Archive | December, 2013

‘Tis the Beacon for the Season

24 Dec

Image Source:

Shortly after arriving in Michigan, I sent my sister a photo of my parents’ Christmas tree with the message, “Can we discuss how ginormous this tree is?” It’s like the dream tree from The Nutcracker. I’m not exaggerating when I estimate it to be 16 feet tall.

As someone who has struggled in the past to drag home an 8’ tree and get it upright in a stand, I’m in awe of my septuagenarian parents for somehow managing to wrangle this beast on their own. It seriously doesn’t even look like it would fit through the door.

It’s so massive that when the UPS guy showed up with a delivery, my mom caught him squatting on the front stoop, trying to look in through the door. When she asked if she could help him he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tree that big,” so she invited him in for a proper viewing. He was so blown away she half-expected him to return with his wife.

This 16-footer is not the tree of my childhood. No. We lived in a small Cape Cod-style home when I was growing up, tucking a tree into a corner of the living room only after we rearranged the furniture to make room for it.  My mom – for whom Christmas is THE event of the year – always lamented that she couldn’t have a bigger tree. So now she’s making up for lost time.

Oh, we still had our fair share of memorable trees when we lived on Ideal Street. (And yes, that was actually the name of our street in small-town Michigan.)

Like the year the tree fell in the middle of the night, sounding like a burglar had smashed through the picture window of the living room. Or the year I got a pellet gun for Christmas and used the ornaments for target practice while my parents were out of the room.

One of the most re-told Christmas tree stories in our family is of the year I had my driver’s permit and was allowed to drive to the tree farm. We’d left our minivan (which had a MANUAL transmission and drove like a bus) near the entrance of the property as we walked the lanes to find the perfect tree. Once we’d made our pick, my dad began sawing and sent me back to retrieve the van.

From my perspective: As a new driver, it was challenging to handle the irregular terrain while working out the nuances of shifting, so I simply worked my way up to third gear and stayed there. From my family’s perspective: After cutting the tree, they looked up to see their red minivan flying across the field to them, bouncing as it hit each raised row. I still remember the hand gestures as they tried to get me to slow down and take a more gentle approach. Didn’t happen.

One of the cool things about where my parents live now is that I can look out the window and see our past Christmas trees, propped against other trees all down through the woods leading to the river. Sure, their needles have all fallen, but they provide cover when a hawk comes flying through, looking for prey.

Objectively, it’s kind of a crazy tradition, putting a tree in the middle of your home for a few weeks each year and wrapping it in lights. And yet, they’re so much more than simply pretty decorations. These trees serve as beacons, pulling people across the miles each year to spend time with their families and friends, if even for a few days.

So Merry Christmas to you! And if you don’t have a tree up, then seek out someone who does – they’ve already invited you.

My cat hates me. Allegedly.

14 Dec

Image Source:

My sister shared this article with me that claims it’s been scientifically proven that cats don’t love us.

(For the record, the subject line of Alicia’s email was, “Lies, Lies! All Lies!”)

As I write that, Miss Moneypenny is sitting on my lap, staring up at me with an adoring look. Thanks to that study, I now know to interpret that look as, “This is a nice, soft, warm surface.” And when she greets me at the end of the work day by flopping on the rug and making excited air muffins, I now know it’s simply in anticipation of the meal that will follow.

Thanks, Science, for bursting my bubble.

Now that I realize my cat is a manipulative little liar, I probably won’t ever get another one. And that’s too bad, because I had some really good names picked out for my next cats. Since it looks like they’ll go to waste, I’ll put them out here for any suckers who decide to bring another feline into their home:

  1. Pussy Galore. This was Alan’s original suggestion for Miss MP’s name, but she wasn’t big enough to pull it off.
  2. Furry Lise. Preferably if you own a piano for the inevitable Fur Elise/Furry Lise confusion that will ensue.
  3. Octopussy. Ideally for a cat hoarder’s eighth cat.
  4. Dutchess Furgie. Only if the cat lets other cats clean its toes. Or becomes a spokes-cat for Science Diet.
  5. Mr. Meowgi. For a cat who can catch flies with its paws, or is willing to wax on/off the floor.
  6. Furdinand. For a huge, friendly bull of a tomcat.
  7. Mewly Andrews. This is one of my nicknames for Miss MP because she is talkative; the other variation is Drooly Andrews, because she slobbers when she’s overly excited. Either could work as a stand-alone name.
  8. The Best Cat-Owner Ever. This is Alan’s suggestion. He thinks it’s a good way to reinforce your own awesomeness while talking to the cat. As in: “Does the Best Cat-Owner Ever deserve a treat?” Or taking it to the vet, when they call, “We’re now ready for The Best Cat-Owner Ever.” Think of the envious looks you’ll receive.
  9. Ms. Everdeen. For people who read The Hunger Games and know that the main character’s name is Katniss Everdeen.
  10. ???     Your call! What ridiculous names are you willing to give up since you now have confirmation that cats are secretly plotting an uprising?

So this is what the 70’s were like…

11 Dec

Image Source:

I must be a sucker because I’ve continued to explore the class schedule at my new gym. I even went back for a second BodyPump class – once I could walk again.

