Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gaak! I’m President of my local Toastmasters club. How did this happen?

Nobody wanted the job.  

I threw down the gauntlet.  I’ve given two speeches about why I think the Pledge of Allegiance is unpatriotic, untrue, and a violation of free speech when it is coerced.  

Other Toastmasters members have thanked me for my courage in stating my opinion, but meetings have continued to open with the pledge.  I contacted international headquarters.  Since Toastmasters is an international organization they have no rules requiring meetings to open with pledges to anything. 

 I said, “If I’m President, there will be no pledging the flag during my term.”  Several members said, “I’ll vote for that.”  So now I’m President.

My first act was to replace the pledge by tapping a wine glass with a spoon – that seems much more symbolic of our purpose – Toastmasters.

My second act was to replace the monthly board meeting with emails.  We already give up two lunch hours a month for the meetings where members give speeches. That’s the whole point of Toastmasters! Why should the board give up a 3rd lunch hour just to keep each other up to date on administrative details?  

It looked like I was going to have fun radicalizing everything. Then a previous president told me my real job – fulfilling the Distinguished Club Plan.  This means getting board members to attend trainings, getting members to give speeches and take roles at meetings, basically being the pep-squad.

So, this morning I got 4 other members besides myself to agree to go to a training. I asked the board for ideas.  I agreed to bring in my old Toastmaster magazines to be given to visitors. I put in some ideas for the member update form.  It’s all details from here on in, and it’s my job to make it fun.

I used to provide fun by picking interesting topics for my talks – like why we shouldn’t pledge the flag, or what fun it is to explore a cave, or analyze a poem, or teach a magic trick.  Now it’s my job to get other people do come up with attention-getting talks so people will want to come to the meetings.  

Yes, I know – geezers are supposed to be mentors.  I just never knew there were so many details involved.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Mother Fell for a Scam

My 88-year-old mother enters sweepstakes, trying to win money to pay tuition for my sister’s youngest daughter to go to college.  That’s sweet and harmless and only costs a few stamps. In theory somebody might win one of these sweepstakes. Maybe even my mother.  It’s not as if she was playing the lottery or a local numbers game.

Then she got a letter in the mail claiming she had won $1.4 million dollars. “There is much excitement in our offices for you.  Your identification for the Award Payment Data Release has been FINALIZED and APPROVED!”

I’m not sure what that second sentence is supposed to mean.  I think it means, we’ve got your address and we’re sending you this letter.  But that’s not how my mom read it.  She thought she’d won the sweepstakes. 

“Holder of PRIZE/REPORT ID 22785244802 FILED and ON RECORD – Award Payment Data Confirming Amount to be Paid by the Named Sponsors - ***$1,400,000.00 – $ONE MILLION FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS - ***”

My mom doesn’t have a prize/ report with any number on it.  The letter lists no “named sponsors.”  But all my mom seemed to see was that amount of money.  The letter doesn’t even say she’ll get the money.  Just a report about it.

More weird language.  “The Award Payment Data that is Confirmed for You shall be released as soon as we receive Your Completed Document, so please do so within the next 10 days being sure to enclose the Award Payment Data Release fee of just the $19.99, this is the only fee.”

She sent in the money.  Then she called my brother, who told her to call the FBI.  She called me. She didn’t know the phone number for the FBI.  I looked it up on line for her.  She called them. They told her to take the letter to the Post Office because it is mail fraud.  The Post Office agreed.

My mom is now on a list of people who have fallen for scams.  She just received a letter telling her she has won $2 million and all she has to pay is $34.  I told her that if anybody else bothers her, take the letter to the Post Office, along with the envelope it came in as proof that they used the US Mail to send fraudulent letters.  If they call her, she is to say she got fooled once, and now she checks everything with the FBI.  If she receives it as email, she should click the Report as Junk box so her email provider will know she’s getting criminal invitations.

