Zumba?

I clicked into the online class because the title said, “20 Minute ZUMBA Fitness.”

I said to myself, “I can do anything for twenty minutes.”

From the first downbeat, the instructor Ayhan Sulu is high energy. His sleevless shirt says, “EGO IS NOT YOUR AMIGO.” And his smile—well—you might just need to click play to see for yourself. Better yet, stand up wherever you are, set your ego aside, and give it a try.

Let me warn you, at about the seven-minute mark, I nearly cried mercy, but I couldn’t stop smiling. Just when I found myself almost dying, the music switched, and we slowed down. Not for long. The intensity built once more. But if this guy’s energy doesn’t make you smile, then picture me—a 51-one-year-old woman who has never ever Zumba-ed, trying to keep up with his moves. Maybe you had to be there, but I’m still tickled.

Around fourteen minutes, I hit pause and went to pee for the sheer excuse of taking a time out. The workout would be over at 22:17. “I can do anything for eight minutes,” I reminded myself. Just as I hit play, there was another slowdown. And then another speed up. And then somewhere in the nineteen-minute range, we started cooling down. I had made it! Through the class. Through my A-Z blogging challenge. Through my month of action. Miracles do happen. Bring on May.  

Yoga?

Once upon a time, I went to a yoga class. In fact, two different classes kept me balanced for about four years. That was probably at least seven years ago. I just realized I miss it—the strength, the flexibility, the relaxation.

Even with my COVID vaccines, I can’t get super excited about going to a class. Meanwhile, I found one online at Sarah Beth Yoga. It seemed like perfect start—30-minute Full Body Yoga for Flexibility and Strength.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

The class begins in child’s pose, my knees on the mat, belly between thighs, hands stretched in front of me, forehead and chest resting downward, and from there a flow to downward facing dog. I can do this, I thought.

The class progressed with a walk to the top of the mat, a slow roll to standing. Sarah Beth says, “Consider what kind of a practice you would like to have today. What is the intention you would like to set for your practice? You don’t have to think too hard. Just let it be the first thing that comes to mind and let that set the pace of your flow and intensity.”

And sometimes that’s all we need—a little guidance to remind us of our intentions—that we don’t need to think too hard—but we do need to choose our purpose. That seems like common sense, but sometimes I forget. Clearly, I need more yoga.

Namaste.

Walk!

Just Take the Step

All it takes is a step,
then another and another,
until momentum takes over
and propels you forward.

The steps we don’t take
are the ones we regret.
Just take the step.  
Don’t worry or fret.

Our paths, like our steps,
always lead to the next.
Billions of us on journeys
with paths that intersect

Plan all you want.
At some point you’ll see
what happens in life
might be destiny.    

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141).

Cassius in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141

Situps, Pushups, and Squats?

The truth is — my clothes weren’t fitting, and I refused to buy bigger ones. I even noticed being short of breath from time to time when doing simple things like laundry. Something needed to change. April seemed as good a time as any, and so I chose to take some action.

My eighty-one-year-old father wakes up around 5:30 each morning and does a whole routine of calisthenics, and I mean seven days a week. Weekdays he still works full-time, and knowing him, I’m betting on some major overtime. He’s the picture of health. I’ve asked about the particulars of his workout, and he has told me. I would’ve needed to write it down to remember. It’s a lot, but I know he exercises in sets.

On the first day of April, I decided to come up with a routine of my own. I wanted to keep it simple and doable. Situps, pushups, and squats. “I can do that,” I said to myself. I had a plan. I started with ten situps, ten pushups, and twenty squats. Each day, I would add five. After the first Sunday in April, I decided to take Sundays off. On another day, I decided I would quit adding five when I reached one hundred repetitions. Modifications are sometimes necessary. Progress is progress. By April 14, 2021, I was up to seventy situps and pushups and eighty squats. The squats were not a problem. The push-ups were harder. And the sit-ups were f-ing ridiculous. I broke them down into sets. If it took me all damn day, I would do them.

