A Matter of Balance: A Woman's Quest for Health, Harmony & Kick-ass Heels

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering those who served....

Preparing for our Memorial Day feast
 Sometimes it's easy to get swept up in the holiday-ness of a day like today.  Prepping the grill, slicing the watermelon (note yesterday's watermelon pictured above served with a bit of feta cheese).  It's fun and it's always good to have family and friends to share the days with, which is what we did last night.

But let's not forget those who have served our country and continue to protect us and our freedom.  The notion of freedom took on a new meaning for me last summer when I traveled to China.  It was my first experience visiting a Communist country.

How lucky we are.

Both of my grandmother's had brothers who died in WW II, one on the beach of Normandy.

Today let 's take a moment to remember.  

My dad (the little guy) and his Uncle Hoody who died in WW II

Friday, May 25, 2012

Our toughest adventure yet

Pina and I agreed as we left last night's adventure that it was BY FAR the toughest yet.

We've braved the zip line, wavered across a rope bridge high above the trees, maneuvered through the waves on a surfboard, but nothing prepared us for floating.

Yep, floating.

I had heard about iFloat from a few others who extolled the relaxing and calming virtues of floating.  Pina had heard as well and when she saw a Living Social voucher enticing us to float, she jumped on it.

"Floating?" I asked. "Can't I do that for free in my bathtub?"

We were still trying to find a time to celebrate Pina's birthday and she was game,  so what the heck, I'm in.

We arrived at the floating destination and had an orientation with our Zen-like float master, David.   Who knew there'd be floating 'rules?'   Pina insists that the look on my face was priceless as David invited us to peer into the floating chamber.   I was having some serious MRI flashbacks at this point.  

Floating is done naked, in the dark, alone and in silence.  For sixty minutes.  You are suspended in a warm solution of Epsom salt, about 10″ deep, so dense that "you float effortlessly" according to David.  He also instructed that we be very mindful of our necks as most people try to hold their heads up, like you would in an actual swimming pool, but it's not necessary to do that while you're floating.  That was one of the real challenges, and a true lesson in letting go in the fullest sense.

But the biggest challenge was being still.  At first I was acting like I really was in the MRI, attempting not to move a muscle. Hmm, how much time had elapsed, I began wondering.  Maybe three minutes?  Whew, only 57 to go.

Then as time went on, I realized that I could move, a little.  No splashing mind you, but some micro-movements, wiggling fingers and toes, tilting the head from side to side.  Hey, whatever you can do to pass the time.   I tried meditating, practicing my yoga breathing, reviewing my to do list for the following day, planning a menu for our holiday get together.... you name it.

Eventually I did my best to relax and enjoy the experience and when the music began playing (the signal that your session has come to an end), I breathed a sigh of relief. Although I also half expected  to hear David's soothing voice through an intercom informing me I had just taken part in some kind of porn film.

But it came down to this.  Stillness is a bitch.  We just aren't used to it (well at least I'm not).  So is relinquishing control for many of us. When we consider how much control we have and need on a daily basis, to let it ALL go, is completely foreign.  Comparing notes afterwards, Pina and I both wondered how it is that the world has become such a fast paced, chaotic, harried place, that there's a need for such extreme measures to get us to slow down.

We remained relaxed through the rest of the evening which included sampling a Pickle Martini at the the Arts Festival in Westport (I'd be more likely to try floating before I sip another Pickle Martini) and sharing a scrumptious dinner at the new Spotted Horse

All in all a truly memorable adventure.

And for the record, I do plan to slip in to my bath tub sometime over the weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Simply The Best

Image from etsy

Tina Turner's sultry voice comes to mind, belting it out when I read the title of this post, but that's not what I'm thinking of this morning. 

I've been reading Shortcuts to Inner Peace: 70 Simple Paths to Everyday Serenity by Ashley Davis Bush and I really love the short simplistic strategies she offers to create more peace in your day. I aim to read something inspirational each day and this year this book really hits the mark.

Today's chapter was focused on the often mindless greeting and response we engage in multiple times la day...."How are you? I'm fine."

Perfunctory yet meaningless.

Although what she doesn't mention is the category of folks who respond with a litany of their aches and pains, trials and tribulations. Clearly they want you to know they are far from fine.
One of the first things that stood out when I met one of my dearest friends, Duffy, was that anytime anyone asked him how he was he would respond "The BEST!". Seriously, I thought? Can anyone really be in that good of a mood all the time? Besides, he certainly had more than his share of baggage, and from my view there was a lot he COULD complain about.

But he never did.

Even as he battled cancer, a fight he eventually lost in 1996, he continued to see the proverbial glass half full, in fact, in his case, he always saw it overflowing.

I remember attending his wake and listening to the conversations around me. (I think the entire state of Rhode Island was there, he was just that kind of guy). Whatever the memories, someone undoubtedly mentioned that Duffy really was the BEST. Perhaps in a lifetime of declaring it to himself, he convinced us all.

I was reminded of him  yesterday while working at the Soup Kitchen.   I encountered one diner who when I asked how he was, he exclaimed "Blessed!".  Nice! 
Hmm, now to choose, should I be Blessed today or The Best?  Or maybe both?

