Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer-Size Me

NOTE: The picture above is proof that exercise and dieting are a "waist" of time, so I've decided to throw in the towel and just enjoy myself. What's that? You'd rather I cover myself with the towel instead? Fair enough - come to think of it, it might come in handy to mop up all that barbecue sauce I plan on devouring. Thanks for the tip. Now on to the main course...

It’s a weird world we live in when we routinely devote eight months of every year to dieting and exercise in order to get our bodies back in shape for the summer - only to spend the much anticipated season eating all the foods that got us so fat in the first place.  Except for watermelon and corn on the cob (minus the butter), I can’t think of another summer food that isn’t fattening or unhealthy.  Ice cream?  Fried clams?  Burgers?  Hot dogs?  Ribs?  Macaroni salad?   All so good…yet oh so bad.  But can we enjoy summer without them?  Or, as Hamlet might say: To eat, or not to eat, --that is the question: -- Whether ‘tis nobler to diet and suffer for the slings and thongs of outrageous swimsuits.  Or to take arms against a sea of potato salads, and by consuming, enjoy them.

Only it’s not just a question of will power – I’m sure many of us could deprive ourselves of the good foods mentioned above, but who’d want to? What’s a picnic, parade, beach or ballpark without them? The truth is, much of what we love about summer comes from what (and where) we eat.  And thanks to  the warm weather and long days, we have plenty of time to do just that.  Which explains why I usually only have about  a week or two in early May when I can walk around without my shirt on with any degree of confidence - because by the end of Memorial Day weekend, it’s all over.  I’m back to jiggling like a Jell-O mold.  And after two months of hitting every picnic like Yogi Bear coming out of hibernation, I’ve packed back on all the weight I lost (and then some) so that come the aptly named Labor Day, I look like I’m about to give birth.

But who cares? We have a whole year (minus those months between Halloween and Christmas) to work it back off.  Sure, it’s a vicious (but delicious) cycle, but that’s why they invented t-shirts and tankinis, so I say celebrate now and slim down later.  Are you with me? Then step right up (and off that scale) and say, “Summer-size me!”  

Eat those ribs until you can no longer see your own. Dig in to those fried clams - and go for the whole bellies, strips are for skinny people. Double up your paper plate and be the first in line at the next picnic, bypassing anything that's served with a fork. The stuff that must be spooned is bound to be better. And wash it all down with a couple of salty margaritas or frosty beers - keeping in mind that calories that aren't chewed don't count. 

The point is, summer is short, so enjoy yourself. And remember, it’s better to eat good than to look good.  Plus, the more you eat, the better I’ll look in comparison.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Aiming for Center Mass

When you spend a lot of time alone, be it biking, hiking, or sitting on the toilet, you tend to think about stuff. What you would do if you suddenly lost your job. Or how you would respond to a terrorist attack. Or why did you have that second bowl of chili?

And most times, I imagine, we imagine ourselves doing all the right things in the face of these dangers and difficulties, calmly stopping, dropping, and rolling our way through the countless catastrophes we conjure up.

But what would we do if something really happened?

I had the chance to see for myself a few years ago, when I walked out of the woods to find someone aiming a gun right at my head.

Did I duck and cover? Turn tail and sprint a zig zag pattern through the trees? Dive behind a boulder and pull out my own weapon?

That would be No to the third power.

No, what I did, when suddenly faced with the very real danger of a loaded pistol pointing at my face, was to casually tap my friend on the shoulder and say, “Dude, I think that guy is pointing a gun at us.”

There was no adrenaline rush. My life did not flash before my eyes. I did not feel scared, worried, angry, or anxious. Mostly I was curious. Like why was this guy pointing a gun at me?

So I waved and gave a loud, “Hello?”

 Now, as a society, we like to make fun of the characters in horror movies who investigate the strange sounds coming from the basement and end up getting chain sawed in the chest – but I’m no longer so sure they’re behaving all that bizarrely.

Curiosity does more than kill cats and make life challenging for the Man in the Yellow Hat – it encourages us to open doors that may lead to great opportunities…or homicidal maniacs in hockey masks!

