SHIFT: January Check-In

"Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope - a slight change, and all patterns alter."
            --- Sharon Salzberg

=====

Here we are, nearing the end of January. Time to check in! Let's see how things are going for me and my 2022 word so far.

At this point, my word and I are in that . . . getting-to-know-you phase of things. It's the beginning of a year-long relationship, after all, and it's still new for us. We've been hanging out together a lot. Getting a feel for things. Testing the waters. Establishing our boundaries.

You know.
Those early-relationship kinds of things.

IMG_7674

There are so many places we want to go; so many things we'd like to try, but it's still too early to tell how things are going to work out. One thing, though, is really resonating for us right now.

Kaleidoscopes.

IMG_7675

Yeah. It might sound a little weird, but I've always had A Thing for kaleidoscopes. Which is why I keep one on my desk. Because they're kind of magical. And fun to have around. It's nice to pick one up to play with whenever you feel a little . . . stuck.

You know.
Like when you need to . . . shift.

So my word and I? We've decided to just take things slowly here for awhile at the beginning of the year. We're moving cautiously, and we'll see what happens next.

IMG_7676

(It's really hard to take a picture through the peep-hole in a kaleidoscope with your cell phone. Just sayin.)

Anyway.
I think we're off to a fine start.
(Especially when one of us is - by definition - always on the move!)

=====

"Life, on this Earth may be likened to a great Kaleidoscope before which the scenes and facts and material substances are ever shifting and changing and all any man can do is to take these facts and substances and re-arrange them in new combinations."
                --- Napoleon Hill

=====

How about you? If you've chosen a word for the year, how are things going for you and your word so far?

 

 

 


Sometimes Mondays

. . . look like there's digital "house cleaning" going on.

IMG_7664

I got a new laptop over the weekend. Although the migration from my old laptop to my new laptop has been amazingly easy (like mind-blowingly easy) so far, I'm still busy making sure everything is just the way I want it.

I'm taking it easy today, computer-wise.
I'll be back tomorrow with more to say.

==

Hope your week is off to a good start.


This or That . . . January Edition

It's a new year, a new month. 

Let's play . . .

IMG_7637

Digital calendar . . . or . . . Paper planner

Choose a word . . . or . . . What are you talking about?

Chili . . . or . . . Soup

Dry January . . . or . . . Pass the wine, please!

Wood burning stove . . . or . . . Gas fireplace

Set annual goals or resolutions . . . or . . . Let it flow

Snow plow service . . . or . . . Dig yourself out

Night owl . . . or . . . Early bird

Cozy PJ pants . . . or . . . Flannel nightgown

Morning coffee . . . or . . . Morning tea

==

To answer, just copy the following, paste it into the comment field, and indicate your answers. (I've tried it myself and it works.

Digital calendar or Paper planner
Choose a word or What are you talking about?
Chili or Soup
Dry January or Pass the wine, please!
Wood burning stove or Gas fireplace
Set annual goals or resolutions or Let it flow
Snow plow service or Dig yourself out
Night owl or Early bird
Cozy PJ pants or Flannel nightgown
Morning coffee or Morning tea

As for me?

This or that answered

This or that?
I can't wait to see what you choose!

 


Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge Jan 2022

Last fall, I introduced my monthly fitness challenge, explaining my "inspiration" and why I think it's so important to do strength work ESPECIALLY as we age. (You can read all about that here.)

So.

How are you doing?

By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. 

Keep up the good work.

Every day!

(And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)

Get Strong

And add this one . . . 

Challenge #4 -- Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . (ahem) do your Kegel exercises every day!

I can hear you groaning and see you rolling your eyes right through my computerI know. I know. Core work . . . is no fun. In fact, it’s downright unpleasant. But . . . developing a strong core is super important for us, and especially as we age.

I’m not talking about developing six-pack abs here (for me - and probably for most of you, too - that train left the station years ago). I’m talking about developing  strong core muscles to help us all move more confidently, stand taller, prevent injuries, and take some of the load off of our joints and spine. Because our core? It's the foundation for every move we make! 

