Another 4th of July

It’s true the branch holding the prayer wheel a grandson made for him broke and the prayer wheel hit the ground, but that’s just a tiny part of the story.  And, really, there were a couple of corn-fed squirrels the size of ducks on the branch at the time so I’m more inclined to chalk that up to physics than metaphysics. Still, it set the stage for a day that can only be remembered the stuff of legend.

The Fourth of July has turned out to be a pretty significant day for our family.  It’s when one of my sisters let us know she had MS, it’s when we confronted my father about his drinking, it’s when the day we found out that the seam in the ice cream canister was shot and the ice cream we’d been hand cranking all morning tasted of vanilla, cream, sugar and overwhelmingly of salt.  It’s also the day my father died.

We knew it was coming.  Papa had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer and had stopped chemo several months earlier when the treatment nearly killed him.  He opted for a shorter life but more good days until the cancer finished its dirty work.  When he got home from the hospital  after stopping treatment he’d been too weak too walk up and down the stairs so he bumped down on his bum and crawled up on his hands and knees.  He got stronger over the next several months; when the harsh winter hit he was up on the roof clearing snow to prevent ice dams.  I called those his death–defying acts; he was reminding himself, and us, that he wasn’t dead yet and, damn it, he was going to live until he died.

The return of the red-winged blackbirds saw him start to slip.  The pain in his back where the cancer had spread to his spine bothered him more but he seldom complained.  He was ready for the next adventure as he phrased it.  He even told us that if Grandma and Grandpa weren’t there waiting for him with sour cream cookies and a bushel of peaches he might just turn around and come back. He asked me to be the ‘speaker for the dead’ at his service.

Late June it was time to bring in hospice.  That Friday evening he sat outdoors reading a biography of Mozart, the next day he couldn’t remember out how to use a walker, the day after that he couldn’t walk at all. Before the sun rose another five times he was gone.

Hospice arranged for a hospital bed to be put in the living room so Papa could see outdoors and so we would have easy access to both sides of the bed to care for him.  Mom got her hair cut super short so it would be less to deal with.  One of the last things Papa ever said was “I like your hair like that.”  I drove up from Ohio and my sister Sue flew up from Virginia.  Nancy made up a chart to keep us organized (which medications given, how much, when).  Papa was slipping fast and wasn’t able to swallow so slow- release opioids went up the rear.  Sue and I read out loud from The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, a book whose lessons he treasured.

The 4th dawned with the tasks for caring for a dying man and preparing for whatever the day would bring.  Family started to gather for burgers and farewells.  Helen (daughter) thought Papa might be able to smell so she started a batch of chocolate chip cookies; she thought it would be a comforting thing.  I don’t know about Papa but it made the house smell like home for the rest of us. We made the mix for the ice cream. More people arrived and about 10 minutes after the last grandson who could get there arrived Papa turned gray and left us. Yes, I think he had some sense that it was okay now, that the family was together.

We, being lay people, couldn’t pronounce him dead that requires a pro; Nancy called the hospice people to report that Papa had expired. I’ll never forget that, when she was connected with the nurse she said “my father has expired.”  This being an unattended death the police had to be called.  The nurse came and confirmed what we already knew. While we waited for the police the nurse cleaned Papa and we stood around to say a prayer.  Things they don’t teach you, how long are you supposed to stand in a circle looking at the departed?  Life goes on–eventually someone has to pee. 

When the circle broke up there was a crack and a limb fell from a tree and onto the hood of the nurse’s car. There were three small branches with a bud, a dead leaf and a green leaf on each.  Whatever your belief system there was something in it for you–two of the friends and relatives were Wicca and brought it in to lay across Papa’s body. We thought that was a bit much and cut it down to something that wouldn’t raise suspicions.  I mean, a man dead in the living room with a tree limb across the body?  It tasks the little gray cells or, as Thoreau put it, “as when you find a trout in the milk”.  We also managed to get a navy shirt on him and pinned his military honors on the pillow by his head.

The police came and asked if there had been any witnesses–about two dozen hands went up.  Helen asked him if he’d like a cookie and offered up a plate of chocolate chippers (Papa’s favorite).  Apparently we looked innocent even with the branch across the body and the police left.

