR and legal teams.
I realize that comparing a baseball umpire's error doesn't compare to the error that cost 11 human lives and is polluting our waters with 210,000 gallons of oil a day (according to a McClathy News report).
Joyce became a hero for his immediate, sincere, tearful apology. Baseball's outraged fans were silenced; who could stay angry at an umpire who offers a tearful apology publicly?
BP became The One To Hate while it shifted blame and Hayward put his foot in his mouth ("I'd like my life back," he is quoted as saying and later apologized for). There's a lesson here to be learned about apologies, timing and sincerity, me thinks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Living leanly

Last week, I toured a printing facility, which is one of the best in the Phoenix area, if not the state. The firm does high-end printing at nearly photographic quality, using some amazing technology (which I won't bore you with). It prints Arizona Highways magazine, which is known for its breathtaking photography.
I also won't bore you with the details of the types of printing processes that we saw, but the experience shed light on a few mysteries, such as when our general manager tells us that a magazine page is due earlier than we thought because it falls on a "signature." Our other printer in California uses a 32-page signature, which means it is a HUGE piece of paper with 16 panels, double-sided, that is then folded and trimmed to individual pages into our magazine. As many times as she explained it, I didn't understand it until I saw it. If we have a 64-page magazine, that has two signatures. My GM was happy to disappear several blank stares when she refers to "signatures" in the future.
Anyway, in the binding area of our tour, the printer was working on programs for the Diamondbacks that are given out at every game. We noted barrels of spoilage along the assembly line.
"That's a lot of scrap," someone said.
"It all gets recycled," our tour guide replied.
I thought about that as we completed our tour and I saw what seemed to be as many spoils as there were good copies. It made me wonder if recycling has become justification for waste.
In the end, doesn't spoilage cost the company money in paper, ink, gloss, man-power and other variable expenses? The ink doesn't get recycled. The labor doesn't get recycled. The power used to fire up the machines doesn't get recycled.
Two nights later, I attended a Diamondbacks game and was handed the same program I assume I'd seen printed two mornings earlier. Everyone who walked through the turnstiles was handed a program, stacks of them lay in the suites, and some were scattered on empty seats (and there were A LOT of empty seats, though it's early in the season).
The post-game waste didn't bother me as much as the post-press waste. "We Recycle" has become this badge of honor that individuals and businesses wear to boast of their efforts to shrink carbon footprints, and kudos to all of us who do recycle.
I'm trying to think of a new mantra for the next phase of living green:
"Living Lean," "We Minimize Waste," "We Reduce Spoilage" ...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Move like a ninja

Every Friday morning, I lead a spin class at 4:30. Because the gym opens at 4:30, we start late, but that's to be expected. I'm the leader of the class, so I have a little set-up to do before I crank the music. I turn on the lights, turn on the de-humidifier, move my bike to the center of the room, connect my iPod, turn on the speakers and adjust the volume, fill my water bottle, put on my cycling shoes and adjust my seat and handle bars. I'm able to do all of this and get on my bike ready to ride by 4:34 a.m.
Yet, I wait. I watch my fellow spinners adjust their bikes, chit-chat about this and that and trickle in as late as 4:40 a.m.
Some people come in gracefully late. I don't notice them slip in after the lights have dimmed, the black lights are aglow and the music has started. They find a bike toward the back, make their adjustments and fall into step. I barely notice their lateness.
Some people come in awkwardly late. They move in and out of the room - they set up their bikes, they leave the room; they adjust the bikes some more, they leave the room. They move to another bike because something was wrong with the first bike.
Stuff happens. Alarm clocks fail. Traffic jams. Keys disappear. Stuff happens that's out of our control. When that happens, be graceful. Enter the room like a ninja, stealthily take your place toward the back where you don't disrupt someone else's ride. Grace.
I find the same annoyance with those people who are late for church. The ushers hold them back so they don't disrupt the opening prayer while the pastor sets the mood for the room. I find my attention distracted when the doors open during the first hymn and they all file in, squeezing into pews saying, "Excuse me. Sorry. Thank you. Good morning. Pardon me." WTF.
I know. I need to work on my Christian attitude of gratitude. Let's save that for another blog entry.
I started to write this in an effort to vent about what happened in my spin class this morning. Someone was late, disrupted my class because I had to get off my bike to help her, and the rest of the spinners missed some great cardio during a kick-ass song ("Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven). We were on the fourth song before she was on a bike, ready to ride.
Her lateness threw her off for the rest of the class, and it affected everyone's morning, too. She couldn't find her rhythm, and even though we were all there to support her and help her catch up, she was flustered.
I got to thinking about not only her but other people who show up late in life. Myself included from time to time. Lateness sucks energy from a room. When 11 people sit at a conference table waiting for the 12th person to show, it affects the dynamics of the group.
When we show up late, full of apologies and excuses, it throws off the momentum of the room. Move like a ninja. Enter the room. Take your seat. Turn off your cell phone. Get on beat.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bending spoons with my mind

