Saturday, October 05, 2013

October Memoir Challenge Three

The following is the second of 15 blog posts I'll--fingers crossed--be posting in the month of November as part of the October Memoir Challenge

We were talking about moving back to the city, my mother was explaining to me.  Larry suggested Greenwich Village but I will never live there again because the worst years of my life were there.

How could this be?  My memories of this same time were all wonderful.  We lived down the street from my Aunt Frances and within walking distance of my school, the local library, and even Washington Square Park.  My best memories were here.  I had good friends at school:  Dorie, Alexia, Nikki. 

Dorie, who had a younger sister, lived in a building south of Washington Square Park.  Her father was a dentist and her mother stayed at home, a rarity in my social world.  Dorie was tall, with red hair and pale skin and one time her father gave her a spanking while I was there spending the night, something that confused me but I still envied her a “real family,” especially her younger sister. 

I envied Alexia because she was beautiful, with long brown hair that reached below her waist.  One year, when we all went trick-or-treating together, my mother dressed me up like a witch, with layers of black and even a bat painted on my forehead, while Alexia was dressed as a princess.  I had wanted to dress like a princess but my mother said it was too cold.  One year, Alexia had a birthday party at her mother’s pottery studio and we made name bracelets with beads her mother had made herself. 

Nikki was smaller even than I with short dark hair and she was often mistaken for a boy.  Still, she had an older sister and a mother and another woman and they all lived in a loft apartment with impossibly high ceilings and drywall sheets that partitioned sections off to create bedrooms.  Compared to the tiny apartment in which my mother and I lived, her space felt like a mansion.  And I adored her, even though she was so quiet, almost invisible, because I didn’t care about anything else in her life.  She was wonderful.

There were, of course, other friends, and they came over often.  They loved our tiny apartment because there were so many amazing things there.  We had two bunnies and some guinea pigs in a large aquarium tank in the hallway.  We had two long haired cats—a white with gorgeous orange eyes and a brown tabby.  We had a goldfish and parakeets.  At one point, I even had a turtle and a mouse.  For one brief time, possibly because my mother lost her mind, we had a collie, a large male that came and went before I could get used to having a dog.

How did we fit all of this into our apartment, so small that the refrigerator was in the living room?  Why did we have so many pets?  And what about the gifts given to me, the too generous things that the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus left in our apartment and in my Aunt Frances’ apartment too? 

My life was good.  But what about my mother’s life? 

I was so young and know so little.  She had lied to me about my father.  She was fired from a job which, when you’re a single mother, must be just about the most frightening thing that could happen.  Her brother died in an accident.  She dated and eventually married which is how and why we moved away from Greenwich Village for good.

The marriage is that ended our life in Greenwich Village where I was so happy is telling, in that peculiar way that hindsight hints at truths I can’t directly define.  Had my mother been happy, she never would have married this man.  If she had loved herself, if she had been in a better place emotionally, she wouldn’t have wanted a father for me thinking that a man who could care for me could give us the home she couldn’t give us herself, by herself.

She never would have married Larry B.  I might have remained happy.  Maybe my mother would have found a way to be happy.  We’ll never know.  What we do know is that everything in our lives changed.  Years later my mother asked me what the worst thing she ever did as a mother was and I said, “Married Larry B.”  She didn’t disagree but, at the time, she thought she had no other choice. 

I forget sometimes how much a product of her upbringing my mother was (and maybe even still is) in spite of herself.

Honeymoon Day Seven

Our first and only Saturday in New York, we decided to be real tourists.  We picked a great day to do it too!  The weather was wonderful and with the San Gennaro Festival a mere street-crossing away from Chinatown, why not, right?   




Rob liked some of the older stations we passed through on our several subway sojourns.  If we hadn't had so many other things planned, he might have traveled every line, taking photos of different stations.


We headed to Chinatown in search of gifts, of good food, of distractions.  I really wanted some steamed dumplings and we had hoped to buy some special spices for our landlords.  But other than that, we just trusted we'd find something inspired in some small store.  At least, that was our hope.  


