Sunday, December 23, 2007

How I feel about Everything, A-Z, Whether you Want it or Not

Don't blame me, this was EJG's idea. I think he's feeling a little guilty about his lax blogging habits. The following is my current state of mind. Or maybe think of it as a year in review, A to Z. Now that I've done it, fellow bloggers, I lay down the gauntlet. Who dares to pick it up?

Anti -immigration. Anti-War. Anti-Abortion. Anti-Drug. Anti-Racism. I’m so tired of negativity.How about this: Pro-immigration reform, pro-peace, pro-choice and pro-child, pro-addicts recovery programs, pro-equality.

He’s kin to Cheney? Loved his books. Loved his speech at the Democratic convention. Love his energy and his optimism. Not sure about him as a candidate.

Bill – Probably one of the smartest presidents ever. What the legacy will read remains to be seen. Hillary- She’s not Bill.

Talented and Yummy. Who cares if he can sing?

Her cancer came back, and they’re still running around campaigning. Is he a viable candidate? Is she going to be okay? And what about their little boy, Jack, age 7?

The former are a joy. The later make me crazy. Both enrich my life.

If he/she is really out there, does he/she really will people to hate, to maim, to kill in his/her name?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Don’t get me started.

Oh, how I love the way she hurts me. She makes me believe I’m a gladiator.

Compelling and beautifully crafted. Don’t want to ruin the read by seeing the film.

Calisthenics of the devil. Worse when Darth Judi, the trainer, commands that they are performed while holding 40 lbs. of hand weights.

Huge undertakings both.

Lovely state, a bit cold for my taste. No more qualified to choose a president than the Supreme Court was in 2000.

Oops, he did it again.

More alike than they are different. Wonderful, mostly.

The foundation of our democracy. Why do we have a stamp tax? Why tax our tea? That’s how our country began. Not an anti-American activity.

Personal. Inappropriate when worn on a sleeve, pushed in someone else’s face, or proclaimed as a qualification when seeking a job in secular America.

We’ve got it all wrong. Too much too soon, without time to process or to learn to love learning. Big mistake underway, and we may feel the fallout for years to come.

I heard that the writers went on strike. It hasn’t affected my watching habits, though. MASH is as good as ever.

Man, do I hate that song. Nothing but dreck on the radio these days.

She’s recently hand washed, the top is down, and I’m cruisin’… to Publix. Whatever, I’m loving the ‘Stang.

A bitch to do, but they feel great when they’re done.

Carter’s work has been heroic. Even GB the first has done good for people since he’s out of offices. What will the second do post D.C.?

Definitely a state of mind. 29 and holding.

Sleep. Highly underrated. Pillow time is the best time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I must be getting old...

I try to keep an open mind, but it's hard for me to find anything decent on the radio these days. So instead I seek out artists I know and keep my ears on alert for someone new and interesting. Regardless of your musical tastes, may I recommend you give a listen to Melissa Etheridge's newest cd/download, Awakening. Even my 13-year old has found things to love about this cd. In the car today she had us play Message to Myself five times in a row. The cd is full of messages to others, too. In one song she wrote to "The man who's been told that he's a king," for instance.

I was singing along to "Message" in the car when I paused to think about the message in the song. One line in particular:
It's funny what you fear can make you weak
Truth is what you get
When truth is what you speak

Embrace what I fear, so that it loses the power to weaken me. Speak the truth to hear it. Wisdom in a pop radio package.

Maybe Melissa's not the top of the charts these days. Actually iTunes lists its #1 download as "Low" by Flo Rida. It has some pretty intense lyrics too:

h h h h h let me to talk to ya let me to talk to ya
mh h h h h let me to talk to ya
come on shortie had them apple bottom jeans (jeans)
boots with the fur (with the fur)
the whole club was lookin at her
she hit the floor (she hit the floor)
next thing you know shorty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low
them baggy sweat pants
and the reboks with the straps (with the straps)
she turn around and gave that big booty a smack(heyyy)
she hit the floor (she hit the floor)
next thing you know shorty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low (come on)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Inertia, Indeed

in·er·tia /ɪnˈɜrʃə, ɪˈnɜr-/ [in-ur-shuh, i-nur-]
1.inertness, esp. with regard to effort, motion, action, and the like; inactivity; sluggishness.

a.the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force. analogous property of a force: electric inertia.