I attended an event Friday called Go Red for Women luncheon. More than 600 women and a handful of men attended what I thought would be another boring fundraiser, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience.
Go Red is a movement from the American Heart Association that raises awareness of heart disease among women. I wrote about it on April 5 ( Ta tas are way sexier than tickers).
Preceding the luncheon was an expo packed with health care information. If anything has signaled to me that the economy is turning around, it's that companies have upped their tchotchkes. I got a full bottle of shampoo and conditioner, nail polish, pens, water bottles, reusable bags, nail files, pocket mirrors, lip balm and more! Stuff that I'll actually use.
The Greater Phoenix chapter of the American Heart Association packed the agenda with some excellent speakers. Two women cardiologists gave educational, passionate and entertaining speeches about heart disease. Three families shared their stories of heart diseases - a mother of her daughter's birth defect, a woman who lost her mother to heart disease and an elementary-age girl who spoke eloquently on behalf of her mother who couldn't be there because she'd just had open-heart surgery. (Her mother, by the way, is a very fit 30-something marathon runner.)
The highlight of the luncheon was the keynote speaker, Martha Beck, who I'd never heard of but is one of the many personalities that Oprah has thrust into the spotlight.
This is where the life-changing experience happens.
Beck is a PhD, life coach and columnist. She spoke about the evils of stress and how we allow it to dominate our lives. She had each of us pair up and choose one person to be the aggressor and one to be the resistor. I paired up with my former boss. She was the resistor and I the aggressor. Cami held her hands in front of her, palms facing each other, and it was my job to try to push them together to force them into a clap. Couldn't do it.
Next, each of the aggressors were instructed to close their eyes and take a deep breath. Exhale and breathe out thoughts of stress. Think only of pushing her hands together and nothing else. Quiet your mind and don't let thoughts pollute it. Listen to your heartbeat at the end of your exhale. Be calm.
We opened our eyes, resumed the position and, as if Cami offered no resistance whatsoever, I pushed her hands together.
"You let me do that," I said.
"No!" she said, and we both laughed.
Same thing worked when she did it to me.
Beck had demonstrated the same concept by bending a spoon, which I tried when I got home.
I thought of all the things that are sources of stress in my life: my recently vanished ex-boyfriend, attending this luncheon and missing work, my finances, my extended family, etc., etc. The spoon would not bend. It left imprints on my palms.
I sat on my couch and closed my eyes. I took one deep breath and exhaled until I had no air left. I listened to my heart beat. I did it again, once more just for good measure.
I picked up the spoon and bent it with ease. It bent like it was made of cheap metal alloy.
With those breaths, in mere seconds, I was able to quiet my mind and do something that was not doable moments before.
Where else can I apply this in my life...
Where else CAN'T I apply it in my life!?
In the pool, before I set out to do a 300 and push myself to do a 400 without stopping.
In the kitchen, when I need to resist the urge to pick up a handful of semi-dark chocolate chips and shove them in my mouth.
At work, when I need to focus to accomplish a task in a short amount of time.
When the phone rings and I know it's going to be a difficult conversation.
On the track, when I push myself to go faster.
When I need to resist the urge to text, e-mail or phone him.
Returning videos on time.
I have thought about his breakthrough a lot over the past 48 hours. In only a few seconds - LESS THAN A MINUTE! - we can take ourselves to places where the impossible is now possible. It's the same idea that is behind prayer, meditation and martial arts.
Of course, this revelation doesn't mean that if I want to fly, all I have to do is close my eyes, envision it and I'm airborne... but I think I might try it anyway ...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm normal

When I was in sixth grade, Jayne Massaro felt compelled to point out that I had a large head. It didn't require much to become Jayne's target. She was a popular cheerleader and made fun of girls who started to mature early and once called Mr. Lomax (who is black) the "n" word under her breath as she walked out of the room after he sent her to the office for some infraction. Everyone in the room heard it.
"Noelle," I heard her whisper. She sat in the middle row, fifth person back. I sat in the first row, third person back. Unable to ignore her and knowing that some humiliation would ensue as I swiveled my enormous melon head in her direction, I looked at her anyway and saw her puff her cheeks and hold her hands in an enlarged circle around her face. The kids around her laughed.
Back then, I was an awkward runt with thick hair, and my stick-thin body and short layered hair accentuated my awkward shape.
Jayne's taunting devastated me. My mom made me "feel better" by asking me if my teachers made me sit in the back of the room because my head was so large that other kids couldn't see around it.
I even took Jayne's taunting into my pregnancy 13 years ago. My ex-husband is also blessed with a large skull, and I feared that his large-head genes plus my large-head genes would make for an extremely painful childbirth.
Ultrasound revealed that my baby's skull topped out the growth charts in the 90th percentile. Two weeks past my due date (more time to fertilize that cranium growth), I was relieved to have a Cesarean.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a woman of my height (63 inches) has an average head size of about 22 inches. Mine is 23. I looked that up today, expecting to validate Jayne's discovery of 30 years ago, as a way to explain why I look like a mushroom in my bicycle helmet and have a hard time finding comfortable sunglasses.
I'm sort of disappointed to learn that my head circumference is average. I'd embraced Jayne's melon-head moniker and even come to like it. All these years, I've been carrying around the scars left from some silly girl's taunting, only to find out that I'm normal.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crossing the threshold

The debate starts at 5:15 a.m. when my alarm sounds. I made a commitment to myself last night that I'd swim at 6 a.m., as I do every Tuesday. I meet my friend, Susan, there, and we do laps and challenge each other with springs and laps.
I didn't confirm with Susan last night, so, as my alarm goes off at 5:15 I tell myself that I can just sleep in and tell Susan I didn't hear from her last night, so I wasn't sure if she was going to go. How awful is that? I would blame her for not confirming with me. It's not her responsibility!
Susan sent a text to me around 5:25 a.m. She doesn't drive and she wanted a ride. She gets ready at the gym, and this morning she was wearing a suit that she didn't want to wrinkle on her bicycle.
"Sure," I replied. "I'll pick you up at 5:55."
Thank goodness for friends and accountability. Had I not heard from her, I would have slept in. Once I cross that threshold from sleep to up and at 'em, I'm fine. In fact, this morning I had the best swim I've ever had! I swam a 300 in about 10 minutes, which is the longest set I've done. It's 100 meters shy of the Tri for the Cure, which I really struggled to get through in 17 minutes.
What is it that is so difficult about crossing that darn threshold from those comfy sheets and cushy pillows? I lay there and debate with myself and I remind myself that once I get up and get moving, I'm going to feel better and enjoy the swim. I'll feel powerful for having started my day with a swim and resistance training.
But these sheets feel ssssooooooo goooooooood.
It's like the first dip into the pool. You know it's going to feel cold. It's going to wrap your body and chill your skin, and your jaw is going to tighten as you brace yourself against the cool temperature. Then once you get moving ... it's nothing.
Thank goodness for my fried, Susan. Thank goodness for accountability. Thank goodness for my To Be Re family.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

