Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shhhhh! The movie is ON!

Movies after Xmas are a holiday tradition in our family. This year was no exception, although we decided to change it up a bit. My son, his friend and my husband were off to see "Arthur's Christmas" and since I have already seen it, I decided to take some alone time and see "War Horse." I had read the reviews and knew it was going to be a sentimental film.  I am not one to shy away from Hollywood manipulating me now and again, plus I knew my husband had no interest in seeing it. So that worked out just fine for all of us.

I got my unbuttered popcorn and headed into the crowded but not overly filled theater. I quickly spotted my favorite seat open and headed over that way. I think we all gravitate toward our favorite places to sit in a theater. Some like to be up top, others dead center but I like to be just behind the handicapped railings. No one in front of you and a place to hang your coat!

Next to me one seat away, the typical spacing left by movie theater attendees, were two adorable older women in their mid to late 70's I would guess. They both had on hand knitted winter hats, Christmas decorated sweat shirts and were deeply engaged in conversation with one another. I hesitated a moment since I wondered if the talk would go on into the movie, but thought they would both settle in once the film started.

The previews started and Nana 1 and Nana 2 were still chuckling, giggling and chatting it up like two school girls on the playground at recess. Let it go, I thought, since surely it is only previews and they will quiet down once the film begins.

Film begins and for the next 146 minutes there was barely a lull in their constant chatter. Only now, rather then the talk being about family or food, they were both engaged in a running commentary of the film! I did try at one point to quiet them down by saying in a gentle way that I thought they were adorable but could they please be a bit quieter. Both of them were quite reticent and apologized profusely but the chatter resumed within minutes, and I expect my comments were long forgotten.

Luckily it was not a film heavy on intricate dialogue and twisting plot lines so I was able to keep up with the movie quite well. I also found that their running dialogue and comments were actually humorous if a bit redundant. I must have heard "Oh beautiful, beautiful horse!" over a hundred times. Another favorite line of theirs was to comment on the "pretty girl" the "handsome boy" the poor horse" and say "oh my" over and over. They were confused about what characters were where in the film, forgetting that the young boy who raised the horse was not in the film till much later, and thought a German soldier was indeed the one and the same boy! They wondered what was happening in many scenes and asked each other repeatedly what was going on. Once scene in particular they got so loud and effusive asking "what is it, what did she get, what is under the blanket!" so many times I just had to laugh to myself at their joyous confusion and excitement.

It was quite clear to me that these two ladies were probably having the most fun watching the film in the entire audience. It was really hard not to get caught up in their excitement at being so taken by a film. They were truly adorable and bubbly, which helped me to really have fun myself since the film was a tad on the boring side, and filled with the requisite tear-jerk scenes, which was indeed tempered by their running dialogue of "oh, that's sad, that's just too sad, pretty horse, handsome boy, beautiful girl, where are they, what is that, who is he, oh that is the same horse, right, is that him, wow, oh my, what did she get, can he see, what is happening, good film, beautiful movie."

What a gift these ladies gave to me this day! I am so glad I trusted my instincts to not move my seat and stay put because what I learned from them is infinitely more interesting then the film. I was utterly taken with the fact that these two were completely and totally in the moment, engaged in a what filmmakers want us to feel, that magic that encapsulates us in a darkened theater and makes us all 7 again, if only for a few hours or so.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Going Gray: My Way!

I had been reading an article recently that states out of the 1,000 or so hair dyes on the market today, only 51 of them are deemed low hazard. Many of the ingredients in hair dye have been linked to cancers, immunity disorders and more.

So why do it?

For me, it has been more a matter of color fun and hair thickening. I have always had fine, thin hair, although certainly not to the degree it is now as I near age 50. Color has always been a love of mine, probably the artist in me looking for a way of finding self expression! Never one to stick with one color for long, I crave change. In fact, I am always a bit mystified by those women who can keep their same hairstyle and color choice they have had for years on end, without change. How marvelous to not succumb to current trends. Bravo to you ladies for having that courage! I mean it.

