Listen to Your Body

At yoga class today, I heard my teacher say her oft-repeated mantra: Listen to your body. She cautions us to not push ourselves in ways that make our bodies hurt. Should we feel any strain or discomfort, we need to back off. As she puts it, “Listen to your body when it’s whispering so you don’t have to listen to it scream.”

I started exercising in earnest less than five years ago when I had just turned sixty. I have never been an athlete in any sense of the word. Physical Education was my scariest subject. Give me a frog or a cat to dissect, and I was a happy camper, but send me to P.E. and my heart fluttered and my knees were weak. I was that kid in gym class who covered her face when the ball came towards her. Yeah, that kid. The last person to be picked for any team. It was a real stretch for me to start yoga four and a half years ago.

In class today, one of my classmates came up to me and started talking about how bad her knees are and how hard it is for her to do some of the poses. “I hate what getting old does to my body, don’t you?” I wanted to be a team player (the Old People Team), so I commiserated with her. But in reality, I’m thinking how much I love what getting older has done for my body. I actually feel better now than I’ve felt in a long time. I walk everywhere, I go to the Y three times a week, do yoga twice there and sometimes another time at home, and am contemplating taking Zumba tone (Zumba with weights). Yes, my knees are slightly arthritic and I can’t do squats, I’m not very flexible, though yoga has helped, and I don’t have the range of motion in my shoulders I once had. But as I listen to my body, it’s telling me that I’ve done a good thing for it by joining the YMCA and exercising and being faithful to my yoga practice.

It’s also telling me to get kick-boxing out of my mind.

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As Time Goes By

imageLast month we had a visit from the son of our dear friend, Barbara, who died in April at the age of 83. (Click on her name to read my post about her.) Her son paid us a visit to deliver some things she wanted me to have. Among them was a box of all her sheet music. Playing those songs brings back so many memories of us standing around her big Steinway while she played and we belted out the tunes with gusto.

Nearly all the music is from the thirties and forties, but I know the songs well, not only because of my exposure to them from Barbara, but because these are the songs my parents used to play on the stereo or sing in the car. They were also songs we heard in the old movies my parents liked to watch. One of the wonderful things about Barbara’s sheet music is that they aren’t modern copies. They are originals. Unfortunately, that means much of it is falling apart. I can get clear tape to keep the covers together, but I can’t do anything about the flaking pages. I’ve been trying to learn one song a day, and though my husband says he loves listening to me play Barbara’s music, I will never be able to reproduce the flair she put on each piece with her knack for improvisation. I can only play what is written on the page.

I don’t know why this era of popular music has always meant so much to me, more than the music of today. Perhaps it is because I grew up hearing it around the house, and it reminds me of those happy years with my parents. I have many of these oldies on CD’s, thanks to my parents’ Readers Digest collections. Remember those? The lyrics seem particularly poignant in light of the fact that some were written during the deep Depression and most of the others during World War II. “I’m so lonesome, I could cry, ‘Cause there’s nobody who cares about me,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with anyone else but me ’til I come marching home.” Names like Kay Kyser, Frank Loesser, Eddy Duchin, Johnny Mercer, and Duke Ellington leap off the cover pages. I’ve had fun brushing up on my Roman numerals, since all the copyright dates seem to be written that way. Why is that?

I don’t want you to think I never liked the music of my own time because I know nearly all the words to songs of the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Ian and Sylvia. I loved the Beatles (I was a high school sophomore when they made their debut in the U.S. on the Ed Sullivan Show), and Cat Stevens was a favorite from college. But my parents music was also in my veins. I found it amusing then, when few months ago my daughter told me that she had gone to see a production of Mama Mia, and loved it. She sang along on every song. I was puzzled. “How do you know that music?” I asked. “Are you kidding me?” she answered, incredulous. “You and Dad used to blast Abba’s music all over the house and in the car.” I guess our parents’ music really is in our veins.

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Recently, I was contacted by Sandra Tyler, a New York Times Notable author and editor of The Woven Tale Press, a monthly e-zine. She wanted to put a couple of my posts in this month’s edition. I am very honored. Please go to the website and take a look at this wonderful monthly e-zine. If you want to see my posts, click on “Our Most Recent Issue!” on the right side of the front page. Thank you, Sandra! And thanks to fellow blogger Kelly Garriott Waite who is a contributing editor on The Woven Tale Press and was the person responsible for making Sandra aware of my blog.

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Older Isn’t Always Better

I went to the dentist yesterday to have my teeth cleaned, and a few weeks ago I went to my doctor for a routine check-up to get my prescriptions renewed. In both cases, I couldn’t help but notice how young both professionals were. My doctor looks about the age of my middle child, and I think my youngest son might be a few years older than my dentist. Some years ago, when I began noticing how young my healthcare professionals were, it was slightly unnerving. Did they really have enough experience? Now, however, as I am noticing the havoc age plays on memory as well as the tendency to curmudgeonly behavior, I’m rather glad that my doctors are as young as they are. If they were my age, I can only imagine how my visit might go.

“Good morning, Mrs. Okaty. It’s good to see you again. What is the purpose of your visit today?”

