Monthly Archives: February 2012

Working Girl: Fast Forward

Hi, my beloved blog friends! I miss you. I am tired. This is out of order for the Working Girls series, and I apologize, but there is an issue of timeliness. As you may have gathered from an earlier post, I am a working girl again and it has been a very long day. I love my new job!!! It is a beautiful combination of organization, randomness, creativity and problem solving. There are moments of amazing. Last week I addressed packages that went to Anderson Cooper, Rachael Ray, and Ellen DeGeneres. And Ellen DeGeneres called back. Well,  her producer did, wanting more information on the client of the marketing agency I now work for. I may give more details in future posts, if I get the sense you are interested, but there is a real thrill in addressing packages to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, among others. There is also the boring but soothing mundanity of repetitive express address label filling out, and the approximate one minute per package processing time at the Post Office (LOVE those people, BTW.) When you have 30 packages, that results in thirty minutes of life you spend with the very pleasant people at the USPS, which you will never spend with your children or collecting your thoughts. On the other hand: 30 Rockefeller Plaza and Ellen DeGeneres.

My agency also represents the Minneapolis Home & Garden Show, which is one of the biggest events of its kind in the nation. It runs today through Sunday, March 4th. We have over 700 exhibitors and some really kickass displays from what I’ve seen. I, as Admin Extraordinaire, am assigned to stage manage the Kitchen Stage. I spent most of this weather plagued morning setting up the full kitchen set with supplies for our chefs: restauranteurs and local TV, print and radio celebrity chefs. My colleagues Maggie and Ashley (REAL marketing associates with media spots to tend to later in the day,) carted in paper products, small appliances, pans, bakeware and utensils for all the chefs to use, and ingredients for our non-restauranteur, local celebrity volunteers to use.

We have one national Celebrity Chef in the lineup: Yigit Pura, winner of BRAVO’S Top Chef: Just Desserts. He could be my much younger brother; he is ADD, dark-haired and dark-eyed, a little naughty and knows his way around chocolate. He was my first chef of the day and because of the major ice and sleet storm last night, it was a slow start. But Yigit (pronounced Yeet) could not have been more charming. I introduced him (poorly) to the meager crowd. We made truffles together and he made this amazing Chocolate Cremeaux, which we served, drizzled with a floral lemon olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon flake salt, alongside a truffle. Heaven. He also helped me clean up, which was awesome because, chocolate? A huge freaking mess. My next chef was Sam (female) from Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant in Minneapolis. She made Red Chicken Curry and I was inspired. I am so making this. It was sweet and hot, and rich and delicious. It made me happy. She needed nothing from me but a little help serving up samples but I flatter myself that I was a notable audience question asker. After that came Vincent, chef of Vincent a Restaurant, also in Minneapolis. He is French, not terribly outgoing, but knowledgeable and super easy to work with. He made Scallops with Orange Sauce that made me sigh with pleasure. I announced him, got him a bowl and strainer for his demonstration, and helped him plate his wonderful samples. Keep in mind that these chefs are coming every hour, with 45 minutes of demonstration and 15 minutes of transition: one demo getting cleaned up and one getting prepped. There is a lot of furious dishwashing and countertop cleaning as well as new chef stage orientation going on in those fifteen minutes, but people have been fabulous so far. After Vincent, we had Beth Ingles, from Ellsworth Creamery in Wisconsin, accompanied by Des (Dez?) from KS95 radio, showing decadent uses of the Creamery’s butter, cheese and gift products. Beth served a variety of cheese curds (plain, cajun, ranch, etc.) and made Cheesy Rice Lasagna and Bacon Wrapped Cheese Curds. She needed no help from me except a little bit of plating for samples, and there was a lot going on backstage at the time, so I missed the bacon wrapped cheese curds, and if I had been more energetic at that point, I would have worked up some serious disappointment. I had arrived at 9am, after shopping for dishwashing supplies and an hour commute because of the crappy roads. I worked or suppported chefs (except for one bathroom stop and a coffee purchase) the entire time until 6pm, when I left for the grocery store, turning the stage over to my new friends Bruce and Dan.

