Archive for June, 2013

The Hills Have Eyes – a Friday anecdote

So I do my hill repeats on this street which has a nice wide sidewalk. It happens to be next to a cemetery, and that irony is not lost on me.  Anyway, I run up the hill hard, and walk down it, recover, run up again…way too many times. The other night, I’m at the bottom and I see this kind of disheveled looking guy on the the other side of the street at the top of the hill coming down, sort of swaying, while holding a 24 pack of Natty Light. I shrug and hope he doesn’t steal my Gatorade and start running up the hill. I notice him cross to my side of the street in my peripheral vision. I get to the top of the hill, panting, turn around and he’s GONE. Now if you had seen him walking–he was slow and not too steady on his pins– you’d understand my dismay. Where the hell was he? I was totally freaked out. Then I see his case of Natty Light next to a tree, which is next to the sidewalk, but no guy. A zillion things run through my head and I’m pondering at least crossing the street, but then I saw he had plopped down on the grass, pulled out a smoke, opened a beer….all he needed was a foam finger. I hope he enjoyed spectating. I think I need to find a new hill.

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In Which I Play #NASCAR Apologist

It’s Sunday. I’ve spent four hours helping with the dogs at the shelter, come home, showered the filth off, headed to mom’s for our Sunday family lunch. Now I’m headed home and what I should really do is take a nap. Instead I sit in front of the TV and set up my command station.

Because it’s time to watch the race, and tweet about the race, and Facebook about the race. Because I’m a NASCAR fan.

What? You’re still here? Hey cool!

I suppose I don’t really fit the stereotype for a racing fan. In that I am a woman, I have a college degree, I have all my teeth, and I know what the Oxford comma is.  Oh well, that stereotype is crap anyway.  I was introduced to the sport by people who don’t fit the stereotype either.

If you are still reading you might be wondering why I like racing. Well, I also like lists. So here:

1) The press corps and Twitter – I don’t follow any other sport as closely as I follow NASCAR, so I can’t claim that this is a unique thing about it. But it is a thing I really like. There is a core group of  journalists that cover the NASCAR beat. They’re all on Twitter, and they do a lot of interacting with the drivers and the fans. They all have unique personalities and they seem to get along with each other, too. Most of the drivers use Twitter, some have gotten into a bit of trouble for it. Some crew chiefs tweet. Even the Orange ConeThe SAFER barrier, and The Catch Fence tweet, among others. All this makes keeping up fun, and interacting with other NASCAR fans easy–kind of like a big tweeting family. If for some reason I can’t be near a TV to watch the race, I can “watch” on Twitter.

2) The strategy – During the race there is a lot of team strategy that goes on that a casual viewer probably would miss.  Each driver has a crew chief, think of him as the main strategist. There is also a whole crew of people who perform the pit stops. [As an aside: If you really watch a pit stop, they are like a ballet. Each person not only knows exactly what he needs to do, but also exactly where he needs to be at any given millisecond. They move around each other with a grace that really is pretty amazing considering they’re heaving jacks, rolling tires, and wielding gas cans. And they accomplish this intricate dance in about 12 seconds–changing all four tires, fueling, and maybe making adjustments to the car.] The crew chief and the driver have a plan for the race, but that plan can change seconds into the race or many laps into the race. New decisions have to be made on the spot: pit now, pit later, two tires or four tires, just a splash or fill up with gas. And despite how fast a driver can make the car go at any given moment, he can win or lose a race based on these other calls, and often that is what it comes down to.

3) The weekly soap opera – If it seems like the drivers just appear on Sundays, get into their cars, win or lose, then disappear until next Sunday, you’re only getting about 1/3 of the story. Follow the sport like I do during the week on social media and you’ll see that so much more goes on than that. There are power plays, trash talks, 3rd party mediations, fines, lovers, friends, haters, enemies, and equipment wars. On any given Sunday (ha!) a race can be boring, but that doesn’t mean the aftermath will be. You just never know who is going to say what. I love that about this sport.

