Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Running with an iPod

If I had started running with an iPod sooner, I’d be in much better shape right now. 

I’ve always been an athlete and have spent a good portion of my life working out to various degrees, but shortly after the birth of our second child and my retirement from professional disc golf and competitive volleyball, working out became more of a chore than something to enjoy. (And I’ve got twenty pounds on me to prove it.)

But the chore of working out has once again become a source of enjoyment. And it’s all because of the music.

The girls and I got Mike an iPod for Father’s Day, which was about the time when he doubled the length of his daily run. First he ran with me, where we discussed and solved all the family and business problems facing us. We used this time to chat and enjoy one another’s company. But soon he needed more of that runner’s high, and as I hit the shower, he veered off for several more miles. An iPod seemed in order.

On the first day of iPod running, he had the memory filled with ten thousand Grateful Dead tunes and shaked his way all the way down the street, getting off on that special high. Six weeks later, when he couldn’t join me for our morning workout because of a project at the resort, I borrowed his iPod. A week later, he and the girls bought one for me.

And it wasn’t even Mother’s Day.

I do have a few Grateful Dead favorites on my play list, and even a few of Willow’s hip-hop and/or rap tunes; but my iPod overwhelmingly carries songs that make my daily running in this hot flippin’ desert not about the work out, but instead, about the music. To name a few artists, I’ve got Neil Young, Eric Clapton, The Band, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Phoebe Snow, Chris Isaak, Sting, and perhaps the most uplifting, Gloria Estefan, who covers a lot of standards on her album, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.” These songs make me want to throw out my arms and sing while I run. And sometimes I do. But only when I believe no one is watching.

So if you happen to see what appears to be a nutty old lady running down the road, or heaven forbid hear her singing “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me!” please don’t call for the men in the white coats. She may be a little carried away with that so-called runner’s high, but really, she’s just enjoying the music playing in her head.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


“What’s the homework situation?” 

This is the first question I ask my girls everyday after school.

Is it just my kids or has the second half of the first quarter led all teachers to pile on the homework? During the past week, both our seventh grader and our freshman have spent every “free” moment at home stationed at their desks.

The freshman has about two hours of algebra per night, which is most likely because it’s a class with the lofty title, Honors Algebra II. She also has lots of work for her GATE classes, but I think she knew what she was getting into when she chose that program. That she runs x-country and plays club soccer, her lack of actual free time makes me amazed that she finds time to update all her Facebook friends on nearly every move she makes. BTW: since I inevitably reach REM sleep before she calls it a night, it’s fun to wake up in the morning and check out what she was up to the night before. It’s become more interesting than my email.

The seventh grader has had abundant homework in nearly every class but PE. After volleyball she heads straight to her desk and has been up past 10pm for the past several nights diligently working through her assignments. And this is a kid that almost always turns into a pumpkin at eight o’clock. Welcome to junior high.

Thankfully neither has had a meltdown yet, and both have been rewarded with good grades, along with praise and congratulations from their dad and me. I can say with absolute certainty that my parents weren’t even one-tenth as interested in my progress in school as I am in what’s happening with our girls’ education.

And yet I turned out okay.

So, I wonder, is my involvement with my kids’ progress in school a good thing? What’s more important—that they self-motivate to learn and please themselves or that they know I’m looking over their shoulders—both at their desks and by way of the Internet daily grade books?

Boy-oh-boy, it’s only the first quarter and I’ve already had enough of my recurring class in Mommy Micromanagement. Perhaps it’s time to get back to my own work. (If only I could remember how to self-motivate !) I seem to recall having written eight chapters of a new novel, which I had to set aside in May to help run the family business. Well, I’m away from the business now, having left it in the hands of a capable employee. So WTF am I doing?

Note to my own managers—you know who you are—I think I need a “mommy.”

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boob Sweat and a Bowl of Rice

The other day, Beaver and I met for our morning work out. We usually switch between neighborhoods, hers’ being the groomed and mine being the rustic. Either way, according to her pedometer it’s a four- mile stretch. And at this time of year when the mercury climbs to 90° by eight am, it’s a sweaty adventure.

