Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Double Duty Beauty Products!!

Double Duty Beauty Products:
Get More Bang For Your Buck

When the going gets tough - the tough get gorgeous! Like most Recessionistas out there right now, you’re probably looking for cheap, but chic, ways to keep up the glam without shelling out too many clams. Looking for ways to get more bang for your buck during this economic downturn? One of the best investments you can make right now is to stock up on double duty beauty products. So, stop your obsession with the recession, (worrying just gives you wrinkles!), and start pampering yourself with these multi-purpose primpers:

Dr. Bronner’s Magic “All-inOne” Castile Soap:
Take a wacky trip back to the 60’s as you wash up with this all natural eco-friendly soap, blended with jojoba and loads of essential oils. This clever cleanser can be used to clean everything from your most delicate body parts to your motor vehicle’s undercarriage. Read the loopy label in the shower and you’ll also “clean your conscience” as you wait for your conditioner to kick in! The bottle lists 18 uses, but with Dr. Bronner’s and a little elbow grease - there’s no limit to what you can lather up. It’s now available in eight scents, but be sure to give the classic Peppermint a try. Find it at drug stores, health food shops and hippie communes everywhere. ($5.99/8 oz. www.drbronner.com)

The Multiple by Nars:
This multi-purpose product provides beautiful translucent color for eyes, cheeks, lips and body all in a single stick. It’s special fail-proof formula goes on like a cream, but finishes like a powder, for quick color and sheer coverage. A makeup artist must-have, The Multiple let’s you accent, highlight and contour all with one product; so go on girl, get on the stick and get glowing! Check out The Mutliple peach-pink shade “Orgasm” -- Who wouldn’t want that?! ($37.00 www.narscosmetics.com)

Stila’s Convertible Eye Color:
Keep your cosmetic bag clean with this convenient 3-in1 color. The dynamic dual-ended applicator has an eye pencil on one end and a gentle smudging tool on the other. A quick twist to the middle - and Voile! - Stila’s got you covered with a perfectly coordinating, and long lasting, eye shadow. It comes in twelve sensational shades, so try a few and you’ll look fab in a flash! ($22.00 www.stilacosmetics.com)

MD Skincare All in One Facial Cleanser with Toner:
Now you can clear your counter from the clutter of countless cleansers and totally toss those toners! With this fantastic find, in just a single step, you can remove makeup, clean and tone your skin. This milky marvel dissolves dirt and oil from you pores, but is so gentle it won’t irritate even the most sensitive skin. It comes in three formulas; normal, sensitive & problem skin. Just what the doctor ordered! ($38.00/8oz. www.sephora.com)

Philosophy 3-in1 Shampoo & Shower Gels:
You’ll fall head over heals in love with the luscious lather as you dive into these delicious, and calorie-free, indulgent bath gels. This award winning multi-tasker will leave you clean, conditioned and smelling good enough to eat! Just a dash added to your laundry, or hand-washables, will leave your delicates delicately scented, too! There are so many sensational scents to chose from, but why not toast in the Spring with a little Mimosa bubbly-bath? ($16.00/16 oz. www.philosophy.com)

DuWop Revolution Tinted Body Moisturizer with SPF:
Revolt against pale arms and legs with this sheer, sexy and shimmery body makeup lotion by DuWop. Their new SPF 15 formula lets you moisturize and protect your skin. You’ll look radiant with a guilt-free golden glow. And now it’s even more transfer resistant than ever, so both you and your clothing look great today and for years to come! ($28.00/5.3 oz. www.shop.duwop.com)

Benefit Galactic Shield:
Join forces with Benefit’s zit-zapping super heroine, Zaparella, to blast away menacing blemishes. Rub out whimpy pimples that dare to come between you and your clear complexion! In a single swoosh, this killer concealer works as a double agent to hide & heal, with a dose of blemish busting salicylic acid. It is available in three easy to blend shades.

MAC Glitter:
Already have a sparking personality? Now you can have the skin and hair to match! Use MAC’s glamorous glitter to a little shimmer whenever and wherever you need it. Use it to brighten up your eyes or to make your hair really shine. Blend some with your lip gloss and you’re sure to have a smile that really lights up the room! Pick a shade or two to play with. ($17.00/.26 oz. www.maccosmetics.com)

Johnson’s Baby Oil with Aloe Vera & Vitamin E:
Go ahead and baby yourself with this amazing mulit-purpose beauty product. Use this mild and gentle oil gel, enriched with aloe vera & Vitamin E, to moisturize and condition your skin. Soothe some on right after your shower to lock in moisture, up to ten times longer than lotion. Rub some on your cuticles to keep even the hardest working hands from drying out and getting ragged. Put a dab on a cotton ball to effortlessly remove your makeup, without tugging or pulling your skin. You can even run a very little through your tresses to keep your hair shiny and silky, without looking stringy or greasy, all day long. ($4.29/6.50 oz. www.Walgreens.com)

Bliss’ Problem Salved 20-in-1 Wonder Balm:
If you’re skin is chapped, cracked or chaffed - you’ll want to check out this Bliss exclusive beauty balm! Swipe some on to soothe sunburn, bug bites, and blisters. See instant results when you sweep it across just waxed, treated or stressed-out skin. Use it to groom your brows or to tame flyaways and frizzies! From head-to-toe beauty fixes to boo-boos kisses - you’ll see that almost all of life’s problems can finally be salved! ($18.00 www.blissworld.com)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Get A Life...Coach!

Go From Whiner To Winner With The Right Game Plan!

Feel like you're stuck on a stumbling block between good and great? Is your true passion just passing you by? Are you ready to blow the whistle on your whining and start transforming yourself into a real winner? Then it's time to leap off the sidelines, make the call to a life coach and start working on a winning game plan.

No one would ever expect an athlete to be at the top of her game without the guidance of a good coach. The same is true in the corporate arena, where many executives credit their success to mentoring relationships they've established while climbing the corporate ladder. Life coaching offers a similar support system for you on a personal level. Coaching can help uncover weakness that may be holding you back from achieving your goals and help build up your confidence to get you to where you want to go. Many coaching clients are already quite accomplished in some areas of their lives, but they may be frustrated with their work-life balance or suddenly overwhelmed and upended by an unexpected event.

It is important to note that Life Coaching is not the place to turn for help in dealing with clinical depression or other serious psychological issues; these require the services of a medically trained healthcare professional. However, Triangle area Life Coach and author, Stefanie Zizzo, (www.stefaniezizzo.com) believes that absolutely everyone can benefit from coaching, but the key to real success is communication and commitment.

Zizzo, like many life coaches, has spent years training and honing her skills as a keenly focused listener. She believes that as a life coach, her job is to help mirror back what you express to her and to give you tools to better communicate with others, and perhaps more importantly, with yourself. Her mission is to help you uncover your weaknesses, shore up your strengths and draw up a map with a clear course of action to help you reach your goals. As an experienced and intuitive life coach, she has learned the “tricks of the trade” to help her clients let go of the struggle of “going from good to great”, find balance and co-actively seek out ways to move forward in their own life's journey.

A life coach, Zizzo says, isn't there to simply hand out advice and tell you what to do, but rather to use guided conversation and focused questioning to unearth recurring themes and patterns that may “help you see things that you didn't realize were right under the surface”, so that you can find answers for yourself. While history and habits are important, unlike traditional therapy which often emphasizes an exploration of your past, life coach Karen Lee, (www.carolinalifecoaching.com), finds her practice yields the most successful results when she and her clients start dealing with the present and work toward improving the future. Lee says that while she might “glance back”, she points out that coaching encourages a shift in focus away from trying to figure out how you got to where you are, but rather to keep looking forward for ways to get you where you want to be.

Most life coaches conduct their sessions by phone. Stephen Jurovics, Ph. D., of Co-Creative Coaching, (www.c3coaching.net), says that although he was initially resistant to this method of working, he's found that it allows him to listen “extraordinarily carefully” and it has worked quite well in his own practice. By engaging in deep, thoughtful and open-ended conversations with clients over the phone, the coach is free to concentrate on the energy of the communication, and not be bogged down or distracted by body language. For Lee, removing the non-verbal helps her avoid falling into the trap of “feeling sorry” for her clients or letting a physical presence get in the way. Zizzo has also found that without having direct face-to-face contact, many of her clients are able to open up much more quickly and are able to present themselves on a more intimate level. During her phone sessions, she often sits listening with her eyes closed, sifting out the specific words and tonality, and concentrating on the energy and intention of the conversation. However, most coaches are open to working in what ever way they can best help a client to help reach her goals. For example, Lee, a Division 1 athlete and avid golfer, has also been known to meet her clients out on the greens.

Since life coaching is all about personal growth by exploring issues through mindful communication, it is imperative that you find a coach that you feel a connection with. Referrals from friends and family members are certainly an excellent way to start, but it is important to “interview” a few potential coaching candidates to find just the right match for you. Most will offer a complimentary consultation, as a chance for both of you to get to know each other and see if it is a good fit. Many coaches all have specific areas of expertise that they tend to focus on such as career growth, relationships, sports, creativity, and spirituality - even rock bands. You can also surf the net or visit the referral link on the website for the International Coaching Federation (www.coachfederation.org). Professional organizations, such as the ICF, offer a variety of accredited certification training programs, although a license it isn't required for someone to hang out a shingle as a life coach. It is important for you to do your research and find a quality coach based on experience, reputation and your personal comfort level.

