Category Archives: Fitness

Woodpecker Spa

A few weeks ago, Husband decided to water the strawberry bed with a rotating sprinkler that watered the strawberries as well as a section of the lilac bushes. It was terribly dry then. The backyard birds got very excited and flitted in and out of the bushes through the water. One bird, a Hairy Woodpecker, just sat very still in the lilacs letting the water fall on it, luxuriating in the shower.

One other occasion many years ago in yet another drought we had a flock of Cedar Waxwings sit for a long time in the lilacs as an oscillating sprinkler went back and forth over them. I guess we have a bird spa in our backyard!

I have never been to a spa. I have never had a massage. I know lots of people do such things. I think I fear the intimacy of such experiences. I would rather watch the birds.

What are your spa experiences? How about massage? Any good bird stories?

Signs of stress

I can always tell my level of work stress. All I have to do is look at my fingernails and cuticles. The more stress, the more chewed up are my nails and nail beds.

I have been an inveterate nail chewer since early childhood. I decided when I was very young that I hated my mother clipping my nails, and I started chewing them off. It is sort of like our cats, who hate nail trims (Don’t squeeze my paws!) I think it might have been a sensory issue for me, too, because I am only comfortable with the shortest of fingernails and toe nails.

I was appaled last week to read about the woman with the world’s longest nails. She finally got them cut when their collective length was something like 28 feet. I can’t imagine how a person could even function.

I haven’t bought nail polish for decades. I have no interest in stopping my nail chewing, but I am interested in stress reduction. I have three more years to get through for my job, and I need to be a good role model for positive coping.

How can you tell you are under stress. What is stressing you these days? What do you do to de-stress and relax?


YA went snowboarding last weekend.  I knew that she had a snowboard; her ex was a serious snowboarder, although as far as I know, she only went boarding with him a couple of times.   But I was surprised by the amount of equipment she actually owns: board, boots, ski pants, helmet and some serious goggles.  I took a photo of it all that she had laid out on the dining room table before she left.  I was afraid to ask her how much cash she had sunk into this equipment.  She mentioned before she left that the lift ticket for the day would be $34.  Opinions were kept to self but it seems to me that this is an expensive sport. 

As I thought about it, there are plenty of hidden costs to most sports.  When YA was younger, her gymnastics was a big money suck.  Monthly team fees, individual meet fees, leotards and the inevitable “stuff” available for sale at every meet.  When she tried out for dance team, the price tag for everything was unbelievable; I had to tell her that I couldn’t afford both dance team and gymnastics.  Diving wasn’t quite as bad but the team swimsuit was $97.  Yowza.  Luckily for my pocketbook, she decided she didn’t like the 5 a.m. practice time before we had taken the tags off the suit. 

Swimming wasn’t too bad, although you always had to pay for pool time, either lessons at the Y or seasonal fees at local pools.  Rollerblading wasn’t too bad, as long as you didn’t want to blade during bad weather/winter – then again, fees for the rink or the rollerdome (as it was called).  Same for tennis; if you don’t mind mediocre courts and waiting times, once you pony up for a racquet and some tennis balls, you can play free in the parks.  Winter play costs money for indoor courts. 

In thinking about it, I guess running is about the cheapest of the sports – the only real expense seems to be the shoes, unless you feel the need to have gadgets for playing music or keeping track of your distance/heart rate, etc.  

Tell me about your sport of choice.  Do you participate or just watch?  How do you keep the costs down?

Keeping Fit

My mom (Nonny) is a jock.  She was very active as a kid and played many sports when she was in school (basketball, field hockey, tennis).  She got my dad interested in tennis after they married and they played consistently until his death.  She even played tennis the night before my baby sister was born.  Doubles and she was happy to tell everyone that they won against the other team.

So imagine Nonny’s disappointment when all three of her daughters turned out to be complete non-jocks.  I cycled fairly seriously for a couple of years (way before YA was born) and my baby sister runs occasionally, but for the most part, we are couch potatoes.  Of all seven grandchildren, only one has any spark of jock-ness: YA.  Swimming, gymnastics, running and weight training have been part of her regime over the years. 

