Friday, December 30, 2016

Moving My Body Forward 2017: Resolutions and Reclaiming the Ninja Goddess

Aren't you glad this isn't a political post?

2016 was the year to try to rebuild my strength to pre-surgery levels and try to find a way back to a healthy weight and bodyfat level.

I succeeded at the former, but failed at the latter.  Nonetheless, I celebrate my success.  Over the course of the year I sometimes looked at the routines in my various workout programs and thought, "That's too hard.  I can't do that."  Then I went ahead and did it.  I continue to amaze myself every day.

I swore that I needed to accept my body and just deal with the fact that I'm not willing to make the changes needed  to radically make over my body.  I got my level of fitness back and that's all that matters.

Or is it?

Unfortunately in recent months my pony has become impossible for me to ride.  She is unresponsive and even combative when I ask her for simple tasks.  My trainer has asked me to consider if I might be too heavy for her.  I think she may be right.  I owe it to Riddle to make her more comfortable.  We are a team.  We have worked together for the past 10 years working to riding goals.  I can't move forward figuratively if I'm making moving forward literally uncomfortable for her.

So I need to find a new way to work on these eating habits.  My attempts to share regular habits wasn't working out too well.  I wasn't sticking to it.  I need new goals and new strategies.

I came up with these strategies for both exercise and nutrition.

Nutrition Goals

Stay with a fixed meal plan:  I have been writing and refining a list of meals to carry me over for the next six weeks.   Each week I eat the same breakfast and lunch and three different dinners (each dinner is eaten over two nights).  This allows me one night out per week.  The meals are vegetable heavy and often vegetarian (even vegan) although I make sure each day has adequate protein.

The No-Dessert Challenge:  I am challenging myself to not eat sweets for as long as possible.  I will save desserts for special occasions like holidays and other family gatherings.  Each interval I go without sweets will come with a reward such as new perfume from Sephora, an off-season pedicure, a massage, and a styling session with one of the high-end box services. 

No alcohol at home:  If I want to drink, I do it when I'm out.  I have only one dinner scheduled out per week so that doesn't leave much room for drinking.

Exercise Goals

I  have only one goal and, believe it or not, it is to scale back.  I have spent years following the rule of three strength sessions a week.  I have had multiple injuries and I'm getting stiff.  New body parts are hurting all the time.

Instead of 3 strength, 2 cardio, 1 dance, and 2 horseback riding, I am swapping out a strength session for yoga.  I need to start doing more flexibility work, not just to keep the stiffness at bay, but to be more relaxed and centered.

Many fitness experts say two times a week is minimum and three times a week is optimal.  I'm guessing most of these experts don't work their muscles trying to control an animals that weighs several times more than they do.  I think I get enough muscle work from riding.

My winter schedule will look something like this:

Sunday: AM strength training, PM riding
Monday: Dance class
Tuesday: AM strength training
Wednesday: Cardio (30 minutes steady state on bike or elliptical, 10 minutes of intervals) or Zumba
Thursday: Yoga class
Friday:  Cardio (see Wednesday)
Saturday: Riding

Thursday is yoga day because it's the day my gym has a class at a time I can be there.  I want to go to a class because I know I am less likely to do anything if I decide to simply stretch or do a DVD at home.

I think I can liberate myself from the expensive weight programs and the books.  I believe I  have the knowledge to design my own workouts now.

This will change when dance class is out for the summer.  I think by that time, I will have another check in.  Can I hold out with only monthly (if that much) dessert and weekly wine?  How will that affect my body if I can?

I want to feel like a Ninja Goddess again.  Ninja Goddess may not be quite what she was in 2013, but I can redefine who she is and what she does and what she can accomplish.  She needs to banish the Dumpy Stumpy Troll (granted, she should have been doing that all along and I haven't been letting her).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Wee Bit of Schadenfreude

The word from the armchair political analysts and the corporate media pundits is  that Donald Trump won the election because he suckered the white working class into believing he will bring manufacturing jobs into the United States.  Under Trump everyone will be working well-paid jobs again.

This will never happen of course.  Manufacturing companies have nothing to gain by having their factories in the US where minimum wage laws and OSHA rules apply.  American corporations want to treat their workers in a standard most Americans would never accept.  Due to union busting over the past three decades, even if companies did bring their factories back to the US, manufacturing wages and benefits would not be any better than working at WalMart or McDonalds.

