Thursday, September 23, 2010

You taught me.

So many things, you taught me.

You taught me to be self-reliant, then begrudgingly smiled called me "Little Miss Independent" when I tartly insisted, "I do it my-sef!" You taught me that I was to respect others; adults, other kids, people I thought were different from me (they weren't, I learned that from you). You treated people as you wanted them to treat you, and I saw that. You showed me the value of sportsmanship and gave me holy hell one day when I showed off after making what I thought was a great play. Well, it was a great play... but you were right. You taught me that cheating myself or letting myself down was the worst kind of cheat, and as long as I did my best, it was plenty good enough for you. You told me no. You told me no... a lot. Thank you for that.

You encouraged me to do whatever it was that I loved. My drawings were plastered all over the fridge, on the walls, stuck in the corners of your bedroom mirror. You read to me, you read with me. You came to all of my games. You knew all of my teachers. You taught me how to dig a volleyball and play shortstop. I never could throw fastpitch like you, but I think the batting stance and swing I picked up from you more than made up for that. You wanted a girly-girl but what you got was me. I'm just like you.

I learned the value of hard work from you, helping you count hundreds of dollars worth of change in tips, every Friday night. We'd sit on the living room floor, you still in your waitress uniform still reeking of grease and fried cod, and me in my jammies. You cleaned offices in the evenings so that you could pay the orthodontist $70 every month for those braces I hated so much.

You showed me I didn't need a lot of friends, just a few really good ones. You let me help in the kitchen, even though it would have been quicker and easier to do it yourself. You left me chore lists when you weren't home. You ran behind my bike, miles probably, until I didn't need you to hold me up any more. You gave me freedom and you had high expectations of me. You taught me how to swim, mostly against my will. I should have known when all the inner tubes were gone from the pool that something was up. The neighbors said they heard me screaming all the way down the street; little did they know it was because you and dad were tickling me under the arms to get me to loosen my death grip on the pool ladder. You taught me to appreciate long walks with the dog, exploring and having conversations that lasted for hours on those walks.

You told me it was beautiful when I scratched and squeaked my way through "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" for the first time on my violin. You made me practice. You came to the concerts. You tirelessly helped me practice my lines and cheered the loudest of anyone in that elementary school gym when I played Annie Oakley. You removed splinters from my butt cheek one by one, after I decided a plywood board would make a neat sliding board.

You and dad sang to me on the porch swing:

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You'll never know, dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

You would have been 72 years old today.

I miss you but I know that you're keeping an eye out for me, still. How else could I explain that despite all the bumps in the road, I'm at the place where I'm meant to be? There were too many people at your funeral to fit into the funeral home. I will never forget a woman I knew only by her nickname who hugged me, sobbing, "She was my hero."

Mine too.

Goddamn it, you left some big shoes to fill. I'm trying.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's cliche`

Of course it is. But cliche`d sayings become that way for a reason - because they are true.

Bad things happen to good people.
Family man. Self-employed. Builds pneumatic machinery for a living. Experimenting currently with ways to recycle fiberglass and plastic and make the combination into something useful. Did I mention what a nice guy he is?

A shredder he's using catches his gloved hand, his gloved right hand, pulling it in and, well, shredding it. Because that's what shredders do. Calmly, he tells his son to reverse the gears on the shredder so he can pull his entrapped hand back out. I wince and tell him I'd rather not do that and damage his hand more, and call the fire department.

"Oh, you want this machine taken apart?", he asks, and deftly loosens the bolts that hold the shredder together with his left hand, while his mangled right hand remains trapped. Seconds later, he's walking up toward our ambulance, shredder and shredded, entrapped hand being supported by his other hand, looking back at me as if to say, "You coming?"

I feel silly asking patients like this to rate their pain. It's like asking the poor slob on the Weather Channel who's reporting from the thick of the hurricane to let me know if it's a little windy. So, 20mg of Morphine and the guy isn't feeling any less pain. But, you know, the guy is as stoic and as grateful and as ... nice as can be. He had every right to be pissed. Pissy. Shitty. Mean. But he's not. He asks our names, talks about his son's nursing school plans, expresses concern for his wife driving in an unfamiliar area in rush hour traffic. You ask him how his pain is, and he smiles, "It's there."

In short, he's the kind of patient you care about. You want him to do well; in fact, you wish you could just give him a do-over on the past hour of his life. You might think we care about everyone this way. You would be incorrect. Most people, I can't wait to get away from. I nod and say, "Uh huh" when they ramble on about their aches, their pains, their inflammed hemorrhoids, their goddamned bunions. The 45 minutes I spend with them is about 30 too long.

