motivation is such a fickle thing.

This post hasn’t been well thought-out or anything.  I’ve just been frustrated a lot lately and felt like ranting a bit.  I don’t think I’m alone, especially with the winter season here now.

I officially moved into my new place in September.  Around that time, I had a TON of unpacking to do and also a lot of planning.  I had just decided I would be flying to Hong Kong in 2 months and I had $2,000 to raise.  Needless to say, I was using my time to scramble.  I had to finish painting so I could at least push my furniture against the wall, then I had to sort through boxes and unpack.  And I’ve lived alone since 2011 so I have quite a lot of things to unpack.

Well, with the trip coming up, my fundraising prioritized slightly.  I was going through my boxes of books and selling things online, setting up an Amazon account and having to deal with issues with my bank to make the thing work out alright.  I went to a few events and raised funds there.  Also, I was planning a trip to Orlando for National Conference (AISES) – and we’re not talking like it was last year when I flew to Denver and just did whatever.  I was just a volunteer that year.  No, this year I was a volunteer, a judge, a presenter, a chapter member, a student chaperone/assistant, and a networker.  Plus, I drove.  And so that also took money, which meant all September and October I was working overtime, then November I was traveling.

So my place is still at least 5 to 10% unpacked.

My kitchen cabinets are 70% finished and have sat like that since September.

And then I put things up and they come back down.  Like my curtains.  I took the time to hang them and my cats took the time to rip them back down again.  Twice.  Or the Christmas tree that was eaten twice before I finally established a “NO!!!” basis with the cats…but that still hasn’t managed to uncover my lost star tree-topper, or the cat collar that somehow vanished in the chasing process…

Oh, and the excellent caretakers….like the ones who drove the plow truck into my garden units and smashed my boards to pieces.  Or the idiots who did a repair to my gutters (which still, by the way, don’t work) and so now my basement still floods and my back porch got smashed by a backhoe.

The people who came to replace a pipeline in my yard, tore up my grass and gardens, and made a mucky mess out of the sidewalk.  Which is now solid ice because someone thought plowing it a little and letting the snow melt in the sun was a good idea.  So I nearly wiped out 10 times last night.

The mailman who doesn’t mail my rent checks, so I find them 10 days later in my mailbox.

Well, at least I finally have heat.  It doesn’t seem to work right, but my place is generally around 60 and I’ve stopped showering at LA Fitness because I actually have hot water now.

All of these little things going on and it’s so hard to come home from a 10-hour work day, walk into a semi-warm house, and say “I’m gonna clean this ALL UP right NOW!”  It just doesn’t happen.  I might sit down on the couch and suddenly find myself waking up, it’s 2am, and I haven’t eaten dinner.  So what about my workout schedule?  Well, that’s been pretty terrible, too.  I used to run all the time and it felt good, but suddenly I was feeling like running was a burden.  I don’t like running on the streets with cars passing or guys whistling or something stupid, so I’ve felt trapped.  I’ll go to the gym at 5:30am, but with hockey most nights now I can’t possibly get home at 1am and expect to be working out in a few hours.

I’ve been lucky lately because I’ve forced myself to try a new thing: Nike Plus “Coach”.  I went for a 3.6 mile run last Sunday while the weather was still decent.  I realized I needed to get back into this running.  5Ks used to be so easy – even 10Ks.  I want to run a full marathon someday and realize I had been close to running it when I did my last 1/2 marathon, so why slack off now?  It’ll be harder to catch up later.

My Coach function allowed me to choose “Marathon” as my training goal.  I’m not saying I’m gonna go through the whole thing and actually run that Marathon when it says I will, but I’m going to stick to it as much as I can for as long as I can.  Partly, I want to do this because it will bring me through this cruddy months when I usually drop my mileage anyway.  I hate treadmills, I hate running indoors unless I’m sprinting on a track.  That’s just by the nature of the sports I did: Fall XC and Indoor/Outdoor Track.  And I always trip on treadmills.  It’s pretty uncoordinated and bad.

