Benchmarking.

I love that post down there where I’m all ZOMG 125# deadlift!

So I broke 225 last week. A guy standing around told me my form was terrible but sure, okay, I GOT IT UP and could still walk the next day SO WHATEVER.

People can mess with your head even with well-intentioned advice.

Anyway, he was right, my form sucked. But I’m 225 dead, 135 bench and 165 squat right now and that’s not bad at all.

*

Hockey lulled because they were using the rink for hockey camp and I was too lazy and annoyed to try to find pickup anywhere else, plus doing the contract game writing that I am.

A break was probably in order anyway, just to regroup. I’ll play some more pickup there just because it’s there but it really is kind of a fast, insane skate and I am feeling old and not like fighting for the puck with a bunch of insanely talented college guys.

I think it’s time to get back on a team this fall.

*

Also, in news of the awesome, Brantt Myhres started the Greater Strides Hockey Academy.

Years ago, Brantt sat in my truck and told me I should try playing hockey sometime.

HAHAHAHAHAH

Little did he know.

The way home

I was a secretary for twenty years.

It’s not a bad job. I was terrible at it, although I had positions of increasing responsibility and was fortunate to support some of the nicest, smartest guys in high tech. I worked for Gary Campbell at Compaq for a few years and it was the most ridiculous cushy job I ever had, where mostly I processed expense reports and was there for genius tech people to download to and not trip over my dick when talking to Bill Gates’ secretary.  Gary was a great guy. Gruff, no-bullshit, brusque in a way that made people dislike and sometimes fear him or both. But he was a brilliant, fair, down to earth guy who didn’t like me to get him coffee because he got why secretaries fetching bosses coffee was problematic, from a feminist standpoint.

So I did it for him anyway.

I got fired, like a soft-fire fired, by another guy like Gary, a CEO who finally looked me straight in the eye and said “god knows I love you but you are the worst secretary ever, and now that you’ve had your cancer wake up call would you please do something else for a living you actually enjoy?”

Which was kind of a ‘huh’ moment for me, and he gave me three or so months to find something he approved of and said if it was something I was actually suited for he’d even give me a recommendation.

I became a video game designer.

This boss, this boss who fired me was actually the one who helped me arrive at that conclusion and while the “career counselors” working with me insisted there was NO FUCKING WAY I could get into the industry, that I didn’t have the experience and it was TOO HARD

– clearly, these were people who had never gone through a firefighting hire process with four thousand other highly qualified candidates for one fucking firefighter position –

my boss helped and got me some contacts and while those specifically didn’t pan out, I did have a good friend working in the industry who helped me look, helped me with my resume and held my hand when I finally got a bite and had to do my first video game design test, where I basically had a weekend to learn how to do a mod and had never, ever modded before.  Ever.  In fact that weekend was the first weekend that I’d ever really played a single player RPG.

But I did all right.

The studio I applied to admitted that I mostly got in on my writing chops, but they liked that I had learned to mod in a weekend and it showed brains and a certain nice degree of insanity that I later would learn was a job requirement, and I got in.

It was home.

Look, folks. It was *home*.

I spent twenty years showing up to work thinking work was something you do that is separate from you. You get your coffee, you sort some mail, you make a spreadsheet, you make some travel arrangements and it is pleasant and mindless. You have a couple of friends at work who tolerate your strangeness, or are maybe a little bit weird in the ways you are, and you hang out with them but mostly you do your job and are relieved when quitting time rolls around and you home.  That’s it.  That’s what “work” is.

And then it wasn’t.

Suddenly at work I was doing the same things I’d always crammed my free time with.  Making things up. Dialogue. Swords, fighting, characters, pretend books, pretend songs. Ways to torture my players. “What, not scary enough for you? HOW IS THIS FOR SCARY? YOU LIKE THAT NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS ARE YOU HIDING UNDER THE COUCH YET??”

I was doing that.

At my job.

