Friday, April 23, 2010

Today Was A Great Day

Most days are pretty good. I get up, take care of the kids, take care of myself, do some enjoyable things, some chores, and then call it a day. What takes a good day and turns it into a great day? Having a story to tell.

Today, as I was lying on the couch trying to decide if I should take a nap before or after I watched TV, a friend called and invited me sailing! He had the afternoon off and since the weather was good had decided to take the boat out. Would I like to come along? Duh!

I drove out to Fern Ridge Reservoir to meet him and learn the basics of sailing. It was awesome. The sun was out, the sky was blue, there was a breeze, and I had nowhere to be for hours. He taught me a lot of vocabulary that I can't remember at all. The only two that stuck in my mind are the boom, because if you don't pay attention it smacks you in the face, and the tiller, because that was the one thing I was in charge of. The tiller is how you steer the boat; you move it from side to side. Ok, so I'm not exactly Master and Commander yet. Maybe next time I'll get to touch the sails and rope (rigging?).

He also did an excellent job of explaining the physics of why a boat moves forward when you're sailing almost into the wind, but not directly into it, even though you instinctually think you should be going backwards because the wind is pushing against you. It had something to do with lift and creating a vacuum and the shape of airplane wings. When he was all done, I didn't have the heart to tell him that it would have been easier and infinitely more Jen-pleasing to just say, "magic."

Anyway, we sailed around the reservoir for three hours. The weather was spectacular and there's just something about being on the water. It was highly soul-nourishing. I gotta say that today was a great day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Extolling the Virtues of Sleep

Sleep is so unfairly ridiculed. Admit it, when was the last time you felt cool for going to bed early? Everyone thinks they have to stay up all night and go, go, go. Sleep does not make you weak or lazy. Sleep makes you strong and healthy.

Now everyone who knows me will say that I'm no night owl. I'm always the first one to call it a night. But lately, I've been embracing my fuddy-duddy ways to the fullest. In the past few weeks, I've been going to bed with the kids at 9:30. Amazing things have started to happen. First of all, I recover from workouts faster, my mood is great, and I don't find myself bored and looking for ice cream late at night. The best part about it is that my body has harmonized with the day. I wake up slowly as the light creeps into the room at dawn. No blaring alarm necessary. It is so peaceful and really sets the tone for the whole day. I love it.

So get some extra sleep this week and see what it can do for you. It's the best anti-stress tool out there!

Monday, April 19, 2010

“This ain’t about women’s lib. It’s about women’s libido.”

Alright, I’m trying something new. I have been swimming in film culture since before I could walk. My mother actually has a PhD in film theory, so I had a steady diet of film history and critique my whole life. If you had asked me at age 16 what I was going to be when I grew up I would have said, “The next Spielberg.” Eh, that didn’t quite work out, but I still worship at the cinema every weekend. I don’t just like to go to the movies, I love to TALK about movies. I can talk your ear off about a good movie. If I could find a way to earn a living going to the movies… well, screw education! Anyway, I’ve always wanted to have my own review show on the radio a’ la Siskel and Ebert. It was just pointed out to me that I do have a platform to talk about movies.

From now on, I’m going to post an essay about a movie every Monday, since I typically go to the movies at least once every weekend. This weekend I went twice! It will discipline me to keep up my writing and it’s a rockin’ excuse to go to the movies! So without further ado… may I present my thoughts on the feminist manifesto that is The Runaways.

Where are we at with feminism these days? I gotta say that most of what passes as female empowerment makes me laugh or puke. Sandra Bullock makes a killing playing an executive who is a man-eating bitch (that’s the only way women can be successful in business, right?) until she meets the right guy to soften her and bring her real happiness through a relationship. Ick. Feminism in Hollywood has hardly made any steps forward in the last 30 years. If anything, especially in the romantic-comedy genre, I think we’ve taken a few steps back.

The Runaways is a wholly different beast. This is a film about 5 young girls who are loud and angry. They are not concerned with being soft and pretty; nor are they concerned with making boys feel good about themselves. Their lives suck. They are surrounded by rejection from their parents, from society. They want to make something good that they can call their own. Rock and roll is their vehicle of expression. It gives them a screaming presence in the world where they can be anything and everything they want to be. Their music is raw and aggressive and quintessentially rock. The only problem? Success means becoming a commodity.

Teenage Joan Jett finds a manager and sells him on the idea of an all-girl rock band. It’s 1975 and this is unheard of. He buys it and starts to mold the girls into rock baby-goddesses. There are several moments in the film where you’re not sure if he is taking advantage of the girls unnecessarily or if exploitation is just the price of fame. They are given their dream of being international stars; however, they are not getting rich, nor gaining any control over their lives. The central feminist lesson here is that real power is not being the product but being the producer. Women need to control their own bodies for true empowerment.

