Friday, April 25, 2008

Lies My Email Told Me

Shit like this really pisses me off.

First of all, the link to “The Great Burn” Web page showed up in an email from Shape Magazine. At first I thought it was some Shape-sponsored event, like when they do the workouts in Lincoln Park. No. Not exactly. This site is about Enviga, a new “sparkling green tea” beverage from our friends at Coke and Nestle. But, as best I can tell, this site is dedicated to further confusing the hell out of people who want to lose weight.

Basically, Shape, Men’s Fitness, Coke, and Nestle are all putting their stamps of approval onto a drink that they claim burns “negative calories.” Yes. Simply drink Enviga, and you’ll loss weight. From the email:
When it comes to burning calories, you’re not going to find a better partner than this one. See, Enviga is more than just a refreshing sparkling green tea. It has ingredients like caffeine and the mighty antioxidant EGCG, which are proven to burn extra calories by gently boosting your metabolism. Of course, weight loss requires a reduced calorie diet and regular exercise*. Enviga is just a little something extra to complement the things you do already.
Nice caveat Shape. Vomit.

Soft science at it’s best (worst?). First of all, if you want the benefits of green tea, then drink green tea! Don’t drink this crap. Second, when you separate nutrients from the original source the benefits are not as great. That is why taking vitamins are a distance second to eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes as a source for nutrients.

As for the caffeine… Here’s what Jillian Michaels, the Biggest Loser trainer has to say about caffeine and weight loss.
Lately there's been a lot of talk about caffeine and exercise. Studies have shown that consuming caffeine before working out enhances performance and helps to burn fat. Hey, don't down that pot of coffee just yet! You need to hear the whole story behind caffeine and exercise

First of all, coffee and Diet Coke isn't going to do it. As a fitness aide, caffeine is only effective when taken in pill form in conjunction with aspirin. When you drink coffee, tea, and soda, caffeine gives you short-term energy. That's because caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands. These glands dump adrenaline into your bloodstream like it's going out of style. When the caffeine leaves your system, your adrenal glands will be depleted for a while. This will leave you feeling weak and tired from low adrenaline levels.
What about EGCG?
Bayer was fined $3.2 million to settle FTC charges that its advertisements for One-A-Day WeightSmart pills violated an earlier FTC order that required all health claims for One-A-Day brand vitamins to be supported by sound scientific evidence. Bayer said that its product was marketed as a multivitamin, not a weight-loss pill, and that it settled to avoid the expense of litigation, the Associated Press reported.
One-A-Day WeightSmart vitamins advertised EGCG as the active ingredient that promoted weight loss.

I swear, you read something different every single day about weight loss, but this kind of soft science, magic bullet crap does far more harm that good. I don’t give a shit that the entire Enviga clinical study has been posted. The University that researched this product was paid by Nestle. Of course the findings are positive. Big business and powerful lobbies (think dairy, meat, artificial sweeteners) are behind much of the weight loss and health information that is disseminated into our American culture, which means the information is biased at best, and outright lies at worst. Keep that in mind. We should be nothing short of outraged that companies are willing and able to make outlandish claims like this one.

Update: I was infuriated enough about this that I decided to email Shape customer service just to tell them I would be removing my email from its lists and would never again subscribe to or buy Shape magazine. I understand how advertising dollars work, which is why I get the diet pill ads in the back of the magazine (though it would be great to see a magazine ix-nay that kind of BS). But to actively partner with and endorse a beverage as a diet aid, I mean, come on… it’s just impossible for me to consider Shape a reliable source of health and fitness information anymore.

And Enviga is being sued...


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Search This

I am shamefully uninspired this week. But this game is always fun. Let's see what Google searches are bringing up A View from the Park these days…

On the left is the search term, on the right is my signature, hilariously poignant commentary...

park lighter - pyrotechnics ?

hilarious things to do - I DO do hilarious things…

old fashioned countdown - as opposed to those new fangled countdowns losers - Apparently I am one?

oasis hummus - The best… and not widely represented on the Web.

"25 most memorable bathing suit moments" - I swear I never wrote this phrase.

"anger blackouts" - I don’t remember writing about anger-induced blackouts, but perhaps that’s the point.

"backpacking in africa" + "recipes" - remember the time I backpacked through Africa. No? Me neither, but it might have been during an angry blackout.

"running makes me angry" - Hell yeah it does. Like so angry I blackout.

