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Yoga

I have just recently started going to yoga classes again. I need to have some form of exercise in my life, besides walking, and at my weight and general physical condition, yoga’s a good choice — it builds strength and flexibility while not putting so much stress on the joints, and is easily adaptable for different ability levels.

I found a nice studio here in town with a monthly membership, and since hub signed up with me, his company will reimburse the monthly fee as a health club expense — they will reimburse for gyms and other sports/health clubs as well.

Now, I don’t know a lot about the different types of yoga, so I can’t say if the studio is more one type than another. I’ve attended a couple of vinyasa sessions and a couple gentle yoga. They also offer hot, power, stretch, and eclectic. At this point gentle, stretch, and to some extent vinyasa are about all I can handle.

It’s all a workout for me. I sweat profusely, stretch and strain, work through stiffness and muscle cramps, adapt as best I can with all the excess me. I do not always flow smoothly from one position to another, and because of my lordosis, I have less range of motion on one side or the other depending on the pose. They keep the room a little warmer than I’d like, increasing the sweating so my palms sweat and I can’t hold downward dog as my hands slip on my mat. Getting the inhales and exhales right with the movements is difficult — I seem to be out of sync an awful lot. But I like that I can adapt as necessary, only moving as far as I comfortably can, using modified positions and aids such as blocks and straps, and if I absolutely can’t do a certain pose right now, it’s okay. I’m not being judged by what others can do, only on what is my best. Really not being judged at all… Just accepting that what I can do may not be the same as others, and it’s all okay as long as I am doing my best and striving to improve.

It helps that I feel sooooo good when I walk out of the class — all stretched and warmed up and moving easier. I know it’s silly, but it is so nice to be able to lift my foot up to put pants on without laying the pants on the floor or using my hand to pull up my leg. And that going up and down stairs seems easier. I’m really not in it for the spirituality component, but I do like that it really makes me focus on being in my body, feeling what my body is doing as I breath, as I move, and as I rest.

I’ve been going twice a week and plan to up it to three times in May — all gentle yoga. After that, I’ll see what I can add/change. I know it will be slow going, but I’m going to enjoy it.

O is for…

Oceans.

Ever since I was a small child, I have had an abiding fascination with the ocean. I even went to uni to study fisheries biology, including marine mammalogy. And up until the past decade, I never lived more than a few hours away from the ocean, specifically the Pacific.

My childhood was in the East Bay area of California. We often went to San Fransisco, to the bay and the beach. It was my first introduction to the sea.Visiting Marineland/Africa USA further introduced me to a variety of sea life.

When I was about 8, my mother’s parents rented a boat, motorized, and we cruised around Puget Sound, through the San Juan’s, and up to Vancouver (or Victoria – I was young, memories have blurred). During that trip we ate fresh caught crabs, explored multiple islands, watched the tide rise and fall around us as we anchored in coves, saw a submarine go by (very close to us), saw the currents form a debris path on the surface, and I got to go out in a rowboat – sometimes with others and sometimes by myself. It was such a memorable experience, that even now, just recalling it makes me smile.

When I was 11 we moved to the mountains in Washington State. No longer as close to the ocean as we used to be, we were still just a few hours from Puget Sound. We spent plenty of time at the Sound. Des Plaines Salt Water Park was a favorite place to visit, especially during low tide, when if you stepped just right, something under the sand (clams?) would squirt, and we’d stick fingers in anemones to feel them close around us. The Seattle Waterfront was another favorite — the aquarium, Pike Place Market, Myrtle Edwards Park, waiting at the Ferry Terminal to take a ferry to one of the many islands (Vashon – where my great-uncle lived; Bainbridge Island – where one of my uncle’s lived for a while). Or maybe we’d go down to Tacoma, visiting the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and then walking along the beach in the park. Or taking the Tacoma Narrows Bridge over towards Gig Harbor, but then turning south to go visit my mom’s best friend who lived on Fox Island.

