Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cerebral Betrayal

935-3678. This was my grandparents' telephone number during my childhood. Both have been deceased for well over fifteen years. Don’t ask me how I still remember this number. It’s not that I called them often when they were alive. (Regret).

That was their daughter’s job - to call them. My mother would call her mother at least once a day when I was a kid, and I remember this because I would spy on her in the hallway, peering at the curly cord of the phone that traveled under her bedroom door. Those two mean girls would talk about my preteen years as if my life were plastered on the cover of US Weekly. According to their secret conversations, I was not respectful, way too narcissistic (had to look that one up as an eleven year old), and just down right rude. The point is not to cast aspersions on Mom and “Dama”, although I would love to here, but to highlight the fact that I still remember that damn phone number. Still. To this day. Almost 30 years later.

Why, when I can’t remember that Tuesday is trash day, that my husband AND my mother’s birthdays are on March 23rd. which I have incidentally missed at least once. And most recently disturbing – I cannot remember who is older, my friend of more than ten years, or her sister. Typically, this wouldn’t be such a big deal other than the fact that I have asked her this question at least four times a year since we became friends. And every time she answers me, this is my response, “Ohhhh yeaaahhhh you (or she) are (or is) older. It totally makes sense. Sorry for asking again."

Retaining this information is important to me – being an older sibling myself, I find it necessary to understand the psychological effects of my friends in the pecking order of sibling hierarchy and to relate to who they are as people. Alas, I have no clue with my sweet friend.

If I had to take a test to determine whether or not I could function as an adult (thank God such a test does not exist), and the question of whether or not my friend was older or younger than her sister was on the test, I would have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right. And here’s the most absurd detail, I asked her to answer this question for me not more than three weeks ago. That’s right, no recollection. Now, I do remember in detail asking her, but may likely have had a clinical blackout when she responded.

Permanent Fact: As of this moment, I have no idea whether my friend is an older sister or a younger sister. And I never will. Ever. Perhaps a tattoo on my forearm would help. But I wouldn’t trust it. I would question whether or not the tattoo artist took my word for it or asked my friend to verify the information herself.

So, why can I never remember this important fact, but I can’t seem to forget a phone number that I called maybe a handful of times; a phone number that belonged to two grandparents whose love of which I was not worthy? Someone, please. Help me regain my sanity. But wait, soak in this little anecdote before administering aid:

I don’t know how to spell my husband, Pants’ middle name. That’s not to say that I have seen it in print over fifty times – we have been married for five years, together for eight, and I have personally had to sign a lot of house loan docs, coupled with the three life insurance policies I have out on him (hence the benefits of marrying an older man). I have had to sign each doc, each page, under penalty of perjury (or whatever a notary spewed at me at the time). These types of official documents are required to be accurate.

“Ms. Brown, did we spell yours and your husband’s name right on these documents? Please check before you sign.”

Looks good to me.. Allen or Allan, who cares? They get the point. Why the hell should I be required to keep track of how to spell Alle(a)n? I have more important facts to retain (like that damn phone number). Unless it means that I couldn't cash in on some sweet moola if Pants were to happen to pass on accidentally. God forbid, of course.

Pants has corrected me several times when I have had to fill out IRS papers, refinance docs for the umpteenth time (blasted real estate market) and health care insurance applications, but without him flying copilot, I am all but lost.

What the hell is wrong with me? I need answers. It’s getting worse. I know my eighth grade band teacher's name (Berney), but can't remember who parted the Red Sea in Egypt. (It was Moses because Pants just told me as I posed this question out loud).

Let's face it - I know few things. Except for that damn phone number and a couple of other fartless facts like the champion quotes from the Bill Murray movie, What About Bob? “I need, I need, Gimmie Gimmie”. I also know that Oprah wheeled in 60 plus pounds of fat onto her stage in a Radio Flyer Wagon during an episode in 1988. I was sixteen at the time. Let that soak in.

Per my chosen career path, you would think that I would take these little idiosyncrasies and use them to my advantage by choosing a career in say, entertainment news. You would be wrong. Instead, I chose a profession that requires me to retain heavy amounts of detailed information on how water law works in California, what a discounted rate of return is when addressing public pension funds and what it takes to consolidate local fire services.

Oh, how I find myself in trouble, daily.

