Friday, October 31, 2008

I take it back! I take it back!

Recently, I talked about how excited I was that Indiana is actually a swing state in this year's Presidential election. Since 1964, when Indiana chose LBJ, we have consistently voted Republican in the National elections. For a Democrat, such as myself, it's often difficult to go to the polls knowing that, in the long run, my vote doesn't count. So, to know that this year it may actually make a difference made me feel good.

That was then. That was before nearly every commercial on TV was for a political purpose. I recently made the annual "Girl Trip" with a couple of my girlfriends. This year we chose to go to Texas to visit a couple of other friends. Since Texas is not a battleground state, it was so refreshing to not be constantly bombarded with Obama and McCain ads. The news covered OTHER issues even!

I think the real problem is the electoral college. It skews the way the candidates campaign. Since most states are an all or nothing proposition, most of the time the presidential candidates barely visit most states. I'm certain the coverage in those states isn't nearly as comprehensive, and consequently, those voters may not be as educated. After all, we, as a nation, are a lazy lot. Most of the time unless the platforms are shoved right in our faces, we don't do the research necessary to make an educated decision.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but there has to be a better way to make the electorate more educated while at the same time making sure each and every vote really does count.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Insights from therapy

For the past 3 years or so, I have seen a psychologist on a weekly basis. I know that there are those people out there who either poo-poo the idea of seeing a mental professional or think that this is a matter that shouldn't be aired publicly because others might think less of you. Personally, I think everyone should be in therapy. We are all emotionally damaged in our own special way and act based on that damage whether we are aware of it or not. There's always the manifest portion of an act as well as the latent portion of that act. Choosing to ignore the latent portion (the REAL reason behind why we do what we do) only leads to a perpetually acting in that same way.

In my therapy sessions, we figure out the WHY of what I do so that, if the action is detrimental to myself or someone else, I can act differently in the future. Over the course of the last few years, I discovered lots of things about myself and how I feel that haven't been so pleasant, but have allowed me to view the world differently and to, therefore, act or react to situations differently. In the past two weeks we have come up with some pretty amazing insights.

1) Hi, My name is Heather (Hi Heather) and I am an emotional eater. (GASP!)

I've actually known this about myself for quite a while, but I was in denial for a LOOOONG time. The problem is that, up until last week, I couldn't figure out WHY I was an emotional eater. I was (thank God) never physically abused as a child or an adult. I, long ago, started trying to express my feelings rather than "eat" them. (Literally and figuratively). But I still didn't get why I felt the urge to eat a piece of cake or cookie or pint of ice cream in certain situations. (The theory is that, for emotional eaters, if you need love, you gravitate towards "soft" foods (ie, cake, ice cream, mashed potatoes). If you feel like you can't express anger or frustration, you lean towards foods that crunch (ie, potato chips, etc). I need love and so, my foods of choice are always "soft".)

The hypothesis that Dr. F and I have been working with recently is that my relationships are not emotionally nourishing. In my interactions with people on a daily basis, I expect to be fed on a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables and Filet Mignon. Instead, I come away from most interactions feeling as though all I've been offered is a rice cake. Now, don't get me wrong, if you are a fan of Styrofoam, a rice cake is quite a treat. For me, it's definitely NOT the first thing I'm going to grab out of the pantry. Despite being offered these relationship rice cakes on a continual basis, I keep going back thinking that THIS time it will be different. The problem with that theory is that some people are only capable of serving rice cakes. It doesn't matter what I say or do, that's not going to change. Thinking it will is an exercise in futility and only leads me to constantly seek solace in foods that bring me comfort.

2) Compliments and admiration are like crack cocaine for my soul.

When I was growing up, I was a pretty smart kid. I didn't really try very hard and yet I did well in school and it seemed like I could do anything I wanted on the first try (I think this is what they call selective memory). People complimented and praised me continually. This sort of emotional propping up is what I became accustomed to.

