Hurry Up and Slow Down (aka: The Fast-Paced Life)

Speed is my superpower.

Speed is my superpower

I run fast. I read fast. Learn fast. Drive fast. Sometimes, it seems that I have lived all my life at a faster-than-normal pace. I rushed through school — graduated at sixteen, then had a bachelor’s degree by age twenty. Then zoom! I got married a year later. And zoom! Bought a home by age 23 and had a baby before the year the over. Swish!

Sometimes, fast can be good. I get my work done quickly, then have plenty of time to fill with things from my ginormous list of hobbies and things to do. I get taxes done the day I receive my W2 in the mail each January. I’m often among the first in line to snag the best camping spot reservations months in advance. When one of my kids tells me at the last second (as usual) that he needs to costume for his big speech tomorrow at school, or she needs a few dozen baked goodies for a bake sale the next morning, I can often whip something together in no time, right in between arriving home from the work and heading out to the gym for my daily workout. Zip! Zoom! Swish!

Fast train

But as useful as speed can be, it is not always a good thing. Sometimes, slower is better.

I run quickly, but also quickly run out of steam. So I’m learning to set a slower pace, and run for greater distances.

I read fast. But when I slow down, I find that I can truly savor a book, and suck the marrow out of every paragraph. The best stories stick with you longer that way.

I learn fast. But I’m more likely to retain that which I’ve studied slower, more in depth.

I drive fast. But driving slowly means enjoying the journey more, taking in the scenery, singing along with the radio. Also, driving fast once earned me a very expensive traffic ticket. Oopsie.

fast driving audi

Marrying fast led to a divorce 17 years later. Working fast sometimes leads to careless mistakes. Zipping though list after list of Way Too Many Things to Do leads to stress, fatigue, burnout. Like a bright meteor, shining bright as it flashes across the sky, but disintegrating in the atmosphere.

Living fast isn’t all bad. It can help us to stay on top of things, to keep our responsibilities from piling up, and to fill our short lives with as much life as possible. But we must also remember that, to live our best lives, we require balance. And balance means to learn when it’s better to ease up on the reins, sit back in our seats, and enjoy the moment. We only get this moment once. Why rush it?

Tortoise vs Hare

 

 

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Cheers! (aka: A Beer-y Tasty Project)

Twitter is good at reminding me of things I may have missed out on, like rocket launches, or Trump’s latest blunders, or finales to TV shows I’ve never watched and don’t care about. It is especially good at reminding me about little-known holidays, most of which are probably made up by companies trying to sell their ice cream, or pancakes, or greeting cards.

Well apparently, a couple of days ago, I missed out on a big one. National Beer Day. Right? I mean, you’d have to be from Jupiter, or perhaps living in a cave to miss out on such an important occasion. Yesterday, I made up for it, though, by enjoying a nice cold bottle of Mexican beer from Trader José. Olé!

Brewski

Now here’s a confession. The very first time I tried beer was around 3-4 years ago. It’s true. I spent most of the first two decades of my adult life surrounded by very conservative, teetotalist Christian friends. When we used to get together, the strongest thing we ever drank was double shot espresso. Somehow I managed to start tasting and enjoying wine over the years, but not beer. A glass of pinot noir or chardonnay is a great companion for solitary moments with a good book and indie rock music. But there’s something about beer that screams of social outings, soccer matches, and fun. So I kept putting off that first drink until I was in an appropriate social situation for trying it out.

Toast beer diversity

My first beer was a Budweiser, and I liked it right away. Since then, I’ve begun keeping a spreadsheet of my beer explorations, and rating their flavors (Hey, I’m an INTJ, okay? This is what we do). I’ve learned that I really dislike IPAs and bitter beers. Bleah! But I really enjoy light beers and beers with a fruity twist. My absolute favorite type of beer? Pilsner. Yummm….I am tempted to end the experiment right here and only drink pilsner-style beers from now on. The very best pilsner I’ve had so far turned out to be the original pilsner beer — an import from Czech Republic called Pilsner Urquell.

Pilsner Urquell

Of course, there’s still a lot I don’t know about beers. I could probably do some Beer 101 reading to learn more about the different types, how they’re made, and what the heck is even in beer. I could probably also try visiting some of the many local breweries where I live. But that sounds a little intimidating to do alone, so maybe I’ll just stay home and sip another cold, frosty bottle of pilsner while watching a tennis match on TV. After all, beer doesn’t really require a Twitterized special occasion for us to celebrate it.

