Friday, September 19, 2014

The Hula Hoop Diaries

Life throws some weird curve balls. Sometimes that curve ball is injuring yourself to the point of not being able to exercise using your arms or legs.

Without going into great detail, I injured both of my arms and my left leg on separate occasions, and this has greatly limited my ability to work out at the level I'm used to. Or any level. This is really difficult for me because I'm a pretty active person; I'm a runner, former "Beach Body" exercise enthusiast, and overall like to be out and moving around. And now I am limited to walking and whatever I can do with my torso that won't add strain to my arms or leg. In general, I'm going a little stir-crazy.

In need of ideas I turned to my peers, AKA, Facebook. My sister-in-law suggested I try hula hooping, which was the most intriguing suggestion by far. Also, it was the only actual feasible suggestion.

Let me start by saying, I never really hula hooped before. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I can't recall a single moment in my life when I successfully hula'd a hoop.

My earliest and most prevalent memory of hula hoops is in the basement of my family's first house in Idaho, watching my brothers play. My oldest brother started hula hooping and the next thing I remember was intense pain like flashing sparks radiating from my nose and warm blood running down my chin. Apparently at 5-years-old I was at the perfect height to get smacked right in the face by a hula hoop.

Who gets smacked in the face by a hula hoop?

Everything after that was a series of failures, and I eventually lost interest in hula hoops for the purpose of anything other than creating "safe" zones in a game of tag. Or so I told myself. My second strongest hula hoop memory harks back to my stick-like preteen body feverishly trying to hula hoop in the midst of what was obviously a very important scavenger hunt race. It was the first day of summer camp and my team couldn't move on unless I could hula hoop for the entirety of a song. The hoop would spin just as long as gravity would allow it, like tossing a ring around a pole, my gyrating attempts doing absolutely nothing to keep it whirling. My competitor had no problem keeping it balanced, and for added sting of failure one of the women in charge of this absurd challenge was hula hooping like the hoop was magnetized to her waist. I failed my new comrades in the challenge and they let us proceed out of pity.

So, those are the things I think of when I think of hula hoops; physical pain, and that woman standing on the sidelines slowly moving her hips side to side while the hoop remained perfectly balanced, mocking me. Or hippies.

Luckily I've upgraded from flailing pre-teen to flailing 20-something. Despite past fails I've taken a Barney Stinson approach to life: "Challenge accepted!"

I learned a couple things in my initial search for hula hoops. For one, a possible reason I failed so frequently hula'ing has to do with hoop size. By the time I was a pre-teen I was the same height as the average adult woman, and while I was thin I was probably still too big for a child-size hoop.

Secondly, I was told adult-sized hula hoops aren't easy to come by, and making your own is both easy and bad-ass. I have a hard time turning down opportunities to be more bad-ass, so making my own hula hoop was the obvious choice.

I succeeded at learning more about this bad-assery on a hippie mom's webpage where she not only has a video of her six-year-old daughter detailing how to make hoops, but promotes her very own hula-hoop album. So. Bad. Ass. (No but seriously, her website's kinda cool if you're interested in homesteading and simple living and craftiness----> SouleMama)

All you need are three items to make a hula hoop: poly pipe, a connector, and tape. And really, the only reason you need tape is to decorate it, so in truth you need two items.

I went to a local hardware store where they sold pipe by the foot instead of grouped in 100 ft bundles. I mean, I just need one hula hoop, guys. I'm not starting a club. (Unless people want to start a club, then maybe we should all go halvsies on that 100 ft poly-pipe.)

You know, hardware stores aren't my usual haunts, but I hate propagating any sort of stereotypes that women don't know much about handiwork or tools, so I try to sound as confident and knowledgeable as possible when going in one. I walked in the store, head held high, and upon being asked if I needed help I said, "Yes, I need 10 feet of poly-pipe."

"Okay, what size?"

Damn. My whole foundation fell out from underneath me.

"Well," I said taking in a deep breath, weighing my options on how stupid I wanted to look. "I'm making a hula hoop..."

"Oh, 3/4" is usually what people go for. It's a pretty popular request."

Soon I was in the very back of the store where the hardware clerk measured out 10' of pipe while I helped hold it and a series of "That's what he/she said" phrases were dropped in such succession I don't know how I managed to not just fall over right there on the dirty hardwood floor. It was possibly the greatest feat of strength yet.

["Do you want me to help?" "Yeah, maybe if you grabbed the end." "Okay, just hold it?" "No, maybe pull on it a little.." etc etc etc]

Upon returning to the front after sounding ridiculous swearing up and down to this man that I "have never hula hooped before" (why was I so adamant that he know I wasn't a hula hooper? I sounded like someone going to a brothel for the first time) the other clerk took one look at my items and said, "Hula hoop?"

"Really," the clerk helping me said, "it's a very common request." Obviously my plan for conquering the hardware store with confidence had failed me.