Right before I have to retain a crap load of information for my work, I find it soothing to breathe deeply and peruse Craig's list. It clears my mind and gives me some needed junk food for the brain - what are people calling out for in my own community? I don’t spend a lot of time memorizing the ads, ideally. (Although user #193348 is selling a "gently" used sectional sofa for $175), I just glance. Take a gander. Then it’s back to water flow standards, defined benefits and other brain teasers like unilateral implementation. Don’t ask me how I make the transition because I don’t rightly know.

My grandfather, who I affectionately referred to as Papa, died of Alzheimers at the young age of 74. He was an engineer-scientist-brainiac type who worked for PG&E for the better part of his adult life. This man could construct transister radios out of parts found in the trash bins behind his church alley. I was never one to take an interest when he got all weird and technical when describing his work, but I was incredibly impressed from afar.

I often wonder why his brain betrayed him in his elder state. I figure it had something to do with genetics, which means I am screwed, but perhaps it had a little to do with his insatiable need for more scientific information. Perhaps his brain couldn’t take it any longer, that it just pooped out. Perhaps that’s what mine is doing at the age of 38.

People’s faces never escaped my Papa, nor do they escape me. But names, forget it. I would wait impatiently for Papa to introduce me to a neighbor or friend or, God forbid, his boss. Never happened.

“When I don’t introduce you, it means I forgot the a-hole’s name, so do your Papa a favor and introduce yourself. That way, I will know it for next time.” Papa would ramble on about the fact that the brain could only hold so much information and that he didn’t have time for such trivial facts. But really, let's be honest. Say I did introduce myself. What were the odds that he would recognize and retain the information for the long haul?

Look, Papa. I get it. But don’t think that I or anybody else were ever planning to bail you out. The minute the "no name" introduced himself and said his name out loud and shook your hand, you forgot him except for twitch in his eye and his downturn lip curl. Period. That’s how it works in our world. I know this because I have seen you call the same people "buddy" or "kiddo" when you greeted them everyday as you took out the trash. I find myself doing the same thing.

I play Sudoku and do jigsaw puzzles in the hopes that it will reverse whatever Papa handed down to me. I read somewhere that mental exercises like this help with the process, and I hope to beat the genetic cards that I have been dealt, but that’s simply bullshit. I am not at a higher intellectual level due to these little time passers, nor do I feel I am cheating my genetic code. Simply put, I have a piece of the frontal (or rear) lobe that refuses to retain information the way most people do. And it’s something I have to live with, unless someone out there tells me what I have to do to change this little computer clitch, this mental hiccup. And if anyone has the magic solution to beat the odds, I am all ears.

I am all ears.

It’s Wednesday, right? December?

Let me end with this: in the context of work, I have one particular business partner who shows me up on the detailed-fartless-fact front on a daily basis. Not that I am bitter or anything, I find it a nice little bonus to our overall portfolio that we offer clients – a savant, if you will, of useless information that will inevitably get us through the proverbial door of success. Look, I know my limitations. I know that I have to read something at least four times – along with yellow (not green or pink) highlighter notes, coupled with a lot of “what’s your interpretation of this information?” questions in order for it to sink in. I get it. But it slightly irks me when my business partner can read this info on his handheld while walking into a meeting and sound like a patriot hero in front of the client when I have to spend the better part of a Saturday studying up.

How is any of this fair?

If the part of my brain that remembers my dead grandparents’ phone number were to throw me a bone and offer up some free space of memory for things that actually mattered like how to construct the perfect solution to a statewide budget deficit, or (alternatively) obtain an abundance of personal wealth, or for Pete’s sake, simply allow me to remember the date of my husband and mothers’ birthday, I would be eternally grateful and perhaps give back to the cosmos for my cerebral gifts.

Until then, I am bitter, thus selfish and envious of those who have what I do not.

A bonefide memory.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Key to Ski at Three

Olympic swimmer, Spanish translator, sponsored mountain biker, and now add professional skier to the list. Yack has some future ahead of him.

I was never going to be that mom – the annoying kind who gets her child up at 4 a.m. to go to swim practice for four hours before school starts. The kind who forces their kid to go mountain biking in the rain because she thinks it will toughen him up for competition. The kind whose idea of relaxing is practicing the constellations en espanol.

Oh, but I am that mom. And I have hated myself for it, until today where I saw a glimmer of joy on my son’s face when I forced him into doing something that made him cold and miserable.

