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Midwestern kindness

20 Oct

Tracey, Mary & Cindy

hi mary! it was real nice to see u at the reunion the other night. u were always a nice person to me in high school and still are a nice person now! take care and i hope to see u before the next 10 years pass!

I traveled home, to the Midwest, twice in August. The first time was primarily to visit my parents. Last Christmas, we talked about going on a trip together and couldn’t quite make that work (cruise to Alaska, Montreal). And then we both thought at the same time: Why not come home? I hadn’t been home in several years, since my parents now visit every Christmas.

I was looking forward to the trip. I still have close friends who live in Northwest Indiana (AKA The Region). Band of Horses was playing a show in Chicago and I managed to snag tickets before the show sold out.

My parents always spoil me when I’m home. My dad gives me money when I go out with my friends, and when I leave. My mom offers to do my laundry, which I never really need to have done during these short trips home. They let me sleep in and I take walks around the neighborhood with my mom.

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What does “yes” look like?

20 Jun

YES

Inspired by Alice Derry’s “Fooling Around,” and poet & teacher Elizabeth Austen

I’m saying “yes” these days to adventure, eating vegan (B6, mostly) and finding a new level of happiness. “What smoking, drink and the wrong man had done.” That could have been me, but I only had a few months over the course of a few years of damage.

I’m still a bit green in terms of this change, if that makes sense, though in many ways I’ve always said “yes.” The yoga retreat in Kauai was a boost and reading “Wild.”  Starting Bar Method in April kind of kicked off this new perspective, and then ballet lessons. I’m drinking less (mocktails with Lisa B. and Chloe!) and my rewards the other night included an impromptu ballet performance, Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” on the way home on the radio and a gorgeous sunset with radiant and explosive colors of gold, white, pink and blue.

I’m saying “yes” to a quick walk down the street with my camera after spying a pre-rain rainbow in the early evening. It was gone, alas, but I captured some pretty photos of the sky and crew members on the Montlake Cut heading towards Lake Union.

I’m saying “yes” and “no”to invites for meet ups, ensuring that I have a little down time and that I get my workouts in. Cleaning can wait. (ha)

And I’m saying “yes” to attending my high school reunion in August. At first glance of the post on Facebook, I thought “no,” because I was already going home at the beginning of the month. But I haven’t been to the last few reunions. And then FB friends forwarded the invite. Shannon, whose locker was just a few steps away from mine from 7th through 12th grade sent me an email message about the reunion. And the plane ticket wasn’t that expensive. So I’m going to do it. Oops that my parents won’t be home and I’ll need to rent a car and will maybe want to stay near Midway on Sunday night, because my flight is early-ish on Monday.

Julie Robertson, class of ’87 at DePauw University, and a sorority sister we fondly called “Pluck” because of a Woodstock costume she wore during rush, died two days ago from ovarian cancer. May she rest in peace.

Bar (method), ballet and such

24 May

ballet barre

It’s been nearly a year and one-half since I wrote the infamous “tulle and me,” a blog post about my desire to take ballet lessons and to have legs like the dancers from Trey McIntyre Project or Whim W’Him or … fill in the blank.

I made it happen recently, ballet lessons, and I also started a new ballet-esque workout called The Bar Method that I am really enjoying and that has helped to transform my body. I don’t necessarily have ballet dancer legs yet, but I’m on my way, I do believe.

I’d been curious about Bar Method classes, and they launched a 60-day bikini body challenge in April that benefits Ben Towne Foundation, which I know through my work at Seattle Children’s. So it seemed like the perfect reason to try – improving my body and donating some money to a great cause (pediatric cancer research).

My aim was for 24 classes in 60 days, and I reached that goal yesterday. Yay, me. It feels pretty amazing and I know my body is stronger and I feel more confident and better about myself. Take that, ex-boyfriend who showed up at the recent W’Him show. Skinny khakis that used to fit now fit and a swimsuit I bought to swim laps fit me just a few weeks after I started bar. Kind of amazing and a wake-up call that I had somehow become lazy doing yoga. When I took my first bar class, which typically includes 30 to 40 push-ups, I knew that I hadn’t been working the right muscles. And it’s served also as a reminder of how the body can change as we age.

