Monday, December 29, 2014

When Is The Villian Not Just A Villian? When It's a Woman!

I know I came quite late to the party on this one, but I recently read Gone Girl. I also managed to avoid all of the hype before I read it, so I really didn't know much about the story other than it was a very dark and strange story about a woman's disappearance.

(Spoilers ahead)

Once I read it, I found it a fun, if somewhat disturbing, story.  It sucked me in pretty quickly.  If you are unfamiliar with the book, I'll give a short synopsis of how it flows.  Protagonist Nick comes home one day to find his wife Amy missing with a few signs of a struggle.  He becomes the main suspect in her disappearance.  The chapters alternate between Nick's discovery of evidence against him, and Amy's diary entries.  The diary talks at first about her deep love and devotion for Nick, but then takes a frightening turn as she begins to worry that he is a danger to her.  As the story progresses, Nick becomes a much less sympathetic character.  We learn that since their move from New York to Missouri that he has not been a very loving or devoted husband.  He is also having an affair.

When the novel begins to shift to Amy's perspective, we don't just see a woman scorned, but an evil genius.  She knows about Nick's affair and doesn't want to divorce him so he can live happily ever after with his mistress.  She wants to frame him for her murder so he will be executed for his crimes.  Her deceptions are elaborate and extreme.   She would have succeeded if she hadn't had her money stolen from her, forcing her to take a new path.  We learn she is willing not just to hurt herself, but to kill others to make her story believable.  Nick learns from her past friends and boyfriends that Amy has gone to extremes, even physically harming herself, in order to seek revenge on those who have hurt her.  Amy is also contemptuous of her parents and cares little for their pain.  There is no question that Amy is a dangerous psychopath.  I found that the more I learned about Amy, the more I rooted for Nick with all of his flaws.

What I don't get about this novel is all of the analysis of Amy's character.  Is this the ultimate feminist story, or is it a deeply misogynistic story?  Should women look up to Amy's character as someone who took matters into her own hands when her unhappy life became unbearable?  Did she rightly take revenge on her uncaring, cheating husband?  Is she the ultimate example of the danger of a woman scorned?  Nick saw her as petty and unpleasant woman who refused to even try to be happy.  Is Amy proof that women are just so horrible that they would send their long-suffering husbands to their deaths because he sought comfort in the arms of someone who cared about him?

My answer to this is, who cares?

Why do we have to analyze Amy's character?  Why do we have to decide if she is a feminist or if she is the confirmation of the MRA's worst nightmare? Why isn't this just a story about a dopey guy who married a crazy woman and the chaos that ensued when their marriage inevitably fell apart?

I suppose it's because it's a story about a crazy woman.  Woman is the key word here.

If I wanted to analyze Amy's character I would be asking if her psychosis were due to her parents spoiling her to the point where she felt entitled or if it were due to just being biochemically screwed up.  To me that's a more compelling question.  I rarely ever see a critique of the novel that asks that.  We only look at whether or not she is a role model for other women.

Imagine if the roles in the story were reversed.  Would anyone be giving the character this much scrutiny if she were a man?  Film and literature are filled with stories of antiheroes.  There are any number of stories in the canon of Western literature that glorify criminal behavior in men.  We love stories of outlaws in the Old West or Prohibition-era gangsters, or modern day mobsters, or even psychopathic killers.  No one analyzes if these characters are good role models for other men.  They're just stories about criminals.  There is no deeper meaning attached to them.  Either you like them or you don't.

I find myself thinking of other stories that feature female criminals.  The first one that comes to mind is Thelma and Louise.  That was another film that was held up as some kind of feminist celebration.  Thelma and Louse were more sympathetic as their cross-country crime spree was triggered by rape, but the screenwriter was very clear that she did not create the characters as feminist icons.  She said they were outlaws and nothing more.

Maybe there is something more compelling about female criminals.   I prefer my entertainment to be happier and less dark.  I don't like stories that glorify criminal behavior, or even unethical or misogynistic behavior.  I have never had any interest in The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or even Mad Men.  I read through Gone Girl to the end though.  Although I didn't like Amy, there were times I rooted for her.  I remember hoping she would leave the campground before her so-called friends would find her money.  I felt sorry for her when they did steal it.  I identified with her desire to keep her husband from finding happiness with someone else.  Am I more likely to stay with an unpleasant story if the protagonist is a woman?  Is this why the story is ultimately feminist?

A story should just be a story.  If the antihero is female, it shouldn't make a difference in how we perceive that story.  Whether or not we enjoy a story shouldn't be dependent upon whether or not the antihero is female.  Did you enjoy Gone Girl?  Whether you enjoyed it or not has little to do with the kind of example the character has set for other women.  Let the villain just be the villain. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Can Movie Heroes Ever Be Flawed?

Last week I watched The Theory of Everything.  At first I enjoyed it.  I felt the movie was a bittersweet love story that humanized someone I merely saw as a scientific icon.  I had known very little about Stephen Hawking's personal life before I saw the movie.  I had known he was married, but not to whom, or how many times.  Shortly before I saw the movie I read that Jane Hawking eventually divorced him due to burnout, but that was the extent of what I knew.

I was discussing the movie with my family and the accuracy of the story came up. My mother mentioned that Hawking would eventually marry his nurse Elaine Mason.  This was completely glossed over in the movie.  It is never mentioned in the brief epilogue at the end of the film, which gives a rosy, happily-ever-after picture of Hawking's and Jane's post-divorce life.  In real life, Hawking left Jane for Mason.  This is not stated outright in the film.  Their parting scene does involve his telling Jane that he and Mason were going on a trip for a speaking engagement together, but it is quite circumspect as to whether or not Mason is going as more than just his nurse.  The movie shows the divorce as being as much about Jane's relationship with her choir director than it is about her stress level or about his feelings for Mason.  Viewers don't ever find out how he was estranged from his family during the period of his second marriage.  We also don't find out the second marriage ended in divorce as well.  The movie fails to mention Hawking's and Jane's religious differences, choosing to even imply that Hawking had changed his mind about his atheisim.

That made me think of yet another movie about a disabled genius, A Beautiful Mind.  That film depicts John Nash as a man who conquered schizophrenia partially through the love and devotion of his wife, Alicia.  Nash was no devoted husband.  He had affairs with both men and women, one of which produced an illegitimate child whose mother he abandoned.  Nash and Alicia were divorced for many years and then reconciled.

Why do movies want to treat situations like these so delicately?  Is it the we revere scientists to the point where we feel that they are above petty human weaknesses?  Scientists mate for life, right?  Is it because we are afraid to exploit the disabled?  Are we never allowed to not see the disabled as magical beings who can do no wrong?  Is it a combination of that?  Is it just that Hollywood is afraid to ever show a film's protagonist as flawed?  Are they afraid the masses will like the movie less if the hero is shown to have extramarital affairs or not believe in God, or be involved in corrupt business dealings?

One day I would like to see a major Hollywood studio make a biographical film where all of the hero's flaws are put on display.  I'm wondering what the audience reaction will be. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Winter of a Malcontent

Where do I even start to discuss the way I'm feeling right now?  I look out my window and see a cold, dark winter day, and actually wish I were outside. I feel weak and soft.  I am in pain.  I feel disappointed in myself for letting myself be in this position.  What hubris brought me here?  What weakness is so innate in me that I ended up here?  Why can't I be healthy?  Why is it any time I make progress with my body something happens to break it down?

I am recovering from surgery from a labral tear in my hip.  Labral tears don't happen from sitting around.  They happen from overuse.  Too much movement in the hip joint can tear or crush the ring of cartilage covering the hip joint (the labrum) which is what happened to me.  I didn't have to have the surgery.  I could have just lived with the pain as it was not terribly intense and could easily be avoided by avoiding certain types of movement.  That didn't seem like a good way to live, so I had the surgery.

Having the surgery means months of recovery.  I am going into two months after recovery and I am staring down another 3-4 months of not living the active life I would want. I can't ride.  I can't dance.  I have to do only the gentlest of gym exercises. I don't know what to do with myself.  I certainly have options for activities to occupy my time, but I don't know where to start.  I feel as if my entire identity as an active and healthy woman has been stolen from me. 

It took years for me to develop a healthy identity.  I was born the ultimate non-athlete.  I have horrible memories of sports and playground games from my childhood. I was uncoordinated and slow.  If the ball was rolling to me, I couldn't kick it.  If the ball was flying toward me, I couldn't hit or catch it.  I couldn't run.  I still joke that I live on an invisible treadmill because no matter how much energy I put into running, I never seem to go anywhere.  In gym class and on the playground I couldn't go fast enough to avoid being tagged or make it to the base.  In addition, I was so clumsy I couldn't seem to go very long without twisting my ankle, stubbing my toe, or skinning my knees.  I could easily trip over my own feet.  Even if I managed to survive without being out or falling down, I would end up out of breath and coughing for a half an hour afterwards.  It didn't help that my childhood was so overprotected and sheltered that I never really had much exposure to the active outdoor play that defined the childhoods of most of my generation. 

I was ready to shun all physical activity and spend my days on the couch with a book or in front of the TV with a neverending bowl of snacks, but puberty intervened.  I hit it early and became pretty heavy very fast.  Combine that with the constant messages from both school and the media on the importance of exercise, I knew I had to do something.  I didn't want to die young.  Let's face it.  I also didn't want to be fat. I swallowed all of the media messages that I should look a certain way and I needed to burn calories to do that.

