Personal trainer haiku

Today I had my first session with my personal trainer. I’m too tired to properly blog about it. So here’s my experience in haiku form. I’m saving my energy.
Personal trainer:
Evan Settle, owner, Sweat.
“There are no shortcuts.” 


My goals: drop ten pounds,
get rid of my belly fat,
improve my posture.

First weekly session.
Took my weight and measurements,
then he kicked my butt.

Started on treadmill,
then he made me do lunges.
I’m so out of shape.

I don’t understand
why moving my own body
is so exhausting.

I lie on a mat,
arms above my head, legs straight.
Then limbs point up. (Not.)

One leg back on stairs.
Face forward, dip other leg.
Fear it will give out.

Kettlebell: I could tell from his face that I was endangering myself with this thing.

Lots of squatting stuff.
Why the hell is this so hard?
I mean, it’s bending.

He pries shoulders back.
It reminds me of my dad
at the stupid mall.

He explains muscles,
the ones you need for posture.
Too tired to hear.

It was all basic.
Basic stuff is exhausting.
I’m so pathetic.

After two attempts
with the stupid kettlebell
he just had me stop.

Finished with some squats.
I was panting, taking breaks.
Doing freakin’ squats.

After shaking hands,
I spilled into Shockoe Slip,
hoping knees would hold.

If I had been jumped
in the spooky parking deck,
it would be over.

Barely drove my car;
felt like I’d just given blood.
Held railings at home.

I should have held out
for Prince Daniel of Sweden.
But now it’s too late.

Coping strategy:
Pretend I’m recovering
from a surgery.

Refuse to admit
that I have let myself go.
Think of fatter friends.


Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale

100 percent of your tax-deductible donation will go directly to pediatric cancer research & will be matched by Glad Products (maker of Gladware).

My “Year of Wellness” officially begins in September but, compared to six-year-old Liam Witt, I’ve already had a lifetime of wellness. So have my kids.   

Liam is the son of Gretchen Holt Witt, a former Richmond co-worker and the founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer (CKC). When Liam was two and a half, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the nervous system. That was three and a half years ago, and since then cancer has given him very little peace.    

Pediatric cancer remains the number one disease that claims the lives of our children. Each year cancer kills more kids under the age of 18 than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined. Yet pediatric cancer research is grossly underfunded by the government and largely ignored by pharmaceutical companies. Imagine being told that your child has a 30 percent chance to live and that the reason why is directly related to how little money is spent on research.  

Lion-hearted Gretchen Holt Witt
What would you do if you were in Gretchen’s shoes? The answer is different for all of us. Like her, I’d seek out the best doctors in the world. I’d immerse myself in information. But here’s one thing I can’t conceive of doing simultaneously: founding a nonprofit that has enabled thousands of everyday folks to raise more than one million dollars for pediatric cancer research, one bake sale at a time.     

Gretchen is hunting down a cowardly disease that preys on children. A former athlete, she’s been a warrior for more than three years now. That’s why her Facebook post last week stopped me in my tracks.      

It said, “…It wasn’t good news. It was awful news. We start high-dose chemo on Monday morning. My heart is literally shattering into a million pieces. But I’ll pick myself up and go at it again. Liam needs me. He needs all of us.” It concluded: “Pray for him and hold a bake sale.”       

Gretchen with Liam (when he was in remission)


I remain haunted by an interview that Gretchen gave more than a year ago to CBS National News. In it, she declares, “I have to know that I did everything that I possibly could…” to save her son’s life. You don’t have to know her to see that she means that.      

 Having created an idiot-proof way to for anyone to help, she gave me no choice but to act when I read her post.       

Why Richmond, Virginia, is “Easy to Love”
Here’s the timeline of what happened over the next 96 hours:       

Sunday, August 22 – I send a late-night, bake sale proposal via e-mail to three good friends –  Jennifer Pounders, Michele Rhudy and Marcy Walsh, all former co-workers of Gretchen’s – saying, “I think we need to do this, guys.”       

Monday, August 23 – All three women jump on board immediately. A phone call decides the bake sale date and time (September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and the tentative location (Carytown, Richmond’s answer to Georgetown). By the close of day, we have two Girl Scout troops and a professional baker. Best of all, the staff of my old public relations agency, CRT/tanaka (where Gretchen formerly worked), agrees to handle bake sale media relations and to close their office on September 10 in order to bake thousands of cookies. Their regional offices in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles quickly agree to bake as well.     

