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Category: Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me

This Little Piggy...

Yup, that's me...
Yup, that

Have you noticed the trend these days to seize upon the January price markdowns to acquire those gifts that somehow failed to show up under the tree on Christmas morning? I know I’ve contemplated it a bit….Kids, too, aren’t immune to this desire—often lobbying for that one little thing that they didn’t receive, even if they got most all they’d wished for.

This year that item is Wii Fit, which didn’t Fit into our holiday budget. All in my family got plenty of lovely gifts, though, so Wii Fit would have to wait for the coffers to be replenished.

At least that’s what I thought until, on the day after Christmas, we visited my brother-in-law’s house and my teens became captivated by their game. Normally, kids being fixated on a video game is reason enough not to purchase it. Who wants their children to be perpetually tuned out, clamoring for the controllers, spending all waking hours in pursuit of mindless video game obsession? But Wii Fit actually has a purpose: to eliminate the sedentary nature of gaming, at least to some degree.

And this piqued my interest: if it could motivate kids to work out, might it also impel slacker middle-aged moms bored with their normal exercise routine to get off their butts and exercise more? So I struck a deal with my kids: since everyone wanted it so badly, we’d split the cost and get one as a post-holiday motivator. Which seemed like a great idea, until my sister-in-law Martha exposed the ugly truth about the game: the game platform—the Wii balance board—is actually a scale. As in: the thing that I’ve been hiding in my closet for years with the notion that out of sight is out of mind and thus can’t be true. Denial thy name is Jenny.

Martha went on to tell me that not only does the balance board accurately and undeniably determine your weight (probably more so than the precise scales they use to glean poundage of each item loaded onto the Space Shuttle), but the higher your BMI (body mass index), the fatter you Wii “Mii” icon gets. Seriously. So to add insult to injury, you have a Tubby Tessa avatar staring back at you from the television screen. Can we get more humiliated? It’s like a chase-me-beat-me workout. Or maybe that hairbrush spanking for getting a D in handwriting in second grade (not that that ever happened, mind you). To me, exercise really should not be mortifying, it should be gratifying. And a public flogging was not what I signed up for.

note skinny kid, wider mother...
note skinny kid, wider mother...

So my grand plans to get on board the Wii Fit train were immediately keboshed. Yet I’d already committed to spending my own cash to help buy the damned thing, which has led to all sorts of scheming on my part to circumvent this unpleasant, uh, shall we say, side effect of the game.

Fortunately necessity is still the mother of invention, especially when it comes to truths about which we choose to remain blissfully ignorant (despite those rotten harbingers of reality that are unavoidable, such as tight jeans). And I’ve got a plan: I’m going to make one of my kids (or perhaps one of my dogs) mount the board in my stead each time I use the game in order to get set up with the dreaded “body test,” and then I will simply ignore the taunting evidence: Wii Fit telling me I’ve got the fitness stamina of a great-grandmother, for instance. I’ll just do my thing, flap my arms, hula my hips, or whatever other silly games they have that will make me actually move, and not worry about the true number of calories burned or exact fitness level.

I felt a reprieve from the guilt when I saw on Twitter a number of other women whose children had gotten Wii Fit for Christmas also trying to figure out how to outwit the scale dilemma. Clearly when evolving Wii Fit Plus into Wii Fit Plus Plus, the Nintendo engineers should consider the vanity of women world-wide and provide a way to turn off the scale temporarily, or at least, as we all do with the elliptical machine at the gym, simply lie and enter in 120 pounds when asked our weight.

Does this diminish the point to the game? Well, sort of. But can it enable me to remain cloaked in ignorance and retain some faux dignity where I so choose? You bet.

Wii Fit? No way! Wii Fat is more like it, at least if the public weigh-in is the only “weigh” to go. And in that case, this little piggy might just go wii wii wii all the way back to the gym, where I can easily lie about my weight when the exercise equipment demands an answer.

Stress Yoga, Anyone?

This is SO not me LOL
This is SO not me LOL

I’ve always loved to exercise, though unfortunately my lifestyle has not lent itself to nearly the level I once enjoyed, nor the amount I now require, for that matter.

One of the activities I have found most gratifying both physically and mentally is yoga. So much so that for a couple of years I practiced yoga daily. And it was then that I was probably my most chill, as I conditioned my mind to find a quiet center, and so many little life annoyances—traffic, obnoxious people, an out-of-control life–just stopped bothering me.

But as my schedule somehow grew more demanding, yoga became one more added stress in my life—a have-to that I felt guilty if I missed, but anxious if I attended, knowing as I did I was failing to perform some other mandate in its stead.

So while yoga at first presented itself as downright medicinal, it became, well, I don’t want to say toxic, but it became contraindicated. I know, I have people in Yogaville right now wanting to injure me upon reading my suggestion that yoga is anything but peaceful, except that it’s so un-yoga-like to want to injure someone. What I mean by that statement is that yoga became part of my stress. But it wasn’t yoga’s fault! It was all my doing; I was simply incapable of letting yoga do what it was supposed to do: relax me. Instead, my yoga practice became a practice in managing high blood pressure, because the longer I was at yoga, the more I was internally freaking out about what I had to do but wasn’t doing because I was doing what I wanted to do which wasn’t what I should be doing because I needed to be doing other things. Yoga=Peace became Yoga=Internal Strife.

