Sunday, October 18, 2020

Hair Humble Brag, Bro Nod, Finding My Fall

As previously mentioned, I recently started a new ‘toon in Stardew Valley in order to redeem myself and actually do the daunting work of rebuilding the town Community Center instead of immediately selling out to the Big Corporation. Well that’s done, and it was all very satisfying and morally uplifting and then I was bored again. So now I am going to make a huge mistake and court Elliot for marriage, because things are too dull and I need some trouble. Elliot is the town “novelist” who lives in a cabin on the beach and has hair that looks exactly like Fabio’s. His hair is pretty much his defining feature. There’s nothing else going on with Elliot. He stands on the shore a lot and stares into space, his thick mane blowing in the wind. And he’s very withholding. I bought him four really nice gifts before I even scored one heart, and when I complained to Mr. Typist about it, he just shrugged and said, “Now you know how guys feel.” Then when I tried to make small talk with Elliot in the town pub, he had the nerve to humble-brag about his hair: “It’s so long and thick that it’s always getting in my eyes. I should just cut it all off.” On top of that, apparently in order to get a proposal, I have to attend one of his book readings. He is poor marriage material and I am on the highway to hell, folks. I’ll keep you posted on how this impending fiasco plays out.

I had a validating experience the other day. I was walking to the gym when I saw out the of the corner of my eye someone who looked familiar heading towards me in the opposite direction. As he got closer, I recognized him as a guy from my gym who is always back in the weight area doing heavy lifting. He saw me and nodded and I nodded at him, and this respectful but brief interaction made me feel like I was in a secret club. He wouldn’t have recognized me if I too, wasn’t also in the weight area a lot lifting, albeit not super-heavily or skillfully. It solidified in my possibly deluded mind that I belong in the weight room and that I’ve earned respect and that I’m not seen as a cardio bunny (not to disparage cardio.) When I described this interaction to Mr. Typist, he explained that it was a bro-nod and was indeed, a sign of respect. For a moment, I was privy to the secret world of guys. It was cool.

I don’t know if it’s because of all of the masking and the COVID and the general insanity of 2020, but I cannot believe that it’s Fall already and we are solidly in the middle of October. October is my favorite month and I usually look forward to it greatly and perk up quite a bit as it approaches. This month I barely noticed. We didn’t have much of a summer in Seattle and seems like the whole year has just been one long, gray blur with a few warm days mixed in. Maybe it’s because the mask is blunting my sense of smell, but Fall does not feel crisp and clean and sharp like it always does to me. The leaves are not their usual vivid selves; they are just sort of a dull, soggy brown, and the air feels mushy and the whole atmosphere is decidedly un-Fall-like. I want a do-over. In fact, I want a do-over of the entirety of 2020, starting with the strike at my hospital in January followed immediately by the onset of the pandemic and all of the madness that followed. I feel like I am just now starting to come out of long period of shock. Maybe that’s why I’m not seeing the Fall glory. Perhaps my lenses are dulled. Perhaps my soul is blunted from the numerous blows to my psyche over the last ten months. Maybe I will go outside today without a mask and take a walk and pay close attention. Maybe then I will find my Fall.

Enjoy this little ditty as we play out the last few months of 2020, and may God help us all.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Aisle Liberation, Bandanna Man, Me and Yellow Yates

I had a moment of cautious optimism this week when I noticed that they removed the aisle arrow signs at my grocery store. I also felt vindicated, because I always thought that the arrows amounted to nothing but illogical COVID theater. When they first appeared in...whatever month it was, I can’t remember now because I am in a permanent memory-haze, I was verbally berated by some idiot because I dared defy the arrow rule when I went the “wrong way” to get something that was at the very beginning of the aisle. If I had followed the arrow rules, I would have had to pass four other people in the adjacent aisle, plus two people who were mid-aisle in the aisle my item was in. Following the rules would have exposed six people to my potential germs and vice-versa. I didn’t want to get into with him, so didn’t point out to this jerk that he was wearing a poorly-tied bandanna that was doing nothing to protect him or others, and he was accompanied by a lady-friend who appeared to have no practical reason for being there. They had one hand-held basket between them, it’s not like they were hauling a full cart for a family of twelve. Couples who shop together annoy me as it is with their irritating coziness and “cute” prevaricating over produce, and especially now when you shouldn’t be bringing extraneous people with you to the grocery store. To be fair, this happened during a time when there was a huge amount of fear and uncertainty, and maybe the bandanna idiot needed his lady-friend for emotional support. I don’t know his life. I just know I was glad to see the pesky arrows gone, although I did suffer from a bit of disorientation brought on by total aisle freedom.

