Wednesday, May 16, 2012

kickboxing class a.k.a. today's near death experience

After months of recumbent bike in front of the TV and elliptical machine at the gym, I wanted to change how I sweated off my fat.
My favorite exercise is Zumba, even though it's humiliating to admit.
If I said I loved water aerobics, there's at least a comedic and/or hipster irony to it, like wearing a sweatband or high striped socks. But Zumba really is all remixed musica and women in lycra, and I totally love it.
And that's what I had in mind when I put my champion bra on this morning.

Unfortunately, the class was kickboxing instead.

"No problem," I thought. I can handle kickboxing.
A step towards being more like an MMA fighter is a step in the right direction.

I arrive and find that most of the class is older than me, shorter than me, and scrappier looking than me. But there were two other ostrich shaped women that assuaged my fears that I had just paid my drop in class fee into a muy thai studio.

This was the instructor. But unlike that pic, she was super enthusiastic and smiling. Which helped, the same way an EMT asks you lighthearted questions to keep you talking and conscious in the ambulance, so you don't die.

I'm going to add kickboxing to the list of things that only short people are good at, along with gymnastics, horse-riding, and karate. To kick my big long turkey leg out took twice the time it took for my smaller comrades. I looked like one of the Yo Gabba's doing the moves, and the fact that the other big-birds did too, no longer mattered.

After only 20 min I found myself wishing for push-ups and sit-ups. Only when we finally did them, I was so awful at it that I wished to get back up and punch the air.
I started envisioning what weight class would have to be established to accommodate my size and skill if I were to compete. Potato weight? In this weight, no one is as handicapped as I am and they just string a big sack of potatoes up in the air to see if I can inflict any damage, or if I just hurt myself.  After today I think the sack would be declared the winner.

As I was leaving the class, and collecting what was left of my self-respect, this nice older Vietnamese lady told me that she had arthritis in her shoulder. This same woman had stood in front of me and nailed every move. So she's either a retired ninja, or I am so pathetic that a middle aged arthritic just showed me up big time. 'Pretty sure it's the latter.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Gay Pareeeee

I just wanted to say gay paris, and now I have excuse.
I'm on the RER train (are you impressed with my insider terminology? Oui?) back to Charles De Gaulle after some quality time in Paris. 
It deserves reporting that as I type this there is a man doing karaoke in the train car with me. It's like French-Yiddish-Latino solid gold hits day! He's actually a good singer, just like the guitar player, accordion player and trumpeter, who I've witnessed on board before him, but he's the only one that I've given euros to...
...mostly to get rid of my euros on my way out of the country and also I appreciated the Spanish chorus "besa me, besa me mucho..."

Tons of people go to Paris, right? And they all come back bewitched by its charm/history/sexiness.
I wanted to be counterculture and not fall for it.
But I couldn't. Paris was too powerful for me not to like it. 
Granted, our friend lives in one of the most upscale/beautiful neighborhoods and he made sure we ate the best food and saw the best buildings/museums/gardens.

I did wander into less savory parts of town (in search of Vespa rentals and marches de puces ~ markets of fleas) that felt an awful lot more like Brussels (sorry, Flanders ) or Lagos for that matter. 
But the French have made sure, at all costs, that charm and history are preserved and *that* keeps the euros pouring in from people like me that will pay €30 (or $45) for lunch.
¡Increible! (ok, French doesnt use "¡" but it just feels right)

I hit Versailles and the Louvre all in one day yesterday. Which, you're right , sounds like a terrible idea, but-- After I reach my art-appreciation-ceiling (happens after about 2 1/2 hrs of even the most face-meltingly awesome art), everything dissolves into lines, shapes and colors (there's a modern art joke to be made here, but just like modern art, it's not very funny)
So I saw Marie Antoinette's secret escape passage, Mona Lisa's security eschelon, and enough renaissance boobies in marble and on canvas to last me a lifetime, all in about 10 hrs time.