But, I sort of hated my life mid-situp and needed some motivation. You know what I did? I Googled the benefits, and Healthline.com gave me nine great reasons to just keep going:

  1. Core strength. By strengthening, tightening, and toning your core, you reduce your risk of back pain and injuries.
  2. Improved muscle mass. According to research from 2016, older women who were able to do situps were less likely to have sarcopenia, which is the natural loss of muscle due to aging. Women who were able to do more than 10 situps had higher levels of muscle mass and function. 
  3. Athletic performance. A strong core gives you proper posture, stability, and form, allowing you to perform at higher levels during any sport or physical activity.
  4. Better balance and stability. A strong core helps to keep your body balanced and stable. It helps your pelvis, lower back, and hip muscles to work together with your abdominal muscles.
  5. Increased flexibility. Situps make your hips and back more flexible, which increases mobility and relieves tension and tightness. Increased flexibility improves circulation and concentration, reduces stress, and boosts energy levels.
  6. Improved posture. A solid core improves posture, and good posture includes less pain and tension, increased energy levels, and improved breathing.
  7. Reduced risk of back pain and injury. Situps also build strength in the lower back, hips, and pelvis, making injury less likely.
  8. Diaphragm strengthening. Situps cause compression of the abdomen, which can have a positive effect on your diaphragm. A strong, healthy diaphragm can improve your breathing patterns, alleviate stress, and enhance athletic endurance.
  9. Academic Achievement. Studies link high fitness levels to high academic achievement levels.

On Monday the 19th, I reached one hundred squats, and yesterday, I reached one hundred situps and pushups. I must admit — I feel stronger, my shape is slowly morphing, and my lower back pain (of the past few years) has improved. Benefits aside, I’m not sure 100 situps a day is sustainable. April is proving I can do anything one month at a time. When May rolls around, I may reassess.

Headstand?

I don’t have too many memories before age five, but sometime in the mid-70’s, I remember my Granny standing on her head. She would’ve been in her mid-sixties. She was a feisty one, my Granny. One of my favorite stories is the time the neighbor boy squirted her with a water hose. The details are a little fuzzy, I think she was dressed up and headed somewhere important. Anyway, she nursed her grudge and waited out her revenge. One day when he was all dressed up for church (or was it the prom?), my Granny had her water hose ready and soaked him down.

When Granny stood on her head with my sister Liz and me, I seem to recall her crashing down. I texted Liz about it recently: “Do you remember? Did she hurt herself?” In my blurry memory, Granny broke her toe.  

Liz confirmed the head stand and speculated on a melodramatic, “Ouch!” I could see where a five-year old might equate that reaction to a broken toe. Maybe Granny even shouted, “I think I broke my toe.”

For the next ten years or so, I stood on my head. And for a couple of years in the last ten or so, I picked it up again in my yoga class. I haven’t practiced in a while, but I do remember some benefits—you know, the type of benefits a person forgets and must Google and the type that might motivate a person to just do it.

The Alternative Daily lists 11 Reasons to Stand on Your Head.

  1. Increases Your Focus
  2. Reduces Stress
  3. Strengthens Shoulders and Upper Arms
  4. Helps with Fluid Retention
  5. Develops Core Strength
  6. Gives You a Free Facelift
  7. Improves Your Circulation
  8. Improves Digestion
  9. It’ll Make You Happy
  10. It’s Empowering
  11. Impress Your Friends

On my first attempt in years, I started with a pillow and hands flat on the floor, placed the top of my head on the pillow and my knees atop my elbows. Since I was in the middle of the floor, I held the pose for about ten seconds without extending my legs. This was before I Googled benefits. Based on what I read about fluid retention and core strength, I moved my pillow next to a wall beside the couch. With the top of my head on the pillow, I walked my feet up the side of the couch and allowed my heels to rest on the wall. I counted to ten and then used the couch to assist in returning my feet to the ground. I might add that I felt empowered and focused, happy and not a bit stressed.

On another day, I Googled—proper headstand. YogiApproved.com listed more benefits such as stimulation of the pineal gland, hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which causes the other endocrine glands to coordinate and function better—as well as improved condition of the brain, eyes, and ears by the increased blood pressure. This website recommended not practicing against the wall lest you use the wrong muscles.

