Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"I want to pump you up!"

You remember my friend Yuri, right? The one who did my dishes? Apparently she was just buttering me up so she could torture me later and I'd still think she was sweet!

She talked Matt and I and our friend Jen into buying Groupons for classes at her gym. I should have known the torture that would befall us after her fiancé Nick has been all "wall sits" this and "I almost puked" that for the last several months. But I thought I might as well take advantage of the deal since I really have been meaning to exercise for like the last 11 months.

On Monday, Matt and I went to the gym after dinner to check out the place and figure out how to use our Groupon. Yuri was there doing some cardio, so she took us on a tour. Turns out she's already famous there and introduced us to several staff members as we walked around. Everyone was very friendly, though, so that was encouraging.

We decided to come back the next day for a Body Pump class, the description for which reads:
"Body Pump is one of the world's fastest ways to get in shape as it challenges all of your muscle groups while you squat, press, lift, and curl. The cutting edge Body Pump choreography and chart-topping music is refreshed every three months, so with your choice of weight and highly-trained instructors you can get the group effect and the results you've been looking for!"
Admittedly, I didn't really know what this meant, but it sounded like there would be music, maybe some cardio, and a variety of weight training, and that all sounded okay considering all of me is not-so-strong at the moment, so might as well spread the attention. I think part of my problem with the description, though, is that I was parsing it incorrectly and misinterpreting the words "choreography" and "chart-topping". Another part of it is that I don't know what "the group effect" is. But the biggest confusion was that I read it as "your choice of weight and your choice of highly-trained instructors..." That sounded weird, that you'd get to pick your instructor, but the gym *is* called One on One, so maybe that's their gig? Alas, no. And turns out "choreography" just means different lifts in combination--no actual "moves" or cardio--and "chart-topping" means generic pop I've actually never heard of, though that might not be saying much given my musical preferences.

The facility is in a repurposed office building, from what I can tell. It is a very unconventional but fun and quirky layout, and the accent colors are a delightful early 90s teal and plum (a stark and fitting contrast to Vie's modern oranges and lime greens with double the price tag). The thing about the repurposedness, though, is that directly inside the front doors is a flight of stairs up that takes you to the check-in desk, and from there the locker rooms are just around the glass-walled classroom and down a flight of steps into the basement. Which means at the end of a workout, you are immediately faced with a tall flight of stairs down no matter which way you need to go.

After our Body Pump class full of squats and deadlifts and heck-lets-do-some-more-squats-for-fun, Matt and I exited the classroom and excitedly talked over our triumphs and failures while we put on our coats in front of the desk. Then we turned towards the exit and immediately stopped dead in our tracks. Stairs. Lots of them. No other way out but down, and no other legs than the jello ones attached to our torsos. Instinctively, we each veered towards a handrail, me to the left and Matt to the right. Matt decided to take the "slow and not-so-steady" approach, while I took the "just let gravity take you and try to keep your feet under you" approach. We both almost bit it, but it was funny and such a relief to get to the bottom without seriously embarrassing ourselves!

For kicks, and because there didn't end up being any cardio, or even any sweat really (thanks to the enormous fan above me) in Body Pump, I decided to go with Jen to a Zumba class today. I've never done Zumba, and I can't say as though dance is a forte of mine. I'm a marching band girl. I can keep tempo with my feet, give you a 90 or 60 degree angle with my leg, and probably even still keep pretty close to an "8 to 5" step, but ask me to move my arms simultaneously and you've got yourself a deal breaker. Regardless, I gave it a try. It was fun, even though I can't really shimmy any part of me to save my life (I prayed desperately that my friends wouldn't peek in the glass-walled room and see me awkwardly trying to zumba on their way into their class). Best of all, though, it was only 30 minutes, and there were only a few squats. I might even consider doing it again!

Not sure what class I'll try next, but there are a few more I want to check out, including Kettle Bell and Yoga. But probably not anymore this week--I can hardly walk, sit down, or stand up as it is! My thighs and gluts are so sore. Matt had to carry something to the basement and I stayed in the kitchen cheering him on every step of the way as he grimaced his way down one step at a time. So glad we live in a ranch house right about now.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Goodness. Gracious.

I want to be a good person, but I prove to myself daily that it can't be done. I'm mean, I'm thoughtless, I'm selfish, I'm judgmental, I'm overly emotional, and when I get upset I shout. I don't always do what's best for other people and I'm not even very nice to me. I am broken, tired, inarticulate, and weak. I am human, and I am not good enough. I never will be good enough. I'm smart enough to know what 'good' looks like, but dumb enough to keep trying to attain what isn't possible. Sure, I can do nice things for other people. I can love them with all my heart. I can try with all my might to do right by everyone, including myself. And that's what I should do, it's what I must do, and it's the best I can do. But to keep beating myself up about not measuring up is to look God in the eye and say "I don't want your grace. I don't want your mercy. I just want to work every day climbing this impossible hill." But it's kind of a lie, because I don't want to climb this hill anymore. It's so pointless and I already know I'll never make it to the top. Why can't I just figure out how to accept the grace and accept that I am broken simultaneously? How can I be just hard enough on myself to keep trying to be a better person, but not so hard that I can't allow anyone (including myself) to show me grace? I want to find forgiveness. I might find it from some people. I might show it to other people. But I seldom find it from myself. My own offenses against myself stack up, I hold grudges, and I start to feel like there's no way anyone else could ever really forgive me either.

I've totally lost sight of a concept I think I used to get. I got good grades, but never perfect, and I was good at things, but never the best. I was totally okay with this. I thought I was an interesting person with interesting hobbies. I lived by my morals, and I was happy with my progress against those ideals. If I 'screwed up,' I'd recognize it and vow to do better next time. So how did I start placing unrealistic expectations on myself to just not 'screw up' ever? And when did the line defining what constitutes a 'screw up' move so close to simply 'breathing'?