Let’s back up. When Yack was seven months old, I signed him up for swim lessons. Well, swim lessons is a misnomer. Float lessons is a more accurate description. This Infant Resource Swim program forces your kid to either be deathly afraid of the edge of a pool, or if luck would have it and he happened to fall in, to float on his back and scream like a banshee for help. At first, I wasn’t too concerned with whether Jack liked the water or not. (An emphasis on the "not", screaming bloody murder to get out of the pool). I was doing the responsible thing, though. This was about him not drowning.

But now as we enter our third season, I have fantasies about him emulating Michael Phelps, absent the bong hits.

Sure, I want him to be a happy kid, but I also want him to reach his true potential. Because his mother sure as hell didn’t. Isn’t having kids a little like being granted a do over? Don’t you get a second chance through the lives of your children? Long live vicarious parents.

Cut to last week. Pants and I have been excited (read: impatient) to teach Yack to ski. This is strictly a selfish act – we both would like to spend a lot more time on the mountain with our snowboards and can’t do it without the guilt unless the kid comes with. So, we have been implementing a number of tactics to get him into the sport. One includes having him watch some of his cartoonish heroes in the act. “Look, Yack, Go Diego Go is SKIING! How fun do you think he is having right now? Let’s pause it to see the true smile on his face.”

Other coaxing mechanisms that seemed to work are listed below. For those parents who would like to get your kids to be excited about freezing in the snow, please feel free to borrow these suggestions. I take no ownership in them. There will be absolutely no copyright infringement. You’re welcome:

1. The minute he is old enough to walk, take him sledding. Any old makeshift platform will do, but make sure it’s smooth on the bottom and durable. No computer bags or outdoor furniture covers, please. These typically have some sort of zipper or belt buckle that will find its way into the booty. Household items that worked for us: reusable grocery bags, infant bathtubs, trash can lids, or here's a novel thought: get a sled.

2. Don’t pick a spot that’s too steep, and know how to stop when going too fast. I made this mistake by putting a screaming Yack on my lap and hurdling down a very steep mountain side that was highly populated with pines. At the last minute, I had to throw Yack off of me and into the hands of my father as I plunged into a tree trunk, shoulder first.

3. Cover your child’s hands. If his hands happen to get wet, the jig is up. The fun is over. You can pack it up and go home. If kiddo gloves are not readily available, use socks or your stocking cap and wrap a rubber band around his wrists.

4. Have a snowball fight. Let him hit you a few times in the legs or back and then turn around and wallop him a good one right in the head. Make sure that the snowball is not packed too hard and don’t aim for the eyes. This will inhibit his ability to see and he will want to go back inside.

5. Under any circumstances, do NOT call a bib a “bib”. He will think it’s for babies and refuse to wear it. After several temper tantrums in the sporting goods store, we had to convince poor Yack that he wasn’t wearing a bib, but overalls and that they will keep him warm as he plummets head first into the powdery snow.

6. Force his feet into the ski boots. They will seem constricting at first but after he almost collapses of exhaustion from fighting you, ask him to kick something - a garbage can, a car bumper. He will find this amusing and not want to take them off.

7. Tell him that he looks like Buzz Lightyear in his snow outfit. This will increase his confidence and he will think he is flying down the mountain while yelling, “To infinity…. and beyyyyooond.”

These little strategies added up to be the key to Yack’s success. I’m not going to lie. Pants and I were nervous about the potential meltdown. But the work by all three of us paid off. We took Yack to a hill behind our cabin that had about three inches of fresh snow. Pants distracted him while I pulled up his big boy bib and clicked in his mini skies. We carried him up the mountain and told him to point his ski tips towards Daddy. “What are tips?” Oh, right, I forgot we were teaching a three year old.

“The tips are the front points of your skies.” And that’s all the explanation Bode Miller needed before he began shredding down the mountain side. With a smile on his face and his arms out like Buzz, my little boy zipped past me while yelling, “Yee Hahhhh.”

“Mommy, I’m a skier.”

You most certainly are, my sweet boy.

Zhao's Lights

I have this friend. (I know, surprising, right?) She has done a fairly good job at bringing me into adulthood and maturity. Because of her, I have noticed that I am invited to a lot more functions, events and holiday parties especially during this end of the year. I would like to think that this is due to my social and professional improvements, but let’s be realistic – it’s likely because I hang out with her. She’s got good status.

And no, that’s not the only reason why she’s my friend. She’s also my client.

And no, that’s not the second reason why she is my friend. She’s also pretty.

And no, that’s not the..

