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. 



Week one in the death zone

Or should I say weak zone?

In the world of mountaineering there are the wussy mountains like Mount Fuji with souvenir shops and toilets at the summit. There’s tough, dangerous mountains like Denali and Matterhorn and then there are the 8,000 meter giants.  There’s 14 of those suckers, you probably have heard of a few. There’s Everest of course, K2 the most deadly, maybe even Annapurna the only one of the 8,000 meter giants to have been climbed successfully on the first attempt. But what about Gasherbrum II or Cho Oyo or Shishapangma? What all these monsters have in common is the death zone, the altitude above 8,000 meters where your body uses 10,000 calories a day just not to die.  That’s 10,000 calories before you brush your teeth and tie your shoes.  Of course at that altitude  you don’t take your boots off if you want to keep your toes.

I’m pretty sure that’s where we were today in CrossFit, in the death zone, at least that’s what it felt like. We did mountain climbers or, in my case, well, have you ever put salt on a garden slug?  I looked more like that and I honestly don’t think I was the worst. Safe to say I don’t think any of us over 50 folks ever left base camp. Even the official gym dog  couldn’t bring herself to watch. At least it wasn’t a cat, cats excel at disdain and in our fragile state we probably would have laid down in the snow and prayed for an avalanche or a falling serac to end our suffering.

This was after our balance walks designed to remind us that not one damn person in the group knows where their center of gravity is.  In our defense, with this weather our sinuses could totally be messing with our equilibrium.  That’s when we switched to 20 seconds flat out, 10 seconds rest, 8 reps on mountain climbers, sit ups, planking and flutter kicks.  Give me a kick board and a pool and I’ll flutter kick just fine; wagging my legs in the air like a June Bug on its back just doesn’t have the same panache.  By the time we were done there were big dark splotches on the mat where our middle-aged sweaty bodies gave evidence that even as bad as we are at this, we were trying.

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to move on to interval training.   But if you find a way to get my body to burn 10,000 calories a day for maybe a week without having to travel to Pakistan or Nepal let me know.



CrossFit day one in which I get my ass kicked


In December I signed up for a 6-week challenge at a local Cross Fit; last week they measured, weighed and took pictures in anticipation of today–the start of the actual workouts.  Let’s back up a few weeks, this is a special challenge for people over 50–almost surely a marketing gimmick but you had to apply and go through a phone interview before they accepted you.  Restated I wouldn’t be at all shocked or disillusioned if the primary criteria turned out to be whether or not your credit card cleared.  I didn’t really care, I knew my upper body strength wasn’t what it should be and that while getting up off the floor isn’t a problem I execute that maneuver with all the grace and style of a Holstein with a full udder.  CrossFit has a reputation for being brutally difficult and I certainly didn’t want to end up in WORSE shape than I started but they assured me that I would come out of this with my shoulder no worse than it was at the start. Besides, now that I’m a pensioner in addition to being a consummate introvert I need things to get me out of the house and interacting with humans in real time.

Back in November when I packed to come south for the winter I packed hiking clothes, not gym clothes so, thank you Amazon Prime, I got some gym capris and a high impact sports bra.  I don’t mind having obvious secondary sexual characteristics but I don’t want them banging me in the chin when I’m working out!  I only had a couple of oversized t-shirts with me but thanks to an evening program at PARI I acquired a Total Eclipse t that I assure my fellow over 50 CrossFitters I will be laundering but it’s now my workout shirt.

So today, appropriately dressed and full of apprehension I showed up and to my relief I wasn’t the oldest or fattest.  First thing was walking across the room with raising one knee to your chest for a few seconds each step. Turns out I have such rotten balance it’s astounding that I’m able to walk upright.  I was better at the goose step and marginally better at the leaning forward.  Basically, I made a wise decision not to pursue a career in figure skating.  I didn’t actually fall but I’m pretty sure that hushed discussion was about the merits of hiding my keys and bringing in a breathalyzer. 

We went on to swinging our arms.  Yup I can do that–at least on my left.  With my trashed right shoulder that was more like me imitating a T-Rex trying to pass the salt.

