Thursday, March 27, 2008

Looking And Seeing In Philly

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Staci made a challenge on her blog. She wrote about how so many of us wander through our lives, certain that nothing special is going on, nothing happens. Of course, a lot happens, but most of us are too focussed on how we are not making enough money or need to clean that closet or how life would really, really be all better if we would just finish that memo that on the bottom of the pile.

Then, Staci laid down the challenge: Memorialize something from your life that is important to you, and do this like today was the last day of your life.

Not to get all Carlos Castenda on you or anything, but Staci is certainly channeling that guy. Along with Buddha, Ram Dass, and a few others. You know, all those folks who keep harping on about Process and the importance of the JOURNEY and how we tend to live all up in our heads in the past and the future - rather than take in the beauty of here and now. After you hear enough wise people say, in one way or another, "Pay attention, right now, will ya?!," you gotta start to think there is some juice in that approach to life.

The picture above is my first attempt to meet Staci's challenge. Of course, I am cheating a little, because I saw this mural -- one of Philly's hundreds - on my recent trip there. We spent an afternoon just walking around downtown, looking at murals. I love how they are just there, basking in their massive glory. Even so, after a while, even these massive pieces of art become mundane, unseen by most of us, who skitter by them on our latest mission.

It was very satisfying to spend even just an afternoon not taking these murals for granted, giving them their due, right then at that moment.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Old Town

Sam and I in front of 440 Penn Street

Our big spring break trip this year was to head on up to Philly to spend some time with my husband, who has been working up there for the past month. We had a wonderful time roaming around downtown Philadelphia with the new hip folk that now seem to people the place. We spent most of one day just walking from one of the city's murals to another (some pics of those later). But the biggest thing for me was to drive 30 minutes north and visit the town where I lived my first 9 years, Spring City, PA.

Truck lot behind my house where I learned to ride a bike.

I hadn't been back to Spring City, a town of of about 3,000 people (and I think even that is a stretch) since I was 11 or so. We lived in a duplex, the other half being occupied by the family of my very best friend, Carol. It was a blue collar town, were most parents worked in a factory and going to college was not the norm, by any means. When I was a kid, Main Street was lined with businesses, a hardware store, a market, the butcher shop, and a penny candy store. Today, nearly every door is boarded up. People go to the big box stores on the edge of town to buy things. Like so many industrial towns, there's not much left to do there.

Still, I knew the family living in our old house (a friend of my brother's from his high school class of 1968), and I could still find my way to my old elementary school. I guess the old radar still works from all those afternoons of walking home. And, best of all, the old playground was still there -- the stage where I learned to play 4-square and hopscotch, and vanquished my first bully. All in a dress, of course, as girls were not allowed to where pants to school!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Fern-ly Finish

The Fern Window is officially done. I'm very pleased with it -- and will likely make this one again -- or elements of it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Down A Pound

Not a huge accomplishment in the last week, but I am enthusiastic about the direction in which me and my hips are going. Better yet, I can swim 50 laps without having to go lie down afterwards.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Love My New Glazing Putty

And I know that's weird. But there's no other way to put it. I AM in love with my new glazing putty, AmChem Stained Glass Putty. I got some for Christmas from my godson, who will now forever go down in history as heroic and brilliant for this act alone.

Glazing putty is the stuff that you use to plug up the little gaps between the lead came and the glass. Puttying is a messy process that involves gunk and dust and the total destruction of at least one pair of rubber gloves. Doing it right means you've got a nicely sealed window. Doing it wrong means you have a drafty, wobbly window. And who wants that?

For me, getting the right putty is the single most important thing in finishing up a window. I've used soupy glazing putties and ones that vented off vapors that could take the paint off your car. Oh, but that AmChem...

Tomorrow the window and its putty will have "set" -- and I can clean it up and patina the solder joints. That will make those nice, dark lead lines that I love so well. Okay, I know this is oddly rhapsodic. A good glazing putty can do that to me.

Keep the diamonds. I'll take the really nice gunk, please.

...Well, keep the diamonds until I get these cruddy gloves off.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Semi-Svelte Update

Had to brag....I am now lighter by 8 pounds. I think it's the swimming that is really doing it.

Better than the weight loss, if you can believe that, is that I am feeling stronger. Yesterday, I swam 50 laps and didn't have to crawl out of the pool like I was some victim from a shipwreck dragging herself onto dry land again.

NOT having to gasp for breath might be the best it's gonna be for awhile. Frankly, whenever I get the one step forward-one step forward improvement in anything, I feel darn lucky. I'm usually have a strict two forward - one and one half back policy with these kinds of things.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fern Window Update: Ready To Solder

Got the last pieces fitted together last night, and I'm all ready to start soldering. I'm not completely happy with the top right corner. (Might lighten it up a bit.) All in all, though, I love this design. Very calming. Makes me want to go take a walk in a certain Vermont forest I know, a veritable magic kingdom of fern. I'll have to hold that thought until July, though.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pilates, Now Under Geneva Convention Investigation

Okay, so in my newly embraced spirit of let's-get-in-shapedness, I took my first pilates class today. Not the pilates class with all the strange looking machinery, but the more simplistic one that requires nothing more than one's aching muscles, the ability to breathe, and a floor. This is called, innocently enough, Pilates Mat Class. They might as well have called it, Kick Your Butt Slowly For 45 Minutes Class. Or, maybe, You Will Beg For Mercy From Any Stranger Working Out Next To You Class. Or just AIEEEE Class.

