Sunday, February 16, 2020

Speeching My Truth, Accidental Lesson, Trainer Separation Anxiety

Every year for a work-related event, I have to do a Big Speech in Front of People, a feat which I greatly dislike performing and spend much time angsting over. This year, writing the speech has been like dragging through a slog pit of wet cement in full metal armor. All of the pieces were there, but nothing was flowing. It felt heavy and stilted and full of tortured metaphors (those are my specialty), and worst of all, it rang in my ears as strangely insincere. Last week, I closed my office door and blocked out a section of time to do nothing but focus entirely on the speech: No getting distracted and checking e-mail, no answering the phone, no running out to the lobby to solve problems that people should be capable of solving on their own. The mental space gave me the gift of clarity, and I realized that the speech sounded insincere because it was insincere. The word “authentic” has been thrown around so much that it has very little meaning anymore, but the truth is that the speech was not coming from my authentic self. I was keeping a key truth to myself because I didn’t want to be vulnerable. The minute that I opened up and said what was true, not just what I thought sounded the prettiest, everything fell into place beautifully. The words flowed, the tortured metaphors resolved themselves easily, the theme coalesced, and the speech finally sounded like it was truly coming from me. It still needs work, but the essence is there and I can stand behind it with peace in my heart now.

I continue to be enraptured by “House Flipper,” although its limitations are beginning to frustrate me. They are supposed to have an expansion pack coming out soon, and I wish they would hurry it along, because I feel like I’ve used every design combination possible by now, and I’m going to start getting bored soon. But the point of bringing this up is that as I was browsing houses recently, I accidentally clicked on and bought the most expensive house in the game. It used up almost all of my cautiously-built up savings and obliterated my methodically plodding approach to the property ladder. I had real feelings when I realized that what I had done was undo-able. It wasn’t a flop-sweats and panic-attack situation—I am firmly rooted in reality and I know it’s not real money--but I did have few minutes of mild freak-out. That led me to reflect on my life-long risk aversion when it comes to money. I have heard the theory here and there that women make better financial managers exactly because they tend to be more risk-averse. I don’t know if that’s true, and I don’t know if my financial risk aversion is related to my gender, but I definitely have that condition. I took a few deep breaths and talked it through with Mr. Typist. I realized that I could sell the house for a very high amount once it was finished, so the money wasn't lost, it was invested. And ironically, I made such a huge chunk of change on the house when I sold it that I was way ahead of where I would have been if I had continued to make timid little purchases out of a fear of loss. It was an interesting lesson.

At our session last week, I said goodbye to my trainer while he goes off to be a dad. He was a bit manic, but very happy. I’m glad for him. I kind of doubt that he’s going to come back, and if he doesn’t, I’m very grateful for the time that I’ve had with him. I switch over to the new lady next week, and I feel a bit anxious about it, which is slightly ridiculous considering that personal training is not being foisted up me in any way, it is something that I am  doing entirely of my own accord. It’s just that I’m used to my trainer. It took a very long time to get a rapport going with him and for us to understand and trust each other, and now I have to get used to whole new person and I don’t know what she’s going to be like. I’ve considered just being brave and doing this on my own, but I made a big advancement in being able to bench press an unloaded bar, and because I’m just in the beginning of learning to master that, I need the help. I’ve tried lifting it on my own without a spotter, but I get wobbly and I’m very scared of dropping the bar on myself and crushing my rib cage. This is what happens when you skill up. It just complicates everything. 
Since this inexplicably popped up in my Youtube feed, and because it’s been raining for 700 years straight in Seattle, here is a great Nineties throwback video with Shirley Manson from Garbage, who my checkout lady at the grocery store flatteringly insists I look like. (I don’t, but I’ll take the compliment anyway.)

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Missed Calling, Rebellion Aforethought, Poetry Spit-Shine

I briefly mentioned in last week’s post that I had started playing “House Flipper” and that I found it relaxing. In the interim,“House Flipper” has gone from a pleasant time-passer to a near-obsession. Long ago when I was but a naive twenty-something, I thought that I wanted to be an interior designer. Then I found out that it requires spacial awareness, math skills, and an inordinate amount of decision-making involving granite, and I lost interest. But I’ve always had a strong interest in design and I used to watch those home-decorating shows on cable with rapt attention. I am enjoying the heck out of the design aspect of this game. I love going into an empty house, coming up with a design and color theme in my head, and watching it come to fruition. If I do say so myself, I have created some beautiful spaces in-game, even if they are of no consquence in the real world. Now l am wondering in all seriousness if I truly have missed my calling and should have gone into interior design after all. I suppose it’s not too late, but I’d probably just smack up against the same spacial and math barriers as I did before. And it’s much more enjoyable to sit at my desk and create pixelated designs than have to actually go take classes and learn how to do this stuff for real.

I was given a directive from on high last week which, deliberately and with rebellion aforethought, I declined to follow. I had a litany of reasons why, but it mainly boiled down to the principle of “enough is enough.” I made a good friend of one of our building engineers when I confessed my insubordination to him on our way to a morning meeting. He was greatly impressed, and he looks at me with a new respect in his eyes now. I can tell he had me pegged as a goody-two-shoes rules-follower and an obedient drone. Which led me to ponder once again the question of whether or not I am actually a rules-follower. Although I generally do follow rules, I don’t think that I am in my heart of hearts a rule-follower. I am a workplace peacenik (the strike was extremely hard on me emotionally for all the rancor and ill-will it caused), so I will follow rules in the service of group harmony, but I’m generally rules-suspicious and am not above finding ways around the ones that I find senseless, or that cause me unreasonable inconvenience. However, although my act of defiance didn’t impact anyone negatively, or at all, I still felt wierdly guilty about it for a good portion of last week. So who knows. Maybe I am a rules-follower after all.

Speaking of rules, I recently received in my inbox the rules for the Annual Spirit First Meditation Poetry Contest, which has spurred me to put aside House Flipper for the time being to work on my new poetry series and get some poems polished and shined for contest entry. I will be writing about meditation in a very different way than I have before. We’ll see how it all pans out, or if it even will. I feel oddly insecure about the viability of this new venture and I’m not sure how any of it will go over. I just keep telling myself that the worst that will happen is that I will have written a bunch of poems that no one likes and everyone will think I’m weird, which is hardly the end of the world. 
In celebration of all of you secret rebels out there, enjoy this video by Dorothy.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 2, 2020

I Had a Week, Ultimate Putter, Trainer Abandonment Issues

This week was a profound one for me. Those of you who are local know about the healthcare strike that occurred involving my hospital system. We have been in preparations for this for many months, and this week was it. By Friday night, I was so exhausted and simultaneously wired that I couldn’t even sleep. All I could do was lie in bed and stare at the ceiling while trying to control my racing thoughts and transitory PTSD. It was an epic week. And it left me to ponder the wonders of humanity. While I witnessed some truly atrocious behavior, I also witnessed the absolute best of humanity. I saw what happens when people truly come together as a team in a crisis and work for a common goal. The complexities of operating a health care system during a work stoppage are legion. It requires that people go all in on supporting each other and doing whatever it takes to make sure that patient care is not compromised and that the massively complex system continues to operate. Although tensions were very high, days were epically long, and we were all completely out of our minds with stress and fatigue, there was a never a doubt that we were a team and that we would take care of each other, no questions asked. We were all stretched to the max, yet kindness, caring and generosity of spirit were in abundance. And we did it. We made it through and we protected our patients and our workers and we supported each other. I am so proud of my colleagues and so proud of our volunteers who contributed a great deal to the success of the operation. I’m never going to forget what people are capable of in a crisis.

In order to recover from my complete emotional and physical burnout from this week, I downloaded a fun little game called “House Flipper.” It’s kind of like “Viscera Clean-Up Detail” but way more chill. It’s the ultimate putter-er. You hole up in a little shack and do contracting work while trying to save up enough money to buy your own house and spruce it up. I’ve really taken to it. I enjoy the little stories that go along with the jobs I get assigned, and I could paint, spackle, mop and decorate contentedly for hours. Meanwhile, my own apartment remains a sty in desperate need of dusting and vacuuming, but I’m having too much fun cleaning virtually to worry about that.