—Related forms
in·er·tial, adjective
—Synonyms 1. torpor, inaction, laziness

I've discovered something about this noun, particularly definition 2.a. The body at rest retains its state of rest so long as it is not acted on by an external force. Sitting for a while, catching up on blogs, and checking on emails resulted in torture as I stood to refill my cup with the makings of a cranberry-pomegranate spritzer. My feet curled, my muscles froze and my back made a crunching noise. I thought that I had overdone it, and my foray into fitness had ended.

Then I took a killer step class at the Y. Step interval, taught by Judi the infamous trainer, involves cardio and strength interval training. Usually this means uptempo choreography segments followed by endless lunges or squats. I never bounced higher or squatted lower. The feet, legs, and back felt great all the way through the class. This reinforces definition 2.a. again. Matter is retaining its state of velocity.

So the trick to feeling good after overdoing it is to do it some more. What a vicious cycle I have begun.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Two Halves make a Whole

Today was the second half marathon in three weeks. Mother Nature was kind, providing cool breezes and mostly overcast skies. Making our way along the course through Beauclerc and Mandarin, the time flew as I laughed with Click and Clack, and then belted out some tunes to my iPod. My apologies to my fellow runners who were subjected to the breathless, loud covers of hits that spanned the decades from Kool and the Gang's celebrations to the golden tones of Jill Scott.

I was surprised to find the second time to be a little easier. Mile marker 8 was the first time I thought about how much further there was to run. I may have even experienced a runner's high, sometime after mile 10. I didn't have an adrenaline rush or feel myself levitate. I just felt incredibly, ridiculously happy. Drenched with sweat, chafing God knows where, and plodding along at a pace that would embarrass any self-respecting runner, I couldn't lose the obnoxious grin. Running may be second only to waterboarding in degrees of torture, but I'm actually enjoying the sport.

What's more is that our friends are encouraging this behavior. Enablers all, they show up and cheer for us, clapping when we cross finish lines way after the award assemblies have concluded. CS dragged MD from his sickbed and together they met us at the gatorade pools. The official photographers of the JG/EG half marathon, friends and supporters, drove a good 30 minutes each way just to be there. Forget the runner's high, I can get that rush any time I think about these people I love.

As to the possibility of improving the half marathon to a full, I firmly state AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. I know, CS, you suggest that when I voice it then God wills the opposite to come true. In this case I think I'm safe. Nobody heard that over the screaming of my muscles.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The eye of the beholder? Baloney.

Our American culture and its obsession with youthful, slender beauty has never been an environment where my appearance would be considered noteworthy. Thankfully, I have little need for that superficial stuff. I find comfort in being noted for my deeds rather than my 'do or my duds. Yet lately I've noticed some changes that make me uncomfortable. Lines on my face appear when I laugh (often) and then hang around for a while (all day). Shadowy crescents beneath my eyes used to be the result of late night frolicking, but now they're a feature of midday living. Tracks above my brow used to be an indicator of my deep thought, but now they are the permanent onramp to my thinning hair. With youth slipping away from me, this would be a crappy time to become vain.

I thought about this a great deal this week as I traveled with the loveliest onsite coordinator. She is a graceful, beautiful woman. She speaks softly, properly, clearly, and with a light feminine voice. I believe it's possible to hear the commas and the periods in her speech. She keeps her hair a golden blonde with a delicate flip at the bottom. Sparkly earrings and a fur vest were her week-long accessories. With colorful fingernails and brightly colored lips, she is a picture of the put-together woman. Pushing hard toward (or maybe past) 70, I wish I could look half as good. As we spoke I found myself thinking that she must have been a beautiful woman, back when she was young. I tried to imagine the face without the laugh lines, the eyes without the shadows, the brow without the thinking tracks, and her hands, before the fingers became twisted above the knuckles, the result of arthritis and time.

Beautiful when she was young? What the hell. She's beautiful now. And I guess that means I would be too, if I cared about that superficial stuff.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, get me outta' here

Yesterday's drive between seminar locations clocked out at just over 100 miles. It took us 4 1/2 hours. The first 8/10 of a mile took us one hour.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

D2 and the Perky Chef

Geez, one cannot even swing the proverbial dead cat around New England without smacking into a Dunkin' Donuts. They're in every gas station and on every corner. Preparing for the drive tonight, I knew I needed coffee. How I longed for the Green Goddess. In her absence I agreed to a trip to Dunkies. The warm, brown-tinted water they sell has very little to do with coffee.

