Saturday, March 17, 2012

Other (Please Specify)

That title just means this is going to be a random melange of other updates about my life.  I will separate different topics using the following symbol:

Well, the happiest news is that I am WORKING.  In exchange for MONEY.  It's freelance work, from home.  Right now I just have one project, but there are several more projects promised to me where that one came from, and at the moment they're trickling in at just the right pace.  Just enough work to keep me busy and keep my mind distracted from thinking about pointless petty things, but not so much that I'm staying up half the night working.  As you know, work doesn't always go this smoothly, not for me or for anybody else, so I'm really grateful.  

And let me tell you something else.  The fact that I'm not working in a boring office, forced to work a specific schedule, and be productive without breaks 100% of the time, those things go a long way toward making work so much more enjoyable.  I love being in my fun purple home office, with the window open to let in a gentle breeze and the sound of birds chirping.  (Also in the mornings and afternoons I hear kids walking to and from school, and they tend to serenade me with their pointless blather and/or comical singing.)  The natural light shines in through the windows, which is vastly superior to the florescent lighting of most office buildings.  (As a side note, I find florescent lights to be bothersome on a very physical level.  My old therapist said that many people with mood disorders tend to be bothered by florescent lights, like the florescent light rays mess with your brain waves in some way or something.  Even the lighting at some stores like Target bothers me.)  

Also, because my home office doubles as a guest room, there is a bed in there and this girl hangs out there to keep me company: 

This is a cell phone photo, so she has the Creepy Eyes of Doom.  

While the cat/work combo is awesome, the opportunity to juggle work and caring for my child is ... kind of a mixed bag.  I always said I would suck at working from home because I would feel pulled in so many different directions.  I reasoned that it would be better to go do your work at a set time in a set place and get it over with, so that you could be 100% present for your family in the off hours.  But not only is that sort of "turning off" not always possible with the kind of technology we have available in this day and age, but also the "keeping work at work and home at home" sort of plan tends to result in the situation I previously denounced: Being forced to work on a specific schedule, whether you like it or not.  It is an incredible luxury to be able to make my own hours, to be available for activities with Nathan, or to transport him to and from school, but at the same time it's an incredible challenge to try to keep him occupied so I can work.  And then you get into the whole issue of trying to maximize your net pay by minimizing childcare, all while still maintaining your productivity and/or sanity, which is nearly impossible to do given the unpredictability of freelance work (and all work, to some extent).  

So, like every work arrangement, there are pros and cons.  Being able to just fold work into my everyday life feels so natural and right and the way humans were meant to live, but it also means that holy shit the work never ends

But I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said a million times over in every mom's group or blog on the planet, so I'm just going to bottom line it and say this: I have work.  It is awesome.  And hard.  And that's called being a human. 

 Last week Katie and I got together for a two-part Event Of Fun.  First we went to the annual Chicago Flower and Garden Show, which is one of my favorite annual events.  Although I kind of suck at gardening, I do adore flowers, and being able to see an indoor showcase of fancy display gardens is always a thrill.  Most years the show is especially welcome as a break from the gray drudgery of winter, although this year that's not so much the case because we're getting our weird Summer in March.  Still, the floral fragrance that greets you upon entering the show is so awesome.  I wish they could bottle that fragrance.  

I only had my cell phone, so the pictures I took were kind of blurry, but here's Katie in front of some tulips: 

There's always a section at the show where designers set up displays featuring tables.  Here are some hanging pomanders at one table: 

And here's a table representing the kind of retro kitsch I wish I could pull off in my own kitchen:

I egg cups.  Unfortunately I find soft-boiled eggs kind of disgusting. 

Following the show, Katie and I had our long-planned Macaroni and G's dinner.  As I've mentioned before, Katie and I tend to call each other G-Money, or just G for short.  So, back in January when we both had our birthdays, we planned Macaroni and G's to celebrate.  But, things happened, people got sick, and we ended up postponing it until March 10.  

On the menu: Kraft Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese (I know Kraft sounds tacky, but the homestyle one is just as good as from-scratch, and cheaper and a lot less work), Trader Joe's cranberry-pecan-Gorgonzola salad, crackers with a delicious lemon-dill dip mix we picked up at the flower show, sangria, apple pie, and some chocolate cheddar cheese that Adele sent us all the way from California (via my mom, who brought it on an airplane).  Here's a super bad photo of Katie and me eating the cheese: 

 It probably goes without saying that this was after the consumption of sangria.  

