Wednesday, January 11, 2017

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part VIII

I'm not sure what I expected when I went on a tour of the Tower of London. I had heard this was a piece of London's history I surely couldn't miss. While I agree it is an integral part of London's history, it was one stop I could have done without. I am quite squeamish, and didn't expect that the beefeater who lead our tour to share the brutal history so completely. It seemed that this man was going overboard. When I shared this on Facebook, one man (originally from England), responded that the beefeaters do this for our (American's) benefit. We found out later that the bloody history of the Tower of London wasn't as dramatic as it was presented. There were times that it seemed I could actually smell the carnage...the atmosphere really lent itself to spur my over-active imagination.

That same day we visited Westminster Abbey. I remember vividly the feeling upon entering the Abbey. Now, if I can only put those feelings it into words: profound peace, a vast, palpable presence...these descriptions don't do the Abbey justice. My emotions strangled my voice...I am not religious, so this reaction stunned me.  I believe that we are not alone, but my beliefs do not necessarily line up with organized religion. During our visit, there was a mass being given by one of their priests. It was breathtaking. To be honest, many churches leave me with a feeling of discomfort. Not the Westminster Abbey. I was at utter peace. We visited another cathedral which was beautiful, but there truly was no comparison.

Our tour of London ended with the musical, "The Book of Mormon". I typically avoid musicals, but THAT had to be the best production I have seen bar none. At the end, when the entire audience was giving the actors a standing ovation, I had bent down to grab my purse and felt drips on my hands. I stood up and looked at the ceiling thinking there may have been a leak. It was then that I realized I was crying. If you have read this far, you know how emotional I become when experiencing something profound. Well this play has been added to my list of one of my best experiences ever. If this production ever comes to a theater near me, I am taking my husband!

Afterwards, I had asked an usher where the stage exit was...I wanted to meet the actors. My sister, her colleague and I waited at the exit for the actors and crew to come out. I was able to meet one of the lead actors. He was simply delightful. We talked about the call he received when he got the part. He was a relatively new professional actor, and to get a call for the lead was a dream come true for him. The most interested person I met, however, was this tiny woman. I couldn't place her in the cast, but when I asked what her role in the production was, she said she was the costumer! (!!!) Her work was stunning. She had been doing this for more than 20 years, and this was to be her last show before retirement. She shared that I was the only person in her 20+ years that had ever stopped her to congratulate her on a job well done. Really?! For all my costuming friends at my community theater (Stagecoach Players in DeKalb, IL), I hope that you have received the kudos you deserve.

Again, I don't remember specifics about the sites, the names of places, actors names...but I do know that our day in London was one I will never forget. The following day, my sister and I were flying to Spain...sleeping that night proved to be a bit difficult. Anticipating the travel and the travel itself wear me out. Until next time.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My New Year's Dream Becoming a Reality

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that I am passionate about all things yoga. About 10 years ago, I decided to try yoga to combat my chronic pain (since I was 12). I was desperate, depressed, and needed to try anything that would offer some relief.

A friend and co-worker of mine gifted me with a year subscription to Yoga Journal. That's all it took, and I started my yoga journey. For about five years or so, my dream has been to complete my 200-hour yoga teacher training program so that I can work with people who have dealt or are dealing with chronic pain. Chronic pain affects more than just our body. It affects our minds, our spirits, our connection with people and the world.

I have 11 more years before I retire from teaching. I would love to have a new career when that happens; but, I continually put off going through a program because the cost is exorbitant. So I've decided to stop the excuses and try a different route. I've set up a GoFundMe page to help defer the cost of the program. So far I have received five donations in three days! Please visit my page, and if this campaign resonates with you, I would so appreciate your help.

I hope each and every one of you are feeling blessed in your neck-of-the-woods.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part VII

The palace grounds were filling up, and the police officer who informed us of the event, also shared how to keep our personal items safe. Pick pocketing is a profession in this area, and unsuspecting visitors are the prime target. We needed to be aware of our bodies and personal possessions.  OK, I could do that...I'm always on high alert in new settings, so this was not going to be a problem.