I really hate to look like or feel like a tourist no matter where I am. This of course creates a challenge in any city where I'm disoriented and unable to communicate with locals.
Of course I was *forced* to speak with Parisians when I was hungry or wanted to buy, say,  a fistful of speedos.
But if it was a woman behind the counter, I would first get the "I hate you" face and then minimal English to make the sale (with the exception of one lesbian waitress, she was lovely to me! Merci! ).
If it was a [straight] man, he was [famously] charming, so those were the few occasions when I didn't feel uncomfortably, awkwardly, touristly American.

I won't hold a map if I can help it, and I won't eat at / shop at any place within 100 yrds of a tourist attraction. Basically if it feels like something akin to Disneyland, I flee. 
I went around Paris most of the time on my own, otherwise this untourist-instinct of mine will drive most travel companions  crazy.

Here is how I saw the main sights of Paris:
-Eiffel tower - walked under, did not stand in huge line to go up in it
-Notre Dame- walked around it, line was like that of Space Mountain (no fast pass!)
-Arc d'triomph- walked near it...
...this list is already boring me, so you can pretty much finish how the rest of it goes in your head.

My only exception was the Catacombs, because of the hype, and the fact that the two single-serving-friends in line in front of  us were from Oakland, took the edge off the 2 hr wait in the rain.

Was it worth the wait?
I think New Orleans is way freakier above ground than those 200 yr old mine shafts of piled bones under Paris. Roman ones were way cooler. I think I'm the only catacomb snob out there though, so...enough complaining-- moving on!

My favorite part of Paris though was not the art or architecture. It was the wildlife. Adorable dogs being walked by stylish people by day and rats casually taking care of business at night.

Ah, magical.
Thats how I'm gonna end this too. Ending with rats. Thank you, goodnight!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Von Dutch Baby

(I want to believe that at some point in time, the title of this post was a Wheel of Fortune Before and After puzzle)

Today I'm blogging from a cafe near the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Im drinking a cappuccino, but make no mistake, I am not in a "coffeeshop" because that would be a hash joint. 

This confused me for my first few hours cruising around the city because there are tons of coffeeshops, only instead of a hip Starbucks vibe , they give off a skeezy macramé and Foghat je nais ce qua. 

Then I started noticing the names of the shops and putting the aromatic hints together. 

Granted I'm in the heart of Amsterdam, not the burbs, but even at 10am this morning I rode my bike thru cloud after cloud after cloud of ganga smoke.

 It's a wonder that anything gets done around here. "Smoke two joints in the morning" and the rest of your day's activities better include eating or writing rasta songs , or else it ain't happenin'. Just sayin'

Speaking of skeezy, there is a serious imbalance of smoldering hot young chicks and gross guys here. Maybe the guys "drink" too much "coffee" and the chicks ride their bikes all day between magazine shoots, I don't know. Whatever the case, it's another thing about this city that creeps me out (and would ultimately make me depressed about my un-hotness and cause me to wear a bag over my head if I had to live here).

Especially near our hotel, I feel like I'm on Pinoccio's Pleasure Island, and everyone's about grow donkey tails and get tossed into the canal boats. It's not that I'm disgusted with lifestyles here, generally Im not. But I guess the paid-sex , hash clouds, and pickpocket trifecta tends to put one on edge. 


There are tons of Americans here. Tons. I've heard almost as much US English as I have Dutch. They must be getting bulk travel discounts (maybe you can send in a bunch of Dave Matthews Band ticket stubs and get a reduced rate?)

Like I said I'm *near* the museum(s) but waiting in Disneyland-level lines (but no Fast Pass!) seems ludicrous to me, so I haven't been inside a single art museum since arriving on the continent. I don't think the artists that made the art inside would wait in those kinds of lines, which gives me permission to bike around and get lost (literally) instead. 