When I was in high school, twice I went to an art camp held over on the Olympic Peninsula, in Fort Worden State Park. The fastest way to get there was to drive up to Mukilteo, take the ferry to Whidbey Island, drive to the other end of the island, get on another ferry and take it across to Port Townsend. One of these trips was made in a storm. It was pouring so much on Whidbey that it wasn’t even certain the ferry to Port Townsend would still be running. We made it on to the last one, the Rhod0dendron (or as we referred to it, the Chrod0dendron because it was old and grody and cruddy). Side note: I just looked it up and they only just retired her in 2012! The amount of clanging and groaning the ferry made on that stormy crossing… It sounded like she could go down at any minute. It was actually more comfortable upstairs and outside than in one of the passenger rooms. But I loved the storminess of the crossing. And during my time at the art camp, I escaped down the beach as often as I could.

After high school graduation, we took a family trip to the San Juan Islands. I could have stayed so much longer than just a week. Unfortunately, I never saw any orcas while we were there. I loved the way the trees grew down as close to the water’s edge as possible and the deep turquoise-green of the water. And then we spent a week on the northern Oregon coast, with its fantastic haystack formations.

A couple years later and I was back in Seattle for university. Again spending as much time at the waterfront as I could. An uncle had moved to Alki Point and a boyfriend’s family lived in West Seattle so I spent time there, looking out over the water, watching submarines go by (mostly at the boyfriend’s). I studied Fisheries Biology, going out on boats for lab work, going back up to the San Juan’s for more lab work (where I got to hold just hatched itty bitty baby octopuses, watching their chromatophores pulsing and changing color — talk about adorably cute). Those years at the university were pretty wonderful.

My first real job after college was as an observer on fishing vessels in Southern California. I was living in a coastal town, working out on the water in all kinds of weather, eventually moving just 1-1/2 blocks from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. I was there for almost 10 years — it’s where I met my husband and all three of our children were born. I used to love walking along the cliffs, looking out over the ocean, especially at sunset. When the two oldest kids were old enough, I’d take them to the tidepools (when it was still free) and we’d look at anemones, sea stars, sea hares, hermit crabs, tiny fish, tiny crabs, snails… And we’d usually find a few shells to bring home.

And then we moved inland, all the way to Illinois. I only got close to oceans (or seas) on vacations — to California, Washington, Oregon, Wales, cruising the Mediterranean, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico. I crave these trips, to stick my toes into the ocean, to try to dodge the waves, watching the tide rise and fall; the pelicans, gulls and other birds; the surfers; the open vistas to the horizon; and if I’m really lucky, a variety of marine mammals.

We’re a little closer now, 4 – 5 hours from either Atlantic or Gulf, but we’ve only made the trip once. Any time the topic of vacation is brought up, I always respond with “beach”. Someday, hopefully, I’ll be living within walking distance again.

Sorry this is so long. If you made it all the way down here, thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

N is for…

 

Night.

It just seems to follow naturally after Moon, doesn’t it?

I have always been a night owl. I would much rather stay up until the wee hours then sleep until noon or so. On an average day, I might start to feel sleepy about 9 or 10 pm, but if I stay up past that I get a second wind. Not a bad thing when I can sleep in or nap the next day — not so good when it’s an early rise and a day full of activities facing me. And unfortunately, most businesses are open during the day, not the night, requiring at least some daytime wakefulness and activity.

As a child, we lived in the same town as my grandparents and they had a ranch a few miles outside the city limits. We spent many nights on the ranch and with so little man-made lighting, the expanse of stars and the view of the Milky Way were impressive. And certainly made an impression on me. It’s where and when I started learning the constellations.

Over the years since then I’ve lived in towns, big cities, out in the country, and I always look at the night sky.

But it’s not just the night sky. It’s the changes in vision and sounds that happen when the Sun goes down. Colors are no longer apparent, everything appears mostly in shades of grey. The man-made sounds — vehicles, voices — fade away, as do many bird and animal sounds. To be replaced with other animals and insects that you don’t hear or notice during the day. Cicadas, owls, bats, foxes, some frogs. Fireflies. And without the cover of man-made sounds, the rustles and crunches in bushes and trees are more obvious.

