Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

RBG Workout Really Is

Friday, January 12th, 2018

When January hit, I was feeling pretty self-righteous about my workout routine at the gym.

“No New Year’s guilt trips for me!” I said.

That was before I received a Christmas gift from my daughter: “The RBG Workout” book. In it, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer lays out (in excruciating detail, with sketches) the 40-minute workout that the 84-year-old Supreme Court justice does twice a week.

“I thought it would be perfect for you!” enthused the gift-giver, who at 29 is apparently eager for me to get in shape.

After chuckling at RBG’s “Super Diva” workout shirt as “cute,” I proceeded with great optimism (after all, she is 84) to try out the 120 pages of exercises from warm-up to cool-down.

Since the gym was jam-packed on New Year’s Day, I sprung for the recommended “home alternatives” for most exercises, which involve chairs, resistance bands, dumbbells, and large cans of vegetables in case you don’t own a medicine ball.

My first clue of trouble ahead came on page 11, when I noticed the suggested weight range for dumbbells was 5 to 20 pounds. A quick look through my dusty home gym equipment confirmed that the heaviest dumbbell I’d ever attempted weighed in at a whopping 3.

An hour and 45 minutes later, my only consolation was she’d had 18 years – from the time she was 66 – to perfect this routine. I still had time.

Still, plodding through the book with its sketches of a grim-faced RBG is daunting. For example, she is not only doing squats but one-legged ones. At least 30 on each leg, to be exact.

Then there is the side plank, in which she holds her body aloft, and raises her left hand straight up in the air, and the seated hamstring stretch, which according to the sketch, she is able to do with the flexibility of a high school cheerleader.

This may be because, as her trainer puts it, the justice is a “cyborg…a machine,” who has to be reminded sometimes to stop exercising and not to push through the pain.

Somehow, I have never needed this kind of reminder. Instead, I’m reminding myself that I don’t have all the equipment required for certain feats, such as a heavy duty door anchor, to attach resistance bands to a door frame.

“No point in even trying the Standing Cable Row or the Chest Fly,” I tell myself gleefully. Even with Amazon Prime shipping, I have a two-day reprieve.

So far, I have been the most spectacular at the warm-up exercises – rotating my neck not only the suggested 3 times but 5. I am also pretty good at the donkey kick and its variation, the fire hydrant, which are performed on all fours safely on the ground.

At one point, I even tied resistance bands to the back legs of chairs and wrapped my ankles in them in a homegrown attempt at a leg extension. Unfortunately, there are no instructions for untying the bands when you are tied to the chair.

Still, I have not given up hope. Since my maternal grandmother was doing yoga and handstands at 65, maybe I have the genes for this. And if not me, I am already urging my 8-year-old granddaughter, who so easily flips from cartwheel to backbend, to keep at it for another 80 years or so.

“Easy peasy,” she says. How I wish I agreed.

Copyright 2018 Pat Snyder

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What’s Happening? Ask The Christmas Tree

Monday, December 11th, 2017

As I extracted my pre-lit Christmas tree section by section from its overstuffed bag in the garage and dragged each piece into the living room, I had an epiphany of the non-religious kind.

The story of my life from childhood on has been marked by an evolving series of Christmas trees.

First, the long-needled pine. Dad cuts them for free from a friend’s woods in Atlanta. The ornaments slide right off. No problem. They are mostly made out of paper and popcorn. “Right in our budget,” says number-crunching dad.

Scotch pine with blue tags. With more money, less time, glass ornaments and bubble lights, dad agrees to go to a lot, where he says trees with blue tags fit the budget. This leads to conversations about which side can go into which corner when we get it home. I’m pretty sure red tags do not require a corner.

Scotch pine with red tags. Now married, I somehow become dad and declare “blue tags.” After teen-age size eruption from our two boys under 10, I decide life is too short and upgrade to red, but discover there is still no perfect tree.

