Thursday, May 31, 2007

In Which I, Like Peter, Deny My Faith

OK, so I'm back to the measuring again. I thought it sounded good when I wrote it, but I haven't kept it up. I haven't kept anything up, actually. But I didn't bring the iPod this morning, so that's something.

Today I began the 13-week program outlined in the book that Melissa mentioned back when she was fighting her hatred of running. What, you may wonder, sold me on it? Was it her glowing endorsement of bloody nipples and diarrhea? No, surprisingly, it was not. It was mostly that it was a beginner's book that had neither "Dummies" nor "Idiots" in the title. And the fact that she said, "There it was in black and white what I needed to do to become a runner and I sort of started to feel like a runner."

The thought of feeling like a runner appealed to me. I've never felt like a runner. When I run, my chubby bits bounce embarrassingly, I breathe noisily, and the air huffs out of me noticeably on each footfall. My knees sound like a bowl of Kellogg's® Rice Krispies® when I walk up stairs, too, and I didn't think pounding all of my weight down on them over and over again would help that much.

And so, because I over-intellectualize everything I do, I got a book. I got two, actually. The second is this book hoping it might help with the knee thing. I haven't read it yet, though. If ChiRunning appeals to me in the same way that yoga does, it will probably mean I never actually do it. Despite my conservative, North Austin suburban veneer, I have South Austin hippie leanings like a strong yearning to practice yoga. But somehow I never actually find a way to fit it into my life. Just like veganism.

Which brings me back to running. I started today, and immediately these two thoughts came to mind: 1) wow, it sure is dark and quiet at 5:15 a.m. 2) wow, it sure is humid here.

I'll resist the temptation to use this space as the "running journal" the book encourages runners to keep. But I'll let you know how it goes. Today's status: Session 1 of Week 1 complete. Weight, 250 lbs. Total time: 35 minutes. Total running time: 3 1/2 minutes.

Note to Self

When making a joke, you may want to consider whether or not the cultural experience on which it is based is universal to your audience. Case in point: I made a bad joke yesterday. While rinsing the pesto sauce out of my lunch dish, I chuckled at my own cleverness. I went into the other room and said to Mrs. Rodius:

"If I were an adman creating a campaign for a company that sells pesto sauce, I would pitch the slogan, Pesto es vivia."

She said, "What does that mean?"

It then occurred to me that not everyone, and certainly not Mrs. Rodius, watched as much television through the '80's as I did. Perhaps for them, the Lynn Redgrave Weight Watchers "This is living" campaign does not occupy any space in the memory cells of their brains. If that's true, then the exotic spin Ms. Redgrave put on it in a commercial for a Mexican dish of some sort ("esto es vivia") may not immediately spring to mind when it is cleverly tweaked to apply to pesto sauce.

And once again it was demonstrated to me in clear terms that the me walking around out here in the real world just ain't as funny as the me inside my head.

Friday, May 25, 2007

These Kids Today, and Their Fancy MP3's!

I have a strong tendency towards curmudgeonry. I love the phrase "These kids today..." and have been using it with an ever-decreasing sense of irony since my early twenties. But one modern trend with which I have kept pace is the migration from CD's to MP3 players. I love my iPod so much, it hurts my heart. I love that I have not minutes, not hours, but days of music, audiobooks, and Spanish lessons at my fingertips. Whatever I may be in the mood for at any given moment, it's available. What could be better than that? But I've noticed that my sense of context is gone, chronologically, physically, socially.

Chronologically, I have no idea what year most of the music I'm listening to originally came out, so that I'm revelling in the discovery of the crazy new sound of Hooverphonic ten years after it was originally released. While I am still taken back to a particular moment when I listen to a particular song, the moment that I first got addicted to Peter, Bjorn & John's "Young Folks" and cemented the addiction through horrific, repeated abuse that made Mrs. Rodius want to jab me in the eye with a ballpoint pen, that moment no longer has specific context in the larger world.