But tomorrow, Louvre must be conquered. Lines be damned!...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jag orkar inte

If you had told me a year ago that I would be blogging poolside at an oceanfront hotel in Stockholm today, I would immediately have gotten distracted by the fact that IKEA is Swedish and stopped listening. Also I wouldn't have believed you. 
But here I am, watching other big white people splash around in the heated indoor pool, regretting the swimwear that I packed. How much more room could my full-body-armor-mom-suit have taken up?  But no, I had to listen to ol' khaki britches and pack my "good suit." "Good" in that it doesn't make me look like a manatee (no offense, sea cows, I love you for your bodies) but it removes all but 2 steps to total strangers knowing what I look like naked. 
While packing my one carry on bag, I convinced myself that topless women ride the subway, no need to go conservative. But it turns out that my domestic instinct not to spill out In public remains true even past the international dateline.  
In Mexico they have bebidas de alcohol by the pools to shed bikini inhibitions (not to mention the on-demand nachos!) But this is Lutheran country and it could be assumed that one of the 99 Theses spoke ill of mixing strong drink and slight garb.  
--Key change--
Here is what I've learned about Sweden (... well, urban Sweden, I'm too delicate to venture into the wilderness*).  
--They love malls.  The fact that the Mall of America is in Minnesota makes perfect sense now. But this level of retail overload rivals Dallas standards. It feels a lot like home actually, only like "home" after taking prescription painkillers that make it hard to read or understand people. 
---They believe one slice is enough.  Picture a sandwich in your mind. Does it have two slices of bread? If you answered yes, you're not from around here. They have Burger King, they've seen how golden the ratio is of a cheeseburger in two buns. It's a thing, a thing that this carb addict  doesnt understand. 
---Summer is a huge deal. People live their whole year woefully going through the motions of life, just to make it to May. At that point, all happiness sunshine and joy is crammed in until it snows again in autumn and soul hibernation resumes. 
I'm going to walk down into the hotel's bar to have lunch and get on a plane tomorrow headed for Brssels where I plan to have strange beers and fries with mayo. But not before going upstairs and stuffing this swimsuit way way way back down into my bag.  
*Note about Wilderness: upon exiting IKEA today (!!!! Flagship IKEA!) alongside the forestry protesters (glorified group of bored teens) I saw an ambulance with what looked like spider signs around it.  
As I got closer, I saw the signs depicted ticks, not spiders. And our friend informed us that it was a public vaccination station, inoculating people against diseases that ticks carry. I will never look at a reindeer the same way again. Nor will I be venturing into the woods to meet the army of disease ridden ticks.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Hop and why I'm bad at talking to strangers

This afternoon the kids and I were in a holding pattern of time-occupying activities, mostly involving products made by Apple. No one was really fighting about anything (thanks to this) and it was such a nice day outside that I opened all the front windows.
(Note that I didn't say, it was so nice outside that we actually went outside, both kids vehemently rejected that idea, which they definitely get from my side.)

With the windows open the chihuahuas were overly aware of even the slightest movement on the street, so I got fed up and went to the front to close the windows.
And lo, there was a little Asian man motioning to me, on my dirt lawn. I went along with the window closing, and at each window, he was there, still motioning.

"I guess he's not just saying hi, this is going to require me to go outside," I thought to myself.
I opened the front door and gathered that he was in need of work and/or money, but I wasn't quite sure so I made this expression: :/
Which made him slip off his shoe and show me his *severely disfigured* foot (!)
To which I made this expression: : o

But still, I was hazy on his objective.

IMO, if you have just proved that you have a really jacked up limb, I will feel obligated to compensate you for the hand (or foot as it were) that fate dealt you. Unless you're a really terrible person, I'm empathetic.

So I thought, "well, he's riding a bike, his English is entry level, he's got a bum foot, I'll just give money."
(This is the kind of logic that drives everyone around me crazy, but it's a lifelong problem. Is there a 12 step program for bleeding hearts?)

At this point, I deciphered that he wanted to do yard work for money.
Which if this was Depression Era Sockswithsandalsland, CA, would be perfectly normal thing to ask, but seeing that we have dirt for a lawn, and the ability to hire muchos personas for pesos pequitos, his idea seemed like an exercise in futility.

---this is too much text already, we need a photo to break this up!--

---This is not actually what he looked like, but this could be his wild cousin or something!---

I said "Hold on, one sec," and went back inside for what I thought was a $20 in my wallet.
It was a $10.
Not a $10, ugh!
Three days prior, I was in meeting whose topic was, seriously: how little $10 could buy.

