Thursday, July 30, 2009

Miss Healthypants is Outta Here!

Hi to all my blog buddies!

I will be away from my computer for several days. (I don’t know how I’ll survive, but somehow I will have to manage!)

In the meantime, I hope you all have a fabulous weekend, and enjoy these summer days that are going by so fast!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Looking Forward to September

Two weeks ago, I went clothes shopping at Target.

The next day, I began day one of a half-hour a day exercise program.

Coincidence? Not in the least! There’s just nothing like clothes shopping to make you realize how much weight you’ve gained.

Truth be told, Miss Healthypants has been steadily becoming less healthypants over the past several months. Oh, I still eat an outrageous amount of salad every day, and my high fiber nuts and twigs cereal in the morning…but all of the sudden I found myself polishing off a huge cylinder of caramel corn in the span of three days with hardly a second thought, and a McChicken sandwich (with a side salad and a chaser of Oreo cookies), had become one of my favorite cheap dinners.

Then, about a month ago when I injured my arm (that blasted tendonitis!), my morning exercise sessions quickly turned into “let me get another ½ hour of sleep” sessions.

So the lack of exercise and the inhaling of sugar and grease both added up to me standing in the Target dressing room, trying to squeeze into a pair of pants that only a year ago, would have been really big on me.

So for the past two weeks, I’ve been doing a walking/running program for 30 minutes a day. I just take half my lunch hour at work, change into workout clothes, and get outside and run! Well, to be fair, it’s more like jogging a couple of blocks, getting completely out of breath, and walking several more blocks—then lather, rinse, and repeat. But still, I know I’m getting a good workout. Then when I get back to work, I walk up the six flights to my floor and stagger over to my cubicle, sweating profusely. It’s fun!

But it’s really not that bad, especially because when I get home from work, I don’t have to even think about exercising. I’m done for the day! All I have to think about is what healthy meal I can eat, so as not to render my daily workouts useless.

Tonight’s meal was a turkey sandwich from Arby’s (hold the bacon), and of course, a large salad.

But while I was in line at Arby’s, I couldn’t help but notice the big sign, advertising “Wednesday Freebies.” Apparently Arby’s is offering a free item every Wednesday in the summer, if you buy something cheaper (i.e. you get a free sandwich, if you buy a small soda).

Anyway, I started checking out the posted list of which items were free on all the Wednesdays coming up, and I noticed that on September 23rd, if you buy a small soda, you get a free Roastburger—which I have been dying to try. It’s basically Arby’s version of a hamburger—a “burger” made with roast beef instead of a hamburger pattie—and oh my GOSH, it looks so good on the sign!

Now you might be saying, “Well, Miss Cheapskatepants, why don’t you just buy a Roastburger?”

“Well,” says I, “because if I buy it and it sucks, then I will feel like I was ripped off.”

It’s bad enough to feel unhealthy; I don’t want to feel cheated, too.

So anyway, as I stood there drooling at the sign, I grabbed my cell phone and called Iwanski to tell him all about the Arby’s Freebies.

“So on September 23rd,” I told him, “I’m going to get a free Roastburger.”

He laughed. “Are you serious? You’re already planning what you are going to eat on a Wednesday in September? And you called me to tell me this?”

“Yep!” I said. “I want that Roastburger.”

Hell, I can’t be Miss Healthypants ALL the time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lucky Duck

For the past hour, I’ve been reading the blog of a former coworker who joined the Peace Corps and has been living in the Ukraine for the past couple of years. The Ukraine! Can you imagine thinking “I’m going to go live in the Ukraine”? And oh my gosh, it is absolutely fascinating to read about all the differences between living there and living here in America. It sure makes me feel lucky to live here.

Here in America, unless you’re homeless or very, very poor, your home is heated warmly in the winter. Apparently not in the Ukraine! My former coworker says that heat is incredibly expensive there, and that during the winter, she wears basically three layers of clothes and two pairs of socks all the time. Plus, they have no hot water to shower in—and even if they did, she said she’s not sure if she’d even want to, because it’s too cold to get undressed to shower!

Brrrr…I don’t think I could handle that.

I can barely handle not having the normal Chicago summer 90-degree temperatures and have been remarking to people lately that it’s been a “cool” summer (temperatures have mostly been in the 70’s and sometimes low 80’s). I am so damn spoiled!!

