Well Balanced Diet

I am a proponent of healthy eating, yes. I eat mostly organic food, when possible, and as clean as possible when organic isn’t an option. I love food, and eat very, very well. I am careful to include the appropriate amounts of lean protein, whole grains and fresh veggies and fruit in my diet. And, in my opinion, a balanced diet also needs to take into consideration what we drink; I like to make sure I have one glass of wine for every beer I consume, just to be well balanced!

I am also very diligent about balancing my nutritional intake with my physical activity. I don’t count calories in and out, like I used to when I was trying to lose a ton of weight, but I have a rough idea of what goes in and what is expended, and it seems to be working, for the most part, I’ve maintained my weight for about three years, with about a seven pound swing through my busy travel/eat in restaurants every meal time of year (nine months) and my work from home, eat nutritious, home cooked meals time of year (three months).

But, believe it or not, I don’t want to talk about food, or beverage or exercise, right now. I want to talk about “balance.” And, no, I don’t want to talk about living a balanced life, I’ve talked about that a couple of times before. I want to talk about “balance”, you know, like not falling down!

Gravity is real, undeniably, unarguably real. Some of us have a run in with the law, the law of gravity, more often than others. As we age, sadly, it is gravity and our deteriorating balance that can get us into pretty deep doo doo.

My grandfather lived to be 100 years old. He was in excellent health at 100 years old, and, in fact, still lived on his own in his house and even mowed his own lawn with a push mower, you know, the kind without the motor. Every day, he’d walk a few blocks from his house to the nursing home to have lunch, not with his friends, as they were all long gone, but with his friends’ kids, who were now residents and in need of assisted living. It was on one of these lunchtime jaunts that Grandpa got into trouble with the law, the law of gravity. He fell, broke his hip, went to the hospital and died of pneumonia in short order. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure he’d still be kicking about.

I listened to a great audiobook recently, and have shared it before, “Younger Next Year (for Women): Live Strong, Fit and Sexy Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley and Hendry S. Lodge, M.D. With a title like that, how can you resist, right? The book is funny and loaded with great advice and information. This book also addresses the importance of maintaining strength, and thereby, improving your balance, rather than allowing it to deteriorate with the rest of our bodies as we age, or “decay”, as Chris says throughout the volume. As we age, it is falling that is most likely to put an abrupt end to our ambulatory days, if not our life. I don’t know about you, but that’s not in my script, if I have anything to do with writing it!

I am often surprised at how few people I meet that have really good balance. I don’t mean people who don’t work out at all, either, all sorts of people. I am in a running club and I run with folks who regularly compete in 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons and even ultra-marathons. After our workouts, we dutifully stretch. One stretch we do, of course, is the hamstring stretch, where you stand on one leg, bend the other leg behind you and grab your foot. These fit, runner people are hopping all over the place, falling, leaning on each other and against trees, struggling to stay on the right side of the law. Fit, strong, healthy people totally unable to balance on one foot for thirty seconds. Lawbreakers!

Try this; stand up, move away from anything you can hold on to like a wall, a chair, a table, the couch, a loved one, the dog. Now stand on one foot. How long can you do this? How long does it take before you have to set your foot back down, or grab onto something I told you not to stand next to?

Balance is strength. Good balance requires good core strength and it also requires the use of all sorts of tiny little muscles and ligaments in the lower leg and feet. Try this! Stand up, (yes, again), bend over so your hands are as close to your feet, or the floor, as possible. If you can, grab one ankle with one or both hands, now lift the other foot off the ground and balance. Can you feel all the little, minute adjustments your standing leg is going through to try to keep you from losing your balance? So, to improve balance, to avoid getting into trouble with the law, just strengthen all those little muscles and ligaments, oh, and your core, too!

Personally, I find yoga to be extremely beneficial in developing core strength and in fine-tuning all those little muscles and in perfecting your balance. Ballet is good, too, or gymnastics, tumbling or calisthenics. I like yoga because I get to work on my mind a bit, at the same time. Yoga is a practice. So is balance. Balance takes practice and I combine my balancing practice with my mindfulness practice with my yoga practice. It’s the most productive hour I can squeeze into a day!

But, still, I practice balance even more. I have always been a law-abiding citizen, except for highway speed limits, but I consider that sport, not deviance, a game of cat and mouse, predator and prey; I’m the mouse, the CHP are cats, and I’ve been winning for the last thirty years. Knock on wood. Anyway. Practice. There are so many opportunities for practicing balance that you can incorporate into daily life; no gym membership, no expensive workout equipment, no gimmicky gizmos as seen on TV. Consider the following.

I am avid about dental hygiene. I like to brush my teeth. My childhood orthodontist would be so proud of me now! I was driving through the middle of Indiana some time last year. There isn’t much to see. Grass. Highway. Trees. Grass. Highway. Trees. And billboards. One billboard I passed presented a big, happy, cheesy smiling face and a caption that read, “Brush for two minutes, twice daily.” It struck me that someone, somewhere, paid money to advertise what we should’ve all known, and been doing, since we were two years old. But, whatever. Later that night, as I brushed my teeth for the third time that day, I thought about “two minutes”. I got my iPhone out, opened up the clock app, and set the timer for a minute. As I brushed the teeth on the right side of my mouth, I stood in tree pose (stand on one foot, bend the suspended leg at the knee and rest the foot either just above or below the knee. And hold). I brushed and balanced and brushed and balanced. When the timer went off, I set it for another minute and did the other side, teeth and tree pose. I do this every time I brush my teeth, now.

I ran six miles today. I ran eight miles a couple of days ago. I like to run. Every time my demons start to catch up with me, I go out and run, it keeps them at a distance for a while. It works, I swear by it. I plan my run so I after I complete the planned mileage, I have another half mile or so to walk back to where I’ve parked, that’s my cool down. Then I stretch when I get to my car. I have been running in a suburban neighborhood area, near a park, quite routinely. The other day, after my eight-mile run, I felt so fantastic! The weather was perfect, it was a Saturday morning, so the whole world smelled like pancakes and bacon, and every friendly fitness fiend was out and about, all calling “hello!” and exchanging other kind remarks. I finished my eight miles and as I walked the last half mile, I found myself walking on the curb. I walked the curb, you know, the narrow strip of elevated concrete between the landscaping and the gutter and roadway? It’s like a balance beam, but not so scary high off the ground. I walked a half a mile, on the curb, without losing my balance. After running eight miles. I did it again, today. When was the last time you  “walked a curb”? I walk every curb I come close to; in parking lots, even carrying groceries, even carrying my half-caf, soy latte that cost five bucks, I walk curbs in neighborhoods and in the city, but only if I’m not going to get hit by a bus or a garbage truck!

A lovely, lovely run on Saturday!
A lovely, lovely run on Saturday!

Being well balanced just requires a regular diet of, well, balancing. Find fun ways to incorporate it into your daily life. Do the dishes standing on one leg! If you have to stand in line at Target or the grocery check out, or at the bank, if you’re app resistant and still actually go to the bank, stand on one foot. You don’t have to be real obvious about it, you don’t have to do a hamstring stretch or an arabesque or anything, unless you like to draw attention to yourself. Just lift one foot casually off the floor and rest it atop your other foot. Then switch.

I know, this all sounds pretty loopy, but, seriously, I’m just looking out for you. I don’t want you to get into trouble with the law. Try to stick to a “well-balanced diet” and maybe when you’re 100 years old, you can walk the curb all the way to the old folks home to visit your friends’ kids for lunch!

 

 

 

 

Unattached

Troubles, troubles, troubles. You know the song. How about the troubles you have that you didn’t know you had until you learned something new? Ever have those types of troubles?

I have troubles with attachments.

All kinds of attachments. There are attachments on my Dyson vacuum I struggle with every once in a great while, when I decide the dust bunnies are planning an attack and a preemptive strike is in order. I also struggle with GoPro attachments. I need to devote a whole day to GoPro attachment mastery. I have recently had some troubles with attachments to emails and text messages being too large. I created a full-scale cinematic production/Valentine’s Day greeting for my Sweetie, only to have to cut it by about 92.7% to a size that could be attached and sent from iMovie to my Gmail account so I could then attach it to a text for quick, same-day, delivery. Sigh. I think it ended up being three frames. Oh well. I’m ready for next Valentine’s Day, the full movie is done and can be burned to DVD and delivered with the card. Ssshhh.

