Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Letter from my Grand Daughter

I just received a letter -- a real physical hand-written letter -- from my 7-year-old grand daughter. She sent it from her school as a class project. She told me planted grass seeds in a cup and they sprouted. And she sent me a drawing of a hexagon.  When she was younger, her parents used to send me videos. But I guess my daughter became bored with her new video camera toy, and the videos stopped.  The only way to have contact was to fly 3000 miles to visit. That's not something I do every week.  Now she's seven. She's in school.  And she is learning to write.  Hurray! She wrote to me!
Of course I wrote her back -- immediately.
Her letter reminded me of a very rude thing I did at about her age.  A good friend of mine moved to Australia. She sent me a card, at my classroom.  I took the card out of the envelope. Threw away the envelope and took the card home.  It never occurred to me that I could write her back. My grand daughter's teacher is helping her learn a skill that will let her keep in touch with friends who move. 
When I tried to tell my daughter, how excited I am, she said she wished the teacher would teach her daughter to send email.  I love email. I love the instant gratification. But I also remember when I was 9 I wrote to my grandfather, and I loved the surprise of getting his letters in the mail -- the unpredictability factor was part of the fun.  After I joined the club at my local family restaurant (Big Boy's) I got a membership kit that included two secret decoder cards.  I sent him one of the cards  always remembered to put a special message in my letters in code.
Yes, I look forward to getting emails from my grand children. But letters have an emotional kick to them, that is worth teaching.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saving 30 Cents at Staples

Staples emailed me coupon to get a free cloth shopping bag with any purchase. I was low on paperclips, so the coupon served as a reminder to go to Staples (probably the whole point of sending me that coupon -- but I expect they thought I'd spend more than a couple of dollars.) I biked to Staples on the way to the gym.  I found the paperclips, clearly shelf labeled at $2.29. I took them and my coupon for the free bag to the register.  The paperclips rang up at $2.59. 
I told the cashier that the shelf label said $2.29.  She called a number to confirm my statement. Nobody answered. She left a message. Nobody called back. Finally, she sent somebody to bring her the shelf label.  It did indeed say $2.29. She rang my purchase up again. But she had already swiped my coupon for the free bag before cancelling the $2.59 price, and now the system wanted to charge me 99 cents for the bag. She had to get help from another cashier. The line was growing behind me.  Finally, I got a receipt for $2.29 plus tax for my paperclips and my bag. As I paid, I asked if Staples was going to fix the price in the computer, or make a new shelf label.  The cashier said that's not her department.  She kept the shelf label so nobody else would get the $2.29 price.

I know, I know. 30 cents isn't worth all that hassle. Neither is a free cloth shopping bag. But it shouldn't have been a big hassle. I expected there would be a simple way to correct the mistake and I'd get out the door quickly.  It's no wonder people don't want to speak up when things go wrong.  The delays can become time consuming.  I'm lucky I got out of there after only 10 minutes waiting for my 30 cents.

 Once I'd asked for it, there was no way to stop the process, other than to leave without my paperclips.  We have to speak up -- it has to be a habit -- whether it's 30 cents,  or demanding our co-workers or our government behave honorably. We never know when it will become inconvenient. But my 30 cents at Staples is part of a far larger responsibility that we all owe each other. The responsibility that our word has meaning and we promise to honor that meaning.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yoga for Hip Joints

I discovered something odd about my hip joints at last night's yoga.  When I started out in triangle pose, I could barely get my feet 2 feet apart. But as soon as we started turning our feet this way and that, and leaning to the side, my hip joints become more flexible.  By the end of the 90 minute class, I was getting my feet about 4 feet apart.  Today my hip joints ache, but the fact that they can allow movement is a good sign.

I guess it's going to be a lot of work to maintain my desired lifestyle as my body ages.  Tell that to any "intelligent design" proponent.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Standing on One Foot With my Eyes Closed

I went to the morning Pilates class at my gym. The attendees were mostly women, mostly over age 60. And most of us are or have recently been in rehab. We started trying to top each other -- my Physical Therapist is weirder than yours kind of thing.  Mine has me standing on one foot with my eyes closed.  Hey, mine too!  Mine, too! This must be the latest fad.  It's tricky. I had to start out about an inch in front of the wall, fingers touching the wall. tap. tap. tap. I used my fingers to steady myself as I lost balance over and over.  Try it in bare feet on a bare floor (no rug). Try it again and again, like when you were learning to spin a hula hoop or skate, or ride a bike.
Then raise the ante -- like riding no-hands.  Try to stand on one foot, eyes closed, on a pillow. Try it with shoes on. Try it with shoes on, on a rug, on a pillow, on two pillows.  You want a room full of giggling women with rehab experience -- just ask them if they can stand on one foot with their eyes closed.  The PTs claim that if we can master this, it will improve our balance with our eyes open and both feet on the ground.
When Darth Vader said, "Don't underestimate the force," maybe he was talking about gravity! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trying to Figure out Twitter

I've spent the day trying to figure out Twitter. I signed up for so I can automatically follow back anybody who follows me. I set up a keyword search so I can follow anybody who writes tweets with my key words. And I posted a tweet -- a message with 140 or fewer characters.  Almost everybody who follows me wants to sell me something. A $150 yoga video. A pre-set-up business webpage guaranteed to make me money (they never say selling what.) A free sample of lipstick if I'll pay for shipping (which just happens to be more than the price of the lipstick I usually buy.)
So where's the social networking? I thought Twitter was supposed to be a quick way to find folks who have shared interests. And, yes, maybe sell them something if they are interested  -- like maybe one of my books, or an affiliate product I like, but that's incidental. That's not my first and maybe only communication with them -- buy some overpriced mysterious product. 
There must be some trick to this.  If I figure it out, I'll post it in my blog. 
Meanwhile, if I thought finding time to exercise was hard -- this is even harder. Some of these folks send out tweets every few hours. I don't care that they just ate a pretzel. Maybe I'm just anti-social, and anti-greed,  or is that the same thing?
Tomorrow I'm going to try to figure out Facebook.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yoga on the Rope Wall

My Iyengar Yoga class has a rope wall. Loops of rope hang from supports along the wall. Today the teacher showed me how to cross two of the loops, put my legs into them and do a supported version of Downward Dog.  It's wonderful! The ropes hold about half my weight. Downward Dog is hard work, but with the ropes, I stretched my low back while strengthening my arms and legs. My low back had been bothering me.  Now it feels relaxed. That pinchy spot is gone. Hurray!
I think my body likes low-tech solutions like this.  Ropes. Bolsters. Blocks. Straps. Blankets.
Now I'm in shape to plant seedlings in my garden. I wasn't looking forward to that squatting and digging earlier in the day.
I want to fasten some ropes to our living room wall. My husband is afraid it will look like we're into S&M.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Didn't Win the Toastmasters Division

I got 3rd place at my Toastmasters Division competition. It's okay. The guy who got 1st place danced. He jumped. He made silly faces. His voice was confident. His performance skills outshown mine in every way possible.  Now I have more time to work on the screenplays I'm writing, and the books I'm promoting, and trying to get readers for this blog. And getting my magic show business off the ground. I'm glad I entered this competition.  After the previous level competition, I thought I was a competent communicator.  Now I know I have many skills to develop, which will make me a better magician, better story teller, and maybe even a better writer. I also know I have a message to communicate.  If I can learn to communicate content with an engaging delivery, that skill will be worth more to me than any plaque or certificate.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thoughts on Moving *Again*

I'm just back from accompanying my husband on a job interview. While his potential colleagues interviewed him, the chancellor's wife took me on a tour of the town and grilled me. I enjoy Philadelphia. I'm not eager to move. I told her that.  She told me she didn't want to move either, but like me, her husband makes more money than she does, so he gets to decide living arrangements.  It's a macro/micro thing.  He picks the city. I pick the house (within reason.) This may be a holdover for our generation -- maybe younger folks don't make employment decisions based  on salary.  But the one time I tried to get my husband to move for my career, it nearly destroyed our marriage. The chancellor's wife knows I'll come with him, if they choose to offer my husband the job, and he chooses to accept it.

