Archive | November, 2015

Familyopoly: A New Game for People with Relatives

25 Nov

Happy Turkey Day!

This is rather a fraught period of time in the history of the world, if social media is any indicator. And for those of us suffering from Crazy Family Syndrome, it’s also a fraught period of time in the calendar year. I think we could all use a few laughs at other people’s expense, don’t you?

Some of Cushion’s long time readers may recall the first game I published to assist with this anxiety ridden joyful time of year. Imagine your day/evening/week together as a giant Candy Land-style board, choose your player piece, and proceed with caution. There are lots of pitfalls and traps out there.

(Disclaimer: the incidents described in this game are completely imaginary. Any resemblance to any family member of mine or yours, living or dead, is purely coincidence. I swear.)


Feel free to turn this into a drinking game.


The living room and bathroom are clean and the bedrooms are locked. Move ahead one space.

Your mom was supposed to bring the turkey over in the morning, but she’s not here yet. Go back to start.

She shows up with a bottle of Wild Turkey instead. Move ahead one space.

You both start drinking it before the parade is over. Go back two spaces.

Ugh, Ronald McD needs to retire.

Ugh, go home Ronald McD.

You go to the 24-hour Kroger for an emergency ham. It’s on sale. Move ahead one space.

One of the men stops watching football long enough to peel potatoes. Move ahead three spaces.

Nobody can agree on what kind of dressing to have, so you end up with four different kinds. Lose two turns.

Your sister-in-law brings a delicious appetizer, as promised. Move ahead two spaces.

She announces that the appetizer has to be assembled and put in the oven for 25 minutes on a different temperature setting than the turkey and then leaves the room.  Lose a turn. 

Your dad puts together the appetizer and serves it cold, and opens the wine. Move ahead three spaces.

Your Uncle Chaz makes a racist/sexist/bigoted joke. Go back one space.

You laugh at it. Lose a turn.

The butter ran out. Back to the store. Go back two spaces.

Grandma slips you a twenty on your way out the door. Move ahead three spaces.

Your baby sister tells your older sister she looks like she’s lost weight. Take an extra turn. 

Your baby sister offers to take her shopping for less dowdy clothes now that she’s smaller. Go back one space.

One of the big kids tells the little kids Santa isn’t real. Tears ensue. Go back five spaces.

Your aunt puts the big kid on green bean shelling duty and gives the little ones dums-dums leftover from Halloween. Move ahead two spaces.

The in-laws are sitting next to each other on the couch. Peacefully. Take an extra turn.

A running child knocks your wine glass on to the carpet. Lose a turn.

Mooom! Penelope won’t let me have a turn at the turkey rodeo! (source)

The wine opener is missing. Go back two spaces. 

The quietest husband in the group opens it with some kind of multitool that is always on his person. Move ahead three spaces.

The lone 16 year old hasn’t looked up from his phone for the last 49 minutes. Go back one space.

Your best friend calls from overseas. Move ahead two spaces.

Your dad starts fiddling with the thermostat. Suddenly you feel the air conditioning kick on. Go back two spaces.

Your uncle’s new girlfriend sneaks the 16-year old a sip of wine. He puts the phone down. Move ahead three spaces.

Your cousin is whining because the rolls aren’t gluten free. Go back one space.

Your brother cites a study from memory that offers evidence gluten intolerance isn’t even real. Move ahead one space.

Your cousin is now not speaking to your brother. Lose a turn.

The quiet husband leaves without a word and returns with gluten free rolls. Take an extra turn.

Grandad is actually wearing his hearing aids. Move ahead two spaces.

Right as you’re about to mention your upcoming promotion, your sister announces she’s pregnant again. Go back one space.

Your aunt wonders aloud why nobody calls her. Go back one space. 

Someone quotes a recently deceased relative and everyone suddenly gets choked up. Stay where you are. 

Your other aunt somehow convinces everyone to play Pictionary after dinner. Move ahead one space.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. source

Your team wins. Move ahead three spaces.

Your favorite pie got eaten before you got a piece. You settle for pumpkin. Go back one space.

You go to help with the dishes and somebody’s already done them. Take an extra turn.

You look around, and everyone is laughing all at once. Move ahead one space.


Congrats, Gerald, you’re the last man standing! (source)

Athleisure. Please Stop.

18 Nov

We live in a casual age. Long gone are the days when men wore business suits to college classes and women wore pumps to the grocery store (except people that shop at Publix in Florida apparently–my cousin once told me it was the best place to find a date). That’s nothing to cry over–ugh, I can’t even imagine taking an exam in a blazer. When it comes to attire it’s hard to find that ever-shifting line of appropriate and not-appropriate, and I’m the first to admit it’s even more fun to push on it and see how far it will stretch.

But you guys. You guys.

Workout clothes are not clothes.

Is anybody with me on this? It’s an epidemic that’s sweeping across every demographic–millennial to boomer, women and men, black and white (although evidently not so much South Koreans, who have a reputation in the fashion world).

Please tell me you’ve seen this stupidly hilarious vid, which perfectly sums up how I feel about this trend.