Lately, though, it seems I’m quite attached and I shouldn’t be. Which is news to me. But I’m learning. And, eventually, I think I shall learn to be unattached. Or is it detached? Oh dear. I need clarification.

So the attachment I am having the most trouble with, is trouble I never knew I had before, and I’ve got it bad. Over the past month or so, I have been learning more about mindfulness, meditation and “simply being”. I am not a total stranger to the idea, it has been on my “intend to master” list for quite some time. Now that I have amassed a sizable Kindle library on the topic, downloaded several albums from iTunes, audiobooks from Audible and apps from the App Store, I’m fast becoming a) invested in the subject, b) broke c) overcommitted to reading, listening and learning and d) unable to find time to meditate or “simply be”, as one app instructs. And since becoming so aware of my breath through all of this instruction, I’m kind of dizzy, light-headed and a bit bloated.

No, this is not totally new, this mindfulness and meditation thing, though I’ve sucked at it for as long as I can remember. In yoga, we often begin and/or end the class with some guided meditation in corpse pose. I can do corpse pose. No problem. But the mind is whirring, I fear, audibly. I’m afraid it can be heard churning and humming over the lovely chanting, flutey, water torture music playing in the background during yoga class. With a great deal of effort, I have been able to improve with this some, lately. My favorite yoga instructor guides us through the meditation, telling us to just let thoughts that spring up, go. Just let them go. He says it’s okay to have thoughts, as long as you “don’t chase them down the rabbit hole”. I think it was inappropriate at the time, but I LOL’d. I tend to think visually, often, so the picture was kind of funny. Sorry. I don’t know what goes on in most folk’s heads, I always assumed they were like mine. Now I’m not so sure. Now, I imagine theirs with little fluffy thought clouds drifting around a serene space, one drifting past, then another a full moment later. In my head, it’s like the shooting gallery at the carnival; picture hundreds of really fast little metal rabbit targets, with goofy faces painted on them, and I’d have to say they’re pink, just to add to the absurdity. And I’m trying to shoot them, rapid fire, with a poorly maintained plinker, chained to the bench with a chain just a little too short for an accurate shot. The pink rabbit targets easily dodge my shots, as they scamper back and forth along the little track, before disappearing down the “rabbit hole”. My shooter keeps jamming and misfiring and I manage to hit one out of every hundred or so. Ladies and gentlemen, my mind, lots and lots of rabbits down the hole. Every thought I have is fully explored, in depth, categorized, classified, an action plan drafted, indexed, cross-referenced and color-coded, highlightered … highlighted … highlit, (which is it?!), with charts and graphs, and a bibliography, with web links. I think visually, in Excel spreadsheets, in my brain. With Google open.

I recently read a great book that my daughter, Daisy and her hubby, Sherwood, oh, and their cat, all gave me for Christmas. It was sort of the lid that loosened on this whole can of worms; “Zen and the Art of Running – The Path to Making Peace With Your Pace,” by Larry Shapiro, PhD. It was here I first learned, or perhaps “absorbed” the idea of “attaching” to thoughts. We are, instead, to observe our thoughts, separate ourselves from our thoughts. It all clicked, it did sound familiar, and I harkened back to an often read and re-read (Kindle) and listened and re-listened to (Audible), but apparently not fully absorbed, annul, by Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now” with his discussion of “ego” and “essence”.  I have a very ADHD ego and my essence is narcoleptic. But we’re working on it. We’re working on it? Great, now I have a multiple personality disorder, me, myself, my ego, my essence, and I.

The book that started it all. This time.
The book that started it all. This time.

I went to a crab feed the other night, at a “Portuguese Club”. I went with friends and between us all, including in-laws, cousins, and shirttail relatives, we, collectively are about 1/5th Portuguese. But the food was awesome and it was a fundraiser, so, yah. Anyway, my mind resembles a Portuguese crab feed; incredibly crowded, very loud, lots of food, there is music, dancing, probably too much wine, and not everyone is speaking the same language!

I am currently trying to muster my way through an interesting though terribly clinical read on mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness”. I should have known, I don’t have pain, or illness, thankfully, and I don’t have what most people categorize as stress. It is a good book, but, as I said, very clinical. The dude is a doctor, a PhD, and treats some really unfortunate people and I think I’ve been told each and every one of their stories in the book. I’m not yet half way through the book. I’ve been browsing online for the “lite” version, or Cliff Notes. I ended up downloading a speed reading app from the App Store and have managed to improve my reading speed and comprehension significantly, but, still, I have 60% of this book left to read and I know, know, know, the bits that are going to be most beneficial to me lie ahead, not in what I’ve already laid to waste. I have two more of Jon’s books to read after this one. Maybe they are the “lite” version. We’ll see. There is very good information in Jon’s material. Like meditating, don’t attempt reading this stuff at bedtime. As Dr. Larry Shapiro (above) says about meditation, watch out for “sleeping hazards”.

So, through all of this, which sounds sort of fast, furious and dizzying, I am actually finding some mindfulness, some calm, some peace, intentionally, a time or two a day. I am gaining proficiency at “shooting the rabbits” before they “go down the rabbit hole”, and I find that some of my little anxieties and worries can be more easily reasoned with. It’s not that I have less little anxieties and worries, I am human, after all, but I can now identify them as rabbits and reason with them. Maybe threaten them, is more accurate. “Give up you wascally wabbit or I’ll bwast yuh!” and if that doesn’t work, I just pick up another book on meditation and mindfulness and my little anxieties and petty worries flee in terror!

No, in all seriousness, there is tremendous value in fostering mindfulness, in living in the present and in not attaching to every thought that enters our mind. Think of it like sorting through cranberries, or lentils. Yes, you’re supposed to do that, it says so on the package. Cranberries, or lentils, are like our thoughts. Many are good and should be observed, kept, acted on. Some are bad and should be culled and discarded. The bad ones are usually doubts, fears, insecurities, anxious thoughts, thoughts of the past that can’t be changed, worries about the future that is wholly unknown, unkind thoughts, angry and unforgiving thoughts. Toss ‘em, they don’t belong in our recipe. Keep the good berries, or lentils; the loving thoughts, the positive thoughts, the kind thoughts, the forgiving thoughts, thoughts about the moment, the present. In fact, if there were one thing we could all do to improve our health, wellness, well-being and even our relationships, I think it would be just that; foster mindfulness, live in the present and don’t attach to every thought that enters our mind. The fastest way to this ideal is through the practice of meditation.

Time to go to yoga. And shoot me some rabbits.

Will and Grace

I don’t watch much television and what I do watch is a decade or so old via Netflix or something. One of my favorite old series I’ve been cycling through recently is “Will and Grace”. Yesterday, two “Will and Grace” DVDs showed up in my mailbox, so I spent a rather self-indulgent evening enjoying a “Will and Grace” watch-a-thon.

I find inspiration everywhere I look, even the splash screen of a decade old TV series on DVD.

On will. And grace.

We all have things we’d like to improve in our lives. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t. Some folks are able to improve some things in their lives, and not other things. Other folks have a hard time even knowing where to begin with one wish or desire. Whether it’s weight loss or fitness, education, job skills, magic tricks, or career gains, debt, spending, saving and investing, or self-confidence, happiness or spirituality, we all have a wish list.

How are some folks better at making desired improvements and others aren’t? Will and grace.

Most kids, at some point in time, desire to learn to ride a bicycle. There are usually training wheels to assist while the new cyclist learns to balance, then, one day, the training wheels are gone and some family member is customarily tasked with running down the sidewalk, hunched awkwardly over the tiny cycle, gripping some portion of the bike, the child, or both, while the new rider wobbles and pedals furiously, trying to take flight like a fledgling leaving the nest. For most of us, we eventually get it and a whole new sense of freedom and independence opens up for us. By sheer will, we learn to balance, pedal and steer, simultaneously. Those first few rides begin a little shaky as we try to pedal fast enough and prevent seesawing the handlebars back and forth frantically until that magical moment when everything is in synchronization. Within a week, we look as though we’ve been cycling for years. Grace.