She also wrote about buying fruit in the Ukraine, and that you really have to watch out for worms in the fruit. She wrote, and I quote:

“If you watch a Ukrainian eating fruit, they take very little bites and look at the fruit in detail with every bite. When was the last time you picked up a piece of fruit and ate it while reading, driving, or working on the computer without thinking twice? Yeah… worms…. So, that is probably my biggest fear. Pray for my tummy.”

WORMS in my FRUIT?! I don’t think so!!!! I inhale blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or peaches on a daily basis, without giving a second thought to how safe they are to eat. I am absolutely cringing at the thought of having to watch out for worms while I eat my berries.

And there were so many other differences between the Ukraine and America, that made me so grateful to be living where I am today.

And particularly, I feel very lucky to be living in a city where I can walk out on the street and have trains and buses and taxicabs all within less than a block of my apartment. I live in an apartment with a kick-ass heater and air-conditioner, with a swimming pool, laundry room, and exercise room on the 7th floor, accessible by elevator. I even have a little grocery store (7-Eleven) on the ground floor of my building, which sells NON-WORMY fruit.

I have a doorman in my building who keeps us safe from unwelcome intruders, and twenty-four hours a day, I can order a pizza to be delivered right to my door. I also have over 30 fast-food restaurants in my neighborhood—ten in my building alone!—not to mention the countless other sit-down restaurants within a couple of blocks of home-base.

And even if I do eat at home, I have a dishwasher that washes all the dishes for me.

I have a job about a half-mile away that I can walk to every day, which mostly involves talking to people on the phone (no manual labor there), and which pays me a good salary.

I can get a prescription filled at any time of the day, and can do my entire grocery shopping, birthday gift shopping, and Christmas shopping within the privacy of my own home—thanks to the lovely interwebs.

I am one damn lucky girl.

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Things I Have Just Learned In The Past Two Weeks

1. If a smoke detector starts making random, annoying beeps, pressing the button on it for a few seconds will not work. Instead, you will have to stand on a chair and weave your way through a labyrinth of wires in the smoke detector to find the battery and disconnect it. This will likely happen at about 4 a.m.

2. You should probably make sure you always have a replacement smoke detector battery on-hand.

3. If your dog freaks out during a thunderstorm, try rubbing water on his/her back. Since dogs are very sensitive to the static electricity in the air during a storm, this will help eliminate some of the electricity and therefore, some of their anxiety. (Thanks, Christy, for this great tip!)

4. Cans of tuna-flavored cat food attract bees. This can be useful in keeping bees away during a family gathering.

5. A sump pump is a pump used to prevent flooding in your basement. (I used to know this, but forgot it over the years.)

6. People who grew up in Texas didn’t have a basement and don’t know about sump pumps.

7. To keep bugs from eating your tomato plants, post yellow disposable plastic cups with vaseline rubbed on them in your yard. (The bugs will be attracted to the cups and get stuck on them and die.)

8. My sister-in-law Anna knows A LOT about houses and gardening.

9. I’m not sure that I’d ever want to live in the suburbs.

10. Watering plants in a garden can be very, very relaxing.

11. If I owned a house, I’d get a dog. But only ONE dog.

12. Dogs are disgusting creatures who sometimes eat poo or feminine products. (Ewwwww….)

13. Feeding a dog a half a banana a day will likely prevent him from eating his own poo. (I’ve been told that it’s really the potassium they crave.)

14. I still have so much to learn!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dogs VS Cats

This past week, Iwanski and I were house-sitting and dog-sitting at his sister’s house in the suburbs. I’ve never had a dog for a pet (just cats), so this week, I learned what it’s like to be a dog owner.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that dogs are VERY different from cats. For one thing, dogs are freaks during a thunderstorm—or any time they hear a noise that they are not used to. This includes the beeping of a smoke detector with low batteries, at 2 a.m. If my cats hear thunder or the beeping of a smoke detector, they just go and hide in the closet. Dogs apparently pace around the room and try to dig a hole under the bed. This is not particularly enjoyable to humans.

Also, most dogs are A LOT bigger than cats. However, this does not prevent them from trying to get on your lap and give you kisses. They apparently think they are as small as a 10-pound cat.