Once you decide that coaching is for you, you'll be encouraged to make what Jurovics calls “a moral commitment” of at least 3 months to see any real progress. Most coaches like to “meet” at least three or four times a month for to start. Expect to pay around $100 to $125 or more for a forty-five to sixty minute session, with occasional follow up emails between calls. Depending on the nature of the issue a client would like to explore, some have a short term relationship with their coach and are ready to walk away after reaching a resolution. Others maintain a longer attachment, but Lee, like most other coaches, are careful not to become a crutch. She considers her work a success when her clients are able to leave her feeling confident that they are better off than when they started. Life coaching is rarely covered by insurance, but you may want to consult with your accountant to see if it can be deducted as a professional development expense.

Life coaching sessions are intense and action oriented - which is where commitment comes in. Although you may work with your coach to develop an outline for a plan, you are ultimately accountable for your own success. Unlike seeking the advice of friend or spouse, you are free to focus only on yourself and explore any and/all issues without guilt, fear of embarrassment, hurt feelings or having to worry about some else's personal agenda. After each meeting, you can expect to leave with a “tactile plan” to get things done. You can also rest assured that all life coaches take their professional code of ethics and responsibility of confidentiality extremely seriously.

But the bottom line is, no matter how brilliant your life coach or how much money you spend, you can only achieve your personal goals if you are willing to dedicate the time and effort to work on them yourself. You can read all the self-help books you want, but unless you have a plan to take action - all you're going to do is clutter up your nightstand.

Now, if I could just find a Life Cheerleader!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tipping Pointers: Showing Your Gratitude With Gratuities

Every day we rely on the kindness of strangers. They give us delicious details about menu specials, they touch up our roots, zap our zits and take care of our “charming” children. In rain, snow, sleet or hail, we depend on people we may never have met to deliver the mail and daily newspaper to our door and we count on people we barely know to keep our nails buffed and pinky toes look pretty. To show our appreciation to these intimate strangers who work so hard to help make our lives easier, we voluntarily bestow upon them billions of dollars each year - in the form of tips.

Tipping is an financial phenomenon that may have started as far back as Roman times when feudal lords tossed coins to beggars to ensure a safe journey. Other theories claim that the concept of tipping to improve service began in England in the sixteenth century when Ye 'Ole Starbucks coffee houses and pubs first put out brass urns to collect change in advance, “To Insure Promptness” of service.

Whenever or wherever tipping first got it's tip-off, it is now a significant source of steady income for millions of modern-day workers worldwide. This is especially true in today's shaky market, when many service workers are seeing an overall decline in paying customers, making their tip income even more important. Keep in mind, just because the Dow drops, there is no excuse for incongruity with your gratuities. As long as the service you receive is up to snuff, it's good business - and good karma - to provide those who count on tips with the usual and customary amount.

But just how much is that, you may wonder? While there's no need to go into hock to show your debt of gratitude, there are some basic guidelines you can follow for this holiday season, and throughout the year. Here are a few tipping pointers I've gathered, “to insure promptness” of service, and to help keep you off the list at www.LousyTippers.com; a site that names-names and boldly warns, “There is a consequence.”

Baby The Babysitter - and Teacher, too!

Stumbling upon a reliable babysitter in the suburbs can be as difficult as spotting the elusive leopard in the savannah…and once you find her, you want be sure to keep her in your den, right there on the couch in front of the tv with your tots. One way to insure she'll show up on Saturday night is to make sure that she'll have enough to spend at the mall during the day. For steadfast service, make sure to round up her hourly pay, even if you come in only a few minutes into the next hour. If your child, or your kitchen, looks as good or better than when you left it - you might want to throw in a few extra bills on top of that, too!

For the holidays, consider giving your steady sitter a small gift from your child and one typical evening's pay. If you use an au pair, nanny or daycare service everyday, a week or two's pay would be an appropriate amount. If your little angels are also a little active - a little more might mean a lot!

Hit the jackpot and scored a sitter for New Year's Eve? Expect to pay double - or nothing! Here's another tip for dealing with babysitters - once you find a good one, don't share her name with anyone!

While many school systems prohibit teachers from accepting cash or extravagant gifts, there are many thoughtful ways to show them that you care. A small gift, or gift card to a bookstore or a shop that you know he or she frequents is always appreciated. Expect to spend at between $20 and $50 during the holidays, and then again at the end of the year. Try to avoid “apple” themed gifts, as most teachers already have closets full of fruit inspired items.

Don't forget about a small token for the teaching assistants, specialists and bus drivers who also help your child throughout the school day. A $5 or $10 gift card to a coffee shop or store like Wal-Mart or Target can always get put to good use. Not sure your child's teacher is worth it -- try home-schooling for a day…or even just an hour!

Come Clean With Your Housekeeper

Your housekeeper knows all your dirty little secrets, so if you want to make sure that she'll stick around and keep picking up all that dirty laundry, plan on tipping her at least one week's pay for the holidays. If you use a cleaning service that rotates or sends a team, then a box of candy or cookies that can be shared is an appropriate alternative. Throughout the year, consider giving “bonuses” for extras such as big dusting projects or a freezer defrosting and you may find that your dust bunnies will stop reproducing so quickly!

The Best Beauty Tips

It's fairly standard that most hairdressers get between %15 and 20% of the total cost of services at each visit. If you there's someone else that shampoos you, it's always nice to give him a dollar or two as well. If you get a great blow out by another stylist altogether, don't give her the blow off and be sure to leave them a separate tip of at least $5 or so. You can deduct that amount from your regular stylist's tip if you want - but keep in mind in just a few short weeks, they'll be standing over your head again with a sharp pair of sissors, and they're often happy to cut loose with the latest gossip, especially about bad tippers!

If you come into the salon at a steady clip, you may want to consider giving your stylist an amount equal to the cost of a single cut for the holidays, as a token of your tonsorial appreciation. Take care of your hairdresser and they'll be sure to take of you - especially when you try to squeeze in a last minute touch up on a busy Friday afternoon!

What if your stylist is also the salon owner? Contrary to popular believe, most proprietors do accept, and depend, on their tips. If you're not sure about how your stylist may feel about it - just check in with the receptionist when you check out!

Nothing is more stressful after a relaxing beauty treatment than making sure that you're tipping out right! Most folks hand over between %15 to %20 after each mani/pedi, facial or other standard beauty treatment. If you're a regular, a holiday gift in cash equal up to what you spend on a typical visit is appropriate. If you don't go that often, but want to still want to say “thanks” during holiday time - a small token gift or box of candy makes for a tasty treat.

There is an exception when tipping for beauty treatments that are considered “medi-spa services”. Most laser hair removal, Botox and other injectables are administered by doctors, registered nurses or nurse practitioners, who are forbidden by the medical board to receive cash tips for their services. However, most other spa treatments such as facials, peels and massages are done by trained estheticians, who are free to accept your generous tips. If you are not sure, again, the receptionist can help you out!

Don't' forget about tipping your personal trainer, who has kept you from tipping the scale this holiday season! Best to stick with cash equal to the cost of a session - and skip the cookies for this one!

If you've got a pampered pet, you'll also want to remember his stylist or walker, as well! Tips of %15 are always appropriate at the time of service - but consider a little more if you mutt is matted or a more “animated” animal! If your pet uses their services regularly, consider a small gift or cash as a holiday gift for the person who takes such good care of your four-legged BFF.

Special Delivery

Sure, your newspaper delivery person probably had some genuine well-wishes in mind when he sent you that lovely holiday card. However, if he also included his home address, chances are he's looking forward to receiving a nice holiday card from you, himself! Go ahead and send one, but be sure to include a $10 or $20 dollar bill. Many of the periodically delivery people are contract workers, who may even pay for their own gas! Think of all the embarrassment they've saved you from of having to drag yourself to the nearest newspaper stand in your PJ's each morning!

Surely you'll also want to thank your mail carrier, who has kept your mail box stuffed with all those cool catalogues and snail mail with birthday checks from Grandma. But keep in mind that the U.S. Postal service says gifts must be under $20 in value and no cash is allowed. A gift card to a local coffee shop might help give your carrier enough pep to make sure that your mail arrives on time and un-mangled.

Thank You - And Be Kind To Your Waitress…

Whether you're having a holiday meal, or even an everyday dinner at a sit-down restaurant, it's pretty much an accepted standard to tip %15 to %20, of the pre-tax bill, at each meal. Of course, as with all tips, it is always at your discretion, but if they've provided excellent service, especially if you've' been a challenging customer or had messy minors as dining companions, it's always important to take good care of your waitress! If you've used a coupon, or received a discount, make sure you add that amount back in before you calculate your tip total.

And yes, even if you've ordered an expensive bottle of wine, quit whining and be sure to include that amount in your tip as well. Are you lucky enough to eat in an establishment with a sommelier? They'll expect a separate gratuity equal to about %10 to %15 of the cost of the wine. If you've been greeted and treated like a real VIP, go ahead and reward the maitre d' with a $20 “money handshake” when you are seated - he may remember you next time - and you'll feel totally Hollywood.

If buffets are more in line with your budget - be mindful of the servers who keep your glasses full and your plates clear. Typically you should leave a dollar or two for each person dining in your party - especially if your toddler likes to redecorate with the sugar packets.

Here's another tip for you - when in doubt, visit www.Tipping.org, and leave a little extra. Think of it as your independent economic stimulus package! Remember, stiff on a tip - and you may found out the hard way that there really are consequences!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bringing Sexy Back...

Bring Sexy Back -
Try Two New Workouts to Get Your Groove On!

I’ll admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything for money, (or even a decent dinner), that has left me with black and blue marks on my inner thighs. But this month’s racy Triangle Style assignment had been written on my kitchen calendar for weeks. Straddled between Wednesday’s 3pm orthodontist appointment and a 10am visit to the vet on Friday, Thursday’s square read: “6:30pm, Pole Dancing Class, (remember to ask about lap dancing). On Sunday it said: “Zumba”.

