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While at a Traditional Chinese Medicine conference late last year for work, my younger sister Carolyn—a comedian who has no problem standing in front of others and turning her sex life and freaky foibles into laughable anecdotes—stepped out of her comfort zone (and cushy hotel room) to participate in what the meeting program had labeled as a Qi Dancing evening event.

“Should I gooooo?” she had texted me nervously a half hour before it began.

“YES!” I replied with gusto. “Write about it for my blog!”, imagining rich descriptions of elegant martial arts-inspired dance moves, participants floating across the room exchanging invisible balls of energy between their palms. I was jealous I couldn’t be there with her to document this variation of dance with an Eastern flair.

It was easy for me to encourage her. After all, Carolyn describes me (in the video below) as “really into the flow of life. She loves moving her body and freeing her mind and connecting to her soul without the help of chicken soup…the book.”

Do I?

Do I really?, asks the blissed-out woman on the right.

However, that stuff doesn’t come easily to my sister. Nights and weekends, Carolyn is out past midnight in bars and clubs, cussing like a sexy red-headed sailor and taking swigs of beer between jokes about her nether regions. She’s a stand-up comic; it comes with the territory. She didn’t really feel like she fit into the TCM scene, where “everyone there was all soulful and mmmmm and yesssss and ‘I love oatmeal.'”

Nonetheless, in the name of loving sisterhood and determination to follow through on a blogging promise, Carolyn decided to go Qi Dancing.

She debated on what to wear, not really having any “dance” clothes in her luggage of mostly corporate attire. Once in the conference room, she hung out in the back, listening to the live drumming and observing others respond to the percussion: “Not one person was doing the same thing, like, mainly everyone was dancing solo,” she commented. “Personally, I can’t dance by myself without a friend nearby to keep me safe. You know, it takes like two friends, three beers, and one Lady Gaga for me to start shaking my hips.”

Despite her insecurities, Carolyn eventually took what she had learned in a previous Tai Chi Chuan class and turned it into “dancey movement,” attempting to find her qi through chi.

But just when her experience started to get slightly spiritual, the drumming stopped, the lights went out, and…. Well, you’ll have to watch the video below to hear what happened next.

Her account was told as part of the “Tell Me a Story” event that Crush Comedy produces monthly at Shot Tower Coffee in Philadelphia. Every month, storytellers have a different theme to talk about; this most recent topic was “Survival.”

You know, a lot of people arrive at my blog after searching for “what to wear to a 5Rhythms class” or “description of 5Rhythms dance,” indicating several folks out there are most likely days or even hours away from trying out something new and perhaps a bit intimidating, probably feeling very much like my sister before she ventured off to Qi Dancing.

Making the decision to take a class in something you’ve never heard of that is shrouded in some level of mystery takes courage; actually making it to and through the class offers a sense of survival.

Carolyn’s Qi Dancing event didn’t turn out to be what my sister or I expected, but she left the room with a new sense of freedom (even if it came from the not-so-qi B-52’s). What will 5Rhythms offer you, and what will your story of survival be?

Tonight I’ll be dancing the 5Rhythms, so while I’m moving through Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness, here are five things from me for you to do!

(1) Laugh!

Growing up, my sister always had a knack for saying funny things to ease the awkwardness at family gatherings, so after one too many “You’re so funny! You should be a comedian!”, my sister finally said, “OK!” She’s a marketing coordinator by day and stand-up comic on nights and weekends. She’s got at least one gig every week, plus she co-hosts a weekly open mic night in Philly and just got back from the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon. My lil’ sis is such an inspiration; she just gets out there and does it, even if that means starting at the bottom of the ladder (read: redneck beef ‘n’ beers; small-town coffee shops) and working bit by (comedy) bit through the muck.

(2) Cry!

With the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking a few weeks ago, the Internet and radiowaves were buzzing with news about the epic disaster. One of the stories I happened to catch was that of Wallace Hartley, the conductor of the Titanic’s orchestra, who led his musicians in song as the ship sank. This quote from historian John Maxtone-Graham was particularly stirring: “He was taking care of [the musicians’] spiritual needs near the end of their lives by giving them a job they could do that would fill the time. My conviction is it gave as much comfort to the men who were playing as to the people who heard them.”

The movie Titanic has some cheese-factor moments, but the clip above is a tearjerker. Now I’m wondering, if my world was ending before my eyes, would I dance to the death?

(3) Move!

I’m still not sure what exactly this is, but TaKeTiNa looks pretty awesome. Come to the East Coast (read: Philly) soon, please!

(4) Dance Walk!