I see well outside at night. I was told years ago that I have larger than normal pupils, allowing more light in — nice at night, not so good with sun and bright lights. In high school I was a camp counselor. We camped out in the woods, with areas connected by narrow paths, not paved or edged or anything like that. I don’t remember why, nothing hinky, but a friend and I were making our way back to the counselor camp and he couldn’t tell which way to go. All I had to do was look down and I was able to clearly see the path. I was surprised he couldn’t see it, while he was surprised I could.

Night is not silent or necessarily peaceful, but I find it moreso than day. I prefer the cool shadows of the night to the harsh light of day.

Let me just end with the words of “Late Lament” by Graeme Edge and a 2 videos of “Nights in White Satin”, one with the lament, one without.

Late Lament

Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room
Bedsitter people look back and lament
Another day’s useless energy spent

Impassioned lovers wrestle as one
Lonely man cries for love and has none
New mother picks up and suckles her son
Senior citizens wish they were young

Cold hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colors from our sight
Red is grey and yellow white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion

With:

Without:

 

M is for…

Moon.

The Moon.

Our Moon.

Not that I have anything against the Sun. I love a nice warm sunny spot on a cool day. I love sunny days when I’m on vacation. I’m not, however, a big fan of sunburns, excessive heat or sweating.

But I digress.

Why does the Moon hold such fascination for many people, not just me? I think because it has a greater air of mystery and magic about it. Unless you know your science, the “purpose” the moon serves for earth is not really clear (except if you pay attention to the tides).

Think about it — it changes size and shape, is not always visible at night, is sometimes visible only during the day. Sometimes it’s bone white, sometimes butter yellow, and just this morning was blood-red with the eclipse. Scientifically it is predictable, maybe even constant, but to the casual day-to-day observer, it isn’t. It is different every single day.

And unless you have the right equipment, getting a good photograph of the Moon can be difficult, elusive, if not downright impossible. I know, because I’ve tried many many times ~sigh~

Right now, I was just out in the cold walking the puppy before bed. The Moon is white, still rising, just starting to the clear the tops of trees in our neighborhood. It’s beautiful, glowing strongly in the clear night sky.

I can’t help but look for the Moon any night I am outside, and I will notice it when it’s visible during the day. I can easily tell whether it’s waxing or waning, even just a day or two either side of full. I have an app on my phone — Star Walk — that I frequently pull out so I can find out what the bright lights — planets or stars — are that I see near the Moon.

Is the Moon magical? Is it mysterious or mystical? I think, as with so many things around us, it is what you personally make of it. If you like to sit out in the moonlight, gazing at the Moon and following moonbeams, go for it. I’ll be right there with you.

L is for…

Late!!! It’s almost midnight and I’m just now getting something written for today. Aagghh!!

Really my word for today is labels. As in the way we label the people in the world around us.

I think most humans can’t help but label and that it likely goes all the way back to the earliest hominids. One of the most important things you need to determine when seeing someone is if they are family or stranger, friend or foe. And then it builds out from there, based primarily on physical attributes — tall/short, fat/thin, male/female, adult/child, etc.

As most of us are visually oriented, we really can’t help it. Plus, most of us have a deep-seated need to organize the world around us. And there is nothing wrong with that, until those labels are used to create and/or support prejudices, biases, discrimination, etc.

My basic labels are:

  • female
  • wife
  • mother
  • fat
  • fair-skinned
  • blonde
  • short
  • green-eyed
  • animal lover
  • creative
  • quirky
  • eclectic
  • kind
  • caring

You get the idea. But only a few of my internal labels are ever going to be known to those around me, at least not until they’ve spent some time getting to know me. Most people are going to note only my physical attributes and never learn about my creative streak, my quirkiness, etc. And let’s face it, some of my physical attributes are going to be labeled in such negative ways that some people won’t even try to get beyond them.

This is where labeling becomes a problem. When you use it to limit your interactions with others because of your personal perceptions, personal ideas of what is good and what is bad, you are not only potentially harming yourself but also possibly those around you. What if you don’t like fat people, or women, or blondes so you’re rude to every one you meet who you label these ways, but then you need a doctor and that doctor is a fat, blonde woman who has previously been treated poorly by you? I imagine that you are really going to hope that she can overcome your rudeness and treat you with all her professional abilities.