Now, this sounded like a story I could really wrap my legs around. Long before Justin Timberlake was even conceived, I’d been trying to bring my “sexy” back. Who knew I’d find it right here in the bedroom community of Cary? Aradia Fitness, located on Chapel Hill Road, offers pole dancing and sensual movement classes which studio owner, Terri Kerr, says will help you “meet your sexy side” and “reveal the sensual goddess within.” Kerr claims that in her lighthearted fitness classes, students can quickly learn shed their inhibitions, their clothing - and even more than a few pounds. Gee-whiz, that’s a whole lot more than a step class at the Y has ever promised!

Before you slip into something more comfortable and head over to Aradia for a workout, you’ll need to strip away any preconceived notions that you may have about pole dancing. Go in with an open mind and you’ll see why pole dancing, as a new way to stay in shape, is catching the attention of everyone; from Hollywood starlets to hometown soccer moms. The bottom line is, Kerr says, “ladies come in for the pole, but stay for the workout”. I agree, once you take your first spin around one of Kerr’s shiny brass poles, you’ll swear off your boring bike spin-classes forever.

Even though the nature of Aradia’s classes are more “naughty” than “nice”, the studio is totally a class act. Think of it as a unique fitness facility geared to give students “a sense of wellness as they learn to adore, celebrate and flaunt every curve of their body” - but with poles. The studio offers classes at a wide variety of fitness levels, allowing each student to grow and progress on the pole at their own pace. According to Kerr, the third week is usually when her ladies really blossom. By then, they start to feel comfortable with themselves, and the routines, and they’re ready to let loose and have fun with it. That’s also about when she’ll start to introduce “props” like feather boas and the six-inch Lucite platform shoes that are available for purchase at the front desk.

Kerr believes that every woman, no matter what age, shape or size, wants to feel sexy. Her clientele ranges from nubile coeds to nimble grandmas, and everyone in between. Each class she sees first-hand how students build their physical strength along with their self-confidence. Time and again, she’s witnessed how ladies “walk out with a lighter step and a bigger smile.” She’s even taught breast cancer survivors, looking for a way to build back their bodies and spirits in a safe, supportive and empowering non-judgmental environment.

In addition to the pole dancing classes, Aradia offers specialty workshops such as lap dancing and stripping, as well as more intimate “Shy Girl” lessons. They also host private events like bachelorette parties and gals go wild for her Girls Nite Outs! Sorry fellas, the studio is “Ladies Only”, but don’t worry - I’m sure you’ll enjoy the one-on-one tutoring when your dancer gets home…

I went to tryout the hour-long introductory “Teaser” class. Our instructor, Christina Dees, lead her class of newbies back to one of the two richly painted studios, each with elegant curtains gathered in the corners and tall brass poles planted in the middle of the room. As I nervously filed into the dimly lit room, I was relieved to find that, unlike most dance studios, it completely devoid of any mirrors. This, Kerr had explained, was to help keep us free from distraction so we can focus on “feeling the music from within” - and that was just fine with me! I had no interest in seeing what I was about to look like from with-out! Dees put some sexy music on the sound system and we were off!

Aradia’s pole dancing classes all start with a gentle warm-up, followed by a series of strength and core building floor exercises before ever hitting the poles. Many of their techniques are based on yoga, pilates and traditional dance training - but often with an Aradia twist. For example, the first thing Dee’s instructed us to do was to get into our “Aradia posture”; head up, shoulders down, tummies tucked - and bottoms out. To get into the groove, we started by simply strutting around the room with a sexy swagger, hips jutting left and right, as toes lazily dragged and we stretched out our arms. As I clumsily tried to keep my balance, and my dignity, while tripping and bumping along the wall for support, I wondered if perhaps I’d left my sexy back in the car. Again, I quietly thanked Kerr for the missing mirrors. Dees led us through about forty five minutes of intense strengthening mat work, peppered with special Aradia-inspired instructions such as “sexying down” as we reached for the floor and finishing a stretch with “roaming hands” or a playful hair flip.

At last it was time to take to the pole. Even just trying to saunter around the pole without losing my sweaty grip gave me a new appreciation for the professionals. They really do work hard for the money - and some even come to Aradia to learn a new trick or two. To get our creative juices flowing, we were instructed to look at the pole and imagine something seductive to do with it. Still out of breath from trying to “sexy” back up to my feet, and a little dizzy from all those hair flips, I drew a blank.

Finally, Dees showed each of us how to do the basic “fireman”, and it was time for me to take my first spin. I swung my body around to work up some speed and hurled myself onto the pole. Holding on for dear life, my slippery hands and legs slid down, bellowing a blister-induced squeal, as I twirled into twisted knot on the floor. It became immediately clear that I should NOT quit my day job! She assured me, however, that in time I’d master this potential life skill and many more! It really was fun though!

Pole dancing, did in fact, prove to be quite a workout. I may not have “met my sexy side”, however after class I definitely reacquainted with my sore side.

Ready to get back into the groove once again, I zipped on over the Let’s Dance studio, just off of Harrison and Maynard in Cary. Along with their standard partner and social dancing classes such as Foxtrot, Swing, Mambo, even the Hustle, Let’s Dance now has a spicy new offering - Zumba. This Latin-based fitness class is an exciting fusion of upbeat world music, culture and sexy dance steps guaranteed to get your hips shaking and heart racing!

Originating in Columbia, South America, the Zumba dance party craze had been taking the workout world by storm, one Salsa step at time. Certified Zumba instructor, Saliima Owen, flavors her zesty classes with a delicious mix of Latin dance like Cha Cha, Merenge, Tengo with a dash of Hip Hop, Hawaiian and belly dancing moves thrown in for taste!

Let’s Dance currently offers two levels of Zumba classes, both focusing on a low impact, cardio based workout that is designed to help dancers build their core strength, flexibility and coordination. Each fun-filled class incorporates a steady stream booty busting moves, but the Level Two class really kicks up the heat with a faster pace and more complicated choreography.

Since this was a family friendly class - more “sassy” than “sexy” - I brought my thirteen year-old daughter Sydney along for the fun! Next time we’ll even bring my mom along to join in! After warming up with a little stretching, Saliima patiently went over a few of the basic steps, like simple Salsa and Meregue footwork, along with some easy arm movements to get the party started.

In no time, Saliima had us all “one-two-cha-cha-chaing” like Latinas, as we shimmied to the sounds of trumpets and drum beats blaring from the stereo. It was a freestyle fiesta as we danced around and introduced ourselves to each other. In time to the music, we took turns spinning our revolving partners across the floor. We could definitely feel the music. And we even looked pretty good in the studio mirrors!

The forty-five minute class zoomed by as we Hula’d, Hip-Hopped and huffed along, dancing our hearts out trying to catch our breath. Just as it was getting “muy caliente”, it was time for all of Saliima’s smiling - and sweaty - students to say “adios”! Zumba’s hot workout may be one of the coolest new ways to get in shape!

So if you’re ready to really to get your groove on again and shake up your fitness program, head on out to Cary. I might not have brought sexy back - but at least now I know where it lives!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Insiders Guide To Dealing With Difficult People

When I was asked to write a piece for Triangle Style Magazine about dealing with “Difficult People” (DPs), I felt like a schoolgirl caught passing notes, and forced to scribble out my infraction across the chalkboard for the whole class to see. Spend a little time with me, and it’s not hard to see why I’m sometimes, (or is that often or always?), referred to as a Difficult Person. In fact, when a friend once heard someone refer to me as “such a sweet girl”, she nearly choked on her chewing gum!

So, how do you deal with a DP? Ever since Eve first learned to roll her eyes at Adam in disgust, hundreds of guests on “Dr. Phil” have philosophized, thousands of books have theorized, and millions girlfriends have gone through their cell phone minutes in tears - trying to answer this question of the ages.

Lucky for you, I'm a descendant of a long line of DPs. My Grandpa Sam was known as Grumpa and my Dad's the type of guy who when at a deposition for a fender bender, (not his fault, the jerk!), was asked in what direction he was traveling at the time of the accident, gave the actual on-the-record response; “What am I a compass?" So, I'm quite sure that my sassy ways make my ancestors proud.

Well readers, don't say I never did nothn' nice for ya, ‘cause today I'm here to give you the “Insiders Guide to Dealing with Difficult People”. DPs take all sorts of forms and at some point, you've probably had run-ins all of us. From the Nosy Neighbor to the Overbearing Boss, we don’t make life easy for you - but there are ways to work around us. Here are a few of our trade secrets;

May I Borrow A Cup of Secrets?

The Nosy Neighbor knows no property lines. She knows every UPS package that arrives at your door, and you'll find her conveniently watering plants or tending her tulips each time a repair truck makes a visit. I'm sad to report that this neighbor has a nose for news, and it’s your home front that makes her headlines. At times, it feels like the only hope is to hole up and live like a hermit. But News Flash!: She’ll quickly uncover that your life is just as boring as hers - and nobody else is really interested in hearing all that about it anyway.

And remember, the Nosy Neighbor does have her benefits. Wondering about the late night scuttle in the cul-du-sac down the block? You can be sure your neighborhood newshound will be sniffing around to deliver the before the morning paper arrives.

What's Up?

It's clearly not the Buzz-Kills. We all have our bad days, but for these depressing DPs, there's only joy in misery. Next time you’re stuck standing next to Diane Downer, Katy Killjoy or Ned Negativity at an event, don’t let them suck the life out of your party. Your Mama was right, you can’t make everyone happy, so learn to quickly cut your loses here.

Sure you can try to keep the conversation light and positive, but dilution is really the only solution here. With this un-gregarious group there’s safety in numbers, so try to rope in some other, more upbeat, party animals to brighten the mood. Oh, and don't EVER ask the question, “How are you?”

Where's That File!?

