Like Riding A Bike

Part of the cliché of being 43 and divorced is reinvention. I am currently reinventing myself as a healthy person who occasionally has a whole loaf of garlic bread for dinner and skips runs when she is too tired. It’s a unique persona to be sure. To this end, I was recently lured into a gym with promises of low rates and a six-day free trial. We shall henceforth call this gym Eternity Fitness. My friend Tabatha offered to take a class with me, and we chose a spin-type class. Tabatha is great, and she’s been there through my divorce alternately holding my hand and kicking my butt. But, mark my words, she will be the reason I die in some fitness mishap.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a spin class, it is a class where a room full of people ride stationary bikes while the instructor yells helpful mottos like, “You are a warrior!” from his or her own stationary bike at the front of the room.

When we arrived I was ready to fitness. I love fitness. I am fitness. Also, I can ride a bike, so I was sure this would work out better than pilates which is an exercise for people who know where all their core muscles are and can engage them at will and for sustained periods of time. I have core muscles, but we are not at a point in our relationship where we can get engaged.

Luckily, we arrived early, so we had the chance to get a good spot and make sure I could indeed still ride a bike. I was alarmed at the sheer number of towels placed on each bike as my friend had already advised me to grab one before we got in the room. I can make it through a run with one shirt used as a towel. What did 5 or 6 towels mean? I went with it. Doesn’t sweating mean your body is efficiently working and in good shape? Wow, this class would totally make me fitness.

Our next task was to adjust the height of the seat and the distance away from the command panel. It was weird; no amount of adjustment made the seat comfortable. See I learned to ride a bike on a sweet pink Huffy with a puffy bread-loaf-shaped seat. It was like biking on clouds. This spin-class seat was like biking on marbles.

In my day we rode our bikes to school. Uphill both ways while being chased by rabid dogs.

In my day we rode our bikes to school, uphill both ways while being chased by rabid dogs.

I was feeling okay about my chances of survival in this class. I mean, 30 minutes? I could probably do something physically difficult for that long.

When the instructor arrived, he focused on me right away because I must have been giving off a helpless aura. He told me I needed cages for the pedals. Of course, Cages. I was totally about to do that. After first trying to use two left cages, I was all set with cages on my pedals to keep my lame non-biking sneakers in place during class. I just needed to actually get my feet in them while on the bike seat. This required help from the instructor and Tabatha and Jesus.

The class wasn’t too full, and no one was really close to me except Tab, so if I accidentally cussed, it would be okay. The instructor, let’s call him Brad because of reasons, got on his bike, cranked some music, and turned down the lights. Alright Brad, this was totally my jam. Pretending I’m dancing at a nightclub? Yes please.

The music was unfamiliar to me but laid enough base for me to follow the rhythm. Except I was already behind. Brad was up front talking about heart rates and zones and levels on the bike which could be adjusted. I tried to make sense of it all, but honestly I was just spinning the little dial at the front of my bike when everyone else did. I think I was supposed to be in a certain range with those numbers depending on what Brad told us to do with the dial. Maybe the dial thingy adjusted tension in the spinny thing in the wheel? Hard to say. I decided that since it was my first time I would just focus on being in motion the whole time. It wouldn’t matter how fast I went or what level my bike was set at.

I was happy at first. Duh, riding a bike right? Then we were told to raise up out of the seat. I’ve seen enough commercials for Eternity Gym to know what was expected of me. Ass in the air, feet spinning like crazy, and warrior face on. But I was unable to perform this maneuver. I’m not saying it was hard to sustain, or I couldn’t raise very high; I’m saying my butt was glued to the seat for the first three times Brad called for it. When I finally did get out of the saddle, the wheels either stopped or I wobbled half out of my stirrups. I guess these bikes don’t work like normal bikes or maybe I lost my balance in the divorce.

I didn’t give up though. Momma didn’t raise a quitter. Plus I was unable to get fully disentangled from the foot cages and was therefore stuck. I kept at it and eventually got my body and the bike to work together so that my rear was in the air a tiny bit. At this point I was light-headed but super fitnessing.

Then I got fancy. I tried to get my foot more comfortable in the cage. And then I got hurt. I can’t say exactly what happened, but let’s just say I had to pretend I was purposely getting of the bike for a restroom break. Tab told me where it was, and I escaped into the brightly lit free weight section of the gym. It was too bright, and my leg was throbbing right at the achilles tendon area along with a burning sensation radiating up my calf. Casually checking for blood in the mirror, I thought I saw the bathroom on the other side of the gym. I decided I’d go in there and tend to my wounds.