Scotch pine with any tags. I’m now divorced and remarried. My Jewish husband reluctantly shleps to the tree lot and lets the boys choose any tree in an effort to shorten the ordeal. When he suggests leaving the tree outside to “season” it for awhile, the younger boy, 5, drags it up the stairs singlehandedly to assure himself we are still having Christmas. He makes his stepdad a stocking held together with staples and glue. He and his brother decide to put the tree up themselves and lash it to the windowsill so it won’t fall over. It does anyway.

Hanukkah tree, Part One. Now that we have a Jewish baby. I add Hanukkah ornaments and make her a Christmas stocking decorated with dreidels. Boys quickly adapt to new tradition of getting both Christmas gifts and “gelt” for Hanukkah.

Hanukkah tree, Part Two. Jewish baby is now a teen-ager, and the Hanukkah ornaments must come off. The term “cognitive dissonance” comes up. She is OK, though, with Christmas gifts and Hanukkah gifts. Everyone has secular Santa stockings. I draw a protest from all when I switch from colored to trendier white lights.

Three-quarter tree. Now a widow, I don’t want to bug younger son, now married with child, to help put up a real tree. I order a skinny artificial one designed to fit in a corner and string it with white lights. Everyone laughs and calls it Charlie Brown.

Full-size artificial tree. I’m now remarried to a lapsed Catholic, who comes with advent wreath and full-sized tree. He puts it up and – with painstaking artistry – strings it with huge colored lights. My daughter now confides that she prefers white lights but promises not to mention it.

Pre-lit tree. Widowed again and now aware that I’m an inept light stringer, I splurge on a huge tree pre-strung with white lights that comes in four easy-to-lift sections. I prorate the cost over the next 20 years and feel sure I’ve come in under dad’s blue tag rate. I get it up solo in under 40 minutes.

What’s next? Friends say one of those little ceramic trees with the light bulb base like grandma used to have. I don’t think so. My four-year-old grandson, son of Christmas tree dragger, has already told me that if I ever have trouble getting the tree up, I should text his mother, who will immediately drive him over to help.

I think I’m in business for awhile.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder




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Fashionista Training Wasted On Me

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Briefly as a teenager, I lived in Texas. You would have thought that my time there, during the years most girls learn to shop and apply makeup, would have changed me for the better.

I would have developed a fashion sense, learned to do something with my hair (besides wash it), and figured out those little grown-up tricks that would have kept my skin porcelain and eyes fetchingly wide for decades to come.

Apparently, I should have stayed longer. A fashionista I never became – a situation that became painfully obvious this week when I reconnected with two Texas-raised cousins for a mini-reunion.

The texts began flying days before we arrived.

“What are you planning to wear?” asked the one, who recalled a prior get-together involving beautifully matched scarves and accessories.

Confessing to be the less pulled together of the two, she said she didn’t want to be Cinderella’s pitiful stepsister. Since they were nice enough to copy me on the exchange, I instinctively raised my hand and volunteered for the role.

“You will be fine,” they assured me.

But they had no idea. At that moment, I was already en route, packed for an earlier stop, with two pairs of zip-off pants, some black pants, a stack of drip-dry T-shirts, and a half dozen laundry hooks.

My MO for traveling has become a game called Fitting A Week’s Worth of Clothes Into A Carryon. I declare myself the winner when I can actually hoist the bag into the overhead bin and wind up wearing everything in the suitcase at least once.

I’ve developed several tricks for this, of which I am most proud. For example, transport all your liquid foundation in a flip-top contact lens case. Fit all your make-up into a plastic sandwich bag. Wear your bulkiest shoes and jacket(s) on the plane even if it’s 80 degrees at takeoff.

But when I met Cousin #1 at the airport in my khaki zip-offs, black T, two jackets and gym shoes, I began to worry. The self-declared less pulled together of the two was pulling a large suitcase. Every hair was in place. Her makeup was flawless. And her artsy black-and-white top said, “I am fun!” (which she is).

