Spin Spin Spin

I went to another spin class at my gym the other day, triumphant and inspired after my first, successful spin class. I learned a lot in my first spin class. I learned that I wasn’t going to die, I learned how to size the bike, I learned the basics of the digital display, how to switch stages and where to monitor RPMs. Most importantly, I learned that I could have fun and get a good work out, all in a spin class.

My second spin class was a bit different. First of all, the class was packed, almost every bike was taken. I overheard one participant say, about the instructor, before the instructor arrived, “she terrifies me.” Now, I was a wee bit terrified, too. Moments later, in bounced the instructor, a tiny-framed woman, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. She was my age, I’d say, at least, but more fit that I’ve ever been in my life, at any age. She looked familiar, and though I have yet to verify it, I think I went to high school with her. She resembles someone, a year ahead of me, who was, even way back then, small-framed, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. We’re talking the front cover of a body building magazine muscle definition. She could stand at the front of a classroom and be put to good use as a visual aid in naming every muscle in the human body. And I truly mean this with the utmost admiration, respect and a touch of jealousy.

The instructor straddled her bike on the pedestal at the front of the classroom, cranked up the tunes and gave us explicit instructions. We were going “uphill” as soon as our “warm up” was over. If I had a dollar for every time she said, “add some gear”, I wouldn’t have to pay my gym fees for the next year! She knew many of the people in the class by name and even included songs in her playlist she knew they, specifically, would enjoy. Three minutes in and I was already dripping sweat onto the floor around my bike. Yikes. We were still going uphill. As a matter of fact, I think we went uphill pretty much the entire time. Who picked this ride?

Though, it seemed, much of the class consisted of regulars, the instructor seemed attuned to the fact that there was some “fresh meat” in with the veterans. Me, for example. With this in mind, she provided very precise, explicit and valuable information on the use of the digital display, every number being given a meaning, a use, and a measure. At the end of the class, I somehow survived, I felt far more informed and in mastery of the bike, the gearing of the bike and how it all related to the digital display and, ultimately, to the best workout I’ve had in a very long time.

As I understand it, this all translates to actual cycling, too. Having grown up in a “cycling” family, my dad being a cyclist for most of his youth, and owning a bicycle shop for most of my youth, I have some vague knowledge of the sport of cycling. I know that the goal is to maintain a steady cadence. There, that’s the depth of my cycling knowledge. You shift gears to maintain that desired cadence. Got it. What I learned in this spin class is how to “make room, add gear, gain power.” This makes sense and it works. As it was explained, several times throughout the class, you have a cadence range, between so many revolutions per minute and about ten more revolutions per minute. You pedal furiously and as you reach the upper end of that range, in other words, you make room, then you add gear, giving you more power. You continue to pedal furiously after adding gear, which, logically, causes your revolutions per minute to drop towards the lower end of the range. Pedal more, get closer to the upper end of the range, making more room, add more gear. The “power” is measured by the “watts” readout on the digital display. By the end of our mostly uphill ride, we were pedaling at about the same RPMs we started our ride with, but we were generating far more power. The watts I generated more than tripled, even though my cadence was the same, during the course of this exercise. I know this all translates to the street, to real riding, to real hills, and I find it fascinating. Power excites me!

I thought about this a lot throughout the day; making room, adding gear, more power and repeat. I think this method can also be applied to life; to our goals and to our evolution as an individual. Think about it.

We have a goal. Some folks never get past the setting of the goal. Others of us plink away at our goals a little bit, here and there, kind of like pedaling the old Schwinn Varsity around the block. And for some of us, that’s it. The seat makes our butt hurt, we get winded, the chain falls off, the tire goes flat and the old Schwinn Varsity reclaims its dusty post at the back of the garage with the car washing towels draped over it, perpetually drying. Am I right?

pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.
pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.

Others of us work a little harder at our goals. We sit on that spin cycle in class and just pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal. We pay no attention to the numbers on the display. We show up, we pedal and pedal and pedal and you know what? We end up right where we started. We could attend spin class and pedal mindlessly and never increase our effort, never stand to pedal, never add gear, never gain any power, assuming we are making a difference, but we find that we never make any progress. That goal is always there, in the same exact position, never changing, never closer, truly like trying to reach it by riding a stationary bicycle.

Perhaps if we set a “cadence” for our work towards our goal, some kind of measure of achievement, of progress, and, as we work towards the first measure, we “add a little gear”, maybe some intermediate or clarifying goals towards the bigger goal, making it, initially harder, but through which we gain some energy, some power, making reaching the next level not only possible, but, in fact, a bit easier. We add more gear, gain more power, make more progress, and so forth. You see?

So, yes, I encourage you to check out a spin class because it’s hecka fun and a real sweat fest. And, I also encourage you to apply some of the principles of spinning, or cycling, to the goals you’ve set for yourself. Keep up a good pace, make some room by setting intermediate goals or meaningful measures of progress towards the ultimate goal. As you approach each of those intermediate goals or measures, increase your effort and use the power to propel you towards the next intermediate goal or measure. Watch as you quickly and powerfully crest that hill and reach your goal!

Grab your yellow jersey, wave it over your head triumphantly, bask in the glory, and enter another race!

Scarlett’s Letter December 26, 2013

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls ~ Mother Teresa

I have two very juxtaposed needs; a social circle and silence.

I am still trying to find a circle, or a few circles, a source, a place, or places, for socializing, as a middle-aged, solitary woman with a wildly fluctuating calendar of availability. I am not “single” and am a misfit in the “singles” crowds. I just want to establish a circle of interesting, non-threatening folks to hang out with a time or two a week, for coffee or wine tasting, a hike, a yoga class, or something like that. I don’t let the absence of such a circle deprive me of those joys, I am perfectly willing and able to go to coffee, wine tasting, a hike or a yoga class by myself, a solitary participant amidst a group of strangers, but I would prefer, on more occasions than not, to have a familiar face, or faces, to share with socially, on more than a casual, “hey, you on the yoga mat next to me, nice weather today, eh?” basis.

I’ve found one great, promising and very unlikely resource; grocery shopping. I am a “Whole Food-ee”, as you are probably aware. I am lucky enough, currently, to live in a town that has a Whole Foods Market ten minutes from my front door. Being situated in the Napa Valley, this market has a “tasting bar”. This, I’ve been aware of for some time and I have also been aware of the fact that they have a calendar of events; different featured wineries, breweries, and pairings, for a very nominal fee. As I shop for my local organic Greek yogurt, local, organic, free-range eggs, local organic produce and organic whole grains, crisscrossing my way back and forth across the aisles, I frequently pass the tasting bar, which is “corralled” off, dead center of the store, adjacent to the wine aisle, with a split rail fence and a gate complete with a rope latch, to keep the underage out, I suppose. Often, I see people sitting at the tasting bar and the few tables nearby, enjoying the featured selections, and I’ve thought, “I’ve got to take the time to do that some day.”

Making a plan.
Making a plan.

One afternoon, last week, with a little burst of fortitude, I reached for my MacBook and opened a couple of new tabs in my browser. I navigated to my gym’s class schedule from my bookmarked pages on one tab and to Whole Foods events calendar on the other. I grabbed my phone and opened up my personal calendar and scheduled out my fitness for the week, including runs, yoga classes, spin classes and cardio. Then, I found a few tasting events and scheduled those on my calendar, complete with a couple of carefully timed reminders. Later that day, right on schedule, I attended a caviar and sparkling wine tasting event at the “Whole Foods Corral”. I found a seat at the bar, a few minutes before the scheduled start time for the event, and enjoyed a fantastic Northern California brewery’s stout offering, just a small glass, for two dollars. There were a few folks at the bar and they struck up easy, casual conversation with me. They were “regulars”, I gathered, from their banter with the “bartender” and because they greeted, by name, nearly everyone that passed by the “corral”. From what I gathered, everyone there was sort of like me; not single, not content to sit home and rot in front of the television, and looking for a way to connect in the community and enjoy beer. And caviar. And sparkling wine. And then, maybe even do some grocery shopping. It was great. I’ve been to the German beer-tasting event, since, again, meeting some nice, non-threatening and immensely interesting people. Today, after my spin class at the gym, and a shower, of course, I’m going to go buy some yogurt and oatmeal and stop by for a wine tasting event, a winery I know, have visited, and am quite fond of, from the foothills of Amador County, southeast of Sacramento. I might be close to becoming a “regular” at the Whole Foods Corral.

At the "Whole Foods Corral"
At the “Whole Foods Corral”
North 101 Brewing - Naughty Aud Imperial Stout
North 101 Brewing – Naughty Aud Imperial Stout
Sparkling wine and caviar tasting at the grocery store.
Sparkling wine and caviar tasting at the grocery store.

The other craving I have; silence.

Likely more elusive than a platonic posse of pals to socialize with, a contiguous block of uninterrupted silence with which to read, think, meditate and write. I don’t consider this need to be one rooted in selfishness, though some may beg to differ. Fine, believe what you want, but, please, don’t approach me with your argument while I’m trying to read, think, meditate or write.

