Friday, January 30, 2009

Wanted: A pair of pants that cover my butt

It’s time for a new pair of workout pants. Let me tell you why. Because of my old, worn out pants, this is how my workout went today. First, listen to Kayne West’s “Love Lockdown” while very subtlety doing a little air drumming with my right hand. The percussion in that song is just awesome, makes me want to go back in time and sign up for marching band. I tend to move to the music in some form while I workout. It amazes me how people can stoically pound away on the treadmill, listening to music on their headphones and not move to the beat in any way. No sudden hand movements, no head bopping, no slight shoulder shifting, nothing. They pump their arms and throw back their feet like a human metronome. Watching them from behind it’s just, slap, slap, slap, and elbow, elbow, elbow. If we had the space at home for a treadmill, I would sing/dance/run as much as safety and lung capacity would allow. I’ve often imagined what would happen if I just started singing along to my favorite song at my club. To just once really let it go, to belt out the song with reckless abandon while playing the air guitar and running up an incline on the treadmill. There should be a group class that encourages such behavior.

Anyway, despite this great new song, my workout ran into a little kink. My pants kept slipping down. Not just a little bit, but a lot. Already these pants are “low rise” workout pants. Today they morphed into “butt crack” pants. Now, I knew these pants were past their prime. I think they were given to me right after Elizabeth was born, which makes them about 6 years old. But, with no other clean workout bottoms to wear, I thought they would do for the day. Wrong!

Things started out ok, but as the workout went on, the pants continued to stretch out. By the last 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, I was cycling through the following pattern: three head tilts to the beat of “Love Lockdown”, one yank to bring the back of my pants up over my crack, followed by a swift pull- down- and- over- move with my shirt. The goal was to overlap the shirt with the darned pants for some additional butt crack protection. Finally, I did three confident slides on the machine knowing my crack was covered before starting the cycle all over again. After the fourth round of this, I wondered if I wasn’t attracting attention to myself with the constant pulling and tugging of my clothes. I probably looked like some lady with an unusual form of OCD.

Those pants need to be thrown away, which means I’ll have to go out hunting for new pair. And what is worse than shopping for bathing suit? Shopping for workout clothes, those of you who have done it know exactly what I mean. But I’ll take my own advice before I head out the door for a new pair. Which is: “Embrace your butt. “ Or your thighs or whatever part of yourself you are sure looks horrible. Who cares? I have this thing about appreciating your body no matter what form or shape or size it is in. Whatever hang ups you have, let ‘em go. Appreciate what your body can do for you today. I’m ok with my butt, my thighs and everything else. Listen, they are not perfect and will never be perfect and nobody really cares. Last time I checked, I didn’t have any big modeling gigs lined up and hooray for that. Honestly, there is amazing freedom in truly loving your body just as it is, no exceptions.

So while my butt and the new pants may not appear in the latest fitness magazine, it will at least stay securely covered up in a brand new pair of pants, leaving me able to get my groove on and thoroughly enjoy my workout.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Forbidden Fruit

Kai proudly walked in to the bathroom this morning balancing a plastic pink scalloped plate with a fake piece of cake on it, and a matching miniature teacup. Carefully, he slid the plate on the counter top, grinned up at me and announced, “Here mommy, you protein bahhh and wader.”

“Oh, thank you Kai!” I said, nibbling my cake/protein bar and sipping the water.

“You’re welcome!” he said, turning his back to me. I watched, smiling to myself as he headed back to his work in the playroom.

It got me thinking. They really do watch everything you do, and apparently what you eat. Poor Kai. He is dying for a protein bar, but I don’t let the kids have them. Those puppies are expensive and I save them for when I am working a lot and driving all over the place.

I am probably setting up the perfect “forbidden fruit” scenario. Kai will be a grown man who just can’t get enough of the peanut butter Pure Protein bars. He’ll eat one before dinner, just for the heck of it. He’ll eat two in a day. His underwear drawer will house an emergency stash of bars.

Growing up in our house, the forbidden item was pop, specifically Pepsi. We couldn’t drink pop until high school, unless of course, we were eating Mexican or pizza, then pop was allowed. I guess my mom felt that restricting soda from these meals bordered as cruel and unusual punishment. I’d have to agree.

To this day, I truly enjoy soda. I drink diet soda, but know it does nothing for my body and water would serve me much better. I’ve tried to go cold turkey a few times, but then I run into the problem of what to drink with Mexican and pizza. Water is not an option, it just does not add to the experience at all. I’m not too fond of beer. What does that leave me with? Kool-aide? Well, now, that is just silly. I certainly can’t give those foods all together, what is life like without Mexican food and pizza? I do not want to know.

So into this life a little soda shall rain. It’s a simple treat, even now that is no longer technically forbidden.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My famous story

In honor of our first African American President being sworn in today, I’ll share my most famous story ever…

Until I turned 6 years old, I thought my Dad was black. He is not. But let me explain how I came to believe that he was a wonderful black man. As a child growing up in suburban Minneapolis, our family socialized with a handful of other families with children our age. Since our closest relatives lived just north of Louisville, we spent many holidays and birthdays together with these families. The Williams’s made up one of the families in this inner circle of friends.

Mr. and Mrs. Williams lived in a big house with a finished basement that included a pool table, an air hockey table and foosball. They had 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. Two of the children were biological and two were adopted into the family. One of the boys, Andrew, was my age. Naturally, we played together often. Mrs. Williams was white, Mr. Williams was black. One day at school, I witnessed one of the sour faced boys spit out something nasty about Andrew. It had something to do with being “mixed”. Feeling confused and concerned for Andrew, I stepped off the bus that day and asked my mom what “mixed” meant.

Let me back up for just a moment here, you have to understand something about my mom. Growing up, she took all of our questions seriously. My mom would never say, “That’s just how it is because I say so.” Lying about a subject just to get us to move along and leave her alone did not happen. If you asked my mom where babies came from she would launch into an explanation, full of the proper terms, throwing out vocabulary like penis, vagina and something about how Queen Elizabeth created the slang of calling breasts “boobs”. Sometimes she lost me. Other times, you regretted asking the question. Most of the time though, you got the correct answer.

Mom explained that this boy was using this term to refer to Andrew’s skin color. Since Mrs. Williams was white and Mr. Williams was black, the boy was trying to use the word in a mean way to say that Andrew is a mixture of white and black. She went on to explain the bare bones of prejudice and how there are people in the world who think that white skin is better than black skin. “What you need to know," she continued, “is that the Williams family was created out of love, just like any other family. The fact that they happen to have different skin colors just makes them special.“ I walked away from that discussion sure of two things. Mr. Williams was black and that made their family special.

My parents and the Williams’ played tennis together on Saturday mornings in the summer. While they volleyed back and forth, all of the kids climbed the adjacent playground. That Saturday, I examined all of the different shades of skin. Mr. Williams’ skin was darker than his wife’s, about the same as his kids, and slightly darker than everyone in my family. Everyone, that is, except for my Dad! As my Dad smacked the neon yellow ball back over the net, I took a closer look. Yes, my Dad’s skin was WAY darker than Mr. Williams’. Come to think of it, my Dad’s skin was darker than almost every adult male I knew. Mr. Williams had dark hair, so did my Dad. Mr. Williams had a mustache, so did my Dad. The wheels turned and sparks flew across my mind excitedly.

That had to mean that my dad was black too! What luck! My Dad was black, and now, just like Andrew, I too, would be special and unique. From that moment, perched high on the monkey bars, I took great pride in my Dad’s cocoa skin. In the months that followed, I circled black baby dolls in catalogs, hoping Santa would bring me one. I longed for black Barbie Dolls, admiring their plastic brown skin and long chestnut hair. When Cabbage Patch Kid mania swept the toy stores, my mom proudly secured “Buddy”, my first Cabbage Patch doll, making me the only kids I knew who had a with a black Cabbage Patch. Meanwhile, my mom chalked up my new preference in dolls as a direct result of her efforts to raise my sister and me as sensitive multi-cultural children.

One day, my mom picked me and a friend up from kindergarten. My friend, Heidi, started talking about her Dad. She blabbed on and on about how great he was and all the things he could do. He could drive a bulldozer, just fixed the plumbing in their bathroom, and oh yes, did she mention how strong he was? Gag. No worries, she didn’t know just what I had tucked up my sleeve. I listened patiently, waited for the pause, and leaned forward to drop the bomb, “Oh yeah, well my dad is BLACK!” And with that, I tipped up my chin, crossed my arms over my Strawberry Shortcake shirt and allowed the seat belt to pull me backwards feeling quite satisfied.

My mom’s head jerked my way, “Kate honey, Dad isn’t black.”
“Yes he is,” I said.
“What makes you think Dad is black?”
“Well, you said Mr. Williams is black, and Dad has way darker skin than Mr. Williams does.”
My mom sighed, “Oh, Kate, there is more to being black than just the color of your skin. Dad just gets very tan. He is just dark skinned. He isn’t black.”

What?!! Isn’t that what she told me before, just different skin colors, no big deal, it just makes us special, and so on? Anger and frustration simmered beneath my own pale skin. I looked out the window, the trees blurred trees as we sped along. Heidi smiled smugly. That fateful day marked the end of the black dolls. I went back to my life as a boring white kid who apparently had a spectacularly tanned, but not black, father.

This week, I’ve thought about this story quite a bit. As Barrack Obama takes office, my daughter wants to know why someone shot Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “What is prejudice?” she keeps asking over and over again. Our answers continue to fall short, just as my mom’s answer to my own questions regarding race wasn’t clear to my own kindergarten mind many years ago.

My Dad isn’t black, but as of today, my President is.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My 2009 Resolutions

I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles in the past couple of weeks where the author denounces the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions, but…if you twisted such author’s arm, the following list is what would follow.

You will find none of that pooh-poohing here. I start compiling my New Year’s resolution list before we put the Christmas tree up. It’s been that way since junior high when my best friend Abby and I huddled together in my bedroom, sitting cross-legged on my blue and pink zig-zag quilt. We bent our heads over the smooth lined paper, writing down all notable events from the previous year, and then setting our sights for the up-coming year. I wish I could find one of those sheets of paper today. At one point in time, Abby and I agreed to document our years in this manner each and every year and keep them to reference at a later date. I am sure at least one year is tucked away neatly into one of the shoes boxes in the attic, snuggled in between years of saved notes from junior high and high school.

I understand that to many people New Year resolutions stand before them as an overly obvious attempt at self-improvement. The lofty goals and hopes for the future can take on a sort of desperate geeky hue. “Why make a resolution when you know you’ll just break it by the first week of February? “ people moan when the topic comes up.

I am all about setting reasonable goals. Some may say, "Have low expectations," I say, "Be reasonable, then reckless." You are dealing with a girl whose biggest track race in high school was the final 100 yard sprint of the 800 race. For my track career I laid down the following rules with my parents and boyfriend, don’t come to watch me. I wasn’t good and I knew it. But I liked the challenge, wanted to move my body and just “do” something after school. That didn’t need to include reassuring anyone else that, I really, really didn’t mind being at the back of the pack during my event.
On this particular day, my lungs burned as I battled out the last 100 yards of the race with the last girl left on the black track. Our equal determination pushed up the air between us, thickened it with competition, as neither one of us wanted to give up the title of “second to last”.
I pumped my arms, channeling all concentration into my form. Willing my legs to turn over as quickly as possible and biting down on lower lip for one last burst, I stomped across the chalky white line two seconds before my hearty competitor did.

Thoughts of that race still brings forth a sense of pride and a rush of adrenaline all these years later. I kicked ass that day, it may have only been my own ass, but it didn’t matter to me. It was a great race. I need not apologize to anyone for my standing.

So, with the my personal perspective regarding the setting of goals adequately set, my resolutions are as follows:

1. I will not be offended. It wastes energy and I am ready to just let it go. I plan to use all of that banked energy from not being offended to help me take on resolutions 2-10. (Are you starting to see how I put together my master plan?)
2. Compile at least 5 rejection letters from various editors. I cannot control if an editor will accept an article or book idea, but I can surely secure a pile of rejection letters. And what do I have to do to get a rejection letter? Submit some work.
3. Collect and document at least 5 family stories through interviews using my voice recorder. I have this dream of compiling a book filled with family stories from as many members as possible. In addition to that, I’d love to save the voices of those family members telling those stories, which is one of the reasons I purchased a voice recorder when we began the adoption process for Kai. My grandma passed away a few years ago. I miss her voice. I so regret not recording her stories. I want Elizabeth and Kai to hear the stories of our parents and family in their voices, to be able to listen to those stories when they are adults.
4. Complete an Olympic Triathlon-Because I feel like if I can do that length of an open water swim, then I can officially pack up that whole fear of swimming deal and call it a day.
5. Take a bicycle mechanic’s class at our local shop, and then approach them about an apprenticeship so I can learn as much as possible about bike mechanics. I seriously love bikes. When I walk through our local bike shop, my heart rate increases just scanning all the bikes lined up on the racks. At the Danskin Triathlon, the woman working at the Trek booth asked me if I could change a flat tire. I proudly said I could. She laughed and said, “I can too. I ask a guy to do it for me.” What?!! I wanted to report her to her boss and then ask for her job. I hope to learn a ton about bikes this year. Then I could also teach my friends and other women how to do it all too. I might even help a poor chap who is broken down on the side of the road. “Don’t worry, “ I’ll say, crouching down to assess his bike, “I can get this taken care of in just a few minutes.” And I’ll pretend to not notice his surprise as I take my tools out of my bag and get work, humbly displaying my extensive bicycle repair and maintenance skills as he looks on with admiration.
6. Learn more about the elements of photography-because I just love photography and it connects me back to the days when I first started experimenting with photographs in high school.
7. Write Kai’s adoption story in a Snapfish book with pictures from the trip. Because I think the time is coming that he’ll want to see and know more.
8. Get back to church. We stopped going regularly because of Kai’s nap and my work schedule, but it’s time to get back. I miss it.
9. Try to be a little neater. Other women talk about letting go of the house and the need for it to be perfect. I probably need to care a little more. I tend to have my own belongs strewn about the house as I start one project and then jump to another, and another throughout the day. A little more picking up wouldn’t kill me.
10. Put more effort into my wardrobe. As I have mentioned before, I seriously hate to shop. But I do want to look half-way decent. I cannot spend a ton of money on clothes. So, I am coming to terms that I will need to spend some of my time in clothing stores , to at least secure a set of basics for my wardrobe. I just read, “How to Not Look Old.” It was an interesting book. It seems I am doing quite a bit “wrong” in the style and fashion department. What I need now is to read a book entitled, “How to not feel like crap after reading a fashion book that essentially makes you feel outdated at 33.” There… maybe I can work on writing that book if I get #1-10 completed before the 4th of July.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Photo Walk

