The Y


We joined the YMCA.

As you might recall, I dislike exercise greatly, so you may be wondering why I would pay money for a thing that is mostly made for doing such dreadful things. Good question. Good question. The answer is a full two words long: child care.

The friendly woman that gave me the pre-membership tour pointed out a group of people in a large room with appropriately large windows sweating, gyrating, stretching and kicking while an enthusiastic instructor led them in their heart-pumping movements. “We have over 50 group classes each week,” she noted, to which I replied, “Well that sounds horrible.” (Though I admit “Chair Yoga” sounds intriguing.)

Eventually, I got around to my *real* concern: “Is it acceptable to drop my kid off in child care and then sit in the cafe for two hours?” The answer: yes.


We tested the Y out with a five day trial, which included some entertaining my girls in the splash pad, a lot of dropping my 2-year-old in child care, and a bit of “exercising” so as not to be discovered as an impostor.

After officially joining, I began to feel a little uncomfortable with my café camping plan. The café is really quite small—just a few tables and chairs in the foyer, in fact. I started to feel a little like I would be the resident lazy weirdo which, because of my anxiety around perceptions of me, didn’t seem great. It was time to assimilate. Kind of. With limited movement or sweating.

The plan was to walk. Just walk like I’m taking a stroll through the forest with a blue bird chirping happily from where it’s perched on my finger. At a glance I’d look I was doing a cool down, or doing some of that interval running, but you happen to just see me in the slow times. I’m just like you, fellow exerciser. Yessssss. Yes I am.

To kick it up a notch, I’d listen to audio books, because if you really let yourself get lost in it it’s almost like sitting. I saw one guy reading while pedaling his heart out on a stationary bike, which lands him squarely in the category of unbearable show-offs. No thank you, Kyle. (That was probably his name.) I instead chose to listen to the dry voice of David Sedaris squeaking the stories of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls in my ear. It did not disappoint.

The amount of sweat pouring from my fellow Y members is remarkable. Sometimes you can see where droplets flew from their former homes onto the sides of treadmill. Can you imagine what would have had to occur to make your body start spurting sweat out like an old-fashioned sprinkler? *shudder* All around me, dedication to health and wellness beats out its call in the thump, thump, thump of fancy running shoes. And oh! their faces. They’re working so hard, friends. So very hard.

The other day, a fragrant man in his 50s climbed onto the treadmill next to me as I was executing my morning exercise saunter. He had a mustache and old brown 70s prescription eyeglasses. Surely he was one of my kind.

He started out slow enough; a reasonable pace. But then I saw him grasp the top of the machine, arm stiff, while his other hand cranked up the speed. I assumed he’d soon let go and start pumping his arms like all the rest of us (especially me at my break-neck speed), but he didn’t. He held on tight with both hands now, while the treadmill belt whizzed beneath his feet, each step a genuine surprise to his legs. It was exactly the scene I’d imagine seeing if a man was accidentally pulled across the snowy tundra by a pack of disciplined sled dogs. He wished with all his heart to stop, but had forgotten the German words for “Stop dogs, I beg of you.” I laughed out loud as David told me all about the too-gay items in his shopping cart at Costco.

After a few days I decided it was time to branch out a little. I spotted the rowing machine. A rowing machine! I’ll take my blue bird for a boat ride. Perfect.

Friends, aside from its close proximity to Kyle (*eyeroll*), the rowing machine is glorious. I closed my eyes and listened to David, my mind shouting “weeeee!” as I pulled the imitation oars to my chest. It’s the closest you can get to taking a nap while still burning calories at a decent clip.

In fact, my leisurely strokes around an imaginary lake burn 200 calories in 30 minutes. The treadmill, however, burns roughly 1 calorie for each .01 mile. Which means that if I walk at a comfortable 3/mph, 30 minutes will result in burning a paltry 150 calories. So you’re looking at 6.66 calories per minute on the row/nap machine, or 5 calories per minute on the sweat-inducing walking contraption. A 30% improvement! For all of you kids wondering what you’ll do with math when you grow up, this is it. You’ll figure out which exercise machine burns the most calories with the least amount of effort. Don’t be a fool; stay in school.

The only trouble I had was the day I forgot my earbuds. Without something to keep my mind focused on the goal of not really exercising, I got confused and thought I was there to do the stuff the other people were doing. So I ran for a mile. A whole mile. Like a mad person. I realized the error of my ways when I stepped off the treadmill and my heart slumped over with its hands on its knees sputtering, “What…*pant pant*…was that?”



“$%# you.”