Not this guy. I fought tears as I handed him off to the hospital staff, because I knew what uncertainty his future held. I hugged him, which is something I do with a patient about once every ten years, and he smiled at me as if to assure me that no matter what, he would be alright. I believe he will be, but I'd still like that do-over for him.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What an honor.

It's not something that happens very often. To most people, we're a vague memory on one of the worst days of your life. We don't often get to find out the outcome of the time we spend with you. Was our diagnosis correct? Did we do everything right? Did we make you better? Did you have any idea how much we cared?

However, last Tuesday, we had the honor of meeting a patient who, over the past year, we've thought of often. She was 10 weeks pregnant and had announced to her Latin Impact exercise class that this would be her last night teaching... when the lights went out, and the gunfire began. In the aftermath, she lay on the floor, bleeding from two gunshot wounds, wondering if she and her baby would survive.

It was a story the media loved. Pregnant fitness instructor shot, survives, has healthy baby boy 7 months later. She graciously gave countless interviews, bouncing the curly-haired cherub on her knee, her expression clearly saying, "Screw you, coward. We're still here." In one last media blitz on the incident, just following the one-year anniversary, a local trauma center honored the EMS crews who responded on that night, and 2 (well, really 3) of the survivors. It was very touching that a former co-worker actually flew back from his new home and job in Florida, to meet a patient he cared for over a year ago, shake her husband's hand, and lay eyes on the baby who made every bit of painful physical therapy worth it.

From tragedy, one happy ending.

Story here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm not dead, just... floating

Geez, where does one begin when so much time has passed? There's been fun. There's been love. There's been birth. There's been death. There's been a lot of work and daily life and monotony in between. Let's see if I can condense it into one of my beloved bulleted lists, and promise never, ever, ever to be gone this long again.

  • Married my soulmate in April, on the day in between our two birthdays. Sweet, huh? I've known him for 16, almost 17 years, and we were engaged 2 years before we took the leap. Needless to say, I was damn sure of what I wanted from life by then, and I'm so freaking happy these days you'd want to slap me. Really. It gets obnoxious, all that gushing about how wonderful my husband is. He makes me laugh until I wheeze like Muttley, he gives me goosebumps, he gives me comfort and he loves my dimply sarcastic ass.
  • Just prior to that, we spent 2 heartbreaking weeks apart, as he sat by his mother's side; first in a hospital, then in a hospice, watching her slowly slip away.
  • Seeing my best friend hold a newborn (hers!) was the most surreal experience of my life. She's a crazy dog lady like me. Well, now she's a crazy baby lady who sings and coos and turns all mama bear, and I still can't quite wrap my mind around the new her. And I love it for her.
  • I got a new car.
  • I wrecked my new car.
  • I cried off and on for 2 weeks.
  • I got my car back from the shop and it completes me.  Every time I see a deer, I fucking cringe and swear out loud, because avoiding one of those idiot creatures in favor of a guide rail is how I did almost $8,000 worth of damage to my baby. Not to mention the damage to my once-brazen confidence.
  • I'm learning how to golf and I am pleasantly surprised that I am enjoying the hell out of the whole experience. Hell, I'm not getting any younger. I might as well learn something I can do in my old age.
  • That picture above? That was today. There were so many things I saw out there that took my breath away: swarms of tiny turquoise-blue dragonflies alighting on my blue Dragonfly (yeah, I named my kayak, big woop. Wanna fight about it?), tiny birds suddenly in a feeding frenzy over me and the water, some flying by so closely I could hear whiffwhiffwhiffwhiff as they dive-bombed on by. The lady swimming her dog and talking to her just like I talk to mine "Good girl, good little swimmer you are!", said with such love that I had a sudden pang of guilt for not having my sweet little shadow with me - then remembering that this was the first time since last summer I had been to the lake without her.
I can't think of anything else major to report now. Life is good, often too good. I look around and wonder when I'm going to wake up from this wonderful dream, then I do wake up, and it's even better. Obnoxious, huh?

Life is good.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

See this movie!

Temple Grandin, currently showing on HBO channels. Claire Danes is nothing short of fantastic, and Temple herself is a fascinating person.

I've watched it 3 times in 2 days and I'm not even close to tiring of it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's been confirmed.

My beloved just confirmed to me today (very tactfully, as is his way), that I am a much easier person to be around when I get my workout in every day.

