Health

Can’t Bear The Thought

On a recent getaway to Nova Scotia, my friend, Marian, and I decided to rent bikes and explore some of the “off-road” Trans Canada Trails. The TCT are repurposed defunct rail lines that snake through parts of Canada. It’s a cool way to traverse the country while taking away the danger of biking on paved roads. I’m not a fan of biking in traffic. It makes me so anxious.

Five minutes into the trail, we were deep in the woods, with not a person in sight. Our well-worn hybrid bikes had seats that were super hard on the tushy, so I insisted that we only go 30 minutes out and 30 minutes back to prevent our precious pelvic floor from too much trauma…after all, the trail was a little gravel-ly. You could feel every bump.

I noticed a small bell on our handlebars and I started dinging it. Marian thought I was being annoying.”It’s a bear repellent”, I teased. “Or, a Moose repellent”, I added. And I dinged some more.

As we rode deeper into the woods, Marian accused me of being a drama queen.

“For someone who loves the outdoors, you sure have some issues”, she rightfully accused.

Marian didn’t realize that behind our idle biking chatter, I was having visions of getting trampled by a moose and being eaten by a hoard of wild coyotes.

About five miles out, and without seeing a soul in sight, we decided to turn around. We stopped at a clearing and took some pictures…mostly of each other taking pictures. A mile into our return, and about 20 yards ahead of us, a seven foot black bear came out of the woods and blocked the trail. We both saw it at the same time and abruptly stopped. The bear looked up at us and under my panicked breath I said, “Marian, we have to turn around”.

Without looking back, we took off like a rocket and biked away from the bear. I have to say, for us old bitches, it was Tour De France qualifying. We must have gone about two miles in the other direction when we came across a place where the trail intersected a paved road. We ran into a local on an ATV and trying to catch our breath, we told him what happened.

“Bears won’t do you no harm” he said, “but you have to watch out for the pack of wild coyotes. They ate a young girl here two years ago.”

So.Over.This.Ride.

We called the hotel and they sent two people to come get us and our bikes. The kind local stayed with us until they arrived.

Wouldn’t you know it, that the first thing everyone asked us when we got back was DID YOU GET A PICTURE?

WTF?

Now that a week or so has passed, I’ve used my emerging photoshop skills to recreate what Marian and I neglected to photograph.

marianbear.jpgThis is Marian taking a selfie.

But…because I’m a DRAMA queen, I did two other versions:

marianbear2.jpgLook closely at the left.

And finally, my favorite of the trip:marianbear3.jpg

Bears aren’t the only things that shit in the woods.

 

 

 

Participation Trophies

I have a shelf of my kids Participation Trophies in my family room that I keep for laughs. Why? Because I proudly admit that I raised my kids in an era where “everyone’s a winner” . Some of my children were amazing in sports and some were not. That’s how it shakes out in most families. In spite of that,  I made them all play something because I am a big believer in exercise. Were ego’s crushed due to lack of skill? Possibly. Maybe. Probably. But…they still got a trophy!

Now that my kids are grown and out of the house, I sometimes long for those days of sitting on the bleachers and screaming, “WAY TO GO!” (Yes…even when they got hit in the head with a ball). I miss the kids, I miss the crazy-ass parents, I miss those hot sweaty gyms…well, maybe not so much, but those were times that weren’t really about trophies and winning. They were about team play, growing up and a lot of fun, sideline-socializing.

Believe it or not, one of my kids still plays Rec Sports. During the week, he’s an emerging corporate executive, but on the weekends, he’s playing basketball in an adult league on a team that includes many of his former high school rec team ballers. Last week, for the very first time, I went and watched these “adult” rec ballers play in a sweaty, Hell’s Kitchen, public school gym.

Some of these guys were really hairy and bald all at the same time. Not quite how I remembered those idyllic high school games. In the absence of other parents, I cheered from the sideline and shot a bit of video from my new iPhone. Needless to say, my son’s team lost by more than 20 points. A “blow-out” so to speak.

When I got home, I edited the few filmed highlights together. I added some sound effects and created a new kind of Participation Trophy. I think the JUST KRISTAPS Rec team is all that and then some. They’re all winners as far as I’m concerned.