Cousin #2, also with perfect hair and skin, outdid her, with what turned out to be her signature look for traveling: coordinated blouse, jacket, pants, belt, fashionista Keds (these exist), and a chunky gold necklace.

I immediately heard my mother whisper, “Beauty knows no pain,” probably knowing that at some point in later life – such as now – I’d regret not taking the time to moisturize my skin or apply make-up artfully or model clothes with girlfriends till I had a sense of style beyond “comfortable.”

I decided not to share how much time I’d saved – cumulatively – with my 10-minute morning “beauty routine” and worked instead to pick up what helpful information I could by eavesdropping. I learned about eyelash extensions, a lipstick called Black Lace Rabbit that can make any lipstick a shade darker, and Shout packets for your suitcase.

I took good notes and promised myself to become more of a grown-up. But I’m paranoid about fiddling with my eyes, and I’ve gotten by for years on just two shades – Revlon 535 and 750. So I’m probably just going with the Shout.

Sorry, mom.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder





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Info Overload? Take Good Notes

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017


These days, it feels like random jewels of information are flying at me from all directions – on Facebook, TV, over lunch, in an elevator and always during those “find a buddy and walk” excursions.

So I’ve taken to carrying a notebook or scraps of paper (deposit slips and gum wrappers will do) or enlisting the “Notes” section of my phone to capture them all. Quick! Before they drift into Neverland.

“Sounds like a plan!” you might say. But not.

Trouble is, these jewels are scribbled on the run, nearly impossible to read, or even worse, auto-corrected. Also, I forget to revisit them in timely fashion. Or ever.

As a result, I have a pile of bits and pieces that I have no recollection of and which make no sense. Since I have major FOMO (fear of missing out), this is just short of terrifying.

As an experiment – and public service – I’ve decided to go back and try to decipher the notes I’ve collected over the past several months, Google them where possibly helpful, and share the best of them with the world. Here you go.

Wow! $99 to Iceland! Turns out this is WOW Airlines, which you can fly to Iceland on a Sunday, Monday, Wednesday or Friday, except it’s actually $109 and you have to drive first to Cleveland or Cincinnati.

Skink Funk. Well, almost. It’s actually Skunkfunk – a fun line of raincoats with batwing sleeves I saw in Chicago.

Jack London Review – new – from Jimmy Macks..   Not a magazine, this is a basement jazz bar in Portland, Oregon. It used to be Jimmy Maks. And Review is actually Revue. Awesome place, according to someone.

Wrinkle Release. You spray this on wrinkled clothes instead of ironing them (as if anyone still irons). I hope I wrote this down right and it was not actually Wrinkle Resist, which is a day cream to fight wrinkles. Who would have had the gall to recommend that?

E6000 or Gorilla Glue. Good for repairing costume jewelry, according to someone who should know.

Two bananas + two eggs = pancake. Just like it says. No flour. You need ripe bananas, though.

Touch of modern toilet illuminator. This supposedly lights up the toilet bowl at night to avoid “stumbling around in the dark,” as the ad says. Stocking stuffer?

Breville Teamaker. One-touch teapot for perfect tea. $249.95!!!!! Did someone actually recommend this?

Pixabay and Unsplash. Awesome online photo services, according to someone.

Bernie Mev. Brand of cool shoes a woman across the aisle on a plane was wearing.

Clam chowder with sweet potatoes. Interesting idea on a restaurant menu.

The Ravenous Raven. A fun children’s book about a hungry raven who’s not a picky eater. Wouldn’t apply to my grandchildren. Oh, no.

Bike chain. If front chain goes off, put it in first gear and it will go back on. Just saying, especially if you ride an Ice Trike.

Unfortunately, that’s all I have to offer. I have no idea who or what Tiana is. Or Lily. Or where you wind up if you I “take 64 west, exit 220, which ends in 17, and go north,”

I promise to take better notes in the future. But for now, I think I’ll go try to clam chowder with sweet potatoes. It’s that time of year.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder


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