Whining is Weakness Leaving the Body

by on Jul 29, 2014

I’m getting married in October, and I’m doing the traditional bride thing: I’m panicking about how I’m going to look in my dress.

I don’t have to worry about losing weight to fit into the dress (let’s just say I’m a little wiser than I was back in my twenties, and I’m not going to do that to myself again). But it is a shortish, sleeveless kind of dress. You know, the kind of clothing item that strikes terror into a 47-year-old woman’s heart.

This was how I wound up in a Body Pump class at Yakima Athletic Club Monday morning at 5 a.m.., doing my level best not to throw up.  (If you don’t know what “Body Pump” is, all you really need to know is that it involves weights and cardio, and is one of those practices that’s been outlawed in certain countries because it’s considered torture).

Now, I’ve always been what can legitimately be termed “large-boned.” I have the kind of physique that a German bachelor farmer would’ve drooled over 150 years ago…back when a guy needed a gal not only for breeding stock but someone who could hitch a team of horses, plow a field, build a cabin, and dig a well. As it happens, I can also reach over an octave on a piano with one hand, and small cats use my shoes for outdoor shelters.

And yeah, I understand that there are some fringe benefits to being Of a Certain Size, even though I pretty much hate it. As a mother of three boys, I was often pushed to physical limits that are normally reserved for reality television shows. Once one of my sons squeezed between the bars of a fence at a McDonald’s Playland—a 6’ wrought-iron fence, mind you—and I scaled that puppy in seconds. (The fact that I had a three-year-old headed directly for four lanes of traffic had an admittedly galvanizing effect.) It wasn’t pretty, but that’s the kind of thing a mother of boys has to do on a regular basis if she hopes to prevent offspring from becoming roadkill.

I’ve caught abandoned horses, driven tractors, broken up fights, fixed fences, and helped plant orchards. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of these things if I’d been a smaller, weaker person, but that doesn’t make the little snarky voice in my head go away: By the way, you’re going to look like Sasquatch in that dress.

So I was thinking about all of this stuff on Monday during the torture session exercise class. Our excellent instructor was saying cheerful things like, “Feel the tension?” when we were performing the 300th bench press of the morning. Tension? You mean the white hot knives burrowing themselves into my biceps and shoulders? I had something like a whole six pounds on my bar, and I was dying. Dying. Not exactly field-plowing and well-digging material any more, are ya? 

I’ve always had a deep suspicion of people like my fiancé, who has a runner’s ability to take out his brain and put it on another planet somewhere so he can sprint around in 100-degree heat. On the other hand, I turn into a whiny toddler the moment I start to feel the slightest bit sweaty. R. believes this is because I am an impatient person who should understand that getting into better shape doesn’t happen overnight. I believe this is because I don’t like pain.

The Yakima Magazine fans on Facebook even admonished me about my lousy attitude about exercise after I asked for some input on different fitness classes in the Valley. Yep, that would be me. I know I’m supposed to tell myself all sorts of motivational things: “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step,” “Building strength builds confidence,” etc. Yeah, whatever. I may be on the journey, but I’m not happy about it–not one little bit. And I want the world to know. For some reason, the whining just makes me feel better.

Today I’m so sore that I had to sort of do this half-stumble half-hopping thing to get down the stairs at home, as if my legs have become clothespins. I managed to get myself out the door for an early-morning walk—albeit a very SLOW walk—so maybe there is hope for me yet.

I’m not so sure about the dress.  

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Taking Girl Prisoners

by on Jul 25, 2014

Everyone’s parents have favorite sayings, and sometimes those sayings get woven into the family fabric in unexpected ways.

When Mom was angry at us, sometimes she’d say: “I’m going to blow my stack!” And since my sister and I took her literally, for years we would uneasily watch Mom for signs of an imminent explosion whenever she got really irritated.

Even more incomprehensible were the things that our grandparents said. Grandpa Walt not only had interesting pronunciation (he called motorcycles “motorsickles,” for example), he had an array of midwestern vocal tics. Opinions  were usually prefaced by loud Foghorn Leghorn-type phrases like: “Well, I say—.” And I remember him cautioning me once when I was 12 years old that an elderly widow who lived across the street was “foxy.”

