The Sedentaries

                     standing desk

Get On Up

Something’s been happening and I couldn’t figure out whether it was systemic or localized until now. I call it weight creep, as if putting a label on it makes it easier to deal with, even when I know that ’s not the case. Rather, by putting a label on it, I’ve made an enemy, and the enemy is known as “desk butt”.

First it was baby fat, as in “she still hasn’t lost her baby fat.” Of course, chubby legs at 10-years old can no longer be considered baby fat, but I played along. When I joined the swim team, exercising hard three hours a days, that “baby fat” dropped away, replaced by smooth, supple muscles. Then came college and since I was no longer on the swim team, the “Freshman 15” was my reward. Nothing spurs on a midnight chip and dip run like attending a frat party with lots of beer and no food. It’s a perfect storm of bad carbs, and if the beer doesn’t give you a hangover, the double dose of fat from the chips and dip will. But I knew how to exercise this time around, knew the merits of an elevated heart rate, so I started running and playing squash and by Sophomore year, I self-corrected.

Fast forward to my first desk job. I lived in Philadelphia so I walked to work. I was a paralegal in a law office and I sat practically all day, but I walked the office a lot, too — the file room, the break room, the bathroom, various offices of lawyers with whom I needed to speak. Plus I swam a mile before I got to work and usually rode my bike for an hour after work unless it was too cold. Nothing but exercise at every available opportunity which meant no weight creep in my twenties. Sweet right?

Fast forward to marriage. I moved to Central PA in my thirties, but still worked in Philadelphia, a two-hour commute. Now I’m training it into work every day rather than training at the gym and struggling to get a work out in. Those were the hard times, but after a year, my workplace started a flexiplace program that allowed me to work at home a day a week and suddenly exercise was back on the menu. Then the baby came and the baby weight, but since I was exercising and nursing, it came off again. Ah, the miracle of the human body.

Except for now. Thirteen years later, I am still exercising, eating plenty of salads and walking from the train to work (a shorter walk, but still a walk), and guess what? The magic is gone. The weight doesn’t leave with an extra bike ride or a missed meal. It stays and stays, socking itself in for a perpetual winter, as if in preparation for the apocalypse. Rations will be low…. Not everyone will survive….

I’m part of a growing epidemic of office workers who are simply “Sedentaries” (not a noun or even a word, but it should be!) which is what I’ve taken to calling people who sit all day long and who are experiencing the same weight creep or desk butt that I am. We humans spend more time sitting these days than we do sleeping. I typically sleep 6 to 8 hours a night. My work day starts at 6:45 a.m. with a 10-minute drive to the train followed by a 1.5-hour train ride. I walk 15 minutes from the train to work, and sit for up to 8 or 9 hours once I get there with a 30-minute walk at lunch if I’m lucky. Most of the time at work is spent in front of a computer, about 7 hours in the sitting column minus the walk at lunch and the walking around the office. When I get home, I sit in front of the computer working on the project de jure for a couple hours, maybe watching a little T.V., and voila! I’m sitting way more than I’m walking, standing and sleeping combined. While most days I get an hour of cardio at the gym, experts say it’s not enough to right the wrongs of sustained sitting.

Here’s why. You’re sitting, you’re sitting, you’re sitting, and your glutes (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) and hamstrings are being stretched like a rubber band while your hip flexors are shortened. Think of how a rubber band looses elasticity if it’s under a constant stretch and how inflexible your muscles become when you don’t stretch them. Your breathing becomes shallow, and overall, your muscles become weaker, softer, lesser. Health problems could include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, loss of flexibility, heart disease, etc. and as a result, you begin a slow, at first unnoticeable creep toward the next pants size while in a show of solidarity, the rest of your body takes on a jello-like appearance.

Do you want to avoid your muscles’ slow death march into uselessness? If your answer is “heck, yeah,” then moving around, rather than a trip to the gym is the key not only to a normal weight, but to a longer life, and obesity expert, Dr. James Levine has the research to prove it. Studies show that lean people move around more. They find and utilize walking opportunities; they stretch; they fidget. (Yes, fidgeting will keep your weight down!). So, like James Brown, you gotta Get On Up — from your chair, the couch, your desk, the car, whatever — and move around, get your heart rate going, and start the electrical conductivity that pulses through your body when you do. I’m not even advocating high-end exercise to beat this condition, although it certainly will help. Just to be clear, I am in no way advising you to ditch your gym membership. (I go almost every day.) I am simply iterating that the gym alone is not enough and advocating against sedentariness as a way of life.

Here are 10 ideas to get you moving that won’t require a radical life-style change:

1.  Make or build a standing desk or create some version of it. My father-in-law built me one. It’s fantastic. It has a little shelf to put paper and pens in, and another one below where I can stack my files. I put the desk in front of the window so I could look outside. Sometimes I do squats while I’m standing there. Or leg raises. Or yoga stretches. It’s awesome.

