No sweat

i feel pretty when I sweat

Said me, never.

You have my blog mate and best friend Carla to blame for this post. We met a few Saturday mornings ago for coffee. Three and half hours later, we had covered everything from bone broth, her new obsession, to The Gilmore Girls revival. In between, I told her about some recent blows to my ego I had recently experienced at my gym.

bff coffee meme

Truth.

Now you need a little back story. I adore Carla and it’s not that easy. She’s 24 years younger than me and she’s stunningly beautiful. And she’s skinny. I told you it wasn’t easy. Carla is the type of woman (perhaps not really human) who has never had a problem with her weight. She is the reason skinny jeans were invented. Are you getting the picture?

 

carla

My beautiful bestie Carla. (Photo by Andrew Brown)

I love Carla’s laugh – it’s surprisingly robust for such a slender woman. And often when she laughs she can’t speak and she’ll sort of double over and wipe tears from her eyes. This was her reaction when I shared my gym woes with her that morning. When she finally caught her breath, she said, “You have to blog about this.”

So here we are.

When I stopped commuting for my former job in January, I gave up my gym membership in Greensboro because it just didn’t make sense. I live in Winston-Salem and it’s about a 40 minute drive. Like I need another excuse to not go to the gym.

I decided to give Planet Fitness a look because I kept seeing their commercials – “No Gymtimidation” is one of their tag lines. That sounded promising to me so I checked out the location just a few miles from my condo. I was prepared to not like it. My gym in Greensboro was really nice – so nice it was called The Club. And it sort of felt like a country club – nice leather chairs in the lobby, classy art on the walls and lots of shiny machines.

no critics

I can do this math.

Well, if my old gym was Whole Foods, Planet Fitness is Aldi’s. It has everything that I could possibly need – just without any frills. The staff was super friendly and the price was right. I joined and as part of my membership, I was given a free appointment with a personal trainer.

I’ve never been keen on a trainer. I don’t respond well to being told what to do (understatement) and I really don’t want to have to talk to anyone while I’m working out. In fact, I wish they would make all gyms a “no talking” zone. It’s just awkward, right? At my former fancy gym I would often run into my friend, Bruce. I’ve known him for years and I really like him – except that he looks like a GQ model ALL the time – even when he’s exercising. Seriously, he makes Adonis look like a sloth. And his hair looks perfect even after his workout.

ain't nobody got time for that

Word.

Invariably, I would be on the cross trainer looking like a sweaty troll and he would saunter up with his gorgeous smile and that chiseled hair and start talking to me. I would take my earbuds out and try to speak without gasping like I had a collapsed lung and have a civilized conversation with him. To this day he doesn’t know that even though my lips were moving, I was really just focusing on not falling off my machine.

When I arrived to meet my personal trainer, I was led into a room where four other women were seated around a table. Well, my “free” appointment turned out to be a group one. I really didn’t mind – the other ladies were nice – and older than me. Score. We made a little small talk and then our trainer walked in. That’s when things got real.

She was a no-nonsense young woman who looked like she could have been in the Marines. She started talking and barked, “Write this down.” We had pencils and paper at our seats and the first thing she said was, “Abs begin in the kitchen, not the gym.” This confused me but I was a little gymtimidated so I didn’t argue and I wrote it down. She went on to explain the connection between nutrition and exercise and then asked each of us what our personal goals were.

abs meme

Abs are apparently no laughing matter.

Goals? Jeez, I just signed up for some regular exercise, I wasn’t thinking about the meaning of life. Fortunately, I did not go first so I had time to scramble up an answer. I think I said something like, “Improve my stamina.” I don’t know why I said that – it’s not like I’m going to be climbing Everest or anything. Anyway, she nodded and seemed to think that my goal was worthy. She then showed us where to file our fitness plan so that we could record our reps (gym speak) each time we came in. I guess my file is still there – I haven’t pulled it. Again, I like the solo approach to exercise.

My first few times at The Planet (my homage to the coffee shop in The L Word that just makes me smile) I was very much aware that this was not The Club. First, there were a lot of older people there – yes, older than me. And I didn’t see anyone in a matching gym ensemble. I saw a lot of run of the mill schlubs like me. Score again.