Last week I made the grave error of mildly suggesting that perhaps we shouldn’t be rooting for the death of our nation’s leader, and everyone went insane on Facebook (okay, to be fair, not everyone, and not even most) and I had to delete some posts to protect the mental health of certain people who were apoplectic with hate and in danger of damaging themselves psychologically. I have had a number of managers over the years at my current place of employment (stay with me, it’s relevant), all who have had varying levels of fascination with “personality profiles.” I’ve probably taken five total over the last nine years, and I’m not talking about short, fun internet quizzes. I’m talking about detailed, elaborate, expensive, hours-long tests that involve therapeutic follow-up, group discussions, desk placards with wavy color charts, and more than one fancy spiral-bound book promising to contain the final word on the Real Me. I have found every single one to be disappointing and in direct contradiction to each other despite purporting to be “scientific.” But there does seem to be one common thread of thread of consistency through all of them, and that is that I am a born peacemaker. A “mediator.” A “bringer-together-er.” Or, in less flattering terms as one co-worker once put it, a “let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya-er.” And in every single one, I am the least-understood type of all of their types. That’s always the kicker in every one of these from the Enneagram to the Myers-Briggs: “You are not well-understood among other types.” Tell me about it. I have lived my entire life being not-well-understood by other types, especially the “stronger” types who mistake me as weak or indecisive because I’m more invested in hearing all viewpoints than I am in taking a hard stance.

I know people hate getter-alongers, but that’s a very shallow read on what I’m about. And now I’m in this weird entanglement where I got in over my head with teaching self-defense classes because all I wanted to do was keep my fellow employees from getting into fights with each other. So with all of this, I was feeling miffed and misunderstood last week, and then I came across a video of a guy speaking on the same subject as I had. I immediately recognized him as my personality soulmate. I understood what he longed for, because we longed for the same things. I could feel it. I knew instantly and intuitively that he was a “me” and that he too, has gone through his life feeling misconstrued and misunderstood (although he wasn’t whining about it like I am.) And I instantly felt better, because I had made a sort of psychic contact with another me. I felt so much more at peace after watching that video.

In the aforementioned desk-placard test, my wavy color chart came out predominantly yellow. The video below shows “Yellow Yates,” who I supposedly embody. Frankly, I find this Yates person to be very eye-rolly, but I do admire his unfailing optimism. Together Everyone Achieves More!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Gym Braggart, Dazed and Confused, An Appeal to Love

In my ongoing “Project Pull-up” quest, against my better judgement, I ordered straps and weightlifting gloves this weekend. I knew not of the joys of straps until my trainer had me do multiple reps on the assisted pull-up machine last week, and I complained of my hands giving out. She excitedly lent me her straps, and I loved how secure and “locked in” they made me feel. It really helped with the hand soreness and allowed me to do more reps than I would normally be able to. And she said that gloves would help with keeping my wrists straight while lifting. I am pre-embarrassed about the straps and gloves. It feels showy and braggy to me, as though I think I’m some sort of a big deal who needs extra equipment in the gym. But I am getting callouses, my hands are giving out, and I do have a problem keeping my wrists from bending, so I feel that these items are legitimately warranted. Hopefully no one will look at me and think, “Well, look at that braggart, with her fancy straps and gloves. She certainly thinks highly of herself.”

