Monthly Archives: February 2015

Walk this way

I don’t belong to a gym or fitness club. There’s no room for home gym equipment where I live, even if I was moved to spend money on something like a treadmill, stationary bike, or rowing machine, which friends, I am not. These items make up my home exercise equipment:

Five-pound handweights and push-up bars

Five-pound handweights and push-up bars

A hoola hoop - because anything is better than sit-ups or "crunches"

A hoola hoop – because anything is better than sit-ups or “crunches”

I’ve got a jump rope too but nowhere all that practical to be jumping rope. Sometimes I jump inside and try not to smack anything.

All that being said, fitness and staying in shape are important to me, a central part of my life philosophy, so I get outside a lot. That’s a good bit easier when the weather’s decent but I realized a long time back, you can’t sit around 3 months out of the year waiting for weather conditions to improve. (Things can really go South in that time if you do. I’ve never forgotten what a fitness teacher said in an exercise class I took many years ago: that it takes six weeks to get in shape but just two to fall out. It ain’t fair but there it is.)

I walk. I’ve walked for years. I make myself walk.  I recently read that the Amish have an obesity rate of less than 5% AND they walk 14,000 steps a day. (Curious about their life expectancy, I just checked and found it the same as the rest of the population.) I am fortunate to live in a community where it’s possible to do a fair amount of walking while generally staying out of the flow of traffic. And besides, I don’t have a car which certainly lends itself to more walking.

However, I think people feel sorry for me! Sometimes I get offered rides when I’m walking on purpose. One time, I was in the adjacent town, several miles from home, where admittedly it was kinda hairy be walking, at least in some areas along the road, where there was no public sidewalk. Three people offered me rides and I started to feel guilty! I realized, in retrospect, that I was dressed too nicely, as if my car had broken down or I was stuck out walking along the road for an unfortunate reason. (I dressed a lot more casually, scruffier, the next time I walked the same route and was offered no rides, lending credibility to my theory.)

I think what has happened culturally, at least in this semi-urban area, is that walking on purpose has become weird, particularly for a “nice, middle-aged lady” like me. What is she doing out there? She should get a car and drive to the gym – I really think, whether they’re conscious of it or not, that that is what people believe. They don’t see the point in walking. I know that’s not true for everyone – thousands of people belong to local hiking groups – but that’s more about driving somewhere scenic and then walking around, as opposed to walking in your everyday life (which ain’t always so scenic and involves dodging cars).

The longest trek I’ve done locally – and not too recently – is two miles out to a big park which has a 5.5 mile trail through the woods, and then 2 miles back home. I’ve even biked over and locked up the bike while I walked the trail. I’d rather do that than say, go over to the high school’s outdoor track and walk around in dull circles with a boring view of a housing development and a road.

The thing that is worth saying, is that I almost always feel better after I walk, especially if I get in a couple miles. Probably need that many in order to have endorphins kick in. A walk to the corner mailbox does not endorphins make.

When the weather is bad and wicked cold, I go out so I’ll appreciate how nice it is to come home and get all warm-and-cozy. Although, it occurred to me recently, in a spate of cold, snowy, low-temps weeks, that my thinking might be a little like the old joke about a guy who hits himself in the head because it feels so good when he stops.

I want to walk because I can. While I can. For as long as I can.

Let’s make crocheted leg warmers!

When I was a kid I first learned how to knit (that’s two long needles) and it was okay. Then, however, I learned how to crochet (one short needle with a funny little hook on the end) and oh baby, that was the one for me! I liked crocheting much better and had aptitude for it. In fact, when I was a teenager my adventures in crocheting peaked with a Grand Champion ribbon at the “County Fair” one year. I made this sweater (don’t ask me how; it looks hard).

I still have said photo – from a magazine (you didn’t think that was me frolicking happily did you?) – because I cleverly taped it to the back of the winning ribbon to save with keepsakes. The prize came with cash too, but I’ve forgotten how much (but was thrilled with that part).

It’s good I have the photo because not long after the fair I unraveled the whole thing – crocheted sweaters made from yarn are really itchy and where was I going to wear this thing anyway? Knowing me, I likely wanted the yarn for something else. Now, if I could go back, I don’t think I’d unravel it, but there you go.

Over time, I made other things, including afghans, for each of my sisters and my mother. I know they liked – and kept – them, but I’m kind of appalled by how many crocheted afghans I see these days languishing at thrift stores and yard sales. Some old Granny’s hard work tossed onto the scrap heap…

My crocheting came to a halt in my late teens soon after I moved out on my own. My time got taken up with other things; the usual fare of work, school, relationships. I really didn’t much see the point of crocheting, especially when clothes and accessories were increasingly less expensive, all the more so at those aforementioned thrift stores. Why crochet a scarf when you could find a perfectly nice one already made for a dollar? Besides, once clothes were eliminated for itchiness, what did I need that could be crocheted?

A couple decades rolled by. I would think of my old hobby from time to time. Maybe, I thought, the point wasn’t the end project so much as the pleasure in the making. I remembered crocheting as fun. Although I finally gave away the last of my yarn, I had never gotten rid of my old crochet hooks, if only out of sentiment. You know they’re old: they’re stamped USA.