I saw sweatpants – the bulky gray kind that you wear when you’re feeling puny and you’re going to be on the couch all day watching a Sex and the City marathon. I saw a lot of socks – not shorty gym socks – regular socks, even black ones. I saw some street shoes paired with shorts and a tank top. The more I saw, the more I liked. I knew this was a place where I could feel comfortable. I had found the gym version of the Island of Misfit Toys.

misfit toys

Me and my pals at Planet Fitness. Werk it Girl!

Planet Fitness bills itself as the “No Judgement Zone” and I felt a little snarky because I judged them for putting that extra “e” in judgement. For the record, the AP Stylebook recommends judgment – no e. But I’m not here to crunch vowels.

panet fitness 2

Two Es or not two Es?

Planet Fitness should add another tag line to their marketing – No Narcissism. Yesterday, I saw an elderly woman with an oxygen tank riding a recumbent bike. And there are a couple of regulars who have clearly had strokes, walking with canes or walkers, but they’re out there most days just trying to keep busy moving. These aren’t the kind of people who are going to bore the enamel off your teeth by posting on Facebook about how many steps they got on their Fitbits today. Nope, and I find these folks to be heroically inspiring.

dodge ball

Fitness can be funny.

Now certainly there are some bona fide buff bods here working out but they are more the exception than the rule. On an average day it looks like a grown up version of the Audio Visual Club from high school. And I like it. Don’t confuse that with liking exercise. My favorite part of my workout is when it is over and I can feel virtuous and maybe a little smug. I know it’s good for me – like flossing – but I don’t enjoy it. I enjoy going to the movies. I enjoy sipping an iced macchiato. I enjoy taking a long walk in November and hearing the crunching of leaves under my feet.

exercise 2 meme

That said, I’m pretty proud of myself. This summer I’ve been going to the gym five days a week. Maybe it’s the turning 60 voice in my head: Move it or lose it! Or maybe it’s just that I do appreciate some discipline in my life and the satisfaction of doing something I said I was going to do.

So I actually have built up my stamina and I was beginning to feel like I had some gym cred. And then one day a few weeks ago, while I’m pumping madly on the cross trainer, a man – a man visibly older than me – walks up and stands beside my machine. I could feel his presence and I turned to look at him and took out my earbuds and he exclaimed, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought you were my wife. She’s built like you.” It’s times like these when I’m grateful for my 25 plus years in fundraising. I seem to always default to speaking to strangers like potential donors. I smiled at him and said, “Well, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Meanwhile my inside voice was saying, “Don’t you dare look around to see what his wife looks like.” And you know what? I didn’t. I just figured no good could come from that.

A few days later I had recovered from that bruise and was feeling strong again after completing my 50 minute workout and was wiping down my machine when a woman behind me on a treadmill said, “Excuse me, can I talk to you?” My inside voice was saying, “Yeah, no” but my fundraiser voice said cheerfully, “Sure.” She then proceeded to tell me that she noticed that I had been sweating a lot on the back of my T-shirt. Really? Hello, that’s why they call it working out! She then began to tell me about something that another woman had shared with her in the locker room. Wait for it – the sweat belt. Yes, it’s a thing. She went on to explain that you wear it around your waist under your shirt while you’re working out and it increases your amount of sweating. Okay, why would anyone want to sweat more? She explained that it helps reduce inches from your waist. I played along like I was truly interested and then she did the unthinkable. She actually lifted her shirt up to show me her belt that she had just gotten a few days ago.

sweat belt

Behold the sweat belt. Because who wouldn’t want to work out in a girdle?

I managed to say something like “thanks for sharing” and made a bee line for the front door. Okay, and maybe when I got home I might have Googled “sweat belt” just for kicks. Wow. My search pulled up over 12,400,000 sites related to the sweat belt. That’s a lot of sweat and apparently a lot of mixed reviews on whether the belt is a good thing or not. Yes, it makes you sweat more and perhaps momentarily lose some inches that are most likely related to water weight but some critics suggest that it prevents your abdominal muscles from fully engaging, thus limiting the amount of calories you are burning.

Some of the sweat belts even come with a special “sweat gel” that when applied to your waist is supposed to make you sweat even more than just wearing the belt. In a word, gross.

glistening like a pig

When my dear wife got home from work that day, I told her about my Close Encounter of the Sweat Belt Kind and she just laughed cheerfully and said that I shouldn’t take it personally – that my gym mate was just sharing some information. My wife is a much nicer person than me. She also has a very flat stomach so I’m not sure she could exactly walk in my waist on this matter. Nonetheless, I took her advice and tried to forget about the whole thing.

So guess who I ran into a few days later at the gym? Yep, my sweat belt stalker. She tapped my shoulder while I was working out and asked earnestly, “Did you get a sweat belt?” I was so over it all by then but I managed to smile at her and said, “I don’t really think it’s for me. I don’t really like sweating.” She looked at me with a bit of disappointment and yes, judgement, and said, “Okay, but it’s really working for me.”

I’m sincerely happy for her but I think I just have to go with my gut on this one.

 

addy post workout

My favorite part of working out – The End!  (Photo by Addison Ore)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Northern exposure

alaska cover

Glacier Bay National Park  (Photos by Addison Ore)

Alaska is big. Alaskans make fun of Texas for thinking that it’s big because you could fit Texas into Alaska two times. In fact, Alaska is bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined. Are you getting the big picture?

I got to experience just how big, bold and beautiful Alaska is earlier this summer when my wife and I spent two weeks there on vacation. Disclaimer: This trip was not my idea and I grumbled about it more than a few times but our 49th state has long been on my wife’s bucket list. (More on the concept of the bucket list later.) I didn’t have anything against Alaska, it just wasn’t ever high on my travel radar.

For the record, I was stupid. Now, I’m just mad about Alaska.

We did a land and sea package and while I usually balk about a group tour (Are you sensing a pattern here?), this is really the ideal way to see a lot of Alaska. Also, you never have to carry your own luggage. Best idea ever.

Our trip began in Fairbanks, the most northern part of our journey and we were fully immersed in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Wow. This is a really weird thing to adjust to. On our first full day in Fairbanks, sunrise was at 3:09 AM and sunset was at, wait for it, 12:28 AM. And the few hours between the two were never really actually dark – more like grey.

I kept hearing “Sunglasses at Night” – that Corey Hart song from the 80’s in my head. One evening after dinner we were having a “nightcap” sitting on a bench overlooking the Chena River and I asked my wife, “Should we be wearing sunscreen now?” We slept with hand towels over our eyes because even with the curtains drawn, we felt like we were taking a nap in the middle of the day.

fairbanks sun

Goodnight Sun.

Remember when you were a kid and you would stay outside on summer nights until your mom would come to the back door and call for you to come in? I wondered how long Alaskan mothers wait to make that call. Kids? What kids?

And let’s talk about the produce. Freaky. We’re talking 65 pound cantaloupes! The growing season is short but because of the extended exposure to the sun, anybody can have a green thumb in Alaska. We passed some fields of cabbages that looked like something out of a sci fi movie.

The natives make the most of summer in Alaska and it seemed as if everyone we met had at least two jobs. Our tour director, Scott, is a middle school science teacher and spends his summers working for Trafalgar, our tour company. We did a riverboat cruise our first full day in Fairbanks that was narrated by a personable guy with a great voice wearing a nautical looking coat. The next morning, we turned on the TV and saw our “Captain” reading the news. Turns out he’s a longtime local radio and TV personality.

The next day we headed out for Denali National Park. Scott had warned us that only one out of three visitors ever see the mountain known as “The Great One” because of cloud cover. He was smart to undersell us because as we approached the park and saw the highest peak in North America in all its glory, we were all giddy. It’s pretty funny to see 50 people snapping the same shot. We just used our iPhones but at the end of the day, something that massively magnificent cannot be truly captured by any lens. At least that’s what I told myself that evening when I deleted about 37 photos of something that looked like a white blob.

denalia

Objects in distance are a gazillion times bigger than they appear.

Denali National Park and Preserve encompasses more than six million acres. Yes, million, and only one ribbon of road bisects the wild land. One of the most popular excursions in the park is the Tundra Wilderness Tour – a 62 mile, 8 hour bus ride that gives you up close and personal views of wildlife and more intimate views of Denali.

My brother and his wife did this tour last summer and I think it may have been the low point of their 35 year marriage. He was not happy. Granted, this is a man who usually flies first class and was probably 15 the last time he rode on a school bus. Alaska was on his wife’s bucket list (seriously, more later), too. Go figure. Anyway, his review of the bus tour that would not end was enough to convince us to spend the day in Denali on our own and I think it was probably my most favorite day in a fortnight of favorite days.