Physically, there's no longer a tangible artifact inextricably connected to the music anymore. When I was younger, I would listen to a new CD while looking at the artwork and reading the liner notes. A cassette that didn't have the lyrics printed on the long origami of the insert was a sore disappointment indeed. Today, I may or may not know what the CD cover looks like, but I certainly don't have the mental association between the image and the sound cemented in my mental conception of it the way I used to. And if I shuffle a whole playlist or an entire genre of music, I may recognize the artist, but I often don't know which album the song comes from, or which track number on that album it is. Music floats out in an undefined, nebulous space in my mind, no longer tethered to the physical object from which it came.

Socially, I'm finding music through a much broader system of links, recommendations, and accidental stumblings, so there's not as much of a sense of shared experience as there was when I was listening to the same newly released Metallica album that everybody else in my peer group was listening to, at the same time they were listening to it. It's not just technology that's affected the shared experience of music for me; music is no longer central to or universal to my peer group. But the broadening of communication in the last decade or so has broadened the group of people who influence my musical selections and weakened the degree to which music is part of a social connection.

And that word, album. I think it dates me. I tried hard not to use it above, but still it managed to sneak in there. I maintain that a CD is an album. A cassette was an album. But I may be in the minority. Album evokes vinyl for many people now.

Anyway, I'm somehow feeling wistful now. These kids today and their fancy electronics! I remember when I had to flip the cassette over in my generic Walkman made of three pounds of bright yellow plastic. And I was glad, and lucky to have it! We didn't care about playlists and randomizing tracks. We listened to an album straight through, in the track order that God intended. Bah! I yank my pants up as high as they'll go and shake my fist in the air! These kids today!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Throw Down

People like to give pregnant women advice. They like to advise the husband, too. This morning, the security guard at my office passed this one along:

"When my kids were, you know, still in the belly, the doctor asked if she was getting any exercise. I said she was walking. He said it is not enough. She needs more... You know, for, like... To make the delivery easier. You know?"

Here he pointed at his belly. I nodded knowingly.

"The doctor said to take a box of matches. You know, the matches that come in a box?"

Here he mimed striking a match against a box. I nodded again to let him know I'm hip to the whole match-in-a-box thing.

"Take the box of matches, and throw them all over the floor. Really spread them out. Then tell her to pick them up."

Here he mimed a person with a large belly bending over, picking up a match, and putting it in a box. Then he repeated the maneuver, in case I hadn't properly appreciated the amount of exercise involved in picking up an entire box of matches, one by one.

"Picking up the matches, it is very good. It makes it easier."

For my part, I'm not sure that throwing a box of matches on the floor and telling Mrs. Rodius to pick them up would make anything much easier. In fact, I'm pretty sure it would have the opposite effect.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

With a Guilty Start

When I opened the door, he was moving in a straight line directly for the drinking fountain, with an intent expression on his face. He heard the door, though, and suddenly changed direction while looking quickly over his shoulder at me.

"Good morning!" he said, and shuffled away. It wasn't late in the day, but still, we were clearly on the p.m. side of noon.

I can't help but wonder, what might he have done to that fountain if I hadn't happened along?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Paving the Way II: Give Me a Gift, You Cheap Bastard

We've been getting some pressure lately, mostly from one of the Once and Future Grandmas, to make a gift registry for the baby shower. This is apparently serious business that must not be postponed.

There's something disconcerting to me, and to Mrs. Rodius, about telling people what gifts to give us. "Mom, I think you should buy us a rocking chair. And you should spend $300. Maybe more, we haven't decided yet." Seems a little, I don't know, awkward. I know, she offered. Both of the Grandmas have said they want to buy us Something, and preferably one of the Bigger Somethings. Even so, telling them what the Somethings will be, and how much the Somethings will cost, feels a little presumptuous.

A co-worker with four kids gave me this advice: "Be thorough, and be specific." He said he felt awkward, too, for the first kid. But by the time the fourth came along, they were asking for everything, specifying colors and sizes, and registering so they wouldn't get duplicates. It all sounds so mercenary.

We've been very generously offered a crib, changing table, and dresser, as well as what sounded like many cubic yards of clothes, from Mrs. Rodius' brother and his wife. The nephew is ready to graduate to the Big Boy Bed, and we're grateful to give the furniture a new home. So with the furniture, and the rocking chair and stroller/carrier/car seat "Travel System" that the Grandmas are very kindly giving us (or else!), I don't know what to put on the registry. Not that there aren't lots of helpful suggestions at Babies 'R' Us. But my God, surely you don't need that much equipment to raise a baby! They're just little people; how could they need all that stuff?

I'm getting better at it, though. $30 for a thermometer? I wouldn't pay that! But hey, I'm still not, so on it goes! What else you got?

But you, you should definitely buy us diapers. Cloth diapers, though. I don't want you thinking you can get away with a bag of disposables, like that's going to cover it. Our friendship is definitely worth cloth. You can get us a couple of 12-packs of one-sizers for around $400. That should do it. But remember, I've got my eye on you, you cheap bastard.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I find myself washing my hands a little more thoroughly than usual when I'm standing next to Well-Documented Germophobe as he does his "Prepping for Surgery" handwashing before he uses the urinal.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Opting Out of the Numbers Game

Here are a few things I'm going to try to focus on in the near future as I try to improve my weight-loss results:

1. Stop weighing myself. I love statistics. I love to know the numbers. I thought this was because I liked to measure my progress, but I find more often I'm using it to berate myself for my lack of progress. When I remind myself daily, or several times a week at least, just how much weight I'm not losing, surprise! I get depressed. Depression doesn't help me stay out of the self-medication habit, and it doesn't help me stay motivated.

2. Stop making my workouts so mathematically regimented. I've been working out on a treadmill. I was writing down time, distance, and calories consumed so that I could compare workout to workout. Have I mentioned I love statistics? "I had a 3.8% better workout today than I did last Wednesday." Fascinating tidbit to exactly no one but me. Mrs. Rodius almost tried to sound enthusiastic when I'd report these little factoids. "Great!" But I could tell she wasn't. Not really.

I was also rigidly sticking to grade, speed, and time patterns: begin walking, 8.0 grade at 3.8 mph. At 5:00, increase speed to 5.2 mph for 1:30. Return to walking. Repeat at 15:00, 25:00, etc. Then I could again track progress. Next week, increase speed to 3.9. Next week increase jogging time to 2:00. Next week increase grade to 8.5. And so on.

But man, that was getting boring. And I found I'd hit a wall trying to jog at 5.5 mph on a 10.0 grade for 2:30. So on Monday, I started a new tack. I walk for a couple of minutes, I jog for a couple of minutes. I don't try to keep the numbers on a schedule that I can remember so I can compare it to my next workout. I just try to continually push myself. I jog at a grade and speed that I can handle. If it's too easy, I increase it. When I run out of breath, I walk again. When I can breathe, I jog again. I vary the grade, I vary the speed, and I just try to keep my body working.

I tried it again today, and I got a new record: 841 calories in 45 minutes! I hadn't broken the 800 mark the old way. See, I told you I love the statistics, and the comparing. Then I get anxiety thinking about always using the same treadmill. Because this one may not compare to that one exactly. And if the gym is closed and I workout outside, I don't even have a timer! And how do you measure the grade? And the treadmill I have at home, it doesn't even let me input weight! How am I supposed to believe its calorie computations when it doesn't even know how much I weigh? I can't, that's how! And if you can't trust your treadmill, who can you trust in this crazy world of ours?

3. I'm going to stop listening to my beloved iPod every workout. I will probably still listen to it most workouts. I like to listen to cheesy electronic club music that I'd never listen to in any other situations, because damn, does that beat keep you moving. But I discovered today, when I accidentally left my headphones at home, that it's a lot easier to keep up a good breathing rhythm when I can actually hear my breath. I've had breathing problems since I was pneumoniac two-year-old. And of course the smoking for 15 years didn't help. Now I haven't had a cigarette since July, but I'm still huffing and wheezing and mouth-breathing through my workouts because I just can't move enough air. And Holy Jesuses, I don't know if you live in Austin, but there has been a "Heavy" or "High" mold count in this town virtually every day since August. August was when I started paying attention to it, because all that time, I thought I couldn't breathe because of the cigarettes. It wasn't enough to get me quit, mind you. Then when I quit, and I still couldn't breathe, I started to pay attention to the allergy reports. I think a good way for me to test if I'm allergic to mold is if my symptoms go away when the mold count is down, but as I may already have mentioned: IT NEVER GOES DOWN HERE! Ever.

What was I talking about?

Oh yeah, the iPod, and the turning it off now and then so maybe I can actually listen to my body occasionally. Crazy thought, right? I've always believed in the iPod's ability to take my mind away from focusing on every one of the two thousand seven hundred ticks of the clock during my workout. But I'm measuring every second of it anyway, so it's not like my mind every really wanders that far. In fact, I get annoyed when it does, because then I lose where I was in my minute-by-minute tracking of my walk-run-walk cycle. I even listened to audiobooks to take my mind off the long, dark monotony of regular exercise, but I kept losing my place because I couldn't listen to the narrator and do my counting and calculating all at the same time.

So, yeah. All of that to say I'm going to try to make my workouts more organic and pay more attention to what's going on with my body. Profound, right? I wonder why no one else has ever thought of this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Paving the Way I: Running on Empty

I've always been heavy. Well, not always. There were 2 or 3 years starting at 18. I worked out in my parents' garage every day for a summer and lost 50 pounds. I went to college and fooled Mrs. Rodius into falling for me through false advertising. (Sorry, that's sarcasm. I've been reading through Melissa's archives at Suburban Bliss lately, and I just recently read the Great Weight Debate of March '06 begun at Morphing Into Mama and carried on at Homesick Home and probably elsewhere all over this wacky internet thing. I'm heavier than I was in college. So's Mrs. Rodius. So are a lot of people.)

Now, as at other times in my life, I'm Trying to Lose Weight. It's part of my preparations for the Coming of Thumper. I'm afraid he's going to come out already able to outrun me, so I thought it was time to give this "healthy lifestyle" thing another shot. I've been working out. A lot. Like four, five, and six times a week, since February. Running, even. Well, walking and jogging, anyway. And I cut way back on the drinking. I mean, I'm not self-medicating through some very emotionally tough times anymore, like I have been for a good part of the last ten years. The time is ripe, right? The pounds should be falling off me, right?

You might think so. But you'd be wrong. I'm still 250 pounds at 6'3", and I'm not talking about a waxed and oiled rippling 250, I'm talking about hairy belly, boobs, and thighs 250. Still. After all this time. That's about 5 pounds lost in three months of sweating my ass, well, not off, really. But sweating a whole hell of a lot, OK? What's up with that?

Well, part of what's up with that was that I started replacing my booze calories with sugar calories. Chocolate, and I'm not sure if you've noticed this, is tasty. And when I start to get a handle on the calorie shift, and manage to avoid both booze and sweet, sweet delightful snacking in the evening, I lose motivation on the exercise and only work out once or twice a week. And when I get back on the workout track, I find I'm drinking again, more than a little, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. And hey, that's only the weekend, right? Well, yeah, but it's also kind of like half the week. Half the week pouring hundreds and thousands of calories down my throat. But yeah, drankin' is fun.

So how do I get a handle on why my brain, or my body, or maybe both, doesn't want me to be svelte? I want to be svelte! Who doesn't want to be svelte?