On the same day my trainer carefully guided me through my very first bench press with an unloaded 45 pound bar, he announced that he will be going on leave for two months because he and his wife are “having a son” and he wants “stay home with his new infant” and “help out with the baby.” Pffft. Whatever. Fine, I get it--his “newborn infant” takes priority over training my clumsy bag of bones. He totally triggered my abandonment issues, but to his credit, he arranged to set me up with Big Arms Stacy in his absence. He said he wanted me to get proper instruction in his stead, and that this Stacy person would be good for me. I call her Big Arms Stacy because she has these astonishingly muscular arms that I routinely gaze at from a distance while trying not to be creepy. She also has a tiny waist and long dark hair and is very pretty and all of the guys in the gym are constantly flirting with her. I’m a bit intimidated by her, but my trainer said she’s a total workout beast and he feels confident that she will be a good stand-in for him while he bonds with his new little guy. I’m looking forward to formally meeting her since I’ve been too shy to approach her on my own. I’ll miss my trainer, but maybe it will be good to switch things up a little bit and get a different perspective. And maybe I’ll get some insight into how she got those big arms.

This is unrelated, but all I’m capable of today besides pretend cleaning is watching cute animal videos. Enjoy this delightful Tiny Cat! It cuts off rather suddenly but I’m sure you can find the full episode somewhere.

--Kristen McHenry

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Training Breakthrough, Petological Clock, Justified Mistrust

After many, many months of doing glut strengthening exercises with a vague sense of existential hopelessness, I finally had a breakthrough in my weight training last week. Drum roll, please...I can now do an unassisted squat! I know that probably sounds ridiculous to most people who have baseline levels of physical conditioning, but for me, it’s huge. I’ve tried the unassisted squat several times before, but my knees would collapse or I would fall forward or otherwise flop around like a marionette. My trainer told me my gluts were weak and showed me how to do glut bridges and clamshells to strengthen them. And I’ve been dutifully glut bridging and clamshelling away for months, all the time wondering if it was doing any good whatsoever. It is! At my session last week, my trainer showed me the unassisted squat again and was super-excited when was able to actually do it this time. Then, as he is wont to do, he waxed poetic about the benefits of squats and how this opens up a whole new realm of possibility for me. He added that as a wrestler, a big part of his training is doing numerous squats and that he went to a Japanese wrestling school once and they had to do five hundred a warm-up, and that the instructor walked around with a big stick and thwacked you with it if you stopped. I stared at him in horror, then narrowed my eyes. “Do not get any ideas,” I told him. He grinned. “Oh, I won’t. I just want you to know how good you have it.” Smartass.

Ever since seeing that video segment last week with wildlife biologist Forrest Galante, I’ve been feeling mopey about not having any pets. I am still devastated about Buddy and miss him every day, but the truth is that we just can’t have cats in this city any more. All of our cats have been wild, unruly little escape artists and despite our best efforts, they manage to get out, and it’s too dangerous now. There is too much traffic and too many people and too many hazards, and even a very street-smart cat is in peril. After the debacle with the Fire-bellied toads from a few years ago, I don’t think I’m up for any more amphibians, but maybe I could get a goldfish or something. My petological clock is ticking, and I’m going have to do something about it soon. 

I’m sad to say that due to circumstances beyond my control, I am unable to see my boyfriend Jocko Willink at the Moore Theater on Monday after all. But the tickets went to a good home and I’m sure Jocko will make it back to Seattle again one of these days. It is ironic though that the one time I go out on a limb to get tickets to an event and prepare to leave the house for something other than work, my plans get thwarted. One time years ago, I told a therapist that I didn’t buy magazine subscriptions, and he thought that denoted a fundamental lack of trust in the universe. He was right. And there is a reason for that fundamental lack of trust, as proven by the fact that I don’t get to go see a handsome ex-Navy Seal talk about leadership. One day day.

Here’s a little bit of what I’ll be missing at the Moore. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, January 19, 2020