There were five new recipes I had to shop for, that had come in late. I was elated, though tired, on the drive home. Once I got to the grocery store I was less elated. Three of the recipes needed avocados and three needed limes. Two needed mangoes. Two needed things the mega-store, Cub, didn’t carry. Several things were a little vague. I found nothing that matched the description 10 1/2 oz can bean dip. I got a 14 oz can of refried beans. I questioned the literal need of one recipe for 1 1/2 pounds of blueberries, mixed with other berries. I bought two 8 oz. containers of blueberries, some raspberries and strawberries and called it good. I had difficulty making quick decisions, so it all seemed very slow-motion and cumbersome. I wanted to do well, but there were some problematic calls. Dylan, who works a second job at Cub Foods, was a lifeline in the produce battle. I told him, inappropriately, that I wanted to take him home. I meant more as an adopted son, but I am not sure it played that way. I didn’t leave the store until 8pm. Just as I was checking out, Mr. Wordtabulous called. Where ARE you? I am on my way, my beloved, I told him. Well, not in so many words. But day one of the Minneapolis Home & Garden Show was done, and I was as ready as I was going to be for day two. Bring it, I say.

For those of you salivating at home, recipes will be available next week on the Minneapolis Home & Garden Show website, so be sure to check back. Let me know if you care to hear more. I am sure that more stories will be forthcoming over the next few days, and I will share them if you want! So let me know, and in the meantime, don’t work too hard!

Related Post: Working Girl: The Summer of No Sleep

Related Post: Working Girl: Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Warriors on Wheels: Tour de Cure’s Cynthia Zuber

This is the second installment of the Warriors on Wheels series which is intended to celebrate unique individuals who transcend their diagnosis, and promote Tour de Cure, the event they participate in to help defeat diabetes. Ride. Party. Stop Diabetes.

Cynthia Zuber recently observed the twenty-fifth anniversary of her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Diabetes wasn’t the end of her life, but it wasn’t the end of her health difficulties, either. She was later diagnosed with other conditions, such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and multiple food allergies. As Cynthia says, “Diabetes + food allergies = very challenging,” and as a result, she takes her health very seriously.

Five and a half years ago she began seeing a classical homeopath whose interventions have helped her naturally regulate her blood sugar levels, reducing, though not eliminating, her need for insulin. “I have found that holistic therapies have helped me feel my best, and let me live life well even with chronic health conditions,” she says. Homeopathy, Shiatsu massage, an organic whole foods diet, a daily walk and yoga 2-3 times a week are a handful of the things Cynthia does to stay in balance physically and emotionally. “Exercise is an everyday must,” she emphasizes, “as well as proper sleep, a good diet and controlling stress.”

Cynthia is a St. Kate’s graduate with a BS in speech communication and minors in psychology and theology. She is currently taking classes part-time that put her on track to become a holistic health practitioner specializing in healing touch and homeopathy. “I want to share the holistic therapies I have found to help others live a healthy and happy life. Health challenges do not have to limit you. Holistic treatments integrated with traditional medicine can greatly reduce symptoms, allowing people to live a much better life and accomplish their goals.”

One goal that Cynthia has for 2012 is a return to the Twin Cities Tour de Cure. She first rode the Tour in 2011, signing up two weeks before the event, and riding 27 miles on a mountain bike. She had mixed results from the experience, finding her lack of experience with cycling to be a challenge for controlling her blood sugars that day, but she was more than impressed with the overall event.  “Being a Red Rider [a Tour participant who wears the iconic red jersey that indicates they ride with diabetes] and being part of the community of the American Diabetes Association, I have never met kinder people with more passion for a cause. They call themselves family, and they really are. The whole experience is one of being supported, encouraged, and cared for.” This year Zuber plans to ride the 27 mile route again, only this time with more training under her belt, and a lighter bike.

Another goal Cynthia has acted on to help share her passion is her blog, Diabetes Light: My holistic journey to health, which she began in December and on which she offers information about holistic health practices, perspectives on living with chronic health conditions and even recipes. To learn more, check out her blog at http://diabeteslight.com. If you like what you see, click the “Like” button, and/or find the Diabetes Light community on Facebook and join in! For more information about the Tour de Cure and options to join in, volunteer or donate, check out their website: http://www.diabetes.org/twincitiestourdecure.