That’s when the storm came up.  Winds whipping, skies dark enough to trigger automatic lights, lightening, thunder, hail the size of cherries. It came and went so quickly you could hardly believe it had happened except for the chunks of ice on the lawn and the rainbow.  Mom had us take down the Finnish flag because the house was now ‘under new management.”

Arnie’s mom was there and said something to Nancy who asked her to repeat it.  Her memory was shaky, Nancy prompted her with a word and I asked “Deine Vater ist mitt den Herrn?”  She smiled and said, as she always did ‘you speak German?’  This comes into play later.

The needs of the living can’t be ignored and one of the grandchildren asked when we were going to have lunch.  “We’ll probably wait until they remove the body.”  The question wasn’t as strange as it sounded–a cranky toddler needed a nap and a car ride is a great way to put them to sleep. 

The 4th is also when we celebrate one of the grandson’s birthday so after dinner we had cake and ice cream. Someone called asking if Papa could help work a blood drive.  Ah, no he can’t, he’s dead.  That, folks, is the definition of an awkward conversation. 

The morning of the 5th dawned and being a family of walkers and hikers we took a long walk for breakfast but we were still full of nervous energy so we decided to start clearing out the basement.  Things came up to the car port and that drew attention.  Are you having a garage sale?  Might as well and the signs went up.  Someone asked when our father had died; turns out that ‘yesterday’ is an off-putting answer in such situations.

By the time the sale was done for the day we were all exhausted and the house only partially cleared out.  No one was in the mood to cook so we went out to dinner–Olive Garden.  As a large group we needed to wait for seating and in came a hefty guy–all gut no butt.  Hair sweat slicked back and luxuriously hairy ears. His t-shirt stretched tight across his tummy and his sweat-pants style shorts.  He’d completed the look with the white cotton socks and brown sandals.  Yes, poster child for Midwestern tacky.  Arnie’s mom leaned over to me and stage whispered “ist er nicht ein grosses Schwein?” Those of us with some German doubled over with laughter and didn’t dare explain it.

This year we’re gathering again to celebrate our Mom’s life and to take the cremains of both our parents for interment in the memory garden of their church.  Though as Mom said, it doesn’t really matter, “everyone we knew is dead” but we’ll hold back just a little to scatter in Lake Michigan where they sailed.  We’ll be honoring her work with the Red Cross, her skill as a sailor, teaching and singing Dona Nobis Pacem in memory of her many years with the Girl Scouts. We’ll be making ice cream, grilling burgers, lighting sparklers and adding another set of memories to the 4th of July stories.  It’s what we do.






Higgledy Piggledy

One of my favorite Dorothy Parker poems doesn’t appear in her anthologies except as an anecdote:

“Higgledy Piggledy, my white hen;
She lays eggs for gentlemen.

You cannot persuade her with gun or lariat
To come across for the proletariat.”

I so wish she’d written red hen because Red Hen has been in the news.  The small restaurant in Virginia who asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave.  I have mixed feelings about it.  While I support the motivation of the restaurant and its owner and staff once the party had been seated I think they should have been allowed to stay.  The moment to refuse service is when Trump’s unfortunate choice of a press secretary walked int.  I would have completely supported telling her that should she ever return she would be refused service. That said, I also understand that it’s pretty difficult to think clearly in emotionally charged situations; finding out that someone who represents all you oppose is sitting in your place of restaurant, calming eating cheese is certainly an emotionally charged situation. I don’t agree with harassing someone in their own home but I have no problem with someone lifting their lip in disgust and asking a co-worker to take over the checkout because dealing with someone associated with Trump’s administration makes them feel tainted.

What do we do with the current situation?  We have an administration that has been deliberately, frequently, unrepentantly offensive and intolerant of anyone who doesn’t give them full-throated support.  Trump’s is an administration is in favor of denying service based on deeply held beliefs.  As long as it’s their beliefs–yours don’t count. How does one respond?

