Monthly Archives: April 2015

Exercising My Options


Here I am hiking the Stone Bench Trail, Williamstown MA. Note I am NOT wearing my Fitbit cuz I lost it at the movies the night before this picture was taken.. It has been recovered and will be on my wrist again soon!Growing up in Upstate New York in the 1950s, I never thought much about exercise. I walked to and from school every day, swam in Lake Champlain in the summer, and biked leisurely through the apple orchards outside of town. A couple of my close friends played on a girl’s intramural softball team. With  my hand-eye coordination, I wisely sat on the bench and watched. And gym class? All I remember were those ugly red bloomers we were forced to wear while hurling ourselves over the saddle horses or jumping on a trampoline while our classmates “protected us” by standing along the sides. (I bet that exercise is not part of any gym class in this century!)


Growing up in upstate New York in the 1950s, I never thought much about exercise. I walked to and from school every day, swam in Lake Champlain in the summer, and biked leisurely through the apple orchards outside of town. A couple of my close friends played on a girl’s intramural softball team. With my hand-eye coordination, I wisely sat on the bench and watched. And gym class? All I remember were those ugly red bloomers we were forced to wear while hurling ourselves over the saddle horses or jumping on a trampoline while our classmates “protected us” by standing along the sides. (I bet that exercise is not part of any gym class in this century!)

It was not until I married Larry that I actually began to incorporate regular exercise into my daily routine. Larry was a high school runner. Once he began working for New York State, he met with a group everyday at lunch to do a loop around the State Campus. Although I had no interest in pounding the pavement, his interest in keeping fit encouraged me to do something every day: a bike ride, a walk; video work-outs with Jane Fonda, Charlene Prickett, and Step Reebok.

Over the years, we expanded our exercise options. Around 1990, we purchased our first of several road bikes on which we racked thousands of miles riding throughout Saratoga and Albany country. While living in Clifton Park, we faithfully rode the stationary bike that was in our family room, albeit with two different mindsets.  Larry was intense and focused, pushing the limits of the resistance and rotation settings. I, on the other hand, viewed it as a great way to get to watch movies or reruns of The Big Bang Theory while getting in my mileage. To be honest, I tried to bike when he wasn’t home to avoid his encouraging me to “go faster.” If he did walk into the room, I sped up and started gasping for air. That usually placated him enough to convince him I was working out. Once he left the room, I slowed down and got back to my show.

We also took advantage of the Pacific Fitness trainer that we had set up in our basement in 1996. Larry used it three times a week barring injury or travel. Even though I knew weight training is important for post-menopausal women, I used it in fits and stops, making excuses. After all, I reasoned, I am not interested in winning a Mrs. Universe contest! When I joined the YMCA a few years before we moved. I decided at that point that Zumba and kickboxing classes were enough for toning. For the most part, however, we certainly got our money’s worth out of most of our fitness purchases.

Not to say we haven’t had a couple of misses. The most obvious failure was my purchase of two hula hoop. One was the classic 1950s plastic design. The other, at the suggestion of my Weight Watcher’s instructor, was a super deluxe weighted model. No matter how hard I tried, I never got beyond one rotation on either hoop. Larry, however, was a natural, and he showed off his incredible hip action several times before I gave both hoops to our six-year-old great-niece. She, like Larry, was a natural.

Larry and I had different approaches to keeping track of our exercise. Larry has always used pre-measured running routes and the cyclometer on his bike. For ten years I used a clunky pedometer that attached to my waist band to track my daily steps, especially on long trips where we do a great deal of hiking. I once had to retrieve it when I left it on the plane after a six-hour cross-country flight. The flight attendant’s wry comment? “Bet you didn’t rack up many steps flying over the Great Plains.”

A few years ago, I was given a Fitbit Zip, a compact step/mile tracking device that clipped to my bra. When synched with my iPhone, it gave me progress updates on my 10,000 step-a-day goal. One day, I was in my kitchen when my phone dinged. “Congratulations! You have reached your goal of 10,000 steps!” read the banner. My initial thrill of accomplishment was quickly squelched when I realized I wasn’t even wearing my Fitbit. I had “reached my goal” because I had left the device on the clothes dryer. The vibrations from the machine gave me a quick, easy, no-sweat 8000 steps—No, I didn’t count it. Soon after this incident, I forgot to unclip the Fitbit from my sports bra, and I washed it along with the rest of my laundry. Goodbye, Fitbit! I replaced it a more expensive model that was worn on the wrist, thus avoiding another wash day wipe-out.