I started out finding activities I believed I could enjoy and branched out from there.  I loved dance, but I gave up on it an early age due to my lack of coordination.  I took up ballet and jazz intermittently.  I loved horses, so I finally got my wish for riding lessons.  I wasn't very good at these activities, but I was determined to do them.  I'm naturally quite lazy and unfocused, but I'm also rather stubborn and I used that stubbornness to keep plugging at it.

I eventually added the typical calisthenics and aerobics that were considered the gold standard of women's exercise in those days (Jane Fonda was big then).  I stayed active this way all through high school where I had my own horse and was riding nearly daily.  I found I liked being active.  I liked the way I felt when I exercised.  I continued in college.  I couldn't ride anymore while I was away, and the only dance classes I took was a semester of ballet and some occasional pay-as-you-go jazz classes, so I mostly stuck to traditional gym exercise.  I was also lucky enough to have year-round access to an indoor pool.  At that point exercise had become a big enough part of my life that even though I had less access to fun exercise, I found I couldn't be without exercise at all.

After college I joined a gym.  I spent the past 20 years being super-focused.  I studied every article, book, and website I could get my hands on that dealt with fitness, especially weight training.  I was back to riding.  For the first time in my life I took dance classes regularly and consistently.  I never missed more than a week or two at a time of regular gym time.

Working out regularly gave me confidence.  It gave me confidence in my abilities.  It helped me overcome my insecurities about my klutzy childhood.  When I worked out with trainers they were always telling me how strong I was.  I was always ready to take on new challenges.  I took capoeria lessons for a couple of years.  I kayaked whenever I went on vacation and also tried stand-up paddle boarding.  I lifted heavier and heavier weights.

Eventually I got over the biggest hurdle of all.  I decided to try to run.  I forced myself to get over my loathing of running.  I felt that it might be the only way to ever get my body to lose the fat I was so desperate to lose.  I hated every step, but I kept on until I could competently run 3 miles on the treadmill.  I even made attempts to run outside.  Running was the gold standard of fitness and I was going to be fit.

Things began to happen.  First there were issues with my shoulder.  I had pain when I lifted my right arm at certain angles.  It took a couple months of rest and working around it to end that pain. Then running started to take its toll.  I could run for a few months only to develop the beginnings of tendinitis in my left foot.

One day the worst happened.  I was in the gym working out, and suddenly a pain shot through my knee.  I was too stubborn and determined to finish my workout to stop, so I kept doing what I was doing.  I put a knee brace to go to work and hoped for the best.  A few days later I went to dance class and a simple kicking motion brought my class to a screeching halt.  I couldn't deny I had something wrong with my knee.   I took this injury to the doctor.   Rest just wasn't cutting it.  After a few months of physical therapy I gave up running for good.  Running and I weren't meant for each other and I told myself there were other ways to be fit.  I didn't need to run.

All the working out did nothing to counteract my voracious appetite.  I ate plenty of vegetables and fruits and drank primarily water, but I ate a large amount of bad stuff.  You could say I just ate a large amount - period.  By the end of 2012 I was a good 20-30 pounds overweight despite the exercise, vegetables, and water.  I needed to do more about it.

In 2013 I joined the Lean Eating program.  I chronicled those adventures here on the blog.  It helped me fine tune my eating habits.  It also gave me a very focused and powerful workout program.  I had never felt so fit and lean as I was on that program.

On the downside, in October of 2013 I began feeling some pain in my hip when I bent over.  I thought it was just a strain from overuse.  The pain never got worse so I didn't worry too much about it.  I decided if it still hurt by summer, I'd have it looked at.  That brought me to where I am now.

I was determined to stay active and in shape despite the surgery.  I had a plan.  Just because my hip was injured and squats and deadlifts would be out of the question for a while, I could still work my upper body.  I planned to keep doing pushups and pullups and any other exercise that didn't involve hip bending until I was fully recovered.  I would have killer guns by springtime.

In the weeks leading up to surgery I began backing off my lower body work and began working on that upper body program.  I was determined to do pullups without an assist band by springtime.

Two weeks before surgery I began to have pain in my elbow.  I tried to blow it off.  I tried to rest it.  Nothing helped.  The only time I didn't feel any pain was during the few hours post-surgery.  For a little while I had hoped that the forced rest had finally allowed my elbow to heal completely.  Then I realized I wasn't feeling any pain because I was on so many drugs.

Internet diagnosis is never a good idea, but I was too busy recovering from hip surgery to see a doctor about yet another pain.  I searched a few medical websites and found my problem was pretty obvious and easy to diagnose.  I most certainly have medial epicondylitis, AKA "golfer's elbow" (It's like tennis elbow, but tennis elbow hurts on the outside of the joint and golfer's elbow hurts on the inside of the joint).

So now in addition to no riding or dancing or lower body work, I really can't do much of anything.  I have enough medical bills to deal with as I recover from my hip, and too much of my time is taken up with hip therapy.  I don't have time or money to deal with doctors and physical therapy for my elbow.  I spend a lot of time online looking for treatments I can do myself.  So far this has been promising, but it's too soon to tell if it's going to help me heal completely.

I am feeling such a sense of disgust with my body.  I wanted to be strong and capable.  I used to think that my thick build meant that I was sturdy and indestructible.  I was no skinny fragile flower.  I could laugh at those weak-looking model types who looked as if they could break if you breathed on them.  I wasn't like that.  The problem is I am like that.  I am exactly like that.

My body frustrates me.  It likes its fat.  It likes to hold on to that fat.  Why am I so attracted to sweet and high fat food?  Why do I feel so hungry just an hour after a filling but healthful meal?  Why does it take forever for exercise to have any effect?  I can't seem to get muscle definition easily.

Why is my body so wretchedly unathletic?  Why can't I make strength gains easily?  Why does it take so long to make progress in the gym?  Why do I have to work so hard to gain any sort of athletic skill?  Why am I so clumsy and slow?  I have friends who seem to make twice the gains in the gym that I make in less than half the time.  Why can't I put on muscle and develop more grace and skill easily?

Yes, I do resent my friends sometime.  I remember chatting with a fitness-minded friend who grew up seriously doing different types of athletic competition.  She goes into the gym after a break and manages to get herself back in fighting form in no time.  She works with a personal trainer regularly and at one point was training for a half marathon.  I asked her once if she ever worried about injury with all of that running.  She looked at me as if I had two heads and shrugged.  "I've always been athletic,"she said.

It's not just my athletic friends that make me feel so weak and inadequate.  I speak to many of my friends who share my bodily insecurities and foibles and yet they are running races and doing Crossfit and engaging in whatever other exercise I wouldn't dare do for fear of finding yet another part of my body to injure.   I don't just envy friends.  I resent strangers.  I go to the gym and see fellow members engaging in all kinds of crazy routines made up of extremely tough exercises.  I want to be doing what they are doing so badly.  Envy is not a happy trap to be caught in, but I just can't help myself.  Why am I hit with the double whammy of both unathleticism and extreme fragility? My body type is heavy and slow, so I try, for the sake of my own health, to change that, and it just breaks. Why are my friends still killing it at the gym? It's not fair!

Obviously perspective is needed here.  My situation is temporary.  My hip will heal.  My elbow will heal eventually too, even if it means I will have to go back for more medical treatment and physical therapy.  I am very lucky.  There are people who spend every day in pain, and suffer from physical limitations, and unlike me, will not see an end to their suffering.  My condition is not chronic.  If I complain that my hip or knee or shoulder or elbow hurts, I should be grateful that my arms and legs are attached to my body in order to be hurt.  I need to be grateful that my condition is merely a nuisance.  There are people who are suffering and the only end to their pain will be death.  A labral tear in my hip and epicondylitis in my elbow are painful, but they aren't terminal.  I have good health.  I have life.  I have people to share them with. I know I will be much happier if I stop my whining and enjoy what I do have instead of mourning what I don't.

So how do I move forward?  How do I get through this winter of discontent?  I am no longer the slow and clumsy girl who was picked last for every team.  I am not the strong, fit, proud woman I was a year ago.  I do not know who I will be when I come out on the other side of this.  All I can do is be who I am right now.  I can't be sitting around worrying how I will get back into shape in the two months between full recovery and my July cruise.  I can't even make assumptions that my elbow will be healed by January and start planning my new workout schedule when there are no guarantees that I will be healed by then.  I have to work with what I have in the here and now.

So how do I stay in the here and now?  There is an old saying, "Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can."  Right now those are words to live by.  Where am I starting?  I'm starting with a body that is quite healthy, but has a couple of injuries.  What do I have?  I have a gym with equipment I can use and modify for my needs and some therapeutic devices for my elbow.  What can I do?  I can ride a stationary bike.  I can do some unweighted half squats and glute bridges.  I can do some unweighted standing lateral leg raises.  In another week I should be able to do the elliptical and some outdoor walking on moderate terrain.  I can do my Therabar exercises with my elbow.  I can pay more attention to my diet and stop partying so hard.  I can join a healthy eating program if finances permit.

What I will do on the other side of this is still a mystery.  I need to learn to be happy with what I have.  The coming months will be an interesting journey.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Please Stop Asking "Where's The Outrage" (Irksome FB Post of the ...DECADE)

Since the recent lack of indictments over Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the massive fallouts that have resulted, I have seen some rather unfortunate memes going around Facebook.  What makes them so unfortunate is that when it comes to issues of race, too many Americans just don't get it.

The memes all go along the same lines.  They center around an unarmed white victim who was shot to death by either by a police officer of unspecified race, a black police officer, or sometimes just a black civilian.  Occasionally it is just a meme, but often there is a link through to some right-wing website that makes Fox News look like The Nation.

