Sunday, September 27, 2009

My newest passion

As a fitness buff, I incorporate a workout into my life at least four times a week. I like to do a variety of things (e.g., functional training, bicycling, walking and swimming). However, one thing I've never embraced on a regular basis has been yoga. Oh, I've dabbled over the years, taking the occasional class and following a yoga workout tape at home now and then. But, for one reason or another -- usually scheduling or monetary -- I've never fully committed to the yoga life.

Until this past week, that is, when a golden opportunity to dive into yoga presented itself -- and I grabbed it.

The owner of my fitness studio is making over her business -- from a circuit-based, functional training studio, to a class-based system (pilates, yoga, functional training, beach boot camp, etc.).
The studio has been offering free classes to get us used to the change -- so I decided to take as many of the yoga classes as I could. I went Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

In just one short week, I'm hooked! So, I plan to finish up my one-year membership at the studio, taking two to three yoga classes per week (plus others here and there as well).

My yoga teacher, Ken, says that the practice of yoga makes you better from the inside out -- helping with everything from your energy to your moods to your appearance to your sex life.

Can't wait!!!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The yard-sale item that cost $100,000 ... to the seller!

Yard sales: That great American tradition where junk-unloaders and bargain-hunters come together in an orgy of wheeling and dealing. Everyone's a winner: The cash-seeking homeowner who's looking to reclaim room in the garage or the closets; the frugal shopper who doesn't mind using second-hand goods; and the landfills, which stay just a tad emptier thanks to this process of practical recycling.

But, wait a minute! The Consumer Product Safety Commission, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to burden your Average Joe yard salesman with the responsibility of ensuring that all the items in that jumble of goods are completely safe! This new rule, called the "Resale Roundup," sets limits on lead in children's products and makes it illegal to sell any items that don't meet those limits or have been recalled for any other reason. And that includes resales!

Quotes a recent story by Fox News: "'Those who resell recalled children's products are not only breaking the law, they are putting children's lives at risk,' said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. 'Resale stores should make safety their business and check for recalled products and hazards to children.'"

In order to comply, stores, flea markets, charities and individuals selling used goods — in person or online — are expected to consult the commission's 24-page Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Resellers and its Web site for a breakdown of what they can't sell. If they're caught selling a forbidden item, they could be whacked with a fine of $100,000 -- per infraction!

Gulp! So before you put a $5 price sticker on, say, that Hasbro Easy Bake Oven, or that Graco Jump 'n Jive Doorway Jumper or that Black & Decker Thermal Coffeemaker, you'd better think twice!

Instead, these items will be headed to a landfill near you. ... Yeah, that's a better alternative!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The rising cost of living

Don't know about you, but I'm being crushed by the alarming increase in my monthly bills -- everything from my taxes and insurance, to utilities, to cable and phone, to groceries. Every time we turn around, it seems, some "provider" is raising its rates or petitioning the state of Florida to be able to do so (hello, FPL -- can you say unmitigated greed?!?). This, combined with the continuing frustration over finding steady employment, has caused a vague sense of dread for me every time I approach my mailbox.

The price inflation is most evident in my weekly grocery bill, which has risen steadily over the years and now sits at about $80-$100 per week just for me. Every time I look, some staple that I buy has gone up -- week by week by week, it seems.

And yet, a story today in the Washington Post reports that grocery chains have actually been lowering prices this past year or so, sometimes even below their cost point. The story says that a steep decline in commodity prices (such as corn) has "helped drive down the grocery consumer price index, which measures what shoppers pay at stores, about 2.5 percent since its peak in November, according to new data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While there was an upward blip in energy prices that drove the wider consumer price index up 0.4 percent in August, over the past 12 months overall consumer prices have fallen 1.5 percent. "

Hmmm ... well, tell THAT to my mailbox!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Watching your parents age, helplessly

Just returned from a trip to visit my mom and stepdad, but it wasn't exactly a "vacation."

That's because, in addition to facing financial difficulties that will be causing them to have to move within the next few months, they are also suffering from various health problems, ranging from the mild and manageable (my mom) to the severe and restricting (my stepdad.)

So, I spent the better part of five days on household projects to help Mom cull through and get rid of everything from some of their book collection (which consists of hundreds of books!), to consignable clothing items (hey, that's a cute dress! Maybe you could get some money for it!), to long-outdated canned and jarred foods in the pantry (umm, care for some peas from 2001? Didn't think so!).

