So Many Changes!

New house, new school year, new neighbors…new blog? I’ve been wanting to start posting again for a while, and it’s always best to begin at the beginning. Moving into our first house, teaching our daughter preschool at home, and doing a lot of thinking about where I want to go in the future. Maybe this is the time to start writing again.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge – Day 17

Today I tried my first Jivamukti class, and here are the things I learned:

  • Jivamukti sun salutations are different. I kept messing up and getting behind.
  • I’m getting much better at balance.
  • My shoulder strength has a long way to go before I’ll be able to do a headstand
  • However, I was able to do a shoulder stand for the first time in two years
  • Plow is so hard. I can’t believe I used to do it without a problem. My back still needs to gain a lot of flexibility
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30 Day Yoga Challenge – Days 4-16

That post title is ridiculous. I haven’t been nearly as disciplined about blogging as I have about yoga, and even with that, the challenge isn’t going as well as I’d like. Last week my daughter, husband, and I all were laid low by a brutal flu. Between taking care of them and being sick myself I missed two days of yoga, but I did doubles yesterday and today to make up for them. So I guess instead of a challenge where I do yoga every day for thirty days, this has become a challenge where I do thirty yoga classes in thirty days. I can live with that. More flexibility is always better than less.

I’m halfway through and already noticing some great benefits. My shoulders are MUCH looser than they were. My legs too. I’m much more cheerful and patient after I’ve done yoga. Things that would have annoyed me just last month don’t anymore, as long as I’ve hit my mat that day. Also, I’ve noticed that since I started this challenge I’ve spent my evenings reading instead of watching tv or messing around on the internet. Even after a full day keeping up with with a toddler, I still have the energy (both physical and mental) to focus on a book for a couple hours. That’s a benefit of yoga I hadn’t expected, but am very much enjoying.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge – Day 3

I was laid low today with a nasty bug and slept all afternoon. I was frustrated that this would derail my challenge, but then I realized that I don’t need to do an athletic hour of vinyasa flow every day, just get to my mat for some kind of yoga. I just finished a thirty minute restorative class and feel very calm and ready to take on tomorrow’s challenges. Starting with eating more fruits and vegetables. After the last few days I desperately need a detox. With the superbowl yesterday, I’ve eaten like crap the last few days: pizza, a cheeseburger, fries, chips and dip, alcohol. Tomorrow I’m going to refocus on healthful food, mostly vegetarian, and see if that will help me feel better.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge – Day 2

I hit the snooze button for an hour straight today, but finally dragged myself out of bed. I’ve decided to take it easy on Sundays during the challenge, so I did half an hour of yin and half an hour of restorative yoga. The yin was more challenging than I’d thought it would be (in hindsight, duh, I was getting out of bed and going right to my mat for deep stretches on cold muscles), but the restorative more than made up for it with lots of mellow chest-openers and gentle twists. Still feeling a little sleepy, but ready to start my day.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge – Day 1

I started the morning (and my challenge!) with an hour-long vinyasa flow. The class focused on the neck, shoulders, and back, and now I feel all wobbly like I just had a good massage. I even feel pretty relaxed, despite the fact that my toddler started crying in the next room just as savasana started. It wasn’t the most soothing meditation ever, but I’ll take it.

My shoulders are so tight. At first I could barely interlace my fingers behind me. We’ll see how they are at the end of the month.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge – Preamble

So I’ve decided to do a 30 day yoga challenge beginning February 1. Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, and I ate way too much sushi and, not that I’m complaining, but after eating all that food I really felt like I needed to do a bit of exercise today to feel normal again. I’m a YogaGlo subscriber so I queued up an hour long level 2/3 class.

And it kicked my ass. Kicked it. I was panting and sweating my face off and cursing the fact that chaturangas were ever invented. My hamstrings were screaming and pigeon pose was a pipe dream. A practice that would’ve been only mildly challenging for me three years ago was killer today, and that just drives home how important it is for me to get back into a regular practice. I hope the 30 day challenge I’m starting on Saturday will be enough to get me back in the habit. I’m going to try to blog about it too, because when I was planning my challenge I found a lot of motivation and inspiration in others’ yoga challenge blogs.

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Cocktail Hour For Six In Five Minutes Or Less

1. Stir together four spoons of sour cream and one spoon of horseradish sauce. Total Elapsed Time: 20 seconds.

2. Spread that on as many slices of pumpernickel bread as you can. I managed six. Cut each slice of bread into quarters. TET: 45 seconds.

3. Open a 4oz package of smoked salmon, tear each slice into thirds, and top each bread quarter with a bit of salmon. TET: 60 seconds.

4. Using scissors, snip some chives or dill over the whole thing, then grind over some pepper. TET: 30 seconds.

5. Pour a few tablespoons of pomegranate juice (or some other kind if you don’t like pom: pear, peach, orange, and apricot are all good too) into a champagne flute or wine glass and top off with prosecco or some other fizzy wine. TET: 90 seconds.