I am disoriented. Last year around this time, I had one of those Meaningful Birthdays. The one where you know definitively you are not young anymore. I was stunned to discover recently that it is now once again October, and I am due for another birthday, although not one nearly as meaningful and traumatic as the one I had last year. I don’t know what happened to the time. I don’t know how it became October suddenly and how I became older and how there are brown leaves on the ground now and it’s foggy in the mornings. Wasn’t it just summer? Is the pandemic over yet? Where is my dad? Where did my Mexican masked wrestler trainer go? Why is my job so weird now? What am I going to do about April and the The Big Stressy Event that was canceled this year? Why does my body look so alien? And oh yes, I’m supposed to eat snacks now. The president has COVID. I feel dazed and lost and perpetually surprised. Life is strange.

Speaking of the president, I’m going to keep this neutral, but with everything going on in the world, all of the death and destruction and pandemic and pandemonium, can we please not wish death upon the leader of our country? No matter how you feel about him, it’s not good for our souls to do that. We cannot demand peace and love and justice while not being at peace within, while not having love inside of us. It’s not about him. It’s about what is within us. We will never find love in the world if we can’t find it in our own hearts. Rage and blame is easy and feels good, especially when fueled by righteousness. Love is difficult and requires humility. We must stop demanding of the world that which we do not have within ourselves. Things are painful enough as they are. I am asking for just a little more love, and little more gentleness. Thank you. 


--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Kitchen Experiment, Blogger Blow-Up, Carb Confusion

I made my energy bars this week! It was a bit of an odd experience. I never bake—I’m not a fan of sweets or cookies—so I had to re-learn how to use the food processor (which I kept calling a “word processor” in a strange subconscious glitch), and I had to dig a mixing bowl and rarely-used measuring cups out from obscure corners of the kitchen. And I realized at the 11th hour that we didn’t have any Crisco in the house, so I ended up having to coat the pan in bacon grease. I was worried this whole adventure would quickly become a fiasco, but it went surprisingly well considering that it’s first time I’ve baked anything from a recipe in more years than I can remember. It was a lot of chopping and mixing and I had to cook quinoa, which I also hadn’t made in years, so all in all, it went pretty smoothly considering. The only problem was the salt. Being an inexperience baker, it didn’t occur to me to think about the fact that both the sunflower seeds and cashews were already salted, and I added way too much salt. I thought I could deal with it just for this one batch, but now that they have had time to coalesce in the fridge, the salt seems to have expanded or something (I don’t know what salt does) and they are now intolerably, inedibly salty. I’m going to have to throw this batch out and start anew. On this second round, I plan to add a little honey to mitigate the grittiness and hopefully come out with a smoother texture. Maybe I’ll go crazy and add a touch of vanilla, too.

I was tearing my hair out last week trying to get my blog post up because Blogger changed everything and took Legacy Blogger away and now it’s all a huge mess. As I was having a meltdown, Mr. Typist efficiently went on to the interwebs and opened 30,000 tabs about the new Blogger and calmly tried to explain to me that Blogger has been warning users for months that this was going to happen and that it’s being done so that “posts look the same across different devices” and if I just spent a few minutes “reading up” on the changes I would be enlightened as to their benefits, and blah blah blah. I don’t want to “read up.” I don’t get paid for this. Between having to make a whole new batch of energy bars and find a drill arm extension for my Prawn Suit in Subnautica, I’m busy. I don’t want to learn new things. I want the old Blogger back so I can just spew my ridiculous petty thoughts with abandon and not have to think about HTML. Why, Blogger? Why? The bottom line is that things are going to look jenky here for a while until I stop being stubborn, so thank you for your patience.

On top of all this, I’m supposed figure out how to eat more carbs. I started seeing a nutritionist for help understanding how to eat in support of all of the renewed activity at the gym and the new trainer ramping everything up to ten. Apparently, it’s carbs. When she told me I needed to eat more carbs and add in snacks, I felt like I entered an alternate reality. According the internet, carbs are basically the nuclear option, to be consumed only in the case of extreme activity, and even then, in tiny quantities and only certain kinds. She poo-pooed (nicely) the idea that carbs are the devil and said that it’s just another nutrition trend that is going to go the way of the low-fat trend of the nineties, only to be replaced with something equally ridiculous. It took a good part of the hour and a hand-drawn graph to convince me that carbs are okay, and I’m still not there completely there yet, although I’ve started adding potatoes to my traditional breakfast-egg-and tuna-packet combo. We’ll see how it goes.

