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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fitness not as easy as one-two-three

I’m not sure who has it worse.

Mary and Liz, or the people standing behind me. It would probably be a draw, except that Mary and Liz at least can get a few laughs.

All these people have one thing in common. They spend three hours a week with me as I take part in my new obsession — Group Power at Fitworks in Willoughby.

It’s described by Fitworks in a way that sounds so innocent:

Strengthen all your major muscles with simple movements for all ages & fitness levels. Amazing instructors and fantastic music lead the way during each of these group fitness classes!

They’re right about the amazing instructors. Mary and Liz are peppy and pushy and keep on you enough that stopping seems like a bad idea even when your muscles are begging you to.

Mary has the Sunday and Tuesday classes, while Liz handles Thursdays.

They’re shaped differently, but both have the powerful shoulders that I hope my workouts one day will give me. But they have one thing in common — big mouths. I mean that in a good way.

(Are you kidding? Mary could hurt me when I show up for class tomorrow!)

They yell out commands for moves we make as we lift our weight bars and work our shoulders, chest, triceps, biceps, back and legs. And by yell, I mean YELL.

My problem is that I am rhythm challenged. Multiple steps confuse me.

I could never be a dancer. Anything beyond "one" is too much. I’d be lost with "one-two-three."

Most of their commands involve phrases like "two and two," "three and one" or "four and four."

What they mean is "up in two counts, down in two counts." Or, in my head as I perform each and every exercise, it’s "up-up, down-down" or "up-up-up, down" and so on.

The good times are when Mary and Liz say the "ups" and "downs" for us, so I can concentrate on the screaming inside my head.

I’m not sure the others in my class feel the same way. They’re probably too busy wishing they weren’t standing behind me as I attempt my squats and lunges.

You see, those involve me sending my posterior back toward them. Sure, their posteriors are being shoved in someone else’s face, too. But, I’m not worried about those people.

No, I’m worried about me and my screaming muscles as we deal with the "summer launch," which means the class routine just changed again.

It’s a good thing, really. Muscle confusion helps in any workout routine. It keeps the body from getting used to performing the same exercises all the time. But now my body is confused by the new routines. There are new counts and new stances and new aches and pains that might take a while to master.

So, for the time being, I apologize to those behind me who are being subjected to my wildly swinging posterior as I get my footing again in class.

And, I apologize to the Mary and Liz for all the laughs I’m throwing their way as I try to master the new "up-up" and "down-down."

Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, July 22, 2011

Subscribing to a magazine plan

Betty Triplett has the answer.

The Wickliffe resident didn’t waste any time letting me know, either.

"I read with interest today (Sat 7-16-11) about your experience in the waiting room at the hospital."

Triplett said in her letter that she "would like to explain about the mags."

I wrote last week about my time in a waiting room on July 14 at Hillcrest Hospital during my husband’s heart catheterization.

I said I don’t like that most hospital waiting rooms now feature televisions and that I couldn’t find anything to read.

Unlike some who wrote to scold me for failing to bring along a book or for not realizing the value of the free entertainment I was getting while worrying about my husband’s condition, Triplett described how difficult it is for the hospital where she volunteers, West Medical Center in Willoughby, to attain reading material for patients.

She said all the magazines at her hospital are donated after the owners have finished reading them.

And Triplett would know.

She’s been guiding the magazine cart around the hospital for four hours every Thursday for the past 13 years, since she retired after 18 years working in Heinen’s deli department.

"As soon as I retired, I knew I wanted to do something," she said. "I knew I didn’t want to do paperwork, so this is the best thing for me."

She also volunteers on Mondays at a local senior center and at the Wickliffe Nutrition Site, where she sets up the dining room on Tuesdays for lunch.

Triplett said she visits patient rooms and waiting areas in the hospital, offering reading material. She said it’s usually magazines or copies of The News-Herald, which the hospital purchases.

Patients are not required to pay for the reading materials she leaves behind.

It’s easy to understand why the hospital doesn’t furnish magazines — they’re really expensive. And, as most people who wrote to me agreed, patients and their family members often take the ones they leave in the waiting rooms.

As an avid, magazine reader, I can vouch for the cost.

Subscriptions used to run $10 for a year. That’s less than a dollar a copy for a 12-month publication.

These days, though, most are approaching $20 a year.

If you read more than one, like me, pretty soon you’re talking big money.

Every month or so, I gather up an armful and bag them up for the trash, having exhausted all the articles and saved all the recipes I might want to try.

Triplett’s letter showed me how foolish I was being.

"You see, someone had to save or collect those magazines and then drop them off at the hospital," she said. "Think about it — what do you do with yours?"

Starting now, something different.

"Many people give me their mags when they are finished with them, from the senior center and my church, and I take them on my appointed day to the hospital," Triplett said.

"They are appreciated at nursing homes, the V.A. and assisted living," she wrote.


Triplett also pointed out that if you want to share your old magazines with her hospital, just drop them off.

"All you do is take your reading material to the front desk at the hospital and say they are for the volunteer office," she said. "Carol and Loretta will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and so will I."