I did Pilates for years and years, and every class my instructor (“Alabama Renae”) would tell us (in her best Alabama accent) . . . “Y’all. We do this so we can get ourselves up off the floor when we’re old women. None of y’all are going to say,’I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.’ Not on my watch.” 

And THAT’S why we care about our core: To get ourselves up off the floor when we’re old women.

So. What is our core anyway?
(Because it’s a lot more than that six-pack!)

Our core. . . comprises the deep muscles that help support our pelvis, spine, butt, back, hips and stomach. Basically it’s the foundational muscles for keeping our posture strong and tall, and for allowing us to twist, bend, run, jump and just move.

There are several main core muscles. These include:

  • Rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles)
  • Transverse abdominis (the lower abs or the "seatbelt")
  • Inner and outer obliques (they're on your sides and help you twist side to side)
  • Multifidus (the deep muscles of your lower back)
  • Erector spinae (the muscles that run along your spine)
  • Diaphragm (the muscle at the bottom of your ribcage that supports breathing)
  • Pelvic floor muscles (the muscles low in your pelvis that help control continence and have a huge role in pregnancy and birth)

Pretty much . . . it’s everything you need to get yourself up off the floor should you find yourself down there. (So much more than just your abs.)

And how, exactly, do we engage our core?

A lot of people thing that "engaging your core" means "sucking in your stomach." But that's not it at all. In fact, it's kind of the opposite of that. Engaging your core means bracing and tightening all of the muscles in your core at the same time. When you do this, your entire mid-section should feel like a single, strong cylinder – which is way more than just “sucking in” your stomach. 

To engage your core, imagine that you are bracing yourself for a sucker-punch right to the stomach. You’re not going to suck in your stomach in that situation! You’re going to take a deep breath and tighten all of your abdominal muscles. My (pre-pandemic) personal trainer used to tell me to picture “zipping up” my abs – bringing my navel up and toward my spine.

Try it! Engage your core several times a day . . . just for fun. And especially before you do any kind of exercise – even just walking around the neighborhood.

What if you CAN’T engage your core? Could it be . . . weak?
Maybe. . . *

Here are some signs that may indicate a weak core:

  • How’s your posture? If it’s hard for you to stand or sit up straight, it might indicate a weak core, especially the erector spinae muscles.
  • Do your limbs feel weak? Maybe your knees ache? Like . . . do your legs tire easily when you go up and down stairs? Do your arms ache when you’re carrying the laundry? A lot of time, a weak core (which is the foundation for all of our movement) is not doing its share of the load, and you're feeling it in your limbs. Or your knees.
  • Can you hollow your stomach? Try it! Take a natural breath, and, as you exhale, pull your belly button toward your spine. Hold for a count of 10, then release. If you're unable to sustain the hold for the entire count, this is a good indicator that your core is weak.
  • Do you . . . dribble? (Yeah. You know what I’m talking about.) This could be an indicator of a weak pelvic floor. (And, trust me, none of us want a weak pelvic floor as we head into our . . . golden years.)

And . . . What about your pelvic floor?

Oh, yeah. That.

Like any muscle group, your pelvic floor requires routine exercise to stay strong and function properly. And for women, the pelvic floor serves a Very Important Function: it’s the sheet of muscle that supports the bladder, uterus, and bowel.

To keep your pelvic floor functioning properly (and to help with involuntary dribbles and such!), incorporate Kegels exercises into your daily routine. Once you figure out how to do them (follow this Mayo Clinic link for an excellent how-to description), you can do your Kegel exercises discreetly just about any time, whether you're sitting at your desk or relaxing on the couch – or as part of your daily meditation practice or even while you’re in the shower.

So. There you go! This month’s fitness challenge is simple - but important: Identify your core muscles, engage them . . . and do your Kegel exercises every day!

==

Previous Get Strong Challenges:

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

Challenge #2: Stretch your hamstrings, activate those glutes . . . and spare your back just by changing the way you bend over.

