It's Like a Monster Truck You Rub All Over You!

By Dan Poehlman
Normally, I’m not one to jump on the whole “America is turning into Idiocracy,” bandwagon. Yes. It’s a great movie. It’s oddly prophetic in some (or many) instances, and with the current state of “I’d have a beer with this buddy” American politics and society, it’s pretty apparent we’ve become a culture of really weird and almost comically incurious, superficial and vapid consumers (case in point: The Kardashians, Jersey Shore, and pretty much anything labeling itself “must-see TV” with overly squeaky, perpetually-confused, orange people in it). However, I just don’t think we’re destined for such a collapse.

Nonetheless, the other day, it happened.

I was standing in the shower getting clean before my girlfriend (and proprietor of this blog) Emily came home to say, “How do I put this nicely?” And, I’ve learned from childhood that any sentence that begins with those six words usually ends with me sauntering off in a funk to erase my much-beloved, primal stench. In fact, that’s probably how civilization came to be. It was built upon that simple question. Those six words were probably issued by a frustrated Cro-magnon woman who simply reached the end of her rope:

“Ugg?” it began. “How do I put this nicely?”

“Unngh?” Ugg responded sheepishly.

“Ugg? You need to stand up straight, shave your face, stop shitting in the corner, quit scribbling on the walls of our cave, and clean yourself up before people think we’re Neanderthals!”

From there, mankind’s advancements are probably just an endless struggle to find a way to help keep women happy. The hanging gardens of Babylon. The Great Wall of China. The American Wild West. The Industrial Revolution. Soap. The disposable razor. And, finally, a freaking shower gel with electrolytes in it.

Electrolytes! What would my cave-dwelling ancestors say to that?

The first time I’d ever head about electrolytes was from a terminally hungover nursing student in college. She was drinking a glass of water with a slice of lemon in it, and I made the passing remark that her lemonade recipe really needed some help. Her response, before throwing up, was to tell me that plain water sucked and that she needed the electrolytes for hydration (electrolytes which, strangely enough, were now hydrating the half-eaten powdered eggs, limp toast and other college dorm-life breakfast detritus in the bottom of a garbage bin).

A decade later, while a still-X-Treme!!! America was neck deep in the near-lethal incompetence of the Bush Administration, I saw the movie Idiocracy, and I was reacquainted with the humble electrolyte. To me, it wasn’t the film’s portrayal of our government being something akin to Wrestlemania, and it wasn’t even the notion that, in the movie, Fox News was now staffed by barely literate, willfully ignorant eye-candy as opposed to competent news anchors like Gretchen Carlson or Steve Doocy.

Nope.

What stood out most to me was the electrolyte-laden Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator. It was a sports drink. It was a plant food. It was a laundry detergent.

Why?

Because electrolytes.

That’s why.

Why did it stand out to me?

Because electrolytes. That’s why!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbxq0IDqD04]

I guess you could say I had a Brawndo-moment while I was out buying a new shower gel and noticed a Right Guard version that not only mutilates my primal, caveman odor’s ass four apparently different ways, but it also has electrolytes. That just had to be better, I thought. After all, my previous shower gel didn’t have electrolytes in it. I know this because, when I upended the bottle to learn that I had seriously over-estimated the amount of goop inside, I held the bottle up before my water-stung eyes and read the label as if expecting to see, “A miraculous 20% more for a guy name Dan!!!!” or even a “Hey, buddy! You’re not completely out. There’s a little more stashed under the cap. Just rip it off. Go ahead. Everybody does it,” there was no mention of electrolytes.

How can I hydrate without electrolytes? I’ll never feel refreshed again without electrolytes helping me feel refreshed! My skin will look like it’s been mummified! I’ll look like someone who spent the last decade smoking low-grade crack with Charlie Sheen in a Kentucky truck-stop men’s room! And, though that’s pretty extreme, it’s not the socially acceptable X-Treme!!! that can only come with an external hydration regimen built around the ass-kicking electrolyte.

Needless to say, as I stood there completely mystified by the very notion that something as benign as body wash could be transformed into something awesome and scientific, and therefore better, by the simple addition of a free ion, a small voice, oddly similar to a once forgotten Chemistry professor of mine, began chirping in my head.

“Dan?” He said. “You’re not seriously thinking of…”

“But, it’s got electrolytes!”

“Yes. But, it’s a shower gel.”

