The Wellness Committee

At work last week, I brought in store-bought green frosted cupcakes with plastic shamrock bling rings on top for St. Patrick’s day. I didn’t want anyone to get pinched.

Last month I brought in donuts from our famous corner bakery; massive maple bars and crispy apple fritters, tender glazed buttermilk and are-you-kidding-me-coconut. It was a birthday.

There was a dainty ladies luncheon before even that, and when no one was watching I gobbled a fat grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and a side of cream of potato soup.

That one will have to be our little secret.

Because an anonymous coworker with a commendable sense of humor went and signed me up to represent an entire five departments in Gotham City, as our

Wellness Committee Member and Champion.

Champion, y’all.

The person so nominated must “actively promote and encourage participation and employee ownership of wellness programs and activities”. She must “provide support and implementation at the grass roots level and secure feedback from coworkers”.

I must now be a “voice for a culture of wellness to work areas and coworkers”.

True, my skill set for actively promoting and encouraging employee participation and ownership is obvious. We pass around recipes that involve cream cheese and secure feedback after sampling goodies brought in to celebrate random Tuesdays.

“My stars,” I will tell my coworker, “You have made this cake exceptionally well!”

And then we have it with tea, pinkies up.

Now that I am a Wellness Champion, I will have to rethink where I stand on these issues.

Three thinks later, I still insist that food should be fun. If the food looks like carrots and broccoli, it had better be served inside a piñata.

Which leads us to our discussion of programs and activities.

Everyone in my section of the city works hard, and most of them are out in the field wrestling potholes or water valves or fire truck engines. They already have a weight lifting area and I could go out there and use their punching bag anytime. They don’t need a piñata.

If they only have a half-hour lunch, would they rather spend it listening to a doctor explain the hazards of cholesterol or would they rather watch SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons?

Would they prefer a chair yoga class or a box of puppies to cuddle?

We can talk about reducing stress or we can do something about it immediately by providing a dartboard with the appropriate faces on it.

What about using a game of checkers as a prop for portion control: bring your tofu or your lasagne and every time you move a checker, you get to eat a bite of lunch. Motivation to keep the game going and you will only get to eat so many bites before heading back to work.

Everyone’s a winner!

The Wellness Committee has an upcoming city-wide Walking Challenge. You dial into the six-week program with your smartphone and log your steps each day, competing against other departments and earning a prize at the end. The fame and glory would go to our guys, hands down, because we never sit down, but a much better use of our competitive edge involves a basketball hoop or a volleyball net and a little inter-departmental side-eye.

I wonder if the budget covers an outdoor laser tag unit?

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I’d enjoy more than seeing our supervisors in the front row of a Zumba class, but according to ads on Facebook, laughter, dark chocolate, and red wine are all part of a great wellness program, and two out of three of these are office-appropriate.

Although, if we needed a splash of cabernet to finish off our lunchtime cooking class featuring Beef Bourguignonne with mushrooms, pearl onions, and a pinch of thyme, we at the Wellness Committee are honor bound to provide our support and implementation of it.

I’ll hide it in my purse.

Missouri in March

I had a moment – one sparkling sharp and pivotal – that made me stop, right there in the Walgreens parking lot, and just be.

The afternoon air in Missouri is crisp in March. The morning snow had become reluctant flurries that melted on my cheek. It looked like someone was cleaning out a lint filter, wafting bits of cotton candy down from a melting marshmallow sky.

The asphalt was dazzling with wet, my coat a spot of scarlet in it’s black expanse.

Maybe it was the close proximity of drugs that brought that sudden urge of poetic gratitude, maybe it was the pristine and rolling countryside that was humming a new melody deep inside my bones. Every place has a feel to it.

My whirlwind weekend trip was prompted by a girlfriend who moved there a year ago. The California girl is taking her transplant as well as can be expected: she makes homemade tortilla chips and salsa to lure in new friends and wears her open-toed sandals when she pleases, weather be damned.

