Browsing Tag

Matt

Try That With Matt

Try That with Matt. Sloppy sailors.

August 15, 2017

Remember in my last post, when I mentioned I was saying “yes” more than “no” these days? Well, a few weeks back, I found myself chin-deep in the e-coli-infested waters of a Lake Michigan river, beer koozie still in hand, the result of one such verbal agreement.

Matt, Hank and I recently went north to cruise around Traverse City, Michigan, for a kayak bar crawl with The General (you remember him), his wife, Tara, and her friend, Jill, his sisters, Angie and Andrea, their spouses, Lee and Kevin, his cousin, Matt (who we called “Cousin Matt”), and his cousin’s roommate, Alex. Now that I’ve introduced the entire cast of the Mickey Mouse Club … What’s a kayak bar crawl, you ask? Well, it’s exactly what you would think; a sloppy parade of paddlers (think Yale heavyweight crew 20 years outta school after getting into Pappy’s moonshine) work their way through the river, and eventually lake, pulling themselves ashore every so many feet to take down a beer or two.

What could possibly go wrong?

It’s been months since I posted a Try That with Matt, and since this was certainly a new adventure, and we did it together, it seemed like a good time to invite the gentle giant back onto the blog. You’ll forgive us both if the details are a little fuzzy.

**COURT**

The morning of the crawl, we woke up at a decent hour. Matt took off for a long bike ride and Hank and I decided to make the most of our kidless Saturday and trotted off for a quick 3-mile run. (That’s not what you thought I was going to say? Sorry to disappoint, ya perv.) It was a cloudy, lovely morning, with nothing pestering us aside from the sporadic assaults from tiny extended families of black bugs swarming our sweaty heads along the beach, which was closed due to high e-coli readings in the water. There we were, trotting along just like all those fit couples you see on the side of the road on Saturday mornings pretending not to hate jogging.

After a quick shower, I suited up. A bathing suit, running shorts and a black tank top. Tara dropped off a few cups of Pink Panty Droppers and went to gather her gear. I sipped the electric lemonade, eventually feeling it surge through my plumbing, burning it’s way into my gut and sending sparks through my fingertips. This day was about to get sloppy. I knew it. My fingertips knew it.

We drove to Hull Park and assembled our crew at a long table outside of The Filling Station. Ninety percent sober, we all chatted semi-politely and sipped our foamy glasses of beer. Some of the gals snapped open-eyed selfies at the other end of the bench. The General, Tara, and his sister, Andrea, told us what to expect by recounting highlights from the year before.

The volume of the table escalated a bit. We were making our move to the water. “Here! You need to eat something,” Hank said, shoving a small square of pizza into my hand. “Do I have time to pee?” I asked. He shrugged. I folded the petite pie into my mouth like a true lady and dashed to the potty.

I caught up to the group at the launch pad. One by one, The General and Matt were pulling people’s kayaks down into the water, holding the back as they climbed in and shoving them off. I settled into my vessel, placed a can of Summer Shandy in my koozie, and dipped my paddles into the dark, seemingly boundless water.

I am no Magellan, OK. I am not a great navigator, and in fact, I have no idea how I found the grocery store before Google Maps. And finding my way around a vast body of water? Yeah … no. But I can follow. And so I did. I followed like the newborn kayak captain I am; swerving and grazing my knuckles painfully along the curved rim of my boat, while The General yelled out instructions about which direction the letters on my paddles should be pointing toward and how my elbows should be bent. About 20 minutes after we started our voyage, our seasoned leader gestured to a 20-foot clearing in the treeline and we swarmed to the sand, threw our legs over the side and made our way up a hill to our second watering hole of the day, Right Brain Brewery.

I had two tasty cherry beers before it was time to shove off. Getting back into our kayaks, Cousin Matt flipped his and fell into the water. He handled it well, but me being me, I laughed until my tears filled the bottom rims of my sunnies. I just love it so much when people fall down. I’m also a big believer in karma.

I remember the first time I really biffed while drinking. Not to say this was the first time ever, but it was the spark to the dynamite fuse. A fuse that’s been slowly burning now for years. It was my 23rd birthday. The cops had been to the apartment to shut down a super-heated game of Catchphrase earlier in the evening, so we decided to head to my favorite piano bar. After sucking down red jello shots through a syringe like a Hoover and screaming Livin’ on a Prayer like a boss, my then-boyfriend Hank signaled it was time to go home. I can’t remember if I got on my sister-in-law’s back or she got on mine, but I do know both of us went down in a sketchy Indianapolis alley hard enough that I had gravel embedded in my knee caps for two days.

The seal was broken. I could write a book about the many falls of drunk Courtney since that night. I fell through an open door at an 80s bar, and then slipped on a spilled drink on the dance floor of that same bar a few years later … twice. Just a month ago, at the New Kids on the Block concert, I fell into the row ahead of me and took out five chairs and a 40-something mom. Security came over. I acted like I didn’t know what she was talking about.

Trust me when I say I’m not bragging here. I’m not really embarrassed though, either. I think it’s less a loss of my motor skills, and more a perfect recipe of my mama’s grace, deep, paralyzing belly laughs and the release of inhibition. My legs just go … like Bambi or April the Giraffe’s baby after it dropped. It all sounds very Betty Ford, but I don’t really dip my beak enough for any real concern, I promise. I share all of this not to let you sniff my dirty laundry, but rather to set the scene. (Also, I just know Matt is going to call me out.)

Back on the water …

We paddled for a little less than a half an hour (honestly this is a guess. I lost all concept of time after the Pink Panty Droppers), and it felt effortless. A subtle current and delay in execution took me right into a low hanging tree branch just minutes before we approached our next stop, Rare Bird Brewery. I was still kind of giggling about it when I felt the bottom of my kayak hit the lake bed and start sliding onto shore. I went to step out and realized I wasn’t going to get all the way upright. It a very brief conversation with myself, that went something like …

“Oh, shit. You’re not standing up on your leg parts. You’re sitting in the water. The water feels good. Get out of the water quickly because it’s full of poison e-coli!” [Laughter, laughter, laughter.]

My left leg was bent, my butt crouching down, resting on top of my left ankle. My right foot was still straddling the slope of my boat. I was laughing too hard to get any power underneath me, so Hank came and helped me get to my feet. He pulled Chili Pepper (my kayak) up the hill while I leaned against him giggling like a stoned teenager.

I was sloshing as I shuffled down the small town street. A sloppy string of water followed me as I made my way into the restroom at the brewery and forcefully peeled my shorts down to tinkle. It felt like we lingered at this stop. A lot of people were ready for food. I was ready for food, but I didn’t realize it just yet.

We walked to another bar in town, 7 Monks Taproom. Here, along with another round of beers, Hank ordered the best drunk meal I have ever had in my life. Honestly. Roast beef sliders and pretzel bites. Food porn if I’ve ever seen it. We stayed back a few minutes to lick our plates. Then it was time to catch up to our crew.

I approached the top of the slope, our kayaks waiting down below. My tummy was full and my mind was back with my petite patties and doughy delights and I just didn’t even realize I was starting to slide. Maybe it was less of a slide and more of a tumble. Anyway, I fell a bit down the hill. Nothing of note, but of course, Matt saw. I heard my brother’s booming laugh, a throwback to every misstep I’d taken in my youth, just behind me. I came to a stop. “Jeezus,” he boomed. But I wasn’t concerned. I’d done worse and I knew we were settling in for the homestretch. He tried to pick me up and shove me into my boat, but my stomach seized from muted cackles. I succumb to a second collapse, letting my heavy lower limbs just settle on the tiny pebbles in the water beneath me. My beasty brother hovered over me, more satisfied than a pig in a port-a-potty. My loving husband looked on, thinking of just how fortunate he truly is.

The distance between the last brewery we went to and where we pulled our kayaks out is a bit cloudy for me. I remember Matt and The General getting too close and The General ending up in the water. So, at least he got e-coli too. I remember passing apartments. I remember the late afternoon sun dancing on the ripples just before me and how mesmerized I was by the twinkles. And then we came out from the river and onto Lake Michigan. The current forcibly rocked Chili Pepper back and forth. The kayak would dip into the side of a slight wave, and then correct itself. A few drops of Summer Shandy splashed against the aluminum in the bottom of the can as I focused on driving my paddles in to reach the shore.

I didn’t really want it to be over.

Some of the guys turned around and went back the way we came to pick up the trucks, getting growlers at Mackinaw Brewing Company along the way. I rode back to the campground with the ladies.

After we pulled into the State Park, I proceeded to sit at Andrea’s campsite and have a 30-minute conversation with her sons about how their pirate ships from the mini golf course down the road were made of real, reclaimed pirate wood from the bottom of the ocean before returning to my own camper and eating a pound of Mackinac Island mint chocolate fudge, like a starved little lab rat given sugar for the first time in months. I watched The Great British Baking Show and ate my fudge and cut chunks of colby off a block of cheese with a butter knife. There. Now you know.

I was rocked to sleep by the gentle waves of Matt wedging himself into the bottom bunk of our camper sometime in the early hours of the morning. The next day, there was no jogging. Powerade. But no jogging.