There will be a story about some white person who was unquestionably innocent.  The article contains no information about whether or not the victim had a criminal background.   He or she died a horrible death by shooting.  The story ends there.  It is sad and tragic for anyone to be shot to death, but if you're asking about why there is no outrage, I think the news sources (and the people who post them) need to be accountable for the following questions:

If the shooter was a police officer, was the officer reprimanded?  Did he keep his job, or was he suspended?  If he was suspended, was he suspended with pay? Is he still working on the police force today?

If the shooter was a civilian, was he arrested and brought to justice?

Was there a great outpouring of support for the shooter?  Did hundreds of people send him money for his legal defense fund?

Did the major news outlets give plenty of air and print time to supposed acquaintances of the victim, reminding the public over and over again why the victim deserved to be brutalized by police because he didn't have the cleanest record?

If you can't understand why the answers to the questions matter, then you shouldn't be asking, "Where's the outrage?"

I don't want to hear you cry, "Reverse racism!"  There is no such thing as reverse racism.  So many of us have a very poor understanding of what racism is.  Racism is not just saying, "I hate people of another race."  A professor I had in college once defined racism this way:  Racisim = Prejudice + Power.  Racism isn't just prejudice.  Racism is a deeply institutionalized system that is ingrained into our culture.  Racism is the way our society uses prejudice to to marginalize its citizens in ways we're not always aware of.

“The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.” - Hank Aaron

What is racism?  Racism is that funny feeling white people have walking through black neighborhoods.  Racism is the lack of diversity in most popular culture outlets unless it's entertainment specifically aimed at black people.  Racism is the dog whistles media personalities use to demonize poor people such as "ghetto", "inner city", and "welfare queen".  Racism is black people consistently receiving far harsher punishments for the same crimes white people receive from our justice system.  Racism is police killing 21 times more black suspects than white suspects.  Racism is the divide we feel between blacks and white every day in the subtlest of ways.  For example, at my previous job, one of my best friends in the office was black man, but he and I almost never socialized outside the office other than going out to lunch during work hours.   Racism is moving your purse away when a black person is close to you.  Racism is the complete lack of respect President Obama receives from Americans and from the media - respect that is due the office of the President of the United States.  Racism is the president receiving more death threats daily than any other president in history.*

Racism is people posting these "Where's the outrage?" memes on Facebook in the first place.  Racism is me having to explain it because you don't understand why it's wrong.

So stop asking me why I'm not outraged if I find out someone white was killed and that I hate white people because of it.  Of course I am bothered when an innocent person dies for no reason (one of the main reasons I oppose the death penalty).  When I hear stories of trigger-happy police killing the wrong suspect I am deeply disturbed about the brutal police state that this country is turning into.  I am equally disturbed at how our militarized police force is threatening to mow down protestors.  I can be saddened and outraged at the crime, but unless I know that justice wasn't served, I will not feel the same kind of anger that I would feel when a shooter walked away blameless with a  million dollars in donations and interview payments in his pocket. 

 I am sickened by my country, my fellow Americans, and the world I live in.  This is not how any of us should live.  This is not the society I want to be living in.  I'm tired of this racist world.  I'm tired of racists and homophobes being turned into folk heroes.  I find it funny that there is a segment of the population always crying that we need to "protect life" but that life doesn't extend to unarmed teenagers who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.  When will this country ever heal this divide?

*No, he's not such a terrible president that he somehow "deserves" it.  Brush up on your history and you will find this country has had far worse than Obama.  In any case, no one "deserves" death over being a politician whose policy you disagree with.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Burning Question On My Mind

Sometimes life's biggest questions just stump me.  There are times when I just can't find an easy answer.  Occam's Razor grows dull.  Questions tickle my brain as I lie awake at 3AM and the answers evade me as much as sleep does.  No matter how much I search for the truth, no one can provide the definitive answer I seek.

What exactly are "yoga pants"?

I started doing yoga about 22 years ago.  Yoga was just becoming trendy at the time and I started out with books and videos until my gym began offering a single weekly class.  You know what I wore?  I wore the same clothes I wore for my other workouts, minus the sneakers.  I wore leggings and bike shorts and sweat pants.  In those days yoga had no specific uniform.  Most yoga classes were taught by the old-time gurus who, if female (and in those days they were all female), wore mostly the leotards and footless tights of an earlier era, or else just wore ordinary shorts and t-shirts.

Now yoga has become a multi-million dollar industry.  The soft-bellied, middle-aged, women who used to stand in front of my classes have been replaced by young, taut, and tattooed gym rats and personal trainers looking for some esoteric state of enlightenment (or just hoping to cash in on a fad).  I used to think of yoga as a fairly egalitarian exercise meant for all body types, all ages, and all economic levels.  Now yoga is an activity favored by rich white women who pay hundreds of dollars for classes in high end studios.  

Yoga now also has it own uniform.

Go into any sports supply store and the fitness area will have all kinds of specialty yoga clothes.  They differ from your regular workout gear in two ways.  The first is that they are decorated with trippy artwork that may or may not have some kind of special Hindu meaning.  The second is that they are making a statement about the body types expected to be seen in yoga.  Yoga tops tend to be wispy little tanks with no backs and thin straps.  Any woman with significant boobage up top or a belly she would rather not expose is not meant for chic yoga wear.

But what exactly is the point of the pants?

I keep hearing and reading about "yoga pants".  What makes yoga pants, yoga pants?  I tried Googling yoga pants recently and I came up with photos of all different types of pants.  I saw bike shorts and long leggings and capri leggings.  I saw looser fitting workout pants.  I could not see any indication of what defines yoga pants.  How do yoga pants differ from workout pants, training pants, leggings, capris, capri leggings, bike shorts, and jazz pants (I suppose traditional jazz pants have a more extreme flare in the lower leg)?

I suppose the answer could be your yoga pants are the pants you wear specifically to do yoga in.  I'm not going to easily accept that answer because the joke seems to be that women like to wear their yoga pants for anything but yoga.  It seems irrelevant if you go to yoga class and wear all of the new, expensive, trendy gear.  You're not going to yoga class.  You're just going to be comfortable.

Is that where the phrase "yoga pants" comes from?  The idea of putting on comfortable, stretchy pants means that you can relax as much as you would doing a corpse pose in yoga class.

I confess I haven't been going to yoga classes much in recent years.  I enjoy doing yoga stretches as part of my regular routines, but my body recomp goals require me to focus more of my energy on more intense forms of exercise.  I do enjoy the occasional yoga class when I have the time though.  When I go I will put on a pair of leggings, or maybe a pair of looser fitting workout pants, or shorts or capris if it's warm out.  I will wear a regular t-shirt that actually covers my upper body.  I won't be wearing yoga pants, because I still don't know what they are.  That's okay because I don't think I'm supposed to wear yoga pants to do yoga.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

1 Week Post-Surgery. The State of Rachel

So it's my 1 weekiversary for my surgery.  How am I doing? 

Pain.  It's quite manageable.  I do without pain meds most of the time.  Some movements still hurt.  I try not to do those movements.  I don't know if my pain level is better or worse than it should be since I don't know the average levels are.

I am capable of hobbling around the neighborhood pretty well.  I can go a block or two to Dunkin Donuts or to the gym.  The hardest tasks are the simpler ones like getting dressed or getting in and out of bed.

I fear overdoing it.  I fear I'm not being careful enough.  I have been known to hobble partially or fully unassisted around the house when I'm in a hurry.  I move my leg too far to the side.  I bend over too far forward now and then.  I keep scolding myself not to, but I tell myself, "Just this once."  I worry about reaching the breaking point.  What is going to be that one move that damages my fragile, healing, labrum?

I was becoming very frustrated because when I walked any distance, the leg strap on my brace kept falling down.  It took me until today to see I needed to secure it by putting the strap through a plastic slot before fastening the Velcro.  #Howtobedumb

I had a huge scare yesterday.  I didn't feel quite right after doing my required therapeutic bike ride at the gym yesterday morning.  I felt a pain in my leg, radiating from the back of my thigh and all the way down to my calf.  All kinds of scary situations ran through my mind.  My doctor reassured me that it was likely that my back was being thrown out of whack a bit and that was causing the pain.  After trying to do as little walking as possible (no more leaving the apartment) yesterday the pain went away and hasn't returned.

I get very stressed out sometimes trying to find the time to do all of my therapeutic activity.  I have 6 hours a day I'm supposed to do in the hip flexion machine.  Kevin is supposed to rotate my leg for me daily.  I have a series of isometric exercises to do.  I am also supposed to spend 2 hours a day lying on my stomach.  I'm lucky if I can fit in 30 minutes.  The instructions say to ride the stationary bike twice a day for 20 minutes.  Once a day is all that I can manage (the time it takes to hobble to the gym means it's far more than 20 minutes of my time each day).  I am supposed to be doing actual work while I'm sitting at home as well.  I have to carefully plan my day for when I will fit all of this in.

Speaking of that hip flexion machine - I.HATE.IT.  My bed is too small for me to have it in bed.  I have it on the couch and the couch isn't long enough for me to position my upper body comfortably while I'm in it. It's physically a pain (no wonder my back was out of whack and causing leg pain).  It's also just plain boring to be stuck in that thing for 2 hours at a time.  What would I do without Facebook and my iPad?

I'm bored and lonely.  I'm alone in the house for hours at a time.  Yes, I do have Facebook.  I Skype Kevin all day when he's not busy.  At least one of my parents calls me daily  I just really miss having a human presence around.  I want warm bodies and face-to-face conversation.  I am really looking forward to returning to the office because I just want some live human company.