How are YOU today?

Magnificent? Amazing? Outstanding? Blessed? The Best?

The beauty is, YOU get to decide.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A shot in the arm

We all need a good shot in the arm some days.  Well today I had one both physically and metaphorically.  In fact, physically I actually had five shots in preparation for my trip to Africa this summer. Ouch.

But metaphorically and emotionally I had one when I had lunch with one of my most beloved friends.  Spending time with her is always a good "shot in the arm" because we laugh, and because she always asks the questions that make me think, but most of all because she is authentic.

Sometimes when we feel we've 'lost the sparkle' a good shot in the arm, or spending time with a friend is just what we need.

And just like the physical shots I received today, the underlying purpose is to prepare you for something bigger.

Sometimes we just need to stop and ask ourselves "what is the best thing I can do for myself today."    Your answer will be just the shot you need.

Then, ask yourself the same question tomorrow.  And the next day. 

Before you know it, you'll  not only be prepared for the journey ahead, you'll be sparkling wildly.  

And it's FAR more fun than the Typhoid Fever vaccination...trust me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Salsa, strength & hope

Letting loose on Latin  Night

Health is not just about broccoli and bicep curls.  It's about community.  It's about support.  Being able to let your hair down without judgement.  This week's guest blogger, Terri Vanech, beautifully captures the real miracles on the dance floor.

Thanks Terri!

So women are supposedly the weaker sex, but my experience belies that old wives' tale. You, too?

Oh sure, men can bench-press and haul things, push machinery around, build stuff. But if you need someone to handle a really big job — something with emotional heft — find a woman.
Faced with feelings, most men will employ the rub-dirt-on-it-and-walk-it-off mentality. A woman will get to the heart of the matter.

And if it’s someone else having some unpleasant feelings, well, she’ll lend every ounce of support she can muster.

I was reminded of this wonderful phenomenon again yesterday at a Latin night I attended at the Jazzercise Center of Southwestern Connecticut. It wasn’t a Jazzercise class, but an excuse to let our hair down and have some fun.

And we did.

But first it seemed like everyone had some bit of baggage to park at the door.
I don’t mean just the generic crap life gives us, such as:

“What jackass took the sheets out of the drier and left them in a heap on the couch in the den?”
“Why is there still unpacked luggage in the middle of the living room five days after the trip to Disney World?” 
“If I worked around the clock every day, there is no possible way I will ever get to the bottom of this to-do list.”

Although heaven knows there was plenty of that.

No, in our midst were much bigger issues: a woman battling cancer who has lost all her hair and will start radiation treatments next week, another who is caring for her seriously ill mother, a third whose husband died unexpectedly two weeks ago and whose daughter is getting her master’s degree today. Plus people grappling with numerous other medical, emotional, financial matters.
All the makings were there for a pity party, but we didn’t succumb. Instead, we did the only thing we could: We danced and drank and laughed — not necessarily in that order.

The night was a test of our mettle, our esteem for each other and the elastic in our sports bras . We passed the first two tests with flying colors. (Let’s just say, for future reference, that much shimmying equals a two-bra night.)

Of course our escapades didn’t magically erase everyone’s troubles.

When it was time to head home, however, it seemed the baggage was briefly easier to carry.

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and searching adoptee. Sge u living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.

 Follow Terri's blog Pushing on a Rope

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Class Act

I couldn't let Mother's Day go by without a shout out to my own mom.

If there's one thing you can say about my mom, it's that she is a class act.  

There are many things that have not been filtered down to me through her DNA....ironing underwear, making salmon croquettes, or neatly folding plastic bags (I think if they weren't plastic, she'd iron them too.)

But yet her influence is deeply rooted in me in so many ways.

She has instilled her love of reading, Jazzercise, musicals (I still remember my first visit to Heinz Hall to see Gigi), finding a bargain, and picking out a pair of shoes that completes an outfit  so that you can "be as cute as you can be,"  a classic Arlene phrase.

She is a beauty pageant queen winner, a breast cancer survivor, a successful realtor, a ballroom dancer, a champion cleaner and an expert bargain shopper.  

She has always taught me to take the high road through her example. 

I have witnessed her many acts of courage including: 

  • Moving from the city she lived in her whole life leaving her family and friends
  • Deciding to go to college to pursue her degree while most of the moms in the  neighborhood stayed at home 
  • Handling serious health issues, both her own and my father's
  • Starting over after divorce 
  • Mourning the deaths of my father and her mother and celebrating the birth of her grandsons
Though these events are typical of the many chapters of life, it is my mom's grace and class that sets her apart.   She has always taught me to take the high road, even when that's the hardest course of all.   But as they say, mother knows best, and I'm confident that these lessons of grace, courage and class will be the most indelible (although I'm keen to hang on to her tips for accessorizing too!).

Thank you mom, you are one classy lady.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Making excuses or making plans?

I  know a lot of smart interesting women. It's a fact that amazes me every day.  So, I thought what better way to highlight them, than to ask for the honor of sharing their wisdom right here.  I'll be inviting folks to contribute guest blog posts each week. 