One last note — a few days ago, while I was at Trader Joe’s buying my single bottle of Trader José beer, the clerk studied my face, then asked to see my ID. When she saw that I am 42 years old, she laughed. “Seriously? Oh, come on!” So I guess that’s another good excuse to keep going with the beer tasting project. Getting carded by people around my own age makes me feel young. I’ll drink to that.

Cheers!

 

Que No Pare la Fiesta! (aka: Zumba!)

If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I am a constant ball of energy. Despite my exercise-induced allergic reactions, despite my chronic anemia, and despite my, ehrmgenerous bust size, I love to be active. I work out every single day, with few exceptions. I run, do workouts at the gym, swim, play tennis, and, until recently, soccer.  I also enjoy occasional group fitness classes, like yoga or step aerobics. But by far, the workout I find the most enjoyable is Zumba.

Zumba class fitness

What the heck is Zumba, you ask? Read on:

What is Zumba?

Zumba is a dance party! More specifically, it’s an aerobic dance fitness class featuring music styles such as salsa, reggaeton, cumbia, merengue, cha-cha, soca, hip-hop, flamenco, and rumba. But it is so much fun, that the official Zumba marketing slogan is, “Ditch the Workout — Join the Party!” 

Zumba logo

How did Zumba start?

Zumba started as a mistake in the 1990’s by Columbian dancer and choreographer, Beto Perez, who forgot to bring his aerobics mixtape to a class he was leading. He ended up playing a cassette tape of Latin dance music he had in his car, and the world’s greatest fitness dance party was born. No one could resist swaying their hips and moving their feet to the infectious Latin rhythms. The movement spread, and now, Zumba is practiced by millions of people in more than 100 countries worldwide.

 Who does Zumba?

Everyone! Zumba is not a dance instruction class. Whether you’ve had years of dance and fitness training, or whether you are a newbie with two left feet, you can jump into a Zumba class and have a great time getting in shape. Even though there is usually a big mirror at the front of the studio, people aren’t watching you to make sure you can swing your hips or shake your shoulders correctly. (Thank goodness, because I can’t twerk to save my life, hahaha!)

Zumba Class for All

Is Zumba an effective workout?

Yes! In a forty-minute Zumba class, an average person can burn 350-650 calories. With Zumba’s high energy style and interval-style intensity fluctuations, it has been shown to burn more calories than a number of other group exercise classes, including step aerobics, indoor cycling, hooping, and cardio kickboxing. And just as important — Zumba is fun! The most effective workout is one that you will keep doing on a regular basis. Still not sure? The best way to find out is to throw on your sneakers and head to your nearest Zumba class. Don’t worry about not knowing the steps, because no one is watching. Come join the party!

My Zumba Playlist Favorites

Firehouse — Daddy Yankee

Mi Gente — J Balvin, Willy William

Vem Dancar Kuduro (Oy Oy Oy) — Lucenzo ft. Big Ali

Chantaje — Shakira

Shaky Shaky (Terremoto) — Daddy Yankee

Baila Esta Cumbia — Selena

Don’t Stop the Party — Pitbull, TJR

Moviendo Caderas — Yandel ft. Daddy Yankee

 

 

 

This is NOT Only a Test (aka: College Admissions, pt. 1)

So my daughter, a junior in high school, just took the SAT exam last week, because she heard that some universities out there think it’s “important” that high schoolers have test scores to prove they’re “capable” of being successful students, or something. As if they couldn’t prove that by their Instagram feeds.

Anyways, she says it was pretty easy, for the most part. I hope that doesn’t mean she just randomly filled in a bunch of scantron bubbles. Because yeah, that’s pretty easy to do. I may or may not know this from experience. Lots of people have taken the SAT, but most of them don’t use the word easy to describe how it went. Those are probably the people who actually read the questions and did their best to answer them. Well, we will find out how my daughter did in another week or two. Hopefully well, because those exams aren’t free.

Standardized test scantron

Speaking of exams that aren’t free, in a couple of months, she will get to take even more exams. Only this time, they will be super-hard ones called International Baccalaureate exams. Which are a lot like Advanced Placement exams, but harder to spell. And possibly more expensive. IB exams cost about the same as buying a used car. A really bad used car that probably doesn’t run, but still. Not free.

student overwhelmed studying exams

I actually do get why colleges insist on SAT scores for the admissions process. With a nation full of overscheduled super-brains raised by a generation of Tiger Moms, the schools have to have some way to separate the chaff from the wheat, so I guess it might as well be by test result.