You can also drop off your magazines here at The News-Herald, 7085 Mentor Ave., Willoughby, and we’ll make sure they get to the hospital or any nursing homes or senior centers that ask for them.

Triplett said her female patients tend to want women’s magazines mostly, but that the men she serves are excited when she still has a newspaper left on the cart.

"... a patient will ask for a certain mag, like Oprah or Martha Stewart, and then tell me they can’t afford to buy that particular mag," Triplett said.

I can see why. Those titles are about $4 apiece.

So, hopefully many of you will be like me — ashamed of the piles and piles of garbage I have created by just tossing my already-read magazines — and take them over to the hospital, where so many people are begging for them.

I told Triplett that I’m going to start taking mine over to her hospital, hoping to help out some patients who are just looking for something to do while they’re stuck in the hospital.

Maybe I’ll point out a few good recipes, too, while I’m at it.

Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, July 15, 2011

Silence is desired but TV distracts

I hate waiting rooms.

Let’s be honest, it’s mostly because of the waiting.

I lack patience and have control issues. To be sitting there biding my time until it’s my turn isn’t the easiest thing to do.

But, there’s another reason waiting rooms have zero appeal.

It’s because, when I’m in them, I always seem to be waiting for bad news.

And, lately, the bad news has been expensive medical treatments.

When you think about it, those words just belong together — all medical treatments are expensive.

Whether it’s an office visit or prescriptions or tests, it all adds up to a big bill you can’t afford.

If you’re like me, the thought of those three things leading to a BIG step is panic-inducing.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about it this week, as I sat in waiting rooms at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights while my husband was being treated for a heart problem.

He’s OK — he received his second stent in 14 months after suffering chest tightness and jaw pain.

While I was there, thinking about how much I hate to be sitting there thinking, I noticed all the things I really dislike about waiting rooms.

The first thing I spotted was the pile of magazines.

The titles weren’t bad — Good Housekeeping, Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens.

But the dates left something to be desired. None were from the past six months.

Sure, they were better than some of the doctor’s offices I’ve been to over the years that displayed magazines from years ago. But, for all the money this Cleveland Clinic hospital is bringing in, I’d expect a little more currency.

As bad as I felt reading material was, something else in the room had more of my negative attention.

The television blaring in the corner of the room was hard to miss, with its discussion of President Barack Obama walking out of the debt-reduction talks in Washington the night before.

That actually was a lot better content than I’ve seen in those situations in the past. Countless times in waiting rooms, it’s been the screaming of the Jerry Springer or Montel Williams shows.

Then there was the morning my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, when I was subjected to the idiocy of Maury Povich. As the others in the waiting room giggled and hooted with laughter, I sat silently, reeling from the knowledge that my dad was seriously ill.

The night of my husband’s surgery, as I walked to the parking garage on Hillcrest’s property, I passed a long bank of windows. Inside, a man sat alone, reading a magazine in front of a sign that read "Surgical waiting room."

I felt for him, waiting there for news of a loved one all by himself. Then I noticed the television in the next row of seats, showing a sitcom.

His back was turned to it, as if to say he wished it wasn’t there.

And so do I.

I’ll never understand this phenomenon. I know people need to be entertained and that we have short attention spans.

But why force us to sit, at what could be the scariest moments of our lives, in a room with a television showing what from my experience has been silliness or offensive content.

A little silence isn’t such a bad thing.

Trust me, hospitals of America, we’d use the time productively.

The ability to concentrate would go a long way to letting us get some praying done.

Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, July 8, 2011

Secret is safe with me (for now)

I know a secret.

It’s not a really big one, because plenty of other people know it, too.

But, every summer for three years now, I’ve had the pleasure of keeping this secret and anxiously waiting to share it with the world.

Well, at least Northeast Ohio.

In just a little over a month, I’ll be able to reveal it.

I can’t wait!

In case you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about, I guess I should clue you in.

As the coordinator for our Lighten Up weight-loss contest, I get to go behind the scenes each month as the contestants weigh-in.

In doing so, I get to watch their bodies change.

And, boy, do they!

Faces thin. Stomachs disappear.

But, for me, the most important part is seeing the excitement in the participants’ eyes as they realize that yes, they can do it.

When we sit down and talk at the start, they all explain what brought them to the contest.

Usually, it’s a string of excuses.

We’ve all made them.

“I’m too busy.” “I didn’t realize it had gotten this bad.”

“I’m too fat to exercise.”

Many are poignant, quietly explaining that children or grandchildren deserve their time and knowing that they need to do something to make sure that they’re around for a long time.

Some just want to look better.

I’m sure we all know that feeling.

After the initial meeting, I see them once per month, but for brief periods. They walk into Slim & Fit Personal Weight Loss & Fitness, step on the scale and are out the door within a few minutes.

But the visits last long enough to notice the changes.

Sometimes, they’re subtle, taking just about the entire six months to become clear.

Other times, they’re consistent and more shocking each month.

