Monday, January 30, 2012

Talkin' Football

I was born and raised in Massachusetts.  Because of that, I've been getting this alot lately:

"So, you must be excited about the Patriots getting to the Super Bowl, huh?"

My general response has been something like this:

"Ummm....Sure....I guess...."

You see, I don't really follow football. In fact, I don't even really like football. I think it's kind of boring. Actually, I think it's VERY boring.  To me, watching a football game feels alot like being stuck in traffic- all kinds of crazy stuff happens for like, 30 seconds- then you sit and do nothing while all of the cars (players) re-align themselves for three minutes before repeating the cycle again.

I don't begrudge anyone their love of football. I mean, I love lots of stuff that the general public probably finds boring (Star Trek, 1,500 page fantasy novels, CSPAN, spreadsheets). What is annoying is that many people A) assume that everyone likes football and B) get weirdly mad when you say that you don't. Actually, people get like this about all sports which makes life hard for many nerds. While there are plenty of nerds who like sports (I for one, love ice hockey, baseball, and the Olympics), many do not.

Sports come up in conversation for the same reasons and with the same frequency as discussions about the weather. When you see someone with whom you are only casually acquainted, you bring up the weather because you know it is something universal. Everyone knows about the weather. Everyone is affected by the weather. The weather (unlike say, politics, religion, or the Star Wars prequels) is a completely inoffensive topic. "Boy, it's sure cold outside!" Yes, random person who I kind of know. It sure is.

Many people think about sports in the same way. Everyone follows sports, everyone knows about sports, and unless you are a fan of a team that is an enemy of the team being discussed, sports are a fairly inoffensive topic "Hey, did you hear that the Patriots are in the Super Bowl?" The answer to this question is supposed to be yes. But if you say "No" or "Yes, but I'm really more excited about the Puppy Bowl this year" peoples' heads explode.

"You don't, but...why? It's amazing? I don't....I just....error....error....Danger Will Robinson" EXPLODE!

See here is the thing about sports. They are NOT like the weather. Not everyone follows them. Or enjoys them. And that's fine. As my Dad always says "It takes all kinds of people to make the world go 'round." It's just kind of silly to act like they are something universal, and even sillier to get upset with someone for admitting that they don't like sports.

What can you do? Well, I don't think I'm going to convince anyone not to bring football up in conversation. I wouldn't even try. But the next time someone says "I don't really follow football" instead of acting like they just made a really witty, stinging joke about your mother, just say "Oh, that's fine. Boy, it's sure cold outside!"

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Lessons of Winter

"Winter is Coming"- The Words of House Stark

It's been a mild winter. In fact, it's mid-January, and here in Chicago and we JUST had our first real snow a few days ago. Normally, Chicago feels like the tundra at this time of the year. Walking outside last week I saw a girl wearing a shortsleeve shirt and looking very comfortable and happy because it was 55 degrees out. I was wearing my winter coat and I was very uncomfortable and annoyed. I could feel the warm sun on the back of my neck.

I hated it.

I know I'm in the vast minority here, but I kind of like Winter. I know, I know. Cold sucks. Shoveling snow sucks. Frozen pipes really suck. Lack of sunlight sucks. I get it. Winter can really, really suck. I mean, once upon a time surviving through the Winter was a legitimate concern.

But I like Winter.

When I was a small Sean, I participated in ice hockey, an awesome, super-fun sport that requires frozen water to be played. Every year, my youth hockey teams would have fund-raisers where we would stand outside of local businesses with our jerseys on  and ask patrons of those businesses if they would like to donate some money to our team. I remember complaining about it to my dad. "It's too cold!" I yelped.

 To which my father replied "Quiet. Cold builds character."

"Cold builds character" belongs in the great pantheon of things my dad said along with "Celtics play hurt" and "Never pay for dirt".

As an adult, as stated above, I've learned to like Winter. In fact, I think Winter has taught me some really good lessons. Here they are:

1. Over prepare for everything- Some winter mornings you wake up, and check the forecast and see that it's going to be 20 degrees out. You dress appropriately wearing a warm coat, a hat, maybe some boots. Then, in the middle of the afternoon, an arctic front moves in that the local meteorologist wasn't expecting for a few more days. All of a sudden it's windy, and snowing, and it feels like -15 degrees outside.

This is why I overdress when I go out in the Winter time. I wear a thick coat, a cowl, gloves, winter hat, and LL Bean boots that I'm pretty sure I could trudge through the Arctic with if I wanted to. In the Winter, you learn to over-prepare.

