Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Rants - Volume Six

Dear Faithful Blog Reader,

You thought I'd forgotten, didn't you? Well, never fear, your dear Citygirl won't let you down.

But be prepared, it's a short list this year. That's what happens when the bad season drifts swiftly by, without so much as a whisper, for a change.(knock on wood)

So, without further rambling, here are your rants for 2011.

1. Holiday Decorations at Work - First of all, if you spend 45 minutes of the staff meeting talking about holidays and the reindeer games you're planning, that's problem number one. It shouldn't be that difficult. Which leads to the second act of incompetence; waiting until the week before Christmas to decorate and annoy
your co-workers with crap hanging from the ceiling.

It's too late, people, it's just too late. Also, don't ask me for money to buy these decorations. If it's that important to you bring it in yourself. This is a true story. See that? I've been staring at that ladder for a week now.

2. It's Still Happening: Car Decorations
- I know I mention this almost every year, but when I saw this one the first week of November, I knew it had to be said again. Please, for the love of all that is holy, or unholy for that matter, we must stop this madness. It's not cute, it's just dumb.

If you can do this to your car, why can't you drive? Clearly, you have a lot of time on your hands. But I guess there wasn't enough time left to study the driver's handbook.

3. Food Pushers - This can really be more of a year-round problem but it's heightened at this time of year due to the prevalence of butter-laden baked goods floating around absolutely everywhere. I'll admit to being an enabler of the bad eating choices, as I enjoy baking and then giving it away. However, if you decide you don't want my delicious cookies because you are on the path of clean eating, I promise to not be offended in the least. Food pushers; not so much. "But it's the holidays!", they protest. That may very well be but fighting your way to balanced eating is not just something that happens on Tuesdays, Fridays and every other Sunday. It's 25/8, just like Mary J. said, so back off with your mediocre baked goods and gravy.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Human Movement Through Water Revisited

I'm a quitter.

I'm learning the Butterfly but have no confidence in success. My swim classmates are picking it up easily and I am still being given the drills of just the arms or the kick. It's a difficult stroke and I am frustrated by my lack of ability to perform it even remotely correctly. So I quit. I am a quitter.

In the middle of the lane, there I am, treading water, scanning the pool deck to check if Donald is watching so I can just finish the lap with breaststroke instead.

This is not a formula for success, I assure you, but unfortunately it is sometimes my modis operandi. First sign of frustration, I become a quitter with a capital K. Then eventually, I take a deep breath and struggle through the little tiny details and mechanics of the steps toward the correct outcome. And then like magic, it somehow becomes easy.

I don't think it will happen with the 'fly' but I hold a nano-nugget of optimism. It's floating around my head somewhere, along with the well of untapped determination to conquer this completely unnecessary stroke.

Sometimes quitting is a good strategy. It gives you distance from the problem in order to find a solution. The trick is remembering to un-quit though as soon as possible. I am not ready to tackle the fly yet though. I'd like to stick to perfecting my breaststroke that has just recently improved. I don't need the fly for the lifeguard testing, but the breast is a requirement. I may remain a quitter on the fly, sorry to say.

These are 'problems' I never thought I'd have where swimming was concerned. As I've navigated the treachery of the YMCA pool, and become a legitimate 'fast lane' swimmer, I've realized that I want to be in the water all the time.

After stumbling upon the beauty of the ASU student rec center pool, it became all the more clear that the career change I needed no longer involved a desk or a 9-5 program. I needed to be outside, near chlorinated water features as soon as humanly possible. The research began in earnest.

The first order of business was whether or not I would need to move to Arizona and attend ASU for the rest of my life in order to swim in that beautiful and bewitching pool. It was that blissful. It called to me; my precious.

But the reality was, the thought of moving away from the beloved city of Los Angeles (my other precious) filled me with dread and anxiety. I don't like dread and anxiety all that well. So on to plan B; find a 50-meter competition pool that can substitute right here. You know, where I already live. (Which by the way, isn't say, Paducah, Kentucky so it's not that tall of an order. But man, that ASU pool had powers I tell ya!)

The first find was the Santa Monica Swim Center. It's a popular place. The class I attended contained no less than 40 or 50 people sharing four lanes and one instructor doling out the most basic of information. I left without confirmation or denial of my technique. The cost was high and the distance far. It was not to be.

Then I found the City pool. Chock full of serious lap swimmers, always conscious of lane etiquette, close to home and two bucks with a library card, this one had potential. (Run-on sentence anyone?) I swam there a couple of times but there weren't any classes where someone could tell me if my flip turns were even being executed properly. They did have lifeguard training programs though but still more research was needed.

I started telling my tale to others and the words LA Valley College were uttered. I protested. The initial research had alluded that this pool was not open to the public. But I went back to Google to ask again.

LAVC it turns out is ready and available to assist you and yours with all kinds of water activity needs. I went to investigate.

