Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Torture Chamber. Also Known As The Gym

So I managed to get myself back to the gym after a rather, let's say, extended absence. One day a week every couple weeks does not an exercise routine make. And that was back in October. Hadn't even stepped foot inside the gym since then.

Now if you’re an exercise fanatic, you’re probably horrified by that last statement. I was almost one of you at one point and I know how much better I felt when I exercised regularly. However, I’m not now nor have I ever been one of those people who actually likes to exercise. I’m not a big fan of sweating. So it’s very easy to slip back into a lazy routine.

But I’ve been back for about a month now and of course I feel better. But let me tell you somethin’ – it hasn’t been easy.

I entered the very same gym I’d been going to for the past five years and looked around in confusion. Not only was there not one single employee I recognized, but they’d moved everything around. My favorite stationary bike? Gone. The pink treadmill that was conveniently placed in the back of the room so I wasn’t the featured comedy act for everyone’s entertainment as I tried to hang on and not fall off the thing, à la George Jetson? Yep. Moved to the front of the room.

What was this – some sort of bizarre exercise machine musical chairs game? I’d only been gone for a few months, for crying out loud. Does the world spin faster in gyms or something? I counted the five minutes of walking around looking for my favorite machines as five minutes of aerobic exercise. Hey, “upright and moving” counts in my book.

Not being able to find my standard machines wasn’t the worst of it either. I mistakenly thought it wouldn’t be all that difficult to get right back into it at the level I’d been. Silly me. Before I stopped going to the gym regularly, I’d been pressing 100 lbs with my legs on the Cybex whatchamacallit machine – the one that is supposed to make your legs all toned and stuff.

Clearly, you can see why I was so flummoxed to discover they’d moved all the machines around. I don’t know the names of any of them and identified them only by their location inside the four walls of the gym. Plus, I only knew what body part I was working on by looking at the little diagram printed on the side of the machine. Oh yeah, this one is for my maximus dorsal finial muscle.

(Whaddya mean you don’t know what the maximus dorsal finial muscle is? Shame on you. I guess you’d better Google it. You’ll find it by searching under “Stuff Jane Makes Up.”)

There are some machines at this gym that I have never used. I’ve never seen anyone else use them either, so I’m not even sure what they do. And I don’t want to be the rat in that particular experiment. If I got brave and tried it on my own, I’d probably end up in traction. Not a place I want to be.

Nevertheless, I selected a different stationary bike hoping it worked the same. I figured pedaling should be pretty standard on those things, right? I mean, you put your feet on the foot pedals, press the “0” speed (kidding), pedal for about a half hour, get sweaty, drink some water and stumble off (not kidding).

How hard could that be? Thinking I should start out slow, I selected the “3” speed and started pedaling. Or at least tried to. Within the first six seconds I realized this was not going to be as easy as I’d thought. If I’d been on a real bike, a geriatric with a walker would have easily blown by me. Not only that, but the red light that indicates you’re not pedaling fast enough, was continually flashing on and off. I imagined it was trying to say, “PEDAL FASTER, YOU MORON!”

Embarrassed, I changed the setting to “0” (not kidding), and tried again. I managed to do the full 30 minutes, every so often bumping it up to “1,” but I nearly fell onto the floor in a sweaty, exhausted heap when I was finished. And I probably looked slightly inebriated as I stumbled around afterwards trying to find the spray bottle of cleaner and that nasty white rag used to “clean” (and I use the term loosely) the machine.

And I still had a half hour of weight machines to get through. Egad. This was pure torture.

After about six weight machines, three for the upper body and three for the lower body, I figured it was a good first effort, so I called it a night. I’m too embarrassed to admit the weenie weights I had to use for these exercises.

My mother, who has never set foot inside a gym, could probably have bench pressed more weight than I did. (I’m making this up up, too. Not the part about my mom, but about the bench pressing thing. I don’t bench press. Let me repeat the thing about ending up in traction. Not where I wish to be.)

So that was my first night back at the gym. I’m happy to say that it has gotten easier since then. Well, at least until this week when I worked out two nights in a row and could barely get out of bed this morning.

