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Strong female characters, swimmers: Olivia Pope, Stella Gibson and (well) me

19 Nov

Kerry Washington swims in Scandal

I got into “Scandal” earlier this year. I’d held off … most likely because I find smart and even sometimes soap opera-y TV shows to be quite addictive, and I was trying to limit my viewing.

With Netflix streaming and other online services, it is easy enough to burn through a short season in a long weekend, too. So after burning through “House of Cards” and reading articles about the trend to cover D.C., I started watching “Scandal,” catching up on the first two seasons shortly before the third season kicked off. I was intrigued by the detail that Olivia, played by Kerry Washington, is a swimmer.  She swims laps on occasion to blow off steam and stress, while retaining her stylish ways.

I am no Olivia Pope, but I grew up swimming, was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons while in high school and part of college. I recently got back into swimming more seriously for two long-distance events, Park to Park, and Swim Across America, a two mile swim, which was a new record and challenge for me. I was part of Team Ben Towne Foundation, raising money for pediatric cancer research.

I really love to swim, even when doing the crawl for two miles in a lake feels like it takes three hours and my arms feel like lead weights. In reality, it took one hour, 21 minutes. And I think it will feel even better next year.

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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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Yoga, Kauai, vegan-ing, bliss, Samadhi

3 Jun

Secret Beach

Books read: 1, Wild: From lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. This was really the perfect book for me to read, even if it sounded cliche to take on a yoga retreat in Hawaii – Cheryl’s mother died, her marriage fell apart and she went to find herself on the trail. I’m inspired to visit some of the places she described along the trail, inspired to be even more adventurous and take trips in the wild and calm.
Yoga classes: 13 (7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily), courtesy of Samadhi yogis Kathleen (the lovely) and Sheev
Pounds lost: 4
Hikes: 2, including the Na Pali Coast trail (treacherous, sweaty! and got rained on, which felt pretty heavenly. Remnant – a blood blister on my big toe, right foot. Gross, but true.)
My yoga mat was mistaken for: fishing pole container, “a piece of rubber”
Dogs encountered:  5 – including one-eyed Maui, Kona and Pua (flower) at the retreat center
Laps in the pool:  unknown, but swam on two different days. Sun was harsh and left me with a “tramp stamp” sunburn one day (thanks for that description, K)
Rainbows viewed: At least half a dozen, while experiencing yoga on the lanai. Hope that my photos captured it.
Animals heard, day and night: Geckos, cows, chickens, roosters, dogsVegan meals:  7 + – I think I’m a convert. I know, it surprises me, too. I lost weight, feel wonderful, didn’t miss any foods and my skin looks fabulous, too. I may opt initially for Mark Bittman’s Vegan before 6 or VB6 as the cool kids say.

Smoothies: 12, estimate. Pina colada on the final day (virgin, of course).
Recipes to try: Coconut lime banana bread, Okinawa sweet potato curry (if I can find that potato here in Seattle), raw pumpkin pie- some from Jennifer’s 30 Minute Vegan cookbook. Yes, we were blessed to have her as our chef for the week.
Incorporate more in diet: macadamia nuts (though they’re expensive here on the Mainland), sweet potato, avocados, smoothies, vegan foods as declared above
Items purchased: Long-sleeve rash guard, tank top with cut-out back from QuikSilver
Beaches visited: 2 – Secret beach and non-secret
Naked humans observed: 3, at Secret beach. A woman praying to the gods of the ocean, a man rolling on the sand as we left the beach, another man walking in the distance. L walked closer to land so that she could see him. JK.
Dolphins: 60, according to a local surfer who captured some film on his birthday. Hurling themselves on the air … Breaching the surface and having so much fun at Secret beach.
Alcoholic beverages: one-ish, glass of wine with dinner on our final night at Dolphin in Hanelei
Fish tacos: 3
Places to visit next time: Queen’s Bath, Garden Cafe at Common Ground, Tiki Tacos, Secret Beach (again)
Summary statement of the week: good God (R on the final day, struggling with virasana after an arduous hike. I felt the same that day. Thank you for verbalizing.)
Music in my head the entire trip: Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia. And does it not sound like Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” in the beginning? I so need to be a DJ.
Movies to watch: South Pacific, North Shore
Hikes to try: Mt. Rainier, Bagby Hot Springs
Future vacation: Alaska
Items thrown away: Keens, bathing suit bottoms (too big, falling off my bod in the water at the beach and, yes, I had a smaller pair with me)
Items to replace: Keens
Products to try: Lavender and echinacea body lotion (courtesy of L)
Books to purchase or get from the library: 30 Minute Vegan, Bitters by Brad Parsons (recommended by V)