It’s easy to say we should take the high road but I think we all know that isn’t going to solve anything.  The far right calls us snow flakes and would just see it as weakness.  Attacking that “Vesuvius of Mendacities” just provokes more of his appalling lies and irresponsible, impulsive threats.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that–Melania told us early on that if you attack him he punches back 10 time harder.  And she’d be in a position to know.  Yes, I meant that exactly the way it sounded and if that offends you let me refer you to Stephen Fry when he said “I’m offended? Well so f*cking what?” Yet the country elected (not by popular vote) a man we knew to be uncivil and who retaliates far out of proportion to the offense.  

Yes, we need to take our voice to the poll and vote that administration out.  More than that we need the people in power to stop pandering to Trump and call him out on his crap. Yes, conservatives, I’m talking to you. You need to tell your elected officials that your support is not contingent on being submissive to a president who thrives on chaos and carnival.  Why?  Because right now yours is the party in power and it’s always the responsibility of those in power to effect change, and change only happens when the cost of not changing exceeds the cost of change. There needs to be a high price tag on descending into that abyss.

The Red Hen is going to pay a high price for exercising symbolic speech.  It’s a small business, the type of business that Trump claimed chamption until it became convenient not to.  That small business is learning that the Clash was right when they said You have the right to free speech as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it”

Let’s prove them wrong.  We can do better, we can be better.





Drinking from skulls: Quora edition

After a week of answering questions on Quora I’ve learned a lot more about people and as Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us”.   Though, I will say that Trump’s election makes a lot more sense to me now; we are a nation of fools.

Here’s some of the typical questions and an all purpose response:

  • Is s/he cheating on me if…..  (yes, little cracker dove, if you have to ask you already know the answer)
  • Should I get back with my narcissistic ex?  (no)
  • How can I get my ex to take me back?  (if you’re asking a bunch of strangers on the internet, you can’t)
  • How do I tell someone they don’t deserve to be a boy/girl friend (you don’t)
  • Should I take my dog/cat to a vet if…(yes)
  • Am I wrong to…(yes)
  • Why is Trump the best president ever? (he’s not)
  • Why don’t we repeal the 2nd amendment (boy do we need to teach civics again)
  • Couldn’t Prince Harry…(that’s pretty thinly-veiled racism you asshole)
  • How can I become famous overnight?  (mass murder, but I wouldn’t recommend it)

Now, there are some good questions out there.  The grammar questions generally are sincere and they’re being asked by non-native speakers.  The scholarly publishing and research ones aren’t bad but they’re depressing.  Where to find free articles/books fall into the same category.  People don’t know about all the great resources that are out there. If I were going to make a canned response it would include SJR, DOAJ, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, DOAB, and Google Scholar.

The most frustrating questions are the ones where there isn’t enough information to begin to respond.  Back in the dark ages went I went to grad school they called it the reference interview.  If you’re asking a random bunch of people for advice for the next book to read it would be helpful to know what kind of things you like to read.  If you want suggestions for an essay the class it’s for is pretty important–American History? French Poetry?  Earth Science?

Myself I’ve asked one question and it was for recommendations for binoculars that would be versatile for wildlife and astronomy if used on a deck with a tripod.  I got a thoughtful response, not with brands or models but with the criteria I should consider.  And that, I suppose, is why people answer questions on Quora, in hopes that someone out there has an actual question that a quick Google can’t answer and where the questioner wants an answer from someone who knows more about the subject than they do.

In the mean time, no, Jesus would not have owned a semi-automatic rifle and yes, Ted Cruz is eligible to run for the presidency and finally, why Harry fell in love with Meghan is none of your business.




A Nation of Scolds

It’s the day before Cinco de Mayo (otherwise known as Star Wars day) and for the last few days Face Book has been liberally peppered with videos and lists about why we shouldn’t celebrate May 5th and that wearing sombreros,  fake mustaches and tequila shots are offensive.  This follows close on the heels of a young woman being slammed for wearing a  cheongsam to her high school prom. Macey’s is getting lots of good press for it’s “modest” collection but we don’t know yet how the national consciousness will react to a non-Muslim wearing it.  Of course, the Amish would be considered immodest by the standards of that collection but that’s for another post.

