Friday, February 22, 2008

The Treadmill

While I was growing up (Helen here) my mom stayed at home and my dad was self-employed. She helped him with some of his monthly accounting work, but taking care of a family of eight kids pretty much took up all her time. I could spend paragraphs listing all the modern conveniences my parents didn’t have. Even so, I remember Sundays as truly being a day of relaxation.

My dad probably made up for it by working twelve hour days most the rest of the week, but my parents religiously went out as a couple on Friday nights and Sundays were days of rest for the entire family. After church, we went for drives, watched football games, visited friends or relatives, hung out. I probably read two Harlequin Presents every weekend.

Is it just me or has life gotten busier?

I honestly don’t remember the last full (non-sick) day I sat around and did absolutely nothing. I’m writing full-time and my dh works full-time, and we still have kids at home, so life is busy. And we’re not alone. Something like 60% of all married couples today are in dual-earner relationships. It’s no surprise we have no free time.

Sometimes, I wonder, though, if this better standard of living we think we’ve got is actually worth it. Just think of all the free time we’d have if we weren’t so busy working to pay for all these modern day conveniences.

Off the top of my head: daycare, housekeepers, lawn care, snowplowing, window washing, dog walking, errand services, bill paying services. We eat out or bring take-out home because we don’t have time to cook. We shop on-line, probably pay more for many of the goods and pay shipping for clothes, pharmaceuticals, books, gifts, and electronics.

Then there are the luxuries we could’ve only dreamed about twenty years ago. I don’t know about you guys, but we had only one TV in my house when I was a kid. As an adult, I’ve got five. The first time I flew in an airplane I was thirteen. Both of my kids were on their first flights before they were three months old.

Now we’ve got microwaves, answering machines, home computers, and automatic dishwashers. We pay a lot of money for the convenience of cell phones, cable, movie rental memberships and health club memberships.

We can’t just get a new car, we need an SUV. A new one every three years, please. Boats, snowmobiles, four wheelers, cabins (to relax at), or timeshares (to relax at), swimming pools, hottubs (to relax in). Am I missing anything?

Oh, yeah. We get manicures, pedicures and massages, all because we’re so stressed out.

I don’t know about you guys, but this lifestyle is killing me.

How did we get on this treadmill (like the visual)? More importantly, how do we get off?

Oh, and for fun, wanna take a life expectancy quiz? Check it out:

Me and my youtube - a little treadmill fun:


Dara Edmondson said...

I enjoy being busy, but I also love my downtime and vacations. I recently had an evening alone - no kids, no husband, nothing I HAD to get done. The logical things to do would have been a long, hot soak, curling up with a decadent read or a movie. But no, not me. I did 3 loads of laundry and cleaned out my file drawer. DH would have sat in his "stupid chair" and zoned out to a sports channel. Some folks don't know how to really relax;-)

Helen Brenna said...

I do almost the exact same thing, Dara. I will sit down an watch a movie, but it'll be after I've done the 3 loads of laundry.

So is it a woman thing?

Betina Krahn said...

Helen, you're a gem. Reminding us that we need to stop and smell the roses. You're absolutely right.

Anyway, it's nice to know I'm likely to live to 94. According to your longevity quiz, that's my target. Interestingly, I have always said I'll live to 93! But in recent years, I've been adjusting that downward a bit. . . don't want to overstay my welcome. Also don't want to be a burden. And I'm not sure I still want to be writing steamy sex in my eighties!!!

However, I just got one of those Tony Little "Gazelle" thingies. My sister bought it and was too busy to put it together, so she sold it to me at a big discount. Now I'm actually exercising on it. Interesting, I can feel my muscles getting tighter. It works slightly different things than my walking does.

My mom used to say "I don't want to outlive my mind." For me, it's "I don't want to outlive my money."

Cindy Gerard said...

94 Betina? Woo Woo for you. I'm hitting 90 - which I could actually improve if I got a little more (ahem( exercise.
Helen - LOVED the video. From what I could tell, they did it in one take. I'm amazed. I wonder how long they have to practice that to get it so perfect. That was REALLY fun!

And you're so right about the treadmill of life we sometimes find ourselves on. I make a conscious effort to find some me time - when I'm NOT bucking a really tight deadline that is. Which reminds me - back to the WIP

Michele Hauf said...

Yikes, the quiz says I need to plan to live to 102! That's those stubborn ole German genes I've got. I'd better get that retirement fund started...