It's not just the service stations and the intersections that feature the Double D's. There are only 2 types of commercials on tv up here. Cheesey political advertisements and Dunkster ads. Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that Rachel Ray is a spokesperson for D2? A chef and food connoisseur, a woman who makes her living cooking and recommending good eats, is running to the bank for hawking crappy coffee and sugary fried amorphous blobs of bread product.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm a Loser Too

Hotels can be noisy places. The pipes moan, phones ring unanswered, and voices murmur on the other side of thin walls. To combat the curious cacophony around me, I usually turn on the tv. The cadence of the broadcast voices on any random channel are more familiar than the sounds of strangers.

Last night the tuner landed on The Biggest Loser. Of course I'd heard of this reality program, but I have never experienced it first hand. I found myself distracted from my work, watching events unfold in a horrified fascination. The gratuitous blubber shots, the close-ups on 300 pounds of spandex, the bottom-up camera angles to catch the double and triple chins; as a person of size I was disturbed by the dehumanization of the contestants. Yes, I know they signed the waivers and willingly waddled for the audience watching from home.

What a depressing picture it paints of weight loss and fitness. In order to attain a healthy shape, the show promotes "challenges" such as dragging 150 pounds of dead weight across burning sand in the desert sun. The trainers have dramatic moments with their spontaneous inspirational speeches right in the faces of their exhausted charges. In one scene, Jillian, the skinny bitch with negative body fat who does one-arm push ups, was shouting into the tear-streaked face of a fattie who suggested that her 250 pound body couldn't run on the treadmill set to 13.o. That setting makes for a 4:40 mile. I think thunder thighs may have been right in her assumption.

An acquaintance of ours, desperate to lose weight, auditioned for this program. She prepared a video tape wherein she and her husband worked in tandem to stuff her heft into some unforgiving denim. They hammed it up for the camera (pun intended) and rolled around on the ground, complete with moaning and tears. She didn't make the call-back for Loser. Instead she went under the knife. Almost a year after the gastric surgery, she still looks about the same to me.

Instead of promoting fitness, I suspect that this program might have the opposite effect on its viewers. Comfy in flannel, parked on the couch with Ben and Jerry, the prospect of fitness would seem even less palatable. Who can afford to leave home and family and live on a fat farm for 13 weeks to trim up? Who wants to sweat and strain like the contestants? Better to be fat and happy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

They, the people

This afternoon I stepped off a plane at Boston's Logan airport. Heading out of town during my $80 cab ride, I did some 'burb-watching. We passed through several tunnels and then merged onto I-93. In the HOV lane, the cab blasted through the town of Quincy, Mass. One strip mall/car dealership/parking garage/office building followed after another. Another non-descript bedroom community with overpriced real estate and killer traffic, in my estimation.

In this neck of the woods, I am always aware that we walk among the ghosts of the founding fathers. Quincy was the birthplace of John Adams. I became interested/obsessed with John Adams about 2 years ago, having read David McCullough's remarkable biography of this complex man. The book described Quincy as a fertile countryside, an unlikely place for a rebel. A quiet, conservative place like Quincy bore the man Thomas Jefferson called "The Colossus of Independence," one of the men to lead a rebellion against the crown. Adams was distinctive in his intelligence and his passion, yet he made incredible mistakes as he ascended to power in the earliest days of our nation. Humbled by his misjudgements, he spent his later years filled with regret.

Through the highways and the strip malls, past the construction sites and the overpasses, I tried to imagine the remote Quincy of 250 years ago. How different the landscape, the people, and the future must have appeared to the men and women then. Even the brilliant visionaries of their day cannot possibly have anticipated the complexity of our society, or the depth of our difficulties in fulfilling the truths that are self evident.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What does this say about leadership?

I resigned from my sixth grade teaching position in January 2002. I had been the retiring teacher of the year, and a part of the vertical writing team, the school improvement team, and I coordinated the school literary magazine while I co-directed the full musical each year. I knew everyone in the school, and I think everyone knew me.

In six years a lot changes. Two new administrators occupy the front offices. When we auditioned kids for the musical this year, I barely recognized the names of the homeroom teachers listed on the audition cards. Arriving early for a rehearsal a few weeks ago, I stuck my head into the faculty room and recognized no one.

Tonight I attended the Christmas party for the same school. About 20 faculty members attended (less than 1/3). I knew everyone there.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Impressive political strategy. The script writing was brilliant.
Romney: Don't hate me because I'm Mormon.

Here are some more press conference-worthy quips.
Clinton: Don't hate me because I'm female.
Obama: Don't hate me because I'm African-American.
Thompson: Don't hate me because I'm asleep.
Huckabee: Don't hate me because I'm downright frightening.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I'm cheating and back-dating this because I didn't want to pay for internet access.