Could it rival my precious? Could it even try? I doubted.

I met the teacher and spoke of my feats of pool strength; 120 laps nearly nightly. (Yes, that's non-stop in the questionable YMCA cess-pool) I did not have confidence that this would be the place; I was sure I'd have to keep looking but I signed up anyway.

You know how it ends from here. It's where this story started. LAVC isn't ASU but it's a close second; truly a hidden gem. And Donald has inspired and effected improvements in my freestyle, taught me a continually evolving backstroke; declared me a strong swimmer and ready to tackle the lifeguard training.

What I've learned the most is that I am through with the manufactured crises of the media business where lives aren't being saved and chests aren't being cut open, (although you'd think that was what was happening) in exchange for a career where life saving is truly an actual possibility. I am focused and determined now. I feel as though I have found a purpose and one where I also posses two key factors; a love for it and keen ability.

I vow not to quit.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Strangers Named Candy

I have a constant battle raging; a daily struggle between the limitations of my physical being and my tenacious desire to be well.

It's nothing new but as the years amble on, the war is harder won.
I swim, I walk, I run, I lift, I stretch. I ache in body and soul.

You see, the war is just as much emotional as physical.
The mental wrangling one must do to convince the brain that 60 minutes on the elliptical trainer is a much better choice than sitting in an easy chair with potato chips is, well, a really significant amount.
When your DNA also isn't akin to assisting with this plan AND the results of the efforts aren't apparent, you need all the encouragement you can get.

Everyday at lunch time, I walk. First, I walked a mile and then two and now it's four and some change. I walk through the lovely bucolic neighborhoods with light dappling through the trees. I never miss a day.
There is no good reason to stay at a desk at a hateful job for the hour that OSHA grants me. Nothing is that important. It's a bad trend in our culture that people would rather sit in misery than leave the building. I could happily expound on this and the hatred I have for the current employment I've found myself in but I'm pretty sure it's clear enough in these few sentences. So, we'll move on. The bottom line is that the hour belongs to me and I am using it wisely.

I've been walking the same route now for some time. Adding an extra block or two gradually but always loop back the same way.
One bright sunny day in April I was about to cross the street and this lovely blonde woman waves to me and says "Do you mind if I ask you something?"

I stop, taking the headphone out of my ear. "Not at all."

"Sometimes I sit on my porch with my dog and I've seen you walking. I don't know if you are trying to lose weight but boy, you look great!"

Now, with her first words it seemed a little scary. Someone watching me; that can be unnerving sometimes, but that quickly dissipated once she finished her thought.

"Thank you so much. I've been working really hard," I said.

"Well keep it up, you are really doing well and you are just melting away!"

"Wow, thank you, that's really nice of you. I'm Citygirl, what's your name?"

"Candy, and this is Tahsa," as she held up her dog.

"It's nice to meet you Candy. Thank you for making my day. It really means a lot!"

"It's nice to meet you too Citygirl. See you soon!"

And with that I was off to finish the last leg of my walk. Changed.
I was changed in those few moments and by the kind words of a complete stranger.

Her simple words of encouragement lifted me, told me that my commitment was worth it and that I must, at all costs, persevere in this quest.

Sure enough after purchasing my first scale in more than ten years, Candy's pronouncement was confirmed; I'd lost ten pounds.

This buoyed me even more. Her simple, easy gesture of a few words earned my eternal gratitude.

A few weeks later I brought her some mums and a note to say thanks. Telling her how much it meant that she would be so brave and so kind to a stranger. I was just going to leave it for her but she was home. We had a nice little chat on her porch for a few minutes and then I was on my way.

Of course I see her every now and then on the return loop and we wave and smile. The other day she told me she replanted the flowers and they were thriving. She also told me that my note was something she would keep forever. And that really got me because not only could I not even fathom that, it is the gift that keeps on giving, you see.

Her kindness, earned her kindness in return. It softened us both, which will soften us in traffic or at work or whenever softness is needed. This is not a new revelation; our eternal connected-ness. I've written it about it before, here and here (oh, and also here) but it's one of those lessons learned that is never remembered. The universe has to keep sending us reminders.

And I will remember her words again and again when my spirits are low or a I want a cookie or I'd rather have a tooth pulled than swim laps.

I will know that someone, a stranger named Candy, cared enough about her fellow man to speak up and offer encouragement.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's My Party

I have gathered you all here to this blog to reveal that I have turned another year older.

I've decided that I'm none too thrilled about it, thank you very much. My previous stance on "my birthday" is being revoked.

"What brings about this change," you ask? "Birthdays are fun", you say. "Birthdays celebrate YOU!", you exclaim! "Birthdays are magical days full of wishes", you implore.

Hear that sound? It's the distinct clink of the pin in the balloon.