With my “Coach” telling me to get out and run, I have logged over 10 miles since Tuesday this week and am about to go to North Chagrin Reservation to log another 5.  Yeah, it’s been icy and in the 20s, but the Coach just wants to see you try.  It’s kind of nice to hear a voice say “Halfway there!’ and “Congratulations!  You finished your goal!”, followed by a recording of an actual star athlete complimenting your work.  And I’ve slowly come to realize that a 3 mile run is really only 20 minutes out of your day.  I could kill 20 minutes just looking at my Tumblr feed and, while Tumblr tends to be my source of “news” considering I follow a very trendy, outspoken friend, it’s not at all as useful as spending that time accomplishing something.

My Coach says I can run a Marathon by May 31st on the plan, so maybe I’ll look into running one this summer. If nothing else, sticking to the plan through the winter is the first inkling of motivation I’ve had for a long time, and just in time too.  These months are rough ones here in the Lake Effect Snow zone.  But I love snow, so I won’t complain.

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“superfoods” and why you should ignore them.

I’m so sick of people talking about “superfoods”.  Did you know most nutritionists won’t even use that word?  It’s because it was coined by Dr. Stephen Pratt (well, there might be dispute over the first guy to pitch the sale) and doesn’t necessarily have any real science behind it.  It’s literally just a marketing ploy.  It’s like “going on the Atkin’s”, you can “go on the Pratt’s” and eat from his list of alleged “superfoods”.  (He began marketing the concept in 2004 with the publication of his book, “SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life”.

So what constitutes as a “superfood”?

According to Pratt, there are three qualifications for food to be a superfruit:
1. It has to be readily available to the public,
2. It has to contain longevity-enhancing nutrients, and
3. The health benefits have to be backed by peer-reviewed, scientific studies. (says CNN)

Oh…..so basically you just need to not eat junk.  Yeah, that’s not a diet.  That’s just survival.

Pratt claims his diet wasn’t for losing weight, but that’s what people got excited about.  Probably because someone cut out McDonald’s for a week, ate a little less junk and some more real food, and then thought Gee!  I’m losing weight!  (Except now I have to actually pay real money for food…)

Basically, superfoods are supposed to contain high densities of nutrients that prevent or even reverse the effects of aging, cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.  Now, I have no problem with thinking foods can reverse these sorts of things.  My problem is the marketing.  These are not “superfoods” – they are food.  Foods that do this kind of work are foods that should be part of our normal lifestyles.  They should be foods native to our area and not hard to obtain for the public.  They’re not supposed to be fancy import berries or exotic things.  They’re food.  Like, real food.  So this whole reversed marketing thing makes me frustrated.  You know, when an advertisement for McDonald’s seems normal rather than appalling and then “superfoods” become a marketed thing as some miracle solution to all your problems.

I bet McDonald’s owns some kind of “superfood” initiative.  It’s like when tanning salons advertise on their signs that they have sun damage reversal treatments included in their tanning packages.

But fine, fine, let’s just go along with it.  So, on this “superfood”, ground-breaking diet, what would you eat?

Pratt lists green tea, meats like salmon, greens like broccoli and spinach, and some kinds of berries.  Specifically, here are 20 foods: apples, avocados, beans, blueberries, broccoli, cinnamon (yeah, that’s a tree bark), dark chocolate, dried superfruits (um, okay), extra virgin olive oil, garlic, honey, kiwi, low fat yogurt, oats, onions, oranges, pomegranates, pumpkin, soy, spinach, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and wild salmon.

The key part left out of this list is the emphasis on “organic” and “wild”.  For example, one should avoid farm-raised salmon as its fed dyes to make its meat pink the way we  expect healthy salmon to be pink in the wild.  And this dye is probably toxic and currently unregulated.

One of my problems with this list is…, if I ate locally and healthy as someone would have eaten where I live hundreds of years ago, here are the foods that would be available to me from that list: crabapples, wild legumes, wild blueberries, dried blueberries, wild garlic, wild honey, wild onions, squashes, wild greens, sumac tea, wild turkey, black walnuts, and wild salmon.  Sounds a lot simpler.  I kind of like it. It just seems illogical to me that we have to import pomegranates and olive oil and kiwis and such to eat “healthily”.  Clearly this list caters a lot to spoiled tastes.

