Sunday, February 28, 2010

Home Curling, a How-to-Guide

The Winter Olympics are in full swing, and in between criticizing the figure skaters' outfits and shivering, I have become obsessed with the sport of "curling". Probably because one of the Canadian Curlers, Kristie Moore, is pregnant. And, with decades of experience as a Maternity Educator under my belt, I have absolutely no idea how I would have reacted if one of my pregnant clients had asked what I thought about her participation in the Olympics. As a Curler. Although I am (technically) retired, I could be called off the bench at any time; and the issue could conceivably (ha! conceivably! Maternity Educator humor!) come up in the I am getting prepared.

Now, curling, as far as I can tell, involves sweeping, and heaving a big rock down the ice. There is a "hog line" at each end, and a big target beyond each hog line. The participants wear Teflon shoes. They shout stuff while sliding around.

Let's break this down. Sweeping is probably not dangerous for pregnant women; who have been known to be at home, barefoot and pregnant, probably sweeping, for millennia. Targets pose no clear danger, either. They are the best places to find baby gates, and cheap-but-designer infant clothes. I just got my granddaughter a really cute navy and pink retro peasant top and leggings at Target, and they were 30% off. Also, although Teflon has been linked to Alzheimer's, I don't think Teflon is inherently dangerous during pregnancy. Target has a fine selection of Teflon cookware. So I would let this issue, um, slide.

Now, as far as heaving heavy stones. A little research turned up the fact that the stones are granite, as featured on the counter tops in The Kitchens of the Martha Stewart Home Collection. As long as the granite is well-sealed, experts agree there is no health threat. Most expectant mothers have had some experience with heaving before the 12th week of pregnancy, so that's a non-issue; however, hydration must be carefully monitored, and dehydration - should it occur - must be addressed immediately.

Shouting is benign, as it is common in pregnancy, and even more common in childbirth.

So I'm left to ponder the "hog line." I am not a fan of the "rare pork" en vogue at your finer restaurants. Especially for pregnant women. In fact, I am not in favor of pork at all; but I try not to impose my dietary views on others. And living in the country, we see some wild hogs that look pretty mean. I would not advise tangling with them, either.

But, clearly, I can't see the "Big Curling Picture" by examining all these little pieces. So I have constructed a Home Curling Course to get a real feel for the physical demands of the sport, and how they could affect pregnancy. You might want to give it a try, yourself. So, here's how:

First, if you have carpet in your living room, you must remove it and install hardwoods. Or bamboo, which is much more eco-friendly and renewable. Then get the Murphy's Oil Soap and dilute it 1:1...not that 1:16 as recommended on the label. You want the wood good and slippery. Then create Targets at either end of the room. I used the symbol from Target plastic bags. I like to recycle. You probably won't be able to tape them to the slick floor, so you'll need a few brads, or a heavy-duty staple gun.

Next, create your Hog Lines. I didn't have any hogs, or pork (again, I don't mean to impose my dietary views) so I used the dogs. They were, as usual, asleep. I shoved one in front of each Target. I don't think they even noticed, because the floor was so slippery.

You will need Teflon shoes. You can either strap an upside-down Teflon griddle to each foot, or use the old Irish trick of duct-taping your feet. (I am not making this up. I learned it on Wikipedia.)

Get a broom.

And then, a big granite rock. I have a granite mortar and pestle that I use to grind cardamom pods for Swedish coffee bread. I intended to use it for the rock, but decided against it for sanitary reasons...I didn't really want Murphy's Oil Soap in the next batch of coffee bread. I couldn't find any other flat-bottomed granite, so I had to improvise...

AHA! the Roomba! It looks just like that granite thing, and it is self-propelled. Which is a blessing when you don't have any teammates to heave the opening stone. (And you thought Roombas were just for amusing cats!)

Now, get a fanny pack, fill it with water balloons, and strap it around your stomach. If you don't feel suitably weighed down, you might need two fanny packs full of water balloons. (PLEASE NOTE! IF YOU ARE AUSTRALIAN, SKIP THIS STEP!!! AND I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR A WORD ABOUT IT!!!)

To play:

Starting at the far dog line, turn on the Roomba. Look disappointed when it flashes "replace batteries". Replace batteries. Look disappointed when nothing happens. Put on your reading glasses, notice that the batteries are backwards and re-install. Turn on the Roomba. Without tripping over first dog, gently sweep the gyrating Roomba back in line, in the direction of the far Target. Shout something. Sweep curious cats out of the way. Shout something. Sweep Roomba, shout something, sweep cats, shout something, sweep Roomba, shout something, sweep cats, shout something...face the Roomba while sliding backward toward second dog line, shout something colorful while tripping over the second dog and landing on the Target. Clean up mess from ruptured water balloons.

The International Olympic Committee has determined that curling is not dangerous for pregnant women. I concur, with a caveat. Dogs should be removed from the field before play begins.