My basic need for a bit of uninterrupted silence, a couple of times a day, as I’ve mentioned a time, or two, or maybe a dozen or two times, before, is very hard to come by in my current living situation. One of the petty minor irritations Mom and I are trying to work through. Mom differs from me in that her most basic need seems to be one of filling every moment with noise, chatter, inquiry (often bordering on inquisition) and distraction. If I fall silent for any period of time, say, during breakfast, she will ask a rapid-fire succession of questions on a topic in, what seems to me, an attempt to extend the lifespan of said topic well beyond its natural and logical bounds. She will chatter incessantly, often using the newspaper as a catalyst, the result being a near constant barrage of completely unrelated factoids that, to me, require no response, or even acknowledgement. Mom seems to desire both, acknowledgement and response. I listen to her many stories of the past, of her acquaintances, and her (very) few social encounters of the week. She relates very detailed stories of the people in her life; doctors, nurses, hairdressers, and of the people in their lives that she has never met, but has only heard tale of. If Mom runs out of material, she will simply narrate everything she is doing, like a “blow-by-blow” account of wrapping up leftover cookies to freeze. If I am not in the room to chat with or chatter to, she will turn on the radio or the television to fill the void.

I love companionable silence; being able to sit, peacefully, with a friend, family member or loved one, after the conversation has been temporarily spent, and just enjoy their presence, their company, and pursuing those more personal, thoughtful endeavors; reading, thinking, meditating, writing.

I’m not sure where the middle ground is here, between my need for companionable silence and Mom’s desire for constant conversation. I think …

“Knock, knock, knock,” on my bedroom door, which I’ve closed to afford some kind of sound barrier from the television downstairs, the ringing telephone and the triple play of the message left; its Mom, of course, on the other side of the door, with a list of questions, a couple of stories and a detailed account of the upcoming hour of her life.

My train of thought has just derailed. I’ll end my musings for the day here.

An Ode to Amazon Prime

I’ve been a long time customer and fan of Amazon. I may, in fact, be one of their original customers, I don’t know, but I feel like Amazon has been as much a part of my life as, well, shopping online.

My affinity for Amazon goes well beyond merely shopping online, they have totally come through for me on many occasions, one particularly memorable.

I remember the first Christmas season that I was traveling a lot for work. I was far from home, in Durham, North Carolina, I recollect. It was about a week before Christmas and I hadn’t been able to do any Christmas shopping. The kids were in high school and had gone from believing in Santa Claus to believing in capitalism. The husband wasn’t working and hadn’t for years. Money was very tight and I didn’t have a single penny to shop with. In that hotel room, in Durham, North Carolina, late one night, I received, in my bank account, electronically, my first bonus from work. It was a good one. It was actually a couple of bonuses and a commission. My company doesn’t pay either bonuses or commissions anymore, but, anyway, it was a really big surprise that night in Durham. This was the year that the Wii game system was like “the gift”. You know, every year there is some gift that simply everyone must have, and because of its insane popularity, is impossible to obtain, and particularly the week before Christmas. Well, now I was one of those people, trying every (online) avenue to obtain a Wii, delivered to my doorstep, before Christmas. WalMart was out, Target was out, BestBuy was out. I don’t know what made me think of Amazon, I was still under the impression they only sold books, I guess. Maybe I decided, unable to obtain a Wii from a big box store, I’d just give the kids the latest Harry Potter book, or something. More likely, I Googled “Wii” and Amazon came up, top of the list. I found a Wii with all the periphery, for less than the big box stores empty shelf tags had the price listed for, and, it was delivered to my doorstep at about the same time I arrived home! A miracle. Amazon saved Christmas that year. I should make a sappy holiday movie about it.

Since then, and particularly with the app on my phone, I have always tried Amazon first. For everything. You may think I sound like I have a shopping problem. I don’t. I have no problem shopping, at all. I’m actually not that bad. Kindle books are my only real weakness with Amazon these days.

Many, if not most of my friends also swear by Amazon. Amazon, too, is often a topic of conversation in the business circles I frequent, not unlike the weather and traffic. I often see Amazon related posts on Facebook, and, lately, a lot of chatter about Amazon Prime, the premium service you pay an annual fee for. Amazon Prime is not new, it’s been around for a while. I’ve resisted because I keep thinking that I don’t really purchase that much from Amazon, and even if I do, I shouldn’t be, so paying for a premium service is, well, kind of like admitting you have a shopping problem. I don’t. Clearly. I’ve thought I should really justify the enrollment fee by doing an analysis of my Amazon shipping expenses for a year, in a big, hairy, Excel schedule, perhaps do a five-year spread, with a chart and a graph, in my favorite colors, but I’ve been saying this for, well, as long as Amazon Prime has been around.

I don’t know when I finally changed my mind, or what triggered it. As I recall it, I was pretty much sitting in a hotel room, alone, and not even online, and out of the clear blue sky I just thought, “I’m going to get Amazon Prime.” It was like some kind of weird consumerism epiphany.

And I did. The next time I found myself on Amazon, a week or so later, I was ordering a gift for myself. I looked at my list and even checked it twice, I’ve been an awfully good girl this year. I’d just spent ten whole minutes shopping, online, for everyone else on my list, I was done, and, as Christmas shopping tends to do to people, I was worn down, exhausted and feeling self-indulgent. All from the comfort of my office chair. I haven’t set foot near a mall. So, I was on Amazon, on a mission. On my “wishlist”, for about five years now, has been “Friends – the complete TV Series”. I’ve hinted and wished, begged, suggested, and done everything possible to subliminally persuade any of a number of family members or friends to think of that particular item when considering a gift for me. Still, no Friends.  So, dammit, after five years, I found it on my Amazon “wishlist” and for about fifty dollars less than the last time I looked. I moved it from my “wishlist” to my cart and then, I clicked the “try the free 30-day trial of Prime” button. I signed up, confirmed my purchase and the doorbell rang. I thought, “dammmmmnnnn!” It was a neighbor bringing the mail to the door for Mom, I was almost a little scared there, for a minute. I love instant gratification, and all, but things need to be logical and explainable, too.

My purchase did arrive quickly, almost unexplainably quickly, especially given the time of year. The free shipping is great, the fast free shipping is phenomenal!

Yay!
Yay!

I’ve taken to using “Amazon Prime” a lot like I do “Googling”, it is both a noun and a verb. “Can we just Amazon Prime that please?”

I recently ordered an MLM anti-aging skin care regime from a friend out of curiosity, duty, and as a favor, to help her make a goal, which will actually, hopefully, also allow her to visit me next spring, and most certainly NOT because I need an anti-aging skin care regime. Yet, when I get really close to the mirror and look at my face I wonder if maybe, there isn’t some way to “Amazon Prime” this whole anti-aging skin care process, maybe I DO need it. I know, it took fifty years for my skin to age as much as it has, nothing is going to change instantly, if at all. But if anything could reverse the aging process of skin in an instant, it’d be totally “Amazon Prime”, for sure (that’s a compliment, and an adjective).

I’ve been trying to be helpful around the house, for Mom, now that I’m home for a bit. So I have “chores” to do every day. These are things that would take Mom, at ninety and not moving too swiftly these days, absolute ages to complete. I’m totally “Amazon Prime”. I can complete the whole list before I go running in the morning. And my runs, lately, have even been “Amazon Prime”, I’ve shaved a minute off my mile average on the past couple of six-mile jogs!

When a social opportunity comes up, like lunch out or happy hour or something like that, and I’ve just returned from a run, or the gym or something, I’ll say, “I’m just going to take a shower, ‘Amazon Prime’, and I’ll be ready in thirty minutes!” And, talking to my Sweetie last night, it’s been such a long time since I’ve seen him, I can’t wait for my next vacation, I wish it would get here “Amazon Prime!”

I saw a Maserati the other day, on a straight, open stretch of road, and like a wish come true, the driver did what I would’ve done, glanced both ways for signs of a cop, then just mashed it! It was poetic, symphonic and nearly orgasmic to see and to hear. The car just flew “Amazon Primerly” down the road. Wait, did I just use it as an adverb?

And now that I have Amazon Prime, the service, it’s not much unlike having a new, over eager and hyper efficient assistant, which is never a bad thing. I get text messages on regular intervals on the ONE order I have forthcoming;

“We got your order!”

“We’ve packaged your order!”

“We’ve taped the box shut!”

“Mail truck is here! There goes your order!”

“Your order is at the post office now!”

“Your order is on the mail truck for the airport!”

“Your order is at the airport now!”

“Your order is on the airplane, got a free first-class upgrade, its having the ‘eggs’!”

“Your order landed!”

“Your order is on the mail truck!”

“Your order is at your post office!”

“Your order is on your postal carrier’s truck!”

“Your mailman got stuck in traffic!”

“Lights green, your order is moving again!”

“Your mailman is on your street with your order!”

Ding … “Your order has been delivered!” … Dong

“How’d we do? Feedback, please?”