“With electrolytes!”

“Okay. Want to know a secret?” The voice asked.

“Electrolytes are what plants and my body crave?”

“No.” He sighed.

“What then?”

“All soaps have electrolytes. The water in your shower has electrolytes. The salt on your filthy skin is…”

“Electrolytes!”

“Bingo! Now, go play with your crayons. Gonzo has spoken.”

In the end, and because I’m lazy and decision-making is best left to my much more capable girlfriend, I chose to buy the electrolyte-laden shower gel, and that has made all the differen…. err… well… In all honesty, it really hasn’t made a damn bit of difference. I still get just as drenched in the shower. When I step out of the shower, I’m still just as wet. When I dry off, I’m still just as dry as always. Now, as far as feeling refreshed goes, well, I really don’t know what feeling refreshed is.

It’s not like someone rubbed a lemon in my face, blew cold, mint-tinted air up my underpants or anything truly refreshing like that. But, I’m clean. And, in today’s caveman-intolerant culture, I guess there might be a place for me, after all.

 


Dan Poehlman

Dan’s a pretty boring guy for a screaming-mad lunatic. And, when he’s not chasing squirrels around the yard demanding that they stop speaking Swedish, he can usually be found pecking away at a keyboard trying to write a book (or two). All-in-all, it’s a pretty fun life—if not at least a little challenging. Sadly, Dan hasn’t updated his blog since January.

The Signs Are There

The signs are there, if one knows what to look for.

Tucked under trees, nestled in grassy forks along the trail, standing sentinel at the end of driveways are small, lonely coolers, scatterings of cups, groupings of water bottles and sports drinks.

Gels, cubes, and recovery drinks disappear from store shelves moments after restock.

Lonely souls are seen early in the morning, doggedly trudging along roadsides with sleep fazed yet determined faces.

Marathon season.

It’s early in the training schedule – week 15 of 16 building up to race day.

There is method to the madness; after registering for a race, the ritual begins.  Calendars – vertical format – for each month building up to the race are printed.  Onto the Official Sports Clipboard™ they go; a new layer built on the remains of training plans past.  Flip to the last page, write the name of the race on its appropriate square, and surround it with a large, jagged sunburst, lightning bolts, or other such visual indications of Awesome.

With indelible ink, number the weeks along the left margin of the page.  The number dictates the severity of the plan – the more weeks, the better.

Switch to pencil: add the most critical part of training – the weekly long run.  Working backwards from race day, fill in the mileage goals for each Saturday; some weeks advancing one mile at a time, others leaping distance in more aggressive fashion, a blessed few others backing off to provide a small measure of mental and physical relief.

The rest of each week is penciled in, populated with tempo runs, speed work, cross training, hill repeats, and that oft-neglected-but-oh-so-important component: Rest.  As each daily milestone is reached, the individual accomplishments and failures are documented in ink.

The journey to the marathon is its own Odyssey – obstructions, challenges and excuses arise along the path, with much emotional and physical travail ahead.

As of this day, the motivation is to stay true to plan, and only the smallest hints of muscle ache are starting to whisper.  Things will not stay so rosy.  There will be days when mind finds the number of miles intimidating.  There will be days when commitments force a run to be missed – the wise runner knows these are irretrievable, and will let them go.  There will be days the body Does. Not. Want. To. Run.

But I’ve done it before, and I know I can do it again.

Blind Seer: You seek a great fortune…You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first… first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell. You shall see a… a cow… on the roof of a cotton house, ha. And, oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation. – O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000


Melanie Suess

No, Melanie isn’t related to the Doctor either. She’s a skientist, a marathoner, a knitter, a gardener and a college instructor who was once mugged at gunpoint on a bus in Costa Rica. Although a full-grown woman, it is altogether possible that you saw her in costume for the last Harry Potter flick. She encourages you to help in the fight against MS.

 

 

Photo credit: Dan Poehlman

Dawn's Confession

By Dawn Miller

I know this probably isn’t the right forum for me to make this confession, but I just don’t care anymore.  I have an addiction.  I can’t go a day without touching it.  I have to do it every day.  I have to do it to live.  If I don’t get it, I become sullen and cranky.  Sometimes a substitute can hold me over but I can’t wait to get the real thing back in my hands.  Even while using the fix I have on hand, I will spend time online looking for ways to replenish my stash as quickly and as cheaply as possible.  My name is Dawn, and I am an E-readeraholic.