Ah, but the kicker is…since “superfoods” became a thing, people have completely run with the idea and promoted foods that actually are not “superfoods” and which might increase your risk of things like cancer rather than reduce them.  People are suddenly consuming way too much of these FAKE superfoods and seeing negative side-effects as a result.  This article lists 7 “hipster” superfoods and the problems with them:
1. coconut water
2. almond milk
3. quinoa (whose popularity has skyrocketed prices so indigenous Andeans can no longer afford to eat their own crop)
4. goji berries
5. kale (can cause hypothyroidism when abused!)
6. juicing
7. clay (yes, people eat clay).

And, fun fact: Blueberries aren’t even nutritiously dense enough to be qualified superfoods.  But marketers would have you believe otherwise!  Business analysts don’t care about your health, remember – just about their sales and income!

my view on marketing.

I had written a huge entry about the evils of marketing and then accidentally deleted it.  So this shorter recap will just have to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the media, TV shows, celebrities, sports, politics, and health topics and realizing how backwards America is.  I also realize how all of these things are rooted in marketing.  I’ve always accused journalists singularly for being selfish, pushing articles, and putting up false or inappropriate images just to make a buck or sell a pitch.  Now I’m realizing it’s not just journalism the marketing part of journalism, as well as marketing in general.

The Mascot Issue would not exist without marketing.  Eons ago, back when “racism” wasn’t a concept because White was the only race, Native American (and other minority) images, names, and stereotypes were generated to market sports teams, movies, and things like books.  Marketers are literally the people sitting around going “how can we make this obvious to the public as something they can identify with”, then selling out minorities to win over the majority.  A perfect example of this when Darrin Stephens in Bewitched has to sell dental crème.  “We all know witches have hooked noses, warts, and blacked-out teeth,” says the owner of the crème company.  Darrin doesn’t hesitate in creating an image that sells based on this stereotype.  Ethics don’t play a role in business.  And until Samantha flies (understandably) off the (broomstick)handle, Darrin doesn’t even pay mind that his own beautiful wife is a witch insulted by such discriminating images.  Today, these same logos, brand names, trademarks, and other images become a kind of metonymy for a product.  For example, “tissue” harkens to Kleenex, and we begin to think nothing is as good as that brand name.

When the media expresses its opinion on an issue, the author has to decide between pitching to this majority or understanding the minority cause.  In the case of recent articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Washington Post, some authors have taken huge risks in defending Natives in both cities against imaging by the local sports teams.  In the case of other large-stream media with other marketing interests, where unemployment is too much of a risk, this isn’t always the case.  For example, Bloomberg media rarely reports on the mascot issue, generally copies-and-pastes words when it does, and considers the issue old and “scandalous” – a rather pathetic word bank, if you ask me.

But sports continue to be marketed as the Neo-Patriotism of America.  These images become holier than the American flag.  People put more money into expensive plastic food and chemical-laden, cheap beer than they do for positive things.  They accuse doctors who save lives as making too much money and sue them like crazy for malpractice, yet it’s okay to pay a football player absurd amounts of money and let him off the hook for violating people.  Even celebrities and TV are often popular for the wrong reasons.  Shows like 16 and Pregnant, Jersey Shore, and Bridezilla make me grown as I realize how many Americans idolize these shows and lifestyles.  These become “normal” ideas of the American life.  And, trust me, I see the effects of this marketing.  When Europeans turn up their noses at Americans for being lowly and when Central Africans tell you they could never stand this country and love their lives in Cameroon, that’s when you know you have problems.  We’re not the land of the free; we’re the land of big egos, stressed lifestyles, and erroneous priotization.

And don’t even get me started on politics.  I’ve come to realize it’s just a game rich people play to be famous without having any acting skills or intelligence.  If they’re so good at raising money, why don’t they pull us out of debt?  Any person who can market themselves to win Presidency is not an honest enough person to do the job, but any person honest enough to do the job would never sell themselves out to market themselves a win.  Yup, I am disgusted with the practice of advertisement and marketing.

when i grow up…

I didn’t always want to be an engineer.  So what did I want to be when I grow up?