Now to me (at the time), “foxy” meant someone cute–like, say, Shaun Cassidy. Come to think of it, I still have no idea what Grandpa meant–he must have meant that his neighbor was clever in a sneaky sort of way, but I really don’t know. All I knew is that she gave cookies to the neighborhood kids if you showed up and acted like you were willing to make conversation.

I was also personally intrigued by Grandpa’s swearing-but-not-really phrases, like: “What in the Sam Hill where you doing?” After I moved to Washington and found out that the Maryhill mansion was built by Samuel Hill, I assumed Mr. Hill was the famous Sam in question and considered that important childhood mystery solved. (There are some more ideas on where this euphemism came from here.)

When I was really little, my dad had a stock phrase he used to put me off with, and it was a phrase that I managed to mistake for a weird euphemism. “After a bit,” he’d say, if I asked him to play catch with me. But I always thought he was saying “After a bed.”

This led to the following exchange with one the neighbor kids (which, fortunately, finally clued me in that there had been some sort of grave misunderstanding).

“Elly, can you come out to play?”
“Sure. After a bed.”
“You mean you have to take a nap?”
Now I was getting irritated, so I slowed down and spoke very clearly to make sure she understood me. “No, I mean I’ll come out after a bed.”

My friend stood on the front porch for a moment, squinting at me and frowning. Finally she said, “Um, after you go to what bed?”

That story always makes me feel like I’m a little bit dim, but it cheers me up to remember that there are worse cases. My college friend Deb hilariously mangled the lyrics to a certain Bachman-Turner Overdrive song (and there were witnesses). Remember  “Taking Care of Business?” Well, we caught Deb lustily singing along once (and once was all it took): “Taking girl prisoners…every day! Taking girl prisoners…every way. I’ve been taking girl prisoners, they’re all mine…Taking girl prisoners, I’ve been working all the time….”

Every time I hear that song–even though it’s been more than twenty years–I still think of Deb and grin. But I also think about those poor girl prisoners.

My parents’ phrases are still popping up in my life, too, like my engineer father’s: “Form follows function.” I usually say this (accompanied with a heavy sigh) whenever I have to MacGyver something (like the last time I had to put a car bumper back on with duct tape).

I’d like to think that a couple of phrases are my very own, though. One of my favorite exclamations is: “Oh good grief!” Unlike many other exclamations, it has the benefit of not being offensive to anyone without resorting to the more Mayberry-sounding “Oh my goodness!” or “Oh my gosh!” Of course, one might argue that it’s not really my own phrase at all and that it came directly from boring summer afternoons spent reading yellowing Peanuts paperbacks, but there you are.

Sometimes these phrases and exclamations swirl around my head at odd times. I’ll often have one stuck in my craw first thing in the morning, as if my brain is some sort of creepy fortune-telling machine that spits these sayings out every morning promptly at 6 a.m.

But you have to admit that these little phrases are like sparkly beads on a string–whenever they pop out of your mouth, it’s as if you can magically see how they’re connected to all the times your mother, her mother and maybe even your mother’s mother said the same thing. They maintain a kind of brilliance and allure, these phrases do…no matter how well-thumbed or hard they’ve been used, they somehow still have the power to hold us all together.

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Out to Lunch – Antojitos Mexicanos

by on Jul 23, 2014

Antojitos Mexicanos is a popular family restaurant here in Yakima, and it’s usually packed for lunch. They’ve often advertised their homemade corn tortillas on their marquee outside, and it’s not hard to see why.

I almost got brave and ordered one of my other favorite dishes (a torta) but I decided to stick with my regular tacos asada since they’re a good judge of any Mexican restaurant. There is something about the simplicity of the dish that allows the restaurant’s attention to detail to shine through.

One of the best things about Antojitos is the variety of salsas you get to try if you order chips. They offer a bunch of different kinds: a avocado-cilantro-lime sauce, a smoky, chipotle-like runny sauce (which was co-diner  S’s favorite), a pico de gallo, a traditional tomatillo-based green salsa, and a hotter red.  Some people’s reviews on Urbanspoon indicate that they’ve been offended that Antonjitos charges .75 cents for chips (as free chips and salsa are usually the rule) but I think the variety of sauces more than makes up for that. For the record, a lot of people think that for the money, Antonjitos is the best Mexican place in Yakima.

