Monthly Archives: October 2013

Rules for Running

The weather is cooling off and my running shoes are getting hauled out of the back of my closet. Not that I consider myself a “runner,” I’m not. But they don’t sell slogging shoes, and Nike isn’t exactly advertising their new Air Plodders, so I have running shoes.

As a non-runner myself, I thought it my civic duty to share a few rules of the road with other non-runners who are considering a jog and hitting the streets these days. So here are the Non-Runners Rules for Running (in no particular order)…

  1. Learn to spit. Spitting makes you look like you mean business even if you don’t. It’s also better than gagging which will out you as an amateur every time.
  2. If you’re a run/walker, someone who runs a little and walks a little (or a lot), always be sure you’re running when someone else can see you. Even if you have to push yourself to the brink of a stroke, run until they can’t see you then collapse in the nearest patch of grass and gasp for air like a fish on the beach. Trust me, your pride is worth it.
  3. If a real runner comes zipping past you, be sure and make fun of him behind his back. Over-exaggerate and mimic his running style and make faces. He’ll never know and you get the last laugh.
  4. Put music on your iPod that was popular the last time you were at your goal weight, target cholesterol level or optimal fitness level. If that was 1985, get ready to load up those favorite B52’s and REO Speedwagon songs. I know it’s excruciating, but no pain-no gain.
  5. Set small goals. Run to the bathroom. When you can do that comfortably, try running out to the mailbox. Jog down to the corner. And back! Run away from home, but take your cell phone so you can call someone to come pick you up again.

These are just some basic guidelines to get you started. Before you know it you’ll be spouting off about Personal Bests and 10 mile splits and how many times you’ve lost your toenails. Now get out there and run!Image

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Behind the Veil/Behind the Wheel

Saudi-women-driving-e1306394424637Stand back, my ovaries could explode. Okay, maybe not right this second because I’m safely sitting in my office chair. However, should I get into the driver’s seat of any car and actually operate a moving vehicle, I could be seriously damaging my ovaries. And it’s not just me, this applies to every woman who drives. You think I’m kidding, but this is the gospel truth because Shaikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, one of Saudi Arabia’s top conservative clerics said so. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know for sure, but I think he said it in total seriousness and without laughing. So it’s has to be true.

According to Mr. Saad al-Lohaidan, women who drive are posing a serious risk to damaging their ovaries and bearing children with “clinical problems.” I’ve been driving for the past 35 years. Considering you can’t get anywhere in Texas without driving a long way, that’s a whole lot of driving. My ovaries probably look like a 10-car Katy Freeway pile-up on Monday morning. However, it does explain a lot of things about my kids, like why my 14-year old can’t put his dishes in the dishwasher or take out the trash. Obviously, I drove him to these shortcomings! I can now only blame myself. And Toyota.

Truth be told (although why start now?), this statement was made in an effort to keep the status quo here in the Kingdom that women are not allowed by law to drive. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with that law. Women are legally permitted to own the car, but just not drive it. Don’t get too upset, now: They can pilot an airplane. They just need someone to give them a ride to the airport.

Come October 26th, though, there may be a few more pink Cadillac’s cruising the highways and camel trails of the desert, because the word on the streets is that the girls are grabbing the keys and protesting the ban. The idea is to drive the men crazy until they let the women drive cars. Makes sense, but it could mean a hefty fine and even jail time, so they’ve been told by the Sheikh to put “reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions.”

And really! Think of your ovaries and your unborn children, ladies! Womb before Wheels! Kiddies before Keys! It makes perfect sense. At least I guess it must make sense to Shaikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan. But lets see what he thinks after October 26th!