**MATT**

The morning of the paddle crawl, I woke up on the bottom bunk in the back of Biscuits and Gravy’s travel trailer. Nothing like Biscuits making pancakes and setting off the smoke alarm first thing in the morning. It took me back to my youth, when, bless my mother’s heart, the sound of the blaring smoke detector was our family dinner bell. This hazy scene was just further confirmation, along with her comfort cotton panties, that my sister is my mom. (The cakes and sausage were delicious, sis!)

After our well-done griddle cakes, I thought I would take advantage of the kidless weekend and hit a trail that went through town and down to the lake for a nice long bike ride. What a great way to start the day; no phone, just my bike. The weather was beautiful. I got to see some of the big sailboats heading out on the lake while the water was smooth as glass. I felt so good being alone, getting some exercise in and taking in the beauty of the day before the shit show kicked off.

When I returned to the trailer, everyone was getting ready – loading little coolers, putting the kayaks in the truck, etc. I woke up ready, naturally, so when Tara was walking around with a pitcher of Pink Panty Droppers to kick off the day, I figured, “Why not? I’m on vacation.” For those of you who haven’t had a dropper, it’s one of those drinks that just lights you up. I knew it was going to be a good day when Court had one as well. My thought: “She is totally falling out of her kayak today.”

We dropped our party barges off at the launch point and hit a local brewhouse to pregame. While having some laughs and reminiscing, The General’s sister, Angie, raised her fist and declared she was, “#kokomohard”. And thus, the day’s catchphrase was born. See, a few years back, a tornado in the town of Kokomo prompted a #kokomostrong movement, which is completely appropriate for uniting a disheartened community. I would imagine #kokomohard is a rally cry for something much, much different. But #kokomohard is what we were, for the next 6 hours at least.

It was time to hit the water and head off to our first stop. It was just about a 20-minute paddle across the lake to a path on the side of a hill that lead up to a cool little brewery with a salon in the front. The boy hairdressers wore really short shorts, I can tell you that. Gave my big ass a chuckle before I grabbed a beer. Thanks, boys!

After a few drinks on the patio, it was time to head back down the hill and load up. Surely, I thought, there was no way Court was going to make it back into her kayak. But I was wrong. It was Cousin Matt who ate shit here. Like the champ he is, he loaded his wet ass right back up and hit the water. It’s the name. We’re just resilient animals.

The next stop was probably a 35-minute paddle back across the lake and down the channel to a spot where we had to de-kayak and pull them across a damned up area. We planned to hit two bars here, making it our longest stop by far. Needless to say, when we left we were all feeling really good. … and let the show begin.

Our kayaks were waiting for us at the bottom of a hill. It was here, on dry land with no damn good excuse, that Court decided to eat shit. She just went down, like a fainting goat. But it doesn’t stop there. After she gathered herself, I was loading her into her kayak and … yup, she started to fall again. She didn’t try to catch herself. She didn’t try to fight it. She just accepted her fate and sat down in the water. And there she stayed, laughing hysterically, for a minute or so. “Jesus Christ, pull it together!” I said, which just made us laugh more.

Once we all got our happy asses upright and in our kayaks, The General (whose real name is Rod, by the way) and I decided it would be fun – because we are 12 – to race to see who could hit everyone in our group with our kayaks first. It was close. We were neck and neck. I’d bump someone. He’d bump someone. His sister, who thought we were coming to mess with her, saw us closing in and started paddling for her life. I hit the gas to lock in the win, but my paddle snapped in half. No worries. I smashed the broken ends back together and dug in.

Rod was just ahead of me, at an angle, getting ready to hit his sis’s kayak and get the “W”. But I was just hitting full speed. I came in hot and rammed him, sending him into the water along with his kayak. Checkmate, Sucker.

We came out onto the lake, our final challenge of the day before half our group would get picked up. The big lake is choppy, which makes for a challenge. Last year, at this point almost everyone flipped. It was like the Beaches of Normandy out there; People dragging their overturned ships behind their battered bodies. But not this year. We took the waves at a solid 45 and brought it home.

About half of us carried our kayaks back to the channel and went to another breeery to grab growlers before we headed back where we started that morning. We washed up on the shore some time later, feeling good, with tired arms. My buddy Kevin cranked up the stereo in my truck and showed us his sweet moves at the boat launch. Picture a grown ass man doing “The Sprain” from Saved by the Bell, with a group of other grown ass men standing around cheering. Cool, right?

After 8 hours of paddling and pints, I came back to the campsite to survey the damage. You can imagine, the crowd was sparse. I sat down at the campfire for a nightcap and some tunes with Kevin. Tara told me Biscuits got into a fight with some fudge and the fudge won. She was down for the night. As was Gravy. I stayed up late enough to keep Kevin’s volume to a reasonable level so our fellow campers could drift off to sleep. As I gracefully wedged myself into the bottom bunk of the trailer, I closed my eyes and chuckled. It was a successful day on the water, with lots of laughs at other people’s expense and some great beer. That’s what #kokomohard is all about.

Want to read more of my adventures with my big brother? Check out Try that with Matt …
Meditation
Filth Filters
Class Clownin

Try That With Matt

To my brother on his 40th birthday

March 14, 2017

I know you don’t want this. I know you’ve been dreading this day for 19 years, at least. I know in your mind this milestone is marked with canes and can’ts and all the limitations you fear so much. But all those thoughts were born before we knew the truth. Now we know what 40 really looks like on you. It kind of looks like 21 driving up in a Honda Odyssey. It looks like flippy cup over nice carpet and gift bags crammed full of craft beer. And that’s really not so bad.

We know the important things haven’t changed and, if anything, they’ve gotten better. You’re still active. You’re still loved. You’re still one of the funniest people I know, even though sometimes I really don’t want to laugh at your stupid, sarcastic self.

From far away, 40 might have looked like Mike Tyson biting someone’s ear off, but up close, it’s more like Mike Tyson talking to his pigeons, right? You’re fine. Everything is just fine. I’m proud of you.

Celebrating your last four decades with friends and family last Friday was a treat. I always forget just how hilarious you are until I see you in your element – hosting a room full of people, telling a story in that voice that thunders over the group, and shakes the ground as you punctuate the important parts. Even though most of us have heard your bullshit before, it always feels new, hysterical, hard to believe. You’re theatrical and over the top and completely ridiculous. The people who know you best, know you’re best served up in this state. Showing off and workin’ your side hustle as a professional smartass.

You’ve been blessed with good friends who accept and humor you always, and that’s a gift you get to open every day. Not everyone is that lucky. Never stop sitting around with them and telling those stories. I mean, when someone knows the punchline involves you shitting your pants and they still let you get all the way to the end without blowing the whole thing, that’s generous.

I can’t wait to see what your 40s hold. More challenges, more stories, more love. I hope you choose to walk a little lighter and settle into all the best parts of who you are. I hope you don’t grow up and you don’t stop fighting to be the person you want to be. Meditate. Hike. Relax.

I can’t necessarily see into the future, but I’d say some of your best is yet to come. I can tell you one thing that I predict with 100-percent certainty though. One thing I will gosh dang guarantee you won’t be happening in this decade. I hope you read this next part extra carefully, old man: I will NEVER, ever stand up to sing karaoke with you again. You hog the mic and you don’t need me up there. There’s only room in that spotlight for one star, and it’s all you, brotha.

So, happy birthday and best wishes, you lovable son of a … Here’s to 40 more!

Try That With Matt

Try that with Matt & Co. The Showdown.

March 5, 2017

My family gathers around food. It’s just our thing. Father’s Day is about Dad’s famous grilled chicken. Christmas is for ham balls, chicken wings and queso dip. The girls, Hank and I have dinner every Friday night with my parents before playing three rounds of euchre (Team Granny Panties vs. Boys). And the granddaddy of them all, Big Breakfast, is a feast of Dad’s dippy eggs, pounds of maple sausage and bacon, mugs and mugs of coffee (with the naughty creamer, of course), pancakes, fried potatoes and cinnamon rolls that takes place around my parent’s dining room table every-other Sunday. In a way, this is our church, and the sermon is always written in shameless digs and sarcasm. The congregation is questionable at best.

I could talk about Big Breakfast for hours. Seriously. It’s all about how much time you have. You’ll have your constants, like Dad dripping in sweat over four pans of food, yelling out in desperation through a potato-smelling smoke, “How many more eggs do we need? Marilyn! I asked how many more eggs do we need?” Poor guy. He’s always just slaving away as the rest of us get our coffee in hand and watch CBS Sunday Morning, which is always, always on. You’re guaranteed a story about somebody, usually my mother, falling down. It seems someone in our family falls down at least once a week. Which is probably some form of karmic justice because we all laugh like idiots at the storyteller’s misfortune. I mean, I’m sorry, but if you don’t think folks eating pavement is a side-splitting good time, we just can’t communicate. I always get the middle cinnamon roll, because, it’s the best. Duh. And there are always babies fighting and biting each other over plastic princesses.