It was a spectacular morning drenched in brilliant sunshine and we set out on a hike along the Nenana River. We passed a park ranger leading a group back from this trail and he reported no bear sightings. This is a real and present concern while in Denali and we were briefed to not run if we encountered a bear. I liken this to the instruction the flight attendant gives you if your oxygen mask is ever deployed : “Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.” Sure.

So if you encounter a bear, you are supposed to stand your ground, wave your hands a bit and say things like, “Hey, Bear.” Apparently they really are not interested in humans unless we run and then they think we are lunch.

hike joy

We ain’t afraid of no bears.

The only wildlife we encountered on our hike was some moose poop and we were able to differentiate it from bear poop because we paid attention to the poop display at the Visitor’s Center. We had our National Park swagger on after that.

Our trail led down to the rocky bank of the rushing river and we just sat for a few hours and breathed it all in. This has been a challenging year for me and my wife. I lost a job that I really loved in January in a perfect storm of misinformation and misguided decisions and it has been a painful and slow healing process.

I’m not a good enough writer to adequately describe our view that day and it was more than just what we saw – the sounds were almost reverent. The whooshing flow of the river, the echoes of birds in the trees, the breeze. I felt as close to God as I did in St. Peter’s Basilica and I felt more peace than I had felt in months. I sucked it in like it was that oxygen mask. I can smell that day right now – crisp and piney.

hike view

This day…

And I intend to hold tight to that day for as long as I can.

We ran into a few of our tour mates later that evening as they staggered off their buses in search of some dinner. Their reviews were mixed but we knew we had made the right decision for us. We were outside all day – beginning with breakfast on the deck and ending when we finally returned to our room for the night (which wasn’t dark, of course). I felt like a kid again and I’m sure I smelled like one, too. It was rather exhilarating to be that dirty from just knocking around outside all day.

puppies

Future Iditarod champions. We saw puppies!

Anyone that’s been on a tour to Alaska knows that wildlife viewing can be a competitive sport with bragging rights for the best find. It was like a game of wildlife poker when you ran into folks at breakfast the next morning after everyone’s day of adventures. “We saw two moose, three eagles and a bear,” said one of the women from New Zealand. Not to be outdone, a man from Canada said, “We saw a mama moose and two babies, three reindeer and four Dall sheep.” The ante got even bigger when we moved on to the cruise portion of our trip and whale sightings became the equivalent of a royal flush.

One of the best things about a tour is meeting folks from literally all round the world. I love hearing different accents and learning about places I haven’t been – which finally brings me to the subject of the bucket list. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the concept of the bucket list. I just think it should have a better name than that. “Bucket” seems like such a utilitarian and unglamorous descriptor for something you deeply want to do. I also don’t like the idea of being motivated to do something before you die. It just feels a bit morose to me.

My blog mate and bestie  Carla and I had a discussion about this before I left on my trip. She agreed with me (she’s sweet like that) and suggested we change it to “dream” list or “wish” list. And yet, I was fascinated with the driving force of the bucket list so I got in the habit of asking people I met  on our trip why they chose to tour Alaska. I bet I asked 30 people and I think about 28 of them lit up and said, “Oh, Alaska has always been on my bucket list.” There you have it.

bucket list

A note on display at the Denali Visitor Center.

Call it what you want but I have to admit that there’s something quite special about sharing a dream/wish/bucket list trip with a large group of strangers. You immediately have an unspoken bond and the excitement and joy emanating from everyone is almost palpable. It’s like you’re all on the same team, cheering for the same things – sunny days, multiple orca sightings and extra drink tickets at the group dinners.

We made our way on to Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, via train on the Alaskan Railroad. I had an ear worm of one of my favorite songs playing over and over – “Anchorage” by Michelle Shocked. It’s about an exchange of letters from two old friends, one writes to the other in Dallas and the return letter comes from Anchorage.

Hey Shell, you know it’s kind of funny

Texas always seemed so big

But you know you’re in the largest state in the union

When you’re anchored down in Anchorage 

I love this song even more now that I’ve been there and my dear wife was so sweet to put up with me singing it (badly) every day.