I’d quit, but (a) I’m not a quitter, (b) I pay for this gym membership every stinkin’ month and they got six free months outta me, and most importantly, (c) I do realize that exercise is good for me.

So I’ll soldier on.

But just to be sure, I think I’ll hold off using the pink treadmill in the front of the room for a while longer. After all, it would be way too ironic to hear me yelling, “JAAAAAAANE…STOP THIS CRAZY THINGGGGG!”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Blog Tuesday! (Yes, I just made that up.)

Where does the time go? I wrote my last blog eons ago and haven’t written a single word since.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have written e-mails. I have written to-do lists that somehow never quite get to-done. And I have written a comment on a Facebook page or two.

But I have written no blogs.

Perhaps I was restraining myself from responding to all that Rapture nonsense. Or maybe I’ve been in a severe state of depression since learning that Oprah’s last show is tomorrow (25 years!!)

Nah. I don’t believe any of that The-World-Is-Ending stuff from people who don’t know any more about it than I do. And Oprah? Well, sure, I’ve watched her show from time to time over the years and have enjoyed it. She has brought a lot of people to the public eye. I mean, because of Oprah, people know who Stedman and Gayle are. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure I’m better off knowing that there are two people in the world named Stedman and Gayle.

And, okay, so she also introduced the free world to people like Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Dr. Oz and Maya Angelou. I suppose those people – as well as Oprah herself – have had a positive impact on some folks.

But mostly her show’s end means to me that I’ll never have an opportunity to sit in her studio audience and rake in the loot on an “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode. Darn.

No, I suppose the real reason I haven’t written any blogs lately is that I have had a lot on my mind. And, believe it or not, I don’t write down every thought that enters my head. Not for public consumption, anyway.

I’ve been getting myself back to the gym lately, which is a good thing. But a time-consuming thing, as well. And we’ve been considering a move. The thought of which overwhelms me. I mean, if you’ve ever read one of my blogs before, you know how much crap we have at home. Fortunately, I suppose, the garage is filled with boxes – so perhaps we’d just have to move boxes from Abode A to Abode B, and that wouldn’t be too difficult.

Yeah, right.

I have to stop thinking about moving or else I’ll get paralyzed here and won’t be able to write another word.

We have a lot of upcoming events on the calendar, some of which are out of town, so I’ve been trying to make sure we don’t double-book and end up in Cincinnati when we’re supposed to be in Columbus hosting dinner for friends.

And in a couple weeks I will be donning my chauffeur cap and driving my parents to Cape Cod, where they’ll “summah at the cahtage.” (Said in your best Thurston Howell the Third voice. And if you don’t know who Thurston Howell the Third is, then stop reading this blog. You’re too young.) Meanwhile, I’m having nightmares that my dad won’t be paying attention to the road and I’ll get us hopelessly lost and we’ll end up in Tampa, despite ol’ trusty Gladys the Garmin Lady telling me where to go.

But my biggest concern at this very moment is the dress I’m supposed to wear in a friend’s upcoming September wedding. It’s short. And practically sleeveless. I haven’t worn short, sleeveless dresses since I was 10. It’s Navy Blue, er, “Lapis” (which is a fancy name for Navy Blue) and has sparkles on it. It would look ideal on a 6 foot, 98 lb. model. I am close to 6 feet, but nowhere near 98 lbs. Notice I didn’t mention the model part? ‘Nuff said.

I suspected that on me, the dress would look like a short, navy blue bag with sparkles. Oops, sorry, lapis bag with sparkles. So I ventured into Macy’s last night and tried it on. And, yes, I did, in fact, look like I was wearing a short, navy blue bag with sparkles. Sigh.

If you ask me, after a certain age – say, 25 – women shouldn’t be forced to wear identical bridesmaid dresses. In any other situation, two women wearing the same dress is verboten. Why should weddings be any different?

My friend wanted her wedding color to be purple, but her mom selected the blue sparkly bag, er, dress. Helpful friend that I am, I tried on a purple dress that didn’t make me look like I was wearing a bag. So I bought it instead of the blue one. Probably, I’ll be exchanging the purple dress, but for now, I’m feeling better about the wedding.