Then we sprinkle in some excitement occasionally for extra flavor. There was the time the girls called 9-1-1 five times, unbeknownst to us, and a sheriff showed up. There was the time the entire family spent an hour trying to wrangle a 200-pound pig named Kevin Bacon into a horse trailer. There was the morning Matt belched so loud (also not uncommon) that Mom startled and instinctively turned so quickly she popped something in her neck. Or the beautiful Sunday morning Mom and I were sitting on the deck while the kids played and I leaned too far back in my plastic chair and flipped over backward. Or – and this is one of my favorites – the time my nephew took us on a Polaris ride and my brother, really, really had to go to the bathroom, so he jumped off the moving four wheeler when we got close to the house, his butt cheeks clenched so tightly he only came down on his toes and then waddle/ran all the way to the door.

And then there’s my tiny white nemesis. My parents have this rescue dog, Josie. She’s one of those tiny things, a mix of two different breeds that both have names that sound like poop, Caca-something or Doodle-other. All I know is she loves my dad’s soft bosom and licks her butt and then licks his face and I’m the only one who finds the entire relationship completely appalling. Plus, just the juxtaposition of this giant man holding a frail little dog never seems normal to me. Big Rog, knowing how I feel about the tiny mutt, refers to her as “my little sister”. “Aw, aren’t you going to say hi to your little sister?” “Your little sister had to be sedated to get her teeth cleaned, poor thing.” And so on. Well, at the last Big Breakfast, my ten-tons-of-fun brother pulled a skin tag clean of her neck with his bare hands because he thought it was a tick. She let out of tiny yelp and the whole thing was over as fast it it began. “What is that?” he asked, holding it up between his thumb and his index finger. “Oh my gosh!” Mom replied. “You pulled off her mole!” As Spike would say, “I was laughing to tears.”

See, what I mean … how much time do you have? It’s a sunny-side-up sideshow at a low-budget three-ring circus, this family.

So, why am I talking about all this? Well, partly because I got sidetracked, but I started because Big Breakfast is now part of a winner-takes-all contest several years in the making. It’s sort of a Try that with Matt … and Hank, and Kirsten, and Rog, and Marilyn. That’s right, we invited the whole kookie clan to join us for an extra-special, family-wide weight loss challenge. The Hupe Heifer Showdown began on Sunday, February 19. Six weeks, person who loses the highest percentage of body weight, wins.

Let’s meet the competitors.

The husband.
Honestly, we’re more allies than anything so it’s really hard for me to be an asshole about this one. I make his food, so sabotage wouldn’t even be a game at this point. (“They’re these weird Swedish nutrition bars. My mom used to give them to the kids in Africa to help them gain weight.”) Plus, I’m pretty sure his heart isn’t in it and he’s only participating to humor the acorns at the nuthouse.

Why he could win: This guy can drop some weight when he wants to. But he also has an addiction to authentic Mexican fare and miscellaneous goodies. Dark horse here for sure.

The parents.
Considering the parameters of the challenge, either one of these clowns could just demolish us if they wanted to. Their plan is to adjust their macronutrients (proteins, carbs) and workout more. Now, this brings up a topic that must be addressed. This is not a joke, you guys. My parents wear denim to workout. We’re talking full-on, chafe-your-nether-regions, unforgiving, tough as Clint Eastwood, 5-0-1 jeans here. I once walked a 4-mile race with my dad while he was wearing jorts, aviators and a ball cap. They just go out there like, “Hey, no big deal. I was just doing some light grocery shopping and decided to pop in for a little workout. What’s this spandex you speak of?” And it just baffles me entirely.

These people also grew up in a time when the shelves weren’t crowded with food and to waste wasn’t an option. When my dad was little, he once ate his entire meal after, af-ter, someone at the dinner table sneezed and skyrocketed a boog right onto the side of my dad’s plate. He just pushed right past it. If he put that type of dedication toward cleaning up his diet and moving a little more, or my mama did the same, this could be theirs for the taking. Although, I did have a tense 20-minute argument with my dad over the benefits of white bread (him for, me against) on Friday, so … I’ve got that goin’ for me.

Why they could win: A lifetime of refined flour and 9 p.m. snacking set these two up for some serious success if they can change their habits.

The brother.
On the morning of our initial weigh-in, Matt was running a few minutes late. As we all started going through the breakfast buffet a la Roger, my big brother walked in the back door, peeled off his shirt, then his pants and then pulled his boxer briefs up his crack before stepping onto the scale. The Chris Farley-esque stunt had Mom bent over clenching all of the pee-releasing muscles. It was bold. It made a statement. It lessened my appetite. I’m pretty sure this dude would sit in a sweat suit hovering over coals in a sauna for 48 hours straight to win this thing. I’ve been seeing him at the gym at 5 a.m. and I know he wants it. Problem is, he also wants deep dish pizza and all of the chocolate cakes. The struggle is so, so real.

Why he could win: I’ve often thought that Matt was missing the chip inside most people’s bodies that says, “No! Stop! This is the most I can take!” He’s lifted a riding lawnmower into the back of a truck by himself. The guy is Thor dressed up as an insurance agent. When he turns it on, he can hammer some workouts. Plus, he sweats like a whore in a Texas church in August.

The sister.
Dear, sweet, chocolate-covered Kirsten. My sister has six, count ‘em, six little girls. She runs ragged on all the days that end in “y” and the past few months in particular have been heavy with stress. To cope, she focused on what she needed to do for her chick-a-dees and less on taking care of herself. (Raise your hand if the lyrics to this tune sound familiar to you?) When you grow up with the nickname “Skelator,” the concept of having to work for a good weight can be a bit foreign. Kirsten has always been long and lean and now she finds herself in unfamiliar, and uncomfortable, territory. She’s rich in knowledge about healthy eating and so, so short on time, so she has her sights set on regaining balance for sure.

Why she could win: In her own words: “Because I’m too stubborn to let Matt win.” One of my fondest memories from childhood was watching Kirsten chase Matt around the island in the kitchen with a butcher knife after he’d pushed her buttons one too many times. What I’m saying is, there’s a history here. If it’s between cutting off an arm and losing to Matt, she’s severing the limb.

The me.
I have spent so many words in this space talking about my love of sweets and lack of control, it would be silly to steal more real estate expanding upon it now. Other than, just for the sake of transparency, i should mention that Hank brought home five boxes of Girl Scout cookies last week, so the cards are somewhat stacked against me. I hope somebody gets a damn patch on their sash for the internal shit I’m going through right now.

Why I could win: If Kirsten and Matt somehow destroy each other before or at the final weigh-in, my odds are pretty fair. Here’s hoping.

Those are the ponies. Ladies and gents, place your bets!

Try That With Matt

Try that with Matt. 90-mile month.

February 14, 2017

I have an ongoing list of ideas for these monthly challenges with my brother. Some of the things are just a matter of time (a bar crawl in kayaks, coming this summer!), while others might never happen (backpacking through Ireland?). The point is their dreams … aspirations … wishes on stars that might actually be satellites. Now, obviously, sustaining this little project – 12 challenges a year – means the entire list can’t be all grand excursions and riding on elephants. We have to pepper in some practical for good measure. These vanilla additions are challenging, but achievable. Adventurous but local. Exciting but not as exhilarating as the biggies. So when my brother picked one of these “practical” items for the first month of the year, I was kind of, unintentionally, a turd about it.

January Challenge: Run 3 miles every day of the month. No excuses. No crying.

It could have been worse. I believe I actually had, “Complete a 100-mile month” on the list, so this was technically an improvement. We would be coming in around 90 miles (should have been 93, but we gave each other one pass). It was going to get real, and it wasn’t going to be fun, and it wasn’t going to be really fun.

**MATT**

Jon Sutherland – who holds the record for running on the most consecutive days – has completed at least one mile every single day for over 17,000 days in a row. That’s 45 years and 2 days, a number that will be outdated by the time you read this post. So, when I suggested we run 3 miles a day every day for 31 days in January, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I’ll spare you the suspense. It wasn’t.

In fact, it was whatever the polar opposite of cake is. Something awful, that smells bad. But despite the fact that it was a complete pain in the ass, now that it’s over, I can look back and say there was never a time I went for a run and didn’t feel like the reset button had been hit after. We all struggle to make time for ourselves, at least that seems to be the trend with myself and my peers that have children. We are all too busy shuffling our kids here and there, and staying after work, and grabbing things at the grocery, and cleaning our houses, that we end up with a million reasons why we can’t make it to the gym. And who can blame us?

I think that this is what I took away from the challenge this month; that I’m full of bullshit excuses. Did I drop some lbs and get in better shape? Yes. Oh, and I have to mention it just to piss my sister off, your boy was a “super user” at the Y for the month of January. You know this shit! (Didn’t see your name up there, DSS.) Yes, my party pants now fit a little looser so I don’t have to worry about them splitting when I am out there on the dance floor dropping it like it’s hot, or … Oh, wait … I’m 39…. I mean I don’t have to worry about my Levis splitting up the crotch when I am squatting down to check out the soft batch cookies on sale. But even more than all that, I realized that we can ALL make time for ourselves if we really want to. And it’s important.

