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Thursday, December 20, 2012

i wrote something

Totally off topic, but I'll just drop it here and hope someone reads it. Peace.

This morning on CNN they had a poll question for their audience: should Nancy Lanza be considered a victim along with all the other people her son murdered?  To say that my mouth literally dropped open would not be an exaggeration. In internet parlance, double you tee eff?  We’re really asking this question?

Let’s parse this.  If Nancy Lanza had been shot to death by her son who then killed himself without first going on to also shoot a whole bunch of uninvolved people presumably unknown to him, most of them tiny children, would anyone be considering her anything other than a tragic victim of domestic violence and/or the sad casualty of a loved one’s apparent mental illness?  But because her child did take out a whole bunch of other innocent people, she fault?  She...deserves to be dead?  Is that what we’re saying here?

Shall we examine what exactly she is supposed to be responsible for?  Not knowing what her adult child was planning? Not stopping him?  Having weapons available for him to use in his killing spree?  Or, most simply, being a bad mother? Every time I think my feelings about this sort of thing have been blunted by time, another horrible news event occurs and the resulting coverage by people who know nothing and understand nothing brings them to the fore.

Six and a half years ago, my then-20 year old son, my only child, whom I love more than I could possibly love anyone else, was on a locked ward for two and a half months, being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.  Schizoaffective disorder: either a really really bad form of bipolar disorder or a milder form of schizophrenia, but in any case, not really anything with which you’d want someone you care about being diagnosed. It wasn’t his first diagnosis. Since he first became really sick his senior year in high school, various clinicians had posited first bipolar disorder, then depression with psychotic features.  But somewhere around the beginning of June 2006 during that long inpatient stay, the S word was first brought up.  It was devastating to me.  Before that, as heartbroken and frightened as I was by his problems, I was certain that all we needed was to get him on the right medication and get him to stay on it and then we’d all live happily ever after. But schizophrenia? That seemed like a living death sentence to me. That was something no one ever got better from. That was crazy dirty homeless people shouting at the voices in their heads on street corners. That was...people committing atrocities because of their delusions.

One summer night, in amongst this little slice of hell, I was leaving the locked ward after the visiting hour. (By the way? When you visit your 20 year old son on a locked ward, your belongings are searched and you aren’t supposed to have physical contact with him. It’s like prison. Prison for people whose only crime is being sick. I disobeyed the no physical contact rules regularly and without shame. Try to keep me from hugging, kissing, and holding the hand of someone I love when they’re so sad and so scared they’re shaking and crying. Try.)  On my way out, his case manager stopped me to tell me what a nice, sweet, polite kid he was. “You did a good job with him,” she said kindly.  “Apparently not,” I answered, choking back the tears that immediately welled up. “Or he wouldn’t be here.”  “Oh, no. No. You know that’s not true, don’t you? It’s not your fault that he’s sick, Andrea.

I will never forget that woman’s kind words, both her praise of my son, and her reassurance that I was not to blame.  Because, believe me, when you have a child with mental illness you will blame yourself, and as CNN helpfully reminded me this morning, so will other people.  Because no one really knows yet what causes schizophrenia though there are dozens of theories, you will take each one of those theories you hear or read about and apply them to yourself, always with culpability.  Heredity? Yeah, it’s your bad genes or those of that person you were foolish enough to breed with. Exposure to toxins or a virus in utero? Oh my god, it must have been the flu you had in your 7th month or those chemicals at work that weren’t supposed to be a pregnancy risk.  Childhood trauma? You got a divorce. You had a house fire. Cannabis usage in adolescence? You should have somehow prevented him ever trying marijuana in high school.  Etc. And etc.  

Then there’s the blame you ascribe to yourself, and everyone else ascribes to you, in intervening.  You shouldn’t have let them put him on antidepressants in high school! No, you should have had him on antidepressants sooner! You should have--somehow--gotten him to keep taking medication and going to psychiatrists and therapy even when he was over 18 and refused to. Somehow. That’s the heartbreak just about everyone with a mentally ill loved one knows about. You can’t force them to get help. You can’t force them to comply with treatment. And except in extraordinary circumstances, neither can anyone else.  Basically you have to be actively threatening yourself or someone else before you can be forced into treatment.  Prior to my son’s hospitalization in 2006, he’d been off all psychotropic medications for over a year and a half and I’d watched him getting sicker and sicker. Watched him helplessly.

There was the summer of mania where he paced the house endlessly, read an entire encyclopedia front to back (searching for hidden messages?), went for walks in the middle of the night leaving the front door wide open, snapped at you whenever you spoke to him, and entirely stopped bathing.  There was the winter and spring of deep depression and eventual auditory hallucinations, where he just got very quiet and sad, showered for hours, watched the same DVDs over and over again (searching for hidden messages?), became afraid to sleep in his own bedroom, and never left the house at all.  And all that time all I could do was wait. Wait for him to agree to go to the doctor. Or wait for something horrible to happen.

The last few days before his admission, he was obviously getting more and more frightened and afraid to be by himself and admitted finally that he was hearing voices. The night he was admitted, he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t settle, was going from room to room, listening to the walls. I convinced him at last to call 911 so that they could “give him something to sleep” in the ED. When the EMTs came, they told him his pulse was racing and his blood pressure was very high, and he agreed to go with them. If he hadn’t, they couldn’t have made him. He wasn’t threatening suicide. He wasn’t violent. Well, not until he decided midway through the trip to the hospital to attempt to fight off the EMT and try to leap out of the back of the ambulance so he could “answer the white phone.” That sort of sealed his sojourn on the locked ward. Thankfully.