Wednesday, August 25 – the Carytown Merchants Association agrees to host our “mile-long bake sale,” and the Mixing Bowl Pastry Shop donates its industrial kitchen for a 12-hour baking blitz.       

Thursday, August 26 – Jacqueline’s Gourmet Cookies in Massachusetts donates 6,000 frozen gourmet cookie “pucks.” CRT/tanaka steps up to cover the shipping, secures the Short Pump Wal-Mart as a bake sale location, and scores the event’s first television interview. WINN Transportation offers up its trolley for CKC’s first-ever Mobile Bake Sale.       

Small contributions make a big difference
Since then, there have been too many acts of kindness and goodwill – large and small – to enumerate. My e-mail Inbox is a popcorn kettle, and I can only imagine what the next 12 days will bring.       

More than anything, I hope it brings piles of money – healing, curing, life-saving dollars.      

Gretchen recently e-mailed to say how small contributions make a tremendous difference. “We could be so much further ahead on this bloody disease if we just focused attention on it,” she wrote. “The first [modest] trial we helped fund had been waiting for funding for years. Years, Wendy! Why don’t people understand that what’s happening to my precious child could be happening to their child just as easily? We should all care and get involved and demand more for our children and be outraged that we’ve accepted this as a nation.”      

Be a good cookie
Liam currently is fighting for his life. And if his story rips your heart out, here are three easy things to do:     

1. Come buy cookies! Honor Liam’s family, all the courageous parents and children battling this disease, and this tremendous volunteer effort by supporting this cause and buying some cookies (or anything from a wide variety of baked goods) from our Cookies for Kids Cancer Bake Sale on Saturday, September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be tables up and down Carytown (many merchants are donating a percentage of that day’s sales; Ellwood Thompson’s is stocking its booth with vegan treats!) and we’re even offering a “Cookies Carry Out & Drive Thru” at 2901 West Cary (across the street from the Byrd Theatre). Other locations include the Barnes & Noble at Libbie Place (in the near West End , look for the trolley from 10-2), the Short Pump Wal-Mart, the Sam’s Club on Midlothian and the Midlothian Kroger. (Checks payable to “Cookies for Kids Cancer.” Please check back for additional locations).  

2. Have cookies delivered! Invite the CKC Mobile Bake Sale Trolley to your Richmond office location on Friday, September 10. Help secure internal approval, communicate to your co-workers through whatever channels are required and get people up out of their seats to come buy some life-changing treats. (Contact Jennifer Pounders at 338-4514 or 

3. Make a secure, online donation to our Cookies for Kids Cancer Richmond Bake Sale. (…by clicking on the preceding sentence; it’s a hyperlink if you are new to those!). 

One hundred percent of your donation will go directly to pediatric cancer research and your donation will be matched by Glad Products (maker of Gladware). Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501(c)3 public charity. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law.       

Thank you for being a good cookie.   

Useful links: 


DAYS KAYAKED: 12 (including some lovely mother-daughter outings)

Georgetown via the C&O Canal

Any parent knows that a “Year of Wellness” ought to include a night away from the kids. Todd and I got that last week, and we made the most of it with our new touring kayaks.     

Lockhouse 6
Todd found the perfect place to stay: Lockhouse 6 on the historic C&O Canal. Less than two hours from Richmond, Va., the lockhouse is precisely what we’d sought. After discovering it online, Todd burst into my home office in such a way that I was sure some Lady Diana car crash thing had happened. (“Is your computer on?!”) It took me at least 20 seconds to realize that no catastrophic world event had occurred. (“It’s on the canal! On the canal!”)    

Lockhouse 6 on the C&O Canal

Built in 1829, the restored lockhouse has witnessed the travels of millions. That fact is made abundantly clear by the fabulous photographs, gallery, scrapbooks and library inside. I’ll tell you what: some volunteer out there loves Lockhouse 6. And their passion for its historical significance is infectious.     

The canal was mucky with algae at Lock 6, so we put in at Lock 5, just down the way.     

Off we went, in the direction of Georgetown. We’d hoped to paddle to Georgetown for dinner, but were advised by former Olympic kayaker (who helps to oversee Lockhouse 6) that it was probably too long a paddle. On his recommendation, we headed for Fletcher’s Boathouse.     

