Friday, September 21, 2012

Working it Out


Zumba, Yoga, Body Pump, Body Combat, Spin, Pilates, these are some of the group workouts offered at my local YMCA.  I have been a member of a YMCA off and on since I was 5 years old.  I was always an active child and competed in USGF Gymnastics from the age of 7 until I was 18.  I practiced  4-6 hours a day, 6 days a week for most of my young life.  I loved it.  I was committed to it.  I had some crazy-ass coaches who would probably be put in jail or sued in today’s world, but I still loved it. 

I was in peak physical condition with 2% body fat (I know, because they checked our body fat right after they weighed us in every week)  I ate ANYTHING I wanted, and a LOT of it.  My metabolic rate must have been off the charts.  I did not hit puberty until I was 16.  So my body changed a bit after that.   When I stopped competing I was still pretty active but no where near to the point of before.   It took years for my metabolism to change and slow dramatically.  However I still continued to eat.  It caught up with me in my mid to late 20s.  

I am 40 and just started to do something about it.  I exercise 3 days a week. OK that is a lie.  Some weeks I get to exercise 3 days. Some weeks I don’t exercise at all. Some weeks 2 days.... you get the picture.  When I have my period I don’t exercise at all. AT. ALL!  I groan, and whine and eat chocolate or pasta.  Then, when I feel better, I usually get back at it.  

I have been eating better and cutting out the carbs.  Ok that is also a lie.  I SHOULD be cutting out the carbs because my triglycerides are through the roof but I am definitely conscious of my carb intake and make an effort. 

I am comfortable with my current weight and my body.  OK I AM SO LYING!  BUT, I am definitely headed in the right direction.  The weight is ok, I balloon up 5 or so lbs every once and a while but I bring it back down.  My body is mezzo mezzo.  I am so so so jealous of that kick ass body of my early 20s. I mean God DAMN!   What I wouldn’t give to be back in that body just one more day.  (I am also sorry my husband never had that pleasure either!)  

Now, I have stretched out boobs, belly and thighs that shimmer with silvery stripes. I have a  gut that has been carved open and sown back together twice, with the precision of a haggard, worn out, OB/GYN who just saved my life.... again.  But I wear these with pride.  They are my battle scars and I earned those stripes. However, I do want to take care of myself and be healthy.  I think that my motivation is not appearance but longevity and health. The “looking good” is a bonus, if it happens.

I have tried many different types of workouts.  I have done the at home dvds, Wii, and the myriad of YMCA group classes as well as their fitness room.  Each have a different affect.  Each a different purpose.  Everyone has their own.  

Let me start with Spin.  The spin people, are fucking crazy!  And I don’t mean that in a bad way.  I mean with all due respect.... CRA CRA!  I got on that bike and within three and a half minutes I was drenched with sweat and looking at the clock in amazement that an hour did not go by.  I laughed when the instructor, who is a friend, said to “turn it up” (meaning the tension on the bike.)  Turn it up?  I can’t even pedal with it off, let alone with tension on it!  And Girlfriend is an absolute NUT!  I mean her energy level is beyond intense. She draws a huge spin crowd. Girlfriend has her own following and for good reason.  One workout will guarantee you walk crawl out of there 5 lbs lighter...  Just from sweat! Being a fellow Italian, I can also say she is loud.  I mean, my-Aunt Rose-yelling-at-the-kids-to-get-off-of-her-stoop kind of loud.  With her voice and her spinning legs, she could power the Mid-Atlantic region.  I am in awe of her and will never go to another spin class again, until I have trained for some sort of bike marathon.  Then MAYBE I will attempt another of her classes.  

Then there is Pilates.  SNOBS!  Seriously, W - T - F!  Now, let me preface, I have not been to a pliates class in a very long time and have never been to one at my local Y.  But the one I went to years ago, when Pilates was all the rage, was awful.  If you were new to the whole scene you were looked down upon. If you wore sweats and an old Bonner High School football T-shirt, you were looked down upon.  If you laughed when you were in a seemingly, very sexual position, you were looked down upon.  The competition seemed almost dangerous.  When these women should have been concentrating on what they were doing on those crazy machines, they were too busy trying to outdo those around them.  I walked out of that class, the lowest on the totem pole and was happy about it.  Bitches, man!    