And so I set out to stand on my head properly. This time I laid down my neglected yoga mat. As recommended, I brought my hands together and interlaced my fingers, “making a basket,” with forearms flat on the floor in a triangle shape. Then I placed my head on the floor with the back of my head in my cupped hands. Here, I departed from the steps listed by YogiApproved.Com and used my ottoman to help lift first one leg and then the other into a perpendicular position. And you know what? I am stronger than I realized and maybe a little feisty like my Granny.   

I appreciate you for reading my A-Z Challenge post today. After a year at home, I wanted to mix it all up a bit and thought you my like a few suggestions. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action: mental, physical, and spiritual, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m doing this month? Click here to see: AbstainBalletCartwheelDevoteEncourage, Forgive, Google.

Cartwheel?

Around nine o’clock on a Sunday morning in March, I rocked in a swivel chair on the covered deck out back. I took a deep breath, looked around, and listened to the day. The doves cooed from the tops of nearby trees. A neighborhood rooster crowed about a block away. The sun shone gold in the grass, and the good earth called my name. I remembered once hearing that the soles of your feet can absorb the earth’s energy. There were more benefits I couldn’t quite remember.

I slipped off my house shoes and stepped barefoot into the grass. I wonder if a fifty-one-year-old woman could do a perfect cartwheel—I said to myself. I turned one just to see. It was imperfect. My groin pulled—I probably should have stretched—but it was a cartwheel. My legs made it into the air. I can only guess they were nearly perpendicular to the ground and that my toes were not pointed. No one videoed or saw. I landed on my feet. I can only imagine that was the ugly part. My legs didn’t quite make the circle. Instead, they fell forward at an angle, and I settled into some sort of squat. I decided perfect cartwheels needed practice and that one cartwheel a day would be enough practice for now lest I hurt myself.

On the following day, Monday, I decided to give the cartwheel another try. This was close to ten o’clock after my morning walk. Another attempt at perfection. This time I stretched out a bit in the living room on the area rug in front of the television and read a few pages of book I hadn’t been able finish, The Confessions of St. Augustine. I closed my book, rose to my feet, and to speed along the process, left my tennis shoes on. I walked out my back door and around to the side of my house where I was sure my neighbor who raked leaves in his back yard couldn’t see me. I raised my hands in the air and pointed my right toe. My form had already improved. I have no idea how bad this cartwheel looked. Thank God my husband missed the spectacle through the window. This time I came crashing down. Somehow, I ended in a somersault of sorts on the soft green grass. I was fine all the way down to my groin, and I sat there in the grass and giggled.  

On the third day, I stretched once more and then didn’t have the energy to try one lousy cartwheel. What’s the point? I thought to myself. What does it matter if a fifty-one-year-old woman can do a perfect cartwheel? I did ten pushups from my knees. And twenty squats instead. Surely that’s greater than a cartwheel, I reasoned.

Feeling sure that the grass held a mysterious power, I took my shoes off once more on the fourth day. A cartwheel a day keeps the doctor away, I said to myself, or is it apples? Maybe I should add more apples into my regimen. For some reason, I had some fear, but I tried again. I want to say this one was better than the other two. Still, I decided if the grass holds power, it isn’t strong enough to perfect a cartwheel in three attempts for this fifty-one-year-old woman. At this point, I’m asking myself, how important is a cartwheel at this stage in my life? And here’s my own answer: If the cartwheel gives me joy, even the joy of telling this story, then I suppose, it’s worth a try.   

By the way, this isn’t me.

I appreciate you for reading my A-Z Challenge post today. That means a lot to me. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action, mental and physical, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You might not want to try this at home. Then again, maybe you do. Let me suggest some stretching for whatever you choose.

Ballet?

Ballet. Technically a noun, a verb in theory.

Photo by Luis Gallegos Alvarez on Pexels.com

I danced from age three at Ada B. Coons, School of Dance, and then with a series of teachers until my first year as a modern dance major at the University of Oklahoma. All of that seems eons ago. These days I sometimes dance in my living room. Before the lockdown last March, I thought about finding a class for adults. Just recently, the idea of virtual classes occurred to me. My point (no pun intended)—ballet might not be your thing, but the world wide web has so many things. Carpe diem.