Aside from that little slip up, I love the Y and want to kiss its face. It shines like a beacon in my otherwise choppy days. It embraces me with its child care, its air conditioning, and even its occasional free, horrible Colombian coffee with powdered creamer. Oh, YMCA, you sexy beast you.

image cc-by-nc 2.0 IvanClow at Flickr

The Y

Re: Dear Jerrod (Or Horse Mouth Balls)

Say, "cheese!"
Remember yesterday when I put up that faux-post that was basically a letter to Jerrod? He and I had a little follow-up convo which produced these gems:

Jerrod: Thinking about you friend. Every day is a day to smile bigger.

Me: “Every day is a day to smile bigger.”? That’s about the cheesiest advice ever. And it totally worked.

Jerrod: I punched my dumb face in the balls after I sent it. My apologies.
And I’m glad it did.

Me: Hey, it worked. Don’t punch a gift horse in the mouth balls.

Jerrod: I’m a horse? With gifts?

Me: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
Me: I guess that would mean *I* punched the gift horse in the mouth balls.

Jerrod: See. Smiles all around.

I’ve got the best friends.

photo CC BY-SA 2.0 by SirPecanGum at flickr

Re: Dear Jerrod (Or Horse Mouth Balls)

Love asparagus. Love myself.

Asparagus on the grill

At the end of a hot day in San Diego, when I’m dying for a climate that involves more than one and a half seasons, I find myself looking over the grill to the palm trees, the golden light, the neighbors houses. The smell of white wine and salmon and dill swirls around me and though I hate this joke of a spring day, I love this moment. This moment is mine. This moment is a gift.

I hear my daughters in the other room, my husband lifting that (happy) burden from my shoulders for a while. I sit down and let words run. Like a long shower. Or a long cry. Or a long sip from a glass of wine.

It’s these little moments that I let go by all too often. They’re the moments you think, “Holy shit, I’m gonna make it. I’m gonna be okay.” I’m not saying it’ll be spectacular. Not magazine-worthy. Just good. Solid, deep-running, gratefully good. Good enough to make it until tomorrow. One day at a time, sweet Jesus.

The salmon isn’t done yet and I’ll likely burn it and the asparagus before I’m done here (don’t worry, I’m checking it), but I feel like I should catch these words before they wander off. All my swears and too much/not enough seriousness–I need to love those bastards & kiss them straight on the mouth. They’re me in zeros and ones. They’re me in syllables. They’re me in thoughts, and I need a good kiss from me.

And that’s what we’re doing in life, isn’t it? Taking a minute to believe that what we feel is worth a damn? Taking the leap of faith that we won’t be discarded or—maybe—those that will discard us had done so long ago, so we should stop tap dancing to keep them around? Isn’t that what life/art/love/faith is about?

So I’m giving myself a nice, long moment to treasure the words coming out of my thumbs because burnt asparagus (don’t worry, I’m still checking it) isn’t the worst thing I’ll produce, but perfect asparagus won’t be the best thing either.

It’s just asparagus, Melanie. Calm down.

And openness? Full and messy participation? Just freaking showing up? It’s not all that different. It’s the thing we share over small tables. It’s sustenance. It’s sacred and mundane at once. It’s just asparagus. It might be burnt today, it might not tomorrow. But either way it’s necessary. And either way it’s important to someone. Even if you’re the only someone who eats it.


[Author’s note: I wrote this post a while ago (in Spring—obviously), but I’m just getting around to post it. Because sometimes I collect drafts like a hoarder, and I can’t bring myself to show them to anyone else. There are a few little quirks in my breed.]

 Photo credit woodleywonderworks at Flickr CC BY 2.0

Love asparagus. Love myself.

Mother of a Broken Heart

Yesterday, my 4-year-old and I went to an appointment with her cardiologist.

Now, if a 4-year-old has a cardiologist, then you know something rather craptastic happened at some point. For reference, here’s a summary of our crapisode:

Heart EKG painting photo by Leo Reynold

When our first daughter was 2 weeks old, she screamed all the time. She had a hard time eating, and then she started breathing really rapidly. She also looked pretty pale, but we are very white, Casper-esque people ourselves so maybe it was normal…? Being first-time parents, it was impossible to know which things were normal crazy baby things, and which things we should flip out about. Being the judicious people we are, we went ahead and had a tiny bit of panic about most everything.

When the breathing thing started though, we asked ourselves, “Is this crazy crazy, or normal crazy?” Having received no answers from each other’s blank, sleep-deprived stares, we called the advice nurse.

After a couple of “it’s probably fine,” phone conversations, we still weren’t totally convinced and my husband decided he would feel better about going back to work if we had someone look at her again. So in we went.