We wandered into the San Gennaro Festival briefly.  As you can see, it wasn't especially crowded because we were there early.  Early or not, the aromas from the various food stands were a sore temptation.  We finally found a gift on which we could both agree, a rosary for Rob's mother.


This was the first building Rob found photo worthy when we turned towards Chinatown after emerging from the subway.  At the time I thought to myself, "Okay.  I have to come up with some amusing observation to make about this photo for when I blog about this."  I clearly didn't think of anything amusing.  But look, pretty architecture.


He also took a photo of this Betty Boop.  Shawn, my brother-in-law, likes Betty Boop.  Rob was enamored with the life-sized things all over New York.  I'm surprised we didn't end up with more photos of these things.



In Chinatown, we found gifts for Bibi, for Isabelle, and for Fokes.  Finally!  I even picked up a simple fan for Janice and a fancier one for myself.


We had lunch at a place that had Anthony Bourdain chomping down on a lamb burger or something.  Remember how I said Rob ate a lot of lamb on this trip?  Yeah.  He did.  I chose sesame noodles which was perfectly spicy and I was glad I had a fan on hand to use to cool myself off.

Then I made the mistake of asking Rob if he wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.  Next thing I know, we were off to Battery Park, taking the subway down to the Staten Island Ferry.


Okay.  I have to agree with Rob's determination to get a photo of this one because the tile in this subway is really gorgeous.


Ellis Island was closed but we were able to go to where the Statue of Liberty was and Rob took a lot of photos.  I suffered the ferry ride over with as much grace as I could muster.  The water wasn't even remarkably rough but it was bad enough for me to know that I'll probably never enjoy taking a ferry again in my life!


But seeing a pretty boat like this . . . so worth the misery.  Rob kept calling it a pirate ship and I kept assuring him that there are no pirate ships on the Hudson anymore because they all moved to Wall Street.


I probably should confess here and now that I love seagulls.  They are one of the few things I like about the seashore.  I realize that they aren't the nicest birds but they make me smile and I love how they can catch a breeze and just hover.  So Rob took a picture of this seagull for me.


Look.  He even took a selfie of us.  It was very windy on the island.  We eventually went back to Manhattan and headed back to our hotel.  A quick change of clothes and we went out to dinner.  In spite of our lousy room service experience, we went to Nice Matin.  Rob had more lamb.  I'm telling you, he did his best to eat All of The Lamb!  I had an amazing pumpkin risotto, duck, and a panna cotta with lemon curd and blackberries.  The lemon curd was no better than the sugar free version we make ourselves.  I really need to stop ordering food we can make and make just as good if not better.  And Rob ordered a tart aux pommes.  Look at his dessert and mine and you'll see why I say the best thing about the end of my meal was my cup of coffee.



Friday, October 04, 2013

It's That Time of the Month Again


Ask me anything and I'll respond.
Or tell me something you want me to know. If you can't think of anything, tell me where you would like to go for a vacation or honeymoon?  And tell me why, of all the places in the world, do you want to go there?

Honeymoon: Day Six

Finally, on our one and only Friday in NYC, we headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Had we gone nowhere else our entire trip, this one museum visit would have sufficed.  I spent many hours at this museum and it is, without a doubt, my place of choice whenever I go to the city.

I was feeling better although in my purse was all the evidence of how I was still not 100% well.  Between the Dayquil, the packets of tissues, and the vitamin C lozenges, I was definitely fighting my way through the day ahead.  In spite of this, we walked through Central Park rather than bother with public transportation.  It is only a little over a one mile walk so not that big a deal.  (Is it any wonder that we clocked 10 miles or more a day when we were out and about?)


We didn't slow down too much to explore the park because we had plans to spend a day walking through it but when we saw Cleopatra's Needle, we had to take some pictures.  It was a great segue, really, from the real world to the ancient one on display at the museum.


I am so very familiar with the museum that I knew how we would go from one are to the next.  Once we paid our admission, we headed straight to the Egyptian section.  I knew this would be Rob's favorite part of the entire museum, or at least in the top of three of best parts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


We also went to the Medieval area, although we didn't spend a great deal of time there due to our knowing we had other plans yet to fulfill and would be seeing a lot of artwork from that period soon enough.