Pilates, as I learned to today from the very calm British pilates teacher at my gym, was developed by this guy, Joseph Pilates. For whatever reason, he was working in a jail or just in jail in San Francisco, CA, when he developed this exercise method for inmates. He dismantled prison beds, harvesting the internal wooden slats and springs, and constructed the first pilates equipment. Maybe there were some felonious ballet dancers doing hard time with him too, because many of his exercise routines involve quite ballet-ish aspects. And this should have been the tip off to me, right away, that I was in for peine.

In an earlier, more aerobically and aesthically pleasing part of my life, I regularly took ballet and dance classes. I was never in such good shape. There is nothing more grueling that lifting one's own body in space with no leverage save one's arms, legs, and toes. I have seen grown men, muscles hardened to a cement-like consistency from weight lifting, reduced to tears by a single class at barre. Yeah, so you bench a gazillion pounds, but can you plie 100 times?

So, while I limped out of Pilates Mat Class, I felt oddly rejuvenated by my aching muscles. Just as in my dance classes of yore, they were sore muscles, but longer and ever so slightly stronger ones. And, unlike the gentle yoga debaucle earlier this week, I didn't fall over once.

Of course, the entire class took place on the floor, but why quibble with details?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gentle Yoga, (On) My Ass!

(Photo by AZRainman)

Okay, so I started a Tuesday morning yoga class. I thought, okay, I AM stiff and creaky, and my neck makes noises that are generally emitted from old leather chairs when you get up out of them. But even so, I can certainly handle a gentle yoga class.

Class started off swell. The introductory meditation session was delicious, though I did notice that simply sitting cross-legged on the floor was actually using muscles. I had never noticed that sitting required muscle use. Hmmm. "Observe your body," said my yoga teacher. So, I observed. I breathed. It all felt good.

Then, there came downward dog, when you have to brace your body above the floor with your arms, hands, and legs. You are supposed to look like a dog, happy with your butt up in the air. I don't look like anything that good with that part of me up in the air, but I was game to try. Soon, my arms ached, then they shook. Then, I was holding my breath from the sheer concentration involved and nearly fell over from lack of oxygen. How did it get so hard to prop myself up with my arms? Why does my old broken toe feel like someone is sanding it with rough gauge sandpaper -- from the inside out?

Then, I stood in tree pose on one leg. I concentrated my gaze on my "drishti", a visual point (in this case an old nail hole on the wall opposite me). Then, I DID fell over. Since when, even at 9AM without a glass of wine in sight, can I NOT stand on one leg? By that time, I was sweating, breathing deeply, and very grateful for the final meditation/relaxation exercise of the class.

This morning, the shoulders ache, there is a feeling in my lower back that was not there before, and I feel like my lungs just got injected with 15 gallons of really fresh air. I slept last night like a...tree. Except laying down.

I wonder when I'll graduate to Level One, Not Quite So Gentle Yoga. But then, I suppose I am not supposed to inject such unyoga-like goal setting into the mix. Embrace the gentle. Be here now. I wonder if Ram Dass ever fell over in tree pose in front of a room full of 60-year old women.

Here's downward dog performed by a real dog. Along with a sun salutation, I think. Then, it might be that he just has fleas.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Beating the Birthday Drum

Today I am 48 years old, which I must say is completely mind-blowing. I don't feel like I'm 48, whatever that means. I remember my grandmother saying this right up to her last, and 99th, year. ("But I don't feel like I'm that old!") It is one of those things I couldn't understand until I got to a "certain age." In the same way, I sneered as a 20-something when I saw an older couple sitting silently over dinner in a restaurant -- never knowing that years later my husband and I would happily carry the NY Times with us to eat breakfast at our favorite diner.

Nevertheless, I believe it's important to take one's age as it comes, because the alternative is absolutely no fun at all. Naturally, I took the day in stride. Not. I managed to grouse, complain, and feel sorry for myself in ways that can best be described as beeeatch. My husband wore me down with a homecooked breakfast, a lovely pearl ring, and a large measure of patiently delivered deep sighs. Friends came over for breakfast and stayed for cake. Somewhere in there I managed to take my ungrateful self off for a facial. I can honestly say that I was converted to a semblance of human decency by goodwill and love until finally ....

I got over myself and started to have fun. Now I am awaiting the delicious dinner that my godson is preparing for me downstairs. And I am hoping that I will remember the fine lesson of today: Trust in the ones who love me -- before paying much mind to my own flawed and unreliable nature. Amen.

Fortunately, I'm going to have another go at doing the birthday thing. Next weekend I am throwing myself a birthday brunch combo book giveaway. It seems that as you approach 50, you begin to divest yourself of all the things that in your 20s you were determined to have more of. Go figure.

And oh so fitting for the day, the following clip shows us as we are, running full circle from child to childlike. Perhaps, not such a bad thing after all.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Break My TV

Okay, so I've been aware for awhile now that there are some people who aren't really watching TV anymore. They are watching youtube. My friend Rebecca is addicted to Project Runway Canada. My friend Angel is hooked on this Korean soap opera ("No, I can't marry you now that I know you put curdled squid in your morning tea.") And, increasingly, I am finding myself monitoring my son's daily intake of animation shorts and kid-made-by-kid shows (eg. Mac18).

But what was there for me to watch? For a while I surfed back episodes of Man/Woman (or "Man Slash Woman"), a Brit skit comedy show not available in our United States of Pedestrian Humor. But, since M/W was not really available in full episodes, it was really only a hunt-and-peck viewing opportunity. And then....

I stumbled upon "Break A Leg", a typical workplace-detective theme-Russian mafia saga that looks like it is being filmed in a high school. Sounds awful, I know, but there is something wistful and frustrated about it that hits my ironic funny bone just right. Below is a clip of the last episode. Maybe I've found own my youtube show...