What does it mean to give up that kind of control over my life?  I'm no Ruth, "whither thou goest,  I will go."  I did not say that to my husband before we married. Hey, I said things like "I'm hot for your bod!" and "I love having your perspective on my ideas. You help me see things in an interesting way," and "Thanks for walking out of that movie with me. It was boring."  I did not even know at that point who would make more money, or what that would mean for our relationship.  I don't think that earning more money means you get to decide where we live. But it's a case of "pick your battles."

I didn't want to leave Berkeley. But I loved Denver.  I cried when we left Denver, but much of what I am, I owe to the opportunities I encountered in Tampa.  I would not have chosen these moves. So, I cannot claim to be all knowing about what this new city might hold and if it would be more or less enjoyable than Philly.

The city where we interviewed is almost the opposite of Philadelphia. Yes, it has familiar features like high unemployment and a high crime rate. But it has separate houses, instead of row houses. The local art museum has local art -- not internationally famous art. There are no lines in front of the pictures. I didn't have to wait my turn to see them. In Philly, alternative medicine is still disconnected from mainstream medicine.  There, the Hmong immigrant shamans work with the hospital staff so their clients can receive both spiritual and physical healing. Here bike lanes are painted on the streets and often used for car and truck parking. There, bike lanes are part of a wide sidewalk, separated from the streets by a row of grass. Here, there's an expert for everything.  There, most of the niches haven't been thought of yet.

I used to think at our age, we were settled. We would grow old and die in our current abode. But even though we have an old-style, male-dominated, money=power marriage, we live in a new world were geezers can be pioneers.  I still don't want to move.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Iyengar Yoga from a Lineage Teacher

When I took yoga in college as my gym class, I had no idea I was learning most of the asanas incorrectly. Tree pose looks so simple. But I didn't know that the pelvis must face forward and the hips remain level. It doesn't matter how high your foot goes on your opposite leg. And it's okay to lick your fingers, and wipe them on your thigh to help your foot stick. So, here I am relearning everything I thought I knew.
Thursday night I went to Yoga Sutra in Philadelphia. The teacher, Russell, learned Iyengar Yoga in India from BKS Iyengar and some of his immediate students.  He was able to talk us through micromovements to get into the asanas. He knew how to modify them with pillows and straps and bolsters and rolled up blankets and blocks. Yoga asanas are no longer -- either you can do it or you can't. There are ways to get the stretches and the strengthening that are the true purpose. The goal is not to try to look like the photos in the books.  The goal is to be healthy.
I seem to be relearning a lot lately.  I took a swimming class when I joined my gym last year. When I learned to swim over 50 years ago, the teacher told us to keep our bellies parallel with the bottom of the pool. That was exhausting and it strained the neck when I breathed.  The gym teacher said to let the trunk rock side to side and reach as far forward as possible with each stroke. Wow! Comfort and speed with one simple adjustment.  Very much like yoga -- simple adjustments make exercise more productive and invigorating. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

One Remark Causes Lifelong Food Prejudice

When my girls were young, I agreed to babsit a neighbor Chris's daughter Eden for the day because her regular sitter was ill.  My neighbor hadn't returned by dinner time, so I made an extra pizza sandwich for Eden. A pizza sandwich is a slice of bread painted with tomato paste, shaken with basil, oregano and marjoram, topped with any veggies I have in the house (that day I had onions and mushrooms), covered with sliced or grated cheese (usually mozzarella) and baked or put in the microwave until the cheese melts. It goes nicely with salad.
It's a quick easy dinner and serving one more is no trouble.

As soon as I put it on the table, my girls began to eat eagerly.  Eden just stared at them for a while. I was a picky eater, so I didn't worry about it. If Eden didn't eat, her mother could feed her when she got home. Then Eden said, "You eat onions and mushrooms?" in the most derisive voice I have ever heard from a child.  My girls immediately stopped eating their pizza sandwiches. I thought it was a one-time thing. Again, nothing to worry about.

But, after that, whenever I served anything with mushrooms or onions, they either refused to eat it, or picked the onions and mushrooms out. My younger daughter is now 38 years old. She served turkey with stuffing for family dinner and announced that she had left the onions out of the turkey dressing because she doesn't like onions.  There were also no mushrooms.

