Showing posts from November, 2011

I Want To Be A Princess

In the final paragraph of The New Yorker profile of Rita Jenrette, a Texan who married a prince and became Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, writer Ariel Levy ends with the idea that could the Principessa visit her younger self, much suffering would be spared. She'd tell her, "You're going to be a princess." Royalty can't travel back in time, however, and all any of us can do is look back. The long view of where life went when we were busy living it--this can be reassuring. Sometimes it's not. Three years ago, when I volunteered for the Obama campaign, which met up in a boxing gym, you couldn't have told me that I'd be up in that ring sparring. As I waited for instructions, I looked around and thought, Wow! A boxing gym. Pretty cool. Then I took off with my assigned partner and hung election day reminders on the broken down doors of the nearby neighborhood. Three years ago, while I tried to survive an aerobic kickboxing class, I would have laughe

Larry, George, and Janet

Next month I need to take an exam for work. It's a three-part test: multiple choice questions on exercise and physiological processes; essays on case studies; training my boss who will pretend to be one of the case studies. We were given a preview of the case studies. We're to pick two, but three of them appealed to me. George, who is 40, wants to lose some pounds before a trip next spring. He doesn't like to exercise. Janet is a mom in her 30s and an aerobic queen. She wants to tone the back of her arms, etc. Larry, in his 20s, wants to reduce his body fat from 18% to 14%. He knows his way around the weight room, but never stays consistent in his routine. That night I woke up thinking of Larry. His BMI, that is--and I worried for him. He's healthy! Why is he obsessing over his body fat percentage? Larry was upsetting me. I knew I'd have to choose him. And George. He'd be a nice challenge. I like that he used to play on a basketball rec league--I'd sneak in

It Was A Good Day

My boxing gym won five trophies last night at a local club show. Five wins, five completely different styles: a heavyweight who moved well; a hundred-pounder who danced more than he punched; a young man nobody believed had never fought before; a deaf state champion against a man with arms longer than should be allowable; and a guy who stood looking with me at the bout list, plotting when and how he could get to Burger King and back in time for his turn. I'm pretty sure he was serious. Way to go, MLK!

Oh No

The uniform reaction of all mothers looking in on the final wrestling practice was this: "Ewww." The boys, every last one of them, had their shirts off. They played a kind of flag football with their tops hanging from their bottoms, and it would be the last wrestling activity my son, Simon, would try. Simon is tall, and lining him up according to height for a sparring showdown showed no deference to his lack of athleticism. He stood dangerously close in line to Jack, a 12-year-old who tips the scale past 180; the boy he did end up wrestling the last day, a kid about his height but with something of a gut, proved too heavy. Simon gave him a good fight but a short one, and that was that. He comes by his fear of the sport honestly. Though his group would go on to compete in duals, we didn't push him to do so, as the compromise to try this new sport was taxing enough. On all of us. Mainly me. "I'll follow your exercise plan, Mom," he told me. He figures I'

The Rules of Sustenance

Head over to The Other Journal , of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, to read my essay The Rules of Sustenance. It's a story from my time on staff at a homeless shelter, and one you haven't read here on my blog . Enjoy it, leave lots of comments, and browse the rest of their thoughtful site.

Joe Frazier

Joe Frazier was felled by a short bout with liver cancer. Not by the violence of the heavyweight rounds, the kidney punches, or left hooks to the head. Cancer is what took him down. You never know what's gonna get you. In the end, the obvious danger may not be the worst. I've pasted a letter above my desk. It begins, "Your follow-up mammography examination showed an area that we believe is probably benign (not cancer)." "Probably." You never know what's gonna get you. So what do we do? Step into the ring. Keep fighting.

Getting Rid Of The Children's Pets, One Lonely Creature At A Time (The Video)

Theo, age 8, spent the summer collecting frogs and tadpoles from a nearby creek. With the help of his friend Ethan, who is 9 and can answer any and all questions on amphibians, Theo learned to distinguish leopard frogs from tree frogs, and studied their development daily on our back deck. Theo was so enamored with the whole operation that he wanted to purchase some more exotic strains. We visited a Pets Mart and hovered near a tank until a saleswoman came by. The right saleswoman, I should say; with disheveled hair and wire-frame glasses favoring one ear, this woman was all about the frogs. She hunched forward as if to let out a call that might travel the road back to our creek. My main concern was the amount of upkeep these $30 pets would require. "What do these frogs need, because our frogs from the creek...," I started to say, and immediately realized I had violated a sacred rule: removing the animal from its natural habitat. I tried to play it off. So did she--at first.


While my son stood next to me, a wad of bloody tissue up one nostril, the wrestling coach said, "There's something about facing a kid your size and, even if you lose or get hurt, knowing you can take it." Simon, whose nose was now 1.5 times its normal width, wasn't feeling the love. But I understood. I have come to understand that my week doesn't begin until I've been boxing. I need to wrestle--box--my demons before I feel I've earned my self-esteem for the week. Or maybe I need to be knocked out of my head, both literally and metaphorically, in order to relax and enjoy life. Either way, it works for me. As soon as I can get my knee healed up, I'll be sparring again, because I miss that day-after, on-top-of-the-world sensation. I'm thinking of bringing Simon along so he can see what his mom is made of. All my push toward sports hasn't added up to much, so, as they say in writing, "Show, don't tell."