I get the cops called on me for dancing on the beach, but this guy turns into an Internet sensation for chasseing through the streets of Manhattan. I love the concept, though; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking around town listening to my iPod and have wanted to dance walk along to the music. (Secret: Sometimes I sneak into the wooded trail area of the local park and do just this! Shhh!)

(5) Read!

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

While doing some research for my post about Nia earlier this week, I came across this story by Nia teacher Amy Podolsky. She writes about recovering from surgery and being instructed by her doctor not to do aerobic activity for a month. This was devastating news to a dance teacher, and her story here is how this limitation actually brought her closer to her body and spirit.

It reminded me a lot of what I experienced during one of my early 5Rhythms classes, on a night my hip was acting up and I couldn’t move the way my mind envisioned. I still had an amazing experience, though, as I documented in my journal:

I did not move as much as I normally do, but I was very aware of every movement I did make. Every finger flick, head roll, and spinal flexion was done with intention, and I became immersed in my breath. In fact, the teacher lined us all up at the one end of the studio and told us to allow our breath to carry across to the other side. “Move as though you are your breath,” he said. That was one of the most intense experiences of the night, and when I reached the other side, turned around, and saw the other students breathing their way toward me, I felt this surge of energy wash over me, like everyone’s oncoming energy was meshing with mine and making me feel kind loopy. I felt a deep connection with everyone for the rest of the class, and I became more open in my movements, more welcoming to the other students.

That said, I can’t wait for my own Friday 5 (Rhythms) tonight! Have a great weekend!

Four weeks ago, I started taking a weekly tai chi class with my sister. The intention was for my grandmother to take class with us, but she just hasn’t felt up to it. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying having something permanent on my schedule every week, especially because I get to see my sister. We’ve been trying to do “after-class” socializing too, whether it’s going out to dinner at the local vegetarian restaurant, visiting my sister’s friends and their new baby girl, or getting salads to go and eating dinner at my grandparents.

And, oh yeah, the class itself is pretty good too. 🙂 The studio space is a bit “clinical” (bright overhead lights, a bit on the cool side), but I’m trying not to let those things bug me and focus entirely on the movement. Here’s what I’m digging so far about tai chi:

1. Attaining a clear and focused mind. After an hour of meditative movement and breathing (along with listening to my hypnotherapist teacher’s voice), my mind is in such a better place. I always enter the room a bit rushed and dizzied, having driven there right from work, but I’m in a totally different mindset once I leave. Any crazy guilt I have about not getting a “real workout” (i.e., sweat and breathlessness) on Thursday nights dissipates once class is over because I know that I have given my mind the workout it needs and deserves.

2. “Beach” feet. Yoga, tai chi, qi gong…whenever you’re doing an activity that requires absolute presence and mindfulness, you begin to feel very in touch with your surroundings, including the way your feet feel against the ground. Sometimes yoga makes me feel like I have tree roots growing from my soles into the earth, but tai chi makes me feel like I have “beach” feet, as though I’m standing barefoot by the ocean, my feet sinking softly into the wet sand.

3. Balance practice. Part of our warm-up is to shift from one foot to the other, balancing in place while “holding the ball” in front of our abdomen. Standing on one foot after a day of sitting at a desk or driving isn’t always easy, but it gives me a sense of attaining balance not just on my feet but in life in general.

4. The diversity. I’m 31, my sister is 26. The teacher’s assistant looks like she is in her 70s and wears orthopedic shoes throughout the class. There is a woman who has spinal issues and cannot twist and a “senior student” Asian man for whom tai chi looks second nature. The class brings in people of all different ages, abilities, and backgrounds, and there is something endearing about such a diverse group of students all learning the same thing together.

5. The flowing nature of the style. When all 24 postures of the Yang style are linked together, the result is a flowing work of choreography. We are still learning just the basic moves, but with time I hope to synchronize the arms and legs more; sink deep into the ground; and use the whole space available, not just one little spot on the floor. This woman is my inspiration:

I am so excited to be adding a new item into my toolbox of mind-body-spirit “flowtation” devices: tai chi!

Starting this week, my sister and I (and hopefully our grandmother) will be taking a 10-week series in tai chi chuan.

It is not the first time I have dabbled in tai chi. My gym offers a class (led by a master instructor), which I’ve dropped into a few times, and then in the summer of 2010 I took a 6-week series in tai chi chih. I took the chih class during a very stressful time in my life, and that weekly gathering kept me grounded. My mind was all over the place that summer, and that one hour and 15 minutes each week was my lifeline. However, as much as the practice contributed to my well-being, in the end, I definitely felt a greater attraction toward the chuan style of tai chi.

