Author Archives: Mel SP

To Bikram or Not To Bikram?

Okay, so if you don’t live in a hole on the weekends, you’ve seen all the girls in DC decked out in fancy overpriced Lululemon, with yoga mat in one hand and cell phone in the other. Probably taking selfies of themselves entitled “heading to yoga, look how pretty I am!” I’m almost positive that once the selfie is posted, 90% turn into the nearest brunch spot and get real sloppy off half-price mimosas.

I do yoga once in a while so that I don’t have to get a hip replacement when I’m 35, which I just realized is really soon. I’ve played impact sports my whole life with maybe ten minutes total of stretching, so I can barely sit Indian style without extreme pain in all joints below the waist. My yoga of choice is Bikram, a 90-minute session comprised of 26 poses in a 100+ degree room. Last winter, I took on the 30-day Bikram challenge and I’m debating whether to do it again this winter.  Here’s a quick recap of a typical class:

I enter a hot room with bodies lying all over the place already covered in sweat. I have three objectives when locating a spot: clear view of the mirror, away from what could possibly be a couple (couples are annoying and I avoid them everywhere I go), and away from any males in general (they tend to throw their sweat around and fart involuntarily). Farts in a hot, enclosed room…not my idea of Zen. Each class starts with a warm-up and weird breathing that is both challenging and terrifying. Then we all bend back and forward and I can see the tiny beads of sweat breaking through the pores I didn’t even know existed on the tops of my feet.  I always notice a few stray dark hairs growing out of the top of my big toe and some dangerously long toenails.  I then make a note to myself: shave hobbit toe and clip overgrown nails.  “Now pull.  PULL.  Pulling is the object of stretching,” the instructor recited.  Onto the next pose… I promptly forget my note to self and notice the girl two mats down already passed out on her mat. The class remains mostly torturous until we get to the laying down poses. By this point, I’ve found my focus and don’t want to run out of the room to vomit. I finish each class generally unscathed and feeling like I’ve just had a full body massage. That’s the nicest thing about class—the end of it.

Five things I love about Bikram:

1. The end of class (as stated above)

2. The way the hot room feels in the middle of winter

3. The lavender cloth they put over my face at the end of class

4. Lengthening and loosening of muscles

5. Makes my ass real tight.

Five things I hate about Bikram:

1. I start to look really weird in the mirror after 90 minutes of staring

2. Males farting involuntarily (or maybe voluntarily)

3. People in class who take themselves way too seriously

4. Feeling nauseous for 90 minutes because of the heat

5. Bikram is expensive and I’m poor

Full disclosure: I think I only made it to day seven of the 30-day challenge. So the question remains, to Bikram or not to Bikram? I’ve already written a blog on it, so what’s the point?   I think I’ll just put the money toward my hip replacement.

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Trip to Ireland

An oldie but a goodie. I’m posting something I wrote a couple of years ago because I haven’t had time to write anything new recently and because I want to go back to Ireland……..

It’s my fourth day in Dublin and I’ve already consumed 4 full Irish Breakfasts, guzzled 23 Guinness, and have had one-night stands with eight leprechauns, who shall remain nameless.  Ok, not really.  But I wanted a really good attention getter that had sex, lies and alcohol.  If me being a drunk, gluttonous whore will get you to read further (and I think it will), then I’m ok with that.

The plan was to post something every day of my trip, but Wi-Fi is a little harder to come by on the Emerald Isle than it is stateside–mainly because I don’t want to carry this stupid laptop when I’m trying to really take in my surroundings and not get my personal electronic devices wet in this constant rain.  I have to say, despite the immediate withdrawal symptoms (fidgeting, sweating and sore nipples—the last one seems weird to me too) of not having internet access, I’m a little relieved that I’ve lost the need to check my facebook five times a day.  Even more relieved to have a break from my cell phone, which I never answer anyway.

Since this is my first official post of the trip, I’ll have to backtrack to the start of my journey.  I do, after all, want this to be a real and true account of my travel adventures.  So here it is from the beginning.  Day 1: Boarding the plane to Dublin.