I thought, "Ok, a check, I guess I'll write a check. I can't just say 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed!"
Then with the checkbook in my hand, I started feeling more impulsively generous.
So I filled out a $50 check to "Cash", went back out the door and handed it to Hop (that was his name, 'swear, 'cause he quizzed me on it later).

Instead of the reaction I expected, he made this face: :/
To which I also: :/

More confusion, and then he communicates he needs $80.
And I'm thinking "my lawn is dirt, $80 bucks could get me halfway to new sod, dude!"
I communicated all I was offering him was $50, and I was indifferent to how much labor that would buy me...

(segway to my "If you Give a Man a Rake" reenactment of events)

...So he agreed and he said he needed a rake.
And once you give a man a rake, he's going to ask for a push broom.
And when you give him the broom, he'll notice all the trash blocking the side gate.
And he'll ask you for $30 more to clean up the trash.
When you refuse, he'll start cleaning up the trash and you'll feel obligated to help him.

Because after all, it is your mess and your trash.
So you start to help him

When he notices the dried Christmas tree next to the trash, he'll ask for a tree saw.
And when you give him the tree saw, he'll ask you if you have another green bin.
When you tell him you only have one, he'll ask you to go next door and ask your neighbor to use hers.

And so it went. Hop was my overpriced single serving clean-up friend.
While we worked on my embarrassing trash pile, I asked him about his family, Vietnam, and he told me about communism, his sister and how he got his messed up foot (he was hit by a car as a child, and no one took him to a doctor.)

Let me be clear, I did not have a Hallmark moment on my driveway.
We talked in broken sentences, and I think he was wondering why I was asking him at all.
But he seemed pretty normal, and my best guess as to why after 11 years in the U.S. he was knocking on doors like mine for odd jobs, was a drinking problem, but not because he was crazy.
Alcholism is just a guess, but I'm so awesome at alcoholic-detection, I should be at sobriety road blocks.

---This story is so long, need a photo again!---

---This is not me, or our garage, but that's kinda what the pile looked like---

I did however learn why he needed $80 specifically. He had a big cavity that needed to be fixed and there was a dentist that offered to fill it for $80. With zero tact, I asked to see his tooth, not for proof, just because I'm weird, and he was missing about half of his teeth.
That did it.
When he told me that it was nearly impossible already to chew normally, I said "okay, you got it, I'll give you the extra $30 so you can chew."

After I had bundled my flattened cardboard, I trusted him to get rakey in the yard without me.

Later on as it was getting dark he asked to use the bathroom. If he hadn't been *literally* 4'10" (seriously, he was incredibly small!) I would never otherwise let a strange man into my house. As he was walking back out Hop told me he'd be back to tomorrow to finish and gave me a huge hug (he was SO little!)
I am still on the fence on the hug-motive: Really appreciated my overpayment?, or he just wanted to get way too close a younger/giant woman?
I'm leaning towards the latter.

I went inside, and tried to talk the kids into driving to get BBQ for dinner (fail), sat down, stared at Word Girl on the screen and felt exhausted.
Not exhausted because I did any hard work at all, but because interacting with people stresses me out. The entire time I was thinking, "how can I leave? I've interacted for over my 5 min max."
I hate this about myself. I dodge my neighbors even though they're all super nice people. And I pick the automated checkout everytime because then I don't need to interact with anyone.

I have no real conclusion to this story but to say this is why I would be a bad overseas missionary, even though I love humanity. If Hop stressed me, then I would fall over dead if I had to sort through this.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pinning- with amazing results!

Pinterest knows there are surly and snarky people like me, who like to rain on people's cheeziness. They have designed a site that forces me to be positive. God might have helped fund it just to make me a better person.

But I do a lot of eye rolling. A ton. A metric ton (I'm not sure if it's bigger, but it sounds bigger.) Some people can't tolerate cheese because of a bad lactose reaction. I can't tolerate cheez, because my tastes are wired like a man's. (this kind of man, not that kind of man)
It's why I couldn't be in Las Madres, and why I'm the odd mom at the Girl Scout meetings, why I can't go to pyramid scheme parties, and why Live Laugh Love makes me want to break something.