I’m not going to defend anything that makes fun of another culture or reinforces religious or ethnic stereotypes; it’s wrong to do that.  That said–we have become a nation of scolds.  We’re happy to share (and share and share) lists of everything we shouldn’t do and pile on abuse on anyone with a different view point with bumper-sticker slogans saying why they’re right or, conversely why you’re wrong then we sit back and bask in our smug, self-righteous glow of moral superiority.  After all, nothing says commitment to a cause or support for marginalized peoples like snarking at a stranger on FaceBook especially when you’re fairly confident that you have lots of support (e.g. you are repeating the same thing the previous 127 comments said).

But that’s all we’re doing, scolding.  It’s not changing anyone’s mind and, in fact, is more likely to have the other person double down on their views.  If you really think you’re right then shouldn’t your goal be to change minds and behaviors? 

Jonathon Haidt talks about the metaphor of the rider and the elephant where the elephant is our emotions and the rider is the intellect/logic/reason.  The rider can turn the elephant but ultimately the elephant is the one that changes direction.  It’s why our current political divide is to completely dysfunctional; we’re yelling at each other’s elephants and no matter how many charts and graphs and facts we show to the rider that elephant just keeps going down the same path.  Or worse, when we simply shout the other side down and never seriously engage the rider.

I’m a librarian so here’s my two cents.  Instead of scolding people for enjoying their excuse to drink tequila and eat tacos maybe instead you post a picture of the book display you put together under the heading  America’s fun (and mostly fake) Holiday and highlight Mexican cuisine, Mexican history, whatever along with a quick history of Cinco de Mayo.  Maybe you share the LibGuide you put together on resources in your library on Mexico. Maybe you have a speaker in on real Mexican holidays or the history of tequila.  Maybe you look at your collection of Spanish language authors and throw a little more money in its direction.  Maybe you look at your collection in Spanish and improve it.  Maybe you partner with the Latino community and implement their ideas.  Or, maybe all  you did was share the “don’t do these things” lists.

In Ohio the Latino community is throwing a party-Cincinnati Latino Celebration

Denver is having its 31st Denver Latino Community Celebration and begins its post with a sentence long explanation of what Cinco de Mayo is.

They’re not scolding anyone for having fun, they’re taking it and making it into something positive and promoting the community.  Probably a lot more people are going to learn something about the Latino community and feel good about Latinos in their area than if they were just scolded.

If you’ve got 18 minutes and 32 seconds you might watch this.  He’s an excellent speaker and provides an understanding of the values of conservatives and liberals as well as a reminder that we really need both.




When the church is Christian

It’s Palm Sunday  but today’s postlude was Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, normally associated with Halloween.  Our organist (who is exceptional) would just as soon never play it again.  I suppose that organists wish that people would expand their horizons and long for a chance to play something other than the same dozen or so classics but, darn it, they’re classics for a reason–they’re fabulous!  Today our marvelous organist let the toccata loose and rattled the rafters with a rendition that was guaranteed to shake us to our core as well as leaving the hundreds of pipes in that Berghaus Tracker organ as clean as if they’d been prepped for a colonoscopy.

My church is an urban church with all that implies.  We have a soup kitchen, a food pantry, a Stone Soup service and have living arrangements for local men learning to live clean and sober.  Our church is used for AA, Boy Scouts, GED classes, the Michiana children’s choir and as rehearsal space for our civic theater and many other functions. We’re a member of the reconciling network meaning we welcome everyone (LGBTQ friendly)—we might have a bunch of older white-haired people but we’re not Kim Davis.  Actually the least active day of the week is Sunday.

What does any of that have to do with the Toccata and Fugue?  One of our more colorful parishioners is a recovering alcoholic, I’ll call him Percival.  If you saw Percy you’d think he was homeless–sweat pants and t-shirts, bad teeth, wild hair.  What fewer know is that he’s a university-trained organist and plays beautifully, usually by himself during the week.   I don’t know what went wrong in his life that ended up with him living in extreme poverty in South Bend and in need of our food pantry and it’s none of my business.  What I do know is that Percy doesn’t just use our food pantry, he volunteers at it.  He’s polite, kind, thoughtful and happy to be friends with everyone. And, he’s dying, his liver is shot and while we don’t know how much longer he has we know he won’t have a normal lifespan for a white, straight, cis-gendered, educated male in the US.

