UPSIDE DOWN

handstand

 Well go figure. Apparently I have been doing something good for my body and brain for the last 40 years and I didn’t even know it!! I guess you could say it started in my 20’s and I just sort of kept it up.  I do it at home and always when I’m travelling. You name it. Anywhere I find the space, I  simply just do it. Like how it feels. Love how it gives me a different perspective on things.

I’ve done it in SO many hotel rooms your head would spin.  I’ve done it in public, in private, under bright lights, in pitch dark, against fences, bathroom doors in shopping malls and smack on the beach in broad daylight.  What am I talking about??  You guessed it:  handstands.

Now, science says that what I have been doing several times a day for all these years has 5 beneficial results:

  1. Builds core strength.
  2. Makes the upper body strong.
  3. Increases balance
  4. Helps with bone health, circulation & breathing
  5. BOOSTS YOUR MOOD!!

Here’s the crazy thing: anyone can do them. It just takes a little practice, a little confidence and a nice strong wall to fly up against. Place your hands about a shoulder’s width apart; aim them about 12 inches from a nice, sturdy wall…and GO FOR IT. The worst that could happen is you chicken out half way up and come back down.

One word of caution: in the thousands and thousands of handstands I have done over the years, only once did I have a disastrous result. As I recall, I was staying in a rundown Motel 6 and there was no room to do one. So, I closed the bathroom door and did a handstand against it. Well, the door didn’t latch tightly.  So as my feet landed on it, I had the lovely sensation of going all the way over and both feet landed smack in the toilet. Thank God I was only 20 at the time.

Give it a try….it just might change your mood AND perspective on things. 🙂

P. S.  Yes, this was me this afternoon at the YMCA.

WHY I WOULD NOT WANT TO BE ’20 SOMETHING’ NOW

silent crowd at starbucks

Take a good look at this picture of a group of 20 somethings at Starbucks this morning.  I watched and photographed them for several minutes, during which time not one of them looked up or even acknowledged one another.  Welcome to 2015.  I would not want to be their age for anything right now.  Why?

1. I wouldn’t be able to talk to my friends as conversation now is done primarily via thumbs. (The last time I actually used mine was to hitchhike).

2.  I would never feel the heart-palpitating anticipation of waiting days for handwritten letters from someone I love.  (Instead, I could ‘hook-up’ or ‘break-up’ instantly via Facebook.)

3. I wouldn’t be able to get the 6 o’clock News in one, nicely, digestible, half hour. (It would bombard me 24/7 on Twitter.)

4. I couldn’t say the bill ‘got lost in the mail, ‘ as it would be sent directly to my Inbox.

5. I couldn’t have a wild time at that private party knowing it would stay private. (By morning, my hat dance routine would be viral on Instagram.)

6. My boredom tolerance would be zero, my curiosity likely non-existent and my sense of allegiance to country, place and home not even a memory.  (Now, thanks to politicians and lawyers, I can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance but can read Lolita– just not the Bible– in class.)

7. Most anything I say would be politically incorrect. (Now I would either have to pretend to like everybody– no matter how wacky– or simply remain mute.)

8. I would neither be able to remember nor mourn my innocence. (Thanks to the Internet it would never exist.)

9. My moral compass would be all screwed up. (Instead of making a bowl of popcorn for the movie, I might well, ‘smoke a bowl’ instead.)

10. I would likely still be living with my parents! (My college degree wouldn’t get me a job and even if it did I still couldn’t afford to live on my own.)

It seems that a sense of gratitude has now been replaced with a sense of entitlement.  Many of my friends say they wouldn’t want to be younger simply because they have, “Been there.  Done that.”  Truth is I haven’t been ‘there’ or ‘done that’ at all.  And I sure wouldn’t want to be there doing it NOW. 

STARLIGHT, STAR BRIGHT

      The noted astronomer began harmlessly enough.  Proudly, he held up a steaming, baked potato in front of us.  It symbolized a white, dwarf star, gazillions of miles away from our uncomfortable, folding chairs.  By calculating the rate at which the potato, and thus the star, cooled, science could assess the age of our galaxy.  When he excitedly announced that our good, old, planet earth has been around for at least 13 ½ billion years, ‘Yippee’ did not come to mind.  Black holes did. 

     As the others lined up to gaze at M-13 through the telescope, I lost my zeal.  I kept imagining all the billions of people who weren’t here anymore.  They were now like those faraway stars:  infinitely, irrevocably untouchable.  With all the eons of TIME out there, we’re stuck in ridiculously short ‘time shares,’ one breath away from being obsolete.  ‘Is it possible to feel any smaller?’ I wondered.

     Yup.  “Stars don’t die all at once.  The larger, densely packed, intense ones die the fastest.”  (I’m thinking James Dean).  “The smaller, less dense, more demure ones last longest.” ( Betty White?)  Uh Oh.  According to my family, I’m as high-strung as a key on a kite in lightning.  My oldest said just last week, “Mom.  Why don’t you return to Disney and ask them to remove your animation chip?”  My time may be shorter than I thought.

     Now I’ve had stars in my eyes.  I’ve stepped on the stars in front of Grauman’s Chinese.  I’ve dated stars.  I‘ve stuck the glow-in-the-dark ones above my children’s cribs. But never have the stars seemed less appealing.  So, when the astronomer finished, I asked:  “Okay.  Now that we know how old the galaxy is, and that one day, billions of years from now, the universe will go dark and there will be no stars—what does this mean personally, for you, right now?’  “Um. . .Well. . .I guess. . . I. . . just don’t know the answer to that,” he said sadly. 

     But I do.  Tonight the Perseid meteor shower will be in full view and I will watch all those falling stars fall.  It will remind me that dying is pretty from a distance.  But mostly it will remind me of the nights Granny and I used to look up at those same stars and say:  “Starlight, star bright.  First star I see tonight.  Wish I may.  Wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.”  (Hudson’s memoir, “Kissing Tomatoes,” recounts the 13 years she lived with her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s).  http://www.helen-hudson.com.

JUST DRIVE

     I just handed my oldest the keys to the car and sent her out to the market.  For a brief moment, she just stood there and looked at me as if uncertain what I meant.  “Here’s the key,” I repeated.  “Just drive.”  I figure she’s had enough of me sitting in the passenger seat making her nervous.  She now has her license and it’s time for me to let go.  Ha!  Do we parents ever really let go?

        Okay.  So she’s been gone over an hour.  I’ve replayed the entire drive to and from back and forth in my mind several times.  But no amount of my worry will amount to a hill of beans when it comes to, ‘the other guy.’  If I add up all of the worrying I’ve done about everything over the last 40 years, it is quite clear that I have wasted months, maybe years, of precious time.  They should have been spent laughing, creating and exploring instead. 

        The really good decisions I’ve made in my life were mostly done on the spot out of a sense of responsibility, joy or love; like the day we moved Granny in with us.*  We didn’t work out a budget or decide how much time we would have to devote to her.  We just moved her in, Alzheimer’s and all.  In hindsight, it’s better that we didn’t know we’d have to add Depends to the shopping list, or that just bathing her might take an entire hour.  Love far outweighs anything on a balance sheet or a shopping list.

        And it was love that propelled me to send my daughter off an hour ago.  She will never spread her wings if I keep her tethered and I want her to fly.  She needs to feel that sense of full accountability when she is behind the wheel, to know there is nothing between her and the other guy but her own good judgment.  As a driver, she will have to make many ‘on the spot’ decisions.  If they’re done with responsibility, love and joy she will be okay.

        Oops.  Gotta run.  I hear the garage door opening.  My bird is returning to the nest; the same one I used to buckle into her pink, fluffy, car seat with her stuffed elephant.  My heart leaps with both joy and gratitude.  (*From, “Kissing Tomatoes,” by Helen Hudson.  http://www.helen-hudson.com).

P. S.  An hour after I posted this blog, I discovered that Wisconsin has launched a, “Just Drive,” campaign for teens.  It comes with its own yellow road sign and points out that while teens only account for 7% of all drivers, they cause 14% of all accidents.  How comforting.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN EXCEPT ME

     It was a week of deja vu.  Met two different college kids sporting blue hair; one at Starbucks and one at my front door.  Well, it sure beats the nose rings.  Of course, back in the 60’s, a “blue hair” was any older woman who put a blue rinse on her white hair.  Most of my grandmother’s friends had blue hair, so I was pretty convinced that mine would turn that color when I got old.*   

     Tie-dyed shirts are back.  We used to wrap our old t-shirts with rubber bands, pour in a ten-cent box of Ritz dye, and ruin the family washing machine to do the trick.  I just bought one for $9.99 at Target.  My teens straighten their locks with expensive gizmos from salons.  I used Granny’s iron.

     But the best part?  My husband takes me to a specialty “back” store filled with chairs to do this and that for your spinal alignment.  The sales gal has me sit in one, fusses with a bunch of weird pedals that look like mini stick shifts, almost breaks my neck, and says, “There.  Isn’t that wonderful?”  The top half of me feels like I’m in the dentist’s chair.  The bottom half of me feels like I’m at the gynecologist’s.  She’s GOT to be kidding. 

     “How much does this thing cost?” I ask with a voice as pinched as the rest of me feels.  “Just $3,000,” she says with a lovely lilt to her voice.  “Get me off,” I yowl.  But she isn’t done with me yet.  She wants me to try the ‘tip-you-upside down, anti-gravity device.’  I lay down on a skinny, black board.  She squeezes my ankles under a footpiece, pushes more levers and tips me upside down.  While I lie there with the blood rushing to my head, she sweetly informs my husband, “This is wonderful for reducing wrinkles in the face.”

     “What wrinkles?” I ask, as if entirely sincere.  She suddenly goes mute.  Turns out that thingamajig is ‘only $900.’   As we leave, I am remembering a fold-up green board that Granny kept in our hall closet.  She bought it, (for about $5.99),  when she first took up yoga in the 60’s.  The two of us spent many an evening lying upside down.  Would say that I miss those days but apparently, they’re still with us—just at a higher price tag.  (*Excerpt from, “Kissing Tomatoes,” Hudson’s memoir of her Granny’s Alzheimer’s.   http://www.helen-hudson.com

 

HERE’S TO INDEPENDENCE!!

     Today may be a celebration of our country’s independence, but fireworks on this night have always reminded me it’s Granny’s birthday.  She would have been 110 today.  I said “Good-bye” to her at 95 but the truth is she left me in body only.  Every hug, tear and piece of advice she ever gave me is still intact in my memory. 

      On this date in 1845, Thoreau moved to Walden and wrote the book which would define him.  He would remind us that man and nature are inextricably connected, so we must preserve it.  The same holds true of the invisible threads which bind us to each other.

      As I waved my youngest off to New York yesterday and reminded her to “drink plenty of water,” it was really Granny talking.  When I hugged my oldest at the gate en route to look at colleges in California and my tears began to fall, I remembered Granny doing the same when I left her.  My children are already navigating that long road that we all have walked— to independence.

      We repeat ourselves generation to generation.  We do it in different languages, under different skies and in different times but the pattern doesn’t change.  We’re born, make the same mistakes our parents did (or invent our own), have children, watch them grow as we age and then we die.  Some of us die fighting like those who won our independence.  Some of us have no fight at all.  Most of us lie somewhere in between.

      What all of us have is a teeny, tiny window of time to look out on the garden of Life.  “It will only be as beautiful as you make it,” Granny once said, “and it takes work.”   Someday, if my children remember me on my 110th birthday, I hope their gardens are as full of color and rich with possibilities as mine is.  I learned how to tend it from a woman born in 1900; the same one who also said, “Plant lots of seeds.  They won’t all take.”  (Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the years before and after her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.   http://www.helen-hudson.com).

“GRAY IS THE NEW BLONDE”

     That’s exactly what the receptionist said to me this afternoon as I was paying a doctor’s bill.  I had just made fun of their new office sign which said:  Settle Your Encounters Here.  “Encounters?  Good grief.  Why don’t you just say, ‘Bills?’  Are we going back to the 70’s or something?”    The young receptionist, (who reminded me of Tina Turner back in the day), just laughed.  “Well, No,” she replied.  “It just sounds nicer.”  “Yeah,” I replied.  “But let’s call a spade a spade.  Here is my Visa to pay the BILL and THIS I said pointing to my hair is GRAY HAIR.”  “Oh , No,” she hurriedly said.  “Gray is the New Blonde.” 

      If only that were really true, hair colorists wouldn’t be making a veritable fortune off the Baby Boomers right now.  But not me.  I’m keeping every lovely strand of the stuff right where it belongs–on my head.  Back in the 60’s, my grandmother tried combing her hair with some dark, sticky goop from a bottle.  Kind of looked like shoe polish really.  Guess as the oldest high school counselor she felt she shouldn’t look quite so old.  But she gave it up after a while.  It stained her shirts and she was a practical woman.  She played Bridge with some ladies who actually had blue hair.  For years, I thought my own hair would turn that color when I got old.*  But it didn’t.  Apparently, I am the “new blonde,” in this present euphemism.  I can live with that.  Tina Turner is 70.  Makes me feel downright young come to think of it.  (*Excerpt from, “Kissing Tomatoes,” by Helen Hudson.  http://www.helen-hudson.com.)