How Do I Start a Fitness Program?

By Mac McCarthy,

When you’re young, still in school, you might be involved in sports or otherwise getting a lot of exercise. Then one fine day you realize you’ve spentthe last few years sitting at a desk, hunched over, working all day — and not getting any exercise at all. You feel out of shape, flabby, tired, run down. Sitting around has ‘deconditioned’ your body–and it shows.

So you decide: It’s time to get back into shape!

Or maybe you never have been in shape, but now it’s time to finally start doing something about getting healthier. We all know the health risks — heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more — that can develop due to a lack of exercise. And you don’t need to look overweight to have a higher percentage of fat in your body than is good for you.

Starting a fitness program will be the best thing you’ve done for yourself.

But how do you get started?

Matt Larkin and Jorge Aguirre, certified fitness trainers, post in front of Overtime Fitness gym wall logo

Matt Larkin and Jorge Aguirre, certified fitness trainers, pose in the Overtime Fitness gym.

We asked that question of four professional trainers, Jorge Aguirre and Matt Larkin, certified fitness trainers, an Julie Yokoshima, Fitness Director at Overtime Fitness in Mountain View, California, and Carlos Melara, an independent personal trainer who runs his own fitness business, “Love the Burn Fitness.” Here’s what they told us.

* Join a Fitness Group

Find a local fitness group, or get together with friends, to help keep you on track. (You’ll find the Fitness activity on, which will help you find people in your area who share your interest in getting and staying fit, as well as finding local fitness groups and fitness centers.) Friends can help keep you motivated as you get started, and you can learn from their experience.

* Take Group Fitness Classes

Change it up to keep it interesting: Incorporate one or two group classes a week — such as spinning, step-and-sculpt, butts-and-guts, fitness boot camp, cardio kickboxing, yoga.

* Learn from Books, DVDs, and YouTube

There is a lot of information out there on getting and staying fit: books and DVDs, of course, as well as videos on YouTube.

* Change It Up

Keep it fun by changing it up — take two different kinds of group classes per week — to keep you motivated. Your class instructor is also a great resource for questions or tips in developing your own fitness program.

* Join a Gym

If you have the discipline, you can take advantage of your local gym’s facilities.

* Get a Personal Trainer

The benefits can include tailoring a regime specific to your needs and helping deal with any special issues you may have, and motivating you to keep at it — having regular appointments with your personal trainer is a great incentive to keep on your program. (You can reduce your training cost by getting one or more friends and booking training sessions together.)

* Pay Attention to The Fitness Trifecta

You must make sure you create a fitness program for yourself that balances what Jorge calls “the Trifecta: CardioStrength Training — and Nutrition.”

Carlos Melara, independent trainer, "Love the Burn Fitness"

Carlos Melara, independent trainer, "Love the Burn Fitness," trains his clients at Overtime Fitness.

You can’t just put all your focus into one of them, says Carlos. “With just one, at some point your body will peak; you need to keep up on all three to get the most out of your fitness program.”

“Guys often focus too much on strength,” said Jorge, “and don’t pay enough attention to cardio, or neglect their nutrition. You’ve got to have all three things going. I tell my clients, if you skip any one, you won’t achieve the results you want. You can work out really hard but don’t pay attention to good nutrition, and you could end up being one of those guys who have big upper-body muscles, but then they also have big guts — because they’re focusing too much on the strength training and not doing cardio workouts, and not watching their diets.”

Women, on the other hand, focus too much on nutrition and not enough on strength training. “They want to focus on their butts and their legs and their waist, but they don’t want to do their upper bodies because they think they’ll get ugly muscles. They don’t quite get that they aren’t likely to bulk up like men because they don’t have the testosterone. But if they neglect their strength training, they’ll lose calcium from their bones over time. So they have to pay attention to all three elements just like the men do.”

* Patience!

Sometimes people starting out are impatient: They want to get fit now, lose weight right away, build muscle overnight. But fitness takes time — fitness is a lifestyle, and a journey, not a quick fix.

* Develop new habits

Developing new habits is critical to your success in sticking with your fitness program. Fitness is a process, something that should be a requirement that is built into your schedule. Just as going to work is not an option — going for your workout should not be an option either.

“The hardest part is getting to the gym door,” explains Carlos. “Once you’re inside the gym, you have a good time. So you have to work fitness training into your schedule, get to the gym door.”

Fitness is a way of life, not just a one-time thing. It’s not something with a start point and an end point — it’s something you want to be doing for the rest of your life. So you have to set goals along the way. It’s not, ‘OK, I’ve lost the 20 pounds, now I’m done.’ No — Create a new goal; or, ‘I love where I’m at with my weight — now I want to stay there, and here’s my program to do that.’ ”

“Anybody can do this,” insists Carlos. “It’s just the desire. You can do this — focus on your goals of health, fitness, and feeling good about yourself.”

Julie Yokoshima, Fitness Director at Overtime Fitness

Julie Yokoshima is Fitness Director at Overtime Fitness

* Set realistic goals

Losing a certain amount of weight in this particular period, for example; or training for a 5K run or a philanthropic walk. This can give you a sense of achievement that is highly motivating.

* Don’t obsess over the weight scale!

Fitness is about more than just losing weight. When you get regular, healthy exercise, you build muscle mass in addition to losing fat — you may not actually see lower numbers on the scale — but your clothes will fit better, that stomach won’t protrude as much, you won’t feel as fatigued as before, you’ll start feeling better. That’s the goal — the numbers on the scale are just a byproduct of patience application of your new good habits.

* Beware of Fads

People get caught up in fitness fads — but you’re better off focusing on the basics.  “As professional trainers, we check out the latest fitness ideas and innovations,” says Matt, “to see where there may be some value, some ideas we can add to our programs. But it’s easy to get caught up in some fad that’s actually going to damage you. And maybe cost you money in buying training materials and nutrition goods. Be careful!”