You work your fanny off her, but still she treats you like a mere paper-pusher. There are plenty of choice places you'd like to put that file, but according to your legal department, most of them are not an option. The Overbearing Boss makes work a four-letter word.

There are several types of bosses that can make your nine to five seem like an eternity. For example, there's The Witch, whose wicked ways are well known. Yet, somehow she’s cast a spell upon the upper management, (or maybe she just knows some secrets!). Her minion is likely made up of Conspiring Co-Workers, so just be careful just who you fly off the handle and vent to in the bathroom.

Then, of course, is the *itch, (you know, the word our breeder kept calling our female dog, while our kids bust a gut!). She's the Overbearing Boss who will be sweet as saccharine to your face, but it seems as though she may commute to work on the Bipolar Express. Quicker than you can say “coffee break”, she’ll snap, berate you or talk behind your back. If you’re not careful, make one mistake and she’ll kick you right in you the cubicle. Bottom line, overbearing or not she's your boss, so your just gonna have to suck it up, while you search the classifieds off the clock.

You Didn't Hear This From Me…

But the Gossip Girl already knows. She's got her French manicured finger in speed dial as she drives and she's ready to dish. The Secret Service could learn a trick or two under her tutelage, but she already knew that. She's got her sources, and her sources have sources, so there's no sense in trying to escape her scope. Throw her a bone and she may even toss you a juicy tidbit or two. How does she do it? She'll never tell…

But there is just one way stop this Super Hero of Hearsay. The only Kryptonite that will cripple her is to simply turn a deaf ear - and a mute mouth. Always remember readers, what goes around - comes around - and for the Gossip Girl, it travels at the speed of sound.

Do You Take This Man…And His Mother, too?

The Meddling Mother-In-Law is like the dinosaur of the DP's, as she likely roamed the earth for millions of years. But unlike 'ole Mrs. Brontosaurus, the Meddling MIL is genetically designed to outlive even the longest Ice Age.

But folks, I’ve learned the hard way - never come between a lioness and her cubs, or a man and his mother. Sure, as she sometimes likes to remind you, she carried your husband in her belly for nine months, and though it's been years since that cord has been cut, it’s a tie that binds. Just keep reminding yourself that one day you might be the MIL, and you’d hate for your “concern for your baby” to be misconstrued as meddling. It can be a tough transition from Mother to “Other”, no matter how long it’s been, so try to keep that in mind frustration starts to climb the family tree. After all, she did carry him for nine months…

What's New Copy-Cat?

Woah, Whoo, Whaaaat? Oh no she didn't! Sure, imitation is indeed a form of flattery, but when it comes to the Copy-Cat - it’s just flat out creepy! Remember that movie from the 80's, with Jennifer Jason Leigh. You know the one…Single White Female, about the girl with the cute red haircut who takes in this really weird roommate, who then basically steals her look, her life and then tries to kill her.

Anyway, your Copy-Cat may not try to do you in with a butcher knife - but when she's rockin' the same jeans that you just scored with your entire last paycheck - looking 10lbs lighter and she got 'em on sale - Well, it's time to let the fur fly. Don’t bother to call her on her what she’s already done, as she probably won’t see it any way. Just be mindful next time she admires you - be vague about your sources and available stock. And be sure to remind yourself, that she only copies you because she lacks her own creativity -- and that’s something that can never be duplicated.

Did You Hear What My Boy Genius Got On His SATs?

Oh, puh-leeze! The Bragging Betty really isn't a difficult person, per se, she's just difficult to be around. Her house, her hair and her heirs are all perfect - and it's just perfectly annoying. You can always try to top her, but no matter what Betty's got you beat. She's just better at it. Just one more thing for her to brag about…

Your best bet here is to be polite and go ahead and congratulate her on her many accomplishments, as she likely honestly deserves it. But, remember that things are not always as they appear, and while she seems like she’s total perfection on the outside, Bragging Betty might just be another perfectly imperfect person, like the rest of us. Any shrink worth their co-pay will tell you that she’s probably looking on the outside admiration, to fill a perfectly empty void inside of herself. Poor Bragging Betty, now I kinda feel sorry for her…

An Army of One: Don't ask, Don't care…

And then there's the most emotionally draining DP; the Fair-Weather Friend. Sure, she's fine when the focus is on her, but when the social climate changes and you've got the problem, she beats the heat and heads for the hills.

Trust me on this - a true friend should never turn a cold shoulder to gal-pal in need. You never know when your own world will come raining in on you - and you'll need your friends to weather the storm. (Thanks friends - you know who you are!!!)

There - was that so difficult?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mark Madness

For twenty days each spring, 65 college basketball teams meet on courts across the nation, determined to dominate their opponents and declare themselves the champion. This is called March Madness. However, 365 days of the year, the same cutthroat level of competition is played out all over our house. Unlike the NCAA Tournament, you won't find team players: No, in the Mark household it's every man for himself. We call this "Mark Madness.

While some sibling rivalry goes on in most families, our seven-year-old twin boys make face-offs like Duke vs. Carolina look like child's play. Each one thinks that he has the home court advantage, and is out to beat his brother at just about everything. For my two little point guards, it's not the game it is simply about keeping score.

I think that their first tip-off happened at conception, and they've been squaring-up ever since. I was the first twin, you know I heard Jasper say trying to shoot down his identical womb-mate, Your cells split off from me. Oh yeah, Jared blocked, well, I was born first. So what? guarded Jasper, I was bigger. But I'll always be older Jared said, making a fast break.

You can be sure when theres a home game, there will be plenty of personal fouls. When they've taken more than their fair share of free shots at each other, they'll find themselves with timeouts on the sidelines for unsportsmanlike conduct. It is here where they explore the advantages of teamwork.

Just last week they came off the bench with some impressive double-teaming, as they tried to get out of trouble for double dribbling chocolate milk across our kitchen hardwoods.

These two can turn anything into a tournament. My fever is higher then yours. Dude, I've got a fever AND a rash! Whatever. I got three stitches in my forehead. That's nothin', I had four stitches in my chin! My splinter is deeper then yours! Big deal, I can run faster then you, Who cares? I can run farther then you. Yeah, well I can catch a baseball better then you? Big Whoop - that's only because I can throw one better then you.

And one of my all time favorite shots: I totally beat you in Monopoly last night one bragged. Well, I lost by more then you won, so I was actually the winner (Huh? Talk about a rebound!)

Occasionally I've been known to set up a self-serving scrimmage or two of my own. Putting on my best game face, I'll goad, You're not gonna let your brother eat more broccoli than you, are you? I'll challenge, Who can make their bed faster? or Who can rake up more leaves? You'd think that they would have caught on to some of these plays from my game book by now.

But as the final buzzer sounds at the end of each day, I tuck my little MVPs into bed. After a night of hoop dreams, they'll wake up ready to get back in the game. Once again I'll be their coach, their referee and the their head cheerleader and they'll always be my champions. Mark Madness indeed Bring it on!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Breast Kept Secret: Gain Control By Having a Fit!

When I first got a Triangle Style Magazine assignment to go for a bra fitting - I have to admit, I was titillated. I'd been mesmerized by the miraculous mammary makeover that Oprah had sprung on her studio audience last fall during the spectacular “Bra Show”. The thought that someone might finally make molehills out of my own mountains, here and now in Raleigh, perked me right up. And besides, wouldn't it be a hoot to dress up “the girls” and take them shopping?

According to Julie Hendricks, owner of J. Alane's Fine Lingerie and Other Essentials located next to Vivace in The Alexan at North Hills Mall, around 80% of women walk around with the wrong size bra. And trust me, Julie's great with numbers. In fact, before opening up J. Alane's, she spent years working in accounting and finance. Now she spends her days sizing up bust lines, while still watching the bottom line. Julie wants to make sure that each of the ladies who leave her lovely shop sports only two beautiful breasts - not with four bumps bubbling out of their bras or an elongated “uni-boob” flattened across their chest.

After a warm introduction, Julie whisked me back into a comfortable fitting room and instantly became my bosom buddy. My new breast friend worked fast too. Julie took her tape measure to me only once and then just eyeballed my cup size. After giving her quite an eyeful - she had my number right away.

For the best band size, Julie says to “only add 2” - 3” to your rib cage measurement,” not the 4” or 5”, as most other old school bra fitters do. The entire band should stay flush to your skin - with no gaping in between your breasts. A slightly snugger fit insures that your bra will move with you, so you won't have to constantly tug at it trying to keep your tah-tahs in tow. As for you cup size, she suggests that since most women have slightly different size breasts, you should fit for the larger cup first and then you can line the other side with padding to even things up, if necessary. You want your breasts to fill up the cup, not runneth over or pucker.

While her super sweet sales assistant, Justin Ann, rounded up some pretty bras for me to try on, Julie gave me some advice, starting with the lacy little brassiere I'd worn that day, in an effort to undress to impress. “Front closing bras are a no-no. They don't give you anywhere to go,” she explained. “You need at least 2 or 3 rows of hooks to find the right fit.” She suggested that when I buy a new bra, always start hooking with the first row, and work my way back as the elastic relaxes.

And speaking of backs - it's always best to fasten your bra behind you. The 'ole Hokey-Pokey method of hooking in front and then turning your bra around just stretches it out, and that's not what it's all about.

I was surprised to learn that each time you go down a band size, you need to go up cup size too, and if you go up a band size, you drop down a cup size to balance things out. So, for example, if you fit into a 36B, but decide you like the feel (or bragging rights) of a smaller band size, you'll end up in a 34C.

Another thing I found when you come in for a fitting; As you open your blouse, it's best to keep an open mind. For years I'd been buying a 36B - when in fact, it turns out I'm really a 36DD. Yikes! At least she didn't have to reach into the Greek alphabet to find my fit. But I wasn't Julie's first client to misjudge my jugs. One of her customers, Julie contends, went from a 38D to a 32H. Take that Dolly Parton!