 

 

Dear Oprah, Bread Is What Got Me Here In The First Place

In case you missed it yesterday, Weight Watchers new spokesperson and 10 percent shareholder, Oprah Winfrey, tweeted Eat bread.Lose Weight.Whaattt? #ComeJoinMe and SURPRISE…the stock shot up as people flocked to join. Don’t get me wrong, I love Oprah and I’m delighted that she reportedly made 12 million dollars from that stock surging tweet, but seriously, BREAD IS WHAT GOT ME TO WEIGHT WATCHERS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

For diet enthusiasts, bread is usually the first thing that you most reluctantly drop. Burger no bun, lettuce wraps and the I’m-so-sick-of-fucken-salads-salads is the basic drill. Gravy and sauces laugh at you from the bottom of your dish, because your plate gets cleared before you can sop-it-up with that b-that-shall-not-be-mentioned.

A few months ago, on a 10 day trip to Southern Italy, I promised myself that I wouldn’t hold back on anything and as a result, I had an intensely romantic affair with bread. To say that I went in head first would be an understatement. What’s not to love about untreated, non-processed, all natural grains baked to perfection? And that crust? OMG, I just couldn’t get enough of it. Ask my friend, Amy, who witnessed my full on bender. She’s still talking about it.

The problem with bread, and even good bread is that it’s not a stand alone. There’s olive oil, cheese, preserves, sauces, meats, and even PIZZA…yes, pizza is bread.

5.5. pounds later, I’m back home with pants that won’t zip.

My Mom, who’s been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers’ for years, suggested I give it a try. “New point system, with a great phone app that’s super easy” she promised. “And you get 30 points a day!” she added. Weight Watchers’ PointsPlus system is based on the protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber content of foods. The app makes it super easy to type in anything and get the point value.

One, small, hard roll is 5 points. In Italy, I ate 6 of those a day….a least.

“If you like to eat, and want the diet to work, go for the zero point foods” suggested another friend. That would be fruits and vegetables. (Note: pants were still hard to zip because of bloat/gas factor).

I’m happy to say that Weight Watchers does work, if you follow their point system which is a clever way of instilling portion control, but I don’t think it’s BREAD FRIENDLY, Oprah…at least not for breadaholics like myself.

Perk-o-lating

Well, this is embarrassing. I just received an email with my Dunkin Donuts Perks stats.

Yes, I am one of those coffee chugging peeps who downloaded that incredibly convenient Dunkin Donuts phone app.

In the last 610 days, I’ve made 690 visits to Dunkin Donuts. Actually, I need to make an adjustment there. Of those 610 days, I was out of the country for 28 days, and in states where there wasn’t a Dunkin Donuts for about 30 days, which leaves me with a revised count of about 552 days.

I had at least one a day and then some because on top of that, I was awarded 47 free beverages for my coffee chugging loyalty.

OMG. I think I should be flagged when I donate blood. I had no idea I was this loyal.

I have to admit, I really appreciate the stroking of my ego with this badge-qualifying email, but seriously folks, how many more coffees do I have to drink to get the free shirt?

Sentimental Garbage

(This is the original article that appeared in Women’s Health Magazine. Reprinted with Permission by Rodale Press)

Over the years, I have acquired some nice jewelry. I’m not a bling person, but I treasure jewelry with sentimental value. My high school ring, my mother’s pearls, my wedding band, and my all-time favorite, my great-grandmother’s platinum, old European-cut, diamond engagement ring, which I wear all the time. I don’t remember meeting my great-grandmother (she passed away when I was three), but my grandmother wore it every day. I used to play with it on her finger. Often she would let me wear it and I would run around claiming to be royalty.

My entire family was scared to death of my grandmother, who at 4’11” was opinionated and judgmental and not known for her sense of humor. In 1963, four years after her mother passed away, her husband (my grandfather) died from cancer and bitterness consumed her. Around this time, at the age of seven, I started to accompany my father on weekly visits to her apartment. She was always angry. My father listened dutifully while I sat quietly drawing cartoons on scraps of paper from her desk.

I was never afraid of her. Maybe it was her size, I’m not quite sure. My grandmother must have picked up on this and soon asked me to come to her weekly painting classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art, in Pittsburgh, Pa. She was an amateur painter of endless landscapes. Prolific is not the word; excessive seems better. Her many works hung all over our house and my father’s office. I later figured out that no one was brave enough to tell her no thank you.