(rich women looking for future husband)dating sites - Hmmm… sorry  No sugar mamas here.

a book called: the best dog ever - that sounds like a great book that I may have written during one of my infamous blackouts

a mind is a beautiful thing to waste - ‘tis.

body crave hummus - Yes it does. File under "great blog titles to use someday in the future when I inevitably write about hummus... again." That's a long file name.

camo beer cozy - Everyone needs one.

can i listen to music during the chicago shamrock shuffle? - no not technically, not on an iPod anyway. But we all do… shhhhh… don’t tell the race organizers.

coke is good with pizza - What kind of “coke” are we talking about?

eat like me spray butter - Yeah Spray Butter. Eat like me. Go on. Give it a try.

find rich men new york city - Is that a challenge?

focused chaos - Focused? Not really.

french toast suffle - What the hell is “suffle?”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wind in My Uncombed Hair

I have this theory about wearing makeup. Basically if people don’t ever see you wear it and then they do, everyone will think that you look fanfuckingtastic. True story. People are always shocked when they see me dressed up and wearing make up. This is of course coming from the woman who can barely convince herself it’s worth combing her hair for her coworkers.

But that’s another story.

So last night, after a quick two mile run with Meg, MM and I scratched are original plan and rode our bikes to a new sushi restaurant in the neighborhood. In an effort to get him to stop ordering food, I said, “Let’s go to Treats!” He wholeheartedly agreed, and off on our bikes we went to Lakeview for almost fat free without the toppings (I totally got toppings) frozen yogurt. I only had to yell at him like twice to slow down and stop weaving in and out of traffic. I mean, come on MM! I’m a newbie!

By the time we finally made it back to my apartment, it was well past 9 p.m.

Despite my fear that riding in Chicago traffic would be akin to a suicide mission, I found that it’s really not so bad. We even rode through Cubs game traffic -- drunk people, cars, buses, cops, crazies -- and managed not to run into peril.

This morning I woke up and thought, “This is it. Today is the day I ride to work.” And I did. It took me 45 minutes -- quicker than the bus and about the same as the train. I wore my heart rate monitor and burned almost 400 calories. Nice. A workout and transportation!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Foe Toes

by Lou from the Park

Chicago Traffic. This is the Irving Park Blue Line stop.

Oh My God!
It's mah bike.

MM felt compelled to buy this bike helmet today. He asked if it embarrassed me and I said, "Yes." But, it's OK.

Oh My God!
It's my bike from another angle.

And because I'm feeling saucy tonight...

That's me... that's MM. It's Friday night. We're on our way to a fundraiser thingy.

Once more, with feeling...I like this photo because I think MM looks drunk. He's not. This was taken post-bike ride tonight.

Old Ride, Renewed

I have a bike. I’ve actually had a bike for years.

After college, I saw an advertisement for a Trek bike on sale for $199. Not knowing anything about bikes or having any desire to do research, I figured it was a good enough deal, so I bought it and used it sporadically while living in Ohio. When I moved to Illinois for grad school, I left the bike behind in the care of my mom who rode it from time to time.

When Drama moved to Chicago from Ohio, I saw my opportunity and stowed the bike on the moving van. It has been resting in corners ever since.

Enter MM, biking fanatic. OK, maybe he’s not quite fanatical, but he’s done a few triathlons and uses his bike as his main mode of transportation in the summertime.

He was very excited at the prospect of us riding together, so a few weeks ago he rolled my bike down the street to my neighborhood bike shop to get it tuned up. Then, as an early birthday present (very early), he loaded my bike into his car and drove it out to the suburbs to have a rack and speedometer/odometer attached. He also bought me a nice bag to attach to the rack. I invested in a helmet and lock and voila! I am ready to roll!

Last night, MM and I rode our bikes together for the first time to one of our favorite restaurants in his neighborhood. I had the hummus (obvi). Tonight we’re going to bike to Whole Foods. God, sometimes when I write these things down, I kind of want to throw up because it’s so freaking disgusting/cute. Like… la la la la, me and my wonderful boyfriend ride our bikes to the organic grocery store and buy wholesome food and then we cook together. Oh vomit.

That’s really not the point.

I am suddenly struck by all the possibilities that exist in the city now that I have a working bike and all the necessary gear to go along with it. And I really, really, really want to start biking to work. But that’s crazy, right?

No I’m totally going to do it. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow. And, because I just got a new digital camera, maybe I’ll post some photos of my ride in the next few days.