DISCLAIMER: Although I am a Maternity Expert, and I think that curling during pregnancy is fine in moderation, other Maternity Experts disagree. Please consult your personal Health Care Team for their views on curling during pregnancy. Writer denies responsibility for any injuries sustained while tripping over dogs, wearing fanny packs backwards or heaving mortars and pestles; illness from consuming pork, or shock from improperly wired Roombas.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Down and Out in Oxford, Alabama

I am a Road Warrior. The road I battle is I-20, between Atlanta, GA and Birmingham, AL. A lot of this road is national forest. A lot of it is what we called, when I pursued Urban Studies in college, "hinterland". Which means "void of cell phone towers, radio stations and clean restrooms; yet offering a variety of fireworks superstores".

I have driven this stretch of I-20, in one direction or another, on a daily basis for nearly five years. I am intimate with mile markers. Some of them bring back fond memories, like my friendly discussion with the state trooper who insisted I was going 81 mph at Mile Marker 195. In fact, I was going 74 mph. But I WAS D.I.S.C...(Driving In Sports Car) so I understand why he assumed that it was me, not the silver 1998 Honda Civic in front of me, kicking it around the semi. Billy the Trooper let me go with a warning. I am not sure whether that had anything to do with my snarling, teeth-baring canine co-pilot...but now I know where Billy camps out; and I always wave.

So last Friday was a routine trip in the making. I was to arrive in Atlanta in the early evening, in time to retrieve my mother from a doctor's appointment downtown. I left Birmingham around 2 PM, for my two-plus hour drive. It was raining, and cold. But I have heated seats, and the Audi tt has Quattro traction. Which means that by some kind of physics or magic, it sticks to the ground in the rain. It works - I've yet to go airborne.

Fifty miles out of Birmingham, I saw trouble ahead. Well, I kind of saw it...the aura of flashing lights way on up there; and brake lights for a mile or so. Let me just admit here, I got kicked out of Girl Scouts for scaring the Brownies on a camp out. It was by design. I was a lousy Girl Scout, and I didn't give a half a flip about badges. BUT I did learn a bit about that "be prepared" I had a Reader's Digest AND my reading glasses in the front seat. I shut down the ignition, and the headlights; donned the glasses and read for an hour. And then...the traffic started to move.

Cranked up the tt, and....zzzzzzzz....blink...blink....zzzzz.


A. Complete. Electrical. Meltdown.

It was not the first time I had been through this with my Little German Friend. My Cute-But-Bratty transportation has always had "issues".

Called 911. Connected to the State Patrol. Alabama State Patrol. Where are you? Mile Marker 184 eastbound...just outside of Oxford, Alabama. Where is your car? In the left lane...GET OUT OF YOUR CAR! STAND IN THE CENTER OF THE MEDIAN! Help is on the way!

It was pouring rain. The median was a lake. I was wearing suede shoes. My mother was expecting me to pick her up...but help was on the way!

I think that every man, woman and child driving by this woman in suede shoes, shivering in the middle of a soggy median just outside of Oxford, Alabama, offered to help. But I informed them that "help is on the way"; and sent them on their way.

Until the truck full of Alabama Department of Transportation employees stopped by, blocked traffic, moved my bratty vehicle to the right shoulder, and compustered about getting it started again.

None of them had ever driven a stick shift. But they HAD heard that you could push a car with manual transmission real fast, and "throw" it into gear. So they decided to push it BACKWARDS until they could "throw" it in reverse...I was numb, physically and mentally at this point. They could have said they were bringing in a Chinook helicopter and lifting the damn thing 40 feet in the air; then dropping it to "jar" it into reality. And I would have said, "OK." But I still managed to think,

"What could possibly go wrong here?"

As the six Burly Men got into position to push the tt backwards on the right shoulder...this was now 2 hours after the initial "failure" and there was no Alabama State Patrol to speak of on the scene (even after 2 more phone calls) and I was soaked to the bone and my mother was surely wondering where I was (yes, I called, but my parents don't leave their cell phones on, they might lose their charge)...a TOW TRUCK appeared! Hallelujah, a tow truck! I was certain that a "jump" would restore the sanity of the tt. I could reset the electrical system, and be on my way! And no one would have to push my car backwards to get it "jumped" into reverse!

Oh, happy day, the tow truck guy, Travis, emerged.

But he didn't have jumper cables.

He could, however, tow me to Daddy's shop, a mile away. They could jump me there. Super duper...He loaded the tt on the wrecker, and told me to get in the truck. Which I did. But I had to remove his GUN from the passenger seat to sit down.

Hello, I had to move his


Which I did...

And he towed me 1 mile to the shop, got the jumper cables, opened the hood, looked around, opened the TRUNK, looked around, at which point I asked him what he was looking for, told me that he "can't find the battery" and I told him it was under the thing that said "BATTERY COVER" in the front of the car, jumped the sporty-yet-petulant vehicle; sending it into "safe" mode, which allowed me to program it with the "secret code" that resets its bad self....and said that his daddy, who owned the shop, wanted $150 for their service.

I pulled out a credit card. They didn't take credit cards.

I pulled out a check book. They didn't take checks.

I had $105 in cash. The service provided, miraculously, now cost $105.

Called the parents at home, to leave a message about my inability to retrieve my mother; but they ANSWERED, because they got an earlier appointment. And they were home and done and eating crockpot pork tenderloin; and my services were not necessary after all.

Drove back to Birmingham. Thankful for my steam shower. And the fireplace, and fuzzy socks. And I will never view mile marker 184 quite the same way again.