2.  Take the stairs whenever possible — at home, at work, at the mall. There’s a reason the Stair Master was so popular. So get climbing.

3.  Walk the floors every hour. Maybe practice the Ministry of the Silly Walk (you Monty Python fans know what I’m talking about). Use your phone or computer and set an alarm to get up regularly from your desk and do a loop around the office. Working from home? Even better. Loop the yard, go pick up the mail, take the dog out and circumnavigate the driveway.

4.  Get up and stretch. After too much time, your butt conforms to the shape of your chair, and no matter how high end or ergonomically correct, it’s still a chair and your butt should not look like it. Go to yoga after work or practice in your home before you leave for work.

5.  Get an ergonomically correct chair and adjust it to lean back slightly rather than forward. The forward hunch shortens all the muscles in your stomach and hip flexors while the backward lean works the abs, so work it baby!

6.  Start a salsa (or whatever) club and meet during lunch. Where I work in Philadelphia, there is a dance party every day at noon in LOVE Park. They have a little stage, and an area dedicated to dancing, and a microphone and speakers, a little canopy area where the DJ or band stands, the whole shebang. A whole crowd of people get out there and line dance. It’s awesome, dozens of people, shaking their booty at lunch.

7.  Chair dance. When I was a baby lawyer, I worked in an overcrowded, out-dated office with a view of Billy Penn at the top of City Hall in Philadelphia. Because we had more lawyers than offices, we had to double up, which means I had an office mate, and every afternoon, before the 3 o’clock slump set in, we stopped what we were doing, stood on our chairs and danced for a few minutes. Because the chairs had wheels, and rocked somewhat, it took a good deal of balance to stay up. Plus the bonus ab work we got from laughing so hard made it a win-win.

8.  Flap. Want to know what the profession is with the longest shelf-life? Music conductors. Yep. The guys who stand in front of an orchestra. There’s something about all that arm-flapping that’s good for your heart. So even if you don’t have a 20-piece band in front of you, start flapping.

9.  Drop and give me twenty. When was the last time you did 20 pushups? Not only is it good for your heart, abs and arm strength, you’re moving again.

10.  Take a walk after dinner. Probably my all-time fav, the after dinner walk is like a digestif. Not only does it aid digestion, it puts closure on the meal and the day, allows you an opportunity to take in the sights and smells of the natural world, and gives you some extra time to talk to your family or friends. So grab your spouse, your kid, a friend, the dog, whoever, and take a walk!

Pam Lazos  7.28.14

Best. Graduation Speech. Ever

UnknownGraduation Day

     It’s a rite of passage, a period of great change and enormous possibilities.  One where you hope someone will be there, preferably holding a road map with a big fat X marking the next spot and detailed instructions on how to get there.  Well, here it is.  Your graduation “go-to” info from one of the funniest, and now wisest people . . . Jim Carrey.

 

 

 

 

Summer Solstice Reboot

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Here Comes the Sun

        For years, people prayed to the sun, thinking it was an actual God and the source of their abundance. Without the sun, earth was a dark and dismal place. Witness the endless winter caused by Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, who withdrew her gifts from the earth because her daughter, Persephone was imprisoned underground with Hades, god of the underworld. Clearly, winter wasn’t all Demeter’s doing. Apollo, the sun god of the Ancient Greeks, the bringer of light to the earth and the one who told Demeter about Hades’ kidnapping of Persephone, had to be involved. Without him, crops didn’t ripen and the earth didn’t warm. While Apollo still took to the skies every winter morning, his solar beneficence waned on those dark days as he streaked across in his gilded, horse-drawn chariot. Sometimes circumstantial evidence is all you have.  READ MORE HERE…

 

Bee Serious

And Then There Were None

A recent text conversation between my husband and I went something like this:

bee text

First of all, ignore the typos. I blame the smartphone. It gets a little too involved. Second, there were not enough of those little crying emoticon thingees to portray the appropriate degree of sadness, despair, and outright terror I felt about the bee situation. The honey bees, our fuzzy four-winged friends responsible for pollination of about 70% of the foods we eat are dying by degrees and we, seemingly, are powerless to stop it. The story with the wild honeybees is this:  READ MORE HERE…

The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson is chock full of Hollywood A-listers in both cameo and substantial roles and with Anderson at the helm, the result is a film so quirky and brilliant that you’ll want to see it more than once. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s best film to date, a wry, exceptionally well-structured 5-act Shakespearean dramedy. If you liked any of Anderson’s prior movies, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums, or The Darjeeling Limited, to name a few, then The Grand Budapest Hotel will satisfy you in a way that these previous gems just narrowly missed.