In honor of potatoes and poetry, here’s a cute poem performed by Michael Rosen:


--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Bar Rant, Me the Inventor, All up in my Head

In an attempt to up my daily calorie intake, I’ve been experimenting with various “energy” bars, which I am not a fan of for the same reason that don’t like protein shakes or juices. Beside that fact that the vast majority of them have way too much sugar, I don’t enjoy utilitarian eating. Slurping down a milky drink or chewing on a cakey bar in the middle of the day to jam in “macros” feels joyless and laborious. But my food choices at work are very limited. Unless I can find time in my day to leave the building, I’m at the mercy of whatever they stock in the auto-checkout kiosk, and sometimes they don’t stock it all. And yes, I know I could bring food from home, but I gave that a honest try for a few weeks and it just didn’t work out. I don’t have access to a sink or a proper food prep space, fridge space is very limited, and it was a huge unsanitary hassle. So I have forayed into the world of bars, with limited success. The only one I semi-like so far is the lemon-flavored Luna bar. All of the others are too chocolatey, too sweet, or contain the type of nuts that I can’t eat. I don’t want what is essentially a roided-up candy bar, and I don’t need there to be chocolate on everything. I have not been able to find a single energy bar that is purely savory without some sort of obligatory chocolate or caramel or other sweet syrupy stuff ladled over it. So, I announced at dinner with Mr. Typist this week that I shall embark upon the experiment of making my own bar.

I have no idea how to actually do this, mind you. Yet I am convinced I can. My ideal bar would contain a mix of roasted, salted sunflowers seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and cashews, maybe with some peanuts or sesame seeds, too. It would have salt and dill but not too much and it would contain nothing sweet. Also, it would have a pleasing, crunchy texture instead of the weird dirt-clod feel of most bars. I would call it the Kristen Bar. Why not? Some lady named Lara has her own bar. Two can play that game. I just don’t know how to put all of the elements together. What do you use for “glue”? How do you mash everything together into a bar shape? Would there be baking involved? These are mysteries that I will be exploring in the coming days, hopefully with enough success that I can report back in a few weeks that I have a reliable source of nutrious calories in the form of a delicious, healthy bar that doesn’t taste like chalk.

At any rate, I will be needing the extra calories because I will be doing lots and lots of self-defense practice in preparation for teaching the classes. I had a bit of an emotional breakdown over all this last week, but I’m okay now. As is my way, I got all up in my head and freaked out and starting crying in the kitchen and running dialogue in my head that sounded something like this: What in the bloody hell was I thinking even considering doing something like this? I can’t teach this stuff, I can’t even learn it, and my lack of confidence is going to undermine my authority and I am going to fail myself and fail my co-workers and it be entirely my fault if someone gets choked out because I didn’t teach them the carotid defense correctly. But fortunately, Mr. Typist talked me down off the ledge and I was able to regroup. I have figured out a way to study and practice that works for me and that involves lots of sketching, hand-written study notes, and visualization...and of course copiuos practice on Mr. Typist, who is always up for being a test dummy. Between my super-bars and all of the self-defense practice, no one’s going to be touching me!

Here is some fun, flashy martial arts performance stuff, which I’m sure I’ll be doing in no time. Note: Blogger is driving me insane this morning. They changed the platform and made it ten times as hard to use and took all of my preferred formatting away. I have no options anymore and I hate it. I cannot seem to embed video now, so here's the link:


--Kristen McHenry


Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Black Block

Pre-post script: It occurred to me after I wrote this entry that it might raise some distracting COVID concerns, so I just wanted to add this to the beginning: We were masked and gloved and as socially distanced as possible throughout the class. We also limited our practice partners to minimize potential exposure.

