Archive | November, 2013

And now for something completely different

26 Nov

If you’ve found this post because you googled ‘CrossFit’ and somehow ended up here, let me start by apologizing right now.  You probably spend your time kicking ass and visualizing that perfect butterfly pull-up.  When the WOD gets started you rip off your shirt because your abs can be seen from space and it’s a crime against humanity to keep them covered.  At least, I assume that’s why you rip off your shirts.  Don’t really know.  This blog is not for you.  (Except for maybe a recipe or two.)  Love you.  Now: Buh-bye.

The rest of you know me.  At least a bit.  You know I spend my time crumpeting around, falling into fantasy land, wringing my hands or gushing over being an American in the UK, going gaga over history, enjoying a good bakery, picturesque ruins, and a pretty close-up shot of a flower.  I never ever rip my shirt off.  The idea of me visualizing a perfect butterfly pull-up is as ludicrous as me attempting one.  Running in the mud has been as crazy as my midlife crisis has gone.

I’ve lost a lot of weight since my mother was diagnosed with cancer this last time.  The connection is not subtle.  She was diagnosed with lung cancer: I committed myself to eating healthy and losing weight.  There may have been an element of bargaining.  If I worked hard and ate clean, every day, maybe I could accrue extra health points which would magically transfer to her.  This did not work.  I don’t really want to talk about it.  Seventy pounds later, she’s passed away and I’m still here, wondering where to go next.

Where I go most often, these days — when I can tear myself away from gibbering at the dark and making my fireplace roar — is to CrossFit.  The idea that I belong there is nearly fantastical — forty-two, mother to three, two years ago barely able to finish walking 5k in an hour? And after so many months of hard work, still overweight and still slow and still weak?  Yet, somehow, through the alchemy of sweat, tears, and high-fives, my local affiliate is starting to feel like a home away from home.  And you know what I do when I like something.  I get in really close.  Closer.  Now look upside down at what you usually look at straight on.  And … take a picture.


You didn’t know CrossFit was adorable, did you?  Kettlebells for the kids.  IMG_1032ed

And for the big kids.  Because so much of what happens here feels like reclaiming youth — at least to me.  When was the last time I did handstands for fun?  For any reason at all?  Oh right, it was today.  At CrossFit.IMG_1039ed

There’s a serpentine elegance to the stacks of weights.  I used to find them intimidating.  Now they’re just tools.  Tinkertoys for big girls and boys.IMG_1041ed

Again, they say.  And again.  And again.  Just keep moving.IMG_1043ed

Those wicked-whip jump ropes!  How is it possible to smack myself on the forearm … the calf … and the butt … all in one go?  My talent for imperfection is limitless.IMG_1046ed

Colorful rogues through a forest of steel.  You know I do love a cheeky rogue.IMG_1050ed

My favorite.  The ropes.  I suck at this, too, but I love it.  I’m Jack, going up the Beanstalk!  I’m a pirate!  I’m a monkey!  I’m anything I want to be!  Also, I’m falling, aieeeeeee!


They seem so wholesome, don’t they?  They say: Come on, give us a good grip, see what might happen.IMG_1059ed

These bands.  This bar.  For me, it’s like staring into Khazad-dûm.  When I started, I used two green bands to do a pull-up.  Then a green and a blue.  Now a blue only.  One day maybe a free pull-up?  One day.  I may need a Balrog nipping at my heels to get all the way there.

I don’t know what other people see when they see this.  I see something like a kitchen.  Beaters, mixers, ovens, all for pounding and folding and baking people into … improved versions of themselves.  Not morally, not that.  More resilient, maybe.  Tempered.  Well-leavened.IMG_1066ed

Reminders of the ‘fundamentals’.  Scaling options are pretty much where I live.IMG_1072ed

Who knew a tennis ball could be so amazing when placed just there by the shoulder?  Or pvc pipe could be the gateway to olympic movements?  IMG_1073ed

A cheerful sea of rage balls.  IMG_1076ed

Well, fairly cheerful.  Until you look up.  And the distance from here to where the ball needs to be is as far as the distance between life and death.  And you squat down, fix your eyes on the goal, and throw.

And keep throwing.


