(Fake) Challenge Accepted!

Last month I talked with a girlfriend, commiserating about aging and bat flaps on our arms and things popping in the middle like dough freshly baked.
It was a difficult conversation that left me depressed and eschewing food for at least an hour.
She said, “I workout.”
Me: “Me, too.”
She: “I do the Barre Method.”
Me:(Having followed suchly-named videos on YouTube) “Me, too.”
Quick Barre Exercise primer: I don’t have a barre de ballet anchored to any floors within my domicile. Without such equipment, it is recommended to use a kitchen chair — too squirrely; I was chasing it more than bending uncomfortably from it — or countertop. Check! I had one of those and I was quickly grateful to be a terrible housekeeper. The sticky whatever on the granite helps with grip when I’m hanging precariously from the edge to squat and lunge as though I’m going low enough to actually use the muscle. It’s an ignominious position, thankfully without video evidence.)
She perked up, energized by complicity in self-torture.
She: (leaning forward conspiratorially) “Don’t the little ones just kill you?”
Me: (Thinkng, “Little ones, I don’t know what those are…the big ones aren’t so great…” but not wanting to appear to have missed anything) “Yes, they’re awful.”
She: “And doing that for an hour? Isn’t it torture?”
Me: (At last we were on the same wavelength with abuse, but never having pursued a video playlist of any titles over twelve minutes, the “hour” confused me. Resenting 12 whole minutes of activity, I had moved down to ten; regretted that choice immediately, I lowered my standards to four minutes and complain through all four) “An HOUR? Are you CRAZY?”
She blinked, confused.
She: “How long do you exercise?”
Me: (Lying but fingers crossed so the lie didn’t count) “Probably twenty minutes.”
She: (blinking repeatedly, staring blankly, figuring things out) “…and you do the Barre Method?”
Me: (doubting entirely my existence) “Ya-huh.”
She: “And it only lasts twenty minutes?”
I pondered. Each video master I scrolled through had indeed used the word “Barre” in their title, but as for the word “method,” I was less certain. Plus, each of the probably-dozen videos I had used to tweak my intense muscular stature had ended with verbiage like, “After a quick cooldown, start this video over and work through it two more times…”
And I remember laughing, “Duh, why would anyone do THAT??” Then I walked toward the shower on spaghetti legs, breaking my own shoulder patting myself on the back for putting in a good four minutes of “burn.”
NOW I knew why instructors insisted on using the Replay button, because that is part of the METHOD.
Dang.
Me: (strictly for clarity) “You’re telling me there’s a different video with a more precise name using ‘Barre’ and ‘Method’ in the same tag line, then?”
She: (sensing weakness, using derisive eyebrows) “Uh…yeah.”
Me: (finger pointed to the sky in proclamatory fashion) “I shall find said video and follow it to the letter.”
She: (wrapping the last of her sandwich, checking her watch, readying to scurry) “Great. Let me know how it goes. Dare ya.”
I know she was laughing under her breath; I disliked her scorn. Thus, perhaps I created her flippant ‘So long,’ misinterpreting her words, but I heard NOT  the Dare portion, instead I heard: “I challenge you!!!
Oh, ho, nay nay, my friend. I am not one to take a challenge lightly, unless it involves wild boar or machetes. Those I can discard. YouTube video, though, I got.
After work, I went to the house and immediately changed into a comfy tee over the work pants o’ the day — they’re work pants; who cares? — and sought out the aforementioned, appropriately researched Barre Method video — a startling 39 minutes, the queue read! What the…
A woman with a purpose, I hit Play.
What the what the…
The LITTLE ones?! Holy Scrap Metal, Batman, the LITTLE ones number in the hundreds — literally, one HUNDRED pulses — MORE THAN ONCE, thus equaling nearly a thousand, by my count — of ceaseless down-and-up, clinging to the countertop, ready for a thigh muscle to pop, donedonedone with further torture of already ravaged muscles.
And squats, lunges, butt-clenching was NOT ENOUGH, because she continued with ARM exercises, with WEIGHTS, and then that mean, mean strange lady who ROCKED her own Lycra ensemble forced me to lay on the FLOOR and make my ABS bend, a lot, for an excessive number of reps. EXCESSIVE.
Then she tasked me with flipping over to hover over my elbows, lingering painfully in a PLANK position for FAR TOO LONG.
But I did it. It wasn’t pretty, and form was nonexistent, and though I felt like I did, I didn’t lose blood, only a bit of vision, and that, only momentarily, but I followed that crazy instructor lady for all 39 minutes.
While recovering on the tile floor, wishing I would vacuum more (not really; housework–yuk) my dog investigated the pooling sweat around my head before climbing me like some sort of small mountain in his territory to rest bodily upon my chest. Instinctively, I started to pet him but the sweaty palms and Pekingese hair were a poor blend, thus he abandoned me quickly, though I barely noticed what with fading in and out of consciousness.
After a half hour or so — could have been a day, I don’t know — still recumbent and perfectly happy to never rise, I reconsidered my earlier conversation and THAT was when I recognized the difference between Dare and Challenge. It’s minute. One is flippant; one is downright insulting. Both should be ignored.
I showered to wash away the pain and dog hair, then fell asleep wishing for new friends.
For four days — 4, my friends! — I moaned like a toothless weasel after each breath, each twitch, each movement of any part of my being. And once I’d recovered enough to use the gas pedal without fear of harming other travelers, I drove straight to my “friend’s” office and soundly told her, “Haha! I did it! ‘Tweren’t nothin’!”
(I used those words, in indignant fashion, with a curt nod and quick gloat.)
Then she responded, “Sweet! We should do it together sometime.”
I could not back away from that nonsense quickly enough.
“Look at the time!” I answered, anxious to round out the convo and hit the streets. “I’m late for work, see you soon!”
I haven’t heard from her again.
I’m sticking to four minutes. It’s my sweet spot of time lapsed on exertion.