Tai chi chuan is the style most people are familiar with, the steady flow from posture to posture that resembles an underwater dance. Tai chi chih, on the other hand, is a series of 19 movements that are done more like repetitions in a set. They are just as flowing as the movements in the chuan style, but they are not linked as seamlessly and it is not considered a martial art like chuan.

My sister, her boyfriend, and I took a free introductory class last week. My grandmother–who we’re trying to encourage to attend class–backed out at the last minute due to painful sciatica flare. We are trying to rally as many people as we can to take this class; as this article describes, there is pretty much no reason not to do tai chi. It helps improve memory and balance, can lower blood pressure, and helps reduce depression. The day of last week’s free class, as if on cue, this article popped up on my Google Reader from the New York Times wellness blog, about a study touting the benefits of tai chi for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Even after practicing for an hour under bright florescent lights (ugh!) and an overhead fan (on a 35-degree night–brr!), I left last week’s class feeling pretty darn good. I had been trying to get my lower back to crack all day; it had felt “stuck” since 7 a.m. Sure enough, after class I pressed my hands against my sacrum and pop! Relief. I loved the class’ gentle warm-ups, the way the movements felt like a dance to me, but one in which I had to exercise concentration and control. The instructor is also a certified hypnotherapist, and I swear after listening to his steady voice for 60 minutes, my brain had shifted into a very peaceful state of mind. It was not the workout I am used to at all, but it gave me that same focused and centered mind that I usually achieve after doing yoga.

Finding this class–convenient in terms of location, time, and cost–as well as the fact that we’ve got some family involved, makes me feel good. Really good. If only I could get the whole family to try it out, and then we could turn suburban New Jersey into a mini Beijing:

Common sight as we drove through China. (June 2006)

Aahh, so the first work week of 2012 is over! It was only four days long but it still felt like an eternity. There’s just something about coming back to the office in January that is so blah. Kids are back in school again so the commute is slower (I live two blocks from an elementary school…think crossing guards, buses, cars stacked on either side of the street), colorful Christmas decorations are gradually being removed from people’s porches, and Starbucks has said goodbye to the red cups and returned to its default, ho-hum white and green (Is it just me, or do gingerbread lattes taste more gingerbready when served in a red cup?!).

I couldn’t have asked for a better New Year’s, though. My friends from high school, Emma and Peter, re-instituted their annual New Year’s get-together (read: a laid back dinner, moderate drinking, male shenanigans [2008: cat versus laser pointer; 2011: coffee table football], Scattergories) after a two-year hiatus. This was the reason for the hiatus:

Hi, I’m Gabriella!

I love this little bugger. When I entered the house, she came scampering over to me, arms outstretched, for a hug. Then I gave her a fake pizza kit, and she named all the toppings for me, even the mushrooms and olives! When I went to pretend eat the pretend pizza, she wrinkled her nose and reminded me, “That’s not real! You can’t eat that.” She was fascinated with my handbag and kept creeping up to it to look inside. I finally let her take out my camera, and we made silly faces.

Then she insisted she be the photographer. I showed her the safe way to hold the camera, and she diligently followed my instructions.

Not bad for a 2-year-old!

Shortly thereafter, as the adults were all gathered in the kitchen–and things were eerily quiet in the living room–I surmised, “I betcha she’s going through my handbag.” We sneaked up on her and caught her red-handed; her guilty-as-charged expression was priceless. In return, I made her show me her handbag.

Our hosts served us the most delicious dinner: butternut squash lasagna, bread, and salad–all homemade, of course, even the lasagna noodles. Homemade cookies and gourmet cupcakes followed, plus some snazzy gingersnap liquor to spice up our coffee. Gabriella went to bed around 9, crying as Emma scooped her up to take her upstairs. “Aww, it’s OK honey,” she said. “Say ‘night-night’ to Bryan.” And through her sniffles and tears and pouty lips, Gabriella leaned over to him and whimpered the cutest-ever “night-night,” giving him a little kiss on the cheek.

Hands-down, cutest moment of the evening.

The adults stayed up an excruciating five hours longer. As mentioned earlier, there was dancing.

As I padded down the steps at 8 the next morning, I heard Gabriella inquire, “Who’s that?” and run to the stairs. She was excited to see me, I to see her, and we nestled on the living room floor for morning storytime.


She attempted to join me in my morning yoga stretches but gave up after 20 seconds. “OK, I’m done,” she said and stood up from tabletop pose.