Tiger Moms

Well then, why don’t we take that a little further? I mean, lots of jobs (including mine) require potential candidates to pass an exam before they can be hired, right? Well, why don’t we apply this concept to other important things in life? Like, you should have to pass some sort of basic test just to get a gym membership. The questions might look something like:

You’ve just finished an intense, sweaty, 40-minute workout on one of the exercise bikes. Do you:

  1. Rub on the readout screen with your forearm to try and clean it up a little.
  2. Wipe down the equipment with anti-microbial solution, because ew, germs.
  3. Wipe down the equipment with anti-microbial solution and wash your hands, because ew, germs.
  4. Go home.

Or a test before you’re allowed to cook anything, ever:

You’ve just finished cooking a pot full of yummy spaghetti (Congrats!). Do you:

  1. Turn off the stove.
  2. Turn off the stove.
  3. Turn off the stove.
  4. Leave the stove on and walk away.

An exam for people trying to lose a few pounds:

Which of the following choices may assist you in your weight loss goals?

  1. Spending all of your free time Netflix bingeing and eating pizza.
  2. Drinking a 300 calorie smoothie in addition to your meals each day.
  3. Eating a low-calorie diet consisting mainly of plant sources.
  4. Adopting a Hobbit-style diet. (Second breakfast, anyone?)

Want to become a parent? Get a high score on this exam, first!

Your baby is crying. You:

  1. Pick her up and try to figure out what will soothe her.
  2. Put him in a bouncy seat and tell Alexa to entertain him with jokes.
  3. Ignore her and keep playing Overwatch/Roblox/The Sims.
  4. Give him away to the neighbors.

Of course, these exams wouldn’t be free. You’d have to pay the government to test you, so that we could use your money to come up with newer, shinier exams for more subjects. And the test-takers with high scores would flourish in the brave new world! And the lower classes would subsist of all the people who refused to study and failed the tests. And…what’s that? Oh, you’re wondering if these exams are part of my super-secret INTJ plan to take over the world? Nah. I was just testing you to see how you’d respond.

Graupel, Great Books, and Growth (aka: Don’t Stand Still)

Last week, something bizarre happened where I live. It snowed. Okay, fine, it wasn’t exactly snow. More like an enormous amount of hail that dumped all over the city ground during an intense thundershower. But there was so much of it, that it blanketed the streets, piled up on the sidewalks, and led to car spin-outs and a very long commute home.

On the news later that evening, the weatherman referred to the weird snow/hail/white stuff as graupel. Small pellets of soft hail. All around town, people were shoveling grapuel from their walkways. Kids — and adults — were throwing grapuel balls and forming little graupelmen and making grapuel angels on the ground.

Graupel

I had so much fun saying the new word I’d learned, that I kept repeating it. “Hey kids, did it graupel at your school today? Don’t forget your gloves — it might graupel again today!” (Seriously, it’s fun to say. You should try it. Graupel graupel graupel).

Learning new words still gives me a little thrill. In fact, learning almost anything gives me a thrill. There is something so satisfying about downloading new tidbits of information into my ever-expanding database of knowledge. Some of those new skills and ideas get lost in an overcrowded folder somewhere. But others invade my mind like a virus, affecting the way I once thought and acted.

When I read a good book — not just entertaining light fiction, but good, hearty literature — I am often presented with new words, or esoteric phrases, or ethical dilemmas that challenge me, forcing me to dig in, to question and refine my own beliefs. Same goes for a well-made documentary, film, or other work of art. These experiences won’t let me stand still. I can feel myself stretching until I have reached such dimensions that I could not go back to being my old self if I tried.

New Dimensions

It is easy for us to stand still, to grow complacent with our stagnation, to drift through the routine of our days while allowing ourselves only the passive entertainment of cat videos and humorous memes. Even I am prone to that, nodding my head to cheap pop music, or absorbing myself in shallow reading. It is like lying on a warm beach, licking an ice cream cone. Panacea to the everyday stresses that afflict us all. It is not a bad thing.

But something burning inside me refuses to allow myself to stay the same. Train yourself, it says. It will not allow me to be content with an outdated inner database, watching graupel fall and calling it snow. Eating sugary, processed foods and convincing myself that it’s good for my body. Doing nothing at all and saying that I am becoming a better version of myself.

gears turning thinking ideas

Today is Tuesday. Some say it is the dullest day of the week — not bleak enough to be a Monday, nor hopeful enough to be a Friday. I say that Tuesdays should become our most productive day. We have shaken off the sleepiness and are ready to learn, ready to challenge ourselves, ready to shine. So let’s log back into those free online classes we’ve been ignoring. Let’s buy ingredients and actually try to cook that intriguing Thai vegetable soup recipe we found last year on Pinterest. Let sunlight fall on the pages of a new Great Book filled with ideas and words we’ve never heard before. Try a new piece of equipment at the gym. Read some opposing political viewpoints and let it shake up your own prized worldview. Let’s get out there and help each other grow toward our fullest potential.

