What Three Workouts a Day for a Week Taught Me

No sweat! I guess I work out constantly in the summer. I'm a mover and a shaker. All of these workouts were mostly relaxing- except for "spinning". I hate spinning! You ride a bike and go absolutely nowhere!

We tried a whole lot of different things. Also, we tried them barefoot, because being barefoot is really good for you. Who knew?

One thing we did was walk with walking sticks. There were two poles, like ski poles, and it was supposed to work out your arms as you walked. We walked around a little lake, but to get there, we had to cross a busy street in Middleton. Our teacher stopped traffic for us as all nineteen of us walked in front of these cars, striding with our poles. Yeah. I was a part of that ridiculous group. You may have seen us on other blogs!

The yoga helped me a lot. I felt balanced and relaxed. I resolved to do more yoga.

That was the point, I think: to find something that you enjoy. That's all you need to do.

My Classmates and the Strange Realities

All of my classmates in this health class I took were teachers, and all of them were women save for one. We had an assignment which was personal in nature to present at the end. In this way, I learned all about the health and nutrition of my classmates.

I won't bore you with all of the details, but I will say that there were a lot of tears! I mean, maybe 35% of the presenters cried. It was crazy. And why did they cry? I think they felt guilty for their unhealthy lifestyles. (It was infinitely more complicated than that, but that's what it boils down to.) Guilty. Seriously. About eating too many Twinkies and drinking too much Diet Coke!

So what I learned in part was that I do not have as many hang ups as many people, and for that I should be thankful.

It's not their fault though. How many food ads have you seen for things that were "sinfully delicious". Or how about this, "Same taste without the guilt"? Why in the world should anyone feel guilty about eating something? I understand if you are all about animal rights and accidentally eat some turkey, but that is not what this is about. People feel guilty for doing things that are fattening, and then they eat more to assuage their guilt, and they they feel more guilty and then they eat more to assuage their guilt and then they feel guilty for eating so much and hate themselves and then...

What madness we have come to. Please, for the love of God, feel guilty when you are mean and nasty and spiteful! Don't feel guilty for eating or not exercising. Don't waste your life on that.

Please, for me, go eat something sweet and delicious with all of the calories, and then just lay down and look at the ceiling for three hours.

The Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich

The "Exuberant Animal" is you! This book basically says that you need to behave like an animal, because you are one. Also, you should play. Also, the normal types of "gyms" basically suck. Also, before leading a sedentary lifestyle, you should consult your doctor, because it's killing you!

I haven't actually read the entire book, but I've read all around it and I get the picture. We need to live in our bodies and enjoy being in our bodies. Be present in our lives. And socialize! And play!

The wisest person you know is your dog. (I don't have a dog and I don't like them at the moment because we had one just kill a chicken, but I'm willing to play along.) Your dog lays around and plays, mostly. If someone comes to the door, he goes into freakout mode and barks and yaps, but then if he knows the person, he immediately calms down and licks them or whatever. He doesn't obsess like, "Oh no! That was my best friend Carol! How could I yap at her? God, I'm such an idiot. She hates me now." No, no. He just stops yapping and gets his favorite toy for her to throw. Because, not only does he not obsess over things, your dog never stops playing. Playing is not just for puppies. Playing is for everyone! Why does the dog play? Who cares? It's just what dogs do! They play!

And humans are actually the same way, or should be. We should do movements that we enjoy. Also, we should play with other people.

Forencich is really against those gym machines, like the treadmills and the stationery bikes, where you just do the same motion over and over like to be done with it! Not to be conscious of your body or enjoy nature or perform any real work, but just to be done with it. This is the worst sort of exercise. Exercise should be challenging and fun and social.

Some parts of this book I really loved, because they affirmed my parenting style, which is like this,

"Go out and play!"

I think most people my age or older had parents who said that a lot. It seems like it isn't so common anymore. I think the world has become afraid. Well, not the world- the U.S.

Apparently, when you go outside and play, and you're bored or whatever, and then you get interested in something, and then you do something, that's when your brain is growing and your body is learning as well. The best kind of play for children, according to Forencich, is unsupervised playing outdoors.

This part reminded me suddenly of a documentary, "Children of the Holocaust," where the one child (who was interviewed later as an adult) had been placed in a concentration camp. He said that he and the other children there fantasized about two things: to eat a lot, and to play unsupervised. That was all.

