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

How to Remove Skunk Smell

We awoke to skunk smell. A smell that crept in the window like a green wisp of air like in the cartoons. And behind that wisp, another wisp. Behind that? More wisp. Lots, and lots of green wavy stink. Impressive, really.

When we got of bed we noticed the stink had surrounded our apartment. Stink crawled in the kitchen window, it mingled with the smell of shower gel, it waited to escort my husband to work. What a thoughtful stink.
Soon, my nice neighbor—we’ll call him Archibald—informs me that the meandering cat that “belongs” to the downstairs neighbors got sprayed. I say quote-unquote belongs because the care the cat receives is minimal at best. The cat kind of gets fed. It’s kind of given shelter. It kind of has a litter of kittens who are kind of given love in the form of a box shoved in the bushes next to the tree that is constantly covered in bees. But it quote-unquote belongs to them. It no-quotes-needed-at-all-does-not belong to me.

But here we were, Archibald and I, discussing what should be done about Stinkila the cat. Apparently she had wriggled into his apartment earlier and now Archibald was in go mode. I gave him some latex gloves and he took his bottle of Skunk-Stink Off© down to assault/help the cat.

Except the cat freaked, wriggled out of his hands, and bolted into the nearest thorny bush.

Archibald had to go back to work. I couldn’t help at the moment because my 1-year-old was awake and dangerous, so it would have to wait. We’d have to let Stinkila prowl, recirculating her new fragrance here and there and everywhere.

Later, for some unknown reason, I was feeling ambitious. So I made myself a trash bag skirt, snapped on some latex gloves, and headed down to scrub the skunk-gland juice off this poor wretched animal. Stinkila did not enjoy this process. I did not enjoy this process. Un-enjoyment had by all. But in the end, she was less stinky than she was before, and I was uncomfortable and sweaty so…mission accomplished.

Come to find out, latex gloves and Skunk-Stink Off© are not enough of a barrier to keep your hands smelling minty fresh (or any variety of fresh, for that matter) when bathing a cat covered in skunk anger. Imagine my disappointment.

As one should do for all serious matters, I turned to the internet. Since you come here to for all of your practical life advice, here are the steps I followed:

Wash With Dish Soap
Wash hands with dish soap, being sure to make that suck-slorp sounds that frequently accompanies too-soapy hands.

Rub with Hand Sanitizer
This was just a guess for me. Why not slather something else on there.

Scrub with Apricot Scrub of Some Kind
Again, this is just something I had in my bathroom. Might as well. Then…

Slorp Hands with Mouthwash
I had read to use peroxide, then mouthwash, but my mouthwash is one of the fancy whitening kinds that has peroxide in it, so double-point score for me.

Soak Hands with Lemon Juice
Hope you don’t have any paper cuts…

Scrub Hands with Baking Soda Paste
Little bit o’ baking soda, little bit o’ water. Then more baking soda, and more water, and much more slorping.

Apply Much More Hand Gel
Because why the freak not at this point?

Apply Lotion
Your hands will be dry, crackly, and akin to lizard thighs. Might want to address that.

And tada! Your hands will be less stinky!

“What?!” you say. “They won’t be fresh as a daisy, Melanie?” No, kitten. No they won’t. They got skunk juice on them. What did you expect?

There’s only one thing that really and truly works.

This step CANNOT be overlooked.


Don’t wash the cat that “belongs” to the neighbors.

photo via Enokson at Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

How to Remove Skunk Smell

Brown Spider: A Hate Story

“There’s a spider in the car, Mama,” comes a little voice from the back seat.

It was a calm statement. One of interest more than anything else, said in the same way she might say, “The sun is out, Mama,” or “I like suckers, Mama.”

“Where?” I asked, looking for what surely was a wisp of a spider with a smiling face, spelling sweet things in her web.

“Right there. Up there.”

I look to where she points and there, clinging to the sunroof not two feet from my head, is a disgusting, pointy-legged, hell hound of a spider.

[If spiders did not give me a threat level midnight case of the jeebies there would be a picture of the horrid thing right here. However, since I nearly threw my laptop on the floor and squashed it while doing a Google image search, you’ll have to just use your imagination. I suggest picturing it with a pentagram tattooed on its hairy chest, flicking a cigarette to the ground, cracking its knuckles and pulling out a switchblade. Kinda like this:]

Mean Brown Spder

“Oh, that’s okay sweetie. I’ll get it when we get to Uncle Matt’s house,” I say with my mouth inexplicably. In my head is something more along the lines of “Holy [expletive] [expletive]—there is is a [expletive] spider about to eat my face! It’s going to jump on my arm! It’s going to eat my babies! What the [expletive] am I going to do!?”

“Don’t worry, babe. I’ll take care of it.” Where’s my freaking Oscar? I earned it.


If you’ve never heard a preschooler scream like an appendage has just been ripped from her body, you’re missing out on one of life’s most terrifying noises. Horror movies have it all wrong. They don’t need ignorant teen girls; they need kids and spiders.

