I blame the lateness of this post on the time change.

21 Nov

Daylight Saving Time baby meme

Unlike most people I know, I get excited on both ends of Daylight Saving Time. In the fall, I gain an extra hour of sleep and the mornings are brighter to wake up to. In the spring, I lose an hour, but it means than I have an extra hour of sun to prance around in on my way home from work. Overall, I’m not complaining.

But not everyone is onboard with the plan.

As an example, a few weeks ago I went to yoga over in Georgetown the Sunday morning following the clock roll-back. My instructor usually teaches yoga at 10 and pilates at 11:15. I showed up at 9:57 and the classroom was empty, except for my instructor’s mat at the front of the class. I settled in, kind of glad that she took her sweet time to show up.

Another student arrived and rolled out her mat. “Weird that the instructor isn’t here yet, right?” she asked.

I nodded. Usually, the instructor was a bit regimented in the whole thing. “At least her mat is here…”

About 10:10 she finally strolled in, and told us she’d been hanging out in the sauna. “So nice on such a cold day,” she said. There was no urgency indicating that she was 10 minutes late to class. In fact, she sat on her mat at the front of the class and began chatting about Halloween and asking if we’d dressed up.

It was weird, but I was also feeling lazy, so I didn’t mind that she was burning up some minutes that would normally be sweaty. Finally she said, “Well, looks like it’s going to be just us, so let’s go ahead and get started.”

We started. The initial sequence was a bit different than usual. Instead of downward dogs, we were doing 100′s. (If you’re not familiar, a 100 is where you’re basically doing a sit-up/crunchie and waving your hands to a count of 100. It’s a classic pilates move.) As the minutes continued to tick by, I kept wondering when we were going to transition to the aerobic part of the class and stop doing core work.

Quick meme - Batman & Robin - Pilates vs. yogaThen it hit me – she was still running on old time. She’d probably shown up for yoga at 9am (thinking it was 10) and thought that she had no students. So she went to the sauna and chilled – until it was closing in on pilates time. Having formed that hypothesis, I was curious to see if the rest of the class would support it.

Also? Pilates is a pretty intense workout if you’re not used to it. The other student in the class was an older woman who I’m pretty sure had never done pilates in her life. She kept shooting me glances that were more like questions. I suppose I could’ve interrupted the instructor and clued her in that we were there for yoga, not pilates, but it was sort of like a game of chicken. I wanted to see if the other woman would cry uncle.

As it turns out: no. So there we were, the first day of standard time. One extra hour of sleep under our belts – and an hour of pilates. Not the worst pay to enter hibernation if you ask me.

Some ecards - pilates

So, this is a milestone. GULP.

30 Oct
Little baby me with my adoring big sister - who would later dump me out on my head.

Little baby me with my adoring big sister – who would later dump me out on my head.

Happy birthday to me! Today marks 40 years on this fine planet!!!

How lucky am I? Answer: Very.

A year ago I launched my 40×40 – a mini-bucket list of things I wanted to do before I turned 40. So… how’d I do?

If you know me, you’re probably thinking, “With her undiagnosed OCD, it’s a given that she meticulously did every item on the list.” And if you’d made this wager in December of last year, the odds would’ve been in your favor.

But then this thing happened: I started the Georgetown University Transformational Leadership Coaching program. And I was, as they say, transformed. I loosened up a bit. I stopped riding myself so hard. I gave myself permission to only honor the commitments that served me – and eliminate or renegotiate the others. That right there was worth the cost of tuition alone.

So it is through that new lens that I present my final scorecard for the last year’s 40×40.

