Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

10,000 Jumps

In an attempt to understand success and genius, Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers on the 10,000-Hour Rule.

Based on a study by Anders Ericsson, the 10,000-Hour Rule states that the equivalent of 20 hours a week for ten years must be put into a skill or career before real success arrives (historically speaking: Bill Gates and The Beatles are among the examples).

The 10,000-Hour Rule is just one part of Outliers, which also explores why soccer players born in certain months are more successful, why pilots from certain cultures are more prone to crash their planes, and why hard work alone won't get you to the top.

Gladwell has said, "I do think that we vastly underestimate the extent to which success happens because of things the individual has nothing to do with."

Yet the 10,000 hours--mastering a skill, repeating a task--bears a closer look, especially as I come to the end of a blog-every-day challenge.

The other day I was jumping rope in my garage, the bunny looking at me quizzically and taking a hop every minute or so, not in solidarity but out of terror. In a flash, a whish of the rope, I suddenly knew what I should be doing to jump right and better.

I'd taken to this efficient workout after determining it doesn't injure my knees and calves as running on a treadmill does (Bruce Lee reportedly claimed that ten minutes of skipping rope is equal to 30 minutes of running).

And though a spectator or bunny might not notice the changes brought on by my moment of revelation, I could feel the difference; I was moving with more grace, no longer working against the rhythm but with it.

Call me what you will for needing thousands of jumps to figure something out, or chalk it up to some things just needing time. Marriage done well. A good sauce. Exercise. I wonder sometimes why I'm doing the thousandth row, if I need to be in the gym again, but it's all adding up, like small deposits in a bank account. I like that a fit body can't be bought. In an age when many things can be had with a click, it's gratifying to know you have to work for the important stuff.

I can't say that blogging every day this month has moved me to the level of master blogger, but I trust it has been a worthwhile exercise. Take a peek back at the other entries of this month before they disappear--I mean, before they accumulate into the large body of work of which I'm very proud.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Birds and the Bees, and the Hissing Cockroaches

A continuation of a discovery made a few days ago.

SON: What's the white thing in the cockroach cage?

ME: It's called an "unfertilized egg case." It's filled with things that look like baby cockroaches but aren't.

SON: So they're dead.

ME: Well, uh, no. It's like the eggs in the frig, how they're not going to turn into baby chickens, because there were no boy chickens around.

SON: And our cockroaches are girls.

ME: Yes. One of them had this egg case, and she's hissing a lot to protect it because she thinks she had 30 babies, but she didn't, really, because, uh, they're real but not real. Sort of.

SON: I don't get it.

ME: Honestly? Neither do I.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nice weather we're having....in the stadium

I interviewed the meteorologist for the University of Alabama football team, winner of 13 national championships.

What's that? You didn't know sports teams hired meteorologists? Neither did I.

Click here and scroll down for proof he exists.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What's Right

Thanksgiving day, I'm reading the paper and see someone I know.

The Grand Rapids Press does a great job each year of partnering with the United Way, gathering a list of needs from around the city, and publishing it on a holiday when folks practice gratitude. Requests are grouped in categories (home repair, dental) and information is given on how readers can donate.

Some are spotlighted with photos; in one, I saw a woman from the homeless shelter where I taught theatre.

Shaquita's got her own place now, I read, but no bed. She's thankful for four walls but, with her disability, the lack of furniture is hard on her body.

Lots of faces came and went during my time at the shelter, but nobody forgets Shaquita.

Shaquita gave me grief on a regular basis. The requirement that she sit through my session was not acceptable in her sight, and she often grumbled curses under her breath and audibly, as well. She'd stir up fights that would call everything to a halt.

When I saw her picture I thought, Oh, brother. Not her.

All the other requests I'm reading with tears streaming down, but with Shaquita I'm thinking, No. Not her.

Because clearly some mental issues affect this ornery woman who gave me hell and made life a little extra difficult for the other women. And maybe people should know that before shelling out a couple hundred--heck, a thousand--for a bed and mattress and box springs. People shouldn't be crying over the words "formerly homeless," they should know the full story.

Is what passed through my mind.

Until something in me wondered how I got to the point of deciding who deserves a bed.