For three days last week, I took a fully immersive self-defense instructor training course for work. It was something that I raised my hand for thinking that it was going to be mostly about “soft skills” and verbal de-escalation, but it turned out to be about 80% hard physical skills. When I say physical skills, I mean defending from gun and knife attacks, escaping choke holds and bear holds, and protecting your head from flying fists. I am a remarkably slow kinesthetic learner and always have been. It takes me numerous repetitions to learn anything physical, especially complex and precise physical movements. I get overwhelmed very easily and forget steps, and it takes me forever to make compound movements work together smoothly. (My former trainer can attest to that.) This class was one compound movement after another, stacked hour by hour, and it almost broke my brain. I was definitely one of the worst students in the class in terms of awkwardness and slowness to get it. But on the plus side, I got high marks on my verbal presentation (apparently I was very personable,) and the co-instructor gave me kudos for my “amazing” attitude, which made me feel all warm and approved-of. And I’m proud of what I was able to do, even though I wasn’t good at most of it. (I know I wasn’t good at most of it because they kept partnering me with the co-instructor, I assume because it was clear that I needed extra help.)

Yesterday, after a long rest, I hopped on to the instructor’s website and methodically watched the videos of each of the techniques. Everything started to make a little more sense and come together in my mind once I had time to observe and absorb in my own time, without all the noise and the pressure of having to hurry through every technique and struggle with being overly-tentative due to the fear of accidentally hurting my partner. I am in no way ready to actually teach this stuff yet, but I have a glimmer of hope now that I can eventually master it, especially since Mr. Typist is willing to be my test dummy at any time. (I already used the “compassionate take-down” method on him and it worked!) I just need a lot more practice.

The physical technique stuff is learnable, even for me. But developing the true emotional readiness to defend yourself from an attack is a whole other layer. I can visualize myself doing the defensive moves. I can run the programs in my head and ready myself to act rather than freeze in the event that the worst happens. I am fully willing to protect myself, but I need to work on that small seed of doubt that I cannot. That small seed of doubt could literally kill me. Used correctly, these techniques will work reliably every time, so the only thing in the way right now is my thoughts, which are much harder to master than anything physical. 

My one regret is that I wasn’t able to break the black block. We did block-breaking as a mental exercise, and I broke every other one fairly easily after a few tries, but the black block was the hardest, and I couldn’t break through it, despite everyone cheering me on. One of my bruises from the class is on my wrist from whacking that thing over and over again, until the instructor took it away and gave me plaudits for trying. I am now haunted by that black block. That black block represents to me an unconscious lack of readiness, and a deep layer of shame about all of the times I have been attacked and bullied and was unable to protect myself. (And there it is. I didn’t expect to get so deep on myself that I would start crying as I wrote this.) I need to break that black block in my mind. I need to understand that I am not a frail, boundary-less, vulnerable person anymore. I am eons away from being that person. I have to know that and believe that, because my life truly could depend on it. So that is the real work ahead of me, grappling not physically but emotionally. Defeating not the enemy outside of me, but the one inside of me.

It’s been an intense few days, topped off by our air in Seattle being so thick with wildfire smoke as to be almost edible. As I was looking for a video to tie everything together, I came across a lot of martial arts compilation videos, but after three days of immersion in alarming scenarios, I just wanted something peaceful. Mr. Typist downloaded the game “Subnautica” for me as a surprise on my last day of class and it’s been a nice mental break. Enjoy the fishies!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 6, 2020

My Avocado Plant isn’t Working Out, Weekend Blues, Goal vs Afterthought

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my excitement at learning that you can grow a plant from an avocado seed. (Thank you to everyone who weighed in on Facebook and e-mail with plant advice.) I followed the first set of directions carefully, wrapping the seed in a wet paper towel and tucking it away in a zip-lock bag. When I unwrapped the seed this weekend to check on the progress, instead of a cute, eager green sprout, there was a strange, dark, vein-like growth wrapped around the seed, but not protruding in a way that will allow me to move on to the next step. I don’t know where I went wrong, but think I’m going to have to start over. Either that, or the UK Daily Mail was just trolling me and there is no such thing as growing an avocado plant from a seed. I can see all of the smug British journalists now, laughing and chortling at us suckers eagerly unwrapping our seeds only to find failure staring us in the face. Hmmph. I don’t know why I’m so eager for an avocado plant anyway. Maybe I just need something to believe in again, and growing things has always seemed like a form of magic to me. I must be working with a bum seed. I feel bad giving up on it but that’s the way of the world: Produce or perish. 