I didn’t really mean to write a big, ol’ long article about Amazon Prime, it was just an amusing idea that entered my head this morning as I worried over the Christmas gifts I bought for my family direct from the suppliers, instead of from Amazon, the gifts that aren’t here yet and, if not mailed by about yesterday, won’t make it to Honolulu or Saratoga Springs, New York, respectively, by Christmas. I shoulda “Amazon Primed” them.

Well, gotta go, “Amazon Prime”-like! I’ve got a busy day ahead, I’m on my way, “Amazon Prime”, to run four miles as “Amazon Prime” as I can. Then, I’ve got to shower and get ready real “Amazon Prime” because Mom wants me to drive her to the mall so she can get some last minute shopping things done real “Amazon Prime”, then we’re going to have a relaxing lunch at our favorite little Thai place downtown. Hold the “Amazon Prime.”

What I Learned From a Squirrel

I was puttering about in the kitchen yesterday morning, fixing breakfast and doing dishes. The kitchen is what I consider traditional, there is a window over the kitchen sink. I consider this normal and have had a couple of abnormal kitchens in my life. I hated them. It should be part of the building code; kitchen sink placement shall be beneath a window with a view to the outdoors, preferably to a pleasing view. Since I currently live in the house I grew up in, and there is a window over the kitchen sink, and the view is quite pleasing, I suppose my high expectations are well-explained.

As I puttered about in the kitchen, at the sink, glancing out to the pleasing view on occasion, I noticed a squirrel. Our squirrels are numerous and are big and fat and gray. Growing up, Mom used to name the squirrels, based on the characteristics of their tails. There was Wispy Tail and Bushy Tail and Fluffy Tail. Those are the ones I remember. I don’t remember, though, actually being able to discern one squirrel from the other quite as well as Mom. At a young age, I assumed this was a gift that came with wisdom and maturity. No. They still look all the same to me, I do consider myself at least somewhat more wise and mature than when I was a tot. Last week, I saw four different squirrels scampering around the back yard at the same time, two in one tree, a third high in the branches, navigating from one tree to another, the squirrel highway system, I suppose. The fourth squirrel was on the fence between our yard and the ravine where a seasonal creek runs during the wetter months, or the wetter month, or the one wet week we have each year.

I observed the single squirrel, yesterday, on the deck railing, not too terribly far from the window where I stood. The squirrel was preoccupied with his nuts. I watched as he flitted from one point to another, looking for a good place to hide his nuts. He twitched his tail continuously as he fretted over one locale, then another.

I mentioned to Mom that there was a squirrel on the deck and she asked, “Oh, is it Fluffy Tail?” I replied, “Um, I don’t know?” They all have fluffy tails as far as I can tell. “Fluffy Tail is the only squirrel left,” Mom stated with a melancholy tone, “he’s the only squirrel I ever see anymore.” Mom’s world is one of scarcity, these days. I told her I saw four squirrels at one time, in the backyard, earlier in the week. She didn’t seem convinced, or didn’t hear me. Either way. And at least I was off the hook for proper squirrel identification, as far as I was concerned. If Fluffy Tail is the “only” squirrel left, then the squirrel on the deck MUST be Fluffy Tail. And, so, I’d probably be right to say that every squirrel in a hundred mile radius is also Fluffy Tail. That certainly makes it easier, and a lot less mysterious. I shall no longer worry or be mystified by proper squirrel names. It’s all kind of nutty, anyway, if you ask me.

Mom continued to muse, now watching the squirrel, busy with his nuts, “I always wondered if they were pooping when they twitched their tails like that, or is that how they balance?” My logical and over-analytical mind has to assume the latter, otherwise, the world as I know it would be a foot deep in squirrel shit, I reckon. And, to add further credence, I don’t know that I’ve ever, in my life, seen squirrel shit. Anywhere. I think it must just be vapor, or dust or some other particulate matter that does not accumulate. Another mystery.

I watched the squirrel, he watched me.

Squirrels are everywhere, I know, to the point where we kind of take them for granted. I’ve only lived in one place where there were no squirrels. We had rats the size of squirrels, but no squirrels. This was sort of a depressed and crime-ridden neighborhood, a stepchild suburb of Sacramento. The area was populated by the down and out, with many Section 8 rentals, there were houses that were rumored to be meth labs, and, for the most part, from what I could tell, the demographics were what I’d consider “white trash” and “rednecks”. Not that they are one in the same, but, coincidentally, are often found in the same areas. I don’t want to make any inappropriate correlations, but I found it interesting that there were no squirrels, at all, in this neighborhood, in spite of the many mature trees and ample food supply. I’m thinking the squirrels, themselves, were considered an ample food supply by some of the residents in the area.  I’ve never cooked or eaten squirrel, but I’m pretty sure if I ever wanted to, I could knock on ‘most any door in that neighborhood and be obliged.

I lived in another neighborhood that had plentiful squirrels that were both a joy and a relief to see, after the previous situation. There was one demonic squirrel, though, and he frequented a tree on our property, that had several large limbs that arched over our wide, graveled driveway. On more than one occasion, as I made my way to or from the house and car, this particular squirrel would chatter and scold me, then throw, not just drop, but throw, with force and with malice aforethought, an object at me. Once, caught unaware, I got beaned in the head with an apple and almost lost consciousness! There’s a squirrel worth looking up a recipe for!

For those areas where squirrels haven’t been hunted and eaten to extinction, we’ll find geographic differences, some have smaller squirrels, some squirrels are brown, or red, or striped. The college I attended has fricking scary squirrels! They will crawl right up on your lap and try to pry food from your fingers, staring intently at the food with one eye and into your eyes with the other. I swear it. There are squirrels on campus that are nearly as large as some of the more petite students. Big, scary, damn squirrels. I was sitting on a bench beneath a tree one day, knowing me I was probably studying, for the first time, for an exam the very next hour, and something sizable whizzed past my head from above and landed with a frightening thud on the ground next to me. A squirrel. I feared he’d be injured, or dead, from the fall from the top of the stately sycamore tree next to me. Nope. He stood up, sized me up, and, once convinced I had no food, scampered back up the tree. A few minutes later another student sat at a nearby bench, and, moments later, whump, the same squirrel landed on the dirt next to that bench. This squirrel was so obsessed with food, apparently, that it chose the fastest route to the ground to be the first, of thousands of squirrels, to pry food from a human’s hands. Scary, scary, scary squirrels.

I’ve been on a few backpacking adventures at Philmont Scout Ranch outside of Cimarron, New Mexico. Here, the little ground squirrels are called, and not with an air of fondness, but more one of disdain, “mini-bears”. If food is not handled and stored according to the best of “bear proofing” standards, if not the real bears, then for certain the mini-bears, will chew through anything to get at any morsel of edible matter, including dehydrated backpacking food and greasy, nasty, “squeeze-cheese”, which, I’m sure, isn’t cheese at all. If you set your daypack down for three seconds, when you pick it up again, there will likely be a mini-bear inside, having either deftly unlatched the nearly human proof latches, or, usually, having gnawed a squirrel-sized hole in the bottom of the pack. Varmints.

I especially like the bubonic plague carrying squirrels that populated the Sierras there for a while. Not.

Fluffy Tail isn’t quite so terrifying, trouble causing, diseased, or demonic, he’s not menacing at all, and seems, actually, to have an appropriate amount of wariness about me, on the other side of the glass, a good twenty feet away. And though I’ve seen squirrels on practically a daily basis, for most of my life, this morning, I was drawn to watch Fluffy Tail’s antics.

And, as with everything in life, I learned something.

It doesn’t’ really matter if everyone can see your nuts ~

A nut "hidden" in the bird feeder.
A nut “hidden” in the bird feeder.

Show the world what you’re made of. In most things in life, we kind of just have to put it out there; to grow, to develop, to evolve, to succeed, we can’t quietly hide away, keeping our talents, our passions, our abilities, hidden or secret. The more willing and able we are to step out of our comfort zone and make ourselves known, the more comfortable we are with being uncomfortable, the more we have to gain. Take risks, take chances, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, get up, brush yourself off, laugh it off and take a different approach. Don’t ever let fear or insecurities dictate your actions or compromise your goals or your dreams. Get out there and show off your nuts!

Take chances in making connections, fostering relationships, establishing a network both professionally and personally. Every connection you make is a two way street with good will running in both directions. Never allow yourself to miss an opportunity to connect with people, and those opportunities exist 24/7/365. I don’t mean social networking, though it has its place, I’m talking about real, tangible connected relationships with real people, outside of the comforts of your house. Get out there and show off your nuts!

It doesn’t really matter if everyone can see you’re nuts ~

A nut "hidden" on the deck railing.
A nut “hidden” on the deck railing.