Going to the gym is not being selfish. It’s just taking 30-60 minutes for yourself to set a good example for your kids and for you to get that healthy release so when you do go home you don’t unload your stress on your family. We are all guilty of it. We all have shitty days when we don’t want to go workout, we don’t want to cram one more thing in. We just want to stuff our fat faces with chocolate chip cookies the consistency of pillows and watch 20 episodes of The Office. And it feels good for a second, but 20 minutes later, when you are doing dishes, laundry, etc., and you’re so filled with stress it’s exploding out of your beard hair holes, guess what … someone’s ass is getting yelled at. Then you feel like an asshole. A cookie-eating asshole. Because you know they didn’t really deserve it. And you know if you would have just taken your fatass to the gym, you could have avoided the whole verbal beat down.

We all struggle with the same things, even though we feel alone. You let yourself go and don’t want to feel judged going back to the gym. You’re unsure of how to use equipment. One of the hardest things for me is the voice in my head telling me to grab the chips and the remote. But you have to squash those thoughts and take care of you! Nobody is judging you and people are always happy to help if you just ask. And guess what, after you workout, you don’t want the chips anyway.

You only get one go at this life and you don’t want to spend it sitting on your ass, do you? You don’t have to run every single day for 31 days, but challenge yourself to get to the gym or get a workout in each day, and see what it does for your attitude or how it motivates the people around you. This challenge has helped kick start my cardio workouts again, I know that. I was in a funk for the past year where all I did was work and make excuses why I couldn’t get to the gym. It is so easy to give up on goals, but you know what feels even better than sitting on the couch and relaxing? Unleashing that inner beast you have been hiding under excuses! Anyone can quit, but who wants to be just anyone? Not me.

Note: Do not ask DSS to be your gym buddy if you decide on a consecutive run challenge, we just started talking again the beginning of February. Good job, Sis! Love you!

**ME**

I don’t know how many times he told me, reminded me, that this was technically my idea. It takes a special kind of jackass – my kind, apparently – to propose 31 days of running in a row. Hank and I had company on New Year’s Day and I knew right away this was going to be a bitch. I didn’t want to run. It was the first day of the challenge. I’d been in a dark place during a Try That with Matt before, I mean these can’t all be fun, but unlike the spin class at the asscrack of dawn after a night of drinking, this one was a slow burn.

I always have something to say, this you know by now, but I don’t have much to say for this one. There were points where I was literally angry with Matt for picking it. How messed up is that? I was projecting my disappointment in my physical ability and lack of positivity onto that poor innocent old man.

“Are you avoiding me?” he asked.
“Ugh, kind of.” I said, ashamed.
“I can tell! I feel it.”

It only made it worse that he seemed to be loving it. Loving it! Running! Every day! Every stupid day. It was like he was having some sort of life-altering realization and I was just trying to draft behind him for survival.

**Random interjection**

Speaking of, the Grammy’s are on in the background as I write this. Does anyone else feel emotionally inadequate when they watch Beyonce perform? Her style of musical storytelling leaves me bewildered at times. Like, I know I should be feeling something very deeply but I’m not 100 percent sure what those feelings are exactly. Oh, it’s women empowerment … wait, wait, it’s forgiveness … no, I think it’s about looking like my mom and thanking her for offering me her womb? Oh God, Oh God! The chair is tipping back, you guys! The chair, is tipping, back. OK, she’s down. Phew! I mean, she’s badass, regardless. It’s all just a little confusing for me personally.

**End of random interjection**

Every day we would exchange proof of mileage. I would typically go in the mornings and send him a snapshot of the watch I use to track laps. It takes 27 laps to equal 3 miles. Yes, 27 laps. But it’s OK, you guys, because every other day they make you switch directions. So, I had that going for me. Matt would go in the evenings, so I’d get a pic of the panel on his sweat-soaked treadmill. I always picture the people on the machines next to him squinting and holding up their hands as his perspiration pounds them like a Hummer through a spring puddle. He kept getting faster and faster. I, on the other hand, seemed to be dragging as the days went by.

And I hurt everywhere. I read this article recently about how running just one mile every day was proven to increase mental clarity, creativity and physical longevity. Yeah, maybe. Maybe one mile a day feels a lot different than three. Cuz three hurt. My achilles was tighter than harp strings. My hamstrings were harder than an old man’s beer belly. My lower back ached, the bottoms of my feet were tender and I just felt, generally, like a broken old fart.

It wasn’t all bad, I guess. There was an unseasonable break in the weather and I did a few runs outside. That’s so much better for my soul. I love checking things out, listening to my music. But, no, for the most part I was a miserable, cranky turd for the entirety of the month. Remember, I was simultaneously Whole30-ing, so while Tons of Fun could run and then murder a 2-pound meatloaf burger (That really happened. I know, because I gave it to him.), I was chasing my miles with plantain tortillas and 5,000 avocados. The whole thing, for me, was just really brutal. I’d never been happier for freaking February in my life.

Onto the next …

Try That With Matt

Try that with Matt. Have a Hupe Holiday

December 23, 2016

Getting through the marathon and final 100 yard dash of the holidays is challenging enough. Instead of something new, we’re looking back on our treasured traditions. Hope you don’t mind.

**MATT**

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, plastic figurines litter the yard, Dolly Parton’s holiday radio is at the top of my Pandora stations … ‘Tis the season to be Merry! (That’s my name. No shit.)

First, for those of you who don’t know my family, they’re a little bit crazy when it comes to Christmas. I mean, I didn’t come up with the saying, “Have a Hupe Holiday!” own my own. The joys of Christmas run deep, on both sides of the family. DSS ordered a favorite Christmas memory, but I opted to reflect on this magical time of year while Home Alone is on in the background.

My grandpa Hupe put up outdoor lights and figurines. My uncles, my dad … it’s legit in our blood. Kids, don’t you want a house you can be proud of? Sure you do! I could tell you plenty of stories about helping Dad, testing bulbs, getting figurines out of the attic, making an annual trip to the Christmas section to find what would be the new additions to the yard. Our operation was no joke, people. Let me put this in perspective for you. One year I brought a couple buddies to help us execute the display. My sister and I got into a disagreement about where Santa No. 11 should go and Jolly Ole Saint Nick, aka Big Rog, gave me my walking papers. His exact words were, “Matt, get your friends and get the hell outta here!” I am still the only person in the family to be kicked out of Christmas decorating. It’s that serious.

I took the knowledge I absorbed over the years with the old man and applied it to my own home. After countless hours spent bulb checking, circuit blowing, figurine staking, it became second nature. And I’m happy to report that in my second year as a homeowner I was awarded first place for my display by the neighborhood association. It was a major award! I know my grandpa was looking down, proud and probably noticing which little lights were out.

On Mom’s side, the Christmas crazy comes through in baking, ham balls, taco dip and sentimental gifts. Every year, for as long as I can remember, we’ve gathered at my folks’ on Christmas Eve to shovel all kinds of calorie-loaded, butter-soaked goodies into our fat faces and get our cheer cranked up. I have so many memories here, from my uncle’s parents having a snore off that was caught on camcorder. (It was the 80s, so you know it was the kind that made you look like a local news reporter when you propped it on your shoulder.) To my aunt giving me a Christmas peanut one year because I was supposedly bad (I don’t buy it.) Or the annual butt shot of the oldest sister, who’s the designated Santa, as she climbs around pulling gifts out from under the tree. My mom has three sisters. They’ve collected an ornament every single year for God only knows how long, so there is always the opening of the ornaments, which signals the grand finale. Oh, and how could I forget … there’s always the one gift that someone gets that makes all of them cry … and they all cry the same. It’s a packed house, full of family, food, drinks and shuffling from room to room to avoid hearing the same story eight times. It’s our tradition and to me it’s the moment Christmas begins.

Trying to think of a favorite Christmas memory isn’t easy. There’s just too many options. I mean, I got my dog Babe for Christmas and she meant the world to me (I think she rides next to Santa in his sleigh now), DSS got engaged on Christmas morning, I got an Atari for Christmas … How can you narrow down a field like that? Well you can’t. It’s impossible. My favorite memories have nothing to do with gifts and honestly every memory is a treasure. It’s seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces to see what Santa brought this year. And the excitement on my mom’s face as she tries to focus her special eyes on what in the hell her grandkids are opening and hoping that they love it. It’s getting together with my dad and my uncles and listening to them belly laugh for hours. It’s having breakfast with my family Christmas morning while my old man seeks everyone’s approval for the new casseroles he whipped up. It’s listening to my aunts talk about health issues, recipes and grandkids, and having some drinks and cracking up with my cousins.

Christmas is so special because it brings out our inner kid. We all have that one memory of that one gift that just took things to the next level. How did Santa know? So embrace your inner kid this Christmas, enjoy your family, your friends, tell that stranger you hold the door for Merry Christmas, sing as loud as you want on Christmas Eve at church … because you know what, when Santa squeezes his fat ass down that chimney this year, why shouldn’t he see the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse? Oh, and if he happens to have a little beagle with big ears with him, give her some love for me, would you?

