Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pencils Rule!

Pencils rule. I hate writing with pens. Pens are too slippery. Mistakes made with a pen are permanent. My thoughts flow too quickly for a pen to capture accurately.

Pens make me write too fast. My penmanship is already terrible. Trying to put my jumbled thoughts on paper with a pen is a frustrating demonstration of the word, "fruitless". Thoughts begin all neatly in a row, but then - the changes come. They always come. They come mid-sentence! The ideas are always better when they come mid-sentence.

The problem is that new thoughts mid-sentence change the meaning of what has been written beforehand.

Example: Last night, I began a writing exercise about a guy who was sitting at a diner with this girl who was more than a friend, but not someone he would introduce to his mother. I got four sentences written and suddenly, this girl became his wife and I was writing from her point of view! And it was a better idea -- of course.

But, ink is permanent. There is no eraser for a pen. At least, there is no good eraser - only ones that will put holes in your paper. Had I been writing with a pencil, I could have erased the four sentences - or maybe just erased a few key words instead - and begun again. But no...I scratched out a couple words, wrote over some pronouns, and finally, just scribbled and crossed out the whole thing - and I began again.

If I had been using a pencil in the first place, the friction of the lead moving across the paper might have even slowed down my writing process enough as to have given me the time to have the new idea before all four sentences had been written.

Oh, and another thing. Regular No. 2 pencils trump mechanical pencils every time.

But that's a whole 'nuther argument.... :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lesson 1 from Miss Callard

Miss Callard was my first grade teacher in Warren, Ohio. She was young, tall, and fun. She taught 30 kids at a time, and I don't remember her ever raising her voice. She never had to. She was fair, but expected the best work from her students.

I was a very shy first grader. I sat in my assigned seat and turned in my very best work at all times. I must have been pretty sharp because Miss Callard would allow me to help others with their work after mine was turned in. I guess I could be labeled, "Teacher's Pet". (Note: Teacher's Pets are born that way. They are to be differentiated from "Brown-nosers" who deliberately act a certain way to gain favor. Teacher's Pets are usually shy and very helpful to their fellow-students. Just FYI from one who knows.)

I remember one day when we were handed another mimeographed coloring page. "Color the squares brown" "Color the circles yellow" "Color the trees green" etc. We used big, fat crayons back then, and I was tired of coloring these boring work sheets. My brown crayon was broken, so I just placed it on its side and colored from one square down to the next square. There were four squares to color and I colored them all in two downward swipes. I just wanted to get this busywork done and get to some really fun stuff - like reading or something.

The next day, Miss Callard handed out all the stuff we had turned in the day before. Paper after paper came back to me with "-1 good!" "-0 Great!" "-2 Good Job!" I looked at them each and waited eagerly for the next one. Yes, even back then, I was goal-oriented. I liked the stickers, too! It was then that Miss Callard walked up to my desk and bent down really low to look me in the eye.

"Melissa! I can't believe you did this! We do not color from one square down to the next without lifting the crayon! I expect better from you!"

My favorite teacher was chastizing me for my laziness.

There you have it. A very important lesson imparted to me in first grade. It is as clear today as it was waaaaay back then. Never do less than your best.

Thanks, Miss Callard.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Morning Surprise

Imagine being in a deep sleep. Imagine that you have not had this restful a sleep in at least a month, if not longer. Now, imagine a newly 13 year old girl plopping herself right next to your blissfully sleeping self ... yeah, that was me, this morning.

Her symptoms were strange (what, you thought she was coming in at 5:31am just to cuddle?). She hurt; right in the center of her chest. She didn't have to throw up. Maybe she did have to. It hurt like a knife. No, like someone tearing her apart. No, like a knife. It wasn't her chest, it was her stomach - but not really. She didn't know where she was hurting - she just wanted it to stop!

I had never seen her like this before. All the times that she had been sick before, she had been calm, feverish, quiet. This morning, she was screaming, cool to the touch, and thrashing. One time, she sat straight up and pulled her arms back, elbows almost meeting behind her.

"If I stay like this, it doesn't hurt - I need someone or something to keep me like this."

But then, she would release her arms to the front, and throw herself down on the bed, writhing in pain. Are you seeing visions of "The Exorcist"? I was! Unlike the movie, she was coherent, her coloring was good, there was no projectile vomiting, no cursing, and her head did not spin around. Still, as I watched her throw herself all over my bed, I could suddenly understand why people in the middle ages might think someone in such pain was demon-possessed.

"Mom! I feel like I'm dying!"

Ok. That was serious. She was begging me for medicine - but what kind? What was wrong? How was I supposed to medicate these baffling symptoms?