Lately, the parties that she has me attend make me exceedingly anxious. I just don’t know when to cut the cord on the conversation boundary, but my client, good status pretty friend typically knows when to reign me in with a nudge and a look. She answers the question I have never been able to answer, ever: “how much is too fun among the people you define as professional acquaintances?”

She is truly one of my dearest feminatzi friends (who I talk to about off limit topics such as irritable bowel syndrome, the early onset of menopause, the fact that she doesn't sweat, and my paralyzing fear of the esthetician). Granted, she does not allow me to discuss said topics among colleagues, although, when she’s not around, I slip up. Hello, bloggety blog..

Recently, my friend – we shall call her Zhao Wie – invited Pants, Yack and me to HER holiday party where she was hosting her staff. For all intents and purposes, she considers me her staff too based on how much she bosses me around, but I chalk it up to needing that kind of influence in my life right now. Besides, technically I work for her so taking her orders is something I get paid to do, although in certain instances proves to be very difficult.

Her dining room table was blanketed in 20 different types of holiday cookies that she made from scratch. I know this because she called me three days before the party and in a guilt ridden stupor admitting that while she was making cookies, her 19 month old daughter accidently did a half gainer off the kitchen counter onto the floor. “We were making the cookies together.” God, how I love working mothers.

As the night progressed, Zhao and I sat in a corner, huddled together discussing topics that completely intrigued me: gossip, her husband’s obsessive compulsive bike riding, and how she just spent the amount of her monthly mortgage payment on a pair of Jimmy Choos – did I spell that correctly? She wore these art forms while pregnant too, hoofing it through the halls of the State Capitol, while I loudly pointed out how ridiculous it is to wear 5 inchers while 8 months knocked up, and that she needed to move a little faster. It’s a wonder why she doesn’t have varicose veins and turf toe. I must say, though, her feet looked fabulous. But I ain’t going there. I’m going to the Aerosole shop and Larry’s comfort shoes. You never know when you are going to be called upon to play in an emergency basketball game.

Our friendship works because of a mutual respect. I revere her as being the princess feminist that she is, she gives me the space to be socially inappropriate and about a decade behind in my fashion sense – otherwise known as being incredibly cheap. Hello nice sweater from Target. If I wash you, you will cease to be pulled out of my closet and worn. Hello, necklace I borrowed from Zhao, if I ruin you or lose you, I may have to file for bankruptcy.

Zhao likes expensive things and gets a little carried away when it comes to overindulging. Like the time we went to Maui and she spent two hours and $____ (OMG!) amount on a piece of art while I drank beer in a bar watching the Superbowl and sending her nasty text messages: WTF? Where R U?!? Get to Bubba Gumps STAT.

So, I found it odd that at her holiday party I noticed that her tree, albeit beautifully decorated, didn’t don any lights. It looked as if she just pooped out after a half hour – she is a working mother, you know – and the odd part was that it was displayed in her front window for all passers by to see. I mean, if I were walking by Zhao’s house and looked in the window, I would be reminded of the tree scene in Poltergeist. How odd…and scary.

I didn’t want to make a scene by asking her in an accusatory tone at her party – I had to be mindful of Zhao’s influence on my new found maturity, which involved thinking before I talked, listening more, and not being so quick to point out people’s faults, especially hers. The last thing I wanted to do was make a spectacle out of Zhao’s homemaking skills, I mean she was feeling rather self conscious after dropping her kid on the floor and all.

I am proud to report that Pants and I left that party without incident. It’s probably because Yack was experiencing a very painful bout of constipation and wanted to “poop, mommy, I have to poop!” So we herded him out the door and bid our respects and head nods and Happy Holidays to our colleagues, the guests.

I had a hard time sleeping that night. Who goes to the trouble with getting a tree, putting very fancy decorations on it, but forgets the lights? Who does that? Especially Ms. Jimmy Chow, Ferrari baby stroller, VP of high powered association?

I waited until 7:50 to call her the next morning.

“Hey, Zhao -

Zhao’s response almost verbatim:

“Well, Vidal(that’s her partner, baby daddy, Brad Pitt type. I don’t think they will get married until everyone can. So 2010-hip), and I have this continued debate on whether to string colored lights or white lights. And you are probably going to side with him because well, you always do, but I refuse to put up colored lights on the tree. And since he won’t go to the store to get white lights because we already have colored lights here, I refuse to put up the lights. And every year I forget to go out and buy white lights, and inevitably refuse when I do remember because it’s too late, so the last few years we have gone without lights entirely.”

Me: “Do you think that’s being passive aggressive?”