It's been a rough couple of weeks... I've been sort of tied to the house while he goes to work and a guy with long legs, a comically short torso and hilarious eyebrows shows up and hangs out in the basement for several hours, muttering. He's not a long-legged troll, he's our HVAC guy, and he's been installing a new furnace and water heater.

Anyway, I don't have any qualms about leaving him alone in the house - we've been using the guy for 10+ years and trust him. However... what to do, what to do with the "security system", as he calls my beloved sweet puppy. My sweet little fuzzy puppy who turns into a whirl of teeth, fur and noise when there's a knock at the door. My lovey little angel, who, as long as she has her training collar and a leash on in the house, is the perfect hostess; remove those and you might as well yell, "Chopper, sic BALLS!" 

So, stuck at the house, I was.

I have a very small window of time tomorrow that I can go to the gym during non-obnoxiously-busy-time. If I can get motivated enough after working a 12 hour night shift, I'm going. If not... sigh... back at it 5am Monday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's not normal.

How much I love this dog.

What is it? Is it the expectation of nothing more than a couple of meals and a couple of trips outside a day? The sheer jubilation when I have more to offer?

Maybe it's the way she stands there looking at me with those eyes of molten chocolate, then - so as to further cause my heart to melt - rests her chin on my knee, or the chair, or the side of the bed... just staring up in ... what? Adulation? Pity? Hunger? Who knows? All I know is that when she does that, my heart feels like it might burst.

Maybe it's the fact that with her, there are no bills. No laundry. No discussions. No wedding guest-lists to discuss, no job stress. No arguments - none that can't be won with an all-natural peanut butter biscuit, anyway. There are only walks, and play, and kisses. And leans. I don't know why, but when she walks over to me and simply leans herself against my legs, I feel like I own the world. The complete lack of barriers, the trust it takes for an animal to want to come to you, and then lean its body completely against yours... I can't describe the calm that overtakes me when there is a dog leaning against my legs. No words are necessary. They should give dogs out in pharmacies instead of statins and antihypertensive medications.

It seems like with each dog I've been privileged to know, the bond becomes stronger. Exponentially so, if I may hyperbolize.

They all have a special place in my heart, as if each one gets their own chamber in which to reside forever. This one, however, seems to want to take up the whole damn thing, and I'm inclined to let her. Wherever I go, she follows. If I shut the door behind me, she'll wait outside for as long as she needs to. If I stop, she stops. If I sit, she sits, or she leans. Leans on me like I'm the only thing that can hold her up.

Little does she know how she holds me up.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The struggle.

This is the struggle.

I can work out for 2 1/2 hours (like I did today), and eat right all day, fighting cravings at home tooth and nail, with only my careful planning to rely upon...

Only to come to work, to this.
It's like saying to a crackhead, "I'm just going to put these rocks here on the counter... you don't have to smoke them. In fact, feel free to ignore them." It's like buying an alcoholic a shot and expecting them to pour it on the floor themselves and order themselves a Coke or water with a lemon wedge.
Had enough analogies?

Apparently that was brought in by some well-meaning family member of a patient we took care of.
Funny, I was extremely pissed off when I thought my co-workers (especially Dan, who knows first-hand of the fight I fight every day) bought this stuff. There was already junk lying around from the blizzard the other day, when Dan went out and cleared store shelves of seemingly every bit of chips and salsa
and bananas and oranges in the South Hills, for the crews who were working and didn't have any restaurants open from which to choose.

Cinnamon rolls, though... really? I've only been craving those fucking things for what.. 2 weeks now? I would like to thank my partner, who related to me that they were dry, and to my beloved, who reacted to my tirade as I walked into work ("Why don't you just paste that fucking crap directly onto my gut and ass?" - delivered with a scowl) by moving them to an undisclosed location - hopefully not our home.

So, faced with all of that, this is what I took with me on an extended standby we had to do.
So glad I come to work prepared. We had no idea how long we'd be standing by, as the state police methodically suited up, then took pictures, and finally disassembled and bagged up a meth lab.

Of all of that, I ate 1 string cheese and the banana and the orange.

I can't stress this enough: Those flaky, new-agey, whatever you want to call them - positive things I've been telling myself when I'm sweating it out at the gym - THEY did this for me.

I could not have done this on my own.

Monday, February 8, 2010



When we have days and days advance notice, do you, the public, insist upon getting into your vehicles and venturing out into a blizzard? I know you have food in your houses, because I saw you ALL at the grocery store Thursday night. Every damn one of you.