Last week while our organist was out-of-town over spring break Percy played for our service using well-known and loved hymns for prelude and postlude and, of course, the hymns during the service.  He played in stocking feet to protect the pedals from scuff marks because he doesn’t own organ shoes, he wore a suit jacket that didn’t fit well but he honored the service by dressing the best he could.  You would have thought that we’d given the congressional medal of honor and a check for a million dollars.  He was thrilled, honored and humbled by being allowed to play for a worship service–as if we were doing him a favor.  All of us in the choir were as happy for him as we could be and not a man Jack or woman Jill left before the end of the postlude.  The church likely offered him an honorarium and likely he refused it, just being thrilled to play as part of worship.

Phillip Gulley, in If the Church Were Christian  asks “What would it mean if Jesus were a model for living rather than an object of worship?” Sometimes all we need to do is look at our fellow humans as humans and treat them as people equal both under the law and in the eyes of the Creator. 

Percy received his real payment this morning when our organist played Percy’s favorite organ piece.  By now you’ve figured it out, it’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor and it would have driven Chuck Norris to his knees weeping like a child from the power and beauty of it.  There may be a day when I hear it played as well but I will never hear it played better or with greater love.




CrossFit dénouement

So here we are, the final class of the CrossFit ‘new you’ challenge where six weeks ago a bunch of pale, lumpy middle-aged people (mostly women) showed up in spandex and apprehension eager to get started on a class we were pretty sure would kick our asses  and wondering just how bad we’d be at it.  Now we know.  Note to self: don’t ask questions if you won’t want the answer.

Day one we were introduced to something that Torquemada would have envied and the Marquis de Sade ‘s younger, cooler, cousin must have invented.  Yes folks, the burpee.  This was after we all found out that balance, for us, was a brand of margarine.  We also found out that CrossFit sounds a lot like the sound track to a cheesy porn film.  Not that I have first-hand experience.

Class two we all confessed to each other that peeing required some advanced planning because getting up and down off the toilet was just way too much like a squat and our thigh muscles were like, ‘oh hell no’.  Yet, somehow we all managed.

Throughout the course of the six weeks I discovered that I’m skipping impaired, that I can’t jump rope, that jumping in general scares the living spit out of me, alternating legs seems to be a basic life skill I’m lacking and, that counting reps is really hard to do when you’re trying to count reps and sets.  They give you a stack of poker chips to move around to keep track so apparently I’m not the only one. My hollow rocks are pathetic, my planks are full of splinters, the only way I can do a proper burpee is if I can order it out of the seed catalog of the same name.  I leave sweat marks on the mat that double for Rorschach tests large enough for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. My flutter kicks have all the grace of a  giant tortoise tipped on its back,  my high knees resemble nothing so much as a trick pony doing addition.  (Tell me Daisy, how much is 2 plus 3? She raises her hoof…)   And I’ve never had so much fun being so completely lousy at so many things.

To be fair to me, while my burpees suck the chrome off a trailer hitch I’m not bad at rowing–as long as I remember to tuck my shirt tail in so it doesn’t catch under the wheel. My ex said many unkind and untrue things about me but he was spot on when he told me I walk like a shot out of a canon.  Ring rows, I’m not going to say I’m good at them but they do feel like a really nice stretch and I usually arrive early to do a little stretching and a few ring rows to loosen up whatever is tight.

About half-way through the course I was stupid and did kettle bell swings with more weight than I should have making the rest of the class harder than I would have liked.  Basically, if it involved the ‘lift the left leg’ I was in a world of sorry.  Here’s where we all have to remind ourselves that we should never confuse the process with the product.  Even a pathetic mountain climber is still a mountain climber.  I want to make it clear, this was my own fool mistake and that it aggravated a muscle that I tore years ago was all on me.  No one made me use that weight and no one kept me from going over and getting a lighter one.  I learned my lesson and for the rest of the class I  got two weights in case I needed to switch to a lighter one part way through and, once or twice I did. 

Last week we got on the scales and redid all the tape measure stuff.  Did I lose weight?  Nope. Gained a pound but to be fair, my body clings to fat like a lichen to a stone so that wasn’t a surprise or a disappointment.  Besides, I’ve also been working at improving my yeast baking and this was during Mardi Gras.  Weight loss and baking King Cake are not natural allies.  I don’t really mind, I got better at BOTH yeast dough AND Cross Fit.

What did surprise me was that I lost 10.5 inches most of it from bra line to panty line.  My left arm got a bit bigger which is okay, that arm has to carry my right arm places it can’t go on its own thanks to three (count ’em, three) repairs on that shoulder.  I’d like to say I look way more svelte but I’m still a pale, lumpy middle-aged woman but I’m a stronger pale, lumpy middle-aged woman.  I’m no more agile in getting up off the floor but I’m faster so there’s less time to be self conscious.  That’s a win in my book.

There were a lot fewer of us at the end of the class than the start but that’s normal. People dropped out because they didn’t like to sweat or their doctor watches too many infomercials.  Those of us who did the whole thing encouraged each other, laughed and looked forward to every class. Is this the end of Cross Fit for your faithful reporter?  Nope, I’ll be back next week and I’ll be looking for a similarly skilled instructor up in South Bend where I normally live. 

Here’s my advice–you can do it.  Maybe you’ll need modification. Maybe everything needs a modification. Absolutely every activity that involved my arms over my head needed to be modified so I didn’t pop my shoulder out of joint but that wasn’t a problem at all.  We had people with bad backs, bad knees, bad shoulders and most of us fell into the ‘one from column A and one from column B’ category of cranky knees and off-balance hips.  This class was aimed at those of us over 50 with joints that provide their own sound track.  Maybe your grace and style are something only your mother will love but don’t quit. Yeah, I’m a mutant and I’m strangely delighted and entertained  by my complete incompetence but it’s okay if you’re not.  People will stay and count out your last reps with you and high five you as if you’d actually accomplished something–which you have.

After the last class I drove up towards Brevard and hiked a few miles along the Davidson Trail.  And that’s why I did the class–I plan to be hiking and biking and walking and being really bad at body boarding and going nuts watching college football for years to come.  Or, as my mom would have said, “the more you do the more you CAN do”


Here’s links to the earlier cross fit confessions:

CrossFit day one in which I get my ass kicked

Week one in the death zone

Yeah, I’m still really bad at CrossFit

CrossFit part deux

How to rock at CrossFit


How to rock at CrossFit


I nearly didn’t come Monday–my left hamstring has been messing with me for a week now.  Lifting my left leg just doesn’t work right and frankly, I’m not into pain.  Gave that hamstring a full day’s rest on Sunday with a lot of time on a heating pad. Backstory– like the Old Woman in Candide, I pretty much have just one buttock.  Happily my left butt cheek wasn’t eaten but I did tear the living crap out of my hamstring the year of my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.  Left hamstring, way up high and sadly I tore it at the turn around point of my exercise walk so no choice but to walk home two miles on it.  Yeah, that hurt. The upside was that within a few days my left butt cheek was high and firm and round as half of a prize melon.  It was also the color of a ripe plum and when gravity noticed and starting moving that blood south I was the color of a ripe plum from waist to ankle.  The colors it turned as it faded?  I’m pretty sure it’s described in Revelations.

Bottom line,  my left leg just isn’t cooperative. It’s weird what one bum muscle keeps you from doing and, what isn’t a problem. (yes, I meant those two puns) You’d think that squats would do me in but actually I can squat just fine. High knees, well, I suck at those anyway so I’m not sure that’s a good test.  Side lunges and lunges no issue but lifting my leg up in front of me and, gawd help me, burpees–ever seen a cow getting up?  If it involves bringing that left leg forward in anything more than taking a step it involves ugly ugly things with results that can only with very charitable intentions be described as “results”.  Basically, you’d think I was doing it badly on purpose. I assure you I’m not–when you call, but the muscle doesn’t answer the phone there’s not much you can do. (yes, another butt pun)

So, the air squats and lunge warm up, okay.  High knees, no worse than usual.  Alternating leg lifts–right leg okay, left leg wouldn’t have cleared the free throw line on a basketball court.  Then we do some stuff with a bar and weights; I ended up annoyed with myself because if I’d gone with the box option I could have done a lot more weight. We did 500 meter row for time.  Again annoyed with myself because I COULD have gotten the best time in the class if I hadn’t stopped a couple of times because I thought I was going to throw up.  I’m sure they’ve had to clean vomit off equipment before. Instead I tied for the best time.

Then comes the WOD something named Cindy–seriously, CrossFit is on first name basis with their workouts.  In German that means you’d use “du”  instead of “sie”. Cindy is comprised of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats and you keep repeating to see how many you get through in 20 minutes. Before I tell you my reps I should remind you that I’m in the decrepit old people’s class.  That means ring rows instead of chinning and with my crap shoulder and general pathetic state of fitness my push ups are off a bar on the rack. 

So, ta da!  16 reps and 2/3rds through the 17th.  I’m sweat soaked and there’s wet spots on the floor from sweat dripping off my face so yeah, I worked it.  And I got in 4 more reps than any of the other senior debilitated people in my class.  Yeah me!  How was that possible?  Cindy, now my BFF, is made up of stuff I’m good at.  Good as ranked by a generous and reduced standard. Ring rows–I’ve been afraid to admit that I like them because I figure that means we’ll never do them again!  Push ups not my forte (the French origin meaning, not the Italian musical term) but with the bar on the rack I can manage them.  Squats, I guess these massive quads are good for something.

Sometime this week we’ll  repeat our first reps-for-time workout to see how much we’ve improved.  That one involves burpees and I have no doubt that it will also involve me chugging a stein of bitter, bitter reality.  Like the scene in Bull Durham “Can’t I enjoy the moment?  The moment’s over.”

CrossFit part deux

Pro tip, you know the writer is being sardonic when they throw in French.  Let’s face it; there are some great French phrases, cherchez la femme, double entendre, a la mode, laissez les bons temps roule. Okay, yeah, that last one is Cajun. But we use French when we want our writing to have that je ne sais quoi. Which is pretty funny when you realize that je ne sais quoi means “I don’t know what”.  That’s one of the best things about the English language, when we come across a word or phrase we like we swallow it whole along with its spelling.  Which, BTW, is why  Mackinac the bridge and Mackinaw the city aren’t spelled the same, also why forte and forte are pronounced differently and mean different things (and most of us pronounce one of them wrong.)

So here we are 1/2 of the way through “a new you”.  Yikes, three weeks gone already?  Though, truth be told, there’s nothing seriously wrong with the old me. I like my silver white hair, I like being faculty emerita, I like that the music of my youth are classics, my total indifference to boy bands and knowing that Metallica’s Enter Sandman has the best damn prelude in all of rock.  I like knowing when to put a hyphen in words, being postmenopausal and of an age when the worst cuss words are no longer powerful, just vulgar and that calling someone an illiterate stack of inbred meat is both an awesome insult and signal to the literati within ear shot that I am fluent in Firefly.

That said, my grandmother died at 90, and my mom 9 days before her 101 birthday.  I’ve got the genetics for a long life and it’s going to be a lot more pleasant if I maintain the physical plant.  Restated, I don’t want a new me, I want a stronger, more active, version of the me I was when I walked into the gym.

Next week at some point they’ll weigh, measure and take pictures and I fear I shall prove a disappointment.  Will I have lost weight?  Unlikely.  Will my waist be trimmer?  Not according to my jeans.  Will my bust be firmer?  Oh honey, that’s going to take a surgeon and silicone.  Am I eating paleo or raw, you know 50% chaff, 10% stone-ground corn and 40% corn-ground stone? Hell no.  If Hobbes thought that life outside society would be “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”  I think he’d have opted for razor blades and Drano for dinner if he’d had to give up his morning bread and butter, especially considering that his years in Paris coincided with the birth of Haute Cuisine. 