I circled that area like three times before I realized I was never going to find the bathroom. I womaned up and went back to the spin class. Lights were still off and Brad was still empowering us. I had secretly hoped I’d been gone long enough for it to be over. It was at about minute 39, and it hit me that this was a fucking one-hour class. Death to Tabatha.

So I continued my version of spinning until the end of class. Tab kept asking me how I was doing, and I said fine and thought I smiled. Hard to say though because I was concentrating on doing 30 things at once including, but not limited to, not falling again.

And then it was over. Brad turned off his mic and the music. Lights came back on. Without the pressure to keep the wheels moving it was a bit easier to get the cages off my shoes. I stood on firm ground ready to get the hell out of there. But walking was not pleasant. In fact, I would have preferred to be left on the floor to die. My legs were a strange combination of jelly and brick with my lady bits complaining about the damage done by not getting myself out of the seat enough. I was hurt. Badly. In a way running around my neighborhood never left me.

Needless to say the thought of ever looking at a spin bike again was horrifying, and I did not join the gym. But I did do one good thing that day. When I saw Brad leaving the gym, I did not run him over with my car. You’re welcome Brad.

I’m Giving Kids A Shot At Learning To Love Books

I know my kids have been born with more than just a leg-up on success; they have nothing holding them back. They come from a home that values education and kindness and family. Not one day in their short lives has been spent worrying about food availability or secure shelter. They have a trusted pediatrician who has been with them since the day they were born, and that means they have received life-saving vaccines and medicines so that my main job as their mother is to nurture them.

“Vaccines make life possible. Without them, children are vulnerable to deadly and disabling diseases like measles, pneumonia, diarrhea and polio.


Unfortunately, around the world, one in five children still lack access to the life-saving immunizations that help keep children in the U.S. healthy. In fact, one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could be prevented with a vaccine. By expanding access to vaccines, we can prevent 1.5 million child deaths each year.”


That’s why I’m joining Shot@Life to celebrate their first birthday and World Immunization Week (April 24-30). Today my contribution is to bring you the story of one of Shot@Life’s Champions. Her name is Elizabeth Atalay, and she writes over at She has seen more than 50 countries and is now an advocate for mothers and children all over the world.

Here is why she chose to support Shot@Life:

Shot@Life raises awareness and cultivates advocates to help get life-saving vaccines to those who need them the most. Shot@Life also raises funds to work with partners such as GAVI and USAID to help provide those vaccines globally to give all children a shot at a healthy life. It was natural as a mother that when I began blogging about social good and global issues on documama, my focus was on maternal and child health. When I learned the statistics about how many lives could be saved with access to vaccines, I felt compelled to get involved. Friends Jennifer Burden, founder of World Moms Blog, and Nicole Melancon of Third Eye Mom had become some of the first Shot@Life Champions, and they told me about the Shot@Life Summit. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to reach out and do something that could have real impact in the lives of mothers and children around the world.


I wish for all children to have a shot at giggling wildly!

I wish for all children to have a shot at giggling wildly!


Once you become a mother, you gain a real empathy for other mothers and children. We all love our children above all else. We understand the magnitude of what it would mean to lose a child due to a preventable disease like diarrhea. Once other mothers know that children are dying from preventable diseases, and they can actually do something to help, I would think they would want to. So, in my mind, the biggest hurdle is awareness. So many mothers just don’t realize that they can have an impact and save the lives of babies and children without even donating money. Just by giving their voice and letting congress know they care, they can help.

Listen, I know you’re busy with your own kids/jobs/houses/stress, and though the thought of babies dying from something treatable like measles makes you sad, it’s hard to commit yourself to yet another to-do. But this is more than that. And it’s easier than running the school bake sale. You can write letters. You can voice your support on all your social media platforms. Get your high school children interested. Spread the word to your favorite health professionals. Please, let’s do what we can to give all kids, not just ones born in prosperous areas, a Shot@Life and a shot at doing something great like learning to love books.

Ready to get started? Learn how you can help Shot@Life. Would you like to donate money? Elizabeth has started a page for her fundraising efforts; please stop by.