It was on the move. To my kid, it might as well been on her face. Panic set in for me, too, as I would do just about anything to make that blood-curdling sound stop. I pulled into the right lane without looking even a tiny bit. Okay spider—now you’re trying to murder us. I turned on the first residential street I saw and stopped the car. Flip-flop in hand, I poised myself for revenge. One good slap aaaaand…

…it crawled into the cavern that houses the sun roof.

“Did you get it Mama?”

To which I reply, “No! I didn’t! And now, knowing my intent, it has retreated to its bunker, sketching out a plan to hop on my head and startle me, sending our car careening across the street resulting in our untimely deaths! We’re ALL. GOING. TO DIE!”—with my head, that is. My mouth said, “It’s not going to bother us anymore.” Except to murder us.

With one and a half eyes on the sunroof, and half an eye on the road, I continued to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, willing other cars to get the hell out of my way. I arrived, I parked, evacuated the children and—once they were safely inside—gathered tools for my revenge. If I couldn’t kill it with my flip-flop, I’d kill it with limited edition Orla Kelly Pear Ginger-scented Method All-Purpose cleaner. Get ready to die a fragrant death, you beast.

I was out there a long time, you all. A LONG time. First I tried to find it in its hideout, which proved to be rather difficult. I grabbed a flashlight—no use. So then I thought, “Hey! I’ll use my phone to take pictures and that’ll show me where it is.”

No. No, it won’t.

What to do, what to do… I’m climbing on the car, looking down through the sunroof, I’m in the car smashed against the dash looking into the sunroof—no spider. So then I just blindly spray every inch of the sunroof slot. After a quarter of the bottle is gone, I figure I must have killed it, but I need evidence. I need proof. Finally I’m like, “Screw it. It’ll just have to jump on my face later. I retreat.” and then…


Digusting little legs.

Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I am now having a full-on, completely audible street-fight type conversation with Mr. Gross-a-lot. I’m fully aware of how crazy it looks, but it’s just me and him now. We’re at the epicenter. I don’t care if no one else gets it.

They say, to catch your prey you need to think like your prey, so I sat there perched, rubbing my imaginary pointy legs together as I lie in wait. I wanted to let it get some distance from it’s bunker so I could take it out once and for all. Slowly but surely it inched its way into the vast expanse of the car roof when—WHACK! SCRAPE! FLICK!—I joined forces with my inner wonder twin, and activated ninja forces in the shape of my flip flop. In a swift and elegant move (or possibly, a flailing, twitching, screaming move), that spider was on the ground.

Good riddance, Brown Spider. Return to the evil dimension from whence you came.


Brown Spider: A Hate Story

I’m Putting Disgusting Oils in My Mouth

3/52: Liquid
First it was “oil pulling.”

For those not in the know, oil pulling is the process of swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes (yes, about the length of episode of Parks and Recreation and not nearly as witty), for the purpose of cleaning your teeth, pulling toxins out of your body, and communing with a version of yourself that existed in a past life. I put that last one in there because ob-vi-ous-ly that could never work, and that’s exactly how you should view the first two things.

Gabrielle Blair at Design Mom did a post a while back about how she started oil pulling. I have an internet crush on her because she’s über cool and fancy, and she seems like a great parent who doesn’t binge watch The Only Way is Essex, but rather flips through the latest issue of Dwell while sautéing root vegetables for a sensible meal she has planned later in the week. So, I figured if she’s doing it, I should definitely do it. She made it sound fabulous.

Cut to: me swishing olive oil in my mouth because I was too lazy to go get coconut oil. This will make you hate having a mouth, people. Don’t do it. So then I thought, “Well, I can’t really blame her for the gross-o-meter in my mouth breaking because she uses coconut oil which, in retrospect, is a much more sensible choice.” So I bought the coconut oil and tried it and it’s still freaking gross. But then I kept doing it (this should give some reference for my idiot-level tenacity) just to see if my eyes would shine like a baby fawn in the first light of the day. (I believe fawn-eyes are listed as a benefit of oil pulling somewhere in the hippy sector of the internet.)

After many days of waking up early to chew on, then swish, coconut oil in my mouth I discovered I did not, in fact, have fawn eyes. To oil pulling’s credit, my teeth did feel clean-ish. Sort of. But, I did not feel any radical bodily changes that would indicate vacated toxins. I did not commune with Nelanie, the Melanie of years gone. But I DID repeat a super gross experience many times, beyond the point where Reason was like, “Nah, you go ahead. I’ll just go brush my teeth like a normal person.”

Bottom line is: Would I recommend oil pulling to a friend? No way, dudes. No way. Unless I was trying to play a mean trick on you. Then absolutely.

You’d think my participation in any oils-in-the-mouth experiments would be over. You would be wrong.