And I spent the night and we fell asleep watching Friends DVDs.  And next week I'm going back to G-Money's to see The Hunger Games at a theater near her.  

On a slightly darker note, this week I am commemorating the four-year anniversary of my time in the outpatient depression program I affectionately refer to as Crazy Camp.  I don't think I can top last year's anniversary post (see also here), so I'm not even going to try.  

As I commemorate this anniversary, I'd like to say that I'm completely recovered from my mental health struggles.  But, truth be told, that simply isn't the case.  My mental health took a bit of a turn in the past few weeks.  There was some depression, but, even more so, Depression's evil twin Anxiety wanted to come out and celebrate our four-year anniversary.  Really?  REALLY?!  Which just goes to show you that Depression never gives up.  Depression fights dirty.  

BUT, in the throes of feeling sorry for myself, I finally realized that, even if I wasn't completely cured, I was approximately a thousand times better than I was four years ago.  When you have an illness that messes with your mind like depression does, it's very easy to believe in a distorted reality, one where this is The Worst It's Ever Been.  But, it's not.  It's so not.  Compared to four years ago, this is a minor downturn, at worst. 

And not only am I better now than I was back at Crazy Camp, I'm better today than I was yesterday.  Really, I'm totally okay.  

Are you better off than you were four years ago? 

So, you know what I just realized?  I can't participate in the other indoor triathlon at the other gym, because it conflicts with my performances of Jack and the Beanstalk.  Not being able to do that triathlon has eliminated a really huge motivator in my workout life.  Like, before I was all Must do two forms of cardio every day, and now I'm kind of like, I did the treadmill, that's enough.  (Side note: What kind of idiot is still running on a treadmill despite this gift of perfect weather?  But the gym has childcare, and the treadmill has a built-in timer, so that's why I'm still on the treadmill.)  

I am loosely entertaining ideas of doing an actual outdoor triathlon (this one, which is just for women), but I have some reservations about the whole thing.  For one thing, I am scared to swim in a natural body of water.  (This fear only extends to actual swimming, not to wading in natural bodies of water or anything like that.)  But the triathlon I'm looking at is technically in an artificial, human-made lake-like body of water, so maybe I can wrap my head around the idea of swimming in it.  

But also, I'm afraid of getting knocked off my bicycle.  Falling terrifies me.  This past September I fell off my bike at the forest preserve, and I wasn't injured in the slightest, but the fall still scared me off of biking for several months (though part of my inability to bike during that period was due to unpleasant weather, which is an excuse I no longer have). 

Plus, did you get a look at the women in the photos on that triathlon site?  Now, I understand that when they pick their "best of" photos for their website, they aren't going to include photos of schlubs like me huffing and puffing and generally looking like they want to die.  But still, I hope there are some schlubs like me in that triathlon somewhere, or else those super fit women will scare me off.  

Regardless of my choice RE: a triathlon, I do want to do my local park district's 5K circuit this summer, even if I can't run the whole thing.  Plus I've already signed up to be on G-Money's team for the 5K Color Run, which is a wacky running/walking event where you get sprayed with a different color every time you complete a kilometer.  

Nathan is starting t-ball next month.  Now, based on my own upbringing, I'm much more comfortable and familiar with soccer as a youth sport, but in the town where I live, baseball is a much bigger deal.  I knew when I brought a child into this town, he would inevitably end up playing baseball someday.  Seriously, the town has a little parade every year to kick off the baseball season, and each child throws approximately five times his or her weight's worth of candy at the spectators.  It's all very Norman Rockwell.  

So, this is Nathan's first year in t-ball.  I know the coach's wife from the gym, so I told her I would be the team mom.  The team mom job involves some of my favorite tasks: administrative work, party-planning, and not being a flake.  But I'm also so confused about my duties, and I'm worried I'll do something wrong or forget to do something important.  

BTW his team is called the Purple Panthers.  Nathan is confused by this title, because, according to him, panthers are pink.  