This past summer, my friend Mandi got a new camera, the Nikon D40. Her husband bought it for her, hoping if she owned a good camera it would save he and the kids from the biannual family portrait with "The Picture People." She brought the camera with her to the spray park and snapped pictures of the kids as they squealed and ran across the wet cement on their tip toes. Mandi, knowing I like cameras offered to let me take a few shots with it. I refused, knowing my own clumsiness and foreseeing myself dropping the camera before she's taken a week's worth of pictures with it. On that bright July afternoon, she captured two perfect moments in time, one of Elizabeth and one of Kai. From that day on, I wanted one too, much like my longing for pink high tops in 6th grade, somehow I would just have to get that camera.

I didn't need to wait long. Fate stepped in and I dropped my own camera one afternoon. A piece broke off and after several trips to different camera shops, it was deemed "un-fixable." For the record, I tapped into my resourceful nature and found that if I used a push pin at just the right angle, I could still get the shutter to work for the occasional photograph.

This Christmas, "Santa" brought our family a brand-new Nikon D40! So now I just need to figure out how to use the fantastic thing! Just holding it in my hands thrills me. I forgot, until my tingling hands reminded me, just how I longed for a good camera as a teenager. I did end up with a pretty nice Pentax model that I used for years, until the same thing happened, the shutter button fell off and no one wanted to fix or find the part for an "older" model. So I stopped taking many pictures for awhile.

Yesterday, as Elizabeth, Kai and I bundled ourselves up in scarves, hats and boots, to go on our "Photo-walk", I realized I had not done so since high school. I remember Sunday mornings after church, changing out of the an uncomfortable church outfit and sliding on jeans, a sweater and tennis shoes and then getting behind the elephant gray steering wheel of the Pontiac and driving to various forest preserves. My feet crunched pale khaki gravel as I strode my way through the woods, feeling like an adolescent red riding hood, trying to find my way to the perfect shot instead of Grandmother's house.

Once taken completely alone, I took my first "adult" photo walk with both kids in tow. Kai grabbed the biggest stick he could find and swung it back and forth about 4 steps behind me, and Elizabeth wrote down items she found beautiful in a tiny notebook meant to clip onto a backpack. "Look Mommy! Leaves in water! Isn't that pretty? Here, let me write that down."

Here are a couple of photos we came up with:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fish food

Elizabeth and Kyle feeding the fish at the pond near my parent's house.

A few pieces of Nana's stale bread and a quick walk to the nearby pond and the kids are rosy cheeked and content for at least 30 minutes. Standing at the edge of the brown pond, the water is calming despite the whipping wind that bites my ears. Are the fish sleeping right now or just cold? The bread soaks up water and slowly falls apart, sinking into the muck that must lay below. The kids don't seem to mind and gleefully toss chunks of bread as far as their small arms can reach. In the summer, the heavy black catfish will swirl past our feet, lazily snapping the surface of the water, sucking up the bread with a loud snap. No luck on this day. Today it is just the four kids and my sister and I, bundled up against the bitter cold, carefully watching the water, as the bread slowly sinks. The fish continue to sleep, unaware of the activity above them.