Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nosing out Ethel

A bunch of us did the Corn on the Cob 5K last summer. We all finished with varying results. I kept up a respectable pace with the women in my age group. And a couple got first and second in their age categories. Not too shabby. 

I've done a few races just for fun. I'm resurrecting this post about my first race from my blog, Losing It, http://jacci-clark.blogspot.com/. It's one of my favorites. If you didn't catch it the first time around, enjoy....

Signing up to do our first race was LaDonna's idea. We found one: The Rochester Women's Track Club Four-Mile Run--two laps around Silver Lake. LaDonna was pumped. I was dubious. We hadn't been running for all that long, and I still sucked air after two blocks.

The day of the race it was 96-degrees with drenching humidity. I felt a little sick when we pulled up to the race site. There were women milling around like race horses at the starting block. They looked like real runners, hard-bodied and wearing color-coordinated  spandex and running shoes. We were wearing our husbands' gym shorts, baggy t-shirts and cross-trainers.

We stood in line to check in and get our race numbers and then joined the others to stretch. I didn't know too many stretches so I just did a few neck  rolls. An older woman was stretching her leg above her shoulder. The front of her t-shirt read 86-year-old bungee jumper. Her name was Ethel and she was now 87. I hoped that I could have her legs when I was her age. Heck, I wished I had her legs now.

Over the megaphone it was announced that it was time to begin. We walked up a short hill to the starting line. I saw there were a few men in the group. Must be husbands seeing their wives off. But then I noticed an outline of a bra under one of the husband's t-shirts. Oh, crap. They weren't husbands; they were women racers. I started to panic--we should have known. This was a track club, for crying out loud. These were elite runners. We were in serious trouble.

All 45 racers began to line up behind the starting line. LaDonna and I pushed our way to the front, figuring we'd take every advantage we could. I felt like I had to pee, but it was too late. It was time to do this. At the shot of the gun, I bolted. I ran faster than I ever had in my life. I was ahead of the pack. I felt like a track star. For 10 seconds. And then I started sucking air. The remainder of the race it was one woman after another passing me. My side started to ache, and I felt a painful pulse in my head. It was so stinking hot. This was all LaDonna's fault.

I counted off each step with This...Was...A...Big...Mistake. Don't...Ever...Listen...To...LaDonna...Again. Where was she anyway? I glanced back. She was keeping stride with Ethel. LaDonna didn't look so good. The other contenders started giving advice as they passed us. "Breathe in through your nose; out through your mouth. Drink at the next station. Only one more time around the lake." Are you kidding--another lap? I…Am…Going…To…Die…Today.

LaDonna was whimpering halfway into the second loop of the lake. "Jacci, I...gasp...can't make...gasp...it. I'm not kidding. I'm going to have to...gasp...quit.." I gasped back, "Oh, no you don't. You got me into this; you're finishing it. Besides, you don't have a choice. You still have to get around the lake to the van."

We shuffled side by side. Ethel was gaining on us at the last turn. Racers were at the finish line waiting for the three of us and cheering us on. "Come on, finish strong. You're almost there!" We pushed hard, nosing out Ethel at the end.  LaDonna collapsed on the curb, still whimpering. I started laughing uncontrollably. Delirium, I guess.

We had finished the race. And, we weren't last. I placed 43, LaDonna 44, and Ethel finished strong in 45th place. Since Ethel was the only one in her age category--80 and above--she got a trophy. LaDonna and I received cool purple participation t-shirts, proving that we were real runners.
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We did it! 2011 Corn on the Cob 5K

Friday, February 24, 2012

Living on the Cheap

When our kids were little, we lived on a pretty tight budget so that I didn't have to work full-time.

I pinched every penny. Canning and freezing veggies from the garden, baking bread, making yogurt. I faithfully went to garage sales and made cost comparisons: using cloth napkins versus paper, buying the store brand instead of using a coupon with a brand name. (Cloth beat out the paper and buying generic was usually less than using coupons.) I washed and reused just about anything--sandwich baggies and aluminum foil.

I was a hard core tightwad.

But as passionate as I was about being thrifty, I had my limits. Some tightwad tips were just too nasty to consider--whether they saved a buck or not:
  • Reusing tissues from a crate of peaches for toilet paper. I had an aunt who did this. She stuffed them in an empty coffee can for company to use. My guess is it took a whole peach crate for just one visit to the john.
  • Using a menstrual cup. When a friend told me about this, I was horrified there was such a thing. She claimed it saved a ton of money and was good for the environment. I don't know how it works, nor do I want to. All I picture is schlepping around some public restroom rinsing out the cup. Uggghhh. Sorry, but there are a few advantages of living in this century. Feminine products and toilet paper are at the top of my list.
  • Making pudding pops with empty deoderant sticks. No kidding. I don't know how many people have actually tried this, but it was one of the tips from The Tightwad Gazette. "Hey, kids, you want a push-up? We got Secret, Dial or No Spice in the freezer."
Any of you know of any worse tightwad tips than these?