For awhile I thought,

a vet.

Because I wanted to help and handle animals.

But only healthy ones.

I suddenly realized seeing sick and dying ones would ruin my day because I couldn’t save them all.

Then I didn’t want to be a vet.

So for a while I thought,

a truck driver.

I wanted to travel the world behind the wheel, to get the front row seat.

Alabama to Alaska.

But then I realized I wouldn’t have a home, so I wouldn’t have pets, a piano, a place to play outside,

or to run and exercise,

and I would be tired all the time and probably grumpy,

and gain too much weight.

And, although I wanted to be

a writer, or an artist,

I didn’t want to get headaches forcing out work.

Then I knew what would be good.  I wanted to be

a farmer.

But dad wanted me to go to college.

But, no, I just want to be outside and farm.

Fine, then, I’ll be…

an archaeologist.

And I’ll dig up Mount Vesuvius and Pompei.

And I’ll find all kinds of new worlds and carbon date and solve history.

But mom said there isn’t gonna be stuff to find forever.

Fine then, I’ll be

a mycologist.

Or maybe…

a marine biologist.  Whales.  Alaska.

No?

A park ranger?

No……

If you want to know what I wanted to do more than any of these, more than owning a restaurant or being a chef, more than dancing, more than really anything….

The job I REALLY wanted,

the job that seemed WAY TOO HARD to ever get,

one that would allow me to do what I wanted the most: photograph and travel,

before I decided to do my own version of that,

I wanted to be….

A photographer for National Geographic.

And see things like this…

I could look at those magazines forever.

saudade.

Nearly the same as the Welsh word “hiwaeth” but without exact English translation, “saudade” is a Portuguese word best described as a deep nostalgia felt for something you kind of know you’ll never have again. Maybe it’s memories of a family member or friend who is gone, or maybe it’s a POW presumably lost to an unknown reason. Today, I feel saudade for something less severe but just as nostalgic: summer.

Growing up, you always had a summer. Even if you had a summer job or summer school, it was still summer. It was like a dam broke and sunshine went everywhere. But when you earn the diploma you finally got after years of struggle and sunshiny summers, you get the reward of a bleak, monotonous, repetitive career of no summer. I used to think summer would feel the same, but it doesn’t. Not when you come home to an empty house, tired, and not even when I played softball this summer. It felt more like a chore. Probably because I had to get myself there on time, remember all my stuff, and pay.

I remember what summer was, that concept that only gets farther from my mind as time passes. To me, summer is humid air, cicadas, baseball, and the tail end of tropical storms whipping across Pennsylvania. My summers began in June and ended in September. June was wet, July was hot, August was smoldering, and September smelled like fall – at least that’s how it stuck in my mind.

Summer was green legs. It was several acres of fresh cut grass in a semi-damp June, my brother and I fresh out of school, throwing our bags on the porch and running into the staining yard before we even changed out of our uniforms. It was long, sunny nights full of catch, ice cream at the Sundae Barn, and jars of lightning bugs. It was letting the dogs run through the yard. It was the sound of air conditioning and the feeling of no bed time.

June was also the Pennsylvania State Shoot. Our camper would be pulled into the parking at our house. We would climb onto the roof from the side of our house and scrub it down with earth-friendly wash. Then we would pack it up – two weeks of clothes, mini packs of mixed cereal, Yoohoo, Gushers, canned peas which I always thought tasted better than fresh (I also used to think it was the trailer water that made them taste that way),… And soon we spent the end of June in Elysburg, my dad shooting, the smell of exploding shells, the campground my brother and I would bike around endlessly. The candy store at the gate where we used all our money to buy candy cigarettes. The campground pool where we met with our friends. The pond where we fished. The speed bumps we did tricks over. Coming in for taco dinner against our will, but then being happy dad won a medal, hang cat lights on the awning, and make s’mores in the fire. Biking to the ice cream shack with Winnie and laughing as kids fed baby comes to our dog. And, of course, Knoebels and fudge shakes.