It started to bother me that I’d so totally abandoned a hobby I once enjoyed. In Fall 2013, I found a big stash of yarn for a low price at a church yard sale. I rooted around in a bin that nobody else showed much interest in, and chose these.

A year rolled past. I wasn’t sure if I knew how to crochet any more, so I thought it’d be a good idea to get a children’s instruction book from the library. I found one in the online catalog and requested it. However, when it came I discovered it wasn’t a book for children, but instead crocheted things to make for children. Oh.

I found instructions for cute leg warmers. But they looked complicated. Naaah. We don’t need no stinkin’ complicated instructions. I decided to make my own leg warmers by winging it. This has become somewhat Vintage Me – why bother with cumbersome instructions when you can make something a lot quicker your own way?

At first I started with the “single crochet” stitch, which makes a tight weave. That was taking forever; didn’t I used to be fast at this? Had I grown so slack?? Then I remembered how much better I always liked the “double crochet” stitch, which creates a looser weave but goes much faster in the making. We were in business. I selected 4 of the yarn colors I had for a repeating pattern and just made it up as I went, occasionally holding them against my leg to decide on sizing, etcetera. It worked! Good enough for me – after all, I wasn’t gunning for “Grand Champion.”

Modeling the completed leg warmers

Modeling the completed leg warmers

I’ve been looking at leggings, boots, etcetera on Amazon and the models usually pose elaborately. I needed to get in on this.

Not only are they cute, but they even function as intended: added warmth over jeans or leggings. Each time I’ve worn them out, a woman has complimented me on them. Not the same woman, I mean different women, which is very nice.

Things Men Have Said To Me #17

We’d recently starting seeing each other but things had moved quickly in the relationship. Although young, he was an attorney as well as a volunteer firefighter.

HIM (informing): “My job comes first and the fire department comes second.”

(I had a pretty good idea his Mama was third in line; my number wasn’t looking promising.)

Commemorating fatal accidents = bad idea

In my community and elsewhere, plaques, paid for by family or friends, are sometimes permanently set up in public places where individuals have died, typically in accidents. There’s something about these markers that is bothersome to me. I can totally see commemorating locations where many people have died, such as battle fields, prison camps, or the grounds of the twin towers in NYC, for examples. I can also see the significance, perhaps, of marking the spot where a famous or historical person died. “Here is the house where such-and-so died.”

It’s not that I don’t understand the impetus behind family and friends wanting to commemorate the loss itself. They want their person to be remembered, and I imagine they think they’re honoring the dead person. The trouble is, when I come upon a plaque at the site of a death, instead of thinking kind thoughts about the diseased (who I almost certainly did not know), I begin thinking about the possible gruesome circumstances by which the person died. I don’t think that’s what anyone intends, but I can’t imagine what else might be intended; i.e. a sign at the site of a fatal crash or accident doesn’t make me think about improved safety regulations or driving more cautiously, or anything along those lines. I’m not really sure what’s accomplished by permanently noting the place of an accidental death. Does dwelling on the exact location even help the family and friends of the person?

Also — why should only certain people’s death sites be noted? I mean far and away most people’s are not and I’d have to think money would be a factor in at least some cases. In my own neighborhood, a man died on the street of a heart attack some years back. It was never marked in any way. (I temporarily marked it with a flower that was gone in a week.) For some time after, I’d look at the spot and think about the man, who I did not know, and think also of how that location must feel to his family, who lived in the immediate area.

I feel similarly about “Ghost Bike” installations. These are bicycles which have been painted white and are permanently installed at the site of a bicyclist’s death. I didn’t know quite what to make of these when I first became aware of them, but now, several years later, I think they simply make me uneasy. Again, because all they do is elicit unpleasant thoughts of the nature of the death. They don’t make me rally for improved bike safety or write my congressman to press for legislation that’ll make drivers and bicyclists coexist more peaceably. They’re creepy – maybe that’s the point? And I say this as a bicyclist myself. I’ve recently seen one set up in front of a residence, that is, not near traffic or roads, and I really don’t know what to think about that one.

In my community, to memorialize a death of any sort, people can “purchase” a tree, or even a park bench that’s installed in a public spot with a small plaque listing the diseased’s name and birth/death dates. Sometimes, it’ll also include a more personal touch like, “beloved father and husband” or “she loved gardening and walking.” A sweet one I saw included what must’ve been a common refrain by the diseased, something along the lines of, “Oh, how glorious!” I like these memorials – they contribute something to the community and make me stop and think, and not only about how someone died.

Short Thought 109 (expressions)

(I was thinking about writing this post for the last week and today I (serendipitously) saw a similarly themed post on Vanbytheriver.)

When I was a teenager, I specifically remember reading in a girls’ magazine the recommendation that the reader stop making facial expressions in order to prevent wrinkles later in life. Even then, I was shocked by this “advice” and readily dismissed it. What a thing to tell impressionable young women.

Can you imagine a boys’ or mens’ publication making such an absurd suggestion? Boys, stop smiling, raising your eyebrows, and frowning now if you want to be hired for jobs or get women to have sex with you later in life.