It seems that a majority of American women these days are naturally fuller busted. Breast augmentation is certainly big business right now; but according to Julie's observations, gals who come into her store with a size G are not implant patients. Much of her clientele is looking for ways to dial it down a bit. A lot of women, (due to age, childbirth or weight-loss), suddenly find themselves with an abundance of loose skin, which can practically be rolled up like a roman shade. But even her larger size bras are very sexy, while still being supportive.

None of this engineering comes cheap. The price of a quality undergarment might overwhelm some of us gals who are used to buying our underwear in 3 piece blister packs at Costco. However, with good care and a proper fit - a well-made bra should last for years. It's a wise investment that can help you shed ten pounds and ten years in less than ten seconds - I bet even your best performing mutual fund can't do that.

But rest assured, what happens at J. Alane's - stays at J. Alane's! Try hard as I could to squeeze out Julie's secrets about her clients and their skivvies - I couldn't even get a thong width's worth! She did hint, however, that like a good book, a woman should never be judged by her cover. Some of Julie's most preppy and pearly girls have had some pretty interesting tattoos and body art well hidden under those alligators and polo players - but that was the only dirty laundry I could shake out from her. After all, being professional and discreet is what keeps her clients coming back for more.

That, and the fact that Julie makes good on her claim that she can “lift your breasts from down at your waistline, to so high - you can practically eat off them.” You won't get a promise like that from the check out gal at Costco.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Life's A Beach...And Then You Drive

The surf's up and it's finally time to hit the beach! For months, I had pored over so many coastal living magazines that I'd practically given myself sunstroke in anticipation.

I had waded through pages of sun-filled layouts with families happily walking together along the strand. Smiling copper-toned kids beamed over buckets full of perfectly formed seashells and posed in front of Biltmore-sized sand castles that they'd constructed, I imagine, sans parental participation. Moms and dads looked blissfully relaxed in lounge chairs, while their carefree children frolicked in the ocean without a jellyfish or icky floating thing in sight.

Unfortunately, you won't find many photos like that in our family album. Faster than you can say “vamos a la playa”, it's clear that a day at the beach with my brood, isn't exactly, well…“A day at the beach”.

After an hour of over-packing the car with a stack of rusty sand chairs, a leaky cooler, countless sand toys and as many boogie boards and skim boards as Ron Jon's Surf Shop - we look more like the “The Beverly Hillbillies” than the well-heeled beachcombers I'd seen in those glossy periodicals.

The kid's backseat bickering begins before we even make it down the driveway. It continues as we lug our gear across a Sahara-wide strip of sole searing sand. We wince in pain as we try to sidestep the shrapnel of broken shells along the way. The schlep seems endless as we ritually wander and stop - at least three times - until we're sure that we've found just the right spot.

It's only after we've fully unloaded and arranged our chairs in perfect alignment with the sun that we realize that the tide is actually coming in. My husband does not look amused as we franticly chase scattered flip-flops that have been swept away by a small tsunami, and we move yet again - back to where we stopped in the first place.

After fighting gusts of gale force winds, we take a moment to bask in the glory of getting our rickety umbrella planted upright, and thankfully without impaling any neighboring sunbathers. Then comes a heated Greco-Roman wrestling match to get the children into their sunscreen, which by their protests, you'd think was really acid.

My husband, with a solar-induced migraine, quickly tires of a minefield-like game I call; “Which bikini-clad body on the beach most closely resembles mine?” Then we begin the losing battle of trying to keep track of all our pails, shovels and stolen hotel towels - most of which are already half buried.

It's only a matter of time before the kids begin a chorus of complaints about the sand in their eyes, the grit between their teeth or somewhere else in their swimsuits. I wonder if I hold a seashell to my ear, would I'd hear the sound of a child whining.

But, eventually we settle in and find our rhythm with the ebb and flow of the sea. The boys excitedly start digging their way to China with some newfound “best friends” - sans parental participation - and my daughter discovers the joys of a good beach read. Even my husband and I are able to unwind with a quiet conversation in complete, and uninterrupted, sentences.

Before we know it, the air starts to cool as the sun calls it a day. We pack up and head home. This time the backseat is quiet as my sleepy beach bums, with their sun-kissed skin and sandy smiles, drift off dreaming about our next trip to the shore.

At last…a picture-perfect day at the beach.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spilling The Beans On "The Secret"

I just heard a secret. Actually, it's “The Secret” - the viral multi-media marketing phenomenon that promises to unlock the great secrets of the universe and bring eternal happiness and success to anyone with two hours and $29.95 to spare. As with most secrets, it seems that I'm one of the last ones to know.

Now, I'll admit, at first glance the "The Secret" seemed a little like a New Age version of the “Da Vinci Code”, set at a Tony Robbins motivational meeting - but I was intrigued and “Desperate Housewives” was a repeat.

Apparently, for centuries the world's greatest minds have played a long-winded and life-transforming game of “Telephone”. Now that they finally have my number, I'm here with the 411. The story went something like this; Plato passed “The Secret” to Newton,who spilled the beans faster than a bushel of apples to Shakespeare, who played it out for Beethoven, who was bright enough to enlighten both Edison and Einstein. Even modern day mavens like Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah have gotten the message.

Rhonda Byrne, creator of the 2006 documentary style video and best selling book, “The Secret”, claims that you can turn your life into your very own personal Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalogue, with everything free for the taking, by simply obeying the Law of Attraction.

According to Ms. Byrne and the myriad of philosophers, quantum physicists, feng shui experts and other prominent self-help gurus interviewed for the project, the mind is like a magnet. Maybe my mother was right, after all - Perhaps her finger-wag and warning; “Be careful what you ask for, Tootsie, 'cause you just might get it” is, in fact, the key to eternal bliss.

The principle tenet of the Law of Attraction is that you only attract back into your life, what you send out. I think this may help explain the “special deliveries” that my neighbors let their dogs leave for me by my mailbox.

Byrne says that by controlling your thoughts you can determine your own destiny. With the power of positive thinking you can use your emotions as an “internal compass” to steer yourself away from despair and set your course straight to unbridled delirium - and a cleaner walkway.

It seems, however, not everyone is in on “The Secret”. For example, that frustrated man in the car in front of me at the mall yesterday. He was turning blue in the face, while shouting into the Bluetooth on his ear, as I slipped into the primo parking spot, which I had visualized opening up for me, just as he passed by it. Maybe next time he'll put down his cell phone and start communicating with the universe!

The bottom line is that if you live your life like a Johnny Mercer musical, you'll accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and get much better parking than Mr. In-Between.

Do you prefer the beat of the Beach Boys? Well, that works too, because “The Secret” is also about good vibrations. Byrnes claims that there is scientific evidence that our thoughts and brain waves physically radiate from our bodies and have a direct and dramatic effect on everything around us. Think of it as the “Butterfly Effect” on Red Bull.

With over a million copies of the DVD flying off the shelves already, and just as many books - I'm guessing that Ms. Byrne is feeling quite a nice buzz herself right now.

So, if you'd like to experience this sensation for yourself, you can order it online. Even better, just imagine it sitting in your mailbox, maybe with a $100 bill as a bookmark - and if you live by the Law of Attraction, one day it may just arrive by Cosmic Courier. But remember, it's “The Secret”, so you didn't hear that from me! .

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ode to The Load

It has been said, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be.”

Like it, or not, there is something in my life that I've been trying to set free for years, but it just keeps coming back. In fact, we have a bond so great, the longer we're apart, the deeper and deeper it grows.

So, with my heart smeared on my sleeve, I'd like to share a little poem about something I can barely go a day without.

Ode to The Load

Good friends and lovers
May come and go.
Spouses can sometimes stray.
Your kids will eventually
Up and grow,
And neighbors
Might move away.

But, there is one thing,
That will never leave you
Hanging on the line.
Laundry is forever;
A companion,
'Til the end of time.

Through the circle of life,
Your wash whirls by,
From soak cycle to spin;
No sooner does
The bell toll for thee,
And another load begins.

Like a persistent paramour
Pressing you
For more and more
Of your time.
You'll find it lurking,
In every corner,
With stalking stains
And demanding grime.

But dig deep down
In that dingy rainbow,
Sorting colors, darks and brights,
You'll experience
A Zen-like calm,
Bleaching clean the whites.

Waves of foam
Stir up buried treasures,
Like exploded tissues
And loose change.
Or an errant red sock,
That turns everything pink,
Which the boys find
Really strange.

No sooner do you
Think its over,
And close the laundry door,
That's when you glance down
At your stylish self,
To see that
You're wearing more.

As you fold the towels,
Sheets and rags,
That's when you know;
It's true.
Even if you became
A nudist
There'd still be wash to do.

Laundry will always be there
As long as shirts
And marinara meet,
And little kids
Lick drippy cones
Of melting ice cream treats.

You may shout and bounce
As it gains on you,
And the tide wisks you away.
But when you open your
Empty underwear drawer,
You'll cheer that it's
Laundry Day.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Resolution You Can Shtick To…

It's been less than three weeks and already my New Year's resolutions are irresolvable. As I toss back an overpriced latte and a super-sized scone, I can only vaguely recall my grande plan to cut out costly caffeine drinks and carbs…

Luckily, I still have one ball in the air that didn't drop faster than the acorn on Fayetteville Street - I resolved that this would be a Year of Yiddish, and I'd kick it off here with this month's shtick. Oy vey.

