03 May, 2016

If it's not recorded, did it happen?

My Fitbit doesn’t work.
Don’t leave! Please… hear me out!

I’m not a Fitbit user by nature. I eschewed the call of “tracking” my exercise and general fitness in this way, and rolled my eyes with the rest of you when coworkers discussed ad nauseum “getting my steps in” and ranted about “I wasn’t wearing my Fitbit, so it didn’t count!” WHAT? Morons.

A co-worker who I occasionally walk with at lunch-time had her Fitbit break while on vacation, bought an upgraded new one, and found out later that the old one still worked. She offered it to me. Free.

Um, okay. I’ll try it – let me see what the hype is about. I've had it about month now.

I don’t get it. I don’t. Here are my observations:

My Fitbit (Fitbit One) automatically tracks steps, miles and flights of stairs. Sort of. 

1. The coworker advised me that the mileage thing seems to be off. (I can't tell.)
2. My first flight downstairs in the morning doesn’t EVER count. It only tracks beginning with the first flight up. WHY?
3. My primary workout is yoga. This is not tracked. At all.
4. Neither is time on a stationary bike. Presumably, if I had my phone linked up and with me on an actual bike ride, the GPS may provide mileage for a workout.
5. I went into the app on my phone where, allegedly, I can add untracked exercise. Only to find that I can only log “run, walk, or hike”. WHY? How is this beneficial to anyone maintaining a healthy, varied exercise regime?

I would be very interested in the sleep tracking feature available. BUT I need to have the wristband to clip my Fitbit onto in order to even see if it works. I don’t have this, so I don’t even know if it works.

IF this product worked to track all my exercise, I could see the benefit, but when the Fitbit says I’ve had 17 active minutes on a day when I busted my butt and got in over 60 minutes of legitimate exercise (weight training? Fuggedaboutit) I am loathe to put my trust in it. If I have to manually enter it anyway, why not just do what I do now and mark it on my planner?

I'm not sold.
Do you have a Fitbit One? What am I missing? How can I add my hours of cycling, weights and yoga?

(Please don’t try to sell me on an upgrade. I will not pay for a device to track what I could just as easily track in my planner.)

30 April, 2016

Z is for ZOOS!

ZOOS! Who doesn't enjoy visiting the zoo? Even though I basically grew up in places fraught with nature and wild animals everywhere, Zoos are still great.

When I was quite young, we visited the Minneapolis Zoological Gardens. I have vague memories of that... I think I - or maybe someone else in my family - took a ride on a camel? Was that a thing? I had to be just 6yo or younger.

I don't remember visiting a zoo in Sri Lanka, India or Taiwan. My dad swears by the Butterfly House in Taiwan - presumably part of a zoo? - but I was only there in the summers and I was a teenager so probably didn't leap at the chance to go. (Besides, Taiwan is NASTY in the summer! Temps in the mid-90s, and humidity equally as high. No exaggeration.) 
My 6th grade class at Kodai took a class trip to a safari park, but we didn't see anything cool. No big cats or anything. Advantage of a zoo - you WILL see the cool animals! 

When I lived in Chicago, we went to the Brookfield Zoo a couple times. That's a nice zoo. Even in the winter! I went to the Cleveland Zoo when I visited my brother's family. They had two young children at the time, and a season pass. That was also a good zoo.

The saddest "zoo" I've been to is in Salisbury, MD. It's in a park, and free admission, but the animals are in quite small enclosures, and there aren't a lot of animals anyway. Although they have some cute, tiny owls that I love! (Made me think of the hyper owl Ron Weasley got in the Harry Potter books.)

Zoomerica, attached to Hersheypark is better. Still some smallish enclosures, but not as bad, and they have a reptile house, and the most beautiful grounds you could hope for.

A couple years ago my sister and I took my brother and his two little girls to the Indianapolis Zoo. They loved it. It was nice, but I think Brookfield is better. They have a Butterfly House that Titania (7yo) loved. Brett immediately said St. Louis Zoo is better, but it took another couple years for us to get there.

Our first trip through St. Louis together, we didn't have time for the zoo, but we went to Grant's Farm, which is kind of like a zoo. It has animals from every continent (except Antarctica) - most in enclosures which enable you to pet them. It also has a beer garden, where all adults can have two free beers - Anheuser-Busch brands only. Lovely, short visit.
On a longer visit, we had the nieces along (from the Indy Zoo visit) and got to the St. Louis Zoo. It is free.
It is expansive.
It is crowded.
It was hot. 
Brett was right: It is an awesome zoo. I'd love to go sometime maybe in the fall when it's cooler.

Moral of the Story: Zoos are cool.   

29 April, 2016

Y is for York, Pennsylvania

After college, I floundered. I was living in the Chicago area, working at the same job I had during college – now full-time – which felt like a cop-out. My friends were moving away or settling into the suburbs, which I did not get. What’s the point of being a part of the big city community if you never go into the city?

I ventured into a grad school program, not into a field I was drawn to, but one that gained major points with my dad. Surprise! I never finished that program, but I did drift into a several-month-long depression.

I had been living with my parents for a couple months when an old college friend who had moved away called.