Dakota Fanning is ostensibly the star of the film. Her character is the lead protagonist at least. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t have the acting chops to make us believe that she’s a girl filled with any passion. Cherie’s life sucks. He dad is a drunk. He mom leaves. She spends her 15-year-old nights wandering the Sunset Strip trying to find some escape. Through Cherie’s discovery, rocket to fame, and inevitable drug abuse, Dakota can’t manage more than one blank expression. I’m not sure if it was intentional or just lack of range, but her Cherie comes across as a stoned puppet, with no presence in the action. From what I’ve read about the real Cherie, I strongly doubt this was the case.

Kristen Stewart is the real star of the film. Her body is crackling with energy throughout. Without even needing the dialogue she conveys Joan’s central purpose through sheer physicality. She needs this music as a means to express all of the force and fervor bottled up inside of her. She has to get it out. There is this great scene where the manager stops the band’s rehearsal to give Cherie a tirade about what rock and roll is all about. In the background, barely in focus and with no dialogue, Joan is jumping, twitching, and popping. He body is screaming, “C’mon! Let’s go!” I gotta say, I had my doubts that the Twilight girl could do Joan Jett any justice. I was happy to be wrong.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to watch a movie about young girls with something to say besides, “Oh, why doesn’t Billy like me?” There was no romantic relationship anywhere to be seen. No, I take that back. The central relationship is between Joan and Cherie. Joan needs this pretty girl to front her band to sell the records. Cherie needs Joan’s talent to help her be legit. They are bound together as each other’s ticket out of one hell and into another. There is a lot of sexual energy between the girls. The film does not shy away from the reality that sex is a part of identity. But the girls are not fucking their way through the journey. Sex is as unremarkable and yet powerful as any other part of their personalities. It’s just not hidden in this film. It’s as much on the surface as their ambitions, fears, and dreams. This is what I call feminism, the celebration of women as unique, powerful, and fully-realized beings.

And speaking of women being the producers not the products, The Runaways is a true story, written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, based on the memoir Neon Angel by lead singer Cherie Currie.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Strong Sisters

Last night I was invited to a CrossFit ladies' potluck. Normally I would hate going to something like this. When I don't know anyone, I always end up sitting in the corner watching everybody else have a good time. But I really want some female friends in Eugene and everyone I've met at the gym has been pretty great. So I decided to get over it and go. I'm so glad that I did. All of the women, and there were quite a few different 'types', were really down to earth. There were a couple of moms my age, a couple of younger girls, a couple of older, some more girly than me, some less, but all really easy-going, cool women to know. CrossFit seems to attract the bullshit-free people.

The food was really good too. Everyone brought something paleo. Mine was pork loin stuffed with apples and raisins. Kelly even made a flour-free cake out of almond meal, bananas, and magic. It was delicious and totally satisfied the psychological desire for cake. Other lessons learned: fry your chicken in bacon grease, put bacon on your deviled eggs, put real bacon in your salad, and just worship at the altar of bacon as often as possible.

Robin, who I discovered a while back is blogging her metamorphosis as well at CrossFit Foxygen, hosted the party and I'm grateful. I want to be more social and these are amazing women to call friends.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Almost 40!

No, not 40 years! 40 pounds! As of today I've lost 37 pounds. I had been stagnant for about 5 weeks, holding steady at 220. This week I recommitted myself to tracking everything that I ate and making sure that I ate enough of the right foods and not many of the wrong foods. Voila! I lost 4 pounds and broke through my plateau.

Even though I have been discouraged about my body for the last month, I've stuck with it. I don't eat grains. I have dramatically reduced dairy in my diet. And I eat meat, meat, meat. I go to CrossFit three or four days every week. I am getting leaner and stronger. Slowly, but surely!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Clever Title

This research team that I'm on is made up of 4 divorced women. 3 of us are currently single moms with children still at home. One of us is dealing with a custody battle in the court system. One of us already did it. And I potentially will be facing this in the future, if I pursue my desire to leave Oregon. We were all sitting around bitching about our ex-husbands and how we wish they would just disappear and let us raise our children alone. It's not like I wish Angus death; I just wish he would magically vanish.

Our team leader came in and started in on the father of her children. She sympathized with our feelings of frustration and anger over custody fighting and added, "I just hated my ex-husband. I really just hated him." But recently, she said, her perspective had changed. After years of fighting and hating each other, they had to sit together and watch their oldest son die of cancer. "I watched this man, that I had hated, care for our son. As our son lay there suffering, his dad soothed his face and lips with a cool washrag. And in that moment, I knew no matter how I felt about him, he was a good father."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This Chick Is A Sick Individual

This is what my hands looked like tonight after the workout. What the hell am I doing?