I think my mom has learned not to fall for mail fraud. And the price was relatively low.  I just hope publicity about this sort of scam will help prevent other people from losing even $19.99. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Didn’t Notice When He Touched my Breast

Young PT was showing me a safer way to do Circus Bears – an exercise where I balance on my shins on top of a balance ball.  He says he’s seen a man stand on a balance ball and catch a medicine ball without wobbling.  He also knows my left leg is still weak and my balance is iffy.

I positioned the ball next to a soft elevated exercise mat. I climbed on and sat on my shins. Young PT stood guard. I tried to lift my butt off my calves. I wobbled.  I was safe. I could have caught myself before I hit the floor. But Young PT worries about me.  He reached out and caught me.  Suddenly he was apologizing, looking worried / scared.  I was puzzled.  “Why are you apologizing?”

Embarrassed, he said, “I touched your breast.”

“I didn’t notice.”

He didn’t believe me.  In PT, I’m so used to being handled that my breasts are just places on my rib cage.  Grabbing me there is no more personal than grabbing my shoulder or my arm. And Young PT reminds me of rough-housing with my grandchildren.  When we rough-house, there are no wrong places to touch. Kids can touch you anywhere -- it’s playtime.  Circus Bears are playtime.

Still, he didn’t believe me.  He was that embarrassed.  Young PT has massaged me. He has dug his hands deep into my abdomen.  I don’t fight him during this true invasion – because I trust that it will help me heal. My abs are strong enough to kick him out, and he knows it.  

“I have allowed you to do far more gross things than that to me.”  I smiled. 

He smiled back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yoga with my New Hip

Yoga has become such a part of my life that I’ve missed it dearly for the past 4 months.  One month because I really couldn’t do it with my old hip joint. 3 months because my surgeon restricted my range of motion so I wouldn’t dislocate the new hip gadgetry. He’d said I could resume yoga after 6 months if the x-ray showed my leg bone had grown in enough around the metal rod. Being the impatient exercise junky that I am, I emailed him – please could I start yoga and Pilates, NOW?

He wrote back yes, provided I don’t do anything that hurts or feels like it might dislocate the gadgetry. (Gadgetry is my word, not his.)

Yay! I went to yoga last Sunday.  I told the teacher. I’m not supposed to bring my thighs near my chest or cross my legs above the ankle.  Other than that, I can do yoga.  Child’s pose is out! Most twisted poses are out.  But I could do triangle and camel, and standing poses, and plank poses.  My teacher is trained in Iyengar Yoga and knows how to modify everything, use props, and make yoga possible.

Class starts with princess-on-the pea (not the yoga name). Every body sits on a stack of blankets high enough that the knees are no higher than the pelvis, with the ankles crossed.  Before surgery, I needed 4 or 5 blankets for my left leg, and the right knee drooped.  This time, 3 blankets were enough and both knees were level.  

Everything I’ve tried to do since the surgery has shown me how weak my left leg and hip are compared to the right.  But this time, both legs were equal.  This was something that the surgery had improved without my having to work at it.  Yay!  Of course my elation was short lived as the teacher talked us through the small muscles movements that fine-tune the pose.  But that’s just work – possible work – not my hip refusing to even try.

Everybody else tried revolved triangle.  I did regular triangle.  I didn’t fall. I didn’t bend to the side as far as I used to, but that’s not the point. I got the stretch. I got the balance work. I got that yoga feeling.  – regular triangle – revolved triangle

We did chaturanga, which starts as a front plank and lowers to a frozen mid-way pushup.  That’s a pose that doesn’t challenge my hip at all. This time it was my shoulder that grouched.  4 months of not doing it, took its toll.  But I can get back to it.  I can have my life back. – chaturanga dandasana

We did camel, which is a kneeling backbend in which the full pose has the person place hands on the ankles while keeping the thighs vertical, showed me that my hip flexors (both, not just the left) are stiff. I needed blocks up-ended beside my ankles.  Again – so what? I got the stretch. I got the feeling that I go to yoga class to get. – camel pose

Yay for yoga!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Look – No Hands!