When I decided to take some extra action this April, I Googled—ballet lessons youtube. I looked no further than the video from the Royal Academy for Dance at Home. Just over seventeen minutes, this lesson sounded perfect for a fifty-one-year-old woman, who hadn’t done a single plié in years. Instructor Sarah Platt coached me through a warm-up and shared tips on posture and pliés before a cooldown complete with eyelash batting practice. Now I have eight more classes to try. By the way, these classes are targeted at the 55+ crowd. Lesson number two includes tendus and battements glisse. Lesson three—ronde de jambs and port de bras. Lessons four through nine—new sequences.

Thanks so much for reading today. For this April’s A-Z Challenge, I hope to stick to a theme of action—I’m thinking both mental and physical, continued current activities, those of days gone by, and possibly a few never attempted. You might not want to try this at home. Then again, maybe you do.

Abstain?

People like to make New Year’s resolutions. I like to make New Month’s resolutions. Anything is doable a month at a time, and the first of the month seems like a good time for a new beginning. For April, I’m abstaining from alcohol. By the way, I realize the irony of the announcement on April Fools, but I do not jest.

As far as the A-to-Z challenge goes, I’m choosing a theme of action. My actions of the past year have largely involved sitting on my butt and typing words and reading books. Speaking of large and butts—something must change. And so this month instead of imbibing daily, I will attempt to take more action. I have a celebration planned in May that includes sun and a swimsuit and a beach. So let’s see what sort of headway I can make concerning my beach body, and let’s see if I can take twenty-five more actions to distract me from my alcohol habit. My action plan is somewhat sketchy, but I suppose I will figure it out, like I always do. One day at a time.  

Photo by @thiszun (follow me on IG, FB) on Pexels.com

I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot

So I did a little thing yesterday. On Monday I received a text message from Houston Methodist that said, “As a patient we are pleased to inform you that you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine now based on your age and health risk status.” I would like to think I’m fairly healthy, but I have seen a few doctors this past year. I can’t help but believe that my mother pulled a few strings from above. Within days I made my appointment.

I took my morning walk and then drove to the Houston Methodist administration building in the medical district. I felt very young in the crowd of people there. I waited ten minutes in a moving line. The shot was just a little pin prick, overall painless and quick. I was back home in close to an hour, and that included a fifteen-minute evaluation period for allergic reactions. With my booster follow-up scheduled in three weeks, I’m thankful to be able to return to the work force soon without fear and to take myself out of the unintentional spreader pool. Especially as Texas lifts the state-wide mask mandate next week on March 10. According to MSN.com, “Texas has recorded more than 2.3 million cases of COVID-19—with nearly 5000 new cases on Wednesday—and more than 43,500 fatalities since the start of the crisis…The state is averaging 297 deaths a day.”

I felt very young in the crowd of people there. The shot was just a little pin prick, overall painless and quick. With my booster follow-up scheduled in three weeks, I’m thankful to be able to return to the work force soon without fear and to take myself out of the unintentional spreader pool. Especially as Texas lifts the state-wide mask mandate next week on March 10. According to MSN.com, “Texas has recorded more than 2.3 million cases of COVID-19—with nearly 5000 new cases on Wednesday—and more than 43,500 fatalities since the start of the crisis…The state is averaging 297 deaths a day.”

Three Minutes with Denise

I love new beginnings—the opportunity to start over—to get my mind right. May March bring you joy, fulfillment, perspective, and hope.

A few weeks ago when I stayed with my daughter in Dallas, my bestie Denise let me do some of Lauren’s laundry at her house, which was awesome. Even better, what comes next. Our conversation started like this. “Blah, blah, blah…I’m angry,” I said.

She sat in her chair beside me, listened to my woes, and said, “Do you know where your thoughts are when you’re angry?”

I thought for a moment and said, “The past?”

And she nodded her beautiful face up and down and launched into some sound advice.

I said, “Wait, could I video this?”

Denise coaches golf. And for me, life. She should have her own YouTube channel. Our backstory goes like this—I crashed her birthday party when she turned five. I went uninvited with another friend. That’s how we met. The year was 1975. Later, we shared homerooms—first, second, and third grade. I was always happy to see Denise’s name on the list for my class. Flash forward through twelve years of school, and then I didn’t see her for almost twenty years. We became besties closer to age 40 when we realized we lived within twenty minutes of each other. There’s something about having friends who know exactly where you are from, and I’m just lucky to have a few of those.