It stare down the coming months and really fear for what all of this is going to mean for my body.  I worked hard and struggled for years to be fit and strong.  According to everything my doctor and the literature tell me, it will be 6 months before I can return to my old levels of activity.  I don't want to lose my strength or my aerobic capacity. In the hospital everyone who had to take my heart rate and blood pressure complimented me on my level of fitness because my RHR was so good and my blood pressure was so low.  They all said they knew I was active and healthy. How is that going to look 6 months from now?  Last year I had to buy new clothes because I had become so much smaller.  Now will I have to buy new clothes again because I'm going to regain all of the weight?  What about the fact that I will simply miss my hobbies?  I want to ride and dance because they are activities I enjoy.  How will my body feel the day after I first get back on a horse and trot?  (I do think occasionally getting on a horse and just walking would be somewhat therapeutic.)

On the bright side, my appetite has changed.  My body seems to know I can't eat nearly as much as I did when I was still exercising daily.  I just can't seem to eat much.  That could be quite a blessing with the holidays coming up.

Pain meds are all well and good, but sometimes I would rather just medicate the old fashioned way.  A glass of wine with dinner tastes much better than a pain pill.  One of the main reasons I wanted to wean off of pain meds this past weekend was that I knew I was going out to dinner and wanted to be able to have that glass of wine with the meal.  Of course thinking these things makes me feel like an alcoholic.  

I'm grateful for the enormous outpouring of support I received from everyone both online and in real life.  My circle is vast and far-reaching and it makes me feel so lucky and loved.  

I am grateful for the health I do have.  My situation is uncomfortable, but it's temporary.  In 6 months I do have that option to start living an active life again.  As I struggle to do every day tasks without pain, I realize that there are people who deal with this every day of their lives.  There are people who don't have my current level of health and never will due to diseases that are out of their complete control.  I have it good.  I have it very good.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Opting Out

Usually by this time of year, I have a carefully planned list of family and friends I need to buy Christmas presents for, and some rough ideas about what I will buy.  In fact, I often have some of those gifts purchased already.  People seem angry and resentful that I do this, as if they are incapable of not waiting to the last minute and that I am somehow blessed with some magic talent for shopping early.  I simply say that I like to have the gift shopping out of the way by December so that when the holiday season is in full force, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the festivities without the gift-buying panic hanging over my head.

There is more than one way to enjoy a holiday season free of the stress of having all of your gifts purchased on time.  How about not buying gifts at all?

I found myself reading the archives of my favorite fitness website Stumptuous and saw this rant about not Christmas shopping.  The author talks about enjoying the season eating good food and enjoying the company of family without participating in the mass consumer culture.  She also goes on to say that she made a bigger effort to take care of herself and her own health and fitness.

It seems I spend a lot of time these days with my mouth agape, staring at my medical bills.  When I began having pain in my hip, I went to the same orthopedist - one of the best in the area- who looked after my knee several years ago.  I never bothered to check if she was in network for my current insurance plan.  Because she is out of network, my co-payments are huge.  I have paid, or need to be paying, hundreds in medical bills when all is said and done.  There have been doctor visits and multiple MRIs and physical therapy that we had hoped would prevent a need for surgery.  My most recent bill costs nearly the amount contained in one of my paychecks.  This is scary stuff. I'm trying to work out a budget so I can pay for this stuff.  I'm looking at ways I can save money.  I can stop shopping at high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods and DeCicco's and do my shopping at A&P and Shop Rite.  I can stop drinking lattes on cold mornings.  I can cancel the order for those backordered boots and stop buying any other new clothes.  I can brown bag my lunch.

I can also not buy Christmas presents for everyone this year.

I do want to celebrate Christmas with my family.  I would like to get together for nice dinners with rich desserts and good wine.  I would like to experience the fun of having my whole family together in the same way I do for Thanksgiving and birthdays and whatever other dinner parties we all attend.  I don't need presents to enjoy that, do I?  Christmas cheer isn't only about presents, is it?

Holidays are often a mess in my family.  Finding time to spend with everyone isn't easy.  Like all children of divorced parents, I have two sets of parents to visit.  I'm lucky that Kevin doesn't have much family so I can just include his mother in celebrations with my family.  My brother isn't so lucky.  He is married to someone from a very large family and his wife also has a married son and granddaughter living in another state. Their availability for holidays is always In question.  Kevin and I have been spending Thanksgiving in recent years with his brother in Chicago, but this year we can't, which means we had to find local family willing to take us in.  Finding time to get together with family for holidays is a very complex process.

Last year was total chaos.  I had a Christmas Eve dinner with Dad, which my brother was unable to attend because he was spending it with his wife's family.  Both of us had brunch the next morning with Mom, and then he  had dinner that night with Dad.  There is always a shuffle and always multiple relatives and multiple sets of in-laws to visit.  I have no idea what this year's holiday season will bring.  Mom says she doesn't want to host Christmas and Thanksgiving plans were filled with miscommunications and changed plans. Dad has nothing planned yet.  I am thinking of hosting a dinner at my place for those people who have no other place to go as long as my health cooperates.  Maybe I'll even buy a tree (and hope it doesn't try to kill me).  Given the unpredictability of holiday planning, do we really need to add gifts into the mix?  Half of these celebrations end up as just excuses for gift exchange. Maybe having some place to go and something good to eat will be more important than having gifts.

One thing I have noticed in recent years is that Christmas shopping is much harder than it used to be.  I used to be quite good at scoping out people's needs.  At the very least, most of my family members had Amazon wish lists, which made shopping a breeze.  I notice hardly anyone updates their lists anymore, and when they do, it's often with "fantasy" items - expensive stuff they dream about, but not anything that's practical for friends and family to buy.  One of the drawbacks of adulthood is that you have to prioritize your needs, and figure out exactly how much space you have in your home for possessions.  I am very cognizant about giving useless tchotchkes these days, even expensive ones, because we all only have so much shelf space. (I admit I occasionally see something small and cute that I think a relative might like, but I try to limit that.)  I try to avoid giving gifts people can't actively use, wear, or eat. Even stuff you can wear can be tricky as accessories can feel like an easy gift for women, and women may have limited space for scarves, purses, and jewelry.  It just seems that these days people needs less.  Home offices, kitchens, closets, and backyards can be stocked with all necessities and the garages, basements, closets, and cupboards simply can't hold anything more. I ask people what they want, and half the time they can't give me any answers.

I don't even know what I want, if anything. I have limited space and most areas of my life that require equipment are stocked with what I need. In the past I always kept several small cheap, but necessary items like socks or small kitchen items so no one would have to spend much money to know that they were buying something I need.  I just don't need that much.  My closet is nearly at capacity.  Certainly between now and Christmas I may need something, but I don't know what that might be.  For my birthday this year when Kevin asked me what I wanted, I ended up just telling him to get me a gift certificate to one of my favorite clothing stores.  That sounded like a great plan, except when I received the gift, I found that there was nothing at the designated website I really wanted at the time.  I forgot about that gift for three months before finally finding it and spending it a few days ago when I saw the website had added some cool new merchandise.  I'm not in a hurry to buy things or acquire more stuff.

If trying to find the right gift, something my family will actually want and use, is part of the problem, why not just buy everyone gift cards?  I can buy them for certain stores, or I can just buy them generic Visa gift cards.  I can write checks or give cash.  Wouldn't that solve the problem?

My first issue is it feels like a copout.  I can't be bothered to really take some time and attention to find out what a loved one really needs, so I just give money, or some kind of equivalent.  My second issue is that you never know how much is enough.  I don't want to look cheap, but it can be really expensive to give significant, generous amounts to everyone on the holiday shopping list,which brings me back to my original point of not having much money this year.

Christmas is about the joy of giving, right?  We're not supposed to expect stuff, but we are supposed to give of ourselves.  In that spirit, I will be making charitable donations.  I buy an animal for the Heifer Project every December.  This year I will throw another charity in there as well.  I don't need more stuff.  My friends and family don't need more stuff.  There are however, many people, and animals, that need the basic necessities of life.  This year I would like to concentrate more on them.  Being temporarily immobilized by my surgery gives me a great appreciation for my own physical health and well-being.  Medical bills or not, I am very fortunate and I need to spread around what fortune I do have.

My only concern this year is for the children in my family.  I remember what it was like to be a child at Christmas.  Most kids aren't monsters and neither was I.  I believe most kids (and I was no exception) fundamentally know it's not good to be selfish or make presents the point of Christmas, but let's face it, for most of our formative years, those Christmas presents mean a lot.  They are what children wait for.  It's why they tolerate time with their boring relatives.  I don't think giving kids gifts equates teaching them materialism and consumerist values.  I believe that a child who is raised with any sort of conscience will figure out the lessons eventually.  I don't want to force those lessons on them.  If they come over my house for Christmas, will they hate me for not having gifts for them when they are there?  I have always loved lavishing them with gifts.  I hope to only have to disappoint them for one Christmas.  My niece's and nephew's birthdays bookend Christmas and I do intend to give them gifts for that - even if I likely won't see them for their birthdays. 

I hope to make this year's no-gifts Christmas a temporary situation.  Looking forward, I wonder if I should.  There are plenty of reasons to give up the habit entirely. 

I don't know what decisions I will make in the future, but this Christmas, if you need a place to go, you're welcome to come to my place.