The canal is lovely, but initially there seemed a lot of noise pollution from the adjacent Clara Barton Parkway and screaming jets above, tracing the Potomac into D.C. The din was less noticable, however, after encountering four noble blue herons with speckled breast feathers that, up close, resembled a chieftain’s regalia.     

We reached Fletcher’s after about 45 minutes of easy paddling. From the maps we’d seen, we knew that the boathouse was about halfway to Georgetown.     

So… should we grab a snack at Fletcher’s, paddle back and then drive to Georgetown for dinner? Or should we exceed the expectations of an Olympian and go for bust – paddling to dinner in Georgetown?     

 Georgetown it was.     

Locking up in the heart of Georgetown

Paddling to dinner
We spied steeples as we approached the city and wondered how many people on the historic canal had identified Georgetown’s skyline that very way.     

After being photographed by half a dozen surprised pedestrians, we reached Lock 4, in the heart of Georgetown. Todd locked up the kayaks, as you would a bicycle.    

Minutes later, we emerged onto M Street – Todd in cut-offs, I in my workout clothes clutching a half-eaten quart of blueberries and a life vest. Not exactly what you wear to split the vegetarian sampler at Zed’s Ethiopian Cuisine. Damn…    

So we went someplace else that I can’t mention because my new dietitian knows about this blog.  (We had lunch at Zed’s the next day.) 

Over dinner we concurred that paddling into Georgetown for dinner is exponentially better than driving in.    

After perusing an art gallery, we raced the sunset “home,” paddling those 4½ miles like mad and stopping only to stare down an urban doe.   

Setting out from Lock 5

As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).


My Shelvic Exam – Part I

Last week, just one day after receiving notification that I was the official winner of the Year of Wellness, I heard from Dave Grotto –the guy who will be providing me with “eight registered dietitian sessions via phone.”       

Dave Grotto: "Here to help!"

Already I’m confident that I will not mind paying taxes for Dave Grotto. Forget the cave name; he’s actually quite enlightened. After reading his website, I felt sort of flattered that he’s bothering with me.     

Reading Dave’s introductory e-mail, it occurred to me that this prize isn’t just about getting cash for kayaks. I’d lost sight of that recently… because the credit card bill with the kayaks is nearly due.     

Hearing from Dave made me optimistic about “My Year of Wellness” and my family’s future diet. Dave said he was “here to help,” encouraged me to get Todd on the phone for our first two-hour session, and said I was free to blog about him (even after reading my blog!).   

 Nutrition Housecall
In Dave’s first e-mail, he was all business, asking me to provide:     

  1. Pictures of the inside of my kitchen cabinets and refrigerator/freezer. He usually meets with patients for the first time  in their home environment to perform what he calls a “shelvic exam.”
  2. A completed “Nutritional Housecall” questionnaire. This requests my family’s chief dietary/health concerns; my medical history; information related to vices, exercise, sleep, daily activity and stress factors; and a lengthy part about my eating habits. This will help him tailor a complete dietary program for me.
  3. A picture of me wearing a form-fitting, single layer of clothing plus measurements of my neck, stomach and butt. (He actually wrote “butt,” so I knew we would get on fine.) He calls this “a tool to measure progress.” I call it “embarrassing.”

So, today I began work on Item Number 1.      

My Shelvic Exam
Who would have guessed that embarking on My Year of Wellness would result in me nearly losing an eye and almost throwing up three times?     

I decided that making a quick Flip video of the fridge would be better than a photo and the next best thing to actually having Dave here.     

Before filming, I decided it was time for an epic fridge cleaning. Todd agreed to participate. (Remember, a Scout is “helpful… obedient… and clean.” Since the fridge hadn’t been cleaned like this in some time, it was convenient that a Scout is also “brave.”)     

 Highlights of the Fridge Cleaning     

Does anything really get "crisper" in that bin?

The “Rotter” lived up to its name. A few years ago, after getting a label maker, I changed the name of the “Crisper” bin to the “Rotter.” Does anything actually get “crisper” in that bin? No. Here’s what happens in that bin: You put in fresh vegetables and salad and the next time you look in there, you find scary, soupy madness in a bag. Today’s scary, soupy madness featured a half a cucumber that I can’t even think about without gagging.     

I found condiments nearly as old as my youngest child. (She turns seven next month. Enough said.)    

