Thursday, March 26, 2009

Searching for euphoria

And no, I'm not talking about some city in the south. Euphoria is that state of well-being that comes during pleasant experiences. Or, they tell me, after a really good workout.

So, for the past couple of months I've been going to the gym. Don't faint or fall down laughing. It's the truth. I've been there diligently three times a week, two of those times with a trainer who doesn't let me get away with anything.

We use weight machines. We use free weights. We do exercises on a giant ball that I'm still terrified is going to squirt out from under me and land me on the floor with no way to get up without a crane. And we walk on the treadmill. Sometimes we do that for a five-minute warm-up. Sometimes we do it in intervals, between sessions with the weights. Whatever she can dream up to torture me.

Now I'm a big believer in getting things I hate over with in a big, fat hurry. That is not the way this works. We do things I hate for a while, then we stop and do other things I hate. Then just when I'm lulled into the serene sense that everything I hate is behind me, we do it all again. And again. Yes, that's three sets of everything, no matter how much I moan and groan. As I said, she's a very good trainer, who doesn't listen to me whine.

The gym in my condo is often empty, but on occasion there are other folks in there. A woman watched me working out one day and said, "That's looking too easy. You probably need heavier weights." I almost slugged her with my five-pound dumbbell, because the next thing I knew the trainer had handed me an eight-pound weight.

And there was the ever-helpful man who happily moved aside so I could use some kind of arm weight contraption, despite my silent pleas conveyed with desperate body language that he stay right where he was. "No pain, no gain," he said cheerily.

Then one day I think I found my soulmate, a man who looked utterly miserable as he sweated away on one machine after another. We commiserated. He told me his kids had promised him that there would come a time when all this expercise would make him feel euphoric. "All I want to feel is the couch under me," he said. Amen to that.

However, despite my grumbling, despite the fact that weight is clinging to me as if I had been sitting on the couch, I march down there every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday and spend a solid hour doing what I'm told...or, in the case of Sunday, what I think I can get away with since nobody's supervising. I've given up hoping for euphoria. I'll settle for survival.

If you've managed to find euphoria working out or running, please tell us about it. Those of us who haven't need the inspiration.

Sherryl Woods

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Outlawing greed

In the frenzy over the huge bonuses paid to AIG executives recently, Congress has jumped on the bandwagon without thought or care. As we once learned the hard way, it's virtually impossible to legislate it alcohol, sexual conduct or greed.

The outrage over the thousands and thousands of dollars being paid to men and presumably women in a division that may be largely responsible for the company's collapse is certainly understandable. To most people making a base salary in the low five figures or even higher, the sheer size of these bonuses is mind-boggling. To those who've lost jobs or fear losing their jobs, to think that anyone at a failing company now being supported by taxpayer dollars is receiving any kind of bonus seems ludicrous.

AIG executives may be tone deaf when it comes to hearing public perception of their actions, but Congress obviously is not. The new tax code provision which was written in haste to try to recoup the money is political grandstanding at its worst...and both parties are guilty of it. Laws written in haste are seldom effective and quite often wind up dragging through the courts before being tossed right back out.

Years ago, here in Miami, a group of activists tired of hearing so much of the community's business being conducted in Spanish, wrote and drove through an English-only ordinance. No one thought it through. No one considered the long-term ramifications. The goal was simply to immediately halt the erosion of English. As a result, however, the airport couldn't post signs in any language other than English. Imagine the chaos at an international airport. The hospital at which I worked wound up with return visits from many newborns, because the homecare instructions couldn't be written in the mother's native language, whether Spanish or Creole. As a practical matter, the law caused as many problems as it solved, because it wasn't written with due diligence.

I fear we're heading down that same path with the knee-jerk reaction on Capitol Hill. Perhaps if we and our Congressmen all took a deep breath and actually examined what happened, there's another far more rational way to accomplish the same goal. AIG's CEO, Edward Liddy, whose own compensation for trying to fix the mess created by others, is $1 per year (yes, $1.00) has already asked for and received commitments from some of the executives to simply return the money. What a novel concept! Hold an actual conversation and negotiate a solution! Amazing.

The most worrisome thing to me in all of this is the tone of some of those who've seen fit to email the company. Vocal outrage is one thing. Death threats are quite another. While it seems egregious that these executives received such huge sums of money from a taxpayer bailout, the reality is that they were entitled to it by contract. It wasn't handed out on a whim. I do think there should have been negotiations before those checks were ever written to try to negate the contracts, just as is happening in the auto industry, but I can't blame an individual for depositing a check that was written to them for an amount to which they were contractually entitled.

Someone should have sat them all down and said, "Here's where we stand. Public perception of this is going to be outrage. This is taxpayer money. We have to use it in an appropriate and meaningful way to save AIG. You need to defer or cancel any bonuses until we are on sound financial footing and the taxpayers have been paid back." Bring in the lawyers. Make it all nice and legal.

And keep Congress the heck out of it.

Sherryl Woods

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

How'd you get to be so tall?

I have this problem with aging. Actually, I have quite a few problems with aging, but today I'll limit myself to the discussion of other people's kids who suddenly mature into adults when you're not looking.

Just this morning, I had breakfast with an old friend I hadn't seen since his dad's funeral several years ago. I was around when his son was born. By the time of the funeral, the son was definitely older, but I swear he was nowhere close to grown. Now I find that he's about to graduate from college in May and go into the marines. How'd that happen when I haven't aged a bit?

Several years ago, when my goddaughter hit 30, I was probably more traumatized than she was. In fact, I informed her that she and her husband were now considered to be my friends...and I had no idea who her parents were. This year her older sister hit 40. I'm still pretending that never happened...and that I can't possibly be a contemporary of her parents.

As my friends -- unlike me -- age, so do their children. Suddenly this child who's barely more than a toddler in my mind is an adult. Often he or she is married and expecting a child, who then starts to grow up too darn fast as well.

I can accept that this is the natural evolution of life, but it is extremely disconcerting to wake up one day after going merrily along imagining myself to be young, only to realize that I am not. It's like being in a soap opera where pre-schoolers are sent to bed and come back a year or two later as a teen. Only those TV parents don't seem to age any more than I do. Is that fair?

So here's my plan...those of us who are single need to ban together and rid ourselves of all these friends with children who have the audacity to grow up. I'll admit there's a bit of Peter Pan in this plan, but I write romance. I believe in the fantasy.

The only major hitch in my proposal is that I love kids. I just don't want to have to accept that the ones in my life are now the grandkids of my friends. If any of you have figured out a way to age without butting headlong into this reality, I'd surely love to hear from you.

Sherryl, who's desperately clinging to her youth one fine line and wrinkle at a time


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