People watching

I gave a lot of thought to the loss I experienced this week - the end of a relationship, perhaps the greatest love I have known in my 43 years (not counting a mother's love for her son, of course).
I told my friends that I am a better person for knowing and loving this man. I have more compassion for other people, and I am less judgmental.
At least, I thought I was.
My judgment of others was put to the test Friday night as I attended a fashion show at the trendy Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale.
To those of you who don't live in the area, the name of this establishment suggests a pay-by-the-hour enterprise, but be assured this hip urban boutique hotel is somewhat of a landmark in the Valley.
The fashion show was poolside, and as my friends and I awaited the start, we settled in to do some people-watching. I realize that people-watching is just another way to say "judge others," so you don't have to point that out.
The VIP area in front of us quickly caught my attention. A stunning 20-something blonde with shoulder-length straight hair in a tight-fitting aqua blue dress arrived on the arm of a squat middle-age man. Her entire right arm had a tattoo "sleeve," which is gonna look like shit when she's 50, but I'm getting off topic. Otherwise, she was drop-dead gorgeous.
The couple joined three other squat 50-something men and their 20-something dates.
As I watched the group, I kept asking myself, "Why do these people bother me?"
I thought about the ex-wives these men likely have collected, along with children who are likely the same ages as their dates. I thought how ridiculous the men looked in their tie-less suits, dyed hair and round bodies next to these svelt beautiful young women.
I judged the hell out of these dudes, and they probably didn't deserve it. Obviously they've done well for themselves, and they wear mid-life crises well (except for the tallest of the men ... he's had some bad plastic surgery.)
I watched the blond with the sleeve tattoo lean into her man and say something to him. I wondered what the two of them could possibly have in common to discuss. Maybe they were doing the same thing that I was doing - people-judging. We never seem to be too old to do that.
I chastised myself for spending so much thought-energy on people who were oblivious to my existence. And who were hurting no one by being together, as far as I could tell.
My judgment wasn't about them. It was about me feeling hurt, sad and angry that something I'd worked hard for - for nearly two years - and believe in 100 percent had failed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tapping out

A guy I know, who I’ll call “Dan,” because that’s his name, sent me a message a couple months ago: “In your online dating series, you should do one about when we met, and I looked at you and tapped out ‘cause you were too cute.”
Online dating series? Really? I like the idea. ‘Cept I’ve been out of that scene for quite a while.
Anyway. Here’s what happened: Two years ago, Dan and I connected through After a few e-mail exchanges and a phone conversation or two, we met at Scottsdale Fashion Square and had a bite to eat at Kona Grill. Midway through the meal, Dan said something like, “I’m going to make this easy on you. I don’t have a shot with you, do I? You’re out of my league.”
What does one say to that? How do I respond?
If I said, “That’s not true,” I would be lying. I didn’t feel chemistry, but it had nothing to do with any “league” nonsense.
You either have chemistry with someone, or you don’t. I met a couple dozen men through that Web site, and had mild chemistry with only a few and major instant chemistry with only one.
And, thank goodness, we don’t have chemistry with everyone we meet. Could you imagine? We’d be like … Tiger Woods.
Meeting Dan was a great lesson in vision.
My son and I regularly have this conversation. He says, “I can’t,” and I say, “Well, of course you can’t. If you say you can’t, then you won’t.” If you envision yourself succeeding, you have a greater chance.
Tonight I had dinner with an acquaintance visiting from Ohio – who I hope moves from acquaintance to friend – and we talked about envisioning ourselves doing what we want to do.
I used swimming as an example. For 42 years, I thought of myself as a non-swimmer. Well, let’s make that 30-ish years, because I’m pretty sure infancy through toddlerhood all I thought about was drooling and pooping (I got the word in again, Mary).
When I first got into the pool, I flailed around and broke several fingernails as I clung to the side of the pool gasping for air. “I’m never going to get this,” I told myself.
Had I adopted that as my mantra, I would have surely drowned. I definitely would not have completed two sprint triathlons.
I now practice envisioning myself gliding through the water with ease, gently rolling up to take a breath and pulling myself through with strong arms. It’s working.
This is not to say that things with Dan would have worked. It’s not to say that we will get everything we want. But think of opportunities missed because we “tapped out” early.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Get this thing away from me

Completed my second sprint triathlon yesterday - 400-meter swim, 8-mile bike and 2.5-mile run.
I continue to struggle with the swim.
Last week, my swim coach introduced me to a Tempo Trainer, a small device that's about the size of a peppermint patty, that beeps. The swimmer's goal is to do arm strokes to the tempo of the beeps. We started with one stroke every 1.5 minute, and she encouraged me to move up to every 1.3 seconds. She said that 1.3 will be the slowest I'll use, eventually. The body has memory and becomes conditioned to certain tempos. Right now, mine is conditioned to, oh, I'd say flailing about and making waves. It moves to a beat of a different TT, let's say.
At my swim lesson, I was excited to use the Tempo Trainer. For once, I focused on something other than my strokes and kicks and just moved through the water to the little blip, blip, blip of my Tempo Trainer. In fact, I took fewer breaths using the TT, on one lap taking only two breaths! Go me.
This, I thought, is really going to help me on Sunday at Tri for the Cure.
My three friends - Lori, Debbie and Aubree - and I scouted the site Friday afternoon. Imagine my shock to learn that the pool is a 50-meter pool and not a 25-meter pool, as I have been practicing in. "I can do this," I told myself. "You can do this," my friends said.
Sunday morning, during the pre-race meeting poolside, imagine my shock and horror when, as the host reads the rules of the race, I hear him say, "No swimming on your back."
But that's home, I thought to myself. What am I going to do if I can't go home? I've been swimming for only five months, don't they know that? When I get tired, I roll to my back and kick like mad.
All week, I'd been envisioning myself gliding powerfully through the water. I can swim, you know. I CAN swim.
"171, 3, 2, 1" the guy with the timer told me as I pushed off the wall and started my first lap.
I don't get it. I'm a brilliantly talented swimmer when my swim coach is standing on the side of the pool, and then I turn to a flailing maniac when the whistle blows. When I practice during the week, I'm somewhere between brilliance and mania.
My 400-meter swim took me 17 minutes. My boyfriend and To Be Re friends stood poolside cheering me on. "Are you OK?" they asked me at the end of Lap 4. I nodded yes, but I wanted to tell them to get me the F out of this water.
At the end of the sixth lap, I pulled the Tempo Trainer from under my swim cap, handed it to my boyfriend and said, "Get this thing away from me." The steady blip, blip of the TT became like a nagging voice in my ear singing, "Stroke, Stroke, Faster, Faster, Why-are-you-slowing-down, Zip, Zip, Come-on-come-on, Slowpoke, Slowpoke, Nanny, nanny boo boo ..."
Seventeen minutes. I lost count of how many women passed me in the water.
My cycling was my strongest stint. NO ONE passed me on my bike. NO ONE. I lost count of how many women I passed while riding my beautiful Jamis.
I completed the triathlon in 1:08:52. Not the time I was hoping for, but (1) I finished, (2) I did the swim without rolling onto my back and (3) I finished that f-ing 400 meters.
My goal for 2011 Tri for the Cure is to finish that swim in half the time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ta-tas are way sexier than tickers.