After everyone showered and dressed, we headed to our traditional New Year’s Day breakfast hangout: Cracker Barrel. It was the first time in two years we needed to request a high-chair! Gabriella reminded us that a little experimentation is needed to make food interesting.

Cherry pancakes, minutes before she added the ketchup.

Somewhere between the sobbing “night-night” and pajama storytime in the morning, I got a bit misty-eyed myself as I grew into this pseudo-Aunt Jen role. I was reminded of my own childhood, when I was the little one in the footie pajamas and a curiosity about others’ handbags, and the person I ran to with excitement was my Aunt Adzia.

Adzia was my “cool aunt,” the one who understood my obsession with Barbie dolls, coloring books, and, well, more Barbie dolls. For a moment that New Year’s morning, the first day of 2012, I finally understood how rewarding it must have been to be in that aunt role, when a child shows you complete attention and engagement in a mutual activity, the overwhelming warmth in your heart when the child’s eyes light up after realizing that you slept over and are still here the next morning to play with; heading out of the house to go to Cracker Barrel and hearing a hopeful, “Is Jen coming with?”

It reminded me of weekends when Adzia would spend the night at my grandparents’ house, and, like, the coolest thing ever was when she’d go out to breakfast with us, sometimes even the mall, and then maybe even out to lunch! The “Adzia” component made everything 10 times more exciting as a kid; it was like having your BFF with you at all times, only this adult BFF bought you candy and toys.

It reminded me of when I was 8 years old and was out of school for a month with pneumonia. Adzia had come to live with us for a week to take care of me during the day when my parents were at work, and one day we spent the entire afternoon dressing my 50-some Barbie dolls in new outfits and displaying them along my bedroom wall. I remember the moment because at the time it was SO COOL to have a GROWN-UP show such interest in my Barbie obsession for hours on end; now, 23 years later with Gabriella at my side, I see the adult perspective: the heart-bursting, soul-nourishing sense of love and connection of having a child completely engaged with you in a single act, whether it’s dressing Barbie dolls, making fake pizzas, or sitting in storytime. The child isn’t playing with you just to fill time, and the adult isn’t following along just to be nice. It’s done with intention and 100% devotion.

The instant when the need for each other becomes equal–when the scales are balanced so that you need the child as much as she needs you–the heart fills with love.

Dinner in China, 2006.

Yesterday afternoon I ate my weight in Chinese food, gorging on the greasy contents of those familiar little white take-out boxes until I began burping after every bite.

I felt guilty for about 5, 10 minutes. But for the most part, the overindulgent feast warmed my heart as much as it did my belly.

I don’t normally chow down on take-out food, and if and when I overeat, I usually fall into a depressed slump and berate myself for the next several hours, slapping my bloated belly like I’m a disgruntled Santa Claus. But yesterday was different: Several of my family members were gathered at my grandparents’ house, and just when everyone was about to leave, my grandmother, trying to keep people nearby for as long as possible, suggested going out to lunch. I shrugged OK; my sister had to run out for a few minutes but said she’d consider returning; and my parents turned down the offer and said they really needed to go.

That said, “lunch” started out as just me and my grandmother, sitting on the couch, deciding where to go to eat. Then my sister eventually returned, and we contemplated a “girls only” outing, just grandmom and her two granddaughters, leaving grandpop at home to watch the Army/Navy game. Soon after that, my mom called and said she was just about done with her errands and would be able to return for lunch. My sister suggested staying inside and ordering take-out instead; my grandfather, who just moments ago denied being hungry, chirped in that some beef and broccoli would be nice.

So, what started out as no one really wanting to hang around for lunch turned into my sister and I returning from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant with $60-something worth of food and a house full of salivating relatives.

In the few minutes we left to pick up the order, my grandmother had reconfigured the breakfast room table to fit everyone, setting the tabletop with Christmas-themed paper plates, napkins, and silverware. We unloaded the greasy brown paper bags, filling the center of the table with cartons stuffed with shrimp, broccoli, beef, rice, and lo mein. Everyone got a shrimp roll; a Chinese pizza–something I haven’t eaten in a long time–was passed around the table. My sister allowed others to taste her General Tso’s seitan, which everyone admitted really didn’t taste much different than chicken. My “I’m-not-hungry” grandfather devoured everything he spooned onto his plate. Midway through our feast my father entered the room, making a surprise return to the house. We pulled up a chair for him, and everyone began loading his plate with various carton contents, exclaiming how great everything tasted: “This garlic broccoli is amazing!” “The shrimp are really tasty!” “Here, take some of this lo mein!”