Sometimes my struggle to find just the right word gives me shpilkes (shpill-kess: a feeling of extreme impatience and frustration). But I've found it nothing short of bashert, (bah-shairt: fate), that once I throw in a little Yiddish, I just naturally know from naches. No, not salty chips and salsa - Naches (nah-kess); that's Yiddish for tremendous joy and happiness!

Yiddish is an old language from the 12th century, spoken by European Jews. It's a melting pot of German, Russian, and Polish with a dash of English thrown in, for taste. Yet, somehow it transcends them all. Yiddish comes from the kishkes - from deep within. It's a lively language whereby a single word can speak volumes - especially when you couple it an arched eyebrow or two.

If you work up a little chutzpah (khoots-pah: nerve), you too can give it a try, starting with the sampling below. Just remember, the “ch” sound is very guttural - like your Bubbeh, (Buhb-ee; grandmother), left a bone in your chicken soup and forgot to tell you.

Don't worry if at first you feel a little verklempt (overwhelmed) and think you might just plotz (plah-tz: explode). Practice and you'll be kvelling (bursting with pride) in no time. Learn a little Yiddish and you'll never be at a loss for words again!

Chutzpah (khoots-pah); Having the nerve or gall. “How about that Britney Spears? What she lacks in proper undergarments, she sure makes up in chutzpah!”

Farbisseneh (far-biss-in-eh); To have a bitter, sour-puss face. “Why am I so farbissener? I just saw a picture of Britney Spears' “chutzpah” on the internet. Feh (yuck)!”

Klutz (kluht-z); Clumsy person. “My daughter is such a klutz, I just hope she marries a doctor.”

Kvetch (kveh-tch); Complain. “Of course, I'd quit kvetching if she became a doctor....”

Loch in kop (lokh-en-kohp); A hole in the head. “But what if she marries an actor? Oy, I need that like a loch in kop!”

Mazel tov (mahz-el toff); Congratulations and good luck! “I guess as long as she's happy, then "Mazel tov!" But would it kill him to at least play a doctor on tv?”

Mench (mehn-sh); A kind and wonderful person. “I'm sure whom ever she picks will be a real mench. He'll have to be - to deal with his kvetch of a mother-in-law!”

Meshuggener (meh-shoog-en-er); Crazy person, nuts. “You want dessert before dinner? What are you...meshuggeneh!?”

Mishegoss (mish-eh-goss); Irrational behavior, a crazy thought or situation. “My meshuggeneh sons want dessert before dinner. What kind of mishegoss is that?”

Mishpocheh (mish-puh-khah); Family, kin. “A klutzy daughter? Meshuggenheh sons? Oy, what mishegoss! But, they're mishpocheh and they bring such naches to my kishkes!”

Oy vey (oiy-vay); an interjection of exasperation, which can be used practically anytime/anyplace. “What? You have shpilkes, too? Oy vey!”

So now we're practically mishpocheh and maybe this will be a Year of Yiddish for you too. I hate to be a yenta (busybody), but if you ask me - this is one resolution you can really shtick to!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Ritz-mas Miracle

It's the season for stories of miracles and light. Christmas celebrates the joyful birth of baby Jesus in a manger under the stars, while Hanukkah re-tells the story of a temple lamp filled with one night's worth of oil, which miraculously burned for eight. Today, I'd like to share the tale of a very different miracle of light; my “Ritz-mas Miracle”.

Last year we decided to treat the family to a stay at a “Ritzy” hotel for the holidays. Despite the parking lot view, our accommodations were gorgeous; decorated with delicate things generally not found in rooms for adolescent residents. Certainly our brood would behave in such classy quarters, I thought. Illuminating the space was a beautiful oriental lamp. “Ming Dynasty?” I wondered.

Although we only claim three dependents on our taxes, our traveling troupe just wouldn't be complete without Mr. Panda and Squirrelly. As I was busy snatching up the amenity bottles in the bathroom, our plush pals began flying freely around the room. Suddenly Mr. Panda's flight plan came to a crashing halt. “Not the Ming Dynasty…” I whimpered.

I suppose I should have tuned this into a “teachable moment” for my children; about responsibility and respect for property - but I panicked. Instead, I taught my kids another important lesson I'd learned in college; how to spackle with toothpaste.

Unfortunately, the porcelain lamp didn't hide the paste quite as well as my dorm walls did. Even my daughter's “Mary Kate & Ashley AquaFresh” couldn't squeeze into the cracks. Desperate, I dashed down to the gift shop and grabbed some insanely overpriced Crazy Glue. “I need it to fix my husband's bull-horn belt-buckle”, I stammered. “He found it in a mud-caked Maasai hut in the Serengeti”, I went on, blabbering way too many made-up details as one does when concocting a lie on the fly. “Charge it to my room - the one with the perfectly lovely lamp.” I yelped, charging over to the reception desk.

“I'd like to borrow some tape for my son”, I continued creatively. “He needs it for his report on feral wallaby grooming habits.” “Madame, perhaps a stapler would be better?” the receptionist offered. “No, not since a horrible Swingline incident in school!” I quipped, lamely ducking into the elevator.

With the steady hands of a micro surgeon, (at least one who was freaking out at a fancy hotel), I carefully pieced the lamp back together. Though now it looked more mosaic than Ming.

Racked with guilt, I explained to my children that what I had done was wrong and no good could come of it. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. It was the hotel manager. Yikes! Perhaps the store clerk and receptionist were sharper than I'd thought. They'd probably just finished chatting in the break room where the two of them had been deducing clues of room-charged glue and borrowed tape. Like Sherlock Holmes and Watson, they were on to me.

“May I help you?” I asked the manager coyly, as a look of concern swept his face. I quickly prayed for a miracle to absolve me for my dark misdeed. “There's a problem with your room” he began and my heart slipped to where the belt on the terry hotel robe was tightly tied. “You see, this room is scheduled for renovation, and we have to move you”, he said. “I've taken the liberty of placing you in a deluxe suite with a stunning lighthouse view, at no extra charge.”

As we left the room, workmen filed in and began carting out its contents to the dumpster. Among the first items to go - that comely lamp. Turns out it wasn't Ming; it was Macy's. This was truly a “Ritz-mas Miracle”.

Happy holidays and merry "Ritz-mas" everyone - May the lights of the season shine brightly for you…but carry some Crazy Glue, just in case.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lucky 13

Roger and I just celebrated our “Lucky 13” wedding anniversary. Given the current rate of divorce in our country, it seems that we have a better chance of winning at roulette by placing it all on red, than we do keeping our marriage in the pink. Yet, for over a decade Rog and I have played to win, putting all our chips together hoping to beat the odds. I do like to keep the game interesting, however, by introducing him as my “first husband.”

To avoid cashing in early, marriage requires a great deal of give and take, work, and patience. Although I think at this point, Roger has given in to the fact that rushing me to be more patient is taking more work than he thought.

But even after all these years together, we've both continued to “grow”—at least in the lateral direction. He used to be my “stud muffin”; now he's more like my “dough boy.” To be fair, “hot buns” have long been crossed off my own list of tempting assets; they've been repackaged as large rolls.

One thing that has kept our marriage marching forward is that my husband is a real trooper. As I'm sure you can imagine, it can't be easy being married to a sassy gal like me. Lately though, I've been struggling to force out a more submissive side of myself. Just the other day I told Roger, “For now on, I want you to tell me when I should tell you what to do and how to do it.” His response: “This is why I'm not a polygamist.”

Sometimes I think that we can out-bicker the Bickersons. At our house, we'll play pass-the-buck like it's a heated game of “Hot Potato.” The first one to get the other to storm out of the room mumbling to themselves while pulling the hair from their head is the winner! “So;What's the score?” you may be wondering. I've never been prouder to say that my husband is almost completely bald.

I do feel bad for Roger when it comes time for me to write these columns. No, not because I reveal the dark and seedy underbelly of our crazy family life, but rather because I constantly call him at work to listen to my every rewrite. “Did you notice how I changed that comma to a colon?” I'll ask as I read my copy for the trillionth time over the telephone. It's gotten to the point where he can tell just by the sound of the ring if what I wrote is funny or not. Oddly, when I called him about this column—he wouldn't even answer the phone.

When I first met my mother-in-law, she offered me some marital advice. She said that she'd heard it from her dear friend Rose, (who was twice divorced, the last one was very messy), who'd heard it from her Aunt Eve's husband Charlie, (the shady accountant), who'd heard it from his cousin Myrna, (a real Miss Know-It-All), who'd heard it from her neighbor Betty, (the one with three sons who are doctors, you know—all three!). Anyway, Betty's sister was married for over 75 years to the same man, (and boy oh boy, could they dance—though no one ever thought it would last!). “What's the secret?” I begged her to tell me. “How should I know?” she answered, “I never listen to anybody else's business.”

I'm sure somewhere in there is some good advice. That, and always make sure you pay the life insurance premiums on time. (Roger: You took out the mail this morning … right?)

Well, Happy Anniversary Rog! I truly have been a lucky lady to share these past thirteen years with you. Odds are great that we'll be dazzling everyone on the dance floor at our 75th!

See what happens when you don't take my calls?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Adult-Onset ADD

“Come on missy, quit wasting time goofing around on Google and IM'ing your buddies!” a stern voice bellows across the kitchen. “Put down your cell phone, stop staring at the television and start paying attention to your assignment!” it scolds.

“Mom!” my daughter continues, “You know you've got a column to write and it's due tomorrow!”

Sydney seems to be enjoying this ironic moment of role reversal as I roll my eyes, fold up my phone and hit delete on my laptop. With so many diversions at my fingertips, I'm fast to get flummoxed and lose focus on my task at hand.

A quick peek at my erratic Yahoo history log for the night and it's clear why my sixth-grader was able to reconstruct the entire Reconstruction Period and solve for “X”, “Y” and “Z” faster than I've been able to come up with 550 words of “funny” for today's paper - and I don't even have to check my math.