Knowing this didn't stop me from showing Rob my favorite saint statue in this wing:  St. Bridget of Antioch.  I fell in love with her when I was quite young.  Why?  She's holding a book.  Seriously.  That was the reason.  None of the other women in the room had a book in her hand.  Most of the others were holding a baby (because every other statue is of the Virgin Mary, or so it seems, holding the infant Christ or in full Pieta mode).


We went to the American Wing where I noticed the capital of these columns for the first time.  (I also noticed the caryatids at Macy's for the first time on this trip so I seemed to be focused on columns a lot throughout our trip.)  There are four in the archway and each has different flowers on the top.  (Aren't you glad I didn't share all four?  I took photos of all four.)


We had lunch at the Petrie Court Café.  Because neither Rob nor I had ever had a lava cake, we both ordered the same dessert.  His was, unfortunately, slightly overcooked but it was still tasty.  Not nearly as mind-blowing as our dessert at Sara Beth's had been and somewhat more creepy because I have to say that the drizzles of raspberry look rather like creepy aliens or ocean creatures about to suck the life's blood out of the next closest mammal and, from where I was sitting there, I was the nearest mammal around.

We went through the European statues, continued on into the Arms and Armory, and meandered through the Asian wing.  My camera had died by this time so Rob took all of the photos for me in these areas.  Mostly he took photos of things that appealed to him and I pointed out a few things I would like him to capture for me.

At one point, Rob went to explore without me while I explored the gift shop but everything I found was not unique enough for him.  I think he felt if we could buy it on amazon.com, it wasn't worthy of buying.  We took pictures of a few of the things we can easily buy on amazon and that was that.

Christiane Noll.JPG
This photo of Christiane Noll
was taken that night at
Barnes & Noble
In the newspaper a couple of days before, I had seen that Christiane Noll would be doing a cd signing at a local Barnes & Noble.  Before I'd even met Rob, I had picked up a cd of hers on a whim.  I'd never heard of her but I liked the premise of the cd itself, a collection of Broadway songs that, when put together, tell a love story from beginning to end.  I played the cd so often that I had every breath of it memorized.  Besides, the bookstore was not too far from the Papaya King where my mother and I used to get her favorite hot dog and we simply had to have a good New York hot dog.

Imagine my surprise when the cd signing was more than that.  Noll and two other Broadway singers were there to perform a few songs from Closer Than Ever.  How often can one see three professional performers sing songs for free?  Okay, we bought the cd so I could get her to sign it but there were just as many people there to enjoy the performance, who either had already bought the cd or didn't have one to have signed at all.  Just wanted to hear some great songs being wonderfully sung.

It was late and had been a full day so we grabbed four hot dogs from Papaya King and headed back to the hotel where we ate and relaxed before yours truly headed off to bed.  Give me a break.  It had been a looong day and we had another one planned for the next day.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

October Memoir Challenge Two

The following is the second of 15 blog posts I'll--fingers crossed--be posting in the month of November as part of the October Memoir Challenge(And once again this is a day late because I saved this as a draft rather than publishing it so I am post-dating it with apologies.)
Home(noun)
The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household
(adjective)
Of or relating to the place where one lives.
(adverb)
To or at the place where one lives.
Definition found here.
I’ve been writing about our honeymoon.  Rob and I went to New York City because, while I had seen the town and home in which Rob had grown up (Owensboro, Kentucky), he had never seen where I had grown up (Manhattan).   I showed him what is and what was, like the art supply store in Greenwich Village that is now a McDonald’s (“We don’t eat at that McDonald’s because they killed art.”) even as I struggled to remember which building I lived in on East 79th street (although I remembered clearly that the DSW used to be the same Woolworth’s about which Patricia Volk writes in her memoir Shocked).

While Rob kept trying to refer to his app downloads to lead us through neighborhoods and even museums.  Only when we would be all turned around would he defer to my saying, “We go this way.”  Getting off the subway, emerging onto the street, I would look from one corner to the other, left then right, before announcing where we needed to go.  By the end of the trip, Rob began to understand that uptown meant going north and downtown south and that you could navigate Central Park by paying attention to where the sun is when you couldn’t see any buildings and then use the buildings to your left or right or straight ahead when you could to reach any landmark you sought. 