One thing I love about my job is that I get to learn a little bit about a lot of things, which makes me think I might be good, some day, on "Jeopardy."
We are going a special section in az magazine for May to promote Go Red, the heart-disease awareness campaign for the American Heart Association. Our team and the AHA's team recruited a bunch of well-known Arizona women (Gena Lee Nolin, Brenda Warner, local news anchor Sue Lin Cooney, to name a few) to pose for a photo that will be used for the AHA's billboard and magazine campaign.
I learned that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, yet when we're surveyed about top killers, we name breast cancer.
Heart disease beats out all cancers combined.
Thanks to great awareness efforts like Komen for the Cure, breast cancer has moved to the top of our awareness lists. Those pink-ribbon marketing folks have done their jobs superbly.
And, let's face it, breasts are sexier than hearts, and we've always thought of heart disease as a man's disease.
I also learned that heart disease is more preventable than breast cancer. Our controllable risk factors include diet, tobacco use and exposure, weight, alcohol use and physical activity.
Breast cancer has become more easily detectable and treatable than it was in the past, thanks to the pink-ribbon folks who've pounded in our heads to get regular mammograms, especially if we have family histories of breast disease. And these days, we don't have to dig deep in our family trees to find that.
You likely don't have to dig deep in your family trees to detect heart disease, either. Ladies, this is not a man's disease. Our tickers need regular check-ups, just like our ta-tas do. Treat your heart to an annual trip to the cardiologist.
I saw one for the first time this year, and he detected mitral valve prolapse. Nothing to concern myself with at this point, because I maintain a healthy lifestyle. I don't drink, I don't smoke and (for the most part) I eat well. But none of my family practitioners before him found that MVP.
I'm definitely not bashing the boob-lovers! In fact, next Sunday, I'll participate in the Tri for the Cure - another breast-cancer fundraiser/awareness event (wanna sponsor me?). But the little-red-dress people have some work to do!

Thank you for listening to this public-service announcement. I promise to return to my usual drivel about life, love and things that annoy me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cruising the boulevard

Kenmore is the part of Akron where I grew up.
The people who lived there were working class, blue-collar types who toiled at Goodyear, Firestone, General Tire or Goodrich, or they worked for a tire-related business. No one was wealthy in Kenmore; those people lived in west Akron and, most likely, supervised our parents. Most of our parents both worked, and as we got older, more and more of them divorced.
While our parents bowled (what was the name of the bowling alley on Waterloo Road near Main Street?) or played euchre on the weekends, we roller skated at the Arena Roller Rink where we smoked cigarettes, "made out" under the coat racks and, of course, roller skated.
Kenmore guys loved muscle cars. The louder they rumbled, the better. Guys would drive down my street, pass by my house (and Lisa Spak's, who lived across the street) and rev their motors as they passed (sending Lisa and me both to our bedroom windows). I got to know the sounds of different guys' cars that I didn't really have to run to the windows - Troy Silver's Cutlass had a high-pitched waaaaaa sound under the hood, especially when he was pissed off at me and would fly at full speed down my street. John Shipley's car, which I think was a Chevelle (correct me if I'm wrong, John), had a killer sound system for back then; he was way ahead of his time as he would blast Jimi Hendrix's "National Anthem" from his woofers and tweeters. Tom Cox would drive by in his piece of sh*t El Camino that lacked an exhaust system (which required passengers to ride with the windows open year-round) or his friend Brian Fields' Corvair with the WMMS buzzard painted on the trunk. Mike Perenkovich's multi-colored whatever-the-hell-that-was ...
Cruising was a big deal when I was in high school. Sue Zurzolo would pick my friend Jodi Gump and me up in her huge boat and we'd cruise around, driving by people's houses, honking and then driving away really fast so they wouldn't see us. We'd drive by guys' houses we liked. We'd drive by girls' houses we didn't like. We'd smoke cigarettes and cruise, trying to find other people who were out doing the same thing. We had places we'd go to hang out - that old strip mall at Arlington and Waterloo roads, where the cops would come and chase everyone away. Does anyone remember The Ledges behind Rolling Acres mall?
Lori Orlando would pick us up in her dad's Ford Falcon (I think it was a Falcon?) that had push-button gears, and we'd cruise the boulevard and end up at KB's, where she and he would end up yelling at each other.
A cool car for guys meant more "friends" and girls. One guy showed up at school driving a shiny bright orange restored late '60s Camaro or Firebird. No one knew who this kid was until he rumbled into the parking lot. Suddenly, he was wearing a black leather jacket and hanging out with our guys (who all wore black-leather jackets). Behind his back, they all said his car was full of bondo (a filler for rusted-out cars) and that's why he had to paint it orange - you had to use bright colors to hide the bondo. That bondo didn't keep him from getting invited to parties, though.
When I see the new Camaro, it takes me back to my neighborhood. I got my driver's license with my ex's '68 Camaro, which had no power steering, no air conditioning and had a custom-size steering wheel that was about the size of a dinner plate. It was full of bondo.
The new Camaro brings out the Kenmore girl in me, and makes me want to shop for a black leather jacket, pop in some Nazareth and cruise the boulevard. No smoking, though.

Friday, March 26, 2010

You CAN'T talk about THAT

My friend Mary called me from Colorado and said, "I just read your blog. I can't believe you wrote about poop. You  can't TALK about  that!"
But it's funny, I told her.
"Who reads your blog!?" she said, worried about my future, my career, my reputation.
"I don't know. My Facebook friends, I guess," I said.
"You can't write about that! We don't talk about poop!" she said.
There isn't much Mary won't talk about. When we were in sixth grade, she was such a chatterbox that our homeroom teacher, Mr. Lomax, threw a piece of chalk at her after getting so frustrated with her because she wouldn't shut up. Really. I had no idea she was so uptight about excrement.
I told her that's why I wrote about it - because no one likes to talk about it. Yet everyone does it. Daily. I hope.
"I can't believe you wrote about that," she said. She WAS laughing, by the way.