We all know hair dye is not good for us, surely nothing new to you about that tidbit. In fact, I am quite sure I am not telling you anything you don't already know. I have known myself for some years and yet, made a calculated decision based on my research conducted after being diagnosed with cancer many years back. I simply decided that the risks were low and to keep it up,  just not as often.

Here is the kicker though, when you add in all the other chemicals, hormones, toxins and drugs we are exposed to daily in our food, beauty products, and surrounding environment, etc,  it all adds up.  It is all cumulative and our bodies can only take so much before things start to go a bit haywire.

This article was for me, the turning point. So, as of a few weeks a go I cut off my hair in order to not have a horizontal stripe of gray growing out on my head and have decided to let the silver shine on through! Will it be easy? Not sure. Will I like it? Who knows? And more importantly, will I be treated differently? Hmmmmm, that remains to be seen.

I have had a real mixed bag of reactions, from both men and women I have spoken to about my choice. Some men opened up and started comparing it to their own experience with hair loss and baldness. Some women looked at me with abject fear in their eyes as they projected my decision onto themselves and found the whole idea anxiety producing.

Does it bother me? Sure, but I am not going to let that stop me from following through on it. I want to see if I will miss the choices and fun I have had with coloring my hair. Not sure how this will all impact me, but the risks out weigh the benefits at this point in my life, so I am committed to making it a reality. 

I have always had great interest in social anthropology, and performance art is a wonderful way to share ones explorations in this particular arena. So I will combine the two and see where it leads me. I will be posting my project to a different site devoted to a myriad of art forms,  at a later date and look forward to you all joining me as I truly assess the experience from my perspective. Look for the link to be added at some point in the near future.

If anyone is interested the article I read was in: Taste For Life magazine, the December 2011 issue. The article was entitled "dye-ing to be noticed" and was compiled from several different sources, including EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Neti Pot Linked to Deaths

I have been washing out my sinuses since I was about 11 years of age. A wonderful Ear, Nose and Throat doctor in Princeton, NJ, who came highly recommended to us by my sister who at the time was the Director of the Speech and Hearing Division at the Princeton Medical Center, taught me how to do it. His technique was to use a small syringe, filled with warm salty water. Did I like it? NO! That warm blast of water up my nose was miserable. Did it work? YES! The amount of nasty looking mucous from my sinuses was proof positive it worked. Why did I need it? I was a constant ear infection kid. Tonsils and adenoids from repeated sore throat infections, were removed at age 2, and tubes in the ears (myringotomy) several times from age 7 and up. This led my parents to finding an ENT that understood that the prevention of the infection early was a clear path to reducing the number of times I had to be placed on antibiotics.

As an adult, I switched to a neti pot and LOVE it! But have to admit I have been a tap water user....not anymore! Distilled it shall be from this point forward. And from what I read, make sure those pots are cleaned out routinely as well. It was suggested that purchasing a new one every couple months is a good idea as well.

They are still not sure if the problem came from the water in the neti pot, or swimming in local ponds, but better to err on the side of caution. After all, no water treatment facility can remove every contaminant from our water. And well water is not as pure as many like to think it is. In fact if you have not done so recently, send away for a water test kit and do it yourself. Even if you have city water, a town well or well water, it is a good idea to check your water once every year or so. With the number of people using pesticides and fertilizers, rodent repellent products, weed killer and more on their shrubs, lawns, and flowers it all has to go somewhere. All this gets washed out by rain water and soaked into the ground water. Even if you are the green one in your neighborhood, using only the most organic of products on your lawn, many of your surrounding neighbors are not, so have it checked.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Relax, Breathe and feel Romantic?

My husband and I came to the realization this last summer that we need to make more time for us to plan and do more things as a couple. Like most families, we love doing things together but find it hard sometimes to make time for us beyond the occasional dinner or movie out. We decided much later in life then most to start a family, so consequently we had years of doing things as couple. Then, once our son came along, our lives took on a new rhythm and we love making it all about the three of us.  As time went on, and our son became more independent, we started to have random nights out to grab a dinner or movie or both sometimes. This was great, but in the last year or so we have been drifting into a pattern that many couples fall into whereby even going to a movie or dinner starts to seem like routine. So the time had come to shift our perspective, take an entire day and add some new things to the old routine.