So within the sometimes confusion I experienced of what was versus what is, I started to realize that there was something innately rooted in my heart.  It didn’t matter that the Egyptian and American Wings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art had been renovated and redesigned in my lifetime, I knew this museum the way some would know the back yard of their childhood home.  As I walked to the store, my pace felt natural (even though I would occasionally bobble as though I were drunk).  And there, in that hotel within walking distance of a library, a laundromat, a dry cleaners, a drug store, a supermarket, two bookstores, I realized that my definition of home was different from the limits of the dictionary.

I wasn’t until I was walking to meet my step-sister Janice that I had the epiphany.  I didn’t have enough permanency to think of one place as my childhood home and I had lived in several neighborhoods where simple stores turn into fast-food stores so how could I narrow down my childhood home as a “place where one lives” when I had lived in many places but mostly in this one amazing city where I mistook cathedrals for museums and saw Broadway shows and ballets with stars that others would only ever see on a screen? 

I don’t have a childhood home; I have a whole city that is my home.  No matter how much it changes or how hard it is to awaken a memory of an apartment building I lived in for only a few months, I felt more at home living out of a hotel for a few days than I have living for the past few decades in Georgia and it’s no wonder that I get homesick for Manhattan—for the streets and the transportation and the noise and the smells and for the very energy that I know only as home.

Honeymoon: Day Five


This is the bed in our room which was actually a suite, as you can see from the open doors.  I keep calling it a room because that's just easier to type.  We stayed at The Lucerne on  79th and Amsterdam.  Right across the street from the hotel is a Duane Reade drugstore.  That’s where I went to get some vitamin C drops to suck on and ease the soreness in my throat. 

Before we even left for our honeymoon, Rob and I had discussed the possibility of my getting too sick to walk around with him.  I made him promise he would go out and do things without me.  Not anything and everything but there were a few things on our itinerary (yes, the same one we had thus far only fulfilled one day out of four). 

When Rob woke up we agreed he would go to the Guggenheim Museum and the Frick Gallery without me while I did what I should have done the day before—stayed in bed. 

And that is what we did.  Rob walked through Central Park while I stayed home, drinking orange juice with ginger ale (which Rob picked up for me from Westside Market).  I read.  I napped.  I read some more.  I napped some more.  By the time he came home, I was feeling better although not quite well.  But he came home “too early.”  Why?  Because the Guggenheim is closed on Thursdays!  And I knew this when I was making our itinerary.  Knew it then but had forgotten it when it mattered.  Ugh.  Still, Rob had a good time and he enjoyed walking through the park and he learned a lot at the Frick.

We took a nap together, on Thursday, and woke up with no clue where we would eat but both of us hungry for something.

The weather was perfect so we decided to stroll up to Sara Beth’s, a café not too far from our hotel, and have dinner there.  It was a very good decision.  I ordered a roasted chicken, still disappointed with the room service meal from our first night in the city.  Rob ordered a crab stuffed lobster.  He loved his dinner.  I liked mine but did not love it.  There was nothing in the menu description to indicate I was ordering a meal nearly identical with the one I’d had in room service.  The only difference was that one was served with green beans and the other with asparagus.

Nonetheless, the meal ended with amazing desserts. 

Rob ordered a warm cherry tart with some ice cream. . .
. . . while I had a cheesecake served with
orange marmalade and candied ginger.
After dinner, we walked around the neighborhood, explored a used bookstore (where I walked away with nothing) and did some more window shopping.  We saw street vendors with caps in the style Rob wanted; the same style we had spent hours seeking on our first day seeking.  And not just one street vendor but multiple ones! 

Oh well, if we hadn’t gone in search of these things, Rob wouldn’t have seen the old escalator.  And if I had stayed home the day before, had not walked all over mid-town with Rob and Kelly and Michael, I might have felt well enough to follow our Thursday itinerary.  But it was worth it.  Seeing family is always worth it.  

