A simple girl in a complex world

Friday, April 18, 2003

Run Heather Run

One of the greatest things we humans take for granted is our health. I am and have been for approximately three years in perfect health. This last year has been the best of the three, as I have become one of those gymrats that everyone who's not a gymrat disdains.

But this morning, as I was awakened by the "do-you-want-to-get-up-at-5?" intoned by my husband, I found myself making the 2,154 excuses to myself that I thought I was long past about why I did not want to transport myself to the gym.

*Too tired
*Leg muscles ache, ow, ow
*I'll do Pilates later
*I'll go tomorrow and do more
*It won't hurt me if I don't go
*It's only cardio day - I wouldn't be missing any strength training
*I could go to work early and go to the gym after.
*I could play some Asheron's Call!

See, these are not even eloquent. Nor are they persuasive.

Today is cardio day. My body knows this, as my id so aptly stated in the previous paragraph. The gym has a track encircling it up at about a mezzanine level, and 18 times around is a mile. It's a perfect 60 - 65 degrees, so the moment you start to sweat, you know your muscles are warm enough to stretch or rip (as needed).

Cardio day encompasses many pleasures and tortures. I like the elliptical machine - often do 15 - 30 mins on it on non-cardio-days as the cardio component of a non-all-cardio day. Did you get all that? Good. But, in preparation for this MS 150 thing, I've felt the need to do some adequate self ass-kicking. This is otherwise known as running.

Now, some people are born to run. You see them in shopping malls or grocery stores - their tiny ectomorphic limbs and torsos - sometimes Gollum personified. If you feel the need to scientifically observe, park yourself at a mall near the size 2 racks. Yes, those are they.

I am not one of these people. I am born to lift and grunt, and, in other societies, would likely be one of the first women tapped for manual labor. Tall, good strong back. I would not be your choice of messenger to Marathon.

Alas and excuses aside, this running thing is growing on me. It's fabulous endurance training to get those lungs moving, and dancing happy lungs are good things. Oh, and the endorphins. Oh baby. The body's own opiates? And at that moment when you finally make that self discovery of "hey, I'm breathing normally AND running" - oh baby. Euphoria.

I'm not sure it's entirely just that, though. I find myself want to run in places and at times when it's not appropriate to run (and then, of course, conversely, wishing quite the opposite at the exact moment when my feet should begin doing their thing). This morning, I wanted to run the strangely cobbled hallway from the restroom back to the office location that houses my cubicle. Very strange indeed.

Where does this lead? Well, this morning it meant I ran nearly two miles and walked (which is close to jogging, really) another two or so. And then I applied the old ramrod to my psyche about my lack of effort, and it broke. I found myself laughing. A year ago, if I had told myself, "today you're going to walk a few miles and then run a few (or that amount of exercise in any order), I'd have run (or something else) screaming from the impossibility.




Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Pineapples for Peace

Yesterday was the big tax day, as we Americans all know. I paid mine, throughout the year and a bit here before this deadline. Since my husband and I both work full time, we donate quite a bit of money to various charities to fund and support what we believe to be important.

Everyone has a cause or a belief or an embittered passion. Some have all three of these. Today the AP headline read: "Some Peace Activists Won't Pay Fed Taxes." And I just couldn't leave it alone.

You see, I'm a big fan of peace. Peace means a lot of things. Peace, to me, means no murders. It means no wars; it means no threat of wars, and it means no terrorism. It means no domestic violence, and it, at the core, also requires that man be something other than inherently evil. I'll talk more about that later but not today.

If you jump on my example's front porch, you'll see and probably agree that, even in a civilized country on a civilized continent, true peace is but an illusion.

America is a large country of 50 United States. We Americans live here by choice, for we have the free will to pick up our belongings (or not) and move our place of residence to any other country that will have us. America asks little of us as citizens. We elect our officials, and to have the most say in what these people whom we elect will represent,we have obligation to vote. If your state or federal courts request your service on jury, be honored, for our court system, though it contains many flaws and loopholes, often requires input from common civilians to deliver results.

Now, consider these things in somber tone. There are many ways to advocate peace. Some are obviously more constructive than others. Peace begins in the home. It travels then to groups of people, typically with a common objective. I am happy to agree that war is not peace. If you believe a nation not actively at war is at peace, think again, for these are not mutually exclusive.

I am disheartened by this article. I am often disappointed with this country's citizens en masse. At the core, whom do you hurt by not paying your taxes? You taint your reputation with this lovely label of "war tax resister." Oh, and what about those lovely social programs - fewer federal dollars means less money channeled into your state for your cause.