I also watched my mother deal with Peter's physical ailments, which have made him all but sedentary and include diabetes, poor eyesight, poor hearing, high blood pressure, poor circulation, and wounds on his feet that won't heal. This last issue has become so severe that he recently had an operation to remove about 1/4 of his foot, in an attempt to save the foot. So, Mom has to change the dressing on the wound (she made me take a peek -- ick! No way could I ever be a nurse!), and she also was learning how to administer twice-daily doses of a super-antibiotic he was prescribed.

Watching Mom have to wait on Peter hand-and-foot was especially tough, for as much as I felt sorry for the guy -- his quality of life has pretty much evaporated in the past couple of years -- I was also angry and resentful that it has come to this. For, though some of his health problems are age-related (he is 76), a great deal of them are direct results of poor lifestyle choices he made throughout his life. Such as: smoking cigarettes (which he did not give up for good until about five years ago, after the doctor scared the crap out of him by threatening to have to cut off his leg if he didn't quit), exercising sporadically (at one point, however, he did play tennis and golf regularly), and gorging himself on sweets such as sugary sodas and candies, junk foods such as chips and cookies, and carb-loaded foods such as pastas and breads, thus gaining about 40 pounds -- mostly in the gut.

And the strain of it is getting to Mom, who has developed her own health issues such as elevated blood pressure and low B-12 levels, and is looking decidedly older by the day. At 76, she is still relatively healthy, thank God, but the stress is taking a toll that is indeed alarming.

For, if she keels over dead from the burden of running their life and being his caregiver, lord know I don't want to have to care for him (I'd kill him in about a day!).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obama haters, you've really gone off the deep end!

(Note: I just posted this on my Examiner page; but I thought it was worth repeating here):

Next Tuesday (Sept. 8), the day after the U.S. has celebrated the labors of its citizens with a national holiday, President Barack Obama plans to deliver a speech to America's schoolchildren.

By all reports, this national address is intended to deliver a message to these kids to stay in school, to study diligently, and to be kind and respectful to one another, their teachers and their parents -- basically, to be good, responsible citizens!

Now, it should be easy to extrapolate from this message another, underlying message: That earning an education, and that becoming a responsible young citizen, will ultimately give you choices in life -- which will help you become a responsible and productive adult citizen who contributes to the labors of society, thus making you less likely to need to rely on the welfare state for survival.

And you'd think that members of the Conservative party would be doing somersaults over our president bearing such a message.

But, N-O-O-O-O!!! Some have become so outraged over Obama's intentions to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda" by "using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda" (these words were actually penned by Florida GOP leader Jim Greer!), that they have called for a ban or boycott on the speech in local schools.(So, there goes the basic American principle of free speech, right out the window!).

Now, I get that our country has become so divided, so filled with Obama haters, that anything he does is bound to attract a boatload of outrage and moral indignation.

But -- just for the sake of argument -- let's say that Obama does use this opportunity to try to brainwash all those little minds. Let's say his speech is loaded with messages about, oh, the importance of a national health-care plan, or the need for a more fairly distributed tax system. Then, haters, here's an idea for you: Why don't you use the opportunity to have a dialogue with your children about it? Why don't you use it as a way to put forth your own ideas and beliefs while allowing for the free exchange of ideas and opinions? You might even find that it will engage their minds in ways not previously explored. And, surprise! you might both learn something from the experience!

So, the way I see it, Obama's speech is a win-win situation for everyone, not something to be suspicious, fearful or outraged about!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From teacher ... to porn star

You know we're in a really bad economy when a healthy, attractive, 31-year-old Florida teacher can't get a job and so turns to appearing in porn films to make a living.

I mean, where the hell is a healthy 52-year-old supposed to find work if she's unemployed? Laundering the bedsheets after the scene is filmed? (Don't answer that -- it was rhetorical question!)

Now, to be fair, there's more to the teacher's story. Her name is Tiffany Shepherd, she taught biology at Port St. Lucie High School, and she brough a rainstorm of shit down on her head back in April when she let herself be photographed in a teensy-weensy bikini while moonlighting as a hostess on a fishing charter (to make ends meet as a single mom, apparently). And, surprise! -- the photos surfaced, the prudes at the school balked, and she was fired (though the school claimed that it was due to unexcused absences -- natch!).

Shepherd says she sent out 2,500 resumes – some even to prisons – without landing a new teaching job. Then, she lost custody of two of her three kids to her ex-husband. So, in desperation, she turned to Internet porn under the acting name Leah Lust, and making videos such as My First Sex Teacher (ugh! -- oh, and can you say ironic?).

This is all very, very sad -- for reasons too numerous to count.

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