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Honeymoon: Day Four

On our first Wednesday in NY, I woke up knowing why my body kept choosing soup over something more substantial.  The itchiness in my throat was now complemented by a stuffed nose.  I had a head cold and would have been down for the count had I been less stubborn and/or we hadn't had plans.  Remember the fruit and cheese and such we bought the day before?  Well, when we planned this trip to the city part of that plan included seeing Rob's uncles Kelly and Michael.  We picked up some travel-sized tissues for me and we were on our way.


The truth is, things were not very well planned.  Rob and I had thought we would have an early morning start with them but, as it turned out, they couldn't get into the city from NJ before business hours (or perhaps they were trying to avoid rush hour which, let's be honest, is perfectly understandable).  And then they would not stay all day but leave shortly after one in the afternoon.  And here we'd just bought all this stuff for them to enjoy in our hotel room before we headed out to dinner with them.  Oops.


 We headed off to Grand Central Station where we had planned on meeting.  Further evidence of "our" poor planning:  Kelly and Michael arrived in Manhattan at Penn Station and we could have easily met them there.  However, the arrangement was that we would meet them at the Big Clock in Grand Central Station.  Rob wasn't sure I'd found the right Big Clock because, as he exaggeratedly said, "I could put that in my pocket."

In spite of his doubting me, a native New Yorker, Kelly and Michael found us at the not-quite-as-big-as-Rob-thought-it-would-be-clock and that was when we found out they wanted to catch a train back to NJ at 1ish.  That still left us plenty of time together.  Time to grab some breakfast at a place in Grand Central before walking north on Fifth Avenue to St Patrick's Cathedral.


Rob really wanted to see the cathedral because he was raised Catholic and is also Irish.  Kelly and Michael were likewise raised in religious homes.  I remember my mother taking me to the cathedral when I was a child.  I don't know if she was still holding onto some residual faith herself but she had raised me areligious so these trips to the cathedral were like visiting a museum for me.  I remember lighting candles and such but it all had no meaning beyond something one did in this place.


Rob took a lot of pictures because he loves the detailed architecture.  He was able to do so in spite of the preservation construction going on.  This, of course, was par for the course because after we left the cathedral we continued walking up Fifth Avenue so he could see The Plaza Hotel which, in case you didn't know, is under renovation so you can't see the exterior.


There was a lot of window shopping going on and I really wanted to go into my mother's favorite church (St Thomas Episcopal Church) but nobody else was interested so we kept walking.  We had gone north on the east side of the avenue so we continued south on the west side.


Did I mention Rob took a lot of pictures at St Patrick's Cathedral?


A whole lot more that I haven't even included in this post?


We eventually made it to the New York Public Library Main Branch but we didn't go inside.  To the best of his ability, Rob kept me away from books for much our trip.


While Rob took pictures, Kelly took advantage of the time to sit and relax.  It's easy to see the two of them are related, both of them relaxed, laid back, calm.  Of course, Michael kept suggesting we should move north, that Rob and I could find a place in NJ, that Rob could find work easily, that if I were working from home it wouldn't matter where we live, etc.


We walked through the Garment District on our way to Penn Station, which is where we found these two large bears sitting on a park bench.  Michael got a better picture of the pair but this will have to suffice.  We reached Penn Station early enough for us to sit down and have a snack.  Kelly and Michael ordered some appetizers and drinks while Rob had water and I had a vodka and orange juice.  Much kissing and hugging as we said our good-byes and Rob and I took the subway back to our neighborhood.


The Ray's Pizza of my fondest memories is no longer in business but we found another not far from the hotel and we went there to grab a pizza to take to our room.  It was not good.  No, that's not quite right; it was not good enough.  The pizza I remembered was so heavy with cheese and such that you couldn't lift it without the cheese sliding off.  You had to eat the first few bites with a knife and fork until everything set. I was understandably disappointed and, after such a long day fighting a losing battle against a head cold, I ended up going to bed around 5 and falling asleep very early, with hopes of feeling better in the morning.


 Rob took this photo because it made him happy.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

October Memoir Challenge One

The following is the first of 15 blog posts I'll--fingers crossed--be posting in the month of November as part of the October Memoir Challenge.