The only time bowel movements become accepted and expected topics of discussion are when new parents watch their babies' outputs to gauge how well their inputs are working.
"Just changed his diaper."
"Did he poop?"
"How was it?"
Believe me, I have issues with the subject.  As I said in my last blog, I once went 36 hours without doing it, all in the name of romance. And it wasn't by choice. Each time we'd enter a restaurant, my first stop would be the ladies' room, just to give my poor bowels an opportunity to relieve themselves. They never took me up on the offer.
I even went for a run that Sunday morning, planning my route by a Safeway, thinking things would loosen up on my jog. Nope.
It wasn't until he dropped me at my door, carried my bags inside that my body knew it was home. I quickly hugged him, patted him on the back as I ushered him to the door. "Thanksforthelovelyweekendcallmelaterbuh-bye ..."
When my son was a toddler, we bought the book "Everyone Poops," because, as responsible parents, we wanted him to know that there is NOTHING wrong with it - every animal does it.
Maybe the title of the book would be more appropriately, "Everyone Poops, Just Keep It To Yourself."

Friday, March 12, 2010

I'm with the right guy now

My man and I survived our first real trip together, and here are a couple of things I learned about couplehood ... and myself.

First, it's OK to want - and take - some alone time. While he took care of his business, I strolled the streets of Georgetown, got a pedi- and manicure in Sharlington and watched a couple of Russians play speed chess in Borders (I couldn't even play checkers that fast.).

We spent the bulk of our time together, tooling around D.C. and its suburbs and discovered some terrific restaurants. We did two runs along the Potomac, visited the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, checked out a couple of museums and had some romantic together time.

Museums. That brings me to my second revelation: I prefer to do museums solo. It isn't that I don't want to share the experience with my beloved, but I want to see what I want to see at the pace at which I want to see it. He informed me, "I can do about two hours in a museum, and then I'm toast." Or something like that.

Don't get me wrong. I am not someone who has to read every placard and ponder every artifact. In fact, I did the Rick Steves half-day tour of the Louvre in Paris and saw all the highlights: Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Vinus de Milo, some Boticellis and Michelangelos. While it's possible to take days to tour every square foot of the Louvre, I felt duly enriched after four hours.

Next time he and I do a museum, we'll divide and conquer, just like we do when we hit Nordstrom's Last Chance - he hits men's shoes, I hit women's shoes and we find each other somewhere around women's swimsuits and men's casual wear. Need more time? Cool, I'll get a hot chocolate and plant myself on a bench.

The last thing I learned is, by the time you take your first trip together, you'd better be over the whole I-don't-poo-when-he's-around thing. I once took a romantic weekend away with a guy and somehow managed to avoid moving my bowels for three entire days. It wasn't a conscious decision; fear impacted me, you could say. "What if he finds out ... I produce ... foul odors?!" I learned from that weekend away that if I'm not ready for a man to find out that I'm HUMAN, then, I'm not ready to spend three days with him. And he's probably the wrong guy for me.

Let's just say, I'm with the right guy now. And leave it at that. :-)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I'll wait for the humans to cross

Just when you think you know someone, take a trip with them. I don't mean a weekend away by car where you hole up for two days in a romantic hotel room. I mean, plan a trip and TRAVEL. Fly, book a hotel, rent a car and see some sights.
My beloved, whom I've been ga-ga over for nearly a year and a half (off and on), took me to one of his hometowns - Washington D.C. - this weekend. Our first real vacation together.
I've always thought of my man as a rather laid back kind of guy, save for a few curse-fests in the car when some stupid driver interrupts our route. We all get a little hot-headed behind the wheel from time to time, right?
I was surprised and somewhat amused to learn that my guy is one of THOSE people. The ones who, when the airplane announces boarding, stands up and starts moving toward the gate. Meanwhile, I'm of the ilk who sits in the lobby until all THOSE people get on board. I mean, why shuffle my way to the gate and down the breezeway so I can sit on the plane a little longer?
I subscribe to the same philosophy when deplaning. Unless I have a tight connection, I'll sit back and wait until all those Type As get their bags and bump each other down the aisle. I relax, grab my stuff and sashay to my destination.
Not my man. He's up and motioning me to follow him. Hurry up, his face says. We're in a hurry? I ask. Why? So we can stand around the baggage carousel a little longer?
We secure our rental car, and I am the designated driver because I'm the one with a credit card and insurance. The Alamo attendant directs us to a row of cars and tells us to choose whichever one we want. We select a Chevy Impala.
As we drive away, my man comments on how big the car is. Maybe we should have gotten a Malibu, he says. This car feels too big, he says. Are you OK driving this? he asks. Several times. You look so small driving this big boat, and you make me nervous because you almost ran us off the road back there, he tells me. That's because I wasn't paying attention, I said. Now I'm paying attention. I'm fine.
And he navigates me through the streets of D.C. to our hotel in Georgetown. Turn here, he says. There are people in the crosswalk, I say. You have to be aggressive here, he says. This isn't Phoenix. People are different here. Still, I say, I'll wait for the humans to cross.
As we approach a fork in the road, he says, "stay here." What is here, I ask? I need you to say "left" or "right," I tell him. "I don't know what 'here' means."
Ever been boating with another couple and witness them verbally tear each other's hair out as they put their vessel in the water or dock it at the end of the day? 
This is the stuff that builds relationships. We get together based on physical attraction, then we woo each other with romantic dates, flowers and sappy love letters. Those butterfly moments in the beginning are no indication of whether the two of you have what it takes to last a lifetime. It's those toilet-seat-up/toilet-seat-down, cap-on-the-toothpaste, backseat-driver, the-plug-isn't-in-the-boat-you-moron moments that tell us if we have longevity.
If my man survives through Wednesday without me running off the road and killing us both ... or ... shoving his backseat-driving butt out of the moving car ... we might have what it takes ...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rain, schmain