Related Post: Warriors on Wheels: Tour de Cure’s Kevin Wells

Related Post: Tour de Cure: The Finish Line

One and Two

One gets up early, eats the breakfast he makes himself and slips back into his den before anyone else rises. He doesn’t say much but there is little to tell. He smiles about plans he has to meet his friends later, as dog tags from a mythical army clink around his neck. His eyes glaze as he goes out-of-body for the coerced hug, but he cheerfully takes the mail to the mailbox, and lifting the flag, lopes, as usual, to the bus stop.

Two gets up late and lingers in his room until the last minute, asking for eggs through his closed door. Once out, he smiles and banters and playfully hugs, perhaps flexing his muscles for my admiration. He keeps his friends and his life as close a secret as possible, letting information out in dribbles on a need-to-know basis. A closed book with an inviting cover, he hoists his backpack and coolly slouches toward his day.

I watch them go, and feel it in my core, seeing them in all times all at once: the wide-eyed babies, the sweet-cheeked toddlers, the winsome children, and the youths they are now. I see shades of what they will be: the young men they are becoming, perhaps fathers someday, and wonder how much of those future lives they will share with me. I torture myself, and imagine losing One or Two. I shake it off; it is like opening a vein. These daily paper cuts, “I love you, have a good day!” are painful enough.

New Things

In No Particular Order:
This is a T-shirt I bought after subscribing to Walk Off The Earth’s videos on Youtube. You, too, could own a WOTE T-shirt, featuring either the WOTE logo or Beard Guy. I liked both the shirts, but I found the Beard Guy shirt cool AND amusing, and with me, amusing usually wins. If you DO buy a t-shirt, consider the size carefully. I am wearing a large and I am kind of nervous about whether it will still fit after a wash. Normally I wear a medium (unless my linebacker shoulders require a large.) With this, I should have gone extra-large. I can’t help but suspect it fits me oddly because I am old, which makes no sense, but irrational is something I do. It is almost my niche. Related Post: Two Things

Here is a coffee cabinet my husband made. I KNOW! Mr. Wordtabulous has amazing skills and he is unbelievably crafty with wood. You would cry bitter tears of jealousy if you saw all the wonderful things in our home that he has made. No,  they are not for sale. Sorry! But I really like having a place to store all my coffee and tea paraphernalia, not to mention the coffeemaker and my Capresso kettle with the broke-ass lid. :-(.

Here, get a closer look at the cabinet top. Yes, yes, amazing, I KNOW! Hey, I picked out the knobs, and consulted on the design, so don’t go thinking I don’t do anything around here.

I didn’t include a picture, but I did get a chunk of ceiling plaster in my eye today, so not everything I have gotten recently has been fun and amazing. I was moving a board in the workshop (helping make bookcases, because I contribute) and I smacked it into the ceiling. Looking up as the dust and chunks fell down was not my smartest move, but I believe I got all the detritus out without scratching my cornea. So all’s well that ends well.

The biggest thing I got lately was a job. After nearly four years of being an at-home mom and focusing on the writing I am back to working part-time, this time as an admin (a first for me) at a marketing agency.  I work with very cool, smart and creative women in a beautiful space close to my home. I get some interesting opportunities to learn and be involved in events, a paycheck and some structure that I discovered can be helpful for prompting me toward efficiency. Hopefully my gifts will be an asset to the agency. I am having a very challenging time acclimating to 20-25 hours disappearing from my weekly discretionary time.  Also, dang, I’m tired. My goal is to not give anything up, so I am still writing lifestyle articles for local magazines, and blogging, obviously. I continue reading for State Services for the Blind, but on weekends now, and I will keep up with my Tour de Cure for American Diabetes Association activities and still teach Sunday school. I also help out at the desk once a week at my fitness temple, BRX. The working out has ebbed a little; I only got one class in last week, but as I adjust to my new schedule, I hope that will improve. I am also still doing all the at-home stuff, but more lethargically.

My main concern is whether I will be able to continue with the big projects: finding an agent for Hollywood University and finishing the revisions on Sleepers. I wasn’t making the progress I wanted on them when I wasn’t working outside the home, so I decided that it wasn’t time that was the problem. The enemy lies within. I am sabotaging myself. My last new thing to report will hopefully help me with that. I have joined a newly formed writers group here in town. We are creating individual goals and pledging accountability to each other and ourselves, modeling our structure on the writings of Rosanne Bane www.BaneOfYourResistance.com.

