Friday, June 24, 2011

Eulogy for a Friend

As some of you may know, the House of Ginger was rocked with tragedy earlier this month. Yes, it's true; Elle Woods, my beloved iPod, died a tragic and sudden death. I don't want to go into the gruesome details, but let's just say that I learned a very important lesson about iPods and hairballs that I will never ever forget.

With respects to Love Story, what do you say about an iPod that dies? That she was beautiful and pink? That she loved Phish, Pink, showtunes, and me?

Elle was a big part of my life. She was a Christmas gift from my sis about two years ago and ranks as one of the top five Christmas gifts I've ever received. I had desperately wanted an iPod but couldn't really afford one and never ever expected my sister would be so generous. Elle and I became inseparable as I loaded her with all the music I could get my hands on. We had tremendous adventures riding cold buses full of speech kids on January mornings, watching movies together on the train to Chicago, or tooling around town running errands.

Elle loved to go to the gym and always managed to put together the perfect workout mix for that day. She knew what I needed to get pumped up and what I needed to cool back down.

She loved being out in the yard, mowing, gardening, or just sitting on the deck soaking up the sun while she found some great mellow jams to bide the time away.

She loved being backstage, providing a perfect blend of music to help me get focused before taking the stage -- or giving me a game or two of Solitaire to play to keep my mind off my stage fright.

She loved folk music, and so I know that she would urge forgiveness against the murderous cat whose dire need to expel a hairball was more pressing than her need to get off the damn table where Elle was snoozing away after a day in the sun keeping my sis and I entertained with her latest acquisition, the cast album for The Book of Mormon. (I told you girlfriend loved her showtunes.)

(The picture to the left is of Elle and her murderer in happier times. Note the look of premeditation and guilt on Clipper's stupid face.)

Even though Elle has gone to the great iCloud in the sky, I know that she is happy I've moved on to Bruiser Woods, a sassy little silver Nano that holds twice as much music as Elle could. I also know that as much as I will grow to love Bruiser, no one will ever take Elle's place in my heart. She was my first, my best, my everything. RIP, sweet Elle. Go entertain the angels with some showtunes and play a little Solitaire for me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

So I Know I Can't Dance

We are several weeks into the rehearsal process for All Shook Up. Despite my fears of singing in public, I've enjoyed the singing aspect of this experience. See, I do enjoy singing, but I've always been really self-conscious about singing in front of others. Alone, I love to rock out in my car or sing along with Rock Band on my Wii. Slowly but surely over the course of the past few weeks, I've gained little nuggets of confidence in myself and my ability to sing. I'll likely never be ready for a killer solo onstage, but singing with a group is pretty cool.

The problem for me is the little aspect of a musical that I sort of forgot about when I decided to audition -- dancing. Um, dancing kind of sucks. It's not that I lack rhythm. I've got rhythm. I do. What I lack is coordination. I struggle to get my hands and feet to go where they need to go when they need to go there. Factor in the fact that I am nearly 40 and struggling to get into some semblance of shape, and it's been a rough couple of rehearsals trying to grapevine and stomp and clap when I'm supposed to. Thank God I'm in the back row!

This process, though, has given me significantly deeper empathy. Every winter and spring, I ask a group of high school kids to get up on stage and perform. Sometimes, I make them dance. Every year, I get a couple kids who are not thrilled with the idea of dancing, who struggle with the whole concept, and every year, I get frustrated. "What's so hard about this?" I think to myself. Oh, what a fool I have been. Does this mean that I won't make kids dance anymore? Of course not. Going through this experience has taught me the importance of following through and working at something that does not naturally come easy to me. And if I can do this, so can my kids, but I'll couch it all much kinder and not roll my eyes when they tell me they can't dance.
After all, it's not that they (and I) CAN'T dance. It's just they they (and I) are not very good at it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Stomach!

Ah, friends, summer vacation has officially started. The first full week of break is now over, and I can tell you that this summer will speed by. Sorry, but I think it's true.

You may remember that last summer, I set a goal for myself to essentially radically change the way I ate. As I enter the final slide into 40 (it's now officially just four months away -- that's SIXTEEN WEEKS!), I wanted to make a concerted effort to improve my health. Last summer, I worked to introduce myself to foods I'd never tried before but which would be good for me. I became a devotee to vegetables like zucchini and other forms of squash. I discovered a love for quinoa. I worked to make my diet more and more healthy as I steered clear of fast food as often as I could (I can literally count on one hand the number of times I've had fast food french fries in the past year). Now, one year after making an agreement with myself to combat my picky (and unhealthy) eating habits, I feel like I've made drastic steps towards carving out a healthier life for me as I get ready to enter decade number four. (Okay, actually, I just realized that it's technically decade number five, but I'm not ready for that, so there!)

The big question, of course, is how has this change played out in the past 365 days. In the past year, I've lost right around 20 pounds (give or take, depending on the day). I've added exercise to the routine ( a challenge during the school year -- it was a long, inactive winter thanks to speech and musical rehearsals), and that's helped build up some muscle that had long been dormant. And I've continued the process of trying new foods -- kale, edamame, and several other types of fruits and vegetables. Tomorrow night, I'm being really brave and grilling fish. I've never been a fish eater, but I keep reading how healthy fish can be, so I bought some tilapia filets (I've been told it's a good, mild, transitional fish for the fish-concerned) that I'm going to try out on the grill.

This week, I've been using Calorie Count to keep track of what I'm eating and how much activity I'm getting in. The cool thing about Calorie Count is that it also goes through and analyzes what you eat to show you what nutrients you're low in, what you're getting to much of, et cetera. For example, today I was "too low" on carbohydrates but "too high" on cholesterol (thanks to the two eggs I had for breakfast). Overall, though, my menu for the day earned an A. Grade grubber that I always have been, that means a lot to me.

Obviously, I'm not perfect, and I hope that this doesn't sound preachy or sanctimonious or anything like that. I still have moments of weakness. I mourned the end of speech season last February with a pint of Ben and Jerry's that I downed in one sitting. Every couple of weeks or so, I have to break down and buy a frothy, fattening iced coffee concoction. I know I need to be careful around certain foods -- potato chips, chocolate -- and sometimes knowing that isn't enough to stop me from consuming. The difference now compared to other times I've tried "program" diets like Weight Watchers is that when I do give in and eat potato chips or Ben and Jerry's, I don't feel the guilt and shame that would usually send me spiraling completely off the wagon and back into unhealthy habits. Now, I just shrug and think, "Tomorrow will be better." Food is meant to be enjoyed, and sometimes you just need a Snickers bar. My goal right now is to just try to make sure that the days I need a Snickers are significantly fewer than the days I need an apple.

PS -- I also have to say that I probably could not have survived this year without my friend Debbi. She's joined me in this pact to pursue healthier habits, and I'm not sure I could have made it without her emails of encouragement, her recipe sharing, and knowing that there was someone else out there taking this journey. :)