Monday, October 20, 2014

One Nation Indivisible? Maybe Not

I suppose before I write anything I should take into account the some folks will be offended by this post and take it the wrong way.  I will start this post with the disclaimer that I am not being purposely seditious or unpatriotic.  This post is meant as both satire and a thought piece.  It simply ask the questions about whether or not the patterns of history will repeat themselves and at what cost.  I am not actually advocating for what is being said here.

When Scotland recently voted to secede from the United Kingdom, I have to admit I was shocked.  As an American I guess I viewed the United Kingdom as a strong coalition of countries proudly standing under one flag.  I knew that there was some hostility to the English among the Welsh and Scottish and even more so in Northern Ireland, but it seemed hard to fathom how after so many centuries that these countries would no longer want the protection of the British.

How could I think such a silly thought.  The Irish certainly didn't want it.

Once upon a time all of the countries highlighted on this map were part of the British Empire.  All of them eventually left it.

Let's not forget I live in a country that was once part of the British Empire.  I'm sure there were many people outside of the US who couldn't understand why the colonies would revolt and become an independent country instead of being a part of one of the greatest political, economic, and military forces in the world.

The problem with empires is that they eventually fall.  They grow too large and become too hard to manage.  Some of the conquered peoples integrate and feel part of the bigger whole, but more often the local groups tend to identify more with their own ethnicities and local lands.  It eventually becomes too hard to contain these identity movements.  When the empire crumbles, borders are redrawn and new countries are formed.  Sometimes even those countries end up dividing into other countries as local groups fight to claim their own territory.

Although I enjoyed studying history in school, I think I found European history to be the most confusing and the most difficult to achieve good grades in. I always had so much trouble trying to keep up with the constant changing of kingdoms and redrawing of borders after the collapse of the Roman Empire.  What country are the books referring to?  Where is it?  What is that country now?  The patriotic view is to say that a nation is as it always will be.  History rarely proves that to be true.

I have heard a pundit or three speculate that  much of the trouble in the Middle East and Afghanistan today stems from the British Empire redrawing the borders of many of the countries after the Ottoman Empire collapsed.  Lands once held by certain tribal groups had to live within the borders drawn by a western conqueror.

Even in my own lifetime I have seen borders shift and new countries form.  For example next summer I will be visiting the countries of Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia.  Those countries didn't exist when I was born.  The Balkan peninsula has radically changed since my earliest geography lessons.  The collapse of another empire - The Soviet Empire - along with many internal wars, changed the borders there as well.

So what does that have to do with the "indivisible" United States?

The United States could be called an empire.  When the US first became a country, it was just 13 states along the eastern seaboard.  As Americans followed the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the country eventually spread to the opposite coast through land purchases, war, and the genocide of indigenous peoples.  Other empires had previously claimed parts of the land the US now occupies.  Some of the territories were independent countries.  (You can see the building that once housed the Texas embassy to England in London. ) Indigenous peoples still had some land of their own. 

Like all empires, has the United States become too big to manage?  Political regressives love to talk about "small government", but how can a government be small when it has to handle so much territory and so many citizens?

One hundred and fifty-three years ago the political, ideological, and economic differences in different areas of the country had become so extreme, that half the country wanted to leave and form a separate country.  The result was a long, viscous and bloody war that saved the union, but left a huge amount of resentment on behalf of the loser, who was still forced to live within a country and under a government that not only wanted to punish them, but whom they didn't want to live under in the first place. The war served a very important purpose - it ended slavery - but it didn't solve any of the problems of ideological divides in this country.  Over a century later we have the same divides, often along geographical lines, but not always.  It seems that these differences are emphasized even more every day due to more channels of communication like the Internet and television.

I ask myself, "Is it time to redraw the borders in the US?"  Sometimes the way I see people argue so viciously, threaten the government and their ideological opposites with death and violence, hurl insults at each other, and even threaten to secede outright, I begin to wonder if the United States can still survive as a single country.  There are too many groups fighting over how the country should be run and I just don't see a compromise anymore.  Every group claims that its members are the only "real" Americans and that everyone else is wrong. Compromise is seen as surrender.  We see this at the highest levels of government and not just among the general citizenry.

What countries do I think could exist among the current borders of the United States?  What ideological groups do I think would be best together?

I think the libertarians should have their Galt's Gulch (President Rand Paul, Vice President Paul Ryan).  Here is the country where the government has been drowned in the proverbial (we hope) bathtub.  There is little to no public investment here.  All services are privatized.  Whatever your needs are, you have to pay to play, and if you can't afford it, you'll have to do without.  There are no regulations on any business and no regulations on morality of any kind (including discrimination laws).  In Galt's Gulch the individual is king, and if you can't make it here, it's your own fault. 

The liberals can have their Liberaland (President Bernie Sanders, Vice President Elizabeth Warren).  Here the emphasis is on fair wages, equitable taxation systems, and large amounts of public investment (from infrastructure to education to a safety net).  There is strong emphasis on education.  The rights of the individual matter, but so do the rights of group members. 

Religious dominionists can finally have their Republic of Gilead (President Mike Huckabee, Vice President Jim Bob Duggar).  In Liberaland and Galt's Gulch religion is left up to individual choice.  In the Republic of Gilead, evangelical Christianity is the law of the land.  While it won't be illegal to not follow the state religion, nonbelievers will not receive equal protection under the law.  Morality, including that of individuals, is strictly legislated according to the government's interpretation of Biblical texts.  Women who own property will have to give it up to their husbands when they marry.  Working mothers are forbidden, or at least strongly discouraged.  Controlling family size is forbidden.  Tithing is not optional. Social services are handled by the state church and if you are not a member, you are not entitled to them.  Education is also handled through the church.  Businesses will be run pretty much the same way as they are in Galt's Gulch.

Texas (President Rick Perry, Vice President Ted Cruz, and Bush family members in the cabinet) and Alaska (President Sarah Palin - DUH!) would be independent republics.  They have been threatening to secede all along.  Let them be their own countries.

Lastly, we need to give a good chunk of land back to indigenous peoples.  It's not going to make up for the fact that they no longer have their former tribal lands across the entire continent, but it's something.  I don't know what their government and their laws would be.  Perhaps they will split into even smaller countries according to tribal ancestry.

The unfortunate part is that this could never happen bloodlessly.  Other than Texas and Alaska, who would take what land?  Would the liberals want New York for the culture?  That might be tough when both David Koch and the robber barons of Wall Street live there making it the ideal capitol of Galt's Gulch.  Should Washington D.C. be the capitol of one of the countries, and which one?  Should the Native Americans have Nevada (and would The Republic of Gilead allow tourists to leave the country and go there) or is that just a racist cliche`?   Would the Republic of Gilead simply reside in the current Bible Belt?  How much forced relocation would there be?  How many lives would have to end before the land was divided up into new nations?  No one is going to go willingly even if they don't want to live under the government he or she doesn't like.

There is no easy answer.  I don't see any reconciliation or healing in this country's future.  We are just becoming angrier and more bitter as the years go on.  Politics are all about money and the people with no money suffer and look for any place to put the blame.  Politics are tearing families apart.  It seems to be perfectly acceptable to make hateful statements about others if their ideologies don't match yours.  Politicians, people who have dedicated their lives to serving their country, doing a thankless and difficult job, are treated as subhuman.

If you look at a current map of the world today, you won't see the same countries you saw from a map from 100 years ago, or from 200 years ago, or even 50 years ago.  How much longer before we see new countries forming right here in North America?  For now we will remain one nation, indivisible.  I'm wondering for how long?  Revolution won't be easy, but keeping the country as it is seems just as hard.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Most Horrible Time (Song Parody)

Just a little song parody I came up with.

Just to reiterate, I don't actually hate fall.  I hate the hype.  I'm a naturally contrarian sort of person and when people start becoming obsessed with anything, I become equally tired of it.  When I am constantly barraged with "I love fall" posts on social media, it all seems to be about something rather contrived and esoteric, rather than what people are likely to experience.  No matter what the season, we all still have to get up and go to work every day.  Chances are in any given season, most of us aren't going to experience much of what we think the season is all about.

I do have a few certain beefs with this time of year.  The first one being that I do prefer summer and particularly I love long days, outdoor swimming (preferably in natural bodies of water), and being able to wear shorts, cute sundresses and cute sandals (and the pedicures that go with them).  I don't like that transition to jeans and sweaters and tights.  The next beef I have is with the impending darkness.  Yes, winter is just as dark, but at least in winter I can watch it grow lighter again.  The last one is that the hype has caused all of these contrived occasions where people have to get out on the road and be "in the country" to pick apples, and go to cheezey fairs and haunted houses, and see the leaves.  Since I spend every weekend riding my horses in an area where a lot of that crap goes on, I am buried under traffic every weekend.

Then there is that pumpkin deluge.  It's not just pumpkin either.  I don't like the taste and texture of most squash.  Unfortunately I can't go into a decent restaurant this time of year without being bombarded with butternut squash entrees and pumpkin desserts.  I am even seeing butternut squash desserts.  I don't mind pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, but you can use those in any dessert without having to stick squash in it.  Zucchini is tolerable when it comes to squashes, but FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY IN THIS WORLD, DON'T PUT THEM IN MY MUFFINS, CAKES, AND QUICK BREADS.  Really, zucchini adds nothing taste and texture wise to desserts.

So here is my bah-humbug for the season known as autumn.