2. Snow is awesome- Is it a pain to shovel snow? Yes. Does it look really gross after it's been on the ground for a few days and few hundred dogs have used it as a bathroom? Definitely. Is it the funnest? Yes. Skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights, sledding, sleighing, singing sleighing songs, building snow forts- these are all things that require snow. There is so much joy to be found in the desolation of Winter, and playing in the snow is one of the purest joys you will find in all of life.

3. Ice hockey is awesome-  It requires ice. Right, Milan Lucic?

4. Cold really does build character- I thought my dad was full of it when I was a kid but he's right: Cold does build character. You need to hustle to get by in the Winter time. Hustling makes you a stronger, hardier, better person.

5. Winter food tastes amazing- soups and stews, roasts, hot chocolate- hearty food that warms your insides. Winter food is the greatest.

6. Finally? Winter makes you appreciate the Spring. And the Summer. When you've gone through a long hard Winter, that first nice day in late March or early April feels extra special. And when it's 95 degrees in the Summer time, you won't complain as much because you remember January when it was -15 degrees out. How can you learn to appreciate nice weather if you've never experienced crummy weather?

And that's it. Winter is great. Winter is hard, but it can be beautiful, and fun.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Strong Is My New Skinny: My Journey to Kickass

I've never been fat.  I figure I should say that right off the bat before some reader thinks I'm making false claims.  When I was a child, I was painfully skinny.  I actually grew to hate the word skinny because I thought it was a synonym for weak, frail, breakable and insignificant. No matter how much I ate (and I ate alot), I could not put meat on my bones.  I looked sick all the time, I got dizzy when I stood up and I couldn't sit on people's laps because my bony butt would put their legs to sleep.  I know there were people who hadn't seen me eat and were sure I was anorexic.  Exhibit A: Prom:

I was also super active with 2-3 different dance classes a week, musicals and field hockey.  But I always just looked like a stiff breeze would knock me over.  It got a little better in college. I put on enough meat to look like a girl instead of a skinny boy.  I was still super thin, but I didn't look sick. 

When I moved to Chicago, I got curvy-er.  I now have a tendency towards a more solid lower half and definitely have a butt.  Without really acknowledging it, I spent most of the last 6 odd years trying to get back to where I was when I was 22. BUT, like a frighteningly large portion of the population, I wasn't really interested in working that hard to get there.  I wanted to eat what I wanted and maybe grace the elliptical machine with my presence for less than an hour a week. I'd make the trek with Sean to the gym and while he was downstairs with the huge, scary dudes lifting weights, I'd do a pretty half-assed job of "working out" upstairs.  It wasn't really working.  I saw little-to-no change in my body.  So I began reading female fitness droll like Self magazine and eating half a grapefruit for breakfast, a salad the size of my fist for lunch and a regular Sean-cooked meal for dinner.  I even, eventually,  picked up the brightly colored weights designated for my gender with the intention of toning.  I got close to my 22 year-old weight, but it looked completely different on me than it had.  My skin wasn't hugging my nonexistent muscles.  It looked weird.  

And I wasn't having fun. I was constantly hungry and always whining about going to the gym.  I made the terrifying decision to move downstairs with Sean to where the huge, scary dudes were lifting weights.  I began seeing more satisfying changes.  But I still whined about it.  My heart wasn't in it.  

Then I began taking group classes at lunch on workdays.  And interest began stirring.  I found that I liked working out with a group of people instead of on my own.  I liked sharing the experience with other people. I liked having someone else lay out a workout for me and that those workouts varied.  They stayed interesting.  But planning a wedding put an end to these classes.  I had too many things to get done in that lunch hour and the responsibility to cut out excess spending.  

We got married.  It was awesome. And Sean decided that it was time for a new physical adventure.

Enter CrossFit.  I was skeptical. I actually told a friend that I was going to try it out only because Sean wanted me to, but that I was sure I was going to hate it.  We visited our local "box" to check it out and I was TERRIFIED.  There were guys and gals grunting, thrusting heavy weights above their heads and then dropping them with a loud clang.  But...there were also cheers of "Come on, so-n-so! You've got this! One more!"  And so, with great trepidation, I took the leap...

And I love it.  LOVE IT.  We're nearing month 4 of our CrossFit experience and I can't stop talking about it. I'm sure it's annoying.  But I love it, so who the frak cares. I love the ever-changing WODs (workouts of the day), the milestones, the times/reps to beat. I love cheering others on and being part of a group of people who love what they're doing. And everyone wants you to succeed.  Everyone wants to help you succeed. It's awesome.  And my body?  It's on its way to kick ass.  I'm beginning to look like an athlete.  And that skinny girl up at the top of the page?  She's not my ideal anymore.  This girl wants to be strong, not skinny: