Weekly Writing Challenge: Lunch Posts #eatinghealthysucks #gymselfie

Let’s not kid ourselves. Giving up sugar, donuts, french fries, soda, coffee, donuts, bread, pizza, fast food, ice cream, donuts… it all sucks.  I’ve actually given up NONE of those things… but I have tried hard to cut back.  It’s all I can handle.  An Apple Empanada from Taco Bell is about as exciting as my life gets!  I’m much too weak to say never.

But sugar… I’ve really got to get serious about eating less of it.  Middle age has it’s way of telling you that.  I was recently shocked when I started paying attention to all sugar i was eating.  And that was just in my yogurt and my oatmeal!   And how fun is yogurt and oatmeal anyway?? If i have to eat that every day, then why I might as well get a donut!!

Frosted.

But instead of giving up all sensibility for a daily chocolate glazed (which would be f*cking awesome!)… i decided i could have the occasional root beer, Happy Meal, or mmm… donut… if I just simply get the sugar out of the things that are, let’s face it… pretty lame anyway!  No offense yogurt and oatmeal.  You have fantastic health benefits… but you are not a donut. 

yogurtIn all seriousness, I really do have a lot of respect for those who choose to eat consciously and stay active… no matter how moderate or extreme their habits are.  I am terrible at it!  But we all don’t have to be #cleaneaters and #fitnessmodels.  Right?  If I can just make a little more effort today than I did yesterday, and a little more tomorrow… maybe I can get somewhere with this.

I HAVE to get moving too.  I sit all day, and it’s soooo not good.  And lunch is the time.  For me, that’s the only time I can even hope to stick with it.  And it keeps me out trouble (like driving to the store for a donut).  This week’s WordPress challenge asked us to look around at lunch and document what you see (i paraphrase)… and this is pretty much what I see every day.  And it’s not horrible.  It gives me a chance to listen to gangsta rap.

It hasn’t been an easy week… I am almost done with my first week of plain yogurt.  Ugh.  I didn’t want to do it.   I have to throw a bit of honey or raisins in it, but it’s a start.  The oatmeal was a much easier adjustment.  But it’s gotten easier through the week, and I’m pretty sure I can do this.  In the name of name of longer life, and tighter buns.

#gymselfie

#gymselfie

now where’s my donut?

xo skyblue

p.s. sorry I didn’t post at lunch… I was a little busy listening to Pitbull and trying not to think about donuts. 🙂

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Come Dance with Me. The Story of Little Orange Studio

Exhilaration is…what happens when i come home from work, go straight to little orange studio, crank up my Pandora, forget about work and responsibility, and just go wherever the music takes me.  Literally!  This is how i exercise.

Will I do some belly dancing? or lift some weights? or do some step aerobics?  How about some Yoga?  Ballet?  Maybe some Pilates?  Maybe I feel like just putting on a pretty skirt and dancing like I was on stage again (is that wierd? oh well.)

And my husband?  What does he think of his wife in the other room practicing torso undulations and snake arms… busting out in hour long dance routines? It used to freak him out when I first started doing it no doubt… but it doesn’t seem to phase him anymore.  he usually can’t help sneaking into the studio to come stand beside me in the mirror and do his special guy-version of a hip shimmy… or he likes to tip toe up behind me and make inappropriate gestures when i’m doing yoga (hello? Downward Dog? we all know some of those poses clearly invite innocent spousal butt grabs).

My dance habits although a bit strange to others, are my most regular and effective form of exercise, and an endless source and outlet for creativity.  I go through constant ups and downs with regards to my commitment of keeping up a regular schedule.  I’ll start to feel really flexible and strong, and toned, and then i lose my steam.  I get lazy.  I procrastinate.  But ultimately, besides fair weather walking,  this is my main source of exercise. To understand this slightly odd hobby – dancing for hours in a special room of my house- and to understand why i do it and what it means to me, one must know some of my background.

image: First Lesson at Truempy Ballet School by Alfred Eisenstaedt

A brief (although wordy) history of my significant, but very humble, experiences in dance, movement, and fitness…

  • 1977 (I was 7, sure go ahead do the math).  I had known for “years” that i wanted to be a ballerina.  I had not learned yet that i was destined to suck at all sports and athletics.  I started going to ballet classes at a little school in Manchester. I Loved it, but I hated it.  I was addicted to the beauty of it and to the feeling of moving my body to music, but so incredibly challenged by the intensity of it all… so much pain…so competitive.  I couldn’t live without it, but I dreaded every muscle throbbing-toe bleeding class and rehearsal.  [How I loved you, Ms. Priscilla, even when you made me cry and made me do it 37 times, until it was perfect . I truly loved you despite the oozing blisters.]
  • My bedroom at the time becomes, part little girl’s room, part Grand Stage where my early “choreographies” are rehearsed, and performed for unsuspecting aunts and uncles.  I think I charged them each like one dollar.
  •  I did primarily ballet at my dance school, but i also did lot’s of jazz, and tap until I was about 22.  Tap and jazz were where i had the most fun (Who’s not having fun slinking around to Smooth Criminal, and tap dancing your heart out to 42nd Street!)… but ballet was still my first love.  The satin toe-shoes, the delicate tutu’s, the perfect pirouettes , the graceful arms and hands.  I was never the best in my class, and i only ever got a few solo parts, but i kept up with it…always knowing it was my foundation for being able to do any of the other stuff.  I spent many years performing in recitals and small town productions with my beloved first dance school.  My mom and dad were there for every performance, every class, every accomplishment, every smile, every tear.  My mom sewed my costumes.  My dad helped backstage… assembling Santa’s sleigh…he even helped tie up the unraveled ballet shoes of tiny sugarplums in the wings.
  • I went to college and joined the dance company there, which is the first time i was exposed to any other types of dance.  During this time I learned a little modern, and contemporary.  Performed a few times, tried some choreography.  Got a surprise marriage proposal from my dance partner, on stage, during a show, in front of our families and my entire college campus. (that wedding never did happen, but a very memorable “dance” moment!  and great man that i hope is living a happy, healthy life with a beautiful family somewhere. i didn’t deserve him.)
  • My mid-twenties…started dabbling in some step aerobics and learning to do light weight lifting, etc.
  • After college ended, I danced here and there until i was about 26 and then stopped.  I was too old for dance recitals, and didn’t know of any options other than traditional ballet and tap schools where i could continue dancing.
  • Started going to gyms more, learning how to use fitness equipment and taking group classes… aerobics, kickboxing, and the occasional yoga class [a little too new age and misunderstood by me at that time, but i was slightly and subconsciously intrigued].  My body looked and felt great, but I never loved going to the gym.  “What? No pretty costumes?  No beautiful music?  No fun choreographies? “Waahh… grown up exercise… yuck!”
  • Stopped moving altogether for a few years, besides some pretty steady nightclub dancing and the occasionally date on roller blades.
  • Mid-late 90’s, found a tiny little classified posting in the Advocate, for a belly dance class held in a used book store.  “Belly Dance? A Book Store? Interesting…”
  • 5 minutes into my first class…Hooked…I was going to be a dancer again.

  • Gradually found some more classes to take.  One of my early classes was a fusion of belly dance and yoga.  Hmmm… i was liking this yoga thing more and more… especially if i can do it while i’m belly dancing!
  • Started taking lots of belly dance classes and traveling for workshops… and performing a bit.  Hip Scarves! Silk Veils! Sparkly Costumes!  Fake Eyelashes! Exciting Music!  Classes with famous experts!  Dance camp with professionals and famous musicians! THIS WAS LIVING!
  • created a special exercise/belly dance area in my apartment at the time, doing more independent practice and study of belly dance, yoga, pilates, and fitness in general as I slowly and modestly transformed the space into my “dance room”.
  • I spent a few years doing local belly dance performances with other students for fun, for fundraisers, in restaurants… I met so many lovely, creative women.
  • Learned a bit more Yoga and Pilates with books, classes and workshops. Both feel very complimentary to my belly dancing.
  • Got a little stagnant with belly dance after a while.  Tried my hips at some Polynesian and Hula, knowing the music and movements would be equally as thrilling and beautiful.  The costumes were interesting too… I performed at a handful of gigs and parties … got to wear a few grass skirts, and yes… i had my own pair of coconuts.  I had a great time, met more lovely, creative women.
  • Decided to focus my efforts solely on belly dance once again… some classes, a workshop or two, another few performances… did a little teaching for beginners. Only stayed involved with the belly dance community for another year or so.  Life got in the way, as they say.  A few dear friends remain.

  • 2006, I moved.  I started creating a new space, a new room in my new house, where i could practice, play music, be comfortable, and feel inspired – and where I could paint the walls any color of the rainbow without losing a security deposit.
  • Today, I’m dancing again.  I get in an occasional funk with the seasons, my moods, or a temporary obstacle.  But I am dancing.

***

Little Orange Studio is where,

even though I am no longer formally involved in dance…

I am still a dancer. 

There are magical forces at work here.

This is where i get the movement and exercise my body craves.

This is where i am still able to be creative with choreography and improvisation. 

This is where I am the artist I have always wanted to be.

This is where I am the writer I never thought I could be.

This is where I heal, ease pain, and get stronger after the cancer.

This is where I am still a dancer.

This is where I will forever be…

ballerina, belly dance goddess…

dancer.

***

My life of dance and movement gave me the vision to create these spaces where i live.  The space I have now is where i dance, exercise, and make artwork in harmony.  One inspires the other… inspires the other….they are not separate. Since having little orange studio, I have experienced the power it has over my creativity, inspiration, and motivation.  At any moment… early in the morning, or by the flicker of candle light and a full moon… you might find me in there making a necklace, doing sun salutations,  painting a canvas, dancing to middle eastern, acoustic or club music.  sometimes I’m wearing yoga pants and a hip scarf… other times i am decked head to toe in belly dance attire with swirling skirts, jingling coins, lipstick, and flowers in my hair.  No matter what you find me doing in there, there will be music playing, candles glowing, and incense burning.  No matter what you find me doing in there, i am being the most “me” I could ever be.

What inspires me about the sunny studio by the woods?  The warm colors… the delicate sunlight… the magical lamps… the shaggy rugs… the shelves of lovely books and treasures from my past… the whimsical paintings… the meticulously organized art supplies… my gorgeous [hand-made-by-hubby] table and flea market furniture… my cat sleeping in a basket of pretty scarves…the late-morning light that beams onto the colors and my skin.

One might agree, It’s not always easy to find motivation for exercise, or the recipe for creativity, or the wisdom to stop and listen to birds from a yoga mat.  “Real life” always seems to trump.  But putting petty excuses aside, there are no valid reasons for me not to want to go into this room and be creative, exercise, write, dance.  This is where i feel whole and strong. This is where my soul longs to spend its days.

Little OS is my story.  Here I can dance until i am 80 and create until earth’s journey ends.  I never have to retire my sparkly hip scarves or jingly coin belts!  I realize i may want to think twice about the sequin bra’s and coconut shells in a few years, although perky is no longer an issue for me, so who knows! (this can be further clarified for you by Dancing Rapunzel if curiosity now has the best of you)

ALLLLL this being said, I have secretly wished i could help other people create spaces like this for themselves, for whatever it is they want do do.  I don’t think i will have my little orange studio interior design company any time soon, but maybe someone will read this and try it for themselves.  and then poof.  it happens for them…  the magic.

My space happens to be a spare room in the back of my house tucked near the woods.  A cozy corner, a large closet, a patch of grass under a tree can work too.  Your space might be waiting, right before your eyes.  Give it some love.  Give it some You.

Let’s say you had an extra room or spare corner in your home…what would yours look like?  What would you do there?

Maybe you already have a space, that is your story, and you’ve just never told it.

My hope is that at least one kindred blogger or reader will find this post, and be inspired to create their own space to dance (or meditate, do situps, sew dresses, do yoga, make art…  ).

Exhilaration, Bliss, Spiritual Perfection, might be waiting for you there.

love, skyblue. xo.


Smokin’ Wii

o-m-G.  I can’t believe we bought in.  We bought the Wii Fit.  We actually look just like those people all over you tube!  (Why many of them need to be in their underwear, I’ll never know)

I like to think I have steered clear of most fitness trends, and weight loss gimmicks.  Most of my life i have been moderately active – more active than many people around me, but not even close to athletic.  I have made many half-hearted attempts to become a “gym-rat”, and I even got some fitness certifications here and there… but physically I was only doing enough to maintain a half-way decent figure and an ability to move about with relative ease.  For the past 2 years I have lost my way with this maintenance program… i have been moving less and less, becoming more and more tired, and i need to kick it up a notch before i become what i always said i would never… obese and immobile. i have to get back to doing all the things i used to “preach” to my students, family and friends… watch the posture, drink the water, breathe in and out, stretch and lengthen, vegetables, be active…

so the even larger challenge has been getting my husband on board to work out with me, and eat more mindfully…maybe lose a few pounds.  I think the Wii Fit may be just what we needed.  It seems to be creating a fun bit of competition between the two of us, and it’s getting us off the couch and moving.  together.  what more can i ask for from a really expensive (and slightly annoying) video game?  I hope by mixing the Wii in with other fitness activities that we enjoy, we will be successful in becoming a more active & fit couple.  I hope others will find ways they can too, become more healthy and active.

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The one thing we won’t do, is end up on you tube doing the invisible hula hoop… in our underwear.

e.j.l. xo

My heart in full color

I often wonder what it must be like to not love art… to not love creating.  I can’t even imagine it.  People seem to think i am part yoga hippie,part crazy cat lady, and part health nut.  I have no idea why people think I’m a health nut. I had a raspberry danish, two cups of coffee, a glass of root beer, and a large handful of m&ms today.  The other descriptions are pretty accurate i would say.  A day of fun for me would be a few hours at the flea market, another few hours painting in my studio, and another hour or two doing yoga and belly dance.

I was thrilled to spend a few hours in my studio this weekend.  As I worked on a couple of paintings, I found myself asking,  “Why do I love art so much?  Why do i long to spend all the hours of daylight in my studio, sketching, gluing, painting…

I haven’t figured out exactly how to answer that question.  But i decided (for once) I would not judge every stroke, and second guess every color choice, and worry if my paintings would be good enough, or if they would have anything worthwhile to say… I would instead simply enjoy each stroke, and notice the juxtaposition of colors and shapes.  I would just get lost in my paint and let my brushes speak what is in my heart.

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These are some close-ups of the series i’m working on for my living room.  I love the way paint and canvas unite to make the most interesting patterns and textures from the close-up perspective.  More to come i hope.  Happy Monday!

e.j.l. xo

Big lights will inspire you

Nothing energizes me and exhausts me, so acutely and simultaneously, as a busy weekend in New York City…especially a gorgeous sunny October weekend.  I can barely walk afterwards, i always gain about five pounds, but I can’t stop thinking about it’s beauty for days and weeks afterwards.  Beautiful streets, beautiful people…my senses max out as i try to take in every building, every face, every color, every word in lights.  I’d add, every smell… but there a few of those I could do without.  Many are delicious and lovely of course!  I feel like i am being yanked in fifty directions by sticky peanuts, greasy hotdogs, giant cookies, and tiny cupcakes.  Did I mention the pizza and ice-cream?  Ample Hills, Brooklyn, Shout-Out!!!

I often long to live in the city, to be able to experience it’s rich brilliance day in and day out, to be able to walk outside for miles and miles.  But visiting is pretty great too.  I tend to take a LOT of photos while i am there.  Someday I’ll get my “real” camera, and a clue how to use it, but for now I must express myself with my husband’s point and shoot.   This past weekend in NYC was especially breathtaking.  Thanks for coming with me, Amanda! Thanks again for having us Mel, Sean and Teru!

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absolutely inspired, sore as f*ck, and always hungry,

e.j.l. xOO

p.s. i think the only thing i forgot to take a picture of was the Ample Hills ice-cream shop in Brooklyn… i was very distracted.

p.s.s.  Brooklyn Flea… I did not forget about you!  I will save a separate blog post just for you!  (-:

Thank You, Isabella

I first came across the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum while roaming about Boston back in the early 90’s with some [of my favorite] friends.  I don’t remember how we ended up there, or who’s idea it was to go in… but from the moment I caught a glimpse of the magical botanical courtyard, I knew I must tell others about it… and I knew I must someday return here.  Specifically (and secretly), I hoped I would return with someone I love.  You know…maybe with a husband or something.

Fast forward 20 years to last weekend…just having met what they call middle age… and I was finally making it back for a visit.  I was bringing someone I love too, which was cool.  (-:  My husband doesn’t much think about art and such things, but he made the two hour trip to Boston with me for my recent birthday.  Once in the city, we found free rock-star parking only one block away (and not in a tow zone!).  After taking a quick photo or two (or three…) out front, we found ourselves walking past the giant iron gates, through the “whimsical meets Gothic” doors and into a dimly lit corridor.  We were greeted by a friendly guard, and the grand four story courtyard… and showered by the most delicate light.   It was just as breathtaking as the first time i saw it.  It was better than i even remembered it to be.  I knew I was having a moment…I was pretty sure that we were having a moment.

[Although my husband would say his moment came later when we were having beer and bacon burgers]

We made our way through shadowy corridors and up marble staircases (butt workout…bonus!), around each corner greeted by a different viewing room, all with walls of vibrant colors, vintage leathers and fabrics, and all with brilliantly framed views of the courtyard.  Each room was filled to the brim with art and treasures from all around the world.  There were brief, but foot-stomping-temper-tantrum-make-me-so-stinking-mad reminders of the mysteriously stolen Rembrandts and Degas drawings (amongst works by other masters that some loser walked off with).  Every nook and cranny, every tile in the wall, every window, every piece of furniture – it all had a story to tell.  This was Isabella’s collection.  Her collection that she decided she wanted to share with all of us.  How lucky i felt to be standing there, again, on my birthday, with Isabella, and my husband.

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For twenty years, whenever someone asks me to close my eyes and envision myself in one of the most beautiful places i have ever been, I am immediately transported to this place.   Photography is not permitted inside (bummer), but you can see some sneak peaks if you do a Google search, or go to the official website.   Even so, I hope I have inspired someone to travel there someday, or to stop in if just passing through.

Thank You, Isabella!

e.j.l. xo

photo of courtyard : source www.gardnermuseum.org

Angel

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” 

Michelangelo

______________________________________

I had this piece of wood.  I knew i wanted to paint a picture on it. it took me about two years to figure out just what i wanted to paint on it…

It was the best part of the morning, when the sun starts beaming warmth into my studio.  It was a Saturday, my favorite day.  I grabbed the piece of wood, sanded it for a while, and made a decision.  There i was, with all my best shades of purple, red, orange, and blue, ready to paint some random abstract sketch i found in one of my art journals…

And then i saw her out of the corner of my eye, right in the swirls of wood.  she was twirling around and around, her hair flowing, wearing the prettiest skirt.  i honestly couldn’t believe what i was seeing.  i looked away for a minute, but when i looked again she was still there.  i left the room to get some water, came back, and there she still was, kind of sad, twirling and twirling.  at that moment, i knew the abstract “whatever” could wait.  I quickly traced her silhouette with my graphite, before she could vanish.  then i just started painting.   When she emerged, I was her.  She was me… the dancer inside me.  She was so lovely and happy to be dancing, and a much better dancer than i ever was.  But there was some sadness in her eyes.   i named her Daisy.

i have danced on and off my whole life.  Ballet, tap, jazz, modern… In my late twenties i thought i was done for good.  I stopped altogether, and it went on that way for a few years, but i always felt the void.  In my 30’s i discovered belly dance, and thought i would be doing it until i was 80.  For many reasons in 2009, i stopped belly dancing and life went on with all its usual ups and downs…  just no dancing.  I was surely never going to dance again.  i was tired, my bones were creaky, i couldn’t even do a grand plie without groaning.