Challenge #1: Strengthen Your Lower Body by Doing Body Weight Squats . . . All Day Long

==

*Interested in doing more to strengthen your core?

Try yoga! Yoga is a fabulous way to strengthen your core. (And there are many other benefits, as well.) Last year, I did a couple of in-depth posts about yoga. You can check them out here and here. If you're interested in trying yoga, I highly recommend Yoga With Adriene. (She's been my at-home yoga instructor since the pandemic shut down began in March 2020.) She's got a free "30-day yoga" thing going this month (click here) -- but y'know . . . you can start ANY day -- and you can take as long as you want to do the program. You don't need to 30 days in a row. (There are no "yoga police.")

Or practice this basic core workout for beginners! Not ready for yoga? Here's a 10-minute workout comprising 6 different core exercises. These are pretty "standard" moves that will help you strengthen your core (but only if you do them).

And if you have a Peloton membership . . . try the Crush Your Core program with Emma Lovewell. Take it from me . . . it's challenging! But it works.

 

 


A Plain Brown Wrapper

Many, many years ago . . . at least three decades ago now, but maybe four . . . my mom gave Tom a sweater for Christmas. It was one of those workhorse kinds of sweaters . . . nothing fancy. But it was . . . 

Wool.
Lightweight.
Very basic.
And a heathered maroon color that Tom, being color blind, probably couldn't actually see accurately, but that he really liked.

He wore it all the time. While fishing. While snow-blowing. At probably every one of Brian's hockey games. Whenever he was cold and needed a light layer, you'd find that sweater in the picture.

Until . . . he lost it.
(And that is a story unto itself, but not for the blog.)

Anyway, the sweater has been gone for a very long time. Maybe even another decade? And Tom still grieves it.

It also turns out to be the kind of sweater that is hard to replace. 

Unless you're a knitter.

So, after years of Tom talking about his lost-sweater-that-he-wishes-he-still-had. And years of my trying to find a replacement that I could purchase . . . to avoid knitting a man-sized, plain-no-frills 100% wool sweater . . . I'm knitting a man-sized, plain-no-frills 100% wool sweater.

In brown.
(Because when you're color blind, you always choose brown.)
(He may actually have thought the heathered maroon sweater was . . . brown. Just sayin.)

IMG_7587

It took us awhile to decide on a pattern. Tom wanted . . . very basic. Plain. No frills. I was hoping for . . . a few frills? Maybe a basic gansey? But it's not my sweater, and he wants plain, so we're going with this one (which is as basic as one can get when knitting a sweater). And I'm knitting it with Shelter (in the Meteorite colorway; brown, to be sure . . . but with interesting flecks of color in there for some excitement).

I'm afraid the knitting content here is going to be a bit dull for a while.


(Until, of course, I get my Gauge Dye Works yarn for the soon-to-be-released Hunter Hammersen "feather hat." That will spice things up for me and provide a little reprieve.) (Please note . . . it is not actually called the "feather hat," but it will always BE the "feather hat" to me. Thanks, Bonny!)

IMG_7625

In the meantime, I'm knitting a man-sized, plain-no-frills 100% wool sweater.
It's a plain brown wrapper!

==

How about you? What are you making this week?


Read With Us: Up Next!

Read With Us

It's always an exciting day when we release the next Read With Us title . . . and today's the day!

(Although if you joined us for last week's Zoom discussion of Matrix, you've already heard the news. We've decided to make it a "perk" for those who join the Zoom to announce the next book at the close of our call.)

So. Without further ado . . . 
our next selection is  . . .
Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette.

54785502

Right about now, you may be asking yourself . . . Are they on a nun kick, or what?

And I guess you might say that, yes.
Yes we are.

I stumbled onto Agatha of Little Neon somewhere right after the holidays. It was the first book I finished in 2022 . . . and it's a gem! Debut author Claire Luchette writes a delightful yet poignant story about modern-day sisters. The language is deceptively simple, the characters reveal themselves slowly (they sort of . . . unfold on the pages), and the whole thing is fresh, engaging, and insightful. It grabbed my heart. And . . . it also offers a really interesting counterpoint to Matrix.