It's 5 a.m. and my alarm wakes me. I hear rain on my roof. Wait. Is it rain? No, it's the sound of my son's fan; he always sleeps with a fan running in his room for white noise. Whew. Hit the snooze and get five more minutes of sleep. No, the sound is coming from outside my window. (Parental guidance warning - profanity alert). Fuck. It's triathlon day, and it's raining.
We knew this could happen. The weather report indicated a 70 percent chance of rain, which really means 100 percent (I mean, really, have you ever known it NOT to rain when there was a 70 percent chance of precipitation?).
No problem. I'm 9 minutes in the water, 30 minutes on the bike and 20 minutes on foot. I can do this. And I did.
I arrived early at the site because I wanted a good location for my bike. This was smart. I wanted the shortest distance from the pool to my towel and dry(ish) clothing. I got a prime spot on the first rack.
Because rain doused my plan to have my biking and running gear organized, I heaped all of my shoes, clothes and gear in a garbage bag and tried to prioritize it so the stuff I needed first will be on top. Head band to protect my ears, gloves to warm my hands and cushy bike shorts to protect the place where plan to spend the rest of my day ... all stuffed inside my bike helmet. Socks stuffed inside my cycling shoes. Tri number pinned to my hoodie. I'm set.
Eleven of us did the triathlon from my To Be Re ( workout family. Another dozen or so members, friends and family cheered us on. How lovely it was to hand my swim parka to my friend, Cary, just before I jumped in the pool. And how even lovelier it was when she handed it to me as I trotted from the pool to the transition area.
I survived the swim. I. Survived. The. Swim. I did most of it on my back, but I finished strong. Despite having taken swim lessons, the competitive side of me kicked in, and I found myself winded at the end of the second lap. Rather than stop, though, I rolled onto my back, tucked my arms tightly to my side and used my legs to power me through the water. Worked beautifully. I heard the voice of my friend and trainer, Keith, reminding me that my back kick is "home." Like Will Smith's character tells Kevin James' character in the movie "Hitch" when he starts to break out and do some dance moves beyond his abilities: "You live right here, okay? This is home."
During the transition area, I let go of an important character trait that normallyy works very well for me when I'm on the job: organization and neatness. Threw off the swim gear, threw on the cycling gear, and I was off and pedaling. In the wrong direction. Thank goodness for volunteers.
Pedaling in the rain was painful. And cold. The rain drops pelted my face and felt like little needles. As I pedaled through my three laps (10 miles), I realized that the rain on this leg of the race helped. I wanted to get to a dry place. Pedal faster, please. Hot cocoa awaits.
Running after biking took a few adjustments. My toes were numb from the cold and because my shoes were too tight, and I felt a little bow-legged. It takes a few minutes to regain your footing after the bike ride. I'd sloppily left one running shoe out in the rain in the transition area and one shoe protected in my garbage bag. Right foot was wet and spongy. Left foot was dry.
The spirit of sportsmanship at these events is inspiring. On the run loop, we were encouraging each other and cheering each other on. At the finish line everyone claps and pushes you forward. Having my own (along with 10 of my friends') cheering section was incredible! I forgot about the rain and cold, and I had a blast. Rain, schmain! I can't wait to do it again.
April 11 -Tri for the Cure, women only. I'm there!! Who's in?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hey batter, batter, batter!

I keep returning to this photo of my cousins, my sister and me that was taken in the 1970s, when I was maybe 9 years old. I haven't seen pictures of myself at that age in a long time, and the photo brings back memories, especially as my first triathlon approaches.
My son, who hasn't seen many pictures of me as a kid, said I looked scrawny in the photo. "Look at how baggy your clothes are. You look like you're sick!" he said.
I was really skinny as a kid. I have to say, I was not a cute kid; I did look sickly. I just wasn't that in to food, and I wasn't on any medications or diagnosed with any illnesses. I just didn't like to eat. (Unfortunately, I got over that a long time ago.)
I was one of the youngest kids in my class, having gone from kindergarten right to second grade after doing about two months of first grade. I was one of those brainy kids who was good at math and language arts (formerly known as "English"), so they double promoted me. (Unfortunately, I got over that braininess thing a long time ago, too.)
In gym class and on the playground, when it was time to choose teams for Red Rover or kickball or tug-of-war, I was usually the last kid picked for the team. Oh, the kids liked me, but they didn't want me on their teams. I was scrawny, slow and unathletic.
In summers, my mom signed me up for softball leagues, and I held a batting average of ZERO. The coaches hated putting me in. Actually, everyone hated putting me in. I hated putting me in. I was on the Sheriff's Bulldogs, and our team was GOOD. The coach, who was a sheriff deputy, hence the name, would instruct me never to swing at the ball when I was at bat. I was a head shorter than some of the girls, and a little runt of a player, so my batting range was small. I was easy to walk.
Yet, I'd hear the "Hey, batter, batter, batter. SWING!" chants and I'd fall for it every time, followed by the umpire's call "STRIKE!" The coach's face would turn red, "I TOLD you not to SWING!"
When you are told at a young age that you are not an athlete, you believe it. You believe it for a long time. Like 30+ years.
So, on the eve of my first triathlon, I'm thinking about the scrawny girl wearing the orange hippy-like jersey and the goofy braids that she thought made her look like Marcia Brady (tell me you can see the resemblence). I'm still not the fastest girl on my team, but in three months, I've gone from being unable to complete one lap at the pool without stopping twice to completing 10 laps in nine minutes. I run a 10-minute mile, and I can nearly catch my friend, Adriana, when we bicycle (that girl is FAST).

Monday, February 22, 2010

I had five grandmas

I changed my Facebook image to one that a relative tagged me in.
I'd never seen the photo. I'm about nine years old, and I'm pictured with four cousins and my sister. Everyone in the picture is smiling except me and I'm about a foot apart from the group. It's Christmas time because the Kaviris cousins are wearing matching red-and-white dresses, and they are surrounding their Great-Grandma Ruby at Grandma Ruth's house.
I can't imagine why I wasn't smiling because I loved going to Ruth's house, especially for her annual Christmas party. Her tiny house might have been 1,000 square feet, and we squeezed in babies, kids, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, grandparents ... it was the best holiday party. I always tried to duck from a woman named Harriet - and I have no idea how she was "related" to us - who would marvel loudly over her drink and cigarette at how much we grew from year to year, pinching our legs.
Ruth was my grandfather's second wife. Having a grandfather who married three times makes for an interesting family dynamic. He had my dad and his two brothers with his first wife and a daughter with his second wife. In addition, wife No. 2 had two children, as did wife No. 3 (I think she had only two; maybe it was three). Actually, my grandpa married four times, but the fourth wife was later in life, shortly before he died.
The "relative" who tagged me in the photo is my dad's dad's second wife's sister's daughter. Got that? So, really, we're not related. We're step-somethings.
The cousins in the photo would be my dad's dad's second wife's daughter's kids. So that makes them step-cousins.
I loved that I had so many aunts and uncles and cousins and "steps" that I never understood how or if we were really related. For years, I thought the Binnses, who lived next door to my step-grandmother, were actually related to us because they were always at family get-togethers. Add to that my dad's three marriages (his second wife died) and my uncles' five marriages between the two of them, and that made for a lot of extended family. Lots of steps.
Having had so many marriages and divorces had other effects, too. My grandfather and I had a conversation a year or so before he died where he lamented that one of us, his grandchildren, was living with someone without being married. He pointed out that he could have done that, too, but he did the honorable thing and got married. Four times.
Actually, I said, what I picked up was that marriage was disposable. If you didn't like it, you got out of it and tried it again. It wasn't a forever thing.
Hence, two marriages - one that lasted 11 months and the other that lasted nearly 10 years.
He wasn't offended. In fact, he said something like, "I hadn't thought of that."
I never wanted my family to fit some mold and be "perfect" like the Beavers on TV. I was proud of the fact that even when someone divorced, we got to keep the kids. They still came to holiday parties and summer cookouts.
If I wasn't smiling in that photo, it was probably because, as the oldest cousin of my generation, I was annoyed because some grown-up stopped us from spying on the boy cousins or tearing up Ruth's basement, so we could pose for picture after picture.
Thirty years later, I'm glad they did!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

'What's the MATTER with you?'

