Monday, July 28, 2014

What HAVE I been doing?

Sure, it takes a year to write a new post, I've been busy living life.

February 4, 2014 I finally had my right knee replaced.  Knee replacement is not for the lazy or faint of heart.   It is a painful operation, but each day after surgery it gets better, and one day you notice the swelling is gone, the pain is gone and you can walk like a normal person.  May 27, 2014, the left knee was replaced, and that started the journey to fully getting my life back.

Its amazing what life without chronic pain is like, something I hadn't felt in over a dozen years.  I truly believe that chronic pain changes your brain chemistry.  I am starting to remember things that I had forgotten, and am feeling up to doing many things that I had to put aside for the the last two years because they became to difficult to manage without pain.  One of them was quilting.  I know, it shouldn't be that hard to do, right?  But quilting had become quite painful, it was difficult to sit in my quilting chair, even ironing and rotary cutting were painful.  Now we are past all of that, and I can get back to doing the things I used to enjoy.

We have a new addition to the family, a 1978 vintage-ish Fleetwood Prowler.  She came remodeled, all painted and papered up, which was fine with us, we wanted something vintage that was ready to roll and that is what we got.  The former owners had stenciled trees and a moose head to the outside, we will keep that for now, but eventually we would like to put the original Prowler decal back on the outside.  She is 19 feet long, has a bathroom and supposedly can sleep 6, and that would 6 pretty little people.

The former owners did a good job whitewashing over the original wood, and wallpapering over the paneling, it previously had a  truly a groovy 1978 deco vibe.

My original intention was to have a trailer from the 1950-1960 era, since most of my vintage is of that style, but this camper was decorated quite nicely, she did a great job, that many of the items I had would work, and I was also able to incorporate some current things, this really was a perfect blend of style and era for Mark and I.  I wanted deep vintage, Mark wanted something a bit more modern.  All of the appliances work, even the air conditioner and heater, we are very pleased with our little cabin on wheels.

The former owner recovered the cushions, she did a great job, they are removeable and can be washed and I love the color palette she used.  I would call the original style "Big Woods Shabby Chic" as she had a tree and moose motif going on.  But the neutral colors will allow me to add my own touches, it will still be shabby chic, but more on the "Prairie Shabby Chic", or whatever, who knows?  The couch folds down and makes the bigger bed.  Those cupboards above make into a bunk, and the dinette converts to make another sleeping area.

This trailer was clean, probably one of the cleanest we had seen since we started looking on Craigslist.

Live Simply, fitting don't you think?  We are not in any way finished putting our own touches on this trailer, Mark hasn't had too much time lately.  But its been a fun time going to our local antique stores and flea markets and discovering fun finds.   Its been a glorious time going through my fabric stash and finding things to make!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summerfest 2013

Deanna and I, this is just a clip of the last part of Tai Chi for Older Adults

One day, after class, I made a typical throw-away funny comment, I suggested that we (the instructors) enter a float in our local parade.  Well, one month later we found ourselves doing tai chi during the Ankeny Summerfest parade.  Its amazing how much your balace improves when you perform tai chi on a moving vehicle.  Many times during the parade, we would turn to each other in amazement that 1) we were actually in a parade 2)  We were actually doing our tai chi in front of hundreds of people.

All of us, performing Tai Chi for Energy

Later that day, we had an opportunity to perform on the Community Stage.  I hadn't seen the stage ahead of time, had no idea what to expect and of course spent much time stressing and calming myself down.  Well, the stage was cozy and not intimidating at all.  Mark was with me the whole day, he even rode on the pick up with us, and he was front row while I was onstage doing my "thing".   This was a great opportunity to be able to perform an actual planned and scripted program,  good practice for even more events to come.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tai Chi in the Park

The month of June, the Tai Chi for Health Instructors of Ankeny, will be hosting Tai Chi in the Park at Sawgrass Park.

We all have our own practice place, whether you have your own studio, or like me, use the forbidden room, aka the formal sitting room.  Performing tai chi indoors is great, but playing tai chi outdoors is something even better.  I don't know if its the water, the beautiful park, but everything seems to fall in place when you do tai chi outdoors.

Next time you are out on your walk, stop a minute, run through your form, you won't regret it!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Consider the implications....