Trump has stocked his cabinet with billionaires like him (or actually I should say true billionaires who are far more successful than he is and even more ruthless).  They aren't going to care about the working class.  It will be business as usual with crony capitalism and concentration of wealth at the top.  Anyone who believes otherwise is kidding himself.

What about those of us who aren't working class?  What about us "Coastal Elites" who just happen to be liberal?  Will we suffer?

The fossil fuel industry is salivating over the Trump presidency.  He picked the CEO of ExxonMobil as Secretary of State.   He will open up the country to all the drilling and fracking the companies' hearts desire.  The oil industry is set to thrive.

You know what?  I happen to work in the energy industry.

Oil companies will be making money by the tankload.  They will have more money to invest in my company's services.  My company will do well.  My job is quite secure (unless I screw up personally). Yes, this liberal "nasty woman" will be able to maintain her middle class lifestyle quite nicely.

Lucky me.  I'm going to thrive under Donald Trump and I didn't even vote for him.

It will be business as usual for red state "Real America".  They thought they were getting their well-paying jobs back.  They are going to suffer just as much, while this liberal does just fine. 

Yes, I do feel a bit of schadenfreude about that. 

Schadenfreude is defined as a temporary feeling of pleasure at someone's misfortune.  I can take temporary pleasure in misfortune, but as a liberal I have too much empathy for others' misfortune to be happy for long.

I am filled with sadness for the Walmart greeters and burger flippers who are struggling to pay the bills on minimum wage and no benefits. I feel especially sorry for them when they find themselves relying on SNAP or Medicaid to care for their families, then hearing their fellow Republicans calling them "takers" and too lazy to work.  I wish they would understand that they are merely being Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin when they vote Republican and then wait for the money to trickle down to them.

The white upper classes - liberal and regressive - will continue to do well.  That is a given.  If we have any drop of humanity left in us, we will consider those who haven't done well without Trump and will continue to do worse in the next four years.  What about those Americans who don't fall into the privileged boxes?

The working class and poor will continue to suffer poor wages and no benefits.  They only benefits they can have - those provided by the government - will be cut or even eliminated.  How many people will go hungry?  What about the people who will no longer have healthcare?  How many Americans will die or go into deep debt?  Will more black Americans die under our ever-increasingly brutal police state?  Will gay Americans lose their basic rights over something as trivial as what they do in their own bedrooms?  (This article here says it better than I can.)

I had my moment of schadenfreude.  Now it's time for me to stop celebrating the benefits of my white, upper-class, privilege.  I leave that to the Republicans.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Liberals Don't Need to Understand Real America. Real America Needs to Get Real.

After this election, I have been reading nonstop about all the poor assumptions liberals made about this country and its voting habits, and how their biggest mistake was not understanding "Real America".

What is "Real America"?  Real America is geographically the central states of the US, often referred to as "flyover territory" in a derogatory fashion.  The people who live there are characterized as white, working class (or poor), Christian, and conservative.  Their education levels rarely go beyond high school.  They are seen as clinging desperately to a world that never really existed.  They fear change.  They fear being left behind by an ever-increasing multicultural population and the globalization of the economy.

It doesn't matter if these stereotypes are true or not.  Every election we have ever had panders to them.  The assumption is every politician is eager to grab votes from minorities, educated and professional women, and big cities with large populations, so this group is left behind.  That means more time and attention is put on campaigning for the needs of this group and framing the message that Real America still exists and still has a voice.

Working class and poor people have real fears and real problems that affect the entire country.  Unskilled workers can no longer be guaranteed employment in a well-paying manufacturing job.  There are jobs out there, but they are low-paying service industry jobs and do not cover the cost of food and housing.  They also don't provide healthcare benefits or the healthcare benefits they do receive cover as little as possible.  The need to find a way to pay for the basic cost of living has caused an endless cycle of debt.  Education used to be the one way out, but schools are failing and the cost of college makes higher education impossible for many Americans.