My drug of choice is my Kindle.  I always have it nearby and on the rare occasions when I don’t, I do have the Kindle App on my iPhone.  It’s so thin and light and I can read it indoors or out.  Glare?  No problem.  Sore hands from holding a paperback open?  Not anymore!  The awkward difficulty of trying to hold open a hardcover in bed?  Not tonight!  Nothing to read and can’t get to the store?  NEVER AGAIN!  I have Wi-Fi and the 3G service on my Kindle and have never been somewhere I couldn’t download a book!

The books, oh the books!!!  I follow two blogs that keep me posted on all of Amazon’s free book offerings as they are released.  I follow 4 Facebook pages that do the same also.  After all, one contributor might get sick and not update their page so you have to have multiple sources, right?  Of course, I am right. Just agree with me.  At first, I downloaded every free book no matter what its content.  Then, I realized after about two months and about 200 books that wasn’t necessary.  As of today, I have 188 unread books on my Kindle home page.  I have 959 books in archives of which about two-thirds have been read.  Many of the books in the archives are some of the few thousand free classics that Amazon has ready to download.

Yet, somehow I still spend about an average of $35 on books each month.  Don’t look at me like that. I have many authors that I follow regularly.  I have to keep following their new offerings don’t I?  Also, the free books will often be first in a series of 3 or 5 or the third book of 4, and then I have to buy the rest of the series once I fall in love with free one… right?  Don’t I? Yes, of course I do!  I told you it was an addiction!

One of my favorite features is the pre-order capability.  A few months before an author’s new book comes out, I can pre-order and it will be automatically delivered to my Kindle at about 3 a.m. on the release day.  I wake up, turn on the Kindle and my latest fix, er, I mean book is waiting for me to read.  There is also a free sample feature which allows me to read the first couple of chapters in a book and decide if it’s something I want to spend money on.

As Emily mentioned in my introduction, I am dealing with chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, they give me chronic pain causing insomnia.  So while my dear husband is snoring next me, rubbing my face in his ability to fall asleep mere seconds after saying ‘Good night,’  my Kindle is always awake.  Always ready to offer me a new story world to get lost inside, where there is no pain for me, no disease and no stress.  My kids will actually tell me some days, ‘Mom, you seem a little stressed out, maybe you should get out the Kindle.’  Bless their enabling little hearts!

Sometimes, reading a book won’t do.  That’s fine because I have 22 games for Kindle ready to go.  Scrabble, Slingo, Monopoly, Yahtzee— all the classics ready to entertain and help me unwind.  Also there are many free games offered like Thread Words, Minesweeper, Video Poker, Dots and Boxes.  Playing word games and puzzle games are great way to keep your mind active.  New ones keep popping up every week.  There must be many people out there with the same addiction.

I am sorry if this sounds like a commercial for Kindle.  I don’t mean for it to be that.  I think any e-reader would do, Nook, Kobo, Sony’s; even an iPad or tablet would suffice! My hope is that through my confession maybe you thought of someone in your life that is ill, has a mobility issue or maybe is elderly who would benefit from the ease of owning a library, a game board and web browser at their finger tips.

I joke about my Kindle and its content being an addiction; but truly it is often a lifeline.  It is a balm to soothe my weary mind, and an analgesic to my sore body.  Think about having a fix.  See what it can do for you or your loved ones.


Dawn Miller

Dawn is a veteran blogger and mom to three. Diagnosed with two chronic diseases and a brain tumor, she still manages to stay positive. She manages a complex life with healthy doses of love, happiness, and coffee. She is the author of the blog Carpe Diem and recently contributed a guest post at Book Blather.

 

 

Photo credit: kodomut

On Jobs and Bad Break-Ups

By Angela Richards

Thanks to the recession that economists say we are no longer in, I’ve had the unique pleasure of being laid off twice in the past two years.  The first time it happened there was more relief than sadness. I had been unhappy at that company for some time but didn’t have the balls to walk out on the job, so I had to be kicked out on my kiester.

The second layoff hit a lot harder for a couple of reasons, mainly because I actually liked my job. I had identified with the mission (helping at-risk youth beat the odds through mentoring), and I enjoyed using my talents as an administrative assistant to help the agency fulfill that mission. I even got to develop a previously-undiscovered creative side. So yeah, I was feeling good about myself and the work I was doing when, all of a sudden, the rug was pulled out from under me.