It is a well known fact that adults make mistakes, too, it's not just a kid thing. Did I honestly expect that when I became an adult that I would have arrived at some sort of mistake-free enlightenment? And why do I feel like 'having your shit together' is a requirement for guilt-free living? Nobody has it all together! Anyone who looks like they do is hiding something. You know this, Rachel, this is not news. It is not binary where 0='has shit together' and 1='doesn't care'.

New plan for living: On a daily basis, thank God for his grace. Continue to be gracious to others and thank others when they are gracious to you. Stop beating yourself up and then find a way to thank yourself for it. Tell yourself you can have a treat if you make it through the day without admonishing yourself, and when you fail, give yourself a treat anyway and say "Take that, Self! That's grace!" When you feel guilty for rewarding bad behavior, give yourself yet another treat. Repeat literally ad nauseum until treats run out, or you finally start to grasp the concept of real grace, whichever comes first. Do it all again the next day.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

a nut on a can o' tuna*

Last week I was just starting to wonder how I was going to deal with my dangerously stacked canned goods when I remembered that Matt and I had signed up to volunteer at a food bank later in the week. Overly convenient, right? So the night before, we took another another toodle through the pantry looking for items to purge. First, we selected dinner: Tuna Noodle Casserole.

We lacked the suggested potato chips for the crunchy top, but I stumbled upon some French Fried Onions which I thought could fill the role instead. We found not 1, not 2, but 3 bags of egg noodles in the pantry! We only use them in 2 recipes which we clearly do not make all that frequently, but think we should when we're at the store.

While the casserole baked (thanks for the easy recipe, Aunt Nan!), we pulled out the cans and sorted them into types. I had no idea we'd bought stock in the Campbell's Soup company!

We decided to donate most of the duplicate items which thinned the can herd (what should a group of cans be called? How about a topplance?) significantly enough to get them all back on the shelf safely.

We finished packing up our donation grocery bag just in time for dinner. Yumz! I threw a salad together at the last minute to offset the starchy yellowness of the tuna casserole. Plus we found 5 unopened and just expired salad dressings in the pantry so I figured we must not be eating enough salad. (Finished off the bag of croutons from the pantry, too!)

Our task at the Food Gatherers the next day was to package large boxes of apples into family-sized bags. Volunteering never smelled so good!

*I really wanted the title to be a palindrome. I don't know why. This was the best I could do under pressure. It was better than my first one which was "ai po tuna can utopia". :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

And So I Go NaNoWriMo

Once again this year, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! I've done this for the past 6 years, and I have "won" (winning=writing 50,000 words in 30 days) the middle 4 of those 6 years (last year I put my energies toward editing a previous draft instead of writing something new).

I'm sure every writer is temperamental in their own way, but if you see me this month, I thought I'd share a few tips: 

Please try not to ask:
  • "What are you writing about?"  I probably won't know until I'm done! (Maybe not even then.)
  • "What genre are you writing?"  I don't know why this is a hard question for me, but it is. Hopefully I'll figure out how to answer it someday.
  • "Can I read your story?"  I'm glad and flattered that you want to read my writing! But I can't let you read something that is crappy, and it probably won't be edited and ready to read any time soon. It's also possible that this rough draft may never see the light of day--but that would still be an acceptable outcome for this writing exercise! If you want to read something I've written now, I would love for you to keep reading my blog and even provide me feedback on the writing if you feel so inclined. When I finally have something ready, I will be equal parts thrilled and terrified to let you read it.
And if you can avoid it, please don't say:
  • "I haven't seen you in awhile. We should totally hang out!" I already feel guilty that we haven't hung out lately, no need to lay the guilt on thicker.
  • "I know this other person doing NaNoWriMo, and they're already at 50,000 words during Week 2." You might think this would motivate me, but usually it just makes me feel like a loser because I'm likely behind on my word count.
  • "You should write about thing X!" If you have a good idea, you should join NaNoWriMo and write it! It will be fun! Don't let me get the glory for your idea. ;)
It's okay to ask:
  • "How's it going?" Be prepared for an honest, and possibly lengthy, answer.
  • "Do you have an idea you like this year?" Be prepared for a dejected no.
  • "How many years have you done NaNoWriMo?" (Though I guess I just told you that.)
  • "How many words have you written so far?" Hopefully more than yesterday!
  • "Is it too late to join this year?" It's never too late, it just gets harder! Join me now and we'll dig ourselves out of this 3-day word count deficit together!
And feel free to say:
  • "That's so cool, it sounds like fun!" It is!
  • "I'm really proud of you for doing this, so I made you a casserole for dinner so you can keep writing." I love you so much right now.
  • "I'm going to see if Matt wants to go to the movies with me tonight." Sounds good! Just have him home by 11!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Crushing It for the Cause

If time wastes you, waste it right back. It is perfectly acceptable and expected that if you finally make it to your day off or the moment when you are free to do anything you want, your first order of business should be wasting time by playing Candy Crush. You can't always be doing something productive. It would offset the Productivity-Procrastination Balance, and productive things with low but positive productivity value would lose their worth altogether.

It would be a travesty. Stress levels would be through the roof. We would feel like failures simply surviving what life throws at us unless we had a grand masterpiece work of art to show for it besides. Any lesser accomplishments would be meaningless. It would be all or nothing, go big or go home. And the weary would only find rest at the cost of being trampled to death beneath the feet of those still foolishly pursuing a life of unrivaled productivity.

So whip out that primitive color-matching game with the unpredictable physics and waste a half an hour in pursuit of grouping colored shapes into threes. Do it for the sake of humanity, you monster!