Thursday, December 30, 2010

Definitely NOT a Witchhunt

Just when I thought I'd heard the last from perennial candidate Christine O'Donnell after her defeat last month, the Justice Department is looking into how she spent the $7 million her Senate campaign raised.

I don't admire her. But for God's sake, the biggest part of me would rather let her abscond with money people were foolish enough to give her campaign than to hear her screechy voice complaining about how the world, and Joe Biden, are against her. She's going to use this investigation as fodder for her false sense of importance, while adding to the Delaware-sized chip on her shoulder.

O'Donnell has never explained how she earns a living. So I'll take a guess--she's a professional candidate. As long as she keeps running for office, she'll be able to pay the bills. She may well be running the biggest scam ever in the country's second smallest state.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Legs, not Wings

I've written about my grandmother in other posts. She was a salty gal, as at home wearing hip waders in a flooded basement and using choice profanities as she was powdering her nose before going to 7 a.m Mass. What a woman. Think Annie Oakley with painted toenails. I wouldn't mind being remembered this way.

In other ways, Grandma was surprisingly conventional. The woman was wild for chicken wings. Now bear with me. Loving chicken wings seems like a non-sequitur, but I'm making a Point. No one could understand her wingomania. Why not go for a breast with its large expanse of crispy skin, leaving the dry, tacky stuff for the dog, or a juicy leg? Who in their right mind would choose a wing? There's virtually no meat on them, and they're a pain in the ass to eat.

My mother's theory was that Grandma, who grew up in a big family, got whatever was left over. And learned to love it.

When I lived with her, she did most of the cooking, because her kitchen was her palace. She claimed I was too busy with my studies to muss my hands with cooking. But about once a month, she'd beg me to make these Asian-spiced chicken wings I got from an old Craig-Claiborne-does-Chinese-cooking. They're made with star anise and stick cinnamon, and they are pretty damned good, for chicken wings. I haven't made this recipe in years, as my husband and kids think anise tastes terrible. Maybe instead of those wretched deep fried wings with bleu cheese dressing people serve at Super Bowl parties, I'll invite over some people who would appreciate wings stewed with star anise and stick cinnamon.

As for that Point I promised to make--sometimes eating what's left over is good discipline. Like so much in her life, Grandma made the best of her circumstances. She knew how to put aside her desires and share, and that's a good thing.

What she wasn't so great at was communicating what she wanted. A lot of us, especially females, lack this skill.  Sometimes it's somebody else's turn to share, especially in the daily give-and-take of family life.

So go ahead--tell your familiars you're taking the pick of the litter tonight, whether it's from a platter of chicken or the thickest steak. Eat slowly and enjoy every bite. Don't worry, you're not going to forget how to share. It's like riding a bicycle. Where you need practice most is in putting yourself first.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Of Sound Mind and Body

In the University of Colorado fieldhouse before my race, with Patrick and Phil,  Don's co-worker.
I started running again more than three years ago, when it became obvious that my weight was creeping up, despite an active lifestyle that includes walking, yoga, hiking and skiing. Not to mention recreational eating. Plus, I was entering into the Perimenopausal Zone (no offense, gentlemen, but the PZ is not a place where fools march in, so perhaps you'd rather not read this post). At first it was kind of a secret pastime, because I wasn't at all sure I was going to like it enough to continue. I vaguely remembered that running hurt, or was uncomfortable, or something, and in the immortal words of Daffy Duck, "I'm not like other people. I don't like pain. It hurts me." Or as secret as any pastime that requires running around my neighborhood, where I've lived for a decade and I suppose I'm as well-known as any other long-term denizen.

Sure enough, running was as uncomfortable as I remembered it, if not exactly painful. My right knee was particularly rebellious. It squeaked and groaned like an old house wondering if it could stay on its foundations. But beyond a slight twinge and some strange creaking sounds, my knee didn't hurt. I was still running a month or two later when I noticed that it was no longer protesting. I can't say I loved the experience, especially during it, but there was no quitting now, especially since nothing really hurt. Besides, I felt great afterward, endorphins soaring, and the weight already slowly dropping off.