Anyway, last Friday when we closed the front door behind us, I noticed the Beaver had stored her cell phone in her sports bra and thought it a convenient pocket. I don’t usually carry my phone at this time of day, and because my iPod has a snappy little clip, I never even considered that my running shorts and shirts are pocket free. Nevertheless, when we again met on Monday, I was expecting two important phone calls: one from my husband on the road and the other from one of my oldest and dearest friends, whose daughter had just been hit by a car while on her bike.* (The driver was talking on her cell phone.) Because I didn't want to miss these calls, I used Beaver’s method and tucked my phone in my sports bra.

Big Mistake. After the workout when I pulled my phone from my sweaty bra pocket, the screen was black.


You’d think I’d know by now how sensitive electronics are to moisture. This past summer I witnessed both my sister’s and my daughter’s phones plunge from their pockets into the lake and immediately go dead. “Put it in the oven,” was one piece of advice. “Use the compressor to dry it out,” was another. After twenty-four hours of drying out, the good news is that both of their phones came back to life.

Upon learning of the murder by boob sweat attempt on the life of my phone, both Beaver and our friend, Julie, a cyclist, suggested the best ICU was to lay it in a bowl of rice. Since I’ve seen many a saltshaker in tropical climates filled with grains of rice mixed with the salt (in order to prevent coagulation), this suggestion made sense to me. So, I gave it a shot.

This morning, when I removed the phone from the rice and put it back together, it appeared to be back in working condition. The screen came up and the contacts were not lost. Then I plugged it into the charger, grabbed my iPod and went for another run.

When I came back, sure to wipe away the sweat pouring off my body before touching the phone, I found the screen had once again gone black. I can make and receive calls, but it appears the boob sweat has caused some serious brain damage. 

Damn! Why did I store that phone in my bra? I wondered, how could it not be a problem for the Beaver but be a BIG one for me? Perhaps it’s because of our difference in size. 


"The moral of the story," said the Beaver to her big-breasted friend, "is that when it comes to anything to do with bras, never take advice from an A-cup.”

* My friend’s nine-year-old daughter is still in the hospital with two fractured ribs, a lacerated liver, scratches to the face and one pupil remains larger than the other, causing some blurred vision. Five days after the accident her prognosis is good, and she will most likely be released by tomorrow. Unfortunately, it’ll be quite a while before she—and especially her mother—recover from the trauma.

Bottom line: DON’T RUN, WALK, or especially DRIVE and use your cell phone.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

So, Do You Think They’ll Let Us See It?

The front page of this morning’s Arizona Daily Star has a headline reading, “Obama school speech apolitical, text shows.” I read the brief article to my daughter, which is essentially a review of the President’s address to school children slated for 9:00am this morning.

The White House published a transcript of the speech with the intent (and hope) of neutralizing critics fearing his attempt to indoctrinate our children with his political agenda. The transcript confirms that Obama “will do what American Presidents have done before—urge students to work hard, stay in school and follow their dreams.”

After hearing the article, my 12-year old innocently asked, “So, do you think they’ll let us see it?”

I’m afraid not. And if her teachers don’t even discuss it—if it’s NOT a part of their curriculum—than it will be another missed opportunity.

I’m going to hope for the best, and out of respect, give them a chance to do their jobs the best way they see fit. Meanwhile, I think we, as American citizens, should have as much respect for our elected President.

Let him do his job.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

To Any Parent Who Phoned the School or Wrote to a Teacher Protesting Obama’s Upcoming Speech to School Children:

Do you truly believe our President has the ability or the agenda to “brainwash” American students through an Internet broadcast on the topic of education? Do you know he is not the first President to speak specifically to school-aged children? Did you (or your parents) protest when Ronald Reagan or Bush 41 did it?

Your complaints about our elected President trying to involve our children in the democratic process and encourage them to value education are alarmingly ignorant, culturally biased, and insulting. Because of your numbers and your threats to teachers and administrators, all you’ve managed to do is teach MY children about the unproductive and hateful nature of partisan politics. We had ENOUGH of that during the Clinton administration.