Take pride in your uniqueness and individuality, even if you do march to the beat of a different drummer. How refreshing is it to meet people who are confident, outgoing and a little bit zany? It’s our differences, our unique qualities, our one-of-a-kind way of looking at things or doing things that make us special. Who wants to blend in with the crowd? Most great inventors and achievers in our time were thought to be out of their minds for the ideas and their commitment to see those ideas through; Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and the list goes on and on. In fact, you’d better be a little nuts if you have any intention of succeeding, it’s part of the process, to keep trying in the face of repeated failure; also know as the definition of insanity.

Be quick  ~

Be quick.
Be quick.

Life is short, there is no time to waste, not a single second. Every second of every day should be put to good use in furthering our evolution. I’m not saying you have to work sixteen hour days to get ahead, I’m saying that no time should be wasted. Time put to good use includes time for adequate rest, some stimulating and interesting adventures, appropriate time for relaxation, reflection and meditation, time for good nutrition and adequate physical exertion, time for love and for nurturing relationships and friendships, time for acquiring knowledge, for developing new interests, hobbies, pastimes, time for exploring possible new career avenues or technologies. Plan and use your time carefully and guard it judiciously. Time is not refundable, expires quickly and cannot be retrieved or replenished. Use it ever so wisely.

Have some nuts – be fearless ~

Be fearless.
Be fearless.

Have respect, exercise caution, but refuse to be fearful. Don’t make me quote Eleanor Roosevelt again.

Freeze ~

Freeze.
Freeze.

Stop, observe, then decide what action is appropriate. Be thoughtful, reflective and contemplative, but don’t dwell or belabor. Be decisive, with discretion. You can see any prey animal you encounter freeze, momentarily, and in those seconds, a life or death decision is made. Have you ever seen a deer deliberate over whether to run or go back to grazing for more than a few seconds? And yet, the life of the deer depends on that split second decision and usually multiple times a day. True, we are predators, most often, and have been given the luxury of time to mull things over, we’ve also been given incredible intelligence, which is both a blessing and our bane. We are capable of acting quickly and rashly, often to our detriment.  We are equally as capable of being unable to make a timely decision, again, usually to our detriment. Observe the squirrel; freeze, watch, and decide; scamper or get back to taking care of your nuts.

Don’t keep all you nuts in one place ~

Don't keep all your nuts in one place.
Don’t keep all your nuts in one place.

Have a variety of interests, develop goals for each role you serve in your life, nurture your passions, follow your causes. We have a remarkable amount of energy if we know how to appropriately develop it and use it. We all have the individual ability to change the world in a positive way. Together, our changes can amount to amazing things. Explore every avenue.

Don’t forget where you put your nuts ~

Don't forget where you put your nuts.
Don’t forget where you put your nuts.

Be organized. De-clutter your life, de-clutter your mind. Much of success, personal and professional, arises from efficiency. Efficiency is never gained in a cluttered space or in a cluttered mind. A place for everything, everything in its place, including your nuts. Every effort you take to cut the clutter is going to result in a freeing and liberating euphoria. Clutter in our midst and in our minds robs us of energy, vitality and precious, precious time. One of the best books I’ve read this year was a book on minimalism, “The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life” by Francine Jay. I have a ways to go, but, yes, every step towards minimalism is truly bliss.

Sample your nuts ~

Sample your nuts.
Sample your nuts.

Whoever made cookies without having a spoonful of cookie dough? Liar. Everything we do speaks to our reputation. Double check everything before you release it to the universe; thoughts, words and actions all deserve a quick sample before we decide to unleash them for the rest of the world. What we send out comes back our way, guaranteed. Think positive, speak kindly, act with valor, honor and integrity, and as a result, live richly.

Know when to stop hiding your nuts ~

Know when to stop hiding your nuts.
Know when to stop hiding your nuts.

Know when to stop working and focus on what really matters in life; you, your health, your family, relationships and friendships. Voluminous are stories of people so driven to work and succeed in their careers that they lost everything that truly, truly mattered. Every day should have ample time in it to savor that which you cherish, beginning with yourself, your health and well-being, for it is a healthy you that will be able to love, nurture and provide for those you care for for a much greater time. It is a healthy you that is a happier and more relaxed you, a you that those you care for will so enjoy spending time with. Get your priorities straight. Jobs come and go, no job is worth sacrificing health, family, relationships and friendships for.

The real lesson here, I’d have to say, is to learn to stop, look out the window, and to find value in everything you observe. Lessons in life are everywhere, we only need to stop fussing with our nuts long enough to pay attention, and learn.

Go nuts.

Scarlett’s Letter December 17, 2013

I’ve been a rebel without a cause for a while now. I’ll always be a bit of a rebel, but, today, I think I found a cause!

I’ve always been very involved in things I truly believe in. Scouting, for example. I was once a Girl Scout and loved every moment of it. I loved the friendships, the potential to earn and achieve, both as a group and independently, and the opportunity for adventures and exploration in nature. I had great leaders, so we actually had opportunities for adventures and exploration in nature, not just arts and crafts. And, probably from the time I first opened my Brownie Girl Scout Handbook in the first grade, I knew, someday, I wanted to be a Scout Leader. And I was. I was both a Girl Scout leader and a Boy Scout leader, for well over a decade, for both organizations, and just like my experience as a young girl, I loved every minute of being a leader, too. I truly feel like I had an impact, and, perhaps, made some small difference in a number of young lives. And it was fun.

The kids are grown and have moved away and are all far beyond scout age. I too have moved away and, yes, while I could still lead, I finally hung up my patch adorned red wool jacket a few years ago when work and travel and attending anything at all regularly became more than I could manage.

I miss having a cause.

I ran today, six miles. I’ve managed to shave a whole minute per mile off my average time since the marathon a couple of weeks ago. Oh, sure, I was capable of a bit more speed before the marathon, but I was being very conservative, making every attempt to avoid injury before the race. Training was about “time on my feet” and “staying on program”. Marathon completed, now I can push some limits. Running, now, is less about “time on my feet” and a whole lot more about “time in my head”.

The best book I’ve never read, recently, was “Younger Next Year for Women” by Henry Lodge and Chris Crowley (and, yes, there is a mens version, the original, actually). I enjoyed every word, on Audible. I have the printed version, digitally, on my Kindle, but have only managed the audiobook, thus far. It is truly a fantastic book and really great narration in the Audible version. It is both informative and totally enjoyable. I highly, highly recommend it. Within the volumes of very well researched, documented and supported advice was the first rule; exercise every day, for an hour a day, six days a week, for the rest of your life. Several of those days, per week, should include aerobic exercise, strenuous enough that you can speak, barely, but you can’t sing. They actually include far more precise measures of knowing whether you’re in your aerobic zone, or not. I achieve this level of exertion on the cardio equipment at the gym, and nearly so, yesterday, in spin class. And, by the way, it was Chris Crowley’s own account of his first spin experience, at the age of 70, that bolstered my courage enough to finally go. Running, however, the way I’ve been running, and even during the marathon, with the exception of those mysterious hills that appeared in my former hometown that I really don’t remember, I could’ve sung the whole time. I did in fact hold several lengthy mid-race conversations.

A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
Highly recommended book. The Audible version is fantastic!
Highly recommended book. The Audible version is fantastic!

At my “new” running pace, I’ll not be singing, nor will I be saying much. It feels really good to pant a little during my one minute walk break, which occurs after every five minutes of running. My average pace during pre-marathon training was 11:07 minutes per mile. During the marathon I ran 12:02, but there were many more miles and a few porta-potty breaks, with long lines, that contributed to that time. My plan, though, was to run the race at an average pace of 12:00, so I guess I was “on plan”. My new average pace, this week, has been about 10:14. And, like I said, it feels pretty good. I’m not sure I could sustain it for more than the six-mile loop I guess I’d call my regular route. We shall see.

As to having a regular route; running in Napa has been very different than my experiences running in Sacramento, where this whole undertaking began a couple of years ago. In Sacramento, there is the gem of the city, the American River Parkway, miles and miles and miles of paved and meticulously maintained multi-use trail for runners, walkers, cyclists and even equestrians. It is the prize of the community and separates Sacramento from many other urban areas, as, in my opinion, a world-class city. Napa has a little bit of trail here and a little bit of trail there, separated by busy streets with unaware motorists, many of whom are tourists, many of whom have been wine-tasting. Running the streets of Napa, especially on a weekend, is akin to urban guerilla survival boot camp drills. I’d be terrified to cycle, and, in fact, routinely run, respectfully, past a couple of different roadside shrines to fallen cyclists. And then, there are crosswalks. There is nothing quite like watching your running watch displaying a pace of 18:55 while waiting for the green walk signal to appear. I’ve taken to strategically dashing between cars, both stopped and moving, rather than wait for the walk signal. Clearly, Napa, a world-class city in its own right, could use multi-use walking/running/cycling trail. And I’d be more than cool with equestrians, too. Fifty miles of trail would be about right, if you ask me.