19 Nov

It’s survival time here in England.  The days of darkness are NOW.  Every day, as the minutes click down in our quota of daylight until we reach solstice, I spend each day trying not to lose my mind.  Pretty much.  I don’t want to exaggerate or anything.  I will simply assure you, with one hundred percent accuracy, that any day you see me standing upright and able to communicate in anything close to sensible speech is a day in which I have already conquered my demons and barely — barely — won through to survive one more day.

Every.  Single.  Day.


I spent some time last year thinking about ways to survive these black days.  I followed my own advice last year, and didn’t completely lose it until about December 20th.  This year I’ve been following more of the same, although I think it’s safe to say I’ve kicked up the exercise (including lots of outdoor muddy running) and had a bigger focus on food for (mental) health.  Still.  Even sitting in front of my fire, mince pie (gluten and dairy free!), coffee, and vitamin c orange ready, snuggly blanket and cheerful laptop by my side … it’s rough.  It is ROUGH.

Death has been my companion for too much of this year.  I’m cold way down deep in my bones.  Thirty two days to solstice.  Let’s just keep holding on.

Day out: Sherwood Forest

13 Nov

My earliest ambition was to be one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men.  At the time I was unencumbered by worry about gender — I was probably eight — and felt certain that a Merry Maid would be just as welcome to shoot dun deer, rob the rich to buy cheese and good ale, and sleep under a greenwood canopy.  I read my Howard Pyle Adventures of Robin Hood cover to cover close to a hundred times.

Up rose Robin Hood one merry morn when all the birds were singing blithely among the leaves, and up rose all his merry men, each fellow washing his head and hands in the cold brown brook that leaped laughing from stone to stone.

I was hooked.  All my writing instructors have been stuck with the effect of Pyle’s rolling, running sentences in my own writing — and my dreams were never the same.  Robin was my kind of hero.  I read Pyle’s Epilogue not realizing it was the tale of Robin’s death, and cried bitterly.  I refused to read that chapter again for years.  To be entirely honest, I only read it one more time — and cried again, with tears as biting as if my heart were still eight years old and freshly broken.  I won’t read it, even today.  Some dreams shouldn’t die.

Would you like to imagine how excited I was for our trip to Sherwood?  Yeah.  We stayed in Sherwood Pines Forest Park, part of the woodland complex that is the remnant of the former royal hunting forest.  And now I’ll stop talking about it and you can just … take a walk with me.

Ahhhhh … beautiful.IMG_0935ed
These carved posts were everywhere.  No clue what they were about.  The dampness created a sorrowing tear-drop effect on many of the faces.IMG_0968ed
Fairy houses!IMG_0970ed
Sherwood Pines has an uprightness to it.  A mild, well-tended wildness.IMG_0975ed

Sherwood Forest Country Park, part of the same area, is … wilder.  More knotted and knarled. 

The Major Oak.IMG_0989ed

Shimmering birch.IMG_0994edA story so familiar I could recite it in my sleep.  Although my Robin looks a bit more like Errol Flynn.

IMG_0912eedYup.  Yours truly shoots an arrow, dressed not quite in Lincoln green (but what can you do).

Having the opportunity here in England to walk through the dreams of my childhood has been extraordinary.  My own children have not even read any of the Robin Hood stories, and yet, when they do, they will already have the memory of shooting arrows in Sherwood Forest as part of their personal history.  That feels extraordinary, too.

Snapshot: pigs!

2 Nov

Remember that adorable Tamworth piglet?  We met him at Mary Arden’s Farm back in the spring.  (Mary Arden’s remains one of my seriously favorite places to visit, ever.)  We checked in again this past week, during the Halloween festivities — and look at him now!


He’s magnificent!  And still so curly!IMG_0856ed

All three of these ‘bacon pigs’ are looking fine and dandy.IMG_0873edDo you think he remembers me?  These guys cheered me up on a rough day.  Glad to see they are still happily snorting around the farm and cheering up visitors.

The kids are heading back to school after their fall break, and I have a few races coming up … expect a bit of quiet on the blog, friends!  Hope you’re finding your equivalent to happy pigs, to get you through the coming chill and dark weather!