So, Nancy Lanza.  We don’t know what was wrong with her 20 year old son that made him kill her and kill himself and commit an atrocity.  Apparently he was “on the spectrum.”  He was also at the prime age to have a first psychotic break, but with him dead and his computer destroyed, we have no clear cut evidence that he was in fact delusional or, if he was, what form that delusion took. We don’t know if he was, rather than being delusional, simply sociopathic. We don’t know. We’ll never know.  But do I think that if his mother thought he was a danger to himself or anyone else, she’d have had weapons where he could get at them? No.  Do I think she was probably where I was seven years ago, watching her son struggle with an illness she could do nothing to intervene in and waiting for him to agree to get help, all the time thinking (hoping, praying), “oh, we just need ____ to happen and everything will be okay”? Yes.  Do I judge her? No.  Does my heart break for her as much as for the parents of all those babies her son shot? Yes.  

Do I think it’s disgusting a major news outlet would question whether this dead woman was a victim? Oh, fuck yeah.

One last thought: I couldn’t watch the tributes to the victims--how this little girl loved horses and that little boy liked to play with his cousins--without thinking that had Adam Lanza died when he was six, someone would have said such things about him.  No matter what heinous acts he committed, he was once someone’s little boy.


My own story has, of course, a much happier ending. My son was never violent. He got help, is on a good combination of medications to control his illness, and is committed to complying with treatment.  As his mother I of course wish he didn’t have to suffer with a lifelong illness, but I’ve come a long way since I thought this was a living death sentence.  It’s not.  Mental illness, like diabetes or epilepsy or cancer, sucks, but all you can do is keep trying to kick its ass.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

switch it up, yo

Ever look around the gym and realize you, and everyone else, are doing the same ol', same ol' exercises? Nothing wrong with the basics. You won't go wrong doing back squats and bench press and lat pulldowns and planks. But sometimes it's fun to throw in something new and different too. Bonus points if it makes your fellow exercisers stare and think what the HELL is s/he doing????  Amirite? I'm right.

Since I've noticed a bunch of my friends and, okay, myself, throwing some fun and funky exercises into our workouts lately, I thought I'd hunt down some instructional videos on youtube and share the luv.

Suitcase deadlifts:

Good morning squats:

Waiters carry:

Lumberjack squats:

And for the truly ambitious among us, the headstand leg lift:

I think I'll work on getting into the headstand first.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

i have consumer confidence in YOU

In lieu of wrapping the pile of Christmas presents sitting on the floor of my bedroom, washing my kitchen floor***, or doing anything else useful, I think I shall take this opportunity to present to you Andrea's Second Annual Holiday Gift Guide. And this year, you actually get it before Christmas. Always thinking of ways to serve you better, readers, 24/7 365.

1.) Gaiam yoga socks

Oh, look, that's your esteemed blog hostess doing her own modelling. More ways to serve you, readers! Just sayin'.

I don't, or at least haven't, worn these to do yoga. No, I have worn them to do my formerly barefoot (aka monkey feet) squats. I like to feel the floor under me and grip it with my feet, so much so that I was willing to risk athlete's foot or MSRA from those gross gym floors. With these Gaiam yoga socks, I don't have to. All the benefits of monkey feet, none of the squat rack health risks! Highly recommended stocking stuffer for the maladjusted weightlifter in *your* life. (Note: one of my friends is completely freaked out by the idea of toe socks; proceed with caution.)

2.) The Anatomy Coloring Book

Another great stocking stuffer! (Or, y'know, main gift if you're a cheap bastard. I don't know your life.)  I had one of these in massage school and I'm close to pulling the trigger on buying a new one.  We've got a long, cold winter upon us. Face it: we'll all probably get snowed in at one point or another. On those days blizzard conditions make it impossible to get to the gym or go for a run, your giftee can spend his or her time profitably learning the names of their individual quad muscles and hamstrings! Plus, coloring is fun. (Note: be a sport and throw in a nice box of colored pencils or markers. You don't want your giftee to have to venture out to the store in that blizzard when they realize all they have in the house is a #2 pencil and some ballpoints they stole from work.)

3.) North Face Osito jacket

Soooooo very soft. I've been known to visit this jacket in the athletic wear department of Nordstrom just to pet it. Don't judge. (Note: I just pet it, I haven't purchased it, SANTA. Ahem.)

4.) inversion table

I personally have always wanted one of these. Well, always since about 1996 when I first saw one in a Relax the Back store. And, no, not just for illicit sexual purposes. Having my spine decompressed sounds like a peachy idea, and I'm sure it feels just as good as having "traction" done during a massage. Besides, I could maybe grow an inch, which, when you are my size and probably shrinking even as we speak, is not to be sneezed at. So, yeah. If you have any tense, crunched-up short people on your gift list (and they enjoy head rushes), I suggest checking one of these things out! (Note: see the disclaimers about pregnancy and eye and back disorders. We here at MMINAE do not want to be responsible for anyone detaching a retina, yo.)

5.) The Yin Yoga Kit

I have recommended and/or loaned this out to so many people in the five years I've owned it and mentioned it so much on here before that I would be remiss in not including it in a gift guide. Your giftee's fascia will thank you. You want all your loved ones to have happy fascia, right? Right! (Note: yes, it's very hippy-dippy.  Deal.)

6.) Liquid Grip

Another Andrea-approved stocking stuffer. Gym doesn't allow chalk? Just don't want to deal with the mess?  Liquid Grip is non-messy, dirt cheap, lasts forever, and it works. (Note: it smells awesome too! Some women want to smell like Chanel No 5, some wanna smell like the weight room...)

7.) Nike+ sportwatch

I'm not much of a runner personally but I've heard good things about these. And you know I like gadgets. You probably know and love someone who likes gadgets too and who actually runs more than four times a year, so what are you waiting for? (Note: would the gps on this thing have helped me when I almost got lost and died 500 yards from my house? Probably not. You should probably still buy one, though!)

8.) "everything fits" gym bag

I swear to god, I don't work for Gaiam, I just like their stuff. (Note: they should probably send me some swag though, right?)