So those are just some of the thoughts swirling around in my little brain. Exciting, huh? Yeah, well, sorry. Next time I’ll try to come up with something better. Maybe the kitties will do something newsworthy and I can write about it. Or I’ll spill something or get into another one of those "Lucy"-type situations. Those are always good for a few words. (Again, if you don't know who Lucy is, stop reading. I'm sure Lady Gaga writes an entertaining blog.)

Ah well. At least I didn’t once mention the crappy rainy weather we’ve had here in Central Ohio lately.

Happy Blog Tuesday. Time to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

I wanted to post a Mother’s Day blog on the day we actually celebrate mothers, but, well, I was a little busy spending time with my own mom (and dad). And that is as it should be, I suppose. Not that mom wouldn’t have appreciated an entire blog devoted to her, but I’m sure she preferred spending time with us. I imagine that watching the back of my head as I sit at the computer and compose a blog would be rather like watching paint dry.

Actually, part of that last statement is not true. No, not the part about watching paint dry – sadly, that part is true. But the part about mom appreciating a blog devoted to her. In truth, my mom is not one for excessive adulation and if she knew I was dedicating a blog to her, it would make her uncomfortable. That’s just the way she is.

Mom would tell you it’s the age in which she grew up. This was during the Depression, and people were just trying to survive. They didn’t waste much time patting themselves on the back (or expecting someone else to do it). You simply did what was expected of you without any thought to the “reward” you would get afterwards. Frequently, there wasn’t any – unless you consider personal satisfaction as a reward.

I kind of like that. It’s nice to be able to motivate yourself rather than expecting someone else to make the reward such that you grudgingly perform the task.

I can remember when I was a kid and, on the rare occasion we did our chores without being reminded, we’d run to mom and tell her about our accomplishment. Her response? “So what do you want – a medal?”

Clearly, that whole pat on the back thing wasn’t a big part of our household.

Not that mom wasn’t proud of us and our accomplishments. But she may have feared we’d get swelled heads if we were praised all the time for doing the right thing; things that we should do as a matter of course as honest, good, intelligent, hardworking people.

On Sunday, Vince asked my mom what some of her favorite memories of motherhood have been. I think he expected to hear the faint strains of violins in the background as mom recalled all the sappy, sentimental times – like when her babies were first placed in her arms, or perhaps when her children graduated from college or even when they walked down the aisle. And he was all prepared to be touched by her response.

And then mom said, “When my children left home.”

You could almost hear the violins screech to a stop mid-note. And the expression on Vince’s face was priceless.

But mom’s comment cracked me up. Sure, there was probably some element of relief whenever another one of her chicks flew the nest because – let’s face it – raising four kids who were within six years of age of each other couldn’t have been a piece of cake. Particularly having to endure us all as teenagers.

But having her children leave the home they grew up in meant that my parents had done their job and had raised children to stand on their own and make their own way. To my parents, that was one of their greatest accomplishments.

Now I’m sure my mom and dad had sappy, sentimental moments when their babies were first placed in their arms and had prideful moments when they watched their children graduate from college and flashed back to memories of their little boys and girls while watching their adult sons and daughters walk down the aisle. (In my case, I’m guessing there were feelings of relief that I finally decided to walk down the aisle. No, I kid. Sort of.)

In our family, I tend to be the sappy, sentimental one – so it’s probably a good thing Mom isn’t just like me. Too much sap and sentiment isn’t always a good thing. But I noticed that mom hugs me extra hard when she sees me these days.

As for me, I cherish every moment I’m able to spend with my parents – even if it’s merely standing in the kitchen together peeling carrots for dinner. And I look forward to our weekly phone calls.

As more and more of my contemporaries lose their parents and no longer have them around to wish them a Happy Mother’s (or Father’s) Day, I know that it’s truly a gift that my parents are still here with us.

{Sappy and Sentimental Alert!}

So, Mom, I just want to tell you that I love you very much. I know we don’t really say that a lot in our family, but I know you love me. And I just want you to know how I feel, too.

I thank you for all you’ve done for me throughout my life.

Thank you for being there whenever I’ve needed you – from the Band-Aids you applied to my skinned knees to the comfort you gave me at the loss of a job.

Thank you for listening to me when I wanted to tell you something funny or sad or interesting or outrageous. Thank you for laughing and commiserating and paying attention and being outraged (all at the appropriate times, too.).