While wearing the Fitbit on a trip to Jamaica, I averaged around 12,000 steps a day by morning walks around the hilly grounds and by participation in pool volleyball games. I’d love to tell you that I came back thinner, but I guess all that walking didn’t negate the five course dinners, the wine, and the chocolate martinis for dessert. It took me a few weeks to lose the seven pounds I gained.

One of the features that attracted us to our home in Florida were the miles of bike and walking trails, two large fully equipped fitness centers, and numerous swimming pools where I can do laps. We left all our equipment behind except our outdoor bikes. And my Fitbit. Like Pavlov’s dog, I have become addicted the ding of my iPhone that lets me know I reached my goal. Speaking of which, I am currently five hundred steps short and it’s eleven o’clock at night. Time to quit writing and start jogging in place.9501, 9502 9503……

Next year in…..Florida!

This year marks the fortieth year Larry and I have celebrated Passover as a married couple. Unlike the Israelites, we have not exactly spent it wandering in a desert wilderness. It has been a fruitful, productive life spent in the Capital District. For us, next year will not be in Jerusalem, but the extreme southern part of New York State known as Florida.

Moving Devon Court

Our home of thirty-six years!

A real upstate girl, I was born in St. Lawrence County and raised in in Essex County (Since when is Westchester County upstate?),relocating to Albany for college in 1968. Larry also had spent all but his college years in Saratoga County. We met in Albany, married, moved to Clifton Park, raised two children, made wonderful friends, and spent holidays with our families.

When did the desire to live someplace else begin? The germ was planted twenty years ago when our parents spent six to eight months a year in Florida. Our circle began to expand geographically: our children moved to California and Colorado; my sister moved to Arizona; an aunt moved to South Carolina; a niece moved to Virginia; and a number of friends and family started living two to four months in warmer climates. Other friends were spending time with their own children, who were scattered over the country and the world. We began a nomadic life, visiting friends and family and traveling on our own to Germany, Peru, England, Greece. Although we enjoyed our numerous trips, we felt finding “our spot,” a place that fit all our criteria, would keep us more grounded.

Every place we visited raised the question, “Could we live here?” We did some California dreaming, but the high prices of real estate and the high possibilities of earthquakes ruled it out. Julie and Sam live at 9000 feet in Colorado, truly a Rocky Mountain high. Summit County is beautiful in the summer, but the winters last nine months, and you think Boston gets snow? Try twelve feet a year, every year. Other places in Colorado offered warmer temperatures, but the homes we viewed were close together, and we would still need our snow shovels.We also Arizona would be out of the mix: The desert can be lovely, but no manna—and little rain—fell from the heavens, and we were always happy to get back to “green” and water on the East Coast. Ever the English major, I  even fell in love with the small villages in England, but we knew that would never be where we settled.

Once we retired four years ago, our interest in relocating intensified. The long winters and grey skies hadn’t bothered us when we were working, but once we were home all day, the weather became a factor. Our friends and family changed from asking, “Have you any trips planned?” to “Where are you going next?” And after forty years, Larry and I were ready for our next adventure.

This fall, everything fell into place. Julie told us over Thanksgiving that, after eight years of marriage, she and Sam were expecting our first grandchild in July 2015. After I stopped jumping up and down with joy, Larry and I made the decision that we would like to spend our summers in Colorado and the rest of the year someplace warm. We found that warm spot on a rainy December day in Florida, when we checked out an active adult  community where we were staying near Orlando. From the moment we drove in, Larry and I were impressed with the tranquil setting and the amount of green space and lakes. We fell in love with an immaculate home for sale on a lovely piece of land overlooking a pond and bordering a wildlife preserve. The community itself offered all we were looking for: indoor and outdoor pools, Hadassah chapter, book clubs, a writing club, bike paths, pickle ball courts, movies and shows, and exercise classes.It was close to world class entertainment and an international airport with direct flights to all major cities in the country.

We came back to Albany, to grey skies, piles of snow, and sub-zero temperatures. Even with the miserable weather, we still needed time. After much research, thought, discussion, and several sleepless nights, we decided to purchase the home in Florida and spend two to three months in Colorado. So, after forty years of New York Passovers, next year we will be celebrating with the Shalom Club in our new neighborhood.

