Five in Five

Butt Hurt: Tuesday, February 28

Gack! Here I’d hauled my cookies downtown and raced breathlessly into the lobby, readying myself for a much-needed yoga class, only to be greeted by a sign on the counter announcing a class cancellation. 

What made it worse was that I’d known the teacher couldn’t find a sub and there would be no class, but I’d totally forgotten — my brain full of Jessie Diggins, what to pack for 57-degree temperatures in Tennessee, grading drafts of research papers, and wondering why the city doesn’t crack down on off-leash dogs. 

Well, as long as I was ready to work out, I figured I might as well get return for effort and head upstairs to the Boot Camp class due to start in ten minutes. 

The Boot Camp class I hadn’t attended in more than a year.

The one that leaves me unable to climb stairs for three days afterwards unless I moan and pound my quads with every trudging step.

That one.


But other than the plank walk and the open-mouthed scream lap around the track when I was yoked to a hyper-fit dude named Alex as he dragged my dead weight behind him at a speed faster than I’ve ever run before, I handled the hour.

Now it’s today.

The day after Boot Camp.

Friends, my ass is yappin’. 

I cannot sit, stand, squat, bend, lunge, or move a fingernail without oooooohhhhmaaaannnn. The only thing worse than the day after Boot Camp, in fact, is two days after Boot Camp, which means the oy-vey is getting worse by the hour. Do not tap me tomorrow, even lightly like a feather’s breath, or I might punch you by mistake. 

My ass hurt when I awoke and sat at the computer to grade student work; it yelped when I poached my morning egg; it hated me when I crouched next to drawers to paw for clothes; it yoiked when I climbed stairs to a classroom at the college where a candidate for a position in our department was about to present his teaching demonstration.

Seriously, it was noon, yet the crook of my rear felt 28 hours in.

But then. You guys. As I sat in the classroom, waiting to absorb the presentation of a guy who really wants a job, my glutes relaxed — perhaps to balance out the wild racing of my mind. See, the candidate, before he started explaining how he would teach the concept of “an essay” to developmental students, came around the room and shook everyone’s hand. When he got to me, I said my name, but even as I spoke, he was nodding and waiting, a comment prepared.

“Oh, I know you, Jocelyn. You were my teacher in 1997 at Riverland Community College; we read Memoirs of a Geisha…” — my Novels class! — “…and I still remember the attendance policy on your syllabus told us we could never miss a class for a Beavis & Butthead marathon, but it would be okay to miss if it was for a Ren & Stimpy marathon.”

How could an ass not go soft in the midst of such an unexpected, strangely delightful moment? How could a butt wallow in pain when an English teacher stood in front of an English teacher and connected their dots? Sitting there, shaking this guy’s hand, feeling life inchworm — tail end squinching up to meet the head — my below cheeks went slack as my facial cheeks flushed red. I wasn’t embarrassed, but something about a forgotten past manifesting into a very real present welled up me in a way that made my face red. Maybe it was because my dean and colleagues witnessed the exchange; maybe it was because I’d seen his name announced as a finalist and had a blip of “Do I know that name? Nah.” Maybe it was because his words took me back to a time when I felt more secure in the classroom than I do now, twenty-one years later when my cage has been rattled enough that its bars are less secure.

At any rate, I blushed fully while my tush became mush.

Ahhh, that felt good. For a full half hour as I listened to this fine young teacher explain himself, from the way he teaches essay writing to his personal disclosures about his father’s death, rebelling against his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing, finding salvation in the classroom, my rear reveled. When he randomly interjected a quick quip about the way a colleague’s nephews used to call me “Batgirl,” my brain tripped down twelve different paths. At the same time, my hand wrote feedback about the teaching presentation.

And then it was over.

Buttocks re-tautened, I got in the car, left campus, and took myself out for some air at my favorite place to ski. The temperatures were warm, too warm really, but I wanted to unfurl fully into the lovely gift that is two feet of newly fallen snow. 


Getting out of the car taxed my ass, as did every two-inch movement necessary to put on boots, hat, coat, gloves, and skis — repeated again fifteen minutes later when I returned to swap out skis, from waxed to waxless, because this was a very clumpy day in the moods of snow.

I wanted to move my body to help the soreness recede for even an hour. I wanted to move my body so my brain could process the emotions of seeing, out of the blue, someone whose life I had impacted when I was 30 and he was 18, someone whose life had gone on to mimic my own. I wanted to move my body because every last thing on the planet feels better when I do. I wanted to move my body because doing so is a gratitude.

Most importantly, I wanted to move my body because I wanted to follow in the steps of someone who affected me during a formative time, wanted to practice the technique of someone whose abilities moved me, wanted to flex my ass in tribute to someone who showed me a new way of being: Johannes Klaebo, that gold-medal Norwegian who takes hills like he’s out for a run with skis on his feet.

My ass is yappin’.

My mind spirals repetitively through memory.