My family gathers for the holidays, but the impromptu and informal nature of yesterday’s at-home buffet gave this gathering a different feel. We weren’t dressed up in our nice Christmas clothes; the table was set with paper plates, not china. There were no champagne flutes or fancy wine glasses; we cracked open cans of soda at the table, and we jostled with the various boxes between us, trying to figure out which contained the shrimp and broccoli and which contained the broccoli alone with that really good garlic sauce. We snapped fortune cookies in half for dessert, reading our messages aloud and attempting to read the Chinese words on the back. Clean-up was easy, with no dishes to wash or silverware to soak. No one had slaved over the stove for hours; no one slunk into their seat exhausted after having been awake since 6 a.m. to baste a turkey. It reminded me a bit of that scene from Home Alone, the night before the family leaves for the airport. There is take-out food spread everyone over the table; everyone is digging in, chowing down, laughing. Good times. As my sister said earlier in the afternoon, “Let’s just get take-out. I don’t want to have to sit down at some restaurant and look nice. I just want to kick back and burp at the table, you know?”

Aside from some gas and indigestion, there was something else bubbling inside of me after I left my grandparents’ house: contentment. I walked the three miles back to my house, the chill of the December evening air giving me a bit of a buzz and the Chinese food lining my arteries keeping me relatively warm. There was a full moon that night, and when I began my trek home, it hung low in the sky, huge and golden. When I crossed over the creek, the moon shined directly above, its glow lighting up the ripples in the water like a spotlight. I couldn’t take my eyes off it! When I finally entered my neighborhood, I passed houses lit with reindeer, Santa Clauses, LED snowflakes. The smell of burning fireplaces complemented the Christmas visuals. When I arrived home–after popping a Tums–I found myself doing something I’ve longed to do for quite some time but had never actually got around to doing: napping under the Christmas tree. I pictured myself as a cat curling up in a warm spot; in reality, the configuration I worked myself into looked more like a burrito.

Secret snapshot of the sleeping burrito.

Burrito, Chinese…OK, so it wasn’t the healthiest of foods we indulged in that afternoon. But we don’t eat like that every day, and one afternoon of some take-out–and yes, some burping (and farting) at the table–may actually have done our hearts a little more good than harm.

One would think that having 4 days off from work would lend itself to large chunks of time devoted solely to blogging, but I seem to have been too busy eating my weight in various forms of carbohydrates to sit down and commit myself to the keyboard. I’ve had blog post ideas stored in my brain for the past week (things I’m thankful for! 5Rhythms recap! yoga weekend!), and now they are all just melding together like the sweet potatoes, corn, and stuffing on my holiday dinner plate. That said, consider this my “Thanksgiving plate” post–a whole bunch of everything, all mashed together (and hopefully you’re not one of those people who can’t stand their food touching).

Four Days of Consumption: 2 pumpkin spice lattes, 1 hot chocolate, 2 green juices, 1 full Thanksgiving dinner, 2 mini cupcakes, 1/2 giant chocolate peanut butter cupcake, 1 full diner breakfast + 1 full homemade breakfast, 2 glasses red wine, 1 margarita, 1 mimosa, pumpkin pie, plus a burrito thrown in to make it an international weekend. A random slice of pizza, too. And several Tums.

Looking Forward To: going back to eating soup for lunch. And not feeling like I have to walk 3 miles after every meal to keep my pants from popping.

I’m Thankful For ___: the random stranger who pulled over as I was walking to inform me that I dropped my glove a few yards back; road-widening projects that require the cutting-down of the PITA sycamore tree outside our house whose roots back up our sewer and whose gangly limbs scare me ever since one fell through my car window; not being in college (a thought that crossed my mind as I watched Felicity via Netflix); the New Guy at work, because as much as I loved working with eager-to-learn interns, their impermanence in our office was a bit tiring; closely reading our new car insurance paperwork, during which I discovered that instead of taking Bryan’s old/dead car off our policy, they took off MY car, you know, the one I had been driving every single day (all fixed now–whew!); choosing to skip swimming in a crowded gym pool on Tuesday and going on Wednesday instead, because Evening Before Holiday = Empty Pool.

One Geeky Thing I’m Totally Not Doing Right Now: Tracking PHL arrivals via FlightStats.com as airplanes fly over our house.

Before Setting Up FlightStats, I Totally Wasn’t: Planning out a hypothetical 2-day solo getaway to Disney World at Christmastime for next weekend.

Living Room Conversation Piece: This guy:

Buddhst dharmapala, whose terrifying appearance is actually meant to frighten forces of evil.