Enter the Life-Threatening Holy Moses Circus, starring our 15-day-old baby.

Nurses and doctors and EMTs materialized in the exam room. I heard a call to the ambulance. A nurse prodded my daughter’s head with a gigantic needle, commenting, “This looks scary, but it’s okay.” Then they smothered her face with a bag of ice noting again that it looked scary, but it was okay. Somewhere between that, the crash cart, the intubation, the swollen liver, and the blood transfusion I got the distinct feeling that things were not, in fact, okay. We had left the realm of normal crazy, and landed squarely in the vast terrain of crazy crazy.

The next few days were spent with nurses monitoring and logging our daughter’s frequent episodes of tachycardia, while a bunch of doctors tried to figure out why the heck she was having them in the first place. About the fourth day, they figured out that she has an accessory pathway in her heart, which was throwing it off, and rocketing her heart rate to 230+. The fifth and sixth days were spent finding the right cocktail of medications to help her heart regulate and regain strength, and help her body get rid of the extra fluid that had built up under all that stress.

On the eighth of some of the longest days of my life, we were sent home with three bottles of medicinal magic, thus ending the tour of the Life-Threatening Holy Moses Circus. We were not sad to see it go. We administered a slightly complicated schedule of elixirs for six months, and then it was like it never even happened. No medication. No heart beating straight out of a tiny chest. No Significantly less panic.

What do I want to say about all of this anyway?

As I read “Normal,” on the EKG printout, and heard her doctor say to himself, “Perfect,” and, “Strong,” as he listened to her heart, I knew I wanted to write something about this whole wild thing we experienced. But what?

I could talk about how the NICU is strangely frightening and comforting and lonely and communal all at the same time. About how all the parents share fears and hopes and unspoken sadness. How you see parents go home with their babies and you feel such happiness for them, along with a deep pang of jealousy. How you scrub your arms, up to the elbows, for the full three minutes every time you enter the room because each baby feels like the thinnest glass, and you don’t want whatever germs you carry to be the thing that shatters them. How NICU nurses are pure gifts. How when you hear those NICU nurses held your baby in the middle of the night, you want to weep because it wasn’t you.

I could talk about exactly how devastating it is to get a rejection letter from an insurance company while your baby is intubated and unconscious from the morphine, because she—at 15 freaking days old—has a “pre-existing condition.” About how pre-existing conditions are absolute bullshit, and if eliminating their use by insurance companies is all the Affordable Care Act does successfully, it’s still a huge win for all of us. How insurance premiums, and co-pays, and exorbitant charges feel like ransoms when you realize you’ll pay any amount of money to see your kid live another day. And how that—that is just plain immoral.

I could talk about how the gratitude that lives in my bones, in my heart, and in my soul doesn’t keep me—on those normal crazy days that are unbelievably hard—from wanting to run from my family and live in a small wooden cabin in Canada.

I think what I really want to say, though, is that I love her. I love her, I love her, I love her. And her perfect, strong, normal heart brings me to my knees with joy. She is precious, and sacred, and funny, and crazy, and I love her.

Holy Moses.


Photo credit Leo Reynold at FlickrCC-BY-NC-SA 2.0
Mother of a Broken Heart

Here, Let Me Help: Mascara Edition

If you’ve never noticed, the subtitle of my blog is, “A Guide to Life and Other Quandaries.” As you can tell from previous posts, I am full of all kinds of knowledge. And you should definitely listen to me because, as I’ve mentioned before, I have a website. On the internet. That’s basically like a Ph.D.. So, perk those ears up people, ’cause you’re about to get a dose of the ol’ Crutchfield learning magic.

I’ve decided to start a new series called “Here, Let Me Help,” wherein I give you all kinds of advice you didn’t ask for. You’re welcome, kittens. I know there aren’t enough people with opinions this days. I’m here to fix that.

First up in the “Here, Let Me Help” catalog: mascara.

Now, now, not everyone uses mascara, but if you do, you’ve likely run in to a host of problems. The mascara must be scrubbed from your face like barnacles from a ship’s hull. The mascara flakes and leaves black streaks like you’re a member of KISS. It gets all clumpy and looks like you put fake spider legs on your eyes. “Bahhhh!” you say as you shake your fist at the sky.

KISS members in full make up on stage.
The KISS look may not be the one you’re aiming for.

Well, fist-shake no more, readers. Instead, let me help. This mascara here, L’oréal Paris Double Extend Beauty Tubes Mascara, to-ta-lly works.


L'oréal Paris Double Extend Beauty Tubes Mascara
This business is legit.