When I went to college and didn't do quite as well, when I was no longer a big fish in a little pond, when I had to actually work at things and didn't hear that kind of constant acknowledgement from the people that I relied upon for that sort of thing, I began to behave like an addict. Of course, it's only in hindsight that I realize that. I would do anything I could to get the attention and admiration that had once been doled out so generously, yet it wasn't as readily available to me.

Now that I have been weaned off of that sort of constant praise and introduced to what the real world is like, I find that when someone does compliment me, I feel nearly euphoric and ravenous for even more of that sort of stroking. It's like what I would imagine a drug addict experiences when they get a little taste of their vice. I've really noticed it take hold in the last week or so. Three times, I've had people say things to me or act in such a way that it makes me frightened of the effect it has on me. It makes me wonder how I can get more. Since I've been trying to build the emotional fortitude to stand on my own two feet and to not rely on others for my emotional well-being, this desire to please others and garner their attention seems a dangerous path to go down.

It's a good thing I get to talk to someone once a week so that I can work on these very things.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Arby's Ban! (click here to see my other Arby's rant)

So, this morning, after a week absence or so, I was able to drag my butt out of bed and get it into the gym. The rest of me went along with it, but it wasn't willingly! I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill followed by 30 minutes on the stationary bike, grabbed my purse and keys from the locker room and headed for my car, which was parked about a block away.

On the way to my car, I passed an Arby's restaurant (the one that I had to mystery shop a few weeks ago) and, on the window, I see an advertisement for their new "Mac & Cheesers". My jaw nearly hit the ground. According to their own website:

"Your favorite childhood snack is back and better than ever. Creamy cheddar cheese and classic macaroni are battered and friend into golden triangles of flavor. Great for snacking when you're on the run or
camped out watching cartoons on the family TV."

Also, according to their website, these "golden triangles of flavor" contain 78 calories EACH and come in a pack of 5 for a whopping 390 calories and 805 grams of sodium!!! We as Americans (myself included) are already constantly bombarded by food choices that are severely nutritionally deficient and we are encouraged to eat what we want because "you deserve a break today".

For the first time in our nation's history, our children have shorter life expectancies than we do. Why? Because they are fed on a steady diet of Mac & Cheesers and Happy Meals. In a recent study, parents are even being encouraged to give their children Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is readily available to our bodies from sunlight and milk, but our children aren't drinking enough milk or playing outside enough to get adequate supplies.

I, for one, am going to try to make a change. I understand being on the run and living a hectic lifestyle, but if food sources like Arby's are going to constantly show that their concern is the bottom line rather than our expanding waistlines and rising heath concerns, I'm not going to be a party to it. I'm sure it won't make a difference to them if I no longer patronize their establishments, but hopefully it will make a difference to my own waistline. Maybe if enough of us take this same stance, it will force these restaurants to make a change as well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oktoberfest Balloon Race

Last weekend, Troy and I had the pleasure of spending some time in south central Indiana with his family at their farm. It's the time of year for all of the festivals to start and since Indiana has such a strong German heritage, Oktoberfest festivities were on our agenda.

Saturday morning we enjoyed the Seymour Oktoberfest parade. Along with Troy and myself, his mom, dad, sister and nieces and nephew grabbed a seat in the grass along the parade route. Sitting in the grass seemed like a good idea until I realized that I had sat in what was essentially a briar patch. These tiny, painful balls of hell were sticking me in the butt. When I tried to gingerly push myself up using my hands, more of them punctured my palm. It was NOT a good time! Luckily Troy was nice enough to help me up and help to pick them off of me.

Despite Seymour being a relatively small town, they had a pretty long parade. There were three bands, LOTS of older model tractors, dancers, cheerleaders and princesses of all sorts and sizes. Perhaps the most disturbing float to me was the one advertising the local funeral home. It was all shimmery and piping lively music into the crowd. I would have perhaps thought of something a bit more somber. Odd.

Later that evening, Troy and I headed to the local high school where a hot air balloon race was set to start. We attended the event several years ago and were just fascinated by it all. It's an actual contest. There is a lead balloon that fills up and heads off. As soon as it leaves the ground, the other balloons are allowed to start being filled. At some point, the lead balloon drops a marker and the other balloons try to drop their markers as close to that spot as they can. Fun!