Hmm, I'm not too fond of the couple of thousand extra I had to fork out three years ago because the marriage penalty hit me. I'm pretty sure that money went to fund boll weevil researchers in Atlanta on some hefty government grant. Booyah. Perhaps I should write to the IRS and respectfully decline my bill this year and register myself as a "boll weevil resister." If I sell it well, I bet I could write a book about persuasion and bandwagons and perhaps raise enough money to get me out of tax hock. And have the last laugh.

But that's not what this is really about. This is, for the remainder of this evening's words, in effect, an open letter (rant) to the "war tax resisters" and an invitation to join my new campaign - because peace goes with anything, right? It's kinda like salt. And black.

And so today at lunch, I thought about Pinneaples for Peace. It's illiterative. It's got a nice ring to it. And I bet Dole would fork over some of those big spiky beauties, and we could make large posters of pineapples and draw big red circles around them with lines across the middle (I believe that's called a diameter). Pineapples could be the anti hand grenade! They do bear a small resemblance! Also, pineapple is yellow on the inside. If you cut it like Dole does, you have pineapple rings. Pineapple rings will fit around small bushes, and so your pineapple could stand as a sign that we need to bring our troops home. Pineapple is also, obviously, a food. So we could send our pineapples, after we are finished demonstrating with them, to Iraq and to Afghanistan. We could save the world.

Now, if this doesn't excite you, well, you could always leave the country. I hear France is pretty anti-war. Oh, wait. They're not very friendly. There's always Canada. You could live in the safety of America's shadow (because it's not like America's gonna let anyone mess with Canada). If Canada seems a good option, I've taken the liberty of providing some tax information for you here. Personally, if it ever got that bad here, that's where I would go. Oh, but be sure to save some extra moolah for your heating bill...and boots. You'll need 'em. Learn the rules of hockey, too; there's a good pacifier of a sport.

And there's Mexico! The good news? That country's tax regs were so vague and hard to find online I'm sure there's enough gray area in there to satisfy any diehard liberal. I'd recommend England, but that would only have been a viable option BEFORE the war. It seems public opinion has shifted toward the "winning team."

And, finally, if none of this excites you, perhaps you could find a new home country whose first letter is P. P is for Peace, right? I offer you these exotic locales: Paraguay, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Poland, and Peru!

Happy trails. Pay your taxes. Protest at will. Pray.



Oil and Vineger, Salt and Pepper, Vinegar and Pepper, Oil and Salt? Bread and Water? Some things are meant to go together. Today I'd like to discuss vinegar and pepper, so see comma-delimited column three in our title up there on the whiteboard. For lunch today I have a turkey salad (no, really). It consists of that happy-go-lucky bagged salad whose brand I cannot remember, but it has the little perfect shredded carrots, some romaine lettuce, some iceberg lettuce, and some shredded red cabbage mixture. Good stuff. Also present is a smidgeon of reduced-fat skim milk mozzarella cheese. And, of course, this is topped with some leftover turkey from Sunday, the last of the white meat. For a chicken or a turkey salad, the best dressing I can find is a LOT of fresh ground pepper and a similar copious amount of Regina Red Wine Vinegar (with natural Garlic Flavor). Here, Regina, free marketing! And, guess what, no calories! Who said the best things in life weren't free - oh, the sales guys. I discovered this friendly tart vinegar at Lonestar Steakhouse, which is audacious enough to not offer a clear Italian dressing for its salads. Since this is the only flavor of salad dressing with which I will venture to lace my salads, I asked for oil and vinegar, and decided to tough it out. Mmm, liked it so much I had to beg the waitress to divulge the brand name of the restaurant's featured vinegar. That's really all there is to say about that. Since I put oil, water, and bread in my title to entice readers, I should spout off a bit. Bread - staple of human life, can't get enough, but my waistline would argue that all of its padding (of which there should be none) consists of bread and bread products. Bread good. Water - water of choice is Ice Mountain. I don't taste any minerals, and it's in a handy reusable bottle. Coupons often appear in the Sunday paper like lawn fungi - coupons are good. Oil? It doesn't exist unless I'm at Romano's Macaroni Grill. And then it's with its friends bread and pepper. And my salad is graced with a peppy and peppery balsamic vinegarette. And, sadly, it's not free. hln


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

So what's your car handle made of, anyway

I drive a Mitsubishi Eclipse. It's red, and I bought it when it was a year old and cheaper than a new Taurus. And this is how I justify my 1999 bright-red slow-moving (but curvy) automatic (not stick shift) sports car, complete with rounded high spoiler soon to make shopping for a bike rack a nightmare.