“I’m just here for my six-month check-up, Doctor, so I can get my prescriptions renewed.”

“Okay, then. Any problems since your last visit?”

“Nope, I’m fit as a fiddle.”

“I’ll be the judge of that, Mrs. Oakley.”

“It’s Okaty, Doctor, and really, I feel great.”

“If you feel great, Mrs. O’Malley, then why are you here wasting my time?”

“It’s Okaty, and you have told me for the last twenty years I’ve been your patient that you will not renew my prescriptions unless you see me every six months. So that’s why I’m here.”

“No need to get testy, Mrs. O’Grady. If you won’t tell me what’s wrong with you, how can I help you?”

“I need my prescriptions renewed. Just write the darn prescriptions, and I’ll leave you alone.”

“If you had said so at the beginning of your visit, this would have been so much easier, now wouldn’t it have, Mrs. O’Leary? By the way, do you own a cow?”

The doctor leaves the room to retrieve his prescription pad and comes back a few minutes later, sans said pad. “Good morning, Mrs. O’Reilly. What can I do for you today? By the way, I don’t recognize your name. Are you a new patient?”

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The Black Hole

When we were on our trip to Connecticut and Boston a couple of weeks ago, our expensive Nikon camera went missing. We had just arrived in Stratford and taken my mother-in-law to dinner at a little restaurant on Long Island Sound. After we dropped her back at her house, we drove to our hotel and unloaded the car. We could not find the camera. We looked in every crevice of the trunk. We looked on the floor in the back seat and on the floor in the front seat. I even looked under the seat. No camera. Since we remembered putting the camera in the trunk when we got to the restaurant, we figured we must have accidentally pulled it out of the trunk after we ate when we reached in for something else, and we left it on the street where we parked. I thought sure I would have seen it, though, because it had still been light when we left the restaurant. We called the restaurant to see if anyone had turned it in, but no one had.

We were so upset. The camera was fairly new and quite pricey, and we felt so stupid for losing it. How could we have been so careless? My husband and I spent the next couple of days apart while he attended to family business with his mother and I spent the time with my two best girlfriends. One girlfriend and I even went to Target to price a replacement for the lost camera. When my husband came to get me the next day, I told him we were going to Target and I was going to buy the camera again. I said, “Our camera is gone. It’s not coming back. We are going to buy a new one and get on with our vacation, and we will not talk about the lost camera again.”

We said goodbye to our friends and headed to Target on our way to Boston. About a block from the store, I reached under my seat in one last feeble attempt to find the camera. I felt something like a strap. I pulled on it, and out popped our camera case with the missing camera in it. I held it up. George could hardly hold onto the wheel. “Where did you find it?” he gasped. “It was under the seat,” I told him. “But I know I looked there.” George pulled into the parking lot. “Show me where you found it!” I got out of the car and looked under the seat. There was a little well there, a dip in the floor, and because it had been dark when we had searched the car, I hadn’t been able to see the camera case hiding in it. We were both giddy with relief. Then our giddiness turned to confusion. I know we had put the camera in the trunk, so how had it ended up under my seat? I also know I was not the one who had taken it out of the trunk, so that had to have been George. He didn’t remember removing the camera from the trunk, and I don’t remember him giving me the camera, but that is exactly what had to have happened. The missing camera was the topic of conversation for a week.

Fast forward to this past weekend and our visit to my brother’s. Friday night my brother and sister-in-law and my husband and I decided to go to a movie. Everyone but my sister-in-law was sitting in the car, waiting to leave. We waited. And waited. And waited. My brother went inside to find out what was keeping my sister-in-law. “I can’t find my glasses,” she said, in a panic. George and I got out of the car and went inside to help with the search. Kathy found her glass case, but her glasses were not in them. With some careful questioning by my brother to get my sister-in-law to retrace her steps, she finally located them on the nightstand next to their bed. We were able to make the movie just in time.

The next morning, however, when we came down to breakfast, Kathy had her glasses but couldn’t find her glass case. She searched all over the house. We all laughed because it was the opposite of the night before. This time, though, she couldn’t find the case anywhere in the house. “Maybe they’re under your seat in the car like our camera,” I joked. “You never know,” she laughed, though she was sure she had not taken her glass case with her the night before. For good measure, she went to the garage and came back laughing, glass case in her hand. “Guess where I found this?” she said, dumbfounded. From now on, if anything disappears, we are all going to check in that black hole under our car seat.

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Winners and Losers

Mondays are my days with three-year-old T.  We listen to my music boxes and sing along to the tunes, we drum and shake, rattle, and chime with my special little people’s musical instruments, we go to the playground and squeal down the slide, and we eat peanut butter on crackers and drink chocolate milk.  But what T. loves the most is playing cars with me.  I keep a box of my sons’ old Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars in the den and some of their action figures to act as customers who want to buy the cars.  Count Dracula is our parking lot attendant.

imageT. likes to race the cars on my hardwood floors. We each get to pick our favorites to go against each other. We count to three and let them rip. No matter where our cars end up, T. says, “I win!” His car could crash into the nearest wall while mine sails into the kitchen five feet farther away, and he still yells, “I win!” It doesn’t matter that I point out how much farther my car went, although one time, when T. was in a particularly magnanimous mood, he conceded that we tied, even though his car had made a U-turn under the sofa. Clearly, I don’t understand the rules.