This was good enough to keep at, I decided. I started entering local 5- and 10K races and delighted in their carnival atmosphere. I wasn't in it to win it. I just didn't want to embarrass myself. I researched training programs and starting running hills and intervals to increase my stamina and speed. These strategies worked. I became a faster, if not award-winning runner. That was, and still is, good enough for me.

The trouble is, I still live in American society, where progress is a foregone conclusion. The next logical step would be for me to run a half-marathon, or even start training for a marathon. Don't get me wrong--I revere anyone who trains for and competes in a marathon. Just ask my family--I'm one of those dorks who sits around on a Saturday afternoon watching NBC Universal repeats of the running portions of triathlons. I love to watch how people run. Each person's style is as unique as their face. A running fingerprint of sorts.

But why in the hell would a big gal like me, 5'10" and who weighs, well, a lot more than I'm ever going to confess publicly, ever run a marathon? Marathon runners are thin and wiry, not strong and bulky like me. And besides, I'm perfectly content running 10K. It's a great distance for me. I've lost twenty pounds running consistently, if not breaking any records for speed and distance. A couple of running buddies have pointed out that the weight would come off if I stepped up my training. But I'm not in this to lose any more weight. I like to think of myself as kind of a throwback to actresses of the 1950s, like Jane Russell or Ava Gardner or Marilyn Monroe. I actually don't mind having breasts and hips. Running off my belly fat and thunder thighs was one thing. Why would I want to run off the good jiggly parts?

So what AM i in it for? Given my disposition, which alternates between biliousness and anxiety with occasional, very occasional bonhomie, I might well be a lifetime candidate for Prozac. But I'm also into yoga and alternative medicine. Running is my alternative to Prozac. In the process of pursuing a sounder body, I've also stumbled onto my key to a sounder mind. Certainly the yoga asana and meditation play a huge part in cultivating peace of mind, besides being excellent physical and emotional exercise. For one thing, I've stopped giving the people around me so many pieces of my mind since I added running to my routine. Yes, I still write letters to the editor in response to some blowhard who really needs another blowhard to put him in his place. But I'm kinder and gentler about it.

At the two-mile mark at Saturday's race

This is what works for me. I'll just keep plodding along. If the weight starts creeping up again, or Don starts telling me my Bitchiness Quotient has increased to intolerable levels, then I'll consider my next steps. By that time I'll be over 50. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I just don't think it's a good for me to start running marathons after 50. I'm more likely to bungee jump.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Kind of Veteran's Aid

Don, the boys and I were walking on Main Street in Bozeman, Montana on a snowy June evening. Yes, folks, it snows in Montana in June. And every other month, too. But that's another story. We were taking in a little after-dinner window shopping, when a man walking in front of us careened around and fell backwards smack on his head. Our first thought was that he was having a seizure. But almost immediately, he bounced back up.

One whiff of his breath made it clear his fall was alcohol-induced. He didn't seem to know where he was or what had just happened, but he was walking and talking. We offered to call the paramedics, but he waved us off. We kept walking with him, because we were pretty sure he wasn't in any condition to cross streets safely. He was coherent enough to mention he'd been in Iraq. But the conversation quickly devolved into him insulting us for judging him for his drunkenness and not appreciating his service. He was clearly looking for a fight.

I didn't think our boys needed to witness any more of this, so Don and I quickly agreed I'd take them back to the hotel and he'd deliver him to the VFW, which was another block and a half up the street. We were hoping the other vets would know better how to handle him than we did.

It probably wasn't the first time this young soldier had picked a fight with someone. And he may have landed in jail for it more than once.

In a small way, Judge Ronald Croder has begun to address the issue of veterans with post traumatic stress disorder who run into trouble with the law, often for alcohol-related offenses. The retired two-star general has started a Veteran Trauma Court that is more interested in helping traumatized vets deal with life than in punishing them.

Bravo, Judge Crowder, for using your expertise and life experience to help other people. The judge, a prosecutor and a public defender are actually working together instead of being adversarial. Let's hope their good work becomes a model for other courts in Colorado and across the country to emulate.