I rather enjoyed the attention of this mean old woman. She would let me carry her blank 18×24 canvas into class, which at the time, was about half my size. I remember taking great care weaving through the other easels as I followed my grandmother to her painting spot. When I would catch the stolen stares of the other adults in the class, my grandmother would bellow out, “What are you looking at?” It was a harsh response for sure, but I smiled politely. I didn’t want people to think I was scared because I wasn’t. I sat there for three hours every Saturday doodling away. Occasionally, she’d ask for my opinion. “I don’t think water looks like that, Grandma,” I offered once. The entire class became deadly silent. She turned to me and asked, “Do you think it needs more green?” I became her sidekick and midget muse. For the first time, I saw what it was like to lift the sadness from a person. She was different around me, and I liked that she found me worthy enough to accompany her.

When my grandmother died 28 years later in 1993, my father gave me the ring and I became the keeper of something whose value could never be measured. I immediately got it insured, but the document said nothing about its true worth. When I put it on my finger, I was flooded with the all the memories of my grandmother’s deep affection for me. There was magic in that ring and now it was my turn to wear it. The thought that I would pass this on to my daughter one day became almost spiritual.

I like to keep the ring shiny because that’s how I remember it on my grandmother’s finger. One night last spring, it was exceptionally dirty so I took it off, cleaned it thoroughly and left it wrapped in a tissue on my bathroom counter. When I awoke in the morning, I forgot it was there as I tidied up the bathroom, and swept it into the trash, along with a few q-tips, random tissues, and an empty mouthwash bottle.

Moments later, I heard the garbage truck rumble down the street. I swept quickly through the house and dragged the trash to the driveway. Twenty minutes later when I woke my youngest for school, he let out a tremendous sneeze. “Ewww,” I said, “Use a tissue.” And with that, I looked at my finger and stopped dead in my tracks. “What’s wrong?” my son asked, but I couldn’t speak. I ran to my bathroom and looked at the counter. Empty. No tissues. I looked in the wastebasket. Empty. No liner. I looked out my front window at the garbage bins. Empty. Clean. Tipped over. The blood left my body.

There was no time for tears. I immediately called the carting company. The truck had compacted the garbage and was headed to the transfer station. I gave a succinct but passionate summary of what had occurred and begged the dispatcher to radio the driver. I would meet him at the transfer station. I would pay the extra costs, but I had to recover that ring. The dispatcher, a lovely woman named Lillian, heard the distress in my voice. “Hang on,” she said, “Let me see what I can do.”

I waited for 110 seconds. I did not breathe until she got back on the line. “How fast can you get to the transfer station?” Lillian asked. “Four minutes” I lied. (If you drive the speed limit, it’s eight.) “He’ll meet you there, but don’t stop for coffee,” she said. I left my house in my ratty pajamas, no bra, tousled hair, and very bad breath. I grabbed my dish gloves, a sweatshirt, and sneakers. I screamed out to my son to make sure he got on the bus.

I got to the transfer station in 5 minutes and 30 seconds. I was led by the gate guard to a huge building where several large refuse trucks were backing in and dumping into a cavernous rectangular compacting pit at the back. I was instructed to wait for all the trucks to finish dumping and that my truck (note the possessive) would then dump its contents onto the floor of the garage where I could sift through the entire load.

As we were waiting, I asked my driver how many more houses he had picked up since mine. I think he said 12, which meant approximately 120 bags were on top of my 10. “Your wedding ring?” he asked. “My great-grandmother’s ring,” I said with reverence. I stared at the garbage. My senses were numb. I put on my dish gloves. I sifted my mind for strategies. I remembered that I used white plastic bags with red ties. My truck backed into the enormous shed and dumped its contents. My heart sank. One half of the load was white garbage bags with red ties. Does everyone shop at Costco?

I asked the driver which heap might be my street. He pointed to somewhere in the middle and I jumped in. The bags were all compacted so you had to shake them to get them to expand. “You should rip them open and check the addresses,” said the attendant. “If you find your street, you’ll know that you’re looking in the right place.” This gave me tremendous hope.

Has anyone ever seen a week old chicken wing? An exploded diaper? I ripped open bag after bag. I saw things that I can’t even repeat. Suddenly I came across a soiled envelope with my neighbors address on it. “My street!” I screamed, and my garbage man came over to help me sort through the compacted bags. Soon I had exposed my entire street’s garbage. That’s when I saw it. A compacted, white bag with red ties and an empty mouthwash bottle in it. My hands were shaking. I opened the bag and recognized my garbage.