Our lunch arrived promptly, and was eaten just as promptly. You just can’t beat the fresh taste of homemade corn tortillas like these (below). Like Taco Borracho on Fair Avenue, the tacos at Antonjitos come with rice and beans (this is a bit of a departure from a traditional restaurant, which usually just serves tacos). The beans were creamy and well-seasoned, and the rice was moist and flavorful. My beau R had tacos al carbon (steak with sauteed peppers and onions) and divided up the considerable taco filling among his tortillas in order to eat them in as civilized a manner as possible. (If you detect a faint note of sarcasm here, it’s because R. is quite possibly one of the most accident-prone diners I’ve ever seen. We keep an array of laundry products on hand for coping with his various prandial mishaps.)


One of the only problems with Antonjitos is that they close unexpectedly and periodically. They’re not open on Mondays, but we’ve been there at other times during the summer when they’ve been closed–we’re not sure why (perhaps, like Famous Burger and Teriyaki Sandwich, the owners take some time off during the summer months).  If you have an important gathering scheduled, you probably should call ahead to make sure they’ll be open.

If you’re lunching with a big group, you’ll want to make sure to come early–after about 12:15, the small restaurant really fills up. They’re located at 3512 Summitview Ave, and are open from 9-8 Tues.-Sat. and from 8-4 on Sunday.

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Accent Walls With Love

by on Jul 18, 2014

Stomach flu is apparently good for redecorating.

Well, it’s at least good for SOMETHING, I thought, as I rode the waves of nausea in the ship of my bed for a few days earlier this week. Of course our cats thought my incapacitation was fabulous…at least until they were shoved roughly out of the way for emergency bathroom visits.

Anyway, when you find yourself in a state of forced contemplation, you ponder a lot of things—the state of mankind, the meaning of love, why the heck you have so many cats, the 4th District Republican candidates…(well, okay, I’m just kidding on that last one). But being trapped in a room for a couple of days is also a guaranteed way to make you start thinking about the room itself.

I’d recently repainted our bedroom, and did some serious furniture rearranging. I’d even took “before” pictures, intending to share the results in this very blog—but then. Then we got snagged on where to hang the pictures. Ergo, I haven’t been able to show off the final product.

R’s daughter recently presented him with a beautiful and artistic painting of a lion, which he had triple-matted and framed. I love this painting. And because I was raised by an artist, I believe that you should always keep dear pieces close to your heart—and preferably where other people can see them, too.  


You’ll have to admit this is pretty amazing. Maddy is very talented, and all the Craft Warehouse framing folks thought so, too.

The problem is that the painting arrived after I’d already made an attempt at creating an “accent wall” for  the newly-painted and rearranged bedroom. This came about thanks to being completely corrupted by Pinterest. I’d had no clue what an “accent wall” even was…until I’d searched Pinterest about bedroom redecorating.

This (lame) attempt included two rather large canvasses. Since R. likes abstract paintings, I figured that I could at least make something passable to hang over the bed. I found a couple of big canvasses on sale at Craft Warehouse, and got out my acrylic paints. (You can see where this is going, right?)

But then R. actually likes the paintings I made. As for me, I really, really, really wanted those blank white canvasses back—the white panels looked much better in a trial run propped on our headboard than my paintings.  So my attempt at an “accent wall” is now stuffed unceremoniously behind our bedroom door.  

I would love Maddy’s painting to be hung on R’s side of the bed so it can be seen down our long hallway. It looks perfect there. But R. isn’t down with the idea of hanging it there, since it messes up my original plan of hanging my “art” up over the bed.

And so the impasse has remained. But when I was finally ambulatory this week, I propped Maddy’s picture up on R’s nightstand right underneath where I’d like it to hang. I think I may almost have him ground down into submission talked into hanging it there, but we’ll see.  I’ll find somewhere else to hang the “stuff” I made (since this is a public blog, I won’t use the word I’d prefer to use there). After all, the laundry room has always been in need of a little je nais se quoi.

Accent wall

The things I’ll do for this blog. I’m serious, this is so embarrassing. And this is the “good” one (yes, there is another that looks almost exactly the same that was supposed to hang right next to it).

So there you have it. Nothing like a little flu to put your life back into perspective: respect your health while you have it. And remember that something created by a beloved daughter is always more important than some stranger’s idea of what a bedroom should look like.



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Our Smallest Summer

by on Jul 11, 2014

If you don’t like cats, you can stop reading right now and go off and do whatever it is that non-cat people do.