All that was bad enough. On top of the goings on in my bedroom, my cat, Kiki, suddenly gets thirsty. I mean, really thirsty. Thirsty to the point of yowling at me and running to the sink. Well, too bad. Tabby is more important right now. Kiki jumps off the sink and runs to my bed. She jumps up and climbs on Tabby. She looks in my face and yowls again.

This is different.

Kiki is my anti-social cat. She is quiet, and hates to be near people more than she has to. She is not mean, but she is older, and doesn't like to be disturbed. For her to jump on top of a writhing child and look at me and yowl is totally out of character. She is making it impossible to ignore her.

She jumps down and runs to the bathroom again. She jumps up on the sink and yowls. When I ignore her, she repeats the whole business.

Maybe I was wrong about the demon possession. Both Tabby and Kiki are acting crazily. What is going on?

"Mom. My chest. It feels like someone is sitting on it...it hurts to take a breath!"

A heart attack??!! At her age?!?!

I don't know at all what is going on with her. She suddenly jumps up and goes into the bathroom. She gets the cup, fills it with water and drinks. Her breathing slows down. She gets another cup and takes another drink. I can see her relaxing.

"That seems to have worked, mom."

She crawls in bed, lies down, and falls into an exhausted sleep. Wait a minute! Where is Kiki? Oh. She is back on the bed. Lying down. Closing her eyes.

Do you think...? Nah...

Ya think?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Free Concert?

Ok, so last Thursday, I went to the Riverspirit Casino to hear Billy Squier play. I knew the name, but had no idea what I was in for. My boyfriend could not believe that I did not know who Billy Squier was, so I explained that I was a nerd/geek in high school and did not like the music that everyone else did.

"What kind of music did you like?"

"Barry Manilow"


So, those of you who have followed and listened to Billy Squier, you know what kind of an evening I was in for. But, free is free, music is music, and maybe my tastes had changed. Hope springs eternal.

To set this up properly, I had been to the Riverspirit Casino several times, and twice to listen to free music. Once was Craig Morgan, and once was The Four Tops. Both concerts were lovely. Craig was 29 minutes late getting onstage (it was a free concert, what did I expect?) but once he was out there, it was a great concert. The Four Tops were spot on time and gave a great concert, too. I expected a great concert from Billy Squire, too -- even if it turned out I did not know a single song.

First indication that something was amiss was the parking lot. There were plenty of empty spots in the lot, but they were roped-off by casino security. When we stopped to inquire as to why, we were told, "This is V.I.P. parking." Huh. I wonder what V.I.P. was in attendance? Was there another promotion going on that we had missed? Oh well, there were always the shuttles. No one has to walk far at Riverspirit.

Once inside, it was rather crowded.

"See? He was really big in the 80's and he's still big today."

Huh. Ok. Whatever. I never had said I did not know his name, I had said I did not know what he sang. Finally, Royce said, "He sings 'Stroke Me'" OOOHHHH....I know that one!

We are there 1.5 hours early. So, we make our way to the concert stage. The closer we get, the more crowded it is. This is strange. This guy must have been really really big. We look over the partition, and there is a sea of chairs set up - and only one guy sitting in the middle of them. The crowd is being held back by security.

This is unusual.

We cannot get close enough to ask any questions. You know, like, "Why won't you let anyone in to sit down?" There was plenty of murmuring about it. It was totally packed outside of the stage area.

Some geography. There is a stage area that is partitioned off with a low wall. About 5' tall, I would say. There is a gaming table - a long one, with space in the middle for a barmaid to walk around in - with bar stools all around it. It has slots there. So, you can sit there and play your slots, order drinks from the person standing inside the bar (yes, I would have to say it is a mini-bar set up as part of the wall), and still see the concert. Outside the partition is a bank of penny slots. Very conveniently located, actually. You can play the penny slots, order drinks from the host/hostesses that are milling about, and turn and watch the concert. It is a very good view, actually - unless there is a sea of people standing outside the wall because no one is allowed to sit down at the staging area. What was going on down there??

Finally, I got close enough to hear an exchange:

"Why are you letting only a few people in?"

"Those are V.I.P.s"

"V.I.P.'s? Why are they V.I.P.'s?"

"They paid for their ticket."

"WHAT ticket? There weren't tickets for sale!"

"Actually, they paid for tickets, but if you got here early, I could put your name on a list and if there was room, I would call you."

"I asked about tickets! You all said that the concert was FREE!"

"It is free - it's just not free to sit by the stage."

Talk about sneaky! The other concerts were not this way! There was no VIP parking, seating, or VIP anything! And for someone to ask and be told that there were no tickets - that it was a free concert? Who the heck were those "VIPs"? Now, I was ticked off.

I don't mind standing outside of a partition and watching a free concert. It is understood that "free" doesn't always translate to "convenient", and it is "first come, first served". However, when you advertise a free concert and then announce to the people waiting outside of that event that it is actually a ticketed event and you never got a chance to buy a ticket – that’s “dirty pool”.