This will not flake. At all. Like, not even after you leave it on for three days because you’re too lazy to wash your face. (Not that I’ve done that.) It also won’t run, not even a little!, if you cry in your kid’s pediatrician’s office. (Not that I’ve done that either, I just think maybe you’ll  do that some day.) You don’t have to break out crazy chemicals to get it off either. Just put some warm water on your closed eyes and pull it off gently.

I don’t know what’s in the stuff—probably fairy blood and magic spells from Michelle Obama—but it’s so great that I don’t even care. (Sorry innocent fairies.)

So there you go. You’re all squared away with your mascara needs, ladies and gents. Need advice on something else? Ask away. I’m here to help.

I didn’t get paid to write any of this because that’s not a thing around these parts. (That doesn’t mean you *can’t* pay me, L’oréal. Especially if you use chocolate as currency. Preferably this.) These are my honest little opinions straight from my heart/brain area. If you could gaze into my perky little perfectly-mascaraed eyes you’d see nothing but sincerity. 

Here, Let Me Help: Mascara Edition Now Supports Embed of Getty Images; I Blow Up Your Eyeballs

I love putting pictures in my posts. Because pictures are pretty. And sometimes you can find a picture of a red panda cracking up at your jokes.

So imagine my delight when the News blog made this little announcement:

Earlier today, Getty Images announced a new embed feature that will allow people to access and share photos from its extensive library of images for non-commercial purposes. We have been working with Getty Images over the past few weeks and are excited to bring this feature to!

I was like this:

And this:

There are so many images at my fingertips! The whole attribution thing is SOOO much easier! Plus, you never know when you’ll need a picture of a robot, getting ready to have a great time with a beach ball.

Not all of the images are available to embed in this super fancy way (getting a little greedy if we want that, no?), so every now and again you’ll have to deal with the disappointment of not being able to embed a picture of a cat raising it’s arms like it’s saying Hallelujah in a Pentecostal church…but pfft, you’ll get over it. Because there’s kitty with a tiny hat on:

And a kitty whose super power is being cute:

And, if you’re feeling a little crazy, this kitty:

There’s also a lot of non-kitty images (but seriously, there are so many kitties).

In fact, the other day Getty Images announced the Lean In collection, “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them.” I commented on Facebook that I wanted to start a business, just so I could use all those badass images of women being awesome and showing normal signs of aging, and girls doing stuff other than wearing dresses. Like so:

Now I don’t need to start a hair-combing karate machinery business. I can just use the images in a meandering blog post. Total win.

So be on the look out for more awesome images here. I promise to slightly scale down my use of cat images (a little). If you’re a blogger you should definitely go check out the full Getty Images catalog. That’s a whole lot of fun right there. A whole lot of it.

Happy Friday, friendsies. Now Supports Embed of Getty Images; I Blow Up Your Eyeballs

Hello One Thousand Subscribers! What the Deuce are You Doing Here?

Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr

Yesterday I reached a pinnacle—a difficult and craggy height the likes of which could only be dreamt of when I first pressed “Publish” on WordPress.

Yes, it is true: I now have one thousand WordPress subscribers. (That’s you! Hooray!)

The first few hundred accumulated quietly. Like dust in a corner, or receipts in a wallet, or kittens in a house where the mama cat never gets fixed and is very friendly. It was calm, and nice, and only a little hairy. Then some big, partly exciting, partly terrifying jumps came with the two times I got on Freshly Pressed (Thanks FP editors!). And then?

Then, things got a little weird.

I started getting a bunch of subscribers every day. Like five. Or ten. And some of them, well…I kinda wonder what they’re doing here. (Not you, of course. You’re here on purpose, right?) Like all the people whose blogs are in a different language. My humor’s a little bumpy in English; I can only imagine what kind of a loon I sound like in translation. And then there are the fashion blogs (did you not see this, people? You will find no fashion here.). And, I dunno…just a bunch of randos. Perhaps I have charmed all one thousand of you with my wit and made-up words. It’s possible. Or perhaps there’s some sort of internet scam in which you charm me with your subscription, and then I end up being a drug mule for you or something. (Please know I’d make a terrible drug mule—breaking rules makes me very, very nervous. I use my signal every single time. Even when no cars are around. That type o’ gal is not cut out for the drug muling life.)

So, to quell my curiosity, while also seizing the opportunity to press a new button I found in my WordPress post editor, I thought I’d do a poll! It’ll be enlightening and entertaining for all involved. Plus…more buttons!

Here we go:


A million snuggles to all of you for making me feel like I’m not sending my words into the abyss. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Deal? Deal.

Hello One Thousand Subscribers! What the Deuce are You Doing Here?