I’m always surprised at how much deeper set the eyes are that peer up at me from behind the seats.  As I make my way down the aisle, every row gets paler and the freckles increase exponentially.  Uncomfortable eye contact inevitably ensues.  Unlike Americans, Irish people (or Europeans in general) are not embarrassed when their eyes meet yours, so they don’t look away immediately when caught staring.  In fact, any eye contact usually turns into long, awkward, unwanted staring contest.  As I stared deep into the eyes of the six-year old two seats over, I mentally said goodbye to the US for the next three weeks as well as my beloved personal bubble (Europeans also don’t mind touching strangers…blasphemous if you ask me).  The reality that I’m going to Europe only really sets in, though, when that first unpleasant twinge of BO invades my unsuspecting nostrils; an offense that will continue to assault intermittently and without warning throughout the rest of my flight…and, sadly, the rest of my trip.

The in-flight meal was some kind of soft chicken with powdered mashed potatoes smothered in chunky gravy, a cold roll, hard butter, and a pre-wrapped brownie.  Under normal circumstances, I would discard the food immediately with disdain and snobbery.  But on an eight-hour plane ride (or a typical Friday night), I will shove anything into my mouth just to pass the time.  The in-flight movie was “The Adjustment Bureau”, which, unfortunately, I had just rented the week before.  The movie was just okay (Matt Damon’s character’s obsession with the girl was a little more than I could stomach).  Would anyone else be super pissed if someone “flirtatiously” dropped your cell phone in a cup of coffee?  And three years on the same bus at the same time?  Please.  But I watched it.  Again, it was an eight-hour plane ride.

My aunt and uncle were there to meet us at the airport and drove us to our house in Dublin.  We spent the rest of the day in and out of nuthouses, literally and figuratively.  And with that little cliffhanger, I will leave you wanting more.


Thoughts on Lent

I grew up Catholic. I like Catholicism. Mass is sometimes boring and priests are sometimes hard to relate to, but I love the omnipotence that fills an old church. I love the smell of incense and the sound of Latin prayers. I like walking into a side door on a busy street in Europe to find an unexpected world of serenity and mystery inside an old, grandiose church.

My earliest memories of going to church are trivial. We went every Sunday and I made it as far as my first communion before sports took over my weekends. I remember rushing out the door to mass every Sunday morning with my mom, sister and brother. My dad never went because he doesn’t believe in organized religion. We were almost always late, so usually sat in the back. My mom usually tried to sit between my older brother and me so he wouldn’t torment me throughout the service, but she often failed in the frenzy to find an open seat. We shuffled into the pew, kneeling and crossing ourselves excessively like a bunch of nut jobs…Father, Son, Holy Ghost, my forehead and chest still dripping wet from crossing myself with holy water at the door on the way in.

Once seated, we stayed there for what seemed like eternity and I was convinced that the purpose of church was to give people a taste of how torturous Hell would be. People would hate it so much that they’d never do anything bad again.

I passed eternity by making faces at the other bored children in the pews around me.  My brother got passed it by fidgeting until his hand finally found one of my body parts—an arm to squeeze, a thigh to punch (dead leg!!), or a finger to bend back. This further proved my theory of church being a little piece of Hell.

Communion was my favorite part even though it terrified me that Jesus was going to come back to life after I ate him. Would he be mad? Would he look weird?  We never had time to eat breakfast, so my mouth began to water as the altar boys helped the priest prepare the bread and wine.

Now and then my sister looked up from the book she brought to whisper in my ear, “I’m hungry for some Jesus!” or “I could sure go for some Jesus right now!”

I agreed, trying my best to muffle my laughter.

I savored the Body of Christ and kept Him on my tongue until He dissolved as I kneeled and pretended to pray. That was the most I ever desired Jesus…in the form of a wafer, melting in my mouth, holding me over until I could find something else to fill the void.

Quite a few years have passed since then. It is the season of Lent, and Easter is fast approaching. Faith is something that has never come easy to me–I’m skeptical, pessimistic and stubborn–but it is something that consumes my thoughts because of that human desire for a higher purpose. It’s an overwhelming idea at times, but when I have trouble I remember a sermon that stuck with me. The priest was talking about skepticism and doubt, something I could relate to.

“You don’t have to believe all the way,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion, “Just believe what you can right now…and build on that.”

That’s when something funny happened. I got a little emotional, too, sitting there alone in my pew. Something inside of me opened up and let a little bit of God in. For the first time, a void was filled with something more substantial than a wafer.


The Old Women in Combat Debate

A few months back, I read a story on NPR about female Marines.  “Starting Jan. 1, every woman in the Marines Corps was supposed to meet a new physical standard by performing three pullups. But that has been put off.”