Santa brought YA a 10-pound weight, so now she has two.  I noticed a couple of days ago that she has set up a “gym” in Nonny’s room upstairs.  She has her yoga mat, her weights, a big yoga ball and some kind of exercise bands.  This morning she had music playing on her phone while she worked out.

I admire her get-up-and-go.  While I’m doing the stationary bike at the gym occasionally (translation: every 4 or 5 days) and walking the dog occasionally (translation: if the sun is shining), I wouldn’t say that exercising is my top priority these days.  If would be nice if YA’s commitment to working out would rub off on me, but I’m thinking if it hasn’t happened yet, it probably won’t.

Have you ever had a “favorite” exercise?  If you could have your own In-home gym, how would you like it set up?


I got a letter from the city last month that prior to the re-surfacing project in Tangletown, they will be re-doing some of the curbs.  (I am technically part of the Tangletown neighborhood, but my street is actually a county road, so I am not affected by this.)  Every morning Guinevere and I have been seeing signs of the project; they dug up all the affected curbs first and then are going back to add the new concrete.

When we came around a corner yesterday, we were surprised by a group of ELEVEN construction workers, all in their neon yellow vests, standing around one of the holds where a curb had been.  While we watched, the concrete mixer started to whirr and soon there was concrete glopping into the hole.  Two of the eleven worked to control where the concrete was pouring and the other nine started smoothing out the mixture.  I’m not sure if they really needed nine guys to do this, but I’m sure it made the job go quickly.

As Guinevere and I continued on our walk, I said to her “well, now you’ve been to a concrete workers’ convention”.   She was more interested in the smells along the sidewalk than the convention.  I kept thinking about it and realized that except for two Stampin’Up annual conventions about 20 years ago, I haven’t been to any other conventions.  Trade shows yes, conventions no.  Full disclosure — I did drive a friend downtown to a Star Trek convention once and drove around the block several times while he ran in to buy a couple of t-shirts.  But I didn’t actually go inside so I’m not counting that!

Have you ever been to a convention?  Any good stories?

Pedal to the Metal

I live next door to a five-year old.  It’s fun to see her growing up; she has a different temperament than YA had as a child.  On Thursday, she was sporting a brand new pink helmet and then her dad took the training wheels off her bike.

They started in the backyard, on the grass – doesn’t every parent do this, hoping for a softer landing than on concrete?  On Saturday, they went up to the high school, where there is a lot more flat grass.  Then on Sunday afternoon, as she was working on it in the driveway, her dad let go of the seat and she was biking!  She practiced for about another 30 minutes; she still needs a little shove to get going but other than that, she’s got it!

It made me think about YA learning to ride a bike.  We didn’t even try in our yard, since it’s very bumpy, but we did practice at the high school.  YA was not a natural rider and for a couple of weeks she was incapable of seeing an obstacle and then being able to avoid it.  I remember thinking that learning to ride a bike is way more complicated than it appears on the surface.

I was five when I learned, starting in the grass like my little neighbor did and eventually graduating to the elementary school parking lot.  I still remember the thrill of realizing that my dad wasn’t holding me up any longer and I was flying along on my own.  According to Nonny, I fell and scraped my knee rather badly but I don’t remember that part at all, just the wind on my face and my legs pumping the pedals!

Do you remember learning to ride a bike?




Husband is slow. Motorically slow. He always has been slow.  He really can’t do much of anything quickly, and it has been a source of frustration for him that I can do things quickly.  Really quickly.  When I did my psychology internship at a VA hospital in Iowa, we interns were administered  the same  battery of neuropsychological tests that we would eventually administer to the patients.  One of the tests was the Purdue Pegboard, which is a large board with holes for pegs, and you time people to see how fast they can put the pegs in the holes. It assesses bilateral motor speed and coordination. I had the fastest time ever for anyone who had taken the test at that clinic.

Last week, I got a notification from that recent analysis of my DNA revealed me to have the Sprinter gene, common in athletes, especially in successful short distance runners. I never was an athlete, but my dad was, and he was really speedy.  In high school he could zip around the basketball court so fast that he once caused the boy assigned to guard him to start crying during a game because he couldn’t keep up with him.  He did most things really fast, and I am pretty sure I inherited that gene from him.

What genetic advantage  do you think you inherited? Make up a gene you would like to have.