  1. See the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. YES. As long as “from an airplane” counts.
  2. Try sushi. NO. To quote George Bush: “Just couldn’t do it…”
  3. Attend Nerd Nite DC. KIND OF. I tried – repeatedly – but it was always sold out. The winning twist is that because it was sold out, I ended up discovering and attending “Story League” which was completely up my alley. (You might just hear of me competing in it as part of my “40 AFTER 40.”)
  4. Become a certified coach. YES. And it was so much more than I bargained for. I’d considered applying multiple times over the last ten years, but finally pulled the trigger last year. What a great reminder to stop putting off the things that you’re interested in.
  5. Take a “Girls Trip” with my mom and sister. YES. And it was more than just a girls trip. What a blessing to get to spend time with my two favorite women – while seeing some amazing sites.
  6. Practice yoga every day for one week. NO. When I joined a gym so I could access a pool for the swimming goal on this list, I discontinued my yoga studio membership. As a result, I got a bit lazy on the yoga front, but it’s rotating back in.
  7. Take an official walking tour of DC. YES. In fact, I took two and learned a lot about this city I’ve called home for the last 18 years. Including where manure used to flow. And still does.
  8. Find the doors at the O Street MansionYES. Well, we found SOME of the hidden doors, but not all of them (perhaps in part because the place deserves to be featured on “Hoarders”). It provided a great bonding activity with two of my new classmates from Georgetown – and reminded me why I can’t handle pack-rats.
  9. Explore wine country with Alan. YES. We had a blast and covered a frightening number of miles (and bottles) on this trip – from San Fran to Pismo Beach and SLO to Napa and Sonoma. And we may or may not have flown two cases of wine home with us.
  10. Completely avoid Diet Dew for one month. YES. TIMES TWELVE. I did the Un-Dew. And I’ve stuck with it. I stopped drinking it on my last birthday and have only had one per month (if that) since. And I haven’t switched to another variety of soda, so I’m slowly purging the Aspartame from my body. Whew.
  11. Get a library card from the Library of Congress. YES. It was a process, but I now can peruse the stacks at will. Just don’t ask me how many times I have actually cashed in on this privilege.
  12. Sponsor one classroom project each month on DonorsChoose. YES. Over the last year, I sponsored some amazing projects for the public classrooms in this country. From hatching butterflies and harnessing rain water for a community garden to equipping an entire classroom with copies of “Wonder” and buying a library college-prep books – I helped students in our most impoverished communities know that someone was rooting for them (and willing to invest in them). If you don’t already give to DonorsChoose.org, I highly recommend it.
  13. Go Facebook-Silent for two weeks. YES. Read the post. I might do it again. And again. And again… Starting now?
  14. See an exhibit at the Phillips Collection. YES. Alan and I went to a “Phillip’s After Five” event and saw a “Mad Men inspired” exhibit from the 50s and 60s. There was also a DJ, some random food, and conversation with strangers that involved hiring a stripper for an octagenerian on life support. We may or may not do it again.
  15. Make a Halloween costume. YES. Just don’t ask how many times we got to wear them. After all – today’s my birthday and we only have plans to wear them to my office party this afternoon.
  16. Find a StoryCorps booth and record a story. Ideally with my dad. NO. Nevermind that we didn’t figure out what our story would be (though I’m pretty sure we’d have good fodder for the Booth), the real challenge here was finding a location and time to head in for an interview. It’s kind of like winning the lottery. Fortunately for me, my dad is a master diarist, so I have plenty of his history captured for posterity.
  17. Get professionally fitted for a bra. YES. You know I did. And I learned that my breasts are the ONLY reason I’m not a professional golfer. Well…
  18. Get a new driver’s license. NO. But for a fantastic reason: my current license is good for TWO MORE YEARS! Boom! So why would I go willingly sit in the DMV to get a license with a photo that makes me look older? Right… I wouldn’t – and didn’t!
  19. See the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. YES. Multiple times when Alan and I were touring California last fall, though the most spectacular was probably in Pismo Beach.
  20. Send one handwritten note of gratitude to someone each month. KIND OF. I sent more than a dozen thank you notes (and not just in response to things I received) but they weren’t paced by the month. In fact, I took the February “Month of Letters” challenge and sent a handwritten note each day of the month – many of which were unprompted thank you notes. So I consider the spirit of this one fulfilled.
  21. Record a podcast with my friends. NO. Mainly because we’re too lewd to hold jobs if we do it – and too disorganized to meet at a house instead of at a restaurant on the fly. This WILL happen in the next year – even if no one but us hears it. (Looking at you, Al, Heddy and Shawn.)