On Martin Luther King, Jr Day of this year, I had asked for a volunteer to read Sojourner Truth's famous speech, Ain't I A Woman.

"I'll do it," said Shaquita, "but I ain't standing up. My feet hurt."

Shaquita gave a somewhat stilted, seated performance, occasionally giving way to the preacherly rhythm of the speech. By the end, she was clearly taken with Sojourner, a woman who reportedly flexed her biceps in front of a roomful of men and asked her famous question, proving that women are strong and smart enough to have equal rights. Shaquita wanted to know more.

The notes in my lesson plan are incomplete because after we finished, I gathered up all the research I'd done, walked over to Shaquita's mat on the floor, and handed the pile to her. I'd been looking for an opportunity to get on her good side, and she seemed surprised to see me single her out, and grateful for the papers. She shuffled them on top of her blanket and looked up at me, her usual scowl now softening.

"Thank you," she said, "I'll read them."

Then: "Drive safe tonight, you hear?" Because she knew I was heading home and to bed after this evening's session, which I had titled "Stand Up For What's Right."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

We Thought They Were Both Girls: Thanksgiving Edition

Something strange appeared in the cage of the giant hissing cockroaches today. Something white, with lots of brown dots. Early internet searches indicate this could be a dead egg case, though we're open to official, scientific opinions.

Meanwhile, though we grieve alongside [Chubby][Lipstick], we're thankful that we have 2 and not 42 cockroaches.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


When I run sound in church on Sundays, and a woman at the mic appears to be talking in a tunnel, I reach for the sweepable mid. I boost the lower mid range, maybe add a little high end to brighten it up. Stop and listen, let the sound settle in my ears, adjust 'til satisfied.

When I prepare an insulin shot for my son, I count the carbs in his meal and divide them by 20. I check his blood sugar, and if it's high, I subtract that number from his target number, which is determined by the numbers of hours it's been since he last ate. I divide the result by 100 and add it to the food dose, dial up the pen, give the shot.

You start to want life to be like this, a matter of small adjustments adding up to a desired result.

But then the guitarist plays and it's too jingly, Theo's sugar runs high despite your careful counting, and you see that all of it is a cycle of maintenance, of tweaking your way through.

Attention, Those with Deficits

What I don't like about blogging every day is that posts I like quickly get buried.

So hear ye, hear ye, a list of posts you might want to view:

Monday, November 22, 2010


Insert vegetables in juicer, drink, repeat each morning. Faithfully for the past four months. Shouldn't I have superpowers by now?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


In "The Wheel of Life," Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, an early pioneer of studies on death and dying, reports interviewing tens of thousands of people, whose vital signs had stopped but later were revived.

Death, says Kubler-Ross, occurs in distinct phases. The accounts given by subjects ages 2-99 and culturally diverse were too similar to discount. The floating out of bodies, the tunnel, the light, meeting with deceased family members--she heard it all over and over again.

One woman reported floating out of her body, hearing doctors pronounce her dead, and watching them cover her with a sheet. A young resident, in his nervousness, told a joke; Mrs. Schwartz, on being revived, reported it back to him.

Those who entered what she calls Phase Four reported being "in the presence of the Highest Source. Some called it God. Others reported simply knowing they were surrounded by every bit of knowledge there was, past, present and future. It was nonjudgmental and loving."

In this phase, people reviewed every thought and action of their lives. They reported being asked the question, "What service have you rendered?"

"It demanded that people confront whether or not they had made the highest choices in life. They found out whether or not they learned the lessons they were supposed to learn, the ultimate being unconditional love."

What service have you rendered? It's a question directed out and away from the self.

It's a good question.

And today, as I turn 40, is a good time to start answering.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Think, Therefore I Get Hit

He was only sorting pears. Pitching the rotting ones into a can across the fruit aisle.

But when he went to throw, I ducked.

Or, rather, bobbed--to use the boxing term, because it's boxing that caused this reaction. Specifically, the punches to the ribcage I had endured the evening before.

Trainers train by punching where you're exposed, because you won't leave those elbows up for long. Whether a punch or pear is coming at you, there's no time to think; only the motions practiced thousands of times will save you.

Not thinking: not my specialty.

A barrage of punches were thrown before I determined that nothing creative was required of me, that I simply needed to freakin' get outta the way. I had been paired with the teacher to shadowbox, to theoretically take turns jabbing or weaving in air, but Emily would have none of that. I'd weave and she'd punch me in the gut. I'd jab and she'd slap my arm. No, I wasn't to move my feet. I was to stay six inches from her nose, and face what was coming.

It worked. Not thinking--reacting--kicked in. Removing my glasses helped some (knucklehead had me paranoid), my mind blurring with my vision. But mostly it was the hits that knocked the thinking out of me.

I have to say, It was kinda nice.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving's Back Door

Burnside Writers Collective has published another piece of mine: Thanksgiving's Back Door, an essay on last Thanksgiving at the homeless shelter where I taught theatre.

While there, check out their other offerings, as well as my two previous writings: Activist: The Origin Story and When Poodles Cry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Found On My Camera

An entire blog could be dedicated to this.

With two boys, ages 10 and 7, sneaking the camera at their will, we're approaching a record number of pictures, mostly of our bunny. Too, I am now quite familiar with the appearance of my backside as it stands cooking dinner, or walks up stairs.

Thus, with this photo, a new series: Found On My Camera. Captions welcome.

Monday, November 15, 2010

And The Winner Is

After the twelve-round Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight on Saturday, Pacquiao, the winner and a Filipino congressman, couldn't sign autographs, because he couldn't hold a pen. Margarito, a head taller, was hospitalized with a broken right eye socket. He's having surgery on Tuesday.

You could call this a brutal sport, or you could embrace its primal nature and wax philosophical, as boxers like to do.

"You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life," said Rocky Balboa. "But it ain't about how hard you can hit; it's about how hard you can get hit and keep movin' forward."

Theo watched some of Pacquiao's 2009 fight with the bigger Miguel Cotto, which brought Pacquiao his 7th world title. He asked, "Why do they always keep their hands up?"

Because the hits are gonna keep coming, Son. You have to be ready.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Daily Fs

As you know, I'm trying to blog every day this month, and yes, it's getting to be a bit much. Thanks for sticking with me.

There are three other things I'm trying to do daily--this month, and beyond.

F is for Flax Oil. Flax oil is good for you. Read the specifics elsewhere; in fact, google the name of anything that ails you, and I guarantee that flax oil will appear as a remedy. It's that good.

F is for Flossing. While Greg lies in his hygienist's chair, basking in the glow of the bright light and endless praise for his beautiful teeth, teeth which he steadfastly does not floss, I'm in the next room being berated. Fact is I do floss, thank you, though not often enough for close-set teeth, and not while watching television with a long minty strand adorning my neck, as my hygienist helpfully suggests. So I'm working on it. But not via the necklace method.

F is for Functional Mobility. This is a fancy way of saying I'm trying to stretch every day, which doesn't start with F. If it's a workout day, I stretch after I'm done, not before. Part of my stretches lately include shadow boxing, because my instructor has asked us to spend ten minutes a day on technique.

Come to think of it, we're supposed to do planks for five minutes a day, too. P is for planks...L is for laundry... T is for tired of all these self-imposed demands.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Work

When I was a little girl, I didn't want to be a princess.

Nothing against tiaras--rather, I lacked a proclivity for planning ahead, and, perhaps, the optimism that lets one dream. When I grow up... wasn't on my radar.

Later I'd say astronaut if asked, or airplane pilot, or The Incredible Hulk. The college years shook up my plans, though one could argue I'm nearing that last goal (Amy strikes most muscular pose here). After trying on an urban planning major, I graduated with a BA in theatre and a minor in communications. And although personality tests told me I should be a florist, I've tried most everything else, it seems.

As my blog description indicates, I have many interests. I'd argue they're all related on a basic cellular level, though you might question that if you caught me browsing through job ads. I head toward Social Services first, think to myself I can do that, then glance over at Construction. There's something about the phrase "must be able to lift concrete" that gets me every time.

But for a while now, if you asked me what I want to be, I'd whisper in your ear that if somebody'd let me, I'd work at the Y.

The Y is my second home, my church, my neighborhood bar, all wrapped up into one. I love the mix of people gathered in one place working toward the same goals; and because I love being right there with them, I allowed myself to dream big, and applied for a position.

On November 16, I will become a wellness coach at my local Y. I'll be in the first line of trainers that meet with new members, orienting them to the equipment and basic exercises and meeting with them regularly to keep them on task with fitness and nutrition. I'll get to walk the floor and coach and encourage the folks working out. Maybe--I'll have to check the job description--I'll even get to take to task the men who leave 45 pound plates on equipment and walk off.

I'll still write for fun and for pay, and I'll still keep with my theatre gigs, but I have a feeling I'm settling into a vocation, what I want to be now that I'm grown up but still growing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BENGAY, The Sequel

When we first encountered our protagonist--or, rather, antagonist antagonizing--she was disturbed by the smell of BENGAY permeating the competition gym. In part 2, the method of madness is discovered; and though the perpetrator remains at large, a threat of revenge is made (closed caption: "we'll smear it all over his car").

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We Now Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Competition Video Fest

Tune in tomorrow for yet another video and yet another NaBloPoMo post; today, though, we'll pause to honor D-Blog Day, started five years ago to promote diabetes awareness.

"Six Things You Want People To Know About Diabetes" is the theme. Given that I didn't know much about diabetes on August 1, 2010, but learned a great deal starting the next day, when Theo was diagnosed, I bet I know a little of what you don't know.

Type 1 is not Type 2. You hear about type 2 in the news because it's brought on by diet and exercise and can be controlled by same. Type 1 is not brought on by one too many candy bars; instead, it's...well, they don't know exactly, but genetics and possibly viruses play into the causes. It's not contagious. As for control, we can manage the diabetes, but we can't get Theo to a point where he doesn't need insulin, until those smart people come up with a cure.

Theo can eat anything. Because type 1 is confused with type 2, people think Theo can't have sweets. He can--we just have to count the carbs and give him insulin first. Now, it's true that certain foods, such as soda, can cause his blood sugar levels to spike despite an accurate counting of carbs, due to the timing of the absorption of the shot vs the sugar kicking in. But this happens with foods like pizza, too, where the fat slows down the carb absorption.

We're always on our toes. We control the diabetes; it doesn't control us. Theo will live a productive life. Yet, when people ask me if we've settled into a "routine," it's hard to know how to answer. Sure we have, but the factors change constantly. We keep a running log of his levels, carbs eaten, and units of insulin given; we look to this to determine patterns when things start going awry. Which they do, usually after we're seeing great levels for a few days; suddenly the numbers get all funky, and we have to seek out patterns in times of day, kinds of foods eaten, amount of activity surrounding the shot. There's no relaxing.

Diabetes is all day, every day. People will ask, Oh, do you check his sugar about twice a day? We wish. Think more like six times a day, plus an insulin shot before every meal. Plus a different kind of insulin given before bed, which, so far, has meant that Greg and I have not had an evening date since July. Other daily events tie in, as well. Did you know that a warm bath just after a shot can cause insulin to absorb too quickly? We have to time out the baths to an hour after a shot, ending at least ten minutes prior to the next shot. And that one cream I like to put on his eczema after baths? Might absorb through the skin and spike his sugar up. Once we get him to bed, we have to be sure to get up around the same time next day, or his sugar could be low. No sleeping in, even if we had to check his blood sugar at 2am. It's all day, every day.

So it's sad, yes. We tire of having to carry all this stuff with us everywhere we go. We hate when the shot makes him bleed. It kills us when he's left with a bruise. And we don't go near thinking about long-term consequences. I've called it grief here before; it's a sorrow that has no long-term relief.

But we're fine. Sometimes I think I really should have a separate blog for all these very specific topics I address: a weightlifting blog, a diabetes blog, a theatre for the homeless blog. But I like them all mixing together in one place, because that's what my life is like. Bench pressing doesn't define me, and homelessness is not my only cause. I have a diabetic child, yes, but we don't sit around and weep together all day, as this makes perfectly clear. Life is filled with ups and downs, and even the downs can have an up side. Diabetes has sobered me, and I now appreciate life more than I ever thought I would.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Amy and Theo on Weightlifting, Arnold, and BENGAY

Amidst praise and adoration from my youngest son, I manage to complain--about the awful smell emanating from a lifter who applied BENGAY before the first flight. In the small gym that hosted the competition, the smell was overwhelming, and I forgot to breathe throughout the entirety of my first lift.