I Fear: that my cellphone is dying. I hate getting new phones, especially because they’re all smartphones now, and I’m 80 so that scares me.

TV Series Recently Completed on Netflix: Twin Peaks.

TV Series That Will Forever Give Me Backward-Talking Nightmares: Twin Peaks.

Appropriate decor for a Halloween party

Non-Edible Products That Smell So Good I Kinda Want to Eat Them: pumpkin-scented soy candle from the farmers market (seriously, it makes the living room smell like a bakery for two days after it’s extinguished); gingerbread-scented Method countertop cleaner.

Approximate Weight of the Newspapers + Black Friday Circulars Sitting on the Kitchen Table: 3 pounds.

Gatherings and Meet-Ups This Weekend: Thanksgiving dinner with Bryan’s family; breakfast meetup at the diner with 3 high school friends; holiday tree lighting with my favorite toddler ever and her parents; burritos and margaritas with our favorite double-date couple; and Thanksgiving weekend breakfast with my family.

Silly Photos From Said Meet-Ups:

Silliest Emma picture EVER.

Sisterhood is serious. Or we’re just super-bloated from four straight days of non-stop eating.

Nonsensical Notes From Last Friday’s 5Rhythms With Some Explanation in Parentheses: synchronicity (I asked the universe for a certain dancer to attend class, and the universe obliged); traveling amoeba (we all huddled as a group, back-to-back/side-to-side and just allowed our little jumble to move around the room on its own accord, like a traveling amoeba); tipping point from subtle to full-blown run-around-the-room Chaos, unleashing! (because sometimes I start Chaos with very small and subtle movements and then out of nowhere, there’s a tipping point of energy, and I go from standing in place to leaping across the studio as though I’ve been thrown over the edge of a cliff).

One Day I Will Totally Write About: the yoga workshop I took last week with Rudy Peirce.

My workplace has a plate of leftover Halloween candy sitting out for all to grab at, and I was super-excited to see that it contained Reese’s Pieces, one of my all-time favorite candies (thanks to the Conehead sundaes from Friendly’s that defined my childhood dessert experiences).

Just as I keep returning to the plate to grab an extra piece of candy or two, November (what with Thanksgiving and all) is a good month to remember that life is like a box of chocolates leftover Halloween goody bag, and each day has something amazing to grab at and devour.

What am I thankful for right now?

• That Monday being Halloween meant all the local youth were out trick-or-treating, so the gym pool was completely child-free during my lap time. I could actually use my ear plugs for their primary purpose–to keep out water–rather than as a means to block out the sounds of high-pitched squealing and excessive splashy-splashy.

The sound of silence.

• For using my sister’s birthday as an excuse to carb-load during the most amazing brunch buffet of crepes, French toast, potatoes, waffles, and made-your-way omelettes.

• The mutual love of breakfast sandwiches I share with my husband, and the fact that he does not mind having “brinner” once per week. Related: That Bryan won’t eat his sandwich until I give it my trademark little sandwich hand press. Also related: The amazing parmesan/spinach/roasted red pepper (“Popeye”) bread from Great Harvest Bakery that I use on either side of my egg whites and turkey bacon and that melts ever-so-wonderfully in the toaster oven.

• That my mother has taken a sudden interest in proper footwear and is encouraging me/providing financial assistance to purchase foot-friendly shoes. However, I’ve been doing this for years; “Old Lady Orthopedic Shoes” is practically my middle name.

Dolled up weirdo in orthopedic walking sandals

• The magical $20 bill I found in my wallet this morning that prevented me from having to buy overpriced “credit card” gas. “Twenty bucks regular…CASH.” Yeah, you better give me the $3.15 rate. Related: OK, the $20 wasn’t actually magical. It was the “Here, treat yourself to something nice” grandma-secretly-shoves-a-$20 bill-in-your-palm money I had totally forgotten about receiving during the aforementioned family brunch. Ahhh, adulthood. Where “something nice” = paying cash for gas to avoid an extra 10 cents per gallon.

• Even after digging into all that leftover Halloween candy, a dentist check-up that ended with the relieving “No cavities!” exclamation from the doctor. Related: The hygienist’s comment on the marked improvement she noticed from me finally taking her advice and getting an electric toothbrush already.

What’s something you’re thankful for today?

I’ve been so caught up in reminiscing about my Kripalu yoga teacher training that I haven’t had the time to reflect on the here and now. Sure, there was plenty of joyous dancing and drumming at Kripalu, but those things also exist at home.

