A COUCH POTATO DOES A BURP…EE

This story was recently published in the 8th edition of Route 7 Review’s literary magazine. I thought I’d share it with you on WordPress.

And in case anyone is wondering, the woman in the above photo is not me. Sorry to disappoint. I’m packing a bit more than her. And I don’t mean muscles.


I can’t run. Literally, cannot run. It’s like I was born with two left feet that are incapable of coordinating steps at high speeds. Not to mention arms that tend to flail around like a fledgling bird thrown out of its coop. I simply look awkward trying to run, so I don’t. The powers above didn’t grant me the ability to run like a gazelle, and that’s fine with me, seeing how much I loathe sweating.

How anyone can tolerate sweating is beyond me! Sweating itches my face, pools around the pits, and causes chafing between the thighs. And don’t even get me started on underboob sweat! The act of sweating offends my sensibilities.  

So it comes as no surprise that the lack of exercise and sweat has resulted in some weight gain over the years. Oh, alright, maybe a helluva lot of weight, enough to warrant some concern if I’m honest with myself. 

I dread the idea of spending hundreds going up a dress size and the subsequent feelings of shame for letting myself go to the point of no return. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. A future of swinging from dieting to comfort eating is unhealthy for the body and mind. So I decided it was time to address the elephant in the room – pun not intended. It was time I made sweating and exercise my biatch.

I can’t even remember the last time I stepped into a gym, but I can recall the feelings of self-consciousness, anticipation, and vulnerability. I never felt comfortable inside a gym, feeling overweight and awkward in tight-fitting clothing, pretending to know how to work the machines. I knew that returning to this setting for exercise would not work for me.

Instead, I booked my brother for fitness training. Ironically, he is the muscle-kissing, Insta-loving, gym junkie to my couch potato, trashy TV, chip eating self. The world needs balance, right? And being the lazy ass that I am and needing accountability, I dragged a couple of friends to join the sessions.

The morning of the fitness session, even with the familiarity of friends and family, I was a nervous Nelly. You know how humans have that evolutionary thing called the ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response? Well, let’s say I was that anxious mammal alleviating a load or two for a lighter flight.

“Why are you so nervous?” asked my brother’s fiancée, who had come for support. “You will be fine!”

Have I mentioned that my brother’s fiancée is a young and fit woman? She couldn’t understand my fears; how could she? She hasn’t birthed two boulder-sized babies from her canal. She’s in no danger of accidentally peeing herself because her pelvic floor muscles won’t play ball. I bet her joints are springy and cushiony. Sigh, I’m so envious of people with pain-free springy joints. Ah, to be young again.

Anyway, I digress. After my brother’s welcome speech, we laid out our yoga mats on the grass. We had met at a local reserve to do the group fitness training as lockdown restrictions meant we could only gather outdoors in small numbers. 

“… burpees, then lunges… work with dumbbells… repetitions… 36 sets…” explained my brother to the group.

Have you done a burpee? It looks simple, doesn’t it? Deceptive movements that work every muscle in the body. After the first two attempts at a burpee, I was basically face planting instead of planking. It felt like torture, especially with sweat dripping from every surface of my body. 

“Come on! You can do it! Ten more seconds. Push through!” yelled my brother as he mirrored our actions.

Counting down ten seconds in my head, I gritted my teeth and pushed through the pain as I continued with brutal leg flutters. 

“Ten more seconds,” informed my brother.

Wait; what? “You said ten seconds before!” I chastised the liar. “Not funny!”

Huffing and puffing, each one of us committed to the fitness regime, giving it our best. Even my brother broke a sweat and admitted at the end that he was hurting. It gave me a sense of achievement that I had persisted, despite my discomfort. There might have been the benefit of a bit of endorphin release. We left the park, feeling good pain, and looking forward to the next session.  

It’s been two days since, and gosh, I am feeling the bad pain. I can barely walk. I shudder at the sight of stairs. I prefer not to go to the toilet because then I have to unceremoniously drop onto the seat. I roll out of bed; it’s the only way off. The other ladies aren’t faring any better.  