Merry Christmas to you and your family! Enjoy every second of it.

Love, Just Matt

**ME**

I am a Christmas junkie. I live for the high of giving the perfect gift, the rush of sneaking things under the tree and the dizzy delight of too many treats chased with cream-drunk coffee. My family knows these instant gratifications will be followed by a sad yuletide crash, complete with 48-hour stretches in the same sweats, a dent in the couch from my cheeseball-lovin’ lard ass and loads of seasonal self deprecation.

Truly if you don’t like Christmas, I fear you are dead inside. Black. Hollow. Cold. Dead. Just know that if you tell me you aren’t that into it, these are the thoughts I’m having.

When I close my eyes I can feel the still, quiet buzz of anticipation in the room. My nose fills with the plastic film of wrapping paper and the punched up pungent aroma of pine. It’s like the tree knows this is it, the big show. I love all of it … well, almost all of it. I could do without shopping and cleaning for company.

The memories are deep and long, and each is too precious to push aside. There was the year my brother fell down the stairs as we went searching for Santa and I thought he was dead. The year my sister ate all the chocolate in her stocking and barfed all over Mom’s new couch. Getting dolled up in big fancy Christmas dresses and singing Sandi Patty. My dad’s matching jammie sets. The year my brother had mono and slept through the whole thing. Me and Hank’s first Christmas as a married couple, and our first Christmas as parents.

And while I don’t like to play favorites, and seldom do (that’s a lie), I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to relive the morning Hank asked me to marry him.

Mairlyn don’t play when it comes to Christmas. Though we’d been together for five years, my boyfriend had never been to our family Christmas. That was Mom’s rule. As Matt said earlier, everyone who drove past our home during December knew how the Hupes felt about the holiday. The same could be said for anyone who stepped inside. Garland and stuffed Santas and bowls of striped candies covered every wall, every surface, every banister. So when my sister said she wanted to go get extra decorations for the family room, I was a little surprised. But she’s a Hupe by blood, so I went with it.

We were about 30 minutes into opening gifts on Christmas morning when Hank walked into the entryway just outside the family room. I saw him and had one thought and one thought only: Who died?

I knew Hank and I were going to get married from the day we met. It was really just a matter of when. We talked about it from time to time and he always said the same thing. “I would never ask on a major holiday or when I know you’re expecting it.” No ring at the bottom of a glass of champagne on Valentine’s Day. No princess cut peeking out of an anniversary souffle. And absolutely, without a doubt, 100 percent no Christmas. And so, when I saw him there, with the most sober face I’d ever seen him wear, I immediately went to death.

Of course the only thing dying was my bachelorettehood. When I walked back into the room, ring on the right finger, my brother was crying. Turns out he and I were the only ones who didn’t know this was coming. Everyone else had been in on it. And Hank got to stay for Christmas. He was officially locked in. I remember how my heart dropped, and then quickened and then swelled. It was a Christmas to remember and I’ll never forget.

I wish you all a weekend filled with tons of twinkle lights, magical moments and giggling children. May their naps be lengthy and their meltdowns be minor. And above all, I wish you peace and … you guessed it, wholeheartedness in the new year.

Love, Courtney

Try That With Matt

Try that with Matt. Meditation

December 6, 2016

Try that with Matt

While our denial of the fact differs – he adamantly disputes it and I fully accept it to the point of obsessing – my brother and I both experience an immense amount of stress. Mine even manifests into anxiety attacks as a cherry on top from time to time. (His might too, but he’d never tell anyone.)

This fact does not make us special, mind you. We don’t win a pity prize. Stress is the basic cause of 60 percent of all human illness and disease. Since 1 in 5 of us report experiencing extreme stress, it’s safe to say that our hectic schedules, ridiculous expectations and insane pressure to perform are literally killing us.

You might remember our monthly challenges are about improving and enjoying these insane little lives, so, in that spirit, we thought it might be a good idea to dabble in this crazy thing the kids are all trying called meditation. I’ve played in this sandbox before, of course, but something about bringing my brother along made me feel more accountable. More optimistic.

In a podcast I listened to recently, one of the guests said, “Meditation doesn’t fix stuff. It calms the water enough so we can see the stuff.” Then I guess it’s on us to fix the stuff. It’s better than nothin’. There’s a biweekly mindfulness and meditation class for stress reduction in our area. I know the instructor, Dr. Dave, through work, and he is phenomenal; One of those people who drops truth bombs and owns dramatic pauses like a boss and rolls out the blueprints to rewire your brain. It was Bring Your Bro to Class Day, and I was kind of geeked.

ie8ww5kux3o-dingzeyu-li

**ME**

Matt had to hit the head before the meeting, so I went in with Dr. Dave. (We rode the elevator up together. Street cred, what?) There was a circle of chairs, every-other one occupied. We wouldn’t be able to sit next to each other. Maybe that’s for the best, I thought. I settled in to the one closest to the door. My brother walked in just as the action started. He looked at me and put his hands up (universal for, “What the …?”) and fell heavily into the next open seat.

“Tonight we’re going to be talking about stress and how it affects us. Specifically at work.” Ho! Ho! Hooooly good topic for my ticking timebomb of a sibling, I thought. I might need this, but no one, and I mean no. one. needs this like my brother needs this. I couldn’t have planned it better. I didn’t look at him. It’s so irritating when someone gives you that look. That oh-you-know-that’s-you look. That obnoxious side glare tethered to accusation and incrimination. It’s the worst. So I smirked into my lap.

Dr. Dave explained that stress is a nonspecific response to any demand or change, either past or present. It’s the Fight/Flight/Freeze mechanism. The interesting thing is, our nervous system (which also resides in our stomach, FYI) doesn’t stop when stressed to sort through the scenario. Is this me reliving that time I thought I lose my child at the department store? OK, that’s old news. We’re good here. No. It just tenses and twists and tortures.

How do we stop the torture? We smell the coffee, that’s how.

Mindfulness, he went on, is intentional (being present in the here and the now) and attentional (moment-to-moment sensory awareness). We are a society on autopilot. We don’t taste, we shovel. We don’t listen, we respond. We don’t explore, we run the routine. Putting on the brakes to snap out of that cycle, off of that hamster wheel, can turn the color on. When we detach from what we think needs to happen and attach to, instead what is happening, we become active participants in our lives. In this respect, being curious is healthier than being in control. And I am a person who craves control. Ask yourself, in the morning, could you take 60 seconds to smell your coffee? It’s just 60 seconds. That’s it. Could you feel the mug in your hands and the steam at the base of your nose? Could you notice the rich color? Could you smell. The damn. Coffee?

Next was putting our talk into practice. Dr. Dave led us in a flow meditation. We began in our toes. How do they feel against the floor? Are they clenched or bent? We went to our stomach. So much stress rests in our tummies. Really stop and listen to your stomach. Then we moved to right above the stomach. Then the chest. Then the jawline. Then the top of the head. These are some of the places we commonly foster tension and anxiety. Just by checking in there. By noticing. We’re doing more for ourselves than we do on any given Monday.

As I sat still and contemplated what my stomach was trying to tell me, I heard it. The Abominal Snowman of yawns. Oh my gosh, I thought, was that … Then, another. The source of these room-sucking exhalations could only be my brother. I opened one eye and looked down the row of people. There he sat. Tons of Fun, looking like he could topple to the ground at any moment. “Oh, I know!” he told me after class. “I was so relaxed, man. I almost fell asleep.” “Yeah. Caught that.”

When our final body scan was complete, I slowly, drunkenly opened my eyes. Nothing had changed except everything kind of felt like it had. You know during a pause, when a room is so still and so quiet you think you can hear the air moving? Like the buzz and natural current of the universe is bouncing off your eardrums. We all looked like a group of frat guys the morning they were released from the drunk tank. All droopy eyelids and turned down smiles. It was such a nice change from my typical psychotic post-work obstacle course run.

I left determined to keep the good vibes flowing. Matt and I agreed on 5 consecutive days, 20 minutes of meditation each day.

After I meditate, it feels like forcing myself out of a power nap. My body kind of wants to stay sedentary and hushed, but my mind is eager to pick back up and race ahead to catch up with what it missed while it was picturing air in my lungs. Right away, I realized that time would be my nemesis on this challenge. I don’t feel like I have time to sit still for 10 minutes. I write that, and then I say it out loud to myself. I don’t feel like I have time to sit still for 10 minutes! Who am I? In what universe is that an acceptable statement for someone to make about such a spec of a sliver of a day? But I do. I make that statement. And I feel that statement. And that is the problem.

Somewhere between tumultuous tantrums over tights vs. leggings and meal planning and freelancing and not cleaning, I lost the ability to sit still and hear my heartbeat. I mean I assume it’s still beating because I am frantically doing all of these things, but I’m not stopping long enough to hear it and sit with it and thank it. I’m not smelling the coffee. And I love the coffee.