  22. Learn to change my bike’s rear tire. YES. Learned from YouTube. Attempted in real life. Not that difficult – though I’ll probably freak out and forget how when I need to do it in real life next summer.
  23. Write 50,000 words toward my next novel. NO. That’s on the list for 2015.
  24. Complete a Century Ride. Preferably with my sister. NO. But I flew a shit-ton of miles in an uncomfortable seat to meet my sister in Italy. Does that count?
  25. Learn why ziplines are so hyped. NO. Still clueless. Our weekends got away from us, but it will happen – when we next go camping near one. In the meantime, I plan to just leave my zipper down occasionally and see why that’s so hyped.
  26. Review the books I read on Amazon. KIND OF. I reviewed A LOT this year – like the books I read, the apartments I stayed in, the restaurants I ate in, etc. – but I didn’t do it on Amazon. So check me out on TripAdvisor or Audible and you’ll see that I have quite the collection of reviews – and people who argue with them.
  27. Swim 50 miles. Not all at onceYES. This was the BIG ONE. And I did it. Don’t ask me how many laps I’ve swum since hitting this goal. (Hint = none.)
  28. Roast an entire chicken. YES. And once I realized how easy it was, I hung my head in shame – and roasted a bird each week. Seriously – why did this take me so long? And how many other simple things are out there that I haven’t tried because I’ve made them more difficult in my head. (Stay tuned for 2015, when I build my own rocket pack and travel the globe.)
  29. Compliment a stranger every day for a week. NO. I attempted this and got crazy looks. I definitely complimented more strangers than I usually would, but I didn’t do it for seven days straight.
  30. Volunteer for a cause I care about. KIND OF. This is still a biggie because I’m passionate about so many causes. This year was a bit nutty, however, so I sponsored a lot but didn’t necessarily participate. Earlier this month I did participate in the Alzheimer’s Walk (and I raised $1,500 for the cause!) but that still doesn’t feel like volunteering. Next year I’ll do better.
  31. Declutter my friendshipsYES. And in the process, I’ve realized how many truly great friends I have. 
  32. Do an inversion every single day. NO. I still think it’s good for you - I just struggle to remember to do it. And let’s be honest – I didn’t do it the first day after my birthday last year, so it was a lost cause, mentally.
  33. Update my resume. KIND OF. I updated it – then took on a new role. So now it’s out of date again. But it was still a good exercise in seeing just how much experience and how many skills I’ve acquired since joining my company.
  34. Help Alan have a good 40th year. KIND OF. I should rephrase this, because – despite my intentions of being awesome to Alan, he ended up being more awesome to me. As just one example: He didn’t complain when I scrapped our vacation to go to Italy with my mom and sister – in fact, he stayed at my place and cat-sit Miss Moneypenny.  I think I need to help him have a GREAT remainder of his 40th year.
  35. No candy for a month. YES. Of course, I chose February because it is the shortest month. Even so – did you know that by gutting candy, I didn’t lose a single pound? That wasn’t my goal, but – given the quantities of sugar I consume – I would’ve thought that’d be a natural bi-product.
  36. Host a scavenger hunt. KIND OF. It’s a bit of a stretch to even count this as “kind of” because I technically did not host a scavenger hunt. However, I did organize a series of puzzles and games so that my dad could be an armchair traveler and have one envelope to open each day we were in Italy.
  37. Break a rule. YES. I actually realized that even though I think of myself as rule-abiding, I break rules frequently. The most common? Jay-walking. I actually got yelled at in Boston this year for jay-walking in front of three cops on a street corner.
  38. Provide free sales coaching to someone who tries (poorly) to try to sell me something. YES. After months of receiving horrible emails from a salesperson who clearly didn’t understand my role or what my company does, I wrote her back a very thoughtful response, including feedback on what would’ve been a more effective way to grab my interest. I can only assume she applied that feedback and became wildly successful, because I never heard from her again.
  39. Contribute to Wikipedia. YES. Actually, I learned something. After creating an account so I could contribute to Wikipedia, I learned that the kind of contributions they want people to make are generally editing or fact-checking, rather than straight-up authoring. That explains why there’s no entry for “pithypants” on Wikipedia – yet.
  40. Go camping. NO. I can’t believe this one didn’t get accomplished. I love camping and used to do it all the time. But it’s tough to get all the variables in alignment – it has to be a weekend when Alan doesn’t have the kids, the weather has to be dry and warm – but not too warm, and we can’t have plans that tie up one of our weekend evenings. Next year this will happen, because I miss the smell of wood smoke.