Another man shopping in the store then began to giggle so much he ran down an aisle to hide. A full-grown Carhart-and-flannel-wearing man, giggling.

No matter how the hardware store went (which honestly, while slightly awkward, was hilariously awesome) I made out like a bandit with supplies to make my very own hula hoop for $3.69, and upon arriving home it took me all of 5 minutes to put it together and clear enough space in my living room to awkwardly try what I have failed at so many times before.

I don't know how to explain what it was like, but how does one describe falling in love? A bit clumsy and awkward at first, but after having them in your life you just can't seem to let go. Watching a show at night, waking up and grooving to some tunes in the morning. It all just seems better with a hula hoop.

It's been all my life, but I'm finally enjoying what everyone else did all those years. What can I say? I'm a late bloomer.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Harvest Moon Still Rose

Last year's Harvest Moon snuck up on me. I didn't realize what day it was until I was standing in the middle of the street with her rising between the houses and trees, a picturesque moment of closeness that made the cliché movie lines seem totally plausible. Full moons always stop me in my tracks, persuade me to think of life in strange and different terms, and don't easily let me sleep. 

I was finishing a run when I saw her. This wasn't a run for the sake of being in shape or training, but one I'm sure many runners go on. It would be safer to say it's closer to masochism than running (although one could argue that runners are, by nature, masochistic) but I left my house at sunset to make my lungs spasm for air, my throat raw, my stomach ache, and my legs fail. I wanted to hurt. I wanted my physical body to feel something because my heart felt too much and my spirit was hurting. 

Loss had pockmarked my re-entry into the US after finishing my Peace Corps service. Loss on levels I wasn't prepared for; of family, of dear friends, of my own identity. And it wasn't even over yet. 

So as I tasted iron in my mouth and my legs all but refused to move forward and I came around the corner to my house, the moon surprised me and seemed out of place. When you grieve a lot of times you come to wonder how the world continues to move on around you. And here she was, oblivious to my pain and the pain of others, going on as if nothing had happened. 

It may sound strange, but for the first time ever it struck me; she always would. She wasn't out of place, she was doing exactly what she was meant to. Civilizations have risen and fallen. Wars have been fought and families scattered and countries renamed. The moon still followed course. I suddenly felt myself sharing a connection with the entire world and all of history; the connection of standing on this earth and looking up at the same moon. Maybe in 300 B.C. a woman would've looked up in the night sky after suffering a great loss and felt the same way? Loss is not personal, it's universal. And no matter where you stand, the moon will still wax and wane. 

Somehow that was comforting to me. The world has suffered and still suffers such tremendous tragedies, and yet some parts--like the moon--are unchanged. They bare witness, and carry on. It's not that it made my loss insignificant, but showed me I shared a place with people long forgotten. It stitched a line between myself and all of humanity. 

Upon returning indoors I wrote a poem. Poetry isn't really my forte, but I knew there was no way I could clearly explain what had transpired while standing in the street, wishing I could climb over the rooftops and reach into the sky. How many times had the Harvest Moon already risen, and how many more times will she rise? 

When I saw the Harvest Moon tonight I couldn't believe she'd already returned. Despite my epiphany a year ago, it still feels so bittersweet to see her again. 

Harvest Moon
by A. Rodgers 

The Harvest Moon still rose tonight. 
It's as if she didn't yet know you were gone.

The first of many that will come and go,
but this time it will be without you.

I tried to walk nearer hoping to cradle her,
but really I wanted her to cradle me.

They say, "to everything there is a season,"
and I know it to be true.

But the moon is here because she has to be.
She couldn't rise if she knew.

The Harvest Moon still rose tonight,
but tomorrow she'll be gone.

She'll return once again because she has to;
because she still has children to guide on.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Graveyard

I've never had a problem with cemeteries. They're quiet, peaceful, and filled with interesting headstone designs. In fact, I like to make a point of visiting and walking around graveyards.

Graveyard shifts, on the other hand, I'm not so sure about.

As one friend put it, people who work graveyards are not your average individuals. The majority of their waking life is spent completely out of nature's intended rhythm. Their hours spent awake during the day are lethargic and sleepy.

In all of my jobs I've never had to work during the night. At various coffee shops I've had to close at midnight or open at 4:00 am, but never both sequentially. That in between time has always been mine.

That is, until this weekend when I work my first graveyard shift in the ER.

Honestly, I'm dreading it. Over the years I've gone from pulling all-nighters somewhat easily to catatonic if I manage to stay up until 2 am. I'm not kidding. I start to become physically ill. However, I know it will give me insight into this whole other side of work life I've never seen. And it made me curious, where did the term "graveyard shift" come from?

It ends up, the origins of the term are pretty unclear, and while it has been used for centuries, earliest documented print form doesn't turn up until almost the turn of the 20th century.