Bag 1 of 3: Nothing here was older than our children.

I put myself before the planet. I was unable to recycle some food containers because if I’d had to dump out some of that stuff I would have become physically ill. 

 I nearly put out an eye, touching a wet sponge to the fridge light bulb. (Pop.)
My dog’s life was momentarily in danger. Actual conversation: Me: “Should I give this to the dog?”  Todd:Yeah… if he won’t die from eating it.” Me: (Pause… toss in the garbage.)   
So, Part I of my shelvic exam is complete. The video has been sent. Next up: Part II – The Pantry.
As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).
DAYS KAYAKED: 6 (including a sunset/moonrise, after-dinner kayak trip with Todd last Saturday)

The Life… supplemented news release

I told you it was official.

Read the Life… supplemented news release about our win.

Then rank on me on the comments section. 🙂

“Wendy M. of Richmond, Va., grand prize winner of the video contest, perfectly directed her Winning Video by highlighting the importance of wellness in her family’s regimen, as well as their love for kayaking. Wendy stated her reason for entering the contest was that she’d, “gain a lifetime of healthy habits and spend the $5,000 wisely, investing in something that would improve our family’s health for more than a decade.” As the winner of the video contest, Wendy receives a Year of Wellness prize valued at $10,000 – including consultation sessions with a registered dietitian, life coach, personal trainer and a year’s supply of vitamins and other supplements—plus a $5,000 cash prize to help her wellness dreams come true.”


It’s Official!

 It was confirmed yesterday that there are ants in my minivan.

 Also, I received notification that I’m the official winner of the “Life… supplemented $10,000 Year of Wellness Video Contest.”

 Oh. Thank. God.

 …since I already spent the money, told everyone I knew and started this blog about winning.

Will the kayak/prize money arrive before the credit card bill?

 Take the “Confirmation Reaction Quiz.”  To celebrate, I invite you, dear 24 subscribers (and the 16 of you who were mysteriously referred to this blog yesterday by the “Obama Scandal Exposed” website), to live vicariously through me by taking the “Confirmation Reaction Quiz.”

This quiz is based entirely on information in my confirmation letter and/or gleaned from Google searches using the names of my future dietician and life coach. Imagine the choices you might make given the information in my confirmation letter, then contrast your choices with mine. (Since this blog lacks a quiz “widget,” allow me to clarify that, in all cases, my correct answer was the last.)

 Question #1: When will the $5,000 check arrive?
(a)    In 4-6 weeks
(b)    Before the credit card bill (with the new three kayaks on it) is due
(c)    After the credit card bill (with the three new kayaks on it) is due
(d)    If the answer isn’t (b), who really cares because my family budget is screwed

 Question #2: How much of the $5,000 check does my accountant say I can actually spend?
(a)    Half of it.
(b)    All of it. (Survivor Richard Hatch didn’t pay taxes, so I won’t either.)
(c)    None of it.
(d)    $1,675 of it.

 Question #3: What is the coolest thing I found out about the dietitian who will provide me with eight phone consultations?
(a)    He was the national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association for six years.
(b)    He invented Flintstones vitamins and can arrange for me to get a year’s supply of just Bettys. (OK, that’s not true.)
(c)    He published a book on nutrition and knows Montel Williams. (I swear I did not make that up.)
(d)    He attended The Second City in Chicago.

 Question #5: What did I find most interesting about the life coach who will provide me with six phone consultations?
(a)    She and I used to have the same career.
(b)    She’s Martha Beck, and she can’t wait to tell me, exclusively, why she wears a candy necklace. (Again, not true. But a girl can dream, can’t she?)
(c)    She’s in her thirties, single and without kids – therefore highly qualified to counsel me on how I might have had more fun in my thirties.
(d)    She’s had repeated surgeries for a benign brain tumor. (Here’s the weird thing: my mom died 20 years ago from a benign brain tumor. So maybe there’s some cosmic reason why my life coach is a brain tumor survivor.)

 Question #6: Who should I hire as my personal trainer?
(a)    A trainer at my current gym.
(b)    A pro who can give me affordable lessons in something I’ve always wanted to learn, like tennis.
(c)    Prince Daniel of Sweden. (Wikipedia’s “personal trainer” page lists him as one of seven “notable personal trainers,” and I’ve decided that I must have him.)
(d)    There is no correct answer. I have no idea who to hire. What would you do?  The only criteria are that this that person has to cost approximately as much as a gym trainer, and I get to see him/her weekly for six months. And, obviously, he/she has to be an exercise specialist of some kind. And he/she can’t be located in Sweden. But he/she can be Swedish. And he/she may wear a crown. If he/she chooses to.