The apartment building I lived in
on West 16th street.
Write about your childhood home.  This is one of those writing prompts one sees time and time again.  It makes sense.  Most people have an experience of spending most of their childhood in a single home.  My husband grew up in two homes.  My cousins on Long Island lived in one.  My niece has lived in two homes and the one she’s in now will likely be the one she leaves behind when she goes off to college.

I did not grow up in a single home so, when asked to describe my childhood home a blur of images comes to mind.  The railroad apartment on East 15th street with the unusable fireplace and two doors although I only remember our using the one that led into the living room.  The brownstone on West 16th street with the teeny-tiny kitchen that was so small the refrigerator was in the living room.  Then my mother married Larry Block and we lived in the Bronx for a couple of years before moving back to Manhattan where we lived on West End Avenue and 88th in perhaps the largest apartment although my bedroom was the so narrow there was hardly space for my twin bed and a bookcase.  After the marriage was annulled, we lived on West 79th very briefly before moving to Park Avenue and 96th street, a building that was owned by the hospital where my mother worked.  The rent was reduced to allow the medical staff to live within walking distance of the hospital to avoid the problem of public transportation strikes or shut-downs due to inclement weather.

So which of these is my childhood home?  I remember reading a prompt that suggested choosing the home of your heart, the one that you feel was your childhood home.  It makes sense because there are places that emotionally hold us close, that we think of as home even if we did not live there very long.

Unfortunately, this did not work for me.  I honestly can’t say that any one of the places I’ve lived resonated more deeply.  I remember the paint cat paw-prints that walked away from the fireplace because my mother had painted the hearth and, before the paint could dry, our cat walked through the paint.  I remember sleeping in a bunk bed with my mother in the upper bunk and me in the lower.  I remember the duplex home with the weeping willow tree in the back yard and the canopy bed.  I remember the architectural details and the small elevator of the apartment with the narrow bedroom.  I remember the small apartment so close to school that I could leave five minutes before I had to be there and still walk there in time.  I remember the view from one apartment from which I could see Central Park and even part of the Empire State Building.

Which is why, every time I see this journaling prompt asking me to “describe your childhood home” is disconcerting.  Am I truly so rootless that I have no sense of home?  If so, what does “home” mean without a place on a map to pinpoint?  Until recently, I had nothing to describe but, not so long ago, I had an experience that drove home what “home” means to me. 

To Be Continued on Thursday

My October Challenge for My Personal Fitness

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Home from my honeymoon and there was one bit of disappointment in everything. As you know, dear reader, I’ve been exercising, trying to lose weight.  I’ve even seen some success.  Since my visit up north, I’ve lost about 15 lbs.  Okay, during my honeymoon I gained 3.4 lbs but, barring that, I have made progress.

When you are only trying to lose 40 lbs, a 15 lbs loss is significant, yes?  Absolutely! 

But nobody noticed.  I received compliments on my haircut, my hair color, even the paleness of my skin, but not one word about having lost 15 lbs.  I lose over 1/3 of my total goal and nobody notices. 

First, let me say that I know, intellectually, that it shouldn’t matter.  I am not exercising and trying to lose weight to be noticed. I’m doing all of this hard work (and there are days when it is very hard) for my health and well-being.  That I was able to walk 10 miles a day, sometimes 15, while on our honeymoon with little physical distress is remarkable.  I’m clearly doing the right things to take care of myself. 
Knowing something doesn’t mean you don’t want a little validation, a modicum of recognition, thrown your way.

Second, I should have known nobody would notice.  Why?  Why would nobody notice my having lost 15 lbs in the five months since some of them had last seen me?  No reason whatsoever because, when I went to the store to buy one more pair of jeans for the trip I had the reality check of trying on two sizes and learning that, in spite of losing 15 lbs, I had not gone down even one size.

*sigh*

So what about the September challenge and October’s challenge?
Moving right along (since I can’t help but feel that losing 15 lbs is both an accomplishment and not good enough right now), I dropped the ball on the September challenge during my honeymoon because I kept losing track of the date and then something happened (which I’ll be blogging about right here in a few days so stay tuned).  However, I ended the month able to do 3 sets of 10 modified push-ups so, whether I was faithful and consistent with the challenge or not, it was a success.