I get it, you like to work out. And why should you have to change out of your sweaty, grody garments to get a coffee afterwards (snort)?

I actually have no problem with wearing cute yoga pants and sneaks to Starbucks…provided you actually are coming from yoga (or just rolled up on a Schwinn). But let’s be real, what percent of people walking around in Lulu are actually coming from or going to the gym? I’m laying money on NAH.

Hey, I am not immune to the siren song of compression wear. I’m guilty of wearing leggings as pants. But I usually wear them under a dress or a long top, and with jewelry and real shoes. And even then sometimes I have to pull that ish up all day like the worst pair of hose you ever bought from CVS.

I submit that dresses are actually the most comfortable thing in the world, but some of us have issues with sitting like this.

A couple months ago I was at the zoo and spotted this perfect specimen of a group. Every one of them gorgeous people, and every one of them dressed like they just finished a 10k. They had the cropped leggings, the high performance jackets, the neon cross-trainers with low profile socks. They also had perfect blowouts and a full face of makeup. I mean, what?

The dudes were in similar attire, only not as form fitting (ha). I didn’t sneak a photo because my  paparazzi skills are lacking, but I’m pretty sure baseball caps were involved.

It just seems like when you’re young and fit and hot is prime time not to wear clothing with elastic waistbands?

Not that it does anyone of any age or type any great favors. Not long ago I was at a boutique popup thing geared toward “normal” women (whatever that means, but ya know). The organizer was wearing your standard black yoga leggings and a kind of drapey tee. It was long, but not long enough–when she bent over I could totally see her undies through her pants (yellow with tiny flowers).

Maybe somebody can explain the attraction to me. Comfortable, got it. But what else? Do people just want to advertise the fact that they exercise (although many Athleisure enthusiasts don’t–it’s by definition “athletic apparel that can be worn in non-athletic settings”). Do we think it makes us look skinny? Is it sexy…are the dudes falling all over themselves to get someadis?

Gents, feel free to chime in here. Is this what you like to see on the ladies these days?

Speaking of guys: you are not exempt either–you’ve long been the poster children of overly cazh. But for whatever reason–perhaps because guys’ jeans are more comfortable, or maybe just because they stink more when they work out–dudes don’t tend to wear gym clothes to Target. Actually I sense there’s been a sweep of the pendulum in the opposite direction with menswear lately. I see a lot more guys interpreting casual as this

as opposed to this.

Thank God.

I know I probably sound fusty and #getoffmylawn. And yes, some might call hypocrisy as I used to wear sweatpants with PINK on the ass out in public. But it was usually to rehearsal or dance class (or possibly an 8 AM exam), not a date at the zoo. It’s just getting kinda ridic when designers are making serious bank on gym clothes and denim brands being pushed out of their market share by companies who make things that absorb sweat.

Not that I want to return to the days of Umbros and Champion Sweatpants. I’m all about looking adorable while working out. Look, I was the girl in 8th grade getting made fun of in PE for her coordinating chartreuse sweatshorts and spandex top. I just think we’re really missing out on the charm, creativity, and personality of a well-assembled outfit. Not to mention blurring the lines of unspoken social dress code almost beyond recognition.

At the office?!

Fashion is constantly evolving, and thinking about it and analyzing it is something I enjoy (which according to cultural mythology makes me a vapid snot–but that’s a whole other post). There’s probably a lot to be said sociologically and anthropologically about Athleisure. I’m just not sure I’m on board with what it’s saying. So I implore you: next time you’re headed to the movies, try putting on a pair of jeans. Just for kicks (HA).

All I know is, the day I see someone walking down the street in this is the day I know it’s all over.


Click on photos for source.

*There’s a lot of horror and darkness in the news this week. This lighthearted post is a tribute to the beautiful nation of France, which has more style and glamour in her little pinky than the rest of the world combined. J’taime, Paris. 

Why I Quit Coffee Part III: Wrap Up

6 Nov


Hard to believe, but it has now been two months since I had any significant amount of caffeine.

Considering what a packed few weeks it’s been, with rehearsals and work projects and holidays and social obligations–two months without caffeine is not insignificant.


So how am I doing?

Short answer: better.

As I write this, I’m nodding off over my keyboard. But that’s because we’re coming to the end of tech week, b.k.a. hell week, for Guys & Dolls (get your tickets now, Atlanta folks!).  Before this week, I felt like the pall of fatigue that had hung over my head like my own personal Eeyore-style rain cloud was finally lifting.

The overwhelming hunger I experienced at first has abated as well. I’ve even managed to trim down a bit for the show. Which is amazing, considering I haven’t exercised much beyond dance at rehearsals.

GI Janie

So that’s the symptoms of withdrawal taken care of. What about the GI symptoms for which I embarked on this epic journey in the first place?

I am happy to report that the nausea and stomach pain is completely gone. That’s probably the most significant development. The heartburn is practically gone too. I haven’t taken a Rolaid or a Pepcid in weeks. The bloating is considerably improved (although to be fair, I’ve also dropped white carbs in the interest of aforementioned “trimming down”). The wet burping, the fluttering in my chest, the lump in my throat–all have shown marked improvement, if not abated entirely. I do still occasionally get a dry cough, but it’s hard to point at that as a gastrointestinal indicator when there’s ragweed saturating the air.