4) The risk – Racing is a risky sport.  The racing family recently lost a young man, Jason Leffler, in a bad accident. And while no one ever wants to see that happen, and there are many safety precautions taken, and people are always working on making things safer for drivers and crews, you can’t take away the risk of driving a machine at high speeds. The only way to eliminate the risk is to eliminate racing. But we’re human, risks are fun. No? Why do you go on amusement park rides?  Why did you make that left turn when you weren’t 150% sure you had enough time? That little rush we get? That’s part of being human. Maybe I’m not brave or crazy enough to take on the risks of driving a car 200 mph myself, but it is thrilling to watch. The close calls, the wrecks that change the outcome of a race, they’re all part of why people watch racing, whether they want to admit it or not.

5) The women playing in a “man’s” sport. – One of the more recent developments in the sport is the increase in the diversity of drivers. This is not a coincidence. This is something that NASCAR has been striving toward.  I love that the number of female drivers in the sport is climbing. Like the guys coming up the ranks, some are better than others. Like the guys coming up in the sport some have been given advantages because of who they know. But these advantages generally come in the form of sponsorships and TV time. These things make it easier, maybe, to move up the ladder in the sport, to make money in the sport, to maybe get better equipment. But they can’t make a better driver, they can’t change things on the track. Results still prove how good you are. That particular playing field is even. The female drivers don’t have different tracks, they don’t have a different set of rules, they don’t get special equipment. They take the same risks as the guys, and with the guys. I love that!

And you know what I think is going to get even more interesting in the future? A lot of the guys driving now–the big names in NASCAR–are raising daughters. They’re just babies now, but they’re growing up in the sport, which maybe more than any other seems to be passed down through families. Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon all have daughters, just to name a few.  Will we see the names of their daughters on the windshield of a Cup Car one day? I’m excited to see if we do.

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So there you have it. I doubt that I’ve changed your mind about NASCAR if you had a very set opinion against it. But maybe if you hadn’t thought about it much,  just turn on a race every once in a while and keep what I said in mind. Truth is, whether you do or don’t, I’ll be watching.

The Whole Fitness Thing

Maybe a year ago, I thought I might want to start blogging again. I was free once again to talk about (nearly) every aspect of my life, and I was making some wholesale changes to my lifestyle. Plus! So many of my friends were having success writing healthy living blogs. People were actually reading them. They were getting FREE STUFF for Pete’s Sake. So I created a blog and tried to jump on that bandwagon.

But I realized pretty quickly that I’m not all about healthy living. I’m about a lot of different things, as we all are. But I, personally, wasn’t very good at thinking of posts about something as limited as I had originally created that blog to be. I also felt like I couldn’t be a proper healthy living blogger as I had fallen off the running a bit, and was just generally living a normal life with ups and downs and twists and turns.

But becoming a healthier person is still a goal in my life, and it is one that I will occasionally be posting about here.

So as an overview, here’s where I am:

In January, I decided that I wanted to try running again, and I wanted to start from the beginning with a 5K plan. This time I went to my friend and (then) newly minted running coach, Krissie of  Committed Coaching, and she created a plan with me in mind. Knowing the race I wanted to run wasn’t until May, she built me up nice and slow. It went really well, lots of little victories building up to a PR (personal record/personal best) for that race in May.

In March, while doing that training, I discovered Fitbit products. I started with a Zip and I now have a Flex. These little gadgets are so much more than pedometers. I credit the Fitbit and their app/website, as well as the running, with the 22 pounds I have lost since March.  There are other products like the Fitbit, and I’m not doing a proper product review here. But I will say that I tell people that using it daily is like starring in my own video game. 10,000 steps a day is the goal, how are you going to get there? Food is fuel. More steps means you need more fuel. And you see, I’m overweight in the first place because I really like to eat. I step more, I get to eat more.  It gives me real time imput, it remembers my typical activity any given day of the week and it balances my calorie goal to how much activity I normally get on, say, my average Tuesday. But it also adjusts if it appears I am not going to be as active that day.