9.) stripey knee socks

You know you know someone who wants to deadlift in style. Save the shins! (Note: Rumor has it that Tarzhay is also a good source for these. And if they made it easier for me to grab a pic from their website, I'd have linked to them. But they didn't. So eff u, Target!)

10.) earbuds

C'mon, everyone always needs new earbuds. Those of us with weird ears like the ones that go in the ear canal and have the adjustable rubber bits. (Note: "adjustable rubber bits *is* the technical term. God.)

There. Ten gift ideas for your fit family and friends. Now get shopping! I know you can do it.


***Amazing how much I wanted to do this when my doctor wouldn't let me and how much I don't want to do it now that I can any time I want. Ironic, Alanis, ironic.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

busybodies, the earnestly helpful, and the food police

On one of my favorite cooking websites they have a feature highlighting readers' questions. Yesterday's was from a woman whose spouse was just diagnosed with diabetes and who was thus wanting to bake sugar-free Christmas cookies this year. Her question, which seemed rather basic and on-topic for a cooking forum, was whether it was truly correct to replace the sugar in baking with artificial sweetener (i.e. Splenda, stevia) one to one, or whether that ratio needed tweaking.

The first seven--that's right, seven--responses, however, did not even attempt to answer. They instead took her to task for baking cookies in the first place, since white flour was gonna kill her husband as surely as sugar, and/or sniffed at her to take a diabetes education class, or informed her that the proper way for a diabetic to eat cookies was to eat a tiny portion of a real sugar-filled treat after carefully checking one's insulin levels and screw the Splenda.  Then one person took a stab at answering the actual query before more people dropped by to yell at her. The final response (as of this writing) informed her that her (presumably) fatass hubby should step away from the cookies and get to the gym, 'cause obviously that's what brought him to this impasse in the first place. Oooo.

While any or all of this advice may or may not be true: who THE FUCK asked you, snippy self-righteous internet commenters? And if you feel the need to lecture, either because you really really care about the health of someone you have never met or, y'know, because you like to be right, how about attempting to answer what was asked before (or at least after) you launch into your sermon/verbal instructional manual?

In summary--I hate people.  Merry Christmas, etc.


Monday, December 3, 2012

deelightful, deelicious, deeeeetox

Yesterday I went to a hipster Mexican restaurant where they start out your dining experience by bringing you a refreshing palate cleanser of shaved ice and asking whether you would care to have a free shot of tequila poured on top of that. Um, yes, please?  That OF COURSE led to two margaritas which led to ordering cuatros leche cake for dessert.  I mean, c'mon, that's one bonus leche. It would be wrong not to order it. Duh.

This capped off a two week period that included my birthday, Thanksgiving, the baking of a Christmas funfetti cake (if you haven't already heard that story, don't ask, okay?), the eating of an entire batch of peanut butter cookies all by my own self (if you're intending to bake them for other people, you need to first do a test run for quality control--again, DUH), the purchase of a nip of Godiva liqueur just because, the receiving of a whole bottle of Godiva liqueur as a belated birthday present along with a metric shit ton of chocolate, the finding of some stale Easter candy hidden in my hall closet while cleaning it and the sampling of said candy to ascertain whether it was stale or not, the extra sampling of said candy just to make sure it was really stale, and, um, probably more instances of alcohol and sugar near-poisoning than I am remembering. This all led to my waking up this morning claiming*** I was going to do a detox. Just yogurt and veggies for this chick. Until I'm offered alcohol or cake. Naturally.

It's after three in the afternoon. I've had nothing but yogurt and homemade turkey soup today. Well, that and coffee and iced tea.

Shut UP. Who said I was gonna detox from caffeine too?

Anyway, this all led me down the rabbit hole of thinking about "detoxes" and "cleanses".  Did you know that for only $99 I can purchase a groupon that will provide me with three whole days of (purportedly cleansing) juice? That's half off retail!  R U serious?  There are people alive who will pay two hundred bucks for nine glasses of juice?  Oh, I have a blender and a bridge I'd like to sell them.  As I once famously (infamously?) said about some extremely overpriced Red Sox tickets, I'd only pay that if it included Mike Lowell performing cunnilingus. Which kinda works better as a baseball joke than a dieting one, but I stand by it. Mikey, if you're reading--call me!

The whole juice cleanse/detox thing is patently ridiculous of course.  Much like (apparently--it was before my time because while I'm old, I'm not THAT old) women used to douche**** before the medical, gynecological establishment finally bested the feminine hygiene industry and successfully got women to realize that their vaginas***** are self-cleaning organs, hopefully good sense and scientific fact will win out and the populace will realize that, despite anything noted medical expert Gwyneth Paltrow says, our bodies do not need to be internally cleansed and detoxed because we already have a self-cleaning mechanism firmly in place. People who buy $200 juice? Meet your liver and kidneys.

In summary?  I do not really want to look like a Victoria's Secret model, I just thought that someecard was hilarious.  I do however like booze.

Good thing my liver is awesome.



****but despite the fact it was unhealthy for them and totally unnecessary, aren't we glad our mothers or grandmothers did douche, just to introduce the word into common English usage? It's the perfect insult. Go call someone who's a douche a douche. I promise, it will be very satisfying.

*****Andrea's readers: "For the love of God, please stop talking about vaginas."
          Andrea: "I'll try. But it'll probably last as long as the yogurt and veggies thing."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

damn, hope the 401k holds out

Why? you ask.