Anchorage is a thoroughly modern city but one of the most interesting things we did there was visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a cultural center and museum designed to expand the understanding of Alaska’s Indigenous people. Many of the guides here were young people – high school age – and I was so moved by their reverence for their past.

These kids may have gone back to their iPads when they were done with their presentations of Alaska Native dance and games but they gave us such a rich and thoughtful narrative of their history. There was no eye-rolling or rote recitation. They spoke from their hearts and made us feel their deep connection to their beautiful land.

quote

From an exhibit at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

 

past

Alaskans revere their heritage. (On display at the Native Alaska Heritage Center.)

One of our young guides apologized that some of the staff were missing that day and explained that it was the start of salmon fishing season and they were fishing – not for sport but for food for the winter. You get the sense that Alaskans are not careless with their resources. I don’t think you can be a weenie and survive there.

The only bad weather that we encountered coincided with our whale watching tour on the last day of the land portion of our trip. Scott gave us all fair warning that the seas would be rough and that the faint of heart should probably find a nice bar and wait for the group to get back. My lovely wife is prone to motion sickness but she had double dosed on Dramamine and Bonine and was game. I love that about her. She’s fond of saying, “I signed up for the full experience.” Little did she know.

Our whale watching outing started off well enough with an almost immediate sighting of a humpback whale but soon turned into an episode of The Deadliest Catch as we left the bay and headed into the choppy ocean and some very big waves. I think about a third of the folks on our boat got sick. It wasn’t pretty and I’ll just say once again that my wife is a real trouper. Oh, and we will never go on a whale watching outing again.

whale watching

Lambs to the slaughter.

After returning to land for about 30 minutes, we had to board our cruise. Yeah, the timing wasn’t great on that but this was my first cruise so I was pretty excited and the color was beginning to return to my wife’s face. We got through the embarkation process quickly with an alarming warning of a “slight” outbreak of the norovirus on the ship. Disclaimer: The crew of our ship did a great job containing the germs and only a few people were sick. That said, I think I have a permanent layer of Purell on my hands from over applying several times a day for a week.

The cruise ship experience was really fun. We loved breakfast room service and elegant dining at night but our most favorite thing was our verandah – cruise ship speak for balcony. It was so amazing to just sit and watch Mother Nature’s floor show as we sailed through Southeast Alaska, much of which can only be accessed by plane or boat.

joy of cruising

Her heart will go on. Just not on any more whale watches.

No question the highlight of the cruise was our day in Glacier Bay National Park which happened to fall on the summer solstice. Forgive me if I pile on the clichés like breathtaking and amazing. We stood on the deck of the ship in absolute awe as watched – and heard – Margerie Glacier, one of the most active glaciers in Glacier Bay, calving. You heard what sounds a little like distant thunder and then a loud cracking and then chunks of ice breaking off the glacier and splashing into the water. It’s absolutely thrilling.

Later that evening after dinner, we returned to our cabin and I went out on the verandah. I first thought I was looking at the sunset and then I remembered that I was in Alaska. There was a beautiful band of light and unusual color in the horizon and then it dawned on me – I was looking at the Northern Lights. I screamed – really, I did – for my wife to come outside and we just stood in rapt amazement. It is extremely rare to see the Northern Lights in summer so we felt like we had won the Alaska Lottery. And it was a stunning exclamation point on the longest day of the year.

use this northern lights

The Northern Lights

One of the other things I really loved about cruising was waking up in a different place every day. It was like Christmas every morning when I pulled open the curtains. Ta da! Here’s … Juneau! Imagine how exciting  our real lives would be if we woke up to a change of scenery every day. And then someone knocks gently on your door and delivers your breakfast. I felt like Lady Mary only less entitled and without the 23 inch waist. Whatever. I’m nicer.

st. john

Father Brown’s Cross overlooking Gastineau Bay in Juneau.

Our re-entry to the mainland of reality was painful – cancelled and delayed flights and 90 degree temperatures when we finally arrived home but we never got grouchy about any of it. My wife is pretty much incapable of being grouchy but I consider myself to be an advanced practitioner. I was on a post-Alaska high and nothing could melt my iceberg.