Days 24 & 25 of 40: Swimming to the oldies

19 Feb

ImageI got two … count ’em … two workouts in yesterday, on a day off from work. And it felt pretty fabulous. I decided to hit an aqua aerobics class at the gym (photo example left, of course) because I was curious and also thought it could be a good workout. It had been years since I took that type of a class; the last time was at my parent’s condo pool with my mom and some of her neighbor friends.

I was one of two younger-ish women in a class of 25 to 30 students. At 11 a.m. on a Monday, I didn’t expect a lot of younger people. We aqua’d to the oldies, if you will, doing sprints, lunges and twists to dance-ified versions of “Under the Boardwalk” and “Jailhouse Rock.”  I could barely hear the  music during most of the class, but the instructor was great in providing encouragement and keeping us going during the 60 minutes of class. She stayed on the deck the entire time and I know she’s the teacher, but she was pretty impressive in mixing it up and even providing some in-water stretching at the end. The heater was broken, which made for a chilly entry into the pool but I and others obviously survived.

I hadn’t then planned on going to yoga, but my friend, L, wanted to meet up because she didn’t get her workout in earlier in the day. 90 minutes with Steve, who shared thoughts about equanimity at the start of class. It sounds like a tricky thing to strive for though it’s been discussed before in class in different terms – not letting either pain or pleasure really rattle you. It seems like the ultimate in reaching a zen and Buddhist state, too.

And now, on to today. 30-ish minutes of walking, including a nice long walk in the middle of the day, when the sun was shining here in Seattle despite the cold. 10 minutes of the walk today came at the end o’ day, walking with D. from the office to vehicles parked offsite. Here’s hoping we’ll have more sunny days during the rest of the week. I’m pretty psyched about the way I’m closing out this second half of the 40 days.

Days 12 to 14 of 40: (Keep swimming)

8 Feb

Pool from beyondthecreek.com

Wednesday – the first bump in the road of the 40 days. With happy hour plans after work, I brought gym shoes so that I could walk during the day and also thought if I got home early enough, I could take a quick walk or do some yoga at home. Rachel and I were all set to walk outside and it was pouring rain, which is actually a little unusual for Seattle … at least during the day like that. We ended up walking a bit in the halls and up and down some stairs at work, but I don’t consider it really getting our walk in.

And I didn’t get home early enough to do anything except change clothes and head to happy hour.  That still felt good for the soul and it was nice to catch up with my friend, M, who had gone on a fabulous trip to Nepal and had all kinds of things to share about life. She listened to my “yes, I went back for a third time” tale, hugged me and told me (as many others have) that I deserve so much better. It has finally mostly sunk in, that line of thinking.

Thursday, last night – upgrade my gym membership and swim at 24 Hour Fitness. I had my new TYR nest pro goggles so that I won’t have raccoon eyes, and I was pretty excited about that. I left work a little late-ish and got to the gym around 6:15 or so. The membership upgrade process took awhile, and I’m always skeptical of the “we’ll give you the best deal” because I’ve had bad experiences before with the gym. When I last checked online, the upgrade price was $10, which no longer seemed available. In the end, I didn’t have to pay that much (I did pay a reduced initiation fee) and timing-wise, it really worked out because there was a water aerobics class and I wouldn’t have been able to swim laps.