I ran a couple of errands, today, on my way to run. Almost as difficult as finding a good and reasonably safe running route is finding a good and reasonably priced dry cleaner. There is one a mile or so away, next to my favorite pizza place and coffee shop. They are convenient, obviously, the people are nice and the prices reasonable enough, and they’ve done a good job, but, they don’t take credit cards. I have to remember to go get cash before I go get my dry-cleaning, which I never seem to be able to do. There is a bank in the same little shopping center, which I’ve resorted to every time I’ve picked up my laundry, but, it isn’t my bank, so I incur an ATM fee, so in the end, my dry cleaning ends up costing me way more. I Yelped dry cleaners and found one with rave reviews, across town, that takes every form of plastic imaginable. Location makes little difference to me, Napa is a “ten-minute” town. You can get anywhere within ten minutes within the city limits. I dropped my black coat there on my way to run, and they’re even going to sew a button back on for me! Cool!

As I turned out of the parking lot of the dry cleaner and headed in the direction of the park I park my car at for my regular running route, I pulled my sunglasses down from the top of my head. It was a lovely December day in Napa, sunny and about sixty-five degrees.  I was in shirtsleeves and a ponytail. It occurred to me that I’d forgotten my hat. I had sunscreen on, so I was protected, but I don’t yet have a nice pair of sports sunglasses. I have really cute gas station sunglasses with bling on the sides that barely suffice for driving into the rising or setting sun. They are miserable for running in every respect; they are heavy and bounce on the bridge of my nose, they have considerable glare, causing me to squint enough to make my head ache, and they are large lensed, sort of wrapped, and block the heat in so I have sort of an “eye sauna” going before the first mile. I’d spotted a little running store, near Massage Envy, when I parked for my two-hour massage the other night. It was on my way to the park, so I thought I’d pop in and buy a hat. True, a hat would cost more than driving home and getting the one I already had, but, well, whatever, they had pink and purple. My hat at home is gray. I pulled into the lot and parked near “Athletic Feat” and walked in. I was greeted and treated. The hats were shown to me and a friendly conversation ensued. During our exchange, I was enticed to join in on the “Resolution Run” on New Years Day, at 10:00 AM, a very polite hour to start a race given the likely activities the preceding evening. Proceeds are to benefit the Napa Valley Vine Trail. Say what? The Napa Valley Wine Trail! A planned forty-four mile, contiguous trail, dedicated to walkers/runners/cyclists. Well, damn! There we go! A cause I am happy to support in any way I can! I’ll be running 10k New Years Day no matter what happens the night before! Even if I crawl the entire route! Even if I sign up and pay and sleep through it! Right? And I will promote this cause in any way I can imagine! Give me a shovel and a pick, I am ready to dig me some trail!

I do, I want to help with this trail, however I can. I had a dream the other night and I remember some little bit of it. I was somewhere, talking to someone, about something and I volunteered to some large undertaking, on the spot. I’ve always been a little volunteer-happy, and, yes, I do tend to overcommit, from time to time. I don’t currently volunteer for ANYTHING, and this has been eating at my psyche a bit lately. I could almost feel the words form on my lips, just like in in my dream, “I want to help.” But, I refrained. For now. I need to reorganize a few things in my current, overcommitted life to free up some time for other, deserving overcommitments.

The only other excitement today occurred when the doorbell rang. I was upstairs, having just finished vacuuming for Mom. I peeked out the front window and, parked at the curb, by the mailbox, my car. Not my little Meep that I currently drive, the car I ordered from Tesla. I didn’t actually order it, I did dream of it, though. It was red, of course, and looked oh so good in front of the house. I think Meep whimpered a little. The doorbell rang again, Mom was in the garage. My mind was working, “who, what, why, how, etc.” I took a picture, of course, to post to Facebook with a snarky comment. The only thing I could come up with, why there would be a Tesla in front of my house, the occupants, apparently, anxious to speak with someone residing here; I test drove a Tesla Model S P85 a couple of months ago. While I may intend to buy one, someday, in my very vivid dreams, I am not currently, realistically, in the market for one. And I didn’t buy a Lotto ticket for tonight’s big jackpot, either. I’ve received a few polite, and really, non-threatening emails and phone calls since the test drive, so, I thought, perhaps, the sales folks were in the area and thought they’d just pop by to see if I had $100,000 laying around. I mean, they brought the right color and everything! Mom and I met in the hallway and whispered, deciding not to answer the door. I returned to my post by the upstairs window, and, by this time, the car was just pulling away.

A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!

I ran downstairs and opened the front door to see if there might be an envelope with keys and instructions to pick up my prize for some contest I’d entered and forgotten about. Nope. A canister of cookies from the First Presbyterian Church of Napa. Mom’s church. The one she’s been to a dozen times in fifty years. She’s been munching on homemade cookies, made by the church youth group, all day long. I think she’s even skipping dinner. I’m wondering just how much money she’s been sending the church every year that they deliver cookies to elderly members in a Tesla! Interestingly, I saw the very same car (yes, I memorized the license plate, it’s what I do) at Round Table Pizza later, when I went to the running store.

So, tonight, when I turn out the light and doze off to sleep, I will have happy little dreams of driving my red Tesla Model S P85 and a sprinting at a sustained and enviable speed along a beautiful running trail through the lovely Napa Valley. Good night! Sweet dreams!

Scarlett’s Letter December 16, 2013

For the record, today got off to a much better start than yesterday, by design.

Off to a better start, by design. Did "my things" before going downstairs for breakfast.
Off to a better start, by design. Did “my things” before going downstairs for breakfast.

Today I did something terrifying. Something absolutely terrifying, something I’ve contemplated doing many times in the past three years, and I’ve always chickened out. Always. No matter how many Eleanor Roosevelt quotes I read, I chickened out. No, not skydiving. That was a pip. No, not running on a treadmill, I’ve nearly mastered that.  Today. Today, yes, today, I actually did it. I went to a spin class.

I’d no sooner run with the bulls or miss a BOGO sale at DSW than humiliate myself in a spin class. The people, the equipment, the stories, I’ve had friends say they fell off the bike, how do you fall off a stationary bike? Worst of all, the terrifying instructors, have you seen them? All super fit and up on that bike, on a pedestal, at the front of the class, able to shout loud enough to be heard over the music despite, their impressive level of exertion; demanding you stand up to pedal, turn up the resistance, pedal faster! My God! It is all just an episode of “Jackass” as far as I’m concerned, death defying and stupid, and lots of people are going to laugh really, really hard. At me. They might laugh so hard that Gatorade shoots out their nostrils, or they may laugh so hard they wet their little Lycra bike shorts! Or both!

It wasn’t so bad. Like marathon runners, spinners actually seem quite mortal, human, even. Of course, like everything I do, I had a very logical and strategic approach. I decided to go to the mid-day class. I figured the really rabid spin class folks I’ve seen waiting, frothing at the mouth, outside the classroom, at peak morning and evening hours, would likely be at work. I figured the mid-day class would be housewives and retirees. I was pretty much right. There were six of us. One lady just sat and pedaled at 45 rpm the entire time, with the exception of the water breaks, where she took it easier. No disrespect, she was there and it wasn’t her first time. Where have I been? Cowering over by the cardio equipment, watching the spin class in wide-eyed fear through the five inch wide glass in the door.

I got to the spin room early enough, I was the first, actually, fifteen minutes before the instructor arrived, in fact, in order to chat with the instructor to learn how to fit the bike and what the “commands” were. And it wasn’t so bad. Kind of like having a pit bull come racing towards you only to wag its tail and lick your hand, roll over on its back and wet itself. With this first class under my belt, or Lycra waistband, I now have the confidence to increase the resistance a little more, next time, and, even, maybe, attend a peak-hour class.

The next more fearsome thing I did today; I got on the scale. Oops. Time for atonement, and for toning a bit. It has been a long six-week jaunt from city to city, restaurant to restaurant and that sneaky ten snuck back on. Not that weight matters, but, I have been favoring my more forgiving Aeropostale “boyfriend” jeans to my sizable wardrobe of “Miss Me’s”. Gaining ten during busy travel season is typical, for me. Most of it will be gone by Christmas. Mom doesn’t understand why I won’t share her Panattone bread with her every morning for breakfast, “it’s Christmas”, she says. Um, no, it’s December 16th. On December 25th, Christmas, I might have a piece of Panattone bread. With butter. She warned, “what if it’s all gone by then?” Then I guess I won’t have any. There is a big difference between “it’s Christmas” and “it’s Christmas”. A month of indulgence is much worse than a day, or even two or three.

Ah, but I am not totally fearless. I was headed to Roseville, east of Sacramento, for happy hour with a ladies “Meet-Up” group I’ve been active with for a couple of years. They are a super nice group of women and so worth the hour and a half drive to socialize with for an event now and again. I knew the drive might take a little longer, with happy hour being, also, commute time, and I planned accordingly. I did not, however, anticipate the road construction ensnarled traffic I encountered on Highway 12 which links Napa’s Highway 29 to the rest of the country via Interstate 80. It took me nearly an hour just to get to Highway 12, which usually takes me about eleven minutes. This drive at 3:00 PM is far different than at my usual 3:00 AM. Afraid I’d arrive just in time to leave, again, I aborted and returned home. It is not often you will hear me say “afraid”, but there it is, at the beginning of a sentence. Figures, too, my hair was perfect, for the first time in a month, my outfit was smashing, new top from Victoria’s Secret, and rockin’ new black boots. Drat.