This book covers so much that I won't go into it all. I haven't even finished it yet, and I already have so much to think about. It spawned a discussion about how we used to play as children, which was really fun and interesting. We did gripe a lot about the kids we get in class who don't seem to know what to do with free time, because their lives have become so structured. Then we all went to lunch and came back, and before the teacher began again, a woman said,

"I just have to say something." (Oh, no, I thought. Here it comes. More about how kids don't play like they used to.) "I was driving back from lunch," she said, "and it was raining as you know. I saw two little girls, barefoot, no adults around, playing in the puddles. Just playing."

Michael Pollan's Food Rules and nutrition in general.

These things are bad:

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup.

2. White Flour.

3. Soda Pop.

4. Anything someone in the year 1900 would not recognize as food.

5. Things that don't rot.

6, Refined sugar.

7. Foods called, "light" or, "low fat."

These things are good:

1. Food that you can recognize as something that came off of a plant or tree.

2. Honey and maple syrup.

3. Things you make from scratch.

4. Foods that look like leaves.

5. Foods your great-grandmother made.

6. Whole foods (not the brand, but the meaning behind it).

7. Small greasy fish.

Other Notes:

Sweets are okay if you make them yourself and use natural sweeteners like honey and fruit.

Meat is okay in small quantities.

Wine is good - one or two glasses with dinner.

Buy a freezer to save money. Buy two freezers if you can, and put meats in one and vegetables and fruits in the other.

"The lighter your bread, the quicker you're dead!"

"The S Rule: Eat Sweets, Snacks, and seconds only on days that start with an S."

My Notes:

There are so many things out there saying to do this or don't do that, or this is the latest research on blah blah blah... These rules make sense to me because they are based on what people have eaten for hundreds of years. It seems to me that nutrition in the magazine articles is always trying to reinvent the wheel, but Mumsey is 92 years old, seems okay, and she still eats a lot of chickens and occasionally makes a homemade pie for special occasions. Nothin' wrong with that! His rules are easy to follow because he's basically saying to eat real food.

Nice Spread #4: No Mowing Under the Picnic Table

I'm being a little silly, but really, mowing under the picnic table is a pain in the butt. Think of all of the moving that thing around these people avoid. I pass this place a lot, and I always wonder: Was the foundation there for something else, and they just recycled it as a picnic table holder, or did they actually build a concrete slab just for the picnic table? I may never know.

Our Vet's Office

Whenever I see a building covered in ivy, I think, man, those This Old House guys would hate this place!

I have no idea why the cowboy photo, but I like it.

By the way...

How do you like the new wood panelling?

Lose *five pounds by reading four blog posts!

This past week I took a health and nutrition class from 8-4 every day. During the day, we worked out three times a day, and in between those workouts, we read and discussed two books:

Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich


Food Rules by Michael Pollan.

Food Rules by Michael Pollan is a more simplistic version of Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food, which I read a couple of years ago and enjoyed. However, reading the new book with a group of people was an entirely different experience. Reading any group with a kind of book group will give you a deeper understanding, so I was happy to read and discuss this with a group of teachers. (The class was called, "The Teacher as a Healthy Role Model.")

The workouts we did were interesting, too. Then we each had to do a final project which included telling the class how we were going to change our lives, and that was definitely interesting. What I think I'll do is four more posts about my class:

Monday: Michael Pollan's Food Rules and nutrition in general.

Tuesday: What I learned from reading and discussing Frank Forencich's Exuberant Animal.

Wednesday: What I learned from my classmates.

Thursday: What three workouts a day for a week taught me.

I hope this isn't too dry a topic. Everyone is interested in nutrition and exercise these days, right?

* Results may vary within an order of magnitude.


I've spent the week taking a health and fitness class, but what I learned this week went way beyond health and fitness. Truly, your health and your body affect every aspect of your life. One conversation branched off into a certain direction, and a man named Larry brought in this poem from Sir Laurens van der Post, from Hasten Slowly, a film by Mickey Lemle. I found it so touching when he read it aloud that I asked Larry for a copy of it, and he immediately went to a copy machine and missed the next part of our class in order to give me this:

The Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert talk about two "hungers."
There is the Great Hunger and there is the Little Hunger.
The Little Hunger wants food for the belly;
but the Great Hunger,
the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning...