Saturday is World Tai Chi Day.  All over the world, at 10:00am tai chi practitioners will be doing tai chi, a whole day of healing energy being sent out to everything and everyone.  I will be participating with my instructors and my senior instructor at the Des Moines gathering held at 7 Flags Fitness, we will be doing a tribute to one of our Master Trainers, Russell Smiley, who passed away recently.  All over the world, Tai Chi and Qi Gong Masters and Instructors doing tai chi...consider the implications.  

My Tai Chi for Arthritis classes have begun, and I am teaching my first class of students.  Scary!  I firmly believe that overpreparation is the best policy, you don't have to teach everything you know, but its good to know lots of information because you always have that one student that will ask one of "those" questions.  You know those questions, the ones that you tell yourself as you prepare for class that "no one will ask that, why am I worried about knowing that"? question.  Luckily for me, no one has asked one of those, yet.

Luckily too, I have a great group of people.  During instructor training none of us believed Master Jim, we knew our first classes were going to be disasters, that we would alienate a whole age group AWAY from tai chi, leaving chaos and unhappiness in our wake.  Wait a minute, that was ME thinking that.  The beauty of this program is when done correctly, it practically teaches itself.  Seeing people learning something new, breaking out of their shell and comfort zones to just have faith and follow the teacher, that is heady stuff.  To see them happy to come to class, and leaving class laughing and happy, I value this teaching experience, and seeing people do good things for themselves and grow in confidence is something that never gets old.

Moving forward, one balanced step at a time.  Wax on, wax off.  Breathe in, breathe out.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Big Wheel keeps on turning

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending a Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor workshop, under the instruction of Master Trainer Jim Starshak.  I did not have plans to attend instructor training for at least another year, I was just enjoying being a student of Tai Chi, taking classes, etc.   Then my bestfriend Gayle, asked me if I ever thought about it.

Now this is funny, I started doing Tai Chi for Arthritis, then she started taking classes in Yang 64.  We would check in regularly and see how each was doing, etc.  Asking me to go to instructor training was the LAST thing I expected to hear from her.  Funny thing about it, the timing was perfect.  We had less than two weeks to get in the class, get all the info for the workshop, and do any pre-work to be ready.  Everything fell into place.  I kept telling myself I was there to support Gayle, I didn't have any plans to teach at all, and in spite of the fact that it wasn't my idea to begin with, I truly enjoyed myself.

First of all, I hadn't seen Gayle in about 6 years, we have both been through a few traumatic events since then, and our friendship picks up right where it left off.  Unlike other workshops/retreats, there was no anxiety about my partner, e.g. will she be unhappy, will she get upset over just about everything from the weather to the people attending, etc.  We worked on our forms the night before until we felt comfortable, and just talked until after midnight, oh and we laughed.  We laughed ourselves silly over everything and everyone.  I had forgotten how nice it was to be with Gayle, no drama, no obsessing, no need for everything to be perfect, no worries about what people think, etc.  It was refreshing, and uplifting.  It helped heal a part of me that wondered if I could make any of my friends happy ever again.

Master Trainer Jim worked us hard and thoroughly, but by golly, everybody knew their forms by the time we fell into bed Saturday night.  Isabel, one of Jim's senior trainers, took us to a new asian buffet for our evening meal, one that just opened in Wichita, it was packed!  The food was awesome!  Japanese, Chinese, American, you name it they had it, or so it seemed.  It was good food, made well, surprising sometimes to find at a buffet, not to mention a newly opened one as well.

We also met some great people.  Its funny, when you first enter a room, and you don't know anyone, I think we all get an impression initially.  I like how those impressions get turned upside down by the time the workshop is over.  I know there are some people in Missouri, who are going to receive excellent instruction in Tai Chi for Arthritis.  Seeing how much these new instructors care about their students is inspiring, its one of those traits that make people want to come back again and again.  I will try to do you Missouri ladies proud!

My instructors here are happy with me, hopefully I made them look good, I tried my best.  Poor Jim, good thing he was warned I was coming!  I think we wore him out.  I wonder if he knows that we are intending to come see him again in June?  Take your vitamins Master Trainer Jim!

So, I am Merry, Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Put into words

This is borrowed from Wild Yogi on Facebook.