Jorge Aguirre and Matt Larkin, Certified Fitness Trainers, and Julie Yokoshima, Fitness Director, can be reached at Overtime Fitness,, 1525 North Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA 94043. Carlos Melara, Independent Personal Trainer and Nutritional Consultant, can be reached at

How Zenergo Can Help Your Fitness Program!

Think of Zenergo as the social manager for your fitness program.

Zenergo is an online service focusing on activities — you can find others to work with, trainers and fitness clubs to help, formal and informal groups to join. If you have a group or a fitness program or offer fitness services, Zenergo is a great place to find people most interested in your specific offerings.

Zenergo covers a wide range of activities. In the general category of fitness, you will find Fitness & Workouts, as well as Running, Walking, Bodybuilding, Weight Training, Yoga and Tai Chi, and much more. Each activity lets you specify your interests — as shown in this screen capture of part of the ‘Fitness and Workout Activity Profile.’

Zgo Activity-Fitness-Profile

You should join Zenergo today — it’s free, and it’s easy — and look for some of the activities you enjoy most — then look for others who share your passion for that activity, interest, hobby, or art or craft — as well as related groups and events. Calendars, picture-posting features, document storage, and group and event invitations form a complete system for managing your social — and fitness — life! Try it!


Have you had success with your fitness program? Share your top fitness tip in ‘Comments.’


Zenergo on the Great Wall! Go, Jamie Ouye!

Our intern visits The Great Wall and shows off the Zenergo  swag backpack. Zenergo has now reached China! Go Jamie!!

How I Followed My Passion to become a Winemaker!

By Cynthia Cosco
Winemaker, P

It was July 2004 when I loaded up my car and headed west, to California, to follow a dream. A dream of making wine. Would I turn around and go back? Not on your life.

It has been an incredible journey since then. Like me, you can make the journey into winemaking, if you set your heart on it. This is a glimpse into my journey to becoming a winemaker.

I left a 15-year law-enforcement career to follow a passion for winemaking. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? This ride has been fantastic. I have loved every minute of it and I am reaching for more even as I write this.

Learning Wine

The Crushpad crew 2011: Justin Rose, Stu Ake, Cindy Cosco, Adam Smith, Kian Tavokoli

Almost immediately on arriving in California, I took a part-time job at a large retail wine store called BevMo (Beverages & More), thinking I would have a chance to run into someone in the wine business who could steer me in the right direction. I became friends with Hal, who ran the Saturday tastings in the back of the store. After a few minutes of conversation, he knew right away that I was serious about my passion. He got me a harvest job at the famous Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma for the 2004 harvest.

I was so excited to be involved with such a prestigious winery for the harvest! I started out working in the cellar but eventually they put me in the lab and I was well on my way to learning how to run critical analysis for grapes, juice, and wine.

Harvest was soon over and Chateau St. Jean offered me a full-time job. They paid for and sent me to some enology college classes at Napa Valley College. I worked for Chateau St. Jean for three years and soon found myself wanting more. I decided it was time to pursue that dream of mine to make my own wine.

I had heard of this place in San Francisco called Crushpad, a custom-crush facility. I attended their open house in May of 2007. I spoke to the head winemaker and told him my plan: to make unoaked Chardonnay. Soon after, I was hired as the Lab Manager for Crushpad and given the opportunity to do more.

finally–My Own Wine!

Passaggio Rose, Unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio

My passion for making my own wine was the singular driving force that heralded the launch of my first vintage in 2007. Wow! I had done it! I made my own wine! I was the proud owner and winemaker of my own label, Passaggio Wines! Life would never be the same…

Passaggio Wines has since grown to three varietals, and will soon produce four. At this point in 2011, I make Unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Rose, and soon will add Pinot Noir.

If you have the passion for winemaking, you too can make your own wine. You can start in our basement, as many people do, with supplies and instructions from wine-supply stores in your area or online.

Or if you really have the passion and want to accelerate the process, you can work with a custom-crush facility like Crushpad, where they provide the professional equipment and expert advice. You can get your start, and be as involved as you want in the process, from grape to bottle. You can start with 25 cases, with your own label, and test the market. When you are ready to jump in with both feet, you can produce an inventory and actually sell your wines on the market. You really don’t have to quit your day job (unless you are ready for that move).

All it takes is a little determination, a lot of passion, and, of course, a little ingenuity in finding the financial way to make your dream come true. But then again, doesn’t any investment? Go ahead. If all you’ve been waiting for is someone to tell you “You can do it!”, I am here to tell you — you can do it!

Follow that passion, and see where it takes you. You might just become a winemaker.
Cindy Cosco is founder and winemaker of Passaggio Wines of Sonoma, California, and former manager at Crushpad in Sonoma. 


Zenergo for Winemakers!

Another way to get involved in winemaking — or to find others who will join you in your adventure — is to sign up for (it’s free and pretty simple), and join the Winemaking Activity there. You can spell out your specific interests on the activity’s Interest page, then see if there are other Zenergo members who share your passion — they may want to get together to try making wine, they may already be making wine and would appreciate a helping hand.

You might find winemaking groups you can join, too. Or if you have a winemaking group, bring it onto Zenergo as a one-stop place to manage membership, recruit new members, and keep your calendar, post pictures, documents, and sales sheets. You can create Events for your winemakers to invite those in wine-appreciation activities to come to — and create a mailing list to sell your wines! is chock full of opportunities for the ambitious winemaker! Take a look right now!

How To Hold A Great Reunion!

By Mac McCarthy, 

Whether you’re holding it for your family, for your high school or college class, for your event alumni, for a company a military unit, reunions can be very special events that bring back great memories, reunite friends of the past, and acknowledge the contributions and successes of colleagues.

But a great reunion takes a lot of planning and hard work to get it right. Here is an outline of key steps you’ll need to take, and things to consider.

(And Zenergo’s group, event, calendar, and photo sharing features can be there to help!)