So, as luck would have it, I pretty much had the lane to myself the entire time for swimming.  30 minutes, mostly laps. The only downside – having to listen to snippets of a conversation between three men – one younger white boy, older asian man and older African American man. From what I could tell, and thank God (honestly) that I couldn’t really hear them, they were talking about sex. Seriously, on the deck of the pool, with older women sitting around them, completely covered up. I heard “back door” and “first time” and “home run” and tried to do my turn as fast as possible when I got to that wall. The younger kid said something that made me think he and other friends of his were sleeping sequentially with the same woman. I have a feeling that he was making a lot of it up.

Back to business. I was pleased with the goggles, and able to stop at the store on the way home. And it was a double workout kind of day; Rachel and I also took a 30 minute walk–in the sunshine, too–so I made up a bit for the day before.

As for today, well, I’ll tally 30 minutes of walking. I had gum grafting surgery this afternoon, so real exercise is actually off the table for the next week. Again, something I hadn’t planned when I embarked on this 40 day journey. But walking counts and maybe towards the end of next week, I can work in some yoga. I don’t want to miss out on celebrity sightings at Samadhi.

Days 10 & 11 of 40: Pranayama

7 Feb

Man practicing pranayama

One-quarter of the way through, and it’s working (or I’m working; smile). 90 minutes of yoga on Monday night and last night, a 45-minute walk home from work. The latter was not planned, but the cool air on my face, with a little fall of rain at first, felt so nice after being inside nearly all day.

On Monday night, Steve started out class by talking about pranayama. As he explained and as you’ll see on Wikipedia, the word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Pran, meaning life force (particularly, the breath, which we need more than food and water) and yama, to extend or draw out.

We did some kapalabhati, or breath of fire, which is basically short, explosive exhales through the nose. I’ve realized recently that it really gives your abs a workout, too.

Steve talked about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and getting used to suffering as part of finding ever-present peace in whatever happens in life. I’m probably running lots of his thoughts together. But it makes sense for me and the things that I’ve gone through recently in life, and continue to struggle with. And it’s probably true for the things that we all go through in life on a regular basis. Just saying. We sat for 15 minutes at the start of class, and Steve said that if we could do this every day, it’s a great start of a meditation practice. (Highlight of the class: A local music celeb was in class. I felt like a 12-year-old girl for most of the night, and all of next day. Constant. smirk.)  

Tuesday night, I walked to REI after work to get new swim goggles (no more raccoon eyes). The cool-ish air and almost rain felt nice on my skin. The walk to REI was around 10 minutes or so, and I knew the total walk home was 45 minutes. So after REI, I walked it all the way home, and it felt pretty great. I’m slightly obsessed right now with a song from Glee (“This is the New Year”) and I kept hitting repeat while walking it (and me) home.

Day 9 of 40: (Keep) swimming

3 Feb

Swimming pool from oneyeartofixmylife.comI made it to the pool today. It was a small space, only two lap lanes, but the pool was clean and relatively uncrowded, for the gym on a Sunday morning. 40 minutes of swimming, first with laps and then kicking, and then back to a few laps.

My arms felt sore after yesterday’s yoga workout. I think this Saturday-Sunday combo is a good one. I did learn I’ll have to upgrade my gym access if I want to go to this other location, but I think it will be worth it. Feeling good about continuing on with the 40 days goal and getting back to swimming.

There is a sauna and a steam room with access on the pool deck. A lot of traffic there, with most people not using the pool. One older man kept using the steam room and then would plunge into the pool, doing a deadman’s float kind of thing. His back had some deep round scars on it. And while that’s not really what the pool is there for, when people are swimming laps, he was respectful enough and kept out of our way.

I may need some new goggles or may need to loosen mine up a bit. They left pretty deep grooves under my eyes, visible enough that I didn’t want to stop at the store afterwards. And I can’t have my workout damaging my youthful appearance.