I'm thinking about doing a different eating plan besides Weight Watchers.  I think WW is the best diet plan there is, but I'm just burned out on it.  I can't go to the dumb meetings anymore, and I can't face the people in the weigh booth.  Furthermore, I don't like how the new program so over-inflates the points values of carbs, because it's so difficult to find anything you can eat at a restaurant or the mall or something.  Even in your own home, you have to have a stupid, labor-intensive snack like a hard-boiled egg or something.  Trainer Jill is doing Lose It! (website- and mobile app-based program), and I'm thinking of trying that.  But mostly I'm thinking that I'm just making excuses for why I suck so much at dieting, and trying to find a magic bullet where I can effortlessly lose weight.  (NOTE TO RANDOM SPAMMY-TYPE PEOPLE: I am not interested in receiving emails about the latest diet pills that will probably give me a heart attack.  I'm already anxious enough, and a major hypochondriac.)

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all!

Friday, March 16, 2012

If You Teach a Mom to Fish

I've mentioned in the past how much I like Bass Pro Shops.  Even though I'm not all that into hunting, fishing, or camping, I still love going to that store.  They have, like, rivers and fish tanks, right in the store!  Plus, kids can climb on all the boats, and crawl in the tents and whatnot.  It's like a complete indoor playground.  Also they have a really good candy selection, and their restaurant's bread is to die for.  As you can see, I'm very outdoorsy.

But in an attempt to up my Bass Pro Shops shopper street cred, I have decided to take up fishing.

This interest actually started back in December, when we were at Bass to see Santa and Nathan spied some children's fishing poles featuring his favorite licensed characters.  Of course he begged to have one.  I told him we could get one in the spring.

Well, spring has come delightfully early to Chicago this year.  I might venture to say that we've actually skipped spring and headed straight into summer, with the temps in the 80s this week.

So, it's time to start fishing!

Bass was having a fishing event, which I thought would be a good introduction to fishing for Nathan (and me).

Step 1: Picking out our fishing boat: 

I'm kidding, of course.  We aren't buying a boat.  But Nathan loves climbing on them in the store, and, frankly, so do I.  

Next we waited in a 30-minute line for our turn at the kids' catch-and-release pond.  Well, I waited in the line while Nathan climbed on more boats. 

When it was finally Nathan's turn, we lucked out and got a Cars fishing pole.  I was using this opportunity to demonstrate to Nathan the patience required in fishing (as much patience as is required to catch a fish in what is essentially a glorified wading pool).  So when it took us longer to catch our fish than some of the other kids and the store employee offered to trade us for a "lucky pole" (i.e., one with a fish already attached to the end), I said, "No, we are practicing our patience."  

Eventually we caught one:

Then we posed for a picture on a bench shaped like a quail, in front of a stuffed bear and possum:

And then we looked at the fish tank, where Nathan followed this fish around, "pretending to be a fish":

When this exhausted collapse happened, I knew it was time to head out.  To fish our cut bait, if you will:

On the way out, we selected our poles.  Nathan got a Spider-Man one, and I got a pink one.  Then I got him a Cars tackle box, which was when I became completely overwhelmed by the options for tackle I needed to purchase.  I solicited the help of an employee, who was about as predictably surly and impatient as you would expect a middle-aged guy working the fishing counter at Bass Pro Shops to be.  (Though note he was not fat.  I figured you were picturing him a little chunky, but that would be incorrect.)  So, I asked him what kind of bait he would recommend for two amateur fisher-people.  The people at the catch-and-release pond were using worms (and, at one point, I witnessed a guy cutting a worm in half with scissors ewwewwewwewweww), but I was looking for something, you know, less alive, which could be purchased far in advance of the fishing trip.  So, I asked the employee:

Me: What kind of bait would you recommend for him [indicating Nathan] to fish in a lake?
Guy: Worms.
Me: But, like, you know, something we could buy ahead of time? [Pointing to aisles containing all kinds of non-living bait.]
Guy: Worms.
Me: Yeah, I know, but ...
Guy: Worms.  They sell worms at the gas station on the corner. 
Me: Kay, yeah, thanks. 

We did not buy worms at the gas station on the corner, because we were not planning on fishing that same day.  Instead I let Nathan go home and practice casting in the back yard, which at one point resulted in me getting a hook caught in my finger, and at another point resulted in Nathan getting a hook caught in his shirt. 