I am not perfect. I often find myself labeling others, initially based on physical appearance. But I also am pretty good at catching myself when that labeling starts to veer over into the negative and the mean, even if it’s all in my head. And then, if possible, if circumstances warrant it, I take the time to get to know someone, to make a connection with them, to find out that they are some much more than their outward labels. Sometimes I may still not like them, it’s not possible to like every person you will ever come in contact with, but at least I will have made an honest effort to get past the societal and cultural messages about looks and their positive and negative labels.

In summary — labels are not inherently bad, it’s how we use them.

J is for…

Jealousy.

Odd topic when compared to all my previous posts, but J is not the easiest letter… Jam, jelly, jello, jump…

I think I’ll go with jealousy.

A lot of people use jealousy and envy interchangeably, however, I see them as related but different.

Jealousy is an emotion built around insecurities, fears, and anxieties, particularly fears tied to losing something or someone that you have an attachment to to someone else. Your fears about your lover leaving you for someone else is a prime example of jealousy. And frequently, jealousy is accompanied by anger and resentment, and sometimes even violence.

Envy is the resentment towards another person because of their achievements, activities, possessions, etc, that you don’t have but wish you did. They have the job, house, vacation, fame, money, whatever that you don’t have but desire. Envy can be malicious or negative (you do stupid destructive things to get what you want, including actually taking them away from the other person), or benign/positive (you see what another has and it motivates you to achieve it for yourself).

Or, more simply, jealousy is about wishing to keep what you already have, while envy is about wishing to get what you don’t have.

Personally, I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt strong jealously — perhaps in my teens. Perhaps a little here and there where my siblings are concerned, but that’s about it. I just don’t understand how one can feel so possessive of someone or something that they would behave in the typically jealous ways of anger, resentment, control, etc. But that’s just me.

However, envy… Envy I know. But the benign/positive kind, the envy that makes me aware of what others have, that I like what they have, and that if I want it then I’ll need to work for it. I never have the desire to take it away from them or to wish they didn’t have whatever it is, just that I could have my own.

So, jealous or envious? Which one are you? Or neither?

Ice Storm

Back on February 11th we had some crazy weather down here. The sort of weather that apparently happens only every decade or two. Something I’ve never experienced before.

An ice storm.

Not knowing what to expect, but preparing for the worst, we stocked up on food, hiked up the heater, closed off unused rooms, and stayed in. Daughter got Life out and we played for a while with The Weather Channel playing in the background. Beyond the lights flickering a couple of times and being stuck at the house, it wasn’t bad.

Oh, except for the neighbors pine tree that snapped and fell across our cypresses and dangled over the pool. The loud crack was startling but no one was hurt and our neighbor had all the tools necessary to get it cleaned up.

An ice storm is deadly dangerous but also otherworldly beautiful. Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, gets covered in a layer of clear ice, from tree tops down to foot paths. Walking outside is like peering into a crystalline faeryland — magickal. Especially when the sun comes out and everything glitters.

We have a weeping willow tree in our front yard. There were no leaves yet, just bare dangling branches. They were covered in ice, and swaying in the slight breeze they made a light musical sound, like wind chimes or beaded curtains.

Overnight it snowed on top of the ice, a crispy crunchy snow. Added to the ice, the weight of the snow had trees bent over almost double. And we could hear branches and trees cracking, breaking, and falling. Fortunately none were close enough to endanger us or our home. Of course, the next day it warmed up and all the ice came crashing down. At first it sounded like a hard rain, then like hail.

Even though we wanted to go out, not only was it not safe with icy spots & debris still falling, there were multiple trees down across multiple roads and almost every place we wanted to go was still closed.

What was really amazing was how quickly all the plants recovered. As soon as the ice and snow melted away, they were back upright. Within just a few days, branches that had been thickly coated with ice were covered in buds.

As long as the circumstances were similarly safe, I wouldn’t mind another ice storm :-).

H is for…

Health.

I’ve had weight issues for almost my entire life, except for a few years over high school and the first few years at university.ย  I don’t really know why. My family was not big on sports, although we did swim when we could (my Dad won trophies when he was in college) or rode horses. I personally walked and rode my bike a lot. And starting in 7th grade through my junior year in high school I played basketball and soccer and was on the track team — none of which I did well, by the way. My sister never did any sports. One brother didn’t. The youngest brother played football. I don’t think my mom has ever done any sports… So, no real tradition of it in my family. And we’ve all struggled with weight, from my parents to all of us and now our children.

But that can’t explain it completely.

What about food? I don’t remember food being a reward, but GOOD food was part of family celebrations — glazed ham for Christmas, my grandmother’s potato salad and watermelon rind pickles, roast beef, steaks, Beef Wellington, fresh fruit in cream, a variety of cakes and cookies at my grandparents. Food at home was a different matter. Often money was tight. I remember spaghetti with canned tuna in the sauce. Boiled wheat berries with sliced hot dogs. Liver and onions ~yuck yuck yuck~ And I remember my mom always being on one diet or another, which surely bled over into how we were all taught to relate to food. To this day, I have issues with realizing I don’t have to eat it all, that leaving some is good, that I can always get/make/buy more of whatever it is tomorrow, or next week, or whenever.

And as the years have passed, and I’ve given birth and raised three children, and worked long sedentary hours, had stresses over money and children and my marriage –ย  my body, my health, have suffered. There is diabetes on my father’s side, cancer on both sides (breast, pancreatic, multiple myeloma, skin). These are serious concerns. As of my last physical, I’m not diabetic, no breast cancer, but my cholesterol and triglycerides are high, my blood pressure can be erratic. I also have lordosis, a curve of my lower spine to the left which affects my entire back but primarily my low back, right hip and right leg. My neck is all wonky — x-rays a few years ago showed that the vertebrae no longer form a nice curve but are stacked straight and bone spurs are growing.

Losing weight, gaining health will certainly help with all of these.

But will it make me happy, or happier I should say? Hopefully. I already have so many things that make me happy — a beautiful home, family, pets, nature, books, musics, etc. But I know good health would help. It would reduce or remove not only physical stressors, but also emotional and mental ones. I know my husband would like it if I lost weight — although he does tend to be a major saboteur when I try. I worry that my kids are embarrassed by my appearance. I hate shopping for clothes. Those are things that could get better if I were healthier.

Everyday I just have to keep trying.

P.S. Please don’t take this as an opportunity to advise me on what I should be doing. Believe me when I say “I know”. I have read massive amounts of literature on the subjects of weight loss and health. I know what I should and should not be doing, the issue is putting it in to consistent practice. Feel free to encourage me in my efforts, but don’t preach at me.

Thank you.

Great Outdoors

If you’ve looked at my Instagram feed or read some of my other posts, you’ve probably figured out that the Great Outdoors, nature, is very important to me. Spending time outside, in nature, observing, walking, just being, has always soothed and renewed me.

Some of my earliest memories are of lying in the grass in our backyard when I was only 3 or 4. I liked to pick the blades of grass and a chew on the ends. As I grew, my range grew too. On my grandparent’s ranch I could roam freely, so I did, throwing stones into the ponds, picking wildflowers, climbing stacks of hay bales, climbing the hills to stare off into the distance, watching hawks and prairie dogs, and more. During recess at school, I’d go sit in the grass, looking for pretty stones or four-leaf clovers, watching water striders and other bugs in and around puddles.

For several years, in one yard, my father planted a large garden and many fruit trees. We all helped some to care for it, but it was mostly my father’s ‘baby’. There were artichokes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, apples, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and others that so many years later I can’t remember. I do remember Dad making pickles with the cucumbers.

When we moved to Washington, at first we lived in town. Less than a year later we moved a few miles out of town, onto two acres along a river. I spent many hours sitting by the river or wandering in nearby woods. I watched otters and fish in the river; eagles and hawks overhead; deer, bears, elk, weasels, beavers, coyotes, skunks. And so many others. Caddis fly larvae in the river were always interesting. We thinkย  there were cougars in the mountains surrounding our little valley based on screams heard at night — not human. The bears — we always knew when they were feeding down at the river because the dogs would go crazy. We even had one run along side us in the river once, while we were rafting. For a while we had horses — deer would come and visit with them, then visit our vegetable garden for a snack.