This year’s group falls into the latter group.

And, in just about a month, you’ll be in on my little secret.

Last year’s winner, Barb Henderson of Painesville, still looks just the way she did at the end of last year’s contest. She’s not happy about it, either.

She entered this year’s contest with hopes of getting to her ultimate goal, which was to lose 130 pounds overall.

Henderson gained a pound between the end of last year’s contest and the start of this year’s. The aftereffects of knee surgery mid-contest have slowed her down some this year.

But, she still is my perfect example of that surprise I mentioned earlier.

After her victory last year, I remember putting together the before-and-after photos and smiling at the difference Henderson showed.

You can find it here:

A month of inaction following her surgery put Henderson on the offensive and she’s again sporting that competitive spirit I grew to love last year.

Hope she doesn’t mind, but I’m expecting big things at the final weigh-in.

I’ve already seen huge things from this year’s leaders, Stephen Lambert, Michael Kadlub, Jim Longbons and Patricia Tranter.

And, by big things, I mean, smaller numbers.

All have put up nice losses, but have provided that “I’ve got a secret” feeling.

I should admit that Kadlub is sort of teasing me with his weight loss, because, as a busy business traveler, he has only attended two weigh-ins with the rest of the group.

He usually shows up the day before the rest of the group and posts his numbers.

But wait until you see Lambert, Longbons and Tranter.

The latter two have the look of loss that Jaime Brenkus of Slim & Fit always describes as the “top down” formula. He says people show their weight loss from the top down, meaning it starts at the shoulders and works its way down.

Faces are thinner. Arms are smaller. And now waists are becoming trimmer.

But, Lambert takes the cake. Wait ... let’s hope he doesn’t!

Don’t think you’re looking at a different guy when you see his photo. Trust me, it’s really him.

About the only thing that hasn’t changed about him is his height. I might measure that at the final weigh-in just to make sure, though.

But, get ready, because this one will be like those makeover shows you see on TV all the time.

Cue the smoke and dramatic music, and raise the spotlight. My secret is about to be revealed!

Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, July 1, 2011

Line up for a parade this summer

I’ve never liked waiting in line.
My lack of patience shows as my weight shifts from leg to leg, in my heavy puffs of air and nervous looks at the clock.
It might have started when I was a Girl Scout in the late 1970s. Aside from all the camping and crafting and other shenanigans, we always marched in Euclid’s parade on Memorial Day.
Marching involved our full uniforms — lots of green and white knee socks.
It also meant tons of walking.
I know I was there, because there are pictures of me holding flags and banners and even waving.
But I don’t remember much other than standing in line.
It stands out because it involved lots of standing. Hours of standing. In one place. Because we were in line. And we couldn’t move. Because we might not find the right spot again.
Thus, those experiences left me with one thought when I hear the word “parade.”
When I was asked a few weeks ago if I would serve as a judge for the Fairport Harbor Mardi Gras Festival and Queen Contest, I of course said yes quickly.
How often do you get to pick a queen?
They’re recent high school graduates who are judged on poise, personality and presentation.
A few days before the ceremony, I got a packet of information on the girls up for the honor.
I knew I was in trouble, because, just judging by their accomplishments in school and their photos, they were already all winners.
I received welcome news during a call from Jim Cardina, vice president of the Mardi Gras, who told me I wouldn’t be marching to the reviewing stand where the judges would be studying the floats, but, rather, would be riding in a trolley car.
While that sounded fun all by itself, I was more pleased that I wouldn’t have to march along in a long line of people and cars. The reality of that ride proved a perfect setup to the parade.
If you’ve never attended this event, you owe it to yourself to head out to Fairport Harbor, pull up to a curb and check it out.
Just like most of Fairport Harbor.
In an age when community involvement usually means a few people getting together to do most of the work in a municipality, the Mardi Gras Parade shows the other side.
As the trolley made its way through the streets of Fairport, following the town’s emergency vehicles with their siren’s blaring at every wheel turn, we had time to check out the faithful gathered to see the show.
As we rolled along viewing the crowd that wondered just who we were, we couldn’t help but notice the smiles.
I thought about how many had just worked a long day, come home to cook dinner and then headed outside for the parade. They didn’t seem to mind, though, as evidenced by their wide grins and waves to our packed trolley.
When we reached the stand in front of village hall and pulled out our pens, the big line started.
This one was different than the ones I remember as a kid. This one had little acts that made us laugh, tap our toes, sit in amazement and clap in appreciation.
One after the other.
Some groups tossed candy. One group handed out cans of soda. Another group gave us cold bottles of water.
The senior citizens smiled and waved. The tiniest of children twirled their batons. The queen candidates laughed and thanked Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti when he wished them good luck in the contest.
As this long parade made its way to a close, I couldn’t help but wish that it would have gone on a little longer.
If you have a chance, make sure you take some time this summer to check out the bands and little dancers, and listen to some engine roaring and sirens wailing.
I know, that’s a long line of suggestions. But maybe lines aren’t so bad after all.
Twitter: @Lauranh