And that reminds me of a horribly awful tangential story!  When I was about 7 years old, we visited my aunt and uncle in Colorado, and we were planning on going fishing.  We had the pole all set up inside the house before the trip, and I was messing around with it, and somehow the hook side-swiped my aunt's eye and caught her contact lens.  At the time I thought nothing of it, but now the idea of a fishing hook getting that close to somebody's eye ... OMG OMG OMG. 

Anyway, you might be wondering about our plans for future fishing outings. 

Well, there's a class at the park district called Learn to Fish, which would be perfect for us.  Naturally we aren't available that day.  So I guess maybe I'll look for an instructional fishing DVD from the library?  And then there's a fishing derby we can participate in at the end of April. 

Of course, I still have no confidence that Nathan will have the patience for fishing, which means all this money and effort will be wasted, at least for the time being.  I figure maybe he could take up some kind of side activity while we're waiting for the fish to bite, like wandering around in nature, or throwing rocks in the pond.  No wait, throwing rocks would scare the fish.  We'll probably just bring the iPod instead.  I think they have a fishing app he can play.  That's the spirit. 

I'd also like to note that if we do catch any fish, we will be throwing them back.  I feel bad being that actively involved in ending a creature's life, and damn if I'm gonna go and clean fish to prepare them for eating.  I still feel kind of bad about the fish getting speared in the mouth with a hook, though.  That's gotta hurt.

More fish stories forthcoming.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: iHealth Digital Scale

Recently the people at Best Buy offered me a free iHealth Digital Scale.  I was eager to take them up on the offer, since, as I may or may not have mentioned in the last 15 minutes, I'm always trying to lose weight.

As the name implies, the iHealth scale is a digital scale that links up to an iPad or iPhone through a free downloadable app.  Here's an image from Best Buy's website:

My scale must have been broken, though, because my display didn't say "137.3 LBS" when I stepped on the scale.  My scale displayed a much, much higher number.

All kidding aside, it's a good-looking scale.  It's nice and sleek, and I like that the rubber grippy things at the bottom prevent it from rocking at all.

I was also pleased that the compatible iPad app was easy to find and download in the app store.  It synched up quickly with the scale through Bluetooth technology.  My weight was displayed on both the scale and on my iPad.  The app then adds the weight to your weight history, which you can display on a calendar or graph.  You can set up multiple accounts to keep track of the weight histories of different family members.

The app also features a database of the nutritional information for thousands of foods, as well as a diary function where you can keep track of your daily food intake and exercise.

I do kind of feel like these added features are wasted on me, though, because they are redundant to what I get on the Weight Watchers eTools.  I'd be more likely to use the eTools because the Weight Watchers points system is much more simplified, but then again you pay a lot more for Weight Watchers than you do for the iHealth Scale.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if you want an economical way to keep track of your weight, diet, and exercise, I recommend the iHealth Scale.  The record-keeping features of the app go a long way toward keeping you accountable to your goals.

My one major gripe is that you have to go in and manually synch the scale to your iPad/iPhone through Bluetooth every time you use the scale.  I found that to be a bit of a hassle.

But, overall, I'm really pleased with this scale.  The results on the scale?  Not so much pleased.  But the scale itself is good.

Actual weight hidden behind the black bar.  For an estimate, add the weights of a person plus 8,000 Thin Mints. 

I have received the reviewed product from Best Buy for free.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Blow to My Blogging Ego

You all know I talk a big game about being in the blogging world simply for the love of writing.  You know I couldn't give a rip about networking and tweeting and Klout.  To constantly be self-promoting through the various social media outlets sounds like a lot of exhausting wheel-spinning to me. 

Now, let me be clear that I am not denouncing those who are good at such things.  Some people are just better suited to vocations that require networking and self-promotion.  I am not one of them.  We're all different, which is good because there are so many different jobs out there that need to be done. 

So there will be no social media-based hustling for me.  I get it, I didn't put in the effort to promote my blog, and so I will not reap the rewards.  This blog is a hobby, no more, no less. 

Except, sometimes I find myself wanting to have my cake and eat it too. 

For example, you know what you need to bake a cake and eat it?  Housewares! 

Nobody loves housewares more than I do.  Okay, that's obviously not true.  A lot of people love housewares more than I do.  Martha Stewart, for example.  But I love housewares. 

So I was truly disappointed when I found out that some bloggers got invited to the International Home & Housewares Show right here in Chicago.  I think it goes without saying that I was not one of those invited. 