Missouri has pedicures.

My plane landed in time for Friday supper at a local eatery, and I was introduced to “toasted lasagne”:

“Toasted” is local code for “deep fried tasty goodness”, and when you are served Toasted Ravioli with dipping sauce, you have arrived. They had sold out of their signature fish and chips (both of which are toasted, I suppose) just before our arrival.

Next time.

Snow rolled in overnight, so instead of the walk we had planned, our morning was spent talking non-stop in our jammies and if I told you we had bacon and bottomless tea and had the cooking channel going in the background, well, you understand that the best part of this state is definitely the friends living in it.

Magic

We watched the trees turn white.

Sometime mid-day I realized I wasn’t feeling very well. I asked my girlfriend the obvious:

“What do you do here if someone gets sick and it’s actually weathering outside?”

“They don’t even want emergency vehicles out if there’s an ice storm. People don’t drive. They stay home until it goes away.”

“You mean no one goes to work or school or the grocery? No one takes their friends to the airport to catch a flight home?  Sick people just die quietly in their beds?”

“Pretty much.”

I admit, a little piece of Missouri shriveled up and died in my opinion just then.

“Well, what if a girlfriend needed to get to the corner Walgreens or else her friends would be stuck googling how to cure cancer at home with only a spatula and organic honey?”

“Just how much tea did you drink this morning?” she asked as we climbed into the jeep.

Missouri is home to cardinals and woodpeckers, armadillos and snapping turtles, and the usual suspects like possum, coon, and deer.

And my girlfriend will brake for every. Single. One of them.

This lady is a radical nature lover and talks to roadside critters while creeping past them at ten miles per hour.

She can spot an otter crossing the road at fifty feet.

“People drive crazy here,” she said, “much worse than California. They have no patience.”

We were passed by a big truck and I was on his side: not in Missouri 24 hours, and so help me, I was a native.

As mentioned, the moment in the parking lot will always hold a special place in my memory. Dashing into Walgreens was just the right amount of time for the jeep’s battery to die, but we got to meet the local AAA guy who happened to be a mechanic and a battery salesman all rolled into one. He might have been cute, but it’s hard to bat your eyes when they’re snow-blind. We stayed in the car and enjoyed some extra parking lot experience.

I handed out Twizzlers.

On Sunday, Missouri came into it’s glory. I had the privilege of attending their church and met the lovely people who are slowly becoming their village. Neighbors you can call when something goes bump in the night and who invite you over to cuddle puppies for whole afternoons at a time.

Afterwards, we grabbed Starbucks and drove out to the massive farm where her Hubby works; sweeping vistas with all sorts of animals frolicked in the sun. We drove the gently winding roads admiring faceted McMansions and tiny log cabins, ancient barns and scrappy dance halls.

We drove into St. Louis and everything was brick and trestles and industrial and inner city.

It felt a little tangy bitter but clean, with an edge that maybe you could get used to…a lot how I see beer, even after ducking into the home of Budweiser.

We passed the Busch Stadium, cruised through Forest Park and past the zoo, and landed at the infamous Gateway Arch perched on the Mighty Mississippi River.

Something in that River pulled at me. I am still pondering it’s presence.

Clark and Lewis

I posed with Lewis and Clark, reveling that we three had broken ground into new territory, and thought Samuel Clemens thoughts as my eyes followed the Arch up and up, flowing seamlessly into the sun. It’s quite how I envision my writing ambitions and true to form, I was thankful that the pods that take you to the top were out of order that breath-taking afternoon.

I am somehow not quite ready.

We finished the day with Pappy’s Smokehouse brisket, vinegar slaw, and sweet potato fries. It came with a slice of “thick bread” underneath, to catch the sauce and the drool.

They had sold out of their famous Burnt Ends and ran out their last rib just before we got there.

Well.

Next time.