The Most Horrible Time of the Year
(Sung to the tune of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year)

It's the most horrible time or the year
Well it's dark and it's cold
And the leaves turn to mould
Now I'm almost in tears
It's the most horrible time of the year

The most o-ver-rated season of all
With the crisp crunchy air
And contrived harvest fairs
I am simply appalled
At the most o-ver-rated season called fall

Oh the people I've seen, obsessed with Halloween
Dress their dogs and their babies so dandy
Now they can't pay the rent, for the money they spent
On costumes, decor, and junk candy

It's the most horrible time of the year
All that gross pumpkin stuff
No, it's never enough
Yes, it's even in beer (YUCK)
It's the most horrible time of the year

Oh the folks out leaf peeping
Now traffic is creeping
Because everyone needs to be out
Picking apples they won't eat
I think I must retreat
Before I give up and just shout

It's the most horrible time of the year
I miss long days and shorts
And my fave water sports
When will summer be here?
It's the most horrible time of the year!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Facts About Life as a Chronic Insomniac

1.  You can only flip the pillow so many times before there is no longer a cool side.

2.  You live in fear of the day your boss catches you dozing off in a meeting - or worse, falling asleep at the wheel.

3.  You miss the 80s.  Specifically you miss the 80s because Channel 7 used to show great old movies at 3AM in those days.

4.  Stimulants are pretty ineffective at combating insomniac fatigue - unless you drink enough of them to keep you awake the next night.

5.  You don't need to turn on the light to see your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  You can make your way around the house in the dark because you have done it so many times.

6.  Drinking an alcoholic beverage is fraught with indecision.  Do you dare risk the 3AM bounceback?

7.  Your Ambien is your most prized possession.

8.  Only you know why the peanut butter jar, the cookie car, and/or the chip bag always run out so quickly.

9.  You want to kill someone every time you hear the same tired advice: "Go to bed the same time every night."  "Don't eat too soon before bedtime."  "Don't exercise too soon before bedtime."  "Drink milk."    "Block out all light." "Make sure the temperature of the room is just right."ACK!  Do you think I haven't heard them all before?

10.  Speaking of the temperature of the room, it's never the right temperature (this is doubly true if you're a woman over 40).

11.  You are happy when your alarm wakes you up from a good dream because it meant you were truly sleeping when the alarm went off.

12.  You have been known to take Benadryl even when you don't have a cold or allergy attack.

13.  The sound of your snoring spouse drives you crazy - not from the noise, but because of the resentment you feel that only one of you is sleeping.

14.  You feel a sense of despair when you hear about how lack of sleep hinders weight loss, cognitive function, immune function, sex drive, muscle coordination...

15.  When you get through a day successfully on 4 hours of sleep or less, you feel incredibly powerful - invincible even.

16.  You never lose that sense of optimism that maybe tomorrow night you'll sleep better.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Next Styling Experiment - A Review of Keaton Row

Disclaimer: This post is my opinion only.  This is not a sponsored post.  I am not compensated at all for this review. I will not receive any discounts or coupons.  I am posting this mostly because there is very little information out there about the Keaton Row experience from its clients and I feel there might be women out there seeking this information.  I also had a very positive experience and I simply want to endorse my stylist Rebecca Green because I feel she deserves it.  She works on commission and  therefore needs a client base to make money.  If my post sends more clients her way, then I am very happy to be helping her out. I am not getting anything out of it if anyone does sign up with her.  If you are interested in having Rebecca style you, I will be happy to send you a referral link.  If you see this post and don't like Rebecca's choices, but would like to see if Keaton Row can find you a stylist you do like, go here (This is not an affiliate link).

Ever since I remodeled my closet I have been trying to streamline my wardrobe.  I want to shop more intelligently and not choose clothes too impulsively.  I have been giving myself permission to get rid of stuff that I have owned for years and am getting bored with.  I have also been giving myself permission to get rid of stuff I know isn't working for me.

Regular readers know that shopping has become more difficult for me as my time becomes more constricted. Therefore I am trying to see what happens when I let "experts" dress me instead of picking out my own clothes.  First I tried Stitch Fix, which I chronicled here on the blog.  I have had mixed results.  I like what they send me, but they work out of their own inventory, so they are somewhat limited with what they can send and they don't have specialized sizes (like petites).  The styles they sent were definitely my taste, but the fit often didn't work.

Keaton Row works a bit differently from Stitch Fix (or Golden Tote or Tog + Porter).  When you sign up for Keaton Row, you fill out a style profile just as you would with other styling services.  Then you are matched with one of their independently contracted stylists.  You can also browse the lookbooks and profiles of their stylists and choose one you like yourself.  Next you request a personalized lookbook from that stylist.  Instead of having an in-house inventory, the clothes they choose come from several different retailers, including Nordstrom.  The stylist creates a lookbook based on your preferences and then you purchase the clothes directly from the retailer.  The stylist makes money by being paid a commission from the retailer on whatever you order.  There are no styling fees and you only are sent and pay for the clothes you order. You can order nothing and it costs you nothing.  Once you sign up, you also have access to the public lookbooks from other stylists, so you can buy stuff you like from them whenever you want.

The system seems pretty cool, but the drawback is that it's only as good as the stylist you choose.  As I said above, the stylist is independently contracted and anyone can sign up to be a stylist with them.

Here is the scary part about signing on for Keaton Row.  Imagine for a moment that you want a brand new skincare routine and you want to invest in some brand new makeup looks as well.  You decide that signing on with Avon would be the most convenient way to do this.  Since you don't personally know anyone who sells Avon, you go to their website and look for someone in your area.  You contact one of them randomly based on geography.

It's possible she is awesome. She knows the entire product line inside and out.  She is able to easily analyze your skin type and finds just the right products for you easily.  She is great with makeup and comes up with some perfect new looks for you and is able to sell you the few key colors you need to make those looks happen.

It's also possible she's terrible.  She doesn't know the product line that well. She can't figure out your best skincare products.  She isn't very good creating makeup looks. You end up having to break up with her, which may feel awkward, and find a new Avon lady.  You may even decide that Avon is terrible and you will find a Mary Kay rep instead, or simply head to a counter at the department store and spend even more money.

If you are allowing Keaton Row to match you with a stylist based on quiz answers, you really don't know what you will get.  Your stylist might be someone who has worked in the fashion industry and really understands how to style people.  You might have someone with no experience at all who just likes to shop.  Keaton Row does train its stylists, but it still seems like the process could be iffy.  All of these styling services carry some kind of risk. 

I spent some time browsing profiles of stylists before I signed up. I checked out as many public lookbooks as possible.  Very few of them really stood out for me.  I decided to just fill out the profile and see whom I would end up with.  At some point, you just have to take a chance and trust the process.  For some reason the most recent stylist profile I viewed ended up saved in their system when I filled out my questionnaire, so that was the first stylist they tried to match me with.  I didn't like her lookbook much at all, so I asked to see another one.  I didn't like her choices much either.  I wondered exactly what algorithm they were using to match clients with potential stylists.  I asked for them to show me yet another one.

The third one was Rebecca.  I liked her lookbook a bit  more than the first two, but her biggest advantage was that she is a shorty like me and claims to be a "petite specialist".  Although I still wasn't sure if her style matched mine well, I decided to go with her.

Once I accepted her as my stylist she was very prompt and contacted me right away.  We discussed briefly my figure issues (it's hard to do short and voluptuous at the same time), my favorite brands and stores, and my needs.  She liked that I was thorough with my likes and dislikes and also my willingness to branch out of my current style rut.  We discussed budget as well and she was very understanding that I'm willing to pay for useful, well-made and well-fitting clothes, but I don't want to pay designer markup prices.

I signed up on Friday and had my first lookbook by Monday afternoon.  I appreciated Rebecca's promptness, although I wonder if it was due to her not having many clients - and why she didn't have many clients.  I was certainly very excited to see what she picked out for me.  I reminded myself that I was not required to buy any of it, so it really didn't matter if I hated everything she picked out.  Unlike with Stitch Fix, there was no styling fee. 

Once I saw my lookbook, I was in Heaven.  Rebecca gets me.  She completely and utterly gets me.  I swear she must shop for me telepathically.  There were a few duds among the 10 (!) pages of clothes she sent, but for the most part, I loved everything so much it was hard to pick just a few.

Here are a few examples of her suggestions that I purchased.

This necklace color and texture looks even better in person than it does in the photo.
 Classic blue color for me.
 I needed a plain blue skirt.  This one needs shortening, but will look good on me because of the swing.
 This blazer has a nice relaxed feel.
 I love black and white dresses.
 Another sweater in a classic Rachel color.
 This jacket is pure me. 

More fun accessories with cute shoes and a gorgeous bracelet.

Skirt is a classic design in a fun, signature color.

I loved these two items she suggested and bought them, but they ended up not working out.  I realize that I just don't feel comfortable in wrap dresses and the neckline fell way too low and looked too sexy for work.  The pants fit just a wee bit too tight.  There was a very obvious panty line.  However, I felt going up a size would be too big. 

I think I have a pretty good wardrobe filling this fall.  If I need another outfit, I will definitely contact Rebecca again.  I was going to do a little fashion show with photos of some of the outfits I put together, but who has time for that?  I'll take photos as I start wearing them out and put them on my Pin board for those who are interested.

One drawback of Keaton Row is that stylists create a collection using affiliated retailers.  There is no guarantee that the retailers will have what you want in stock at the time your order them. The stylist even warns you that if you don't start ordering right away, you may lose your chance to order the items.  My lookbook had a really nice black blazer that I ordered only to find out it was no longer in stock   There was also a beautiful blue skirt in the lookbook that was never available in my size. In both cases though, Rebecca was able to find replacements for them.