I will give you a pass on being out until evening rush hour Friday; the weather had not yet started when you left for work in the morning, and there have been countless times we've had significant snow forecast and have gotten an inch. Or none. Or rain.

However. Friday night. about a foot of snow on the ground already, and the road crews can't keep up, it's falling so fast.

There is absolutely NO excuse for those of you who felt the need to get in your cars and occupy roadways that were already becoming impassable. You got stuck. You blocked roads. You slowed down emergency vehicles, who had to dodge your vehicles stranded all cattywompus. As if that wasn't bad enough, once you beach your car, you decide it's a good idea to get out, in the middle of a road, and stand out there waving people by, or - even better - try and push your car uphill on a slippery road. So you couldn't control your car on this snowy, slippery road... but you're going to go stand in the road and trust that everyone else can. I don't give a shit about your four wheel drive or all wheel drive or how big your goddamned Hummer is. Stay home.

You are on notice now. There is snow coming tomorrow. Stay home, or face my wrath.

Catch us next week for: "You're 50 and out of shape and wouldn't do 15 minutes of cardio if I signed my paycheck over to you. Why the hell are you shoveling snow??!"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who IS this person?

I had a late night last night, as, like the rest of the mid-atlantic, northeast, and east coast, I had to go grocery shopping. Seems I always let the fridge get completely empty the day before a snowstorm is forecast. So, while my fellow 'Burghers were loading their carts with milk, bread, and the all-important TP, I was shopping for the basics - while hungry. I escaped unscathed, with only the necessities (ice cream being a necessity), but once I got home, unpacked and put away everything, it was late. By the time I steered my walking-into-walls self to bed, it was almost midnight.

The alarm went off at 4:15, as it does every weekday when I'm on daylights. I hit snooze 3 times today, twice more than the norm. The third time the alarm went off, I reasoned with myself: You were up late. You've gotten 14 hours sleep in the past 3 days. That's not enough. Your work clothes are out in the living room on your gym bag, not out in the car like they usually are. You could sleep for a whole 2 hours more, shower, and go to work. Today is going to be a rough day. Rest up.

I reset my alarm for 6:30. I sighed with relief and lay my head back down.

A minute later, I hugged Dan, swung my feet over to the cold floor, and trudged toward the bathroom to change into my gym clothes.

Why? I had it all rationalized, guilt-free. Sleep is not something I do without willingly or cheerfully. All I can attribute it to is habit... And the thought of a commute which is 100% more annoying from home than the quick jump off the highway from the gym.

Whatever it was, it was enough.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Where's Billy Mays when I need him?

I've got a very important and life-saving invention and I need a good pitchman. And it needs to be a pitchMAN for this one.

See, I've noticed that men seem to be totally clueless about their words and actions and... that... breathing too loud thing they do -  around women, during what I will delicately refer to as Rage Week.

My invention, an Estrogen-Sensing-Pod (or ESP for short), senses the subtle changes in a woman's hormonal status and sets off an alarm that then reaches out and slaps a guy across the forehead because - let's face it - that's what it takes sometimes to get them to pay attention.  There are those oh-so-subtle signals that they're about to die a horrible death by my hand/they should back the fuck OFF/ that men tend to miss, and they would benefit from this early-alerting system.

Example 1:
Old man in a yellow pickup. Driving 25mph in a 40mph zone. It's 5am. Nobody on the road but us. I give him his space, despite my desire to get a running start and ram the back of his stupid little yellow truck as hard as I can. He keeps looking in his rearview at me, causing him to swerve all over the road. This makes him drive even more slowly and erratically than he was before. It's hard to give someone their space when they can't seem to pick a speed and stick with it. Finally we get to a stop light and he takes his life into his hands opens the door of his truck, steps out, and yells, "TURN OFF YOUR BRIGHTS!!"
My brights weren't on. But he got a good look at them when I then flipped them on and lit him up in all his cranky, crochety glory. You want brights, fucker? There's your brights. He got back into his stupid yellow truck without a word.

Example 2:
Half an hour later, at the gym. I put my music on to drown out the Brokeback Grunts and do my bench work. I do a few sets of good-mornings, then check the area where the iso-lateral back machine is. Empty. I head to it, adjust the weight, and do a set. Immediately a thick-necked meathead with better highlights than mine appears at my side: "Can I get on here? I was in the middle of something."