I realized through this challenge that my problem might be bigger than quiet. Bigger than 5 days and 20 minutes. It’s more sizable and serious than any app, although Headspace did do its best to work with me. The problem might be my priorities. I’m feeding the stress and starving the senses. Sometimes these challenges are the answer. And sometimes they just give me more questions. And so my elusive love affair with meditation continues …

uqyhjogyxyy-kalen-emsley

**MATT**

Meditate for 5 days, 20 minutes at a time.
20 minutes a day.
It’s only 20 minutes.
20 minutes to sit and try and focus on myself.

For those reading this that know me, I know you’re laughing right now. You know I don’t sit still. As my old man would say, “I’m like a fart in a skillet.” I’m not sure what in the hell that means, but I’m pretty sure it means I don’t relax. It’s just not an option. Something’s always poppin’ off. My brain just doesn’t have an off switch. But Biscuits picked it, so, let the challenge begin …

First stop, Dr Dave. The class started with a discussion on “stressors” in our lives – co-workers, expectations of our employers to be available 24/7, workload, money, family, etc. We all have them, but how do we deal with them. Obviously, we all have our ways of coping. Some good, i.e. hitting the gym, running, enjoying nature … and some not so good, i.e. downing a six pack, bottles of wine, excessive eating, smoking a pack of Reds (if you are a badass). Dr. Dave was telling a room full of people looking for tools that meditation was the ticket to stress relief.

Now, this may come as a shock, but I have never meditated before. At least not consciously or soberly. So, I sat with 20 of my new best friends, closed my eyes and focused on myself. I followed his cues – take a deep breath, focus on your toes and how they feel … think about the sounds you hear, are they far away … We were trying to stop our frantic minds and be present, which is something I am very interested in trying to do more of.

Dr. Dave says if you yawn, you are doing it right. Well, i did it right. Thank God everyone’s eyes were closed because my big ass yawned about 20 times in 20 minutes, tears running down my cheeks. I was a couple of minutes away from laying on the floor in front of Dr. Dave and taking a power nap while he wrapped things up.

After the meditation session we talked about things we do to try to gather focus when we are having a stressful day. How we hit that reset button. One lady mentioned she has a stuffed animal with really soft ears in her car that she can look at or pet and focus on to try to calm her mind. Another lady has cats and watching them wake up signals her to focus on herself. For Adam Sandler fans who’ve seen Happy Gilmore, it’s finding your “happy place”. It’s letting all of the bullshit we deal with drop away so we can get back to kicking ass instead of thinking of everything we have going on at once and freaking ourselves out. I know my reset is going to the gym. What is yours?

We all strive for some sort of balance in our lives. One of the reasons this challenge interested me so much is because I struggle to be present. My mind is consumed with the things I need to do, what I should be doing, what do I have going on at work tomorrow, what do I need to do first, check my work email, return texts, laundry, do we have any food at the house to make for dinner … shit! I just missed my daughter’s entire basketball game. Why does all of this stuff consume me? I know I’m not the only one. I’m not complaining, either. It’s life, right? I get it. But the balance … The balance is what I am after.

Technology is awesome. It’s very efficient, inexpensive, so much information, but we all need to make time to disconnect and just show up. Fuck all of this other shit that I have going on or things I need to do. Uncle Map is hanging with his niece and son putting up his Christmas tree and being present in this time and enjoying the moment. That’s what makes me genuinely happy; watching my son playing baseball and having a conversation with my daughter and ex-wife. Happy is putting down the phone and being where I am, not working.

That is my biggest struggle and I am trying to be better. We can all return those texts and emails at our convenience. We can “like” our friends’ pictures and read their posts later. It will still be there. Be present and do whatever it is you are doing and do it fully.

This challenge made me think about the way we act when someone unexpectedly passes in our lives. We all step back and say, “Shit, man … life is so, so short. I need to do all of these things I want to do now because my ass could be gone tomorrow.” So you think about all of the things you want to do, then a few days pass and you are back in your daily grind and won’t think about those wants until the next big life event makes you go, “Shit, man …” That’s what this challenge did for me in a way. When you sit with just yourself for 20 minutes, it gives you time to realize all of this crap that consumes us daily – work, keeping our house up, going to this function, meetings, social obligations – at the end of the day, it’s all just noise. It’s all bullshit. What matters is your friends and family.

Life goes by so quickly. My son is 12, my daughter is 10, my folks are getting older, my nieces are growing like weeds, my buddies all have busy lives … So, when I get to spend time with these people I love, I want to do nothing but love and enjoy every second of that time because you can’t get it back. We need to stop worrying about everyone else, what they are doing, why they have a different opinion, who gives a damn? Do you and enjoy all of the people you surround yourself with and wonderful things you get to experience in this crazy-ass life.

I guess I should have started sitting still a while ago, huh?

Try That With Matt

Try that with Matt. Filth filters

November 1, 2016

try-that-with-matt

Disclaimer: If you don’t care for cuss words, STOP! This is not the post for you. I promise I will not be offended if you politely pass on this one. (Mom, I’m talking to you.)

My brother and I were raised by the same sweet, perfectly imperfect people. We grew up under the same roof. We have just 6 years difference between us. We fished from the same pond of traits in the same country field. And while there are similarities reflected in our demeanor, one rises above the rest. I would say if heredity loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger, the powder in our gene pool was definitely packed with profanity, because my brother and I both have a hardy fervor for four-letter words.

In a recent Time article, featuring research by Melissa Mohr, she estimated that approximately 0.7% of the words a person uses in the course of a day are swear words. Compare that with the use of first-person plural pronouns — we, our and ourselves — which we use at about the same rate. The typical range of cursing goes from zero to about 3%, with your three-percenters being the guys in Wolf of Wall Street and zero being … well, nobody I know. Or at least spend a substantial amount of time with.

What does one say, for instance, when they step on a Lego on a 1 a.m. trip to the bathroom, if they don’t cuss? If you’ve ever done that, you know, like I know, that “Oh, phooey and fiddle sticks!” ain’t gonna cut the mustard. And it shouldn’t. One study, Mohr notes, found that swearing helps alleviate pain. If you put your hand in a bucket of cold water, you can keep it in there longer if you say shit rather than shoot.

That sounds like rock solid evidence in support of cussing to me.

My brother worships at the pulpit of profanity just as often, if not more, than I do. I’d say it’s a direct reflection of how we were raised, but the argument doesn’t necessarily hold water since my mom and sister are actually pretty innocent. My mother seriously refers to the F-word as “the purple word.” Dad on the other hand … Oh, Big Rog. As kids, and still today, no exasperating task or exchange went unpunctuated by a JC-bomb from the patriarch of our household.

“Dad, sorry to wake you. Can you come pick me up? I shouldn’t drive.”
“What? Who is this? Jeeezuz Christ. Yes.”

[Dad, lifting a couch]
“Jesus Christ, that’s heavy.”

“Dad, I got another speeding ticket.”
“I mean, Jesus Christ Courtney.”

[Dad, sliding on ice and falling to the ground]
“Uh! Oh! Jesus Christ!”

Our dad is kind of like Ted. You know, from the movie Ted. He’s cuddly and awesome and hilarious but filthy things fly out of his mouth, sometimes predictably and sometimes with very little warning. I adore the guy. I’d also say he offered Matt and I an introductory course in how one curses effectively. We might have missed the day he covered frequency though. We’re definitely overachieving there.

What, you’re asking yourself, does any of this have to do with our monthly challenges used to better ourselves? Well, recognizing our weakness for dirty words and tendency to speak louder in an attempt to get the response we want, we wanted to see what would happen if we tried:

No cussing or yelling for 10 days.

Imperfect as we are, we built in room for error. We kept tallies of every time we accidentally let something fly and the person with the fewest hash marks at the end of the challenge would get a case of beer, loser’s treat.

**MATT**

I grew up with a father that could let it fly. God love him, great dad, but this was before Prozac or Zoloft so every now and again you had to let it be known how you felt. Especially if some asshole stole his parking spot. Or the time I was helping him paint but fucking up his boards, so I got my walking papers. And if you are working on something with him, that son of a bitch isn’t getting put together or fixed without some damn dirty expletives flying.

Fast forward to adulthood. I’m a grownup. I’m Just Matt and I just like to let my filthy mouth fucking go. When DSS told me the challenge for this month – 10 days without cussing, loser buys beer – I thought, man this won’t be that bad. I mean, yeah I cuss quite a bit, but I can shut it down for 10 days. Free case of beer, sign me up!

I laugh as I write this because it prompts me to look back on, not just the last 10 days (which I’ll get to in a second), but my entire life. The first bomb I dropped was on my Grandpa, God rest his soul, when I was just 6. He was waiting to speak with me on the phone and my older cousin thought it would be a great idea if I picked up the line and said, “Hey mother fucker!” Not only was that my first bomb, but it was also the first time I got my mouth washed out with soap.