I feel like a two-year-old.  My latest trick is walking down stairs without holding the banister.

This has been a 3 month long project.  Right after the hip replacement surgery, the hospital therapists instructed me to use a technique called “step-to” in which going down stairs, I step first with my weak leg, keeping my weight on my strong leg until the weak leg has fully landed. Then lower the good leg to the same step as the weak one, holding the banister the entire time. Repeat.

When I saw my surgeon at 4 weeks post-op, he asked if I was still holding the banister. I said yes.
When I saw Young PT, he told me to continue to use “step-to” and the banister until I was stronger.

At 10 weeks post-op, I asked Young PT about exercises to help me climb and descend stairs.

The stairs in my house are 8" high.  He started me on 6" stairs at the gym, with banisters on both sides.  Stand on one leg, and slowly lower the other foot to the next step, placing as little weight as possible on my hands.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until tired.  Then do the other leg.
When I got home, I did the same exercise on my 8" steps.  Just going down one flight of stairs was tiring!

The next week Young PT gave me Stairs Exercise #2.  Stand sideways on a step with my weight on one foot, and lower the other to the next step. Placing as little of my weight as possible on the banister.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until tired.  Then do the other leg.

After two weeks of this, there’s still a slight drop where I lose control when I stand on my weaker leg and lower my stronger leg to the next step.  But the drop is less than an inch. It isn’t scary. One foot, Two Feet. Step Down. Stair Feet.

I’ve been biking, hula hooping, jumping on my mini trampoline, swimming, walking and playing on my rope wall. All of these activities seem like real exercise.  Stairs.  Any two-year-old can climb stairs.  Now I can do it, too!

Monday, June 13, 2011

I’ve Become a Writing Snob

I just took a web class on writing dialogue.

It’s an email class. The teacher doesn’t read any of the assignments, but the other students can.  Students post their writing on a web forum site and for the final assignment, they are supposed to give each other feedback. The feedback is supposed to list the techniques they used, comment if they did them well, and then give suggestions for improvement.

Aside from the lack of teacher feedback, the class was excellent. The teacher posted dialogue ideas, gave examples from successful movies, outlined the principles that made these techniques work, and gave deadlines for posting.

It’s only a 10-day class. All students are supposed to commit those 10 days to applying the lessons to their writing.  They can rewrite existing material, or create new material.  One of the key points was that for these assignments, every line of dialogue should use at least one of the techniques.   This means that no dialogue for these assignments can be simple sentences like “No.” or “Hi, Sam.”  Yes, there may be a reason in the full story to use lines like these, but NOT in the assignments.

When I saw posted assignments using lines like these, I wondered why these classmates were even bothering to post their work.  There are no grades. And aside from the last assignment, there is no feedback. Half the students didn’t even bother to post most of the homework.

It is their time, their money, their stories, and therefore their choices.  Still, being the snob I am – someone who is already selling professional work, and who wants to learn to write with even more skill – I wanted classmates with equal dedication.

When we got to the final assignment, fewer than half the students posted.  At first, I was the only one leaving feedback.  Again, being the snob that I am, I mentioned techniques I thought they’d used well.  I quoted lines I particularly liked.  And then I made criticisms, like “I think the conflict between your characters would be more interesting if the protagonist had at least one negative trait and the antagonist had at least one positive trait.”  Or, “On page one, the teenager is concerned about her chemistry test, but on page three she’s concerned about her biology test. Please pick one test.”

One other student posted feedback, but her comments were all like “I’ve been reading your assignments and I’m looking forward to reading more.” 

When the last student who bothered to post put his scene in the form, he appended a note at the bottom.  “Anyone is welcome to critique this, except Lois.”

Okay – I won’t bother.  I wish he’d put that note at the top so I wouldn’t have bothered reading it.