 

So what’s the tally? 22 clearly completed? 7 kind of? 11 scrubbed? Whatever the count, I’m considering it a win. I had a great year and my list did exactly what I’d hoped it would: it prompted a bit of reflection and a greater reconnection with my friends and family, my curiosity and creativity, and my health.

As I look back on the first four decades of my life, I feel grateful to all the splendid people who have made my life so rich. I am one lucky lady.

Eat to live or live to eat?

18 Oct

Image Source: © 2014 pithypants

We all learned a lot about each other’s eating preferences on our trip to Italy. If I had to summarize, here are our dietary tenets…

Mom:

  1. It’s not breakfast unless it involves orange juice and milk.
  2. Every table should include a salt shaker.
  3. There is such a thing as “too much” marinara sauce.
  4. Meat makes it a meal.

Me:

  1. Live to eat.
  2. Salami is like a blood-sugar insurance policy – one slice at every meal keeps things ticking.
  3. There’s no such thing as too much pasta.
  4. If a restaurant has bruschetta, we’re ordering it.

Alicia:

  1. Eat to live.
  2. Black tea, hold the sugar – hot/cold throughout the day.
  3. Have yogurt, will travel.
  4. Coronettos whenever possible.

Further demonstrating how differently we approach food, shortly after returning, my sister shared this link for Soylent. I encourage you to check out the page and see if anything about the concept appeals to you. (Soylent is a food replacement product that provides nutrients via a powder that mixes into a drink.)

The stated benefits are:

  • Time: Prepare multiple meals in minutes – no need to shop for individual ingredients or plan ahead
  • Money: Spend less than $10 per day on food, and less than $4 per meal – get more than a day’s worth of meals for less than the cost of takeout
  • Nutrition: Eat balanced and wholesome – get all of the essential nutrients required to fuel the human body

Sorry. This guy’s value proposition falls apart for me with the first bullet – I enjoy taking time to shop for ingredients and cook dinner. And more important than money or nutrition to me is TASTE. It might be wrong, but I eat for enjoyment, not nutrition. My sister on the other hand…

Granted, all you need to do is look at us to see how our eating philosophies have shaped our bodies. She’s an easy size 4, and I could definitely stand to lose a pound or, um, fifteen. Details.

Finally – because I’m mildly obsessed with Soylent and the fact that this guy thinks enough people are wired like my sister that there’s a market for this product – can we discuss the name? Is it a terrible or brilliant marketing move to name his product after the 1973 sci-fi movie Soylent Green, which is summarized by Wikipedia as “…the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and all-year humidity due to the greenhouse effect. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including “soylent green.”

I mean, the plot does seem to be playing out in real life, so I can see where Soylent’s founder drew a connection. The problem, however, is that at the end of the film, you discover that “soylent green” is actually PEOPLE. So here’s guy in 2014, selling an unrecognizable nutritional powder and he’s deliberately named it something that calls to mind cannibalism. Interesting brand strategy.

Which camp are you in? Love to eat or eat for fuel?

From Russia, with (Not Exactly) Love?

9 Oct
Mom and Alicia on our train TO Naples - when everyone was healthy (but apparently tired).

Mom and Alicia on our train TO Naples – when everyone was healthy (but apparently tired).

 

I thought the Cold War was over, and – Putin aside - Americans and Russians generally got along now. I may have been wrong. That, or we encountered a group of Russians who were having an incredibly bad day as we left the Amalfi Coast.

Monday we took the train from Salerno to Rome. It was the same train we’d taken to Naples earlier in the week, so – having learned from our first ride – we wisely chose seats on the western-side of the car so we’d be shaded for the ride.

We were a bit nervous about the journey because my mom had woken up sick as a dog the previous day. She’d been in such bad shape (a self-rated “1″ on a scale of 1-10) that we’d explored the airline’s policy for changing tickets so she wouldn’t have to travel until she was better. But, trooper that she is, she rallied for journey from the coast back up to Rome.

So we found ourselves sitting on the shady side of the car, my mom slumped in a seat with a wad of toilet paper in her pocket to combat her perpetually runny nose, crossing our fingers that we’d be able to make it to Rome with as little hassle a possible.