Oh, well, see, I'm on track to live to be 95.  In fact, according to the example health survey I took yesterday in my NSCA manual, just being a human female who's reached the age of 50 in the year 2012 means my life expectancy is 83 years.  Which seems pretty rash of them to tell me considering I've just had a brush with what my pcp charmingly termed "borderline cancer", but hey! I'm sure the statistics work out somehow that even people who've survived a brush with real cancer get factored in. But, anyway, once you add in the extra points I get for all my good health habits and vital signs and family history n' shit and subtract the points I rack up from my not-so-good health habits and conditions, I end up with 12 extra years. Huh.  Frankly, I'm not betting on it.  And if my personal trainer administered this test to me and then gave me those results, I'd probably snort and ask wtf I was paying him/her for then.  (I guess it works out better as a business model if you can convince the client they're gonna die 12 years early. That'd probably motivate at least a couple months of gym attendance. WHO SAYS I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT COMMERCE?)

Oh, yeah. Anyway. Statistics. I have only a very vague notion of how they work, despite having taken two semesters of the damn class when I was 18 (in preparation for a degree that I never ended up pursuing, naturally). Taken and aced, I might add. It's all lost to me now, till the day my neurosurgeon electrically stimulates that portion of my brain while fixing an aneurysm or something. (I bet that would take a few points off your longevity score, yo.)  Being my normally pessimistic and anxiety-prone self, I tend to only believe the statistics when they are negative.  Therefore, I fail to believe that chances are good I'll live to be 95. Hell, I fail to believe chances are good that I'll live to be 83. In which case, why haven't I cashed out that 401k and taken a nice long European and/or Caribbean vacation yet? It's a mystery.

I do, however, believe the scary ones and feel free in applying them to myself.  For instance, apparently 1 to maybe even 2% of women who have laproscopic hysterectomies (which I did), especially those who have robotic surgeries (which I did not) have a complication called vaginal cuff dehiscence, which can include bowel prolapse. Often this is triggered by sexual intercourse.  (Large intestine falling out your hooha post sex=biggest mood-killer EVAH. In my humble opinion.) But it can also be triggered by the valsalva, just from coughing or sneezing.  Or, for that matter, the valsalva from squatting and deadlifting, I would imagine. Though the number of ladies who squat heavy weights would appear to be smaller than the number who sneeze, cough, or have sexytimes, so they probably are less likely to show up in the literature.  Even more terrifying, sometimes cuff dehiscence happens with no apparent external trigger.  Yup, just standing there minding your own business and the next thing you know, you're in excruciating pain and your colon's popped out to say hello.

I would be happier if I had never read this little collection of facts on the internet, including hearing horrifying testimony from women it's happened to, but it's 2012. The internet is there. You can't stop the influx of information. If you're a glass half-full type, however, you think, "hey, the chances are 99% that my stitches aren't gonna fail for mysterious reasons."  

If you're me, you think, "holy shit! one person in a hundred...that's effing common." And then you think about how birth control is only 98% effective even when used correctly, and the fact that your kid beat the anti-conception odds. So then you think, "huh, if I was one of the 2% who conceived even when I was trying hard not to, if I was the tiny minority then, I'm probably not gonna be in the tiny minority this time." Then you remember that statistics doesn't work that way and that those factors are totally separate from each other and you have the same 1-2% chance of cuff dehiscence as any other patient who had your surgery, all superstition aside. THEN you curse the fact that you remember one fucking thing from two semesters of stats class. Sigh.

Then you decide maybe you should just reject science and go with the whole superstition thing. 

To sum up, if you need me, I'll be busy chanting so that none of my remaining internal organs fall out after sex or in the squat rack or while buying overpriced yet delicious pumpkin poundcake at Whole Foods. Also so that Fidelity invests my money better in case I do need it in thirty years.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

on topic!

I'm pretty sure the above is what is happening to my arms.  If you could have stripped away the skin to see the muscle a month ago and then again today, that's what you'd see.  Okay, I wouldn't exactly match the picture.  I have more boob and less belly, but arms? Uh, yeah, I think so.

See, kids, my post-op instructions included not lifting any heavy objects.   My doctor didn't/wouldn't exactly put a figure on that--I've heard other people having been told no more than 5 pounds (!) or 10 pounds or "no more than a newborn baby" or "no more than a gallon of milk."  Mine said "Weeellllllllll, I wouldn't go lifting full laundry baskets..." I chose to interpret that as laundry baskets full of wet, not dry, clothes, because, bitch please.  Anyway, I have tried to be good.  I have not picked up either of the 19 pound cats. I have not carried my real purse full of what's usually in there because I'm pretty sure that's 15lbs in itself.  I haven't lifted full grocery bags or containers of kitty litter or taken out the trash.

At my two week checkup I was hoping to be released to lift more, but no. Tomorrow's my four week visit and hope springs eternal.  Especially because I have to admit I got a little lax this weekend while doing hurricane prep.  I was instructing my son to put this there and that there, no no no closer...and well, I ended up helping because the sweet Baby Jesus knows I am really not good with delegation.  If you want something done right... So, yeah, I sincerely hope my doctor tells me it's okay to start lifting a little more, just so I can put my mind at ease that tacking a plastic tarp over my basement sliders didn't just cause me internal adhesions.

With all this up-till-now good behavior, my upper body is atrophying like whoa. The first couple weeks after surgery I was flexing in front of the bathroom mirror, as you do, thinking, well now, my muscles are not falling off, go figure. Ahem. Flexing not so satisfying these days.  Coincidentally (or not so much) I've lost three pounds since my procedure, leaving me at a weight that frightens me a teeny bit***.  Since I have been making and eating such things as this and these and oh, yeah, these and (with some substitutions) these and obviously have not been starving myself, I can only posit that I've lost three pounds of muscle.  That's three months of bulking progress, yo. It's enough to make a grown woman cry. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, that and tiny infants in peril. Shut up, I KNOW I'm hormonal, ok? And if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, it's because you didn't read the previous post. Try to keep up, wiil ya.)

Now, seriously, some time around January when I am cleared to actually lift weights, I know it'll all come back.  Lots of gym time, lots of food = maybe next summer I'll be back to where I was this summer, refusing to wear anything other than a tank top unless strictly necessary.  In the meantime, hey, it's hoodie weather. No one's gotta know that my triceps are sad!