I was surrounded by people exactly like me, not just one or two who were a little like me but people, even my bosses were like me. Everyone. Weird and who had read the same comics and could argue intelligently about the various representations of Batman, who knew who Lobo was, who had read the same books and cracked jokes about what one does and doesn’t do going into Mordor, and also grown up playing swords and wearing cloaks to school. Who had turned their closets into fighter ships and sat in there by the glow of a Lite-Brite set with a makeshift joystick yelling “PEW PEW PEW!”

I worked with these people to make games to entertain in the way we all had grown up wanting to be entertained. By immersing players in fantastic worlds with epic stories and thrilling combat, where we could be anyone and do amazing things, fantastic things. Conquer and do magic and make kings, become a name equating to hero on the lips of every wide-eyed child and you think – you think we didn’t work to make that happen even in an MMO? We did, because it’s what we want, as players. It’s what we grew up wanting.

I went to work and made worlds.

And it was good at my first studio and I loved everyone there so much, and then I moved on because I knew that while that was amazing, 38 was going to be even better.

And it was.

I made so many fucking friends.

I played hockey with people and wrote with people and played D&D with people and, oh, right, we also made a video game in there too. A really, really wonderful one, where I kept seeing things and would have this shock this thrill of holy shit we did that?  That is fucking awesome! I put things into the game I was so proud of. Where later, I knew someone would be playing and would burst out laughing or stop, stock still and look at the screen and go “… shit.” In that tone of voice where you knew that in 25 words or less I’d just sucker-punched them.

I would open up the game and despite all the myriad things you see that you need to fix or make you facepalm or need to be tweaked or make you want to beat your co-designer about the head and say “WHY WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” mostly I would fall in and start playing and then a little while later think “oh, oh, right, no play. I’m working on this right now.”

And I’d dream in the world’s vivid colors.

And I’d wake up knowing Amalur was part of my psyche, the world-place I had lived in since childhood.

And I loved it there.

We, as designers, live in a state of perpetual magic. We lose sight of it sometimes because it turns out that magic is often buggy as shit but when something happens, and you lose it, the loss of color and wonder is almost intolerable, for people who need that color and wonder in their lives in order to survive.

I was surrounded by people like me, who need a world like that.

And what we lose, in losing that world and each other?

Is incalculable.

O bby I love you tattoo gym guy

So I go over to a Chain Gym What Shall Remain Nameless that is near my house. Because, you know, I’ve been working out over in RI but sometimes might like to work out over here, so I go because they are all CHEAP AND BEST WORKOUT GYM YES YES YES EVER. And stuff.

So I go and pull up and go in and the first thing that hits me is like

WOW THAT IS A LOT OF PURPLE IN THE GYM

followed by

wow, that is a lot of plastic.

Anyway, but okay, it’s inexpensive, that’s fine, so I go to the counter and say “could I have a tour or just check out your free weights section.” And SkinnyCuteWorkoutGirl is all “it’s over there by the mirrors.”

And folks, I can see the end of the machines and the bank of mirrors and I’m telling you right now from where I was standing it wasn’t even like a SPACE AT ALL THERE.

“By the mirrors?” I asked her.

“O yes,” she said.

So I go over there and they have a rack or two of dumbbells and some fixed barbells and then like three Smith machines and um.

That’s about it.

I go back over to the counter.  I try not to be all EXCUSE ME THAT IS NOT FREE WEIGHTS in her face, and I say “no, but really,” like she was just playing a funny joke on me, “where are the free weights?” And she said, you know, those are them.

Blink, says I, and then “er. You have no actual plates and bars at all?”

And she gets a ZOMG WAT look and waves the big tattooed guy who has been listening this whole time over and he has to actually come out from behind the counter to have this conversation with me, apparently. So he’s standing there and he’s the kind of guy, I know, who is kind of like the male version of me, who knows he’s big and powerful and has gorgeous tattoos but isn’t quite sure of his body anyway, and stands like that, like six foot two hundred some of apology.

“We have barbells,” he said.

“You have fixed barbells,” I corrected, “and they only go up to 75. What happens if I want to deadlift 135?”

“You can use the Smith machine,” he said and I’m just looking at him and he goes “it’s just the same as free weights” and I’m still looking at him and he says “you can just – “

And he stops.