There's ultimately only one thing that makes
human beings deeply and profoundly bitter,
and that is to have thrust upon them
a life without meaning.

There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness,
But of far more comfort to the soul
is something greater than happiness
or unhappiness, and that is meaning.
Because meaning transfigures all.
Once what your are doing has for you meaning,
it is irrelevant whether you're happy
or unhappy. You are content- you are not alone
in your Spirit- you belong.


Today is my friend Jen's birthday.

When we were in seventh or eighth grade, I remember specifically a time when Jen told me,

"I like meat bloody. Almost raw. It's kind of weird."

It was kind of weird, and it stuck with me. It conjured this image of her sinking her teeth into raw flesh. She was a sweet looking girl and it was a disturbing image.

Now that she's kind of this queen of horror, that conversation really sticks out for me. And then I think about how many times I caught her reading some episode of Flowers in the Attic, or Mommy Dearest, or the times I went to her house and she was playing with a Ouija board by herself. I tell myself that, had she become the queen of unicorns and rainbows, I would have different memories that stuck out for me. But let's face it: this couldn't happen. The only way she could be queen of unicorns and rainbows is if she were hit in the head in a personality changing way.

There's something about Americans- we don't like to face death, we like to hide it. We even talk in codes, "she passed," "he went to heaven." But there's something fascinating about facing and even celebrating the darker side of things. There is not light without darkness.

Happy birthday Jen! I'll have my steak bloody for you.

Best Quotes from the movie "Cool as Ice with Vanilla Ice"

"Where you from?"
"You know... around."

"Tell me one thing. Who you bein' true to now?"
"You know, sometimes, I think I know you."

"You don't know me at all."

"I'm cool as Icccccce."

Oh, yeah. I can so relate to this movie!

This is actually camp ghetto fabulous. Every review on the internets tubes is the lowest possible. It's hard to be the worst. It takes talent- not performance talent, but different talent. How could someone so white be so fake black? Is this movie for real?

The first time I saw this, I was in a van. It's a long story. I'll tell it if you ask.

Nice Spread #2

A gothic mansion hidden behind a perfectly tended apple orchard. They don't make roofs like that anymore.

Nice Spread: A Well Kept Barn and Two Hidden Windmills

The Eccentricities of a Minion

This is a great article about why creative people are often also eccentric.

I am self-absorbed, and I couldn't help but think about my parents when I read this, and how my genes might affect my life. My mom is noticeably lacking in inhibitions of any sort, and my dad is intensely creative. I definitely feel like a round peg in a square hole much of the time. The main point of the article is that there are inhibitions in your brain that keep you from considering outlandish ideas, but if you are lacking these inhibitions, you tend to be eccentric. If you are lacking these inhibitions, and you are also intelligent, you tend to be creative. Lacking these inhibitions can also make you schizophrenic.

"cognitive disinhibition may be affected by genetic variations and ... it may be one factor that predisposes an individual to both creative thought and eccentricity."

So, there you have it.


When Sugar laughs, it’s also a holler. It sounds like, “Shwa!” Other kids mimic it, and if you’re not careful, you can soon have an entire class of kids yelling “Schwa!” and then you can kiss your lesson plan good-bye. Sugar is a lanky skinny black girl with a big smile most of the time. She’s good natured. But did I mention that she is loud? As some of the other girls would say,

“Girl, Sugar be loud!”

Sugar and a few other girls had sewing class together. (They don’t call it sewing class anymore, though. It’s some craziness like, “industrial arts”. Why can’t we just call things for what they are?)

Sugar was not her given name. “Sugar” was not only Sugar’s nickname, but also the name of a small club of girls who followed Sugar around and were friends with Sugar. They had logos made, which they sewed onto their clothes together in sewing class. It was all beautifully done. Three girls with “Sugar” stitched on the back of their jackets. Sometimes, other kids would want to be a part of their group, and there would be a disturbance over it,

“What I don’t like is when other people be saying they Sugar when they ain’t Sugar Club.”

They also considered sewing other things onto their clothes, like quotes from Langston Hughes poems I taught them. I was truly baffled one day, looking at some of the copies of the poems I had handed out to them to read, and their were numbers above the words, like this:

20 20 10 30
Hold fast to dreams
15 10 30 15
For if dreams die
25 10 5 35 30 20
Life is a broken-winged bird
20 30 15
That cannot fly.

