Thursday, July 18, 2013

Words to Live By . . .

The view in front of me driving southbound on Mass Ave. last night.
Happiness is a choice.  Make it everyday...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Life on the Lake. . .

I arrived in Wisconsin nearly a week ago and have passed everyday since Up North at the cottage.  As a child, I loved coming here to spend weekends on the water with the cousins I adored.  As I teenager, I dreaded summer days trapped with my family and away from friends.  As a 20-something adult living a plane ride away, I am acutely aware that more than a place, Up North exists as a state of mind – this is one of those expressions that everyone repeats and nods with knowingly, likely because it is true.  I don’t simply miss this place; I miss the feeling of being here and the fun that it holds.  It is separate from the rest of my world, and not simply due to distance, and has been a constant across my life, from childhood to present.

On Sunday, as the holiday weekend closed, I remained near the beginning of my 11-day-Wisconsin-vacation.  I have read every morning, kayaked in the afternoons, enjoyed (often too many) old fasioneds and Wisconsin microbrews in the evenings with my parents.  Trips into town for coffee, a bit of writing, evening boatrides, and a few attempts at landscaping have filled my days.

In my acute awareness of the Up North mentality as a "sort-of, kind-of grown-up," I remember to slow and even stop, to fill my time with enjoyment and activities that leave me happy.  Don’t rush.  Breathe deep.  Enjoy swims in the cool and clear water (that my mom assures me is refreshing, but which I still sometimes think is just simply chilly).  Enjoy projects with my parents.  Laugh with my brother (and push him from the dock into the water below at every opportunity available).  Read.  Wakeboard.  Kayak.  Swim.  Run.  Write.

My morning coffee and a bit of reading...I could get used to this...
The coming days hold a trip to Madison, dinner with friends at home, and a wedding before returning to DC.  Here’s to hoping that I can maintain even just a vague sense of this Up North existence until I am back here again…

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Go Outside and Play!

"Go outside and play!"

If you grew up in the generation of Mario Brothers you’ve likely heard your concerned parents or an angsty babysitter call those words down to the basement or up to your room where you sat fully mesmerized by the bright lights of the videogame before you.

While I was never drawn to video games the way many from my generation were, there is no denying my awareness and enjoyment of them with friends as a child. And there is no denying that as an adult, technology is woven throughout my life.

I am not alone – it is the new norm and we are constantly turning to technology to connect us for work, for entertainment, to keep in touch with family and friends.  We are always connected.  And I am a notable offender – constantly checking my phone while at dinner with my family, while grabbing coffee with friends, while waiting in line at Target.  That is a confession I’d rather not have to make…but anyone that knows me can tell you it's true.

Tonight, I found my inner 8-year-old and took my mom’s advice.  I pulled away from the computer, left my phone at home, and set out with a friend for a stroll around U Street, wandering towards Logan Circle before turning back towards Dupont.  We walked and chatted and grabbed a cup of tea.  And not once did I miss my phone.  But I wonder – if I had tucked it in my pocket before leaving, what might I have missed in conversation and connection with a friend?  We are so attached to our online communities and connections that I suspect we, or at least I, sometimes miss opportunities to connect in a more genuine way.

This week’s forecast is filled with rain – but next time you have the chance, leave your phone at home and enjoy the DC summer with a walk on the Mount Vernon Trail or along the National Mall or through the Arboretum.  Meet a friend for a stroll in Rock Creek Park or through the National Zoo or just around your neighborhood.  It is possible to stay within the city and enjoy a refuge from constant online connections.  I didn’t separate from technology and the “real world” the way I sometimes do when traveling or during my expedition to Ecuador, but even just 30 minutes was enough to connect with a friend on the streets of DC.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yoga Happening in the Real World

I walked out of the office last night and looked at sky, dotted by a few fluffy clouds, glanced at my watch, and realized that if I hurried, I might be able to make it to yoga...outside!

One of my favorite yoga sweat-session locations is Down Dog Yoga's heated studio in Georgetown - the first time I went 3 years ago, I could barely walk after.  I've hardly made time for yoga in the previous months, but recently Down Dog Yoga teamed with the Georgetown Business Association to bring yoga to the community at large with free outdoor yoga classes at the Georgetown Waterfront every Wednesday in June.