Dogs also want food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will never turn down ANY scraps of food. I realized that this has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: if you accidentally drop a piece of food on the floor (as I, Miss Clumsypants, is wont to do), a dog will scarf it up in a second. A cat might sniff at the morsel for a bit, but then will likely turn its nose up at it and walk away—resulting in your having to actually pick up the food from the floor. Disadvantage: if you go anywhere near the kitchen, the dog will pretty much attach itself to your hip. This will result in your having to repeat “go lie down” several times a day.

And of course, there is the whole “bathroom” situation. Dogs have to go outside at least a few times a day. Cats just pee or poo right in the litterbox. Again, this has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: you never have to worry about taking the cats outside, or getting back to the house in time so the cats don’t pee on the rug. Disadvantage: You have to scoop cat nasties out of the litterbox. Oh, and there’s also the pleasant smell that sometimes wafts from the closet with the litterbox in it. Yuck!

So I think that this week, I definitely saw the advantages and disadvantages of having dogs. Being a dog-owner definitely seems to take more responsibility, but then, dogs are very affectionate and definitely grow on you. I’m actually missing the dogs a little right now.

But as I’m sitting here with my laptop, occasionally stroking the soft, beautiful fur of my little cat Autumn as she purrs and rubs her cheek on my hand, I’m sure appreciating the advantages of being a cat owner.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rough Stuff

A couple of weeks ago, I injured myself and came down with a nasty case of tendonitis in my right arm. It’s like gingivitis, only much more painful and not caused by a lack of brushing or flossing your teeth. Actually, it could probably be caused by brushing your teeth, depending on how much you flail your arms when you’re brushing. (I know I get kinda wild with the toothbrush sometimes, so that just might be what did it.)

Anyway, so after two weeks of inhaling ibuprofen, icing my arm until I got frostbite, and wearing an elbow support that nearly cut off all the circulation in my arm, I became desperate for some kind of pain relief. So, acting on a tip from a naprapath at a recent family party (who told me that my neck was knotted up nice and tight, perhaps causing some referred pain in my arm), I called to schedule a massage.

On Google, I found a massage school in Chicago that advertised the following:

ALL PROFESSIONAL TREATMENTS ARE $5 OFF REGULAR PRICE ($55 for one hour, $85 for 90 minutes)!!!

I thought, five bucks off?—and the regular price is $55? So that means an hour-long professional massage would be only $50! That seemed like a pretty good deal.

I called and scheduled my appointment, and confirmed with the receptionist that the massage would only be $50. “Yes, that’s right—fifty,” she replied.

So I was all set for the massage last night, and was definitely looking forward to it.

My appointment was at 6:15, and I got to the building at around 6:10. I should have known when I saw the building that it wasn’t exactly going to be the most professional massage. It was an old, run-down looking red brick building, just a few blocks away from some North side housing projects. But the sign directing me to the third floor seemed professionally done. So I walked in and immediately saw a very old-looking elevator in front of me.

I hit the up button and heard the elevator groan like it hadn’t been used in decades. Finally, after what seemed like ten minutes, the elevator door opened, and I got in nervously. Very slowly, the door closed, and the rickety-ass elevator began shaking and groaning and transporting my very anxious self up to the third floor.

At the third floor, I said a silent prayer of thanks when the door actually opened, and to my left, I saw the glass doors to the massage school. I walked in and looked around, quickly surveying the room. Happily, I noticed that it looked like a professional massage space, very clean and with modern comfy furniture.

The very friendly receptionist greeted me warmly, and then asked how I would like to pay for my session.

“By credit card,” I said.

“Okay, that will be $55,” she said.

“I thought it was $5 off—so $50?” I said, “That’s what your website says—and that’s what someone here quoted me on the phone.”

“Oh, sorry,” she said. “Let me just check. I’m new here.”

A few minutes later, after consulting with management, she said. “I’m sorry, it is $55—the regular price is $60. I’ll mention to the management about the website.”

This was getting off to a really good start, I thought.

But hell, five dollars was not all that much money—did I really want to argue about it? I decide against arguing and paid her the $55.

Then she gave me some forms to fill out, and I sat down to answer the three pages of questions. What medication did I take? Lots of ibuprofen recently. What activities did I do on a regular basis? Um, does drinking wine and eating cheese count? What allergies did I have? I am pretty allergic to rickety-ass elevators.

Right around question #835, a couple of women walked in, talking and laughing loudly, and whom I deduced after a couple of minutes to be massage therapists. The chipper receptionist said to one of them, “This is Carla, your next client.”