That’s the point where we split up into the groups that have limitations and those who don’t.  Yes, I’m limited–my shoulder starts to slide out of joint if I even sleep in the wrong position. Rowing machines, no problem.  Air chairs, no problem.  I really do have strong legs.  Pushups–that acrid smell you just sensed is the stench of rubber meeting the road.  They had us doing a modified thing standing and using a bench press bar.  Whew.  If they’d had me to a real pushup there’s no doubt my nose would still be against the mat.  Ring rows–when I looked at the rings well, initially I was terrified, the last time I did something like that I tore the living crap out of my rotator cuff and dislocated my shoulder.  Happily this was something I could do just fine.  Well, just fine the first few times.  So we did sets with ring rows followed by lunges.  My legs are pretty strong but I don’t mind telling you that the last few ring rows were pretty slow.

That’s the set up, now we get into the WOD (workout of the day).  This was as many sets of 5 burpees, 10 jumps and 15 situps we can get through in 12 minutes.  Dear friends, without a doubt I am thoroughly burpee impaired.  Burpees require all the skills I don’t have–earlier I compared my ability to get up off the floor with a Holstein.  I was flattering myself, bull walrus is more like it and every rep was more humiliating than the one before.  Then there’s the jumps–I stood in front of the weight they were using as a step and did the wussy step up things instead.  Though I will suggest them give me a taller thing to step on, that really was too easy.  Situps, okay, not my favorite but I can do it.  I got through 6 full sets and a titch into the next set and I assure you it was those twice-cursed burpees that held me back.  I’m hoping that none of those show up as a youtube video and if it does I want a percentage because it will go viral and eventually result in #schadenfreude.

The final part of the class was being told that we’d be sore and that we should come back anyway.   I expect both to be true.

The Bustle in the House the morning after death


With every death I find myself reciting Emily Dickinson’s poem, The Bustle in a House.   Its lines bring comfort in how completely true and how completely false it is.   This morning I’m bagging up all of Mom’s clothes to donate to the Council on Aging.  She had a lot of coats and jackets, scarves and gloves that should be keeping people warm, not hanging in a closet.  That’s the bustle in a house.  I’ve always thought these mindless, mechanical tasks are a blessing, it keeps us busy while our minds and emotions are stunned.  Then, when those easy jobs are done it’s days later and we’ve proved to ourselves that we can live without the loved one and that it’s silly to pretend anything different.  And then you can start to work through the harder things, the photos, the rings, the art…

Before Mom passed I did as much as I possibly could (though my sister Nancy had done a lot already) because I knew that before Mom died all I was doing was cleaning and tidying up–there was nothing sad about it.  Now it’s harder.  Every pocket I check has a tissue or a cough drop, her hand and mine touching across time.

Nancy and I worked a jigsaw puzzle in the library while we waited for the recovery team,  we took the few items that we wanted the family to have and left the rest to be distributed among the other residents.   A church group was in the lobby singing Christmas Carols we dabbed at our eyes and hummed along.  I suppose we should have been comforted by the idea of Christ’s birth but it was just sad to be so suddenly and completely torn away from the Christmas celebration to sitting alone and silent in a room while the light faded.

We said our final goodbye in the hall when they wheeled her away.  We wish she could have gotten that final haircut, all we could do was sooth it back.  The business of living and Christmas  pushed on, I had cookies to bake and we had a family celebration to cook and serve.  There were dogs to walk and cats who needed their tummies filled and rubbed.

But Emily was wrong, we may be sweeping up our hearts but it’s a heart beat that stops with death, not love.  It was a week ago today that I sat with Mom going over a hand-written recipe for “best ever brownies” and took her to the Norwegian Tea at the home.  Mom wanted to go but worried that she wasn’t dressed appropriately.  And that’s how she said it, “am I dressed appropriately?” I assured her that she was, that the activities director had seen her when she invited her.  I promised her that Thursday I’d bring a beater with chocolate batter on it for her to lick.  In less than a full rotation of the earth she was gone with chocolate batter on her tongue; I kept my promise.  I tried to open the window to let her spirit free but the windows in a memory ward don’t open.   We’ll have to open those memories ourselves.

The Bustle in a House

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

Emily Dickinson,  published 1890 posthumously likely written around 1866. 