We’ve been back a couple of weeks now and Alaska feels a little further away each day and that makes me sad. I miss my unobstructed view of nature in all its glory. My time in Alaska was healing for me in ways I had not anticipated. I felt renewed and strong, cleansed from some of my burdens. The famous naturalist John Muir often wrote about these infinite powers of nature.

“Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts.”

That’s big. That’s Alaska.

sailboat in alaska

Alaska makes everything look tiny, especially your worries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clutch

One of my favorite moments in any sport is when someone rises to the occasion when all eyes are upon them. In my lifetime, probably Mary Lou Retton nailing the vault with a 040630rettonperfect 10 to win the all-around gold medal at the 1984 Olympics was the moment.

Well, last night my best friend, Carla, stuck her landing with her storytelling performance at The Monti.

For the uninitiated, The Monti is a NC non-profit that showcases short, unscripted, nonfiction narratives onstage. You’re given a topic a few weeks in advance and you have 12 minutes to tell your story. The only rules are no notes and the story must be true.

The topic last night was Animal Instincts and Carla told a story about her beloved dog, Yoshi, who passed away three years ago next month.

Carla and Yoshi

Carla and Yoshi

You can listen to Carla’s story soon at The Monti so I don’t need to recap it here except to say that it’s a love story that made many a grown man in attendance cry. Me? I did the ugly cry.

I was so proud watching Carla do something she had talked about doing for a couple of years – something she was kind of afraid to do – and doing it with great aplomb. Now there’s a word that’s just not used enough so I’m here to say, I’m bringing aplomb back.

Carla's posse at The Monti - left to right - Tina, Lynn, Joy, Addy

Carla’s posse at The Monti – left to right – Tina, Lynn, Joy, Addy

I’m old enough to be Carla’s aunt. (Don’t make me say mother.) Sometimes I do worry about her in motherly ways but other times I’m more like the younger sister who wants to be like her when I grow up.

She’s beautiful and cool in ways that are so foreign to me. On her worst days, she still looks kind of glamorous to me. She’s that person who can tie a scarf around a tee shirt and look chic. If I did the same thing, I’d look like shit.

Carla tells her story.

Carla tells her story.

But what I love most about Carla is that she wears her heart on her tattooed sleeve and she always keeps that heart open to the world. Always – even when it has been shattered. In spite of our significant age difference, we’ve led very parallel lives – becoming close when we were both navigating painful losses and then sharing each other’s blinding happiness when we found our mates.

I tried to simultaneously watch her and the other people in the room as she told her story. I was nervous for her but there was no need to be.

Carla glows from the inside out. I’ve always known that but last night, an audience got to see it, too.

score 10

Aplomb!

 

Hell on Wheels (Surviving I-40)

commuting

My commute to work used to be five minutes door to door – maybe seven if I hit all the lights red. Today my commute on a good day is 45 minutes and on a bad day, well, I don’t even want to talk about that.

I moved to Winston Salem almost two years ago to live with the woman who would become my wife. My job is in Greensboro and hers is in Winston Salem so someone was going to have to “suck it up” as she said. And that would be me.

joy

Who wouldn’t drive 72.2 miles round trip to see this smile every day?

Alas, the things we do for love.

Now I’m basically spending 7.5 hours a work week in my car and to survive I have had to be very intentional and creative about how I spend this time. So I thought I would share my mad commuter skills with you. No, they’re not for everyone but they have helped to keep me relatively sane with moderate road rage for almost two years.

  1. NPR – This is a natural. Everyone on WFDD, my NPR station of choice, has very calm voices, which is really nice, especially at 7:20 AM when I leave my house. I love the mix of local news and the national big picture. And I could listen to Sylvia Poggioli read the phone book. The only problem with NPR was that Inpr (1) was often hearing the same stories twice – once in the morning and then again in the evening. And I was becoming one of those public radio nerds that begins cocktail party conversations with, “I heard on NPR…” That is only charming or interesting the first five times.
  2. SiriusXM radio – This is essential because it gives you tons of options. Although I do not personally own any flannel items of clothing and I do carry a purse, as in a real handbag, I confess to being the stereotypical lesbian when it comes to sports, especially football. So during football season Mike and Mike in the Morning on the ESPN station is my escort for the drive into work.
Mike-Mike1

These are my Mikes.