Now for the October challenge

I once took a qigong class (to which nobody else showed up so it was just me and the instructor) in which she showed us Swimming Dragon.  Have you ever done an activity that immediately felt perfect, like you had found your exercise “drug of choice” as it were?  I mean, some people love running the way I love yoga while others love biking, etc.  Swimming Dragon felt so right when I did it that I knew I wanted to do it more.  Unfortunately, finding a dvd with Swimming Dragon in it was not uncomplicated.  I found one that purported to have something like it but it wasn’t quite right.  (Lucky for me I borrowed the dvd or I’d have been stuck with a not quite right fit).  Then I borrowed a book from the library and lo and behold there was the exercise, right there in this very slender book.

I did not know at the time that the exercise is purported to help the practitioner lose weight.  I am choosing this qigong practice as my challenge for October not because it’s supposed to help me lose weight.  That would be nice but I really just want to learn this form for the sake of experiencing the movement again. 

The practice will take about 25 minutes to do, once I know how to do it with ease.  By the end of the month I should be on track.  There is an initial drawing in qi energy before moving into 20 repetitions of Swimming Dragon.  Because of the twists and turns of the body, the hips moving in opposition to the torso which is following the spiraling movement of the hands, this is a great exercise to help work the core and challenge my balance without pushing myself.

So here I am, begrudgingly disappointed but persevering nonetheless.  And patting myself on the back for gaining only 3.4 lbs, given how I was eating!  Needless to say, the qigong practice is not all I will be doing.  Yoga and walking will continue to be a part of my daily exercise.  I continue to struggle with really incorporating strength training into it all so that will be another part of my focus.

Oh, and as if that were not enough, Erin bought Leslie Sansone’s latest dvd so I am joining her in doing this challenge for which you don’t even need the dvds (although I confess that it helps me if I have resources easily accessible and all in one place so that I don’t have to think about doing things).  I think Erin will be doing it as well but, even if she isn’t, I’m going to do this challenge.  Albeit, on the days when I cover the challenge requirements during my morning walk with Snowdoll, I can fulfill the challenge requirements without doing more.  There will be days when more than a two mile walk is required, I’m sure.  But for the first week I can probably finish it all before 8am. 

So there you are.  You can expect a book review soon in my book review blog.  I’ll also be updating my My Fitness Pal account.  And, of course, updating here once a week as part of Joy’s Readers’ Workouts.   



Honeymoon: Day Three

Tuesday (aka day three of our honeymoon), we finally attempted to fulfill our itinerary. First, we went to Zabar's to buy some black and white cookies before heading off to Westside Market to buy some cheese and crackers and Venetians (aka rainbow cookies) which, for some reason, Zabar's did not have. Bah humbug and color me disappointed but I was content with our our purchases. We bought these foods because we were expecting guests the next day.

But I'll write more about that tomorrow.

We also went to Barnes & Noble on Broadway and 82nd where Rob insisted I not buy any books or even bargain things for Bibi or Isabelle (granddaughter and niece).  Take note:  this was the beginning of Rob's talking me out of buying gifts.  Why did we got to B&N?  Well, once upon a time hotel rooms would have stationery and envelopes with their letterhead on both.  I even packed some stamps, knowing I would send something to Bibi.  So imagine my chagrin when I made this discovery.

It makes sense, of course.  Why would a hotel need to supply snail mail supplies when we now have email and texts?  I was blindsided by tradition and I had planned on sending something to my granddaughter.  Nothing was going to stop me.  I found a lovely notecard with pretty envelope.  Perfect for enchanting my charming granddaughter.

After the shopping, we headed to the American Museum of Natural History.  Finally, a museum!


There are certain parts of the museum we simply had to see.  Rob particularly wanted to see the Blue Whale so we hit the Millstein Hall of Oceanic Life where he took a lot of pictures.   But the best pictures of the whale are well and truly found on a postcard.  Less personal, perhaps, so if you can buy the postcards and take pictures, you get the best of both worlds.