Have you ever noticed that children run everywhere? From the family room to the kitchen, from the front door to the car, from the classroom to the playground at recess. At some point in life, we just stop, it becomes “uncool” to run from point to point and we begin a long life of ambling. For most of us, as adults, we don’t run. Period. Don’t run. Ever. Unless zombies attack, and then, as out of practice as we are, we become zombie chow. There are adults who run, voluntarily, without a zombie breathing down their neck. They run for fitness and, yes, for pleasure. A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to move from the ranks of probable zombie chow to “runner”. Have you seen the movie “Zombieland”? Rule number one, of thirty-two, is cardio. To survive in Zombieland you have to be able to outrun the zombies. No, I don’t believe in zombies, but I decided to “learn” to run, as an adult. For fitness and to prove to myself I could. Now I run for pleasure.

My first day of running as an adult, and we’re talking way adult, I’m not twenty-two, or thirty-two, or forty-two. My first day of running as an adult was sort of an “audition” run, if you will. I’d joined a running club on the advice of my friend Miles. I’d expressed an interest in running, he recommended this club. I signed up online and showed up to run. My first run would be a mile and it would be used to identify which “pace group” I would train with. I’d been doing cardio, religiously, at the gym, so I was in pretty good shape. I just didn’t run. Knowing that my performance would determine how far and how fast I’d have to run for the next several months, I was a little concerned. I may have held back a little. When I stepped out onto the paved bike path and was told to begin running, I felt sort of like the tin man from Wizard of Oz, before being adequately oiled. Creaky, kind of spastic and jerky, lurching along, propelling myself forward with a complete lack of rhythm or form. It was my will to run. Two years later, I run a full three minutes per mile faster than that first mile and I’ve finished a full marathon. I have some form and a little bit or rhythm. Grace? Well, yes, comparatively speaking.

I took a job nearly six years ago that required significant travel and having to speak, out loud, for eight hours at a time, standing up in front of really smart people. Neither of these requirements were really okay with me. Like running, I did not fly comfortably and I most certainly did not speak in front of a group of people, voluntarily. Except for Cub Scouts. And Brownies. But never in front of grown ups. But, I needed the job and so I had to do what had to be done. Will.

Six years later, I fly all over the country on all manner of aircraft without a second thought. I’m like George Clooney in “Up in the Air”, but not really. I’m a road warrior, though, but I check my bags, George was all carry-on. I can stand up in front of a group of really smart people and talk and talk and talk. I teach them what they need to know, I tell stories and joke and quite enjoy myself. Grace.

So, what’s on our list? Do we want to get fit? Eat less processed food? Improve our self-esteem? Practice yoga? Learn a foreign language? Learn to master our smartphone? Whatever it is we desire, we can accomplish. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” to quote Napoleon Hill from his book, “Think and Grow Rich.” We just need the will.

Let’s look at the word “will.” It is used in many ways, both as a verb and as a noun.

will
wil/Submit

verb

1. Expressing the future tense.

2. Expressing inevitable events.

3. To decide on; choose.

4. To yearn for; desire.

5. To decree, dictate, or order.

6. To resolve with a forceful will; determine.

7. To induce or try to induce by sheer force of will.

8. To grant in a legal will; bequeath.

noun

1. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action

2.  a. Diligent purposefulness; determination.

b. Self-control; self-discipline.

3. A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority.

4. Deliberate intention or wish.

5. Free discretion.

6. Bearing or attitude toward others; disposition.

7.  a. A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.

b. A legally executed document containing this declaration.

For the purpose of our discussion, I am particularly fond of the following selections from above:

As a verb, “diligent purposefulness; determination, self-control; self-discipline, deliberate intention or wish.” That is the secret ingredient to accomplishing any desire or goal we have. We’re all familiar with the common saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Sadly, most of us don’t live that truth. We are truly limitless. The only limitations we have are the ones we’ve made ourselves believe. If we set to any one of our desires with “diligent purposefulness, determination, self-control, self-discipline”, if what we desire is a “deliberate intention or wish”, we can achieve it, at which point, “will” becomes a noun; “expressing inevitable events.” With “will”, it “will” happen.

It may be hard, it may take time, and it will likely take commitment and even some set backs to accomplish any one thing on our list, but it can be done. It will be done. With will. And then, we achieve grace.

grace noun \ˈgrās\

1. a way of moving that is smooth and attractive and that is not stiff or awkward

2. a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving

3. ease and suppleness of movement or bearing

I grew up around the corner from a friend who’s mother taught ballet. She had a ballet school in an old, white Victorian house, with pink trim, that smelled of old wood floors and resin. I was enchanted and wanted nothing more than to take ballet lessons, that is, if I couldn’t have a pony. A pony would totally trump ballet lessons, but I wasn’t making much headway on that “will” at the age of eight. I was eventually enrolled in ballet, along with most of my Girl Scout troop, which was handy, since ballet was shortly after Girl Scouts. We could car pool. I think it worked out well for my mom, too. I walked to school in the morning, stayed after school for Girl Scouts, hitched a ride to ballet and showed up at home, completely exhausted, just in time for dinner. I probably went right to bed after dinner. I was a very busy child with lots of activities. I think I now know why. It was my mom’s will.

Most of the rooms in the old white and pink Victorian were converted into ballet studios. Upstairs, the bedrooms were reserved for the beginners. Once you were “good enough”, you got “promoted” to the big kids class in the living room, downstairs. It had a bay window at the front, barres along one wall and mirrors on every wall. I started lessons after some of my classmates and I remember my despair at still being upstairs when they were all downstairs. As Liz Lemon would say, “I want(ed) to go to there.” I remember trying so, so, so hard to plié perfectly, to jeté just right and to arabesque absolutely divinely, that I might get to practice in the studio downstairs, with my friends. Ballet is not easy, it takes a great deal of strength and practice. That the dancers make it look easy is the magic. The simplest looking move is really a symphony of coordination, strength, balance and, well, grace. Grace does not come easily or naturally for many, for most, it is only achieved when the coordination, strength and balance have been very well developed. Will.

And that is no different than anything else we have to will to achieve. Grace will only come after much practice and after looking like a goof for a while.

I went to yoga tonight. One of my favorite instructors was teaching. Her class is very rejuvenating. The other yoga instructor I like does a lot of power poses and I am left trembling with muscle fatigue afterwards. Tonight’s instructor teaches more flexibility and relaxation. I am left like putty afterwards, sort of like having a glass of wine and a bubble bath after a massage. Same difference. The class is designed for “all levels”, moves are easily modified for the less, or more experienced yogi. Because it is still January and there are still a few resolutionists around the gym, I arrived early. In fact, I was the first to arrive. There was a picture on Facebook of a yoga class at my gym over the weekend with forty people in it! The “energy” studio has room for about twenty, comfortably. So, I arrived early to be sure to secure my spot. I guess Tuesday night and Saturday mid-morning are a bit different. I set my mat front and center, right where I like it. About twenty minutes after I arrived another fellow showed up. I’ve seen him before, he is a show off. No, not really. He has definitely been practicing yoga for a long time, though. He has grace. He set his mat up next to mine and started practicing some flows. I was trying to meditate and his ankles kept popping and cracking. All decorum was lost and we both started laughing, I told him it sounded like firecrackers, he thought they sounded like snapping twigs. Right. Twigs being stepped on by a really, really large animal. Anyway. Soon, others began to assemble in the classroom. I think there were about ten of us, a good number. After a while, the door opened and an older lady, in yoga pants, wandered in one door. She looked around at all of us pretty much just sitting on our mats waiting for the instructor. We were just chilling. She walked through the classroom and exited out the other door. I observed her and wondered why she didn’t just stay in the hallway to get from one point to the other. A moment later, another lady, in yoga pants, peeked into the room. The first lady kind of peeked around behind her and exclaimed, “This is too advanced for me!” We were sitting on our mats, doing nothing, even “snap, crackle and pop” was sitting still. She totally lacked the will, she wouldn’t even try. Her friend advanced cautiously into the studio and asked the instructor a few questions. She was given gentle reassurance and was advised how to modify the moves for her comfort as a beginner and she stayed for the whole class. She seemed to enjoy it and even said she’d come again. She had the will! And, if she comes back, she will soon have the grace, too!  That’s how it goes. Will and grace.