For the past several years I've been able to make a living as an expert in something I know so little about. Perhaps the secret of my success is my frequently-reiterated contention that I am no expert. Nevertheless, people pay good money to come and listen to my pondering and pontificating. Go figure?

I love that I can meet so many people. Good people. Dedicated, hard-working teachers who care about their students so strongly that they are standing up to all the malarkey being thrown at them, insisting on providing experiences for their students to learn, not just to test. Today I met a teacher who paid her own way for a 2-day seminar on writing workshop, even though this is likely her last full year in the classroom. "I just want to reach all my kids," she told me.

Another teacher today challenged the group (and me) with questions to the point where it threw the whole schedule. I was finishing up my A.M. plans when we broke for the day at 3:15. The timekeeper in me was a little upset, but the conversation was interactive, and most everyone (90 people) remained engaged. This teacher stayed on as I packed up my tech gear and we chatted a bit. She told me she'd hung on in her school beyond what was a reasonable time frame. She was tired of having her hands tied by administrators and she was seeking a new position. How can she find a better situation, she asked me. I told her that I was sorry to report from the field that frustration among teachers has reached epidemic levels. She then asked me to compose a recommendation for her, thinking that a note from an “expert” like me would be the job-seeker's equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. It seemed silly. We’d just met. But I thought about it for a while and decided that I probably had learned more today about her ideas on teaching than her negligent administrator had learned in her 15 years in the school. So I wrote:

To Whom it May Concern-
I met Mary Beth today. Mary Beth was one of over 90 attendees at a seminar and I was the speaker. In spite of these circumstances I don't find myself lacking solid information when recommending you consider her for a position in your school.

Mary Beth came to today's seminar with specific goals, and she wasn't afraid to demand that they be met. Her active participation in the seminar demonstrated an enduring interest in delivering the best instruction for her students. In designing and presenting staff development for teachers throughout the country I have learned that I can roughly gauge a teacher’s commitment based upon the questions he or she asks. Mary Beth was persistent in her questioning. She vigorously pursued strategies to meet the needs of all the learners in her classroom.

A teacher seeking to improve her effectiveness? A teacher demanding strategies for her students? Mary Beth appeared to be this and more. Certainly an applicant worth considering for the important position of a teacher in your school.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Is the Barometric Pressure Falling?

Moodiness and teen years often go hand in hand. We weary parents of teens learn a skill not unlike storm survivors in Tornado Alley. After the big one blows through we collect whatever trinkets have escaped unscathed, then we move on. Maybe we're gearing up for an F5, but the last few days have been calm, cool, and sunny in teenland.

After ballet practice last night, I picked up IMG to find her happy. Giddy, really. In a dance class with HS students, she's usually cucumber cool, trying to blend. Maybe it was the excitement of the upcoming Nutcracker performance, or maybe it was the fun they had twirling around in their Waltz of the Flowers costumes, but last night she was acting little-kid silly. She even asked me to hug her in front of the other girls.

In the car on the way home from dance we shivered together until the 'stang's heater cranked up, and then we were roasting. A detour to the McD drive through and we shared a Value Menu ice cream cone, giggling at how silly it was to be cold/hot/eating ice cream. At home it was more hugs and silliness.

This morning she readied herself for school early and was out the door at 7:30 instead of the usual 8:45. She got out early because she wanted to go to Science Club. Yep, I said she wanted to go to Science Club. We had a little Chick-fil-a breakfast together and chatted about nothing particular. During the twenty minute drive to school we admired her glittery new make-up, her perfectly scrunched hair, and her Happy Hanukah sweater/jacket with the fuzzy yarn balls on the ends of the hood. We laughed at my old fogy rapping to a Kanye West cd. In front of the school a clandestine kiss-blowing to Mom, and she was on her way.