Marines: Most Female Recruits Don’t Meet New Pullup Standard

The article reveals that 55% of female Marines can’t complete three pull ups (only 1% of males fail to meet the same standard).  This is a little surprising, and, of course, sparks the old “women in combat” debate.  I have a question.  How does this argument still exist?  It seems people impose their opinions based on what they think is fair and equal and how things should be.  Here’s the thing, though.  Nothing about war is fair or equal.  Nothing about combat is how it should be.  Men are stronger than women.  End of story.  Period (no pun intended, but kind of worth mentioning maybe?).

I went to the Air Force Academy.  At the end of basic training, I could do 10 pull ups, run a 6.5-minute mile and do 50 push ups without much effort.  Yeah, I felt like I was pretty awesome until I looked in the mirror and saw this weird little boy staring back at me:

I'm gonna shoot the son of a b!t@h who gave me this haircut

“I’m not a boy, not yet a woman.”

Even with THAT haircut, I was still only as good as the average guy at best.  Could I lift or drag ANY ONE of my male classmates?  No.  Not even a little.  There might have been two girls in my entire class that I think were strong enough to drag a guy off a battle field and save his life.  I would approve of them serving in real, actual combat any day.  They were bad-ass bitches.

Ever notice how the unbending advocates for women in combat, like real Navy Seal/Army Ranger combat are usually people with zero knowledge of or affiliation with the military?  I have.  But those people are hard to take seriously as they struggle to lift the vegan nuggets to their mouths.  And they usually don’t want to go to war as much when they find out soy cheese and almond milk might be hard to find.

This_isnt_fair...

Please don’t overreact or misunderstand.  I absolutely think women should be in the military. And people who say that if women can’t serve in combat they shouldn’t serve in the military are wrong.  Some of the best officers I know are women and most of the jobs in the military don’t require crazy amounts of strength.  But some do, and females are simply not capable of some of the things that real combat calls for, so let’s just get over it already.  It doesn’t make us better or worse.  It makes us women.  This argument should not be used as a platform to preach gender equality.  It isn’t about a woman’s right to fight. It is about giving everyone the best opportunity to survive.


The Name Change

“When are you going to change your name so people like me don’t have to deal with it anymore?”

Did someone really ask me this at work?  Yup!

And yes, in case you’re wondering, this IS the worst thing you could say to a female…or at least me.

“Oh yeah, I’ll get right on that after I hit send on this email telling you to go f*ck yourself.”  That didn’t happen, but I think my resting bitch face made my point for me.

The last name thing is something I have never seriously thought about because I’ve never been in a rush to get married, which I think is clear since I’m 32 and…not married.  What!?  Am I a lesbian?  Divorced?  Psychotic?  Don’t you know after 29 you might as well be dead in the eyes of a MAN!??  Um…nope.  Nope.  I don’t think so.  And yes, yes I know.  I’m really just a normal girl that isn’t married yet.  What’s the big deal?  I never imagined myself walking down an aisle in white dress.  Just tried to picture it again…nope, can’t do it.  I never recited a guy’s last name as my own while looking in the mirror.  Though, seriously, I think I’d be very happy with Julia Gulia.

I am not strongly for or against a girl changing her name if she gets married.  It’s a personal decision.  What continues to surprise me, though, is the lack of attachment that most girls seem to have for their names.

“It’s not my name.  It’s my dad’s name.”

“I never really thought about it.”

“I want to be one with my husband.” <–You’re gross.

My full name is the same length as the alphabet.  Melonie Bernadette San Pietro.  I don’t believe any piece of mail has ever been correctly addressed to me.  Spelling my name over the phone takes around 45 minutes and my there is nothing I hate more in the world.  Well, that’s actually a lie.  I hate a lot of things equally.

So yeah, it can be a little trying at times, but it’s my name.  It’s who I am.  I’m not saying I’ll never change it or that I definitely will.  I’m just saying I’ll give the decision a lot of thought and I’ll be really sad if one day I wake up and I’m not Melonie San Pietro anymore.


Bait Dogs

Dogs and puppies normally conjure happy and playful thoughts.  With all that cuteness, it’s easy to ignore the fact that animal shelters are bombarded with six to eight million dogs every year and three to four million of those are euthanized simply because there is no space for them.  Among the dogs waiting to be adopted, many have horrific pasts filled with unfathomable cruelty and sadness.

Enter Pixie.