There needs to be a new War in this country and that is a War on Partisan Politics. STOP THE MADNESS!

I wonder, is it the conservative talk show hosts that prompted your actions or seeded your opinions? Talk about propaganda! (Have your child look up the word “propaganda” in the dictionary because clearly, YOU don’t know the meaning.)

According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in the September 8 speech “the President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

Scary stuff, eh? Good God!

Because of the controversy and the number of calls (on both sides of the issue) our school district (TVUSD) has stated on its website that it will remain “apolitical” and therefore has made no directive to stop teachers from broadcasting the speech. “If there would be reason to have this event be a legitimate part of a classroom curriculum, teachers will notify their principals no later than 9 a.m. Friday, September 4 and parents will be notified on Friday if their teacher will be using the address as part of their curriculum on Tuesday.” An Opt-Out form will also be available for parents who don’t want their children to participate, and these students will not suffer any academic of behavioral consequences.

The Junior High Principal followed with a message reading “no Emily Gray teachers will show the address on Tuesday, September 8. After the initial broadcast and after viewing the material, should teachers determine the broadcast to be of educational value in their curriculum, they will notify parents of their plan to show the broadcast.”

Well, I, as my daughters’ most important and consistent teacher, am going to view it and record it, and show it to them. Anyone, particularly an extremely intelligent and successful person—the product of the finest education America has to offer—who is willing and able to talk to my girls about the importance of their education, is welcome in our home. And he should be in our schools as well.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Volunteer Fingerprinting

Volunteering in the Tanque Verde Unified School District isn’t as simple as it used to be. For the past ten years, I’ve held volunteer roles ranging from kindergarten “Mom Helper,” to reading instructor, to field day obstacle course director, to volleyball coach and soccer coach.  All I ever had to do was show up, sign-in, put a Volunteer lanyard around my neck and make my way to the kids.

This year, however, my desire to volunteer required six pages of paperwork, including my professional resume, four references, a notarized criminal investigation release and . . . fingerprinting.

This additional screening for persons coming in contact with district children may or may not be because of last June’s arrest of the district’s superintendent, Tom Rogers. The target of an FBI investigation since January, 2009, he was indicted on suspicion of engaging in sexual acts with a juvenile boy.

Rogers, hired as the Superintendent in April, 2007, also served as associate principal at Emily Gray Junior High and taught a seventh grade class. I had met and conversed with him many times, and my husband served with him on the calendar committee. Never did we suspect him capable of this type of criminal behavior. But how can one tell?

Currently, Rogers remains in Federal custody and his trial is scheduled to begin December 1. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

Rogers’ arrest has had an enormous impact on the community. Several are outraged that the investigation had been underway since January, and yet the Board of Supervisors wasn’t notified, and his arrest didn’t occur until June. Clearly the authorities needed concrete evidence against him prior to making an arrest. Most of us, I think, are overcome with the creepiness of all of it and have learned the need to place extra scrutiny on candidates applying for positions to have influence over our children.

Even volunteer volleyball coaches.

This year, the junior high school volleyball teams clearly needed some help. Coaches were not in place for either the tryout/placement procedure or the first game. Because of this, they didn’t cut any of the girls who came out for the teams and the result has been a gym-load of players eager to learn and play the game.

My seventh grade daughter is one of them.

So, the minute I returned to Tucson, I threw my ball in the court. I’ve been playing and/or coaching volleyball for about 40 years. I love the game and know most of the girls. And I like them, and want them to have a fabulous experience as members of their volleyball team. I’ve worked with them for two days and today, while they traveled to a far away game, I drove to the district office to get my fingerprints on file for them.

Even though my delightful fingerprint artist made the process fun, and she was as gentle as a manicurist, because this was my first fingerprinting experience, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a criminal. I had to sign a few more forms and she thanked me for being a volunteer. Then, she happily took a photo of my ink-stained fingers with my phone.

Thank God she didn’t ask me for a mug shot. It may have been a good fingerprint day, but it was definitely a bad hair day.

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