First there’s the superb M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), impeccably dressed with such dizzying attention to detail that Coco Chanel would be jealous. Gustave runs the GBH, set amid a coniferous-lined mountainside, always gorgeously blanketed with a light dusting of snow, so breathtakingly beautiful it looks like CGI. Anderson used more than one locale for the filming to get just the right feel for the distinguished and sumptuous backdrop to the movie. At the GBH, Gustave not only runs a tight, elegantly appointed ship, he has a cadre of patrons, all older, almost all female, who return to the GBH to partake of the amenities that only M. Gustave can provide. The young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), so called, he says, because after losing his family and home in the war — the movie is sandwiched between the first and second World Wars — he is nothing and has no one. Zero is hired by M. Gustave to maintain a specific role at the hotel, the actual description of which is unclear for while Gustave has a list of “don’ts”, it seems the lobby boy’s biggest “do” is to be Gustave’s personal assistant. Throughout the movie, we see Zero’s allegiance to Gustave unfold and grow in a variety of wry and often hilarious ways.

The entire story is told in flashback by the enigmatic owner of the hotel, a much older Zero (F. Murray Abraham), to the Young Writer (Jude Law), who is a patron of the current GBH. With it’s halcyon days behind it, a skeleton crew running it, and very few guests, the GBH is still going, maybe not strong, but going. Abraham invites Law to join him for dinner and over many courses, unravels the beguiling history behind the hotel. After one of Gustave’s favored patrons, Madame D. (a sublime Tilda Swinton) is murdered, Gustave travels to Madame D’s side because, “she needs me,” meaning, he needs to make sure 1) she looks good and 2) to find out whether she left him a little something in her will. At the reading, the lawyer, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) announces to the family that Madame D. has left Gustave the priceless painting, “Boy With Apple” which, according to Gustave, they had admired together many times. Chaos ensues as the heirs, led by Madame D’s son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody) along with his henchman, Jopling (Willem Dafoe), try to reclaim what they believe is rightfully the family’s. The film is full of fabulously quirky observations such as when Gustave views the dead body of Madame D, examines her nail polish and expresses approval for the new color because even in death, style and elegance are paramount.

My favorite line in the movie is Gustave’s, spoken during a moment when he and the Lobby Boy are trying to puzzle out the mystery behind the dilemma Gustave finds himself in:

“The plot thickens, as they say. Why, by the way? Is it a soup metaphor?”

I absolutely will not tell you what mess they are in as the film is all to methodical to spoil, but I will say that I frequently laughed out loud throughout the movie. Anderson’s usual themes of abandonment, trouble with authority, and overarching loyalty in the face of adversity are all present. The cast goes on and on: Harvey Keitel, Ed Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and a host of others makes this film feel like summer camp for A-Listers The Grand Budapest Hotel is not for everyone. My mother thought it was weird, but she’s 80 and subtle, facetious humor is often lost on her. Me, I thought it was brilliant.

Pam Lazos  5.6.14

earth day (h)

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WINTER [notes from montana]

        “It was early September and I was driving, literally, to the last road in the United States, a gravel-and-dirt road that paralleled the Canadian border, up in Montana’s Purcell Mountains. It was like going into battle, or falling in love, or walking from a wonderful dream, or falling into one: wading into cold water on a fall day.” –                    Rick Bass, Winter

      Can Rick Bass help it if his Soul’s been on a nature walkabout for all of his life? In Winter [notes from montana], Bass’s wandering spirit is alive and well and living in the Yaak Valley in Montana without electricity, without heat, other than the wood-fired variety, and without much contact with civilization… To read more of this post, go here

earth day (g)

QofL Cover Amzn ver1a

For thousands of years, we’ve used and reused the same water as the dinosaurs, Galileo, Genghis Kahn, and Jesus. Until now. Now the water is chock full of contaminants that the ancients didn’t even know how to pronounce. That’s because Mama Nature doesn’t know how to remove radionuclides, usually held safely within the earth’s crust, and other chemicals found in the fracking wastewater that’s slowly making its way into Her rivers, lakes, and streams. Until now, we’d been sipping the same stuff as Adam and Eve. Until now.

Enjoy an excerpt from THE QUALITY OF LIGHT:

          She died that night. Doc attended the funeral along with dozens and dozens of ranchers and their families all come to pay their respects to this great woman, one of the “stickers” whose family had come in the late-1800s during the first boom and bust era of timbering and mining and oil and construction and who had stayed on to make a living. They worked the land for what it would produce – cattle. So when the time came and they asked if anyone wanted to say anything on behalf of this fine woman, Doc’s hand raised itself, his body stood up, and he took over the funeral.

“Twila’s great-grandfather was thrilled when the first oil men knocked on his door with a check and a promise. They may not have tamed the harsh out of the land, but at least they made it more hospitable. They built roads and paid well, and the ranchers loved them. That was the heyday when oil flowed like free love out of those great big underground reservoirs. Sweet gas, they called it. Back then a whisper could’ve coaxed that oil out of the ground.”   To read more of this post, click here…