Posts Tagged ‘health’

Sorry Girl Scouts, you were not my type

October 13, 2017

If I could go back in time, I’d apologize to a few people. My Girl Scout leaders would be some of them.

You see, I was raised in a household of rambunctious, hockey-playing boys. I am still a “tomboy” because I require a pretty significant level of physical activity to balance the amount of time I’m required to sit still most days. Back when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old I was a good student and focused in school, but wanted to let loose afterward. I was into climbing trees, building forts, playing football or baseball or whatever the other kids in the neighborhood were up to. I delivered newspapers on my skateboard. I started running races around age 12 (just a few but it planted the seed). Girl Scouts was the wrong organization for me to join.

Girl Scouts was anathema to me. It was more sitting still. The leaders, God bless them, tried to teach me things like paper mache and embroidery. We used miles of colored yarn to earn badges that required nothing more than channeling our natural energy into a checklist of pseudo domestic skills designed to make us better housewives. That’s the worst thing for pubescent girls who are beginning to battle body image issues, to face “mean girl” school cliques, and often having few outlets for confidence building activities. Girls need to test their physical skills and keep endorphins flowing through rock climbing, biking, problem solving and meaningful activities like public service, in my opinion. Like I believe Boy Scouts do.

Girls belong in trees and on climbing walls and participating in more than glue and glitter activities.

In Girl Scouts, when I was participating, we never went hiking or learned survival skills, but my brothers did in Boy Scouts. In Girl Scouts, we never rode bikes or camped outside, but my brothers did in Boy Scouts. In Girl Scouts we never shoveled snow for the elderly, paddled canoes, or learned fire-starting techniques as Boy Scouts did. I asked to join Boy Scouts but was told no, that’s not for you. Instinctively I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do but in 1978 or thereabouts very few people were challenging the rules and my parents were not going to rock the boat. So I made my Girl Scout leaders miserable by misbehaving.

Later in life I became a Girl Scout leader, hoping to provide the right opportunities to my daughters and other young girls. Sadly, I wasn’t able to offer the kids much better than I had experienced in  my youth. Up against a bulwark of rules designed to protect the organization from liability, we could not push girls to participate in activities that they didn’t want to do, perpetuating a system that clearly discouraged physical activities in favor of using more yarn and glue and glitter. It was nearly impossible to even teach the kids to cook or allow them to use scissors. It was ridiculous. But if you sold lots of cookies and made money for the organization to pay its attorneys (the troops got pennies on the dollar) you got a pat on the head.

The climax of this frustrating exercise of working within the status quo was when I went as a leader with a dozen other troops (total of 60-100 girls) for a camp experience. We were going to be allowed to cook over fires (if you followed a dozen pages of rules of course)! We were going to be outside! What actually happened was these 60-100 girls were stuck playing kickball in a big field under the burning sun on a 100 degree day while a nearby beach had to be ignored because of rules and liability issues. That’s when I had enough.

Girl Scouts is nothing more, in my opinion, than an outdated organization run by old biddies who believe girls should be seen and not heard, clean and not dirty, still and not active.

This week, the Boy Scouts finally announced that they’d allow girls to join. I surely hope that means more kids will be allowed to run outside and be physically active and learn meaningful skills. The attorneys who have made their living writing rules that made generations of Girl Scouts sit miserably still should be forced into retirement.

You see, I’m still climbing trees and playing in the dirt, despite Girl Scouts.


Mom needs a kayak

May 12, 2017

Yup, you read that correctly: it’s your answer for the annual Mother’s Day conundrum — and you still have two whole days to shop (or procrastinate).

Freedom. Power. Shopping. Those are the reasons why you’ll buy Mom (or your wife or significant other — or yourself or your daughter!) a kayak this year. Let me explain (note: this is one of those kayak-endorphin inspired musings that revealed itself to me as I plied the windy waters of the St. Lucie River, which will make more sense as the explanation unfolds):

Freedom: The realization that she can’t do anything she wants and she can’t do everything the boys do is something that slowly and insidiously seeps into a young girl’s consciousness. The result is often a home-bound woman frustrated by her limited choices and afraid to step outside the boundaries that society and the media have created. Those boundaries tell her she’s too old or too weak or it’s dangerous for her to do something like kayaking.

Of course the first problem with kayaking is “I can’t lift one of those onto my car.” But this video (link below) shows plenty of ways to get around that issue, even for a small woman. Where there’s a will …

Think about this: As we age and grow, true freedom evaporates for girls. We’re in the kitchen cleaning up after parties and dinners while the guys continue drinking and watching the football game. There’s little choice in the matter. We’re constrained by expectations of appearance in dress and manner, further eliminating choices and options. By adulthood, because we’re working and nurturing others or doing free work at schools and libraries many women are too pressed for time to do anything for ourselves. We’re too concerned about smelling bad or looking disheveled to participate in anything athletic, so we turn to finding cute outfits and cooking or keeping house as our outlets.