I grabbed my mat and enjoyed the short traverse through the streets of Dupont and trails of Georgetown from my place to the waterfront...apparently the trip was a little bit less-short than I remembered, as I arrived a few minutes late.  Fortunately, I was able to quietly lay my mat in the grass and join the practice - a luxury not available in the highly popular classes inside Down Dog Yoga's studio, which are frequently filled before sessions begin.

As the late-comer, I had found a place near the back of the group - but after a few minutes, moved forward in order to avoid the hum of the traffic rolling off the Key Bridge onto K Street behind me.

Yes, this was better...

Up dog, down dog...inhale, exhale.

An outdoor yoga class offers distractions that are more easily avoided within the walls of a studio - a family out for an evening stroll along the waterfront, uneven terrain in the grass below my feet, the sound of traffic in the distance - and I found it requires greater effort for focus, or perhaps a greater commitment to that focus, than an indoor class might, to allow the rhythm of breathing and flow of movement to take over.

After moving my mat towards the front of the group, I initially found my focus shifted externally - as I fell from tree pose I wondered if the people behind me knew that it was because the ground was uneven below me, as we went into down dog I wondered if my butt looked huge to everyone else given my brief hiatus from back squats recently, did I know that person walking by and did they recognize me?

I would be hard-pressed to say that I lack self-confidence, but I am human and as such, insecurities creep into my world from time to time...

I reminded myself that the person behind me probably didn't notice and didn't care what my tree pose looked like or about the size of my butt.  And then I remembered something even more significant, who cares if they did?  They might notice, they might care...but that was all beyond my control and far from my motivation in seeking practice.  I came for me - to stretch and work and twist my body, to clear my mind, to focus.  Sometimes it comes easily.  Sometimes it does not.  The benefit is found in the experience, but not my performance.

Inhale.   Exhale.  There was a river in front me, the kind of cool breeze that can be hard to find during DC summers flowing over my back, and warm sunshine above.  All around me, people were enjoying themselves - families laughing together, a young girl walking a dog, a few dozen people engaged in an outdoor yoga practice.  This was yoga happening in the real world.  And with this positivity replacing the insecurity I had briefly allowed to creep into my mind, I found greater focus and the ability to be more present.

Huge thanks to the collaboration between Down Dog Yoga and the Georgetown Business Association for providing a space for me to doubt myself and then remember that I shouldn't...

There's one more Wednesday in June, so if you find yourself needing something to occupy your evening, make your way over to Georgetown.  Rumor has it that this *may* be continued beyond the already scheduled Wednesdays in June - I'm hopeful!

In addition to the obvious (yoga mat and water), I'd also bring a towel (the grass can be a bit damp), sunglasses, and sunscreen!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wisconsin Weekend . . .

A quick post before heading to bed tonight after an amazing weekend back in America's dairyland.

After settling into a seat on my 6:30 a.m. flight Saturday morning, I promptly fell asleep for an hour or two of extra zzzzz's before landing in Minneapolis and then catching my flight to Madison, WISCONSIN!  After that, my day was a blur of bachelorette party preparation and festivities (most of which are far from appropriate for documentation here) for one of the most fabulous friends I know!  :)

Sunday was spent with my family and a few dear friends wandering around UW's terrace, State Street, Wisconsin's Capitol, and the places my family has come to love in the last 6 years since my brother and I both moved to Madison for our bachelors and masters degrees, respectively - such a great way to enjoy Father's Day with such a great dad and an incredible man!

The door to the office where my brother works inside of the Wisconsin State Capitol, inscribed with "Wisconsin" in the knob.  I've spent an awful lot of time thinking of him as forever my little brother, but
Sunday afternoon left me more than just a little bit impressed!
After a weekend overflowing with so much fun, probably not enough sleep, and way too many Wisconsin cheesecurds (and probably a few too many old-fashioneds), I am feeling reconnected to the people I love, but see far too infrequently...and I'm looking forward to a few fun workouts and some much needed (and overdue) healthy eating this week!

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
 - Marcel Proust, French novelist

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Shake Your Groove Thang . . .

My senior year of high school I rocked out to “Shake Your Groove Thing” with my high school pom and dance team.  Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” set to a double-time tempo and “You Spin Me Right Round,” straight out of the 1980’s had been the retro music selections of years past.