The waiting seemed to take forever. Tourists were leaving their purses behind them on the ledges, letting their kids run around unsupervised, making me nervous for each of them. Thankfully, two beautiful children, along with their mom, came to talk to us. Just talking with them grounded me and centered my attention on what was important.

I could feel the air shift and my anticipation grew. The electricity in the air was palpable. We could see the mounted guards circling the streets surrounding the palace. For Londoners, I'm sure this event becomes part of the landscape. We seem to acclimate so very easily to our surroundings that we forget what is truly spectacular. Well, this to me was spectacular. Watching YouTube videos of this does not do it justice.

The Mounted Sentries were beginning to enter the grounds, and I got chills! I wish I had the words to describe this experience...utter awe barely touches it. However, as soon as it started, it seemed to be over. What we didn't anticipate was that we had to wait to cross the road (Buckingham Gate) until the ceremony was completely over. We had so much more to see, and so little time to see it in! Again, I cannot tell you the order in which we saw everything, but Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London were what I remember most vividly. The Abbey breathtakingly beautiful...the Tower of London...well, more about that next time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part VI

On the day of the Irish Pub and beautiful weather, Becky and I had the town to ourselves. We had no tour guide (Chris and Erika were not there on that day), so we were our own tour guides. We had the London Pass and the Oyster Card to travel the Underground. So let me stop here. Do I sound like I know what I'm talking about? Come on...if you've read this far you already know the answer to that.

So armed with our 'stuff' we got to travel from place to place using the underground railway system. Erika assured us we could do it. Becky was braver than I, but I pulled up my big-girl britches and was ready to go. First stop? Again, I don't know! But we made it--wherever our destination lead us. 

But what I do remember (again vividly--because this is connected with my heart) was the breathtaking site of the palace. It stopped me short. (We didn't realize, however, that we weren't able to tour the palace--that happens in summer--but we saw so many people standing around looking at the palace. I figured this must be customary for tourists to do that. And maybe it is. But, in my heart I knew that there was a reason everyone was standing around. After a bit of gently nudging Becky, we decided to stay for an hour. 

We approached a police officer walking among the crowd, and we asked him what they were all waiting for. The reason? We were going to see the Changing of the Guard!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part V

Why is it I remember the inconsequential things? I don't know...I should be talking about the beautiful architecture, the wonderful shops, the palace (wait, I WILL talk about that...just not right now), right? But knowing who I am, I have embraced that part of me. It took years for me to understand why so many people labeled me as sensitive. I used to take that as an insult, but I know now, through all my life experiences, that my sensitivity has made me into a strong and loving person. I wouldn't change that for the world.

So, why do I remember that London has no bathrooms (unless you go into a restaurant?) WHAT? I'm sure they do, but my sister and I couldn't seem to find any on our day trip together on a beautiful day in London. As a tourist, I'm sure I just didn't have a guide to help me in that department; had I, I wouldn't be sharing this funny story right least to me.

We found a pub that was basically empty because it was between lunch and dinner, but I knew they would have to have a bathroom. So here's the dilemma: I'm gluten free, and this is an Irish pub that basically has no gluten-free options for me. But at this point I couldn't hold it any longer! So, we ordered 'chips'' (deliciously wicked French fries) and pops. I felt incredibly embarrassed by having to to do this just to use the bathroom, but the lovely gentlemen (who were old enough to be my sons) made the stop so worthwhile. They absolutely enjoyed our company as we did theirs, and I got to use the bathroom. Twice.

Monday, May 23, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part IV

I completely underestimated London's weather. I didn't pack the right amount of clothes or the type. I was openly frustrated trying to figure out what to wear. The rain was insane. Hyperbole? Not even a little bit. Sight-seeing in horizontally-pelting rain is an adventure...not a fun one...but an adventure nonetheless. Don't plan on experiencing that again, either, mind you. Oh, and to top it all off, my beautiful polka-dot umbrella met its demise in London. Now that was bittersweet.

Our trek from Cambridge to London is lost on me. Again, I'm sure I became so overwhelmed with the travel, I shut down. If my sister ever wants to chime in with a comment to correct any of my errors, I'd be grateful. Have at it, Becky! But here's what I do remember vividly: The conversation with one of our taxi drivers en route to someplace. Can't remember where. But here is my caveat: I will not participate in political banter here or on any other social media outlet, so if my prose leaves a lot to the imagination, then great!