Zhao: “No, it’s about not adhering to a cheesy decision because I can’t get my shit together at Christmas.”

Me: “You’re weird.”

Zhao: “Um, I bet you’re talking to me right now while you are looking at your Christmas tree decorated in those hideous colored lights thinking, yeah, they kinda suck.”

Me: “I hate you, Good Bye.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stinky Injustice

My husband Pants is the kindest, gentlest human being around. He’s soft around the edges and usually lets me win when we argue. He never speaks poorly of people and always chalks up bad decisions made by friends and family to “perhaps they’re just having an off day”.

I’m the hot head, not him. I’m the blurter, the impatient one. The one who yells when we get cut off in traffic. The one with the quick trigger finger to point out little injustices in the world. Not him.

Not my Pants.

We had just finished a meeting with a client we both share (an excuse to see each other during the workday), and we were walking back to Pants’ parking garage. It was about 30 degrees outside (unacceptable weather for California) and Pants noticed that I had left my coat in my office. Being the perfect gentleman, he whipped off his wool coat and draped it over my shoulders. We strolled hand in hand (are you getting a little nauseous over the happy couple crap? Good, because it’s about to end).

As we approached his office building, Pants stopped walking. He motioned me to stop too. This is where I became irritated. My nose was getting frost bite.

“Look over there.” He pointed to a dog getting ready to drop a load on the lawn across the street. I wondered out loud why we were watching a dog take a crap.

The dog belonged to a police officer who was standing next to him while he shat (real word, look it up). “Good boy,” the officer said.

Pants mumbled something about betting that the officer wouldn’t clean up after his dog and wanted to see if he was right. I was mildly amused.

After several seconds of us staring at this squatting dog while we shivered in the cold, the officer took his leash out of his pocket, clipped it to the dog’s collar and walked away.

And it went downhill from there.

“HEY!” Pants yelled.. loudly.

This is when I took off in a full arm pumping sprint in my three inch high heeled boots, heading straight for the entrance of Pants’ office building. But before I reached the door, I heard another, “HEY!”

As I crouched down behind a raised concrete planter box outside the front door, I felt like I was in the middle of a bad cop movie.

The officer answered, “yeah?”, slightly annoyed at the fact that some yahoo in a business suit is yelling at him.

“Are you gonna pick up that shit?” I peeked around the planter box and saw Pants pointing his finger at the officer and then at the poop. By this time another officer had approached the chaos and stood there staring at Pants which compelled him to repeat.


The offending officer looked at his partner, shrugged his shoulders they turned around and kept walking, luckily.

By this time, I was shaking – half cold, half sacred that I was going to have to bail my husband out of jail for “officer harassment”. I couldn’t imagine how he would explain this one down at the station. “Get your hands off me. Your officer failed to pick up his dog’s crap and you’re arresting me? I am filing a complaint. This is an outrage! A travesty!”

I stood up after not hearing much of anything else and there was Pants heading straight for me, hands waving, yelling, “Can you believe that? They would have ticketed us in a heartbeat if Conrad were to drop a load in front of them. I can’t stand the injustice!”

I immediately flashed back to Pants giving me a lecture last week about letting things go when the gardeners failed to fix some sprinkler heads after being asked… twice.

I used good judgment by not bringing that up at this particular time, as Pants and I walked to the car. I simply grabbed his hand, gave him a smile and giggled quietly to myself.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grand Master Plans

New Years Resolutions are set up to fail. Everyone knows that. The media covers it, neighbors and friends talk about it.. Oh, let’s figure out how to promise ourselves to accomplish our goals and then never plan to reach them. Let’s even write them down so we can be reminded of our failures in about three weeks. By Martin Luther King weekend we have just cracked open our sixth beer after promising to decrease our alcohol consumption to a moderate level. It never works. So why do we do it? I know why I do it.

I think of my psyche as a snake. My skin must be shed of all the dead end habits I have accumulated in a year’s time, which by the holidays add up to be quite a bit. And thinking about starting fresh on 1-1-11 after I have fine tuned the acts of gluttony, borderline alcoholism and losing patience with people in an instant, the task to straighten up my act seems downright daunting.