I signed up for the ballet class months ago, after seeing and buying a deal from Living Social. A friend from work had recommended the dance studio, Exit Space. I’ve had three classes so far of eight, and I was thrilled initially just to purchase and have a pair of ballet slippers. No leotard yet, but I have visions of using my footless tights, after seeing what others have been wearing to class.

After the first ballet class, I felt a happiness that was indescribable and seemed a bit silly, but it was real. That feeling continues. Bar Method classes have helped strengthen the muscles that help me in ballet, and we will see where it goes. I like the camaraderie at bar, even if at first it can be intimidating because there are, seemingly, lots of perfect bodies. As for ballet, I hope to graduate to the next level of classes and could aim for a move en pointe, though I’m not sure if older students graduate to that level.

And I’m off to Hawaii tomorrow for a week-long yoga retreat and strengthening on many levels, so this blog post is perhaps a bit more free-form and quickly written, compared with others. But it’s also overdue, to share the transformation story.

Claire, the refrigerator and the heat

12 May

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

I started watching “House of Cards” recently, after hearing a lot of positive comments on it and watching a bit of the White House correspondents’ dinner (which included a video with Kevin Spacey, one of the show’s main characters, Congressman Francis Underwood).

Robin Wright plays his wife. She’s so beautiful and a great actress. Like many, I’ve loved watching her since she appeared in “Princess Bride.” Her character in this show is not exactly a princess. That can be a little shocking.

In one of the episodes that I watched, Claire retreats to the kitchen to get more chardonnay for friends who are over for dinner. The female friend follows her into the kitchen, and sees her lean in to absorb the cool air. When I was watching, I thought that she was exhausted because the dinner was work-related and she was hitting this couple up for money to support her company. And they live in D.C., so who doesn’t want some additional cool air, especially if it’s summer time?

But the female friend initiates a conversation about hot flashes, and asks Claire if she is also getting night sweats. Claire changes the subject.

A few episodes later, husband Francis mentions that he has seen her lingering at the fridge. “Does it hurt?” he asks. “It’s not pleasant,” Claire says. He asks her if there’s anything that he can do and she says, “no.” I was intrigued by these exchanges because, as a blogger for Slate penned earlier in the year, you don’t often see scenes about menopause on TV.

I haven’t been lingering at the fridge but I am experiencing those same hot flashes and night sweats. I’m a few years older than my mother was when she went through menopause (which is how clinicians gauge timing) but even that small triumph is not a big consolation.

One of the worst parts of it for me, really over the last year, is interrupted sleep. I had been waking up really early for awhile, couldn’t go back to sleep and wasn’t sure why. I joked with friends about having Bill Clinton eyes. (Thanks for that, Clara S.) Initially, I thought that my bedroom might be too warm. That could have been part of it. But thinking back now, something similar was happening last fall when I spent the night at a friend’s house … kicking off the covers for a bit, and then diving back under the blankets.

The night sweats aren’t horrible. I feel a wave of heat come over my face, really, so I’m a little prepared. And there is just a small amount of moisture that I can easily wipe away. There is often a few drops in the crooks of my arms, too. Earlier this week, when I wasn’t feeling well (summer cold), it was also damp behind my knees.

I started acupuncture a few weeks ago and it slowly seems to be helping. I am now able to go back to sleep when I’m so rudely woken up, and that is a relief. It also seems to help when I don’t drink regularly (and that’s a good thing for me, too, I know). I slept in last weekend one day for the first time … in forever.

The last period that I had was in January of this year, and my nurse practitioner said I’m not officially in menopause until I haven’t had a period in a year. I can still get pregnant until that time, she said. It’s a lot to deal with – being single, not having any kids and now being pushed beyond that point. I know that I could always adopt if I really wanted to have kids, and it’s not like I have ever given up the chance to have children. It just didn’t happen for me.

So there’s all that behind this change I’ve moved into. I had dinner with a friend, Piper, recently and she said another friend of hers was going through the same thing. As she talked about grieving the loss and moving forward, I immediately burst into tears, and she hugged me tightly. “No one has ever talked with me about this,” I said.