What I wanted to say: "What you were 'in the middle of',  Mr. girly-man, was leaning on the machine across the gym from here, bsing with the other girly-man over there, until you saw me on 'your' machine. At which time, you decided that you'd be the gym big-shot and claim it to be yours. Why don't you just lift your leg and take a piss on it? Or, how about do what I'd do: go find another machine for the minute and a half it's going to take me to finish 2 more sets. Because I don't have time to do a set, walk around looking tough, spot someone on their bench presses, get a drink, spit, scratch my balls, and shoot the shit with someone between sets like you do. I get in, I get 3 sets done, I'm out. But, by all means, you're wayyy more important than me, I can tell by your backward baseball cap, the uniform of self-important gym tools the world over. Oh, and, do you mind telling me where you get your highlights done?"

What I did say: I said nothing, but the "Really??" look I gave this tool would have set his ESP sensor into hyper-drive, had he seen my informercial and purchased one. He was so crunched for time that when I hustled out the door at 7:30 on my way to work, he was leaning on another machine, talking so some other girly-man. Yes, I can see where I disrupted your entire workout, you tool.

Thank goodness MY guy seems to have already bought and installed the ESP sensor. If not for his understanding, support, and sweetness, these guys might have met a different fate this morning. He's a credit to his gender.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What a pain in the ass.

No. Really.

So I kicked up the cardio a couple of weeks ago. I noticed that I felt allover more stiff the rest of the day for the first few days, then I seemed to acclimate to it. Little bit of heating pad lovin' or whirlpool time after the gym and it would be gone. Mostly. (Side note: ThermaCare patches 1) DO NOT get hot enough and 2) do NOT stick! Don't think just because it's on your butt that your underwear are holding it on. You'll discover, at some point during your 12-hour work day that it has snuck off like a thief in the night, down and out of your pant leg.  I am sure that was amusing to whomever caught a glimpse of the paramedic with the ThermaCare patch sticking out of her pant leg, then to her boot for a few futile steps, finally coming to rest on the floor of some nursing home where, perhaps, it can be recycled - I know my partner and I got a kick out of it when I told her it had just up and disappeared).

But, I digress.

I kick it old school when I lift. Dumbbells. Chest presses. Skull crushers (dontcha love that name? I do them just so I can write Skull Crushers in my workout book. Badass!) Weighted squats and lunges 3 days per week. Decided that said squats and lunges seemed to be getting too easy, so I upped the workout one set and upped the weight by 10lbs. Still not bad. I can knock out 125 weighted squats and 50 weighted lunges while holding 40lbs of dumbbells on my shoulders, and still get an hour of cardio in, take a shower and arrive at work looking mostly human, and on time to boot.

Still doing ok.

However, the other day, after finishing up and walking from the upstairs cardio area, I felt like I was being stabbed in my hip and glute each time I bore weight on my right leg with my knee bent. Going up and down steps was particularly torturous. It went from my glute all the way down to my mid thigh, and the first time I felt it, I was so surprised and weakened by it that I almost fell over. That would have been embarrassing, as I was at the top of a flight of steps at peak time in the gym. I spent the next 4 days going up and down steps like a toddler, keeping the right leg straight and only descending steps on the left leg. It made for interesting times at work, having to actually think before I stepped into and out of my waist-high-entrance ambulance. I had the stabbing pain to remind me if I didn't do it exactly right.

Lots of heating pad, lots of stretching, lots of hot baths, lots of rest, LOTS of ibuprofen. Couple brownies. Little bit better.

What was it? The repetitive motion of my preferred cardio machine? The increased weight? The fact that I switched things up and did stationary bike so I could hang out with my sweetie for the last 20 minutes of my workout? Or was it the fact that I completely disregarded what I'd learned in my month of physical therapy?

Durrrr. I was skipping the warm-up/dynamic stretch part at the beginning, and since I've added it back in, it's made all the difference in the world. I'm still a little stiff, but I can walk up and down steps like a grown up now and after taking Monday off, I'm back into my routine.

I was in such a hurry to start my trip to where I was going that I forgot to warm up the ol' beater and I popped a belt. That'll learn me. Sucks to get old.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just once...

I'd like to get an "abnormal labs" call,
and instead of showing up at a nursing home
for an 80 year old who looks healthy enough
to beat me in a foot-race to the hospital...

I'd like to find this instead.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The subconscious mind

Do you pay attention to what you tell yourself? Make it a point to listen to all of those thoughts, both the nagging and the fleeting, for just a few minutes. I think you'll be surprised at the things that run though your brain from one moment to the next.