I met Pixie a couple of years ago at a fundraising event for dogs in Washington, D.C.  She looked like a Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix and weighed about eight pounds. Pixie wasn’t outside participating in the event with all of the other dogs because she was terrified to be on the ground if there were bigger dogs nearby.  Her past explained her fear.  She was rescued in 2005 from a puppy mill in West Virginia.  She was one of more than a hundred dogs, mistreated, malnourished and left to starve to death in their own feces.  When she was found, Pixie weighed only four pounds and had virtually no fur.

“Like a skinny chicken” is how her owner described her to me.

Near death, Pixie was nursed back to health, given a foster home to recover in and was eventually adopted.

Traumatized by Pixie’s past, her rescuer is committed to getting the word out and saving other dogs that have experienced similar hardships.

The Michael Vick scandal opened the door into the sick world of dog fighting, but it seems to have fallen into the background again.  One aspect of this sick entertainment that is rarely mentioned was Pixie’s path for a while: the bait dog.

Bait dogs are training tools used to test the aggression and potential of fighting dogs.  They are usually small, docile, and unwilling to fight.  For example, good-tempered Pit Bulls who are not aggressive often become bait dogs, as well as pit bull puppies and other small, unaggressive dogs.

Imagine a defenseless dog being dragged into an enclosed pin.  The dog’s teeth and nails have been pulled out to render him defenseless.  His snout might be taped shut.  Old scars and fresh wounds cover his shaking body.  Tail between his legs, the dog is tied to a pole, helpless and exposed.  A massive and aggressive fighting dog is then let loose into the pin.  Seeing the vulnerable prey, the fighting dog attacks because that’s how he was trained.  Corrupt onlookers watch as the bait dog’s flesh is painfully torn from his body.  The fighting dog’s abilities become apparent.  The more aggressive he is toward the defenseless bait dog, the higher the audience bids to purchase him as their very own fighting dog.  If the bait dog is lucky, he will die in the pin, but all too often, these dogs survive to suffer through this horror over and over again.

The problem is hardly anyone knows this is happening.  The only way to end it is by spreading awareness.

Pixie was one of the lucky ones, though her snout had been broken in several places and she had scars all over her body, they were well covered by a healthy coat of black, shiny hair.  Her appalling past was hardly noticeable, at least physically.

“She may have only been used once,” speculated her owner.  “Otherwise, I don’t think she would have made it.”

When I met her, Pixie was still terrified of most dogs, and did not like being on the ground exposed when other dogs were nearby.  But she loves to walk and chase squirrels and sit on her owner’s desk while he works.

Unfortunately, dog fighting and the use of bait dogs are both extremely prevalent in parts of Washington D.C. as well as in rural, poor communities.  People are arrested in DC all the time for cruelty to animals.  The only way to stop it, or at least minimize it, is to speak up for the animals who don’t have a voice.


Push Me Papas!

Once I pushed a random homeless lady in a wheelchair to Popeyes.

“Push me papas!” she yelled at no one in particular.  Not the most articulate woman.

I was feeling generous that day so decided to lend a hand.  Rolling her across the street made me remember a time when we weren’t so different, she and I.

Ok, well, I really wasn’t anything like her.  I wasn’t homeless, or overweight, nor did I eat Popeyes.  And…I think I had a solid grasp of the English language.  I wasn’t even in a wheelchair come to think of it.  But I was on crutches and I had this cool little knee scooter.  I was also completely dependent on others for EIGHT WEEKS.

It all started about ten years ago, yes ten years ago, when I developed a plantar’s wart on the ball of my left foot.  Never wanting to be inconvenienced, I ignored the wart for, well, ten years.  Finally, I went to see a podiatrist and after several violent attempts to freeze off the bloodsucking leech, the doctor told me he’d have to surgically remove it.  The roots were too deep.

So after some consideration, I finally let him cut out a chunk of my foot approximately the size of the tip of my pinky and a little more than a ¼ of an inch deep.  When he pulled it out, I could see the roots of the wart reaching through the skin, still pulsating, trying to grab on to something, to keep breathing.  The doctor dropped the chunk of foot and the wart into glass tube.  It was sent to the lab to slowly suffocate.  I thought we were done, but then he pulled out some tweezers.

“Are my eyebrows that bad!?” I joked.

He looked at me like I was a f*ck*ng idiot and proceeded to pull the leftovers of the wart out of the hole in my foot.  My stomach turned as bright red blood trickled down my sole and fell to the floor.  Finally, he pulled out the liquid nitrogen and sprayed the inside of my foot for a full 30 seconds, “just to be safe,” he said.  I stared, nauseated, as the tech wiped the blood from my foot and the floor, wrapped me up, strapped on one of those worthless giant blue shoes, and handed me my crutches.