Total Elapsed Time: 4 minutes, 5 seconds.

Et voila. Cocktail hour for six in five minutes or less. I got rave reviews from everyone, even people who don’t normally like seafood.

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In Search Of Lost Time

I’ve spent the last two years reading In Search Of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, and a few weeks ago I finally finished the seventh and final volume. Here’s the review I posted to my Goodreads account:

I don’t even know how to start reviewing a story I’ve been reading for the last two years. It was wonderful, of course it was, but while I enjoyed reading it the whole way through, I feel like the real point didn’t become clear until the very end. It was worth waiting for.

So, to start with the plot: through seven volumes, we follow the life of Marcel, apparently the last heterosexual man in all of Paris, from his childhood in the countryside through his ridiculous social-climbing adulthood, all kinds of high society intrigues and scandals, friendships, girlfriends, drag kings and queens, mistresses, weddings, jealousy, death, Venice, S&M brothels, war, infidelity, basically every aspect of the French aristocracy’s snobby, hilarious, superficial existence. The story is completely soapy and addictive, like if The Young and the Restless were a novel that impresses people when they hear you’re reading it. You will not be bored.

So that’s the story. But the real point is how Proust tells the story. In my Goodreads review for the second book I wrote, “Proust explains so many things I always knew somehow, but never recognized or was able to put into words. So many times, I’ve read a paragraph and said to myself, ‘I knew that! I’ve thought that!’ on some unconscious, nonverbal level. It’s a rare book that can introduce you to parts of yourself that you realize, as you read, have always existed, unrecognized until now.”

At the end of the final volume, when Marcel decides to leave the party and embark on his masterwork (In Search Of Lost Time itself), he clarifies his project to himself using almost the same words I did: he wants to re-create life itself, using exacting descriptions of thoughts and sensations, and thus connect his story with his readers’ own experiences on all levels: emotional, intellectual, and deeply visceral. Proust’s project is to tell a story that will resonate with us on our own terms, that will provide us with the means, not of reading his story, but of reading our own within ourselves.

His project really boils down to the essential problem of literature. What is its purpose? At the end of the book, when Marcel is at the Prince’s party and makes up his mind to go home and write his masterwork, he decides that literature should give readers a means of looking inward, refining and discerning parts of themselves that they may not have been aware of or developed otherwise. At one point in the story, Marcel tells the painter Elstir that, “We cannot receive the truth from anyone; we have to create it for ourselves.” Is there any truer method of communication? You can’t learn about life just through living; that’s only half of it. You must also reflect. In Search Of Lost Time is a book that can introduce you to yourself. As he inventories and records the richness of his character’s inner life, Proust invites us to do the same and gives us the tools to make sense of our own experiences.

And, at the end of the book, as he sits in the Prince’s study planning the novel he will finally write, Marcel brings all of the preceding six books’ worth of events together in service to his theme, the true purpose of art and literature: connecting with others by connecting with yourself. It’s beautiful. I don’t know how to describe it except for that. This book changed my life. It really did.

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Lens on the City, Opera at the Movies, Birthday Dinner

1. This class looks like so much fun. I wish I could do it. If you sign up, let me know how it goes!

Lens on the City

Instructor: Karen DiChiera, Director of LATOH; Photography Instructor TBA

Lens on the City is a three-day inter-generational learning experience, July 30, 31 and August 1st. Families or groups of adults and children (8 years to 108 years!), will experience exclusive photo tours of interesting historic sites in Detroit, including The Carr Center, Corktown, Boston Edison and the Detroit Opera House. Participant photos will be displayed in an exhibit at the Detroit Opera House for the final performance of the Opera Camp and Opera Workshop. Budding photographers will also receive instruction on photography basics from a professional photographer.

Students 18 and under are free if accompanied by an adult. Everyone should bring their own camera. You can register online at the Michigan Opera website.

2. In other news, my birthday is Thursday and I’m looking forward to a fun long weekend. Wednesday night we’ll be going to Ann Arbor to see the Met Opera summer encore of Der Rosenkavalier. It’s starring Renee Fleming, and I’m excited to see her perform. Every season, the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts a selection of its operas in movie theaters across the country so if you can’t get to New York to see one or you’re new to opera and want to try it out in a casual, low-key way, you can buy a ticket at a participating movie theater. The Met provides character sheets and summaries so you can follow along, and there are subtitles on the screen since the operas usually aren’t in English. The singing and production values are world-class. Check out their 2012-13 season lineup here. I’m looking forward especially to Otello, The Tempest, Aida, and Rigoletto.  Area theaters that participate in the program are the Ann Arbor Quality 16, Livonia 20, and Sterling Heights Forum 30.

3. We have to decide where to go for my birthday dinner on Thursday night! I’ve heard great things about Cliff Bells. Has anyone been there? How is it?

4. No plans on Friday night. It’s the Olympics Opening Ceremonies and you’ll have to pry me away from the tv with a crowbar.

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