I am the master of relaxation. I don't do stress. That's good and bad, because my excited reaction to things can sometimes be termed 'catatonic'. :-)

I need more exercise that's for sure. I have one of those Gazelles too, Betina! I've been doing the Sex and The City diet lately. Every day I watch an episode of SATC and glide on my Gazelle. Going to focus on bumping that up to two episodes soon.

Helen Brenna said...

Hey, Michele! You and me, baby, 102! Can you see us shuffling along, checking out the man candy? LOL

lois greiman said...

Yikes!! I'm supposed to live to 102+ and gain ummmm 24 pounds for maximum longevity. What??

I don't think I want to gain 24 pounds or live to be 1 million.

Apparently I'm not stressed ENOUGH, Helene. Who would have thought? :)

Fun post.

Gennita said...

First, you have to get off this massage kick!


Second, you can follow my business partner, if you dare. His New Year's resolution two years ago (and he stuck to it) was not watch television for a whole year. During that year, with his free time, he took up Spanish, took dancing lessons, and went back into weight-lifting shape (he's 58 this year, so his cut physique is amazing to chubby me and everyone who looks at him). Last year, we went skydiving because he figured after 20 years, it was time to clear his head ;-).

So, in a sense, he stepped off the treadmill (or some of it, since he still had a lot of chores). But he took time out for himself and is doing a lot of things that most people his age aren't because of the treadmill of life.

Christie Ridgway said...

I'm predicted to live to 102 as well, Lois and Michele! We'll have to find a home to suit all three of us.

I spend a lot of time at the gym and on my home treadmill and I keep telling myself that if I used that time to clean house like my mom did it would be sparkling. And I could also get out there and do my own yard work. We've only had a lawn guy for a year, since Surfer Guy had his second back surgery. The kids and the husband used to do all that work, but the lawn guy does =such= a nice job.

Gennita: I'm not a TV hound, but boy, I don't know that I could give it up like your partner!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Well, I need to lose 3 pounds and exercise more. My family health history is my biggest problem, and there's not much I can do about that. But I can get back on the exercise wagon. I could have said that I exercise 3 times a week, but that hasn't been true for about 6 months.

Still, I feel as though I've been living on that treadmill you described, Helen. Americans are pretty far down on the global happiness meter, according to the latest bulletin. Countries that take care of big worries like health insurance, elder care, daycare, education, etc seem to be the happiest. Denmark is at the top of list, and they have shorter work weeks and get 6 weeks vacation a year, plus all aforesaid benifits. Yes, they pay more in taxes, but they know their taxes are going to improve their standard of living. Something to be said for that.

Helen Brenna said...

Lois, sweetie, you could use 24 pounds! But not more stress.

LOL, Jenn. The massage kick is all your fault. You got me thinking about it!

No TV for a year. Yep, that'd help. I totally agree. I could live without regular TV, but not without movies. That'd kill me. Something to think about, though.

Christie, noooooo, don't clean the house instead of work out. Who cares if your house is spotless? So much more important to be healthy.

Kathy, no you can't do much about your family's health history. I heard about a new study done on twins. Scientist believe on 25% of longevity is due to genetic, the other 75% is due to lifestyle factors. So there still hope, right?

Americans do seem to have missed the boat somewhere along the way. Sadly. We're a fairly stressed out bunch, but I think the tide is changing.

Cindy Gerard said...

Yikes - you're all going to outlive me. My age was all brought down by family history which is kind of scary except that I work hard to avoid some of the pitfalls that affected my parent's health. Hopefully, I'll beat the odds.

Playground Monitor said...

Trust me -- I can assure you that lying around with nothing to do for a week is boooooring. And I still have another couple days of sitting with this foot elevated. I thought I'd get lots of reading done and make a huge dent in the TBR pile. Wrong! Pain pills keep me fuzzy enough that I can't stay focused.

Our paper had an article about how there's like 438 million days of unused vacation in this country because people either are too busy to take it or scared they'll be viewed as slackers. And the US is the only country that doesn't have government-mandated time off for workers. No wonder we're stressed. Plus many play the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses game and have to work not for the high cost of living, but the cost of high living. The paper also had an article about folks who are borrowing against their 401K plans to pay their bills. They showed one guy who said he'd reduced his retirement fund in half because American Express cut the credit limit on his 3 cards. It showed him sitting in front of his leased BMW. Uh... hello! Maybe if you drove a cheaper car that got better gas mileage and lived within your means instead of charging everything you might not have to dip into your savings.