I bought my beloved car in late 2000, taking delivery of it just before Thanksgiving. I had to haggle for it, too, hooboy. "Car's got racing wheels," the salesman quipped. "Car's gotta have wheels...," Heather quipped. Shopping for a car is shopping for a car. Everyone's got a story. I'll save the story of the smarmy Taurus salesman for another day. Today's topic is something along the lines of "it ain't as good as it used to be" (like I would know?)

In July of 2002, when I had owned the Eclipse for just shy of two years, I surveyed the sweltering summer day and took preparations to enter my car. One would suspect this would not pose much of a challenge, as I had already invoked my remote keyless entry and unlocked my car. This is July, so just a gentle tug on the handle will do. Lift the handle, and, vamoose. Handle in hand - car door unmoved.

Now, it's July, as I have mentioned. It's not January 3rd, and the car door is not frozen to the remainder of the car. I applied no more pressure than I would have to pet one of the cats who make their home with us. And, yet, I rendered my driver's side door inoperable from the outside.

Months pass. Never one to let circumstance bog me down, I learn to enter the car in grand adept fashion from the passenger side. Finally, it nears the fateful time when one must face the government's requirements to renew the license (cue the music, please), and I decide to fix this problem.

Car handle is made of cheap plastic. How much does a plastic car handle cost, you ask? I answer: a new [cheap] plastic car handle costs approximately 230 dollars. Yes, it does. No, my extended warranty does not cover this. Wow, fun. Insert fuss and frown directed at serviceman.

I'm not sure there's a moral to this story. In a self-righteous huff, I paid my bill and drove my now-whole car to its home, vowing with venemous acclamation to fire off a letter to Mitsubishi (including the handle in the package) detailing my displeasure with the situation. Two months have passed, and laziness has prevailed.

Inertia, sadly, is occasionally mightier (or more safe) than the pen and the sword. And how's that door functioning now, you ask? Well, it opens. But you'd best not try to open it with a key; the security trigger's locked to on, and you'll get an earful.

I'm always good for that.



Monday, April 14, 2003


It is April, and today’s weather warns of an imminent scorching summer. But, this is April, and that warning’s text reads 87 on the bank sign. It’s the first night of softball season, something I planned to only barely notice this year.

Instead, sucker that I am, I find myself playing for a team I do not know on the Jewish Community Center’s (JCC) Monday night league. On Saturday, I found myself driving to practice for the other team for which I did not plan to play – my friend Bonnie’s Tuesday night team. Three hours, a shin welt, a bruised toe, and a sore right shoulder later, I emptied the day’s infield dust accumulation into the bathtub (for it belongs) and thought about this strange course my summer is taking.

The summer, in my mind, was to be dedicated to training for September’s MS 150, for, sucker that I am, I have been…um…suckered into joining the not-yet-established informal-but-soon-to-be-formal cycling team made of some friends and coworkers. And, being the only female in my side of the office, it’s bad form to wimp out. I don’t own a bike, but ever since I decided that this was the summer’s goal, I’ve been doing all the non-bike training things to make this a reality. The bike is to come later this week.

I digress.

Softball. My fond memories of softball are from nine years old until twelve years old. It was in these days that I was in an all-girl league and being bigger and more developed than the other girls was a distinct advantage. I learned my first sports lesson at age nine, when Randy Paape (yes, I remember his name), the seventeen-year-old who was kind enough to coach his little sister’s team, taught me to never ever ever throw a ball at a person with whom you have not established eye contact. This was humiliating at eight, but it has many practical applications even at thirty. Oh, and Randy played on the BIG people’s league (swoon, swoon).

That year, 1981, Thumb Hyde and Fur (Thumb being the thumb of Michigan) won the Sandusky Girls' Minor League Championship. I remember the trip to Dairy Queen (a big deal in a very small town) and my Big Quencher Lemon-Lime Mr. Misty. The trophy reads:
Sandusky Girls (sic) Minor Leag (sic)

Three years later, we moved to Missouri. Missouri softball in a city is different than small-town softball. A small town lives for its sports, for there is little else to do. In Sandusky, I lived a mere three blocks from the field, which made its home in the center of the residential section of the main part of town. Driving to softball was a new phenomenon; playing on a team with little skill was a new challenge. So, at the end of the season, I was invited to try out for the all-city team or something similar. At age 12, I still hadn’t mastered (or attempted) the slide technique. I was one of three girls cut.