Start One Year Before the Likely Date

You’ll need the time for several reasons. The venue where you’re holding the event needs advance notice, and you want to get your bid in before someone else grabs the best weekends. Planning takes time; so does gathering together the list of all the potential attendees. And those coming to the reunion from far away will appreciate the extra time.

A weekend in the late summer or early fall is generally considered the best time for class, business, and unit reunions.

Assemble a Reunion Committee.

Ideally, you’ll pull together a team of people willing to do the work, meet deadlines, and keep everyone informed.  extra mile to make sure the reunion is a success. Appoint one person to set up conferences and set up meeting agendas. Appoint a second person to oversee the finances.

Set up a reunion Group on 

This will serve as communications central for the Reunion Committee. Here you have your committee contact info, your documents and photos, and reunion calendar so you can set goals for each step.

Set up Subcommittees.

Zenergo lets you set up “SubGroups” which can serve as your subcommittees – you will need a subcommittee in charge of finding and booking the venue and deciding on the date, a subcommittee to locate all the people you want to invite, a subcommittee to decide on entertainment, events, and activities; and a finance subcommittee to make the tough decisions about what to spend and what to charge.

Invite your Guests.

You can set up a reunion Event under your reunion Group on Zenergo. Import your guest contact list, then send out your invites. Guests will be able to RSVP, and you can let them post pictures and documents, and chat among themselves.

Meet with your reunion committee members regularly.

Monthly is good initially, when you’re getting everything set up and need to make sure it’s working smoothly. Meetings can be face to face, or over the Web or by conference call.

Decide on a budget.

This can take some deep thinking. What are your costs? This depends on the venue, and the cost of the dinner and other activities. How much do you need to charge to cover expenses, and how will your guests react when they find out how much tickets cost? Bear in mind  guests may have added expenses to get to the venue and book hotel rooms. Now is the time to determine if it’s all affordable.

Consider holding one or more fundraisers during the year before the reunion, to help cover some of the costs and make the reunion tickets more affordable. Check to see if the alumni group of your school, or the company or organization or unit are willing to pitch in — they might want to host the reunion at their facility, which can greatly reduce your expenses.

You can maintain planning documents and budgets on your Zenergo reunion group’s site, for sharing among the committee members; taking advantage of Zenergo’s privacy controls.

Plan activities or a theme — fun ones, and

Photographed by and copyright of David Corby

 memorable ones.

Reunions can be as simple as a dinner, or as elaborate as a weekend retreat complete with a full schedule of activities. Here are possible elements to make yours a memorable and engaging event.

  • Have key people give speeches; it sets the tone for the evening.
  • Invite a special or surprise guest: a favorite teacher; a classmate or colleague who’s now  a celebrity.
  • Give tribute to those who have passed away.
  • Run a slideshow at the side of the room, and solicit photo contributions.
  • Dancing can be fun; plan the kind of music your guests will enjoy.
  • Take the reunion guests on a trip to visit the old school or base or headquarters or other key location. Or take the group to a local winery, or a historical site. Or to an activity such as rock climbing, hiking, a bike ride, or sailing.
  • But leave the most time for free socializing; that’s the real reason you are all here.
  • In addition to dinner, your reunion can include a picnic, games day, or a sports night.
  • Collect yearbooks to display at the event — not just your graduation year, but for several years earlier as well. Plan to create your own Reunion memory book, assembling pictures from the reunion plus pictures of mementos, and essays or memories from the attendees. Publish using one of the custom-publishing sites.

On the day of your reunion make sure all your guests are properly registered.

That means you’ll need to assign a workgroup to man the check-in table, and consolidate the information afterwards.


what is your best (or worst!) reunion memory? share!

Some Back-to-School Tips for Parents

By Mac McCarthy, Zenergo
(Parent of twin girls)

Here are some tips for parents to make sure you haven’t forgotten or overlooked anything, as your kids head off to school.

(If your kids are returning to school, these tips can still be useful — it’s an opportunity to be a little more organized than you were last year!)

Get Ready

Buy sturdy backpacks, they get a lot of abuse.

Don’t overbuy school supplies. Buy the smaller size at first to save space and weight in the schoolbag. You can always adjust as the year goes on. You’ll miss out on some back-to-school sales, but you’ll also miss out on buying in volume only to find out you got the wrong kind of notebooks or pens.

Create a homework center.

Have a special box at home where your child can place forms from school, so they don’t get overlooked.

Film canisters make good change purses for the school lunchbox.

Label everything.

Be ready the night before – make lunches and snacks and refrigerate; pack backpacks; check first-day needs and requirements; plan the school week; talk to your student. Lay out clothes.

Pack that backpack as light as you can — it should not be more than 10-20% of your child’s weight.

Go to bed and get up at school hours for several days ahead.

Check with the school for signup dates for sports and social club.

If your child has medical concerns, meet with the school nurse.

Arrange for after-school daycare!

Decide on school-day rules – TV times, homework times, bath time, bed time during school week. Then enforce them.

Make a school calendar to hang on the wall, fill in events and school vacation days — make sure your children check it regularly — and you do so too. This calendar will help ensure that you pay attention to school activities and can stay involved.

Getting to school.

Decide on the best route to school.

Walking: Be aware of the busiest routes and intersections; walk with other parents and kids if you can; use this opportunity to teach pedestrian safety to your kids. Biking: Safe biking is a critical new skill you must teach your youngster, and planning the route is important: Bike to school with your child in the week before school starts, so you can both familiarize yourselves with the route and its potential issues.

Driving: When school starts, quiet streets nearest the school will become busier, and traffic jams at the school drop-off points are common — and also dangerous! Be extra careful maneuvering into and out of the drop-off spot — you don’t want to have a fender-bender the first week back to school!

Taking the school bus: Have you got the bus schedule in hand? Talk to your child about bus safety: Stay seated, no wandering around while the bus is moving, use the seat belt if there is one. And look around when exiting the school bus, don’t just dash out the door and out into the street!