Then before we knew it we were asleep in the backseat, That Darn Cat or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Bed Knobs and Broomsticks or whatever playing in the VHS slot of the TV mom bungee corded to the front middle seat. I remember white out rainstorms where we couldn’t even pull over because all we could do was follow dimmed tail lights. And I remember the click clack of the driveway drainage gate as our truck heaved our 5th wheel up our driveway and vacation was over.

But it wasn’t really over.

Summer continued through a hot July. Sometimes we saw fireworks, but usually we just sat on our porch to watch them explode in seven different towns simultaneously. The perks of mountain life. Usually this time of year our grass burned out – and sometimes our well did too. Without water, we had to lug pails up and down the hill to water our corn. The dairy farm next year always had corn twice as high as ours. “Knee high by the Fourth of July”. Well, Dave had his corn to my shoulders and ours was shin high.

By July, the wild berries were either picked clean by birds, trespassing kids from the neighboring trailer court, or fries on the jaggers by the sun. July was the time at home for play, for dirt biking and building tipis with the hides dad had given us the past winter from his deer kills. This was the time to swat Mosquitos from our perch in the tree house, or maybe to hide from the sun in the wicked cool air vents, reading a book or playing games.

We also visited our grandparents. Kyle and I would climb Grandma M’s Catalpa tree and feed birds, or bike up and down the lane, delivering fake newspapers we had typed on her old typewriter. And Grandma D’s, we would play in the barn, making witches’ brew in the rusty cattle trough, balancing on steel beams, searching for cats in the hay loft or spiders in the corn bin, or watching uncle Mike feed pigs. We would also play in the abandoned pump station and “surf hay bales”. We threw rotten apples down the old well and walked down the lane past Indian Paintbrushes to get the mail. At night, we would gaze out over the twinkling lights of Uniontown at the base of the mountain visible from grandma’s bedroom window. At both grandparents’, we would explore the gardens and ride our bikes on trails.

In August, Aunt Jean and Uncle Craig would be picking vegetables in the garden they set up at the bottom of our hill. We used to stand on the porch and blow a silver whistle so they would look up and wave. But August wasn’t spent at home for long. We usually took care of the horses down the road, then handed over our keys to friends and took our own trip away from home. This time, it was the Grand American. Until our last attendance when it was in Sparta, Illinois, we found ourselves sending two weeks in Vandalia, Ohio.

I remember miniature golf games and shopping at Meijer’s or Kroger’s. I remember staying up late because the newest Harry Potter book came out. I remember crossing the road to go to Friendly’s for ice cream sundaes, or to that creepy King-themed restaurant with the hot air balloon inside. I remember miles of trap line and thousands of campers. We watched airplanes leave the airport and dad break birds all day long. We biked endlessly, as always. Some days, I hid under my camper with my Harriet the Spy kit, writing down all the things I saw my neighbor doing. Which was never anything interesting. (“He filled the dog bowl of water. He went back inside. He has been inside for twenty minutes.”). In the evening, the whole family biked or sometimes roller bladed until we were ready to drop. Some nights, we sneaked out and bagged thrown out shells for dad to reload later. Other times, we went to see a demonstration of a guy who would throw watermelons and other fun things into the air and shoot them under the bright lights that showed off hundreds of moths.

I remember running to the score board to see dad’s standings as we walked around all day at the vendors. My favorite vendors included a guy from Australia with an accent and stuff koalas/kangaroos, Uncle Ray who wasn’t my uncle in real life but who sold colorful shooting lenses and squishy modeled ear plugs, the Navajo jewelry tents, and the random guy who gave me and my brother lollipops and our first taste of pistachios. I also remember the bathroom sinks, shaped in a circle with a water pedal and powdered soap.

Then August ends and we are home everything’s slowing down. Trips to the library, summer homework, and the weather changing to a cooler summer – at least until those couple shock weeks when the temperature would shoot back up to the 90s plus.

I miss shucking corn in the yard and picking pattypan squash from the garden. Softball games. Eating on Aunt Jean’s covered patio, licking melting fudgesicles, and turning the Skittle dispenser. Playing Don’t Break the Ice. Playing Monopoly, Sorry!, Uno, and Yahtzee! by candlelight when the power went out……. How can one season hold so many memories?

Well, there’s a taste of my saudade for you. I could go on forever.