But I am making changes–just slowly so that they can be part of my real life, not a 6-week visitor.  Carrots instead of beans in chili, fresh fruit and veggies every day, pitching treat foods when the company I bought them for leaves.  Let’s face it–when it comes to a diet if you’re not willing to eat like that for the rest of your life it’s only a short-term fix.  I’m eating more protein and fewer carbs.  My core is stronger and I do expect that the timed burpee Bataan death march WOD will show improvement, even if that improvement is modest.  I won’t be a before/after poster girl for HVL Cross Fit but when it comes down to it, being a STOS fan, a choral music geek, a happy science nerd who gets all misty thinking about Neil deGrasse Tyson, an academic whose contributions to the field are still being cited and, knowing how to fold fitted sheets is enough.  







Yeah, I’m still really bad at CrossFit

Yeah, I know, I’ve heard it all before.  On the surface I am disgustingly wholesome.  Seriously, I’m a chunky, white-haired retired librarian, sing in my church choir and yes, I have cats.  (The myth is true BTW, when you finish your masters in Information Science you get a basket of kittens and a cardigan along with your diploma and hood.)  All that belies the fact that I’m your basic viking.  I’m tattooed, pierced and I believe in blood eagles and drinking from the skulls of my enemies.  I have survived divorce, New Coke, elephant bells, glam rock and the death of Jim Henson, John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Prince.  I have lived through shoulder pads, drivers tests in five states and 14 hours alone in a car with cats and parakeets.  I’ve been at the bedside of both my parents when they drew their last breath and I did it all while supporting myself and saving for retirement.  I know when to hyphenate anal retentive and I’m responsible for my own orgasm. You’d think I could survive CrossFit.  You’d be wrong.

Turns out that my inner fierceness turns tail and whimpers when I see the WOD.  Now I’m very new to all this but I’m also skilled in pattern recognition so when the workout board is half blank I don’t need neon arrows and air dancers to know that it was going to be brutal.  Especially when you leave your decoder ring at home and you can’t read the cuneiforms.

Class starts with side lunges–great, I can do those.  I’m actually pretty respectable at them.  Then there’s high knees and butt kickers.  You’re supposed to run.  Running, dear reader, is something I reserve for ‘fire on both sides, ISIS behind’ situations.  This goes back many years when I was young, married and running was the sport du jour.  I ran every morning for months until one day at the turn around point I admitted that I hated it, I hated every step of it. I walked back, threw out the running shorts and made my peace with never participating in the Boston Marathon.

No one really minds that I don’t run, it gives them more rest time enjoying the righteous glow that comes with not being the worst in the group.  You’re welcome.  Then we do the balance stuff.   Yeah, I’m bad at that too.  The woman next to me was super supportive and encouraged me suggesting that I go slowly. She’s right, I am less wretched if I go really slow but less wretched isn’t the same as good and I don’t want to hold up the rest of the class any more so I keep plugging away and still end up last. 

Now the archeologists arrive and explain the cuneiform which translates to 18 minutes of a bunch of different things.  Wall slides, kewl beans.  Something involving one leg and a box. Okay.  Turns out I could do that.  Then there’s this one leg and a kettle bell.  Shall we go over my lack of balance yet again?  Suffice it to say that I was no better at one leg with a kettle bell than I had been at one leg without a kettle bell 15 minutes earlier.  And why in the name of all that’s reasonable can’t I get the concept of weight on the opposite side?   There’s a squat with an overhead lift and a kettle bell swing wherein I pray that my sweaty hands don’t slip and let that weight go sailing across the room.  My guess– that’s happened before and why the room isn’t lined with mirrors. 

We finish out the class with partner row/plank.  You had the option of running around the building twice.  Your partner is supposed to hold a plank while you’re running.  Holding a plank while I run 200 meters.  Actually yes, there are people I’d happily do that to, most of them in government, but not to anyone in this class so I go with rowing.   Rowing is boring but just my luck, it’s one of the things I’m good at.   Why can’t I be good at something I like? 

Anyone care to guess which partner pair was the very last to finish?  Oh well, someone has to bring up the rear and finishing last is still finishing.