I also had been using My Fitness Pal to track my food. And brilliantly, the Fitbit syncs seamlessly with My Fitness Pal, so I can keep tracking my food on MFP and it talks to Fitbit behind my back and helps it to adjust my calorie goals.

I am now working on a speed plan to get a bit faster. Then I will begin training to run a 10K in February, which I think I will post about later. But again, I will be working with Coach Krissie and keeping up with the other things that I do.  I can’t say enough about how I can feel her encouragement, her wisdom, and yes, her love keeping me going. I want to make her proud of me, but I know I do that just by trying my hardest, too.

So a typical week for me looks like: Monday, a run. Tuesday, line dancing. Wednesday, a run. Thursday Rest Day. Friday-strength training. Saturday, a run. Sunday-volunteering at Last Chance Ranch, which generally nets me about 2 miles of steps, plus some sort of walk or activity with my dog. I’m looking to add more strength training in there, but I’m not beating myself up about it.

And that, right there, my friends, is the key. I HAVE STOPPED BEATING MYSELF UP ABOUT IT. I do the best I can. I enjoy what I’m doing. I wouldn’t exactly say right now that I love running. But I would say that I want to conquer running, and I enjoy the mental struggle of pushing through a run and the victorious feeling when it is over.

I have many small weight loss goals. I’ve got running goals. I’ve got clothing size goals. I’ve missed some and kept going anyway. Because the journey of reaching the goals doesn’t feel like this huge overriding struggle towards this long-awaited ending anymore. It just feels like I’m living my life.  It feels like the way I’m living and enjoying my whole life is allowing me  to lose some weight, not like I’m living my life trying just to be skinny like everyone else. 

I’m not going to promise you that I won’t fall off the fitness wagon, but it seems less likely this time.  I promise you that it won’t happen today. And probably not tomorrow.  I don’t always track my food. Sometimes I eat a large portion of crab fries. Sometimes I feel like I run like the wind. Sometimes I’ve got lead weights instead of running shoes. But I keep going.

This time, I want to keep going.

On Fathers’ Day

My dad passed away on October 23, 2000.  I mourned my father. I still miss my father. I miss him more some days than others. I can go a day without thinking of him at all, even. I loved him. But I’ve healed.

Still, beginning around June 1, the advertisements for Fathers’ Day start rolling in. Buy Dad this, get Dad that, spend money!! I admit I get a bit offended that they assume everyone has/still has a father, although I don’t really expect they could caveat it. Still, email subjects like “What are you getting Dad this year?,” make me kind of mad.

Anyway, I”m getting away from the point of what I wanted to post here. I wanted to post a few things that my dad said to me that I think about a lot. Not all of it is sage life advice or anything, just things I remember. So in no particular order here are some things my Daddy said:

1) “Try to get a job in your field.” –This is actually what he said to me as I was walking out the door of my home in Pennsylvania and getting on a plane to move to Austin, TX.  I’m not exactly sure that my dad was thrilled that I’d decided to major in English. And when he died, I didn’t have a job in my field. I was an assistant manager at Blockbuster. But I knew what I loved, and I got there eventually. I think he’d be proud of me.

2) “Always assume the other drivers are going to do the stupidest thing possible and you’ll never be surprised on the road.” –I can’t even tell you how many times this piece of advice has helped me to avoid an accident.

3) “Who is that knocking on my timber palace door?” –This is a game my Daddy and I used to play when I was little and he was in his den or office. I would knock on the door.  He would say that, and I would have to say “It is I, Princess Lori.” And then he’d open the door. It was ours, and it was special.

4) “Did your mother say it was OK?” This is why they were good parents. But he was always the softie, that’s for sure.

5) “I hope if you meet a nice boy you’ll at least bring him over so I can meet him.” I never brought him a boy. That makes me sad.

