June 30, 2009
It’s the first day of my summer vacation!
School got out on June 19, but I opted to do a summer project to earn some extra money for yoga. I started going to yoga again at the Ashtanga Yoga Center in DC – must read back in my infrequent posts to see if I mentioned that already, but I don’t think that I did. It’s a bit of a drive at 25 minutes to Tenleytown, but definitely worth it to continue Ashtanga, and I really like the instructors. I took the (financial? commitment?) leap and paid for unlimited morning Mysore classes, too, so I’ve been going almost daily since June 15. Mysore classes refer to the style of teaching/practicing in Mysore, India, where you attend and self-practice under the guidance of an instructor who adjusts your postures and adds new ones to your practice as you memories the sequence. There are people in my classes who are far more practiced and those who have far less experience as well. It actually makes me very comfortable, and I feel refreshed and energized for the day when I go to Mysore in the morning. (Thank goodness, because it’s certainly hard for me to leave the house at 6:45 am or earlier.)
I haven’t forgotten my running, though I’ve done it a little less of late. Instead of running 3 times a week, I’m going once or twice. However, last week I went three times between Sunday and Saturday, including running the Potomac River Running Twilight Festival Four-Miler in Ashburn on Saturday evening. I had my usual goal – keep running the whole time. Once I got underway, I also amused myself with a secondary goal of running it in under 45 minutes, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if I hadn’t achieved that goal. But I was successful in both! I ran a very steady four miles, with my average pace for the first two miles at 10:49 minutes/mile, and my average pace overall at 11:09 minutes/mile, and I finished in (do the math) 44:36. As a testament to my steadiness, I was able to sprint the last 50 meters or so, and I felt great doing it. There was great swag at this race – not only did I get an awesome orange technical t-shirt and a $1 off at Robek’s coupon in my race packet, but all runners got a free burrito and drink afterwards (and a beer, which I gave away). There were free massages, a moon bounce for kids, and post-race snacks and drinks courtesy of Wegman’s. Fancy! It about made up for the heat, serious lack of shade on the course, and of course for the “scenery” of Ashburn.
We’re back to painting the house (no, we’re not done yet), so that’s part of what I’ll be spending my first day of vacation doing. Most recently we had painted the ceiling and trim in our bedroom, leaving the walls a mess and in need of the blue gray that will soon go up. But we decided yesterday to start in on the small bedroom first, which is a light (to me) green-blue color. I’ll be working on the ceiling in there and the guest bathroom today, then moving to the trim, then the wall colors. Allen decided that we could pick a new paint color for the hallway (yellow since about six months ago, and I haven’t come around to liking it yet), rather than spend another $50 on the last gallon of Benjamin Moore paint we’d need to finish the upstairs part of the hallway. I was overjoyed to hear that we didn’t need to wait a couple of years to declare the color a failure and repaint. (And yes, we could spend the money to try sample patches first. But at least 4 out of 5 times, if not 9 out of 10, I’m happy with the color I pick on the first try. So I’m cheap and risky.)
There is a limit to what we’ll get done this week though because on Saturday we leave for a week in St. John. Allen’s parents built a house down there, which they rent for 10 months of the year and visit for two. They’ll be down there for the whole month; we’re just there Saturday through Friday.
Enough with the blogging for now – hopefully I’ll have more time to post now that it’s summer – but it’s time to get to that painting.
June 27, 2008
As of Wednesday night, we are basically packed. There are a few slips of paper and other flotsam in disorganization (naturally, all mine). There are some toiletries, mostly perfume and cologne, which still need to be properly packed. And aside from that, only the food and cleaning need to be taken care of before we leave.
It’s very unlike me to be packed almost a week in advance. But there’s a logical reason. If we hadn’t already packed, we couldn’t know how much space we had left to fill with souvenirs from France! As it is, there isn’t much room. But Allen and I plan to purchase another French tablecloth and maybe some clothes. En plus, the twice-a-year sales just started this week! We’re in luck. However, we had also hoped to bring back some art, but our full luggage won’t allow it. Any bets on whether we’ll be charged for oversized luggage?