But it seems like everybody else was invited.  And, not only that, but they got invited to multiple parties associated with the housewares show. 

Now, I didn't work hard enough to make myself important enough to get invited.  I understand that.  But I still feel left out that I don't get to go.  It feels like high school when everybody was talking about a party that I didn't get invited to. 

And I feel like I'm just getting farther and farther away from the status of my fellow bloggers.  For example, this week on a Facebook group for bloggers, the following topics came up:
  • Annoying people who denounce your blog as just a "hobby.  This led to a discussion where people basically implied that they're actually earning a salary commensurate to a regular professional office-type job, through blogging
  • What you used to do for work before you had a blog.  What?  A blog can be your job?  Even if you aren't Heather Armstrong or The Pioneer Woman? 
  • Who was going to the Disney Moms conference.  Dude, this shit isn't even on my radar. 
Then I read another, well-known blog complaining about how you can't tweet about a product you love without a PR rep from that company contacting you immediately to ask you to be a brand ambassador for that product.  Yes, this kind of thing happens to me all the time.  

Again, I know I didn't put in the effort, so I can't reap the rewards.  I'm truly happy with my current blog status.  

Except when I'm not.  

Anyway, housewares be damned.  I'm setting my sights higher and trying to get a press pass into the Sweets & Snack Expo, put on by the National Confectioners' Association.  The candy show!  I've wanted to go to this show since forever, since Homer Simpson won a free pass to a similar show and got a coveted gummi Venus de Milo, and since I used to watch two episodes of the Food Network's Unwrapped every Monday night.  I think my admittance to the show is kind of a long shot, but I have applied.  So if you know anybody at the National Confectioners' Association, send them an email and tell them you're sweet on Same Old Shannon. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Most Agonizing Pointless Decision

Back when I was a teacher, young and childless, few things annoyed me more than the parents who assumed that one tiny negative event would scar their children for life. 

Now, as a mother myself, I continue to maintain the belief that any small day-to-day misfortune is unlikely to scar a child for life. 

But I still find myself worrying a lot about how my daily parenting decisions might ruin my kid. 

While new examples of this worry happen every minute, let me share one major one from the recent annals of my daily life. 

So, you all know I talk a big game when it comes to not being worried about my kid's education, but the reality is that I can't help but be a little bit concerned when I think about the big looming date we have with The System when Nathan starts kindergarten in the fall. 

The concern is so strong that I find myself clicking on any link that relates to "Kindergarten Readiness," even links on my beloved Pinterest, which is supposed to be a fun distraction where I look at kitties and recipes.  Then I get upset because I can't figure out whether or not my kid exhibits some of the 75 skills/habits/behaviors that some random blogger believes encompass kindergarten readiness. (Seriously, "Works well with others"?  I mean, you know, sometimes.) 

But I digress.  The particular salient point for this post is that recently Nathan's preschool advertised an upcoming after-school supplemental program called "Reading Ready and Math Smarts." 

When I first found out about the program, I was totally jazzed.  Finally, a way to outsource my kid's kindergarten preparation, and get two and a half extra hours of kid-free time three days a week. 

See, I had been promised a fairly large freelance project, and so the timing of this new extended-day preschool could not have been better when it came to childcare needs.  I crunched the numbers on the new after-school program, and it worked out to about $3 per hour.  Score. 

Except, I knew my kid would hate it.  He already whines and grumbles about having to go to school, and he says the regular three-hour school day is too long.  An obvious retort here would be something like, "Get used to it, Kid," because he's about 6 months away from our local public school system's not-quite-full-day kindergarten.  Shouldn't I be pushing him to get used to a longer school day, to prepare him for kindergarten?  OMG, OMG, what should I do?! 

I decided to defer to an age-old decision-making tactic, Finding Out What Everybody Else is Doing.  It turned out that most of the parents at Nathan's school were opting out of the after-school program, for reasons such as the additional cost, the fact that they already hate the preschool and aren't willing to pay money for more of it, or a conflict with a younger sibling's naptime.

So then I was looking at a situation where most of the kids would still go home at noon with their parents, while just a few kids would be forced to stay at school.  And Nathan has historically gotten quite upset when other kids got picked up and he didn't.  (The two examples that come to mind are the one week where I signed him up for the longer day at day camp, and one time when I was a few minutes later than the other parents picking him up at science class.) 