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.
Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.

Guess I’ll take a “selfie”. Then put my baggy ol’ sweats and slippers on. And have a beer. Then go fix dinner. And do laundry, my gym clothes stink.

Perfect hair.
Perfect hair.
New blouse
New blouse
New boots (which you can't see).
New boots (which you can’t see).
Guess I'll fix dinner and do laundry.
Guess I’ll fix dinner and do laundry.
Jammies and beer.
Jammies and beer.

All or Nothing

I’ve always been an “all or nothing” kind of girl. But I’m getting over it.

It used to be, if the package of Oreos were opened, I’d eat them, three at a time, until they were all gone. This usually took a day and a half to two days. It used to be, if I was going to In N Out Burger, I was having a Double Double, fries and a shake. With a Diet Coke.  If I was going to drink soda, I was going to have three a day. If the “pounder” bag of pretzels was open, I wasn’t going to stop eating pretzels until there were only salt crystals at the bottom of the bag.

In interest of moderation, I found, if I just didn’t buy Oreos or go to In N Out, then I could easily abstain. Pretzels and Diet Coke were another matter, and, in fact, comprised my “lunch” for quite some time. With Red Vines for dessert. Hey, it was all “fat free”, right?

I was on the weight loss roller coaster for years, about twenty, or so. I’d lose weight for a big outing, like a backpacking trek, then gain it all back plus a few. I never grew out of the “junior” size clothing, even at my plumpest, but I was what I called a “top shelf” girl at Hollister. They keep the larger sizes on a top shelf, out of reach of the rotund, and so we have to waddle around the store and find some impossibly thin creature employed there to retrieve them for us. They look at us with something between pity and disgust as they hand us a voluminous bundle of denim, and point us in the direction of the dressing room, knowing full well, in five minutes or less, they’d be putting those jeans back up on the top shelf. I shopped at PacSun and American Eagle to avoid the humiliation, for whatever reason, they were more kind.

When my whole life turned upside down, I saw, where most would see darkness, doom, dismay, and dread, a light. I used foreclosure and short sale, the long overdue collapse of a marriage, and the struggles of rebuilding my own life, by myself, as an opportunity to change. It was a catalyst for growth. If everything was changed, then I was going to change everything.

Somewhere during that period of time, always being a fan of exercising, just more a fan of eating, as was apparent, my son mentioned he’d done a workout video, at home, with his roommate’s girlfriend, and it “kicked his butt”. He is one of the most fit people I know; cross country runner, avid cyclist, gym rat. I drove to Target as fast as I could and bought my first Jillian Michaels workout video. It kicked my butt. I sat down after the warm up and watched the rest from the couch, incredulously, dabbing the sweat from my brow.

Within a week, I was able to complete the video with a fair amount of self-respect. I bought another video. And another. I like variety. And I’m an “all or nothing” kind of girl. I was going to have ALL of Jillian’s videos, and new ones, too, as soon as they became available. Then I spied a book of hers at Target. I bought it. I read it cover to cover in about two days. I have never been the same. I have never been better.

I don't have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
I don’t have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
The book that changed my life.
The book that changed my life.

In Jillian’s book, I learned about diet, exercise, sleep, thought, environment, and, most importantly, how all of this relates to our hormones and that our hormones are what regulate our metabolism, and, so, our weight. I lost fifty pounds. There are ten pounds that come and go, but they do go with minimal effort. The real bragging rights, here, are that I’ve kept most of that fifty pounds of for most of three years. Give or take. I’ve kind of lost track.

The best part about losing that much weight, other than being able to tie my shoes, with the bows on the top of my feet, rather than on the side, where it was easier to reach, or the fact that my upper arms look like arms and not thighs, or the fact that it feels really, really, good to be thin, is that I got to shop for a new wardrobe three times in one year! How cool is that? I had to replace my tight size fourteens with size twelves because the fourteens, literally, fell off. I wore the twelves until they, too, fell off, and replaced them with eights. When the eights got to be ridiculously baggy, I bought sixes, and this is where I’ve been for two years now. So, no, I’m not some tiny, frail, creature riddled with eating disorders. I look pretty darn good and I eat pretty darn well and I feel pretty darn awesome and I can do any darn thing.

With this huge personal success, I became so confident, so inspired and so motivated, I knew, without a doubt, I could do anything. Anything at all. And this set my “effort to evolve” into motion. I vowed to myself to continue to evolve, in every area of my life, and then, to share my experiences, to, hopefully, inspire others.

I am absolutely NOT an all or nothing kind of girl anymore. I can eat two Oreos from an open package and make that package last weeks. If I really try. I still won’t ever buy Oreos for myself, but, others do. I can go to In N Out Burger and eat a lettuce wrap burger and pick at someone else’s fries and drink a nice, refreshing glass of water. Except after a marathon, then I get a Double Double, my own fries and a shake. Just sayin’. Every now and then, a bottle of really good red wine, or a super refreshing bottle of sparkling wine, does challenge my abilities to refrain from my current state of “all or nothingness”. But, I’m working on it.

By the way, where does it say that if something tastes really, really good that more of it will taste better? Why does having more, or all of it, now, make us think we’ll be more satisfied? The last Oreo tastes the same as the first. Isn’t it better to make it all last? Two Oreos every day for a month versus all the Oreos today, prolonged enjoyment, less negative impact. The first glass of wine is enough, and, then, I can enjoy it, again, tomorrow. So, I’m working on it.

Jillian taught me the virtues of NOT being an all or nothing kind of girl, in fact, she preaches it in all of her books. Okay, so, yah, I do have ALL of her books. And videos. And buy the new ones as soon as they come out. It isn’t al “all or nothing” thing, I swear, I’m studying her as a marketing role model. I only hope to be a fraction as successful in my endeavors, some day! Wink, wink.

Being an All or Nothing, Today – In Application:

It used to be, and this is so common it’s a joke, really, I’d start my “healthy eating” program on Monday morning. I’d cave at about 3:00 PM on Monday and, so, the week was “blown”, I’d start, again, on the following Monday. For a few hours. Why do we believe that “healthy” can only begin on Mondays? Now, I eat healthy most of the time. When I don’t, I don’t and then I resume my healthy eating with the very next bite. In this practice, I gain six and a half days of healthy eating every week over what I used to do. Make sense? It isn’t an all or nothing, take it a bite at a time, a meal at a time, not a week at a time. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the week as possible, every week, forever. That’s what healthy is!

It is almost that time of year, again, one I dread with ferocity. In a few weeks the gym is going to be a zoo. For about two weeks. Then it will be a gym, again. For those two weeks, the “resolutionists” will be flocking to fitness classes and crowding the weight room floor. The cardio equipment will have plump, impatient people waiting in line for their fifteen-minute cardio embarrassment. New Years and all those well-meant resolutions will be forgotten within two weeks and the couch and the potato chips will win out, for most. Sad, but true. And, where, exactly, is it written that an “exercise regime” can only begin on January 1st? Why not March 12th? Or August 27th? So fitness is an all year or nothing thing? Nope. It isn’t. I have weeks where I work out, per plan, four, five maybe even six times. I have weeks where I work out only once, and, every now and then, I have a week without any workouts. But, more weeks than not, I am working out at least four times. It isn’t an all or nothing deal. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the year as possible, every year, forever. That’s what healthy is!

Part of “living clean”, part of what impacts our hormones, is our environment, and this is something that most folks aren’t aware of. Being healthy goes beyond diet and exercise. There are many other factors that impact our health that we are surrounded by, all the time. They are practically inescapable in many households and work settings. The cleansers we use, the detergents and soaps we use, the household products we use, the stuff we spray and squirt on the animals we hug, kiss and snuggle with all night, the stuff we spray in the air and on our furniture and carpets to mask the smell of our chemically treated pets, the things we smear on every part of our body from scalp to armpits to eyelids. All of it is chemical based. All of it is, if not toxic, at least harmful to our endocrine system, altering our hormones, which regulate our metabolism, which is a very necessary component of our health and our ability to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and state. Is it possible, then, to rid our environments of all of these harmful products? No. Not at all. But, every product we are able to replace with something natural, something organic, is one small step in the right direction. We can’t just throw up our hands in surrender and assume if we can’t afford all organic cleaning and personal hygiene products that all is lost and we should just commit suicide, slowly, by sitting on the couch eating ice cream, potato chips and Texas Toast.

There are strategies for low cost alternatives to organic products. There are a million resources for finding them online. Well, maybe not a million GOOD sources, but there are a few.

Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.
Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.