Things were looking good – until (about an hour into our journey) we pulled into the Naples.

At Naples, it felt like the entire population of Italy was boarding the train. We looked at each other, relieved that we had claimed our seats before the masses joined. And then, without warning, there was suddenly a group of five very large people hovering over us, frowning and pointing at our seats.

My sister, our translator for the trip, said, “Scusi…” then asked a few questions in Italian about the seats that elicited blank-stares. She tried English. They shook their heads, still frowning. Then – hearing them talk to each other – a lightbulb went off and she harkened back to her college years and tried Russian. Boom!

Turns out, the five angry people hulking over us were Russian and had reserved the exact seats we were sitting in. While there were plenty of other empty seats in the car, they were hellbent on having the precise seats that were on their tickets. The thing was – they wouldn’t show Alicia where on their tickets the seats were indicated. She wasn’t asking to challenge them, but rather the figure out how the seating arrangements worked since we couldn’t find any seat numbers on our tickets.

They just kept glaring at us and jostling us and speaking loudly to each other. My mom looked confused. I sat there uselessly holding a half-eaten apple.

[Back-story: Just before the train stopped, my sister asked if I wanted to split an apple. She handed it to me to start - then began composing a text message, which took about ten minutes. I'd eaten my half of the apple well before we'd pulled into the station, but had continued to hold the core, waiting for her to wrap up the text so she could have her half. In the middle of this, the confusion ensued, so I was slowly realizing we were going to need to move, I was going to need to somehow move a backpack and two suitcases down the car and my hand was incapacitated because it was lamely holding a half-eaten apple.]

Finally, I knew what needed to be done. I handed my mom the apple and said, “C’mon – we need to move. They reserved these seats.” I gestured to some other seats down the car. “We’ll just go sit there and get out of the way while we figure out where we’re supposed to sit.”

Much like a puzzle, where you need to move one piece to a temporary spot to make room to move the right piece into place, we needed to maneuver into a temporary space to get out of the Russians’ way so they could claim their seats. But they were standing in the temporary space and got angry when we tried to move into it, despite the polite hand gestures and earnest looks I was giving to show our intention was only temporary.

We finally managed to extract ourselves and move down the car, my sister and I relaying our bags to a new location while my mom carried the apple. We eventually got a nice Italian guy to look at our tickets a show us where the seat numbers were hiding – and got situated in our new block of seats on the opposite end of the car. (To do so, we also had to displace another group of people, but we were nice about it and took the time to point out on our tickets – and theirs – where the seat numbers were located. I’d like to believe our interaction was educational as opposed to confrontational.)

Once we were parked in our forever-seats, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. My mom offered up the apple, which was now browning and had been through too much – by which I mean “held by a sick person” – for anyone to want to eat. We wrapped it in a bag. Alicia pulled out her knitting and resumed working on a scarf.

“Well,” I commented. “That was certainly a cluster.”

Mom nodded.

Alicia got a big smile, “At least I got to speak some Russian!”

I’m not sure we did anything to strengthen US-Russian relations with that little interaction, but at least we didn’t start an international incident.

When I shared this with Alan after returning home, he got caught up in the frustration of the story. Before I could finish, he was offering up Russian phrases he’d learned while living in Georgia. I don’t speak Russian, but even I could tell he wasn’t using the word “mother” to talk about my mom’s health.

Probably best that he wasn’t on that leg of the journey.

 

The Amalfi Coast: The way it was meant to be seen…

5 Oct
© 2014 - pithypants.com

Positano, photographed by my sister.

To appreciate the Amalfi Coast, you really have to see it from the sea – or at least, that’s what people (by which I mean “friends and guidebooks”) told us. We decided to heed their advice on Friday and join a small private charter to Capri.

Visiting Capri (which is pronounced similarly to “khaki” in terms of where the accent goes) was always part of our agenda, but we’d planned to get there via ferry. Thursday night, however, I went online to explore other options – in no small part because I was so traumatized by our initial bus ride that I was eager to avoid another ride to the port where the ferry departs.

As usually happens, I ended up on TripAdvisor, looking to see what the top Capri attractions were – when I saw a slew of glowing reviews for this boat service. I checked the forecast for the next day (80 degrees and sunny), then reached out to see if there was room for us to join. There was!