So, that’s what’s new here. What’s new in your life?

Midnight Muse and the Aftermath

If you have been hanging with me for awhile, you have witnessed my complaints about my cat, who waits until we are cozy in our bed to jump up and start a discussion, which tends to involve some pacing (on Catabulous’ part) and a lot of position changes (on everyone’s part.) Until finally we (I) decide it is worth it to get out of the warm covers and secure the cat in the basement with as much self-control as I can muster. Perversely, I sometimes think this is what he wants, like a tired and cranky toddler throwing a fit because he is begging to be put to bed. Put yourself in the basement, I try to tell him. But the language barrier, you see my problem. I am going a little farther with this metaphor than I need to, but I am tired. Last night, my problem wasn’t the cat, who was confined to the basement BEFORE we got into bed (ha HA!) Last night, after about an hour and half of sleep to take the edge off the bone-grating weariness I had acquired throughout the day, my eyelids fluttered open and somebody else wanted to start a discussion. My muse.

Stop looking at me like that. The muse is REAL. If you don’t have a muse that literally speaks to you, you are probably imagining me posing theatrically, one hand to my heart and the other to the ether, as a toga draped nymph whispers in my ear. I would LOVE to set up a shot like that, but I have unbelievable bedhead today and all the little girls in my neighborhood that I might dress in a toga for the image are at school right now. The more I think about it, the more I want to do it. Good LORD, sleep deprivation is the death of impulse control. If I decide to do the picture, I’ll update the post later. Moving on. So yeah, as I was saying, the muse is REAL. I will not disparage her because to do so seems to me to be the height of stupidity, but she is kind of…persistent? And…loud? One random thought leads to a phrase, which gets reworked and reworked until another phrase or two is formed. Then maybe a sentence that is relevant but not precisely connected. Then, I start to worry that I am going to lose the thread of what I am putting together, because my memory and attention span are really not all that good, but this line of thinking is becoming very interesting, almost brilliant. I also realize that I am getting farther and farther from sleep, so I grab for the assortment of notebooks and post-it pads that I keep on my bedside table, to get the high points written down so I can let the rest go and slip back into blessed slumber. But I have no pens. Ever. Maybe a pencil too dull to use. I dither. Will I remember in the morning? Will I kick myself for not writing it all down? Experience says ‘No’ and ‘Yes.’

Last night, for some reason, I went into our bathroom, thinking maybe there might be a pen in there, even though I know better, and  considered digging out my eyeliner pencil for a quick note, but I was making a lot of noise walking around and crashing into things already, which was stressing me out. More and more awake. I gave up and groped my way into the guest room, running into the hollow core door with a resonant “donk!” as I did, then switched on the light and finally made three notes for a post on music. Good for me! Back to bed. But my muse was not done with me. Snatches of  songs chased around in my head, particularly one from my childhood, one I suspected was the key to shutting the party down. I slumped with resignation, then flipped back the covers and grabbed a pillow and Grandma’s quilt I keep nearby for this kind of night. I crept through my nighttime house and collected my iPod, which I set to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #14 in C Sharp Minor, also known as “Moonlight Sonata.” It is a song I heard my mother and both my older and younger sisters play on the piano innumerable times as I grew up. In fact, during a homesick time in college I asked my younger sister to tape record herself practicing the piano so I could listen when I felt blue, and this was one of the songs she played. During one section of repetitive, quiet lines her voice is recorded on the tape saying, “Wake up, Lynnette,” which always made me laugh. I still listen for that strain. It is the kind of song that requires my full attention, and evokes more emotion than imagery, which quiets my brain. I listened to it three times before my muse agreed we were through for the night and slipped off to wherever she goes. Which is what I think she was looking for all along. Perhaps she was tired and cranky and needed me to play a little bedtime music; all the rest was just a setup, her version of my cat’s pacing and mrrowing for my attention. I looked at my notes this morning (had 100% forgotten what I’d written down,) and they aren’t bad, but in daylight they lack the brilliance I had hoped for. I think the best I can hope for is that if this continues, my sleep-deprived altered consciousness might eventually come up with something really interesting. For now, I must go and do something about this hair.