A lifetime of food avoidance from one casual remark by one dinner guest. That is something to think about.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Teaching Children not to Peek

I'm just back from a visit to my younger daughter's home where I did some magic tricks with her children.  The key to my magic shows is that the children do the magic and make the discoveries. I'm just the storyteller. They are the actors. They wave the magic wands, say the magic words, and perform the decisive actions.

As I was setting up for the show, I told my grandchildren "Don't peek in the living room. We'll have a magic show in a few minutes."  I was called away to help in the kitchen.  When I returned to the livingroom, my 4-year-old grandson was in the living room. He had one of the boxes open and his hands were on several of the items inside. I said, "You're not supposed to peek."  He let out a wail! "I didn't peek!"  His dad came rushing in, scooped him up, and once in his dad's arms, my grandson put on a crying show that would have made Shirley Temple proud. He kept it up for over 10 minutes. And his dad told me I had scared him. 

I don't know how to handle this. I want my grandchildren to learn not to peek at my props before the right time during the magic shows. I also would like it if they didn't lie to me.  Since their parents don't share either of these values, I don't know what to do. I'm not surprised that a 4-year-old would test the rules. I'm surprised that his parents don't support these rules.

I had  two participation tricks.  I let my grandson help me with the one he hadn't peeked at. And my grand daughter helped with the one he had peeked at.  I asked him not to tell his sister what he'd seen,  but I have no idea if he told her anyway. She didn't seem surprised by what was in the boxes.  Maybe she's blasé about dried octopus tentacles, a rubbber snake, toenail clippings,  smelly old striped socks and foil-covered chocolate coins.  (these are the treasures the kids find while they go through Pharaoh's rafts.)

My grandson looked pleased when his imaginary matzo cracker became real inside a paper bag.

And the Mr. Tall and Mr. Small trick wowed the adults more than the children.

But nothing took away the sting of my grandson crying and glaring at me, while his father cuddled him and told him it was all right.

I know -- I could have been nice about it -- asked him what he had found, asked him what he thought it was for -- but he was already on the defensive when he saw me. He knew he wasn't supposed to be in the living room, let alone have my box open and his hands inside. He knew he had been caught. And I'm the villain, because I walked into the livingroom when he was doing what he'd been asked not to do?  I was being selfish because I had wanted to see surprise on his face when the treasures were revealed. Instead I saw a guilty angry little boy whose father protected him from this teachable event, and carried him away, cuddling him while he put on a show of prolonged forced crying. I'd rather he had apologized for peeking and promised not to do it again.  I'd have liked to have a talk with him after the show, in which he could have thought about how the show would have been more fun if he didn't already know what was in the boxes.
Instead he learned that bad behavior gets you a free peek and an extra cuddle.

I still want to do magic tricks with my grandchildren that have surprise props.  I guess the trick I need to learn is how to stay out of the kitchen until after the magic show.  But even if I'd stayed with my props, I'd have shooed my grandson out of the livingroom until the show was ready. And he'd still have cried, and I'd still be the villain.

I don't know how to handle this. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bring your own box to the restaurant

I'm helping Valerie Melville with a book she's writing on how to live more ecologically. In one section she suggested bringing a paper bag to the restaurant for your leftovers.  Gooey city! I wrote her back that it makes more sense to bring a re-usable plastic box that can go in the refrigerator or freezer, and then get washed after you've eaten the food.  She agreed. If you agree, bring a plastic box with you next time you go to a restaurant and use it to bring home leftovers, instead of taking a disposable container for your food.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pilates and Kegels

I took another Pilates class today. Afterwards several other students and I asked the teacher more about the pelvic squeeze that is part of the core stablity in Pilates.  We all said that kegel squeezes do nothing for our sneeze and leak problems.  Maybe we're doing them wrong?? The teacher keeps saying it's a sucking inward motion and that the bun muscles are not involved.  But today she added that the pelvis is involved.  Try doing the kegel squeeze (that's contracting the muscles you use to stop your flow of urine and/or the vaginal muscles  -- it's all the same thing) while standing with your back against a wall. She said you have it right when you feel yourself grow taller and your head rises up.  Okay, something else to try.  There is no end to this exercise project!