TIL Bangs are a Thing, The Glory of Wolves, Words to Live By

All this time, I have been blithely going about my life minding my own business and getting my hair cut on the reg, only to be completely blindsided by the fact that Bangs are a Thing. I had no knowledge of this. I have never not had bangs. I have a big, pale, horsey forehead and I don’t look good with long lanks of hair just hanging down my face. So the most practical way of dealing with that is to maintain bangs. But thanks to an accident of Facebook, I was recently introduced to a barrage of articles on women’s lifestyle websites abhorring bangs and all they stand for. Apparently bangs are for twee, breathy girl-women who love collage, vintage teacups and poetry. (Guilty on the collage, teacups and poetry, but that has nothing to do with my bangs!) Bangs are the favored hairstyle of that bogeyman of pop culture misogyny, the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl. Bangs are for overwrought goths who play acoustic guitar. Bangs are a visual blight and cause over-emphasis on your big, ugly nose. Bangs will cause your forehead to break out, simultaneously age you and make you look like a little girl, and are the last resort of the broken-hearted and those desperate to return to their childhood. I was completely shocked that all of this bang-hate was going on under my over-emphasized nose this entire time. I had no idea. I never attached any cultural significance to my bangs whatsoever and never even thought about them as anything other than a forehead-covering. (And just for the record, my forehead is not oily and does not break out. Cripes, people.)

It seems, then, that it is incumbent upon me to step up and defend the defenseless: If you are afraid of bangs, you are a dull, unimaginative person with outmoded ideas about femininity and hair, you have no personality, you are quite possibly pathologically vain, and you will never know the joy of collage, vintage teacups, and poetry. Bangs rule, your boring hair drools.

In other internet news, my Youtube feed recently popped up a video of Jocko Willink, (who I’m going to see at the Moore next week!) watching scenes from war movies and commenting on their realism or lack thereof. It turns out that there is a whole series of these types of videos, and I found them riveting and immediately went straight down a binge-watching rabbit hole. My favorite so far in the series is the one with wildlife biologist Forrest Galante (a marvelous name for a wildlife biologist), who broke down scenes from Anaconda, Jaws, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Grey, and other movies. He was a total delight. He is clearly very passionate about animals and has a wealth of knowledge. In just over thirty minutes, I learned a ton about bears, snakes, sharks and pigeons, and I re-kindled my adoration for wolves, an animal that has shown up in my dreams frequently over the last several years. I also enjoyed the one by a professional archer, who sagely said on shooting:

You are in control of the moment, the moment does not control you.

I’m getting that printed on a T-shirt.

Since wolves are on my mind, enjoy this video of one of my favorite songs, set to the glory of wolves:

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stupid Cold, Hippie Molestation, Good Men

I have a super-annoying g-d cold, a fact which I am taking very personally. I have created a mythology in myself that working in a hospital has created in me some sort of super-immunity and that as a result, I Never Get Sick, and especially with something as pedestrian as a run-of-the-milll cold. But here I am. I knew it was coming. I could feel it all week, starting with a mucus build-up in my eyes and a runny rose, which culminated in the full-blown cold I am currently suffering through. I hate this. I was up much of the night with a sinus-y headache and a bad case of the sneezes, and I am extremely cranky and not up for Mr. Typist’s “good-natured ribbing” about my condition. Colds are debilitating and stupid and humiliating. I wish not to have one, but alas, I do. I’m probably just going to go back to bed after I post this. Stupid cold.

In the throes of my Stupid Cold I needed something to read, so I downloaded the novel “Checking Out” by Nick Spalding on my ancient Kindle. I know that we are in the midst of the Me-Too movement and that there is nothing funny about rape, but I almost died laughing at a scene in which the main character is nearly gang-raped by well-meaning hippies because he gets incredibly high, and as a result finds himself stuck in a beanbag chair and unable to express his non-consent. I’m sorry, but it was funny as hell. I have not heard of the author Nick Spalding before, but I will likely be reading more of his stuff in the future. He managed to make a hilarious story out of someone getting an inoperable brain tumor. That’s talent.

In keeping with this weird, cold-delirium theme, I would like to say a few words about Men. This has been on my mind a lot lately. There have been a few sucky, weak, predatory men in my life who have badly messed me up. But far, far more than that, there have been amazing, strong, confident men who have bent over backwards to support me and shore me up and encourage me to have confidence and strength. Women have supported and championed me too, and I am not leaving them out of this equation or in any way diminishing their role, but they’ve provided a different kind of support, which I will discuss at a later time. Right now, I want to talk about men. 