I'll crawl off my soapbox, but this is a hot topic for me. I don't understand six-year-olds with cell phones and iPods, or mothers who enroll their kids in every activity imaginable and then gripe about having no time to sit down to a family dinner. It's all about choices, folks. My kids didn't have TV's in their rooms or every video game imaginable. Heck, they sold 1500 cub scout tickets at a dollar a pop to earn their first Nintendo. I was a stay-at-home mom until my youngest was in second grade and our business partner bankrupted the store, and then I got a job. My kids are successful, well-adjusted adults even if they didn't have designer clothes and hundred-dollar sneakers.


Playground Monitor said...

Oh... and I'm gonna live to be 96 and I need to lose 12 pounds and weigh 123. Well I've been trying for a year and I stall out at 130. When this foot is healed I'm going to start my walking program again -- 1 1/2 - 2 miles three times a week. And when the weather gets warm I have flower beds to prepare and plant and an herb garden and roses to tend.

Helen Brenna said...

Cindy - 75% lifestyle, 25% genetics. I wonder if this quiz has been adjusted for these new studies.

Marilyn, I'm sure you're right. It's that whole be careful what you wish for thing. And what you hit on is exactly my point. We seem to have our priorities skewed.

Summertime can't get here fast enough for me!!!!

MsHellion said...

You know what kills me about some people who take vacation? They use it to clean their house. That drives me nuts! That's not a vacation! That's...unpaid work! And you don't get to enjoy go back to work and your house becomes a mess again.

I think we're a lot busier than we used to be; but we make ourselves more "available" to...and get pulled into lots of urgent things that we never used to. Used to be if something urgent cropped up, it waited until you returned and you were: Oh!--and went and did it.

Cellphones and such are nice and convenient if you're on the side of the road calling AAA, but seriously...who needs to be that available?

Playground Monitor said...

Cellphones and such are nice and convenient if you're on the side of the road calling AAA, but seriously...who needs to be that available

Amen! I see some people who have the cell phone at the ear constantly. It's an addiction. Another newspaper article talked about kids who are so "connected" that they're losing sleep because their friends call or text them in the middle of the night, and they're on MySpace or Facebook at all hours. Where are the parents? Why don't they set some boundaries? My kids were teens before the cell phone days, but they did have an extension phone in their bedrooms. The first time one of their friends woke me at midnight with a call, it was not pretty.

MsHellion said...

Are you kidding? If my own friends call me past 10 pm, it's not pretty...let alone anyone else's phone calls. Go to bed, people!

Helen Brenna said...

Haha! Phone calls after 10 ... don't even get me started. That's actually one of the nice things about kids having cell phones.

We do make ourselves too available, you're so right Ms. H. I resisted a cell phone for years because I didn't want to be "found" all the time. I admit, I sometimes leave mine at home ON PURPOSE!! lol

Kimberly Van Meter said...


What a good topic! I am totally with you. Has life become more or less frantic in spite of (or because of) our modern conveniences? I don't know because I've never actually churned butter nor have I had to deal with the horrors of an outhouse but things I think were a lot simpler before we had all these technological conveniences that are supposed to make our lives easier.
The Internet is a wonderful tool but it's also a terrible vice. What did we do before DSL? Wow. How about a library?? My kids don't even know what the inside of our library looks like. Shame on me. But my kids know how to program a cell phone and text message. Some kids even have Myspace accounts as young as 5!
I would love to experience a simpler life just so I could be reminded of all the things that really matter instead of all the clutter that gets in the way. :-/
Great topic!

Kathleen Eagle said...


Some food or fitness mag just announced the healthiest cities (American) to live in) and Minneapolis is #4--after Portland, Seattle, and D.C.

They based it on, among other things, availability of healthy food (farmer's markets, Whole Foods, etc) recreation and fitness areas, parks and trails (we're rich in parks and trails) and that's all I heard. There are 20 cities listed, but the report only talked about the top 5, and I missed #5, so I'll google.

I guessed Pacific NW cities would top the list, but I thought California would be up there. D.C. surprises me.

Kathleen Eagle said...

20 healthiest Amer cities in America:

That's the link. San Fran is #5. It's COOKING LIGHT magazine, and you can see the 15 criteria. interesting.

Sarah Tieck said...

This is so true, Helen! I think I could go on and on about this ... I think the most startling encounter with our too-driven culture was a girlfriend telling me that she needed to figure out what to sign her first grader up for activity-wise so the kid would be ready for what she wanted to do in high school ... apparently, you're washed up at age 7 if you're not preparing for your future. No wonder we're all so exhausted! It seems that we're all starting to realize how crazy busy life is ... but, no one knows what to do about it. Maybe awareness is the beginning ... the key to change.