someone stopped.

You know how a bad surprise can leave a pit in your stomach for hours?

I’ve had one since this afternoon.

I spent the weekend in Columbus, mostly to see a Picasso exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. After a couple of beer-related stops this afternoon — and a White Castle lunch in the car — I hit the road back to Pittsburgh, anxious to see Mrs. Crappy and Mr. Charlie, both of whom I missed like crazy since I left on Friday.

There’s an odd stretch of I-70 between Newark and Zanesville where the freeway balloons to three lanes in each direction … for no apparent reason in a sparsely populated part of central Ohio. It’s great when you’re trying to make good time, but there is, inevitably, a brief bottleneck when the highway narrows back to two lanes.

And that’s why I was stuck in the passing lane just after the merge. When I spotted a tiny moving thing right on the far shoulder of the freeway.

It was a kitten.

Traffic was heavy. I couldn’t get over to stop. If I had pulled over on the left, I would have had to run across the freeway to get back to the tiny cat.

I sped up. There was an exit just ahead. I turned around there and headed back to the west at 120 miles an hour, looking for the first cut in the jersey barrier so I could turn around again. After that illegal U-turn, I eased over to the right lane and plodded along the shoulder, looking for the kitten, while other cars passed and honked.

I didn’t see it again.

Part of that is good; I didn’t see a dead kitten on the shoulder of the freeway, and that’s a whole lot better than the alternative. But I hate not knowing, and that’s the stone that sat in my gut for the rest of the trip home.


It’s easy to not stop. I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw the baby cat — and maybe I wasn’t the only one who tried to do something — but we’re all on the interstate because we’re going somewhere: Zanesville, Cambridge, Wheeling, Pittsburgh, someplace further east. We’re interested in making good time, getting to where we’re going, seeing the people we haven’t seen all weekend while we were away. I can’t blame anyone for that; I was thinking the same thing when I left my folks’ house this morning.

But I’m so grateful for the people who stop. The ones who notice. The ones who see the strays and leave a dish of food outside. Or the ones who grab the strays from an overgrown yard in front of a vacant house or from a sidewalk along Penn Avenue or from the shoulder of the freeway and take them to a shelter.

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We shared our homes with Miles for 14 years because someone in Indiana County stopped. We share our home with Charlie because someone stopped somewhere in the East End, grabbed him and his brother and dropped them off at ARL. I’ll never know the circumstances. I’ll never know who it was. But I couldn’t be more thankful that someone did what they did.

It’s going to bother me for a long time that I won’t know what happened to that kitten. Maybe it ran back into the woods along the highway. Maybe its mother grabbed it and hauled it back to safety.

Or maybe, in the six or seven minutes it took me to get back to the spot where I saw it, someone stopped. I’ll never know for sure, but that’s what I’m hoping for.

yogaversary.

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Two years ago Sunday, I walked down the hill in Grandview Park on Mount Washington, accompanied by some pretty significant misgivings, for my first yoga class. In spite of my nerves, that morning was close to perfect: sunny and warm, but not at all uncomfortable.

Two years later — on Sunday morning — I walked down same hill under a stack of gray, drizzling clouds, and headed for the bandstand, which would shelter us from the rain that was starting to strengthen. And feeling none of the apprehension I had in 2014.

***

I’ve written before about what I felt before that first class, and how it translated to a mental block I had constructed for myself over the last year. I wrapped up the workshop weekend feeling confident that I was going to work through that block — the one about doing shoulder stand — but at that point, I hadn’t done it yet.

Here’s what happened since: I did it. With a lot of help.

One of my teachers, Holly, definitely read the part of the wrap-up post where I said I needed to have a stronger core; in the very next class I had with her, she hammered us with core work — and then stood over my mat while explaining that that’s probably what I should expect when I wrote about needed more core work. I’m almost positive that I could hear her smirking while she spoke … but I don’t know for sure because I had too much sweat dripping in my eyes.

Starting the Saturday after Chrissy Carter was in town, my other teacher, Ashley, started a three-week series of classes built to prep her Saturday Morning Yoga Party students for … wait for it … shoulder stand.

The coincidence is incredible, right?

This involved a more core work, plus extra time opening shoulders so we’d have a strong platform to build from. On the second Saturday, Ashley hauled out the chairs — backless versions of the basic metal folding chairs we all know — for prep work for the Week Three climax. Part of this was using the chairs to help us into halasana, a pretty common jumping-off point for shoulder stand.

chrissy chairAnd that’s when it changed. Ashley was sitting right next to me, ready to help swing my legs all the way over my head; as I started, I said, out loud, “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this” … as I tucked my legs into my chest and then straightened them out to the seat of the chair behind my head.

I could have done shoulder stand right then, but I was so surprised at myself and the strength I didn’t know I had that I sort of forgot what I was doing.

But I didn’t forget the following Saturday.  when Ashley brought out the chairs again, I did what Chrissy demonstrated in her workshop. I even felt like I could have held it for a while.

The fear was gone, replaced by the strength I needed to really do the pose for the first time. Another thing had vanished, as well: the voice in my head that tries to convince me that I can’t do the thing I’m trying to do. There were two best parts about this process of the last month: the first is being able to set aside that voice — even if only for a little while — and doing what I wanted to do.