I’ll admit that I had no idea how completely terrible crutches are.  I never had any empathy for anyone I saw using them.  The bad part about my situation was that I didn’t plan to have my foot cut open that day, so I hadn’t arranged for anyone to pick me up.  Even worse, I was at a clinic inside the giant maze that is the Pentagon, and I somehow had to get to my car a mile away.

I made it outside.  After several cops refused to give me a ride, despite me telling them I had just had foot surgery.  Thanks a lot a**holes.  I crutched for 30 minutes to the parking garage.  The doctor was clear that I could put zero weight on my left foot until the hole filled in.  But who knew crutching wouldn’t come naturally to me?  Finally, I got to my car and drove home.  I collapsed on the floor of my studio apartment, armpits and hands bruised and blistered, sweating, thirsty and starving.

Minutes or hours later, who really knows, I got up and crutched over to the kitchen.  On one shaky leg, I poured myself a glass of water and made some tea.  Only one problem: there was no way to get liquids the five steps from my kitchen to the living room because I either had to crutch or hop.  Eventually, I figured out that I could crawl on the floor and move the cups little by little along with me.  I drank my tea on the floor in a puddle of my own pity half way between my kitchen and couch…too exhausted to drag my pulsating foot the other two feet.

But the real low point came later that day.  I borrowed one of those scooters that you can rest your knee on and push yourself around on.  Not the type to sit inside my house even if I can’t walk, I decided to take a scooter ride out with my sister.  Well, I got real confident real quick and made it about a block at full speed when my scooter hit a loose cobblestone.  By the way, those quaint cobblestone sidewalks…not so great when your only mode of transportation is a cheap knee scooter.  Anyway, I flipped over the handle bars and landed on my face right in front of a busy intersection.  I hadn’t figured out how to get up with the use of only one leg, so I just stayed on the ground.  My sister, who weighs about twenty pounds less than me, half laughing and half hyperventilating from the stress of the situation, tried to help me up.  But it felt more like a butterfly landed softly on my shoulder and was trying to grip on with its petite butterfly wings.  Really Jen?  Go do some bicep curls and help a sister up!  Out of nowhere a heroic homeless man emerged from the corner.  He threw his collection cup down in a fit of passion and lifted me effortlessly.  I was back on my scooter and he was gone as quickly as he had appeared.

That night I booked a ticket home to Colorado.  Because when a single 30-year-old can’t walk and is surrounded by quaint cobblestone sidewalks, parents are the only ones who really give a sh*t.  Eight weeks and many emotional breakdowns later, I was finally off crutches.  In those eight weeks I learned some pretty important things about how to treat people who are physically disabled, or at least about myself as a disabled person:

1)   If I’m crutching by you, don’t look at me and say “Good for you!!“  I couldn’t believe how many people yelled “way to go” and “good for you” in those eight weeks.  The worst happened one day when I was crutching around Eastern Market a few blocks from my house in Capitol Hill.  One woman stopped me and said, “Wow!!!  You were determined to get out today!!”  I responded, “Yeah, I’m on crutches, not dead.”  Now get out of my way so I can get a crepe.

2)   Don’t view my giant blue boot and scooter as a conversation starter.  My disability isn’t that now I’m  interested in what everyone has to say.  My disability is that I have a hole in my foot.

3)   Do you know how many people a day asked me what happened to my foot?  Don’t ask me what happened to my foot.

4)   Help someone if they are struggling and don’t make a big deal about it.  For example, hold the door open.  It is pretty much impossible to open and close doors on crutches.

5)   Don’t laugh it off and tell me that I’m being ridiculous or wimpy.  Being on crutches sucks and is probably the most frustrating thing I’ve ever gone through IN MY LIFE.  When you are on crutches, you are completely dependent on others.  You can’t carry things, open things, get up and down steps.  In my case, I was doing one-legged squats just to pee.  Trust me, I wouldn’t be asking for help if I didn’t absolutely need it.

6)   Make eye contact and say hello.  I’m not a leper!  Though, I guess you could make eye contact and say hello to lepers, too.  Though I probably wouldn’t.  Lepers are gross.  Come to think of it, I don’t really like it when people say hello or talk to me.  Disregard #6.

7)  Give them money.  Nobody gave me any money and I wish they would have.

8)  For goodness sake, if someone in a wheelchair asks you to “push me papas”, just do it!