When I was in fourth grade, I had a birthday party at my house. Me and my buddies called a couple of girls from school. Of course we were on multiple phones and had no idea my mom was also on the phone. I dropped an F-bomb. Mom came storming upstairs, sat us all down and asked who said the “purple word”. (Sidebar: You’re probably wondering why she called it the “purple word”. I know, me too. She’s always called fuck the “purple word” and none of us have ever known why and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know why either. This from a woman who also used to flip people off on a regular because she innocently thought it meant, “up yours”.) Being that we were all just a bunch of little girls when confronted by parental muscle, we blamed it on one of the sweet honeys we were awkwardly talking to, watched Revenge of the Nerds and called it a night.

Back to the challenge and day one. No sweat, right? It took one hour maybe before I spewed my first couple of profanities, which tend to come from my mouth in nice little bundled packages. That way the recipient can unwrap them all at once, or one at a time if they choose. I found myself starting to say something, then stopping mid-statement because I didn’t know how to express what I wanted to say without cussing. It was so sad! I sat in silence quite a bit. A friend of mine at work, even said, “This sucks, I can’t wait for you to cuss again.”

On the second day, I felt a bit more stressed than usual and didn’t quite understand why. I mean work was busy, yeah, and I’d only slipped up a couple of times throughout the day. I was realizing what a release cussing is for me and I was feeling a little lost without it.

sadpup

Days 3-5 definitely got easier and I called DSS at the end of one of these days to give her an update. I was looking forward to the end of this challenge like it was an all-inclusive trip to the Bahamas in January. These few short days had taught me that I didn’t need to clean up my mouth. No … fuck that. In its absence I had come to realize and accept my unwavering and undeniable love for cussing. You guys, I fucking love it. It made me happy and got me through the challenge just to sit and think about cursing again. It was like my girlfriend was coming back from summer camp.

bumps-yellow-sidewalk-road-marking-picjumbo-com

At the end of the first week, the competition was close. I want to say it was maybe 11-7. DSS was winning, but I felt dialed in. Until I realized I was heading to Chicago Saturday evening for a buddy’s birthday, I know what you are thinking and you would be right. Yes, I, Just Matt, was completely fucked. I held strong for the first couple of hours, but you can‘t drink for 9 hours, go to a Hawks game, watch the Cubs win the NLCS and secure a spot in the World Series and not throw around some high fives and “fuck yeahs”.

End of the weekend: DSS 9, Just Matt 382

I was ready to throw in the towel and go back to my profanity laden ways, but I went the full pull and kept it as clean as I could for those couple additional days.

There’s a lesson in everything and, in this case, it was that you never know how much love something until it’s gone. I think everyone should try and give up something they cherish deeply for 10 days. Whether it’s food, cocktails, sex, gambling, smoking … I’m not saying that you should necessarily return to these things after the trial separation, I mean, I did, but it could show you you’re strong enough to go without. Of course in my case it illustrated that 1) I cuss a lot, and 2) it’s a huge fucking release for me. I don’t need to yell, beat my dog or push tiny people down. No, just let me say what I’m feeling and I am good to go.

I know now, much more than I did before, that l genuinely love to cuss. I celebrate each and every letter in my entire vulgar vocabulary and it will never be sidelined again. Hopefully you get a laugh out of this. Hopefully it helps you realize that it’s OK to be yourself. We’re human. So just say “fuck it” every now and again and quit taking life so damn seriously.

**ME**

I once had a sweet coworker tell me that she loved the way I used bad words because it seemed so natural. We all have talents, people. Maybe you can tie a cherry stem with your tongue or do big multiplication problems without writing them down. I can effortlessly swear in a way that would make the sailors on Queen Anne’s Revenge blush.

Cussing for me is not an intentional choice. I’m not making a stand or trying to be shocking or rebellious. It is entirely organic. Whatever that process looks like – from initial stimulus being received to thought processing to sentence forming – my brain has a tendency to pick profane over plain. It’s a force greater than me. My mind surveys the 30,000 words sitting on the shelves up there, filters out all the fluffy crap, and instinctively chooses the ones filed under “censored”.

Picking a favorite is like sorting through the pros and cons of my own children, but it’s a safe bet to double down on fuck. It’s everything; a noun, an adjective and a verb. It’s always close by to lend the umph that I need. It never lets me down. Yes, when it comes to my potty mouth, it is very likely my favorite turd.

There are those who might argue that a woman of a certain age should avoid glamorizing this crude vocabulary. Know what I say to those people? I say, they’re entitled to their opinion. (See, now wouldn’t that have been better if I’d said, “I don’t give a flying fuck”?) I used to worry about being perceived as vulgar or offensive or immature. But I don’t anymore. I’ve learned that a filthy mouth is just part of me, like lip picking and unexplainable baby hairs at the front of my hairline.

A piece featured in Forbes read, “Contrary to the common wisdom, research has shown that obscenity has no effect on speaker credibility but does significantly increase both the persuasiveness of the speech and the perceived intensity of the speaker. It demonstrates passion and passion moves people to action.” So put that in your pipe and puff it. I think it’s all about timing and knowing your audience.

I drew nine tallies over the ten days. It got sticky once I made the initial offense, because my instinct was to follow up the error with an expletive. I had to literally speak at a third of my usual pace, constantly pausing to take inventory of the assortment of words I was about to send hurling past my lips. Do you know how exhausting that is?

But, surprisingly, it wasn’t the obscenities that got me most. It was the yelling. Let me tell you something about herding 3 children, 7 and younger, through the morning routine and out the door by 7:15am. (If you do it too, I don’t have to tell you anything.) It requires yelling. Lord knows I tried. The first couple of days I was so calm you’d have thought someone shot me in the ass with a tranquilizer dart. I cooly and collectedly coached the children to get dressed; to get dressed; to get dressed; to brush their teeth; to get their shoes; to get their shoes; to tie their shoes; to eat their breakfast; to get their coats on. Even if I had to ask 10 times. I did it at a reasonable volume with an encouraging undertone.

But I’m sorry, that shit is not sustainable. By day three I was back to my ole handy escalating request cadence, which kicks off at your basic, “Will you please?” and gradually rises to a DEFCON 5 “Put your shoes on, get in the car and stop whining or I will leave you!” based on the number of times the request is made and the meltdown fired back in retaliation. I just couldn’t put this weapon aside, no matter how many times I reached for the mantra, “Peace begins with me.” (Guru Gabrielle Bernstein clearly doesn’t have any kids.)

At one point in the challenge, Matt called and basically told me he didn’t know how to talk anymore. I felt bad for him. It was like he was lost and robbed of all joy. He was a little boy who just wanted his puppy back, and that puppy’s name was Fuck. While I missed my favorite four-letter friends like Reese’s eggs in August, my longing could never compare to my sibling’s.

I think it’s safe to say my sailor mouth is here to stay. And I’m cool with that (it’s my hidden talent, after all), but the challenge wasn’t for nothing. On those days where I was able to control how I communicated with my chicks, I did notice their response was calmer. Did it take a little longer to get out the door? Um … yes. But is it worth it? Probably. I mean, as long as I don’t miss the bus again because that driver is not going to let me chase her down anymore. It was a good exercise anyway.

275h

I guess if I had to offer anything to summarize our October experiment, it would be think before you speak. Then either choose to calm yourself or throw that filter out the fucking window and paint the world with the punch of the purple word. We could all use a little more color.

cheers

Try That With Matt

Try that with Matt. Class clownin’

September 30, 2016

Try that with Matt

My dad in his stretched tighty whities staggering after a hard night’s sleep.
Gus’s pepperoni pie surprise face on Breaking Bad.
A dog trying to crap out tinsel and pine needles.

There is a long list of visuals that, while I’d prefer they weren’t, are permanently burned onto my brain. And now I can add yet another disturbing entry to the bank: My older brother tentatively thrusting his hips to the rapid beat of a Mexican pop band.

If you’ll recall, Matt (Just Matt if you prefer) and I recently put a pursuit for constant wonder and self-discovery in motion. We plan to take on one new challenge each month – some big, some small – in an effort to feel alive and push ourselves into the forbidden land that exists just off the hamster wheel. Consider it a personal wake-the-hell-up-and-smell-the-adventure accountability partner. This month, we picked something super simple.

September Challenge: Pick an exercise class the other has to do. No excuses.

ME

I was up first and I picked Zumba, naturally, because I am 95 percent thoughtful and kind but 5 percent of me likes to scheme with the devil. Now, I’ve seen my brother dance. I mean, it’s always been either after midnight, after a dozen rounds of a made up drinking game, or both, but I’ve seen it. I figured he’d be able to hang. Turns out sober movement translates to invisible extremity shackles for the big guy. But I’m getting ahead of myself …

You can call my brother a lot of things, but one has to be, “a good sport”. He picked me up and immediately the deep exhalations and profanity started. One could say he wasn’t excited about the hour ahead, though I couldn’t imagine why [evil laugh]. “I literally feel sick to my stomach,” he said, a few times. I just kept looking down at my phone and reassuring him. I felt like, if I looked up at his face, I might laugh to the point of tears and pity, thus causing us to change course. “I researched it, ya know. Zumba. Turns out, a guy actually invented it. Now I guess it’s like 80 percent female and 20 percent male,” he continued. Oh, Matt, I thought. Sweet, chocolate-covered gigantic Matt. You actually think there’s a 20 percent chance you won’t be the only man in the room. That’s cute.

zumbasmiles

We walked in early enough to set up a perimeter in the back corner (always prime real estate for group classes). Just as the nervousness was starting to dissolve a touch, the instructor came over and introduced herself.