***oh, don't be concerned: BMI =19.9, I'm not even underweight

off topic

I've been watching either the local news or CNN for the past 32 hours. It's possible for me to do this when they're covering a natural disaster as opposed to when they're covering politics. That just makes me ragey. If you've watched CNN this morning, I'm sure you saw the footage of the NICU nurse from the NYU hospital that was being evacuated, sitting on a stretcher and ventilating the tiny baby in her arms manually after having taken said baby down nine (or eleven?) flights of stairs lit only by flashlights.  It made me cry. Just a little, yo. The NICU and Special Care nursery nurses I've known in my professional life have almost universally been very competent and very kind, adept both at inserting IVs into the tiniest veins you could possibly imagine and at comforting and educating new parents who are dealing with the scariest things a new parent could imagine. In short, they rock. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that hand ventilating a tiny infant in dark and precarious stairwells is all in a day's work for them. It still made me tear up.

It also made me want to write this off topic post to say thank you to all those people who choose these careers that involve responding to disasters. The firefighters and cops and EMTs and Coast Guard and National Guard and medical personnel--y'all are unbelievable.

Thank you.


Friday, October 19, 2012

needles, wut?

My acupuncturist, Marcy, whom my friends have heard me talk about way too much, was on an NBC nightly news segment on back pain!  Here's an extended version from the MSNBC website:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
I'm not sure what acupuncture does--I don't exactly buy into the concept of chi--but it does something. I've had treatments that left me so loopy and spaced I almost sat in someone else's lap on the subway on the way home. I've had the weirdly pleasurable sensation of lying on the table with the needles in and feeling as if I had a heavy, invisible blanket on me, weighting down my limbs. I've a previously sprained ankle that kept swelling up on and off for months finally stop doing that when Marcy scraped at it with what literally was a Chinese soup spoon. (In the massage world, I think we call that cross-fiber friction, but I've never performed it on anyone with an eating utensil.)

Oh, and then there was that time Marcy treated a point on the top of my head because I was feeling depressed in a flat, ennui-filled way, and mentioned casually that she would never needle that spot if I was in my much more common state of freaking-out anxiety because it was a stimulating point. Whereupon, several hours later in bed, I found myself suffering from the female equivalent of the fabled "call your doctor for an erection lasting more than 3 hours" of the Viagra commercials. Holy crap, one of the weirdest (and least comfortable) experiences of my life. I seriously wonder if the ancient Chinese treated that point on people suffering from, y'know, sexual dysfunction.

So, yeah. I don't understand exactly how or why acupuncture works, but it's pretty cool. Plus, I'm perfectly willing to pay to take a nap in a dark quiet warm room in the middle of the day, yo. It's not slacking--it's medical treatment.


Friday, October 12, 2012

boo boos

Oh, hai. Long time no write. Been busy getting ready for surgery, having surgery, and now recovering from surgery.  Down to one percocet a day, so I suppose I'm alright to get some coherent thoughts down on electronic paper. NOT PROMISING ANYTHING. Ahem.

And if you think I'm about to post up pictures of my boo boos, um I mean incisions, sorry but no. Don't think I didn't consider it, but my attention-whore tendencies only go so far.  Let me just say, you can't even really see the one that's inside my bellybutton. Props to whatever ob/gyn gave me this super-deep innie forty-nine years ago, thereby making my gyn's cosmetic job easier in 2012!

No, the Boo Boos I actually am here to write about is the "Honey Boo Boo" family.  If you just genuinely went "wut?", my hat is off to you.  I too was blissfully unaware of this little piece of pop culture effluvia until, in my convalescence, I saw someone online jokingly*** say to a friend, "You're fat, but not Honey Boo Boo fat."  Having sorta kinda vaguely heard that this was some sort of reality show but unclear on the details, I was prompted by this comment (and the boredom that comes from being more or less glued to one's couch for days) to explore further.  Where did I go but that bastion of nasty snark that is the TWoP reality show forums?  (I know, I know.)

There I found out that Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a spinoff from Toddlers and Tiaras (which, the title is self-explanatory, no?) and follows a little girl from Georgia who participates in child pageants. The "joke" that  the audience is supposed to be in on is that the little girl is chubby, not particularly pretty and not particularly talented, and thus unlikely to win even the low-rent competitions she participates in. Oh, not to mention that she has an enormously redneck/white trash family, with a dad in whose face there is never not a hunk of dip, a pregnant 17 year old sister who doesn't know what the word "abdomen" means when she goes for an ultrasound, and, most prominently, a morbidly obese, very loud, crass mom, June, for whom farting on camera is the height of hilarity.  Here's an unflattering and then a relatively flattering shot of June, just so you know the size of the lady in question.

I read the first twenty or thirty pages of commentary on this show (shut up, I'm practically a shut-in, yo) and then decided I had to see for myself whether this shiz was as horrifying as all the pearl-clutching internet commenters claimed.  So *I paid* $1.95 for two episodes on Amazon instant watch.  If only I made money from writing, I coulda claimed that ::cough:: "research" ::cough:: as a business expense on my taxes.  Sigh.

Well, I gotta tell you, I was not as horrified by these people as I went in there expecting to be.  First of all, it was pretty obvious to me that, as we all know, reality television is "reality" television and a lot of the crassness, etc, was playing a role for the cameras.  June, in particular, may be uneducated and white trash, but the woman isn't stupid.  She appears to have a good amount of self-awareness and know exactly what she's doing. Hell, she was smart enough to get her kid a TV show. (We'll leave the morality of pimping your family life out for television dollars out of this. Poor people have done worse shit for money.)  And I was charmed that this family seems to actually, you know, all like and care about each other.  That's as rare on TV as it is in, y'know, real life.  Little Alana, if not Shirley Temple II, is actually a very sweet kid when not being prompted to act obnoxious for the cameras.