This splice from a tree was a very important stop.  When I was a small child and my mother took me to the AMNH, I always dragged us to this tree where I would flap my arms (like a bird/duck/something-with-wing) and make a wish.  My mother has no idea why I did this and I have no recollection of my reason for doing so but I do remember standing in front of this tree remnant, earnestly making my wish.

Needless to say, I performed this personal ritual and we took a picture of the tree.  The marks you see record the many years it had lived before someone cut a chunk out of it.  (I like to pretend the tree fell and they merely took advantage of this huge already dying tree.  I haven't looked at the information about it because ignorance is bliss and I truly don't want to find out that someone cut down this stunningly huge tree simply to drag a piece of it to be displayed in a museum.)


Rob's reaction to most of what we saw was, truth be told, rather blasé.  If I didn't know him better, I might have taken offense.  But the truth is, Rob is typically even keeled and his response to the exhibits was not unusual for him.  That he took as many photos as he did is proof of his appreciation of what he saw.  I had a hard time taking a picture of him when he was not taking a photo himself so you probably won't see many more of these.

Rob is wearing the cap we spent hours
of our first day to find.
We had lunch at the museum cafeteria.  Now, I had woken up feeling an itchiness in my throat and I assumed there was something unusual in the air quality of our room.  I should have known something wasn't quite right when, after looking at all of our food options, I chose a chicken noodle soup.  I should have known something wasn't quite right.  (Insert ominous music here.)

The choice of museum was intentional because we had more on our agenda.  I lay down for a bit before we headed out the door again, this time taking a bus, to Times Square.


I had chosen a deli where Rob and I cold get some food.  He wanted a hot pastrami sandwich while I was eager for the cheese blintzes.  Rob's glucose levels precluded our plans and we ended up at a different deli where he had his pastrami sandwich and I chose a simple soup because they didn't have any blintzes on the menu.  (Insert ominous music here.)

After dinner, we had time to spare so we walked around a bit.  First, we sought out the Ambassador Theater, where we would be seeing Chicago!  Oh boy!  We walked around as long as I could bear it and we then went to the theater where we had to stand on line.  There's was a lovely German girl in front of us who was so excited about seeing a real New York Broadway show.  She told us that there are only ten musicals in all of Germany, that her father had sprained his ankle which is why she was seeing the show by herself, that her mother loves musicals too but was still in Germany, that she was amazed that there were so many musicals in so few blocks, that she loved Russel Crowe's singing voice (?), and tomorrow she was going to see Phantom of the Opera even though the movie was terrible; but she loved the music and was practically bursting with excitement.

Clearly she was there to counterbalance Rob's casual approach to everything. 


Sneaky devil that he is, Rob took a pic of the show's orchestra.  This gives you an idea of how close we were to the stage.  We had front row mezzanine seats and, sitting to my left, was a couple who have a home in upstate NY but have a vacation home in GA.  Small world!

Before the show started, Rob was making several comments about the sound system and, during the intermission, he explained to me that the funny things on the foreheads of some of the performers was a microphone.  (Remember when Broadway performers didn't use, let alone need,  microphones?  I do.)

The show was wonderful.  I absolutely adore how Ann Reinking retained Bob Fosse's superlative choreography. Bianca Marroquín, in the role of Roxie Hart, was brilliant.  Rob agreed.  I thought Amra-Faye Wright was also wonderful.  There was one male dancer who really nailed Bob Fosse's style and watching him was a pure joy.  

For the insatiably curious, here are two videos that show how Bob Fosse choreographed the original production of Chicago and how Ann Reinking modernizes it all without losing the tone.





Just for fun, I threw in the film version as well.  I don't know if there were guns in the original B'way production but I can say for certain there were none in the show we saw. At least none in the final production number.

Anyway, the most remarkable thing in all of this third day of our honeymoon is that Rob, who has an uncanny knack for falling asleep in a theater, did NOT fall asleep at all during this show.  Maybe the key to Rob's being alert is Bob Fosse inspired choreography.  I may have to test that theory with a few dvds.  Hmmm . . . .
Rob saw this sign and he had to take a picture of it.
Guinness is made of more but more what?
Inquiring minds want to know.