Because I’m still looking at him.

“I wondered,” I said, “if you could really finish that sentence while looking me in the eye with a straight face.”

“Not really,” he said. And he got this grin and I said

“Okay, just making sure,” and now I’m laughing and he’s laughing and he has the best smile EVER and he said,

“I’m supposed to say that,” and I said I knew, and we laughed some more and I said “so, really, free weights?” and he leaned in a little and said the name of their competitor, quietly.

And I said “ZOMG I DO NOT WANT TO SELL MY FIRSTBORN JUST TO LIFT,” and he assured me no their prices weren’t bad at all while he’s standing there among all the purple equipment and furniture and stuff kind of like Disneyland only workouts. You know.

So I thanked him and went off and turns out my gym has a gym on this side of the commute anyway and the equipment’s older and friendlier, somehow. And so are the guys who work out there, so that’s great, really.

Anyway.

Purple gym guy.

You are awesome.

You made my day.

Mother’s day love

We woke up to cards in bed, then were allowed to sleep in.  YAY L, who at 7 gets what we *really* want.

For Becca, I set up her cafe table again in the kitchen  (and cleaned a bit):

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And she finished sorting out my dye studio.  We’ve had endless problems with the plumbing and flooding down there, but it’s all straightened out now, I have new taps in the sink, and huge shelves to put all my stuff on. I organized the shit out of it. Happy, happy Kate.

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Every dye studio should have a pullup bar.

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Legos, spaceships, breasts.

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An engineer friend of mine recently extolled to me the virtues of Legos for teaching math and engineering concepts to children.

As he talked, I thought back to my experiences with Legos, which had been somewhat limited and mostly involved building square house shapes and furnishing them with benches and tables.  I realized that even as a girl raised in a fairly feminist, evolved family, my first real experience with a schematic really didn’t come until I was a teenager when for a while I built and painted model airplanes.

My daughter, who’s seven, has lots of Legos.  They’re in enormous bins that live under beds or in closets, and mostly get dumped out in a sea of pointy plastic.  They stay on the floor like a huge spreading oil spill with as much collateral damage, like when I inevitably step on one in an entirely different room of the house, yell and then wind up cleaning up all the Legos myself.

My daughter inherited all these Legos from my son, who was big into Legos when he was little.  We got him endless sets, and he’d build the stuff or build half of it or something else entirely and then, you know. Dump the Legos on the floor.

I realized I personally had never bought my daughter a Lego set.

So we were at Target.  We were buying a present for her friend’s birthday and as usual joking about the “pink aisle” and the “blue aisle,” and I said “you better not go in that blue aisle, you know, those toys are only for boys.”  And at seven she totally gets the joke and she walked down the aisle with a scornful face and said “Yeah, I’m a girl, I’d never want to play with any of these yucky blue toys.  Bleah.  Like that car.  Or that castle. Or that… OMG mom ALIENS this is so cool, look, look, look!!!”

And there was a display case with lego aliens and spaceships and even alien hats you could put on the Lego peoples’ heads so you could tell they had been assimilated. Lili was enchanted. “Mom, mom, look at the experimentation pod at the back of the spaceship!”

I looked at her, I looked at the flying saucer kit, which was twenty bucks, and looked back at her again. “You want it?”

“YES!”

The next day, we sat in her room and carefully sorted all the piles of colors out, like the instructions say. She started randomly grabbing pieces and said “this is too hard,” and I said “no it’s not, look at the instructions.  Just do one number at a time.  Which one’s first?”

“One,” she said, in that “derp, obviously” tone. Then looked at the pieces needed for the step, snatched them up out of the right colored pile, and put them together. “Done, mom,” she said.

“Okay, now do two.”

Eventually I wandered off and I didn’t hear from her for a while. At least until she was on step twelve and couldn’t figure out which end of a peg thing another dealie-bobber should go on. A visual logic thing, and when I showed her, she smacked her head. “Oh, of course,” she said, and went off again.  It took her a couple of hours to build a flying saucer, with that being the extent of my help.  She played space invasion, and her brother showed up and sat down and started playing with her, and they built a landing pad and part of some structures for the aliens to destroy and L wouldn’t let him do the talking because apparently he doesn’t do alien voices right.

