Not lost in translation.

I stopped at a nail salon after work today.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a place in the local mall. The prices were relatively affordable and I had a very nice conversation with the kind man who shaped and painted my nails. I thought the experience was pretty darn awesome: he has lived in the United States for 30 years and speaks impeccable English.

I confess that my ears are lousy at understanding Eastern accents, and it is a skill that continues to elude me. Communication is generally a strength of mine, so I tend to feel very stupid when I cannot facilitate a complete exchange. My nails always look great thanks to very skillful individuals, but it’s usually an uncomfortable appointment because of the language barrier.

I just smile and nod a lot, hoping I haven’t agreed to something à la The Puffy Shirt. So, finding a salon with someone who speaks fluent English was AMAZING. I went back for that reason alone. Unfortunately, he was not there this time.

So, I smiled and nodded through an hour with a very sweet girl who did her darnedest to converse with me through the broken English she knew. Luckily, she had great nonverbal queues, and I wasn’t as lost in what she was saying as I would have been otherwise.

At the end of the appointment, where I place my hands under the UV dryers, she couldn’t get the light in one of them to turn on at first. She muttered several things in Vietnamese before crying out, “WHAT THE HELL!?” I had to stop myself from laughing because she uttered the phrase so perfectly that I knew she picked it up phonetically. Truly, it was the one thing from the entire appointment that I completely understood without drawing any conclusions as to what she was trying to say! Man, it was like a breath of fresh air—all over what-the-hell!

Maybe next time, I’ll just keep our conversation to swear words and other curses. On those at least, we seem to speak the same language! Word to the wise: cuss!

Running Circles

Learning to exercise after a lifetime of inactivity was daunting to say the least. The “no excuses workout” is and will always be walking. Anyone of any fitness level can walk. Walking can be done anywhere, including sidewalks, trails, malls, hallways, streets…pretty much anywhere there is a surface. Since people can walk both outdoors and in, walkers can maintain their regimen through all weather conditions. Walking: it’ll get you going.

I came to love walking. I loved the peace and the strength that it gave me. Walking remains my favorite exercise to this day. Unfortunately, my body became very efficient at walking, and it was increasingly difficult to reach and maintain my target heart rate. I continued to increase both my speed and my mileage until I just didn’t have the time commitment to give to walking 20+ miles a day. I turned to other exercises to supplement my cardiovascular exercise plan.

I toyed around with running beginning in 2004. I had a lot of mental blocks with running, and for those of you who do not know, running is about 90% mental. I was living near a lake surrounded by a five-mile paved path at the time. For the longest time, I would just run the first half-mile and walk the rest. I could have gone longer physically, but I never saw myself as someone who could run. The distance of a single mile seemed insurmountable enough. Only real runners might actually run for longer distances.

It wasn’t until I moved back to Wisconsin in 2005 that I began to see things differently. For the first time ever, I had a gym membership and exposure to all sorts of machines that I had never used before. I loved that gym, and I eventually gained the confidence to get on a treadmill and run for an hour or longer. While I have run outdoors since, I never achieved the same feeling of nirvana as I did on a treadmill. This was a controlled environment, one where I could blur everything to the background and get inside my mind. The treadmill has been my therapist for many years now.

While surgical wounds were healing—a process that lasted at least six months—I was unable to run. I began using an elliptical trainer in earnest. I loved the ProForm trainers at the gym because it was essentially the motion of running but without the impact (or the strain on my dressings). The experience at the gym prompted us to invest in our first piece of exercise equipment in 2008: a Sole E95 Elliptical Trainer. Only, the Sole was not the same “ride” as the machines at the gym. There was no “easy” setting on this machine, and the tracks were not worn slick from hundreds of users; it’s complete drudgery from start to finish. I thought I was having a heart attack after 10 minutes.

I saved up my money and bought a treadmill later that year. The elliptical, which certainly wasn’t cheap, has been a dust-catcher for far too long. The machine makes me feel sluggish and unfit, which is an obvious ding to my ego. After dedicating last year to running (outside and on a treadmill), I accomplished running speeds and distances that I would never have thought possible once upon a time. I suppose the victories won in running have given me the confidence to finally win over that HARD machine. I won’t say that my ego is alive and well (because it’s pretty bruised that I nearly vomited after a 30 minute workout)…but I am ready to face my foe.

I had lunch with my cousin today. She house-sat for us while we were on vacation and regularly partook of our home gym. She gave up on our elliptical after five minutes and switched back to the treadmill. I told her my plans to conquer the elliptical this year, and she sucked a breath through clenched teeth before responding, “You’re brave: THAT THING SUCKS.”

HARD isn’t necessarily bad. Asking myself to circle back to the elliptical will help my body grow stronger. It’s not torture, it’s a gift.

At least that’s the story I’m telling myself to get through the next few weeks.

In the mood for butterflies!

A mini face-lift for LauraLore! I think I have caught and updated all of the old styles from the CSS, but time will tell. I decided I wanted to change the design oh, about an hour ago. I guess gone are the days that I would stress about a design and spend days playing with a duplicate (hidden) version of the site before going live. What fun is that anyway? This feels much more in the way of a devil-may-care attitude, and I am thinking it just may sufficiently take care of my spontaneity quota for February!

A Glimpse

Once Mom knew that her time was limited, she thought it very important to do her part to maintain a living history. She told me that one of her favorite memories from childhood was sitting on the back step with her mom, listening to her tell stories of the way things were. We crammed a lot of things in those last few months, but Mom gave me a piece of her past almost daily. Inevitably, the stories she shared were both warm and funny…and I kick myself for not writing them down at the time so that I would always remember even the tiniest detail.

Since Mom valued the magic of a memory as only a loved one can recollect (as opposed to a history book), she worked with her mother to get some of her origins on paper. I had completely forgotten about the project until the other day when Brenda left a copy of a type-written document on my desk at work. Grandma finished her history, spanning from what she knew about her parents coming to this country to her childhood living on a farm. She was born in 1928.

It was many months after Mom’s death when Grandma announced, “I’ve decided that I’m going to live.” I suppose it’s difficult to outlive your children—heck, I think it’s difficult to outlive your parents. There was a cloud of depression that seemed to hang over my family for that first year. If my grandmother in her late 70s (at that time) was willing to put herself out there for that painful thing called life again, a 20-something with many more years ahead of her had no recourse but to do the same.

I typed her words to have a digital copy. I was humored by a few things while reading her history.

First, you must realize that I come from centuries of Lutheran stock (from my mother’s side AND my father’s side, actually), and when immigrants first came to this country, their first thought was to preserve their identity. There is a part of the story regarding my great-grandmother going to a Catholic school because the nuns there could communicate with her while she learned English. When she came home from school wanting Catholic prayer beads, my great-great grandmother put her in public school, pronto.

I also couldn’t help but chuckle over reading about my grandmother’s grandfather. He died in a rocking chair when my grandmother was quite young. She doesn’t remember much about the man, but she remembers being afraid of rocking chairs afterwards—apparently, they can kill you!

From this, I learned that I’m actually not nearly as German as I was told growing up. True, my mother’s family all left Germany for America, but my grandmother’s ethnicity appears to be tied completely to the Scandinavian or Nordic countries instead. My maternal grandfather is 100% German, and my father’s family is 100% Norwegian (it was quite the scandal when my father’s generation married non-Norwegians). I have absolutely no idea why I tan so easily. Descended from farmers who spent long days in the field beneath the sun, I suppose.

All these modern conveniences that we take for granted: personal transportation, telephones in every home, and butter that we don’t have to churn ourselves! If you enjoy reading about days gone by, read on! Continue reading “A Glimpse”