Will and Grace, Jack and Karen.
Will and Grace, Jack and Karen. Actually, Jack, Grace, Will and Karen.

Whatever it is you desire, whatever it is you wish to accomplish or achieve, whatever it is you wish to improve, just remember Jack and Karen, Will and Grace. Especially, Will and Grace.

Scarlett’s Letter December 15, 2013

I went to yoga today and it was just the thing!

I haven’t been to yoga in ages and I was relieved to find that I could still bend, in an acceptable manner, in a number of ways. With my exercise focus being exclusively on running, lately, in preparation for my first marathon, it is good to be back to other methods of exertion. I did run yesterday, the first time since the marathon a week ago, and it was amazing. I ran really, really, fast! For me. So, for any casual observer, I probably appeared to be shuffling frantically. For the record, there is a brief moment, each stride, where both feet are, in fact, off the ground. Simultaneously. Yes.

I was so indescribably tired last night. After my run and a shower, and taking Mom on her errands, and grocery shopping for myself, I was exhausted. I can run 26.2 miles, but a day of errands with Mom wears me out. I’ve heard there is a “post-marathon” depression, or malaise, maybe that’s what this mild irritability and exhaustion is about. Or maybe it’s the cumulative affect of my six weeks of east coast/west coast travel. Or, maybe because I stayed up until 1:00 AM chatting with my Sweetie the night before. Or maybe it was the chat, itself. He was being feisty, playing devil’s advocate and just generally being a brat. All in good humor, of course, but I was on my toes and sparring the whole time. Or, all of the above. Whatever the reason, once I finished dinner and dishes, all I could think about was reading one of the four hundred new Kindle books I have yet to start. I awoke with my Kindle on top of  me, unopened, this morning.

I was excited to get up this morning. I have groceries! Real food! Do you have any idea what it’s like to return to the produce section of a Whole Foods in California after being on the other side of the country? Real, local, organic produce! A selection! I almost fell to my knees and kissed the inlaid tile “Whole Foods” logo on the floor in the entry to the store! I bought yogurt, eggs and produce. That’s it. Three heavy to lift, reusable, “Whole Planet Foundation” bags full of produce. And having yogurt again! Today was the day I have been waiting for! I opened the tub of organic Wallaby yogurt, made right here in Napa County, stirred in my local, organic honey, and, the best part, I opened a jar of Alaskan blueberries that I helped pick right off the tundra, that my Sweetie jarred and flat-rated to me, and stirred a generous amount into my yogurt. It was the most divine thing I’ve had for breakfast in a very long time. I can’t wait for breakfast, again, tomorrow. Or, maybe I’ll just have breakfast, again, for dinner! Or both!

Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone Sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!

The yogurt was the only part of breakfast I found enjoyable. My oatmeal wasn’t cooked to perfection. My fault.  And it was cold by the time I ate it. I guess I was busy eating the yogurt first.

When I travel, I try to stay at hotels with a fridge and maybe even a microwave. Last week’s hotel was not one. In hotels without such amenities, I usually have fruit not requiring refrigeration and an organic granola bar for breakfast. No matter what I have, it is during breakfast that I check Facebook for interesting news, wish any Facebook friends having a birthday a great day, and write in my journal. I forget, upon my return home, that these activities are difficult to carry out at the breakfast table. I do really like to focus on any articles I click through to from Facebook, reading them from start to finish without interruption, conversation or being read the local newspaper, which Mom seems inclined to do. And today’s article of click-worthiness was awesome! I like to be able to write in my journal with complete focus and attention, since it is my morning affirmations I usually document. I consider this to be practically meditative. I always hope that when Mom see’s my pink journal, she’ll realize that I need a few minutes of complete calm. Nope.

I can remember very clearly, my dad, sitting at the kitchen table, where I sit now, across from my mom. He’d be trying to read something and she’d be reading bits of the newspaper out loud to him, or asking him a string of questions, as she does a lot of. He’d sigh, grimace, as only he could do, mark his spot with his index finger and an air of exasperation and look up at her, impatiently, over the rim of his gold wire rimmed bifocals. When I do that, try to mark my spot with my index finger, as I’m reading on my iPhone or iPad, I end up unintentionally “liking” something or navigating to a link I don’t mean to. I finished my breakfast, my dishes, and quickly retreated upstairs to finish my morning routine. I admit, I was a bit frustrated, which is no way to be first thing in the morning, and I finally remembered that I had altered my routine during my last “at home” stint, to finish those items requiring my focus, before heading downstairs. It was the yogurt and the blueberries, I guess, and my excitement over them, that caused me to forget that rather important little scheduling detail. I am now reminded and will act accordingly.

Yoga, as I said, was great. During our initial stretching, where we are to quiet our minds, to acknowledge and dismiss our thoughts, I was kept pretty busy. Things I wanted to include in any of several articles I’m working on kept drifting through my mind, as did some of my petty frustrations at home. At one point, the instructor told us to let everything “out of our mind”, and, at this point, as only I would do, a song popped in based on those lyrics. I remember my kids’ reaction when I played this song, they find it pretty amusing that I listen to a lot of the stuff they do. The song? “Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon, featuring LMFAO, the chorus going something like this,

“Get outta your mind, get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)
Get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)”

So, in yoga, to a hip-hop beat, in my head, I’m singing, “Get outta my mind, get outta my mind, bump that shit, get outta my mind …” It worked. But I almost laughed out loud, just a little, which would’ve been an outward breach of protocol, I’m pretty sure. I’m already about as unconventional a yoga practitioner as you’ll find. By the end of our hour and a half of practice, I was feeling much better, my calm sense of composure, energy and enthusiasm restored. All the bad jou jou of the past couple of days were “outta my mind!”

I didn’t have a text from my Sweetie this morning. We didn’t talk last night, he was headed north, piloting an oversize load to Coldfoot. I fell asleep before sending my nightly, “good night, Love” message. I wanted to send my usual “good morning” text this morning, but thought if he got in real late last night, which was certain to be the case, due to a late start, I didn’t want to wake him. When I got out of yoga at noon, I checked my phone and there were a couple of texts from him. Good, he was home. I don’t worry, remember, it’s pointless and doesn’t change anything, but, still, I am always super happy when I know he’s home again after a trip north. He made it home fine. The million-mile Ford did not. Well, it did, eventually, but they did not arrive home together and the million-mile Ford did not return under its own power. The poor old blue truck won’t be making that trip, again, until it gets a new engine. Zowwie.

The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!
The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!

But, other than breakfast and the news from the north, my day went exactly as I hoped it would. I wrote. That’s all I wanted to do today, write. And, now, it’s time to think about dinner. Wallaby yogurt with local, organic honey and real Alaskan blueberries, picked myself and lovingly jarred by my Sweetie. Perhaps, so. Or for dessert, maybe. Or both!

And, tomorrow, a big day. One I am excited for. Though Monday, it is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. I will plan ahead, prepare, and even try to get a super good night’s sleep in anticipation of this sure to be magical event! Tidings!

Boundaries, Control and Micro-Management! Oh My!

I’m glad to be home. But …

This whole being home thing is a big adjustment. I knew it would be. It seems I just get settled into a happy routine and it is upended by travel in one form or another. I am not complaining, I do love seeing the world, though I think I’d prefer adventure travel to business travel. We all know I am not one to sit home and let the world spin around without spinning around out there, experiencing it!

When the rhythm of my life changes, as it does a few times throughout any year, travel to working at home, working at home to travel, I go through a “storming” phase, where I try to regulate, try to find a routine, just adapt, and, finally, I reach my “norming” phase, where I find normalcy in my altered routine. I do love routine, as long as spontaneity is big part of it, if that makes any sense to anyone besides me.

I am a very self-directed person. I thrive on independence, freedom and autonomy. I love people in my life, I need close relationships like breath, but, I also need a bit of privacy, some me time. Daily, and, preferably a bit at the very beginning and a bit more at the very end, and, hopefully a little bit somewhere in there for some exercise. As much as I thrive on camaraderie and companionship, I like and respect boundaries. I like and respect privacy.

A little on life with Mom, whom I adore, bless her heart.

