Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Joy of Cooking

This is my birthday present this year. There was a time in my life when this might have offended me-a kitchen item. But today, it thrills me. I know it's just a pot but it's cast iron-it will likely outlive us all, it cooks everything and it is RED.

I do not consider myself a great cook...yet. I am just in training. I figure by the time my kids go to college, I will be-and it will be wasted on meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I am a pretty good cook most of the time. I have a few recipes that I have really gotten down. I have learned a ton over the 17 years of being married and cooking for someone. I learned that fresh ingredients make a giant difference. I only use kosher salt and table grind pepper. Some short-cuts are fine but when it comes to grated cheese-always grate your own, it is a ton better. I love kitchen tools-especially my mixer and my food processor. Drinking wine and listening to my Ipod while cooking is therapeutic. And, a sous chef would be very nice!
I have also learned that my husband will eat ANYTHING, and rarely complains. At first it annoyed me that he expected me to cook-I thought it was rather degrading. I figured out after all these years though, it is how he feels loved. That is the only expression of love I have seen in the home he grew up in. I have never actually heard his parents tell him they love him-or each other for that matter. They just do things (acts of service) to show it. He is so very thankful to have a meal cooked for him-partly because the man just loves to eat, but also in part because I believe it makes him feel loved.

As a result, it has motivated me to get better and better at cooking for him. How do you get better? No magic pan, no magic cookbook-just plain ole practice. His mom told me that a long time ago. I am no longer in a hurry to be this great cook-just trying to open my mind to methods and techniques. And along with that attitude, I am slowly improving. Oh, and I have been adding great kitchen tools along the way. I don't plan to win any cooking contests or go on a cooking show (I am no Pioneer Woman); I just want to show my husband love the way he understands it.

I come from a place where we were very vocal and expressive so it did not come natural to me to express love through acts of service. But I am getting the hang of it, and it works! My husband is a different man when I make him something yummy for dinner. It lifts his spirits the way only someone loving you can. And I do love him.

I have a similar theory about cooking as I do with skiing. If you are a good cook/skier, then using the best of the best cookware/ski equipment will only make you better. However, if you suck at it, using the best stuff really won't help you. So, had I gotten this very fancy pan for a gift some 15 years ago-I might have been annoyed-and it probably wouldn't do me a bit of good in the kitchen either. I got married not knowing how to boil and egg. I also thought of cooking as sort of demeaning "woman's work". And as a working wife and mother, I did not embrace it right away. However, now I do. I don't find it demeaning at all. In fact, sometimes I hear my husband tell someone what a great cook I am, and it makes me feel so good. I had no idea how something so simple could make people so happy. I love it! And it has made a world of difference in my life.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Self medication

Last week I visited my doctor. I went in there seeking immediate medication for what I thought was surely pre-menopause because of inexplicable mood swings and insomnia. He said it was depression-which took me by complete surprise as I have been a pretty good mood for a very long time until just this last few weeks. I thought it was just my job wearing on me (I still think it may be the root). I did not have a lot of the common symptoms like not being able to get out of bed or sleeping all the time; or going on shopping sprees (that' s just because Paul would kill me). He concluded that I have been self medicating with all my gym jobs-which is why I have energy. As far as self medicating, it's not a bad one (better than smoking, drinking, drugs, etc) but it was only masking the fact that I need to try and regulate my serotonin levels. That being said, I don't' really have to give up my gym obsession as long as I can keep it in check.....
As a new instructor (relatively new); the way to get your own classes is to sub for other instructors. I don't mind being a sub in general but it does get old. Oh, it has its perks-like you can do it on your own terms, you can pick and chose times and places; you are helping someone out and he/she is always very grateful, and I have always won the crowd over by the end of class. But what I hate most is that first few minutes when people make the connection that you are the teacher-and not whomever it is they expected. It can be rather awkward. Now, as I have gotten more experienced, and sub'd for the same people over and over, it has gotten easier, but it is still much nicer to be the regular girl.

I teach now at 4 different gyms:

Highlands Ranch Rec Center-the first place I got hired. I feel so beholden to this place-even though it is not the best place to teach. This is not the same as a gym that people join voluntarily like the other places I teach. As a resident of Highlands Ranch, you have to pay dues, and as a dues paying resident, you are able to use the rec centers. The other places I teach-people are choosing to come and be members. Also, they pay the least (by a lot) per hour, the bikes are old, (although well maintained) the residents have to pay extra to take group x classes, and the classes are not well communicated. Lots of people I talk to don't even know where the spin room is (I was one of them before I started working there). It's hard to get a following at a place like this. It would cost someone about the same amount to get a pass for group x as it would to join a gym like 24 hour fitness. Still, though, there about a good 20 or so people I have seen over and over again-which makes me feel very good. My boss wrote in my review that she had gotten tons of great comment cards filled out about me. So, overall, I love teaching here.

Village Fitness-the second place I got hired. I love the social interaction with the members here and the other instructors (one of which is a very good friend of mine). But it is not a well run group x department-or gym for that matter. A new girl just took over the group x dept so maybe it will improve. I don't really think it will because it comes from the top. I doubt Teia (the previous group x manager) could have done much more. The owner is really only concerned with making money-which is fine; I realize he needs to make money, but it is to the detriment of the club. The equipment is in terrible condition-getting things maintained or even repaired is an act of congress; the group x program is more of an afterthought to him. He just cut the pay of all the instructors across the board. If he had a choice, I think he would axe it all and just have personal trainers charging $300 an hour. My class there got cancelled after 2 weeks of no one coming-largely because the time was 6:30 pm in a community of families and stay at home moms. The 5:30 classes do just fine. I tried to get them to move it since there isn't one that night but they just said wait until Jan-and now it's April and the summer schedule is going to be even leaner. So, now I just sub there, and that has been great because I love the other instructors and I generally sub for the same people so I have gotten to know them. I like the location too-it's about 9 or 10 minutes from my front door.