So let me give you a run down on a few of the possible origins of the term graveyard shift. Back in 18th and 19th century Britain, people were accidentally buried alive on occasion. And I don't know what's worse--the fact that this happened, or how they discovered it. When the cemeteries were too full to dig more graves, they decided the logical thing to do was exhume coffins and remove the remains inside to make room for more corpses (people were all about "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"). It's said that sometimes when they opened the coffins, the inside of the lids were covered in scratch marks, which is terrifying. Apparently during cholera epidemics they were so quick to bury the dead to combat the spread of disease they sometimes were a little overzealous and incorrectly pronounced people dead (something like, 1 in 25 people). This started another epidemic of sorts-- taphophobia-- the fear of being buried alive (which honestly sounds like a rational fear to have if you're living in 18th and 19th century Britain), which led some people to design "safety coffins." This was a coffin designed with a bell system that ran between the coffin and the headstone area. A person was put on shift in the graveyard during the night to wait and listen for any bells.

Hence where the phrase "saved by the bell" came from, not from Zack Morris at Bayside High .

Another possible origin is once again from Britain around the same era (seriously, Anatomists and doctors often had a difficult time acquiring human cadavers to learn and teach about the human body. Donating your body to science wasn't really a thing in those days, so they would pay a pretty penny to anyone who brought them a recently deceased individual, no questions asked. Aside from straight up homicide, this started a whole "body snatching" trend in which people dug up the recently deceased and delivered the bodies to doctors' back doors in the middle of the night. Thus the reason for someone staying at the cemetery all night doing the "graveyard shift." (Although, from what I've read, the graveyard shift person was often in on it.)

I find it incredibly ironic that my first graveyard shift will be worked at a hospital, when the possible origins of a graveyard shift came from someone guarding graves from body snatchers taking bodies to doctors so they could better their skills at a hospital.

Lastly, another theory is just the state of being awake and working from 10 pm to 8 am is so quiet and solitary that it is reminiscent of being in a graveyard. Yawn.

My first graveyard shift starts at 9:30 pm and ends the next day at 8 am. Then I'll have the day to try and sleep before working another graveyard that night. In preparation, I'll be staying up as late as I possibly can the night before all of this. Hopefully I make it past midnight.

The likelihood of me continuing to work graveyard shifts is small, but I suppose I'm partially looking forward to working this dark, (hopefully) quiet shift which received its name from such macabre background. Just another experience to add to a life of adventures.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cause of death; sitting

After two weeks of working at the hospital, I realized there was going to be a problem.

I've had a variety of jobs in a range of different areas. The Forest Service, coffee shops, Peace Corps, a magazine I briefly interned for; they all gave me a unique experience. And one thing similar amongst them was I usually spent more time (or equal) on my feet than on my ass. And even on the days when I laid on the ground with my feet in the air propped against the wall cursing the swelling in my feet, I preferred it that way.

So when I got a job at the hospital, I knew it would be a new challenge. And I don't just mean the challenge of learning a new job, but the challenge of having to sit. A lot. 

I'm not a nurse or a medical specialist, I'm not on my feet all day. I'm in patient registration, which means I'm on the computer and documentation end of things, and I spend most of my time sitting at a desk. I don't know if you know this, but...

Let's face it, anything in excess can kill you. Swallow too much fluoride toothpaste while brushing your teeth? Dead. Drink too much water? Dead.
I've spent my whole life taking care of myself, eating right, avoiding hobbies with high risks, not swallowing my toothpaste or drowning myself in excessive water drinking. And now, while my job has a variety of demands, first and foremost I must sit.

Somehow I always start off my day looking like the figure in the lower right hand corner, and suddenly come to find myself slouching like the main figure who apparently suffers health issues ranging from colon cancer, disk damage, and limp glutes.
And the freaky thing about it is, I'm working in a hospital. You know, the place you go when you're sick or injured so you can get better? Yeah. That place. People who work in the hospital aren't exactly the healthiest, which seems super backwards, but you have to be really on top of it to stay healthy with long hours or lots of desk work. After two weeks I realized the pain shooting up my left side, the extra paunch in my pooch, and the lethargic feeling of having traveled all day (but sadly being in the same place) might be my new norm if I didn't do something about it. 

The hospital knows people are killing themselves with sitting and cafeteria food, that's why they have a wellness program to motivate people to be active. Part of the wellness program is the option to get a "fitbit" otherwise known as a glorified pedometer that wraps around your wrist in a simple rubber bracelet. Okay it does more than a pedometer, it can be linked to a smart phone to count calories and monitor sleep patterns and all but pats you on the back when you walk a certain distance (well, it vibrates, kind of like a wrist pat).