Any of these sound familiar?
  • I can't. I just don't have time.
  • Ugh, I'm so fat.
  • Look at her running that 5k! I couldn't possibly accomplish that.
  • I just can't lose weight. I like food too much.
  • I hate cardio.
  • I hate running.
These are all things I've "told" myself at one point in time or another. Just automatic thoughts that pop up in my brain when I try to make a change for the better. It's like a sadistic version of Pop-Up Video running in a constant loop. Oddly, I have an easier time recognizing these defeating statements from others than I do from myself. I was talking to a friend at work who, in the space of a minute, listed a whole slew of reasons why she couldn't schedule regular workouts or plan meals ahead of time. No time before work to work out. No time after work. Impossible to eat right at work. No time to plan meals or cook ahead, I work too much. Nobody else in the house likes "healthy" food. You get the idea.

I've become aware of just how destructive statements like this are to one's workout mojo, general attitude and outlook on life. I've outlined the power of affirmations before, after reading the book Liberating Greatness. It's a great read if you're all neuroscience-nerdy and you want to get all up in your brain with a magnifying glass and explore all its various parts and their effect on your behavior.

However, if you want someone to explain - in terminology that everyone can grasp - the mind-body connection to successful fat loss, training and motivation, Tom Venuto is your guy. I approach Tom's stuff the same way I approach organized religion. I keep the stuff that aligns with my beliefs and values and discard the rest: Yes to "do unto others", no to "persecute homosexuals". Yes to "avoid processed foods", no to "do lunges until you die" (disclaimer: Tom never said that, it was purely my interpretation).

Basically, he explains it this way in Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle:
You have 2 sides of your mind: the conscious, and the subconcious. The conscious mind is rational, taking in information from sensory input and analyzes it, reaching logical conclusions. (We females are exempt from this for one week per month.) The subconscious mind, Tom likens to a computer. Its reasoning is deductive in nature and all "data" that is "programmed" into the subconscious is presumed to be true. I vividly remember the poster in my 9th grade computer class (you know, the class pre-schoolers take now) - in big letters - G.I.G.O. Garbage in, garbage out.

What does this mean?

It means, simply, every time you tell yourself
  • I can't.
  • I don't have time.
  • I hate this but it's necessary.
... your subconscious mind is accepting that all as the truth, and subtlely sabotaging your efforts. You know when you get 5 minutes into your cardio routine but you're just not feelin' it? You think to yourself, "You know, I've had a tough week and I deserve a little break. I should cut this short and catch up on my DVR library." There it is.

When your alarm goes off at the ass-crack of dawn, but you shut it off, telling yourself, "I just can't get up this early." Yep.

When you bring a turkey sandwich on whole wheat to work for lunch, but everyone orders pizza, and that little voice in your head says, "This is just too hard. It's too hard to eat healthfully in this environment.", and you throw your $5 into the pizza fund? Uh-huh.

So, how does one master one's subconscious mind and stop the sabotage? The answer is elegantly simple: positive self-talk. All statements or questions must be voiced in a positive light. An ounce of negativity will ruin the whole soup.

Some of the things I say to myself while I'm driving to the gym at 5am: (yes, out loud - who's gonna hear it?)
  • I kick ass!
  • I am doing this for me.
  • I am going to feel so great after this workout!
  • I love the muscle definition I am getting back.
  • How can I get closer to my goal today?
  • How many other people actually get their asses out of bed and kick ass like I do at 5am?
While I'm working out: (I repeat these in my head. I hope. Who the hell knows what sounds really come out of me when I have my music turned up so loud?)
  • I can get one more rep in before I hit the cardio.
  • I am stronger now than I was last week.
  • What can I add to my workout to keep myself in shape for work and prevent injuries?
  • I am leaner now than I was before this workout.
  • Wow, I feel strong/great/like I could go all day/badass
I admit, it sounds new-agey. Maybe even a little flaky. You know what? I don't care. It's been proven time and again to work. Professional sports teams now hire visualization coaches for their multi-million dollar players. Would they spend that kind of bank on crap that doesn't work?

I'm not saying I'm a fucking ray of sunshine because at 4:15am when that alarm goes off, I don't spring up out of bed with a big goofy grin and cartwheel into my gym clothes. I hit snooze twice, and whine, and trudge toward the coffee maker with a scowl on my face that would send Chuck Norris running the other way with his tail tucked between his legs. Hell, just the other day I was standing there in my underwear in front of the mirror, grabbing my love handles and yelling at them: "GO away!!!!" Alas, they are still there, so, like the subconscious, love handles do not respond well to negative talk directed their way.