But that’s not my point. My real purpose is to discuss how non-aroused I was by the whole situation. And not that kind of arousal, you pervs, I mean the 'fight or flight' arousal that supposedly helps all living things survive.  Either I’m an evolutionary marvel, or I’m missing something, because I really don’t get riled up or excited. About anything.

I could give a bunch of examples - none as dramatic as the gun pointed at my head - but all would share a common trait: basically, I have no pulse. Don’t get me wrong. I do get sad. I have a tough time seeing others in pain. And there are times when I feel stressed. But I just don’t get excited.  I don't have high highs or low lows. I have…mediums?

I’m sure I’m missing out on some wonderful feelings, but frankly, I think the trade off is worth it. Think of me as an emotional Goldilocks. Not too hot, not too cold. Everything is just right (so long as you ignore the broken furniture and wasted porridge I leave in my wake!) You might disagree, claiming that breaking even is not a win and a tie is not a victory, and you would be right. But when you think about how much more time is spent practicing than playing the game, then I come out ahead, because on average, I will have more average days than you have good or bad ones.

But back to the day in question. What happened was my friend and I had come out of the woods and into a clearing, where there were several picnic tables, so we sat down for a rest. While we were talking, I noticed a white pick-up coming down the access road, and watched as a uniformed man got out and started pointing his pistol at me.

And while the daydream version of me would have flipped the table over and taken cover behind it, the real me simply waved and hollered “Hello?”

Even from 100 yards away, I could see the look of panic on his face as he quickly holstered his gun upon hearing me call out. We hopped off the table and walked over to him to see what was going on.

It turned out to be (name omitted to protect the not so innocent), a man we were quite familiar with, as he was the only full-time park ranger in the town of (name omitted to protect the not so innocent) for the past 20 years and he often “checked in” on us during our many teenage camping excursions (meaning many of you have by now figured out who he is, but fuck him, he almost shot me!) Anyway, Ranger Doe nervously explained that he was due for his weapon qualification, and that he was simply testing his sights. “I wasn’t really gonna shoot,” he stammered. “I was just aiming…” he trailed off, knowing that the only way to test one’s aim was to pull the trigger and see what you hit.

“And you decided to aim at me?” I asked incredulously.

“No, no! God no! I was pointing at that sign,” he said, indicating a small plaque on a post that identified Campsite 3, “I didn’t even see you there. Where did you come from anyway,” he asked, changing his tone to more of a challenge, looking for a way to blame us for the near tragedy.

“The woods,” I explained helpfully, happy to have the (picnic) tables turned after so many years.  “And there are quite a few other hikers out there, you really should be more careful,” I added, more out of revenge for all the beer he took from us, the garbage he made us pick up, and the fires he made us put out, than for the fact that he nearly shot me in the head!

“And you really want to wear bright clothes when hiking, especially during hunting season,” he advised, trying to save face while distancing himself from the thought that he nearly put a bullet through mine.

“We’ll keep that in mind,” I said, shaking his still shaking hand. “And good luck with your qualifications. Try not to shoot the instructor!”

He nodded his head in defeat and got back into his truck, giving a friendly beep as he drove off.

As we walked through the settling dust from his hasty retreat, I found myself hoping he really did pass his test. I knew that being a ranger was his life, and even though he nearly took mine, I wasn’t one to hold a grudge. Plus, like most things in my life, it was nothing to get excited about!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Turning the Other Cheek (a guest blog by Amy)

Hello friends and followers of Mike Wood,

After a few character crushing replies to this blog and sharing some message board mayhem, Mike had suggested to me that I may be blogworthy. As this is the only blog I frequent, he gave me a general idea of word count but beyond that was left to my own research. As a frantic femme I googled "How do you write a good blog" for instant gratification education. Over 286 million search replies resulted and since I don't have the time to study them all by my 48 hour deadline, I scanned for key phrases: Be yourself, be intimate, be personal, have a good foundation.

Behold, a foray into my intimate personal foundations.

Not actually into them per say but rather to share a few anecdotes on this subject that is so close to us all. It's a universal topic, unless of course you are a nudist, a lifestyle I often fantasize about while I am enduring my weekend laundrythons. Since I live in the wildly undulating and extreme climates of New England, and since I do not have a personal Hollywood special effects team, my brood will continue clothed even through sweltering summer.