I know, a bike and a camera. What is the world coming to?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Switching Gears

A long time ago, I met a girl in Chicago who cut and colored my hair. I'm not one to strike up a relationship with a stylist, but this girl… she really got me. She understood what I meant when I told her, “I want my hair to be the lightest blond it can possibly be without bleaching it,” and, “I don’t want it to be that icky yellow color.” I trusted her. I said things like, “I don’t know, do whatever you want.”

Icky. Huh.

That girl moved away, abandoning me and my hair forever (She's in Utah now BTW). But, I was determined to stick with the salon.

Enter some other dude at the salon who cut and colored my hair. He didn’t do a bad job, per say, but I have struggled with the bangs and bob since day one. And his hand shook when he was cutting my hair, and seriously, I’m not OK with that. Plus, he had a complex about beauty and youth and asked me questions like, “How old do you think I am? No… no really. How old?”

I answered early 30s even though I knew that the spray tan, the bleach blond surfer dude hair, and the ripped jeans all pointed directly upwards of 40. Try too hard, much?

It was a mixed experience. I still wanted to stick with the salon -- it’s reasonably priced by urban standards and right around the corner from work, plus I heart my eyebrow girl there -- but I didn’t want to back to him, which of course, makes going back to the salon to a new stylist nothing short of awkward.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that he quit. So that's good news.

And, I'm thinking of cutting all of my hair off. Pixie-style.

Monday, April 14, 2008

If At First

In the great tradition of crazy, I have signed up for my first triathlon, and -- I have to admit -- I am super excited. For me, this seemed like a quick decision, from obsession to research to registration, but I did it, and all the parts and pieces are in order.

On Saturday, after finding the Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate my dad gave me for Christmas (in a laundry basket no less), MM and I went for a run (on the treadmill -- I did a little more than seven miles and nearly collapsed -- no good at all) then drove to the suburbs so I could outfit myself for triathlon training. I bought a bike helmet, a swim cap, goggles, and a bathing suit -- a black Speedo because I’m serious about this shit.

When we finally walked into my apartment at 6pm, I said, “Well, I guess all that’s left to do is register…” And I did it. Right then and there.

So it’s official, I’m registered to participate in the Danskin Triathlon in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin on July 13 -- that’s a .5 mile swim, a 12.4 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run. I start training right after the Flying Pig Half Marathon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

An Inconvenient Obsession

I’ve been having a lot of vivid dreams lately -- all over the place really with themes and subject matter -- which I’m always convinced means something. I’m not sure what… but something.

Last night, I dreamt about running the Chicago Marathon. MM and Meg were running too, and my sister had come to support me. It was great. Except when the race was over -- or at least when MM and Meg finished -- I realized that I had never started. Read: not “didn’t finish,” but rather “never started.”

I was totally confused. How is it that I failed to cross the start line? I went into panic mode. All the training, all the time, this was the marathon, and I missed it. Panicked, I started planning on registering for another marathon in a week or so… wait a second… this part sounds oddly familiar

Anyway, yesterday I became obsessed with the idea that I need to train for a triathlon. Like… right now.

Where is this coming from? I’ve already committed to the marathon; I’m registered, in a training program, fundraising for a charity. I must be losing my mind.

Oh, it gets nuttier. Here’s what I said to MM last night on the phone:

“You know, I think I want to do a half Ironman next year.”

He of course, thinks this is a fabulous idea, but…

“You really should do an Olympic triathlon first.”

The man has a point.

There’s a story I love to tell. You've all heard it. It's the one about how I started running because two years ago my sister had the foresight to take an offhanded comment I made when I found out she was training for a half marathon (Maybe I should start running) as serious and gave me the Runner's World Complete Book of Beginning Running for Christmas. The rest is, as they say, history.

The part I always forget… the part that’s collecting dust on my overflowing bookshelf… is that she gave me another book, Triathlons for Women.

Last night, when I got off the phone with MM, I actually pulled myself out of bed (I like to talk on the phone while falling asleep), took the book off the shelf, and started reading.

But, why now?

Maybe it’s because all the parts and pieces are suddenly in place. My bike, which has been shoved in to a corner for two years, is tuned up and ready to ride. My new gym, despite being douchebag central, has a pool. And running… well… we all know about the running.

This is the race I am considering. It's an all female race in Pleasant Prairie, WI on July 13. I would prefer to do an Olympic distance (0.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run), but since marathon training is a non-negotiable at this point, a sprint triathlon (.5 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) might really be more realistic. But, I don't know, doesn't that just sound... short?

