The Road to Farley

The Road to Farley

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mother Nature or Oprah?

Today is another one of those days where I have a lot of random thoughts on my mind. First off, let me post my May picture of Willow Creek Park. Remember, I said I was going to post a picture at the beginning of every month to mark the changes of the seasons. As a reminder, here is what the park looked like in April:

And, although the month of May is practically over, I actually did take this photo during the first week of the month. Amazing how one month can transform a spot on this glorious earth.

My morning started today at about 3 a.m. when a seriously loud clap of thunder and seemingly close bolt of lightening illuminated my bedroom and scared the bejesus out of a soundly sleeping Bailey. She bolted out of bed. By the time I was finally getting back to REM sleep, the alarm went off at 5:15.

When I got home from the gym tonight, I noticed that water was seeping into my basement. ARRGGHH. Curses to the rain gods who dumped all that rain outside my house. As I was grousing about moving some stuff away from the wall, sopping up the water with some towels, and plugging in the dehumidifier and fan, I stopped and thought to myself, "stop whining -- this is nothing." All week, we have been amazed and horrified at the devastation suffered in Joplin, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and other countless cities and towns across the Midwest. The death toll is unthinkable, the devastation unimaginable. Equally as horrific was the devastation suffered in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia just one month ago. I heard on NPR that this year has been the deadliest for tornadoes in over 60 years.

As I thought about all the deaths from tornadoes, I recalled that the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March was over 15,000. The Mississippi River reached unprecedented flood levels in the lower half of the United States this spring. Even with all of our expertise in forecasting weather patterns; building stronger buildings; implementing advanced warning systems; constructing dams, berms, and levees; and calling for mandatory evacuations we still are unable to guarantee the safety of anyone who stands in the path of Mother Nature's fury. Is there any force that is more powerful or unpredictable than Mother Nature?

Well, maybe Oprah? I caught bits and pieces of her star-studded send-off show at the United Center and I caught most of her good-bye episode tonight while I was sweating on the treadmill. I don't know...I feel real conflicted about it all. I don't want to be a hater, but there is a part of me that is really bugged by Oprah. I used to like her quite a lot. But, in the past few years she seemed awfully full of herself. As if she alone has discovered the meaning of life and is here to bestow all of her wisdom upon us poor commoners. All hail to Oprah! Three particular instances of her super-sized ego jump out at me.
  1. A few years back, she had her father on the show and was telling a story how she had gone to visit him one summer over father's day weekend. She explained that he made an off-handed comment about one day wanting to get a new Cadillac. Oprah said she would buy him one for father's day. He said that she couldn't because it was Sunday and the dealership was closed. She was all proud when she told her father that she was pretty sure they would open for her. So, she looked up the owner of the dealership and called him at home, on a Sunday, on father's day, to come to the dealership so she could buy her father a car. Now, I'm sure the dealer got lots of mileage out of the fact that he was able to sell a car to Oprah, but it still bugs me that this man had to leave his family on his day off and on father's day to go "serve" Oprah.
  2. Similarly, there was a news story a few years ago about Oprah going to Harrods department store in London near closing time because she wanted to buy some gifts for people she was visiting in London. When the store personnel explained that they were closing and that she could return the following day, she pulled the "don't you know who I am?" card and further hinted that Harrods was racist! Really? How about maybe the people were tired from working all day and wanted to get home to their families? It's that sense of entitlement that got to me.
  3. Finally, I really had it when she beat up on James Frey about some of the untruths in his memoir "A Million Little Pieces." I had stopped regularly watching her show by then, but happened to catch that particular episode. I was stunned. To me, her attitude was like, "How dare you misrepresent yourself to me and my kingdom. I am the supreme Oprah. Off with your head." Honestly, she was downright rude to that man. To his credit, he sat there and took the abuse. I think I would have had a different reaction. The lyrics to Cee Lo Green's hit song come to mind.... I'm not saying he was right for making some shit up and calling it non-fiction, but really, in the grand scheme of things, who cared?
The final show was all about Oprah thanking viewers for being there for her. Translation -- thanks for making me a bejillionaire!