We are having some boundary issues and they are no more prevalent when I return home after a fit of traveling, just more noticeable. While traveling, though I may have very limited free time, I do have completely uninterrupted free time to pursue my activities, whether writing, reading, sleeping, meditating, working out, chatting on the phone, social networking, or feeling miserably alone. Whatever.

At home, and this has been true since my birth, my whereabouts must be constantly accounted for, as do my activities. Like a cat. An untrustworthy, mischievous, cat., and I have never yacked up a hairball on the carpet or sharpened my nails on the sofa. If I am upstairs, in my office, door closed, writing, meditating, or even during business hours, working at “real work”, she will knock, open the door, and inquire of my activities. Often, she will yell, from another floor of the house, “Where are you?” and my response, no matter the volume, is never heard. I must abandon my activity and go inform her of my location and activity. There is nothing quite like finally finding my quiet mind, sitting on my little couch with the morning sunlight streaming through my office window, meditating very conscientiously, and having to yell in reply, at the top of my lungs, “I’m meditating!” This I do so as to avoid the knock, knock, knock on my door, only to have to explain the whole thing. I’ve decided that I’m going to begin answering, “I’m masturbating!” and see what happens, and if no answer, I’ll walk to the top of the stairs, dildo in hand, and explain more clearly. No. I’d never do that.

This, I know, sounds fairly minor. I can deal. I’m tolerant, patient, accepting, compassionate and open-minded. I work at it, it’s one of the things I make an effort to evolve at. Let’s take this to the next level.

I’ve written, before, of our “tissue issues”. Since childhood, Mom, bless her frugal, raised during the depression, heart, has very carefully monitored paper usage of all forms, with the obvious exception of notepads, catalogs, junk mail, and newspapers. Tissue, toilet paper and paper towels, though, are very carefully scrutinized. As a matter of fact, after one very public outburst in the paper aisle at Target about my ability to use a half sheet of paper towels, I stalked across the parking lot to Whole Foods and bought two rolls of my very own, environmentally friendly paper towels. I use them exclusively. I’m about to do the same with TP. I do share in the restocking of TP, but it hasn’t seemed to help. How bad can it be? Example.

I have long hair. Mom has never had long hair in her life, and, in fact, for much of my life, at frequent intervals, has suggested that I should cut my hair, that I look “good” with short hair. So, do I look bad, now? I have cut my hair short, before, now and again, but because I wanted to. Just to be clear. Now, I have long hair. When I shower, a few hairs gather at the drain of the bathtub. After I get out of the shower, I grab an adequate amount of toilet paper and collect the hair from the drain and throw it in the trash. As a courtesy. Who wants to see hair in the bathtub? And “my” bathroom is the guest bathroom, which, and I wholeheartedly agree, must always be clean enough for guests. So, come on over and use my bathroom! Take a shower! It’s clean enough!

One day, when the topic of toilet paper use arose, again, it must have been an odd numbered day on the calendar, as there is a very regular pattern, Mom noted, “I know why you use so much toilet paper, you use it to wipe the hair out of the bathtub.” Yes. True. So, I wonder, has my budgeted allowance been adjusted? No matter, I just throw the hair away, now, in a big clump, sans toilet paper. If you glance into the trashcan under the sink, it looks like someone crammed Chewbacca in there. Mom has yet to comment on the toilet paper savings as a result. It wasn’t until the “trashcan” episode came up the other day that the reality of Mom’s “hair in tissue” observation became very clear to me.

While I was away, the bathroom received its twice-annual makeover. There is the spring/summer/fall collection consisting of rug, toilet seat cover, shower curtain, wall hangings, toilet top trinkets and trashcan, all coordinated. For Christmas, until spring, there is another collection of items in a different palette. So, it’s Christmas now, the bathroom says so. I was asked to not throw hair or tissue away in the decorative trashcan because of the material it is made of. I didn’t ask. It’s plastic. Same as the rest. It just has a fabric cover. I’ve learned long, long ago not to throw anything away in the decorative can, I always use the hideous peach colored circa 1960’s era plastic trashcan crammed under the bathroom vanity. But, it was in this moment that I realized, the fact that she referred to hair separate from tissue, Mom examines the trash, she actually unwads tissue to see what’s inside. I’ve taken to emptying the little trash cans to the big can outside almost daily to prevent her from having to perform her “budget to actual” examination, analysis and record keeping. I’m also making every effort to blow the biggest booger I can muster into every piece of litter I discard. I am being tolerant. And accepting. I don’t have to understand, just tolerate. Sigh.

Boundaries. And micro-management. How to do everything my way.

I may not be much different, but I try. Mom has always been quick to suggest, strongly, perhaps insist is a better word, that certain things be done a certain way. To control how absolutely everything is done. Fine. Usually. Turning the stove vent on when I cook leeks or boil water, placing my coffee press on a hot pad on the almost fifty year old Formica counter to preserve it’s shine, so the avocado and mustard gold streaks in the pattern will continue to glisten another half century, well beyond it’s fashionable longevity, or drying the shower and the stainless kitchen sink after every use (and this I totally support), all just examples. I can manage these, and, in “my” house, I might have my own. I would, in fact, and one example; when using a pot or pan, hand wash it and put it away so someone (me) doesn’t have to fish it out of the dishwasher the very next meal and wash it in order to use it. It’s not like we stock pots and pans like bowls and plates, there is one in each size and they get used multiple times in one “dishwasher cycle”.

When we drive places, as in, I drive her car to places she is afraid to park, and perhaps rightfully so, though I grew up in this town and am quite navigationally adept, she tells me exactly how to drive to our destination and where exactly I should park. She becomes quite alarmed if I enter a parking lot at a driveway other than the one she’s used to.

The line is crossed, occasionally, though, when a suggestion is made and is then followed up on with frequent queries and reminders. These suggestions are usually prefaced with “you should” rather than “could you please”, as in the example above. “You should call so-and-so and say such-and-such.” An hour later, and every hour, on the hour, thereafter, “Did you call so-and-so?” No, I am perfectly capable of managing my friendships, personal relationships, and communication, and of constructing sentences, for that matter, on my own, in my own way.

I remember, as a teenager, having a crush on a young man that worked at my dad’s bike shop. He was French. The young man. My dad, too. Anyway. Mom and I worked at the bike shop on weekends during the summer. Mom vacuumed incessantly and sprayed everything with Windex until we all asphyxiated, I assembled new bicycles and checked out guys buying motocross bikes and skateboards. I got paid to do this. On the last weekend before school was to begin, my last weekend on the job for the summer, Mom and I were leaving the bike shop at the same time as the young French man. She knew I thought he was cute, but I was (believe it or not) a bit shy. I grew out of it eventually. She told me I should say to him, “If you’re ever in Napa, you should stop by for iced tea.” I did. He looked at me like I was a bug. I said to Mom, “That didn’t go very well.” And she agreed, like I’d thought of what to say all by myself, and failed. I’m not a good puppet. From that point on, I have vehemently resisted letting anyone form phrases for me, or to prompt me as to when to speak or what to say. I’ve got this, and I’ve been managing fairly well on my own ever since.

Another time, way, way back, when I was in college in Sacramento, and, for the record, beyond the legal age of consent, my boyfriend lived in Napa. Yes, Stanly, so maybe I wasn’t all too bright about “love” at that time. I would, on occasion, drive down to see him, and spend the night, if I had a late class the next day. Mom confronted me, informing me that she’d seen my car parked out in front of his house at some unholy hour of the morning. Well! What was she doing out? Besides checking up on me. So, I just parked in his one-car garage, causing a great deal of automotive upheaval with roommates and such when I visited.

So I just moved in with the next boyfriend, which, of course, was unacceptable. I was just trying to economize. Think of the time and gas Mom saved not having to drive by every night to see if my car was where it “shouldn’t” be!

I realize that I will never change who my mom is, and how she thinks or feels, nor would I want to. Besides, change only occurs from within. And while I may change my behavior in response to some of her “concerns”, I am not changing any of my beliefs or values as a result. We are who we are, and after her ninety years and my fifty, we are probably, both, pretty set in our ways, however different they may be. Fine. If I pride myself on being accepting, tolerant, open-minded and compassionate, then I shall be.

I try really, really, really hard to be tolerant and accepting of the unique ways people do things, that I may do differently. To each their own.