He, our taxi driver, was more than happy to share his opinion of the political climate in the states (which I found out later in our trip, was consistent among a few Londoners who were brave enough to share their opinions). His biggest fear? WWIII. ! ! ! ! !

This sure made this seemingly huge world (in my perspective) very, very small. Here were people openly sharing their views and doing it with as much gusto as any American. What I did do was listen. And listen. And listen. I rarely make my political opinion known publicly, and I won't now. But my eyes were utterly blown wide open....

Friday, May 20, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part III

What I remember vividly is checking into our first hotel in Cambridge, England. My brother and his wife live there, so I knew we were going to get crème de la crème tour guides. OK, I lie, I don't remember the hotel name, but I do remember trying to figure out why my adapter that I bought for Europe wouldn't fit in the hotel's outlet. My sister, Becky, had bought this amazing adapter and was going to try it. After all, it cost upwards of $30 and was supposedly the best. To test it out, she plugged in her hairdryer and the strip adapter sparked and seemed to explode. Yikes! So much for money "well spent". We contacted the front desk and a nice man brought up a few UK adapters, (not European!) and explained that US hairdryers and UK outlets don't mix. Ours were obviously way too powerful. Thank goodness they had a hairdryer there. Our first logistical lesson. 

Cambridge is a beautifully quaint city. The architecture is nothing like here in America. My pictures of Cambridge are skewed, so I won't post the buildings per se, but here are a few that told about the famous pub, The Eagle, the site of take a look: 

Wow DNA discovered in a pub in Cambridge...well not in the pub, mind you, but you get the idea. 

The other place that I just loved was a quaint shop called Nomad. The owner, Fin, is a Deadhead and we had a lot to talk about. He even threw in an extra bundle of incense, because, that's just what Deadheads do. More to come!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part II

As we flew into Heathrow Airport, London, I saw a most magnificent city! The London Eye was unmistakably awesome! Taking all this in on the airplane was much easier for me than I knew it would be on the ground. Here it was safe and not so terribly overwhelming. I'm not sure how many times I grabbed my sister's hand and said, "I can't believe we're here!" My sister is one of a kind. She takes it all in, and adds a snarky comment occasionally to keep me guessing. She is not one to pour her feelings takes quite a bit for her to choose to do that...she's told me it doesn't come naturally to her. I, on the other hand, will gush...sometimes ad nauseum. My sister is much more reserved on that front. But I digress...

I cannot remember the next couple of hours after landing. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down. The first overwhelming aspect of our trip was DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! OK, I know that in England this is the way they do things, but actually doing it...well, it's quite an experience. OK, public service announcement here: I cannot for the life of me remember hotel names, restaurants, minor excursions, brain doesn't work that way. I know that taking the time to write things down or save memorabilia would be helpful, but that's not my way either. I'm an in-the-moment kind of gal when it comes to vacations or day excursions. I may take lots of pictures, but then may have no idea what they are of; thank God for the location device on my iPhone. It takes care of that for me. So basically, if you are looking for a "tour" of my trip, you won't get one. This is a journey into my mind, heart, soul, and all the other parts of me that make up who I am. So if this is not for you, you may stop reading. I won't mind. Hell, I won't even know who reads my stuff other than the comments I receive on Facebook.

So all that said, I hope you are enjoying your neck of the woods this weekend--cold and wet where I'm at--but I hope no matter the weather, you are all shining inside or appreciating your moment. More to come. Namaste.

Friday, April 29, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part I

The planning began two years ago. My sister and I were sitting in her small den off her bedroom. After a glass of wine, she told me that to celebrate my 50th birthday, she was going to take me on an all-expense paid trip to anywhere I wanted to go in the world. She knew she needed to give me two years to digest this. For those of you who read my blog, you know that I am not a willing traveler. Being away from home for extended periods of time (especially out of state) is way out of my comfort zone.  Honestly, I would have been happy going to a contiguous US state. She insisted it needed to be out of the country. How could I be away from my family for that long? What if they found out that they didn't need me anymore? Writing this, I can see how crazy this sounds, but in my heart, those fears are real.