I'm no longer an extreme tightwad. I work full-time now.  I can say I don't have the time, but truth is, I've just gotten lazy. I have to say, we had more money when we had a meager income and I washed out sandwich bags.

Photo from http://www.dreamstime.com/hand-collecting-cent-coins-imagefree3710094

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Politics and a Purple Nose

I first wrote this in February, but with the elections now weeks away, I thought it was worth resurrecting.--October 13, 2012

When elections come around, I duck for cover. I try to remain neutral. Some may call that being wishy washy. I am okay with that. To the best of my ability, I stay uninformed. Call me unpatriotic, but it's a coping mechanism for me.

There's a reason I am not politically inclined. When I was a kid, politics were so intensely debated in my family, it was scary. Emotions ran high, and everyone seemed angry.The funny thing is everyone was on the same side, so I don't know why the discussions got so hot.

The whole of both sides of my family are conservative Republican. I do have one uncle who is a liberal Democrat.  Completely outnumbered, he wisely went outside to play with the kids when the subject of politics came up.

My Grandma O'Hara was especially passionate about politics. When she'd talk about the Democrats--those dirty pups, she called them--you'd visibly see her blood pressure rise as the capillaries on her face began to burst.  Her cheeks got splotchy red, and the end of her nose would turn purple. (Oh, Grandma, I miss you dearly!)

My sibs and some of the nieces and nephews can be equally as intense. Last Christmas, we were talking about how we had inherited the O'Hara gene. We all have this propensity to get on a soap box.

And then the subject turned to who knows what. It could have been President Obama, illegal immigrants, or taxes. It didn't matter. We were off.  Debating. Disagreeing. Agreeing. Contradicting ourselves, until we didn't even know what we were discussing or what we exactly believed about any of it.

I felt my heart race with adrenaline. My cheeks and my nose felt warm. Yeesh. The O'Hara in me had taken over. Oh, it's embarrassing to realize you've been on a high horse. Especially when you don't even know the horse's name.

P.S. I've tentatively begun to tune into the election debates.  I am unconvinced of either candidate. All I know, is Romney's hair is too perfect. I'm not sure you can trust a guy who uses Grecian formula. And, that's all I'm going to say about that.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weddings, chocolate chip pancakes and one giddy mom

When our daughter, Amber, and Paul got engaged, we were thrilled. But after a few days of celebrating, I began to panic. I started to have flashbacks of our own wedding, which was a series of debacles. I was determined Amber's wedding would go better than ours did.

It took me years to talk about our wedding, but my family wouldn't let me forget. Stories are retold over every holiday dinner table. The favorite is the one of the chocolate chip pancakes.

The week of our wedding, things began badly on Thursday when I went to the airport to greet our California guests. Everyone was there except Dave and the pastor. Dave's family said they didn't know what happened; they had seen them board the first flight out of LA.

Dave and Pastor Bob missed the connecting flight to Rochester. (They admit later it was because they were searching for Dove Bars, a new novelty at the time.) They rebooked a midnight flight.

My mom had planned dinner that night for the families to meet for the first time. We decided to meet for breakfast the next day instead.

I was nervous. I wasn't sure how my soon-to-be LA relatives would react to farm living. The guests arrived just as Uncle Russ was firing up his camp stove to make pancakes outside. (He loves doing this. He says there's nothing like eating breakfast in the fresh air--on a farm the air is fresh alright, ripe actually.)

Introductions were made and then interrupted when my mom got a call that that my brother's wife, Lou, was on the way to the emergency room. My mom was hysterical. She told us Lou cut her arm off in the lawn mower and she needed to leave. (It was only a few fingers. My mom tends to be dramatic.)  She told Dave's family to make themselves at home and left to pick up Lou's boys.

Breakfast was ready. Serving pancakes outside on a hot, humid summer day on a dairy farm wasn't the best idea. The flies were especially bad that year. It looked like we were serving chocolate chip pancakes. Only the chocolate chips were moving.

My little nephews dug in, smashing and licking the flies off their fingers as they went. The folks from LA looked startled and hastily said no to breakfast.

The first meeting of the families was only a sign of what was to come. I won't go into great detail here because I get heart palpitations and my hands start to sweat.

At the rehearsal dinner I drank pot after pot of coffee. I didn't sleep that night. When I wasn't laying there pulsating from caffeine overload, I was passing my mom on the way to the bathroom. We both had the scoots. Nerves.

The guys didn't show at the church the next morning. Turned out they were all in the ER with Dan, a groomsman and the musician in the wedding. He had tripped and broken his ankle.