Pinterest doesn't allow me to have a lampoon easily, but since Blogger does (kisses!) I'm going to share with you something amazing (read: <3 * :) AMAZING * :) <3 ) that I have noticed on Pinterest.
These items are so good you might already have picked up on them by now, but if not, you'll be grateful I let you in on the secrets:

1.Hairstyles that will make you look scalding hot!

Haircut is everything! Celebrity hairstyles are the key to total hotness. The reason someone pinned this photo with "love this hairstyle" is because that is why Demi is so hot, long straight hair, duh. That pinner knows the secret!

So I pinned this pic of Crystal, you've seen her on TV I'm sure. I bet that hairstyle even helped Brandon find his missing box of condoms (see caption if you're confused). The right hairstyle not only changes your whole appearance, it can change your life.

2. The right eyeshadow can give you a face like an aphrodite-angel-temptress!

Extra chins and cystic acne got you feeling like you should wear a burka even though you're not Saudi? Well with a few brushes of the right mineral shadow and you'll go from this:

(here's a photo I took of myself this morning before I put on the eyeshadow someone pinned)


See how just a little bit of violet powder applied the right way can make you look <3 * :) AMAZING :) * <3 ??? I looked just like that when I walked out of my bathroom, no joke.

Yes. It changes everything. No wonder we spend 8 billion a year on these magical beauty elixirs of life!

3.The perfectly styled ensemble will make you hotter than the plasmic surface of the sun.

I needed a new swimsuit, so I waited until someone pinned one that I thought was really cute.
Because last year I got a one piece and I don't think it really worked on me. Here's a photo of me at the beach:

You see what the problem was, right? I'll give you a hint...

That's right! It was missing polka dots!
They changed everything. Thank goodness someone pinned this swimsuit, because I look super hot in it. My thighs are as narrow as my upper arms and my upper arms are the same as a 4th graders! Not to mention my smooth lustrous cappuccino skin tone and my thick long hair (no hot rollers or extensions necessary! the right swimsuit does it all!)

My legal team requires me to tell you: The reason we think something looks really pretty/cool isn't because of the style/product in the photo, it's the insanely beautiful/thin person sporting it in perfect lighting shot by a professional.

Post script: Pinterest has made me hate weddings. Wait, I mean, HATE weddings.
Just like Facebook made me hate Farmville. Farmville is probably very nice, with virtual pigglets and cows that never get slaughtered. But I hate it and you might even hate it too because it's all over Facebook annoying the crap out of us!
Likewise with wedding stuff on Pinterest.
I had a wedding, it was fine.
I've been to weddings, they were fine.
It's like 2 hours of your 683,306 hours of lifetime. It could melt everyone's face off with how awesome it is, and then it's over and you have to unload the dishwasher again and floss your teeth, and so does everyone else.
That's not to say that a wedding should be tragic and sad, it should be happy and nice, and all that.
But I've reached my limit and now if I see another "save the date" idea I think I'm going to throw up my Filet-o_Fish all over my keyboard.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


After realizing that sleeping in wasn't happening (because at dawn the kids were screaming and flopping on the bunk beds butted right against our headboard wall), I decided to use our over-sized bathtub for the first time in 6 months. Like an aquatic version of sleeping in.
It takes a while to fill up, so you have to kinda' plan the bath and have some time carved out.
I filled it up, and even dug up the sea mineral mask I had paid way too much for and slathered that on.
I opened the door and let one chihuahua out of the bathroom, while the other (read: fatter and older) chihuahua stayed perfectly still in his self rolled blanket burrito.
The tub was finally full. Enough doors have been closed and locked between the kids and I that I can no longer hear them.
A peaceful ten minutes passed.

**wretch! wretch! --hurl---**

My dog barfed up what looked to be a good portion of the compost pile (no doubt from last nights black op).

**wretch! wretch! --hurl---**

Still barfing. Oh and now cleaning it up by himself, great. I don't know which sound is more repulsive.

That dog spends 80% of his day sleeping in his bed. But he waited for the rare opportunity when I was there with him to share his special trick with me.


The offender, who was too nervous/ill to hold still.