So, if you refuse to give up your “all or nothing” attitude, fine, but try this first; change a few of the things you do and don’t give up on January 14th or on Monday at 3:11 PM. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. I promise, you’ll see positive results, inside and out. Hopefully, this will inspire you to make a few more changes. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

When we were in the second grade and out on the playground playing jump rope, when our turn came and we “ran in” and jumped, eventually, we’d mess up and our turn would be over, at which point, by golly, we got right back in line and anxiously waited for our next turn. We didn’t just say “well, screw that, I blew it, can’t jump rope again until next Monday, or until next January.” We just kept at it, trying again and again and again, until the recess bell rang, and then we were at it again the next recess, always getting better and better. Did we ever get it perfect? Obviously not, or we’d still be out there on the playground, jumping, jumping, jumping, chanting the lyrics along with a bunch of very patient second graders, hoping for a turn, someday.

Perfection is non-existent. There is perceived perfection, occasionally, but even it is rare and illusive. Do the best you can, just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. A healthy lifestyle isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Life isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Nor am I.

Have a great Monday! Have a great New Year! Have great health! Have a great life!

Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.
Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.

 

Scarlett’s Letter December 15, 2013

I went to yoga today and it was just the thing!

I haven’t been to yoga in ages and I was relieved to find that I could still bend, in an acceptable manner, in a number of ways. With my exercise focus being exclusively on running, lately, in preparation for my first marathon, it is good to be back to other methods of exertion. I did run yesterday, the first time since the marathon a week ago, and it was amazing. I ran really, really, fast! For me. So, for any casual observer, I probably appeared to be shuffling frantically. For the record, there is a brief moment, each stride, where both feet are, in fact, off the ground. Simultaneously. Yes.

I was so indescribably tired last night. After my run and a shower, and taking Mom on her errands, and grocery shopping for myself, I was exhausted. I can run 26.2 miles, but a day of errands with Mom wears me out. I’ve heard there is a “post-marathon” depression, or malaise, maybe that’s what this mild irritability and exhaustion is about. Or maybe it’s the cumulative affect of my six weeks of east coast/west coast travel. Or, maybe because I stayed up until 1:00 AM chatting with my Sweetie the night before. Or maybe it was the chat, itself. He was being feisty, playing devil’s advocate and just generally being a brat. All in good humor, of course, but I was on my toes and sparring the whole time. Or, all of the above. Whatever the reason, once I finished dinner and dishes, all I could think about was reading one of the four hundred new Kindle books I have yet to start. I awoke with my Kindle on top of  me, unopened, this morning.

I was excited to get up this morning. I have groceries! Real food! Do you have any idea what it’s like to return to the produce section of a Whole Foods in California after being on the other side of the country? Real, local, organic produce! A selection! I almost fell to my knees and kissed the inlaid tile “Whole Foods” logo on the floor in the entry to the store! I bought yogurt, eggs and produce. That’s it. Three heavy to lift, reusable, “Whole Planet Foundation” bags full of produce. And having yogurt again! Today was the day I have been waiting for! I opened the tub of organic Wallaby yogurt, made right here in Napa County, stirred in my local, organic honey, and, the best part, I opened a jar of Alaskan blueberries that I helped pick right off the tundra, that my Sweetie jarred and flat-rated to me, and stirred a generous amount into my yogurt. It was the most divine thing I’ve had for breakfast in a very long time. I can’t wait for breakfast, again, tomorrow. Or, maybe I’ll just have breakfast, again, for dinner! Or both!

Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone Sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!

The yogurt was the only part of breakfast I found enjoyable. My oatmeal wasn’t cooked to perfection. My fault.  And it was cold by the time I ate it. I guess I was busy eating the yogurt first.

When I travel, I try to stay at hotels with a fridge and maybe even a microwave. Last week’s hotel was not one. In hotels without such amenities, I usually have fruit not requiring refrigeration and an organic granola bar for breakfast. No matter what I have, it is during breakfast that I check Facebook for interesting news, wish any Facebook friends having a birthday a great day, and write in my journal. I forget, upon my return home, that these activities are difficult to carry out at the breakfast table. I do really like to focus on any articles I click through to from Facebook, reading them from start to finish without interruption, conversation or being read the local newspaper, which Mom seems inclined to do. And today’s article of click-worthiness was awesome! I like to be able to write in my journal with complete focus and attention, since it is my morning affirmations I usually document. I consider this to be practically meditative. I always hope that when Mom see’s my pink journal, she’ll realize that I need a few minutes of complete calm. Nope.

I can remember very clearly, my dad, sitting at the kitchen table, where I sit now, across from my mom. He’d be trying to read something and she’d be reading bits of the newspaper out loud to him, or asking him a string of questions, as she does a lot of. He’d sigh, grimace, as only he could do, mark his spot with his index finger and an air of exasperation and look up at her, impatiently, over the rim of his gold wire rimmed bifocals. When I do that, try to mark my spot with my index finger, as I’m reading on my iPhone or iPad, I end up unintentionally “liking” something or navigating to a link I don’t mean to. I finished my breakfast, my dishes, and quickly retreated upstairs to finish my morning routine. I admit, I was a bit frustrated, which is no way to be first thing in the morning, and I finally remembered that I had altered my routine during my last “at home” stint, to finish those items requiring my focus, before heading downstairs. It was the yogurt and the blueberries, I guess, and my excitement over them, that caused me to forget that rather important little scheduling detail. I am now reminded and will act accordingly.

Yoga, as I said, was great. During our initial stretching, where we are to quiet our minds, to acknowledge and dismiss our thoughts, I was kept pretty busy. Things I wanted to include in any of several articles I’m working on kept drifting through my mind, as did some of my petty frustrations at home. At one point, the instructor told us to let everything “out of our mind”, and, at this point, as only I would do, a song popped in based on those lyrics. I remember my kids’ reaction when I played this song, they find it pretty amusing that I listen to a lot of the stuff they do. The song? “Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon, featuring LMFAO, the chorus going something like this,

“Get outta your mind, get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)
Get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)”

So, in yoga, to a hip-hop beat, in my head, I’m singing, “Get outta my mind, get outta my mind, bump that shit, get outta my mind …” It worked. But I almost laughed out loud, just a little, which would’ve been an outward breach of protocol, I’m pretty sure. I’m already about as unconventional a yoga practitioner as you’ll find. By the end of our hour and a half of practice, I was feeling much better, my calm sense of composure, energy and enthusiasm restored. All the bad jou jou of the past couple of days were “outta my mind!”

I didn’t have a text from my Sweetie this morning. We didn’t talk last night, he was headed north, piloting an oversize load to Coldfoot. I fell asleep before sending my nightly, “good night, Love” message. I wanted to send my usual “good morning” text this morning, but thought if he got in real late last night, which was certain to be the case, due to a late start, I didn’t want to wake him. When I got out of yoga at noon, I checked my phone and there were a couple of texts from him. Good, he was home. I don’t worry, remember, it’s pointless and doesn’t change anything, but, still, I am always super happy when I know he’s home again after a trip north. He made it home fine. The million-mile Ford did not. Well, it did, eventually, but they did not arrive home together and the million-mile Ford did not return under its own power. The poor old blue truck won’t be making that trip, again, until it gets a new engine. Zowwie.

The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!
The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!

But, other than breakfast and the news from the north, my day went exactly as I hoped it would. I wrote. That’s all I wanted to do today, write. And, now, it’s time to think about dinner. Wallaby yogurt with local, organic honey and real Alaskan blueberries, picked myself and lovingly jarred by my Sweetie. Perhaps, so. Or for dessert, maybe. Or both!

And, tomorrow, a big day. One I am excited for. Though Monday, it is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. I will plan ahead, prepare, and even try to get a super good night’s sleep in anticipation of this sure to be magical event! Tidings!

Boundaries, Control and Micro-Management! Oh My!

I’m glad to be home. But …

This whole being home thing is a big adjustment. I knew it would be. It seems I just get settled into a happy routine and it is upended by travel in one form or another. I am not complaining, I do love seeing the world, though I think I’d prefer adventure travel to business travel. We all know I am not one to sit home and let the world spin around without spinning around out there, experiencing it!

When the rhythm of my life changes, as it does a few times throughout any year, travel to working at home, working at home to travel, I go through a “storming” phase, where I try to regulate, try to find a routine, just adapt, and, finally, I reach my “norming” phase, where I find normalcy in my altered routine. I do love routine, as long as spontaneity is big part of it, if that makes any sense to anyone besides me.

I am a very self-directed person. I thrive on independence, freedom and autonomy. I love people in my life, I need close relationships like breath, but, I also need a bit of privacy, some me time. Daily, and, preferably a bit at the very beginning and a bit more at the very end, and, hopefully a little bit somewhere in there for some exercise. As much as I thrive on camaraderie and companionship, I like and respect boundaries. I like and respect privacy.

A little on life with Mom, whom I adore, bless her heart.

We are having some boundary issues and they are no more prevalent when I return home after a fit of traveling, just more noticeable. While traveling, though I may have very limited free time, I do have completely uninterrupted free time to pursue my activities, whether writing, reading, sleeping, meditating, working out, chatting on the phone, social networking, or feeling miserably alone. Whatever.