Today was really busy for me, but I went out of my way to go to CrossFit after dinner. I could have just taken a rest day. But I didn't want to miss it. This was my workout:

30 pull-ups
15 deadlifts with 135 lbs.
400m run
30 push-ups
15 push jerks of 75 lbs.
30 air squats
15 front squats with 45 lbs.
400m run
15 deadlifts with 135 lbs.
30 pull-ups

I actually finished the whole thing, although it took me 26 minutes. At the end I was shaking, trying to hold down vomit, and crying (just a little bit.) This is insanity right? Why am I doing this shit to myself? The most insane part? I thought it was great! People were cheering me on and talking me through the roughest spots. There was even a moment when Kelsi made me laugh in the middle of the epic suffering. What is going on here?

I'm not being facetious. I really want to understand this phenomenon. I'm punishing my body in ways I've never even thought possible. Yet, I'm enjoying it and signing up for more. Is this good for me? Is this just a new way to punish myself, but now physically instead of emotionally? I don't know. But I have this niggling feeling in the back of my brain that sane people don't act this way.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Where Did The Time Go?!

Well, I signed up for that half marathon, remember? I just looked at the calendar and it's in about 3 weeks! I'm so freakin' scared!

I stopped running back in January when I joined CrossFit because my coach said I'd build back up to running eventually. I was relieved and happy to put running out of my mind. Of course, now the race is here and I haven't picked running back up again. I have been doing a ton of other stuff however and I am significantly more fit than I was back in January. Just today I was doing an Olympic lift called the power clean. I love lifting! It makes me feel like the Hulk. Well, She-Hulk. (Side trivia: She-Hulk's name is Jennifer.)

Anyway, so I'm a bit scared about how long it's going to take me jog/walk 13.1 miles. At the same time, I'm incredibly excited to do it. The Eugene Marathon, in Track Town U.S.A., is a big race with people coming from all over the country to participate. There are going to be big crowds cheering me on. I get an official number with my name on it to pin to my shirt. It feels like "real" athleticism, if that makes any sense. Not everybody does this kind of thing. I'm really proud that I'm going to be one of the rare who do.

And when it's all over, I get my medal. I'm not going to ever take it off unless it rusts in the shower.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Watch Me Tie It All Together!

Let me recap: "Lost" romantic love is bullshit. Arranged marriages might have something going for them. I'm going to try really hard to make this all come together now.

I've been thinking a lot lately that believing in that epic, destined love is my problem. It keeps me holding on to something that isn't real and being sad that I don't have it, instead of being satisfied with what I actually do have. Robert keeps telling me to hold onto hope that we might someday end up together. In the meantime, we'll just work on being friends, (which by his definition is talking every day and being emotionally dependent on each other. That sounds like more than friends to me!) But wishing that Robert would change and want to be with me is absurd. He's so scared it would be funny if it wasn't so sad. He tells me daily that he loves me but will not act on that. It's just words. What am I getting out of this? Yes, he's a great friend, maybe the best I've ever had, but is it worth the emotional wear and tear? The longer this goes on, the less faith I have that it's ever going to be anything more than talking on the phone.

On the other hand, I have someone who treats me very well, is very kind, giving, demands nothing of me, and I have a satisfying physical relationship with, but he's made it very clear that he is not in love with me and doesn't want anything to do with my family. Given his age and place in life, I wouldn't want a family with him either. It's just friends with benefits. The more time I spend with him getting physical affection and companionship, the more I feel the clinging to Robert loosening. This man makes being single less lonely. I feel like he fills a niche that makes me less desperate for that romantic love. I have a good home situation and a good job now. I'm enjoying focusing on myself and working out. My family is taking up more of my time. I don't need to feel desperate anymore. I have room to be patient.

I feel like there is somebody out there for me. I just need to let go of this idea of once-in-a-lifetime love. There's probably hundreds of men that would be a good match for me. That's what I was getting at with the whole arranged marriage thing. It's more important to me that our personalities and behavior fit well together than that thunderbolt strike of "HE'S THE ONE." It's not like what I want is so unusual. I need to just get out there socially, keep making friends, and participating in life. Someday I will meet somebody who wants the same things as me and is willing to do the work to build a life together.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where Was I...

I know a woman who was born and raised in India. She is beautiful, intelligent, strong, and educated. She has an advanced degree and works as a physical therapist. She has 3 amazing children from a 15-year (and happily counting) marriage. That marriage was arranged. One day we had coffee together and I asked a million questions about arranged marriages. She sold me on the idea. I asked her to find me a husband... I think she might have thought I was kidding.