As I write, I am unpeeling my legs off my pleather couch, a purchase which seemed like such a good deal from Bob's Discount Damage Room midwinter. A few years back in such summer heat I recall doing the same to my desk chair as worked through the night. Hair piled on my head, fans in the windows, I was agonizingly uncomfortable and frantic to finish. By the time I finished my project I was disconnected from reality and wanted to reward myself for a job well done. So off I went to the all night gas station to meet up with my friends Ben & Jerry.

There I enter the beautiful oasis of corporate funded central air and gravitate knowingly to the corner fridge to study the selection. My eyes move across the colorful array of B & J with all their fun names and combinations. The choice I make, hmm Half Baked. Brownies and cookie dough and ice cream…what could be more indulgent and delicious. And I did deserve it. I had worked so hard. 

In my dreamlike state I take my careful selection to the counter and the apathetic attendant assists me. The bells on the door sound as a teenage guy enters the shop. I study him in the reflection of the window behind the counter. I applaud him for giving me personal space, further convincing myself he stands 4 ft behind me in awe of my radiant femininity. I collect my change, give my thanks, and ring the bell as I exit. I encounter a night much cooler than the one I left, motion in the previously still air. I plunk myself down into my seat with a swoosh, and skin touches upholstery. In a place unlike before. I grimace, then grope, and fully note, I am exposed. At some point in the day between my carefully selected white shorts and VPL (visible panty line) evading thong, my pants had ceased to be covering my assets. 

So the kind young man behind my behind, I will never know, I hope, but must apologize for whatever he witnessed. And it was at this moment in my life I embraced a truth.  "They" were right, be aware of what you wear down there, as you never know when you'll be in an accident, even if that accident is your inexpensive shorts giving in on you. Into the bin went that pants that I was in, and never again did I return to buy my outer or undergarments in a retail store bearing the title words "Bug" or "Barn" or any establishment located in a strip mall or under the same roof as you might also purchase motor oil or macaroni.  

As only Marilyn can only tell which way the wind will blow, you must be ready at any moment for your close up. I realize as most you should never shop at Wal-Mart, but I made exception to my clothes purchasing rule as there I have found some silly frillies there that make me smile. In my day to day I dress for desk, and recently wore a somewhat chic shift to work. I felt sophisticated until I realized my floral and peace sign patterned panties were no secret to anyone who might catch me in fluorescent light. Yesterday when I was reflecting on this topic (in a judgment compromising 105 humid day) I wore my "Have a nice day" rainbow bottoms under a knee length skirt. The power of intention won, and there was no updraft up my skirt. While I'm amenable to sharing a smile, I am happy to say I made it across Center Street & Main without any loft.

In my unfailing preparedness for the next occasion my pants split open. I have replaced late night excursions for ice cream for visits to the gym. I first stop in the ladies room to make sure that my clothing has not spontaneously gone threadbare before I employ any challenge that puts my derriere in the air. Last week, as I was holding 15 pound dumbbells and doing single leg dead lifts, I realized I wasn't wearing "gym friendly" underwear till too late. I was fighting some creep as some creep was spying on me. He was employing a lackadaisical effort at his leg presses as he continued to glance in my direction. Taking the opportunity to be enlightened, I told myself that the better for him physically if he found some motivation to work out, and the better for me to remain otherwise focused on my task or I would be tempted to go over and correct him on his form.

At the gym, this objectification by men is not the norm, and further my most cherished accessories while I am attaining my fitness bliss are my iPod and my pink weight lifting gloves, from which I extend pinky out guzzling water between reps. While an annoyance, your panty lines may not be a secret while exercising, and on a similar note I must applaud Victoria for providing us with some structural support. My wardrobe chagrin wins again when I accidentally wear one of their emphatic push up bras under an ace bandage type athletic one, a phenomenon I have coined "Victoria's Xanax", as the girls must contend with such anxiety and confusion.

I'm working on my mindfulness and have to acknowledge that late night mishap for being a healthy moment in my healthy life. A misfortunate wardrobe malfunction can be a source for joy, and as the Buddha would say, "Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care."

Monday, July 11, 2011

ON the Beaten Path!