Not long ago, I was reading an article on being unemployed in America when the author noted that being laid off from a job that you love is a lot like being involved in a bad break-up. My immediate response was, well that explains why I have this urge to slash someone’s tires. My second response was one of relief over finding someone who understood what I had been going through and who offered, in one sentence, an explanation for everything I had been feeling since losing my job. This break-up analogy was such a revelation to me that I began to ponder all the ways the comparison held true.

No bad break-up would be complete without a few tears and mine was no exception. When I was called into the CEO’s office and given the It’s-Not-You-It’s-Me speech, I tried to be brave and take it like a man, but my emotions soon got the best of me and my eyes began to swell with tears which eventually gave way to quiet sobs. I was tempted to throw my arms around my boss’s ankles and scream, “Please don’t leave me!” but decided I had already shown more emotion than I’d cared to.

In both jobs and break-ups, it’s not uncommon for the dumpee to feel uncomfortable around the dumper in public.  Case in point: A few weeks after being laid off, I was sitting in my car in a grocery store parking lot scouring the deep recesses of my purse for a shopping list when I noticed the CEO of the agency and her husband parking a few spaces over from me. Immediately, I knew what I had to do. I buried my list back in my purse, hunched down in the driver’s seat and discretely drove off. It’s not that I have any bad feelings against my former boss or anything, but that situation had the potential for more awkwardness than I was ready to deal with at that moment.

So I fled. Like the jilted lover I was.

After you’ve been handed your walking papers and you’ve spent some time mourning what was lost, there comes a time when you realize that you have to move on — take whatever positives you can from the situation — and prepare yourself for something better. That’s the conclusion I came to as I was speeding away from the grocery store parking lot. Yes, my job was enjoyable.  Yes, I loved what I did and the people that I worked for. But as long as I was holding on to the past, longing for what I once had, I was never going to move forward.

That’s probably true whether you’ve been let go from a job that you love or a relationship you thought was going well. In the end, we all have to move on.


Angela Richards

Angela Richards, a currently unemployed administrative assistant, has been littering the blogosphere with her writings since 2006. She enjoys cooking and writing and aspires to be a bridezilla. The rest of her musings can be found at grizzbabesden.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

Photo credit: spekulator

Has Technology Outpaced Common Decency?

By George Kelley

About a week ago the world lost a wonderful woman in the person of Myra Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.  She died on July 20 and was laid to rest on Friday July 22 with a funeral service held in her synagogue in Newton, Massachusetts.

Earlier this week it was learned that a reporter from the Boston Herald may have been tweeting during this solemn event where friends, family and benefactors were saying good-bye to a much beloved woman.  This begs the question: Has technology once again outpaced our common decency?

Typing a tweet from a seat inside the synagogue to be first is pathetic on its face.  I don’t care if the Herald has to scoop the Globe over which Boston celebrity wore what, said what or cried the loudest.  In fact, I hope to never care.  But someone does, so reporters like this clown will go ahead and whip out a phone in the middle of a eulogy.

Cell phones have, in fact, made life easier.  I remember a serious event at a school I was running while getting my haircut some years ago.  I didn’t carry a cell phone, and I didn’t want to.  I liked having time away from the office.  But as I leaned back in the chair at the salon I heard, “George, you have a phone call.”  That moment made me realize that being in touch is important.  But not every single second of every single day.

I work for a synagogue now, constantly interacting with its youth.  I am always trying to impress upon them when a cell phone is not to be used.  To turn a phone off during a Shabbat morning service seems like a no-brainer.  However, less than a year after taking my job a phone went off during a large family Bar Mitzvah service just as the Torah was being taken out.

A man, well dressed, pulled a phone from his jacket pocket while God and everyone heard him say, “I can’t talk now. I am at my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah.  I will call you in about an hour.”  He actually turned in his seat to face away from the front of the sanctuary only to allow his loud voice to reverberate around the whole room.  Every teen in the room looked at me, and I just shrugged.  What could I say to them?  You see, having a cell phone and knowing when to use it are clearly two different things.