But I was still thinking that the class would be helpful in terms of academic preparation, so I was considering it. 

(And before anybody suggests that maybe I could just do a few workbooks with him at home to get him prepared for kindergarten, let me just say that in our particular mother-child relationship dynamic, me teaching him doesn't usually work out.  Homeschoolers we are not.) 

I decided to await word on my freelance job to help me make the decision about the after-school program.  If I had paying work to get done, sending Nathan to school for an extended day was an obvious childcare solution, and he would just have to suck it up and deal with it.  But of course things are seldomly timed that perfectly, and soon it was the day before the after-school program started and I hadn't heard anything about my freelance work. 

I was feeling more and more uneasy about the idea of Nathan watching most of his classmates get picked up while he and a tiny handful of others had to stay at school for a few more hours.  I envisioned future school mornings where the task of getting him out the door was made all the more challenging because of his dread of going to school for an extended day.  And I wondered why I was considering paying for all this torture, while I wasn't even earning back any of the tuition while Nathan was at school.  

In the end, I waited until late afternoon the day before the class, and finally decided that since I was getting such a bad feeling about the class, I wouldn't sign Nathan up for it.  Still, the rest of the afternoon I agonized over my decision. 

I made fellow moms at the park listen to my pointless concerns.  They were pretty much split between the opinions of, "Kids need an extended day at preschool or they won't be prepared for the kindergarten day," and, "They'll learn to deal with the kindergarten day when they're in kindergarten."  Which were basically my two conflicting trains of thought as well. 

Of course I'm still worried that I made the wrong choice when it comes to his kindergarten preparation.  I know he won't be scarred for life, but, you know, I still kind of worry that he will be. 

The thing is, I'm of the mindset that it might be better for my kid to transition to kindergarten when he's thrust into kindergarten for real.  You know, the whole cross that bridge when we come to it mentality?  There's really no way to artificially create the kindergarten environment in the context of preschool anyway, so there will always be a fairly significant level of transition involved in starting kindergarten.  Thinking that a preschool program would prepare him for kindergarten would be like thinking a high school senior could prepare to go away to college by spending a few nights a week staying in a hotel.  Some things you just can't prepare for. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Five, etc.

I'm trying to post more, I really am.  It's just weird how you can so easily get out of the habit of doing something, you know?

So, some other stuff that has been happening since my last post ...

Nathan turned 5:

I know I say something like this every year, but I can't believe he is five.  Every age seems hard to believe, but five is like ... wow.  It has been five years since he was born.  The thing is, for me, the first few years of Nathan's life did not fly by.  I remember when he was a month old, somebody was like, "Wow, can you believe it's been a month already?" and I was like, "I feel like it's been about five years."  And that pretty much sums up the first two years of Nathan's life vis-a-vis my perception of the passage of time. 

The years after age 2 or 3 seemed to move at a faster pace, so now I can't believe he actually is five years old.  And I realize this occasion probably deserves a post of its own, some big sappy nostalgic thing where I wax poetically about how much I love Nathan.  Except, I feel like everybody is all BTDT on those, and anything I can say is going to be trite and hackneyed.  And also I'm sure saying I can't believe he is five will just inspire a bunch of people to think/say/write something like Just wait until he's a teenager [going off to college/getting married/having kids of his own, etc.]

(I do feel guilty about not writing him a birthday blog post, as though "birthday blog post" is some kind of requirement on the checklist of Things Good Mothers Do.)

My mom came on Nathan's birthday.  He picked to go to McDonald's for his birthday dinner.  The next day we went to the Garfield Park Conservatory, which is an indoor greenhouse that lets people in Chicago see some green plants during the winter months, for free.

Also while my mom was here I got some new shoes.  I mention them because when I bought them my mom said they would be perfect for future Halloween costumes, especially a witch.  All insults about my current non-Halloween footwear aside, I am excited to maybe be wearing them in Jack and the Beanstalk, where I am playing Surla, Witch Queen of the Giant Kingdom.  The fun thing about Surla is that, in addition to being a witch, she is a pushy Toddlers & Tiaras-style stage mother.  LOVE IT. 

Except I might not get to wear the shoes for Surla, because apparently the costumes for this show are going to be "Seussical." 