For the uninitiated, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic are two dudes that sit around talking about sports for four hours every weekday morning. My wife cares more about the mating patterns of boll weevils than she does sports, so it’s fun to have my own in-car water cooler to hang around, especially on Monday mornings after big games.

After football season is over, my tolerance for that much testosterone wears thin and I’m on to something else.

news and notes

My pals Mario and Julia and some green guy.

Like Entertainment Weekly’s (yes, the magazine) station. It’s a bit like eating a Pop Tart – it has no intellectual nutritional value but it surely is tasty. My favorite show is on late in the afternoon, News and Notes with Julia Cunningham and Mario Correa. It’s basically a straight woman and her GBF talking about pop culture and you’re eavesdropping. It can be really delicious at times, especially when they’re busting on Mariah Carey or the latest episode of The Bachelor.

In my fantasy – spending so much time in my car is also conducive to day dreaming – my bestie Carla and I have our own show, Bookends, just like this blog and we dish endlessly on really important things like who would be our celebrity besties – Amy Adams and Ina Garten, and who would not – Gwyneth and Reese Witherspoon. Oh, and “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips would be our show’s theme song. #staytuned

  1. Audio books – This can be hit or miss and for me it’s more about the reader than the book. Sissy Spacek reading To Kill a Mockingbird has been my absolute favorite. Funny, since I had read the book and seen the film several times, but she brought the story alive again and created an entirely new experience for me. I’ve had a few stinkers, too, notably Frances Mayes’ latest, Under Magnolia . I loved her voice on Under the Tuscan Sun but this one was a monotone snooze fest not recommended for interstate driving.
  2. Foreign language CDs – Last summer I listened to Pimsleur’s Introductory Italian and that certainly keep me entertained for weeks. I wouldn’t say that I learned Italian but I could ask directions when in Rome.pent-learn-french-in-your-car-language-course-cd

My wife and I are going to Paris in September, so I’ll start listening to those CDs tout suite.

  1. Silence – That’s my default on drive homes when I’m suffering from sensory bombardment and I just don’t want to hear anything but the humming of my Soul. Oh, yeah, that’s my car, a Kia Soul. And lately, on these quiet drives, I’ve started taking photos. Calm down, I’m not endangering myself or others – I’m only snapping when the car is stopped and posting later. I’m liking this practice and thinking about incorporating it into an App that would make me a fortune. Roadstergram, anyone?

    The Soulmobile.

    The Soulmobile

The list could go on – pod casts, music, singing, writing out loud, etc. but this is enough for now. I don’t know how long I can keep this up and I feel like a weenie for complaining – my good friend, Rowe, has been commuting from Greensboro to Raleigh for years – without a peep.

He’s clearly a better person than I am. I know he’s a better driver.

Anyway, today the sun is shining, traffic is a breeze, and Mario and Julia are trashing Jennifer Lopez’s latest bad movie.

It is well with my Soul.

sunrise

Commute with a view. Photo credit: The driver

How to push through a creative block

Hello, world.

I feel as though I’ve been absent for some time now. The thing is, September and October were a complete blur for me and my need to write was extinguished by a series of, well, craziness.

We packed, we moved, we unpacked. Then, I discovered I had not one but two ovarian cysts. This news was followed by a brief walk through a patch of woods that left me covered front to back with poison ivy for three weeks; it was a nightmare. And then, my dog chased a squirrel into the woods and got speared by a tree branch in the process, resulting in a puncture wound and emergency surgery. My poor girl.

In retrospect, these series of events could have been great fodder for blog posts, but I’ve been unable to create lately. I’ve been feeling blocked. And if I’m being completely honest with myself, I haven’t been feeling like this for just the past two months; it’s more like the last year – or longer. I’ve journaled about it, reflected on it, read books and articles on the topic, but I could not figure out what was at the heart of this creative wall.

To help me uncover what was at the core, a few weeks ago, I turned to an online writing series facilitated by friend and poet Jacinta White. Becoming Undone: Unpacking Life’s Weight helped me identify the things in my life that are weighing me down and keeping me from moving forward. My “A-ha” moment came during the first writing prompt, where we had to write a list poem that began with the line: “Daily I carry … ” Without hesitation, guilt was the first word I scribbled in my notebook.

Photo by Carla Kucinski.

Photo by Carla Kucinski.

Continue reading