I gently squeezed each balled up tissue until I felt it. I opened the tissue and there in all its shiny glory, was my great-grandmother’s ring. I burst into tears. Hysterical, sobbing tears. My garbage man came over, patted my back and put his arm around me. In broken English he said, “It’s okay, Miss. No cry. You found ring.” I pulled it together enough to ask him one question. “What is your name?” I sobbed. “Jose,” he said. “Thank you, Jose,” is all that came out.

I walked back to my car and turned to watch the attendant use a backhoe to dump the contents of my garbage truck into the in-ground compacter. I heard the crushing sounds as the 500 cubic feet were reduced to five. I peeled off my gloves and placed the ring on my finger. It glistened in the early morning sunlight. The sentimental value of things can never be measured, but they can remind you of the power of love. I only hope that one day, when this ring belongs to my daughter; she will have an even better story of how she kept it alive.

Time Stamp Tramp

A time stamp is a sequence of characters, denoting the date and/or time at which a certain event occurred. Your computer places this on your correspondence automatically and applications, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, do it as well, only you have to embrace a little math because their time stamps appear as time passed from the moment it was posted.

Your imagination wonders when you look at someone’s timestamp. Like when your kid goes to college and sends you an email at 3:45am asking to put more money in their flex dollars account. What’s up with that? Once those kids leave home, they may tell you nothing about their lives, but their time stamp will let you know that they’re up and doing who-knows-what. I’ve learned over the years to NOT GO THERE. Those kind of time stamps bring on ulcers.

If you’ve read some of my past blogs, you’ll note that my timestamp appears between the hours of five and six am EST. What does that say about me?

Mostly that I’m in the EXTENDED DAY program, also known as the LONG F**KING DAY program. I own that Morning Person moniker.

The best part about my early time stamps are the subsequent phone calls I get from peeps up late on the West Coast, “You’re still up?”, peeps in Europe “I could tell you were up by your post!” and my cherished, insomniac peeps in my time zone, “OMG, I can’t sleep, either”.

Droop Scoop

“My boobs look great when I’m immersed in water.” 

Advancing age, weight loss and pregnancy can cause a condition medically known as Breast Ptosis, aka the droop. Did you know that there are different degrees of breast ptosis? All sags are not the same, so to speak.

Say whaaat?

Here is how you measure yourself. You need a 12 inch ruler (make sure it has centimeters) and a mirror.

Take your shirt and bra off and find your inframammary crease (the fold line just under your breasts where they meet your chest).

Place the ruler in the crease, directly against the junction of the breast and ribcage.

Let your breasts hang over the ruler, and look at yourself in a mirror. The ruler marks your inframammary crease.

If your nipple is slightly above or directly in front of the top of the ruler, you may have Grade 1 ptosis. This is considered mild.

If the central point of your nipple is 1 to 3 cm below the top of your breast crease, you may have Grade 2 ptosis. This is considered mild to moderate.

If the central point of your nipple and your areola (the colored area around your nipple) is more than 3 cm below your breast crease, you may have Grade 3 ptosis. This is considered severe. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. I tend to disagree. Severe is when you can hold a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke under your inframammary crease and pour a few drinks.

My Grandmother (may she rest in peace) had severe ptosis. When I was 10, I was staying at her house one night. While she was taking a bath, she called out to me to come in and get her cushioned bath head pillow off of the counter. As I walked in, I saw her lift her breast out of the bubbles and wash underneath her inframammary area. It looked like she was playing the cello. It would be an understatement to say it made an indelible mark on me. On the plus side, it did peak my interest in the science of genetics and the importance of a great and who-cares-what-it-costs bra.

Like grades really matter.

 

Quasibloato

I love waking up in the morning. The air is crisp. The birds are chirping and my stomach is flat…until, of course, I start EATING. That’s a four minute window and it’s way too short.

Face it. We may be the superior race, but we definitely got ripped off in the perpetual flat ab category. I know its not fair, but women are just prone to bloating. That hormone thing, at any age, pushes all of our buttons. There’s nothing like bloating to make you want to hide in the nearest bell tower.

Well, F**k that.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of feeling sluggish and uncomfortable, so I uncovered a few anti-bloat tips that I wanted to share.