We shall see...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Like an Out of Shape Child

A few thoughts for the day…

Bus Duty
I find it incredible that no matter how much cardio I incorporate into my life and no matter how many times I visit the gym, I still feel like I’m on the verge of a heart attack if I run to catch the bus.

First of all, I realize that some of you aren't "lucky" enough to have public transportation play an integral role in your life. When you don’t have a car, or even if you do, but you rely on public transportation for the important stuff -- like getting you to work -- you learn quickly that you are slave to it. Your life and your ability to be on time, or even just not unreasonably late, are forever bound to the bus or train and its ability to be on time or just not unreasonably late. This is why, when you see a bus or hear the train, you run. You run like hell to catch that damn bus or train.

Like I did… this morning. Sure I was carrying my purse and gym bag, I was wearing ballet flats, and while I wouldn’t say I was sprinting, I was probably moving a little faster than I usually do when out for a jog. I ran four blocks and managed to catch the bus, two stops later, panting and sweating, my mouth dry and my heart pounding. And, I think that I can run a marathon.

I am starting to believe that the truest tests of physical fitness are bus chasing and stair climbing. I smell a biathlon…

Bathroom Confessional
Don’t you love it when people at work decide to treat the other people at work like children? Recently, someone posted a sign in each stall in the women’s restroom reminding us to be courteous of others and to not flush paper towels and similarly condescending kindergarten-ish reminders: If you make a mess, clean it up.

Uh, duh.

I mean seriously, we’re all adults here… Do we not know what to do with a toilet at this point? Do we not understand what is appropriate bathroom etiquette, and what is not? What really bugs me about the sign is that I have no idea who hung it there, but I have the sneaking suspicion that it was typed out, laminated, and stuck in each stall by another coworker on my floor who simply has too much time and too much interest in the bathroom. Perhaps they need some blogs to read?

I wrote the other day that I have missed my writing class two weeks in a row. Finally, last night I set aside my shame and attempted to right my wrongs. I emailed the instructor explaining that I had missed the last class, and could she please send me the assignment so I can be prepared for this Sunday. Yes, I blatantly failed to mention that I had actually missed two classes, not one. She wrote back:
Thank you for writing to me. Why not bring in your dialogue from this past week and we'll take it from there?
Oh the shame. What dialogue? I wrote her back:
Unfortunately, I missed the class prior to last Sunday too because I was out of town on business. So I don't know what that assignment was either. I'm sorry; could you send that to me as well? The first assignment I have was for the monologue.
Gravel, gravel. She responded quickly:
Okay: Write 10-15 lines of dialogue exploring comic character: pov, wants, reactions, subtext.Without the benefit of class hours you'll just have to wing it.
Wing it? Let’s be honest, if there’s one thing I do not know how to write it’s dialogue. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so hell-bent on taking personal essay non-fiction courses in college (because all I’ve ever wanted to write about is me, me, and more me), I’d be in a bit better shape.

I’m hoping the Internets will be able to help me out with some tips, or maybe step-by-steps instructions titled, “How to explore a comic character through dialogue.” So far, my Googling has been fruitless.

According to my email, there are 23 days until the Flying Pig.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Getting Schooled

Man, the Internet is full of useful stuff. I learn new things every day. Like how to count backwards, beginning with 26.

I mentioned this yesterday on Reading Cookbooks, but for the last three days I have been getting emails from the Flying Pig race organizers in Cincinnati:

26 Days until Flying Pig Marathon Weekend!
26 Days until Flying Pig Marathon Weekend!

For some reason, I was still shocked when I logged on to my email this morning and saw this:

24 Days until Flying Pig Marathon Weekend!

Seriously? Do we really need to do this… every day? I mean, how much could you possibly have to tell me? Show up, hydrate, good luck, if you get lost, keep an eye out for a couple thousand other runners…

I mean, once a week, fine, but daily?

More running stuff coming at ya…

I was poking around on this Web site today, and I must say I’m very intrigued. From the Web site:
ChiRunning combines the inner focus and flow of T'ai Chi with the power and energy of running to create a revolutionary running form and philosophy that takes the pounding, pain, and potential damage out of the sport of running. The ChiRunning program increases mental clarity and focus, enhances the joy of running, and turns running into a safe and effective lifelong program for health, fitness, and well-being.
While MM and I were roaming around a Borders this past weekend, and I happened to see the book of the same name. I went so far as to point it out to MM because of his passing interest in Tai Chi, but didn’t even bother to pick it up and page through it!

Now, because I’m a sucker for this kind of a crap and a bit of a book whore, I may have to go buy it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

You Wanna Talk Jesus

Tell me, does this count as an existential crisis?

I’m standing in the bean aisle at the grocery store (which is also the canned vegetable aisle, the “ethnic foods” aisle, and the condiment aisle) and I can’t find garbanzo beans. They just… aren’t there. All the other beans are there. Is it possible that all cans of garbanzo beans were purchased over the weekend and now reside tucked away in the dark pantries of Northcenter, Lincoln Square, and Ravenswood homes? Does a grocery store just sell out of garbanzo beans? Are there rumors of a hummus shortage, and if so, why wasn't I -- a known hummus addict -- informed of the impending crisis?

I stared* bewildered. I methodically looked up and down each shelf scanning the various names – black beans, kidney beans, white beans, great northern beans, chili beans, baked beans. I shook my head in disbelief -- I simply must have missed something -- and repeated the process. Finally, I gave up, partly because the woman standing next to me had two shrieking children running around her cart, and I could no longer concentrate on the task at hand.

I felt so… lost.

My mom had called me not long before I entered the grocery store. During the phone call, we had a semi-heated discussion about a comedy writing class I had agreed to take at Second City. She bankrolled me – it was a birthday present last June, but I hemmed and hawed and put the class off for several months partially because I was training for the marathon, partially because I have become tired, in my old jaded age, of fooling myself that there is hope for a future in comedy writing – or, on some days, a future in any writing at all.

I failed to mention this class to anyone, with the exception of one or two people, because I felt myself lacking any kind of real commitment. But, my mom... she believes I’m destined to be the next Tina Fey. Or someone. My mom thinks I should write. My reasons for signing up were almost exclusively to appease her. And, on the first day of the class, I stood up, introduced myself, and said, “My mom wanted me to do this, so that’s why I’m here.” I got a few laughs out of that one, and I haven’t been back since.

It wasn't on purpose really, the second class was the day after I got back from Minneapolis, and after running the Shamrock Shuffle, I wasn’t up for three hours of comedy writing. The third class was yesterday, and while I wish I had a better excuse – I was on my deathbed, or saving dogs or children from a burning building, or something similarly dramatic – I simply forgot.

Then my mom, on the phone with me today, said this: Lou, everything you do can’t revolve around MM.

I was… aghast. Offended. Speechless. How dare she suggest that I, the daughter who has spent plenty of time on her own, doing her thing, would ever let her life revolve around a guy. She must be crazy.

I immediately went on the defensive, “Mom! I do not revolve everything in my life around MM. I am just busy, and I had other things going on.”

“OK. What’s going on?”

I didn’t have a real answer.

“Well, I went for a nine mile run this weekend, and hung out with @, and went bowling.” None of those activities really accounted for my schedule between noon-3pm on Sunday.

She wasn’t mad, but I could tell she was disappointed. I was, after all, wasting quite a bit of money by not even bothering to show up to the class. I promised her I wouldn’t miss any more. And, on the off chance I have any desire to continue taking writing courses at Second City, I can’t miss anymore. If you miss more than two, you can’t move on in the program.

We got off the phone, but I was still fuming about her comment. I replayed the conversation in my head, before it hit me. Oh my God. She’s right. And MM thinks it too.

Fueled by one too many beers late on Friday night, MM and I had gotten into an argument that we spent half of Saturday morning sorting through. It went something like this:

MM: I just want you to understand that sometimes I’m going to need to take a few hours to be by myself and get some things done.

Lou: You have time to yourself. I have never been a pain in the ass about you needing time to get your schoolwork done, or to go for a run. You do those things. I don’t understand what you want. Do you want to spend less time together?

MM: No, I don’t want to spend less time together. I do get enough time to myself.

Lou: Then I don’t get why you’re telling me this.

MM: You asked how I was feeling. And I was feeling like I needed to tell you this.

Or something to that effect.

He and my mom must be in cahoots, debating linguistics, whether I’ve become too clingy or too needy, or both, and strategizing about how to get me to snap out of it and see the error of my pathetic ways.

But, if I really examine my behavior, the pattern is undeniable.

The effort I make – to do anything at all really – has declined drastically in the last several months. Perhaps, without realizing it, I spent the winter months blaming the winter months on the seasonal "blahs," but now that spring is here, I’m the only one not getting any better. Not to say I’ve completely neglected every thing and every one, but my communication with friends who are faraway has been few and far between; my emails to former business contacts inquiring about lunch are long overdue; there have been a few incidences when I haven’t even bothered to accept or decline an invitation; and this weekend I snapped my phone shut after half-finishing a text message to a friend in the neighborhood because it was just too much… effort. I never responded to her. Truth be told, my lack of effort is extending far beyond friends. I haven’t done laundry since I have returned home from Minneapolis. I repeatedly wear the same blue jeans; I haven’t put on makeup in months; and everyday my hair is pulled into the shortest of ponytails, and my bangs are pinned back from my face.

And all of this effort is not expended because… why? Because I’m… busy? Doing what? There’s my job, where “they” force me to spend approximately seven hours of my day. And then there are my blogs, but let’s face it, I mostly write at work – er – on my lunch break. And I have my training, but only for a half marathon, and while that used to be my thing, I’m now running the race that MM picked out with his running buddies. And then there's my writing class, which I keep skipping because I’m too wrapped up in the fact that I’m spending my day off with MM.

Apparently I barely remember I have my own life.

This is a problem. First of all because if MM and I do manage to stay together, he will always have something else: if it’s not his job, it will be school; if not school, he will be starting a random business with friends; if it's not training for a marathon, it will be training for an Ironman. He’ll always be busy. He’ll always want his own thing to some degree. But, what will I be doing while he's off being some form of productive? Eating Ben & Jerry's, getting fatter by the nanosecond, and skipping my writing class while I wait for him to come home -- or worse -- come over? Sadly, this version of rock bottom seems closer than is comfortable. But maybe it's just in this moment.

Second, I’ve spent a lot of time alone in Chicago, trying to build a life for myself. Having a boyfriend helps me feel at home in my adopted city, but ultimately if our relationship doesn’t work out, I know from experience that his people – friends and family – will never be my people separate of him. Maintaining my life, my friends, and my connections needs to be a priority because… well, it just is. He will never be able to be all things to me, and if I neglect my other relationships, I’m the one creating the void. I’m the one neglecting.

Hard lessons learned. Perhaps, this is what MM was actually trying to say. But, knowing me I've attached new meanings to words that were meant to be nothing more than the simplicity of what was said. Oh to be a dude.

I suppose, at this point there's nothing left to do tonight, but my laundry.


Better All the Time

Yesterday, Meg and I ran nine miles. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t the greatest, but after a long winter of spotty (shitty) training, it was good enough. Sometimes I forget that nine miles is far, and shouldn't necessarily be easy. And, thank God, this puts us back on track for the Flying Pig Half Marathon, which is in exactly 26 days according to the blast email that was sitting in my inbox today. So…


Mark your calendars, people. That’s May 4. Seriously: Lou Runs the Flying Pig Half Marathon. It’s important. Write it down.

I am super excited for the trip to Cincinnati, mostly because my mom and her fiancĂ© are driving down to hang out. We are planning a big dinner (somewhere?) the night before the race, which will include everyone we know in a 50 mile radius: my mom, her fiancĂ©, his daughter, her husband, Meg, a friend of Meg’s who lives in Cincinnati, MM, three of his friends, and hopefully our Summer ’07 CES running friend Lindy, her two adorable little girls, and her husband (Lindy, I’m calling you out via blog!).

As you can tell, we’ve taken a decidedly “the more, the merrier” approach to the trip.

And, the best part is that my mom will have an audience with multiple cops and a social worker, which will provide her with ample opportunities to rehash her much loved “when I was a parole officer” stories. It's going to be awe-some.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Perspective at Heart

I am a relationship pessimist. Not all the time, I suppose, and often, it’s a philosophical struggle between my heart and my head just to maintain the party line, “Get out now before it’s too late.”

I imagine that reads tragically and causes many of you wonder what the hell is wrong with me, similar to how I wonder the same thing and, in all likelihood, more often than you do.

I’m also bizarrely sentimental and dramatic and a host of other adjectives primarily reserved for women. And, I regularly suffer from a sort of emotional tourette's syndrome.

Maybe it’s the great Chicago thaw of 2008, which we are currently experiencing, or the reappearance of the sun after it spent a long winter hibernating behind a cloud, or perhaps, it’s the hangover I keep waking up with everyday despite the marked lack of booze in my life, but rather than do anything productive, I’m in the mood to write. Or Internet stalk old flames. Or re-read my old posts, just because sometimes, I like to shake my head and think “Damn I’m good,” and give myself mental pat on the back for a blog well done.

Like this one. Or this one.

But really, I’m just reminiscing about this time, last year.

We haven’t hit an anniversary yet, but I’m itching to relive it, for reasons I can’t quite verbalize (the pessimist insists that it’s “the beginning of the end”). But, it was this time, last year, that I met MM at Nerds at Heart.

Look for mentions of “that guy who got in touch with me” or similarly vague and nondescript language in the aforementioned posts. Clean cut. Not my type.

All true. Unfortunately I was suffering from the disease cumbersomely known as “Your type is all wrong for you.”

I remember meeting him that night. MM and I had been placed in the same board game group. He sat next to me and when I turned to talk to him -- about nothing notable -- he just short of starred with goofy grin on his face and never really responded. I thought he was weird, and I was mildly shocked, but nonetheless unenthused, when I received a message informing me that he would like to get in touch. At least, I reasoned, it wasn’t from the weird insurance salesman suited up in polyester.

After a lukewarm attempt to set a date through a series of bland email exchanges, I brushed MM aside with nary a thought. Of course, I had started seeing someone else. When I told Someone Else that I had been asked out by another guy and turned him down, he responded, “Whatever. If you had actually been interested in him, you would have gone out with him,” effectively washing his hands of the sad fact that he did have something to do with my response to MM.

That should have been my first clue… or my fiftieth.

The timing was undeniably better, for a multitude of reasons, four months later when MM and I re-met at another Nerds event.

So, for those of you who watch Oprah and are into things like "fate," there you go.

I love how we met. There are details I know now that are just too cute not to share… like that MM had been to two events prior to the one we met at and he had never contacted anyone… or that he was dreadfully nervous to email the event organizers and pass his information along to me… or the night we re-met was the first time either of us had been back. I love recounting April and August, our first dates, the first time he looked at me and I knew he was in love, the first time I knew that we felt exactly the same way about each other... those moments when it was all mine to give and to take.

But things change, if only for the sheer fact that when you're in your late-twenties and early-thirties, you can't maintain a level of constant emotional overload. You can't spend all your time in bed, studying each other's faces and waxing poetic about being "in love," because eventually everyone will hate you, not to mention that you have errands to run and an apartment to clean.

It’s as if, sometimes, I feel like I’ve never been in a relationship before and I don’t know how to behave myself. Or maybe that this is just a better relationship, or a good relationship, and I don’t know how to behave myself when there isn’t spite or anger or guilt or malice or even cynicism involved.

The Pirate and I were a good match at times, but we bickered often and we were very young and often separated by bodies of water and miles of land, a set of circumstances that begged pain and passion and all the emotions one confuses with love. I was 20-years-old at the time, but I still can conjure up the tragic image of me lying on my bed during the summer in Athens, Ohio, starring at a picture of him and crying for what seemed like hours on end, but in reality, the whole thing was probably far less dramatic. But it seemed like, at the time, I could almost taste the distance between us.

Then, after college, there was a guy named Brian, who is so far removed from my life, I feel comfortable using his real name. We dated for more than a year, and even lived together at one point, and yet I remember nothing of the relationship except that he basically sucked and we barely got along. I realized after the fact that it was a relationship based on the most basic of conveniences -- same place and time, no other prospects -- and that a key ingredient necessary to make a relationship work is actually liking the other person as a person sharing space with you on this planet, and quite frankly, we did not.

Near the end of graduate school, the Pirate contacted me, and we convinced ourselves, after a series of phone conversations and one journey halfway across the country (Chicago to Boston), that we should give it another shot. The reasoning was sound, “We were young,” “Things will be different now,” and all of the other rationalizations made to convince oneself that what didn’t work before will work now because everything is different. We’re different.

We failed to recognize, of course, that that is a lie.

I packed all of my belongings in my Corolla and drove Boston after graduate school to live with the Pirate while I looked for a job. During my stay, I often found myself alone with Jen, a roommate of his, tall and blond in her mid- to late-thirties whose sole occupation was being a clown, during normal business hours because, well, I was unemployed and apparently clowns don't keep a regular schedule.

Jen rolled me cigarettes in the basement where she had set up a “smoking den,” really just a futon and a few plastic chairs separated from the furnace and the washer and dryer by psychedelically patterned threadbare sheets. We smoked while she imparted to me her conspiracy theories (something about air travel and wormholes), and I realized she was totally out of it and probably had been for some time and hoped she was on medication. I pray now that she didn’t take a liking to me because I reminded her of her “at a young age.”

One day, Jenn felt it her duty as my elder to criticize my undoubtedly flawed relationship with the Pirate. “You don’t lift each other up,” she observed. I distinctly remember her motioning with her hands as though she was placing a glass in a high cabinet, or making an offering to some alter. Apparently, her boyfriend, who was named Rick and did something terribly manly, like welding or pipe fitting, lifted her up spiritually, or emotionally, or maybe physically, perhaps all three -- I don’t know. But not the Pirate and I, we bickered, and made jokes at the expense of one another, and peppered our conversations with sarcasm and wit. Every time I remember her critique, I wonder if maybe she was right. Of course, her relationship with Rick ended too.

I left Boston shortly after arriving when I was offered a job in Chicago. I like to believe that my second attempt at a relationship with the Pirate just sort of fizzled; no one said it was over, the calls just stopped one day, and there was a mutual understanding. But that’s not what happened, and the real story is tied to too many other stories to tell here.

Finally, Drama and I, after a decade-long friendship, dove headfirst into the shallow end of love. The relationship, which began with an intensity that convinced us to tie up all lose ends and uproot our lives to make “our life,” ended nothing short of hateful. He blamed (and probably still blames) me for everything. He moved away and I moved away, only he moved farther, which somehow made him a martyr. We were all wrong for each other. We had different values, different goals, different lifestyles, and eventually it became evident that neither of us would compromise… on anything… ever.

I recognized a few months ago, that no matter how long it lasts at this point, my relationship with MM is the next big relationship in my life. Sometimes my heart knows that this is "it," whatever “it” means. And sometimes, my head argues that we’ve reached a tipping point and it could be over at any moment despite no real evidence that things are headed south except a couple of stressful days during which we bickered because we were tired, or hungry, or both.

I don’t know who to believe.

I remember saying to a friend not too long ago, “A couple of bad days does not undo an overall good relationship,” or something to that effect, and yet, I have a hard time believing it myself. And the funny part is (and my use of the word “funny” here is loose) that he doesn’t know anything is wrong. And neither do I. Perhaps, it’s just a feeling that needed 1,500 words to describe.

But what I imagine is actually going on here, is that sometimes, when I read a book -- especially a book of essays -- and I really relate to the author's voice, my inner monologue takes on that voice and persona and suddenly, there's all of this... stuff that needs to be written down. I'm sure other people do that too, writers and wannabe writers. I'm not different. I'm remarkably the same.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Reading Cookbooks

... because your Google Reader is lonely.

Post Trauma

The residual effects of my week long business trip to Minneapolis for a conference have not -- apparently -- worn off quite yet. After another restless night of sleep peppered with dreams of managing John Wood’s book signing (Oh my God, it’s not in the script!!!), I very nearly jumped out of bed when the alarm went off at 5:45am.

Only it wasn’t for me. It was MM’s alarm. I sunk back into bed, mumbling something about being “really confused,” and laid awake while MM got ready for work convincing him and myself that I must be suffering from some mild case of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Of course, I immediately Googled “post traumatic stress syndrome” when I arrived at work. The symptoms include:
  • Recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma (three consecutive nights of dreams about the conference)
  • Avoidance to the point of having a phobia of places, people, and experiences that remind the sufferer of the trauma and a general numbing of emotional responsiveness (I left work yesterday because of a “terrible headache,” which was true, but I probably could have powered through it)
  • Chronic physical signs of hyperarousal, including sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, and hypervigilance to threat (sleep problems... check; irritability... check; anger... check, though I noticed a sharp decline in the irritability and anger when I laid off the dairy and went back to eating vegan yesterday; wait... I missed something... I know... hyperarousal... that's what she said... hell yeah it is)
The odd part is that I was perfectly fine before and during the conference. It seems wildly unfair that I should be upset and stressed out about the conference after the fact, particularly since, by all accounts, it was a rousing success (so this is what it feels like to be universally loved…).

According to the Web site I am plagiarizing, I could also be experiencing acute stress disorder. The major differences between the two disorders are that acute stress disorder symptoms persist from two days to four weeks, and a fewer number of traumatic symptoms are required to make the diagnosis as compared to post-traumatic stress syndrome.

I’ve totally got that.

Or I’m suffering from sugar withdraw.

It's one or the other.