Despite the muscle soreness, I’m looking forward to the next session. The hardest part was taking that first step, getting the motivation in turning a thought into action. That action means that I’m no longer hiding behind excuses of sweat and my inability to run. It means that I’m working towards taking charge of my own destiny for a healthier and happier me. Plus, sweating has its benefits, right? I’m basically getting a natural facial while losing weight. I call that a win-win.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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THAT CRAZY AUNT

We are in stage 4 lockdown where I live, which means people can only go out for four reasons – medical, work, and food and exercise within 5km of their residence. Besides homeschooling the children and the odd walk around the block, I’ve not discovered much inspiration or writing seeds for blog posts. I thought I’d use this time to work on my storytelling/writing skills using past experiences with some creative licence. Hope you enjoy my stories!


“Enough with the spying! Bring these plates out,” yelled Mum, upon seeing me half-crouched underneath the window sill.

I let the curtains fall back into place and did as Mum asked, bringing plates of tofu and cabbage to the dining table. I paused and pondered, repositioning cutlery and food around the hot-pot to make it visually appealing. Satisfied with the result, I wandered back to my spot by the window to watch for arriving guests, careful not to be seen. I didn’t want to look like a weirdo or anything.

I invited just about everyone, even the mean girl from class because statistical probability and all that. I wasn’t entirely confident with the RSVPs, what if they pulled out? I didn’t want to be known as the loner girl who had a party that no one came to. How horrifying would that be? I couldn’t go back to school ever again!

“Don’t touch the food Aunty Ut!” I called out after noticing her small stature hovering around the food. Aunty Ut was worse than a bloodhound with a penchant for free meals and table manners rivalling that of Cookie Monster on a binge fest. I didn’t appreciate her presence here cramping my style. Not that I had any style other than geek and meek. Still, having a crazy and uncouth aunt saying and doing strange things wouldn’t help with my social status or keeping friends.

“What? I didn’t touch anything! I’m just looking!” exclaimed Aunty Ut, looking sheepish at being caught.

I gave her a withering glare before turning down the volume on the TV, kicking the mess of microphone cables to the side. Dad had turned on the Vietnamese karaoke music to a deafening level. Thank goodness our neighbours were hard of hearing.

“Go check the garage. I’ve finished setting it up.” Dad mumbled through a mouthful of duct tape while bent over on the ground sticking power cables to the carpet. The extension cords snaked along the walls, outside the window and to the garage, where several large speakers were set up to play music for the dancing.

I bypassed Mum and Aunty Ut, ignoring their bickering over the right amount of MSG for soup stock and headed towards the garage. All the junk was pushed farther back into the single two-car deep garage and a tarp hung from the ceiling, giving the feel of an empty warehouse, albeit small.

“Your friends are here!” My seven-year-old brother hollered before running off.

Filled with excitement and nerves, I raced out to greet my guests. To my delight, most of the invitees had come to my birthday party. Having no experience with attending or hosting a birthday party, I started the hot-pot immediately after everyone’s arrival to avoid awkward conversations or unnecessary foot shuffles.

I cringed inwardly upon seeing some of the girls wrinkling their noses at the unfamiliar foods. Some couldn’t eat seafood while others didn’t know what hot-pot was.

“This jar is expired!” One of the mean girls was holding up a jar of hoisin sauce and showing everyone around the table.

Blushing with embarrassment, I grabbed the jar off her and apologised. “Uh, I don’t know how that got there.”

I gave the jar to Mum and asked quietly if we had another one that was in date. I winced when her annoyed voice boomed across the room, loud enough for those standing next door to hear.

“What? Why? It’s still good! You young kids not understand hard work and money. When I was younger, I ate everything!” Mum’s diatribe continued until she ran out of puff. Luckily it didn’t take long.

Returning to the room, I put on my happy face and pretended like no one heard Mum and her ranting. All mothers rant, right? So it’s not something these girls haven’t heard before.

“Why is it so hot in here?”

“Feels like a sauna!”

Aunty Ut had turned on the ducted heating to thirty degrees. Who in their right mind would turn on a heater while eating hot-pot on a mild Spring day? I swore she had a few missing screws.

“What?! It’s good to sweat for the pores!” Aunty Ut and her terrible excuses.

Thankfully, we finished the hot-pot without further problems. I ushered my new friends to the makeshift dance floor and with the radio blasting in a darkened room, the atmosphere changed and the party improved.

“What are you doing?” asked a girl named Leila, who stopped her dancing to look at me.

With arms flailing and legs shuffling from side to side at supersonic speeds, I replied, “Dancing Hip Hop?” I might have replicated Urkel’s Dance.

“Oh no girl, this is how you do it. Slow your movements and bend lower.” Leila and a few others took pity on me and gave a few pointers on how to look cool dancing to R&B music.