We'll be talking more about the book and providing additional background information throughout February. Then . . . mark your calendars for our blog book discussions/Zoom discussion on Tuesday, March 15 (7:00 pm Eastern time; Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel). It is a quicker turnover than usual for a Read With Us selection, but the book is relatively short at 273 pages, and - trust me - it's a quick read! 

We hope you'll be as excited as we are to meet Agatha and her sisters. And - whether you read Matrix with us or not - we hope you'll join us for the discussion in March. (Although we will be doing some compare-and-contrast kinds of things in our discussion, this book absolutely stands on its own and Matrix is not "required reading.")

C'mon along as we continue our nun kick! 
Read With Us!

==

Previous Read With Us book selections:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Matrix by Lauren Groff

 

 


Out My Window

The window frame is not that important. What is important is the light that comes through the window.
                –Eckhart Tolle

IMG_7591

Magic happens . . . out your windows.
Make sure to take a peek!

==

Here's to a good week for all of us. Happy Monday.


Museum of Me: January 2022

A new month . . . means a new Museum of Me exhibit!

IMG_7379

This month, we enter the deep, dark, cobwebby back hallway of my museum . . . to discover something that set me apart from my peers in my childhood.

C'mon . . . 
Follow me.
(I have a flashlight.)

==

When I was a kid, I was good at lots of things. I was an excellent speller, for example. I was a good reader. I knew how to behave in school. I had really great ideas and could get people to follow along with them most of the time. I could jump double-dutch at recess with the best of 'em. I was creative. I had a big imagination.

But lots of kids I knew shared those skills; they weren't all that special.

I did have one thing, though, that I was really good at that most other kids I knew were not: I . . . was a dancer.

IMG_7446

And a good one, too!

I started taking ballet when I was 4. My mom had danced as a girl, and she thought I might like it, too, so she started me early. We headed out each week to Miss Olsen's School of Dance for my lessons. Back then (and for almost all of my childhood dance years), we had a piano accompanist for our ballet classes. (That cracks me up now; so old school.) I loved dancing right from the start -- every thing about it.

Here I am, ready for my first dance recital. I was 5 by then, but just barely.

Kym 1964 first ballet recital

I also took tap and jazz classes, and some sort of "tumbling" that I can barely remember now, but it involved doing tumbling maneuvers through hula hoops (I can only imagine a really basic Cirque-du-Soleil-for-children kind of thing?). (I didn't stick with the tumbling.)

Kym 1968 Winchester Cathedral

Kym 1968 recital tumbling of some sort

Dancing . . . was definitely my Best Thing as a child. 

At the end of second grade, my ballet teacher - Miss Olsen - pulled my mom and I aside after a ballet class and asked my mom if she might consider allowing me to take private ballet classes . . .  because she saw some "natural talent" in me. Now, I'll tell you  . . . this was The Most Special Thing that had ever happened to me at that particular point in my life. (Back in the 60s, kids were definitely not coddled.) It was a Big Deal for my parents to add private ballet classes for me, but they did. My dad (who was absolutely ambivalent about the whole dance thing) installed a little "ballet barre" under the stairs in our basement for me to practice at home. And the whole family tolerated my arabesques, glissades, and pas de bourrées through the living room and down the hallway (for the most part).

In third grade, I landed my first ballet solo . . . as Snow White. 

Kym 1968 Snow White solo

By the time I was in sixth grade, I was only taking ballet, having dropped the tapping and the jazzing (and the "tumbling"). I really did love ballet -- the dancing, the costumes, the performance. I even liked the discipline of practice. If you'd have asked me what I "wanted to be when I grew up" at that stage of my life, I probably would have told you "a ballerina" (or maybe an astronaut; it tended to be a toss-up).