Yeah…I like to dance.  And for a girl that has some, but not a ton, of studio dance experience, I’m ok…unless you’re asking me to do anything that even vaguely resembles hip-hop.  Then, I’m a lost cause, enthusiastically attempting to pop and lock and convinced that I’m making it look good.  I am not.  And there’s video evidence to prove it.

I have long been intending to reintroduce a bit of rhythm and dance into my routine, but for any number of reasons (and a few poor excuses), I haven’t.  And then, last week, a colleague mentioned that she happened across a free outdoor zumba class in downtown Silver Spring during her evening errands.  Apparently Washington Sports Club (WSC) is putting on a free weekly zumba class in the Silver Spring Plaza every Tuesday from 7:00 - 8:00.  Hmmm…zumba?  Yeah, this might make for a fun Tuesday night.

Interestingly, only hours after hearing about Silver Spring’s free-outdoor zumba class and mentioning it to a friend and avid crossfitter, a zumba-related Facebook conversation evolved among a group of crossfit athletes I know….some of them enthused, others less convinced, almost all of them willing to give it a shot at some point in the future.

Yes, the universe was trying to tell me something…my following Tuesday night was clearly claimed for a booty shaking zumba dance party (or my best attempt at it) in the Silver Spring Plaza, so I recruited a coworker and we set the date.

Unless you have Shakira-like dance skills hidden in your repertoire, you’re going to look like a bit of a fool until you gain a good sense of the zumba movement patterns…so, my advice here is to 1) check your dignity at the door – or, since it’s an outdoor event, leave it in your car, and 2) let go of your inhibitions a bit – if you’re stiff, rigid, and self-conscious, you’ll only make it harder for yourself and you’re not going to have any fun.  Fortunately – I have no shame and rarely let my inhibitions hold me back from a dance party of any variety.

For those dying to try zumba but cursed with 2 left feet, there is good news.  As far as I could tell absolutely everyone was having fun.  The zumbability of participants ranged from those who were highly proficient and talented with attire that suggested they’ve done this before to, well, people that really might have two left feet.  The demographics varied further…soccer-moms, often accompanied by their daughters (some of whom couldn’t have been older than 5 and picked up the step-sequence on the first attempt…seriously, who are these highly talented little people!?); single girls out for fun with their friends; one lone male participant; a few women that I could have mistaken for my grandma.  Apparently zumba enthusiasts come in all shapes and sizes and all of them seemed to be genuinely kind people out for some fun and absolutely unconcerned that once again, I was messing up (and occasionally bumping into them).

If you’re interested in a bit of booty shaking and shimmying, bring a fun friend – you’ll be so busy laughing, you won’t be concerned by your lack of zumbability, even if you’re next to the super awesome girl that the instructor just called up onto the stage (true story…that did happen).

I’m not sure if zumba will be my long-term answer to incorporating a bit of rhythm back into my exercise routine, but it certainly makes for a fun (and inexpensive) evening out with friends.  I expect I’ll be back…my colleague and I may even combine efforts to recruit a few more friends from the office and top our evening off with drinks nearby.

Rumor has it that WSC is hosting "Zumba on the Plaza" every Tuesday night from 7:00 - 8:00, weather permitting, all summer shake your groove thang.  Or just move a little bit and laugh a lot.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monsoon Season

It is apparently monsoon season in DC - who knew!?

I survived last night's storms - but will admit during my evening commute, I worried poor little Button (my little, itty-bitty, absolutely adorable Toyota Yaris for the less familiar readers) wasn't going to make it through the puddles that were swelling to pond-like proportions along Mass Ave...I absolutely lacked the energy (and finances) for an accidental adventure of the "flooded car" variety.

April showers bring May flowers - last night's rain proved it true with a 12 hour turnaround on the flower side of the expression, and in June no less.  :)  I awoke to my marigolds in full bloom this morning outside my bathroom window.

I've been promised by my parents that marigolds are good starter-plants for those with a less-than-green-thumb.

The yellow and gold greeting me in the window this morning suggests I'm off to a good start.

#bathroomwindowgarden #cityliving #dupontcircle #summerindc

I'm off to enjoy the sunshine and today's respite from the rain with a few friends from work during an outdoor Zumba class in Silver Spring!  Stories (and undoubtedly a good degree of laughter) to follow, I promise!