A Fairly Unreliable Medical Primer

This post was on my friend Kim’s site, All Work and No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something. She was out of commission getting her evil gallbladder removed.


The first rule of Gallbladder Club is you don’t talk about Gallbladder Club.  That’s because any talk of gallbladder dysfunction leads to talk of ‘bathroom’ dysfunction, and no one but your gastroenterologist and the internets want to hear about that.

Anyway, Gallbladder Club is a terrible club.  You do NOT want to join, but gallbladders are insidious, and you cannot stop them from their evil plan to keep you away from popcorn at the movies.  (This was one of the things my evil gallbladder tried to deny me.  It did not work.  I’d rather eat popcorn while watching a movie like a normal person and then bitch about the pain later.)

As you may or may not know, dear Kimberly is but one more unwilling member of this club.  She has the added distinction of having a tumor on hers, so she gets a free t-shirt.

No, it is a tumor. God, you never listen.

When I had my gallbladder removed, it was basically the only thing the idiot gastronenterologist could think to do to get me to stop coming to his office.  He had already put my gallbladder through a testing program more vigorous than what they put astronauts through before shooting them into space.  I had of course had an endoscopy (tube down my throat) and a colonoscopy (tube up the other end).  I actually had them both the same day, and I asked the doctor to please do the one in my mouth first, for obvious reasons.  Doctor Asshole told me he found some polyps and just removed them but not to worry.  Okay, sure.  But it still hurt when I ate anything more exotic than white rice.

I had taken medicine for ulcers just in case that was the problem.  It wasn’t.  I had this freaky test where I had to drink approximately 458 gallons of liquid chalk and then some dude watched it inch its way through my digestive system.  The only thing I got out of that one was a broken toilet and a day off work.

My least favorite test was the MRI.  It was actually what I call an Extreme MRI because it required them to shoot nuclear waste (Or something, I wasn’t listening.) into my body via an IV.  My veins are bigger jerks than my gallbladder, so this required multiple stabs before the IV was in place.  Once I was on the table with a needle in my arm about to be shoved into the machine, the nurse tells me that I will have to also hold my breath.  Multiple times.  While not moving and staring at 2 tons of medical equipment hanging over me.  Also?  My arms were strapped down over my head.  Being a somewhat wayward Christian, the only prayer or hymn I could recall was the Our Father, and I said it in my head 210 times until the Extreme MRI was over.  I’m pretty sure Doctor Asshole made up that test because he hated me.

Now, I’m sure Kimberly has asked many questions and is fully prepared for dealing with the aftermath of a gallbladder exorcism.  I did not and was not.  My mother had asked me what would happen after it was removed, and I told her that I’d be able to eat chicken wings and cheesy fries again.  She was skeptical.  And smarter than I.

Turns out your gallbladder is not exactly like your appendix. (Just a little FYI, I don’t have that anymore either.  Some day I’ll tell you a story of how it ended up in a bucket with about five inches of my intestines.)

Here is what WebMD says about your friend the gallbladder:

“The gallbladder is a small pouch that sits just under the liver. The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver. After meals, the gallbladder is empty and flat, like a deflated balloon. Before a meal, the gallbladder may be full of bile and about the size of a small pear.

In response to signals, the gallbladder squeezes stored bile into the small intestine through a series of tubes called ducts. Bile helps digest fats, but the gallbladder itself is not essential. Removing the gallbladder in an otherwise healthy individual typically causes no observable problems with health or digestion yet there may be a small risk of diarrhea and fat malabsorption.”

Um, how about you change that to a 100% chance?  For six months I lived as I had before, terrified of fatty foods and always on the look-out for the nearest bathroom.  It’s like the ghost of my gallbladder was haunting me.

Eventually I was able to eat a more regular diet and get back to shoveling crap into my gaping pie hole to both celebrate the good and cope with the bad.  I can do this with only twice the normal dosage of antacids, a huge improvement.

I hope this surgery gets Kimberly back on her feet and downing fatty foods again.  I hope she pees fast after the procedure so she can get the catheter out.  I hope they give her good pain meds.  I hope I haven’t cost her more than one or two readers.

So, I was going to wrap this post up with another Fight Club reference, the “I am Jack’s raging bile duct” quote, and a picture of Edward Norton. Then I saw this picture of Ed and got distracted. You’re welcome.