I don't gamble. I don't drink. I don't smoke. These are all prerequisites for going to casinos, it seems. Here I am, listening to the above exchange, seething. As a consolation, this person says, "But you can still listen to the concert - there is a great view of the stage even from here." Of course we can still listen to the concert! We can even see Mr. Squier himself. It really is a good view. These are true statements.

But seriously, does the casino, Mr. Squier, his manager, or whoever really think that we are that dumb?

Of course we can stand outside the partition and watch the concert! Of course there are seats at every one of the penny slots that are outside the partition! (But, do keep gambling; if you are just sitting and watching, you will have to give up your seat for anyone who wants to pay the penny slots - so for two hours, keep feeding money into our machines - or allow the next person to feed money into our machines - thank you!) Of course we can listen to Billy Squier's concert!

This is because the casino and concert promoters haven't figured out a way to make us pay for the sound-waves that reach our ears outside of that partition.

And for the record, I knew two songs in that whole two hour concert: "Stroke Me" and "Everybody Wants You". They came at the end of the whole two hours. And they sounded better back in the 80's.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

I shouldn't think so much.

I've been thinking, lately, about self-discipline and the fact that I don't have any. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself, but dammitall I look around and just can't come to any other conclusion!

Case in point: My room. I have a pile of laundry that I need to do, my dresser needs dusted (ok, the parts that I can see need dusted), there are some clean clothes that need put away, Goodwill needs about half of my shoes (because I either don't or can't wear them anymore), and that nasty mirror will NOT quit reflecting back to me that I have gained some weight back.

Ok, you caught me. It's the mirror that's really bugging me. While I have always been uncomfortable with my weight, it never really got out of control until after I had kids. The reason that happened is because I decided that I was eating for two (dozen) with each pregnancy. You think I joke? Statistics, please:

1985 pre-pregnancy weight..........135
1986 9-months pregnant...............200
1987 post pregnancy weight..........125

1990 pre pregnancy weight...........145
1991 9-months pregnant...............200
1992 post pregnancy weight.........154

1995 pre pregnancy weight...........155
1996 9-months pregnant...............200
1997 post pregnancy weight..........165

Notice the 200lbs? My body ballooned up to 200 (but never past) each time. I am not quite 5'4" tall. That is a lot of weight to carry around. The remarkable thing about the above chart is not that I went to 200lbs and never over. Nope, the remarkable thing is that no matter when in my pregnancies I reached 200lbs, my body never went over that mark. During pregnancy number one I got to 200 in my third trimester. Pregnancies two and three I reached the magic mark in my second trimester. If you guessed that the second pregnancy 200lb mark was reached at the end of the second trimester and third pregnancy the mark was hit at the very beginning, you get high marks for intuition (and you must be a female! lol).

Needless to say, besides acquiring major stretch marks and flat feet, my self-esteem took a plunge. Of course, came all the diets I could think of, and exercise, too. You name the fad diet, I tried it. I also tried Weight Watchers. As for exercise, I tried exercise videos, jogging outside, running stairs inside (PS, don't ever try that without stretching first. Also don't ever try that after you have been sedentary for a while - you will not be able to walk for a week - trust me.), taking long, long walks every day, etc. I hate exercise. I really do. And besides, it did not help.

Finally, after I reached 182lbs in 2004 and after my divorce in 2006, I decided to get serious. I hired a personal trainer.

You know how you are told to exercise to the point of discomfort? Ok. Discomfort is not what you think it is. "Discomfort" is what I used to refer to as "pain". Not anymore, though. I am here to tell you that "pain" is something totally different. I am also here to tell you that I will not willingly exercise to the point of discomfort without someone pushing me there and saying, "Don't stop, now! Don't you dare stop - you can do it!!!"

By the end of 2006, I was looking and feeling wonderful. And then....I ran out of money. Not really. I just ran out of money for the personal trainer. I figured a membership to the YMCA would work just as well, and now that I was in the best shape of my life, I would keep up whatever I had learned. Ha!

I am not back to 182lbs by a long shot. But, I am flabby. I am tired. I am discouraged. I have no idea how to get back to the shape I used to be in just 2 short years ago.

Ok, I lie. I do know how to get back into that shape. I just seem to have no will and (more importantly) no self-discipline to do it. It is turning into a viscious circle of which perhaps you are familiar.

I need to exercise.
I have to get up early to exercise.
I am too tired to exercise.
I will exercise after work.
I am too tired after work to exercise.

I should quit thinking and hating and just DO it. Where is the Nike ad executive who started that campaign? He is making me feel guilty.

Maybe I should just get rid of that mirror...