I love the confidence and bravado of men. They have reached out to champion me, whether that be with my writing, (thank you, Patrick Stafford and David D. Horowitz) or with my physicality, (thank you, the late Willie Austen and my current trainer, Akida Dawson) or with my mental state, (thank you, gay-Mormon-therapist-from-my-20’s-whose-name-I-can’t-remember-but-who-saved-me, and Pietro Abela, my spiritual-health guru.) Men have taught me how to harness power and confidence, and how to swagger my way through the world even when I feel undeserving. Men, including Mr. Typist, have taught me how to fight. They have taught me how to go into battle and how to stand up for myself. They have never been more proud then when they see me strong. This strange myth that men want women to be weak has simply not played out in my experience. Every good man I have ever encountered has been a champion of my power and strength, even when I felt wobbly and unworthy. I am so appreciative of them. At the gym the other day, this extremely strong, professional body-builder guy high-fived me when I came in and said “You’re back to get some!” I felt so proud and affirmed. So, thank you, good men of the world. I appreciate you, and recognize you, and I know you will carry on. Here’s a very manly video in your tribute. 


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Epsom Salt Rash, Troll Feet, Skate Opera

One or two times a week, I take an Epsom salt bath. I don’t get massages or facials for manicures or pedicures, so this is the one body indulgence that I partake in, usually in tandem with a trashy book. I am a big believer in the restorative power of Epsom salts and trashy books. But of course, just plain Epsom salts are not enough. I am an Epsom salt connoisseur, and I have very refined taste. My latest favorite, which I will go ahead and buzz-market here, is Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak. It has a lovely, soft, orangy scent and I associate it with the blessed silence of Being in the Tub, which is my sacred time during which no one can reach me and demand things of me. Even Mr. Typist seems to recognize bath time as sacrosanct, and will only approach to respectfully knock on the door and ask if there is anything I am need of. But somehow, recently my local drugstore ran out of Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak, so instead I decided to try the good doctor’s Activated Charcoal & Black Lava Salt Soak instead. It wasn’t nearly as good and it left sooty, muddy streaks in the tub, but I took it philosophically-- after all, a bath is a bath.

However, shortly after getting out of the tub, I started to feel burny and itchy, and when I looked down at my arms, I noticed that there was a hot, red rash forming in the crook of both of my elbows. After a panicked mirror check, I saw the same rash forming on my stomach, too. Mr. Typist then confirmed that it was also present around the back of my knees. I kept telling myself to remain calm and that it was probably temporary, but I had a restless night of waking up and panicking that I was going to be covered head-to-toe in some sort of terrible, disfiguring skin disorder that would take years to get rid of and that would cause me to be shunned by society, dismissed from my job, and thrust into homeless—because I am a very rational person that way. It turned out to be nothing. The redness disappeared on it’s own and was just a minor, temporary reaction. However, I will never trust “Activated Charcoal,” whatever that is, again.

I was minding my own business the other day reading a book on the couch, when Mr. Typist walked into the living room and snorted derisively me. At first I thought it was because I was reading a novel, an activity which he disapproves of, but instead he was sneering at the holes in my socks. “My own wife,” he said scornfully, “is a hobo! Why there is a hobo in my living room? Woman, stop wearing your socks out!” Well, it’s not that simple. I can’t stop wearing my socks out, because I have Terrible Feet. Terrible, Frankenstein's monster, troll, Hobbit feet. Huge, unwieldy, misshapen feet with bones that stick out on the medial side that I think are known as “bunions.” I don’t want anyone looking at my feet, hence the “no-pedicure” rule. My trainer casually asked me about my shoes a few sessions ago, and while I answered calmly, inside I was fighting a body-dysmorphic battle to the death. Why did he have to mention my feet? Did he know all along how terrible they are and this was his way of mocking me? I calmed down eventually, but I still hate my feet. And now I have to go buy new socks so Mr. Typist will stop calling me a hobo. I feel guilty about hating my feet, because they do a lot for me and they are strong and sturdy, if not elegant. I should be more grateful.

