Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thanks for the Memories.....

The holiday season seems to conjure up memories from the past more than any other time of year.

This can be a good thing, especially if you are recalling some of the fun times as a kid.

In actuality, remembering is even better than going back to being a kid. You have the adult wisdom to navigate life and as time passes a lot of the looking back brings laughter. Somehow you recall those really great moments and the memories that made you sad seem to fade.

Such as with this season for me.....

Three recent activities took me back to some fun times.

The first is always the selection of the tree.

Growing up in San Francisco we never had the opportunity to cut our own tree. We would drive up to a lot on busy 19th Avenue and support a tree lot where my father knew the proprietor. As a little girl I annually repeated the scenario of begging for a pink flocked tree. We never did get one. And now that I know what a mess flocking creates, it's a wonder why my parents would ever even allow a white flocked one in the house.

The second one was Sat. out with George for a downtown viewing of the Pioneer Courthouse Square tree - it's as close as we get to the Rockefeller tree in NYC.

We stopped in at the Benson Hotel for a drink and snack. Playing was a three-piece jazz ensemble. One of the songs they played was "Mack The Knife." That was a favorite tune of my Dad's. It was one where my Dad would whisk my Mom around the dance floor. They were smooth as butta' on the floor. If I closed my eyes I could still see them sweeping the dance floor.

It was such a favorite tune, we played it as a recessional at my Dad's funeral.

The third just happened today. While out Christmas shopping I saw a chunk of divinity fudge in a store. I am not big on sweets, but this one called to me. Without an ounce of hesitation, I purchased (and ate) it.

As a little girl, I will never forget the year Dad decided we would make fudge together - just he and I. He chose to make one of the most difficult ones to perfect - Divinity.

It wasn't as good as Dad's because it wasn't made by the two of us.

It did bring up the memory of how much my Dad did for me when my Mom was not well. With a bad heart, she spent some time in the hospital when I was very small. With all he had going on with his job as an accountant, he was also handyman, car mechanic, church volunteer and a good neighbor to many, he made time for me.

I liked that. But I probably appreciate it now more than ever.

Thanks, Dad.....

Monday, October 31, 2011


I was taking my daily walk to the park today with Otto.

"Yep," I said to myself, "there is a great change enveloping us."

As I watched a tire swing sway from the motion of child, now absent from play, I thought to myself, "How different things are here from when summer was in full swing."

Then the park was bustling with children on play equipment, gardeners in the community garden, children on the field playing games, teenagers hanging out in groups, picnics on the grass. There were a lot of neighborly conversations going on.

As summer turns to Fall, the leaves are those lovely shades of orange, but now falling to the ground. The note on the garden states it is time to tend to your plot and close it down for the season. There are fewer dogs, no picnics.

It is pretty still at 5 p.m.

There is some solace in the change of the season. But it definitely felt it was time to say goodbye to summer days and prepare for sweaters and jeans, soups, stews and squash..... and the holidays.

Bittersweet but ready to embrace it.

I guess change has always been difficult for me or maybe this indicates I just had a really good summer.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dogs - like humans?

I ordered an item from a canine company a few weeks ago.

Okay, it was a plaque spray from a t.v. commercial. I admit it.

It arrived two days ago. Two bottles for the price of one with two toys.
The toys were stuff less animals. Otto seems to like those. He has been known to drag them over for a game of tug of war in the late afternoon.

This stuff less squirrel that I gave him seems to be special, though.

Today was a rainy day - a day to finish a book I started this week. So after work, I put on the classical Pandora station, reclined and read while Otto sat in his bed near the fire. Before long Otto dragged out his squirrel and began chewing on it in an odd way. He would nibble on the external fur, like a beaver shaving wood from a log, like a gorilla or baboon, picking nits off their babies. He did this for at least a half hour.

I thought to myself, "This seems motherly." But perhaps it is just the canines way of showing some compassion.

After reading the National Geographic article on the elephant orphanage and the beauty of those animals, I have little doubt that animals are capable of so much more than we give them credit for.

I may be reading more into the whole thing. But I found it intriguing and really quite sweet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One Good Deed Brings On Another

The old adage proved true again this week.

I live in a neighborhood built in the 1920's, where old homes marry newly crafted gardens with less lawn.