So, I’m pretty sure I have unlocked the solution to this seemingly permanent failure of mine – along with the rest of the world’s. It’s called the quarterly grand master plan. I should give credit to the creation of the Archivers (see October Archiving the Dream) for this little scheme. Here’s how it works: a group of friends, preferably supportive, gather round for dinner, a little wine.. slap on a DVD so the kids don’t bother the GMP process… and write down two or three things you are going to do in the next three months. The moderator/facilitator, which is usually me, will ask leading questions as to how you think you might obtain said GMP. For instance, a nice fellow was dining with us last week. He’s a friend. Not a close one probably because he knows that I think his wife is hot, but I am married.. to a man, but whatever. I asked him and his wife and others around the table if they might want to engage in a little GMP exercise. Most were new to the idea so there was some non verbal reluctance. Let’s call nice fellow the Hot Wife’s Husband (Just to be clear, Hot Wife’s Husband is hot too). So Hot Wife’s Husband played along and indicated that he wanted to be able to touch his toes by April. I had to determine if this was in fact a lofty goal so I ordered him to stand up and show us how far he could bend over. Well, Hot Wife’s Husband at that point looked a little like Old Man River. He barely cleared his knee caps. I asked if he wanted to shoot for the shins by April. He said no.

When asked what he is going to do to meet his goal, Hot Wife’s Husband said that he was going to lean over and stretch with legs locked twice a week for ten minutes (HWH, yes you did say that, I wrote it down). He also said that he would take a yoga class once a month. I will bet a mortgage payment that HWH has done neither of these tasks.. but here's where the New Year's Resolution and the GMP differ. I will begin to thoroughly harass and publicly flog HWH if he does not begin the tasks needed to stretch those rappelling ropes he calls hamstrings.

Now on to Hot Wife who said that her GMP was to eat two vegetables and two fruits per day. I asked the dinner host for some clarification on this the next day. Who doesn’t eat fruits and veggies and still looks like that?!? Apparently, HW is a HW due to her gene pool and not what she puts in her mouth. This new fact makes me hate her a little.

I mentioned while I wrote down HW’s goal that she may be setting herself up for failure if this wasn’t a regular habit. Perhaps she should start with two or three days a week. She compromised and said that if she makes it a regular habit three times per week by February, she will consider it an accomplishment. May I suggest hiding your fruits and veggies in the food you love like bacon wrapped asparagus and apple slices dipped in chocolate? Just a helpful suggestion, you freak of nature.

Next there was the "friend who replaced me". A little stage setting: I have been bffs with the dinner host - a woman we will call Litha. We have been bffs for, oh, I don’t know, eternity. And this friend stealer just swoops in and takes her from me because they are both single and believe that this is the common thread that will keep them together. News flash, Friend Stealer, she has a dark side. And for the record, Litha, I can go out and dance and go to bars and drink and be your wing man. You didn’t have to throw me out like yesterday’s trash. Anyway, back to Friend Stealer’s GMPs. Her goal was to start a workout program with Litha (big surprise) and to spend more time meeting new people. I’m new, do I count? Anyway, she had other GMPs but I should respect her privacy and not publicize it for the world to see like I am going to do with Litha’s.

Litha plans to bench press 100 pounds and clean and jerk 80 pounds by April. Now, I worked out with her today – jealous, FS? – and she did well, but has a long way to go, just sayin. Stay the course, Litha. Keep going to the torture chamber and you’ll get there easily.

My favorite GMP of the evening came from a veteran to the GMPs. He’s been hanging around for the last three years. He is a good friend and fun to have at dinner parties. We will call him Jailbait. Jailbait’s GMPs is to limit his work schedule to 60 hours a week and gain 25 pounds through exercising and eating. Jailbait went into detail as to why he felt these were laudable GMPs, which I later realized were a heaping pile of stinky excuses to work less and eat more. Bottom line, Jailbait, gaining weight and cutting back on the number of hours you work are not acceptable GMPs. I am on to you, so pick again.

Oh, and one last general comment, Shall Remain Nameless, drinking more wine and spending less time with your kids are also inappropriate GMPs.

Nevertheless, it’s important for all of us to keep our own wheels oiled. Thus, compiling a list of GMPs that will set the stage for personal improvement on an incremental level seems to be the more appropriate strategy. Besides, it facilitates the need to gather together, and self indulge way more often than just New Year’s Eve.

So, get those pens out now and let the upgrading begin.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Dreaded Pull Up

After the Tough Mudder race I needed an incentive to return to the gym on a regular basis. After all, come October 9th (race day) what was going to keep me returning? I already have a few friends who dropped off the gym schedule. Not to name names, but Vince who originally guilted us in to participating in Tough Mudders to begin with hasn’t been seen at the gym since October 6th – “I need three days prior to the race to rest”. Apparently, he needed two months after the race to rest too. How are those Big Macs, muffin top?