But eventually the beast emerges, hungry for freedom and choices that aren’t satisfied by retail therapy. A woman who’s been saddled with raising children, toiling under an ungrateful boss, and frustrated by time passing will inevitably implode.

Unless she has a kayak and freedom.

A kayak is a vehicle that doesn’t need roads and signs; it carves its own path to adventure and happiness. Travel quickly or meander aimlessly, the kayak doesn’t care. She may look for fish, for birds, for signs of spring or fall colors — or nothing but peace and quiet.

A in kayak Pittsburg NH  Freedom. Serenity. Power.

Power:  Women are generally discouraged from building or using muscle. “Let me do that for you” is a frequent phrase we hear for everything from lifting groceries to moving furniture. Call the handyman when a job requires lifting. Get a man to do that. Well, I’m calling BS — start with a kayak and pretty soon she’ll be doing pushups like Ahhhnold.

The sore muscles are a badge of honor after a long paddle. They remind you that you did it yourself, you propelled a watercraft and succeeded. You tamed the wind and were challenged by the tides, but you survived. Pretty soon the desire to tackle more physical challenges takes hold and the sky is the limit: a 5K run? climb a mountain? anything is possible.

Shopping: This is the gateway, it’s one of the ways a woman’s mind works when her options are limited. Bear with me: If Mom/wife/daughter is used to handling the family shopping, she will love a kayak because it opens a new world of choices and decisions. Cruise through a scenic harbor and she’ll begin to imagine herself aboard a variety of yachts or looking down from the balcony of a chic townhouse (whether as a Bond Girl or maritime skipper, that’s up to her). Glide by some cute seaside shacks and she’ll consider the scenario of running away from responsibilities to make a new life without the SUV and 9-to-5. She may be immersed in the suburban lifestyle now while raising a family but things will change eventually and unless she’s got some inkling of her next step (through “shopping”) the transition could be rocky.

It’s liberating to enjoy sights and sounds and sensations that aren’t loading up the car, getting kids to school, or the same old power walk around the neighborhood. You might have let the genie out of the bottle, but that’s OK because she will escape one way or the other.


Note to readers: if you’ve read this far, I have one small item of advice — DO NOT buy a tandem/2 person kayak. If she’s timid of the water then start on a quiet, windless day on a small pond in separate kayaks. Tandems simply accelerate the implosion that I warned you about.

Also, don’t buy a crappy $300 kayak. Spend the $1400 and get something above 12 feet with a bit of a keel. If she’s nervous about controlling it, get a rudder installed. Mom is worth it.

Inspiration for propulsion

December 12, 2016

The pond iced over last night. All morning I sat in my sunny porch and ruminated about getting outside, but the sight of the ice and thought of frigid temperatures were holding me back. Plus, there was sad news online: a guy I “knew” only through Facebook had died. It was not unexpected, but his passing added significant weight to my decision to run today.

His name was Darrell Henry, and he lived in Arkansas. He was a runner and an inspiration to a lot of people all over the world. Darrell had suffered many physical challenges: a brain tumor, significant bouts of cancer and related complications, plus removal of a large part of his intestine. But he never stopped running, or wanting to. He was very open and frank about his ailments and his ongoing treatment. Hundreds of people knew when he had chemo, when he went back to the hospital for fluids, how he struggled to keep food down in the last few weeks, how the once-strong runner struggled to stand and walk.

In recent months I’ve also watched someone close to me go through cancer treatment. Driving to radiation appointments was all I could do to help. The disease as well as the treatments can be physically and psychologically damaging but now I grasp the importance of finding a way to look past the immediate treatment and pain, to have something like running to look forward to. If you stop making plans, I guess, you stop living.


Friends of his made t-shirts with this logo on it.

Darrell had been a marathoner with great philosophical insight about the act of running, plus a burning desire and need to run. He brought together a great variety of people who enjoyed his quips and took inspiration from his experiences. I often had to reconsider my petty excuses for not lacing up my shoes when he’d post something like this:

“The best remedy for throat, inner ear and jaw pain from chemo? Hill repeats. Find a steep hill and run up and down that thing till the pain from the act overshadows the pain from chemo. Punish yourself harder than life can, and life will cease to cause you fear.”