Khaki & Backpack

There is a Wyndham hotel right across the street from the Lima International Airport. Although Lima is a gigantic city of 11 million, it is just a quick stopover for many tourists who are on their way to the interior of the country to see Machu Picchu.  In fact, the Wyndham does a very brisk business for those arriving from the States at 12:30 and 1 a.m. in the morning, who then turn around to depart the next morning for Cusco and other cities farther south and east.  At 1:30 a.m. the front and bell desks are fully staffed!

There might be folks staying at the hotel who are NOT heading off to hike in the mountains, but you can’t tell by looking at them. Everywhere you look the view is khakis and backpacks.  At breakfast (which opens at 4 a.m.), even families are all dressed in khaki and even the smallest kids have backpacks (although you see more red and pink backpacks at this age).  Hiking boots and sturdy shoes always round out the ensembles.

It is such a ubiquitous outfit that our last morning in Cusco, I was startled (yes, startled) to see a group of five women at breakfast in extremely fashionable clothing. Tight leather-ish pants, a lacey red blouse and the little short black jacket of one woman definitely caught my eye.  And shiny red heels that were so high that if I were to wear them, I would have to super glue my feet onto them to keep from slipping right off.  She and the other four women looked lovely and very stylish, but definitely not in keeping with the khaki and backpack set!

What item in your closet do you wear the most?

Home Remedies

I got a phone call from Daughter the other night, breathless to tell me with great glee that her best friend’s dad, a rancher and veterinarian drug rep, had found the elixir for longevity. Yep. He decided somehow that dog de-wormer was the key to long life and disease prevention. He was taking a dose every day.

This doesn’t surprise me. Our region is noted for its high acceptance of alternative medicine. People who claim to cure all sorts of things by moving one’s cerebral-spinal fluid in the opposite direction with magnets thrive here.

My paternal grandmother believed that aspirin could cure insomnia. My father was a great believer in massive doses of Vitamin E.  I can’t tell you the number of bottles of vitamins and supplements we threw out after he died. He also believed that cherries would cure arthritis. He once ate a whole lug of cherries over the course of 24 hours.  My mother believed for a while that that drinking the colostrum milk from cows that had just had their calves would cure her Multiple Sclerosis. She said it tasted dreadful.  They both lived into their 90’s, so I can’t say that it harmed them. (I know for a fact, though, that had my father had a colonoscopy in his 70’s or 80’s he would have not died of colorectal cancer at 93. I don’t know why he never had one.)

What are your favorite home remedies? What are some of the more fantastical home remedies you have heard of? 

The Blues

Maybe not a breakfast topic, but what the heck!

Last Thursday I woke up in the wee hours and couldn’t get back to sleep. Even turning on my “go-to-sleep” movies didn’t help.  Then when I finally decided to just get up, I had a headache – an unusual occurrence for me.  I was scheduled to give blood later in the morning so spent a couple of minutes checking on Google if there was anything I could take for a headache before getting stuck.

Then I trudged into the bathroom and blew my nose. It was blue.  I’m not kidding.  And not just any blue, but aqua blue.  Bright aqua blue.  Disturbing to say the least.  Since I had the laptop all powered up, I headed back to my room and searched “blue ____ (fill in your favorite word)”.  I was not really expecting to find anything, but it’s the internet, so I should have known better.  Apparently there is a bacteria (Pseudomonas pyocyanea) that causes this blue output.  One of the other symptoms – headache! This infection doesn’t seem to be majorly life-threatening although a few websites did say if it went on for more than a day or so, you should definitely get to your doctor.  Great. So then I spent time trying to figure out if I should give blood if I might have this bacterial infection.  That I couldn’t find.

I was still struggling with whether I should cancel my trip to the blood mobile when I went downstairs. As I went to get Rhiannon’s morning pill on the kitchen counter, my eyes fell on the Ukrainian dye that I had stirred up the night before.  Purple and — wait for it — aqua.  The dyes are made up of really fine powder; I must have gotten some of it in the atmosphere and breathed it in.  Subsequent nose blowings confirmed the blue to be a one-time occurrence and not a continuing “infection”.  I felt like an idiot after spending at least an hour searching online.

Hypochondria isn’t an affliction that I usually count among my foibles, but after Thursday, I’m not so sure anymore.

Any embarrassing revelations to take the heat off of me?