Friend: Hey! Hubs got a position in someplace called York, Pennsylvania, and we’re going to be in northern Indiana for the weekend to pack up all our storage stuff. We’re calling all of our friends who still live within a reasonable distance…Want to help?

Me: Well sure! I’d love a weekend away from the house!

I saw this as my way out of a dead-end life that was driving me insane. Not wanting to explain myself to anyone, I simply packed my backpack with enough for about a week, and headed out. My intention was to help them load up the rental truck, and when they hit the road, I’d hit the road, too, going wherever the road took me.

During a day-and-a-half of catching up with someone I hadn’t seen in about 3 years, somehow I ended up explaining my plan. She was mortified at the capriciousness of my decision, but soon realized she wasn’t talking me out of it.

Later that night she suggested that I follow them as far as York.

Friend: If you’re hitting the road anyway, why not come with us? We’d love to have help unpacking in York, and you can stay with us a week or so and see if you like it. If not, move on. If York suits you, we can help you get set up there, too! Neither of us know anyone there, so it’ll be nice to be able to support each other.

That actually sounded reasonable. It wasn’t like I was committing to anything. I agreed.

Within my “one week” in York, I found a full-time job in retail, and decided I might as well stick around a year and save up for the next leg of my life’s adventure.

I got stuck for three years.

All in all, York is not my favorite place on earth, but in those three years I made some solid friends I am still in contact with today, so it must have been alright!

Moral of the Story: You have the power to change your life!

28 April, 2016

X is for X-ray Lab

When I lined up my 26 topics for this challenge, I thought I was so very clever to think of this place!

But it’s really more about radiology labs.

"I’ve had precisely one x-ray in my life, after a car accident, and I don’t really remember it. There was nothing broken, so no follow up." End of post.

However, if I broaden the subject to radiology labs, I can offer a short PSA to all you ladies reading this:

Get your mammograms!

My eldest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s, so I started getting mammograms the following year, also in my 30s. It’s not painful, just a little uncomfortable because they have to squish you SO FLAT! But only for a few seconds. The peace of mind is worth the discomfort.

Truthfully, she felt a lump during a self-exam, and I believe that is fairly common. So even more than getting regular mammograms, be sure to give yourself regular self-exams.
(I’m bad at that, but remember occasionally. At least it's more frequent than the annual professional one.)

They keep changing the guidelines for how often a woman should receive these tests, so I’d suggest not trusting the medical community on this – do the self-exams, even if you won’t be getting a full mammogram for years!

End of PSA.

Moral of the Story: Know your body!

27 April, 2016

Whitewater rafting - or not?

…or so we were told.

I was a chaperone on a Servant Event trip to North Carolina, and we had scheduled a day-off fun trip including whitewater rafting on the French Broad River.

However, this was a year of drought. We baked in the sun all week, out in that Carolina heat – You know the “Carolina Blue” color? It’s the blue in the Carolina Panthers logo, and I believe the same blue for the Tarheels team. Well, that was honest-to-God the color of the sky that entire week.

Sweat bees were biting us out in the sun. I realized they’re nothing to be afraid of.

Anyway, Saturday we drove a couple hours to the Nantahala Outdoor Center to rent gear and take a guided whitewater raft journey down the French Broad River – woohoo! I’d never done this before! There were a couple larger rafts seating (I think) 6 each, and a few of us took single-seater “ducks”. Kind of like a kayak, but inflatable. I’ve kayaked several times, so I took one of the ducks.
Well, the water was low, so it really was like kayaking down a river. There were some slightly bumpier sections, and one place where we all got out of our rafts and swam in a deep pool before continuing downstream. It was the perfect refreshing end to a week of hard work. There were still a couple days of work and cleanup, but most of the hard labor was past.

I don’t know if it can truly count as whitewater rafting, but I’m counting it! …until I do it for real some other time.

Moral of the Story: Get out into the water when you can!

26 April, 2016

V for Violent Femmes!

I have been a fan of Violent Femmes since... high school? college? And I'm not an avid concert-goer, but I've seen these guys TWICE!

Since they are not exactly mainstream, maybe I should explain that Violent Femmes is a musical group. How do we classify them - alternative? I guess I'd say alternative. My general taste as far as rock music goes is alternative, so yeah. Not the typical 80s alternative - Depeche Mode, Cure, Smiths, etc. They are wackadoo hilarious fun alternative.

The first time I saw them live was in a college gymnasium, and I was there with my sister. It was a pretty lackluster crowd, but the music was good.

One of my favorites of theirs: 

(You may recognize it from the Gnarls Barkley remake.)
I knew a guy in college who could play that marimba part perfectly. 

Sometime before my second opportunity to see them - at this awesome beach-themed club in Ocean City, MD - my friend who was going with me gave me a copy of a different CD of theirs than I'd previously heard. That is the only place I've heard Country Death Song. 
I love it! 
It's so peppy!
It's so dark.
It's gruesome.
But hoe-down fun in sound. Check it out if you want to hear something weird.

They didn't play it at either concert. Probably for obvious reasons.

That second concert was awesome. It was crowded, it was all standing - no seats - so we worked our way up to the very front. And I was there with a good, fun friend

Moral of the Story: Listen to what makes you happy.