I have my sister to thank for incorporating a late night of dancing into my schedule last weekend. She and her boyfriend wanted to do something fun to celebrate their birthdays, so they rented out a former old-tyme theater/now florist shop and turned it into a 1920s dance hall. Guests were encouraged to dress up in their finest flapper/mobster attire and Charleston the night away.

My sister acts as the gracious host

The second girl on the right came dressed as a dude, complete with a violin case that supposedly held her tommy gun.

My sister and her boyfriend

I originally went to a Halloween store hoping to find a ’20s-inspired costume but was unimpressed with the cheap materials and lack of, um, coverage. Then I remembered I had a black dress from college hanging somewhere in the bowels of my closet. I doctored it up with some beads, feathers, gloves, and a shawl, and voila! Switch the camera setting to sepia, and suddenly I’ve stepped out of a time machine.

The location really contributed to the authenticity of the theme. Since we were in a floral shop, the place was mad packed with flowers and plants and smelled amazing. The lighting and wall fixtures reminded me of the lobby in the Tower of Terror, minus the cobwebs. It would be a perfect spot for a murder mystery party!

Slow dance time, with Glenn Miller

Fancy exterior, too!

Sisters!

Since I’m an early riser and not much of a night owl, I was concerned about my ability to stay peppy during a party that didn’t start till 8 (I know–I’m such an old lady!). Amazingly–between the drinks, food spread, great music selection, and crowd–I was on my feet till the party ended at 1. My sister’s boyfriend is a DJ and knew how to pick out the jams, most of which stuck to the ’20s/early ’30s theme. It helped that most of my sister’s friends are theater people (as was I in high school/college), and so the whole night felt like a stage show. Give us costumes and choreography, and we’re set! In fact, they played “All That Jazz” from Chicago twice, and we ended the night belting away and hoofing it like Velma and Roxy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put together a ’20s-inspired dance class. Who needs Zumba when you can put some feathers in your hair, pearls around your neck, and tap-tap-tap the night away to some brass? That Charleston is a workout! Also, I smell some more period parties for the future…I’m thinking WWII big-band era, Elvis-inspired ’50s rock ‘n’ roll…get on that, sister!

The night before the dance party I practiced my percussion skills during another Healing and Feeling Drum Circle, led by the same women, Jan and Marcy, whose class I took in the spring. The group wasn’t nearly as big, but the energy was still hot. The yoga studio sits on the main street of a quaint little town, and we kept the curtains open so everyone passing by would be curious about all the hooting and hollering. The windows were completely steamed up when we ended!

I went with Old Lady Friend Carrol. We both brought our own djembes, but we also spent some time shaking the shekeres the ladies provided.

I cannot resist the call of the shekere. At the end of the workshop, Marcy approached me shaking that thing in my face, tantalizing me to dance. She was like a snake charmer calling me from my chair, and I spent the final minutes of the class spiraling and shaking my booty in the middle of the circle. As much as I love dancing, I do always try to participate as a percussionist when attending a drum circle, but 9 times out of 10, my body cannot sit still.

Just as they did during their last workshop, Jan and Marcy infused the class with lots of self-respect, self-care talk. Marcy reminds me of a gospel singer and will just bust out singing things like, “Feeeeel the love!” after a vigorous round of drumming. It’s hard not to throw your hands in the air and follow along with her, repeating her affirmations about loving yourself, loving others, and attempting to make peace in the world. I always leave these workshops wanting to attend a gospel concert. (I attended one once during college to cover for the campus newspaper, and it was incredible. I was not in the best of spirits that night, but I left the concert with just a little more warmth in my heart.)

Part of Jan and Marcy’s schtick is to work through the chakras using sound. We all played what looked like cow bells (called agogo bells) for several minutes; the vibrations were strongest in our head and throat. Next we played frame drums; after a round of banging out a three-part pattern, the vibrations were strongest in our hearts. Finally, we made it back to our djembes, during which the connection to our root chakra was most evident.

After class, the man sitting next to me commented that his right hand was tingling at the start of class but by the end felt loose and free. He speculated that all of the drumming was helping release the cramps and tightness of his “computer hand.” I too noticed that my right hand/arm wasn’t as stiff as it usually is.  Oh, drumming. What a way to work out not just the emotional blockages but the physical ones too!

As a kid, I never liked having a summer birthday (no exclusive classroom celebration, and everyone was away on vacation when we tried to schedule a party), but as an adult I love the fact that my birthday is at the end of July. That way, when I take the day off work, I can spend my time down the shore! Being by the ocean is like escaping to another world for the day, and there’s no greater birthday gift than being surrounded by blue skies, sand, the roaring ocean, and the bustling summertime boardwalk. So that’s where Bryan and I headed this past Friday!