One woman posted a long exchange she had with him in which he described a terribly difficult race with cold winds and hills — while he was having chemo treatments that made him ultra sensitive to cold. He thought about laying in a ditch out of the wind, he said, but instead used the wind to pull himself to the top of the hill. “I did what I advise others to do,” he wrote. “Fall forward one step at a time until you’re finished. That’s running isn’t it?”

Here’s a post of his I found that pinched my heart, because we all have those trails we dream of escaping to, but he had so many more reasons to want to escape the confines of his medical bondage: “In the past week we discovered I have a blood clot that nearly affected the entire length of my left arm. Fairly common with chemo, plus it happens with ports. Just part of the game. A few days later I developed an intestinal obstruction … I can’t exert myself in any way for a week or two because of the clot, so I’m doing something I did in the hospital following my colectomy. Closing my eyes and daydreaming of a trail in the national forest that I love to run. I’ll be back there soon.”

My struggle has always been mental: overcoming the comfort of my status quo, like putting on multiple layers of shirts and socks to go out on a cold day. His, I realized, was the opposite, it was making his damaged body do what his mind never stopped wanting.

So I went out to my favorite trails today and enjoyed a beautiful run with Darrell in mind, like thousands of other runners who knew him. I have so little to overcome and so much to be thankful for. The colors may be dull this time of year but the feeling of strength in my legs and air in my lungs made this one to treasure. It was better than falling forward one step at a time by a long shot.

Smoothie anything

April 22, 2013

Today’s post-run smoothie (don’t gag): spinach, soy milk, protein powder (vanilla), avacado, banana, flax seeds and chia seeds. Mmmm, I have to say I didn’t think it would be as good — or as green — as it was. Tasty!

How did I learn to knock back these  green-brown concoctions that look so much like the witches’ brews we used to stir in the sandbox as kids? Sometimes I wonder.

creamed kale for breakfast? weirdo smoothie after a run? yum!

creamed kale for breakfast? weirdo smoothie after a run? yum!

It’s cliche for a woman over 40 to suddenly become obsessed with health, I know it. I generally avoid stereotypes. I’ve never watched an episode of Survivor, have never owned an SUV and never took my kids to Disneyworld. However the health obsession, I will admit, is one I’m deeply committed to.

It started with soup. Somebody gave me a copy of The New England Soup Factory Cookbook several years ago. When I got laid off I started cooking and my family took cover. Every recipe made enough soup to bathe in. Whisper “mulligatawny” near my kids now and they shudder in horror, they may still have nightmares about lentils.

just the basics of sweet potato and corn chowder

just the basics of sweet potato and corn chowder

Because my family shied away from the gallons of soup that hung around, week after week, I was forced to slurp it down and act superior to their Subway and fried Chinese food choices: I didn’t get a sniffle that winter, I was blessed with abundant energy and clear skin (ok, I was the only post-pubescent but that’s beside the point).

I don’t feel the need to go vegan or organic but the basic plant-based diet really took root in me. But I joined the radical group of moms who were holding seminars about toxin-free skin care products and holding townwide recycling events. My contribution was an attempt to get the Meatless Monday movement (“good for you, good for the planet!”) off the ground but it got rescheduled and sent back for study and, I believe, is still being held hostage by committee although I’ve moved out of town.

So, what’s the point? Sometimes I wonder myself, as my athletic performance hasn’t improved noticeably (maybe I could claim it hasn’t declined as much as it might have on a more traditional American diet), I’m not sure I’m going to live forever with all these antioxidants in my system and I really doubt I’m saving even a few square feet of the planet. I guess I’m just following my gut toward what feels right for me to consume.

quinoa and other stuff I can't believe I eat

quinoa and other stuff I can’t believe I eat

Vegetables aren’t the only thing I consume these days, I wash them down with huge volumes of health information from every source. A lot of it is complete BS, I’ll admit.

What started with a healthy interest in the New York Times “Well” column has devolved into wasting time on stuff like  “6 Powerful Ways to Boost your Magnesium Levels.”  Nor have I heard of many of the things they’re talking about ingesting, like the newest fad grain, teff. Do they pay someone to go find these oddball items just to stoke the obsessive interests of health nuts? I believe so, and here is more evidence: I watched (while working) an entire Dr. Oz show that was about “What Would Jesus Eat?” and I knew I’d surpassed the normal bounds of health information. I had a giddy reaction to a quick stop in a Whole Foods, another red flag! Soon thereafter a former movie star was on a TV show talking about how he consumes most of his food after it goes through a blender and I knew I needed to put the brakes on and chew something before I’m so old that I need to smoothie everything.

Don’t be surprised when we’re all adding expensive packets of dirt to our smoothies to capture some of those elusive “minerals” that are missing from our otherwise over-scrutinized diets. It will happen.

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