This is a three day weekend and as such I feel an unspoken pressure to both uber-relax and get out of the house and go “do something.” Mr. Typist and I vaguely discussed putting together a lunch and having a picnic, but that involves effort, forethought and going out in public, none of which I want to engage in. The truth is that I don’t actually care that much for three-day weekends. They throw off my work week and make me restless. I don’t find them “refreshing” and all they do is make me stressed about coming back to work and opening my e-mail. I suppose I could take it as an opportunity to catch up on my reading. I have three half-read books in my Kindle right now including the erstwhile “Fountainhead” which I took a break from because the architects were stressing me out. All of this makes me wish I had a cat. Cats have always been good at helping me relax. It’s much easier to justify sacking out on the recliner and reading for hours when you have a warm cat curled up on your lap. 

My one big goal since the gym re-opened is to do a pull-up. That was a sort of semi-goal of mine previously, but my normally serene former trainer had a mild but extended freak-out when I mentioned it, and I didn’t want to stress him out by bringing it up again. However, my new trainer is a maniac and thinks I can do it. When she’s not nagging me into an early grave about my crap posture, she’s piling plate after plate onto the seated bench press and pushing high reps. (It has made a difference, even though only been a few weeks.) The gym is pretty sparsely populated right now, and as such, most of the people there are the hard-core lifters, mainly men. And guess what they do in between sets as an afterthought? That’s right. Pull-ups. Those bastards do pull-ups, right in front of me. Just as a way to pace themselves as they think about what they are going to do next. What is an entire lifetime fitness goal to me is a casual afterthought to them, what with their chest-based center of gravity and their bulky biceps. Nonetheless, I’m fascinated by how they do it and I want to go up to them and say, “Teach me your ways.” I won’t, though. 

When I was looking for songs about American workers for Labor Day, as was probably inevitable, I came across this quite old and quite strange video from Men at Work. The song is as catchy now as it was back then, but I had never seen the video before, and it is completely bizarro. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Hair in the Time of COVID, Video Game Redemption

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve gone short. Eleven months worth of dry, brittle, frizzy growth has been chopped from my head, and I am free. Free of ponytail bands, barrettes, bobby pins and hair clips. Free of laborious shampooing. Free of split ends. Free of the months and months of stress energy that my hair had absorbed as I dealt with the calamities of working in a hospital during a pandemic. As the stylist sliced away at my hair and I watched it fall to the floor in dry, dull strands, I wondered what took me so long. Part of it was indecision, part of it was some vague hope that if I just waited it out a little longer, I would magically wake up one day with a long, glossy mane of healthy hair, part of it was a chronic case of why-botherism. But no matter now. It’s done. I have a pixie again, and while it’s a still little startling, I love it. It’s nice to have an actual hair style, instead just a sloppy pony tail or bun in tandem with self-cut bangs. And I was directed to use something called “Surf Spray” after I wash it, which affords me the fantasy that I am beachy and free-spirited.

I was a little worried about how the salon visit was going to go, but overall it was fine. They “screened” me as I came in, which was…interesting. As someone who now manages the entry screening points at the hospital, I can tell you it was not up to standard by any means. I understand that they were trying to be low-key about it, but I would get them into shape real fast if I was in charge of their screenings, I’ll tell you that. The worst part was that I had to keep my mask on through the whole process, and because the cut involved a lot of texturizing, tiny stabby pieces of hair kept falling into my mask and itching my skin, which made me very anxious, which in turn made me sweat, so I had a sweaty, unbearably itchy “hair mask” that I was desperate to take off but couldn’t remove. They offered me a new one at check out, thank God. And it was nice to be back patronizing a neighborhood business again. I’ve been going there for haircuts and massages for years, and like the gym, I missed them and wondered how they were doing.