Perhaps I should have worded it, "I am MAKING YOU go away!" There is always room for improvement.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cast of characters

I'm a people-watcher.

I have this tendency to create my own names, identities and backstories for people who I run across in everyday life, but whom I don't know from a can of paint. Lately, I keep seeing the same faces at the gym and I amuse myself during those cardio sessions when the closed-captioning on the tvs is pissing me off and I can't watch any more.

A few of the regulars:

Daddy: He is the first person I noticed and named at the gym. Older guy, probably in his 50s, tall with an athletic build. He obviously dyes his hair jet black; it's sort of naturally poufy and he seems pretty proud of it. I'm still trying to figure out Daddy's entire story. From what I can ascertain so far, he uses the gym as his personal employment pool for his bevy of 20 year old strippers (or escorts, haven't totally figured it out yet.) He looks intensely (not intently, intensely) at the youngest girls with the bounciest asses and boobs. He'll position himself on a cardio machine behind one and just bore through them with his eyes. He saunters around like it's a job fair for the world's oldest profession and he's the CEO.

PlasticGirl: A 20-something girl most often seen talking to Daddy, or with Daddy keeping an intent eye on her from across the gym, looking like if the wrong guy talks to her without seeing him first, there will be hell to pay. I am reasonably sure Daddy is not her... well... daddy. If he is, and he looks at her like that, well... *shudder* He watches over her like a possession, and truth be told, she looks like one. Sculpted to proportions that don't seem earthly or real unless you were raised in a Mattel factory, I think she is the face (and body) of Daddy's business - whatever that may be - and probably does a good bit of the recruiting. Rarely seen at the gym without Daddy.

The Poolboy: Dark, olive-skinned, brown-eyed, brooding boy who looks to be in his 20s. Long black hair, tied carefully back into a ponytail, with waves that set a cougar's heart all a-pitter-patter - but just makes me want to ask him what types of hair product he uses. I hate guys with nicer hair than me. And guys that are more sensitive than me. He looks like he would do a half-assed job cleaning your pool, then sit beside you on a deck chair, massage tanning oil onto the small of your back, read you poetry that brings a tear to his soulful eyes - then run off with your secretly gay husband.

Steven Segal With a Tic: Ok, this guy doesn't resemble SS except that he is very large (like 8 feet tall!) and muscular, you know, the kind of guy that still wears those crazy colored Hulk Hogan type baggy workout pants, and he wears his black hair in a pony tail. I didn't really feel the need to name him until I saw him doing cardio the other day, walking fast on a treadmill, every few seconds contorting his face into all sorts of interesting grimaces. I had seen him before in the weight area and had never seen the tic before, so either cardio gives him apoplectic fits of boredom (I feel ya, brother!) or he's really getting down to his playlist.

The BrokeBack Grunts:  A pair of thick-necked guys who work out together, each trying to out-manly-grunt each other while lifting free weights. They live in a fabulously decorated loft and after workouts they eat ice cream right out of the carton, watch Sex And The City, then spoon together.

Last, but not least...

Special Ops: Every gym has a Special Ops. He's in his 40s. He wears camo, every day. His hair is long and stringy, and in a pony tail. Presumably this is because he was dropped into the jungle and had to survive by eating grubs and drinking his own pee and breaking the necks of any guerilla soldiers whose job it is to his disrupt his mission - and he couldn't find a barber in the jungle. Oddly, he never breaks a sweat at the gym. Because sweat is for us civilian pussies.

I wonder what they call me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I don't want to jinx myself, but...


... I've gotten back into my gym schedule.

I have made it to the gym 5 days Monday through Friday, which means I've hit my attendance goal. I'm not half-assing it either, people. I made a commitment to myself that I'd kick the cardio up to an hour per session. I need to do that until this weight comes off. Yes, I'm in great shape and I am seeing muscle definition I haven't seen in years, but these lbs and love handles aren't going to go away just because I asked nicely. Glaring at them isn't helping either, in case you were thinking of trying that.

I have been struck every day by the irony that the more sleep I have to sacrifice to accomplish this, the more energy I seem to have. I don't have the gym scheduled for weekends. That eliminates the dilemma of what to do when I'm on daylights and have to work Saturday and Sunday, 8a-8p, the exact hours the gym is open. Last weekend, by 2pm, I sat down in a chair at work and felt like I slipped into a coma. More like, swan dived with a half gainer, into a coma. For 45 minutes, it was all I could do to even keep my eyes open. This... during a weekend where I was "catching up on my sleep", getting a whopping 7 hours each night.