At home, and this has been true since my birth, my whereabouts must be constantly accounted for, as do my activities. Like a cat. An untrustworthy, mischievous, cat., and I have never yacked up a hairball on the carpet or sharpened my nails on the sofa. If I am upstairs, in my office, door closed, writing, meditating, or even during business hours, working at “real work”, she will knock, open the door, and inquire of my activities. Often, she will yell, from another floor of the house, “Where are you?” and my response, no matter the volume, is never heard. I must abandon my activity and go inform her of my location and activity. There is nothing quite like finally finding my quiet mind, sitting on my little couch with the morning sunlight streaming through my office window, meditating very conscientiously, and having to yell in reply, at the top of my lungs, “I’m meditating!” This I do so as to avoid the knock, knock, knock on my door, only to have to explain the whole thing. I’ve decided that I’m going to begin answering, “I’m masturbating!” and see what happens, and if no answer, I’ll walk to the top of the stairs, dildo in hand, and explain more clearly. No. I’d never do that.

This, I know, sounds fairly minor. I can deal. I’m tolerant, patient, accepting, compassionate and open-minded. I work at it, it’s one of the things I make an effort to evolve at. Let’s take this to the next level.

I’ve written, before, of our “tissue issues”. Since childhood, Mom, bless her frugal, raised during the depression, heart, has very carefully monitored paper usage of all forms, with the obvious exception of notepads, catalogs, junk mail, and newspapers. Tissue, toilet paper and paper towels, though, are very carefully scrutinized. As a matter of fact, after one very public outburst in the paper aisle at Target about my ability to use a half sheet of paper towels, I stalked across the parking lot to Whole Foods and bought two rolls of my very own, environmentally friendly paper towels. I use them exclusively. I’m about to do the same with TP. I do share in the restocking of TP, but it hasn’t seemed to help. How bad can it be? Example.

I have long hair. Mom has never had long hair in her life, and, in fact, for much of my life, at frequent intervals, has suggested that I should cut my hair, that I look “good” with short hair. So, do I look bad, now? I have cut my hair short, before, now and again, but because I wanted to. Just to be clear. Now, I have long hair. When I shower, a few hairs gather at the drain of the bathtub. After I get out of the shower, I grab an adequate amount of toilet paper and collect the hair from the drain and throw it in the trash. As a courtesy. Who wants to see hair in the bathtub? And “my” bathroom is the guest bathroom, which, and I wholeheartedly agree, must always be clean enough for guests. So, come on over and use my bathroom! Take a shower! It’s clean enough!

One day, when the topic of toilet paper use arose, again, it must have been an odd numbered day on the calendar, as there is a very regular pattern, Mom noted, “I know why you use so much toilet paper, you use it to wipe the hair out of the bathtub.” Yes. True. So, I wonder, has my budgeted allowance been adjusted? No matter, I just throw the hair away, now, in a big clump, sans toilet paper. If you glance into the trashcan under the sink, it looks like someone crammed Chewbacca in there. Mom has yet to comment on the toilet paper savings as a result. It wasn’t until the “trashcan” episode came up the other day that the reality of Mom’s “hair in tissue” observation became very clear to me.

While I was away, the bathroom received its twice-annual makeover. There is the spring/summer/fall collection consisting of rug, toilet seat cover, shower curtain, wall hangings, toilet top trinkets and trashcan, all coordinated. For Christmas, until spring, there is another collection of items in a different palette. So, it’s Christmas now, the bathroom says so. I was asked to not throw hair or tissue away in the decorative trashcan because of the material it is made of. I didn’t ask. It’s plastic. Same as the rest. It just has a fabric cover. I’ve learned long, long ago not to throw anything away in the decorative can, I always use the hideous peach colored circa 1960’s era plastic trashcan crammed under the bathroom vanity. But, it was in this moment that I realized, the fact that she referred to hair separate from tissue, Mom examines the trash, she actually unwads tissue to see what’s inside. I’ve taken to emptying the little trash cans to the big can outside almost daily to prevent her from having to perform her “budget to actual” examination, analysis and record keeping. I’m also making every effort to blow the biggest booger I can muster into every piece of litter I discard. I am being tolerant. And accepting. I don’t have to understand, just tolerate. Sigh.

Boundaries. And micro-management. How to do everything my way.

I may not be much different, but I try. Mom has always been quick to suggest, strongly, perhaps insist is a better word, that certain things be done a certain way. To control how absolutely everything is done. Fine. Usually. Turning the stove vent on when I cook leeks or boil water, placing my coffee press on a hot pad on the almost fifty year old Formica counter to preserve it’s shine, so the avocado and mustard gold streaks in the pattern will continue to glisten another half century, well beyond it’s fashionable longevity, or drying the shower and the stainless kitchen sink after every use (and this I totally support), all just examples. I can manage these, and, in “my” house, I might have my own. I would, in fact, and one example; when using a pot or pan, hand wash it and put it away so someone (me) doesn’t have to fish it out of the dishwasher the very next meal and wash it in order to use it. It’s not like we stock pots and pans like bowls and plates, there is one in each size and they get used multiple times in one “dishwasher cycle”.

When we drive places, as in, I drive her car to places she is afraid to park, and perhaps rightfully so, though I grew up in this town and am quite navigationally adept, she tells me exactly how to drive to our destination and where exactly I should park. She becomes quite alarmed if I enter a parking lot at a driveway other than the one she’s used to.

The line is crossed, occasionally, though, when a suggestion is made and is then followed up on with frequent queries and reminders. These suggestions are usually prefaced with “you should” rather than “could you please”, as in the example above. “You should call so-and-so and say such-and-such.” An hour later, and every hour, on the hour, thereafter, “Did you call so-and-so?” No, I am perfectly capable of managing my friendships, personal relationships, and communication, and of constructing sentences, for that matter, on my own, in my own way.

I remember, as a teenager, having a crush on a young man that worked at my dad’s bike shop. He was French. The young man. My dad, too. Anyway. Mom and I worked at the bike shop on weekends during the summer. Mom vacuumed incessantly and sprayed everything with Windex until we all asphyxiated, I assembled new bicycles and checked out guys buying motocross bikes and skateboards. I got paid to do this. On the last weekend before school was to begin, my last weekend on the job for the summer, Mom and I were leaving the bike shop at the same time as the young French man. She knew I thought he was cute, but I was (believe it or not) a bit shy. I grew out of it eventually. She told me I should say to him, “If you’re ever in Napa, you should stop by for iced tea.” I did. He looked at me like I was a bug. I said to Mom, “That didn’t go very well.” And she agreed, like I’d thought of what to say all by myself, and failed. I’m not a good puppet. From that point on, I have vehemently resisted letting anyone form phrases for me, or to prompt me as to when to speak or what to say. I’ve got this, and I’ve been managing fairly well on my own ever since.

Another time, way, way back, when I was in college in Sacramento, and, for the record, beyond the legal age of consent, my boyfriend lived in Napa. Yes, Stanly, so maybe I wasn’t all too bright about “love” at that time. I would, on occasion, drive down to see him, and spend the night, if I had a late class the next day. Mom confronted me, informing me that she’d seen my car parked out in front of his house at some unholy hour of the morning. Well! What was she doing out? Besides checking up on me. So, I just parked in his one-car garage, causing a great deal of automotive upheaval with roommates and such when I visited.

So I just moved in with the next boyfriend, which, of course, was unacceptable. I was just trying to economize. Think of the time and gas Mom saved not having to drive by every night to see if my car was where it “shouldn’t” be!

I realize that I will never change who my mom is, and how she thinks or feels, nor would I want to. Besides, change only occurs from within. And while I may change my behavior in response to some of her “concerns”, I am not changing any of my beliefs or values as a result. We are who we are, and after her ninety years and my fifty, we are probably, both, pretty set in our ways, however different they may be. Fine. If I pride myself on being accepting, tolerant, open-minded and compassionate, then I shall be.

I try really, really, really hard to be tolerant and accepting of the unique ways people do things, that I may do differently. To each their own.

With that in mind; while I may suggest certain concepts, principles and methods, here and in my daily doings, as a good way to do or approach things, I usually preface it, implicitly or explicitly, with the fact that there are more than one good way to do just about anything, even open heart surgery, and, that the method I’m suggesting has worked, thus far, for me. It is merely a suggestion. Always.

One thing that works for me, now, with certain boundary and micro-management issues I struggle with, is to find a quiet place, however fleeting, and to write down my affirmations and then, the things I’m grateful for. Among my list of affirmations; I am tolerant, accepting, patient and open-minded. Among the things I am grateful for; my mom. And for being as tolerant, accepting, patient and open-minded as I am.  Despite our idiosyncrasies, our minor, petty differences, we are lucky to have each other, now, and for all of time.

I’m still “storming” a bit, though. So, another tactic for feeling frustrated is to go to yoga for some quiet physical exertion, stretching and calming reflection. Which I am going to do! Right now! Namaste, dammit!