When she was a younger woman, she came to live in New York City for college. She told me she had a very carefree and independent life, which she liked very much. She dated American men and lived like every other young American co-ed. After some time, and graduation, had passed she felt that she was ready to start a family. She told her parents and the search was on. I'm going to paraphrase her a bit here because the conversation was a couple of years ago. "My parents know me better than anyone else. They know my personality, my desires, and my values. They wouldn't send me a man that would be a poor match. Besides, they are more like a dating service. They weed out the men that I shouldn't waste my time with, and then set up meetings with the good candidates. I get the ultimate say in who stays and who goes."

So they found her a man who was also educated in America and therefore was more open-minded about politics, and the role of women, etc. He was intelligent and level headed, which was a good pairing for her passion. But most importantly, he wanted a family as well. She knew, because of their cultural background, that he would have the same priorities and values when it came to this potential family. Also, "he made me laugh." So after a few meetings between parents and some chaperoned dates, they married. At some point after that, she fell in love with him.

I love this story. It makes complete sense to me. Romantic love is such a fickle thing. Values like family first, supporting a woman's independence, even liberal or conservative politics, these are things that tend to be permanent. You can build a life on them. If I met a man who was educated, wanted to be on the same life path as me, supported my choices, AND made me laugh, of course I would fall in love with him. If you are both willing to put in the work to be kind, affectionate, and understanding of each other, love seems inevitable. It's the day-to-day work that really determines the success of a pairing. Romantic love rarely latches onto an object that is actually a good match. How much more reasonable would it be to find a life-partner this way? I especially like the part where somebody else helps strip the chaff from the wheat. I was dead serious when I asked her to find me a nice Indian man to marry, preferably one who looks like Naveen Andrews.

Argh! I'm out of time again. I really am going somewhere with this. Check back in tomorrow for the juicy stuff: my sex life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Love and Lost

Did anybody see "Lost" this week? I'm a huge fan, but I won't waste time with all that I could say about it. There are hundreds of websites that do that already. I'm only bringing it up because a line from one of the characters has been stuck in my brain for 3 days now. I keep picking it apart in my head in that obsessive way that I over-think things. The episode was focused on destiny and the concept of soul mates. One character said something close to, "When I saw her, I felt like I had already loved her for years."

Really? Is this possible? Do soul mates really exist? I once believed in this kind of epic romantic love. Now I have lost faith. Because that's really what this concept requires, faith. But more on that in a minute.

Angus and I were kids when we fell in love. It was that exciting, urgent thing that seems like the whole universe has changed. It lasted for a few years, and we got married while still in that weird/crazy world of first love. Then it wore off. We started to see each other for who we were really going to be as adults. We had a baby, and it was becoming clear that we had different directions in mind. Another baby only widened the divide. I still loved Angus. I had seen him as a young man who was optimistic and full of life. I wanted him to be that guy again. But even though I loved him, I did not like the new Angus, who was miserable and avoiding life. It's hard to be in love with someone that you don't like.

I was 34 when I really fell in love for the first time as an adult. It was exactly like they talked about in "Lost." On our very first date, I felt immediately familiar with him, like we had been friends who could tease each other for a long time. At the end of dinner, he took a phone call and was away from the table for about 20 minutes. I was irritated but not angry. The waitress brought his credit card and the receipt back to sign and left it at the table. But not before she sat down with me and kept me company for a bit talking about how rude men could be. I looked at his signature on the card, added a HUGE tip to the receipt, and signed it. I had never done anything that bold with a stranger before. It was uncharacteristic, but I just felt like it would be ok. I meant it in a "ha ha, teach you to leave me waiting" kind of way. I was sure that he would get it and be good natured about it. He didn't say a word that night, but later confirmed that he was attracted to my spunk.

Within a couple of dates, I felt like I had known this man for years. The one problem? I was only visiting Texas for the summer and would be returning to Oregon. So I kept my feelings to myself as much as possible and tried to be realistic. I kept telling myself I would forget him when I got home. Long, long story short: I didn't. Through a series of wonderful, painful, and sometimes hilarious events, I became convinced that he was my soul mate. I was meant to be with this man. Who else could be this perfect for me?

Unfortunately, Robert is not convinced.

What happens when you find love at first sight with a guy who doesn't want it? I'll tell you what has happened for me... I have stopped believing in romantic love. Now to be fair, Robert is not the only reason I have lost faith. There have been a string of other men that I have dated since the divorce. And there's one weird thing that keeps happening: the men who are most kind and affectionate and long-term are the men who are not in love with me, I'm not in love with them, and due to life circumstances, there's no possibility of romance. We're only "dating," and I use that term loosely, because we fulfill that human need for physical affection.