His ankle was hastily wrapped before he was sped back to the church. We propped him up on a chair behind the podium where he could elevate his foot and strum his guitar. He looked drugged.

Finally, the ceremony began. I'll never forget Dave's face beaming as I went down the aisle on my father's arm. It was like time stood still. It was, in fact, the eye of the storm. After the pastor introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. the rest was general pandemonium and a blur.

Dave and I escaped as quickly as we could after the reception. Our family was left to clean up.  Upstairs in the church they discovered that no one blew out the candles. There were smouldering stubs in the candelabra and stalagmites of wax on the carpet. Replacing the carpet had not been in the budget.

But at the end of the day we were married. And, that's what I tell Amber. No matter what happens, you will have married the love of your life. (I am secretly preparing for every possible disaster I can dream up.)

To my utter amazement, Paul and Amber's wedding goes off without a hitch. It's flawlessly orchestrated. I keep waiting for the worst to happen. But there are no gaffes at all--no fires, broken limbs or blood baths. 

During the ceremony, I'm crying. Amber is achingly beautiful. I think of the privilege it's been to raise our daughter and see her marry a wonderful man who loves her as much as we do. Surrounded by friends and family celebrating with us, we are richly blessed.

I am so happy, I'm giddy. The reception and dance begin. It's time to party. 

In honor of our 25th wedding anniversary, Dave and I dance to Louis Armstrong's It's a wonderful World. Yes, it's wonderful indeed.

P.S. If nothing goes wrong there are no stories. We failed in that respect with Amber's wedding. But Dave and mine will live on as they are retold every Thanksgiving. We laugh until we snort.

You can check out the recap of Amber's wedding on her photographer's blog: http://joekrummel.com/blog/?p=1920

Monday, February 6, 2012

Losing It, then Finding It--a Sequel

I said in the last post of my Losing It blog that if I gained the weight back, hit me upside the head. (See: http://jacci-clark.blogspot.com/2011/06/thats-all-ive-got.html.) I was fairly confident I'd keep it off. Which I did. For two years.

After I lost the weight.
But here I am. Ten pounds heavier and my underwear's getting tight. I call it the underwear test. Gain and you'll notice it first in the underwear.

I still eat fairly healthy--real food. And I work out pretty intensely. I'm at an okay weight, but the warning signs are there. I'll be on my way to getting fluffy again if I don't watch it.

Keeping the weight off had been fairly easy since I hadn't dieted in the first place. My downfall was going back to my first love...dessert. My family started lobbying for me to bake goodies again at Christmas. I felt bad depriving them. I'm prone to mother guilt, so I caved. Problem was I kept right on baking--and eating--after the holidays. Then I started avoiding the scale.

So now I'm back to the basics of what I did to lose and maintain the weight loss. It's pretty simple, common sense really. Here's what it takes:
  • Eating real food. Meaning food pulled from the ground, plucked from a tree, shot or milked. I don't eat very much processed food. But I'm not legalistic about it either. I love ripple potato chips and eat them every day, only just a small handful. (Besides the only ingredients listed on the bag are potatoes, oil and salt--that could be classified as real food.) I eat dessert too but only a few bites. Then I either give the rest away, stick it in the fridge for later, or crumple it up in a napkin and throw it away. I know. A shame. But a greater shame is having cheesecake thighs.
  • Being honest with myself. If I think I'm doing well but still not losing, I'm eating too much, real food or not. You can eat your way through any amount of exercise and still remain heavy. Not rocket science (although I always say those rocket scientists are probably fat sitting behind a desk somewhere).
  • Going to bed just a little on the empty side. Tough at first. But I tell myself not to be a baby. I won't die, and in fact I get to eat again--in the morning. I am hungrier throughout the day, eating more frequently. But I stick to a light supper and then not eat again before bed.

  • Becoming intensely uncomfortable for half an hour to an hour most days of the week. That means exercising hard enough to have sweat rolling down the back and being almost to the point of throwing up, or at least cussing. Seriously. To make a real change in the way you look, especially if you're a woman reaching 50, you need to get over it and work out hard and throw in some strength training. Yeah, it's agonizing, but you can do anything for 45 minutes. You got the rest of the day to be relatively comfortable.

  • Getting on the scale daily. Some say you should only weigh once a week. I'm better off weighing every day. It keeps me from panicking. If I have a bad day and weigh myself the next morning, I usually weigh the same. At most I'll be up a pound. But if I avoid the scale for a whole week, I'm scared to get on the thing. So I keep avoiding it, and then when I finally hop on it...surprise! I've gained. Losing one pound is easy. A five-pound gain? Those are the pounds that like to stick.
After two years of staying the same weight, I gained after just a few weeks of inattention.
It's time to pay attention. I don't want to get hit upside the head. Blogging keeps me honest. I'll keep you posted.