With that in mind; while I may suggest certain concepts, principles and methods, here and in my daily doings, as a good way to do or approach things, I usually preface it, implicitly or explicitly, with the fact that there are more than one good way to do just about anything, even open heart surgery, and, that the method I’m suggesting has worked, thus far, for me. It is merely a suggestion. Always.

One thing that works for me, now, with certain boundary and micro-management issues I struggle with, is to find a quiet place, however fleeting, and to write down my affirmations and then, the things I’m grateful for. Among my list of affirmations; I am tolerant, accepting, patient and open-minded. Among the things I am grateful for; my mom. And for being as tolerant, accepting, patient and open-minded as I am.  Despite our idiosyncrasies, our minor, petty differences, we are lucky to have each other, now, and for all of time.

I’m still “storming” a bit, though. So, another tactic for feeling frustrated is to go to yoga for some quiet physical exertion, stretching and calming reflection. Which I am going to do! Right now! Namaste, dammit!

Scarlett’s Letter August 15, 2013

I made it to an advanced yoga class this morning, it was exhilarating. I’ll be feeling it, for sure, for the next couple of days. Very worth the effort of getting up early, getting things together and heading out the door before work.

This evening was the “Dress to the Vines” event at Jessup Cellars Gallery. Mom and I got all gussied up and set out a bit on the early side. Mom stresses out a little about “traffic”. I find it amusing. At every stop light, if there are more than three cars, she exclaims “Here they all are!” I will sometimes alter my route for dense traffic, in a large city I am well acquainted with, where I know I can a) save significant time and/or b) I can keep moving. There is something about keeping moving, even if it adds a minute or two to the overall travel time, that I find preferable. In Napa? Traffic worth a detour? Joke.

So we arrived at the winery, which is twenty minutes from our house, oh, about an hour early. They closed two minutes before our arrival to prepare for the event, so we couldn’t even go in and have a glass of wine while we waited. It was hot out and even hotter in Mom’s “air conditioned” car. The A/C works on the passenger side, but not on the driver’s side. And she has leather seats. I needed another shower. I sweat more on the twenty minute drive to the winery than I did in an hour and a half of strenuous “advanced” yoga in a heated studio.

We sought respite with a cold beer in the bar of a popular Yountville restaurant across the street. Redd Wood. Mom has been wanting to try it, but after our visit, I’m not so sure. She thought it was ugly inside. I rather liked it, I thought the architecture, design and decor were pretty cool.  The menu looked great, too. She couldn’t understand the layout or why there were so many employees and no guests. It was 5:03 PM. The bartender said they were booked solid every night, beginning at about 7:00. I’m going back.

Salumi, cheese and wine before the event at Jessup Cellars.
Salumi, cheese and wine before the event at Jessup Cellars.

We ventured back across the street a few minutes before the event was scheduled to start. We were the first to arrive. By far. I felt a little awkward noshing on all the cheese and salumi before any other guests arrived. But we did. And had our first glass of wine. After our beer. We made conversation with all the winery and gallery folks we saw the day before, again, being made to feel very welcomed. The panelists were all there and one of the women looked very, very familiar. In a state with nearly forty million residents and God only knows how many tourists, this time of year, what are the chances?

People began to arrive and stood around chatting with one another with apparent familiarity. Mom wanted to sit, so they let her into the gallery a bit early to choose a seat. I mingled a little longer in the tasting room and then joined Mom in the gallery. The panelist speakers and the moderator were going over some last minute details. It was the moderator that looked familiar, she looked like the mothers of one of the Boy Scouts in a troop I helped lead in a Sacramento suburb several years ago. What are the chances? Finally, I could stand it no longer. Yup, it was her, Melissa Haines, a Wine Consultant based in Sacramento. What a small world.

Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery

The gallery had been transformed over night; new pieces had been brought in, featuring “wearable” art by Cynthia Carey, Rory Castillo, and Cari Borja. Tables had been set up with notes to review and three wine glasses for some pairings for each guest. Since the theme was fashion, there were a couple of models in gorgeous gowns designed by Colleen Quen of San Francisco, one in the color of champagne, the other in the color of a rich, red wine. The speakers on the panel were all women, Mary Olin, the Wine Fashionista from the Huffington Post, Kaye Cloutman, Editor in Chief of a GEV (Gastronomique en Vogue) magazine and Karri Grant, Consulting Fashion Stylist from Sacramento.  Personally, I loved the “Sacramento” influence here tonight. Way to represent! Sacramento is on the map, make no doubt.

Panelists for Defining Wine Country Fashion: The Who, How, When with Masters of Wine Fashion
Panelists for Defining Wine Country Fashion: The Who, How, When with Masters of Wine Fashion

An Effort to Evolve

Panelists Kaye Cloutman, Editor in Chief of a GEV (Gastronomique en Vogue) magazine and Karri Grant, Consulting Fashion Stylist from Sacramento.
Panelists Kaye Cloutman, Editor in Chief of a GEV (Gastronomique en Vogue) magazine and Karri Grant, Consulting Fashion Stylist from Sacramento.

The highlight of the panelist discussions, for me, was the wine and scent pairing conducted by Mary Orlin. Generally, fragrance and wine are mutually exclusive. Fragrances worn will influence the olfactory senses when tasting wines. So much so, that tasting room personnel are “forbidden” to wear fragrances while working. So to deliberately pair wine and fragrance was sort of a departure from tradition. We were given test strips with different fragrances created by Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio to pair with selected Jessup Cellars wines. There were two fragrances for each of the three wines, and they were selected specifically to enhance the unique characteristics and qualities of each wine. Rob Lloyd, the winemaker for Jessup Cellars was on hand to further narrate the pairings. Fascinating and delicious, in every respect. What a divine olfactory experience!

Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Strong fragrances and wine tasting do not mix. Notice, in most tasting rooms, the flowers are not fragrant, by design.
Strong fragrances and wine tasting do not mix. Notice, in most tasting rooms, the flowers are not fragrant, by design.
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing

What struck me the most, though, about the whole event, was the fact that the panelists, the moderator, the designer, the winemaker, the artists and the curator of the museum, are all self-defined people. Each very confident, each very powerful, and each a pioneer in their respective fields. They each transformed their passion into their livelihood, their career. They created their own niche, their own market, their own following because of their passion, their confidence and their willingness to step over boundaries and obstacles to make their way. They each evolved, with significant, individual effort, based on their passions, their goals, and their commitment to those passions and goals, into confident and fulfilled leaders within their fields. This epitomizes the possibility and opportunity each and every one of us have, if only we endeavor to focus on our passion, commit to our goals, and make the effort to evolve into who we deserve to be.

Scarlett’s Letter June 13, 2013

Another day nose to the grindstone, just getting stuff done. I’m just trying to get hyper-organized and get all the loose ends wrapped up before I leave home for a month. On Saturday.

Good news, though! Bless the airline gods! Two of three segments upgraded to first class for my red-eye flight Saturday night! If I can’t sleep, I can drink free wine!

Mom goes to the medical center routinely and has blood work done to monitor her anemic condition. My dad used to always go online and print out any medical test results. That, now, has become my responsibility. I knew I had the capability to print to my printer at home, from anywhere, but I just hadn’t really set it up and worked it all out. Today, I mastered it. I can actually pull up her results on my iPhone, from wherever I am (as long as I have internet) and have them print on the printer in my office at home. Magic. I love technology.

With the installation of a few cool iPhone apps, I have also centralized a whole bunch of random notes, passwords, membership information and other annoying data. I’m just feeling so “together”.

I had an amazing lunch, chicken tacos, out on the deck. One of the luxuries of working from home (occasionally); actually being able to cook the largest meal of the day for lunch and having a “light” dinner. I really think this is much healthier for us. And being able to eat outside and listen to the birds. Ok, crows. We have a flock of crows hanging around that have chased all the birds away, and one crow sat on the very tip of a tree limb and carefully watched me eat my tacos. I guess crows are better than the turkey vultures that used to perch on the deck railing and stare in the kitchen window at my parents while they read the paper in the morning!