Then, as I've revealed in previous exhibits here in the Museum of Me, my family moved across the country just as I was finishing up sixth grade. I was promised dance classes in our new location, but there were . . . ummm, let's just say . . . family complications following that move. And dance classes for me were simply not a priority. (And, to be fair, I had moved to a city with no actual ballet options anyway. . . ) I continued to dance . . . on the junior high dance team and (sort of dance) as a cheerleader in high school. In college I finally got back to ballet classes again when I discovered I could take them to fulfill my gym credit requirements.

But, basically . . . my dance career ended in sixth grade.

Of course, I never would have had a "dance career" in the first place. Being singled out at Miss Olsen's School of Dance was a great childhood ego boost, but it was no real sign of overwhelming talent, y'know? (It's not like the Chicago youth ballet was knocking down my door at the time or anything.) Still . . . having something that I could do well . . . that not just anyone could do well . . . made me feel special as kid -- back in a time when kids were, generally, not made to feel special at all. 

Looking back on it all now, I'm really happy I had the opportunity to dance - and to take it relatively seriously - as a child. It made me feel special to have a "talent" that none of my friends shared. I was proud of being a "ballerina," and for other kids to think of me as a "ballerina" (who also happened to be a good speller).  And I learned so much more than just dance steps and barre exercises, too. I developed habits and practices that have served me well throughout my life -- the value of discipline, the benefits of daily practice, the joy of moving my body, the confidence that comes with mastering something difficult -- and a lifelong appreciation for the arts. 

My ballet "career" may have ended earlier than I'd have liked back when I was an 11-year-old, but I think things worked out Just Right in the end.

[Cue curtain call.]

==

Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. 

 

 


An Entirely Different Kind of Making

For Christmas, Brian and Lauren gave me a soup cookbook from Zingerman's Deli and Bakehouse (a Michigan treasure; be sure to check it out if you're ever in Ann Arbor). Each soup recipe includes a suggested "bread pairing" -- which is great if you happen to have quick, local access to Zingerman's bread (I do, but selection is very limited). Without access, those pairings are just wishful thinking . . . (And that link up there? That's to Zingerman's online store. Trust me . . . their shipped goods are almost as fabulous as what you'll find fresh in their Ann Arbor bakehouse. If you have a hankerin' for some FINE bread or bakery goods, give 'em a try.)

Anyway, last weekend, with Tom in Detroit, I decided to try another Zingerman's soup recipe (I'd already tried one - with great results - right after Christmas) . . . AND I decided I'd up my game by also baking the suggested bread for my given soup: focaccia. Now, I'm not exactly a newbie bread baker. I used to bake bread on the regular -- years before the pandemic sourdough craze hit. But . . . I'd never baked focaccia before. No worries, though! I dusted off my trusty bread book and found a recipe for focaccia.

It was a bit fussier than I anticipated.

My recipe began with biga (Italian bread starter; kinda like sourdough starter), so that was my first step. My biga started out looking a bit sad . . . but it perked up and did just what it was supposed to do by the time I needed it, 12 hours later.

IMG_7516

The next day, focaccia baking began in earnest. Let me tell you, focaccia dough is . . . sticky. It doesn't really behave like most bread doughs I've worked with in the past. But it was doing just what my recipe told me it should be doing, so I proceeded, fully bought in by this point.

IMG_7531

I really like my bread cookbook (it's this one in case you're interested), but I'll tell you . . . more photos would have been really helpful as I struggled to "fold" my very sticky bread dough into thirds, then halves, then again with a quarter turn. I had to trust my instincts and read carefully. And, eventually, I had 3 focaccia loaves rolling right along.

IMG_7532

IMG_7534

IMG_7536

I'm sure Paul Hollywood would have much to say about the air bubbles I managed to bake in (I'm sure that's the result of my questionable "folding" skills, see above), but it really did turn out to be very tasty!

IMG_7537

And it was a perfect pairing with the soup, too! (I'm thinking . . . not bad for a first attempt.)

==

And in the meantime, my knitting jag continues . . . 

IMG_7522

How about YOU? Are you make anything interesting this week?