I finally figured out that they were going to monogram the quote onto their clothes, and were figuring out the cost per stanza: 5 cents a letter.

It never happened, but it was interesting that they even considered it.

One day, it was the beginning of class, and I was reading this novel out loud to them, The First Part Last. It’s about a boy who gets his girlfriend pregnant and ends up raising the baby on his own. I had my lesson plan all written out on the board, starting with this read aloud, but my confidence was shot.. On a whim and feeling completely uninspired, I said,

“Does anyone want to read this for me?”

“What?” said a bunch of kids.

“I’m just not up to reading this to you today. Anyone who likes to read out loud care to read it to the class? Just a chapter or two.”

“Sugar should read it!”

“Have Sugar read it!”

“Sugar’ll read it!”

Sugar looked like she had just been caught changing her pants in the back of the room. This was actually fairly typical behavior for her. Her next class was gym, and for some reason, she always changed into her gym shorts in the back of my class during my lecture. It’s one of those things that seems really crazy, but seemed almost normal at the time. Commonplace.

Only Sugar could have sixteen kids literally catch her with her pants down and not be embarrassed by this.

“Sure, Ms. M,” she said as she snapped the elastic up around her waste and swaggered over to me. “I’ll read it for you.”

There were hoots and hollars, and a few, Schwa’s, but when she made it to the front of the room, and cleared her throat, she read quite well. She had good expression. Sometimes, she stopped and asked me a word.

What I really liked, though, was her commentary,

“Now, this is what I’m talking about! This is my kind of man! He stand by his woman! M hm...” and then she would go on. She wasn’t just reading, she was interpreting. Which came in handy, actually, when someone in the story had a slightly complicated medical condition.

And then it got really sad. Sugar started reading about [spoiler!] Nia’s “irreversible vegetative state” and she started to cry.

The room hushed.

“Sugar,” I said softly, “I can read it if you want me to.”

“No, no,” she said, swallowing hard. “Just give me minute.”

That whole crazy class gave her a minute. (Not that they were silent- there were a lot of murmurs going on, but it was respectful.)

The whole last three chapters are real tear jerkers, and Sugar had to stop several times. It became apparent after a while that we weren’t doing my lesson plan.

“Can we just read this book all period?” someone asked.


So, what happened was, we finished the book. Sugar finished it, crying (but not too hard) in the front of the class, taking a lot of deep breaths, and reading it aloud and talking about it, and they all asked questions and answered each others’ questions and discussed all the horror of it. She had to pause a lot, but we got through that book.

I basically spent the class watching.

What will happen to Sugar, twenty years from now?

Did I mention she can dance just like Michael Jackson? No kidding.

*(This is fiction. Any similarity to real people or events is completely coincidental.)

Do teachers really need chairs?

When I first got hired with this school district, I was of course not very demanding. I wanted to make a good impression. But when one of the two schools where I work gave me a small shelf in someone else's classroom for all of my storage and planning needs, I asked,

"Could I possibly have a real desk to sit at?"

"I'll work on that," said my pointy haired boss, the principal. A few days later, when an old metal contraption with drawers that sometimes won't close showed up with my name on it, I was happy. But then I tried to push my luck,

"Could I possibly have a real desk chair to go with my desk?" I asked.

"No. That's not in the budget right now," said the pointy haired principal.

So, it's been a school year now. I've been sitting on crappy plastic kid chairs at my ancient metal desk with the drawers open and borrowing my coworker's chair when she isn't there. (She says it's okay.) It works. I couldn't help but notice though, that every other teacher in the school district, and the secretaries, and librarians, every single one has a beautiful gigantic cushy desk chair to sit on. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I'm just saying.

I was chastised this week by the school secretary for not turning in my supply list for next year on time. As I was dutifully going through the catalogue and figuring out what I might need, I was sitting on my office mate's chair because she left early and gave me permission to sit on it, and I noticed that there were chairs in the catalogue! Chairs! Cushy chairs! Nice chairs! Grown up chairs!

I put a chair on my supply list.

I don't know what I'll do if the pointy haired principal rejects my supply list. Should I punch him in the nose?