On my list is "Ride in a hot air balloon", so I went out on a limb and asked the operator of the lead balloon if I might be able to catch a ride with him. While he was very nice, he explained that that spot was already taken by the sponsor of the event. Oh well. It's worth it to ask.

We found a good spot along what we thought was the sidelines and settled in for the excitement to begin. Within a few minutes, the Remax balloon (the lead balloon) was nearly full and began swaying back and forth as the shreiking voice of the young children in it's path rang through the crowd. Not to worry, no one was in danger, but it was quite funny to hear the cadence of their yells as the balloon leaned down towards them and then swayed back the other way. Eventually, they got it under control and it was on it's way.

The other balloons, which up until now, had been neatly unfurled and lying flat across the football field, immediately started to fill with air generated by huge fans. It was quite a show. When they are way up in the air, they don't appear to be all that big, but right next to them on the ground, you realize they are HUGE. Yet, with those fans going, less than 10 minutes later, nearly all of the 17 chase balloons were filled and on their way towards the lead balloon. In some cases, it was all the balloon handlers could do to keep them from heading up prematurely. Hot air rising is an amazingly strong force, apparently.

In total, the whole show probably took less than 25 minutes, but if you ever get a chance to see one, I would highly recommend it. The beauty of the balloons close up as the sun is setting is simply amazing.

Google Analytics

I recently installed Google Analytics on my blog after hearing about it from a friend. It's the coolest thing ever! It hides in the background of your blog and keeps track of some great information like who visits your site (no worries. it doesn't actually tell me WHO you are.) and what city, country, etc they log in from. It also keeps track of things like how long visitors stay on the site, how many pages they view, how they get to the site (direct vs. search engine, etc), whether they are a new visitor or a returning visitor. It's just amazing to me! I don't understand the inner workings of how these things get programmed, but I thank the programmers!

Interested in a few stats? Here you go:

In 13 days, I have had 89 visits from 60 DIFFERENT visitors. That's 2.87 visits per day. They hail from countries like Kazakhstan, Australia, Ireland, Canada and the US and cities like Indianapolis (duh), Chicago (hi Jill!), the Bronx and apparently I'm very big in Hamilton, OH. (If you're a Hamiltonian, drop me a line! I'd love to hear why you're reading and what keeps you coming back!). The average visitor spends 38 seconds and checks out 1.28 pages. You all must be VERY fast readers! Most visitors have been here less than 1 day ago.

The thing I find most interesting about this is that when Google Analytics wasn't installed, I wondered if anyone ever visited, but it was just a fleeting thought. The content was based on what I wanted to talk about, what happened in my life, what I was thinking about and what's important to me. Now I somehow feel competitive about getting more visitors and getting them to stick around longer. Why is that? Is it the American sensibilities in me that tell me I need to constantly do better? Is it a desire to be heard and listened to? Food for thought for me and my therapist, I suppose.

In the meantime, since you're listening and reading, what can I do better? What do you want to hear/talk about? Do you miss hearing about more of my motorcycle adventures? Do I include too many/not enough pictures? Is there some better purpose this forum could be used for other than bragging/complaining/reporting my life and thoughts?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Indiana as a swing state? Waahooo!

As an Indiana democrat, I am often in the minority. Every election (including primaries), I go to the polls and cast my vote. Often, I feel frustrated that I'm not heard and that my vote seemingly doesn't count because my candidate didn't get elected. Why do I keep doing it? 1) Many women sacrified life and limb so that I would have the right to do so. 2) I think it's important to stay abreast of political issues and voting is like taking a test after you've studied the candidates' positions on those issues. 3) So that I can complain when the other guy makes bad decisions that negatively affect me.

I do catch a bit of a break since I live in Indianapolis, which is overwhelmingly the most liberal part of the state. But, unfortunately, all of our votes here in the capital city don't negate the "red" counties in the rest of the state. Even Fort Wayne, with a population of around 250,000, is a backward thinking small town that overwhelmingly votes Republican.