So, we arranged a sitter and took off to have a day for us. But like most plans, life does not always plan for us the way we do for it, so the day started with me having a sinus headache! A cold front was moving in from the north and this typically will wreak havoc with my sensitive sinuses. I decided to press on and think positive, but it did impact the first few hours as I felt distracted by the pain. We did manage to get in some Santa shopping and a quick bite before our "main dish" of the day together took place.

We had made plans to attend a restorative, two hour yoga class. This class was packed to capacity, as a matter of fact, I had waited a tad long and noticed the class was filled when I went to sign us up online. Holidays are stressful for so many and I think  this class could not have come at a better time of year. I quickly emailed the instructor and she was able to add us, much to our delight!

Restorative yoga, for those that do not know, is a form of yoga established by B K S Iyengar years a go for people to gain the benefits of yoga without all the strain of holding positions. He added the use of props to deepen  poses that are often held for ten to 15 minutes at a time. These props help to support the body allowing for fuller response to the different body positions. We used bolsters, blankets, and pillows to achieve a much deeper form of relaxation then a typical yoga classes can produce. The effect was amazing.

My headache completely disappeared as my breathing and attention were shifted. Some poses made the pressure feel more intense so the instructor had me back off and we adjusted things so that I truly was able to let go. It was incredible! And my husband, who is a multi-tasking, sales executive bar none, found it to be just what was needed to calm the nervous system and let go of all his end of quarter, end of year tension. Both of us learned a lot and plan on incorporating the techniques learned into our life. 

After that, we took off for our next appointment, a couples massage. We arrived just in time as class had run a tad long, so we quickly changed into our thick terry robes and sandals and headed into our treatment room. It was once again, just what the doctor ordered! Our muscles were kneaded and rolled until our hour was quickly up and we both felt the full effects of this process. Massage is so good at releasing both tension and toxins long stored in muscles. It truly allows for the body to let go and heal in ways that can calm and relax.

Now for the interesting part, we were then told that the last hour of our treatment consisted of a steam shower, sugar scrub and mud treatment that we would apply ourselves from the neck down rinsing after each treatment in the multi-headed shower steam area. The room, as to be expected, was indeed HOT and the steam was flowing. Now, in case you do not know, while I am a sunshine lover, I am not a high heat lover. Oh don't get me wrong I love the summer, just at my age of hot flashes and off kilter body temps, this does not mix well with extremes of temperature, be it hot or cold. But once again in  the spirit of togetherness, I went along for the ride so to speak.

It was not until we had slathered the mud all over our bodies and were sitting on the tile bench, that yes, I have to admit thinking to myself "I do hope this seat is sanitary and how many other butts have sat upon it today?" It was at that moment of thought,  my husband looked at me and said "is this supposed to be romantic?" We both started to laugh so hard! I admitted the heat was a bit more then I could take. He tried to find the tiny switch that was hidden behind our robes to turn it off but with no success since the steam was making it almost impossible to see! We put the shower on a very cool setting, rinsed off and made our way over to our robes so we could dress in the locker rooms. We started to laugh yet again when we saw my robe was completely covered in muddy hand prints, that would lead one to believe there was far more going on in our shower room then two middle aged people having a steam!

It was fun! And we did enjoy ourselves. It was different, unexpected and both us realized just how much a day like this meant to us not only as a couple, but as a mom and dad. It was not a typical pattern for us and we made it all work somehow. Headaches and tension were relieved. We both were very much in the moment at many times during that day and it could not have been time better spent! Although both of us agreed the steam shower and body treatment was not one we wanted to repeat. Perhaps a sign of our age? Or maybe just the fact that mud, heat, steam, and dripping water are not as relaxing and romantic as one would think? OK, maybe at 30 it might have been different, I will concede this, although we both liked how soft our skin felt afterward.  ;  )

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leadership at Age 7

My husband, son and I recently traveled to New Jersey for the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a trip I typically avoid at all costs due to the abundance of traffic that flows from New England down to the tri-state area at this festive time of year. If you have never been on the George Washington or the Tappanzee Bridges in a traffic jam then count yourself as most lucky! For those that know it, welcome to hell! Truly.