The other best part? If you guessed it was getting shoulder stand, you’re incorrect. The other best part is that my two teachers took it upon themselves to help me get there. I’ve mentioned this before: this is my yoga family. For some reason, the universe took me up to Mount Washington for that first outdoor class two years ago. It also took me up that long flight of stairs to BYS the following August. That’s where I was supposed to be; these are the people — all the teachers and all the people I practice with — I am supposed to accompany as we all walk this path together.

This is home.

***

After we wrapped up Sunday’s class under the bandstand, I told Ashley and Kristi that I wanted a picture with the two of them, to commemorate my second anniversary.

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As is often the case with these people, I got more; I wasn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary. As the director at BYS, Kristi was one of the first to offer outdoor classes in Pittsburgh, now a pretty common thing here through the summer. Ashley walked into her first class at BYS ten years ago this week. And Ashley’s mom, Dee, started with an outdoor class a few years before I did.

So I got a photo with four yogis, and four anniversaries. And I got a final bit of wisdom from Kristi:

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Always take the jumping pic. Always. See?

Happy anniversary, yoga family. And thank you, so much.

23. i’m talking to you.

If you and I have:

  • Had a beer
  • Watched a game
  • Attended a tailgate party
  • Cooked for each other
  • Gone to a yoga class
  • Gone out for dinner
  • Raved about music
  • Played Cards Against Humanity
  • Compared tattoos
  • Met for lunch
  • Spent the weekend at each other’s homes
  • Seen a concert
  • Caught up at a reunion
  • Talked on Twitter, by text or even on Facebook or Snapchat
  • Taken a walk in the rain or snow
  • Discussed beer, mead or cider
  • Laughed so hard we cried
  • Sipped a glass of whiskey (or whisky)
  • Hung around a backyard campfire
  • Traded blog comments
  • Cheered each other’s successes and lamented our failures
  • Been there for each other, even in seemingly insignificant ways

…in the last year, I so am thankful to have you in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, yinz guys.

16. bailing with bullets.

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  • Samuel Johnson said patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Bullet posts are the last refuge of a distracted blogger.
  • I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house. I have prep work for tomorrow’s tailgate party done, and I’m enjoying the hell out of this bomber of Bison Imperial Stout, from Homestead Beer Co. in Heath, Ohio.
  • This will be a (mostly) all-Ohio beer weekend and, if I have anything to say about it, the full week that follows. That’s what back-to-back weekends of games against teams from the state up north will do.
  • There is an exception to the all-Ohio beer rule in place for tomorrow’s Michigan State tailgate party. Ethel’s brother-in-law Chris is in town and he usually brings along something delicious from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, where he lives. That’s totally worth making an exception.
  • If you’re hungry for grilled cheese sandwiches, our tailgate party tomorrow is the place to be.
  • The other thing I’m making? The Official Queso Dip of the Big Ten Network.
  • I’m going to have to learn how to spell “neuropathy.” I already know how to spell “peripheral.”
  • As I write this post, I’m listening to a Phil Lesh and Friends show from Hershey, Pa., in 2002. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Crappy and I were there for that one — we saw Phil in Hershey several times — but that’s not really what sent me down this path. I’m suffering tinges of regret (yes, I’m sure that’s different from the neuropoahy) over not seeing Dead and Co. in Columbus last week. I know Phil’s dealing with more health problems, but I’d love to see him tour a bit more, even if it’s a last go-round. His bands were always excellent; a full show from the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh in 2001 got me nearly all the way from Pittsburgh to Columbus this afternoon.
  • I am missing Mrs. Crappy. And Mr. Charlie.
  • As of this very moment, I am four days behind in my NaBloPoMo efforts. Any bets as to whether I can catch up?

12. wonder.

In the last week, chances are good that if I look down while doing stuff in the kitchen, that’s what I’m going to see.

Charlie watches. He studies. If he’s awake, he wants to know what we’re doing and how it might fit into his new life.

Sure, I’m aware of the thing about curiosity and the cat, but think about this: He has literally never seen any of this before.

The notes from Animal Rescue League didn’t say where he came from, but we know Charlie was picked up as a stray. In his five-ish months, has he lived inside a house? Has he lived inside at all, besides in his time at the shelter?

Let’s assume that he hasn’t. And that means everything — absolutely everything — he sees in here he is seeing for the first time. Today was a great example. I made the full production family spaghetti and meatballs, a process that actually started on Thursday night, when I made about 30 meatballs. On that night and today, Charlie frequently checked in to see what I was up to. He’s not yet as vocal as Miles was, but he’s learning to, uh, ask when he wants something; today, those requests came when wanted tastes of whatever I was working on. The verdicts: A little taste of meatball was good, as was a small piece of pasta with some sauce clinging to it. Salad? Chianti? Not so much.

But remember — this happens with everything he sees. Alarm clocks are weird. We’ve caught him watching TV several times. He has learned that heating vents equal heat … and man, that feels good. The bathroom — with not one, not two, but three sources of running water — is especially fascinating, and Charlie is wide-eyed and underfoot every single morning as we get ready for work, because he wants to watch every single thing we’re doing. He’s not uptight about any of these new things, but his big eyes and his nose are always there, taking in everything they can.

Because it’s all new. All of it.