With my opinion now unbiased, I went back to read more internet commentary on these people, and what struck me the most was the judgy judging and, yeah, pearl-clutching about their weight problems and purported eating habits.  People were, apparently seriously, suggesting that June have her children removed from her for eating junk food.  Other people, also in apparent sincerity, suggested that all their health/weight problems would be solved if they just used their backyard to grow a vegetable garden.  The silliness and self-righteousness was amazing.  First of all, as someone who has occasionally tried this "gardening" business, let me say that a.) if you have a non-green thumb, it ain't as easy as the green-thumbed among us might suggest and b.) every tomato I finally managed to harvest probably ended up costing me twice what I would have paid for it in the supermarket or even the farm stand.  But secondly, what I think a lot of people who actually have relatively "healthy" eating habits don't realize is that if you've grown up on a diet of nothing but processed food not only do you not see anything wrong with eating that way, but you probably don't think unprocessed healthy food tastes good.  It's not as simple as "give those people some salad and lean protein" and they'll be thin, it's "salad and lean protein is gonna taste like crap to them."

I myself, living in a decidedly non-klassy area, have frequently seen such relative horrors as young (and sometimes not-so-young) moms putting soda in baby bottles or sippy cups, feeding young toddlers Cheetos and donuts to keep them quiet, and carefully tearing takeout fried chicken into pieces a 9 month old can eat without choking.  I don't think this means these women don't love their children. I don't think this means these women want their kids to be part of the OMG! obesity epidemic! or to get the di-a-bee-tus.  I think these moms are feeding their kids what they themselves have always eaten, what tastes good to them, what they think of as normal food.  And I'm willing to bet a whole shitload of them don't know how to cook anything that doesn't come out of a box.

It's not so simple as "food deserts" or "junk food is cheaper than healthy food" though those things play a part.  It's not so simple as educating people about nutrition or even teaching them how to cook good, cheap things at home. It's that we have a whole couple generations of people who've never eaten anything but processed food and to whom that's all that tastes good.  I don't know what the answer to this is, though I think exposing all children to *good tasting* fruit and vegetables and real cheese and yogurt and whole grain bread and decent non-battered meat in school, starting in preschool and up, would be a start. But no one wants to pay for decent food in the public schools, do they?  That costs $$$.

I do know that shaming and pearl-clutching about those fat fat poor people and their horrible eating and parenting habits doesn't do bupkis.


***joke being that the person in question isn't fat at all and both people and everyone else knows it

Thursday, September 20, 2012

exercise for old people

An online weightlifting buddy of mine confessed over the weekend that she was in a little funk over her impending 55th birthday. No amount of reassurance that she was fitter and shmexier than most people half her age would relieve the funk, because that wasn't actually the problem. She knows that she's in better shape than many 25 year olds. No, it's more what society attaches to her forthcoming age that was wearing her down. A person can only receive so many AARP solicitations or opportunities for the "senior discount" before she is forced to go, "Holy shit. The world thinks I'm OLD."

I was commiserating with her because I've had a few WTF moments concerning my upcoming 50th birthday or my age in general. You know, like when you realize that, statistically, you are probably closer to death than you are high school?  It's a little disconcerting, especially when in your own head you're still the same hoodie-wearing, semi-hip young thang you always were. Another example I shared was that my Y has started a new program this session which I believe is officially called Fitness Over 50, but which on close examination really should be called Exercise for the Decrepit. If, y'know, anyone cared about truth-in-advertising laws. God.  That one killed me.  Do 50 year olds really need to be grouped in with the senior citizens, fitness-wise?  Maybe the ones who've never exercised a day in their lives, are terribly overweight and/or have serious pre-existing health conditions, but wouldn't you also say that about a 30 year old who's never exercised and is very obese and/or has a serious medical condition?  Call it Fitness for the Unfit or something and leave my next birthday out of it, yo. (Not to mention, there are some actual elderly people at my Y who are super-fit. They aren't the target market for this class either.)

(Just look at this guy whose picture I snagged off the internet. Doesn't he look Perky and like He Even Lifts? Get that actor a Cialis commercial, stat.)

And then this morning, on the heels of that, another online buddy who I'm fairly sure wasn't privvy to the weekend's conversation, mentioned in passing that in the group exercise class that she teaches for people over 50 (sigh--and she's in Europe; apparently 50 =decrepit there too) she was having her students do front/Zercher squats which they complained about. And that she gave them the option of using weights anywhere from 12 to 45 lbs. 

It made me realize--two years ago I was an average almost-48 year old woman, healthy and reasonably fit for a middle-aged chick, but not anyone who was a life-long athlete, super jock, or in any way remarkable.  My exercise consisted of walking a lot and doing yoga on and off.  Then I started lifting.  This morning I back-squatted 170 for reps.  And that's not my absolute max.  My point being, if an average middle-aged, almost-50 year old woman with no great athletic gifts can squat 1.5x her bodyweight after a couple years of training, just through, y'know, showing up at the gym several times a week and doing work, how much are we short-changing 50-ish people and above by convincing them they need special classes, etc?  By making them think it's too late, they'll never lift heavy or run fast or swim far or whatever?  Yeah, maybe they (we) *won't* reach the level that someone starting out on an exercise program when they're 20 will. Maybe they won't be as strong or fast or full of endurance. Maybe it will take them longer to reach their goals. But that doesn't mean they need to stick to aqua aerobics with the 2lb dumbbells either.

Um, no disrespect to those aqua aerobics ladies. Cause they're tough. They'll cut a bitch if you interfere with their sauna time.


Monday, September 10, 2012

too much time in gym + camera = this

Count yourselves lucky. If there were more than one or two days a week I could actually take video in my gym without getting scolded and made to stop, you'd all have to put up with more of this nonsense.  Nevertheless, I blocked out a big part of the afternoon yesterday for my workout so that I could mess around and attempt to capture some stuff I wanted to look at and/or amuse my friends with.