It seems Daisy came into my life just in time.  She reminded me how good it feels to dance…and that i was not yet finished dancing.  I realized that i don’t need to go to classes, or perform with a troupe, in order to continue to be a dancer.  i could dance right there at home, in my little orange studio, and i could do it my way.  Each plie, at my own pace.  Every hip shimmy, as gentle or as intense as i chose.   I could do ballet, belly dance, even yoga and aerobics, whatever the music made me feel like doing.  it would heal my body.  it would heal my spirit.  and i might even wear a bikini again!

Well, I didn’t wear any bikinis this summer, almost two years later, but to this day I dance and do yoga with Daisy.  My body is finally starting to feel stronger and the movement finally feels good again.  I intend to be dancing with her until i am 80, or more.   Daisy has been hanging on the wall there now since the first day i found her, another unfinished painting, another project procrastinated.  Someday I will take her down off the wall, and give her the attention she needs and deserves.  But it doesn’t really matter when, or if, i finish her.  What matters is that she was there, just when i needed her.  And now she is free.  Still a little sad sometimes, but free.

e.j.l. xo

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p.s. before the comment is posted… i am of course aware that my Daisy is not even in the same universe as Michelangelo’s angels.  I just liked the quote. (-:

Have you ever seen an “angel in the marble”?  Did it effect your life in some way?

This way to the castle…

Here we are, in last days of the Connecticut summer… trying to soak up the last warm rays of sun before the dreaded frost arrives.  I first thought i would stay home today to do laundry, bills, etc…  But I could not let this day be spent on chores.  I mean, did you see it outside today?

If you live around here, you know these types of perfect, sunny, not too humid, not to cold days are pretty rare.  I just had to grab my camera and my husband, and go out for some exercise and vitamin D.  Maybe we can go find that castle…

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The day’s not over yet.  Please get out there today!

e.j.l. xo

i heart food – The Faux Food Diet

I am always trying to make some change in my eating habits, or attempt a new exercise kick, to get in better shape.  Nothing ever seems to work out long term… probably because I am very lazy, and there is not much I won’t do for an apple pie sundae.  I am a below average cook, I couldn’t tell you what separates a t-bone from a London broil.  I actually have no idea how to hard boil an egg.

All said, I heart food.

I’m aware that i am a freak of nature, when I am completely one with a choco-taco,  or chocolate chip cookies, warm bread and butter, super cheesy pizza, lemon coconut cupcakes, vanilla bean milkshakes, Rease’s Pieces, butter pecan ice cream, wheat toast with honey, blueberry oatmeal pancakes, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cups, fried fish with tarter sauce, candy corn…(deep inhale)…fresh strawberries, chilled peppermint patties, McDonald’s french fries with tons of salt, chocolate chip cookies, apple crumb pie, maple frosted donuts, oatmeal raisin cookies, cheese burgers, twizzlers, cupcakes, yellow hostess cupcakes, peanut butter and jelly on toast, cucumber sandwiches, vanilla cupcakes… Have i made my point? I don’t have a favorite food… they are all my favorite foods.  Back in the day, I barely worked out, I for the most part ate what I wanted, and I managed to maintain a fairly delicate frame.  These days, I could use a gym membership and a Slimfast.

To make life a little less painful as I embark on my next diet adventure, I’ve decided I can cling to my [probably strange] addiction to fake food.  Fake food, is any food themed art, architecture, clothing, photography, books, album covers, jewelry, and so on.  I have always been drawn to artists renditions of food – whether it’s a giant donut, or a birthday cake sand sculpture, or a miniature dollhouse sandwich.  Maybe i can refocus my urges to eat an entire box of brown sugar pop tarts, and revisit some of my fun findings… Please don’t view on an empty stomach.

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e.j.l. xo