Who is more powerful - Oprah or Mother Nature?? Well, clearly, I'm going with Mother Nature. Remember, you can't fool Mother Nature but evidently James Frey can fool Oprah. SNAP!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Are You Swimsuit Ready?

The outdoor sign at the fitness club in my neighborhood asks this big block letters. I see it every morning at 5:15 when I am walking Bailey. I see it again when I leave for work and again when I walk Bailey after work. After seeing this for several weeks, I'm still perplexed by what it means.

Is there really a certain standard one must attain before putting on a swimming suit? What is that? Does your body need to be firm and toned like Madonna? Do you need to be below the "overweight" or "obese" categories on the BMI chart? Does someone else just need to look you over and say, "Yup, you pass. Don swimsuit now."

I'm pretty sure that if I waited for someone to give my body a passing grade to wear a swimsuit, I would *never* have worn a swimsuit. Even back when I was a chubby thighs and muffin top would have kicked me out of contention.

Who makes these rules? A friend recently posted on Facebook some "rules" she read on More magazine's website. It listed the age at which women should stop wearing certain styles. Such as:

  • Bikini, 47
  • Miniskirt, 35
  • Boob tube, 33
  • Stilettos, 51
  • Belly-button piercing, 35
  • Knee-high boots, 47
  • Sneakers, 44
  • Leather trousers, 34
  • Leggings, 45
  • Ugg boots, 45
  • Swimsuit, 61
  • Tight vest, 44
  • See-through chiffon blouse, 40
  • Long hair, 53
  • Ponytail, 51
Boob tube! God...I had forgotten about those. I remember desperately wanting to wear those in junior high/high school. Not on Pearl's watch. I'm OK, with about half the items on this list...because, quite frankly, they have never been a part of my wardrobe. But, rest assured, I will wear a swimsuit after 61 and a ponytail after 51..especially since I can keep my long hair until I'm 53.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It Gets Better...

I was lying on the couch, half asleep, watching American Idol when a commercial came on that really caught my attention. It was promoting the It Gets Better Project. It was the first time I had heard of it, so I went to the website to learn more.

The project was developed by author and columnist Dan Savage, who--after reading of yet another gay teenager who had committed suicide after being bullied--thought, "I wish I could have talked to that kid for 5 minutes before he killed himself to tell him that it gets better." The project was born. The site is filled with hundreds of videos submitted by celebrities, politicians, and ordinary people, both gay and straight, with a clear message that yes, it does get better. You should watch some of the videos, they are funny and compelling and heartbreaking.

I cannot begin to imagine the loneliness and feelings of despair that an LGBT teenager must feel that would lead him or her to take his or her life. I can minutely relate to that feeling of being on the outside that is so pervasive in high school. On a scale of 1 to 10, my high school years probably rank somewhere around a 5. There were moments of fun and, for the most part, I made it through unscathed. But, at times, my self esteem took a serious jolt. 

Most notably, there was the bully (AKA "The Phantom") who wrote rude and crude comments anonymously in our yearbooks. The gem he wrote in mine, "To Carol, the girl with the biggest ass and the biggest t*ts." OK, as if I was self-conscious enough about my weight in high school, that pretty much put me over the edge. Most of my high school friends were cute little size 5s or 7s. I'm not sure I ever wore those sizes. It seems like I went straight from girls size 14 to women's size 14 overnight. 

I've worn glasses since the 3rd grade and am pretty darn blind without them. Picture the big glasses of 70s and 80s (a la Liz Claiborne) -- with a thick prescription -- it was a recipe for disaster. And, don't even get me started on my red hair that always garnered unwanted attention. I was called "Carrot Top Four Eyes" relentlessly by a particularly unpleasant boy through most of junior high. While at my Grandma's cottage in the summer as a child, the drunken guy next door always called me "Big Red."

I feel like I wasted a whole lot of time as a teenager or in my early twenties thinking I wasn't skinny enough, pretty enough, or dressed "cute" enough to attract anyone. 