Luckily, I can sublimate my foot dysmorphia by bingeing on a fantastically god-awful new Netflix show called “Spinning Out.” It’s really bad, in the best way possible. It has all of the pot-boiler ice-skating drama characters: The psychotic, ex-skater champion mom who is now trying to live through her daughters, the cruel, ambitious Russian coach, the smirking, good-looking rich guy, the spoiled rising star, the bitter older sister whose ambitions have been thwarted. It’s high-pitched and over-the-top and it takes itself very seriously. And there is lots of ice-skating. I love it. I plan to sit in the living room in my holey socks, clutching my bindle and watching “Spinning Out” until Mr. Typist leaves the house and returns with a bag full of brand-new socks for me. In the meantime, here’s a romantic ice-skate:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Body Verses Body, Lessons in Strength, My Date with Kahlil Gibran

Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This for God and this for myself’ This for my soul, and this other for my body?”   ”On Religion” by Kahlil Gibran

In between bouts of eating dragon souls in Skyrim, I spent some time this weekend working on another poem in the new series I’m developing. I’ve written a fair number of poems about The Body: What I have and haven’t done with my own, my general disconnection from it, and its various and sundry batterings, most of them self-inflicted. Many of those poems are very dark. I had forgotten just how dark until I went back and read some of them recently and found myself alarmed by their brutality. With this new series, I am consciously trying to take a different approach—not an insincere, rah-rah positivity approach, but one that comes from a place of genuine gratitude and appreciation for what my long self-maligned body is able to do—it’s adaptability, it’s capacity to learn, and shockingly to me, it’s hidden strength. One cannot, I have discovered, simultaneously malign one’s own body and effectively strengthen it.

I came to weight training with many wounds around my life-long lack of athleticism, being too tall, spindly and uncoordinated in my younger years to be able to do any sports, anger about my knee never getting properly fixed, never “clicking” with a sport or a physical pursuit, and feeling hopelessly limited. The weight training has tuned me into my body and its physical workings like nothing else has. It’s been a hard and uneven and sometimes painful process, but it’s taught me a lot, including that perennially favored spiritual buzzword, “presence.” I practiced regular meditation for years, and it never got me anywhere close to the presence I’ve discovered when I’m pushing through muscle fatigue and self-doubt trying to get three more reps in on the leg press, and the world shrinks itself down to nothing but me, the sound of my heartbeat, and that plate I’m pushing out with the sheer force of my will. That clears my brain far more effectively than sitting in a lotus position and trying to release desire ever did.

I know that for most people, the ability to set a physical goal and execute on it is a normal, non-earth shattering experience, but for me it’s been huge. I literally didn’t know I was capable of it. I am stunned to find that I enjoy the physical sensation of pushing myself hard, overcoming my physical fatigue and my mental self-doubt, and seeing progress. It’s strengthening me both in body and mind. In essence, I am finding the spiritual through the physical, which is the last place I ever would have looked. In all honestly, I always had a slight contempt for people who I deemed “too into” their physicality. I made the incorrect assumption that they didn’t have anything going on in their brains and that they didn’t have very much depth as people. I was wrong to let my bitterness blind me in that way, but I’ve turned over a new barbell and shall move forward all the wiser for my mistakes. This new series will be an evolution of my poems on The Body. I don’t know where it will take me, but I’m interested to see what emerges.

Speaking of the realm of the spirit, I recently came across some poetry by Kahlil Gibran, and I have become entranced, enthralled, enchanted, enraptured and mesmerized. (I’ve been using the thesaurus a lot this weekend.) I never paid much attention to his work before and I never read “The Prophet” or otherwise actively sought out his poetry. I guess I just thought it was a 60’s hippie thing and mentally dismissed it. But after reading these poems, I was deeply moved and immediately used my Christmas Amazon gift card money (thanks, Allan and Sandy!) to order his Collected Works, which should be coming soon. I’m very excited. I have a whole lot of time to make up for and I’m looking forward to a three-way date involving me, our couch, and Gibran’s lyrical mysticism. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Dysthymia

It’s Christmas. Sometimes I wish I were more of a “holiday person,” someone who takes delight in the rituals and traditions of the season and gets excited about decorations and gifts and parties and seasonal music. I don’t know if something broke in me long ago, or if I am just naturally like this, but holidays have always been fairly meaningless to me. I’ve never cooked or hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve never held a Christmas party, and I don’t bake anything. I don’t send out holiday cards to my volunteers at work, and I could barely muster the will to see that a single, shabby Christmas tree got put up in the lobby of the hospital this year. I hate the strained conversations about what you, me or anyone else is doing for the holidays, and then afterwards, the strained conversations about what you, me or anyone else did for the holidays. I don’t know why I have so much Christmas dysthymia. Christmas never did anything to me personally. It has just always evoked in me a vague  sense of melancholy and loneliness. This is all being magnified for me this year by the fact that this will be my first Christmas without my dad, and I won’t be able to give him a can of Almond Roca or a gift certificate to Cabela’s. He loved both of these things.