Amidst learning how to pop and lock, the sound of Vietnamese pop music started blaring through the speakers, causing the dancing to grind to a halt.

“Dad! No one wants to listen to Vietnamese folk songs!”

It seemed like a good time as any for cake.

“Happy birthday!”

The smiles on everyone’s faces and well-wishes filled me with warmth, and I beamed with happiness. I wouldn’t have called the party a complete success, considering a few unexpected setbacks, but overall, it had turned out ok. I could see myself being close friends with some of these girls. Maybe if Mum and Dad stayed put this time, I could even have a best friend.

I leaned over the cake and readied to blow out the candles. From the corner of my eye, I could see the outline of Aunty Ut moving into my periphery, lips in the shape of an O and in slow-mo horror, let out a gigantic snozzy sneeze all over my cake. In her efforts, she snuffed out the flames of fifteen birthday candles.

There was a collective gasp as boogers landed on the cake followed by the wailing sound that escaped from my lips. It was of little surprise that not a single person wanted a slice of cake, including the birthday girl.

I thought expired food, Mum’s ranting and sitting in furnace-like temperatures were bad enough, but BoogerGate and Dad belting out karaoke songs upon the guests departing took the party to a level beyond salvageable.

As far as parties go being memorable, at least people will be talking about mine for some time.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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A CASE OF THE UNWANTED PEE TUBE

Reflection from 28/6/20 – prior to the second wave of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown.

My kids are always pestering me to go for overnight stays at my parent’s house. And why wouldn’t they? TV on demand, hand delivered snacks (hand feeding also optional), vegetables are decorative garnishes, bedtime is when you nod off, two-minute noodles is a breakfast option, and NO is as elusive as seeing me exercising or spotting a unicorn. Visiting my parents is like visiting the Candy House from the tale of Hansel and Gretel, and we can all guess how that really turned out.

Not to mention that my parent’s house is a death trap waiting to happen. I’ve mentioned this before but to newbie readers… my dad is a prolific collector – a hoarder if I can be so bold. He has six fish tanks, glass furniture everywhere, shelf upon shelf of breakable ornaments and electronics galore. He’s gotten worse with age but neither my brother or mother are willing to do anything about it.

Anyhow, for sleepovers, I insist on being there for supervision and that’s why they are few and far in between. With the pandemic and limited outdoor activities, we’ve all suffered from cabin fever and I thought the kids would benefit from a different scene. I was quickly reminded why we don’t do sleepovers at my parents.


“What is that?” asked my seven-year-old daughter, Mandy, pointing at a clear perspex tube sitting underneath the taps of the bathtub.

My three-year-old son, Henry, made a move to grab the metre-long tube.

“Don’t touch it!” I yelled at him. “Mum!”

The kids were having a bath at my parent’s house. We were having a sleepover for the first time in years.

My Mum poked her head into the bathroom. “What?”

“What is that?” I asked my Mum, looking at the suspicious tube and the nearby glass vase. You never know with my parents. Their house is full of strange, random, embarrassing, and dangerous-to-children things.

“Uh. Don’t touch that. It’s your Dad’s pee contraption,” replied my Mum, shaking her head in disbelief.

“EEEWWWW,” exclaimed Mandy, “Why does he have a pee tube?”

“Your Grampa is too lazy to go to the toilet at night. He made THAT so he can pee into it and pours it out in the morning. It stinks. Why do you think we have separate rooms?” explained my Mum, shrugging her shoulders as if we should have known better.

“Can I use it as my horn?” asked Henry, reaching for the offensive tube.

“NOOOOOO!!!!!” I screamed, pulling his arm back before he could connect his mouth to the tube. “Did you not hear? It’s a PEE tube.” I can’t believe those words have come from my mouth.

“It’s clean.” My mum replied in a matter of fact way, like it made a difference.

“His room is right next to the toilet. Why is he being so lazy? It’s not hygienic!” I cried out.

But then I peeked into his room and understood why he created the pee tube. He had two TV’s mounted on the wall, massive loudspeakers lining the perimeter of the room, a couch and a wall to wall table. All squeezed around a wooden platform bed in his three by three metre room.

No wonder he doesn’t want to make the nightly trek. It makes the Kokoda Trail seem like a walk in the park! He’s likely to lose a leg against a sharp corner or two.

You know that proverb… Like father, like son? I’m glad I’m a daughter.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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