These things were only true at my seventh birthday, when I got the Play-Doh supermarket set, the Golden Barbie doll and the bubble bath that the giver poured down the sink to make sure that it worked.
And on my tenth, when I wore my mom's cute purple shirt, white ribbon in my hair and got my first ten-speed bike.

As a 'grown-up' I've expected too much of that promised birthday magic and thus have been led to these new more appropriate feelings of magic-lessness. No, it's not a reverse psychology strategy. Like all the other hallmark holidays, that I now loathe (you know who you are valentine's day), they are about forced feelings of cheer, or love or joy and excuses to eat fat and sugar without guilt. I'm no longer buying it.

So, this birthday ends quietly and without the usual heaps of disappointment as my expectations were for once appropriate. No one made me a cake or threw me a party. It was just another day and the DMV sent me a new license.

Except for this:

My best gift this year was in the poetry of a lyric from the guest blogger.
It's perfect.
I'll share it because no one likes a mystery, but part of me wants to keep it in my heart just for myself.

You went to the doctor, You went to the mountains
You looked to the children, You drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing you in a crooked line
The less you seek your source for some definitive
The closer you are to fine.

The closer you are to fine.

The closer you are to fine.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Fiddler on the Roof was on last night. It doesn't really have anything to do with Easter time that I can recall (I wasn't able to watch all of it) but television programmers seem to schedule it this time of year along with The Ten Commandments like clockwork.
The one thing Fiddler is strong on is the thread of Tradition!, it's one of the songs after all.

Easter time has many traditions in my family. In fact I like the traditions of Easter better than Christmas any day.

We dyed eggs on Good Friday, and on Saturday night faithfully put our plastic grass-filled baskets and Sunday shoes out for the Easter Bunny to fill with candy and eggs.

There were certain traditional German foods that were always made too. The one I never liked until very recently was the bread called Baska (busk-a). (If you follow the link it describes it more perfectly and exactly how it was in our house too, than I am doing here) It's anise flavored and I always hated it, especially the ones with raisins. The raisin ones were for Dad. It gets baked in tin coffee cans, so it pops out and sort of looks like Easter eggs. My Dad always ate his with a hard boiled egg.

But somewhere along the way, because Mom made it faithfully every year, I tried it again and liked it; no, I actually loved it. When it's toasted and buttered it's the most delicious bread you'll ever eat.

In 2004 I had a moment you could call 'realizing your mortality' around the Easter season. I thought, "the only person in my family who knows how to make this bread is Mom. Who will make it when she is no longer here? I must learn to make it and keep the tradition of my family."
I called Mom for the recipe.

The people who came before us worked hard. Everything they did was labor intensive including the cooking. I don't think anyone works this hard anymore. Making the Baska that year was so difficult and time consuming but it was worth it. In making it I knew the love that my Mom and my Grandmother before her put into every loaf.

I made the Easter Baska again this year, it was a bit easier this time but I still had to call* Mom for help for all the little nuances that aren't written in the recipe. I'm glad I know how to make this bread of my genealogy. It makes me connected to the women who made it every Easter before me and well, that's pretty cool to be creating something that stands the test of time. Nothing stands the test of time these days.

I plan to update the recipe with those details so someday I can pass it to the next generation because it's tradition!

Gotta go now, I'm in need of a slice of Baska toast with butter.

Happy Easter!

*it was actually texts; it is the digital age for crying out loud

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Zeitgeist of 2011

I feel as though one shouldn't leave a holiday post up for too long after the holiday has passed and it's already been too long. An entire quarter has drifted by. I really have nothing to write about at the moment although in the "Coming Attractions" portion of this blog I am working on a post about traditions.

We are simply in a momentary period of brighter discontent. Where things are at an even pace, no disasters have occurred and time sweeps swiftly by; the piles of dust just keep shifting from place to place.

What can one say in these moments while you wait for another shoe to drop?

I, for one, have had some burdens lifted while others remain. I can offer no further insights to this human condition than I already have; we must keep plugging away, striving to be better, wiser, more content than we were the day before if at all possible.

I am working on those daily. My laps are plentiful and easy now and the bicep muscle is making a showing again, thank you very much. It won't be long until I reclaim my pre-surgical wardrobe. I will eat cookies that day in a moment of celebration and perfect irony.

There are still endless rants about traffic and reality television but I'm tired of those, even though I'm pithy and clever.

Except in this post.

So, instead I'll give you some music recommendations.

Adele is my Debbie Gibson of these thirtysomething years. Her record "21" is life altering. I'm also moments away from getting a set of those eyelashes for my very own and wearing all black. Much more sophisticated than that hat, and face drawn on the knee.

The Civil Wars are the Alison Krauss of 2011.

Don't forget about the fun that is Natasha Bedingfield to power through a workout or the newest Avril Lavinge also gets major points for fun too.

Enjoy the 2nd quarter of the year and stay tuned for the traditions post and yet another birthday post!