If physically packing up the house is a challenge, emotionally leaving behind family, friends, and years and years of memories will be even more difficult. For the last twenty years, I have had the following framed quote hanging in our home, “Come my love and we shall wander, just to see what we can find. If we only find each other, still the journey is worth the time.” Like our Israeli ancestors, Larry and I will be wandering far from the home we have known to begin our next adventure.

Wrong Way Shapiro

Larry and I met at a Purim party forty-two years ago. He was King Ahasuerus to my Queen Esther. All in all, it has been a successful match and a successful marriage. However, Larry has told me that if he realized how directionally impaired I was when he first met me, he is not sure if he would have pursued the relationship. In other words, if his Queen Esther had had to find her way to the palace, King Ahasuerus still would have been married to Vashti.

Larry is one of those people who is endowed with the ability not only to follow directions perfectly but also to intuitively know what direction he should go when lost. I don’t know if he is part bloodhound, but he knows when to turn right, left, or whatever and get us where we are supposed to go.

I, on the other hand, can get lost going through a revolving door. It doesn’t matter where I am going, I need specific, detailed instructions, including street names, recognizable landmarks—the Walgreens on the corner; the elementary school on the right; a Target store on the left—and exact mileage between all of them. And I would still screw up.

You would think things would improve with the invention of the GPS. Initially even that failed me, as demonstrated by my first attempt to use to navigate my way to a business breakfast south of Albany. The machine kept rejected the address I typed in, so I simplified the address to just the name of the road. The directions down the expressways were excellent. When I turned on to River Road, however, an annoying female voice—whom I already named Mappie— chirped, “You have arrived at your destination.” I yelled at her, “No, Mappie! I am not there yet! You need to get me to the building” I was now lost and encountering another problem. If there was a speed limit posted on River Road, I couldn’t find it. I didn’t know if it was 30 or 55 miles per hour. I erred on the side of safety and kept my speed to around 30. A couple of cars got on my tail and passed me, and I just kept looking for the building.

Suddenly, I saw a policeman’s flashing lights behind me. I pulled over, rolled down my window, and asked the policeman if I was speeding. He said, ”No ma’am, you were going too slow. You are a road hazard.”

“I am so sorry, sir, but it’s not my fault,” I explained. “It’s the stupid GPS! Mappie told me that I that I arrived at my destination, but she was wrong!” Thankfully, he took pity on me. “Look, lady, your building is a mile down the road on the left,” he said. “I’m not going to give you a ticket this time, but next time, print out the directions from MapQuest before you get into your car.”

Fortunately, Larry the Scout has been the designated driver for most of our married life. He was perfectly happy to drive while I would sit in the passenger seat, either reading a book or sleeping. After we retired, Larry and I started taking longer car trip, and Larry decided to give me more responsibility. On the way to Arches National Park, Larry insisted that I take out the map and keep track of the routes. Wrong Way Shapiro, who actually got lost going to my own apartment, found map reading a joy. Not only would I follow the map, but I also would plug in the GPS and accompany the two with one or two guidebooks. I kept Larry up-to-date on our location as well as geographic trivia. “We’re heading into Fruita, Colorado,” I reported. “Population is 12,724; elevation 4511 feet. Town is famous for Mike the Headless Chicken.”

I have unfortunately been known to rely too heavily on the route suggested by Google Maps without considering alternative routes. On a trip to Florida, Larry and I were driving up the West Coast from Sarasota to Dunedin. Google map took us on I 75 and west on Route 60, which put us right in the heart of Tampa and its gridlock. Larry insisted that he had told me that we were take 75 ABOVE Tampa and head west on 580. I either never heard him or his memory was wrong. The argument in our car could be heard all the way back to Sarasota.

Larry decided the only way to avoid future arguments based on the best route was to call up the directions on Mapquest before we headed out. I would then trace them on an AAA map. We used this combination on one of our last visits in Florida from the East Coast to Naples. We successfully navigated our way from Vera Beach, over the top of Lake Okeechobee (even finding a quicker route on the map not suggested by Mapquest), and down I75 to Naples. We made our left hand turn off 75, pulled confidently into the targeted community, and pulled triumphantly into the driveway. Unfortunately the wrong driveway. I had gotten the street name correct, but had written down the wrong house number.

Oh well. At least I didn’t have to act as the navigator for our plane back to Albany.