Two cats and a parakeet get in a car


After twelve hours in a car with two cats and a parakeet that I’m still able to speak  in moderately coherent and complete sentences is a testament to the pioneering spirit of the American people.  Our ability to endure adversity abides! But why would anyone put themselves through that?  Especially after having spent the last four weeks getting rid of furniture, assembling Ikea (anyone need a few dozen Allen wrenches?) and making about fifteen trips to donation sites getting rid of things not to mention the various organizations that came and picked stuff up?  Family.  My grandmother used to say “if you want to have family you have to be family”.  In this case it means spending a few months in North Carolina as my mother completes her hundred year plus residence on planet earth.   So I loaded up my car with baking equipment (Christmas baking!) including my kitchen aid mixer,  computers, Firestick, speakers, clothes and, oh yes, two cats and a parakeet.

Those of us who share our lives with cats know that the true song of their people is “The car is the instrument of the devil.”  Now I’m pretty fluent in contemporary cat but it took Heather Campbell to give me the more accurate translation from the original feline.  I’d always known it as “this sucks and I hate it.”  My cats, however, took it in through their DNA.  Just one of those mystery cat things that are clearly genetic. One assumes that the original feline for “cart” became “car” mid to late 19th century.

My kitty boy did his usual warmup including running scales to stretch the top and bottom of his vocal range and ripping a new seam in my arm as we discussed the carrier, then he started the prelude as the car hatch closed.  As Heather says, the song has something like 1,200 verses.  There as never been a really accurate count because of regional variations–note to graduate students, there’s a dissertation topic just waiting to be taken on.  (can you imagine the orals?)  He was a bit sluggish, it being 4 am, so it took him the full drive from South Bend to Indianapolis to get through the full song.  Just as I was hoping that he might call for an intermission Sarah (my tortie) called out ONE MORE TIME.

The second rendition got us south of Cincinnati where upon they tried it as a duet with Sarah improvising a descant at least an octave higher than the melody.  They finished off the final verse around Knoxville with a sforzando that was positively Homeric. I was hoping that they’d made their point.  Sadly, no. Those of you familiar with torties will be shaking your head at my naiveté.   How could I have underestimated her creativity so completely?  After a short discussion they dug deep and sang it backwards.  I don’t mean in reverse order, I mean backwards.

I’ll be damned if I didn’t start to recognize some familiar passages.  The entire White album of the Beatles,  the alternate lyrics to Louie Louie and I’m pretty sure I heard the Die Walkuerie with references to other passages from Der Ring des Nibelungen.  And who could fail to gasp when learning that Haffner ripped off  the Katzen of Koenigsberg for the libretto of Die Fledermaus?  In retrospect that really should have been obvious.

The real surprise of the day turned out to be Richard Henry Lee.  With exception of my first parakeet I’ve named them all after signers of the Declaration of Independence.   (The first was female so she was Abigail Adams) Richard Henry follows Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Josiah Bartlett.   Richard Henry Lee, unlike his namesake, is a bird of very little brain.  In fact, he’s never yet figured out that there’s millet on both side of the sprig and, that by leaning over just a bit he could get the seeds on the bottom of the sprig.  Keets. 

There must be some discrepancy in his heritage because rather than being alarmed at two cats yowling, pardon, singing, directly under his claws he kept time with rhythmic sways of his body and even joined in on occasion.  His emphatic CHIRP chastised them when they failed to enunciate the consonants and his more encouraging chirps to help them through the difficult transition when the time signature jumps from a nice comfortable 2/2 to 9/8 without warning.  Heck, I have problems with that myself.   We really do have to remember that “The car is the instrument of the devil”  predates our customary chromatic scale and standard notation.

After arriving at Mom’s house both cats decided to use the litter box and then dematerialize into their component atoms.   About midnight they began their exploration with much of that exploration involving walking over my head and sniffing my mouth.  I’m guessing that sometime in the next three months they’ll have adjusted to their new digs and will even come to love the screened in porch.  My bet is their acclimation will occur shortly before I load them back in the carriers for their encore performance. 


College football rules, fan edition


This weekend starts the college football season or, as I prefer to call it, the One True Sport which means it’s time to review the rules of college football for fans.  Yes, there are rules, honestly how did you get to this age without knowing that?!