My boyfriend R. and I have become the proud parents of a baby girl this summer. But saying “we have a new kitten” is kind of like saying (with apologies to Harry Harrison) “I dropped the bomb and it went off.”  Lilah is several months old now, and she has the following three settings: whiny meowing because she can’t figure something out and/or requires human attention/assistance, PLAYPLAYPLAY, and complete unconsciousness. I haven’t had a kitten in years, and somehow I’ve completely managed to forget what pains in the butt they are.

She’s a beautiful classic tabby—complete with the swirly bull’s eye designs on her sides.  R’s daughter helped foster a litter of stray kittens recently, and she personally selected this little bundle of claws and fur to present to her dad as a Father’s Day present. We both promptly swooned over Lilah’s markings and personality, and she promptly decided she was the kind of cat who likes to sleep on people’s heads and terrorize our older cats.

My two older cats have a real problem with Lilah, mostly because she doesn’t seem to have an off switch. Notch has boycotted the entire house (even in this heat) which has necessitated me placing strategic bowls of water and treats out for him. Otto has been spending hours sulking in an armchair downstairs. I never knew these guys were capable of projecting such emotion—but the looks I’ve been getting from them have all but been dripping with exasperation.

The blacks

If you have two black cats, you’ll get to see a lot of optical-illusion/Rorschach kinds of poses. Here’s Notch (foreground) and Chloe.

And meanwhile, Lilah runs amuck. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Into the shower with R., and then promptly out of the shower and into the toilet. Into the neighbor’s garage. Into the refrigerator, dryer, and dishwasher (meowing, of course, because we didn’t like the way the dishrack was all pointy and hurt our paws). R. and I are both sporting deep claw marks on the sides of our legs where she’s tried (and failed) to jump up onto our laps when we’re sitting down. After some stern admonishment regarding additional tree-trunk style leg climbing, she’s now taken to ambushing me by slapping my calves and ankles with her front feet and running off at top speed before I can even turn around. And now that she’s figured out the cat door, the entire world has become her oyster.

Last night, the neighbors who live directly behind us found her inside their house, and bless their hearts, they DROVE HER back over to our house because they could tell she couldn’t figure out how to get back over the fence.  I opened the door to find their whole family on our front porch, trying to hang onto a squirming and yowling Lilah. “Is this your kitty?” Sigh.

R. often slips into a weird falsetto when Lilah’s around, voicing her ‘thoughts,’ for my benefit. Usually the ‘thoughts’ are vaguely accusatory and contain complete falsehoods, like: “I’m just very sad because Miss Elly didn’t play enough games with me this afternoon” or: “I sure wish Miss Elly would have remembered to feed me today.”


Otto, all shaved for summer

Lilah likes to dip her feet into the aquarium (I can only imagine what goes through a guppy’s mind when they see hairy kitten paws invading their peaceful home). She climbs the curtains. She digs trenches in the litterbox, merrily distributing Tidy Cat all over a spare bedroom. I combat these antics with my classic cat disciplinary move, which consists of snapping my fingers while making sounds like a rattlesnake with bronchitis (i.e., “Ssssk! Ssssk! Ssssk!”). But to Lilah, my sounds of disapproval don’t mean “Stop Doing Bad Things.” They mean “Keep Doing Bad Things, Only Faster.”

But then she’ll hop in bed with us at 5 a.m. and lightly touch my face with her paws until I wake up. I’ll give in and rub her ears…which results in her throwing herself down on my neck like an epileptic mink stole. At  close range, her joyous purring sounds unabashedly industrial…kind of like a street cleaner or a cement mixer. And then, of course, all is forgiven.

R. is well-known for giving everyone nicknames, and the cats are no exception. Our two black cats are always collectively referred to as “the ninjas.” Notch is “Big Boi.” Otto is “Bottoman,” or “Bulldog.” And our little black cat, Chloe, is “Small One.” So Lilah has become, simply, “Smallest.”

But as much trouble as she’s been, this kitten reminds me every day about second chances.  I won’t ever have the chance to have a child with R., since we met so late in life. But whenever I see her tucked safely into his armpit at night, I feel such a rush of pride and love for both of them that she may as well be our human child.

Yes, we all make jokes about rearranging our lives to suit and serve our critters, but the truth is that love has incredible power to shape our lives–even if that love shows up wearing a striped fur coat.

So welcome home, Smallest. Your mom and dad love you very much.


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