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.


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:


Always take the jumping pic. Always. See?

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

16. bailing with bullets.


  • 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.

you did WHAT?

flaky brick
Lookin’ good.

After I posted stuff about my new tattoo over the weekend, one of the biggest things I was curious about was the reaction of my parents. On Tuesday, Father of Uncle Crappy emailed this:

Couple of afternoons ago, I was in the kitchen chopping celery for a meat loaf and Pat asked, “Guess what YOUR son has done now?”

After thinking of a few possibilities, she said it was a tattoo. Hmmmm.

I considered a few possibilities … A big U of M “M” with a screw going into it … the scores of the Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon games … and my fave: a tank with the gun blazing with a pithy slogan like “Guts. Glory. Tanks.” or perhaps “Give War A Chance”.

Then she said it was a brick from Athens.

Perfect, I thought, a tribute to the ancient writer/philosophers like Plato and Socrates.

Then she said it was Athens, OHIO. Hmmmm.

Why not? You love Athens and OU. I think it is cool.

I came very close to getting a small USMC tat … one less person in line at the parlor at Oceanside and I probably would have one.

I’m anxious to see it (and you guys!)

Love, Dad

And now I’m thinking about a tattoo of Plato. Hmmmm.


I wanted to accomplish two things with tonight’s dinner. I wanted to make something appropriate for today’s raw, snowy weather; I also wanted to make something that Mrs. Crappy, who is recovering from a root canal, could eat.


I did them both.

I made this crock pot chicken and dumplings just once before, and it was pretty good. But on my first crack at this very simple recipe, I stuck pretty closely to the instructions. This time I did a few things differently, and came up with something delicious.

What you need:

  • Between 1.5 and 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 or 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 or 3 celery stalks, diced
  • Chicken stock
  • Black pepper, cumin, parsley, seasoned salt
  • 2 10-ounce tubes of refrigerated biscuit dough

What you do:

  • Toss the chicken breasts in the bottom of the crock pot. Season with the pepper, seasoned salt, cumin and parsley.
  • Add the diced veggies, butter and condensed soup.
  • Pour in enough chicken stock to cover everything.
  • Turn crock pot on high and cook for six to seven hours.
  • With 90 minutes to an hour left, add the biscuit dough in nickel-sized pieces.

Other things you should know:

  • I put a really fine dice on all the veggies, so Ms. Ouchy Face wouldn’t have any trouble chewing her first solid(ish) meal in about a week. A rougher dice on the carrots and celery wouldn’t hurt.
  • The original recipe calls for water to cover all the stuff at the outset. If you like stuff that, you know, tastes good, use stock or broth instead. Always.
  • Be careful, however, about how much you use. I poured on all 32 ounces of chicken stock I had on hand. The result was a little soupier than I wanted, even after the biscuit dumplings soaked up a whole bunch of liquid.
  • The dumplings will look weird. They’ll float at the top of the crock pot as they cook and expand. I push them down in the mix a few times, just to make sure they’re all picking up all the delicious chicken stuff underneath.
  • Using the biscuit dough for the dumplings is the right way to go, at least in my mind. I love the biscuit-y flavor in each bite.

I didn’t want to push too much for Mrs. Crappy’s return to (nearly) solid food; but if I wanted to go all out with this, I would have made some mashed potatoes and then ladled this all over those.

But even without the trimmings, we did pretty well. I got my comfort food. Mrs. Crappy got her first meat and veggies in several days, in a form that wouldn’t make her face hurt any more than it did already.

10. i get around.

Continuing my long-standing tradition of ignoring Facebook memes in favor of posting them here, today I present: The States To Which Uncle Crappy Has Traveled.


That’s the same map that’s been popping up all over Facebook in the last few days, courtesy of Defocus Blog. Here’s the key, based on the specs of the creator:

  • White: I haven’t been.
  • Red: A brief stop or a drive-through.
  • Orange: Spent a day or two.
  • Blue: Multiple trips.
  • Green: I’ve lived there, stayed there for more than a couple weeks or taken multiple multiple trips.

Naturally, I have more information:


  • Ohio: I was born and grew up in Columbus. Athens is my spiritual home.
  • Pennsylvania: Uh, I live there. Here. Whatever.
  • Kentucky: I lived there for just over two years, while stationed at Fort Knox. If you haven’t heard it already, ask me to tell you my Kentucky Derby story.
  • Wisconsin: I spent several summers at the lake houses of Dr. History’s family, on a chain of lakes between Woodruff and Minocqua. Love that area.
  • Florida: This is perhaps a borderline green state for me, but I’m including it because of our nearly annual trips there to spend time with my sister’s family.


  • It’s interesting to see how many of these are included in the list because of Grateful Dead, Phish or other miscellaneous hippie-band touring over the years. Several — Indiana, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey and probably New York — were bumped up from Oranges or Reds because of the shows I’ve seen.
  • Texas: The result of the residence of my mother in law and her husband, and a long family vacation that led to the discovery of the Whataburger chain. That was the same trip when I thought I’d be good an order a water at a restaurant in Nuevo Larado, Mexico; my mother quickly told the server that I would have a Coke instead, leading young me to believe that Mexico was the coolest place on the entire planet.
  • Colorado and Utah: Ski trips. And I need to go back soon.
  • Michigan: The State Up North would have made the list for several ski trips to Boyne, but there have also been football games at East Lansing — a good one — and two trips to that other college town. Those weren’t so good.
  • Hawaii: A family trip — the one that led to our brush with Pele, the state’s goddess of fire — and our honeymoon. The family trip also led to my only appearance in California; our flights to and from the islands both went through LAX.


  • Man, I need to spend some time in New England.