First, there’s no such thing as a spectator at a college football game–it’s a full participation full contact experience.  You’re there to cheer your team on, pretend you remember the words to the Alma Mater (except at Notre Dame, they know it) and release a lot of tension; following these few simple rules will make it all easier.

Primary Team Allegiance:  your college football loyalties follow your undergraduate degree. If your team sucks, sorry, you’re stuck with it.  No cheating and using your graduate school–it’s your undergraduate school and there’s an end to it.  No switching around if you transferred either, it’s the school on your diploma. If you transferred to Michigan from Ohio and finished up at Michigan during the Brady Hoke years then you had to ride it out until Harbaugh came on the scene–no switching sides and cheering for the Buckeyes until the Wolverines get good again.  If you went to IU Bloomington then remember they generally kick ass at basketball. BTW,  you are not obligated to follow your graduate school’s team at all.  If your college doesn’t have a team or if you didn’t attend college you are free to follow any team you wish but once you’ve made your choice that’s it. It’s your team now. Choose wisely. (Indiana Jones Last Crusade–I’m faculty emerita, I can quote the classics.)

Secondary Team Allegiance: This is a bit more flexible.  If you work for a college or university then you should take them on as your team 2 or at least not root against them where people can hear you.  Basically, you can pick any team you want for your secondary team and you can switch as much as you like.  If you worked for the University of Spoiled Children (USC) and get a job at Cal Tech then you can ignore USC.  This means that yes, if you are that good person who wants to support the league then you can cheer for THE Ohio State University if they make the playoffs and you’re a die-hard Terrapin fan. Sadly, I personally am not that good person.

When BOTH your teams play each other:  It’s tough, I’ve been there.  Michigan grad working for Notre Dame.  You might just want to stay home or, do what I did and let everyone know, up front, that you’re going to cheer every good play no matter who makes it. I wore one Block M earring and one interlocked ND earring.  Really, I did, there are witnesses.  The school colors for both universities were close enough that I didn’t have to Frankenstein a t-shirt.  The only year I didn’t cheer all good plays was when Michigan really needed to get a new coach and I figured that a loss to Notre Dame would help that process along.  Just realize that you’re going to take a lot of guff from all sides. 

National Anthem:  Take your hat off and stand (If you can) sing unless it’s being lead by some singer who is all about personal style and wastes everyone’s time with a crap load of pentatonics. Yes sweetie, you can sign one, three, five intervals.  Great, congratulations, have a cookie.  If you’re the one organizing the national anthem for the love of gawd it’s OUR national anthem, not an audition tape for ‘America’s Got Talent’. The people in the stands aren’t there to be backup singers.

Protests: if you’re protesting and the National Anthem is your platform then make it 1) silent and 2) clear.  Don’t blow your vuvuzela, just take a knee or turn your back or something.  If all you do is stay seated or keep walking to your seat with a soft pretzel and overpriced pop we’ll assume you’re an asshole, not a patriot exercising your 1st amendment rights.

Bands:  Hey, the bands work hard, they don’t get paid, they love their school, too.  Never, ever boo the band. Seriously, don’t, just don’t.

Last seconds field goal:  It took the team a whole four quarters to get to the point where a field goal wins, ties or loses the game.  Don’t take it out on field goal kicker.

They and We:  If you say “we won” then it’s also “we lost”.  None of this we won and they lost.  It’s either your team or it isn’t.  Learn it, live it.

Leaving early:  This isn’t a rule as much as a dignity-saving tactic. If you KNOW, up front, that you’re going to leave early let the people around you know.  You’ll get razzed anyway if your team is losing but at least you’ve got plausible deniability. 

Remember: it’s a game, enjoy it, appreciate the skill and grace of disciplined athletes performing the skills they’ve trained for, shout your approval and groan your disappointment.  Don’t be an obnoxious jerk no matter the score or how bad the officials are.  No one is snubbing out cigarettes on your mother’s arm and no one’s kitten is going to die because your team lost. You’re there to have a good time and release a lot of frustration and stress hollering about something that ultimately doesn’t “pick your pocket or break your leg” as Jefferson put it.  

Eat the loaded tater tots, happy trash talk with your seat mates, wear your spirit gear and follow the rules.