Liberals understand this.  We know many Americans struggle with basic needs.  We know children go to bed hungry.  We know adults are deep in debt.  We want to solve these problems first.  Liberals see the only way to solve problems is to move forward and not try to go back to some other time.  We need to work with the system as it is and not try to make it into what we wish it would be.

How do liberals want to do this? you ask.  We have several key initiatives to grow the economy into the future.

We accept manufacturing jobs that have already moved overseas are not likely to come back
There is little incentive for companies to do that.  Besides, automation has made many manufacturing jobs obsolete.  Producers simply don't need the workforce they needed 50 years ago.

Rather than make jobs that don't exist, we need to make existing jobs more profitable for the worker 

We need higher wages, better working conditions, and strong benefits.  The government needs to stand with the unions instead of with the union busters.  If you truly want to return to the "Golden Age" of the 1950s, you need to do exactly what they did in the 1950s.  That means high minimum wage and strong unions (and yes, a high top tax rate, which was not proven to diminish the wealth or lifestyle of the super-rich).

We encourage rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure
This is one of the best ways to create jobs.  This will not just benefit the working class.  Everyone will benefit from safe roads and bridges and safe and reliable public transportation.

We want to invest money into education at all levels

Education is the one way all Americans have to improve their quality of life.  Equal access to the best education is another benefit to society as a whole.   This is particularly true in the age of automation.  If we gave Americans the technical training to program and service the automated systems in place, more of them would have jobs in the manufacturing industries and would wouldn't have to keep hiring educated technicians from other countries.

We see the need to start investing in renewable energy instead of trying to rebuild the dying fossil fuel industries

Coal is dirty and inefficient and automation has replaced a vast number of coal mining jobs. Investment in alternatives will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship s.  This investment will create more jobs.  The added benefit to Americans as a whole is our air and water will be cleaner.  Win/win!

Unfortunately this message has been either buried or distorted by the right wing media (the "liberal media" is one of the biggest lies currently perpetuated by our culture as a whole) and the massive corporations who own them.   Every attempt at improving the lives of all Americans is framed as impractical, elitist, and even communistic.  While the internet has provided a voice for liberals to state their case without corporate dollars interfering, we have a long way to go to make our message heard.

The problem isn't just the media though.  It's the people themselves.  For too long poor and working class white people have swallowed the Republican message even when it has ceased to make any sense whatsoever.  How can anyone stand up and say we need to get rid of establishment elitists and then elect a billionaire who is infamous for underpaying - or not paying at all -  his employees, and even commits outright fraud?  Why would anyone believe our President cares anything about the people he has stomped on his entire career?  There are powerful interests at work saying if we just let billionaires make as much money as they want, they will begin spreading that money around.  There will be more jobs and higher wages.  This has never proven to be true.  No matter how many Republicans are in Congress or the White House, the Trickle-Down Fairy has yet to sprinkle her magic dust over the US population.  (I wrote more about that here.)

The real issue here is not whether or not Americans are willing to accept practical fixes for the economy.  It's that they are looking for something else.  As I said above, white working class people aren't looking for practical solutions.  They are looking for some version of America that doesn't exist.  They don't want the world to change.  They don't want equal rights for all races and religions.  That would mean a risk that their own power will further diminish.  They don't want better education.  They want jobs for the uneducated.  They don't want multiculturalism.  They want their world to exist exactly as it is forever and ever.

This mentality needs to stop.  It needs to change.  I'm tired of living in a country that is trying to preserve a way of life for a certain group of people.  I'm tired of hearing how elections are lost because white, Christian, working class people "Want their country back."  I'm tired of being told I don't understand working class people and that I'm an elitist.

It's time for Real America to get real.

I am not the only one who believes this.  I am writing this post after seeing these pockets of dissension regarding the reason Trump won the election.  There are many new voices coming out and saying the same thing I'm saying and saying it better.

Real America needs to face a few truths if we are ever going to move this country in the right direction.

Let's start with the fact that Christianity is not the only religion in this country

Accept the fact that Christianity can not, and does not, dominate the public square.  This does not mean you can't be a Christian.  You are welcome to attend church, proselytize on the street corner (as local ordinances permit), pray, and practice ritual as long as you don't cause harm to others.  This is your right as an American.  However, it is time to understand you can't force everyone to live under your religion.  Others do not have to pray with you if they don't want to.  No one is required to celebrate your holidays or celebrate them exactly as you celebrate it.  The Constitution is not derived from your ancient holy texts and the country is not required to live by those rules.  It's time to coexist with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Wiccans, Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and yes, Atheists.  We need to start talking about creating an ethical society that does the least harm and provides the most benefit instead of trying to turn everyone Christian.