Just don’t stand still.

Disneyland Tessering (and other Magical Things)

I know. There is bug splat all over my car. It’s pretty grody to look at, and I’m sure the next-door neighbors are frowning at my carport. But I’m not ready to wash it off. Not yet.

My two youngest teens and I just got back from a week-long vacation. It started as a plan to spend Ski Week (aka Presidents’ Week) in Southern California, touring colleges. Yes, it’s true. Teen #2, my 16yo former gymnast, is a junior in high school already. Sensing our time together at home slipping away, I suggested we make this college tour trip super-fun. “How about we spend a day at Disneyland?” I said. *Insert shrieks of enthusiasm from the kids*. In the end, our plans included one of my daughter’s friends, and extended to two days on our favorite sunny SoCal beach, followed by two days in the Happiest Place on Earth.

So off we went, road-tripping through our state, plugging our noses as we passed “Cow-alinga,” admiring the miles of golden hills and farms, and even being surprised by a snowstorm as we drove through the Grapevine. Seriously. Snow, in Southern Cali. So cool, right? That was the beginning of the magic.

The next big Magical Thing was the beach. The amazing blueness of the sky and surf, and the empty golden sands, like the beach was open just for us. (Okay fine, it was freezing cold, an the other beachgoers were probably gathered indoors somewhere with a heater. But still).

Magical Thing #3 was the poke restaurant we discovered, which had macaron ice cream sandwiches. They exist, guys. They exist. And you have not lived until you have tasted one.

Then came the biggest Magical Thing of all. No, it wasn’t getting pictures with both Mickey and Minne Mouse without even waiting in line (though that was pretty rad, too). No, it wasn’t the part where Star Tours was better than ever, and Soarin’ Around the World was better than ever, and Radiator Springs Racers was our favorite new ride and well worth the wait. Nor was it seeing the Black Panther drive by, or meeting Captain America, who was fresh out of lectures, but had a funny story to share about his friend, Thor.

No, the most Magical Thing happened when we just happened to be strolling past the castle on Thursday afternoon. A woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if our family would like to participate in a photo shoot to advertise the new A Wrinkle in Time film, which is coming out next month.

Would we! My son and I had already read the book and can’t wait until the movie is released. So naturally, we said yes. I signed a couple of wavers, then they handed us free t-shirts and directed us to a roped-off area, where we waited with about one hundred other Disneygoers. “Have your phones ready,” the woman advised me. I wondered why.

And then…it happened. The crowd around us erupted into huge cheers. Then they stepped up onto a podium a few feet in front of me — Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, and the Queen herself, Oprah Winfrey. *Insert Screams*

Ohmigod! I was so starstruck, I forgot about the cameras snapping photos of us. Only the top of my head, and my hand, holding up my cell phone made it into the official shot (just to the right of Reese Witherspoon). But who cares? My kids and I got to be part of a very cool, very magical movie promotion along with some of the most talented and famous actresses ever. Eeeeeek! The entire experience took our level of Disney magic to a whole new level. In fact, I think we may have tessered right out of the park and straight to Neverland for a while. I’m still kind of floating there, as the pixie dust hasn’t yet worn off. How did we get so incredibly lucky?

Somehow, we managed to return home safely, though still in a daze of wonder, high on Disney Magic. There are still suitcases to be unpacked. And there’s my car, covered in road trip bug splat, in need of a wash. But that doesn’t even bug me right now. I want to savor this magic, as all magic moments in life are meant to be savored, treasured, and remembered during the times when life seems to have lost its shine. We all need a little magic, sometimes, to remind us why this wonderful, beautiful life we have is so very worth living. May you have your next magic moment soon.

Stolen Heart (A Poem)

Stolen Heart

heart-on-fire

I find it amusing

the notion that you stole my heart

like a bandit who crept in while I slept

and pocketed

my greatest treasure.

 

This heart?

This living, pulsing sun

that makes flowers bloom

and hastens the birth of Spring?

 

As if fingers could grasp it, resist

its flames

As if it were something one could possess

like a jewel, left unguarded

 

My heart can no more be stolen

than the current stolen from the river.

My heart can belong to no one

any more than the stars belong to the night.

 

What you hold now

that which slipped from clumsy fingers

or is kept dusty on a shelf

or perhaps was hung on your wall to admire

is merely a relic

a crystal glass filled with the golden water

I poured for you

from the precious fount that still beats within me.

 

It was always yours to spill

or shatter

or drink.

But whatever you choose, know

that my heart is full

and will fill your glass again and again

and yet again

until you understand true love

until you know forgiveness.