6) “I love you, kid.”

Living with My Brother, Part 1: Living with an Artist

My brother is an artist. He is passionate and driven to create. He does all sorts of things, but I love his glass mosaics.  You should check out his facebook page.

Capture

Now, appreciating art and living with an artist are two very different things, or so I have been discovering.  Let’s talk about some of the things that I have learned about living with one:

1) Sometimes he’s not going to talk to you.

I get home from work and park my car next to his. I gather my things and walk inside. The house feels empty but I know he’s  here somewhere.  Walking farther into the house, I can hear moody music coming from my brother’s studio. “Ah,” I think, “still working.” Now this is the chancey part. Do I go up there? If it’s been a good day for art, I’ll walk past the studio and he’ll invite me in and show me what he’s done and we’ll chat. But if it hasn’t… Well, I have to walk past to get to my bedroom to drop off my shoes anyway. With trepidation, I climb the staircase. The door is open, I hear Radiohead and smell grout. “Hey, I’m home,” I say as I just barely peek my head inside his studio space. “Hey,” he grunts, and then he immediately begins singing along with the dulcet, tortured tones of Thom Yorke, head bent over the glass grinder. I shrug and move to my 3rd story bedroom. It’s going to be a solitary night.

2) Most of the time he’s not going to listen to you.

Me: “Right, so the landlord is coming to mow the lawn on Monday; we need to make sure the lawn is dog poo free. Mom wants you to go over on Tuesday and clean out her bathroom fan.  Tonight I’m not going to be home because I’m going out to dinner with Meg, so don’t save any dinner for me.”

Him: “Sure, Ok. Fine. I’m posting some new pieces on the facebook page, you should check them out!”

Me: “Great, I will!  See you later then.”

Him: “Ok. Hey! Wait!  Is the landlord coming to mow the lawn soon?”

Me: …

3) Sometimes you just have to pretend to know what he’s talking about.

Me: “Wow, that’s a great piece. I really love the colors.”

Him: “Thanks! I thought it was a moving ethereal statement on the pathos of inner space and the way life hunches on its axis to to bring solitude. I wanted it to evoke a meaning that doesn’t really mean, you know. It just wants to be something.”

Me: “Yes, it’s perfect.”

4) Don’t get attached to the placement of anything in your house.

I have discovered that when my brother gets bored he rearranges things. Now, I’m not saying he doesn’t have the touch. He’s one of those people that can group seemingly unrelated objects into something you just want to sit and look at. And the house looks better than it did when it was just me living in it, no doubt. There is art and eclectic knick-knacks everywhere. There are actually more than 2 forks in the house too, but that’s another post.

The thing is, you just can’t get used to anything. Once I walked in the door from work and dropped my purse on the table in the mudroom. Only, I heard a thud and looked down to see my purse on the floor. No table. Table was in the living room, looking fabulous, with an arrangement of family photos and a vase of hydrangeas.

Or there was the time that I left the living room for an hour, came back and none of the stuff on the walls was where it had been. So instead of looking in the mirror I was looking at a lovely drawing of a bird…which didn’t help me to see if I had anything between my teeth.

I”m still looking for knives in the wrong drawer, and he re-arranged the kitchen months ago.

But hey, life is supposed to be an adventure, right?

We’ve only been sharing a house since April, so I’m sure there will be more to add.

Are you an artist? Do you live with an artist? What has been your experience with sharing living space in general?

Setting Goals

I’ve been setting a lot of goals lately in different areas of my life. I’ve learned, for fitness and weight loss goals, my best bet is to set small mini goals and not look at the big picture very often. For me, the big picture can be so overwhelming as to be discouraging, instead of exciting.

Recently, I’ve been getting nudged to think about writing again. For some years now I’ve accepted the fact that, while I can be a good writer, I am not a driven writer. This was made especially clear to me after reading On Writing by Stephen King. Five thousand words a day, every day. Every. Single. Day. He did it, he had to do it. He still does it. Real writers can’t stop writing.  I can stop writing. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have time to fit writing in.  So, therefore, I’m not a real writer. Right?