Day 3 of 40: Santosha

28 Jan

90 minutes of yoga at Samadhi with Steve. Backbends on blocks, tilted against the wall. First with the hands (easy enough) and second with the blocks. I felt too shaky and then Steve decided it was better to have the blocks on the floor. We were the guinea pigs and it was an experiment.

Strength moves and core work. Triangle, without putting weight into the hand reaching for the knee, calf or the ground. I felt slightly stronger than even just a few days ago, though I couldn’t do the move with two blocks where I hold my entire body weight up.  Only one foot felt like moving.  Another goal to aim for, in addition to the dancer’s legs.

108 chants of Santosha near the end of class. Contentment, or satisfaction. I felt distracted at certain times, thinking about work or “sorry, I can’t make it” or reluctant ends to a friendship when I should have been breathing into it.  I know it’s part of the process.

Day 4:  Plan of the moment is swimming, which gets back to yesterday’s theme. And also moves from class tonight. Face down on the mat, left arm forward, right leg back and up, look over your left shoulder. Keep swimming.

Day 2 of 40: Keep swimming

27 Jan

swimming laps in a pool

Keep swimming is the advice B. provided the other day. Starting anew in 2013, and approaching the end of January. The loss of a friendship that had run its course and moving on from others in my past, too (not so much my choice on the latter). It is time to shake up my own world a bit.

I’ve been too sporadic with my workouts and not consistent with eating mostly healthy, so I’m embarking on my own 40 days regimen that has become popular in the yoga realm. Day 1, yesterday, yoga for 90 minutes. Class with Steve at Samadhi. Working up a sweat during the flow because of that sporadic thing I mention above.

Day 2, today. Original plan: Swimming at the gym I recently joined ($29/ month – a bargain for access to a pool!). But I didn’t have a great night’s sleep last night and knew I’d need to get a photo taken with it being my first time to the gym. So I opted instead for a stair climb in the ‘hood. Walking there and three sets of stairs:  40 minutes. Another 15 to 20 minutes walking home from there.  “Somebody more like you” playing on the iPod.

I read frequently about the difference that 30 minutes a day can make, and I haven’t put it into action. I suppose I’m reading about it a bit more because of the New Year. I’m using the 40 days as a kick start to a better balance in my life, and look forward to keeping track of the days and work outs, and making myself accountable via this blog. I suppose this is my super low-tech version of a Nike FuelBand, which local blogger Monica Guzman has covered in her tech & life column that runs in The Seattle Times.

My other goal in the months to come, and fodder for a future blog: Dancer’s legs or the equivalent for me. Inspired after seeing the mind-blowing Compagnie Marie Chouinard last night at Meany Hall.

Day 3 tomorrow:  return to Samadhi.

Advice for Life: From Billy B., Shuttle Driver

2 Nov

In the next 10 years of my life, my age will start affecting me:  Aches and pains will pop up, and friends will start dying.  Billy is, I guess, in his mid- to late 50s, and he talked about being at the point in his life where he’s looking back on his life.  He had just returned from a trip home to Mississippi to visit family and friends.  He spoke about the trip home with such happiness, and was full of smiles.  I asked him if he wanted to move back eventually, and he said “yes.”

He talked about relationships he’s had, and how as we get older, even if it’s difficult, you should try to stay friends with people you’ve dated, even if the relationship didn’t work out.  I’m not really sure how we got on that topic.  He described a recent phone call with a female friend, and how they’d come to an understanding of where things stand with them right now.  “It could come full circle a year from now,” Billy said.

He’s from Biloxi, Mississippi, a place that I visited several times when I was little, with my parents.  I used to love those trips – I remember beignets, the beach, visiting historic places.  I haven’t been back there since I was a kid, but I’d love to return.  I’ve heard that it’s changed, with casinos, even.  And some of those places were trashed due to Katrina and other storms.  Mary Mahoney’s is still there, but I don’t see the seafood place we used to go to on the water.  I also remember going to a plantation and learning about cotton picking, and buying a little sample of cotton still in its shell and taking it home.  Beauvoir may be the one that I’m thinking of, but it looks like (sadly) most of it was destroyed in Katrina.