Next it's time to stop fearing multiculturalism

 There is fear among white people that European culture will be lost.  What is European culture?  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, native-born Americans (but not Native Americans) feared the masses of immigration from European countries such as Italy and Ireland.  I'm sure they felt these immigrants would destroy their way of life.  Now the entire country celebrates St. Patrick's Day and eats more pizza than they do in Italy.  That's what the "Melting Pot" is all about.  Our country always has been, and always will be, absorbing aspects of other cultures int our own.  Do you really think only white or European culture is the only one we should allow in this country?  Do you love jazz, blues, rock, or hip hop?  Do you enjoy salsa dancing or eating street tacos?  Do you practice yoga?  Elements of immigrant and non-white American culture are probably already part of your daily life.  It hasn't harmed you.  In fact, it has probably made your life more enjoyable.

If you think it's possible to keep every single undocumented immigrant from crossing the border, you had better think twice about the advantages.  There are industries who - rightly or wrongly - rely on undocumented immigrant labor.  This includes industries that affect your daily life like agriculture, meatpacking, and winemaking.   If an impenetrable wall is built from edge to edge of the Mexican border, food prices could potentially soar. Will you just say that's Obama's fault?

We need to learn to accept that you can't force gay people back in the closet

You are allowed believe it's a choice.  You are allowed to believe it's wrong.  You are not allowed to legislate those beliefs.  Gays do not have to be married in your church, however two loving, committed, consenting adults are allowed to obtain a legal marriage certificate with no interference from you or your pastors.  You don't have to like it, but it has nothing to do with you.  It's none of your business.

It's time to start recognizing blacks, Latinos,  Semitic people, and Asians as human beings with equal value to you

They are not out to get you.  They are not stealing your jobs.  They are not taking your tax money in welfare dollars.  They are US citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as you have.  They have families and loved ones to care for.  They worry about jobs and money as much as you do.  Maybe it's time to get to know someone who doesn't look like you.  Also, remember that your ancestors were immigrants too.  The "real" Americans were killed off in order for you to be here and call yourself a native.

Intellectualism is not the enemy

Education is important.  In order to get anywhere in life, you need a good education.  This doesn't just mean learning the 3Rs.  A good education includes critical thinking and at least a basic understanding of how the world works.  Turn off the TV and read a book.  Go out and explore.  Try to create something just for the joy of creation.  You may find you go farther in life if you are curious and open-minded.

You must understand Roe V. Wade is the law of the land

You don't have to like it and you also don't have to get an abortion if you don't want one.  You do need to accept the vast majority of the US population supports it.  Don't expect your elected officials to overturn it.  They use it as a wedge issue to get you to the polls, but they have no intention of following through.  If they came close to overturning Roe V. Wade, more proponents of the law would start flooding the polls and your representatives would lose their seats and they know it.  If you love children, it's time to support measures that help children currently walking this earth. 

Realize we need to take care of the planet

Concern for the planet isn't a communist plot.  We all breathe same same air and drink the same water. We can't keep poisoning the planet that sustains our life.  Businesses won't all fail and capitalism won't collapse if we start cleaning things up.  In fact, it can even encourage innovation as I said above.  You also need to accept that climate change is real.  Stop making this about politics.  The science is out there.  Climatologists are begging for us to pay attention.  Please start doing so before it's too late.

Remember that "coastal elites" are just as "real" as rural whites

I know I am privileged to have grown up in a place that had good schools and that I had a family that could send me to college.  It was purely an accident of birth.  I understand that.  I also have many of the same struggles you do.  I still worry about money and sometimes struggle to have all the bills paid.  I have family members who need extra care.  I had to finance my education and was in debt for many years over it.  I go to work, watch TV, eat dinner, and do many of the same things you do.  I am a human being, and I am real.

I am real.  You are real.  Let's work together to solve real problems with real solutions.   I can reach out to you, but will you reach out to me?