Colorado Athletic Club-Inverness-the third place I got hired. This is my favorite of the places I teach-although I have a terrible time slot-Thursdays at noon. The lunch crowd is very hit or miss-especially when the club is full of very affluent people-most of the women are trophy wives and the men don't do a ton of group x (cycle being the exception as most of my classes are about 50/50 men and women) I think the most I have had is 8, and I typically get between 2 and 4 participants. I wonder why they even offer a noon class. To make matters worse, the most popular instructor, Dawn, whom I often sub for, teaches right before me. Ugh! It is not easy to follow her. Her time slot and popularity just fill the room. However, I figure I just need to pay my dues at a place like this and get established. One of these days (probably a long time from now), I will get my own class and following there but in the meantime, I just take what I can get. This is a very well run gym-and I LOVE working here. They actually pay 75% of your continuing ed class expenses, support you in learning new formats, encourage you to participate in each others classes and training, and going ons at the club. It's just a very put together place. The location I teach at is one of the older ones, but I still love it. There is a brand new one downtown (Tabor Center)-where I am allowed to sub as well but I haven't been able to yet. That's another one I would like to work for-the people who run the group x depts are the best at this company. I just wish I could get a better time slot-and I suppose that will come in time.

24 Hour Fitness: the most recent place I was hired. I just got hired here a few weeks ago-and it is like working for a website. I don't know wth I am doing-everything is done on a website. I sent my manager (of which there are about 100) a note when I got my paperwork turned in to which she responded: "read your manual and pick up shifts!" You have to sub there for a long time before you can get your own class apparently. So, I read the manual-which is basically a step by step instruction guide on how to use the website. I picked up a couple of shifts. All this without speaking to a soul. I guess I will figure out the sound system and keys to the room,etc. when I get there? Who knows? I am just glad I survived the auditions for this damned gym. It was so gruelling. On my first audition, I basically got cut off-and Laura (the area manager) told me I had terrible technique-24 hour required a totally different format/training that I have not completed-Schwin's training. So, that didn't feel too good. But then, she called me the next week for some reason requesting a second audition. Hmm, interesting? But, naturally, when someone tells me I am not good enough, I just want to prove them wrong, so I went for a second one. Again, I was wondering to myself why I go through this scrutiny for a job that pays $20 an hour and gets me in trouble at work and sometimes at home. I don't even like 24 hour that much. Not surprisingly, Laura was very critical, and told me all the stuff I did wrong-albeit much improved from last time. She talked to me for a long time and told me she was torn with me because I am so green at teaching. But she said she really liked me and saw a lot of potential. In the end, she hired me. And now, I am just glad it's over with.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I was talking to a friend of mine recently who is very much a professional. By that I mean, she is highly intellegent, educated, motivated and extremely succesful. She works for the Governor of Wyoming doing very important things like: writing laws, establishing budgets and allocating funds appropriated from the stimulus program. The Governor actually recruited her in spite of her unwillingness to move to the capital. She commutes from Jackson to Cheyenne instead. She also contracts for several Fortune 500 firms all over the country. She has a residence in the Jackson Hole, WY area as well one in an upscale part of the Bay area near San Fran. She was my college roommate. I have nothing but respect for her and her accomplishments-probably to the point of envy. She is very understated and modest; and she always makes me feel good about myself when I see her and talk to her. In short, I am blessed to have this person in my life.

Today's conversation was about a career opportunity she had mentioned to me last time we got together. She thought it might be something I would like so I wrote a cover letter threw together a quick resume. Among many other things she noticed that I could correct/improve upon when she reviewed them was the statement, "what I am looking for is balance".

She said "the word balance to employers means I'm not interested in working that hard or may get a lot of phone calls about needing to pick up your kids unexpectedly-neither of which is great." She also said that employers are reluctant to hire "mom's with small children because they don't make work their priority". I did not take offense with these comments; however, I do find it disappointing and sad. I understand the position of an employer-and it is not untrue that mothers with small children can be questionable in their priorities at times (on both sides). However, I also think it makes a pretty grim statement about working moms. What are we supposed to be doing anyway? Ideally, I would not have to work (nor would anyone with raising her children as her priority). But even if that was a comfortable financial option (right now it would be an uncomfortable one); I still long to have some type of fulfillment and role within the fabric of the workforce. I am a bright, intellegent person with a lot to offer. I like the idea of having a career as well as being succesful at raising a family. To me, that is balance.

To my buddy, it is described more like "if you were an investment banker in Manhatten working 100 hours a week, that may make more sense that you are looking for balance". I suppose it's worth mentioning that my vocational rock star of a friend chose to not have a family herself. She is happily married but neither she nor her husband was interesed in having children. She is not one of those judgemental people who looks down on moms. However, I do think it's hard to understand what that would feel like unless you are there. At least it would have been for me. I can honestly state I had no idea how I feel about all this until I met my kids.