The massage therapist turned to me ever-so-briefly and mumbled, “Hi,” then turned back to her conversation with her friend.

Well, that certainly didn’t give me the warm fuzzies. But I thought, let me give her a chance, so I turned back to my long and unending questionnaire. Question #836: Have you consumed any alcohol today? No, but now I kind-of wish I had.

Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly noticed that Miss Massage Therapist was kind-of watching me, presumably waiting for me to finish writing the story of my life. I rushed through the last few questions, and got up and handed her the forms.

She glanced at them and then directed me—guess where?—back to the rickety-ass elevator! I was in front of her as we approached the elevator, so I had no idea if we were going up or down. And instead of telling me, she was now just staring at the paperwork I had filled out.

“Um, are we going up or down?” I asked.

“We’re going up to four,” she said.

Well, at least we weren’t going up more than one floor. I figured even this old-ass elevator could make it up one floor.

During the ten-minute ride up to the fourth floor, Miss Massage Therapist said, “So do you want me to focus mostly on your upper body, and not on your lower body?”

“Um, well…I do like the overall relaxation massage…” I began.

“It’s just that we’re already cutting into your massage time,” she interrupted.

What?! We just got in the elevator!

“Your session ends at 7:15,” she continued, “so it’s probably better to focus on the area that’s bothering you the most, your upper body.”

Wow, I was getting warm fuzzies all over. “Yeah, I guess so,” I replied.

When we got to the fourth floor, there was a big sign that said:


“We have to be quiet,” whispered Miss Massage Therapist. “There’s a session in progress.”

By this time I had figured there was a session in progress, so I stayed quiet.

She led me into this dimly lit area, and pointed ahead, “Just go right down there,” she said. In front of me was a closed room, and to my right, a curtain hanging from the ceiling.

“Where?” I asked.

“There,” she pointed to the curtain.

Really? I stepped into the opening at the side of the curtain. Oh-kay…apparently I don’t get my own room; just a curtained-off area. This was definitely not what I had expected.

She left so that I could undress and lie on the table, and then she reappeared a few minutes later.

There was soft music playing, so I thought, what the heck, I might as well make the best of this. So I tried to relax.

Then, without saying a word, she began pressing on my back. No, “pressing” is not the right word. Perhaps “jabbing my back” or “digging into my back” are better words to describe the feeling. It hurt. Really bad.

“Ow,” I said. She didn’t say a word, and just kept on karate chopping her fingers into my back.

I remembered that the naprapath at the family party a few days earlier had said that I should tell the massage therapist to push really hard, to really work at me, to get the knots out. But was it really supposed to hurt this much? Maybe this is what a “deep tissue massage” was like. I decided to grin and bear it.

But a few minutes later, I felt compelled to say “Ow!” again. It just hurt so badly.

Once again, she ignored me and just kept digging away.

A little while later, when she was doing a particular painful stroke on my lower back, I started breathing heavily, trying to manage the pain.

“Are you okay?” she finally whispered.

“Yes,” I said aloud, “It’s just—“

“Shhhh,” she whispered. “You have to be quiet. There’s another session in progress.”

I couldn’t believe it! I had just been shushed! I was just NOT feeling this.

But I thought, it’s only an hour—and even though this hurts now, maybe it will feel good later. God, I hoped so. I just could not relax.

Then she got to my neck, and I thought, “Oh my God, what is she going to do to my neck?” I remembered reading an article in a magazine where people had had strokes after seemingly innocent visits to the chiropractor or even the hairdresser (while getting their hair washed), and I thought, “Oh my God, this lady’s gonna give me a stroke!”

So of course, when she lifted my neck to massage under it, I just got even more tense and nervous.

“You have to relax your neck,” she whispered.

I laughed. Sure, whatever, lady! But I did try to relax it, and she dug away at my neck for the next few minutes.

Oh, and in the middle of her massaging my neck, I suddenly heard loud sirens from outside, blaring away—it sounded like about ten police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. Yeah, that’s really conducive to relaxation! This was certainly not a sound-proof building.

So finally, after an hour of what felt like pure hell, she stopped jabbing me.

“How are you feeling, Carla?” she whispered.

“Well, now I feel a lot more relaxed,” I said.