Somehow my life has become a case study of “adult-onset ADD”; with a series of unfinished projects piling up - this column being one of them. Lately, I'm so easily distracted, I'm convinced if God really wanted me to get anything done, he wouldn't have invented rapid-response TV remote controls, cell phones with unlimited calling plans or computers with search engines determined to derail me from any long-term train of thought.

Which reminds me, is there even such a thing as “adult-onset ADD”? As long as I'm just sitting here at my computer, I think I'll consult with my medical “colleagues” on WebMD.com. Hey, while I'm on the website, I might as well look up that weird rash…

Oh, look! I just got a text message on my cell phone from my friend Nancy, in New York. I'll just type a little note to let her know that I can't chat right now. I've got a column to write and it's getting late. Anyway, that rumor she heard about Tom couldn't possibly be true. Or could it? Okay, maybe I have time for some key details.

“You've got mail!” my computer shouts for attention. Oh…it's from Stacey! Looks like another funny download. This might take a minute. While I'm waiting I think I'll empty the dishwasher.

“Ding, Ding, Ding” - Dang, it's the clothes dryer upstairs. I'll just run up and pull out a few things before they get too wrinkled. Well, as long as I'm folding - I might as well catch the headline news on TV. Hmmm, it's a commercial; I guess I'll just flip around for a few seconds. Oh, that Discovery Channel show seems interesting - looks like it's some new type of caffeinated liposuction. A little “chai for the thighs”, huh? I've got to remember to look that up on WebMD.com.

Gosh, I still have a lot of socks left to match up. Hey, in fifteen minutes “Celebrity Fit Club” is on VH-1. Wow, check that out! What's the deal with Carnie Wilson? How much weight did she really put back on? Maybe she should consider that caffeinated liposuction. I think I'll go back downstairs and see if there's anything on the internet about her with my computer.

My computer? Yikes! It's already half-passed midnight and I only got half the scoop from Nancy, the dishwasher is half-emptied, I'm missing half the socks, Carnie gained half a pound and yet my column is still completely unwritten.

I wonder if can get my daughter to write my editor a half-hearted medical excuse about “adult-onset ADD”? Let me just Google that…

Monday, September 18, 2006

My Dirty Little Secret

Pssssst…If I tell you something, promise you won’t tell anyone else? I think it's time for me to come clean and share my dirty little secret.

In print I look pretty good; with my sentences evenly spaced and paragraphs aligned just perfectly. But stop the presses! The reality is that when it comes to being tidy, I make Oscar Madison look like Martha Stewart. Seriously, I'm the Diva of Disarray. My house is in such a constant state of chaos, that when you ring my door, instead of the traditional chimes of the “Bells of Windsor”, you'll hear the opening theme song from Sanford and Son.

Piles of simple living magazines, promising to teach me how to live a de-cluttered life, are stacked precariously on top of every available horizontal surface. Pull any knob in my kitchen and it's guaranteed that you'll find the “junk drawer”. They’re all filled with disorganized organizers overflowing with assorted containers without lids, pens without ink and widgets without any useful purpose.

My home is decorated based on the ancient energy flow principles of Flung Shoe. Tired old sneakers and flip-flops, discarded mid-stride, stand in the path of order and harmony. Sometimes the chi at “Chez Mark” is so backed up that it feels like a senior center without prune juice.

My husband says that when he comes home from work on a good day, our house looks like a set from Fear Factor - on a bad day, it's more like a scene from CSI. He won't even look in the laundry room. I still have a bathing suit hanging on the line to dry - my leopard print maternity suit - and my “babies” are 8 years old!

I used to lie and tell visitors that just this morning my household help had heroically run off to volunteer for “Housekeepers Without Borders”. But in truth, I have no one to blame but myself - Oh, and of course, my mother!

Don't get me wrong - my mom has always kept a meticulous home, but still I hold her responsible for the mess mine is in today. Instead of passing down her tidy strands of DNA, she left me with a heaping pile of rumpled genes. Unfortunately, it seems that my daughter, Sydney, and I are code-carrying members of the same gene pool club.

But neither nature nor nurture can account for domestic differences between my identical twin boys. Jared clears out as soon as he even hears the words “clean up”, while his brother Jasper steps right in to tackle even the toughest jobs better then Mr. Clean. In fact, from the time Jasper was a toddler, he caught on quickly; during “time-outs” he could either straighten up his attitude or really redeem himself for his misdeeds by straightening up his room.

Lately, I've taken to turning his willfulness into a windfall by sitting him in time-out around the house. Last week, a ten-minute tenure in the garage got me an extra ten feet of usable space. I think he's starting to suspect that I’m setting him up before company comes over.

So, now that my secret is out, I’m going to try to clean up my act. However, if you’re planning to stop over, please just give Jasper - I mean, me - a few minutes to straighten up. Wow, I never knew it could be so refreshing to air my dirty laundry!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back-To-School Bonds

It's been a long hot summer and those of us with kids on a “traditional” calendar will be swapping out our sunscreen for schoolbooks and tan lines for carpool lines in no time at all. My kids and I have had a lot of fun catching up with each other these past few months, although we're getting to that breaking point where bonding is becoming binding and vacation is starting to feel more like work. Even “pool” has become a four-letter word.

I know it's time to for the season to move along when my mid-summer night dreams are no longer about hopping into a stately black limo that whisks me away to an enchanted ball in the evening. Instead, I settle for a fantasy about a bright yellow school bus that carts my kids off to a full day of school in the morning.

However, I'm not rushing summer out the door so quickly. I know that all too soon those lazy whines; “We're bored - we have nothing to do” will quickly be replaced with the crazy cries; “We're floored - we've got way too much to do.”

As beach bags make way for backpacks, I try to pursuade my kids that school is like sorbet for the brain - a cool and refreshing way to prepare them for life's next course. But as we casually kick back at Goodberry's during one of their last homework-free nights of summer, even I have to admit that my lump of Gump theory; “school is like a scoop of ice cream”, is easier to dish out then it is to swallow. It sure is nice to pop over and sample the flavor of the day without having to worry about school projects, sport practices or any other scheduled spontaneity.

Alas, like most good things, summer must come to an end. I sense that change is really in the air when the arrival of the new Target “Back-to-School” circular is more thrilling than the delivery of a letter claiming that we may have already won a free weekend at some new Myrtle Beach timeshare. There's just something about “4 glue sticks for $1” that triggers a Pavlovian school-bell from within and the internal ringing instantly makes us hungry for a slue of shiny new school supplies. It resonates inside our heads, shaking off our floppy sun hats so that we can don those smart “thinking caps” once again.

My boys, Jared and Jasper, start to feel pangs of first day jitters as they eagerly size up the new line of Superman notebooks and the latest in crayon technology. And although it's still well over 90 degrees outside, my daughter Sydney wistfully pours over the pictures of cool new sweaters, jeans and other equally hot fall fashions that she insists she needs to buy right away.

This year, the opening clap of the bell will have a special ring for us. Sydney will be entering those exciting eye-rolling, hair-flipping and drama-filled years of middle school as our boys cross the halfway mark of elementary school in third grade. Last spring I sat through at least a half-dozen “transition” meetings for parents, but the bottom line was always the same. Like the seasons, it's time to let my children move along. However I'm not rushing them out the door so quickly.

Maybe summer can stay just a little bit longer so the kids and I can take one more dip in the pool.

Blockbuster Summer She-quels

One of the coolest things to do during the dog days of summer is to chill out at the movies. Unfortunately, so far I’ve found that most of this year’s offerings are more lackluster than blockbuster.

There just haven’t been enough good chick flicks I can relate to. I’ve taken the liberty of doing a little rewriting and think that I may have some hit sequels for next summer.

Coming soon to a theater near you:

“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4”: In this nail-breaking thriller, a desperate housewife is on a mission, which she has no choice but to accept. She must tidy up her entire home before her picky mother-in-law arrives in four hours. With enormous piles of laundry blocking every door, she must beat the clock and clean while dangling from a vacuum cord suspended from the hallway air vents.

Tension mounts as she decides to change the filters while she’s up there.

“OMG, IT’S LIKE, THE DA VINCI CODE”: A mom threatens to shake the very foundation of a secret society called “Teen Angst” by cracking their closely guarded code of acronyms and emoticons used for instant messaging in cyberspace. She comes to realize that deciphering the Mona Lisa’s smile is a lot easier than reading her daughter’s e-mail messages.

OMG, u r going 2 lol, it’s 2 kewl, k?

“CLICKER”: A far-fetched fantasy film about a TV remote control that miraculously returns itself to its rightful place on the arm of the arm of the couch. This clever clicker never gets dropped, lost between sofa cushions, or ends up in the refrigerator. Things get really crazy when the remote goes haywire and everyone starts agreeing on what to watch and how fast to flip through the channels.

Like I said, it’s a far-fetched fantasy.

“SUPERMOM RETURNS”: Our heroine, aka Mom of Steel, saves the world by returning all fashion faux pas hanging in the closets of Metropolis—past 30 days and without the receipts. She and her best gal-pal, Lois Lane, hit the malls for truth, justice and more shopping—isn’t that the American way?

“THE DEVIL WEARS ABERCROMBIE”: A normal and attractive woman finds out that she is actually just a frumpy, unfashionable mom as she tries to navigate her way through the ultraglamorous life of a preteen. She learns that, surprisingly, this highly coveted position of parenthood is not all it’s cracked up to be. At times her “boss” can be demeaning, demanding, and downright grouchy.

To survive in this cutthroat environment, she must master the seemingly impossible task of driving, shopping and talking with her daughter without being seen or heard.