Also, shipping is really slow.  I waited two weeks for 8 of the 12 items I ordered. On the good side, most of the stuff came from Nordstrom, so I didn't have to send the stuff back. I just went to the White Plains store and returned it.

I haven't given up on Stitch Fix though. I scheduled a mid-winter shipment.  I figure by the middle of January I will be bored and sick of winter and will be looking for a little life/wardrobe pick-me-up, so I'm just ordering a random box of clothes and see what I get.  I will post about it when the time comes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

There Is More Than One Path To Fitness

It was a Wednesday night and I was just not in the mood for Zumba.

I have been doing Zumba for a few years now.  At this point I know the basic moves and the patterns.  If my regular teacher is teaching I have memorized the routines so well that she makes me go in front of the class and teach them myself.  If there is a sub, I can pick up the new combos pretty easily.   My body has adapted to the point where I'm hardly breaking a sweat anymore and I don't feel my heart rate accelerated that much.  Sometimes I think Zumba just feels like an old-school, 80s style, aerobic dance class with more booty shaking.

Why am I still doing it?  It's more fun than the hamster wheels in the cardio area of the gym.  There aren't a whole lot of other options at my gym.

I like to read a lot of women's fitness websites that are dedicated to sustaining fitness through simply enjoying life.  I like Girls Gone Strong, Eat Lift & Be Happy,  and Lift Like A Girl.  These women are into lifting like me, and they encourage healthful eating, but they are also about having fun and not constantly restricting yourself from pleasures.

I was reading some of those blogs before I was supposed to go to Zumba Wednesday night.  I read posts about how it's summer and summer is the time to go outside and really enjoy the outdoors.  There is so much fun stuff to do outdoors.

I do have an outdoor fun activity that I do regularly, but unfortunately it is 90 minutes away from me and I can only do it on weekends and holidays since the horses are all the way in NJ.  What were my other options?

Bloggers talk about kayaking and paddle boarding.  I love kayaking and paddle boarding.  I do happen to live across the street from a body of water.  Unfortunately, I do not own a paddle board or kayak, nor do I have the permit to launch one.

There is cycling, which can be fun under the right conditions.  I also don't own a bike and I don't consider my neighborhood the right conditions.  There is too much traffic and I am not comfortable riding in heavy traffic.

One blogger mentioned boulder climbing - rock climbing's wimpy little brother.  I enjoy scrambling over large rocks, but there isn't any place to do this nearby.

Then there is the easiest outdoor activity that requires the least amount of equipment - hiking.  I love hiking.  When I think of hiking, I tend to associate it with gathering a group of friends together and driving two hours north to some mountainous state park.  There are no mountains or large state parks within 30 minutes of my home, but there are a few nice nature preserves.  If I needed to get outside so badly, why not take a little mini hike?

I decided to blow off Zumba and head for the Marshlands instead.

I took a camera with me, because you never know what you might see.

I started out my walk and some turkeys greeted me.  Actually, they didn't greet me at all.  They ran away.

I found myself walking down an unfamiliar path that I had never taken before.  It took me deeper into the woods and away from the marsh and shoreline where I usually go.  At one point I came to a spot where the path diverged.  I wasn't sure which way to go, but I chose my route when I decided not to disturb these deer.

I came to a spot where I could finally see the water.

I made it to the shoreline.  The wind was kicking up the water.  If I just looked at the marshes and ignored the buildings, I could pretend I was back in Chincoteague.

I came to this giant nest.  I spent quite a bit of time with the zoom lens trying to figure out what kind of bird resided there.  It was hard to tell because I heard the bird, but I never could see anything but its butt.  I'm guessing an osprey.

I was out for a good hour or two.  I had a peaceful and happy walk.  I didn't miss Zumba at all.  I'm sure I didn't burn as many calories as I would have burned in Zumba, but if you think fitness is only about burning calories, you're missing the point.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Reluctant Whovian Contemplates Number 12

I have always considered myself a sci-fi/fantasy nerd, but I say that conditionally.  I am not one of those nerds who feels the need to automatically love any and all sci-fi and fantasy that comes my way.  Yes, I was a Lost geek.  I am obsessed with Red Dwarf.  I can also quote entire passages of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

There are also times when my tastes are completely out of step with the rest of the nerd world.  As much as I say I love Star Trek,  the beloved original series is probably my least favorite version (and I never watched beyond the first two episodes of Enterprise).  In a similar vein, I have watched all of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, but never watched the original.  I never watched Firefly, Serenity, or Stargate.  I was accused of not being a nerd at all because I never saw The Matrix.  I only watched about half of Avatar before deciding it was predictable and dull and sent the DVD back to Netflix.   I just can't bring myself to take an interest in Game of Thrones, even when my most trusted, non-nerd friends so enthusiastically recommend it. Most of all, in defiance of nerdom everywhere, I find Harry Potter to be dull, formulaic, and populated by cliched, two-dimensional characters.  I suppose it can be argued that I'm not a sci-fi/fantasy nerd at all, but am just a nerd.

Then there is my long and strange journey towards my obsession with Dr. Who.

I have been aware of Dr. Who for many years.  I first heard about it as a teen when I was attending an event in Central Park.   PBS was doing some kind of promotion for the show and they were handing out flyers and had a trailer filled with memorabilia such as monster costumes.  At the time I was just beginning my interest the genre.  I had recently become a fan of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Piers Anthony* and believed that I would be automatically interested in anything sci-fi related.  I think I was unaware that my interest in sci-fi and fantasy was likely more of an interest in British humor (that may still be the case, but I'll never admit it).  I skimmed the literature and walked into that trailer.  It was full of very silly looking monsters.  I also though the title "Dr. Who" was pretty funny.  I assumed Dr. Who was another sci-fi send up like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was.

I checked the TV listings for when it was on and excitedly sat down to watch my first episode.  All I knew about the show was that it was a huge hit in the UK and that it had very silly looking aliens in it.  I knew nothing else.  I tried to watch, but I couldn't figure out what was happening.  I didn't know who the characters were.  It wasn't funny at all.  I don't think I made it even halfway through.  I never tried watching it again, even after finding out Douglas Adams was a script editor on the show for a season.

I forgot all about Dr. Who until college.  There I become friends with actual Whovians.  In fact, Dr. Who played a small, but pivotal role in some of our love lives in the early days.  One of my friends was so obsessed that she owned a replica of Tom Baker's iconic giant scarf.   She also had recorded episodes of the show that we sometimes watched in her room.  I never really briefed her about how the show worked, which I probably should have done so I would have at least understood the whole bit about why there are multiple actors playing the Doctor.  Even though I never really obtained full details, when I watched with people who knew stuff, I could sit back and actually watch and enjoy a few episodes. 

Deciding I might like Dr. Who, I tried watching it again when I was home for the summer.  The first episode I tuned into on PBS that day was from the early 60s.  It was in black and white and featured William Hartnell.  Previously the episodes I watched featured middle-aged guys in goofy hats.  Now I was watching a serious looking, white-haired, old guy.  Once more I gave up.  The show had gone on too long.  There were too many seasons and too many Doctors.  I couldn't keep up.  I gave up for the next 20 years.

I was never aware when Dr. Who went off the air.  I had lost interest and forgotten about it long before it was finally cancelled.  I was not surprised when I heard the BBC was giving it a reboot though.  What old TV show hasn't been given a reboot?  If there was ever a show that made it easy to recast an actor, it was Dr. Who.

One day while channel surfing I came across BBC America and there was an episode of Dr. Who on.  I sat and watched out of curiosity for a few minutes.  It was an episode with David Tennant.  I remember feeling a weird sense of contempt.  Instead of a middle-aged man in a goofy costume they had cast the role with some really hot young dude.  It figured.  You need someone young and handsome and slick in the 21st century.  It was weird that I felt angry about a show whose reboot changed too much when I hadn't even watched the show in the first place.

Then one day Kevin, who had grown up as Dr. Who fan, told me he wanted to start watching the Dr. Who reboot.  He had loved the show in the past.  He put it in our Netflix queue.  Couldn't I at least try to watch it with him?

The things we do for love.  I agreed to watch.  After all, I enjoyed the episodes I watched with friends who knew what we were watching.

Right from the first episode Dr. Who shattered all of my expectations.  Since this was a brand new version, there had to be some background and explanations to attract new fans who hadn't watched the original show.  It was everything and nothing like I remembered from previous Dr. Who episodes.  Christopher Eccleston  appeared on the screen for the first time as an eternally cool guy in a leather jacket.  There were no gimmicks.  There were no weird costumes.  He had a bit of a brooding dark side.  He came off as serious without being stodgy.  I was hooked on the show the second he took Rose Tyler's hand and told her that he could feel the spinning of the earth, and you knew when she held his hand, she could feel it too.

What little else I knew of Dr. Who had remained the same, which pleased old time fans like Kevin.  The TARDIS still looked like the TARDIS.  Daleks still looked like trash cans.  Cybermen still looked like very primitive robots.  

All good things must come to an end.  Doctors eventually die and regenerate.  I was still a bit hazy on this concept of how that all worked.  I would learn quickly as Christopher Eccleston departed after one season.  The Doctor was going to take on a new body and have some personality adjustments, but still be the same person with all of the same memories.  Could I deal with the new body?

It wasn't too hard to make an adjustment to David Tennant because - DAVID TENNANT.  Somehow the idea of a hot Doctor I thought was so wrong previously wasn't such a problem anymore when I was watching him regularly.  It was a little hard at first adjusting to a new actor playing a different character, but the show does a good job of convincing a skeptical audience.  I thought it was fun seeing how his companion Rose and her family had to learn to accept the transformation.