© 2014 - pithypants.comThe next morning, we walked five minutes over to the town pier just in time to see a boat speeding up. We hopped on, the last pick-up of a group of ten people spending the day together. The others were also Americans and over the age of 55, so by comparison Alicia and I were spring chickens.

Apparently the first mate (Alessandro) was relieved to have some “younger” women on board, because he kept winding his way over to talk to us. “It is my lucky day,” he said, “To have such beautiful women on the boat.” We rolled our eyes and said, “You actually just mean it’s nice not having retired women on the boat for a change, right?”

Regardless, he said he would open special wine for us on the trip – then later popped the cork out of a bottle of Prosecco. Sorry, Alessandro, you’re going to have to try harder – that’s no Veuve Cliquot. 

He also asked if we had toured the Amalfi Coast roads at night – to which we told him we had, by bus, and we had found it terrifying. He shook his head, “No – by scooter! I take you by scooter – very romantic!” Sorry, Alessandro, now you’re trying TOO hard. Go steer the boat.

Isn't the water unreal?

Isn’t the water unreal?

Once Alessandro was in check, we spent the next two hours zipping along the coast – first over to the Green Grotto (where I learned other peoples’ tricks for distinguishing stalactites from stalagmites), then past the Lovers’ Arch, which newlyweds pass under in a rowboat for good luck after getting married. Then up past Amalfi and Positano before cutting over to the Isle of Capri.

Along the way, a friendly woman who had no filter became our friend. We were all sprawled out on a cushioned sundeck when she introduced herself my reaching over, pointing at my mom’s shin and saying, “I also have those white spots on my leg.” Without waiting for a response, “In Florida they told me they’d go away if I rubbed kerosene on them…” Did they also suggest you should strike a match? 

Among her other quotes from the day:

My son’s wife has fake breasts. They just look like two little melons cut in half and stuck on her chest. Whatever – he seems to like them.

Once you have kids your breasts look like bananas. It’s like someone let all the air out. 

My daughter was a real hellion growing up. Lied about everything. Now she’s an angel. She said she never wanted kids but she’s the best mom. 

© 2014 pithypants.com

Us, swimming, in the middle of no where.

Once we hit Capri, we did a slow loop of the island, threading the needle of the Faraglioni Rocks with our boat before finding a calm place to drop anchor and swim. It was about 80˚ and sunny and the water was still balmy enough that it felt refreshing but not breath-taking. In high season the island is apparently mobbed by boats, but we only ever had a couple boats within our line of sight, which was great.

When we climbed out of the water, the ever-faithful Alessandro was waiting on deck with a hose to spray the salt water off us. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I think he enjoyed that part of his job just a bit too much. That, or the salt just really tends to stick to your boobs.

After toweling off, we continued around the island, stopping briefly at the Blue Grotto. The waves were too choppy to enter (we would’ve had to go by rowboat and the entrance doesn’t have much clearance, which makes it weather-dependent) so we continued around to the Marina Grande, where we hopped off to explore the island.

Image Source: http://www.cover-guru.com/covers/preview/Zab2h.jpg

The Isle of Capri itself was underwhelming. I mean, it was very pretty and the views were spectacular, but the mainland of the Amalfi Coast spoils you to such an extent that by the time you hit Capri, it would take a unicorn farting a rainbow to take your breath away.

We puttered around, taking the funicular to the center of Capri, then checked out various shops and gardens, finally walking back down to the marina by way of a winding alley dotted with small shrines to the Madonna.

On our return to the the mainland, the wine was flowing and our fellow tourmates repeatedly sang “Volare” (think Gypsy Kings) at the top of their lungs. It was a big party until we pulled up to the pier in Amalfi, when we started waving goodbye to our new friends. About this time, the captain said, “You leave now too…” to which my sister replied, “Joke? You joke?” while nodding her head.

Turns out, we’d arranged for a special pick-up in Minori, but had failed to specify that we needed a special return. Oops. While I was momentarily miffed (mainly because I thought was going to NOT ride a SITA bus for a day), it ended up working out great because it gave us a chance to explore Amalfi while only taking the bus one way.

In any case, we lived to see another day. And all that advice about seeing Amalfi from the water? Glad we took it.

© 2014 - pithypants.com

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