Monday, May 14, 2007

On the Menu

Is a woman who's pregnant with her first child a mother? Maybe this is a question worthy of late-night, dope-smoking college student philosophical debate. Maybe not. But for the purposes of the real question behind it, all philosophical nuance drops away and the answer becomes clear: should I give my pregnant wife a gift on Mother's Day? Well, duh!

One of my greatest fears is waking up one day to realize I'm a walking cliché, so I try to avoid the American Male and the American Husband stereotypes where I can. Just like on Valentine's Day, I hate the idea of the card, the flowers, the chocolate. I can usually work up a little more creativity than that, but not always. So for Mother's Day, I decided Thumper and I would make her breakfast. I know, it's a Mother's Day cliché in its own right, but that's what sort of appealed to me about it: the idea of Thumper making his mother breakfast. So I whipped up a menu.

I wanted it to look fairly menu-ish, with plenty of breakfasty items, but I thought it might be prudent to make some of the items cost-prohibitive. I don't have a waffle iron, after all. Then I went out without her on Saturday, telling her I was involved in "top secret activities." In the past, when she's asked where I'm going when on similar missions, I've told her, "None of your damn business." But with the hormones and all, I thought "top secret activities" might be a more prudent response.

In the end, I got a great result, too. She laughed. She cried. She said, "You know this is going in a scrapbook, right?" Mrs. Rodius does love her the scrapbookin'. I told her I didn't expect her to cry, but she conceded, "It's the hormones."

He sure is a lazy kid, though, that Thumper. He put his name on the gift, enjoyed an omelette, some bacon, 2 pancakes and some cranberry juice, and then didn't even do the dishes afterward. Kids!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Man Among Women

It's not that I'm the only husband at the obstetrician's office. Or boyfriend. Or future father. There are plenty of us in the waiting room. We follow a couple of steps behind, keep our mouths shut, and mostly hold stuff for, and hand stuff to, our women. We know this just ain't our show.

But are we really that much in the background? After last month's checkup, Mrs. Rodius and I realized there was a follow-up question we forgot to ask. I have more free time at work, and it was a somewhat embarrassing question, so she was happy to let me take care of it when I offered. So I called the office. Baffled, I think, is the best word to describe the female receptionist's attitude.

"What? What was your name? Who are you again? You're the husband? Can she not, like, come to the phone?"

No, I have her locked up in the back room so she won't hurt herself or the baby. You know how it is. I just wanted to make sure I was following the Proper Care and Feeding of a Pregnant Chick.

Maybe I flustered her because The Man was asking an embarrassing question about Lady Parts and Such. But this month, the obstetrician said she had a sheet with some additional information for us that she would give us at the end of the appointment. The embarrassment factor this time was very low. But we forgot, and she forgot, and we left without getting that piece of paper. Personally, I'm so relieved to get to the end of an appointment without getting any Bad News that I'm ready to sprint out of there before they change their minds and say, "This has all been going too well for you, so we think it's about time you had to deal with Bad News. Here you go!" I've been expecting Bad News from the beginning, and I'm continually amazed that it's not coming.

Later in the afternoon, I went back to the office to get the info sheet. Again, the receptionist was flustered by my appearance. Maybe I misinterpreted, but when I got interviewed again about who I was, and who I was connected to, and where exactly was Mrs. Rodius anyway, I started to feel like "flustered" was really "suspicious." I checked the door on my way out to see if it said "Specializing in Obstetrics and Sheltering Battered Women."

To a lesser degree, it reminded me of The Wedding. That was clearly Her Show, and I was a supporting cast member. I deferred to her in all things, except when she became so overwhelmed that she asked me to take care of some specific details. The expectation seems to be that the man stays in the background. What I wonder is this: is that the expectation because that's what we do, or is that what we do because that's what's expected? I mean, does the female staff of the female doctor to female patients act flustered when The Man asks a direct question because men don't usually do that in this situation, or do men usually not do that because the reaction makes it clear that we're not supposed to?
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