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September 2015

Posts from August 2015

The Summer of the Hot Flash

The hot flashes have intensified. I may be having a conversation or reading a book or standing when all of a sudden sweat drips down my neck, puddling in my bra, a moisture moustache forms, and my face transforms to tomato. This is not the heat wave of August 2015, but the heat of 54.

Sweating while standing is not a sight for the delicate. It turns out that I have a predilection for hot pink tee shirts, which tend to show sweat. My younger daughter took a look at me in one of my series, and stated, “Why are you sweating. You’re not doing anything.” Oh, the ignorance of the young and uninitiated.

Not only have my flashes multiplied and intensified this summer, they have also gotten me into trouble.

There I was, in the very back of a very big classroom when the lecturer decided that he must show off his classroom management skills in addition to his grasp of the Nazi mindset. “Would you mind telling us what’s so interesting?’ he called out as I spoke briefly to my new BFF.

Oh, I thought in the moment within the embarrassment, he does not know who he is talking to. I was mad. He was up there talking for hours without giving us a bathroom break and he’s complaining about my rudeness. Oh no. Isn’t talking a human right/need? How else can we express and share our experiences and our knowledge, as he was going to do for five days—in a very one-sided way.

In my loudest teacher voice, I said, “I told her that I’m having a hot flash.”

Sometimes it feels wonderful to be a big mouth and that, surely, was one of those moments. 


The Summer of Yoga

This summer I have become a yogi with a practice. Mind you, a yogi who doesn’t wear yoga-wear and is as inflexible as any of the umpteen GOP presidential candidates; although, I do have a mat with pink flowers.

I’m not quite sure what happened to get me doing inversions, but I think it has something to do with noticing how comfy I was doing nothing physically, and how that  inertia was settling into me mentally. The couch can be a tempting place to pass a life. At that point of minimum exertion, I realized that if I didn’t move now, I was heading into a very mushy AARP-life. I needed to find an exercise that would make me feel better doing it and having done it, rather than having stayed in my reclining position.  

During the first critical weeks, when you waiver between realizing that those initial dates are not quite what you thought they were or sticking with it because you have a good feeling, younger daughter was here. She went with me to one class and then, as we were walking out she asked, “Which class do you want to take tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” I asked, wondering if she really knew her mother. In what world do I work out two days in a row? Before she came, I was giving myself two days between classes. It’s so unhealthy to push yourself. But she had me cornered; it wasn’t the yoga that got me initially, it was spending time with her. Even though we were upside down and dripping, what mother can resist an opportunity to bond with her teen?

So here I am, a summer into yoga and feeling committed to it. I even decided on the monthly unlimited class plan.

The lack of aggressiveness in the room is appealing. Even in the yoga weights class, there’s none of the clanking and huffing and showing off that you see in a gym. I mean those places, even the relatively safe treadmill-zone, were reminiscent of the pre-mating, jockeying for the ladies, season out in the veldt. The pilates classes I tried a few years ago unnerved me with worrying about mid-body noises and being exposed to far too much up-beat music and bouncing. There is a line that must be drawn between getting exercise and being the butt of a comedic skit wherein we women are tricked into thinking that we’re exercising when, in fact, a mad contortionist has us do a random succession of moves that we think will help us lose our jiggle when, actually, it’s only for a laugh at the ladies later.

Back to yoga class: since my body does not understand the language of contortion, I cannot be envious of the ladies who get into their dolphin poses and hold their eagles. I hold what I can and no one cares or knows: look, no mirror! Besides, why look at the lumpy lady sweating as she gets into her chair pose, a high chair the way I do it, rather than the lululemon-clad woman who gets into every advanced pose as if it’s a walk in the park? Since so much sweating is involved, I have to take off my glasses, which means I can barely see what anyone else is doing. It’s me focused on me, with no feelings of inadequacy (okay, barely any). I just do what I can. Perhaps this is what it’s like when you’re retired and taking classes: all you care about is your own learning, no grades, just dealing with yourself, improving yourself for yourself.

And the grunting. When I told younger daughter that I had grunted holding some of the poses she noted, “Yes, I know.” But you know, I wasn’t the only one grunting. I might not see anyone, but I can hear their very real struggles, even if it is to hold the advanced pretzel poses. We are all pushing ourselves, for ourselves. I guess there really is something to focusing on your own breath (though I keep getting confused when I’m supposed to breathe in and when I’m supposed to breathe out) that lets you concentrate on what matters at that moment, even when I’m sweating like a sumo wrestler.



The Door

There are times when it’s good to use your strength, like when opening a jar closed by a small man with biceps bulging out of his XL shirt. Then there are those times when thought should precede that mighty muscle flex, which I learned the hard way the other morning.

It all began innocently enough, as so many things do: when I came home from walking Poops my front door wouldn’t close. I needed the door to close since I needed to take a shower so that I could meet a friend for a walk. Now, I have two front doors: a glass/screen door combo and then the keep-out-the-predators front door. It was not enough to lock the glass/screen door and close the front door as much as possible, since I need the double-lock at shower-time. (Have I said that I’m from NYC?)

I used my arm strength to try to close the door. Nothing doing. I tried again. Nothing. It would not close all the way. Then I decided, with a brilliant lightbulb above my head, that only a full-body propulsion lead by the mighty shoulder would do. Voila! Success. Door closed.