Welcome to Missouri

Guilty As Charged

The thing about ugly crying is that it should be done in the privacy of your own kitchen, not in the grocery store.

Trying to keep it together somewhere in the canned goods aisle is like putting your finger into the leaky dike and hoping a miracle comes along soon. Like, pronto.

Thankfully, a People of Walmart passed by, pushing a cart full of chips and diet Pepsi, wearing yoga tights in my size without the benefit of having my general svelteness. If she could keep herself packed into those unashamed excuse for pants, then I could probably make it home without tears bursting from my face. Right?

Right.

So I kept my little ugly-cry fest between me, the pantry, and the cereal boxes and after about ten minutes – right on schedule actually – Edna Mode piped up.

She sits in a corner of my head just waiting for opportunities like this, which I attempt to keep at a bare necessity minimum.

“Pull yourself together woman!” she snapped, “You’re Elastigirl! What is this nonsense?!”

I heaved a great sigh.

“I’m only the worst mother ever!  My son didn’t get into the college he wanted. My kids are going to grow up and be homeless and hungry because they didn’t get the job they needed because they didn’t get into the college they needed to because they didn’t have the grades they needed because they didn’t have a mom who sat with them every day in high school making sure they understood chemistry…”

I grabbed another tissue.

“I never even took chemistry! My kids are all smarter than I am! I should have hired a tutor in freshman year. I should have volunteered like I used to in their second grade classroom. I should have worked the snack bar during their volleyball games. I should have filled those college applications out myself, what if he missed his college acceptance because of a clerical error?!!”

I sank down on the linoleum, cradling a can of peaches.

“It’s all my fault. I wasn’t there for him, and now I have to keep him from being homeless and hungry by letting him live here forever!”

Edna watched me wail at this fresh and horrific thought, tapping her tiny foot.

“You have a lot of weird things in your head,” she started.

I glanced over at her, “Uh huh,” said my little sarcastic side.

“You place a lot of importance on this mothering job of yours,” she said.

“Luck favors the prepared,” I reminded her, “but I don’t know how I could’ve ever prepared for this job. I feel like I had his whole little life laid out at six months old, worked my tail off to give it to him, and suddenly the plot went off-script.”

“Just now?” asked E, “that’s some kind of record, darling.”

“I have no idea what happens next.” I looked at the floor in disgust, “Well, except mopping is probably next.”

Mom-guilt. There’s no other guilt like it.

“Words are useless! Gobble gobble gobble gobble!”

“I just worry that I messed something up back there somewhere and it’s too late to fix it.”

“Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost…history became legend, legend became myth…”

“Okay,” I said, standing up, “Who let Galadriel in here?”

“The world has changed,” she continued, “I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost.”

I hung my head, “Yeah, they aren’t little kids anymore. Maybe that’s part of this sadness.”

With a mighty heave, Edna kicked Galadriel out of our headspace.

“Never look back, darling, it distracts from the now,” she scolded.

A voice boomed out: “Remember Who you Are!”

Lion King? Really?

“You got to put your behind in your past,” laughed Pumbaa, as E herded the animals out.

“Look,” I said finally, “I just want all good stuff and no bad stuff for my kids. It’s a mom thing.”

“Well you can’t never let anything happen to him,” squeaked a tiny blue fish, “Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”

“That’s it!” I demanded, “Everybody grab an exit buddy, I have better things to do than wallow in the shallows.”

I put the peaches on the shelf and stretched my mind around yet another bend in the road for our family. I tried to imagine my Supersuit holding me together as years of growth shaped and reshaped us, much like a good pair of yoga pants. Ahem.

“Well, you’ll look fabulous anyway. Your suit can stretch as far as you can without injuring yourself and still retain it’s shape. Virtually indestructible, yet it breathes like Egyptian cotton.”

“Thanks, E,” I said as she faded away, “a yoga class is just what I’ll do next.”

“Don’t make me beg, darling, I won’t do it you know.”