It is where older homes have given way to duplexes. It brings in a very diverse community where, in my thinking, anyone would be welcomed.

It's a walking neighborhood - three blocks to the bus stop, two blocks to the grocery store, three blocks from the post office, restaurants and shops.

On my daily route walking the dog, I had noticed last summer that an old home converted to a small apartment building had been undergoing a lovely face lift. The landlord hired a painting company that did a fine job.

Not long after that, a retaining wall was built that neatly afforded room for garbage and recycle bins.

This Fall some of the renters planted wildflowers in the parking strip.

Today one of the residents put out a beautiful planter and was doing more planting in the courtyard of the building.

It has been completely transformed.

Paying it good deed gives birth to another.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vitamin C

Vitamins have been getting some bad press as of late. I have wondered whether or not the big drug companies have something to do with that. Nonetheless, here's one for the "other" side.

Perhaps instead of carrots, rabbits should be ingesting oranges to see better.
A surprising discovery by Oregon Health and Sciences University found that Vitamin C prolongs proper functioning of nerve cells in the eye.

In fact, cells in the retina need to be "bathed" in relatively high doses of Vitamin C to be able to function properly.

The study, published in the June 29, 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience also suggests that Vitamin C plays a more important role throughout our brains than was previously thought.

This could eventually have implications for other diseases like glaucoma and epilepsy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Be grateful - always.

This is a post I had in my drafts folder for awhile. I sort of dreaded pushing the "button." And you will see why. The day has come.

It was about two years ago when I took the photo to the right. I took part in the "Thank A Soldier" project.

It was a nationwide online military support project. At that time you could send a photo and a song to be placed on their website. It was heartwarming, to say the least, to see all of the gratitude from every corner of our country. There was an incredible outpouring of love for our American soldiers, who serve so selflessly.

It was the beginning of a journey to be supportive and to accept my son's enlistment into the Army. He was just graduating from basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia and transferring to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

This was the birth of allowing my mind go to the place I dreaded, his deployment to a war zone.

Since then he has married his sweetheart and they are happily stationed at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, WA. That's a gift, I thought, as we could see them more being only two hours away. I wanted to be able to see them as much as possible before the "inevitable."

The "inevitable" has come, as our soldier, now a Specialist, deploys.

Motherhood is often a shared journey. It is one where we share from infancy the developmental growth. It is one where, as they reach puberty, you hold on as they step aside from innocence;
where you try to loosen your grasp as they move away to college. As they marry, you step aside because you are now a mother-in-law. And he now has a wife.

But so many in the past months times I have questioned myself, "How do you let go of your son to go to war?"

But as much as we all support one another throughout motherhood, this now is a bit of an alone feeling. "Mama said there'll be days like this."

There are so very many people who don't know how to react. As much as I hate to say this, instead of attempting to say something supportive, they say something very stupid to a Mom of a soldier. I won't go into any detail.

But, you know, you're a Mom. You get up again. You stand tall. You stand proud. You stand strong - and with all of the love your heart has to hold. This is another time when it may overflow, you think to yourself.

On the other hand, there are many support groups for Mom's of soldiers. Those women have reached from all corners of the country to lend immediate support.

You have many conversations with yourself (many in the middle of the night). How will I navigate the year he is gone? How will my daughter-in-law survive this? Will he always have his buddies by his side? How will I be able to be the best support for his wife? How often will I see him on Skype? When will I get his address? Let me figure out how many packages I can send.......

I remember when we sat at the kitchen table and he announced to me that he was enlisting. I was visibly shaken. He stood up, came over to me, hugged me, comforted me and said, "Mom, you have been supportive of everything the three of us kids have done. I know this is a hard one, but I want you to try to accept this because this is what I want."

I want to call my Mom, I thought. I know she is a good person to listen. No, she's gone. I want to tell my Dad. I know he would be so proud. No, he's gone.

So I gather myself and think.....our soldier is a very smart young man, with a very sensible head on his shoulders. He has been awaiting deployment so that he can put his job skills to use - finally. He is very excited about going.

I am a personal trainer. I liken it to training to be on a team but always warming the bench.

I love my job. It might be like training for a job for two years but never being able to use what you have learned.

Frustrating with a capital "F."

I have run mentally through that enlisting scenario so many times over the past two and a half years.

I have comfort, I think to myself.