Closed shut.


The joy of success was immediately followed by a drop of dread, and then a tug on the door.

Another tug.

Sealed shut.

I had just shut myself into my house. My first thought was that I have enough food to last a few days, followed by a glance at Poops, who had about another eight hours of holding it in in him.

A moment of claustrophobic panic arose, but I shot it down as I looked out to the sunny balcony. No, I told myself, you cannot go there.

Of course, my Mr. Fixit neighbor, with his big boy muscles, was not at home.

I texted the friend who I was supposed to meet and asked her if she could come over and save me by pushing open the door.

But more needed to be done. She might free me, but the door needed to be fixed. I was on it: yelping for handymen. Did I go with Jim, Doug, or Honey Do Guy? For the first time in a very long while I was choosing between men! How empowering.

Just as I was about to do my eeny, meeny, miny, mo, my friend called to say that she would come over and that she had a handyman who lived in her building, if I wanted. Thank goodness for friends.

Oh, the wonder of asking for help and getting it.

An hour later, she and Ted arrived. As Ted banged on the door, she called out, “We’re here!” Between Poops’ barking and the pounding of Prince Charming, I already knew that they had arrived. Within a huff or two, I was freed! Glorious sunlight and a clear path out.

Ah, but the door still needed fixing.

Ted took a look. Then he got a tool. As we have all learned by now, there is no fixing without the appropriate tools. I, myself, armed with an Ikea toolkit, have tightened many a loose screw.

He used sanding paper to try to sand down the bottom edge of the door, since it looked like that was where the door wasn’t closing. (Of course, since the door is not wood, he was sanding down the paint, even I could see that.) He rubbed some more and then tried to close the door again. No movement. He sanded some more. But still no closure. Then, just as I looked away for a moment, he pointed to a plastic bag that looked ominously familiar and said, “There’s the problem.”

There lay Poops’ poop bag. It had gotten stuck between the front door and the door jam.

Now it is important to understand that this bag is one of the ways by which I am saving the world. It is a bag from a newspaper that either my brother or a friend donates to my worthy cause of poop pick up so that I don’t have to purchase wasteful manufactured dog poop bags. But that is not enough, there are surely more ways a dog walker (especially one with a small dog) can save the world: rather than just put one of Poops’ puny poops into a bag and then throw it away, I reuse it, knotting as I go along, until it’s full.

Since I don’t want my neighbors to be disturbed by the sight of a poop bag in front of my house (though why I care, I don’t know, since they leave their very big dog’s bags strewn all over the front yard, but at least now they use bags), and since I don’t want the smell in the house, I have been putting it between my two doors. It was a great solution. Until now.

Now it’s in a little garden pot hidden behind plants next to my door.

Since it’s always important to look on the bright side, I am grateful that the bag was not placed in such a way that when I shoved with full-body force the poop burst forth. Then, surely, I would have needed a shower. 

Poops' poop bag

Summer Vacation Thoughts

University of Richmond


It is true that I am not as smart or funny or attractive as I had hoped. It is also true that sometimes I am almost as smart and funny and attractive as I imagined. What’s more, I am both more and less delusional than I would have expected. This is based on the assumption that this is normal, even the norm. Why is so much of self-perception based on delusions? And why does one’s perception of reality tend to team up with self-criticism? You just have to wonder what’s the point of introspection when you generally end up hauling yourself over simmering coals as opposed to placing yourself on a tacky pedestal. For every moment of self-flattery, there are the non-stop, non-subtle knocks of disapproval.

But who cares!? Who the curseword cares. Not me. I am freeing myself.

It’s time to crash the clown car of critique and live within delusion. What’s the harm in thinking I’m my best expression of myself? Is it really hurting anyone, even myself, if I refuse to bow down and place some cockamamie gilded goddess of perfection and leaning as the light of my light? I think not.

It gets tiring living in a two-tiered world, where one tier encourages others in confidence and aspirations, and the other confronts the self as if it is a criminal for eating and napping, and, generally, just being a woman who needs (nay, wants) to eat and nap.

Oh, but to convince myself that my little island is the best expression of myself even as the tide of aspirations ebbs and flows. How lovely that would be. Could be. Will be?

It gets tiring thinking that who you are is not enough. But if there was someone else I could have been, I would have been her by now. Perhaps if I honestly settle into this acceptance I can be as content as I tell myself I am. Perhaps then I will let myself realize that there is no purpose of life other than to live, and that it is enough. I could do without burdening myself into thinking that the only valid life is one that is saving the world, when I find it challenging enough just to go through the mail once a week.

The calm that enables the chastisement is pretty darn fertile because it is also the foundation from which actual accomplishments arise. Maybe not the ones I envisioned when I told myself who I am and can be, but actual accomplishments which, apparently, are the ones I’m geared to make.

This calm is the place from which I will head into my eleventh year teaching. And I’m excited to meet, challenge, and encourage new students. It continually confounds me that I discount my teaching and think it only a worthwhile enterprise to solve the problems we read about in the headlines. Instead of those angel wings that people tattoo on their backs, I need to imagine butterfly wings beating, not in a vacuum, but participating in some sort of People’s Nobel Prize of Humanity wherein we all do what we can to bring out and encourage goodness.