I would like to say that this is a masculine characteristic, this need to always be first, to always win, but one of T.’s sisters is very much like him in that respect. I’ve worked on her over the years, and finally, at the mature age of five, if she isn’t winning, she is gracious enough to say, “It doesn’t really matter who wins anyway,” followed quickly by, “Let’s do something else.” I also remember my youngest granddaughter being picked up by her dad and carried to her room during a game she was playing with the rest of us and losing badly. I can still picture her kicking and screaming, “But I want to win! I want to win!”

I don’t think this is always a characteristic of children. It is interesting to note that T.’s oldest sister, seven-year-old C., loses in chess with me and it doesn’t seem to bother her in the least. She just smiles and sets up the pieces again. She loves the game itself. I would let her win if I thought she would lose interest otherwise, but she’s going to be beating me in no time, and I want to savor the feeling of winning for a little while longer before it is a distant memory.

When we were kids, my brother and I would play Monopoly, and sometimes the game could go on for hours and hours, far beyond the point that I cared about it anymore, but my brother would not give up. He usually won because I made ridiculous deals with him, like giving him all the railroads back, plus Park Place with all its hotels, plus $5000 in exchange for his get-out-of-jail card. I just wanted the agony to be over.

No one loves to lose, of course, but winning is nice for some people and everything to others. It’s not the game but the win that’s important.

To read more on T., see déjà Vu All Over Again.

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A Momentous Decision is Looming

My 65th birthday is coming up fast, and my husband wants to get me the perfect present. He has asked me for ideas, and I have come up blank. This is a tricky situation. What do I ask for that would thrill me without it being too extravagant? My husband’s 65th birthday is less than a year after mine, and I will be in the same situation he is in, except he already knows what he wants. A new watch. I will not have to go through what he is going through now: having a spouse who is indecisive.

I don’t know if my indecision is because I want so many things, or if there isn’t anything that I’m dying to have. I think it’s the latter. Besides, there’s the other problem I face. Once I figure out what it is I want, then the fun is over. For as sure as I tell George that such-and-such is what I want, something else will strike my fancy, and I’ll regret my decision. Case in point: Yesterday we were in Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, and I saw the most amazing apple green Deuter backpack (it’s German) that I fell in love with. It had so many pockets and places to stash things, it was lightweight, felt great on my back, and I could picture myself using it when I walked to the library to carry my books back and forth. I could stick my iPad in an inside pocket and walk to town, and if it got warm, I could put my sweater inside it, or if it got cold, I could pull my sweatshirt out of it. When we go on trips, I could fill it with everything I want to get at quickly. Yes, it would be the perfect 65th birthday present. George could tell how excited I was. The sales associate, who was so helpful in showing me all the features (did I mention it has a rain cover that acts as a giant shower cap in case I get caught in the rain?) could tell I was excited. I made the day for the two of them with my enthusiasm. George was finally at peace. And then…

Then I left the store and started to second-guess myself. The backpack might be bigger than I really need. I can’t picture myself wearing it around town except to the library. Would I get enough use out of it, considering the price? I talked myself out of it.

I’ve thought about asking for a new bow for my violin, but I rather like my old bow. Plus, it’s a great excuse to use when I sound screechy. “Sorry, but I need a new bow.” How about binoculars? I’d like to join the Audubon Society and take up bird-watching. But, wait…I’m over that now. A Kitchen-Aid stand mixer? Yikes, I can see my expanding waistline already, not to mention George’s, as we stuff our mouths with cookies, breads, pastries, muffins, etc. Forget that! I don’t need a new camera, I don’t wear a watch anymore except to time the rector’s sermons, I’m not a collector, and I don’t want a new iPod Nano until I get a new car that has an MP3 jack (and that is years down the road).

Truth be told, I’d be happy with a nice dinner out, which I was going to get anyways. I’m just not a very needy person. I’m content with what I have and don’t pine for anything particular. I’m letting George off the hook. Hear that, Honey? You don’t have to fret over what to get me anymore. Really. I don’t need a present. I don’t even want a present. I’m so over it. I mean it. Absolutely.

Oh, wait, wait, wait! How much are those massage chairs in Brookstone? I’ve always wanted one of those, I think.

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I’ll Be Waiting Breathlessly by My Mailbox

I just completed my online application for Medicare. I used to think you had to be pretty old for that, but apparently, even young people like me are required to sign up. I’m wondering how this will change my life. Will people be more patient with me now, knowing that I am officially old? Will I still have to wait in line at airports? Will people make a space for me on the front row of the second section of the movie theater so I can put my feet on the rail? I always try to get there super early so I can sit in that row, and I’m darned disappointed when it’s already filled.

When my Medicare card comes in the mail, I wonder if I will be as excited as when I got my driver’s license? I’m thinking NOT.

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