I started reading this website called Megsanity (ht to Abandoning Pretense) which is amazing because the main author is a therapist and so she’s super smart but she also likes to say weird stuff and swear a lot while she’s giving you priceless life advice. I want her to be my therapist pretty please. So, Meg suggested that oregano oil may be helpful in combating depression because of something called “serotonin reuptake.” If you’re curious, go read her stuff because she’s smarter than I am.

Well, we all know I suffer from the occasional brold, so I figured what the heck, right? Sweet lambs: let me tell you that oregano oil tastes like what angry might taste like if it was oil. The bottle says that “warmth is normal” which I assume code for “the fires of hell will awaken in your throat”.

I’ve been experimenting with flavor combinations of candy corns because, well, sometimes I make bad choices.

So this morning I thought, “What if I use a candy corn as a chaser? That might help…” Cut to: abso-freaking-lutely not. Candy corns and their sweet evil do not pair well with the fires of hell, especially if said fires taste like all the pizza sauce in the world. Learn from my mistakes, friends. I’m here to help.

So, what oils have you been putting in your mouth? If the answer is “no oils” please make something up. Just for me, okay? Somebody get in this oily boat with me.

image CC BY-NC 2.0 by Christopher Rose at Flickr

I’m Putting Disgusting Oils in My Mouth

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)

Dear Jerrod

WritingThis is a total cheater post in which I write a letter to a friend and pretend it’s a blog post.

My super cool friend Jerrod checks in with me from time to time and I was juuuust about to write him back, and I was going to say something like, “I hate that I never have time to blog and…” blah blah, something else, and then my brain said, “Whoa there, little filly,”—apparently my brain is part cowgirl, and thinks I’m a horse. No problems there— “whoa. Why don’t you take all that energy you’d put into writing Jerrod and smack it into a blog post? Two birds, one stone, something about a bush perhaps…point is: It’s a good idea. *tongue click* *tongue click*.” At which point I trotted to my computer and fired up the ol’ WordPress.

BUT (don’t leave sweet reader! I promise you’ll like it too!) I basically sound the same if I’m writing to one person or a hundred (is that a good thing? Be sure to weigh in in the comments. Lord knows I lost track of normal a while ago), so you can pretend I wrote this to you, too. Ahem.

Dear Jerrod,

Greetings from the blow up couch that is currently taking up my entire living room! Yes, it’s true. The baby is still not sleeping. We’re trying to train her to sleep through the night again, but it necessitates a wee bit of crying on her part and, due to the opera-singer-quality pipes she has, we can’t keep her in the room she shares with her sister. So, she goes in our room, we go on the blow up couch in the living room, and everyone is equally miserable. Problem solved.

I’m really hating that I don’t have time to write much anymore. I write half a blog post in my head while I’m making coffee or driving the girls around, but I just can’t seem to make it back to the computer and take the time to actually write the whole thing out. I don’t know what’s worse—not writing, or having all those words rattle around in my head all the time. There’s enough stuff loose up there already.

We’re heading into a new season here. No, not Fall, because that’s not really a thing in San Diego. Instead, we transition from Summer with a season called Lunacy, in which we celebrate a thousand birthdays and our anniversary, craft Halloween costumes for four, chase the brilliant idea of making all of our Christmas presents (hello boiling beeswax, fabric scraps, sewing machine and insanity), and drink a questionable number of Hot Toddies. Every year I enter it with the highest hopes of being magical and lovely and sensible, and I end it with burns from the hot glue gun. It’s quite the spectacle.

So, that’s me. Mostly. I dunno I probably forgot a ton of stuff. Lunacy descends. How are you & the fam? Cough it up, friend. Cough it up.

photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by jeffery james pacres at flickr. 

Dear Jerrod

Sleep deprivation makes me cranky/murderous

exhaustedThe baby won’t sleep you all. Maybe it’s teething, or she developed bad habits when she recently had a cold, or perhaps she’s part werewolf and the moon is calling her to the woods. I really, honestly don’t know.

Whatever the cause, we find ourselves meeting the end of the day—which should be full of fluffy pillows and dancing sugarplums—with a howling dread. The night is when the screaming comes. The night is bad. Bad, bad nighttime.

At some point last night the baby was really going for it. I mean, with gusto. Like there is an olympic event for not sleeping and she was going to qualify if it killed her (and us. Sacrifices must be made for greatness.). The cat then sniffed our weakness and decided it was time to feign starvation and beg for food. This will not do, kitty. Oh no, it will not. The werewolf thing was *definitely* not the problem. It was the cat. For sure.

Me: “Did you feed the cat?”
Stephen: “Yes.”
Me: [irritated pause]
Stephen: “I could…”
Me: “Let’s kill the cat.”
Stephen: “…feed her a little more.”
Me: “Oh, yeah. Sure. Or that.”

One of us tolerates sleep deprivation better than the other.

And that’s my 100th post, friends. An account of my brief flirtation of the idea of murdering our family cat. Hooray?

Sleep deprivation makes me cranky/murderous