Thankfully, age is the equalizer. I have my suspicions on who "the Phantom" from high school was. At our 30-year reunion last summer, he was fat and bald like many of the other men. The women in my class -- we all looked pretty damn good -- and exuded way more confidence than most of the men. Oh, and how I wish now that I was as "fat" as I was in high school. That is but a pipe dream to return to that form! I've embraced my red hair and my curves and I learned that those "big t*ts" really have been more of an asset than a negative!! :-)

So, yes, it does get better. In high school you are thrown together with people strictly based on geography. If you are lucky, you might end up with one or two people who remain your friends. As you grow, through college and your career, you form friendships with people based on shared interests and goals, and hopefully, you come to respect people from all walks of life. 

[Sidebar: Many years ago, an African-American with whom I remain friends told me that he didn't like diversity programs that tried to promote tolerance because he didn't want to just be tolerated, he wanted to be respected. I've carried that thought with me throughout my adult life.]

Kudos to Dan Savage for starting this amazing project. It makes me a little sad that we even have to have such a site, but I'm quite certain that somewhere in the world the messages shared on this site are giving hope to people who have not yet found their way.

I'm reminded of the following quote:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'm Ready Now...

One obvious sign of my aging over the past years occurs every summer when I make that first foray into the river to see if I can still water ski. I think I was 11 or 12 when I first learned to ski. Back then, I popped right up and could ski for miles without getting tired. Now, I recognize that things were a little different for me 38 years ago...(Christ, just writing that makes me feel like I just aged another 5 years). Specifically, I 
  • was 12! My stamina was way better than it is now.
  • probably weighed about 75 pounds less than I do now. (And, 75 is probably on the low side!)
  • used two skis back then...way less torque needed to pull yourself out of the water.
  • had the luxury of being able to ski behind a fast boat (back then, we had a CorrectCraft inboard...great for skiing, but not very roomy on the inside!).
  • didn't have to worry about the touch of arthritis I think I'm beginning to get in just about every joint of my body.
With aging and, yes, weight gain and my progression to slaloming, my days of "popping right out" are long gone. In fact, in the last couple of years, by the time I would finally break through the water and plane out...I was already exhausted. I thought it was just me. After a little searching on the web, I find this is common for us middle-agers.

Then, there is the equipment. Tim's and Ryan's boats aren't as fast as a CorrectCraft, but, they are great boats for a leisurely day on the river. Besides, CorrectCrafts aren't very practical for the Mississippi. In addition, I felt nostalgic skiing on Janis' wooden Connelly ski, circa about 1983. It's a classic, right? Well, evidently, wooden skis have gone the way of wooden golf clubs! (It's still a really cool looking ski, I don't care what anyone says.) I started doing some research about my dilemma of pulling my fat butt out of the water in a more expeditious manner. The solution -- the Pilot!

They do make skis for old fat people! I was sold when I read the description: 
The Pilot lets everyone enjoy a day at the lake, no matter what his or her skill level - beginner to intermediate. Wide tip and tail and enhanced Connelly Tracking System make deep-water starts a breeze. Super sidecut design makes turns easy while skiing at 29 mph or less.
Deep water starts a breeze???? Sign me up. I researched a little further for some actual customer testimonials. 
Good ride for me, I am able to stand right up and ride without getting tired, but I'm 50!
This ski allows you to come out of the water very easy in both deep and shallow water starts. It is very easy to ski on and doesn't tire you out. Probably doesn't cut as well as the narrow competition skis, but is adequate and the ease of use far outweighs. I would recommend this ski to anyone having trouble getting out on one.

The pilot ski helps me pop up and gives me an easier ride than my old ski.

This ski is a breeze to get up on, fun to ride, and not at all tiring. I haven't skied so far so easily on a slalom in years.
Evidently, there must be a correlation to the width of your ass and the width of the ski! Check out this width of this baby:

The ski was on sale at Overton's and Scheel's in Coralville price matched the sale price. This is my early 50th birthday present to myself, and I'm seriously hoping I'll be able to write my own testimonial when I hit the water in June. Something like:
This ski is a dream come true for overweight out-of-shape women approaching a mid-life crisis and trying to relive the glory days! I popped right up and was able to ski the entire length of Deadman's Slough without passing out.
Stayed tuned!!