Now that the big hair news is out of the way, I have a Stardew Valley-related confession to make: In my first iteration of the game, I sold out to the giant Joja Corporation, which allows them to take over the town Community Center and turn it into a huge warehouse. I had good intentions, but I was an inexperienced player and pathologically adverse to spending money, so when I suddenly found myself with a lot of cash on hand and realized it would be ten times easier to sell out than to develop the Community Center, it seemed like a no-brainer. Then the Community Center was, as promised, turned into an ugly, soulless warehouse and I every time I passed by it, I felt a little stab of guilt. But in video games, as in life, redemption is always possible. I started a new game, this time knowing in advance that I was going to develop the Community Center no matter how long it took. And it is a bitch. But it’s very gratifying. So far, the Craft Room, the Boiler Room and the Vault are complete. It’s going to be the best Community Center ever, if I could just find a Ghost Fish to appease the wood sprites and get the aquarium repaired.

In the spirit of redemption, here is a song by the beautiful Mary Fahl about just that. This is from an old album, so the video is static, but it’s lovely song that stands alone. I love the line “Redemption can be granted to us/Or granted by us/But I believe it’s due us anyway.”

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Garden of Small Delights

We live in a time during which taking delight in small things is absolutely essential. This week, several small things delighted me:

I stepped out onto our landing on my way to work and was astonished to find this magnificent little snail, pictured here, hanging out by the steps. It has been years since I’ve seen a snail, although they are pretty common around here. I do not know how he made his way up a flight of stairs to find himself lingering on our landing, but I applaud his determination. His shell was a work of art, and I’m no snail doctor, but he looked healthy and alert. His little snail ears were erect and his coloring looked good, or at least what I imagine healthy snail coloring looks like. Clear and unblemished. I was kind of hoping he’d still be around when I got home, but there was no sign of him upon my return from work. I wish him safe travels.

I came across an article on my favorite trash site, the UK Daily Mail, about how to grow an avocado plant from an avocado seed! The article was much-derided in the comments section by sour Brits, their main gripe being that this is a commonly-known thing not worthy of having an entire article dedicated to it. I disagreed wholeheartedly. I had never heard of this before. I was enthralled by the entire process and the resulting vibrant, deep-green plant—to the point that I marched straight to the kitchen, plucked the seed from an avocado, and followed the first step of wrapping it in a damp paper towel and sealing it in a zip-lock bag. Of course Mr. Typist had to pop my plant bubble by insisting that it was going to grow unsustainably huge and that I was creating a monster and had no plan for how to deal with the outcome. He is correct that I have no giant-plant management plan in the case that it turns into an Audry and starts trying to eat us. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, I just want to see a tiny little sprout of green life spring forth from my avocado seed.

I started working with my new trainer this week, and she re-introduced me to the joys of and benefits of good posture. She was very adamant about the importance of posture, and she’s right of course. Most people have crap posture for one reason or another. I have a life-long slouching habit that started in childhood from always being at least four inches taller than most of my peers, and trying to “lower myself” so as not to stick out. We worked for a full ten minutes just on posture. Pulling my shoulders back and standing up straight made me feel less fatigued, and I looked balanced and aligned, if nowhere near as naturally graceful as my trainer. It brought back a childhood memory that I am not sure is real or not, of being in early grade-school and all of us walking around with books on our heads and giggling and laughing when they fell off. The book-on-the-head thing may seem stale and hopelessly old-fashioned now, but I firmly believe there should be a return to teaching good posture as a standard basic. I’m afraid that with all of our devices, we are going to become a society of slump-shouldered sad sacks unable to raise our heads high enough to make eye contact and knuckle-dragging our way to the chiropractor’s en masse for a fix. Oh, wait...