I made, made, made myself go to the gym tonight. And I’m so glad I did. I went to a yoga class and had an instructor I haven’t had before. She was awesome! We did about an hour of strength poses followed by a half an hour of inversions and relaxation poses. Just the thing for my tight muscles from all the running I’ve done this week! I came home limber, relaxed and hungry and ate the other half of my Amy’s Margherita pizza with some red wine.

My biggest project for the day, and one I’ve kind of put off all week because I was busy masterminding it; wrapping the gifts I got my Sweetie for his birthday (which was a couple of days ago). Since we live so far apart, his gifts will be arriving when I do. I just had to figure out how to get them from here, to there. I’ll be checking them, like luggage, for a fee, which is still way less than the post office would charge. I admit, like everything I do, I may have got just “a little” carried away in “wrapping” the box. It will be funny to see it come off the luggage carousel. I’m sure he’ll be able to tell in about a half a second which item is his gift. I may have spent as much on tape as I did the gift (kidding). But I had fun with it, and it’s all done, and ready to go. Which I am not.

Ahead tonight, and tomorrow; packing for four weeks. One week of work and play in Manhattan, the better part of the next week in New Jersey for work (so heels and pretty clothes for two weeks) followed by two weeks in Alaska, fishing and stuff (so jeans and boots for two weeks). Again, I think I have it masterminded. And, if all else fails, I have my credit card!!

The gift. Do you think he'll be able to tell it's from me?!
The gift. Do you think he’ll be able to tell it’s from me?!
My chicken tacos. So yummy!
My chicken tacos. So yummy!

Take Away

I went to a yoga class last night at my new gym, the first in several months with my recent move and all. I love yoga, I love the peaceful environment, the focus, the time away from busy stuff; the busier part of my day, my busy life, even the busier part of the gym. Yoga time is me time, I can concentrate on how I’m feeling, stretch, think, relax, and build strength, both physical and emotional. At one point, last night, the instructor had us all in shavasana, a position where we are lying on our backs, on our mats on the floor, eyes closed, relaxed. I have almost drifted off to sleep in this pose on more than one occasion. After quietly contemplating things from this perspective for a few minutes, the instructor broke the silence and asked us to begin to come back to awareness. She asked us to consider our awareness of self; how is it we landed on the floor, the position of our feet, of our legs, our arms, our hands. She asked us to consider how we landed there, on the floor in that room, at that gym, in that town. My internal response was “that’s a long story!”

How did I land here? On this floor, in this gym, in this town? It certainly was not my intention, not part of my “grand plan”, but did become my intention at some point, more recently.

Life changes, in ways we expect and definitely in ways we never expected or could even imagine. When life changes, one way or the other, often our lifestyle shifts. When our lifestyle shifts we have to consider two things, possibly a paradigm shift and an effort to identify what our purpose is in the situation we have found ourselves in.

A paradigm shift is a change in our ruling assumptions. When life changes, or shifts, our lifestyle often changes, or shifts, as a result. The ruling assumptions that once applied may need to be altered, or shifted, to match, to be relevant. For example, a few years ago, my kids were living at home, attending high school. They had many extracurricular activities. I worked nearly full time in a nearby community and managed work, a home and their activities. We owned a ranch and a second home; we had mortgages and lots of ranch chores and home maintenance and all that goes with that. My ruling assumptions were all grounded in that lifestyle. Now, I no longer have the ranch, the second home, my kids are living in other cities, attending college, I have a different job that requires a great deal of travel. My ruling assumptions are completely different than they were just a few years ago. I have had to shift my paradigm to accommodate my new lifestyle.

Everything that happens to us happens by design, ours. Everything happens as a result of all of our thoughts, actions, and deeds preceding this very moment. It may seem outlandish to assume that we’ve landed where we are because we wished for it, or desired it, or wanted it. But every thought, action and deed has paved the roadway to where we are. Now, it is time to identify and serve our purpose, then pave our way, with intention, to where we want to be. If you have landed somewhere you didn’t intend to, or in a place or situation you really don’t want to be in, it may be difficult to accept responsibility for the fact that you got yourself into this spot. But you did. If you wish to be elsewhere, only you can get yourself there. You are solely responsible for the change you want to happen, and this is done, in part, through identifying your ruling assumptions and shifting those paradigms. It is not something many of us are aware of or even know how to do, but a little bit of knowledge and awareness will help you gain control over the direction of things in your life.

I have moved several times in as many years, all as a result of the circumstances that unfolded in my life, both desired and undesired. Each of these moves has required reevaluation of my ruling assumptions and a related paradigm shift. My most recent move has been one of the hardest, admittedly. I have moved in with my mom; elderly, recently widowed and in declining health. Being the only child and in a position where it is impractical for me to own my own home, it just makes sense. I travel a great deal for work and would have a difficult time maintaining a dwelling and attached yard on my own. She is old and frail and is having a hard time maintaining a dwelling and attached yard on her own. Here we are. I am able to reorganize my finances and save some money and assist her. Before this, I was living with my college-aged son, helping him with rent after his roommates all transferred to other colleges. Can you imagine the shift in ruling assumptions when you move from a house with an active, twenty one year old man to living with an elderly, frail lifelong authority figure? I am in serious need of a paradigm shift! One of the most important factors in my personal evolution, one of my most valuable guiding principles, is freedom, independence, and autonomy. This is not something I am willing to compromise, so I need to shift my paradigm to accommodate this guiding principle and be able to function in this new dynamic. Of course, there has been some frustration, on my part, and I’m sure on my mom’s part, as we work through these shifts. But that’s exactly how it goes; you take stock of the changes, the situation, your guiding principles, the environment you’re in, and you make a plan. That is how you affect a paradigm shift. One way or another, this is a temporary situation and a stepping-stone, a necessary one, for where I ultimately want to be. And where I ultimately want to be is always subject to change, too! That. Is. Life.

With or without change, there comes frustration. It is a normal part of our daily life. When we are reassessing our ruling assumptions and shifting our paradigm, and frustration happens, the best thing to do, and I am still perfecting this, believe me; pause, take a deep breath, and ask, “Why am I here at this moment in time, experiencing this event?” Just like my yoga instructor asked us as we were prone on the floor in shavasana, “how is it you landed on the floor, in this room, in this gym, in this town?” When we pause for a moment and take stock of where we are, why we are here, and where we are ultimately headed, we can shift our paradigm and act accordingly, with attention and with intention. Socrates is quoted as saying “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We need to occasionally examine our lives, where we are, think about where we want to be, identify our ruling assumptions, shift our paradigm and evolve. Everything we experience, the good, the bad, the frustrating, all happens for a reason. There has to be a reason, a lesson, something to be learned, something to be given. Nothing happens without a reason, and while we are in complete control of our lives, our situations and our happiness, we are put into situations and exposed to circumstances and events designed to teach us, prompt us to grow to evolve. If we’ll make the effort.

A popular business concept these days is “what’s the take away?” It’s the new version of “what’s the bottom line” or “cut to the chase”. Show me the value, what am I supposed to be getting out of whatever it is you are providing. In my current job, part of what we do is design training courses. Now everyone wants to know, wants to us to emphasize what the “take away” will be. So, basically, we restate our “objectives”, calling them “take aways” and the review them at the end to confirm they are “taking those things away” with them. Our daily life should be approached in the same manner. In our daily life with friends, family, at social gatherings, stop for a moment and determine what the take away is. In everything we do, look for the take away. There is value, a lesson, something that fits into or compliments “where we have landed”. Examine your life, each situation and setting you find yourself in and find the take aways. Put them to use in furthering your evolution, in utilizing your guiding principles, your ruling assumptions and in shifting your paradigm, if necessary.

What’s your take away right now, from whatever you’re doing, wherever you are? What’s your biggest take away today? What’s your take away from life as a whole? Are you getting from it what you want? Or are you hoping for something else, something more? It is vital to stop and ask yourself these questions, daily even. Or to keep a running journal on them. You can shape and form your life, you can evolve, with effort, so you are taking away from your experiences, from your life, the things that are going to matter, to make a difference, to fulfill you and your dreams, your goals, serve your values, in a meaningful and lasting manner. This is an examined life and you make it worth living.