“Good,” she said. Well, I was being truthful—but I didn’t mean what she thought I meant. I was just happy and relaxed now that it was finally over!

“I’ll meet you in the common area out there,” she said.

When she left the curtained area, I immediately got up and put my clothes on. I just wanted to get the hell of out there as quickly as possible.

Back in the common area, she motioned back to the elevator of doom, and as we got in the elevator, she said, “Your neck was really tight. Your upper back, too. You had lots of knots.”

“Do you do yoga?” she asked.

“Well, I was until 2 weeks ago, when I injured myself” I said.

“Do you lift weights?” she asked.

“I was until 2 weeks ago,” I replied.

She appeared perplexed.

“I’m sure I got a tense neck from sitting in front of the computer all day at work,” I said.

She ignored me. “You’re probably not drinking enough water,” she said. “Water flushes toxins from your body, like those that were built up in your neck.”

Oh yeah, I’m SURE not drinking enough water caused the knots in my neck! THAT makes a lot of sense.

We got down to the third floor, and she handed me an evaluation form and a dixie cup of water.

“Good night!” she said. “Be sure to drink lots of water!”

Yeah, like this dixie cup full?—I wanted to say. But I was more eager to get to the evaluation and tell them what I really thought.

Hmm, would I recommend this massage clinic to a friend? No!

Would I recommend this massage therapist to a friend? Hell no!

I finished the evaluation form and handed it to the receptionist, and practically ran out the door.

Once outside, I took a deep breath, and I had to laugh. Who knew a massage could be so bad, in so many ways? I’ll tell you something, I learned my lesson; I will always find and read reviews of a massage place before going there.

So anyway, this morning, I expected to wake up with very sore muscles.

Instead—miracle of miracles!—I felt great! My arm pain was much less, and my neck and shoulders felt totally relaxed and released.

I guess when it comes to massage, no pain no gain?

Well, even so, next time I would find a more responsive, sensitive massage therapist—one who at least talks to me and doesn’t shush me when I say “ow!”!

When it comes to massage therapists, I really do need the warm fuzzies.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Alligator Families

The other day, I suddenly had a memory pop into my head that I hadn’t thought about in a really long time. And it wasn’t even a specific memory—more a conglomeration of memories, of times spent hanging out with my Dad in his t.v. and radio repair shop.

Nowadays, I find it amazing that even though my Dad had a full-time management job at Wisconsin Electric, he also had a side business fixing people’s radios and t.v.’s. Dad, dude, did you ever hear of taking some time off?

But that’s not to say that my Dad was all work and no play. And in fact, even when he was working in his workshop, he would often allow me to come in there and hang out with him. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy to do your work with a little five-year-old girl chatting your ear off nearby, but Dad didn’t seem to mind. And I enjoyed the time just hanging out with my Daddy in the workshop he called “Al’s Radio Hospital.”

Al’s Radio Hospital was chock-full of people’s broken-down radios and t.v.’s…and all kinds of tools and devices that in my little kid imagination, were perfect toys. And I quickly learned which toys I was allowed to play with and which ones I wasn’t. (Saws and hammers were definitely not allowed.)

My absolute favorite things to play with were these colorful clippy wire things that he had hanging from a metal plate attached to the workshop counter. Believe it or not, I had no idea what those were called until about five minutes ago, or what they are used for. They’re called alligator clips—how ‘bout that?—and apparently they are used to clip together metal objects, especially in electrical repair shops.

But to my five-year-old imagination, they were families. There was the blue family, the yellow family, and the green family, etc….and they all lived together on the same block. Here’s a picture of what those alligator clip “people” look like.

I would spend hours playing with my alligator clip families, while my Dad stood nearby fixing someone’s t.v. or radio.

I was also fascinated with this device on the workshop counter, where you turned the crank to make the two sides of it come together. And yes, I just found out what that’s called, too—apparently it’s called a “workshop vice,” used to hold objects in place while working on them. I just thought of it as a “smasher,” and sometimes I would put a cheap toy or a piece of candy in there, just to see how long I could crank that sucker before the toy or candy would break. I don’t why that was fun, but it was to me!

When I look back at those happy times, it occurs to me that a kid sure doesn’t need much to have fun. In our modern world, parents often seem to think that they have to get their kids everything they want—but that’s simply not true.

Just give your kid a set of alligator clips or something simple like that, and let their imagination run wild!