Anyway, we went to be with the entire clan to celebrate the holiday at my parents house. Something we have not done in many long years. In fact, I do not think my mother has had the entire family over since she lived in Trumbull, CT and that was close to 20 years a go! So it has been a long time indeed. My sisters and I took on the task of cleaning the house, preparing the food and getting the place ready for the feast. It was a lot of work and while it was very exhausting and most stressful, it was fun having us all together, including some new additions to the extended family. That just made it all the more special.

In the midst of preparing the meal and sweating buckets in my elderly parents already too warm house, made even hotter by dual ovens baking and stove burners blazing, my son came up to tell me he wanted to plan some fun activities for everyone to participate in after the dinner. In my distracted and steaming brain, I vaguely recall telling him it sounded great and no I could not help. He knew it was going to be up to him to to take on this responsibility, and without missing a beat in that positive, upbeat way kids have when all is right with the world, he said "OK I will!" I told him to ask his Dad for any help he might need and that was that!
Ty looking so proud of his accomplishments

As the morning progressed and the heat rose to almost 90 in the house, (I kid you not) my son continued to update me periodically on his ideas. I have to be honest and say here that I was so consumed by the heat and the need to get things moving along for the arrival of the guests that I truly was not listening to him fully in the moment. In addition, my sister and I were far more focused on opening the front door of the house to get a cross breeze blowing. Our meager attempt to cool us off in that ridiculously hot kitchen. I would then lookout for Dad, so I could rapidly close the door when he was spotted approaching. Talk abut being transported back to being a kid again! We felt like two little, naughty girls doing something "bad" behind our parents back, only it was way more fun! (Dad and Mom don't know this so help keep our secret, MUMS the word!)

After dinner, Ty came to me and asked me to announce that the activities were to begin. He gave me a handwritten sheet of paper on which he had carefully written the name of each activity and who was going to be in each station. There were four in all. A Turkey hunt all over the downstairs to search out 5 hand drawn turkey pictures that were hidden. A cut-out, craft project that my son was hosting in which each participant would trace their hand and footprints to construct a turkey. Then there was pop up card making station, in which two different card designs could be made, hosted by my sister, and finally a math game station that my husband was asked to host.

Everyone had a lot of fun, despite being stuffed and tired from all the food. There was a ton of shared laughter and good sportsmanship about participating. One nephew expressed his dislike of math, but his love of games won out, and he quickly discovered, much to my sons delight, that math can be fun!
Pop up card station participants

Aunt Terry hosting

Ty helping his grandmother trace her foot
It was not till long after the day was over and my tired brain was finally able to process the days events that I truly came to see what my little 7 year old had undertaken and achieved in so short a period of time. I was overcome with emotion as I realized that he not only had taken the opportunity to work independently to make sure everyone had a good time, but he taught me that he is indeed a "born" leader! Despite his youthfulness and years of growing up yet to do, there was a glimpse of the very capable and strong man that he is to become and I almost missed it happening due to my own distractedness that day.

He took the time to have his father tell him the names of everyone who was coming so he could divide us up into groups. Those groups were carefully thought out by him and were indeed ones that really worked well together. He taught all of his hosts what they need to do and set up the activity areas with all the necessary objects, such as pens, paper, game boards, scissors, tape, etc, to make it easy on the guests to participate. He thoughtfully selected locations for each station and made sure there were enough seats for each person. In short, he took the "bull by the horns" and 16 people had a blast!

Two hip college students making turkey cut-outs
Dad leading the dudes in math games
I am so moved to be retelling the days events here because I know how difficult it can be as a parent to truly "see" it all. It is so easy to become caught up with our myriad of activities and routines, that we sometimes miss what is unfolding right before our very eyes.  So thank you to my little man who took so much upon his young shoulders and made the day even more special for a bunch of "grown-ups" who every now and then need to be reminded what it means to let go and be a kid! I am in awe of the man you are to become one day and no matter what your path or choice in life, know now that you are supported in all your future endeavors whatever those may be! 

After all, raising a child is about learning to let them go, even when the things they do make us want to hold on to them even tighter.