Thank you for instilling in me the values that enabled me to grow into a (relatively) honest, good, intelligent, and hardworking person.

And thank you for embracing and welcoming my husband into our family.

Happy Mother’s Day. Let’s do this again next year. Okay?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You're Unofficial Spelling Queen and Grammar and Punctuation Police Representative. Your welcome.

I should probably spend some time today writing a blog about Mother’s Day. I should wax poetic about all things mom and mom-related. And I should heap some well-deserved love and praise upon my own mother and all the other mothers I know out there who have done a helluva job raising their kids.

Eventually I’ll get to that particular blog. But right now I need to vent for a minute. Or ten.

Now I realize that no one has ever officially bestowed upon me the title of Spelling Queen. Nor have I been offered a position with the Grammar and Punctuation Police. But sometimes – just sometimes – I need to give folks a little unsolicited assistance.

People: When someone thanks you, how do you respond? NO, not “your welcome.” It’s a contraction of You. Are. Welcome. Thus, “you’re welcome” is the correct response.

Arrrggh. “Your welcome” appears daily on Facebook and drives me absolutely nuts! I suppose I should be impressed that people are at least responding in a polite manner when someone thanks them for something.

But that's not the only error I see every day. Most of the time I just grind my teeth a little and move on. Or I try to laugh. But sometimes I just need to say something. Here, for example, are a few of the errors I saw on Facebook the other day:

“I’m barley awake this morning…” I wanted to say, “Well, I got plenty of sleep last night, so I’m oatay!” (Ooh, sorry, that was bad.)

This was a lovely response to someone who has been ill and I don't mean to make fun of it – but it did make me laugh. She wrote: “I continue to pray for you without seizing.” Yikes. Prayer is wonderful and all, but God forbid you suffer seizures while doing it. 

Another post amused me the other day. A woman attempted to use the word “repetitively” but spelled it, “repedatively.” Spell check, anyone? When her sister, the owner of the profile, tried to correct her, an interesting back-and-forth followed:

Sister 1: “…I will use it repedatively…”
Sister 2: “…when you can spell repeatedly, we’ll talk...”
Sister 1: “…not repeatedly, repedatively (over and over)…”
And then Sister 1 crowed about catching Sister 2 in an “error” and then proceeded to trash Sister 2 for suggesting the word repeatedly. I think the jury is still out on whether “repeatedly” or “repetitively” is more correct, but Sister 1 still didn’t “get” that she spelled repetitively wrong.

The thing is, I’m okay with people intentionally shortening words for emphasis or to convey a certain feeling or sentiment. Like calling a friend “bro” or typing “idk” instead of “I don’t know.” With the latter, at least it eliminates the potential error of typing “dont” instead of “don’t.”

Contractions must be more difficult than I realized.

I saw one post that had six errors in a single sentence. Evidently, this person thinks any word that ends in “s” must include an apostrophe. To wit: “To all my friend's that left comment's and message's...” Like I said, there were three more errors in that one sentence, but I think you get the gist.

Another pet peeve of mine is when people use “that” when referring to other people. As in, “friends that left...” I was of the understanding that it should be, “friends who left...”

But that's just me. Probably our language has gotten so casual that we don't need to be proper anymore. And I should probably just go with the flow and learn that communication is never again going to be what it used to be.

I blame it all on the whole texting thing. There are all sorts of shortcuts people have developed in order to reduce the wear and tear on their sensitive thumbs.

Back in ancient times – before the telephone was invented – people had to communicate by letter. Even when they wanted to extend a simple dinner invitation to Cousin Myrtle. It probably looked like a wedding invitation with all the fancy embossed stationary and wax stamps and those little slips of tissue paper – even though it may have merely been an invite to come over on Saturday night for some beans and wienies.

Or maybe not. I don’t really know since, fortunately, I’m not that old, and the telephone was invented long before I was born. I’m merely basing my observation on novels and old movies. (And, of course, no one in those old movies was ever served beans and wienies for Saturday night dinner.)

