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.