Tennant was a bit more sensitive than Eccleston and a bit goofier.  The stark, plain jeans and leather jacket outfit was gone and replaced by a slightly eccentric suit that looked a bit costume-y, but not so much as the first 8 doctors.  The darkness and anger that came from suffering through the Time Wars that hid beneath the calm surface was still evident.

One aspect of the reboot that I understand is unique, but is something I really like about it is the way The Doctor involved the friends and family of his companions.  He believed strongly in his promise to Rose's mother that he would always return her home safely.  He even had a technologically advanced cell phone so that they could stay in touch.  He eventually brought on board Rose's poor neglected boyfriend Mickey.  I was touched the most by his relationship with Donna Noble's grandfather, Wilf, whom I still like to believe is watching for the TARDIS with his telescope.

I was really upset at Tennant's departure.  He was a great Doctor who gathered some interesting characters around him and played the role with emotional intensity.  Could I fall for another Doctor?  The departure of Doctor #10 also coincided with his final parting from Donna, meaning not just another Doctor, but a new companion would be on the way as well.

It didn't take much time for me to get used to Matt Smith.  He came on the scene like a whirlwind, unable to control the TARDIS and looking for a few moments of rest with a little girl named Amy Pond.  His initial cluelessness endeared him to me right from the start.

Smith's Doctor tended to lean in the direction of past incarnations.  He wore quirky clothes ("Fezzes are cool!"" Bowties are cool"") and wasn't conventionally handsome.  He also was a bit kinder and gentler than Eccleston and Tennant.  While Tennant immersed himself somewhat in his companions' families, Smith took it even a step further. To Amy Pond he started out as a fantasy or hero figure.  He became so much more.  He was almost a father figure, but also a romantic interest (as it always seems to have to be), and eventually, through a bizarre series of time accidents, her son-in-law.  He was so much fun and goofy, but also very sensitive and tender-hearted.  He still never forgot that dark angry side.  He gave so much of himself in the end in a way I never saw the other Doctors.  I had wondered if I would ever get over David Tennant, but Matt Smith easily became my favorite Doctor so far. The Doctor seems to just improve with every regeneration.

Will that hold true for Doctor number 12, Peter Capaldi?  The twelfth Doctor seems far more serious and straightforward (or maybe it just seems that way because he's dressed more conservatively).  Will be be more like Number 9 in a suit instead of a leather jacket?   They didn't cast a young actor this time.  Peter Capaldi is the same age as the original Doctor, William Hartnell, whom I used to view as the old man Doctor.  I have learned to go with the flow when it comes to regenerations now. I will miss Matt Smith, but I look forward to the new Doctor.  I can't wait to see what he will be like and what types of people will surround him.

The other aspect of Dr. Who I look forward to is seeing who his new companions will be.  Jenna Coleman plans to leave the show, so the "impossible" Clara Oswald will be departing as his companion.  I won't miss her very much.  She was potentially an interesting character, but she always seemed a bit bland to me.  I doubt we will be seeing the last of her though.  Her purpose in life is to travel through time and save the Doctor at his darkest moments.  She single-handedly saved Doctor 11 from a permanent death and intervened with the Time Lords for another regeneration. For that she deserves some respect.  Who knows if she might pop up and help Doctor 12 if he needs her.

I think my least favorite companion of all was Rose Tyler.  I was never sure why she rubbed me the wrong way so much until I read this piece and this piece (also this and this - it seems many people hate Rose), which explain it as much as anything can. I liked the way her character was set up.  She was just a girl from the projects living with her widowed mother and working an menial job.  When she began traveling with the Doctor she came into her own and found her strength.  She certainly had many accomplishments during her time with the Doctor.  I just often found her shrill and annoying and often seemed to create many of the problems she ended up solving.

Like many other viewers, I was also disturbed by the romantic undertones of the relationship between Rose and the Doctor.  I had always assumed the Doctor did not involve himself romantically with his companions.  Sure every TV show with male and female characters is going to have some sexual tension, but after a season or two it became clear that it was more than sexual tension.  At first the romantic in me kind of rooted for it to happen.  Who could blame her for falling for David Tennant?  Soon I realized that it was just wrong.  A young woman who will grow old and die should not be involved with an 800-year-old space alien capable of destroying galaxies who will repeatedly regenerate instead of die.  At the end of it all she gets her own Doctor clone who will grow old and die just like her and get her happily ever after with the Doctor.  It just didn't feel right. 

I also felt terribly sorry for Rose's boyfriend Mickey.  She left him behind again and again and never officially dumped him.  He waited for her and remained loyal. He also became a much stronger character, when joined them as a companion himself.  He became as heroic as any companion when he worked to save his alternate universe family from the Cybermen.   I thought Rose would finally appreciate him once she and the Doctor had to part ways into different universes.  Instead she takes up with the Doctor clone as soon as she can.  I'm glad the writers were at least decent enough to give Mickey a job in UNIT and marry him off to Martha Jones eventually.  As far as I'm concerned Martha was a better deal anyway.

Let's talk about Martha Jones for a bit.  Martha was Rose's complete opposite.  Rose was cute, street-smart, and sort of trashy looking with too much makeup and bad roots.  Martha was naturally gorgeous and a devastatingly intelligent medical student to boot.  If the Doctor were going to have a romantic relationship with his companions, one would assume Martha would be more his type.  Martha seemed to inspire men's admiration everywhere she went. Martha wasn't a risk taker.  She was a workhorse.  Martha was good at staying out of trouble, but she was always there to help when the Doctor needed her.  She was at her most amazing when she saved the Doctor from the Master by literally walking around the entire world and drawing the support of everyone on earth.

Her downfall was her unrequited love for the Doctor.  I wish they hadn't written that part into her character.  It demeaned her.  I guess the writers wanted to make a point about how much the Doctor was still pining for Rose. Plus her frustration with the fact that the Doctor would never feel the same way about her gave the actress a reason to leave the show.  The writers gave her two happy endings.  She joined UNIT and was engaged to a handsome fellow physician.  We never know what happened to that poor guy, but she ultimately was married to Mickey, which gave them both a happy ending.  Their shared experience as Doctor's companions probably made a for a good marriage.

With Martha gone, along came Donna.  She was definitely my favorite companion.  I liked her because in many ways I related to her.  She reminded me a lot of myself when I was in my 20s.  She worked low-wage temp jobs and was living with her mother.  She had little pleasure and little direction in her life.  That could have been me 20 years ago.  In her first episode she was about to marry a man who was secretly a space alien spy - and he hated her.  I could see myself in those days cluelessly marrying someone just to give my life some direction.  I can imagine waiting alone at night waiting for a handsome alien to come take me away on adventures in time and space.

I think Donna blossomed under the Doctor's guidance even more than Rose did.  Donna turned out to be so acutely sensitive and clever in ways she probably never knew.  She was truly a companion to the Doctor.  There was no romantic undercurrent messing up their friendship.  He also became a part of her family. 

Donna turned out to be the most tragic companion of the bunch.  She saved the Doctor's life by cloning him, but did so at great damage to her own psyche.  She would never be able to remember the Doctor and her time with him again without killing her own brain.  She had come so far and done so much as the Doctor's companion and by the time it was all over, she was right back where she started.  I always wished she would somehow meet up with the love of her life - the stutterer from her dream in The Library or that she might end up doing temp work for Torchwood or UNIT and meet and marry Mickey (before I found out he would eventually marry Martha).  I guess that really couldn't happen because it would bring back memories of the Doctor.  Her story ended with her going back to working minimum wage jobs and marrying someone equally poor.  All the Doctor could do was secure her future by using his time travel power to buy her a winning lottery ticket.  He died and regenerated at just the right time since there was no longer a risk of Donna seeing him again.

The new regeneration brought the new companion.  Amy Pond was quite unique since she first met the Doctor as a child.  She became her storybook hero, waiting for years for him to come back to her.  Once they were back together and she was traveling with him, the dynamic was always shifting.  Sure she had the same romantic interest that other companions had, but that seemed to be more a part of the hero worship.  She belonged with Rory and the Doctor knew it.  Rory ended up having adventures alongside Amy (he did protect her for 2000 years outside the Pandorica) and all three of them were like a strange, weird, wonderful family unit with the most unusual storyline. Poor Amy probably suffered the most hardships of any companion.  She was trapped in the Pandorica, kidnapped and unwittingly living her life through a 'ganger, had her baby stolen from her and her fertility forever damaged, and nearly divorced the love of her life.  In the end she fell prey to the Weeping Angels.  I suppose that one could place some harsh blame on the Doctor for dragging her into all of this, but I think she found it was all worthwhile.  She always had the Doctor and Rory to protect and stand up for her.  I think one reason why I never felt too attached to Clara was that I missed the family adventures of the Doctor, Amy, and Rory.

I can't talk about companions without mentioning River Song.  Will she return?  Is she still married to the Doctor now that he's in a new body?  Will Doctor #12 be the one who tells River his real name?  How will she show up and when?  I hope she does and I can't wait to see how she interacts with the new Doctor.

The new adventure begins this weekend.  Once upon a time I wouldn't have cared.  Now I can't wait.  I went from someone indifferent to Dr. Who to someone who has become a full-scale Whovian geek.   Bring on the new season and the new Doctor.  I am going into this with no expectations.  I will miss Matt Smith, but I know there will still be plenty of fun adventures ahead.  I may not ever buy the scarf, but I wouldn't mind A replica of Martha's red leather jacket.

*Yes, I know Piers Anthony isn't British