I have thought of my brother's (a Vietnam vet) words, "Be grateful that you had him home for two years."

My good friend, whose father served in three wars, told me, "Keep making memories." And I do that every time I see him.

I have friends who have served recently who have said how well-trained the soldiers are now and what a smart war it is now. That really helps.

My chest swells when many people react with, "You must be so proud of him."

By all appearances, my son is taking all of this preparedness for deployment in stride.

I suppose I have come a long way since that moment at the kitchen table.

I am getting pretty good about explaining what he will be doing. I try my best to put a positive spin on all of it.

Above my computer sits the simple "Serenity Prayer." And, boy, is it the truth. It's something I have learned over and over throughout my 50's decade - "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."

Now it's late Fall, my favorite season of the year. The holidays are on their way. And it sure does shed some new light on all of them.

Be grateful - always. Sometimes it is hard in the face of adversity.

Above a photo of our sweet son and his wife (taken when he graduated from Basic Training) sits another quote, "Look at hardship as opportunity, rather than obstacle."

I need those reminders.

The star atop the tree this year is for you, my shining star.

A Celebration.....of two kinds

I am in the process of celebrating almost a year and a half of very consistent Yoga practice.

It has been a great integration into my fitness regimen and into the solace that we all seek in our often hurried lives.

I also enjoy those hours of someone teaching me, instead me being the teacher. It's good for everyone to be a student from time to time. It keeps us open to change and to being guided.

Too often we tend to be the organizer, the planner and the leader. Good to let that go. Be the humble learner instead of the guru.

So I mark this anniversary, this celebration, on my blog today.

Aside from my job as a fitness educator is my job of analyzing bodies in motion. It's a lot of fun and I never seem to tire of it. It's almost a pastime when I am in a public place.

So it was today, while waiting for Yoga class to begin, that I spent some time viewing the various body types and how they move around the gym.

Whether it be someone walking from machine to machine, using machine after machine or immersed in cardio I am intrigued with observing.

After 30 years in the fitness industry, I will say that what remains one of the more challenging ideologies to convince clients of is that we genetically are all built differently and are predisposed to certain postures, strengths and weaknesses. This is simply controlled by who we were born of.

It is not that we cannot combat some of them by strengthening and stretching. Oh, and not to mention nutrition. But to hold oneself up to some ideal of someone seen in a magazine or an elite athlete.....well, it is simply an injustice to oneself.

Today I saw, the extremely lean over 50 runner, who looked quite uncomfortable moving about the gym after removing himself from the treadmill. While lean, he looked very inflexible and had a stiff gait.

There was the woman with a bit higher BMI who was trying out her first Yoga class. She was flexible and seemed to have very good body awareness.

Then, using an arm curl machine, an over 70 gentleman, who had the appearance of a former football player, keeping up his strength work with great determination and intensity.

It is always my hope that people will aspire to be the best they can be, working within the genetic framework given to them - not aspire to be anything but themself.

You know, to celebrate oneself. Strive to be the best you can be. That's all you can ask for. that's all you can expect from yourself.

Make peace with that and it IS a cause for celebration.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Art Of Play

I often think I have the very best job on earth.

I arrive at work ready to play everyday with some lovely individuals called "my clients."

Don't get me wrong, sometimes when the workout is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. he/she may need a little coaxing. As a personal trainer, well adjusted to the early hour, I don't want to appear too energetic before dawn. But I do arise extra early to be prepared, alert and ready for my job.

But with a gentle warm-up and a conversation that softens the break of dawn, it works.

Lately, with the addition of a Circuit Training class, it has brought the term "play" to a new light.

Classes began in the summer and in the advent of Fall have blossomed into a very fun group of women who appear to enjoy the interactions, the group accountability and the play. From individual exercises the class has grown to allow partnering exercises.

When I watch people throwing medicine balls to one another, jump on the trampoline and ride the spinning bike without a seat, I once again am reminded that playing is fun.

Kaiser Permanente ads asks us, "When did you stop playing?"

Well, when you stop playing, you stop interacting and you cease to be able to laugh at yourself.

Now that will really make one grow old fast!

So, I suggest we all take time in our day to play - whether that be with the kids, with the grandchildren, our partners or with any others our own age.

It's good for the body. It's uplifting for the spirit. It warms the soul.