I'm generally an active person and after work try to make a point of doing some sort of exercise. However, while at work I have limited options for movement, and I was starting to wonder just how much I actually move in a day. I picked up my fitbit the other day at work and promptly went home to take a nap (which I'm not ashamed of, naps are the best). I charged the fitbit and when I finally got it all plugged in and synced with my phone it said I had walked 10 steps-- those 10 steps being the ones my boyfriend took after I begged him to bring the fitbit to me in my reclined state from the wall outlet. It wasn't looking like a good start.

I did, however, eventually make up for it and I'm telling you, people who do marketing and design for stuff like the fitbit know how to tap into some strange human psyche. I felt a ridiculous wave of accomplishment come over me because my rubber bracelet vibrated to let me know I had managed to walk far enough to reach the factory setting goal of 10,000 steps, which is probably no further than what some people in third-world countries have to walk to fetch fresh water for the morning.

So far the fitbit has shown me that when I'm doing the extra-sedentary desk work, I barely walk over a mile (and that's with me taking advantage of every break to walk somewhere). I think the fitbit is going to be helpful in motivating me to move, or prolonging my paranoia that I will fall victim from not moving enough. Apparently studies show that despite exercise, if you still are sitting for 8 hours a day, you're still going to suffer the consequences. You need to break up the sitting and do something else. Depending on what area of the hospital I'm working in, like the Emergency Room or other registration areas, I can actually get up and out of my seat quite frequently. But other areas, such as the ones where my only job for the day is to answer phones, give me little to no restive from my sedentary state. If you have a job like the latter, I have some tips which I just now made up.

Stand Up

Nothing says, "I'm not gonna die from sitting," like standing up. It's simple, yet effective.

However, this can sometimes be frowned upon. When you're standing, you simply don't look like you're doing your job. People are much more comfortable with someone looking "busy" at a computer than just standing around.
If your coworkers have a problem with you standing, that's messed up. But if advocating for your rights to not die from sitting seems unlikely, you have to give yourself a reason to stand. Why not try and...

Look for supplies

This method works best if there are supply cupboards up high. Be that person who always stocks up on excessive staples and paperclips! No one will ever have to reach for a post-it note and come up empty handed again!  Extra points if you have to reach for a high shelf and get a stretch in. Negative points if you hurt yourself while doing what I just said.

However, you may not have high cupboards, or your supplies may be kept in a low, easily accessible place where one would never have to leave their deathtrap of a chair. So why don't you...

Clean your office space

Even if you're an extremely tidy person, you can always clean your office, because stuff can get nasty quick. And maybe it's because I work in a hospital where contagions are a guaranteed part of the job, but no one has any qualms about someone grabbing the tub of disinfectant wipes and going to town on the whole place.

Drink Water

Because it's good for you (but not too much, remember? We've already talked about this). Also, you'll have to get up and go to the bathroom more often. But make sure you wash your hands, otherwise you just completely negated all of that obsessive cleaning you're now known for.

Make your breaks count

You don't have to do push-ups and lunges every coffee or lunch break to get yourself moving (although, how badass would that be? People would not mess with you). Go on a walk, take the stairs, dance in place, whatever.

I'm sure you can think of many more creative ways to get out of your chair and moving, or at least standing, more often while at work. The point being...

Stop sitting so much 

I'm not trying to say "don't work" and loaf around. You can be a productive person and still take time to stand and move around, and in fact will probably be more productive once you sit back down after doing so. 

I've been working in the hospital over a month now and since making myself (some days forcing myself) to move more often, I've felt a lot better. And I've also become extremely grateful for my ability to do so. When you work in a hospital, you see people in states where they don't have a choice anymore whether they can sit, stand, or walk. People of all ages and backgrounds come in who suffer from illness or injury, and none of us are exempt from the same happening to us. I may sit a lot at my job right now, but I've never felt more motivated or appreciative of the fact that I can walk, run, or even just stand. So quit sitting so much, and take advantage of a healthy body while you have one. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Coming back


So last week a few of you may have gotten a notification that I wrote a new blog post! And then you read a post that was from 2010...

I've been messing with this blog, changing the template, changing this and that, and deleted a bunch of old posts. I guess in the deleting of old posts it notified followers that I wrote a new post? Lies, all lies. But I am rebooting this old blog.

Part of me wanted to have a completely fresh start. Wipe the slate clean, have a new blog, have a new title, clean out all the old stuff, etc. I've been writing for two years on my Peace Corps blog while this blog sat untouched, and now I'm wanting to start something new. But I suppose as much as I'd love a fresh start, there are parts of me in some of these old posts that I'm not ready to delete. I mean, how are you supposed to measure growth if you have nothing to compare your current growth to?

So this is me giving a shout-out to all of my followers (the few, the loyal) to let you know that I am indeed going to be writing on this blog again! Things are just still in process.

And my Peace Corps blog still exists, it's over at 27 Months in Peru, and Back Home Again

More later!