View of the Atlantic from atop the Wildwood ferris wheel

Although it’s a bit of a longer drive than some other beaches, Wildwood (also known as The Wildwoods, a collection of communities) is quickly becoming one of my favorite destinations. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s where my parents, little sister, and I used to go every summer in my youth, and part of my love for the boardwalk is due to nostalgia. But get this! The Wildwood boardwalk was named one of National Geographic’s Top 10 National Boardwalks, along with Atlantic City. New Jersey pride!

Wildwood's famous tram car

True to its doo-wop theming, even the Wildwood Wawa fits right in.

Due to my sensitive skin and high burn risk, I generally don’t like to lounge on the beach, so Bryan and I spent our time walking the boards and taking in the sights.

Stay classy, Jersey.

We love the 'Wa!

The shore is supposed to be cooler than the mainland, but that was not happening on Friday. It was hot, humid, and 100% disgusting. My skin was so slimy that putting on sunscreen felt like rubbing oil onto wet skin. We tried to cool off by catching a breeze on spinning rides:

Felt nice and breezy atop the giant ferris wheel!

Camera face off!

Gliding around the pier on a flying pirate ship

Trying to make it like “the good ol’ days,” I encouraged Bryan to go on some thrill rides with me. I used to ride the Condor all the time as kid; you sit in a hanging cage, it spins, and then–while boomerang spinning at the same time–the cars ascend a beam high into the air. “It’s like the Teacups in the sky!” I exclaimed.

The "before" face

What I soon realized as the cars began to climb several stories up is that I am not a kid anymore. As one who gets nervous walking too close to the balcony rail on the upper level at the mall, I should have known better than to willingly fly high into the sky in a suspended metal cage. Halfway up, I had to squeeze my eyes shut and attempt some deep breathing. The spinning was what was doing me in. Ugh.

White-knuckled death grip

I’m a roller coaster enthusiast, so Bryan and I patiently sat outside The Great Nor’Easter, waiting for it to open. The ride is a standard steel suspended looping coaster, the kind where your feet hang.

I love loops and corkscrews and all that jazz, and this is nothing new to me. However, what my body was not prepared for was the intense jostling this ride creates once you soar down the first hill. I wanted the ride to be over as soon as it descended, when it started to feel like I was in a car accident rather than on a roller coaster. My whole body was getting knocked around, and it was nothing like the smooth sailing of Medusa Bizarro over at Six Flags Great Adventure, which is one of the most pleasantly thrilling coasters I’ve ever been on. The only redeeming quality the Nor’Easter had was its spectacular view atop the first hill; at the last clackety-clack, you felt like you’d be dropping straight off into the Atlantic Ocean.

But no, instead you endure about a minute of violent shaking, exit the attraction feeling like your car has just tumbled off a cliff, and you wake up the next morning with bruises on the back of your legs.

Needless to say, traumatized by two childhood rides, I opted to skip the terrifying Dante’s Dungeon (which I never even liked as a kid, because it incorporates live actors who pop out of the shadows). Besides, the exterior is frightening in and of itself.

Me: “I used to ride this stuff all the time as a kid. What the heck happened?”

Bryan: “You realized that you are mortal.”

Me: “Well, there’s a nice birthday sentiment.”

OK, so maybe at 31 I can’t stomach the rides that thrilled me at 10, but one thing that doesn’t change with age is devouring boardwalk pizza for lunch.

In Ocean City, Mack & Manco’s is the #1 pizza purveyor; in Wildwood, it’s simply Macks.

And nothing washes pizza down like some Kohr Bros. custard!

After being out in the sun for so long, Bryan and I beat the heat by escaping under an old pier, enjoying the shade and cool lighting.

We rounded out the day with a game of air hockey (I lost miserably, 7-0), miniature golf (I beat Bryan by one stroke!), and take-out back home from IndeBlue for dinner (because who doesn‘t want hot and spicy Indian food after a 95-degree day at the beach and a broken air conditioner at home?!).

As for my actual birthday yesterday? I woke up feeling more tired than when I went to bed (most likely from being out in the sun all day), answered the ringing doorbell at 8:30 a.m. wearing short shorts stained with tomato sauce and a tank top without a bra (hello, Sears air conditioner repair man!), dilly-dallied around all morning before finally going to the gym for some swimming, and then put myself together for a family birthday dinner at Bertucci’s.

Looking for a party trick to make birthdays better? Have someone take your picture as you do “raspberry” lips. My sister knows how to entertain.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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