I needed a reason to keep going - I couldn’t be motivated solely by inner peace, outer strength and an overarching need for physical maintenance. Sadly, knocking on 40’s door wasn’t enough to keep the ol’ gym attendance up. I needed something else.

As I pondered this dilemma out loud one day to no one in particular, my trainer politely stepped in.

“I noticed that you are having a hard time doing a pull up. Perhaps that can be your goal.”

Um, yes I can and eat my shorts.

After several embarrassing attempts at the pull up bar (think dead fish flopping on land), it was clear what my next goal would be. But before I get into the details that would help me achieve that goal, I want to pause for a moment and allow that reality to settle in: I cannot do one stinking pull up.

I vaguely remember the “President’s test” in junior high – the physical education test to gauge how fit American kids really are. Couldn’t I do at least three pull ups back then? I can’t remember. But due to my over inflated sense of physical self, I remember feeling damn good about my accomplishments back then. And since pull ups were a highlight, I recall doing them without struggle… or was that the sit up?

With this new goal in mind, my dear trainers at the gym have harassed me into submission. I distinctly recall a particularly difficult workout that zeroed in on all of those muscles in the upper body – the ones I don’t have – the pecs, the lats, the biceps, the shoulders. Instead I am the proud owner of two underarm sag bags. And proud – did I say that already?

The workout consisted of clean and jerks (this is apparently not an exercise to do while engaged in intimate relations with your partner), sandbag tosses (think mamed German Shepard over your shoulder), and kettle ball swings (these are old cast iron Russian weights that really have no place on American soil). Oh, and here’s the exercise that almost put me in an early grave – the burpies to pull ups. I will do my best at the description. Start with a pushup, but instead of ending with arms extended in the horizontal upright position, end with your legs in a squat position and leap through the air as if you are going to choke the person standing in front of you. Then, when you are fully extended with hands reaching for the sky, resembling a completely spaced out Shape magazine model who just found out her cereal is non-fat, you grab on to the pull up bar and spaz yourself upwards so that your chin clears the top. Now try doing that eight times.

Eat my shorts.

With all of the complaining I do (“less talky, more lifty” says my trainers), I am rather surprised to announce that two weeks ago, I did three pull ups. That’s right, not one but three. And today, I added a forth.

What’s next, you ask? Well, don’t ask me, ask my trainers. They say I can do ten pull ups by March. Actually, there’s some discrepancy. One trainer (who seems to be the more rational one – the one I like better) says I can do ten. While the other one (the Devil himself) says that I can probably accomplish 15-20.

Eat my shorts.

You may be wondering what my chest looks like right about now. (Or if you’re not, thank you for being polite). Either way, I will share. Let me just put it this way. I shop in the junior department for specific undergarments. And that weird line that goes down the middle of your upper chest? Apparently, that separates out the pectoral muscles that were once my breasts. Who knew?

Well, I know one thing – I may look a little odd (male) from the sternum up, but I could probably whip the behind of the perp who is following you down that dark ally. Do you need an escort madame?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's About Time

(It took a night with my most long term and cherished girlfriends to jump start me into blogging blather once again).

I read a book a couple of years ago that stuck with me. It’s called Tripping the Prom Queen and the premise centers on how women are our own worst enemy, that the failure of your best girlfriend brings you secret pleasure and that the sexism and oppression a woman faces over her life in most part comes directly from her female colleagues, natural foes and yes, her girlfriends.

The book conjured up painful memories of my childhood where I was kicked, pinched, harassed, called boy hog, trollup (had to look this one up), all the while dodging rocks from the fifth grade she devils in my class. I remember a particularly excruciating moment where the Queen She Devil invited every girl in class to an ice cream shop during the lunch hour, except for me. I remember sitting at my desk surrounded by elementary school testosterone, and making a decision to survive. I adapted to the ten year old boy way of life. I played football, I wore vans and rags (remember those pants?) and didn’t pay too much attention to my hair - for those of you young Tomboys with long hair, the best way to keep it out of your way is the standard French braid, but get someone to do it well so you won’t have to wash it for up to a week.

High school was a little different but not much. I wasn’t being pelted with rocks, but I still felt like an outcast among the pubescent young women who had boobs and menstrual cycles, of which I had neither. Being fingered as the late bloomer, I acclimated by being semi funny and self deprecating. Still, being in the presence of my fellow female counterparts was always filled with giddy, nervous anxiety.