My boyfriend sent me a text message last week: "You hugged all my family last weekend."
I met them for the first time, and we hugged upon meeting and again when we said goodbye.
People in my life like to point out when I hug.
To my knowledge, I've never refused a hug, and I've never publicly declared "I don't hug," but, apparently, my body language says "I'm not a hugger."
My aunt says when I was a baby, I was anything but cuddly. When someone would hold me, I'd stiffen like a board.
In all fairness, my family is not comprised of big huggers. I don't remember ever giving my grandparents hugs, but I always kissed them on the cheeks when leaving their house. And my mom doled out hugs, but they were usually for Hallmark card-type moments. I grew up thinking - and, yes, I really thought this - that hugs were for relatives who live in other states, to make you feel better when you've been crying, for the person you were in a relationship with and for babies.
Then, I married into a family of huggers. Upon returning from my first visit to my now-ex's hometown in Michigan, my mom asked how it went, what they were like.
"They're huggers," I said.
All of them - his parents, grandparents, cousins, brothers and his brother's girlfriend. All huggers. When we'd arrive at their home, I'd brace myself as we walked through the door. "Incoming!" I'd think to myself.
Several years later, my then-husband and I moved to Michigan while he attended grad school.
Imagine my surprise when, after we'd gotten settled in our home in Holt, Michigan, visits to my in-laws still began and ended with hugs.
"I thought after we moved to Michigan, we wouldn't have to hug your parents every time we see them," I said, confused.
His return look said something like, "What's the MATTER with you?"
It wasn't that I didn't like them. I like them a lot.
Eight years later, and I thought I'd evolved. Then my boyfriend's text made me wonder if my reputation as a non-hugger would be impossible to shake. I love hugging him; I do it all the time, for absolutely NO reason, unprovoked, inspired merely by digging the sight of him. And his scent. Yet he still sees me as someone who doesn't freely hug.
My response to his text message: "Yes. I know. I'm a new woman. A hugger. Check me out."
Between you and me, I don't understand hugs, but I understand that we all have different needs, different ways of expressing friendship, love and affection. I've gone from being a conservative hugger to a moderate because I realize that some of you need hugs; you get something from them. And since relaxing my rules on hugs, I have to admit, they're not so bad.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

'Maybe when you grow big, you will get one too.'

"Stop," my son keeps telling me.
I can't help it.
He fascinates me.
His body is morphing before my eyes, changing daily as his head goes from boyishly adorably to ... well, I assume eventually it will be manly handsome. His baby-smooth skin has been invaded by a dusting of dark hair above his upper lip and randomly placed pimples. His voice is squeaking toward new depths, and I am grateful that I have saved voice messages on my cell phone that preserve his sweet-boy sounds.
This week, thanks to a work-mandated furlough, I off work and playing stay-at-home mom. Rather than picking him up from THERE, driving him HERE, shoving him full of food, goading him to do homework, shower and off to bed ... I'm able to breathe a little and actual study this little man who has my eyes and my family's penchant for sarcasm.

I have been thinking a lot about what he was like when I really was a stay-at-home mom, for the first four years of his life, and he was discovering things for the first time, like girls being built different from boys.
"Mommy, where's your penis?!" my then-3-year-old asked as he and I squeezed into a bathroom stall at a shopping mall - you know, the kind where the tiniest whisper bounces along the tiled walls and floors. As I hovered above the seat, my toddler bent over to get a good look at my anatomy. "I don't have one," I answered quietly. "Girls don't have penises. Stand by the door."
"Oh," he said, looking disappointed, even a little sorry for me. "Maybe when you grow big, you will get one too."
"I don't want one, Adam," I told him. I mean, really, who does this little pipsqueak think he is? "Only boys have them, and I'm OK with that."
Now my innocent little boy is turning into an image-conscious young man who doesn't think I notice him looking at girls, who checks his hair in the mirror and who has just discovered the music of the Beatles.
I suppose I miss that little boy, but every age Adam turns becomes my new favorite age (except age 3, also known as The Age of Temper Tantrums). He becomes wittier, smarter and more fun to be around, even when he is being surly and difficult.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The problem with signs

I was giving a building tour to the new intern at work this week, and I pointed to a sign in the hall that reads, "Area of Rescue Assistance."
"Those are the stairs," I told her. "I worked here for about six months and wondered where the stairs are and what an 'area of rescue assistance' is."
I figured the "area of rescue assistance" was a response to 9-11 and was some sort of emergency telephone booth. The sign has no symbol that represents a staircase, and even though it does have an "Exit" sign, it wasn't obvious to me.
Call it a blond moment.
The problem with signs is that while we get caught up in the legality and officiality of the notice, we lose the message.
I noted a sign posted at my gym that reads "Cell phone usage permitted only in designated areas." Hmmm. I didn't see any designated areas. Does it mean where a sign is posted, you are not permitted to use a cell phone? And, if so, how far does the restricted area extend? As far as you can read it? If there is no sign, is that a designated area?
So many unanswered questions.
My favorite sign was posted in the restroom at the community newspaper I worked for in Michigan. It read: "Please utilize the courtesy flush and deodorizer spray."
I had no idea what a courtesy flush was, and it took me several weeks to muster the courage to ask. I wanted to make sure I was never busted for not using a courtesy flush because the company restroom is the last place I want to be caught being discourteous. What I learned is, the flush at the end of the bathroom visit is the obligatory flush. The courtesy flush happens immediately after you drop, thereby minimizing lingering odors.
I like to apply the 5-year-old test to signs: If a kindergartener were to read that sign - assuming, of course that he or she reads English - would he or she understand the instructions?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fearless over 40