I’m a snob. I want all the feedback I can get. I want to improve my work. I imagined that my classmates might feel the same.  I imagined that if I left feedback for others, they’d do the same for me. At least this student was honest – he doesn’t want to be a professional.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Swimming With My New Hip

First of all, I now look like one of Frankenstein’s monsters when I wear my swimming suit. I’ve got a scar across my left collar bone and another one on the front of my left thigh.  This is all that shows when I wear my one-piece modest swimming suit.  But so what? I’m there to swim – not compete in a swimsuit modeling contest. And when I’m face down in the water, nobody can see either scar.

I’ve reads so much about can you or can’t you do a frog kick with an artificial hip.  The answer seems to depend on what model hip you have.  Mine can do a mini-frog. I can get my knees a reasonable distance apart. I can get my feet further apart than that – but not by much.  I used to compete in the breast stroke.  Now I can barely glide.  But it’s still fun.

My new hip does a great butterfly kick. It can flex back and forward with ease.  Thanks to my PT, I’ve got the range of motion necessary.  A month ago, the part where the hips go forward and the feet go up would have been impossible.  This is the maneuver that gives the true speed of the kick. I missed that as my old hip bit the dust.  

My new hip does a fine flutter kick, just like the old one. I’d say my freestyle is as fast as ever.

The oddest change with my new hip is that I find myself crashing into the lane divider ropes when I do a side-stroke scissors kick.  My right leg is much stronger than my left leg, but this only seems to show up in the scissors kick. I nearly kicked the pants of a swimmer in the next lane.

My first time out, I managed a quarter mile.  Last summer before my hip quit on me, I was doing half a mile without tiring.  I hope to get up to that by the end of this summer.  One more step in getting my life back.  I still have to master going down stairs without clutching the banister, sitting in a chair without my wobble cushion, and a few other basics.  It’s odd that I can bike all over town but I can’t stand around chatting with my neighbors.  I never knew how many different muscles are used with the hip joint in so many ways.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taking a Break from Exercise

The day after Memorial Day, Young PT asked me, “What did you do yesterday?”

I knew he didn’t mean, did you write anything? Or, did you fix any computers?

So, I answered, “You would be proud of me. All I did was I bike to the pool and swim for a quarter mile.”

Young PT has been pressuring me to do LESS exercise.  He says after surgery, the body needs breaks without exercise.  I looked at him dubiously.  But he, too, is post-op. His surgery was on his shoulder.  He had me on a schedule of stretch every day but only do weight-bearing and strenuous exercises every other day.  I wasn’t noticing any difference.  He was accusing me of beating myself up.  I told him I trust him completely, and I would continue to try it.  His expression implied I was cheating somehow.

Prior to Memorial Day weekend, he asked me to take two days off. I had PT on Thursday. He asked me to stretch only on Friday and Saturday. And then on Sunday, to only do the elliptical.
I had been having trouble with the elliptical – my left leg was getting tired and sore after 10 to 12 minutes.  It seemed to me that it needed more work, not less.  But, I tried it his way.

Sunday, I got on the elliptical at the gym and used it for 15 minutes. My left leg wasn’t tired. It wasn’t sore.  I could have gone longer, but I decided that 3 minutes longer than usual was plenty and stopped.  I was stunned. 2 days away from exercise and I was stronger than before.  Young PT was onto something!

Young PT was staring at me as if he was expecting me to tell him I’d done chin-ups and dumbells and other things I usually do, but I hadn’t done them.  I’d stuck with his program. So, I said, “I’m surprised to be telling you this, but Sunday I was able to use the elliptical for 15 minutes without getting tired.”

Again the stare.

“I thought you’d want me to tell you that your idea works.”

He looked at me as if I was daft to have doubted him.

“I already knew it works.” He paused.  “But I’m glad you found out for yourself.”

His face curled into a proud smile.

I laughed.  “You don’t have to be so smug about it.”

Then he handed me some 3 lb weights.  “Strap these onto your ankles.”