Somehow, the two are linked.

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winter warmies


February is known for leading with blah.

Here in the Northwoods of the American Midwest, February can create a strangled scream in inhabitants who attempt perkiness. “Well now. We’ve had quite a winter this year, haven’t we, with a seriously snowy December, historic Polar Vortexian cold, and seven days of school closures so far?” Just as we’re bucking ourselves up and attempting to bend our frozen arms into something like a pat on the back, we look at the calendar. So it’s February. And last year our snowiest month–the one with the most school closures–was April. People were still skiing in May.

That means, if it’s February, we’re about halfway done with winter.

It doesn’t help that the extreme cold has kept new snow from falling, and for those of us who are winter lovers, new snow is cause for joy. Sadly, we’ve had a whole lotta joy-free shivers.

Without an occasional prettifying layer of new snow, the world gets ugly.

In particular, the world of cars gets ugly.

SONY DSCDirt and oil and general car snot = dispiriting.

SONY DSCThe salt and chemicals used to treat the roads coat everything.

Then there’s the fact that our big black plastic composting bins are not only frozen shut; they’re also buried in snow. So we’ve been dumping our compost sort of on top of/next to the buried bins.

We help the neighbors feel better about their own lives.


On the other hand, I would argue that compost is strangely appealing, visually. I’d do this jigsaw puzzle.


Queer fascination with compost aside, I can also admit it’s public rot.

Fortunately, all the windows are iced over, which turns the house into a cocoon, a place where we can ignore everything outside the walls.


While there are benefits to the cocoon, it also means no one will know if one day I glance at my husband’s ear lobes and think they look like delicious hors d’oeuvres. No one will know if we start eating each other.

That’s February for you: the month when you decide your middle schooler’s haunch might fit in the slow cooker.


February…and January…and December…have also been gorgeous. Winter is gorgeous, especially when machines are kept away from it. Complaining about the cold gets really boring really fast, especially when one has central heating, a stash of teabags, and heaps of clothes–not to mention the ability to wear them in layers.

As with everything else in life, the key to finding pleasure is to engage. Truly, I wouldn’t mind if my headstone one day reads, “She didn’t understand electrical wiring, but damn if she didn’t get out there and give everything else a try.”

Indeed, I’m all for children and adults alike taking on winter with an attitude of gusto. Sitting and griping is, at best, self perpetuating. But putting on four layers and rolling down a hill and getting a snootful of snow is damn fun.

So is going out into the woods with friends and cutting down your own Christmas tree.


So is rolling snow people, especially when you give them eyes made out of rotten crab apples, which then makes them look all mascara-smudged and hungover, which then makes you name them things like “Walk of Shame Snow Woman,” which then causes you to put a Pumpkin Porter into their broken lacrosse stick hands, which then causes you to create an entire Facebook series about your snow people.


Also glorious in the winter are Lake Superior and Duluth’s Lift Bridge as steam ghosts dance around them.


Few things are more delightful than putting on snowshoes with a crew of pals and careening through powder down the side of a steep hill.


Then there’s the sledding. A good “wheeeeee!” definitely clears the passages.


In this video, Paco (aka “Panda Man”) and I whizz down the hill with three-year-old Aliya. That girl was born to compete in skeleton, I tell you. Allegra comes down after us, as a nice piece of punctuation.

[tentblogger-youtube Lhf2ZxZJ2G4]

What’s more, there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than skiing up a frozen creek tucked in behind Byron’s cute behind.


Sometimes, when I’m skiing alone in the woods, a Tomten crosses my path. I have to pretend I don’t see him, lest he scurry away.PLUM2G

For Paco’s eleventh birthday, we went to the downhill ski area for a tubing party.


One other great thing about winter? Cute knitted ear bands.


When you’re usually the one behind the camera, a view of the feet is sometimes the best way to capture your own existence.SONY DSC

There was enough cold and snow this year to hold the John Beargrease sled dog race (it serves as a warm-up race for the Iditarod for many mushers). Although we were frozen stiff by the end, getting out there and seeing all those happy doggies was a pleasure. Plus, Paco got to decimate huge chunks of ice.SONY DSC



The kids have been doing Sunday afternoon ski sessions, too. As well, Allegra’s on her middle school ski team–‘tho she has no desire to race and therefore only attends the practices. She’s gotten skate skiing technique mastered this year. Maybe some year she can teach me how.DSCN1423SONY DSC

And, finally, there is my very favorite: when the pack ice blows in to shore and breaks up into slabs of beauty.SONY DSC


If there has to be February, at least I’m glad we’re having a true winter of it.

How can a soul feel down in the face of this?SONY DSC

The kids are off from school this next week, so we’re planning to head over to visit the Apostle Island ice caves. They can only be visited during years of extreme cold, when the lake has frozen enough to allow visitors to make the mile walk out to them. During the summer months, these caves are visited by kayakers. Guess what my next post will be about?

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