 One More Tip: Join Zenergo

Zenergo is your social manager, and a great place to connect with other parents, to organize and manage the many activities of the parent with school-age children, and to post pictures and share useful documents. Zenergo can make a big difference in helping you stay a step ahead of school-year chaos!

Example: The Parenting Activity Interest checklist

example: The Single-Parenting Activity Interest checklist:

The Kids Activities Interest checklist:

The Education Activity Interest checklist:

How to Understand NASCAR Rules


Half the fun of enjoying a sport is knowing when to stand up and cheer. This can be hard if you aren’t sure of the rules. What types of things can drivers be penalized for? What does it mean when the flag is white? How do drivers accumulate points, and what do they mean? 

Here’s a crash course in the rules of NASCAR, so you can enjoy the races even more.. 

Step 1: NASCAR race car with hood up

The Car 

All cars must meet the following requirements to participate in NASCAR.:

  1. Engines must have:
    1. Eight cylinders
    2. Compression ration of 12:1
    3. Displacement no greater then 358 cubic inches
    4. Carburetor, not fuel injector
  2. Set body length
  3. Rear spoiler at 70 degrees
  4. Wide, treadless tires
  5. 22-gallon fuel cells 

Step 2: Pitroad Rules

The rules of pitroad may seem trivial, but if not followed strictly, they can affect a driver’s scores dramatically. 

  1. Drivers must follow speed limit requirements on pitroad.
  2. Over-the-wall pit crew are required to wear helmets, fire suites, gloves.
  3. When push-starting, a team cannot push a car more than three pitbox lengths.
  4. Changed tires must be hand-directed to the inside of the pit box, not rolled.
  5. All drivers are required to have a licensed spotter.
  6. All crew members are required to be educated in radio communications. 

Step 3: Qualifying

NASCAR  Texas Motor SpeedwayEach week before the races, the drivers who wish to participate in the race bring the car they intend to drive to the upcoming track. One by one, the drivers are allowed to run the track, and the race order is determined driver-by-driver based on the fastest lap time. There are two instances when this method is not used: 

  1. Inclement weather: Qualifying order is set by car-owner points.
  2. Budweiser Shoot Out: Driver positions are randomly assigned.

If a car cannot make a qualifying position, that car starts the race one lap down. 

Step 4: Driver’s Meetings

Every race starts with a mandatory driver’s meeting two hours before the start of the race. If a driver and crew chief fail to attend the meeting they are penalized by having to start the race one lap down. 

Step 5: Starting the Race

There are a few rules surrounding race start-up: 

  1. Drivers cannot enter their cars until after the “National Anthem” is performed.
  2. The start of the race is signaled by the grand marshal.
  3. Cars must follow the pace car for at least three warm-up laps before starting.

Step 6: Flags

There are varying flag colors throughout each race, and drivers must adhere to the rules based on those colors, or they may be penalized.

  1.  Green: Go.
  2. Yellow: Caution.
  3. Red: Stop (no pit-crew work allowed).
  4. Black: Generally the result of a rule violation, driver has to pit.
  5. Black and White X: Driver’s score sacrificed for not pitting under black flag.
  6. White: Signals last lap of the race.
  7. Checkered: End of race.

ZENERGO is a Great Place for Racing Fans!

Get together, post the schedule on our Calendar, message and chat, post pix, make plans — Zenergo is the one-stop shop for Auto Racing enthusiasts! Give it a try at HTTP:\\WWW.ZENERGO.COM — it’s free, it’s easy, it’s handy!

Sample Zenergo Auto Race Spectator Activity Page

Sample Activity Page on Zenergo

How to Plan Your Labor-Day BBQ

By Mac McCarthy, Zenergo

Throwing a BBQ this holiday weekend? It’s the end of summer, a perfect time to celebrate, reminisce, spend time with friends while the weather is still great.

If you invite more than a handful of people, a bit of planning and organizing can be a big help in guaranteeing your BBQ will turn out great. Let me recommend a social manager site like as a good way to organize: You can send invites, and you and your guests post pictures after the BBQ for all to enjoy.

Here are a few tips to ensure a great, well-run event:

* Send invites right away! The RSVPs will tell you how much food and drink you’ll need to get. Even if you plan to handle RSVPs personally or by phone, at least you’ll get on their calendars.

* Decide on the menu, and let your guests know. It can be simple and straightforward — “Meat, all kinds, on the barbie! And drinks!” Or you can get fancy, interesting, inventive – maybe have a theme — “Goodbye Summer, We’ll Miss You!”

* Let guests know what they can bring or contribute. Many people enjoy it more if they can help out in some way.

* Where? Your back yard? The local park? (Does the local park make you sign up for a space, or is it first-come first-serve, in which case send the kids over early to hold a good spot.)

* Hours? All day and well into the evening? Lunch only? Mid-afternoon to early evening? Let people know what to expect.

* Gather your gear: BBQ, instruments, tables, chairs enough for everyone, condiments, utensils, plates and glasses, beverages for all (remember the kids). Have reserves because you’ll run out of *something,* you can be sure!

* Plan the area layout: Where goes the BBQ? Closer to the house/kitchen to make it easy to carry food and utensils out and dirty dishes back; but not too close so you don’t fill the house with smoke (or flames!). Where to put the Tables? Make sure at last some tables and chairs are in the shade, please! Put the kids farther away from the grill and the food table, for safety’s sake. Think about the flow — people come here to pick up plates, there to get the cooked food, here for condiments, there for appetizers, and over there for tables and chairs, and where are the drinks?

* Prep the area: Does the grass need mowing? The yard need cleanup? (That’s what kids are made for!) Do your guests need signs posted pointing to the party location?

* Things to Do: Games for the kids, lawn games, party games. What about the adults? Do they like an active party, with lots of things to do? Or do they prefer to sit around, drink, eat, chat, and enjoy the peace and quiet?