There is a woman in the apartment next door who will...not...stop…singing. It’s been well-established that I’m a killjoy when it comes to public expressions of jubilance, but this is not that. This is a loud, toneless caterwauling of an endless playlist of terrible pop songs, bleated out at full volume and amplified by the sound bowl that makes up the breezeway between our two buildings. I could not sing if my life depended on it, so this is not a criticism of her skill. It’s a criticism of her complete lack of self-awareness and concern for her neighbor’s sanity. Every time she starts up, I break into a stress-induced sweat and dive for my headphones to try to drown out the sound, to no avail. It’s too hot to close the windows right now, but even with them shut, I can still hear her flat, voluminous wailing. I have heard several windows slam shut across the way when she starts up, so I don’t think I’m the only one who has this reaction. This is ripe for an intervention, and I may just organize one: “There’s a bunch of people in this complex who care about you a whole lot and don’t want you to get stabbed in the throat by a neighbor with a bad case of misophonia.”

In keeping with the theme of gardens, enjoy this beautiful and heart-wrenching rendition of “Down by the Sally Gardens” from the time long ago of 2013.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Gym Return, Trainer Two-Timing, Boring Baby

Fitness centers have finally re-opened for business in Seattle and despite my trepidation, I went back to my beloved neighborhood gym last week to test the waters. On the “good” side of the tally: It’s both extremely clean and extremely devoid of people, so I practically have the place to myself. I was worried about the social distancing but because hardly anyone is there, that’s not an issue. I can hog all of the machines for as long as I want and no one gives me the stink-eye. On the other hand, damn. I’ve been very diligent about the home workouts, but they are not the gym and I learned the hard way that one cannot simply plunge back into, say, the lat pull-down machine at the full weight at which one had been doing before a five-month reprieve. I ache in places that I didn’t know existed, (hello, underarm muscles) and this morning my back is angry at me despite my intent to ease back in and not go crazy right out of the gate. It’s disheartening to have lost progress, but I am trying to focus on the good things I gained by doing the home workouts, such as more well-rounded quad strength, and more dexterity from doing reverse lunges and such.

One thing I did try to do that was probably a little foolish was to lift the unweighted 45-pound bar. I chickened out on lifting it after I had barely gotten it out of the rack, and that cemented it for me: I need a trainer to take to me to next step of dead-lifting. Just before the gym closed, I had sat down with my trainer to re-tool my goals, and that was going to be our next step. Then COVID hit, and that was the end of that. My trainer informed me last week that he will not be returning to the gym, (sob!), so to my great wistfulness, I will be discontinuing our remote sessions so I can pick up gym sessions with Big-Arms Stacy, who I worked with briefly while my trainer was on paternity leave, and who I found delightful. As I was handing over my debit card this morning for the training package, none other than Big-Arms Stacy herself came through the doors, so we were able to schedule a session for this week. I’m excited to start working with her, but I have not fully closed out with my trainer yet, as I still have an online session scheduled with him tomorrow night. So I am effectively trainer two-timing at the moment. And I would appreciate your discretion while I get it all sorted out.

When I last posted about the goings-on in Stardew Valley, I was patiently waiting for Harvey to ask me to have a baby, and sure enough, he finally did. After a brief gestational period of fourteen game days, a tiny pixilated baby appeared in the nursery crib. We named her Lily. She was very boring in the beginning. All she did was sleep. Now that she’s a toddler, she’s still not very interesting. She just crawls around randomly and occasionally plays with a toy ball that I did not give her, so God knows where she found it. I don’t mean to be sexist, but it’s obvious that the game was created by a young man who did not at any time think through practical issues such as house child-proofing, feeding, diapering, and day care. Harvey works long hours at the clinic and those crops don’t harvest themselves, so the kid knocks around the house completely unattended all day. Oftentimes I don’t even know what room she is in and I worry that she’s pulled a lamp over onto herself. Hopefully little Lily has an independent streak, because that child will be fending for herself. Good. It will make her a tough farmer some day.

As I was looking for farming songs for this week’s video, I came across this, and I really liked it as a tribute to our nation’s oft-forgotten farmers. It’s cute and silly, but it’s also a good reminder of where our food comes from and the hard-working people who make sure it gets to our tables. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry