Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FRAMES. It's almost here.


Some eight years have gone into this, and passed by.

We're so close now.

Here I hold, for the first time, a proof of my book. Soon, I'll be able to tell you how to get your hands on this gem. I'm very proud of how it turned out, and I think you'll like it, too.

Read more about FRAMES at my blog's book project label. An early description is here.

More info by next month. Stay tuned!

Yes, I moved a Dean Koontz novel and put my book there.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


I'd put it at the shape of a cinder block. The weight is heavy enough to sit me down through most of the day, and start my sleeping at seven at night. It's pulling down these arms, which would lift heavy weights and now have trouble pausing midair. I am slow and far away, and this started some time around that moment when the floor buckled and the furniture swayed in the pediatric intensive care unit where my son was staying.

We encourage you to be your son's advocate, Mrs. Scheer, but we also want you to be able to rest while your child is ill, and be a mom.

Giving him a shot right now could cause cerebral hemorrhaging, so we'll need to do a drip.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! Thank you Mom for holding back my hair while I vomit.

There is guilt when talking about one's self when it's the child who was sick. But he's fine, Theo is doing great, and I'm not. It could be anything, I know; but I want to say, and I want you to understand, that grief can sit inside bones and muscles, and the ribcage.

When I gave birth to my first son, the pain changed me. I did not know that such a level of suffering existed. I didn't know, and from that point, I had to find a way to live in a world where this potential exists.

Before last Wednesday, I didn't know that diabetic ketoacidosis can come on in the blink of an eye, or overnight, as Theo sleeps. I thought if we stayed on top of checking for ketones in his urine, which we do, DKA wouldn't come near us.

I didn't know. And now I have to live in this world. While Theo resumes daily life with no visible interruption, I--my body--can't cope.

When the floor buckled, Theo's nurse sat me on a stool and ordered another nurse to find a soda. She took the paper off of a small cup of peanut butter, and the cellophane off a few pairs of saltines. She found a plastic knife. Efficiently, she covered a cracker and handed it to me. I ate it and she was ready with the next. She sat with me until I felt ready to stand, or said I did.

Because the stool itself was not steady; it had wheels. The ground can never be stable with diabetes. Parenthood itself will shake you. As I stood, I saw the floor move again, but I didn't bother to say.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Top Ten Grey Shades of Exercise

I have one thing to tell you, and it's this: Life is not black and white.

This week saw declaration upon declaration from good-intentioned individuals, and I am bloody from raising my sword to each.

I'm not supposed to lift heavy.
I shouldn't do exercises that use my neck.
Tart cherry juice makes you sleep better.
This machine isn't good for you.
This equipment will make me a better runner.
I'm supposed to work my core.
This is the best exercise for your core.

Yes. Maybe. But. Can I say something?

Grey is worth looking for. Not just with this exercise stuff, by the way. But we'll start there.

Your doctor is watching out for your neck, and you should listen; she's a doctor. I'm a personal trainer; I, too, have neck problems. My neck appears older than the rest of me, and no one can explain why. My doctor asked, "Did you, like, fall out of a window?" Not that I can recall.

I'm a personal trainer, and your doctor is a doctor, for crying out loud. (This bears repeating.) If something is off limits, it's off limits. But if I could sit down with your doctor, I'd ask about the grey. I'd ask, Hey, this person with the neck? He's got issues. We need to strengthen his neck to help him out, right? And most exercises use the neck, right? You've got him frightened. You've got me nervous. Is there some middle ground here?

I think she'd listen to me.

But back to you, and the stuff you read somewhere, maybe in the checkout line or in your facebook feed. Those top ten worst machines or best exercises. Thanks for telling me about them, but now let's talk grey.

I'm a personal trainer; I'm also a writer, a human being, and someone who knows a little about a lot of things. Many times I have been hired as a writer to say something about a topic. Did I make stuff up? No. But I came up with new ways of saying what perhaps was old news. That's what writers do, for the most part. So when I hear that an article has decried the hip abduction machine or praised the plank, I take this info with a grain of salt. Yes, there's truth there. Yes, tart cherry juice is said to suppress the bladder's urges and let you rest more. But hey, are you prediabetic? Better to get up and pee than send your blood sugar to the sky.

Writers make mountains out of molehills, sometimes, stretching the truth to be a little dramatic and catch your attention. Maybe I'm doing that here, but that's because I care about you, not because of any paycheck. (I should really monetize this blog someday.)

The truth is out there, but it's shaded in grey. What's your "wheat belly" telling you about the latest diet you tried? And that plank: does it bore you? Then you probably don't do it, which cuts a whole lot into its effectiveness.

You know what else?

Going gluten-free makes me bloat. Drinking red wine helps me lose weight (it helps with dietary fat absorption). Cookies also help me lose weight, if I haven't been taking in enough calories otherwise for muscle recovery. Dumbbells bother my elbows. Pushups are bad for me, because of my neck. The Turkish get up, touted as the most complete and overall beneficial exercise because it is, hurts my neck. High reps and low weight hurt my neck more than heavy weight and low reps, which were prescribed by my physical therapist, who actually knows quite a bit about exercise. But he's not me. He doesn't live in my body, and only I know the effects that these bad for you/good for you foods/moves have.

There's a study in Secrets From the Eating Lab, by Tracl Mann, tracking twins who are overfed by 1000 calories per day.  Some gained nine pounds, some 29. "The same number of calories led some people to gain three times as much weight as other people," even those from the same gene pool. Another study she mentions details how difficult it is to get people to gain fat and keep it.

So how, my friends, can a magazine article tell you what to eat?

It is natural to want answers and solutions. Not just the quick fixes, but solid explanations for what ails us. I want to know how to live with my neck. When I feel bad, I play detective: what happened this time? And what made it better? Sure, maybe I lifted too heavy, but didn't it start to hurt after a different exercise?

It is also natural to trust experts. We need them, because much as we all want to play doctor/dietitician/political theorist, we're not that, and there's not enough time in the day to specialize so highly. The world is made up of people who are interested in different things, and that's good and helpful.

But the expert knows his/her thing. The doctor knows what she knows, but she's not a physical therapist. The writer knows what she researched, but not the whole field of study. That's too much to delve into for a self-help article. And too much for a meme.

So question everything. Read, try, observe. Be your own lab rat. Welcome advice and throw it out if, after careful thought, you see it doesn't work for you. Find what does.

Watch for grey.

Every last shade.

Friday, May 1, 2015

This Body, Broken For You

originally posted April 2, 2012

--Where you been?

--Injured. And I lost my confidence.
--Come back.

The gym is my church. I sweat alongside folks I wouldn't know otherwise, two or three times every week. At the Y, I egg another rep out of Lee on the bench press, and Sonya brings me an Indian spice I've been hunting. At the boxing gym, Shaun tells me his dream of opening a business. Our shared goals foster community.

But if the gym is church, my sanctuary is found at the fights, in the folding chair of a darkened auditorium.

Injuries had kept me out of the boxing gym for months, but when I opened the paper a few weeks back and saw the ad for Golden Gloves, I headed out. Last club show I had entered through the door for fighters and coaches, but this time, I bought a ticket and sat alone. As I watched, occasionally talking with the older man next to me (a former boxer, it's always a former boxer), I recognized familiar voices shouting in the crowd. Shari's sitting over there, I could tell; Shaun's on the bleachers to my left.

Eventually I sent a text, and, when I could pull away from the chatty old boxer, we had a reunion at the snack bar. Hugs. Where you beens. And, more importantly, Come back.

Over the past three weekends, I've caught up with these people I know only through the dance called boxing. The nights are long, and to break up the four hours I talk, sometimes make a new friend, lean against the back wall, or find a half empty row to sit alone and think. Despite the noise, despite the clinging smoke, and even with two guys swinging at each other, this is a posture of meditation for me. I'm watching the fights, evaluating technique, but I'm also not watching them, and instead sitting with my thoughts.

Among which are these: The length of my recovery back to boxing has humbled me. I am grateful for what I can do, and what I could do is behind me. I'm smarter now, if not as strong. And I'm content with the here and now.

Friday night a coach greeted me at the wall and invited me back behind the curtain with the coaches. You can't see the action from back there, but boxers are warming up on mitts, and those in queue are being built up with a litany of call and response:

Nobody said it's gonna be easy.
--Uh uh.
It is what it is.
--That's right.
You got what it takes.

I am of a different color and race than most of the people behind this curtain, and yet somehow, we fit together, and being with them has brought me back to life. A young man interrupts my thoughts, raises his taped hands to my shoulders and asks,

--Amy, where you been?
--Injured. And then I lost my confidence.
--Work it out in the gym. Come back.

The music played, and he walked to the ring with Shaun at his back. He played hard, and won. His return was greeted with accolades, fist bumps and hugs; his sweat dampened my cheek. This was an intimacy earned by showing up so many weeks of the past year, even when it was tough to do so. Or maybe it was simply a moment of grace, given freely, by water and by blood.