Then there is the whole in-home work out thing.  Which you REALLY have to be motivated to do.  It is just too, too, too easy to turn off the DVD and turn on The Real Housewives of New Jersey.  Although if I had to recommend any DVD, Shawn T. is the bomb! His Hip Hop Abs, Rock!   Not only do I love love love watching him he is very motivating. 

Then we have Zumba, which I LOVE!  I love to dance.  I am not good at it, but I love it.  The whole Zumba vibe is chill and fun and no pressure.  There are old and young, fit and not fit, good dancers and really bad dancers and I always feel comfortable shaking my groove thang with these ladies.  A good friend of mine is a Zumba instructor. She is amazing. She exudes positive energy. I love when she says, “No one is looking at you except you!  Cause we are all too busy looking at ourselves so just keep moving!”  She picks really great music that makes you want to move.   She choreographs the moves with the music AND the words, which makes you feel like you are a backup dancer at a concert.  Which helps when you feel like you are going to pass out... You don’t want to let Justin Timberlake or PitBull down! 

My other new favorite is Yoga.  I have been to many Yoga classes.  There was only one class when I did not like the instructor.  She just seemed miserable which just does not vibe with Yoga.  I don’t know how you can do Yoga and not feel good.  It is almost impossible.  

I have done the hot Yoga.  The first hot Yoga class I went to, I was unaware that it was a hot yoga class.  So when I sat down on my mat I thought, ‘wow, when are they going to turn on the air?’  The room was packed and I was sweating just taking off my shoes.  I practically water boarded myself while doing a downward facing dog.  I was breathing through my nose, as I was instructed and thought a bug flew up my nose.  It was not a bug but my sweat dripping off my chin and upper lip into my nostrils.  In Yoga, breathing is key.  It’s rhythm and flow is an essential part of the practice.  So, when you are drowning in your own sweat, breathing becomes difficult.  OH and the smell emanating from my body was, how can I put this, was like walking through the zoo on an August afternoon.  Not pretty. I was not aware that my body could produce smells like that.  Combine that with everyone else’s smell, the fact that there was no other air to breath and concentration becomes compromised.  When I was not water-boarding myself or smelling myself, I was in a great zone.  That is what Yoga does for me.  It puts me in a “me” zone.   The peak pose that day was wheel pose, which is a back bend.  I was able to do it and felt great that I did.   

The other thing I love about Yoga is you are forced to concentrate on you. Your mat, your breath, your pose, your body, your muscles, your flexibility.  It does not leave room for other distractions like, what am I cooking for dinner?  What time does First Born have guitar lessons?  What do we have going on this weekend?  Will Little One ever want to sleep in his own bed?  When is the car inspection due?  etc. , etc., etc.  Those thoughts may try to creep in, but you are always brought back to your breath.

Sometimes I need to release those good endorphins with a high paced, great cardio like Zumba.  I need to shake what my mama gave me and feel sexy.  Other times I need to just be with Yoga.  Right now they are the only two programs I stick to, mainly because they are the only exercises that I WANT to do. I look forward to them and hope I will continue to do so.   Those are my favorite.   The next on my list to try are Body Combat and Body Pump.  As soon as I try them, I will be sure to report back!  Do you have a favorite workout? My blogger friend wrote a piece on running.  Great stuff.  I will never be a runner.  I just don’t have it in my nature.  But I envy those that do. I did run across another blog all about exercising and being healthy called “Mommy’s Downsizing”  It is a hysterical blog and I recommend it highly. 



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gimme a W, Gimme an A, Gimme an L....


I am at Walmart today. OK that already sucks, but here it is.  A Walmart opened in my neighborhood, and while I would have been fine with a Target or Kohls or Whole Foods, Walmart will do.   

We are a one income family so every penny pinched helps.  Especially when cereal is ridiculously cheaper at Walmart.  Seriously, why is it, that the same box of Honey Bunches of Oats is almost $3.00 more in the regular grocery store?  

Anyway, back to my point.  I am in Walmart, getting my cereal, and a box fan for the window... and a drill... and Kashi bars (again so much cheaper!) and I hear claps and a group “woo hoo.” OK? Not sure what that was, but I go about my business and again I hear 2 distinct group claps and a “woo hoo.”  I then see a group of Walmart Associates in a huddle in the middle of the store, and every time someone says something, the group claps twice and says, “woo hoo!”  