Aaah…the New Year…Two Weeks In

No joy on these hangers. None.

I read too much and I tend to internalize select books.
My book club wants a Top 10 of 2017 list, and while most everything I read was written for young adults because of the incredibly time-consuming commitment I made to reading all things angst-ridden and gut-clenching — different story — I managed to read a few tomes that adulted up.
Number one on the list was the one about the magic of tidying up. (I don’t quote the title because it’s super long and I always get it wrong and I’m too focused on talking to you at this moment to Google it, but Marie K. wrote it and her Kon-Marie method has made me look at everything in my home differently, darn her.)
Basically, if something doesn’t bring you joy, why have it in your home?
It isn’t often that a non-fiction read makes the top of my list, but this year was an exception, both in the adult genre and in the young adult category. (Ask me later for the YA list; it was a terrific year.)
I think a number one ranking means the book hasn’t left you; vestiges have stuck. For instance, “Lifeboat” by Charlotte Rogan a few years ago…hated the main character, loved how unreliable she was as a narrator and absolutely loved hating her for it. Juicy. Delectable. Now that I think of it, I want to read it again. Loved it.
Anyway.
What does this have to do with a picture of my clothing draped from plastic hangers?
Because in tandem with my Kon-Marie-ing joyful disbanding of all things comfy and habitual, I internet-ed across a challenge in which you turn all the hangers in your closet backward, and at the end of the year, anything left in this dubious direction means, “Hey! I give you no joy! Release me into the wild where I might find an owner who would appreciate my intrinsic value and allow me sunlight and laughter!”
I paraphrase; I don’t know that that’s exactly what clothing longs for, but in my mind it does.
As January approached, I inspected my closet, and do you know, that to the item, all of my backward, no-love-given, didn’t-want-to-wear clothing was for exercise? That’s right. Pastel. Spandex-laden. Lycra-infused. Wicking materials designed to sluice the sweat from my overheated, drenched, plyo/yoga/step-aerobicizing form. All ignored for a year.
I thought, “Huh. Surely I worked out once, or twice…”
Right?
Well. If I did, I perspired in something street-level, not gym-worthy, and it must have been while I was asleep because memories aren’t rolling forward of my cardio levels rising or any “Whew!” towel-encased, sweat-dripping moments. Maybe Down Dog or two, but that may be wishful thinking.
But surely I did something to worthy of wearing a swoosh, or eating an extra twelve York peppermint patties; surely I inhaled those things like air because I earned them.
So.
New Year. New arrangement of the closet. New Goodwill pile sitting on the table by the door.
And did I include all the items collecting shoulder dust and staring at me in pretty pastel patterns?
No. Because this year I’m going to wear them out.
Yep, that’s right. I’m going to wear them out.
To Target, maybe, or to the school with yoga pants which I also don’t have the right to wear.
But one way or another, these items will see the light of the day. It will bring them joy.

Hooping, Prairie Style

We prairie librarians are on the cutting edge of fitness, I don’t know if you know that.
We hoop now. Hula hoop. It’s a new thing, never seen before.
Our first class was led by an instructor, an honest to goodness professional hoopist — it’s a word now; just made it up — who walked into the building swaddled in a dozen hoops of varied sizes and colors and asked, “Ready?”
Do you know how hard it is to get grown women to agree to attend a hula hooping class, even when we cloak the fun under the term Ladies’ Night?
Nearly impossible. The fear of embarrassment, trepidation about ability, threat of injury — it could happen, you don’t know — all add up to “uh uh, no thank you, but have fun with that” type responses.
So our small group of risk-takers — we numbered seven in all — trudged to the back acre on a remarkably lovely evening — a gorgeous 70 degrees, the sun at its golden, magically-flattering angle and hue. We followed our cute cute cute instructor who led with the boom box (yeah, I’m old), to ignominious displays of lost agility and old age.
We were comforted to know we would go down in the presence of friends.
But here’s the weird thing: we didn’t stink. We weren’t great, but we were only red-faced by exertion and sweat. Hooping for longer than five minutes is actually taxing, who knew? We had great music by bands I’ve never heard before and couldn’t tell you now, as their names were bizarre and sounded less like rockers than out-of-date food stuffs – Rancid Milk, Pickled Cheese Product, something like that — and we actually had hoops rolling around our middles like they were made to be there.
THEN. The instructor said, “Let’s learn some moves.”
Uh. I thought I was moving. This round piece of plastic is upright; I’m calling it a win.
But before long, we were actually turning within the hoop, and walking around still hooping, and rolling the hoops around our wrists like brightly colored lassos any cowboy would be ashamed of.
Good stuff.
Here’s a fun detail: did you know that on the prairie the weather can change in an instant? One moment we’re blissfully hooping in the twilight, the very next moment we are running from leaves hurtled from trees like organically grown throwing stars — one lady actually caught one in her throat, I kid you not — screaming like we’re being bitten while the temperature dropped twenty degrees.
It was close, but we all survived.
We ran back into the library giggling and sweaty and decided, no more hooping for us!
Because we had snacks. Snacks trump everything.