The thought came to me when reading Lisa Corrado's recent blog post.  I was hooked by the title and immediately wished I had thought to write about the concept, but then I decided, hey, why not find a way to share the love! 

Thanks Lisa!  And enjoy....


Making Excuses or Making Plans?

I saw this cartoon posted on a friend’s Facebook wall this week. It’s funny because it’s true: we claim to be too busy to take care of our health, but the alternative is being dead 24 hours a day.
Sadly, I see too many examples of this: people who wait too long to address medical concerns. They don’t act until they’re in medical crisis, and many times, it’s too late to regain their health.

My biggest fear is realizing I waited too long to take the best care possible of myself. That I allowed flimsy excuses to take the place of actually doing the work, therefore I don’t get to live my life on my terms. Let’s call it the fear of regretting. Nothing motivates me more than the fear of regretting.
So I eat right. And I’ve learned to love it, craving the healthy stuff instead of the junk. I exercise, which I’ve also learned to love. I pay attention to what my doctors tell me and implement their suggestions. I’ve had cancer once, I’m not getting it again. And I’m doing everything in my power to ensure that when I’m old & gray and I’m also healthy & active.

How about you? Are you making excuses or are you making plans?

Contact Lisa at

Monday, May 07, 2012

The only thing I can think of to say...

The last week was exhausting and exhilarating.

Our lives can easily become jam packed and we move through on automatic pilot, going straight to the next event leaving only a pile of dirty laundry in our wake.

While trying to mediate this morning, my mind wandered to recap the week and let experiences sink in. I did not want to zoom ahead this week without a chance to reflect and appreciate.

So I thought I'd share some of the highlights from last week:

  • The enthusiasm and excitement as the Yale Ghana group assembled for the first time for a day of planning. Can't wait to let this adventure unfold.
  • A text from Annie K. that was JUST what I needed to hear (and read over & over!)
  • A very special conversation with an associate that made my whole week. :)
  • Three great radio show guests, especially the privilege of interviewing Jazzercise founder Judi Sheppard Missett, a visionary with passion.
  • The listeners at FTNS who brought the win to A Matter of Balance after only seven weeks on air. I'm unbelievably humbled at the results.
  • My customers, especially those at the five Jazzercise classes and one yoga class I taught this week, they energize me on even the toughest days.
  • The generous invitation from Beth McCarthy to attend the DVCC luncheon and hear Meredith Baxter speak about courage and hope. I am inspired.
  • The daily emails from Liz & Melissa who are an immovable, indescribable support system.
  • The phone call and encouragement from Judi (not the Jazzer Judi) to keep me on track.
  • My videographer Alan Mack, his sidekick Kobi, who made my first day of filming for eHow fun and easy (well except for the zillion push ups). I can definitely say I've made a new friend.
  • The sweet Kimberly Colletto and folks at BreakThru Fitness who generously lent their space for filming. Kim and her clients touched me with their kind words and made me feel like I actually knew what I was doing.
  • The sassy ladies who came to Latin Night not just to shimmy, but to shine, and associate Terri Vanech who captured it as beautifully as only she can in her prolific blog post.
  • The Checkered Flag team who welcomed five new members and took on the 42 miles of the NYC Five Boro Bike Tour with as much laughter as determination.

When you take time to reflect, no matter what transpired over the week, there is always some goodness to be found.

The only thing I can think of to say is thank you.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

My new gig and falling down the rabbit hole

Last week I had a bit of a spiral into self-doubt.  Have you ever been there?

Tomorrow I start my new gig as a fitness expert with www.ehow.com (because as my husband says, I can never have enough jobs!).  Once a again I'm stepping out of my comfort zone, which can always lead to those 3 am wake ups.  Although this week it's been the 4:38 am wake ups.  

As a fitness expert for ehow one of my tasks will be filming video clips to answer the myriad of fitness inquires frequently googled by curious minds.  Albeit, some of them are a tad random and some may even be a little bit out of my wheelhouse.

Also filming video (well, I'm not the one actually holding the camera) is not something I have experience in, unless you count the 35 mm films capturing birthdays, Christmases and my first swim at the YMCA.  I'm not sure I can include those in my repertoire.  

In one of the first conversations with the producer assigned to me,  he mentioned that ehow receives 5.8 million visitors each month.

Naturally my first thought was whether or not my roots needed a touch up.  Then the fall down the rabbit began. My mind raced to speculations on whether it's too late for some 
botox...how about liposuction?  And I kept falling....do I even KNOW anything about fitness?


STOP the insanity.

Isn't it such an easy hole to fall down?  Ever have a similar free fall? 
YES! I know PLENTY about fitness.  I have been in the business for twenty-two years and strive to acquire new skills and stay up to date on the latest information. Of course I can answer these questions.

YES! I can be in a video.  I get on stage in front of a room of people often twice a day!  For goodness sakes I was on the cover of a magazine a few months ago (besides there's really no time for lipo, is there?).  

The first step is to take a deep breath and re-frame. 

I'm climbing out of the rabbit hole.  I CAN do this and these are going be some damn great videos.  I'm ready! 

After a quick root touch up, that is.