The bottom line is, our digestive system simply cannot process everything, (and yes, that includes the 6 french fries off of your friends plate) so you have to know the limitation of yours.  With that in mind, here’s a list of:

Bloating Dos and Don’ts

Don’t skip meals. 
Drink plenty of water (non-carbonated). 
Chew your food thoroughly. 
Don’t talk and chew at the same time. (it causes you to swallow air, which causes more gas). 
Avoid carbonated beverages, chewing gum, highly spiced foods, and too many sweets (I know…Total kill joy here). 
Eat only peeled, cooked seedless fruits and vegetables.
 Limit beans, corn (including popcorn), and nuts and vegetables in the cabbage and onion families, including broccoli and garlic.

And last but not least…
Avoid dairy products, BECAUSE a majority of people are lactose intolerant.

Since I eat almost everything that you’re supposed to avoid,  I tend to try this quick fix first which is an…

Exercise To Relieve Bloating

Lie flat on your back and bring your left knee to your chest while keeping your right leg as close to the floor as possible. Hug your left knee to the count of 20. Release and repeat with your right knee. Alternate knees for 5 times or more, depending on the severity of symptoms.

If you’re lucky, you’ll move the bloat up or out, (often embarrassingly audible) or to an acceptable place like your feet. Truthfully, when I’m not feeling too holistic, I’ll pop a Gas-X. Next to coffee, it’s my drug of choice.

Napquest

As much as I believe that getting up super early in the morning is the best thing in the world, I would be doing a disservice to you by not highlighting a certain truth…

THE LATE AFTERNOONS SUCK.

Early rising can have some drawbacks. Right about the time 4 pm rolls around,  I feel like a dog looking for a place to curl up and get cosy. Hmmm…somewhere quiet, but in pinch, even my desk chair will do. All I need is 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes…okay, maybe 8 minutes.

If I can’t find a spot, I somehow find a way to land on the doorstep of the nearest Dunkin Donuts. A medium size coffee usually gets me all perked up again, until about 9pm, where I instantly crash on the sofa in the family room– snoring– with reading material across my chest. It ain’t pretty. (My kids have frequently snap-chatted this event)

It took one of my sons, fresh out of a college Psychology class, to tell me about the benefits of re-charging your brain through napping. You may think it’s an activity for babies and old people, but the more I looked into it, the more I think it’s critical to keeping your brain fit.

Research highlights the benefits of three kinds of naps:

1) The 20-minute power nap is good for alertness and motor learning skills. You are also less likely to wake-up groggy.

2) The 30-60 minute nap is good for decision-making skills but you may feel slightly fuzzy upon rising.

3) The 60-90 minute nap plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems. Sounds good, but waking up from that sucker will have you chanting “Where the f**k am I?”

I’m all about making new brain connections, but seriously, when do you find the time to really take a nap? You don’t find it…You make it.

Lunch and a quickie anyone?

Beyond The Peckers From Hell

Several months back, I blogged for Mypheme about my nagging pecker problem. My house was under siege by a determined woodpecker. After various attempts to scare him off, he finally gave up and left pissed that some crazy, frizzy haired, robe-clad woman, banging pots and pans, was continually interrupting his orgasmic drilling on the side of the house. Well, I sure underestimated that little pecker because now he has brought back some bigger friends. Friends with a wing span of 57 inches. Friends, who look small when soaring up in the sky, but when they dive 120 miles for my chimney to perch, have me dialing 911.

OMG, attack of the red tailed hawks.

I remember when, a few towns away, an aggressive red-tailed hawk attacked at least five people including a woman who needed medical care after being cut on the head. Officials said the hawk had snatched a hat off a boy’s head, snagged headphones from a man and even attacked a car. Recess and gym classes at a nearby school were held indoors.

I’ve seen this movie.

The Red-tailed Hawk is generally non-aggressive toward people unless there are nestlings present or if you’ve pissed off his friends like I did. Did I forget to mention that the Red-tailed Hawk is carnivorous?

That’s not a weathervane on my chimney, folks. That’s the real deal.

When I pull into my driveway, he eyes my car. Funny how the spring squirrels and other small critters have mysteriously disappeared from the yard.

Electric garage door openers never looked this good.

I may throw the Trader Joe’s Marinated Beef Roast out the window as a peace offering.

Negotiation is key in this situation.