I really thought I was the only adult on the planet who didn't know how to swim.
I kept it a secret from everyone - even my ex-husband, to whom I was married for 10 years. No idea that I couldn't swim.
"Think about it," I said. "When did you ever seem me swim?"
My son thought it was because I didn't want to be seen in a bathing suit, and I have to admit that was part of the reason, but a very small part.
I remember one vacation, when I still married to his dad, and we went to an amusement park that had water slides and a lazy river on which visitors lounge on innertubes and twirl through the rapids. I sent my son and his dad down the river while I found a comfy bench and read a book - by myself. I was an expert at feigning this or that reason - I look fat in a bathing suit, it's that time of the month, I'm afraid of heights (water slides), I'll take pictures while you guys have fun, blah blah blah.
Admitting I was overweight or afraid of heights was easier than admitting I didn't know how to swim.
My son is fearless. The other day, he and my boyfriend were talking about skydiving, and my son said he wanted to do it, too.
"Really?" I said to him, surprised.
"It would be like flying," he said.
Funny, I thought it would be like falling.
I remind myself when he and I have these conversations, I made a vow to myself to be Fearless at 40. Fear didn't stop me from traveling to France alone in 2001, but it stopped me from trekking to the uppermost level of the Eiffel Tower. I got to the second level, took in the views of Paris, and told myself, "Yup. Good enough. Let's get you down from here."
Nearly 10 years later, I am filled with regret.
Last night, a girlfriend and I had our first swim lesson with Anne, the swim coach, who is EXCELLENT. She had us doing drills where we wrapped our arms around our legs, held our breath and curled up like an egg under water. It let us feel our buoyancy. I held my breath forever. In fact, I got kinda bored, so I came up for air. Thirty-five seconds, she said. Not quite near forever, and I could have held it longer.
More breathing exercises taught me I take in WAY too much air when I swim, which explains why I get winded - and drink water - and showed me that I need only a tiny gulp of air because ... lo' and behold ... I'll be getting another one in about two seconds.
I have been amazed at the people I know who have admitted that they don't now how to swim. A manager here at work said he learned how to swim as an adult and, coincidentally, used the same swim coach that my friend and I are working with. He went from being a nonswimmer to doing Iron Man triathlons and swimming 2.5 miles.
I have six weeks to master swimming 250 yards, nonstop.
I am Fearless over 40. I will do it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Family jewels, misbehaving and stress-less

I'm driving behind a van the other day, and I notice something strange hanging from the rear bumper. I think to myself, "Those look like big testicles." But they can't be testicles because, why would someone hang big fake testicles from his rear bumper? Naively, I think "I wonder if that guy knows that he has something hanging from his bumper that looks like testicles."The closer I get to the van, the more I realize that it is just very possible that these objects are supposed to look like big gonads - like the size you'd see on a stallion. Mondo.
I say to my boyfriend, "What is that?" pointing to the van in front of us. "Testicles," he confirms.
That driver has a message to send to the world. He has courage. He is brave. He is not afraid of anything. Don't mess with him.
People who use their vehicles to tell the world who they are intrigue me.
Vanity plates are big in Arizona - drivers let the world know that they are lawyers, CPAs, moms, spoiled rotten, bikers, hikers and MZBHAVN.
The guy I have seen driving in my neighborhood with the bumper sticker "No Wife. No Boss. No Stress," he has a message, too, right? He's happy. He's well adjusted. He doesn't need you. Don't mess with him.
(How'd you like to go on a date with a guy who has that message on his vehicle? Think that gets him much action?)
The guy with the testicles? Ick.
MZBHAVN? Doubt it.
The stress-less dude? The word "lonely" pops in my head.
I can't help but wonder if people who plaster messages on their bumpers and hang them from their tailgates are trying to persuade us or convince themselves of their greatness, happiness and confidence.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm breaking up with sugar ... again.

Today, as I carried my plate of fresh strawberries and blackberries to my office, a couple of coworkers oooed and aaahed over my snack.

"We'd look like her if we ate like that," one of them said.

If they saw what I ate for dinner last night, they wouldn't ooh and ah.

For dinner last night I had the equivalent of six chocolate-chip cookes in raw cookie dough. How does this happen, you might wonder? I'm so into nutrition and fitness, everyone points out.

Cue the sappy sad-story background music: I worked a long day yesterday, didn't have food with me (I normally pack three to four light meals that I eat throughout the day), I was stressed and, shoot, I am just going to say it: It's that time of the month. Sitting in my office at 5:30 p.m., I thought about hitting the vending machine. "No," I told myself. "Nothing but poison in there."

Then I remembered: I bought a tub of cookie dough from a coworker who was selling it for her kids' fundraiser. Chocolate CHUNK cookie dough. It was in the freezer in the lunchroom. Precisely at 5:44 p.m. yesterday, my friend, Fred, called just as I began to wedge my plastic spoon into the frozen dough. I cradled my cell phone between my ear and shoulder as the first spoon snapped in half because the cookie dough was too strong.

The next chunk flew across the room. I ate it off the floor. Ten-second rule.

Over the next two hours, I estimate I ate the equivalent of six cookies' worth of cookie dough. According to the label, that's 1,260 calories, 66 grams of fat, 720 mg of sodium, 162 grams of carbohydrates and 18 grams of protein.

I felt sick that evening, though I relished the big chunks of chocolate. I love chocolate, and I love it even more when it is frozen. I thought about eating a good, nutritious dinner afterward, but the thought of more food turned my stomach.

When I got home, I baked the rest of the cookie dough. Baked cookies don't hold nearly the temptation that the dough does.

I confessed to Fred, who rode next to me in spin class this morning, "I ate cookie dough for dinner last night," as we pedaled to a Lady Gaga beat. "I ate it while we were on the phone," I told him. No judgment from Fred. He gets it. He sent me a text later today that said, "Stop that, sister" and acknowledged that we all need to get back on healthy eating.

This binge was preceded by an eight cocoa-dusted truffle binge last week, thanks to my new boss, who left them for me for the holidays. In case you were wondering, you can eat six cocoa-dusted truffles as you walk from my office to the lunchroom. Real slowly. (You can eat two more once you get there.)

OK, that's all I have to say about my sugar binge. It's over. I'm breaking up with chocolate and getting back on track.