To accomplish this in our loud, busy lives; be thoughtful, be meditative, be reflective. Discern, listen, observe, note, and think, think, think. Journal, write your thoughts down, if not daily, frequently. Glancing back on these notes on occasion helps you note the progress you’ve made. Meditating daily is a great practice for clarifying your ruling assumptions, your paradigm, for examining your life. If you’re not good at “formal” meditation, consider yoga. If you’ve never tried yoga, don’t be afraid, don’t be intimidated. Yoga people are the most happy, peaceful, thoughtful, understanding, forgiving and compassionate people ever. There are people of all ages and abilities, so being new is not a big deal. In my class last night, at the tender age of forty-nine and a half, I was the youngest one there. There was one guy in the class who just remained in shavasana the whole time, lying on the floor on his back. And that was perfectly okay. There was a lady who couldn’t even bend to touch her knees. And that was perfectly okay. There was a woman there who was practically a contortionist. And that was okay. Yoga is a practice and it is to each individual what that individual needs and wants it to be. The thing with yoga is that it is meditative without having to sit still and deliberately try to empty your mind. It is a peaceful and soothing environment and you’ll find you are centered and calm and able to think more clearly as you practice. If not journaling, or meditation, or yoga, consider walking by yourself each day. Something, some quiet, contemplative time where you can be alone with your thoughts and examine your life, define your ruling assumptions and shift your paradigm to set you on the path to your personal evolution.

From my yoga class last night, I had two major take aways; the first was to just give pause and consider how I landed here, wherever I am. The second was based on a story the instructor had about the pigeon pose. This is a pose that requires quite a bit of flexibility in the hip flexors and groin area, which many people don’t have. Most people hate the pigeon pose. I actually quite like it. When the instructor was attending a class to learn how to become a yoga instructor, they practiced and practiced and practiced the pigeon pose. She hated it and would ask herself why she was there, in that class, in that horrible pose, pursuing being a yoga instructor. Finally, as she sat in pigeon pose, she just broke down and cried, not from pain or discomfort, she had this complete and total emotional release. From that moment on, she was more physically able to do the pigeon pose. It is often the reflection of why we are doing what we’re doing, why we are where we are, that allows whatever release to occur to illuminate our path to what we want to become.

So, pigeon pose, or not, examine your life to make it worth living, define your ruling assumptions and whether they fit where you are, shift your paradigm if necessary, find the release and illuminate the path to what you want to become. That’s the take away!

Strength and Balance

What does strength have to do with balance? Everything!

Try this; looking straight ahead, standing, draw one foot up so you are standing on the other foot. Don’t hold onto anything for support. Now count. How long can you hold it without touching the floor with your other foot or without grabbing onto something for balance?

If you practice yoga or Pilates or do a significant amount of core strength exercises, I’m sure you were able to balance on one foot for quite a while longer than you were able to before your practice. Yoga, Pilates and core strength exercises build the strength, the core strength we need, to simply balance.

Elderly people that you see wobbling and tottering about as they walk through the grocery store have lost a lot of that core strength required to help them keep their balance. This is why elderly people are so prone to falling. For those of you who practice yoga, Pilates or core strength training, just how many elderly people do you see in your classes? Few, if any. And for those few, I’m guessing they stand more solidly and walk with more stability than those who don’t.

When was the last time you walked on a curb in a parking lot like you would a balance beam in gymnastics? Not since you were a kid? I do. I do, every time I am met with the opportunity. I will even do so carrying a grocery bag, or two, and my ridiculously large purse. Balance is very important, now, and as we grow older. And balance requires significant core strength.

When did I come to realize this? No one ever told me that balance was improved with improved core strength. I found out when I went on my first ten-day backpacking trip as part of the leadership team for a Boy Scout adventure. I was cardiovascularly fit enough to go on the trip, even though I was dangerously close to the upper weight limit for a woman my height and age.

I hiked and backpacked with the group who would be participating in this great adventure to gain experience and to be comfortable with the group and with my equipment. On one training hike, we decided to camp overnight just on the other side of a stream. There was no bridge, and so, to get to the other side of the stream, we had to leap a few feet, just further than we could step. The first man leapt easily across with his full pack strapped to his back. The next man just as easily. And the next. I was the only woman. I stepped up onto the rock we were to leap from, with my full pack strapped to my back. I could feel that I was losing my balance and I frantically waved my arms in an attempt to regain it. I fell, pack first, and was wedged in the most embarrassing position possible, between two large boulders. It took three men to right me. I was relieved of my pack and I managed to leap across the cold, fast moving water. Almost. Luckily I had waterproof boots on. I was the charter member of what I called “the turtle club”. Anyone who fell for any reason on any trek thereafter joined me in membership. We have three members.

With the training hikes behind me, the actual ten-day backpacking adventure was upon us. I was a bit nervous. Really nervous. We hiked nearly seventy five miles in those ten days. It was a particularly wet, rainy summer in New Mexico and the creeks and streams were all full. Many of the trails we needed to traverse crossed cold, swift water. Sometimes multiple times. On one very rainy day, in a very steep canyon, we crossed on stream thirty eight times. To cross the streams, there were “bridges” that were crafted from a single, split log somewhere between six and twelve inches wide. With all the rain, these log bridges were incredibly slippery, in spite of the hashmarks hacked into the wood with an ax. I was a nervous wreck, but, somehow, guts, I think, in spite of my size and lack of core strength, I made it across all the log crossings without incident.

A couple of years later, I returned to New Mexico for another ten-day backpacking trek. I was even more cardiovascularly fit, and had trained primarily hiking up and down very steep hills. It was a much drier year, and there were very few slippery log water crossings, I was still nervous and felt incredibly at risk for falling, in spite of my improved physical condition. Luckily, again, no turtle club incident.

The third time I returned to New Mexico for a ten-day backpacking trip, I was at the extreme lower weight range for my age, gender and height. In addition to intense cardio training, I incorporated yoga and core strength training. Slippery log crossings and precarious leaps across voids presented no trouble whatsoever. I was in far better command of my balance. Primarily because of the strength training I incorporated, though I’m sure the significant loss of weight makes both strength training and balance an easier road to hoe.

Now, let’s talk about something other than backpacking and the turtle club. Balance. Not in the sense of standing on one foot without support, or tottering, wobbly elderly people, or crossing slippery log bridges over cold, raging creeks. What of balance in life?

Balance in life is, first of all, quite complex, and secondly, very personal, being unique to each of us for our own reasons and circumstances. But, in short, it is the ability to identify and focus on those things we consider important in our lives, afford them each their proper due, their proper energy and priority, and to be able to maintain that focus, energy and priority with shifting and changing circumstances. Like leaping across a creek with a full backpack strapped to your back or crossing a raging, cold creek on a skinny, slippery log, takes a great deal of strength, concentration and, well, guts.

How do we gain the inner strength to achieve balance in our lives? Believe it or not, yoga may again provide some help, but only in that it is a contemplative and meditative endeavor. Not just good for the body and for your core strength, but good for your mind and your mental strength.

The strength we need to achieve to become more balanced in life will first of all require us to exercise, much like we would to be able to balance on one foot unsupported or while walking along a curb or balance beam. We need to exercise self discovery, we need to exercise our ability to shift our focus with changes that occur in our lives, both short term and long term. We need to know what we stand for, before we can practice standing on, we need to know our own, personal core values in order to establish and adjust or focus, and to prioritize what’s important right now.

Like balancing in tree pose, life balance takes a great deal of regular practice and is something we are never truly perfect at. Why is yoga not an Olympic sport? There is no perfection, no perfect 10.0 score. Yoga is a personal journey, a practice. There is never a “perfect” in yoga, there is always room for improvement. The same is true with our practice in life balance, it is a very personal journey, and a continual process. The core values we have this year, may be different next year as circumstances in our lives change. Our ability to have clarity and focus to afford each core value it’s appropriate amount of energy is a practice that must be exercised constantly. Or lost. Like our ability to balance while walking on a curb in the parking lot at the grocery store, bags in hand.

My challenge to you, a double scoop of challenge. Acquire strength. Learn balance. Both physically and metaphorically. Find ways to practice both, regularly, if not daily, and I promise you, even in your golden years, you’ll be able to keep upright in the slipperiest of conditions, and you’ll have the inner peace and tranquility afforded only those few that know what balance in life is, and how to achieve it.

Namaste.