“Oh my gosh, how did you manage to get him here?”
“On a dare.”
“Ya know, I think it’s great! Not many couples do things like this together these days, and–”
“Oh, no, this is my brother!”
“What’s that?”
“It’s my brother!”
“OK, here we go!”

The Latin beats bombarded me and bounced off the wood flooring as the seven or so participants spread to their invisible, designated spots and started stepping side to side, eventually falling in unison with our instructor. Grinning like a Golden Retriever at a waterpark, I tried to conceal my eyes as they rapidly darted back and forth between the teacher and Matt in the mirror in front of me, my mind swelling with the overwhelming volume of information flooding in. I was courting both choreography and curiosity at the same time and it was too much for one girl to handle. This was my brother! The kid who wouldn’t go out to eat with us because his friends were waiting. The guy who once told the hiring manager at Dairy Queen that I couldn’t come to the phone because I was, “taking a shit.” The guy who was always too cool for what was common.

Here he was doing the cumbia.
Doing the salsa.
Doing the hip thrust. (Can’t unsee that one.)
Doing the grapevine.
Raising his hands in a dramatic fashion.
Shaking his butt and pumping his chest. (Kinda.)

I couldn’t stop looking. It was like watching the Hulk star in the Nutcracker.

mattzumbacollage

At some midpoint of the class, the instructor mumbled something about hips and the bedroom in our general direction, but thank goodness for the acoustics because I never did truly make it out. For eight full songs I watched my brother try his damndest to harness some resemblance of rhythm and ride those beats all the way home. Once I stopped cry-laughing, gosh dangit I was proud of the guy.

But the universe had one hilarious footnote to add. It was our instructor’s last day teaching. Of course a group picture was the perfect ending to her tenure in that Thursday night time slot. We all gathered together around her – a handful of sweat-soaked regulars with their arms around each other, then me, then Matt. We stood on the end with our hands at our sides, like a pair of perspiring footlong hot dogs in a bag of grapes. This is so awkward, I thought. Let’s send a dog in to wildly hump someone’s leg and wrap this thing up.

Turns out, it didn’t take a frisky mutt to elevate the situation. Just a well-meaning gym-goer.

“I’m gonna make my husband come to a class!” she said to me as we gathered our keys and water bottles, post picture.
“Oh, no …” Matt and I interjected simultaneously.
“This is my brother.” I explained.

Her plan to guilt her spouse foiled, the smile slowly deflated from her face. Matt, however, was so relieved the whole thing was over he was happy to chat. “Man, you know I was so nervous all day I was going to see someone I knew in there … Or, like, I was gonna fall down …” he divulged to the stranger. She just stayed in stride and shuffled out to the parking lot. She had to get home to tell her husband the stories were true. She had met one of the 20 percent of men who show up for Zumba.

MATT

Zumba, huh? Just what every grown-ass man wants to do. Especially every grown-ass single man, am I right? Please, let me go make myself look like an asshole in a room full of women.

When DSS dropped this class on me, it consumed my thoughts. I’m going to fall down, I thought. I’m going to step to the right when everyone else is stepping to the left. I’m going to knock some poor lady down. I’m going to have to dance. Good Lord, I’m going to have to dance. I resigned myself to the fact I was just going to have to go all in, show up, get past the girls pointing and laughing when I walked in, try my best not to run anyone over and just own it.

I picked up my sis to roll out to the gym. She giggled the entire drive, because who doesn’t giggle at the thought of a giant man shaking his ass at a Zumba class? I get it. Joke was on her because, yeah there were some looks, but for the most part these gals were so nice and, I’m pretty sure, they were psyched I was there.

The instructor mentioned that she “wished she could get her husband to do this.” Ahhh no, ma’am. I’m sorry to give you false hope, but I’m just this chick’s big dumb animal brother she laughs at because I always say yes to everything. But no time for explanations or dream crushing. Class was starting.

I literally never took my eyes off of the teacher because I was so damn focused and didn’t want to look like an idiot. Mind you, I’m a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier then anyone else in there, so I was going to look like an elephant at a mouse convention no matter what I did. Overall, I’d say it was a great class. No, really. I can definitely see how it helps with footwork for sure, balance and abs (all the laughing). I’d laugh too if I saw my brother squatting in the mirror and thrusting his hips in a room full of women. I’ll give Biscuits a break on this one.

******

MATT

Paybacks are typically not my style, but I had a lot resting on this pick. What could I make her do that was as embarrassing as what she made me do? The answer, nothing. Nothing I choose is going to give my sis the anxiety she gave me doing a damn Zumba class! So what do you do? You pick the earliest class available on Saturday morning when you know she is drinking with her friends the night before [evil laugh]. That’s what you do.

I picked her up Saturday morning at 6:40 (about 5 hours after she got home from her party, for reference). I pulled up but didn’t see any activity in the house. Was she even going to come out? Then the door slowly – and I mean slooooowly – opened and out comes DSS; Holding her water, lips still red, hair lookin’ crazy. In that very moment, I knew I’d made the right choice. Making her get out of bed when her head was about to explode was all the satisfaction I needed to make all that hip thrusting worth it. I felt so invigorated, I couldn’t wait to get on that bike.

What could make this better, you ask? How about the perkiest spin instructor ever? Oh, she was a morning person alright. She chatted about apple picking and hanging with her husband … and then this sweet, happy women proceeded to kick our asses. Let’s just say one of us felt very confident standing up, cranking up the resistance in position 3, and one of us was very concerned position 3 was going to lead to an embarrassing number 2. It was so good, man. I couldn’t stop looking over and laughing. Her struggle was so, so real.

Did I feel bad? Hell no! She made me do Zumba, you guys. Zumba. Love ya, sis!

mattspin

ME

The Friday morning following Zumba, my brother called to deliver his revenge. “We’re going to do Spin at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning.” he shot from his fox hole. “Fine,” I replied, even though we both knew it was like taking a bullet to the thigh for me. Not spinning, per se. I’ve done spinning. It was more so the call time. During the week, the melodic tones of my alarm sound promptly at 4:36 a.m. so I can get to the gym before the chicks start stirring. Saturdays are my sweet sleep savior. He knew that when he picked the class. It was the only grenade he had to throw, so he pulled the pin and tossed ‘er right over.

But let’s add to that, shall we? That Friday night was my bimonthly gathering with old coworkers, Pretty & Plastered we call it. I’ve been trying to be “good” with calories lately and I didn’t plan on taking any cocktails to pound town that evening, so I grabbed a nice red blend on my way over and promised myself I’d be classy. I’m sure I was classy … I mean, it’s just hard to remember things like that when you drink the entire bottle of wine. I don’t even really like red wine!

Have you ever woken up after excessive drinking and been astonished by a task you completed the night before? I parted my mascara-smattered eyelashes at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning and painfully semi-smirked. I had set my alarm. I couldn’t find pajamas or brush my teeth, but I set my alarm. Would you believe it? Then I sat up. And the hating myself commenced.

Just 10 short minutes later, the headlights of my brother’s truck filled the living room. I could just lay down and pretend like I slept through it, I thought. I thought that for awhile. But he’d shown up and now I had to man up. I managed to mumble that I had a hint of hangover and glee filled my sweet brother’s eyes. To him, this scenario was better than a brand new puppy on Christmas morning. I had made him suffer and now I would, in turn, endure the same.

I managed to get into the saddle and thanked the heavens the lights were dimmed in the classroom. The buzz of the spinning wheels felt like a razor blade slowly dragging back and forth across the space between my ears. But that was child’s play compared to the pounding of the techno tunes that followed. Every beat was like taking a tiny bullet. Perhaps what being tasered feels like.

spinhell

Something else worth mentioning here is the sweat. Ohhhh, the sweat. My brother and I come from a long line of excessive sweaters. It’s not so much the heat, but the humidity that will get you. I tend to perspire profusely from my face, while my big brother pours water from every pore in his body. As we pedaled, a puddle began to form under Matt’s bike. It would have been worth giving him a hard time if it weren’t the smell. My smell. It was like a pair of gigantic sweaty palms were pressing together around me, wringing red wine and various cheeses from my insides. It wasn’t good, OK?

The thing about spin, too, is that when you think 15 minutes have passed, only 3 really have. It went on for an eternity, you guys. A stinky, sweaty, dark eternity. I felt so ashamed. Here I was, spinning on the outskirts of a sea of optimistic Saturday morning pep seekers, who would likely take in the yoga class that followed before grabbing a pepita-topped quinoa bowl at Earth Fare, and all I could do was hang my head and stare at my big brother’s swimming pool of perspiration. It was a low point.

On a brighter note, my hangover did clear up toward the end of class. My tears and exertion washed the head fog away and left just a tolerable dose of dehydration. I had survived to spin another day.