These days I grudgingly haul my ass out of bed at 4:15am (after whining, hitting snooze twice, and finally getting woken up by the dog, who has my schedule down cold and always comes in to give me just a single cold-nosed poke on my cheek). The difference in my energy levels is palpable. And the brain fog - on those days I put in some sweat equity, my brain actually works! I have visions of a little bristle-eared janitor guy inside my brain, his ass crack hanging out of his loose green Dickies work pants, busily sucking cobwebs out of the far crevices of my brain with an industrial-strength Shop Vac. I'm thinking he does this during cardio because I have my music blaring and he doesn't want to disturb me with the Shop Vac - nice of him.

With all of this knowledge, you'd think I'd be lying there at 4am, trying to Jedi mind-trick my alarm to go off so I can get my endorphin hit. Well, if you think that, sorry, you're smoking crack mistaken. I still have to talk myself into it. Get my gym clothes on the moment I get up. Turn on all the lights in the living room and wake my brain up; after all, those brain-spiders had a few hours to rebuild their cobwebs. I give myself a deadline to leave the house, otherwise I will sit and drink coffee and watch the news until it's time to get ready for work. I remind myself repeatedly how much better the commute to work is from the gym than from home. There's an elaborate mind game that goes on, every day. That's not to say it's not becoming a habit, because I feel like it is. However, I've been practicing the other habit for years now. A few months of doing something that's slightly inconvenient and kind of physically hard is no match for half a lifetime of lazy and gluttonous.

It's a fight every day, and not even close to a fair fight. However, this week, I won.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


That's what I get for taking a couple weeks month(ish) off of my 5 day a week workout schedule. My chicken cutlets - as they call them on What Not To Wear (the area between your underarm and boobs) - and my pecs are positively throbbing with pain - I swear my upper pecs are even a little swollen. (I do not desire or need more swelling in this area.) Reaching over my head produces an involuntary groan each and every time. It must be quite amusing to the 20-somethings I work with.

I resorted to NSAIDs last night, which means it's nearly unbearable, but today is arms/back day. The tricep dips are going to be horribly painful fun.

There's always the whirlpool to look forward to afterward, right?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to it

The holidays have, thankfully, come and gone. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them. What I don't enjoy is the onslaught that begins earlier and earlier every year. I remember nearly having a fit of apoplexy in Kohl's when I saw Christmas displays up in mid-October. I remember mumbling psychotically to myself and shaking my head. I may have twitched once or twice. Hey, it keeps the pesky salespeople away.

*mental note* try this next time I'm browsing on a car lot

But... I digress.

There has definitely been a shift in my attitude during this time of year. No longer is it the full-on orgy of food, drink, food, and food. And cookies. Nope. We had our Thanksgiving dinner, and our pumpkin (mini) pies. We had our leftovers. We had our Christmas ham. However, something was missing. What was it?


Oh, yeah. The pressure. The pressure to have x-dozen of x-variety of cookies made and given out. The pressure to consume anything and everything in the name of "It's the holidays!" The pressure to visit here, there, everywhere and please everyone.

Is it wrong to savor the memories of Christmas day, me in my new Christmas pajamas and earrings, switching between A Christmas Story and my dvr selections, dozing on the floor curled up with my dog, ignoring the phone calls from the tipsy neighbors, who felt terrible that I had to work Christmas night and trying to invite me to their family dinners so I "wouldn't be alone" on Christmas? If that's wrong, I don't wanna be right. It was sheer bliss, except for the fact of having to show up at work that night, but even that wasn't too terribly bad.

I do regret the lapse in the 5-day-per-week workout schedule that I had established in the fall. The holidays weren't its downfall, however. It was my house. Now that that is no longer an issue, and there is no out of town trip looming, the schedule is back in effect. A lapse, pure and simple, is all that it was.

Other than the regret of the temporary slowdown of my gym visits - and even on the days I skipped the gym the dog and I were often taking snowy walks together - I have come out of this holiday season feeling great. I don't have the January hangover and pounds and bloat and fatigue hanging over me. I don't have the dread of some impossible and ridiculous unsustainable diet/exercise plan that I "have to" start come January 1. I have my routine to get back to, and dare I say I am so looking forward to it.

Here's to 2010!