Sing Out, Louise

I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats wondering whether I’ve recovered my beautiful singing voice HA. The answer there is not quite as brief.

Suspecting that the caffeine issue couldn’t entirely explain it, I made an appointment with the specialists at the Emory Clinic Voice Center. We are fortunate to have here in Atlanta an enormously vast medical network. Got some obscure problem? There’s a app doc for that.


I was lucky that they were able to squeeze me in quicker than anticipated–my initial appointment was during that first week of tapering off. I wondered if this would hide or highlight any damage to ye olde singing parts.

A thorough examination of my vocal chords revealed…

That they were perfect.

This should have been good news, but I was bummed. It meant that I couldn’t blame the many issues I was having with my voice on physical (outside) factors. In other words, I was singing wrong.

A follow up appointment with vocal therapist Marina Gilman  revealed that I wasn’t just a shit singer. Even though I had no visible acid damage (further proof that I never had GERD in the first place), past acute “acid incidents” (her words) had led to my compensating in a damaging way. Kind of like when you say, pull a muscle and then strain the surrounding muscles favoring it. And like a muscle injury, what I needed was a course of rehab.

Over a series of sessions Marina gave me some vocal and breath exercises to help relax the wrong muscles and work the right ones. She also affirmed that, according to the clinical assessment of my voice structure, I really should be singing soprano and not alto. It was all stuff I already knew from previous training, but the reminder was key–and, unlike voice lessons–billable to insurance.

Since then I’ve seen vast improvement in the pain and strain while speaking, and to some extent while singing as well. I still have quite a ways to go in this regard though, and I’m trying not to be too frustrated with my progress (apparently you can’t undo six years of muscle damage in four sessions). I think I will have to spring for voice lessons on top of the coaching eventually, if I ever want to achieve solo status again.

I’ve Learned to Live Without You, Darling

I still take exceeding comfort in a hot drink or five, especially with the dreary weather we’ve been experiencing. So I’ve been drinking lots of Teeccino, a little hot cocoa, and even hot tea. I’m really loving Teeccino. Unlike coffee, the different flavors taste nice, not just smell good. Unlike coffee, it tastes good cold or reheated (meaning that that half pot not drunk first thing in the AM doesn’t go to waste). But unfortunately, unlike coffee, it is somewhat caloric (about 20 calories in a 10 oz cup brewed–I usually drink a classic 12-oz) and when you add as much cream as I like (about four tablespoons at 25-35 calories per tbsp ), you’re looking at a heavy appetizer’s worth of energy. So I can’t really pound it like I am sometimes tempted to on a long, chilled day.

A better replacement choice is hot tea, but I had a problem with it at first. My fellow coffee fiends will know what I’m talking about when I say the taste, feel, smell, richness—it’s just not the same. In the way that avid tea drinkers don’t enjoy coffee as much, tea is simply not my daily jam.

Plus, until recently, I really only liked the taste of black tea–which of course, has caffeine. So does green. I don’t like chamomile, peppermint, lemon, or any kind of fruit flavor in herbal tea. That basically wipes out 95% of teas on your average grocery shelf. Then I discovered Rooibos. A red “tea” that grows in South Africa, it’s a bit more pricey than the average, but doubtless I spend way less on it than I once did on coffee. Plus Yogi makes a nice Chai variety, which has a complex and full-bodied taste and the benefit of the healthy spices used in chai flavoring while being naturally caffeine free.

What about decaf, you say? At first I shunned coffee entirely, trying to lose the taste hankering I had for it. Eventually I did begin to treat myself to a cup of decaf when out to breakfast, or occasionally at the daily coffee hours at work. Decaf is not great in and of itself, first of all because coffee is still acidic which contributes to many of my problems, secondly because decaf labeling is highly unregulated in the US and can vary widely, and thirdly because the process used to decaffeinate most drinks uses chemicals (although nontoxic apparently, and with better taste results than the more “natural” but much more expensive and rare method of water decaffeination). Not to mention many decaf coffees, including the kind they serve at work, taste gross. But the fact is, I can never give up treating myself to the occasional happy Starbucks raspberry mocha. So decaf will continue to be drunk by this lady.

So….does all this mean it’s true: I’m allergic to caffeine?

I really don’t think so. If I had a true allergy, or even a sensitivity, I don’t think I could have been drinking as much coffee as I have for as long as I did with any level of comfort. The fact that it took 7 years to pinpoint the issue is proof alone. Who knows? I might even resume coffee drinking one day. But you can be damn sure it’s going to be a lot less. I think the lesson we can take away from this is that anything you use as a crutch to function–running the gamut from heavy drugs and alcohol to gossiping to chewing gum to running marathons to spicy food to binge watching Netflix–has the potential to be damaging both physiologically and psychologically.

In the wise and oft-repeated words of my Granny: Everything in Moderation.

So. What’s your addiction?