 Please provide your personal trainer recommendations in the comments section. And, as always, subscribe (top right) if you enjoy this blog (and understand that it has nothing to do with exposing an Obama scandal).

 DAYS KAYAKED: 4 (including one romantic sunset trip with just my husband)

Christmas in July, Under the Evergreens

“Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Some people know that as the Scout Law. I know it as my husband. Todd is an Eagle Scout who started working for the Boy Scouts of America two days after he graduated college, more than 20 years ago.  

 There’s really not a word in the Scout Law that doesn’t apply to him. Seriously. (And, for what it’s worth, I’m grateful on a daily basis for my insanely good fortune.) But for the sake of this blog post, allow me to focus on the word “thrifty.”  

 The afternoon after I picked up the kayaks, “the boys” (Todd and our 13-year-old son) arrived at the location of our riverside rendezvous. They burst from Todd’s car to examine the kayaks – still bound to the minivan roof and looking radiant.  

 Having just returned from a week at Scout camp, Todd wasn’t so “clean.” But the guy is always thrifty. That’s why I really can’t describe the joy of watching him step back to behold his new, quality, touring kayak – a Perception Carolina 12, one he never would have purchased for himself – and the Yakima roof rack system that will make transporting all this gear a cinch. This guy lives for this stuff. But he would never justify buying it. Not when his 19-year-old canoe is still serviceable. Not when he can borrow a good roof rack when he needs one. Not when there are college funds to grow.  

 It was so appropriate that Todd unstrapped those kayaks under some towering pine trees, because it might as well have been Christmas for him. That memory, for me, will remain a highlight of winning this contest.  

Christmas under the evergreens

 Within an hour, our entire family was suited up for a two-mile kayak journey on a tidal, flat water creek that feeds Virginia’s James River.  

 Both girls delighted in having boats that, for the first time, allowed them to reach the footpegs and propel their kayaks with greater power. Even our 55-pound hound mix, an avid boater, came along for the inaugural family kayak trip. He was between my legs, in one of our older kayaks that has a gaping cockpit.  

 Todd was the last to launch and as he came gliding up behind us I heard him declare, “Love it! I love it!” I thought he was talking about our whole family being out there in kayaks. To my surprise, he was celebrating having a new, fast, smooth boat that held its line effortlessly.  

 Save your kids from nature-deficit disorder. Care to follow our example and, as Richard Louv says, “save our children from nature-deficit disorder?”  

 Here’s the kayaking gear we have and where we got it:  

  •  Two Old Town Voyagers (11’1” sturdy recreational boats with a large cockpit for easy in and out; these were our first two kayaks, thoughtfully purchased two years ago; they remain terrific boats, if a little heavy)
  • One Perception Carolina 12 (Todd’s new touring boat, 12’ long; being “thrifty,” we snapped up a demo model (gently used at 10 demo shows) and saved more than a hundred bucks)
  • One Perception Tribute 12 (I think of this new boat as “mine”; a touring boat designed for smaller paddlers, light enough for me to carry and the cockpit is lower at the hips for an effortless stroke; our nine year old can reach the footpegs in this one, however, so it’s hers until she grows)
  • One Perception Acadia Scout (designed for kids, this 10’ basic boat has a capacity of 150 pounds; it weighs only 25 lbs. and our girls were launching it and carrying it with ease; a lovely little boat the kids can grow with)
  • Assorted paddles (three Carlisle Day Trippers, one Bending Branches Sunrise and one Bending Branches Splash, a kid’s paddle, for our youngest)
  • Yakima roof system (featuring the Big Stack as well as lock cores so sketchy people don’t take the system off our car in the middle of the night; we live in a city)

 Every bit of this – old and new – was purchased at Appomattox River Company, the largest canoe and kayak specialty store in the country. These folks even sold Todd the 19-year-old canoe I mentioned in our winning wellness video. They have expert staff, great prices (cheaper than the retail prices on the hyperlinks) and they’ll cut you deals if you buy used or demo boats and/or multiple boats.  

 As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).