It was an employee meeting/pep rally/revival.  I was too far away to hear the content of the meeting, but my first impression was.  OH HELL NO!  They are making them hoot and clap?  At a meeting?  At the beginning of their shift?  They just got there!  Why are they making them do that?  Then I thought, well maybe they want to.  

NO, there is no way grown adults want to do that at work, in unison, before they start working.  Then I thought, that finding a job now is difficult and this particular Walmart just provided my community with 300 new jobs.  Kudos.  I do like that.  But in order to have a job there, do you have to pretend you are in love with Walmart?  I mean I liked working in many different jobs, but there was never a day where I would WANT to stand with my fellow coworkers, and management and clap and hoot, like I was at a ball game.  The only time that was acceptable was when I worked as a summer camp counselor.  And we did it for the 5-12 year old kids. 

"We need to talk about your flair."
It reminds me of the movie Office Space.  Where Jennifer Anniston’s character is being talk to about her “flair.”  OK maybe I am too cynical.  Maybe I need to lighten up.  But I almost felt as though the employees were being disrespected.  

It was like they were being told  ‘To work here, you have to fall in line with our over the top rah rah sessions and drink the kool aid.  If you don’t like it, well that is not an option if you want a job here.’  

Am I crazy?  Is it really that bad?  Maybe it would be fun to cheer and clap at my job.  Maybe they know more about what motivates employees then I do.  They sure know more about how to make money.  They sure know more about how to get that cereal for $3.00 cheaper.  

I tried to put myself in those employees’ shoes.  Standing in a morning meeting, in the middle of the store,  I would be so pissed if someone MADE me hoot and holler and cheer.  I would not be on board with that.  But if it meant feeding my family and keeping a roof over our heads, I would be doing backflips if need be.  That is where I feel like they have people by the balls.  

I know that there have been times, when I was working in the corporate world, where I have done and said things that I hated doing.  

“Yea, I’m gonna need you to come on in on Sunday.”
Once when I was an executive assistant, my boss, a middle aged rich white guy, came out of a meeting and handed me a crown.  No, not a crown for my head, which I deserved, but the crown from his tooth. It had fallen out while he was in a meeting and his first and only thought was to give it to me!

He grabbed my hand and put his tooth crown in it and yelled, “MY tooth! My tooth! Call the dentist and fix this now. This is an important meeting and I can’t deal with this shit!”  

This is the same man who would stand in front of my desk, eyes closed, with his hand on his forehead like he was Yeats writing a poem, to dictate a letter to an investor.  He was crazy.  He had his own CD.  He would practice his singing in his office and have me schedule his appointments with his vocal coach.  He also demanded that when I came in in the morning, I was to go into his office and open his blinds, arrange his mail and make him a cup of tea, so when he came in he wouldn’t have to do these things.  When he would leave, I was required to make sure his lights were turned off, his blinds closed and his desk straightened up.   

So I get it.  I know that we all have worked for crazy.  I know that although I hated much of that job, I did like some of it.  I also knew that to keep my job, I did not throw the tooth back in his face or mail obscenities to the investor, or spill the hot tea all over his perfectly coifed hair, or scratch his Jaguar in the parking lot.  

There is definitely a difference between a good job and a good paying job.  I have had many of both, not necessarily at the same time.  But I get it.  We do what we have to do. Walmart is no different.  I just hope that the people in the Walmart I was in, know that when I saw them in their meeting, I felt for them and it made me think.  ‘Do they want to cheer?’  I tried to smile and be extra nice to the Associates I saw that day and when I checked out.  Maybe I had no reason to feel for them.  Maybe they were cool with it.  Maybe they are not as cynical as I am.   Please tell me your work rah rah horror stories.  I have more but I need to save material for future blogs!  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Here and Now


School started.  First Born is taking 3rd grade by storm. This may be a challenging year but he seems ready and excited.  Little One starts his first day of pre-school, without me, away from my arms, out of my sight, for 2.5 hours 2 days a week.  He starts tomorrow.  We did a “get acquainted” day last week and he was psyched.  The Hub and I couldn’t have been prouder, watching him walk up to new friends and teachers and telling them his name and asking for theirs. He liked playing in the play kitchen and asked a little girl what she wanted for dinner and proceeded to make it for her. We were beaming.  He looked up every once and a while to see us standing there and smiled.  Sometimes coming over to us to give us hugs.  When it was time for snack, the parents were ushered out of the room, while the kids stayed. He physically pushed us out of the door.  