Nevertheless, those people knew how to communicate. They had pretty handwriting and their prose was all flowery and poetic and stuff.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd want to go back to those days. After all, I'm rather fond of the delete and backspace buttons on my computer. Plus, I really do prefer using my iPhone to communicate over dipping a quill in a bottle of ink and taking pen to paper. (My luck, I'd knock over the ink bottle.)

So, the upshot is that grammar and spelling happen to be my strong suit. Math, on the other hand, is not. If someone asked me to figure out the square root of anything, I couldn’t even pretend to conjure up an answer in my head. Nor would I be able to arrive at an answer even if someone handed me a calculator. I simply don’t know how to figure it out – if I ever did (apologies to whichever math teacher attempted to teach me the concept).

The point is, everyone has their strong suit and I'm not expecting anyone to be perfect.

But for those who can figure out square roots of numbers, but can't form a complete sentence without error, there is a simple answer. It's called “spell check.” And it comes in handy.

Here's another helpful tip: re-read what you write before hitting Enter or Send.

Hopefully I haven't alienated everyone who reads my blog. Please feel free to take your imaginary red pen to my writing. I'm quite sure I've made lots of errors. But other than the title, I don't think I've used “you're” when it should be “your.” Or vice versa.

Or have I? Maybe I'd better go back and read this again.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Curious Case of the Broken Pasta Bowl

So I came downstairs this morning to start the coffee, feed the kittens, pack our lunches, scoop dirty kitty litter, forage for something for breakfast and…well, you know, the stuff you have to do before you can get out the door to head to work.

The thing that stopped me in my tracks (after I'd dumped food in the bowls for our meowing and overly insistent cats who were evidently about to perish unless they got fed immediately) was the sight of one of our pasta bowls sitting on the counter.

It had obviously been broken and had even more obviously been glued back together. And there was a big piece of packing tape over the seam holding the pieces together while the glue dried.

Hmmm. Now WHO could have done that?? The cats? Nooo, I don’t think so. Sure, they could have broken the thing in the first place. But not possessing opposable thumbs precluded them from attempting the repair work.

Clearly, my darling husband had been busy last night after I’d gone upstairs to get ready for bed. He said he’d been washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. But it explained why it had taken him so long to wash a coupla plates and forks.

Rather than make me angry because the bowl (that we’d received as a wedding gift) had been broken, the sight of that pitiful looking thing made me laugh. I mean, Vince sure gave it the ol’ college try. But he’d been a little heavy-handed with the glue and it had bubbled out in globs along the crack line. Plus, I wasn’t sure how he was going to remove the tape since it looked like it was permanently attached to the bowl.

Not only that, but when I tried to pick up the bowl, I couldn’t. Yep, you guessed it. It was glued to the counter. Since we have precious little counter space as it is and I didn’t want the thing stuck there forever, I tried pulling it up gently. Didn’t work. So then I tried wiggling it back and forth hoping to pry it loose without damaging the counter. I’d add “without damaging the bowl,” too, but I figured that was a lost cause. But still – no dice. So finally I just yanked it – and it broke free. Yeah, “broke” being the operative word. A piece from the bottom of the bowl remained stuck to the counter.

Uh oh.

Before I had a chance to try to scrape off the bit of china from the counter, Vince came downstairs. He took a look at the bowl and said, “I didn’t want to tell you about this last night and risk upsetting you, so I glued it thinking maybe you wouldn’t even notice it had broken.”

Uh, yeah, honey. Except that I’m not blind when I’m wearing my glasses. Shaking my head, I just looked at him and smiled.

Then he spied the piece of bowl still stuck to the counter. And he says, “You broke the bowl?”

Are you kidding me?!

He then explained that the bowl had broken in the dishwasher. This doesn’t surprise me as Vince has a habit of jamming as many plates, bowls and glasses into the dishwasher as possible so as not to be forced to wash a single piece by hand. It’s an engineering marvel as he moves plates and baking dishes around like puzzle pieces to use every millimeter of space.

I, on the other hand, put one plate in each of the slots allotted for plates in the lower shelf. And, on the upper shelf, there is a single row of glasses or small bowls – none of which touch. It seems reasonable to me. Fortunately, we are not a family of six. Using my method would require more than one session per day with the dishwasher.