She learned. So. Much. She accomplished something really interesting, and fairly difficult (I know because I’ve helped out with a number of those things myself). She played aliens with her twelve year old brother, and built things with him, and they so very, very rarely play together anymore.

So this is what we missed, in the pink aisle.

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This set has 130 pieces, the majority of which are the doll’s “accessories.”  The construction of the car is limited to simple, large pieces, most of which make up large parts of the car so that it is clearly easier to put together and less assembly – and thought – is required.  This toy is supposed to be for 7-12 year olds, the same age group Lili’s spaceship is.

Also, this isn’t a Lego block person of indeterminate gender. It’s a girl. With big hair. With eyelashes.

And breasts.

Yes, breasts.

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Meanwhile, the UFO Invasion Tripod set has 166 pieces, all devoted to the construction of a complex, interesting and fun toy. There are a few traditional Lego figures, and, you know, alien head hats to convert them to aliens.

No accessories. No breasts.

I want you to go to Target. I want you to go to the Lego aisles and just go look at the toys, for a minute.  And think about it. Think about young women who don’t go into science and engineering, even now, who struggle with math for reasons that have nothing to do with their innate intelligence, potential, ability.

I want you to think about how many female engineers you know.

And I want you to get pissed.

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Working strength

Because this isn’t about losing weight for me – it can’t be – I have to define the process other ways.

I’ve been lifting seriously again for a couple of months now, and finished the 5,000 pushup in 21 day challenge, and am consistently breaking PRs and seeing progress.

I went for my first run in a long time and banged out three miles without much trouble or distress.  Which means that whatever I’ve done, it’s included something that looks like cardio.

But if my goal isn’t to look good

although I do

then what’s all this for?  Strength for its own sake?  Sure, absolutely. Health?  Yeah. But that’s not enough, not for me.

So I signed up for the New England Spartan sprint race this August. It will be the closest thing I’ve done to a physical agility test in a very long time, and I’m interested to see how it goes.

 

ALSO FAIRLY FREAKED OUT, YES, THANK YOU.

 

I also looked into powerlifting competitions.  The hilarious thing about that is that I am a fat old lady, and while I lift about half what I need to to really be competitive, I’m being told to come to a meet in July anyway because… well… no one has lifted in my class in months.  \o/

Nothing like no competition, right?

 

Strength work is mental too, really. Maybe more than physical, at the end of the day.

No homo

“No homo.”

Because the worst thing that could be thought of you being affectionate or appreciative of another man is that you would be mistaken for gay.


“No homo.”

Because it is all right to love another guy, but not like that. Or other men can, but you do not want to be like them. Or associated with them. Or among them.


“No homo.”

Because a million gay men take the risk each day of loving other men openly and honestly. Because they are not afraid to tell even you, the straight guy, that you are beautiful. You fucking coward.


“No homo.”

Because you think less of me. Because you think less of my gay brothers.


“No homo.”

Because you are afraid of the possibility of your own homosexuality, even if you’re married and have kids and a wife, even if you’re a big strong guy with nothing to prove. Because you are not willing to admit you might have some two percent of yourself who thinks another guy is hot, or loves him maybe a little past the average.


“No homo.”

Because you are angry, and afraid. We are all waiting for you to get over it. We all love you regardless.


Seriously, stop saying it. The gay men and women around you know you don’t mean “I don’t want to be like you, I don’t like what you are.” We know, but maybe you could realize that that’s how it sounds


and stop saying it anyway.

Trying to articulate how this works.

I have to preface this in ways I don’t want to, because it’s relevant but also not relevant. I was sexually abused at a young age, for a long time. We are not going to have this “zomg you are so brave” or any other conversation like that right now. That part isn’t actually relevant. It was a lot of time and therapy ago and I’m pretty much good to go, see what I’m saying?

But it is still relevant to the issue I’m addressing here.