The ubiquitous nature of the cell phone today makes it feel like they have been with us since the dawn of time, but it really wasn’t until about 15 years ago that cell phones became common.  And as soon as the cost of the devices and their usage became affordable to the average person, we discovered that people carried on like only the person at the other end of the line could hear them.  If only that were true.  We suddenly found ourselves stuck in the middle of one—or sometimes both halves—of a conversation often personal in nature. We were forced to listen in airport departure lounges, bars, elevators and even public restrooms.

My favorite encounter was going to a hotel lobby bar for a late dinner after a day of travel. As I ordered my meal I noticed the only other patron sitting at the bar was a young man talking on what was surely a new cell phone.  In the time it took me to finish my wine and appetizer I knew he was: gay, in lust (not love, mind you, he made that clear) and that the guy he had spent the last night and most of the morning with was going to have to spring for a more expensive brand of, let’s say, what in polite conversation we might call a marital aid.

His voice most certainly carried into the dining room, but the lateness of the hour meant there were few at tables to hear.  I looked to the bartender for help only to find him as uncomfortable as I was with no recourse to do anything.  That’s when I knew we were living in a new age.

This invitation to invade our privacy permeated the internet and digital photography.  Suddenly a rash of semi-nude, nude and downright nasty photos turned up in our email inboxes and on websites.

Take Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a Ph.D. in Physical Education who passed herself off as a psychologist on the radio. She is well known for her far right wing moralist reputation.  She once asked a rape victim why she was in the parking lot of her job at night without anyone else, blaming her for the rape that took her virginity only a few weeks before her marriage.

Dr. Laura was a cold as ice moralist, playing with people for profit and outrage. So, naturally, a former lover and someone who helped launch her career posted some lurid photos of a younger Laura online, fully nude alongside a story about her using sex to fulfill her ambitions.

While it didn’t cause her downfall, it did hurt her reputation.  It also started a slew of similar events where we were bombarded with home movies of celebrities who, quite frankly, I have trouble looking at clothed in sexual encounters. Then more recently two Congressmen resigned for photos they themselves posted online.  The poorly named Anthony Weiner even spent a week spurting about whether or not the photo, which I am sure you have all seen by now, was really him.

Seriously? I have forgotten many things in my day, but I am pretty sure I could pick myself out of a lineup.

But now with Twitter, Facebook and a plethora of new apps every day that help us find new ways to share our every thought, we are constantly adding to the noise of the universe with our most banal and most private of moments.  It is as if we want people to read our thoughts, reach into our souls, and simply break down any former distinctions between public and private.

We are all responsible, all guilty in some ways.  This very action of writing for a friend’s blog so strangers can see my thoughts adds to the noise.  But I think there is benefit in sharing and doing it appropriately.  The internet has helped so many people live better lives with its ability to bring people together who once felt alone.

People in bad relationships who couldn’t talk to anyone found similar people who felt trapped and gave each other support.  People with embarrassing medical or emotional conditions found information that helped them develop a plan of action that made getting real help easier. And of course places like Post Secret, places that allow anonymous venting of pent up angst, can be credited with actually saving people’s lives.  Sharing information is not the problem.  How, why and when we do it is.

I think of the great lady Myra Kraft, a woman of conviction and determination who once asked her husband not to sign on a player who had a record of abusing women.  A woman who gave to organizations to help educate the poorest children, supported causes to bring peace to Israel, and made a place at the table for those who had none.  Even as she knew she was dying of cancer, she encouraged her husband to work hard at the NFL negotiations settled within a few days of her death. It was a message that prompted a player representative and all-around good guy Jeff Saturday to take a moment to thank her at the announcement that a deal had been made.

This giant of a woman was treated with disrespect as some clown found it necessary to reduce the events of the public, her community and her family saying their final good-bye to a 140 character statement.

Maybe I am an old man struggling to understand this new-fangled world.  But maybe, just maybe, if we thought about the words, images and sounds we sent out before we sent them—perhaps imagining our grandmother reading or seeing or hearing them—then maybe some of the pollution choking us in this electronic environment would clear up.

Then perhaps I wouldn’t have to find ways to forget some of the things I know about people, and you and I could once again hear that wonderful elevator music we all love.


George Kelley

George is the Education Director at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, a storyteller and a speaker. He does a great deal of work in the interfaith community looking for ways people can share community without giving up their differences.  Sometime writer and political blogger, he enjoys pointing out both the absurd and the serious.  His personal blog is at yaakov613.blogspot.com.

 

Photo credit: Joi

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