“CARPOOL”: A new animation sensation about a hotshot rookie mom who speeds through errands, racing for that primo front spot in the carpool line. You’ll cheer her on in this slow-paced mama-drama as she sits, waits, and wonders why, if life is a journey, she is spending half of hers just waiting around in that dang minivan?

Co-starring Paul Newman and Owen Wilson—at least in her daydreams!

“THE FAST & THE FURIOUS; TOKYO DROPPED”: Hopped up on the exhilaration that comes from a night of not having to cook, tempered with some MSG from the Chinese take-out, a woman frantically chases after every last grain of rice that has fallen from her messy family’s dining table and is now covering her floor.

“THE LAKE HOUSE GUESTS”: A time-twisted tale of a woman who is still cleaning up after her houseguests, and waiting for their thank-you note to arrive, after their visit two years ago.

“NACHO LAUNDRY”: Cheese and salsa stains prove to be no match for the mother of a Mexican wrestler who thanklessly scrubs her fingers to the bone to keep her son’s snappy hooded wrestling costume clean and Downy fresh.

Even Mrs. Siskel and Mrs. Ebert would give these films two thumbs up!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Life's A Beach...And Then You Drive

The surf's up and it's finally time to hit the beach! For months, I had pored over so many coastal living magazines that I'd practically given myself sunstroke in anticipation.

I had waded through pages of sun-filled layouts with families happily walking together along the strand. Smiling copper-toned kids beamed over buckets full of perfectly formed seashells and posed in front of Biltmore-sized sand castles that they'd constructed, I imagine, sans parental participation. Moms and dads looked blissfully relaxed in lounge chairs, while their carefree children frolicked in the ocean without a jellyfish or icky floating thing in sight.

Unfortunately, you won't find many photos like that in our family album. Faster than you can say “vamos a la playa”, it's clear that a day at the beach with my brood, isn't exactly, well…“A day at the beach”.

After an hour of over-packing the car with a stack of rusty sand chairs, a leaky cooler, countless sand toys and as many boogie boards and skim boards as Ron Jon's Surf Shop - we look more like the “The Beverly Hillbillies” than the well-heeled beachcombers I'd seen in those glossy periodicals.

The kid's backseat bickering begins before we even make it down the driveway. It continues as we lug our gear across a Sahara-wide strip of sole searing sand. We wince in pain as we try to sidestep the shrapnel of broken shells along the way. The schlep seems endless as we ritually wander and stop - at least three times - until we're sure that we've found just the right spot.

It's only after we've fully unloaded and arranged our chairs in perfect alignment with the sun that we realize that the tide is actually coming in. My husband does not look amused as we franticly chase scattered flip-flops that have been swept away by a small tsunami, and we move yet again - back to where we stopped in the first place.

After fighting gusts of gale force winds, we take a moment to bask in the glory of getting our rickety umbrella planted upright, and thankfully without impaling any neighboring sunbathers. Then comes a heated Greco-Roman wrestling match to get the children into their sunscreen, which by their protests, you'd think was really acid.

My husband, with a solar-induced migraine, quickly tires of a minefield-like game I call; “Which bikini-clad body on the beach most closely resembles mine?” Then we begin the losing battle of trying to keep track of all our pails, shovels and stolen hotel towels - most of which are already half buried.

It's only a matter of time before the kids begin a chorus of complaints about the sand in their eyes, the grit between their teeth or somewhere else in their swimsuits. I wonder if I hold a seashell to my ear, would I'd hear the sound of a child whining.

But, eventually we settle in and find our rhythm with the ebb and flow of the sea. The boys excitedly start digging their way to China with some newfound “best friends” - sans parental participation - and my daughter discovers the joys of a good beach read. Even my husband and I are able to unwind with a quiet conversation in complete, and uninterrupted, sentences.

Before we know it, the air starts to cool as the sun calls it a day. We pack up and head home. This time the backseat is quiet as my sleepy beach bums, with their sun-kissed skin and sandy smiles, drift off dreaming about our next trip to the shore.

At last…a picture-perfect day at the beach.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mother of the Year

“Hi. I'm running for Mother of the Year, and I want your vote.”

That has been this week’s campaign message to my key constituents - all of who reside in my own home.

I hate to admit it, but in spite of the fact that I am the incumbent and am running uncontested, this year's race seems like it is going to be a tough one to win. Lately, I’ve baked batches of cookies with reckless abandon, memorized the magical powers of about a million Yu-Gi-Oh cards and even played some bi-partisan basketball in the yard in hopes of securing my seat- but still my children seem like they're on the fence.

My husband has been doing an excellent job as my campaign manager, pointing out all of the wonderful things that I've done for the family this past year - like keeping them generally well fed, well groomed and well stocked with batteries for all of their electronic gadgets and gizmos. However, even with my “More Playgrounds” platform, all three kids still consider themselves “swing voters”.

With Mother's Day this Sunday, I only have two days left to win over my decidedly “undecided” wards. I’ve been busy barnstorming with bribes of extended bedtimes and TV privileges. I’m hoping that they’ll overlook some of the empty campaign promises I’ve made before – such as the “I Will Try To Yell Less” plan I screamed about last year.

I'd like to share with you some of my credentials for this year’s crusade for the coveted award. I think that my children should select me as “Mother of the Year”, because:

… I let them have candy whenever they want - as long as they only want it on the weekends, after they've eaten a healthy dinner including all of their vegetables and they promise to brush their teeth as soon as they’re finished!

… I’m practically a Super Hero! I have eyes in the back of my head and special radar for rule-breakers! (How else would I know if they really brushed their teeth?)

… I have been known to, on occasion, pack a nutritional black-hole in their lunchboxes called an “Oscar Mayer Lunchable”. However…if I don’t win this year, I could always stock up on the alfalfa sprouts and tofu!

… I can make crafts with glitter and a glue gun that make Martha Stewart look like an apprentice!

… I've got adorable pictures of all three kids in droopy diapers and cowboy hats that, up till now at least, I’ve kept tucked away in a scrapbook.

… I've never missed my turn as snack mom for soccer. OK, it happened once - but it really wasn't my fault! I’m sure that someone had switched that day with me - although I have nothing in writing to prove it!!!

… When we come home from the mall, it's rare that any of the clothes in the shopping bags are for me - that is, of course, until they become laundry.

… I never complain about how my kids have drained my youthful beauty and how they’ve left me with a body racked with a road map of stretch marks. (What's that, Sweeties? You have heard me complain about that before? Many times? Oh.)

… I’m a benevolent dictator who politely orders them do their homework, use their manners and write thank you notes. (Trust me kiddos, you'll thank me later!)

… They’ve already told me – repeatedly – that I’m the “Meanest Mommy in the Whole World”, which is basically the “People’s Choice” award for “Mother of the Year” anyway.

But perhaps the most compelling reason my kids should crown me “Mother of the Year” at my house is because I'm the Mom & I say so, that's why.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Some Like It Hot!

I felt it was good karma showing me a sign. A small plastic one, in fact, outside a Bikram hot yoga studio reading “ 10 classes for $10”. Wow, with a deal like that I could reach all the way to Nirvana without stretching my wallet. I took a leap of faith and signed up.

I try to live by the motto, “Never let them see you sweat”, so when I arrived for my first class, I planned to play it cool. I'd obviously never taken hot yoga before. The room was heated hotter then Hades, somewhere north of 105 degrees. A few minutes of warm-up stretching, and I was already vaporizing. I tried to pass it off as my “aura”.

The instructor said that we'd start with some breathing. “Cool”, I thought. I've been doing that on my own for years! But as he clapped out a quick count for us to draw deep cleansing breaths in - while raising our elbows to our ears and pushing our chins back with our fists - I suddenly struggled to remember how to inhale and exhale.

At that point I should have read the Sanskrit writing on the wall. This wasn't going to be one of those relaxing yoga classes with rhythmic drumming and Yanni playing softly in the background. No, this was hot yoga from Hell and my chakras were in for a quite a shock.

We were told to gaze only at ourselves in the mirror. I tried to believe that the chubby red-faced reflection staring back at me was merely the result of an unfortunate combination of unflattering lighting and a “fat mirror”. However, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a lineup of lithe beauties effortlessly contorting their hot “yoga bodies” into positions that seemed to defy the laws of nature. You could have put a “1” in front of any of their dress sizes and mine would still be considerably larger. I was sweating - they were perspiring. I also noticed that the lighting and mirrors seemed to be working just fine for them.

“Aha”, I panted, as I spotted a more mature woman across the room. Perhaps a little “Sweatin' to the Oldies” would pry me from my personal pity party. But I could only watch in awe, as this svelte senior wrapped her left leg around her right, at least three times, while twisting her arms into some Escher inspired pose. With perfect balance, she lowered her self to the ground on the tip of one toe. Blessed with the flexibility of a Popsicle stick and the balance of a sack of kittens, I stood clutching the bar on the back wall for dear life, wobbling like Jell-o as I simply tried to stand on one foot.

It wasn't until we went into the “Wind Removing Pose”, meant to stimulate digestion and massage the colon, that I realized perhaps the big bowl of raisin bran was not the breakfast of choice before a yoga class.

As the session came to an end, it seemed that my kundalini hadn't risen, but rather melted into a puddle on the floor. However, I had gained a higher understanding of the term “sweat equity”. If the human body is comprised of 75% water, I estimated then that at least half of me was now being soaked up by the Tinkerbell towel covering my soggy mat. And yet, even with that impressive water weight loss, the darn mirror still made me look fat.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the classes and I felt great afterwards. However, next week I'm trying something new! I'm checking out a slenderizing body wrap spa that just opened up in town. They guarantee that I'll be at least 6 inches slimmer as I kick back and watch Dr. Phil on TV. Now that's a workout I can handle…no sweat!