But could this year be different? Could our little retangular-ish piece of the US map come up blue? Oh that a girl could dream! This just in from CNN's Political Ticker:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Polls in five key battleground states in the race for the White House released Tuesday suggest that Sen. Barack Obama is making major gains.

The CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation polls of likely voters in Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin reflect a significant nationwide shift toward the Democratic presidential nominee.

SWEET! My only fear is that the right-wing nut jobs that populate our state and vote based on one issue alone will read about this and "get out the vote".

If you would like to read more on this CNN item, please go to:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Read on an Arby's cup....

"Happiness is just a curly fry away." Really? Seriously?

We live in a society that regularly medicates itself with food. Are you angry? Take it out on those potato chips! They won't talk back. Feeling unloved? How about melting into the arms of that delicious bowl of rocky road? As america's waistlines continue to expand ( and our self-reported happiness takes a nose-dive, perhaps it's time we got down to the real causes of our obesity and depression and stopped thinking ding-dongs are the true path to happiness.

I try not to eat at fast food restaurants, but when my busy schedule (and lack of planning) leave me hungry and with little time at my disposal, grabbing a quick bite from a drive-thru sometimes seems the best available option. I probably grab fast food meals 2 times a month and I don't exercise nearly enough. Unfortunately, I think I may actually be ahead of the curve. Many busy families eat a steady diet of burgers and fries and it's been shown that kids are leading ever more sedentary lives. If these poor habits are compounded by negative messages they are constantly fed subtlely (and not so subtlely), what a bleak future stands before our nation.

So, what do we do to fix this? We've all heard "eat right and exercise". It's not sexy, but it's true. Maybe it takes baby steps? How about eating 1 less time at those fast food restaurants per month? Per week? Adding a salad as a meal once a month? A week? Spending 15 minutes after dinner (when the kids still have so much energy) and walking around the neighborhood as a family? Or maybe just taking the time to think about WHY we want to eat the entire row of Girl Scout cookie Thin Mints before simply ripping open the package.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Newest amusement park thrill ride

I'm a HUGE roller coaster fan. In fact, I even spent a (semi-torturous) summer working at Cedar Point ("America's Roller Coast"). I love that feeling of thinking of your stomach is going to spew out of your nostrils and your butt jumping out of the seat at any moment. It's fun and exciting because, for the most part, it's fake danger. Most rides at permanent amusement parks are inspected daily by teams of highly skilled mechanics and engineers. The adrenalin rush you get leaves you terrified for a moment, but then invigorated and elated.

I can't say my level of enthusiasm for the recent stock market swings reaches the same heights. In the past few days, while Congress discusses what should be done about the financial sector of our economy, my 401(k) has nearly given me whiplash. After Monday's debacle, I was down 6.6% in that one day loss. After yesterday's up, I've regained 3.4%. (Amazing how it doesn't seem to go up nearly as fast as it goes down.) And for the year, I've "lost" nearly 21%. Ouch! I say "lost" because I haven't actually sold anything or moved anything. Since I have over 30 years until retirement, I'm very aggressively invested. That seemed like a great idea last year when my return was nearing the double digits.

For a brief moment last week I started to get scared. Really scared. These ups and downs aren't like those stomach butterflies manufactured for us at amusement parks. These ups and downs have real consequences. Will I have a roof over my head? Will I be able to feed myself (and my family, if I had one)? Will I have a job this time next year? Will I be supporting my parents, who are nearing retirement age, when they can no longer afford to support themselves?

All of these fears nearly froze me in my tracks. So, rather than let them consume me, I stood up, dusted myself off and pulled out the biggest stick I had to beat them off. I RAISED my 401(k) contributions. It was a scary thing to do, but the stock market is having a fire sale and what better time to stock up? I've got TONS of time to ride out these ups and downs.

So, if you're in a similar boat, buckle up, keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times and prepare for what could be the most profitable thrill ride you've ever been on.


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