In our home, whoever is responsible for drying the non-dishwasherable stuff like our good knives and pots and pans is also responsible for loading the rinsed dishes. So whenever that’s me, I’ll eventually tell Vince that the dishwasher is full. Because this usually occurs before we’re finished, he’ll move me out of the way so he can rearrange my handiwork to fit in more stuff.

Not saying it’s related or anything, but our plates and bowls have a suspiciously large number of chips on them.

Oh well. We still have two surviving pasta bowls. If we just agree never to serve any guests pasta for dinner, we’ll be good to go. But…perhaps if we use them again, we should consider washing them by hand.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Habits of Intelligent and Highly Creative People? Or Maybe it’s Just Another Blog About the Weather…

It’s May. And, according to my handy-dandy iPhone, it is currently 45 degrees outside. And it’s raining. As usual.

Sigh. Why is that I’ve been sighing so much over the weather lately? Oh yeah – because it has been rainy and cold since, well, maybe the last Ice Age. Which I think was in February. And, naturally, I did plenty of complaining about the snow and ice, then, too. So what’s new?

I guess I should at least be happy that I’m not wearing turtlenecks and heavy winter coats in May. Oh, wait a minute. I AM wearing a turtleneck today. On the other hand, I didn’t have to dig through bins and boxes to find it since I’ve been too lazy to make the transition to my spring and summer wardrobe. Inadvertently I somehow realized that we were going to have a sucky spring and I was going to need to keep my long-sleeve, high-necked, cold weather clothes handy. So who knows? Maybe I’ll put off switching my wardrobe until June this year.

This morning when I was sitting in the parking lot that was the freeway and attempting to see the road ahead through the smeary raindrops on my windshield, I had time to contemplate War and Peace. Okay, that’s not really true. I have never even attempted to read War and Peace. Not that the length of the tome intimidates me, but I’m more of a peace-lovin’ sort of person and I’m not really sure how much of it is about war. No, I kid again. I just mostly don’t want to get all tangled up in those unpronounceable Russian names or try to keep the characters straight. Plus, I might feel like I have to write a book report on it afterwards since War and Peace seems like one of those English Lit requirement type books.

Uh…besides…I’m busy reading the latest James Patterson novel, which only takes approximately ten and a half minutes to read from cover to cover.

Anyway, the truth was I had plenty of time while I was sitting in my car this morning inching along towards downtown to really take a good look at the interior of my vehicle. And I was quite appalled. I mean, the passenger side of my car is so filled with stuff that it looks like I’m moving and am in the process of hauling a carload of my possessions to a new home. Since we’re not in the process of moving, I can’t use that excuse.

Some of the stuff legitimately needed to be there. Like my purse, for instance. But if you’ve ever read my blogs before, you know my purse is pretty much suitcase-sized. So that right there takes up a lot of room on the passenger seat. Also sharing space on the seat was my lunch bag. And my gym bag. And we can’t forget about that James Patterson book. Plus I think there was a bag filled with either important papers or trash. Or maybe both in the same bag. Which means that sometime before the next Ice Age (February), I will need to sort through it. Let’s just hope I didn’t throw a half-eaten banana or something in there. Eww.

On the floor, there are a couple gift bags for friends – like a baby outfit for a friend whose child will likely be entering middle school before I get around to shipping it. But the delay might have its benefits, too. Like maybe by then the “fuel surcharge” won’t be three times what the outfit cost.

Of course, I can only imagine the look of confusion on the recipient’s face were she to open a package containing a baby outfit intended for her 10-year-old.

Oh well. Someone recently sent me one of those e-mail forwards with photos of messy desks of famous intelligent and highly creative people. Like Einstein. And…well, I can’t think of any of the others. But they were intelligent and highly creative famous people. And they had really messy desks.

So it makes me wonder. Does having a messy car mean the same thing – that I’m intelligent and highly creative? Or does it just mean that I’m a slob?

Don’t answer that. Remember – I’m cranky. It’s May and I’m wearing a turtleneck.

But I’m thinking that maybe I’ll clean out my car tonight. Or at least go through the bag with the half-eaten banana. That’s kind of grossing me out. (And I don’t really think there IS a half-eaten banana in it - but the thought is grossing me out anyway.)