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Lizard Invasion

My office has been invaded by lizards. I’m not talking about those cute little chameleon lizards that drop their tails off or turn brown to avoid discovery. I’m talking more about the Gila monster type of lizard. Think Godzilla. Living in my office. It’s not okay.
My office here in Saudi Arabia is a small room off the back of the garden that was probably used by a previous owner to ferment grapes. Now, it’s used to ferment this column. Or it was until the invasion of the giant reptiles. I think they get in using the gap at the bottom of the door. My explanation for the gap is that the lizards rented a chain saw and created it. When I went back in there after being gone for several weeks, I found one sitting in my chair and another on my computer monitor. It’s like they’d been having parties in there, lizard beer cans and half eaten flies all over the place. They didn’t run away, either. They asked me where the fermented grapes went and if I could turn the AC back up.
If you could get a rope around the neck of one of these fat boys, you could ride him to the river then use him for bait to catch Shamu or Jaws or Moby Dick. What’s worse, I think they’re in cahoots with a black widow spider that’s set up her den of doom under the desk. She may actually be the mastermind of the whole operation. You can’t trust spiders.
You can, however, go forward in the confidence that I am not going in there to serve the eviction notice. I have married one man and birthed two more for the very reason that I would never have to clean up vomit or deal with spiders, lizards, snakes, roaches, or rodents. I sent them in armed with a broom, a shoe box holding cell for transport during deportation and, just in case things got out ugly, the vacuum cleaner.
Thankfully, the lizards seem to surrender peaceably. Although, that kind of makes me nervous. It was almost too easy. It’s 112 degrees outside, and I’m the only thing standing between them and air conditioning. Sure, they’re reptiles, but it wouldn’t take long outside for them to be fried reptile taco filling. Why do I suddenly feel like the hapless blonde in a drunken zombie lizard apocalypse movie? You know, now that I think about it, maybe I can work in the house.
dy-also-known-as-dabb-lizards-these-small-reptiles-are-often-caught-by-hooks-or-sniffer-dogs-and-are-enjoyed-as-a-delicacy-in-many-parts-of-the-middle-east

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How to Say “Idiot” in Arabic

I took four semesters of Spanish in college because I had to in order to graduate. I spent a lot of my pizza-and-beer money on tutors to get through those classes, and only passed that final semester because I brought donuts to the early morning final. That’s the truth. Donuts. For the whole class. It was worth it for the college diploma and the knowledge that I’d never have to face down another foreign language again. Until now.

Because I’ve moved to the Middle East, I’m expected to “hablo Arabico.” Okay, can we just stop right there? If I’m a complete wash out in Spanish, a language that is tied to really good food and is practically the second language of the State of Texas, how am I expected to learn Arabic? I’d have better luck opening a snow cone stand over here!

Every week our Arabic tutor, an extremely tolerant man from Egypt who couldn’t possibly be paid enough to take on this Herculean task, comes to our house to try and teach us a language that is just a smidgeon less difficult than Mandarin Chinese. After two full years, all I got out of Spanish was the ability to order a couple of beers and find the bathroom. Usually in that order. But they don’t have beer over here, so I’m trying to just learn other basic survival phrases, like “Help me!” “Do you speak English?” and “Hey, does your camel bite?”

I really am making an honest effort to learn, so I make flashcards with everything written the way it sounds. Then when I want to ask the man at the fish market, “How much is the squid?” I can just pull out the flashcard and mangle the pronunciation to the point that I say who knows what and the fishmonger just gives me whatever I point at to make me go away.

In all fairness, I have learned the word for “yes,” which is pronounced “nom.” Like the noise the PacMan makes: nom nom nom nom. And no is simply, “la.” Lalalalalala is not just for those times when you don’t know the words to the song, it’s now great for the times you don’t know the words to anything! Now how do you say, “Where can I find a good burrito in this country?”

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Shooting Blind

I think we all know what it means to be “flying blind.” That experience of just making it up as you go, flying by the seat of your pants. Shoot, I do that every week writing this column. But the State of Iowa has taken this idea, put a bizarre and potentially lethal spin on it, then made it a law. That’s right, in Iowa, they’re shooting blind!

          I’m not talking about a blind that you go sit in and wait for some unsuspecting form of wildlife to wander by so you can plug it with a bullet. No, I’m talking about legally, completely, cannot-see-a-thing blind people. And in the heartland of our country, amongst the amber waves of grain, the blind are packing heat.

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about advocating for the disabled; believe in limits to gun control; and think if you have a handicap it’s because you play golf. But, I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about putting a weapon in the hands of someone who cannot see what they’re pointing it at. Unless the seeing-eye dog is the one pulling the trigger, then maybe we need to rethink giving a gun license to someone who is blind. Or if they do have a license to carry, maybe someone else gets to carry the bullets.

          You don’t get a license to drive a car if you can’t pass the eye test, right? No one seems to feel that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. But wouldn’t putting someone who cannot see behind the wheel of a car be as dangerous as handing them a loaded weapon? It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see that logic, right?

While those in favor of the law seem to be turning a blind eye to the hazards, they aren’t volunteering to change out targets at the shooting range either. Even legendary blind musician Stevie Wonder has spoken out against blind people owning guns, calling the idea “crazy.” I’m going to have to go with Stevie on this one.

          I think we may end up shooting ourselves in the foot if we don’t inject common sense back into our laws. Just because the threat that “you’ll put your eye out,” which seems to universally go along with things like BB guns, doesn’t carry the same weight in this situation doesn’t mean we aren’t flying blind by passing this kind of law.

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