But maybe there is room for the kind of writer I am…somewhere.

Through a strange series of events involving Twitter, and NASCAR, of all things, I was introduced to an organization called Delve Writing. Their premise is intriguing and I have signed up for a two week trial of their services. Today I will be sitting in on a “check in,” where those in the group have a weekly chance to say how they are doing on the writing goals they have set for themselves, whatever those might be.  In preparation, I have printed out their “Intention” worksheet. There is a large blank square to write my long-term vision in the present tense.  I’ve been staring at it for a while.

I know what I’m supposed to want to write in that box. I’m supposed to be excited to write “I am a widely published and sought after author who writes bestselling books.” That would be cool, wouldn’t it?  But I can’t write it, because I’m not sure that is my intention.

So I try to picture what I’d like my writing life to be like. What I picture is a full inbox of email. Some are asking me to edit novels (because I have no doubt that I am a real editor–most of the time).  But a lot of those emails are asking me to write things. “Dear Lori, can you write us a humor piece on weight loss? Hi Lori–Do you remember that article you wrote last year on being a female who likes motor racing? Could you do a follow up on….”

But how do you write that as a goal? Is that even a legitimate goal? I haven’t written that one down either, because I have no idea of the steps I’d need to take to get to that place–which is the next part of the worksheet.

I had wondered if maybe I was just too scared or feeling too small to write that I wanted to be a published author, because it was such a big picture goal. But now I really think that’s not necessarily what I want, although I would certainly take it.

But maybe all that means is that I’m not a real writer. Round and round I go…

Life Lessons I Learned While Line Dancing

For about 2 years now I have been going country line dancing once a week, nearly every week, and for a stretch, while I was really learning a lot of new dances, twice a week. My best friend, who had been roped into it and was now hooked, hooked me into it.  Cowboy Gary: DJ, Choreographer, and Western Line Dance Teacher Extraordinaire, is the man who oversees us every Tuesday night. He’s a self-admitted dirty old man, but he’s a great dancer, and a great teacher.  I haven’t just learned the steps to a whole heck of a lot of dances in the past two years. I’ve also learned some helpful life lessons.

1. It’s OK to suck if you’re having fun.

I mean, what the heck? Just get out there and do your best. If you’re having a great time, that will be contagious. If it’s not, who cares, you’re having a great time! So what if you’re going left and everyone else is going right? Laugh, turn around, and move on. Now tell me, to what doesn’t  that advice apply?

2. You’ll get better.

So you get out there to do that one dance you know and you kick your own right foot with your own left foot and BOOM you’re on the floor, boots stomping all around you. First, see #1. Then next week you go out there again, and you don’t fall. Sure, maybe you tripped. Or you might have forgotten the dance in the middle. But give yourself a break, you got better. And next week? Sky’s the limit. You can always get better.

3. It all goes more smoothly if you don’t think too much.

You just have to feel it. Once you know the steps, it’ll all come to you. You’ve got this. Don’t overthink it, let the music in and just dance.

4. Pretend you are awesome.

You know stuff now, you love going out there and dancing. One day you see a video of yourself dancing and you’re horrified. “I’m flailing around out there like a turkey with Parkinson’s having a seizure.  How embarrassing. Never again!” First, see 1, 2, and 3. Then forget the video. It was edited, photoshopped, it wasn’t even YOU for Pete’s Sake. YOU are an awesome dancer, everyone knows it, everyone thinks so. People watch you to know how the dance should really be done. Just get out there and do it! Pretend you are awesome, even if, just maybe, you aren’t.

There you have it: It’s OK to suck because you’ll get better. It’ll all go more smoothly if you don’t think about it too much, so pretend you are awesome.


Lori

A blog about my life and other stuff.

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.

Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)