Finally I had to bid farewell to yoga, much to my chagrin. Which of course has caused more stress, which, I know, would be ameliorated by just practicing yoga. But I’m trapped in a Type-A-need-to-earn-money-to-send-my-kids-to-college-and-god-forbid-dream-of-retiring-some-day-without-having-to-hand-out-smiley-face-stickers-at-WalMart-till-I-keel-over vicious cycle, the tail wagging the dog and the dog eating the cat (or in my case, the parrot) and who knows what else.

But I think I have a solution to my quandary that will enable me to return to my practice without feeling one iota of anxiety: Stress yoga! I want to become the Doyenne of Stress Yoga. I will be to yoga what Jane Fonda is to aerobics. Or what the Hamburglar is to McDonalds. You decide.

Now hear me out. For years Hollywood has masterfully hybridized something good-for-you with something usually ludicrous, just to test the limits. In the lingo of L.A., they’ve taken exercise and made it High Concept. For the uninitiated, High Concept is flipping something on its head to make you say “Huh!” Like blending Jane Austen with zombies in a novel (bet you never thought you’d read that one, did you?).

Some of the quirkier Hollywood workout trends? Paddle surfing (canoeing and surfing). Budokon (a fusion of yoga, martial arts and meditation). The Katana sword workout (à la Kill Bill, only with foam swords). Hoopnastics (hula hoop, yoga, ballet and pilates). Boogie Box (hip-hop and kickboxing). Piloxing (pilates and boxing). Or how about Bollylates (Bollywood dancing with Pilates). (I confess, I just made that last one up, but it probably will be a fad soon enough). But Naked Yoga is indeed a reality that could only be gotten away with in Hollywood—with any lesser physiques in attendance, the entire class would have to be conducted blindfolded. Although I would argue that seeing Nicholas Cage engaged in naked yoga is enough to make me run the other direction.

picturing what lies beneath this caped crusader doing yoga scares me
picturing what lies beneath this caped crusader doing yoga scares me

And in a cruel reversal of the trend, someone is making a killing on a new L.A. fitness craze called Celebrity Jogging, which doesn’t involve celebrities jogging, but rather everyday schlubs running from hotspot to hotspot, cameras at the ready, trying to spot celebrities while elevating their heart rates. They should call that the Stalking Workout.

Hollywood types are known for launching all sorts of trends in the name of health and fitness (or at least thinness)—the latest being weeks-long cleanses in which you ingest only a concoction of maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Or vinegar, if you really want to be wild. By comparison my workout will be downright healthful. Besides, you’ve already heard of Power Yoga, right? I’m just taking it one step further.

Stress Yoga might well be my salvation, since I can readily market it to an ever-busier population that just might have no choice but to multi-task being extremely stressed while being centered and ultra-chill. All I need to do is market this class (which is, if nothing else, slightly ironic) to the right people and I’m guaranteed if the power-workout fiends in Los Angeles take to it (and who wouldn’t? Those folks have to be as stressed as they come) I am bound to strike it rich. And if I become rich, then I’ll have time on my hands and voila, I’ll be able to return to yoga, stress-free.

Hey, at least it’s not Naked Hula-Hoop-Swordplay-Hip-Hop-Kickboxing Pilates, right?

Relax Your What?!

Ommmmmm....
Ommmmmm....

Sometimes I’m startled that I am as old as I am. Because despite the maturity that comes with age, I can’t help but occasionally revert back to juvenile middle-school behavior that I’d thought I’d outgrown.

In my attempt to be mature and worldly, I enrolled several years ago in my first yoga class. I needed to learn how to chill out a little bit, and figured being in touch with my inner Zen would help to center my balance, achieve yin-yang, and maybe I’d get a little feng-shui thrown in for good measure.

It was great. First class, I learned my sun salutation, stretched limbs so tight from lack of use that they deserved to snap like tree branches. My teacher, a former type-A New Yorker-turned-Yogaville devotee whose chosen Yoga name, Suraya, more closely resembled that of an Indian guru than someone from the Bronx, was very serene. His soothing voice tranquilized even the tensest of class members: me. In his calm coaxing tone, he encouraged us to rid our minds of any pollutants, to focus on our center, and be at peace within. Fine, I was on the same page at this point. I’d really started feeling that I could change, become a woman unfettered by the stresses of life.

The final fifteen minutes of class were devoted to complete relaxation. Cool, I thought. That is right up my Type-A alley. We all lay on the floor, eyes closed, focused on our own inner universe. The mesmerizing music on the boom box washed over me as Suraya talked us through letting go of whatever tensions remained. He began with the toes, worked his way up ever so gradually to calves, knees, thighs.

And then came the clincher.

“Relax your anal sphincter,” he said, as serious as an executioner, not even remotely cracking a smile.

What? That’s impossible. First of all, It defies the laws of nature. And secondly, even if we could, just think how nasty that would be! We can’t do that, I thought. Like a naughty kindergartener whose head is supposed to be face down on the desk during naptime, I snuck glances all around me. No one but me thought that was the funniest line ever uttered.

I could feel my laughter erupting, and from my unrelaxed belly it rose. I tried desperately to suppress it, but it was of no use. I cackled so loudly that the entire class opened their once-relaxed eyelids and glared directly at me. Even Suraya looked a bit uptight.

As the class drew to a close, the peaceful silence destroyed, I slunk from the room, somewhat embarrassed at my level of immaturity. But I actually felt more relaxed, having belted out a good belly laugh.

Yes, I realize I have gone from middle school to middle age, but isn’t it nice to know that you don’t always have to totally grow up?

Less than five months till Winging It wings into bookstores!
Less than five months till Winging It wings into bookstores!