I love storms. The winds are invigorating. The lightning and thundering exciting. In Washington, our front door faced north and the back door, south. There were nights when we could go back and forth from front to back watching two separate storms at opposite ends of the valley. More than once we called in suspected lightning fires. When I was in high school, I attended an art camp on the Olympic peninsula. The most common way to get there was by ferry, as to drive would take several hours. One of the trips was during a storm, so bad that our run was the last of the day. The ferry rocked violently, spray flying high over the bow, various things clanking and clanging. Where did I spend most of the crossing? Outside, of course, in the wind and the rain.

I went off to college, first in Idaho then back to Washington. Then California, Indiana, Illinois, and now Georgia. Always I found places to be outside — parks, gardens, paths. Always I noticed what was around me, near and far — mountains, clouds, rivers, streams, ocean, beaches, cliffs; sun, moon, stars; wind, rain, snow; the flora and fauna. All of it. Already, here, I’ve wandered paths, found two nature areas, and look forward to visiting a third. Now that it’s spring, every day I wander our yard, looking for buds and blooms, animals, birds, and insects.

If I go more than a couple of days without time outside, I feel it — a restlessness, a sense of something missing.

 

Family History

I have been fascinated by my family history for, oh, decades now. And the Internet has made it so much easier – and harder – to do. Easier because there is SO much information out there — books and documents that have been digitized and posted for anyone to access. Harder because there is SO much information out there, and not all of it is reliable or accurate. Wading through it can be frustrating. And time consuming. It often feels like three steps forward, four steps back. It doesn’t help that some people (including some of my own family members) are apparently so desperate to link themselves to nobility that they will add people to their family trees without any regard for the facts.

I just realized I could have added my family history to yesterday’s post on the eclectic.

All of the below assumes that the information I have is correct.

My ancestry is rich and mixed and made up of a wide variety of people. On one line, I’m only 3rd generation American as my great-grandparents emigrated from Denmark. On another, it’s 4 generations since they moved to America. Yet other lines go back to the colonial days, before the American Revolution. They came from Germany, Denmark, Ireland, and England in the 1800s. During the 1700s, they came from Scotland and England, and maybe one from Germany. In the 1600s, it was also Scotland — not willingly if all the information is correct – and England.

Some of my ancestors, a very few that I’ve found so far, were well-off, landed, with manors, coats of arms, towns bearing their names, noted in history lessons, leaders in their communities. But most of them were ordinary people — farmers, fishers, tailors, carpenters, coal miners, merchants. One is specifically listed as a lace merchant. Another I suspect may have been spice merchant or trader as he named a couple of his children Spice and Mace. Some were tobacco planters and slave owners. A few fought in the American Revolution — some for and some against; one was arrested for aiding the British. Others fought in the Civil War, again on both sides although the Union is easier to trace. They fought American Indians, panned for gold, were pioneers always traveling westward, eventually reaching the Pacific coast. I’ve found ancestors in Delaware, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Montana, Oregon, Washington, California.

One line looks like I can trace back to Norman England, shortly after the conquest. Based on the names, they were Angles who then Normanized their names.

One ancestress, widowed with three small children, survived Indian attacks then with her brother and others headed west across what is now Tennessee to help found Nashville. Centennial Park there is on what was her land, granted by the Federal government for her deeds during the Revolutinary War — Ann Robertson Johnston Cockrill.

I used to think all the Scots were on my father’s side (Ross/Rose/Ros, MacBride, Cunningham, Cuming) but in the course of doing research, I discovered that there are a lot of Scots on my mother’s side as well (MacGillivray, McIntosh, Noble). Someday I will go there.

And of course there are plenty of Smiths, and Jones, and Hansens, and Johnsons, and other dreadfully common names that make sussing out the correct ancestor a real bitch.

So, if it can be so difficult and frustrating and confusing, why do I do it? Because it’s fascinating; a puzzle to put together; a connection to the past, to history, making it all very personal. And it’s all part of me, who I am, who my parents and siblings and children all are. It may be generations, even centuries in the past, but it all connects in me. And I am excited to discover it all.

 

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