Moonlight Sonata:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT7_IZPHHb0

Related Post: A Cat-Tabulous Christmas

Related Post: When Time Stops: Moonlit Moment

Working Girl: The Summer of No Sleep

At the end of my freshman year at SDSU, I was busted for being on the guys’ side of Binnewies Hall after curfew. I had to report to the Residence Hall Director later that week for judgment, which I did. The RHD, Joe, asked me what I had to say for myself and I said, “Absolutely nothing. I am totally guilty. I should have paid attention and either gotten out of there earlier, or at least kept my voice down so I didn’t get caught.” I don’t know why I was so unusually comfortable in the situation; my traditional response would have been shame and panic (caught! breaking rules! on the BOY’S side!) but I had a rare interval of clarity right then that let me see that this was what it was: a legalistic situation that called for accountability and not a big deal. Joe looked at me for a second and said, “Have you ever considered becoming a Resident Assistant?” I had not, but I saw that the position offered a free private room, a basic meal plan, and didn’t seem to require too many hours of work. I liked my RA’s and thought it would be fun to shepherd wide-eyed freshmen into the campus world. Kind of like being a tour guide, without the long dress. Starting in my sophomore year, I was relying on a few tiny scholarships, grants, loans and work to pay my way, so the RA gig sounded like a sensible way to go.

I was not a great RA. I liked the residents, but I was not very effective at inspiring enthusiasm for the events we were forced to provide. I, in fact, was the only female RA in Mathews Hall to NOT get an award for providing extra social or educational events for my residents (above and beyond the requisite two.) On the other hand, I would talk to anyone, anytime about anything, and the residents and I had a perfect understanding: if they kept the shenanigans quiet I wouldn’t notice them. Also, the one social event I do remember hosting was a viewing of the video “Raw” by Eddie Murphy, which was hilarious.  I loved the staff meetings; the other RA’s were pretty awesome and I find myself now wondering what they are all up to. Some of my former residents are my friends on facebook, and one, Kelly, is still my BFF and can be found on Hot Off The Wire. Good times, weird year. By the end of April, I felt I had kind of flunked RAing, but had managed to get a position as an Ambassador to incoming freshmen for the next Fall, and had applied for and scored two work-study positions for the summer. I would be working in Records and the Nutrition Lab.

I will not bore you with Records except to say I helped manage requests for transcripts and the most exciting thing was the motorized file system that was built into the wall and ran kind of like the spinning rack at the drycleaner. It was a quiet, sunny office in the very old Admin building, with its high ceilings, tall wood-framed windows and uneven floors. Not a bad workplace to ride out the occasional hangover.

The Nutrition Lab was a different kind of animal. Literally. The labs were on the top floor of what was called the HEN house, for Home Economics and Nursing. There was a food lab that was a massive kitchen, but I worked for an instructor doing research on certain diets, and we had a big biology lab and, up some steps into a kind of attic, was “the rat room.” My boss was feeding a control group of at least twelve rats as much kibble as they wanted, and was feeding the experimental group of the same size a yo-yo diet of minimal food for a set amount of time, followed by as much as they wanted. My daily job was to weigh & document how much they ate and keep them fed and watered. At least weekly I weighed the rats and cleaned their cages. There were also a bunch of lab mice for another experiment and I had to take care of them, too. It was warm and musty smelling up in the rat room, even when the cages were clean. I had a radio to listen to and I recall the big hit of the summer was “Nasty Boys” by Janet Jackson, which always makes me think of wiggly white rats and the smell of urine. I did not love the rats, but I bore them no ill will either, which is one of the reasons why, when the feeding portion of the experiment was done, the next phase made me a bit squeamish. (ICK ALERT! Beware the next paragraph! I warned you!)