*

I came to fire because I was looking for a place where I could express and hone my power around people who were also powerful. I came to firefighting because I needed a heroic context in which I could express my own heroism and also in being surrounded by heroes, be safe.

It didn’t work out.

Fire didn’t fail, I did. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t believe in myself in ways I needed to, and I didn’t actually understand what “strength” and “hero” looked like.

I went to the wrong people for the wrong things, and worshiped false idols. I’m still grateful to the men and women who brought me in, tried their best, and followed my command anyway.

*

Hockey was the real proving ground. I started at absolute rock bottom, where I was fat, depressed and didn’t know how to skate. When I got to the place of real prowess and strength, I’d walked the actual path and knew my success, knew my ability, knew my failure intimately. I’d learned my lessons of self-isolation from fire, and stopped pushing people away. So the people around me helped me, coached me, pushed me.

I remember being on the ice, guys skating around me politely when I sat there asking myself if I even had the strength and balance to make it back up onto my skates.

I remember later, a guy spending an entire pickup hour harrying me.  Harrying me, jostling me, elbowing me, and finally rapping me so hard I lost my skates and hit the boards. Yeah, a check. I fumbled at first and was startled and then I started pushing back and then I really started answering him.

I remember him at the faceoff, to his center: “you take the puck in. I’m going to lay out their winger.”

It was one of the hottest things anyone’s ever said to me. Ever.

By the end of that hour, I knew I could take a hit. I knew I could take a hit or an elbow or a full on check and keep in it, not be rattled. I knew because he’d given me the opportunity to test myself that I’d take any hit a guy could give me out there and just get harder, more determined, stronger.

These are lessons.

That guy watched me like a hawk out there, mostly kept his comments to himself but I felt his gaze and knew he was invested in my progress.

There have been people like that along the way, who have pushed me without relent or remorse, or who have encouraged me or both.

They have earned the right to knock me sprawling, and I’ll thank them for the attention.

*

This is about respect.

*

I am an imperfect creature. I usually have to wind up to something by doing a lot of pissing, moaning, and crying. My toughness is sometimes uneven. Swearing is an essential part of my process.

I am so fucking grateful for the people who put up with my shit and see me for all of who I am. Good and bad.

When I’m comfortable around people I open up, I flirt, I say outrageous things. I close distance. Because you’ve made it safe to. Because you see all of who I am and accept the entire complicated mess.

Because you get the larger picture.

*

Context is everything.

I can do 240, 310 pushups in a day because someone put a challenge in front of me and then told me I could do it. I follow through because there’s people there with me every step of the way, success and failure.

I am not alone, but more so I am known and in that place, I can ultimately do anything.

*

If anyone made comments like I get from friends on Fitocracy cold in the real world, I’d punch them. Flat out. Male or female.

You have earned the right to be that close to me.

That’s what I’m saying.

Not everyone gets to be there.

We love our landfill.

Most of us in my town use the local dump. It is not a usual dump, it is an event, a thing to do, it is… as you would say, an occasion that one does not miss here in our little town if one is ANYONE of not or, you know, has trash and recycling to dispose of.

Our little landfill has comprehensive recycling, also trash, also a bookmobile, also a swap meet. It has yard waste disposal, big item disposal, electronics disposal and hazardous waste disposal (all on their appointed days and times). On a Saturday you take the kids and you plan to spend several hours there.

Why?

Because in addition to doing your trash and recycling – a fabulous affair in and of itself of tossing plastic into HUGE MASHERS and watching it crushed, or taking glass bottles and FLINGING them into a big closed dumpsters and watching them SMASH into millions of pieces – in addition to all that one must buy baked goods for whatever local drive or charity is going on, one must sign petitions of local politicians and canvassers for Good Things and the Environment (because that’s where they all go), and then spend lots of time at the swap meet looking for things like vintage cross country skiis or toys or who knows what other treasures.

That’s not counting the hour or so you spend talking to your neighbors or the dump guys, who are local celebrities.

I don’t know why, with a facility like that, ANYONE would get their goods picked up at the curb.

And for this?

We pay… wait for it… wait for it..

$256 a year.