This week has been full of emotional confusion. Monday was a rare day off for me, and i worked on some of my graduate school research. I’m currently taking my last masters course; the first part is online (started in March) and the classroom portion will keep me wholy occupied from July 16 to July 25. (Who wants to celebrate on July 26? Alternately, that might be a good day for a nap.) So Monday I tackled some of the transcription I need to do as part of the data collection for my action research project. In the evening Allen and I continued our packing efforts for a while. Then we ran off to Fuxia, our Italian place, for what was probably our last dinner there. I had a glass of prosecco and the Scallopine Limone. Allen had his usual, the Lasagne Carne. We both finished with panna cottas, getting our own so that he could have a red fruits sauce, and I could have caramel.
Tuesday was the hottest day I’ve experienced in a long time. I don’t know what the temperature was, but I sweated from about noon to midnight. I got my haircut in the morning, and on the way I realized with horror that I’d left all the cash at home (and the salon doesn’t take credit cards). I decided to continue and just explain my problem, fearful of losing my appointment if I showed up too late. Vicky was very understanding and cut my hair anyway. (And it looks great. She has given me the two best dry-on-its-own haircuts of my life.) Then I took the metro straight home to pick up cash and straight back to pay the hairdresser. By the point, I was running late to babysitting. I babysat, tutored, the usual, and then metroed home to try to avoid the heat. I met up with Allen, changed into a dry shirt, and we walked to Mimi and Jack’s apartment. They’d hired a babysitter so that the four of us could go out to dinner together. We walked around for a while before we decided to eat at Le Bar a Huitres. The air was thick with fruit flies; I’ve never seen anything like it. The little flies looked like pollen or dust, but kept landing on us. Fortunately, though the windows at Le Bar a Huitres were open, very few flies actually joined us inside. Still, I fished a few out of my wine, and I think I ate a handful. Aside from the unintentional protein, the food was delicious! Jack and I both opted for the Menu Homard, choosing 9 oysters and a lobster each. Mimi and Allen both chose a grilled shrimp entree, followed by a tuna steak for Mimi and a crab for Allen. Dessert was ice cream all around – lemon sorbet with limoncello for Allen and I and chocolate and cafe liegeoise for Mimi and Jack respectively. The staff were all talkative and friendly, and I believe it was the owner who paid a visit to our table and ended up showing us how to get the meat out of a crab. The food was very enjoyable, and the company was better. Afterwards, we went to El Sur, an Argentinian restaurant across Blvd Saint Germain from Mimi and Jack’s apartment, and had a round of drinks. The owner (who knows Mimi and Jack) plugged the pisco sour, and for good reason. It’s probably a good thing that I won’t be here to drink many more of those. Afterwards, we made plans to see them again on Saturday, so we wouldn’t have to say goodbye quite yet.
Wednesday’s highlight was babysitting Rafaela because we went to the park to meet Kerry and her kids so that Rafaela and Liese could play together. Mimi came with the kids too, so we had a big jolly gathering. Katharine was walking all over the playground clutching a bag of lollipops, so all the bigger kids surrounded her to ask nicely for one, and she was blithely handing them out to anyone who lined up. She put three or four in my purse when I said no thank you. When I went home afterwards, Allen and I threw ourselves into a frenzy of packing and cleaning. Hooray!
Yesterday was a nice day as well. The weather had become more temporate, and I met Leigh for coffee and to return some books she let me borrow. We’d met a couple of times before, but I wish we’d made more time to get together. We talked so much I ended up running late to babysitting again. I’m not proud of it. But babysitting went well – we spent the whole time drawing, and there were popsicles involved. Then I did my final lesson with Adrienne. I took it easy on her and we sang all the songs we’d learned, and I gave her a bit of an oral quiz. In the meantime, I gave her a French braid so she’d be ready for the concert at her school that night. I got to drop her off a bit early and said a warm goodbye to her and her parents. Then last night, Allen and I cooked dinner and then spent a few hours babysitting Kerry’s kids so she and her husband could have a night out in Paris.
And that brings us to today! Allen and I both have our last days of work today. I’ll have my last yoga class tonight (somehow I doubt I’m going tomorrow), and then the weekend will be filled with a picnic, shopping, cleaning, and saying goodbye to Paris.
June 8, 2008
A few weeks ago, my mom asked if we were counting the days. But we were still on weeks. But now that June is here, we are counting the days, and there are 22 more days to our stay in France. How did that happen?
We have 22 days, and I have 11 classes left on my yoga studio “subscription.” In the next 22 days, we’ll play parents for a weekend, Allen will visit England, we will visit Allen’s French family in the north, and I’m really hoping to buy a new pair of jeans or two. We have 22 days and 13 unfinished City Walks, 1 scheduled haircut (mine), and 4 suitcases to pack. In 22 days, we expect to have 0 visitors! (Elizabeth has just left – our first and last and most frequent visitor for the year.)
In the next 22 days, I expect some panic. But for now, I’m going to bed.
April 30, 2008
In which Lauren’s fingers connect with her toes…
Today marks another foray into stretching myself to the point of pain and really kind of enjoying it. The craziest thing happened in yoga today. (I just have to warn you. You will not think this is crazy.) Basically, it is this: I bent at the waist, feet straight in front of me, and I curled my hands around my toes. That’s right. I touched my toes. I more than touched my toes. I held my feet.
Honestly, two weeks ago, I would not have been able to do that. Heck, I could have been walking around with this power for days now and not even realized it! Phenomenal what the human body can do!
In which Lauren decides how much of a Puritan she is…
I normally come to yoga all dressed in my workout pants, sports bra, and schmancy green tank top that I love. But many of the other students don’t. They’ll come from work or studies (as one would expect) dressed as normal people who didn’t just wake up and take a shower within the last half hour (and it’s noon). So these people strip out of their work dress and into their yoga kicks in a very small area behind the counter of the studio. What I mean to say is, men and women strip to their underwear mere inches away from one another in order to change clothes.
When I was in high school on the swim team, it took me years (yes, I mean that) to become comfortable enough to flash some nudity in front of my teammates. Now I’m not so uptight. All of my friends who go shopping with me are thinking, “But it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you were just a little more uptight about getting undressed in front of people, Lauren.” Fair enough.
But today I tutored before I went to yoga, and I opted to wear street clothes. (I did however wear my sports bra all morning.) So when I got to the yoga studio, it was time for the show! I bared my very pale thighs in front of men and women (none of whom, I’m quite sure, were looking) and survived! I didn’t even blush, so maybe I’m not such a Puritan after all.
Of course, later in the lesson when Vanessa, the instructor, was having us visualize every part of our bodies during meditation, I did get a kick out of her asking us to visualize: the left breast…, the right breast…, the space between the breasts…
In which buzzsaws interrupt meditation…
There’s not much more to that one. We’re all breathing softly, envisioning every part of our body and what all, and all of a sudden BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! Some kind of electric saw starts shrilling away in the building next door. Calming. Very.
April 24, 2008
After strep and a bit of recovery time, I finally got to go to yoga again today, two weeks after my last class. To tell you the truth, I was scared because I now consider yoga quite hardcore, and I’m pretty sure Alexandre knows I’m not hardcore. I wondered if he’d ask me why I hadn’t bothered to come to class for two weeks.
But it’s not like that, right? It’s only in our minds that the judging goes on. Once the class began, I remembered I was there to better myself and so was everyone else. No one was being petty about my attendance – they don’t know me! And my fears about Alexandre’s class kicking my butt… Okay, well those didn’t exactly go away. But I’m becoming a masochist.
This week, I felt like I was better able to measure my breathing, keep my abdomen in use, and concentrate on the movement of my body. If I felt myself shaking or faltering, I slowed and steadied myself, willing my muscles to stretch or balance to come.
I felt more in control, even during the push ups. I haven’t done push ups since I was 16, when I had surgery on my wrist for a cyst that was pinching a nerve. The doctors accidentally cut my tendons during the surgery, and I’ve never properly regained flexibility. To be honest, I didn’t try hard enough at the time. So my wrist is sore now, but my whole yoga adventure is part of a quest for flexibility and strength, and I suppose that includes my wrist.
I sweated a lot today. In every posture, I thought I could push no further, but then pushed, and found I could do more. At one point the teacher pulled me into some position I was certain I couldn’t have achieved on my own, but I could hold it.
At the end, during the meditation, I listened to Alexandre prompting us to feel the pressure where our bodies touched the ground and feel the ground reciprocating that pressure and supporting us. I felt deeply relaxed. I thought, “I’m glad I came.” The thought came on through the haze of purposefully not thinking of anything, so it reverberated in my head like a little revelation. I think I may go on Saturday too.
April 18, 2008
I finally got up the nerve to go to the yoga studio, and Wednesday, April 9 was my first day of initiation ashtanga yoga classes at Samasthiti Studio in Paris. Hooray! I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous because this was my first yoga class ever. (Okay, I am excepting the lame yoga classes I took at Arlington Oaks once – really it was only two classes and did nothing for me.) Not only that, but the classes are in French! I got a nice refresher on my French body parts and learned some fun pose names like chien tete en bas. After the first half hour, I panicked that more time hadn’t passed because I definitely felt like I was getting a work out. How would I be able to hold all the poses through another hour? The next half hour passed in a puddle of sweat. The instructor, Vanessa, was very attentive, coming over to fix my downward dog, give me a strap (I can’t reach my feet), and almost pull my hamstring from its moorings. Okay, what actually happened was she pushed me further into a pose, and my hamstring really wasn’t having it, and I was afraid she was actually going to hurt me. But I survived. And I did appreciate the personal attention.
I felt kind of hardcore for even being able to hold the poses for as long as the others did, even though mine weren’t nearly as stretched out as theirs were. Then at the end we did a few Oms, then a “pseudo-meditation” in a sitting/praying position. Then we laid down in a position I don’t remember the name of (and a woman came to help me get my shoulders under my body – I think now that she was Caroline, the studio owner), and Caroline lead us through a breathing/meditation period while Vanessa came around and pushed on various pressure points on our heads with some scented oil on her hands. I think I might have died and gone to heaven at this point. I was so relaxed that my body forgot that I had just strained myself to the limit for over an hour. Of course, my body remembered fairly quickly after I left the studio.
The next day I went back for more contortion! Alexandre’s class seemed much harder than Vanessa’s class, and twice I took his advice and went into the child’s pose when I needed to rest. At one point, I literally could not hold my arms in the air for another minute. However, Alexandre was very good at saying, “If you are a complete beginner, do this” and showing different levels of difficulty for achieving the postures. I learned that I absolutely cannot balance on my fesses (butt) and hold my legs up in the air, but fortunately he came over to help, and he held my legs while I held my arms up towards them. Alexandre corrected my postures much more than Vanessa had the day before, but I did feel like the stuff we were doing was somewhat more difficult (or possibly just more difficult for me, depending on my own weaknesses). I was actually glad to see that Wednesday and Thursday’s initiation classes would be different, as it ensures a more well-rounded workout each week.
This is what I noticed about yoga in my second class. Usually when I work a muscle group really hard, it is not sore until the next day. With yoga it takes about an hour, and then my entire body hurts because I feel like I’ve worked every single muscle in my body. I am completely amazed by the fact that I can feel and distinguish between so many muscles in my body. I worked all those? But, strangely, it feels pretty amazing too.
My plan is to do classes every Wednesday and Thursday, as well as those Mondays that I’m free, until the end of June. I’m sure there will be a few days that won’t work out (Elizabeth just told me about the “ladies’ vacation”), but there will be others I can add. I paid for 20 classes in advance, so I have guaranteed myself a lot of pain before the end of June. But hopefully, I’ll be able to touch my toes and generally be stronger by then too.