The first thing I wanted to video was myself doing overhead squats with a medicine ball, because the first time I attempted these, I did them directly in front of a mirror and it was rather shocking to me how crooked my hips looked. I mean, I already knew my pelvis is higher and tilted higher on the left, but I didn't realize how much it affected my squat mechanics.  Then, when I went to what we're calling the "fancy pants Y" on Labor Day (my own ghetto Y being closed) and I used a power rack that actually had a mirror right in it, I saw that, yes, my hips are messed up like that when I barbell squat too, if seen from the front. Am I imagining how bad that imbalance looks because I know it's there? I asked myself.  The only answer is to film that mutha.

First attempt.  I thought videoing myself in the mirror where I first saw the problem myself was a good idea.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the camera angle meant you couldn't actually see my hips when I squatted even though *I* could see them in the mirror.  Sigh.  Okay, okay, I'll drop the artsy shit, put my camera on a window ledge, and film head-on.

So, am I crazy--oh shut up--or do you see how one side of my butt ends up lower than the other because of my crookedness?  Should I be concerned about this?  It doesn't bother me when I'm squatting.

Then I decided to prove to the world that I can in fact get both a 25lb and a 5lb plate onto my own back without help to do a weighted plank, a fact I only discovered yesterday.  Once you see the lulzy technique involved, you might want to stop watching because 70 seconds of me planking is not exciting.  OTOH, perhaps you're starved for entertainment.  Do as you wish, reader, do as you wish.

Finally, something a bit more serious.  The newest, um, trend? amongst my imaginary (i.e. online) friends is doing box squats and everyone's been posting theirs up.  I took a little video at the end of the day yesterday, messing around with them.  This is 115x8, onto a step which is, I know, above parallel.  If I take out a riser as I did on some of my earlier sets, it's a touch too low for me to do a full sit onto for many reps with any significant weight.  Will probably continue using both heights to practice. Anyway, how's the form look on these? I was interested in how they were gonna look because they feel weird and like I can't get my feet where they'd be in a regular squat, but meh.  

Oh, and for the fashion-minded, those are the Lulus mentioned in the previous post. I lurve them.  


Thursday, August 30, 2012

let's play dress up!

As some of you already know, I recently bought my second pair of Lululemons. (Note to the uninitiated: Lululemons are extremely expensive yoga pants/clothes which tend to make one look ah-maz-ing.) I justified this to myself by saying, eh, it's been a year since I bought my first pair and one pair a year is a reasonable splurge. These are the ones I bought, though not in this color:

  Of course, after I already did that, some of my weightlifting friends started discussing and/or buying these:

I was, and still am, filled with pant envy, since I have a whole nother year before I can get more Lulus. Ahem.  I have taken solace in the fact that they have a 34 inch inseam and thus would be way too freaking long on my stubby little legs anyway.  Until, in the writing of this post, I discovered they make that same style in crops. Super pant envy now.

Meanwhile, I buy the GapFit pants, for which I always have a coupon and which, internet rumor has it, are made in the same factory as the Lulus (by, as I like to point out, the same little slave children, I'm sure). I recently got a new pair of these, but in a heathered gray color:

And also sort of a dark slate blue pair of bike shorts, which the internet is stubbornly refusing to provide a picture of. (Then I wore those new shorts to hot yoga and sweated so much in them, they still stink after washing them. So I guess they're permanently hot yoga shorts now. Sigh. Bright side: I'd be pissed if I permanently stunk up a pair of Lulus!)

Meanwhile, I get a new Athleta catalog in the mail approximately every ten days and even more frequent emails from them.  Today's email featured this:

Hard to see in that picture, but it's a little hiking skirt attached to leggings.  WANT.   Y'know, despite the fact that most of my hiking adventures occur in the Middlesex Fells where I'm basically trekking through people's backyards in earshot of the interstate and thus do not really technically need designated hiking clothes. 

Athleta also likes to tempt me with adorable yoga/workout tops like these:

Yes, they do so tempt me even though experience tells me that all I EVER end up wearing to the gym or yoga are cheap cotton tank tops from Tarzhay.

And then of course, the studio where I go to yoga is having an end of the summer clothing sale, where they sell, among other things, these Spiritual Gangster hoodies:

I kinda want one of those too, even though they're probably insufferably hipster.  "Hi, I'm Andrea and hoodies are my drug of choice!"

The saddest part of this whole thing is that, with my upcoming surgery, I'm not going to be able to do anything fitness-related for 4 to 6 weeks. The last thing I need to be buying right now is new gym clothes. Though I suppose I can wear them on my couch while I watch Game of Thrones, Justified, and my muscles atrophying!

Have you bought any cool exercise clothes lately? Are you drooling over anything you can't afford or don't need?  Let's commiserate together!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

domo arigato, the sequel

As promised--or is that threatened?--here's me attempting my good mornings.  Theoretically this is 70x8, but if you count the reps, it's actually nine.  Apparently I got distracted.  Or can't count above seven without the use of my fingers.  Or had some kind of pre-senile dementia moment.  I dunno.  If I didn't just tell you, though, I bet none of y'all would have even noticed.  But never let it be said I mislead my beloved blog readers.

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

Please feel free to compare these to the videos I posted the other night and/or the information in your own head and tell me what, if anything, I am doing right or wrong. Or, y'know, critique my hairstyle, comment on my bare feet and the likelihood I'ma get athletes foot in that nasty gym, or, if applicable, yell "OMG, Andrea! You're gonna snap your back up!" at your computer screen.