Now that summer is here, being a teacher, you’d think I’d have lots of free time, but in reality, I have no time. Without a schedule to stick to, hours (and days) just seem to disappear. So it came as quite a shock when someone pointed out that I was two weeks behind on my blog. Of course the most shocking part was that someone would actually notice my absence, but it was also rather concerning that I could lose track of so much time.

Not that I haven’t been busy. I run a movie making camp, which takes up a lot of my time. And with my son no longer in day care, keeping up with him keeps me quite occupied. But there is still no excuse for not finding half an hour to come up with a blog post. Perhaps the biggest problem is nothing really exciting has happened recently.  Sure, my book made a run at the Top 100 last week, and both the Michael Franti concert and Pickin’ & Fiddlin’ Festival were fun, but nothing blog worthy. You know, like Jell-O or the blemish on my big toe!

My big story so far, as far as you people go (since you seem to revel in my misfortune) would be the trouble I had blazing a bike trail. You see, my town is in the process of building a beautiful recreation path, which just so happens to connect several of my favorite off-road mountain bike trails. Except in one spot. And I thought it would be cool to make my own.

Well, we all know what happened to Thought* and so far, I’ve done major bodily harm THREE times in the exact same spot (well, spot on the trail, not my body!) The first, and most painful, came when I was building an “up and over” that would let me ride over a very large tree that had fallen. The tree had taken out several others in the area, so there were plenty of logs lying around to make ramps on both sides, and in less then fifteen minutes, I was done with the first side. But when I tried to test it out, I was nearly decapitated by a large dead branch that was hanging above the log.  Since it was four feet over my head, it wasn’t noticeable from the ground. But standing and peddling to get over the log brought me face to face with it. So I dismounted and rather than let my hard work go to waste, decided I would climb the tree, walk out onto the dead branch and bounce on it until it broke.

Now, I’m not a complete idiot – there was another, more solid branch about waist high above the dead one, so I placed most of my weight on that branch and figured I could hold on to it when the one below me broke. Three bounces later, I heard a loud snap, and suddenly I was falling.

I slammed onto the branch pretty much on my armpits, and frantically flailed my logs trying to wrap them around the tree koala-style, so as to not fall the ten feet into poison ivy and prickers. Somehow I managed to hang on and shimmy down the tree,  and with my underarms scraped and burning, continued on my ride.

I got home to find HUGE bruises on the underside of both arms, and lots of scrapes that made deodorant application rather painful for the next few days.And I couldn’t really turn my neck to the right all that well. But other than that, I was fine, and two days later I was ready to go back and finish the job.

Back at the tree, I needed to build the off ramp, and saw some nice dead logs on the other side (including the one I had “liberated”) which I put to immediate use.  I did my best to stay clear of the plentiful poison ivy, and quickly had my ramp built. This time when I tested it out, I nearly went over the handle bars, as the down ramp ended too abruptly. I needed one more log to lengthen the angle. So I got off the bike and tried to lift a log that I had earlier deemed too heavy.

It was fairly rotted, but wet, so when I went to pick it up, it broke about a quarter of the way down – which was perfect, since it was the exact length I needed. Problem is, some bees had already claimed the log as their own, and I was soon swarmed by the angry hive I have disturbed. Five painful stings later, I was back on my bike, continuing my ride while nursing my wounds and cursing my luck. And bees in general.

The next day, I went back, hit the log at full speed, went up and over perfectly, pedaled past the still swarming bees, splashed across a river, and was back on the main trail. Huzzah. Success. I had did it. I patted myself on the back for my perseverance and pedaled on. I returned home sweaty and happy. And itchy. Apparently I was not careful enough around the poison ivy and ended up with it all over my arms and legs.

So, in summation, one stiff neck, two bruised and battered arms, three days of working, four itchy limbs and five bee stings later, I had my trail – and the start of my own Christmas carol. Was it worth it? Probably not. But I have plenty of summer days left to heal and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Plus I’ll never have to wonder about the path not taken.

Speaking of new paths, my friend Amy is looking to branch out a bit, so I offered her a Guest Blogger slot for Thursday, so be sure to check her out. Hopefully she will have better luck than me!

* "Thought though he had to fart, but he shit his pants instead!" - my mom