I think he would be proud of me about how far I’ve come with the weight training. My dad was a huge fan of dumbbell and body-weight exercises. The last time I went to my mom’s house, she gave me his set of dumbbells. They’re a little too heavy for me for most exercises right now, but I’m getting there. If he were still around, I would talk his ear off about my trainer and show him all of the moves I’ve learned. And I could tell him about my tribulations with getting my .22 revolver to shoot on target, and remind him that Almond Roca is the most revolting “food” on the planet, and watch in amazement as he ate 7,900 calories in one sitting without batting an eye or putting a single ounce onto his skinny frame. And he would grouse and complain and try to control the roiling chaos of our family gatherings and as usual, give up in defeat, citing that he had been outnumbered by women. Then he’d go and eat some more.

My biggest mistake was in thinking that I had more time. You never have more time. Even though I’m not a big fan of Christmas, it is a time of coming together with people who matter in your life. Make it count. Heal what you can, if you can. Appreciate them. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have forever. You don’t. This has been a public service announcement from The Good Typist. Now for a little something beautiful. It’s not a Christmas song, but it’s one of my favorites:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Fruit Basket Ninja, “Medallion Status” Review, Chronically Cold

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my long and storied career, it’s how to put together a gift basket. Not to brag, but it’s kind of my superpower. For one reason or another, gift-basketing has always seemed to land on my shoulders, so over the years I’ve developed some skill in that area. I know the right combination of things to put in them and how to make them look nice. I have “a touch.” Since I didn’t have any gift-basket duties at work this holiday season, I was feeling a little bereft and decided to put together a fruit-and-protein basket for the employees at my gym. Those youngsters need to keep their strength up, and also, even though I’m too shy to actually go up and initiate a conversation with them, I have gotten to know them a bit just through seeing them around all of the time and through the requisite hello’s and goodbye’s. I wanted to say thank you. It’s a very nice little neighborhood gym that has become somewhat of a second home to me, and the tight-knit staff makes it a fun and friendly place. Operation Fruit Basket went into full effect yesterday, complete with all manner of bows and cellophane, and this morning I dropped it off at the front desk. The two staffers at the desk broke into huge, excited, perfect-toothed grins and thanked me profusely, which warmed my heart. Success! That will be the full extent of my Christmassing for this year.

I’ve just started reading “Medallion Status” by John Hodgman, whose book “Vacationland” I reviewed here last year. “Medallion Status” is structured around an interesting concept. It’s a series of vignettes about Hodgman’s fleeting time as outsider in Hollywood after he became famous for playing the PC in those commercials. The vignettes are framed around his obsession with what he calls his “Beloved” airline and his quest to achieve the highest Medallion Status possible through frequent flyer miles. The stories are interesting and funny, but it’s really his perspective that makes the book so compelling and unique. “Medallion Status” offers the same poetic mournfulness and sincerity that “Vacationland” does, but I’m actually enjoying it bit more. John Hodgman is a terrible fit for Hollywood and not all that well-suited to acting work, so the stories are hilarious, and the little weird moments replaying his interactions with Hollywood A-listers paints a very surreal picture of Tinseltown and fame. I’m only about a quarter through, but I am very much looking forward to more.

In health complaints: I have become chronically cold. This is not evidence-based, but I feel that this Seattle winter has been unusually biting and gloomy, and my office is always cold (except when I turn on my radiator, at which time it turns into an unbearably humid swamp.) My computer room at home is cold because my desk is near the window and the cold air creeps in and makes my fingers cold. My co-worker had to give me a blanket to wrap up in at a meeting last week because I was really cold, and it wasn’t even that cold in the room. No one else was cold. I have been taking showers just to try to get warm. I do not like this chronic coldness. As I type this, my fingers are icy and I am wrapped up the warmest hoodie I own (the one from FEMA school with the cobra on it, which I love.) I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I want July back. I want to turn my face to the summer sun and bask in the warmth of an 85-degree day. But, I shall have to shoulder on until then...with a shawl around said shoulders.

Until summer returns, enjoy this really quite pleasant song from Sarah McLachlan:

--Kristen McHenry