Which is a good segue into mentioning that we saw The Lorax.  Nathan had a bout of extremely unacceptable, crazy child behavior outside the theater, but when he got it together enough to go in, I thought it was a pretty good children's movie.  Normally at children's movies my trajectory of opinions goes as follows: OMG I'm so excited to be at the movies! -->  This movie is so good, even for adults! --> Okay, I am getting bored, but I'm not this movie's key demographic. --> Seriously, get to the inevitable conclusion and stop dragging this out. --> Wait, what?!  Another obstacle to the obvious conclusion?  --> Phew, finally they got there and I feel all warm and fuzzy about the conclusion, but I also really have to pee. 

But The Lorax didn't drag out like normal kids' movies, so I thought it was good. 

Also it was $2 popcorn and $2 soda day, so that may have colored my opinion about the movie. 

Then on Saturday we took my mom to the airport, and I volunteered at the Cancer Support Center gala, which required me to take a shower and put on makeup and a dress and whatnot at eight o' clock p.m.  And I didn't get done until 11:30 p.m.  The thing that stands out most about that whole event was not that I assisted in raising thousands of dollars to provide support programs for cancer patients, but that I had to put on tights, and it was so hard to squeeze into them that by the end I was panting and sweating.  I told myself to keep the visual of struggling into tights on the forefront of my mind whenever I was tempted to eat.  It only deterred me from eating for two days. 

Also, did you know that in 2012 I have already read 13 books?  I credit my brand-new Kindle Touch and my willingness to buy books whenever I want (versus the more responsible choice of using the library). 

Plus, I stopped watching Smash.  I liked the show, and the music was great, but I just decided I couldn't commit to another show.  Which is pretty lame because I only regularly watch four shows, and all are half-hour comedies.  Except, you know, with Mad Men coming back on, I really need to be careful about making any additional TV commitments. 

And so, in conclusion, this is the conclusion to my post. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

We Did a Triathlon!

And by "We," I am referring to Myself and The Voices in My Head.

There were some other, outside-my-head participants as well, of course.  For example, my friend Tabitha, who is carrying a halfway-done baby in her belly and still managed to run farther than I did.  And some older people who ran farther than I did.  Also the instructor of my training course, who managed to shatter all records for the indoor triathlon component distances.  Plus another Shannon, who I know from various places, and who narrowly edged me out for the Top Swimmer spot, so that when they announced "Shannon" at the awards presentation, I got my hopes up until they said her last name. 

But since none of those people exists inside of my head, I have no idea what their experiences were like, so I will mostly be sticking to the tale of my own triathlon experience for this post.

I mention The Voices in My Head and not the actual other people, because they were brought to my attention during the car ride over to the triathlon.  See, the radio was playing the P!nk song "Perfect," which includes the following lyric:

"Change the voices in your head,
Make them like you instead."

Truth be told, I had never really listened to that lyric before, despite having heard that song a million times.  Maybe I never paid attention because I had heard that song so many times, or maybe it's because I misheard the lyric to say something like, "Change the voices in your head/Make them lie to you in bed."  I have never been very good with song lyrics.

But, having finally properly understood P!nk's lyrics, I realized that most of the time the voices in my head don't like me.  They're always telling me that I'm too fat, too lazy, don't do enough, suck as a parent, etc. 

What if, I thought, I did change the voices to like me instead?

And it was in that frame of mind that I entered the gym for the triathlon.

Now, the way this indoor triathlon differs from outdoor triathlons (beside the obvious differences) is that whereas in an outdoor triathlon you complete a set distance for each component, in the indoor triathlon you complete a set time.  So, participants are ranked according to who traveled the farthest distance in the given time.

I had some goals for my various component distances, which were calculated for me by Crazy Triathlon Record-Smasher and Training Instructor Chris.  Here's the TL;DR version of how I did in the actual event relative to my goals, broken down in this handy-dandy chart:

Obvious bottom lines: I met my goal exactly in the swim, exceeded my goal in the bike, and fell a tiny bit short of my goal in the run.

Breaking it down into a little more verbose detail, here's how it all went down:

During the swim I was keyed up.  Adrenaline was pumping through my body, The Voices were all shouting nonsensical jibber-jabber, and I couldn't relax my body into that straight, graceful swimming form that I like to think I have.  I wouldn't have been surprised to look down and see my body tied up in knots, Twister-style.