* Practice: The day of BBQ isn’t the time to start learning how your brand-new rocket-science cooking system works – or how to BBQ if you’ve never done it before! If you need practice — then practice! Throw a small BBQ event for yourself and your family first, work the kinks out….!

* Weather: Will it be an issue? If so, have a Plan B. If it’s hot and sunny, is there enough shade?, consider a pop-up shade tent or canopy.

* Decorations, or no? Lots of ways to go here: Bright table cloths, balloons, hanging decorations from the trees, stapling them to the house — even wearing decorative hats, and aprons with funny sayings.

* Music? A CD player can add nice background ambience, as long as it’s not too loud — nor too experimental!

* Leftovers! Remember to have containers you guests can take home….!

* Here’s an example of a BBQ event created on Zenergo. You can put as many details as you like, including a map of the location if needed. It’s free, it’s easy, give it a try!

The Eight Truths About Weddings (That No One Ever Tells You)

By Melissa Lafsky,
From The Awl

Once you decide to have a wedding, there are many, many things to read: etiquette guides, Dos and Don’ts, planning checklists, vendor guides, “inspiration boards,” disaster stories, angry bridesmaid rants (“bitch made me wear PURPLE SHOES!”), even socio-political screeds about the cultural irrelevance of the whole thing. All of these are nice, and all of them are utterly useless.

If you’re the one getting married—which I am, in three months, while also attending eight other weddings in as many months due to a hyper-marital zeitgeist (that, as of July 24th, includes New York gays!! Welcome to the madness!!)—a mysterious stupor befalls you. The tales of “bridal nervous breakdowns” have become ingrained in pop culture, “ingrained” meaning “anything that gets its own reality show.” Such breakdowns do happen, and they’re hardly gender-specific, but these displays of emotional gangrene fail to get at the heart of the nuptial plight.

So where does one go to find a guide to the true sources of wedding-angst? One resource is the wedding industry, that fondant tower of chintzy madness that exists to suck your wallet and self-esteem out through multiple orifices. The industry gets plenty of flack, mostly for its organza-wrapped obfuscation of anything important. But all this hating is silly. Yes, the wedding industry will crack open your skull and pour in gallons of raspberry-hazelnut ganache, and then send you a bill for $15,000. But that’s its job. It’s absurd to expect people in the industry to tell you the truth about weddings. They’re there for one purpose: to sell you shit. Calling them manipulative capitalist assholes (ahem, Rebecca Mead) isn’t solving the problem; it’s simply blaming the addiction on the dealer.

The truth about weddings was once something we all figured out for ourselves as we made our way across the glurpy morass of the engagement tar fields. Until now! Here is your look into the things no one ever tells you about weddings (but are nonetheless true).

Have you dealt with your issues? I’m not talking about a few months in therapy and the occasional Xanax on a bad day—I’m talking about really digging in, sitting under the Bodhi tree, and dealing with all the nasty icky hurts and fears and angers that have burned your face and clamped your guts since you were five. If you have never once taken a hard look at what really triggers you emotionally, and figured out a way to release that trigger, you’re in for a shock. Because ALL of your submerged emotions will rear their Gorgon heads during the process of planning a wedding. Prepare to be confronted.

First, there’s your family. Ahh, family. The one group with perma-instant access to every emotional trigger in your psyche (“Of course your mother knows how to push all your buttons!” a matriarch once told me. ‘She created them!!”). Do you still resent your mom for that “Honey, your thighs don’t need that ice cream!” comment in 8th grade? Clinging to the last vestiges of anger at your dad for never kissing you goodnight or reading your term papers? Secretly seethe at your brother for moving far away and leaving you to deal with the full brunt of your parents’ needs? Lucky you! You’re going to experience all of it again, since each of these people will be intimately involved in your Big Megaspecial Day (whether you invite them or not). If you do not give up any and all familial anger, it will seize you in its talons and tear out your liver at least once a day, Prometheus style. You will find yourself shrieking over the fact that your mom disapproves of your choice of chair covers (“You never liked my clothes in junior high!!! Wail Sob!”) or that your dad suggested “Psychokiller” as a father-daughter dance (“You spent my childhood in the office and now this!!”). Any unresolved issue, annoyance or pin in the side that you’ve had since, well, birth will now be a part of your daily life. And we haven’t even gotten to the fact that you may be asking them for money!

Then there’s the invite list, which is basically a socially condoned form of friendship slaughter. Every minor dig and insult will rise from the depths of your consciousness when it comes time for the guest-list-culling. Who will be invited to the biggest public transition of your life? Are you really going to invite that wench who texted your ex for six months after you broke up? Or that assclown who hasn’t picked up a bar tab since, oh, college? If you’re someone who holds grudges, your invite list will dwindle like an oak tree showered in acid. The girl who said your engagement ring was “cute”? DEATH. The guy who ruined the ending of “Game of Thrones” on purpose just to fuck with you? OFF THE LIST.

Plus you have everyone’s OPINIONS—those are some of the biggest hurdles to navigate. Every friend will haveviews and needs to lob your way: this one doesn’t like the bachelor party date since it conflicts with his annual fishing trip, that one thinks it’s outrageous that your bridal shower is in another town, and don’t even get them started on the hotel you chose for the bridal party. And then when they attend your actual wedding, it is a fundamental law that they will comment on how they would have done it differently “had it been MY wedding.” Well, yes, asshole, but it is not your wedding, and you have not subsisted on cabbage and rice for months so you could pay for that open bar you’re currently guzzling. (See? There’s that anger again! Damn.)

But before you begin your process of wreaking vengeance, remember just one thing: your wedding is not an opportunity to dole out justice to everyone who’s pissed you off in the last decade. In fact, that’s the furthest thing from its purpose. If you wield your wedding like a samurai sword, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll do the same with other big events in your life. And die alone.

Everything you don’t absolutely adore about this magical human you’ve pledged yourself to is going to now manifest itself in wild screechy detail. You will fight about things you didn’t even register during those blissful days of moonlit walks and Sunday afternoon sex. Eventually, you will have to face a stunning reality: The person you are marrying is exactly who she/he is, and will never be anyone else. Not now, and not once you’re married. Whether that’s a beatific thing or a source of night terrors all depends on you. (Note that I didn’t say it depends on your partner. If you don’t like what you’re marrying, then it’s on you to either get over it or call it off. Sorry!!)

All your interactions will be weighed with a new gravity. When you do fight, it’s fighting as a COUPLE THAT WILL BE MARRIED. Those things that were mere annoyances are now albatrosses draping your shoulders for eternity. (Seriously, it’s no coincidence that Coleridge’s Mariner ranted to a wedding guest).

The good news: Your incentive to get over these fights is sky high, since you’ve committed to this person and put down a venue deposit and changed your Facebook status and introduced him/her to your grandmother. So after a while, it can all fade into “Well, it’s all part of the package—and I guess his videogame habit is better than hookers n’ blow!”

Your head can become a scary place in the months before your wedding. Any insecurity that has made its home nestled in your gray matter? You will come face to face with it now. Am I pretty enough to be getting married? Why is everyone in every wedding picture so much prettier? Will all the people I care about judge me as I walk down the aisle? Am I rich enough to be marrying this person? Am I rich enough to be marrying at ALL? Aren’t I supposed to have paid off my student loans by now? What if I can’t be the provider I want to be? Will it shred my masculinity like a 2010 Super Bowl ad? Will my partner start to resent me not pulling my weight? Can we afford this wedding? What if I get fired, and can’t make the next catering payment? What if no one says yes to our invitations, since they all secretly hate us? What if too many people say yes, and we have to pay for them all? What if I lose sleep over our wedding budget and start to look haggard and my betrothed starts having second thoughts like, “Why am I binding myself to this haggard-looking worrywart anyway” and what if he/she leaves me and then I’m out of a catering deposit and out of a job and I’ll have to return all these presents and my grandmother will pity me and everyone will mention my name in hushed tones at parties and I’ll shut myself away until I die of infected bedsores and WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then you have a drink.

Wedding planning will give you a funny little window into who you really are in life. Not who you think you are, not who you say you are, but who you are.

“But I’m so down-to-earth!” you say. “I’m the furthest thing from psycho about these things! I don’t even subscribe to any of that antiquated bourgeois nonsense!” Maybe so—but maybe not. Get a few months into the planning process and see. Are you obsessive and controlling about every last detail? Overwhelmed by the whole thing? Laissez-faire to the point of doing nothing (and waiting for someone to bail you out)? Projecting false calm whilst mortgaging your organs to pay for the surf-and-turf entrée and Herrera gown? The ways in which you navigate these choices—not what you tell yourself about them—are some of the clearest indications you’ll ever get of what’s going on in the personal universe you call life.

And I don’t mean the choice between peacock blue centerpieces and turquoise (although even those small choices will eventually come to mean something to you too, but more on that later). No, I’m talking the laborious internal decisions that govern the big picture. When it comes down to it, how big a deal is this wedding—not the marriage, the wedding—in your personal narrative? How much of your identity and self-esteem are you basing on this one event? How much are you focused, either consciously or unconsciously, on being someone who adores/despises being the center of attention? (Hint: they’re basically the same thing.) What portion of your emotional needs are you expecting this wedding to fulfill?

We’re smart people. We all know what the answers to these questions SHOULD be. But trafficking in “should be”s won’t do you much good when you’re dissolving into sobs, supposedly over a turquoise bouquet that you REALLY THOUGHT should have been peacock.

We humans are remarkably good at ascribing meaning. If he doesn’t call you back after a fantastic date, then it must mean that you’re a complete dud of humanity who is destined to grow old alone. If you don’t get that new job, it must mean that you’re a mentally inferior troglodyte with nothing to offer the world.

Nowhere does the Mental Meaning Machine work as much overtime as during wedding preparations. It starts from the initial proposal: if the ring is not expensive enough to buy six orphans on the Siberian black-market, then it means you are stuck with a cheap bastard and your life is inferior to that of every rock-sporting wife. (Gays, please, renounce this practice.) From then on, every choice you make about your wedding, from cummerbund colors to china patterns, somehow brims over with alleged meaning about things like “who you are as a couple” and “what kind of life you’ll have.”

Ultimately, we all know this is foolish: Does it mean something if you pick the New Testament reading over the Yeats poem? Does it mean something if you serve the halibut instead of the chicken roulade? Of course not. But try telling that to the stream of brides pouring into the Plaza Ballroom for this year’s Wedding Mega-Expo.

And alas, ascribing all this meaning is exhausting and, inevitably, disappointing. Getting your write-up in theTimes wedding announcements doesn’t mean that your marriage will be perfect, and having the latest Vera Wang hardly means your wedding will be the most blissful day on Earth. Rather, it simply means that you won’t be able to eat. For realz, Elizabethan corsets much?

Even if you opt for the most frugal of wedding receptions, the cash issue will come up. Paying for a wedding can be like wearing a hair shirt—after a while, writing a four-figure check (or five-figure, or six-, all depending on your level of insanity) stops feeling like flesh-scouring pain.

The fact is that money (or rather, its scarcity) is a reality for everyone, and that reality shifts once you have to weigh the large, emotion-laden purchases that accompany weddings. Unless you’re a hedge fund manager, in which case fuck you, and go get a job that’s useful to society (but invite me to your wedding! I like Dom Perignon fountains as much as the next gal!).

Still, for those who make it through the dark tunnel of wedding spending, you can look forward to one bright, beautiful moment: The day after your wedding. On that day, you get to choose if you ever lay another cent of your hard-earned (or inherited—no judgments) cash on damask tablecloths or Waterford goblets. And all those Excel-spreadsheeting skills you’ve acquired can be used to budget your future finances. Or not. But at least it’s up to you, and not your mother-in-law with her 80-person guest list.

Just promise me this: For the love of all that is remotely holy in this world, do NOT go into major debt to pay for your wedding. Which is what I say about law school, but no one ever listens to me.

We know a lot of words—we sit on the Internet all day, we can’t help but live in a word-driven world. But exotic, bizarre words like “chivari” and “shantung” and “Asscher” had never been in my vocabulary before now. These days, I spend more time swimming in them than I’d ever admit to my therapist. Don’t fight the small battles: Embrace the wedding-speak and fold it into your lexicon, at least until the last gift check has been cashed. And know that when everyone nods after a wedding planner announces, “We’ll just highlight the centerpieces with pinspots and up-lighting!” no one else knows what the fuck she’s talking about either.

Two words: Premarital counseling. It is perhaps the most vital thing you can do before marching down the aisle. It doesn’t matter if your love is so all-powerful it can superglue glaciers, you need to talk about the changes that are about to envelop your day-to-day lives. As a couple, you must sit down in a room not filled with cakes and hors d’oeuvres samplers and ask the squirmy, uncomfortable questions that no one ever really wants to ask: Who’s going to pay the ConEd bill? Who’s going to unload the dishwasher 99% of the time? Who’s going to initiate sex when we’re both bone-tired and haven’t done it in a week? How strongly do we each feel about fidelity? What religion (if any) do we want to impart to our children? And how can we set ourselves up with the ability to keep discussing these things in the future? Because they will come up.

This crap—these thorny, excruciating conversations—is THE crap. It is the only reality. The ribbon-clad roses and monogrammed key chains and signature cocktails are not. Messy conversations are what you are signing up for, and what you will bump up against regularly for the remainder of your lives together. They are the gateway to a fulfilling and joyous relationship. And I can absolutely 100,000% guarantee you that not a single tux tailor or band singer or wedding planner or overbearing third cousin will ever tell you this. But your divorce lawyer certainly will.

One final note: If you think I exempt myself from these rules, I assure you I do not. I have fallen into each and every sinkhole described here. Just ask my saintly fiancé, who somehow still wants to marry me.


Melissa Lafsky writes for The Awl as Horror Chick, and for her own blog, Opinionista.



Organizing a wedding can mean a lot of emails, phone calls, lists, and people-juggling. Put everything in one convenient place on Zenergo.

Join us (it’s fast and free!), start with the Wedding Planning Activity, then set up a Group and invite the wedding party and other participants. Here you can send and recive messages, keep the planning calendar, store and exchange documents, and pull together the many facets of the big day!

Afterwards, you can set up the wedding-day Event page and post your pictures and videos, and invite your guests to post the best of their pictures. Everything you need — in one place! It’s easy! give it a look….

Diving: 5 Things More Likely Than a Shark Attack

By Dave Harmon
From The Diving Blog

Humans have an irrational fear of sharks. Most of this, I believe, is simply fear of the unknown. We don’t understand sharks nor most of the ocean and this frightens us. Combined with their poor treatment by the media and entertainment world, sharks overall get a bad rap.

I’m here today to balance the score a little. Statistics put the risk of a shark attack worldwide at about 1 in almost 30

0 million. That’s a 3 with 8 zeros behind it! And this is only taking into account those who actually go in the water, not your Aunt Mildred who thinks the ocean is “dirty.”

That’s a big number, and big numbers don’t usually mean much to people. Let

me put in in more relatable terms. Here are five things more likely to happen to you than getting attacked by a shark:

  1. Win an Academy Award. Over 50 Oscars are given out each year (including scientific and technical award winners), meaning you are more likely to win the coveted gold statuette this year than get bitten by a shark. Better get crackin’ on that script!
  2. Die while scuba diving. While it sucks to think about, over 100 people die a year while scuba diving, often from unknown causes. You’re more likely to die while scuba diving from something like an equipment malfunction than to get attacked by a shark. There, don’t you feel better?
  3. Dealt a full house—three times in a row. The odds of getting dealt a full house (three of a kind and two of another kind, one of the highest hands in poker) is 1 in 693.Let’s say you spend all night playing poker with the guys. You are more likely to get dealt a full house three times in a row than get bitten by a shark. Just how much money did you win last time you played poker?
  4. Killed by a falling aircraft. In murky waters everyone’s on the lookout for killer sharks. How often are you on the lookout for falling aircraft? Instead of the Great White Shark you should be looking out for the Great White Airbus.
  5. Win a Nobel Prize. Six prizes are awarded. This actually makes your odds of winning any one year lower than getting bit by a shark. However, factor in how often they are awarded, and your odds quickly zoom past shark territory.In fact, in any one year you are more likely to become a nobel laureate (nominee) than get attacked by a shark. Isn’t it nice to know that the Nobel prize committee cares more about you than Jaws?

Now don’t you feel ridiculous? These numbers are only for getting attacked by a shark. Let’s say lightning strikes and you do get bitten (actually, the chance of you getting struck by lightning is orders of magnitude greater than getting attacked by a shark). Even then, the chance of you dying is still very small (about 1 in 30).

The problem, of course, is that no one lives by statistics. Rather, we live by our emotions. Next time you feel yourself getting a little irrational, start running the numbers in your head. If worse comes to worse, who knows, maybe the sharks will decide to leave Rain Man alone. ;)

About Dave Harmon

David, PADI Divemaster and all-around scuba enthusiast. started The Diving Blog to share what he learns as he gains experience, sees the world, and becomes a certified instructor.

join the scuba diving activities on is the activities Web site — especially for those of you who like to get out and do something.

Join Zenergo (it’s free and it’s easy), select Scuba Diving as one of your favorite activities,  fill in a few details on your interests — taking classes, finding diving partners, joining a diving club, youth activities, and select your level of expertise — then find other diving enthusiasts, diving groups, and diving-related events.

Have a diving group? Bring them on board, to use Zenergo’s social tools to manage, communicate, post pictures, videos, and documents, and run your group all from just one place. Diving instructor? Manage your classes, post your schedules, and let others find you, on Zenergo!

Zenergo — Our slogan is: Activate Your Life!

Kayaking: When Things Go Wrong on the River – And How to Get Out of a Hole

By Irene Dorang

From Irene’s Kayaking Blog

Scott Henderson posted a really poignant account a while ago on Professor Paddle about how he nearly didn’t make it out of a hole on the Middle Middle run on the Snoqualmie – a mostly Class III run with a pretty easy IV section that most of us Seattle-area paddlers are used to bombing after work without too much thought beforehand.

It’s really worth reading the thread  – not only because he shares a story that is not the easiest to share, but also because of the responses and advice that follows from other paddlers.  Here are some take-homes that I got from it.

Staying and Getting Out of Holes

Based on this and some other stories I’ve heard, some of the closest calls you might run into could be on “easy,” Class III-type water, and/or on a run that you’re really familiar with.  So don’t let your guard down.

If you’re stuck in a hole, balling up and letting yourself go deep instead of fighting the water should help you flush out.

From Scott’s post and one of the responses, it appears that if things go badly enough that you go limp, you also have a better chance of flushing out.  (Let’s not kid ourselves–this option really sucks.)

Kyle Kovalik posted something that I’ve heard is also helpful:  “If you can get flat… swim across the eddy line into the downstream current, rolling your body as you do (from a breast stroke to a back stroke or vice versa). This works best in flattish pourover-style holes.”

Practicing swimming in whitewater is a great idea.  Not fun (I personally suck at it and tend to swim five times farther than anyone else, not on purpose) but definitely useful.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive explanation of how to get out of holes, but I’ve also heard (and kind of experienced when my sprayskirt blew on Lunch Hole on the Sky a couple of days ago) that if you’re still in your boat, pulling your skirt and letting your boat fill with water is another way to possibly get out of a hydraulic.

Getting Back in the Game

Anyway, the main thing I got out of Scott’s post and the ensuing thread was not so much how to get out of holes (although that is useful), but more about the mentality of how to approach kayaking in general.  It’s such an intense sport, and when we’re into it we tend to fall in love with it and go full bore.  But it’s also dangerous enough that we need to always be aware of the risks in order to last in it long term.  The flip side is, if we focus on those too much, we’d seriously just stay home – it’s kind of like reading statistics about every innocent soul who pulled out of their driveway and got T-boned by some dummy going 110 miles per hour on a residential street, and then deciding to never drive again.

The reality is there – yes, it could happen (and getting caught in a vicious hole or pinned on some rock is probably way more likely than becoming a cautionary tale in suburbia) – but if you’re going to boat, you kind of have to just take that as part of the deal.

Reading the Professor Paddle thread, and from conversations with other boaters, it seems that nearly everyone has had a close call at some point and either had to deal with what is pretty much post-traumatic fear, or even take some time off boating to get their head back in the game.  Some of it is pure psychological conditioning (abject terror = very bad, do not repeat), so I thought the advice that John (‘doggievacation’ on Professor Paddle) gave was good even though I overlooked it the first time I read it.  He said:

“… boat when you feel ready, and stick to nice, familiar runs.  Make sure you have fun EVERY TIME you boat, and steer clear of any drop that makes you feel panicky.  If you can do that, I think you’ll find the worm will fade on its own, but go with your gut and take your time.”

It usually takes time to get over traumatic experiences, and just like acquiring muscle memory for the roll, part of that psychological conditioning involves pure repetition – in this case, of something good.

Anyway, it’s really helpful to be reminded of how easy it is for any of us to become complacent on a run, or accustomed to getting out of hairy situations without too much carnage.  The fact is, the wrong hole at the wrong level, at the exact wrong angle, that puts us in the wrong spot, could happen to anyone, at any time, so I really appreciate Scott sharing his story.  It applies to all kayakers at any level, and it’s especially helpful coming from the viewpoint of someone who has had a lot of experience on whitewater.

That being said, paddling scared isn’t exactly a huge help either, and there’s no way we can foresee everything on the river, so the best attitude is probably a good blend of realistic caution and a healthy dose of  “Oh, what the heck.”  (I know I tend to focus on the latter, because it requires less technical skill.)  Speaking of which, I’ve started dropping into the Lunch Hole at,  a la Dave Moroles and Rob McKibbin.  If these blog posts end unexplainedly, that might be why.


“I’ve been going on whitewater kayaking trips around Seattle nearly every week since January ’09 and I usually take video, much of which so far has ended up just stored on my hard drive.  Between that and the pictures other people take it seemed like a huge waste to just let that stuff sit around, so I’m starting this blog so we have a place to share it all… By the way, I’m not an expert paddler, just a Class III-er looking to move up.”

Kayaking and Canoeing
On Zenergo!

At — the Activities site — you’ll find Kayaking as well as Canoeing, and other kinds of Boating and other water sports. It’s easy to bring your boating-activity group over to Zenergo, where you’ll find a complete set of tools to manage and get the most out of your time on the water — no Webmaster required!

You’ll find calendaring, events, messaging, and a place to post your pictures, documents, and articles. Maintaining your mailing list is easy. And everything is in one spot — no more multiple bookmarks for your social activities!

You might also be able to find other boating enthusiasts in your area on Zenergo — use its unique Activity Friend Search to find out. And find other kayaking groups and events in your neighborhood too!

Zenergo’s Activity Profiles let you and potential friends share your precise your interests and your level of expertise — that’s handy!

An example of the Activity Profile for Kayaking

Zenergo — it’s free, and easy to sign up. Give it a try!