When you euthanize rats, it is a lot like using a killing jar on insects, only bigger. You pop the rat in a big jar with some cotton balls soaked in something (ether?) Then my boss finished them off and excised the “fat pad” above the rats’ tails (we humans have them too, that cushy pad at the base of our spine, just above the butt-crack. I can’t see that without thinking of rats, either.) It turns out that this fat pad is a good indicator of overall body fat content. So I weighed the fat pads and documented this and then slipped the dead rats and the fat pads into plastic bags, labeled by ID# and frozen. For later. Because the fat pad was not enough information. Over the next two weeks, with no rats to feed, my job was to thaw a few rats each day in an autoclave. This produced an interesting aroma that brought people to the lab asking, “Mmmm, what’s going on in the kitchen today?” Once we told them, they never asked again. After the rats were thawed, I put each one, with a specific amount of purified water according to the rat’s weight, into an industrial blender, where it was ground up, making some horrifying thunking sounds which I always envisioned was the tail. I poured the thick, warm “rat shake”–hair and all–into a new, freshly labeled bag from which we would later take samples to do a more comprehensive body fat test. Then I cleaned the blender, and started again. It is the kind of memory, with sounds, smells, visuals and even the tactile sense of holding the lid on the warm blender as it shuddered and buzzed, that keeps the experience as fresh as if it happened yesterday. Traumatically so. Nasty Boys, indeed.

On top of, or underlying all this, was the new overnight and weekend job I got that summer, the one I’ll talk about next time. Suffice it to say that between the three jobs (the rat lab job ended as the Ambassador one began,) and the new boyfriend (Mr. Wordtabulous!) I got next to no sleep that summer, which had an interesting effect on my personality and my relationships. Thank you, to everyone who survived that time with me. And thank you, visitor, for reading!

Related Post: Working Girl: Food Service Summer

Related Post: Working Girl: Laura Ingalls Wilder Tour Guide

Warriors on Wheels Part 1: Tour de Cure’s Kevin Wells

Last June I blogged about Twin Cities Tour de Cure, a cycling fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association that I participated in for the first time in 2011. I was blown away by the route, the organization and the amazing people I met. Also by the party at the end of the ride, which was the best ever finish line I’ve crossed (great food, live music, a beer garden and NO speeches!) Janeece, one of my new best friends at the TC Tour de Cure headquarters, asked if I would write a few words about some of the people involved in this year’s ride and see if we can’t get a few more of you as excited as we are about the upcoming event (Saturday, June 2, 2012! Save the date!)

A lot of people I have talked to who have gotten either the Type 1 or 2 diagnosis have talked about the changes they have had to make as a result of their diabetes. Some of the changes are to improve health, like healthy eating and weight management, and other changes, like blood sugar maintenance, are to prevent health problems. When I spoke with Officer Kevin Wells at the 5th Precinct in Minneapolis, I was struck by the fact that when he was diagnosed in 1993, he was already a long-time nutrition and fitness enthusiast. His approach to diabetes seems to be to not let it change the way he likes to live.

Kevin’s passion for cycling began in 2005, when he took an indoor spin class to add something new to his workout regime. “Everyone there talked about riding outside,” he says, so he tried it. “I fell in love. That was the first year I did the Tour de Cure.” He commutes to work on bike whenever he can and pushes himself with distance and/or intensity on training rides outside as often as possible, or inside on a trainer when the weather is bad. In addition to the fun and challenging workout he found in cycling, Kevin discovered another obsession: the gear. He now owns several bikes and a plethora of garb, cycling computers, GPS systems, and other things that take his ride to the next level.

I asked Kevin if his intensity with cycling complicates his blood sugar management. “Long steady rides will continuously burn carbs,” he explains, “so you just have to be sure not to let your blood sugar fall too low. The way I ride pushes my anaerobic threshold, which is where the blood sugar actually spikes. When I don’t feel good on a ride I have to test [my blood sugar] because I can’t always tell if I feel off because I am low or high. I don’t let it stop me, though.”

Kevin enjoys other cycling events, such as the Tour de Tonka, and local duathlons, but Tour de Cure has a special place in his heart. “The Tour is a great, fun event. I’ve met a lot of nice people, and the food’s good. Last year, I rode the 62 mile route, and commuted to the event and back home on my bike, so I got in 100 miles. I calculated that I burned 6,800 calories that ride. I felt great.”

The folks at TC Tour de Cure would like to thank Kevin Wells for supporting the Tour with his participation and story. Please join Kevin, myself and the other riders at the event either by riding or joining the ranks of volunteers, or consider donating to support the ADA drive for research, education and advocacy for people with diabetes. You can get started by clicking on this link:  TC Tour de Cure.

Related Post: Tour de Cure: The Finish Line