Which brings me to the reason I wanted to write this post... arranged marriages. But I'm out of time today. I will finish this diatribe tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Holding Steady

My application for the PhD program at the U of O was rejected. This has turned out to be a huge relief. Although I am sad that I’m not going to be playing at that level, I was terrified by the amount of work it would require. I’m not convinced that I’m talented enough to pull that off.

This news started a long discussion with the other adults in my world about what the hell I should do next. I broached the subject of moving out of Oregon with the kids. Surprisingly, Angus did not freak out. I think he’s starting to accept the reality of the job bind that I’m in. We agreed that it would not happen for the 2010-2011 school year, but that I would look outside of the state for the 2011-2012 year.

My parents have generously asked the kids and me to stay one more school year. I think that they are doing it for themselves as much as for me. We’ve brought life back into the big house. Plus I do laundry and put dinner on the table every night at 6:00.

Meanwhile, my research job has starting rolling. I’m really enjoying it and it looks like it’s going to provide a steady part-time income for me. Once I get rid of my car payment and insurance, that should allow me to continue paying for CrossFit and have a little bit of fun money as well. I’m also reassured that there won’t be a gaping hole in my resume. Working in educational research should only make my job history stronger. Plus, I feel like I'm in the big time working on a University campus. That's helping my ego get over the PhD thing.

So for now, I’m not going anywhere. I’m content to be working part-time, devoting energy to my health, and focusing on the kids more.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sweatpants Everyday?

Ok, this is it. I can see rock bottom from here. My unemployment insurance has run out and I can no longer afford to keep my baby, the best car that I've ever had, Silvia the Grand Prix. She is so cool and powerful and I've maintained her so well... But alas, I fear that practical must trump cool. My mom has offered to give me her (shudder) minivan. I feel nauseous thinking about it. It appears that at the ripe age of 36, I must finally lay to rest my last grip on being hip and having any personality. What is next for me but to throw in the towel completely and start wearing sweatpants everyday...

Monday, April 5, 2010

We Are Family

I grew up in a big extended family. Lots of people around all the time. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and more cousins at every gathering, especially the holidays. When I was 13, my parents moved us to Oregon. About 2 years later my sister started starving herself, so my parents disappeared. I went from always being in a crowd to basically being alone all the time. Of course I dreamed of recreating that wonderful chaos of a big family for myself someday. I was sure that I would marry somebody fun, have at least 4 kids, and we'd be a big happy family, doing all kinds of fun things together. In my rush to fulfill this fantasy, I didn't pay very close attention to minor details, like make sure you pick a husband who wants what you want.

When the divorce happened, which really was a good thing since we didn't want the same things, I was sure that was the end of my dreams of a happy family. There would be no family vacations, no big Christmas dinners, and certainly no more children. Add to that crushing reality check all the other stresses of divorce and I was deep in depression for a few years. I've only recently really been finding my way out.

As the fog is clearing and I've had some space to look around, I've discovered a couple of things. And maybe the biggest surprise of all? I do have a family. Sure, it looks like there are not going to be any more babies. And it also looks like I'm doomed to be single for quite some time, but in the meanwhile I am having the big family that I always wanted. It just isn't exactly like I fantasized.

First of all, I've gotta say how cool my kids are. Now that I'm not exhausted from working and trying to keep things together as a single mom, I really have time to hang out with them and appreciate them. They're funny and smart and ridiculously well-behaved. Everywhere we go people tell me how awesome they are. And I see it too. I really like them. I know this should be "duh" but it hasn't always been for me.

Secondly, living with my mom and dad has provided that house full of energy. We have family nights with a ton of people all the time now. We invited friends over for Christmas dinner. We invited friends over to watch the Civil War game. Just last night my sister came by and all 6 of us watched "The Amazing Race" together. It was loud and boisterous. Go cowboys!

Third, I'm not afraid to do stuff with Griffin and Molly on my own any more. I used to avoid going anywhere with them for fear of how much work it would be. This trip to California proved those fears to be absurd. They are totally easy going and we had a fantastic time. It was no more work than driving down there alone. But having them along to do stuff with is way better.

Yes, I still have a reoccurring dream about that fantasy husband. He's always wearing white linen pants and cradling sleeping baby number 3 (4?) against his bare pecs. He looks strangely like a young Jason Patrick with that curly black hair... ;) But I'm not holding my breath waiting for him to arrive. I've got a great family right now. I just need to open my eyes and appreciate them.