And, as a bonus, here's me doing some RDLs.  185x5.  I went back and filmed these at just about the end of my workout. Which was probably a bad idea, because I was exhausted by that point and even though I was trying to concentrate on my form, it was breaking down.  However, I figure those of you who like fat asses can perve on mine and the rest of you can ponder the fact I put my shoes back on or, y'know, use the sight of my fat ass as motivation to stay away from the Cheetoes. Your call!

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

Also, please register my disgruntlement that I had to go the tinypic route because blogger kept giving me error messages and refusing to directly upload my videos from my computer.  Damn you, blogger, damn you.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

domo arigato

If you're Of a Certain Age, I've probably just infected you with a heinous earworm for which you are almost certainly cursing me even as you read.  You're welcome.  Full service blog, I keep telling you all.  My ex husband actually like that song, about which I would say "case closed" except you would say, rightfully, "and why would you marry such a person, Andrea?"  I'd have to claim hormones, youth, and bad role models, and then we'd get into a whole philosophical discussion that has NOTHING to do with the subject matter of this post.

Good mornings!  The exercise that is.

It gets its name because it supposed to be reminiscent of this:

Meh. Whatever.  Why not just call it a barbell bow?

I did these for the first time the other day.  I was a little irritated because I felt like I wasn't quite reaching 90 degrees, secondary to tight hamstrings.  Well, here's Erin Stern.

Maybe it's the angle, but I don't think she's reaching 90 degrees either. And she's famous.  And her hamstrings look like that.  I feel less frustrated.  All I'm sayin'.

This guy's reaching 90 degrees.  He also has orange plates. They'd match my water bottle.  Maybe I can convince the Y to bust out the spray paint?  Eh. Probably not.

And this woman, at the beginning, is doing with her head what *I* thought was correct: looking at the floor.  The rest of these people are all looking up.  I'm confused.  The more youtube tutorials you watch, the less ya know. But the concentric thing is interesting too. Hadn't seen that before.

There will, at some point, be video of me trying these out. So, y'know, we can all point and laugh and, uh, fix my form.  (There's also going to be view of me winning my online dip contest.  Bragging rites shall be mine.) Until then--and forgive me if this is old news--here you go.  Proof that barbell's been across my traps an awful lot lately.

Admit it. That's sexeh.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

i have...

...back thickness... that's approximately 5 different shades by August...

...drama face!...

...and a six pack if you squint hard enough...

(I SAID, squint harder.)

Also, I have some kind of funky blog problem going on, because apparently comments are not showing up.  Boo!  I have double checked and my settings are correct, so it's probably just blogger fucking with me.  Hopefully it will straighten itself out soon. Because you know I love when y'all chat with me.

Now musical pondering, prompted by songs that have popped up on my iPod at the gym this week.  It occurred to me that I have no idea what either of these songs are supposed to be about.

Who in the sweet Christ are "the boys" and where are they back from?  Prison?  Are they some kind of motorcycle gang that, y'know, summers in Laconia?  I have listened to this song for approximately 35 years without gaining any clarity. I do know one thing.  It does not belong in a commercial where cute children eat chicken with their dad, which is the other place it's been popping up besides my iPod.  Because I'm pretty sure it's about bikers or some shit.  Shut up. that theory's as good as any.

This, I don't even know where to start with.  "I got a backyard with nothing in it, except a stick, a dog, and a box with something in it."  I don't even HAVE a theory.  Please give me yours. Um, if comments start working again.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

oly lifting at the real olys

How disappointed am I that my very favorite tiny little Polish oly lifter, Marzena Karpinska, is not at the Olympics because she failed a doping test?  Let's watch some video of her from happier days, shall we?

Oh, I love her so much.  Why'd you have to get caught, Marzena?

That's a lot of rhetorical questions. Ahem.

Also out of the Olympics is 19 year old Albanian Hysen Pulaku, who tested positive for a banned substance just this Wednesday.  He should be at least somewhat consoled by the fact that even though his dreams of a shiny medal have been crushed, he's got the coolest name evah.  Here's Mr Pulaku, making an impressive lift just a couple weeks ago.

You know what's interesting to me?  These people don't look like they juice.  There are guys Mr Pulaku's size at my non-impressive ghetto Y.  They just can't do that.  But they don't look much different.

You know what is also interesting?  According to my impeccable sources (i.e. internet message boards), all these world class oly lifters use something banned during their training.  The difference between who gets dinged and who doesn't just depends on having doctors and coaches who are smart enough to know what to give you when so you don't get caught. Maybe that's true, maybe it isn't, but I'm guessing it's more true than false.  Which points out the semi-absurdity of having a list of banned substances as long as my arm.  If everyone's using and everyone knows everyone's using, then the playing field is more or less level and who cares?  It's like steroid-era baseball.  You can argue till you're blue in the face that the records set then don't/shouldn't count or those guys shouldn't end up in the Hall of Fame, but a.) drugs don't make people who aren't premier athletes into premier athletes and b.) see above: no unfair advantage if all your peers are doing the same thing and c.) as far as records go, just training itself has come so far in the past 50 or 75 years, you can't compare athletes' physicality anyway.

Which gives me an excuse to post my most favorite of all old time-y baseball photos, Ted Williams getting a massage from his trainer.  Sorry for the size, but I could only directly embed the thumbnail from the slideshow.  I'm technically incompetent.  But STILL...

Ted, did you even lift??!??!!!  And yet you hit .400.

As far as I'm concerned, some/all of these performance enhancing drugs might as well be the equivalent of a modern-day weight room and the ability to watch endless hours of video of your own games/meets.  Scientific progress marches on and it's silly to forbid its fruits. There were great athletes doing great things without the benefit of them, but using them does not make someone who wouldn't be a great athlete anyway into a superstar/champion.  Feel free to disagree in comments, y'all.

Anyway, if you want to see which tiny little strong-as-fuck female weightlifter did win the 48kg class in Marzena's absence, NBC is showing the final at 12:30 am, so stay up late or set your TIVOs.  I won't spoil you even though I already know.