Because he was a premie and the Hub and I are not any where near tall, he is on the small side.  He is 4 but still wears size 2T and we are just getting into 3T.  He is smart as a whip and cool as a cucumber.  I had a difficult time getting pregnant with him and as I explained in some previous posts, I spent time in the hospital  (4th paragraph down if you don’t feel like reading my rant on religion) and so did he

I think that leaving him anywhere, even in a wonderful place, like his new school, or his own bed, sends an instant reminder of my leaving him in that little isolette in the NICU every day for 18 days.  Every time I walked out of that NICU, whether it was for the night or for a bite to eat, or to go to the bathroom, it ripped my heart to shreds.  I would arrive at the NICU between 8am and 9am and leave around 6pm or 7pm.  I called the NICU nurses every night between 11:30pm and midnight, (waiting for the shift to change over) to get a report on his numbers, how much he ate, what his diaper weighed and what his temps were. I wrote everything down. I sat and pumped my breast milk every 2-4 hours to keep my supply up and stored the milk in the freezer until I could run it to the hospital the next day.  I set my alarm at night so I could pump through the night.  I brought the pump with me to the hospital and sat next to his isolette or in the private pumping room and turned my milk over to the nurses.  I would try to have him latch on although he was not able to.  I remember thinking how it must have looked to him to have a boob that was bigger than his head coming at him!   I just kept putting my milk in the tiny little bottles that they provided, trying to feed him that way.  That is what took the longest.  He couldn’t get the hang of eating without the feeding tube.  I remember when he took 40ml of milk. (just less than 1.5 ounces) I was thrilled.  The nurses and I did a jig and cheered him on.  I kept looking at the bottle and saying “ LOOK he did it! He ate all that himself!”   He eventually got the hang of it.  As he graduated from his billirubin blanket, cpap, and his heart monitor, he started maintaining a normal temperature and FINALLY they were able to take out the feeding tube and iv.  I was thrilled, ecstatic, nervous and happy all at once.  They had him do a car seat check, where they put him in his car seat for 30 minutes and check to see if he can maintain all his levels with no alarms going off.  He passed with flying colors.  Then the nurse surprised us with:  “Today is the day! Look who you get to take home!”   We were floored.  

When your baby is in the NICU, you don’t ask too often about a timeline.  You take it day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute.  Each second is a blessing and you don’t want to look too far ahead, only because all the energy you have is focused on the here and now.   We took him home.  Home, with us. With his exhausted and physically broken mother who would go into the ER with kidney stones 2 days later. Then back to the ER with gallstones 3 weeks after that. Then back into surgery 2 months after that to have her thyroid removed.  With a father who was keeping everything together with a very thin thread, maintaining the house, the 4 year old, the finances and his job all with out the help of his wife. With the 4.5 year old big brother who felt neglected and scared not wanting mommy to leave him again and wanting everything to go back to the way it was before.  But Little One came home.  He was calm.  He rolled with it all.  

It was a tough time.  It tested us, at times, beyond recognition.  I had a complete mental breakdown.  Such severe panic attacks that I was unable to leave the corner of my bedroom for almost a week.  I felt weak and unstable.  But we got through.  We stepped up and through it.  I got myself to therapy and on anti-depressants.  We gave First Born some well deserved extra attention and some therapy. To this day still try to carve out some attention time just for him.  And the start of it all, Little One, with his smile and joy, kept us smiling too.  He thrived and continues to thrive.  He loves life, he is happy, he is joyful and he keeps me remembering how precious life is and continues to be.  How much we need to live in the here and now, enjoy each and every moment.  


He is going to school tomorrow, without me.  He is growing and thriving.  He is on to the next stage and like each step in the NICU, it is necessary and positive.   This school is his own.  It was not his brother’s before him. It exclusively belongs to Little One and he seems to really like that. Tomorrow, he may cry and he may not.  From the looks of things he won’t.  But I know once he is safe inside that building sharing his light with everyone around him, I will cry.  Not because I am sad that he is growing up, but because I am happy that he is with us and continuing to thrive, love and smile!  Happy “Back to School” to all of our little miracles! Appreciate the here and now!