Originally, we had decided that the Caribbean would be a nice place to relax for a week and a half. I wasn't married to this place, hell, I wasn't married to even going! But this place was the closest to my home. I wanted to be able to leave at a moment's notice should there be a problem. Basically, I was picking a destination for its proximity, not as a perfect destination.

Our minds were made up when my brother married a beautiful Spanish woman who lives in Cambridge, England. They came to the US to marry, so I was able to meet her (on the day of the wedding) and I immediately knew my brother was one lucky dude. We had to visit them in England! This was the first time in the past two years that I had started to feel excitement rather than dread. My sister planned the trip leaving no arrangement (car service, train ride...) left to chance. Our itinerary? Cambridge, London, Barcelona! We had invited our brother and his wife to join us in Barcelona. Unfortunately, my brother's visa hadn't been updated to allow him to travel outside of England--a topic my brother has little good to say about. But that didn't stop his wife from joining us.

The weeks approaching this once-in-a-lifetime trip seemed to drag by. Each day was long, and the weeks even longer. And surprising to say, my attitude was improving and my fear abating. I would be spending my 50th birthday celebration in Europe!

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Yoga Present to Myself: Sukhava Bodhe 2015

My planning for my 50th birthday retreat seemed to go on forever, but my trans-formative weekend went by in a flash. Planning is one thing, but the experience is something completely different. What surprised me was my full immersion in the weekend. So much of my planning time was spent worrying about being away from my family. My kids would tell you that they were thrilled I was leaving! This left them the entire weekend to do guy things. Had I allowed myself to really think on that, it may have stung, but I know that they, too, need time, just like me, to rejuvenate, explore, and just have fun.

Our cozy yurt
This is exactly what I got. My retreat, Sukhava Bodhe, was amazing. The yurt my friend Jen Vincent and I stayed in was delightfully cozy: right smack-dab in the middle of the festival. We had people stop by and talk with us, and a couple of people even sat and shared food with us. The atmosphere was one of complete trust with all of the people there. I have never experienced so much of that concentrated in one place before! We were asked to trust the practice of yoga, each other, our space, and we didn't even have a key to our yurt. I was assured that the people at the retreat were all good/trustworthy people. Jen and I even left our windows open when we slept. Anyone could have peeked in, but I doubt there was enough light to see us tucked in and snoozing. Truly this comfort and trust was remarkable for me. What I found out about myself surprised me. I had anticipated becoming completely altered after this retreat, and that frightened me, but I had a wonderful conversation with an instructor (one of the people that stopped by and shared watermelon I had on our picnic table) that changed my thinking about this. He said roughly this: Yoga doesn't necessarily have to change you, it allows you to release and let go of all the accumulated stuff that sits in our bodies and minds. How right he was. And the pictures below illustrate this concept perfectly for me. My yoga practice looked very different compared to those pictures below. I have used words in my discussions with people about my body's limitations. No longer! I used those words with an instructor saying, "My knees won't do that." Her response, "Not yet!" How true. I learned that my mind can be my biggest enemy or my greatest gift. I learned to trust that a base can hold me up. That I can hold up a flyer! Even a 190 lb. one! I learned that I can do an inversion. While I haven't (yet) stuck a handstand without assistance, I will. I will. I experienced Kundalini yoga for the first time. What an experience that was. I had what some might refer to as a Kundalini awakening. It was a bit frightening, but I was assured this is perfectly natural and expected in the beginning. I have now begun to incorporate some of the Kundalini teachings into my own practice. Little by little, starting my 50th decade (November), I'm filled with hope and excitement for more trans-formative experiences. I am open to what is coming my way. AND I just may return to Sukhava Bodhe next Labor Day weekend. Who knows? I'm keeping my options open!

Jen and me

Me as a flyer
Ready for lift off

Great stretch...
Flying again with a wonderful base

Jen taking Paddle board Yoga (SUPyo)

Getting ready to go into supported handstand...didn't quite make it!

Me as a base

Me as a base
We were without an instructor, so we just played

Me flying in throne...Now this was exciting!
Slacklining...this was fun!