And that was it for softball until last summer, showcasing a twelve year-old’s skill in a thirty year-old’s body, complete with a slightly creaky arthritic knee. I’m somewhat apprehensive that I’m coordinated enough to thrive in a team sports environment when we move beyond practice into that strange state of being known as a GAME. But, still, somehow, some things remain the same from youth to adulthood. Hopefully throwing and catching remain intact. Batting’s not a problem; I was 3 for 3 tonight.

Infield dirt is still infield dirt. It doesn’t seem to matter if you mix 17 or 19 different varieties of brown-tinted fine-grained mixtures. I believe the 18th is allspice, but you’d have to ask Dominique, my husband’s cat; she likes to clean me. I know for a fact that ingredient four is sand. And, as my socks can attest, plain old dirt is definitely present in copious amounts.

Bring on the Tide commercial. It’s softball season.



Sunday, April 13, 2003

Turkey Vanquished

I left the country alone; no worries.

This year, I was asked on a last-minute basis to host Christmas, so on a snowy Christmas Eve I ventured to the local supermarket and purchased a 13.88 pound turkey to serve as the main course of the next day's feast.

Christmas of 2002 was too snowy for any of our relatives to venture to our suburban home, so instead I roasted a chicken and placed said turkey in the handy downstairs freezer (that I bought to freeze meat and individual servings of dessert, but I will get to that in later installments).

It is now April. That nagging home manager that sometimes surfaces to the forefront of my mind nagged at me about the long-frozen turkey. It was decided in the Noggle household that Sunday, April 13, 2003 will be the day of the turkey roast. So, on Thursday, we ceremoniously pulled the bird from the freezer and placed it on a plate in the center of the refrigerator like any other good soon-to-be-turkey-roasting individuals.

The day arrived! After my relaxed morning, I tackled the turkey, thinking to myself, "I remember how to do this from Thanksgiving..." Yeah, right. I begged the taller human in the household for his assistance in retrieving the turkey pan (conveniently housed above the cabinets). I sprayed said pan with cooking spray. I set the bird center stage in my kitchen sink, and I put the knife to the plastic Honeysuckle White wrap (hereafter known as the HWW). I discarded the HWW.

The turkey was strangely impaled with a menacing metal implement. I fiddled with this, sensing that its placement would hinder me from properly washing and preparing my Sunday dinner. Said implement refused to budge. I cursed. I pleaded. I stomped. It remained.

I believe I did a jerky pirouette.

Spunky weekend housewife then got the bright idea to refer to the discarded HWW. Washed hands. Read package - push down on funky implement. Wow, RTFM. How many times do I give that advice and then fail to follow the same? Push the left leg, girl - to the music now. Lift and push and lift and push, and, it...will...not...budge.


Wash hands, for they are cold as the dead bird.


Inject sense of self with a dose of rationality. I AM stronger than a dead turkey, and, indeed, somehow, after a bunch of fidgeting and other non-specified-on-package movement, I was able to loosen the implement (whose use I have still not yet determined) enough to clean the turkey's cavity by the legs).

Commence cleaning. It is at this point that I notice that the other portion of the cavity is stuffed with the giblets. Remove giblets. Ewww appropriately, for they are in a bag. The remaining contents are slightly frozen. Insert hand. Ewww. I should explain - poultry should have no effect on me, for I have gutted more chickens than I have eaten with my five years of experience at KFC. But, I should also note, chickens are not normally stuffed with their necks. And this bird's neck was slightly frozen to its other cavity.

It was at this point that my husband, who had thus done a wonderful job of cheerleading, peered over the Sunday morning paper. The sight must've transfixed him - pull...rest...pull..rest. It was, I am certain, most amusing. I said, "Have you seen Aliens?" He replied that, indeed, he had. I said, do you remember, the alien birth scene from Ripley's stomach? And he viewed with a straight countenance as I brought forth the neck from the cavity. If only I had mood music.

It's all downhill from here, baby. Wash bird. Ensure it's appropriately gutted and no other unexpected body parts lurk for later emergence. Season bird. Plunk in oven. Live the life of leisure as the rest of the week's meals cook in a gentle timed manner.

Bleach the hell outta the sink.

And my day was complete.