Don't forget to also watch the winning lift (during which I remembered to breathe)
and the footage of the huge trophy
and the other stuff I'll post this week to keep up with NaBloPoMo.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Embracing the Pause

My fellow benchers and I were surprised to learn, upon arriving at the competition, that it was of the pause at the chest variety. Sending the bar skyward after a full stop at the chest is extra difficult, and usually means you lift less than your best.

I pause-benched 120 on Saturday, which you'll witness in the video below; but using the traditional ribcage-as-trampoline method, I can bench 130. The good news is that I benched ten pounds more than I did at the last pause at the chest comp.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Not Bad For Someone Who Was Punched In The Head

To help meet the National Blog Posting Month challenge, I'm going to milk the details of my fourth bench press competition for all they're worth. Tune in this upcoming week for stats, photos, and videos. Stats! Photos! Videos! Oh my.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hurting My Shoulder Was The Least of My Worries, as it turns out

You'd think that someone who signs up for a boxing class would expect to get hit eventually.

Maybe at the last class, which is dedicated to sparring and will involve actual sparring equipment, such as headgear and mouthguards and gloves.

But not at the first class.

By a guy.

And his bare fist.

Accidentally, and in my forehead.

Which hurt for an hour.

Oddly enough, I can't wait to go back.

And mess him up.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Slowing Down For Salsa

In the kick-off post for the NaBloPoMo daily challenge, I mentioned my initial fear of not having enough to say.

Such fear besets the very few. Blogs are so often blah-gs, filled with daily ramblings written in the manner of a Facebook status. Heck, there's a blog called What I Ate For Lunch and Why. It's been running since May of 2008. Surely it's a thrilling read, but you see my point here.

My chosen challenge month has many ready-made topics built in: my fourth bench press competition, my fortieth birthday, a foray into boxing. But drama does not always for good reading make. Don't just say something because you have something to say; first, have something to say about what you have to say. You follow?

I write long posts. I rarely include pictures. I overheard a twenty-something say she'll bypass a blog if there aren't enough pictures. We live in a visual culture, for sure, but that's no excuse for not slowing down to read.

When The New Yorker arrives in the mail, I make a pot of tea and sit to read. The magazine is filled mostly with black and white print; when there's a photo or drawing, it's top quality, as is the writing. Sitting with The New Yorker is practically a spiritual practice. Same with Leonard Pitts's columns, for me.

That's the kind of writing I strive for here: the kind that makes you want to slow down and savor. Or maybe just giggle. Either way, my intent is to be interesting--for you.

I will not tell you what I had for lunch.

Unless it was especially interesting.

Like the chicken, avocado, lettuce and salsa salad I had yesterday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


When I first read about National Blog Posting Month, a challenge to post every day, and which actually happens every month, not just November, I thought, Nah. Who's got that many ideas?

By the time I got out of the shower, I had to scramble, naked, for paper to record the three original, insightful--visionary, even--topics that had come to me. Here we go. You with me?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Watch this video, and a kid in a poor country gets insulin

Three months into Theo's type 1 diagnosis, insulin shots are part of our day, like eating lunch or getting dressed or sleeping.

But Theo could sleep in or stay in pajamas all day to no great effect, whereas without insulin, he'd die.

There are kids in this world who can't get insulin simply because they're poor.

Click HERE before November 14 to watch a video, and a donation will be made in your honor toward this important cause. (I'm having trouble embedding it, unfortunately.)

For more info on about The Big Blue Test and World Diabetes Day, see sixuntilme.com and d-mom.com.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Moment I've Been Waiting For Has Really Bad Timing

I searched high and low for a local boxing class, and I found one! It starts Thursday.

I trained a couple of months for a local bench press competition, and I'm doing well! It's on Saturday.

That's a mere 36 hours between. Ever hit a bag full of sand? It wreaks havoc on your arms. I need my arms to bench.

The trophies are big, I hear. Maybe I'll take my gloves on Saturday, knock out the rest of my weight class, and meet both goals.