My biggest adventure from this past week was walking into what I thought was a regular yoga class. I set up my mat and began stretching, anticipating a mildly sweaty, aerobic workout. Then the teacher arrived and – after surveying the room – said, “Is anyone here not familiar with Kundalini?” She was looking at me.

Two of us raised our hands. “Well,” she continued, “If you came expecting a vinyasa class (meaning a lot of a movement and flow) then you need to reset your expectations.”

She wouldn’t define it beyond that. I asked, “If it’s not a vinyasa class, what can we expect?” She looked around and got  a smug smile, then said, “Oh, we call it yoga for stoners.”

Meaning what? I can just lie down on my mat and you’ll bring me brownies?

I soon found out. Here’s the nutshell: Kundalini yoga is all about cultivating energy and awareness, and you do that by breathing “fire breath” while executing various poses for four minutes each. Hint: Fire breath is just code for hyperventilating.

After our second four-minute pose – during which we were curled up in crunches hissing out fire breath – I got a charley horse in my esophagus. I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but it suddenly felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I looked around, mildly panicked, to see if other people were experiencing the same thing. Apparently not – they all were smiling tranquilly.

I will say: when your breathing muscles seize up, you certainly cultivate a new level of awareness. Fortunately, the charley horse passed fairly quickly, so I was able to hop back in for the next poses.

Things were going along smoothly until I realized that my leg was falling asleep. Almost everything is done seated, so it seemed somewhat natural that I’d lost circulation. Since everyone had their eyes shut and was hissing loudly, I straightened out my legs to provide a bit of relief. BIG MISTAKE.

I’m not sure what a pinched nerve feels like, but that’s my best guess of what happened in my leg, because as soon as I straightened it, I had shooting pain up the side, from my ankle to my hip, unlike anything I’d felt before. I began writhing around on my mat, trying everything I could think of to loosen my leg and provide some relief.

My reaction must have been normal for a newbie, because the instructor didn’t skip a beat, despite the fact that I was essentially break-dancing on my mat.

Eventually – two four-minute poses later – I was able to get things under control and rejoin in time for the final few moves.

At some point during the class, it occurred to me that this might be what non-yogis think all yoga actually is. Which made me imagine taking my mom to a Kundalini class, simply to watch her reaction. My mom doesn’t go in for anything remotely “new agey,” so I could picture her looking around the room, sizing up the situation, then declaring, “Well this is just bullshit,” and leaving.

That thought gave me the giggles, which was unfortunate, because apparently it’s traditional to close the class with a song. I was teetering on the edge of laughter, when a more Chipmunky-version of this song started play and everyone sang along:

By the end of class, I had a serious case of giggles and tears streaked my face.

I assume that’s why they call it yoga for stoners?

Progress and pool drains.

3 Dec

Image Source:

I’ve been making good progress on my 40×40 list.

In case you’re keeping tabs, I haven’t consumed a single Mountain Dew of any variety since October 30. Oddly, I also find that I’m now less interested in Nascar and have started questioning the wisdom of allowing cousins to marry.

At this rate, Miss Moneypenny’s brown snaggletooth will practically straighten itself and people won’t think they’re entering West Virginia when they cross my threshold. Might be time to start a meth lab, just to maintain appearances around here.

[I joke, but my sister once lived across the street from a house that functioned as a meth lab and had no idea. The DEA has created a registry of homes that functioned as clandestine labs. Probably worth reviewing if you’re hunting for a home. Screwy as it sounds, realtors don’t have to disclose a home’s illicit history – even if it can make you sick. How was THAT for random?]

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 9.03.47 PM

Back to my 40×40 list… I’ve been making good progress on my commitment to swim 50 miles this year. I already have 7 miles under my belt, and – aside from the first one, which was UGLY – it’s just like riding a bike. Except without the wheels and handlebars.

I find that my mind wanders when I’m cranking out laps, and I think of the weirdest things. That bike analogy wasn’t even one of them, until I considered what it would be like to swim while wearing a bike helmet.

This weekend I had a lane that is lined with four drains along the bottom. It made me think of childhood, and the oft-repeated warnings to, “Never sit on the pool drain or you will have your intestines pulled out of your ass.” I’m not the only person who heard that line, right?

As I counted my laps and stared at the drains, it struck me as an urban legend. So when I got home, I googled “death by pool drain intestines.” Brace yourself: It is actually a real thing. Wow. Just – terrifying.

On a related note – related to swimming, not intestinal loss – I had a weird experience when I went to the pool on Saturday. All the lanes were occupied, so I sized them up, trying to determine where I’d have the best luck sharing. I felt like Goldilocks as I observed the swimmers: that one’s too fast… that one’s too slow… that one’s too sloppy…

I finally found one who seemed to be, “just right.” Unfortunately, he must not have thought so, because when I approached him and asked to share his lane, he got all huffy and moved to a new lane so he was sharing with someone and I had his old lane to myself. Confused about what happened, I said, “Hey – sorry – didn’t mean to run you out of your lane.”

To which he barked, “We wouldn’t be compatible.”

I was taken aback because I wasn’t sure what he was basing that on. At that point, he hadn’t seen me do anything. I shrugged and started my laps, keeping one eye trained on his workout to see what he had meant.

I was never able to figure it out, so I can only surmise that he thought I was seeking a dick-free lane. And I guess he was right.

Next time, I’ll make sure I’m sporting one of these awesome swim caps from so I know why he’s judging me:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.