Also, the swim felt LONG.  I have no problem swimming for 10 minutes straight under normal circumstances, but under competitive circumstances I struggle with pacing myself.  Further complicating matters is the fact that the way they calculate the scores for this particular event kind of makes the swimming completely insignificant.  (Your total score is just the sum of the distances you traveled in each of the three components.  As you can imagine, even an awesome swim like 800 yards is completely insignificant when you factor in a bike distance like 10 miles.)  However, I have this small goal of getting the award for the farthest swim, so I do like to try hard in the swim.  (Also there's that whole "personal best" aspect of it all..)

So that was the swim.  I wanted to go a tiny bit farther, but whatever.  I felt sick as I got out of the pool to change for the bike portion, because it's tough to go from swimming as fast as you can to standing on dry land, without a cool down of any kind.

As for the bike, it was relatively uneventful.  I learned from my training that it's best to put most of your energy into the bike, because the bike is where you're going to get the most bang for your buck in terms of racking up distance.  And, as you can see from the chart, I racked up more distance on the bike than I thought I would. 

But by the run, The Voices and I had run out of psychological steam.  I truly think the psychological challenge of running is what makes it the hardest sport for me.  Like, I'm doing okay, feeling all right by running standards, but as soon as I look down at the clock and see how much more time I have left to run, I get flustered and immediately exhausted, so that I have to start walking.  I walked a lot more than I had planned to, but when the triathlon ended I still felt a strong sense of pride and accomplishment.

Another thing that was awesome was that Trainer Jill came to cheer me on.  And then after the triathlon (and a shower, of course), Trainer Jill and I went to Starbucks.  The sun was shining, I had just completed a triathlon, and I was buzzing with caffeine.  It was kind of like a big ball of awesome.

Later, I went back to see the triathlon awards presentation.  Last year I felt like an idiot at the awards, because I had made it a point to go back to the gym to see the awards, like I assumed I was going to win one.  But of course I didn't win last year, despite the fact that there were 30 participants and like 40 awards given out.  

This year, I reminded myself that there was another Shannon in my age group, and she used to be a fitness instructor at the gym, so when they said "Shannon," for an award, I should not get my hopes up. 

Still, when they said, "And the award for Top Swimmer goes to ... Hmm, I don't think she's here ... Is Shannon here?" it sucked when I had to ask Shannon who? to clarify, and then it was other Shannon.  Again I narrowly missed winning Top Swimmer and came in second, just like last year.  But next year, It's on, Other Shannon.  

So I kind of tuned out when they announced an award for a Shannon a few minutes later, until it hit me that the guy had actually said Shannon Ford, which is ME!  Behold, 3rd Place for the Women 30-39 category:

(Also I should point out that there were more than 3 participants in this category.  Nine, to be exact.) 

That morning, The Voices in My Head liked me.  When I got to the car, I cried tears of joy and looked at myself in the rearview mirror and said, "I like you."  (Okay, I didn't actually say that out loud, or probably even think those exact words, because that would be a little bit too Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley.  But I felt generally positive about myself that morning.) 

I know it's not a big deal to win 3rd place in one age category at a small indoor triathlon at a suburban gym.  It's not like I won at the Olympics or something.  Except, to me, it kinda felt like I did.  This is the first athletic award I've ever won that wasn't like Most Dedicated or Participation or You Got Good Grades And Also Happened to Participate in Sports. 

A medal for me.  Me, who is too fat and too slow and usually trips over her own feet, beating a few regular people who are extremely fit and generally look awesome in bathing suits. 

The next time I went to the gym, I felt like I owned that gym.  We can't wait to work out, The Voices said.

Now, after a full week of reality, The Voices are back to their usual shenanigans.  Not only have they had some not-so-nice things to say about my workout performance this week, they also saw some pictures of me that they didn't like and wholeheartedly criticized.  Nathan did some things that disgusted them.  They are ruthless, those Voices. 

But, I think they're a little bit quieter, a little bit kinder.  That medal boosted their spirits a little bit.  And all you can expect is that they'll improve gradually by baby steps. 

And our next endeavor is another indoor triathlon at another gym in late April.  They run and bike portions are a little bit longer, and the scoring is a little bit different.  And so, until then, we will train.  I will try to beat back The Voices, to gradually condition them to be nicer as I condition my body to be more fit.  And when they get particularly unruly, there's a fake bronze medal in my kitchen with which I can give The Voices a nice strong whacking.