Then I went to college. It was there by the grace of good luck, and perhaps a little divine intervention, I ran into a handful of women (I call them girls) who not only taught me how to love my own sex, but they eventually became my family.

Oh, these girls, we have not towed the line of responsiblity, like the time X1 showed up to a formal gala in thermal underwear to give a piece of her mind - rather loudly - to a girl who owed her money, or when X2 thought that I wouldn't notice the change missing from my waitressing tip jar for months, or when yours truly got clocked in the eye at a bar in San Francisco when I was trying to stop some a-wipe from stealing X3's purse. They dragged me down to the underbelly of the 90's. For all intents and purposes, those girls should be fleeting memories.

But they are not.

And back to the book's theme, it’s not as if we spare each other from verbal pillage. Everyone has their faults and these girls will be the first to point it out. When X5 grew her hair long, we all protested and all but handed her a pair of scissors. When X2, in a moment of weakness, confessed that she didn’t like going out and meeting people, we told her that she would end up an old maid. In fact, just two days ago, we were all celebrating X3’s fortieth birthday (old maid) and I was promptly told that my hair was too light, too long and that the necklace I was wearing needed to be removed immediately. We also conducted a strategic dog pile on X4 who has spent, in our most judgmental opinion, way too much time pining over some foreign hothead who has his own challenges following the law.

But these verbal assaults are signs of our unfettered friendship. Is it due to our unconditional commitment towards sustaining our little “friends network”? (A coined nickname given to us in college by some boys who were engaged in physical relations with a few of us and didn’t want said relations discussed. Sorry, too late. And, by the way, she faked it).

Back to X3 turning forty. It’s incredibly odd to do the math on this one, not because she’s forty, which, sorry, X3, but is old. But it’s about how long we have been hanging around. If you’re counting, that’s twenty-two years, or over half our lives. It's surprising we still talk, let alone make concerted efforts to spend time together.

What I realized while spending this recent evening with these girls was that they along with other women in my life serve a purpose no man can. Sorry, Pants and my business partners and other dudes I call my closest friends. It’s true. Here are a couple of reasons why:

Details are required. A “hi, how are you?” means that you must answer with several anecdotes about how your partner completely screwed the pooch on your birthday or the specifics on why you are taking your landlord to court. “Fine, great or okay” are completely unacceptable responses and you will be verbally beaten down.

Downloading on the status of your private (as in parts) life is mandatory. We need to know how many times a week you’re getting it, and if you aren’t, what you plan to do to get it.

Psychology 101 is applied. Have a problem? We likely have five different solutions depending on who you consult. If you consult us all at once, don’t be surprised if a fight erupts over the varying differences with how to deal with your little quandary. Have a whiney kid? The women who don’t have kids in the group typically have the best ways to curb the behavior. Have trouble meeting eligible singles? Ask the divorcees in the group.

Insults show that you care. Hey, if they aren't going to tell you it's time to get yourself some Xanax or hit the gym more often, who will? Time to lay off the sauce? No surpises here. But, what if you're doing everything good and right in the world? Feeling fit? Feeling successful at work? Is the marriage good? Kid speaks six languages? Don't go thinking you're all that and a bag of chips. They politely remind you that you suck and you should shut up until your need to gloat subsides.

Loyalty is a given. If you go for months without connecting (or returning voice mails), you can be sure you won't be written off. You will, however, be publicly flogged next time everyone is together. Also, if by chance you find yourself in a Mexican prison, you have five numbers to call if you somehow can’t bring myself to tell your husband what happened. You will also be assured that the reasons that lead you to prison in the first place will be kept within the “friends network”. Now that’s not to say that after they bail/bribe you out, you won’t be reprimanded and ridiculed and never allowed to forget your ultimate stupidity, but you will be back on home soil.

I wonder why these catty bitches have meant so much to me. But they do. So I guess it’s safe to say that they paved the way for me to covet and foster other amazing female friendships that are as important to me. But really, should I be giving them that much credit? Should I be paying homage to X1 who said just last night after a great meal with wonderful friends, “I paid sixty-three bucks for Top Ramen and sand.” Should I respect X5 for making me return a $25 gift card and getting the $50 for X4’s birthday because she thought I was being too cheap? And this, after she bought X4 a flipping trash can? Should I really give credence to X2 when she told X5 that she used to be fun in college, but was now a downer?

At least I will have another twenty-two years to make up my mind.