Yes, things have been calm around here. Too calm. Better keep an eye on the Weather Channel.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Defection 2008

Puttering around town today, I was listening to the NPR Radio debate of the Democratic presidential candidates. Of course they were out in Iowa, as that is the the state with the best representation of every American. Those Iowans can assess the candidates better than the rest of us, I guess. Mostly the debate made me want to defect to Canada. I was reminded that I am proud to be a long-time National Public Radio supporter. Michele Norris, Steve Inskeep and Robert Segal insisted on answers to their questions, following up with a second query when the candidates avoided direct responses. It was tough going, though. On my score sheet there was only one candidate who would've received full score on those extended responses, Dennis Kucinich. Sure he's divisive, unelectable, and a little elf-like.
I've got to believe though, that he would be pretty influential among world powers. Any guy who looks like that who can convince this woman to be his wife

will have Al Qaeda waving US flags and watching NASCAR in his first hundred days.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I put on a Happy Face

Normally I hate the idea of bumper stickers on the car. EJG loves them. He thinks that his $30,000+ rolling investment is a good place to advertise his political views. I think that advertising his liberal politics on a parked, unguarded car is simply inviting the retaliation from the rednecks less open-minded, less well-read folks we may encounter in this region. The only one I have allowed is this:

A PBS mind in a FOX news world

Anyone who would be offended by that probably doesn’t understand it.

EJG was surprised, then, to see that I had placed a magnetic sticker of sorts on the back of my 2006 metallic blue Pony, who we call Desi. She’s my midlife crisis machine, and I am known in this neck of the woods to be riding topless regardless of weather, belting out a tune with the radio, soaking in the sun and the joy of a 50+ MPH breeze through my hair. My life makes me happy, and if EJG can advertise on the car when he is disgruntled, then I want equal time.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Everything's a Matter of Time

Maybe it is because I fell asleep at 8:30 last night. Snuggling with the hubby and fully dressed, I slept with the ostinato of my ticking Timex. Maybe it's because I wanted this morning to never end. Cool breezes tickled my bare skin and gently rattled the blinds. Their soft percussion, combined with the birdsong and backyard fountain, created a soothing Sunday morning symphony. But as I lay on the table under the therapeutic touch of Oscar the Magnificent my moments of muscular-skeletal seventh heaven were interrupted by a disturbing thought. We are all Time's bitch.

Time doesn't fly when we're having fun, nor does it drag on when we're bored. No, she's a sadistic SOB. Whether you're in the midst of lovemaking or root canal, an hour is an hour is an hour. Life isn't a game. There's no Time out. The clock won't stop. Whether we've committed a crime or not, we all serve Time. She rules every moment, waking or sleeping, with her incessant, steady move forward. Foolish humans, we try to race against Time, but she always wins. It would be wonderful to kill Time, that is to stop her unrelenting draining of the biological clock that governs our living and dying.

Cher isn't the only one who would like to turn back Time (though she certainly has tried with her series of cosmetic procedures). Given a chance, I'd turn Time back to our newlywed days. EJG and I loved to surprise our grandparents, visiting them just to be with them, to give them the only gift we could afford in our stone broke years. We shared our time. Whether enjoying a meal or playing a game of cards together, that was Time well spent. But Time stole our grandparents away from us. Could I turn time back to my baby's early years? Once again to scoop her little being into my arms, allowing myself to believe that my embrace could protect her from everything the world would throw at her? Of course not. There's no Time but the present.

It is true that time is money, but it is a lie that the best things in life are free. Time is a currency with a limited supply. We're all living on borrowed Time, and part of her game is never letting us know when her generosity ends. Spend wisely my friends. Time is not on our side.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

One of my many personality flaws is that I am fiercely competitive. In most everything. In school I had to get the highest grades, and I competed with the other honors kids to finish tests the fastest. As a singer I am a soprano, so I can sing the highest notes. I also can usually sing the loudest and in most groups I am the tallest. But it's a good thing I'm not into this running thing for the competition.

We're slogging through two 5K races this weekend. After 13.1 miles, 3.1 should barely seem like a warm-up. Problem is, we actually try to run these. We're never going to beat any fit person or stand on an award podium, but these sloth-like middle-agers desperately want to break 30 minutes.

This morning we had a race at St Johns Town Center, literally up and down the streets of shops. The weather was cool and there was a small crowd. Adequately caffeinated and arriving with ample time to pee, we lined up at the start. The cannon fired. My trusty iPod kept the tempo as I chugged along to my Fast Running Tunes playlist. Sisters are Doing it For Themselves, Run and Tell That, Conga, Love Shack, Girlfriend. Thank you Annie Lennox, Elijah Kelley, Gloria Estefan, B-52s, and Avril Levigne. Mile Marker two came up, and I chugged past it with the clock at 19:25. With 1.1 miles remaining 10:35 placed our goal on the outside edge of possible.

Around the corner, past the Cheesecake Factory, and the finish after Barnes and Noble came into view. With a few hundred yards left the clock read 29:50. So today I had to settle for my personal record, but I guess that's the best anyone really can ever do.