I have been feeling like I let someone down, that I haven't been the friend I could have been, but I also know that its been a losing situation with her.  I haven't been able to put it into words, but Wild Yogi found a post on someone's wall, and well, they said it just right.

 We've all had a friend (or ourselves been that friend!) who would call up to moan about the same thing over and over. You give them advice. You give them hugs and love, a cup of tea, and you listen and listen. Nothing ever changes. They keep seeing that same person, or make that same mistake. You go out and rescue them from another drunken fight. And you allow them to carry on by taking that call, or making that cup of tea and listening. 

What if you say "I'm here to help you when you're ready to make a change but I will not be a part of this drama anymore"?  Make sure that, if your friend is willing to change the situation (quit the drinks, split with the partner, etc.), you are there to support and help them. However, don't constantly aid them in their path to self destruction. In this way, we can stop ourselves being pulled into their storm and begin, hopefully, to draw them into our peace. At the same time, you get to keep your energy positive! Be well, everyone, be wildly and compassionately you, and be at peace always.

This.  Simply put, THIS.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


We had just closed on our house in October 2002.  We signed the papers, got the keys and did a drive-by and walk through of our new home.  It was a typical October day, cool and rainy, but we had a mission.  Our next stop was at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.  We now had a fenced in yard and by golly we were getting a dog.

We walked through once, and saw an australian shepherd/german shepherd mix, she was an older female, very mellow, too mellow almost.   Then we walked through again, and saw a new dog.  A medium female dog, almost without thinking I took her card, went to a volunteer and demanded to see this dog in a room.  Yes demanded!

This dog, whose name was Sugar, had been returned to the ARL from her recent adoption.  The card indicated that she took too much time and attention.  Well, that suited me just fine, I had lots of time and attention to give.  As soon as we all got into a room, I sat down and she immediately came over and and put her head in my lap.  I was in love.  I told my husband "we are adopting her", I didn't ask I told!!  She was a little less than a year old, and had the softest ears and fur.  It was love at first sight for all of us.

When we took her home, our two cats, Zachary and Crooked Foot, looked down from the stair landing and their faces were of pure disgust, they couldn't believe we brought home a dog!!

The next day we moved into our new home, and I had the patio door open and was setting up the kitchen, when Katie (we HAD to rename her!) came running in with this skinny stick in her mouth.  I asked her what did she have?  She just sat down and wagged her tail, then presently the stick began to wag ITS tail.  She had a frozen snake.  From that moment on, I knew we were going to absolute buddies.

She loved expensive leather, embroidery scissor sheaths, Brighton eyeglass cases and even a 250.00 Brighton purse.  My girl had good taste.

She began slowing down last year, and since she and I both have arthritis, it was just fine, we walked perfectly together.  She was always up for a  new project in the garden, happy to sit by and supervise.  She was a ready assistant in the kitchen, up and checking on things whenever the timer dinged.  She believed those crinkly plastic bags from the store always had a toy in them for her, and they usually did.  She was good about giving equal time to all her toys, sometimes she would be tossing around a toy we hadn't seen in months, it had been buried at the bottom of her toy basket.  Her toy basket was a large willow laundry basket, overflowing with toys.

When our cats died, Katie was sad, although she did relish being an only child for a little while.  Then Zeek came to live with us, and just in time.  Katie had a little problem with separation anxiety, not as bad as some, but she got lonely when we were gone.  Luckily, Zeek worshiped the ground Katie walked on and thought she was the greatest thing since catnip.  He loved his sister, and when he got older, he became quite protective of her when they were out together in the yard.  He did not like any adult or dog to come near her.  And we would watch along with the neighbors at how he would puff up, growl and stalk them until they were far away from his Katie.  The first few years of his life were all about his sister Katie.  We just fed him, and cleaned his box, Katie was his real owner.

On Katie's annual appointment last year, we discovered she had a heart murmer and we kept a closer eye on her in case that started to get worse.  She tired a bit more easily, and didn't play chase with the cat anymore, but we thought it was just arthritis and her heart.

Tuesday night, she started having hard time breathing, and she developed a weird cough.  We kept an eye on her, and made her as comfortable as we could, and I called the vet the next morning.  They were busy busy but could squeeze me in at 4pm.  We called back and asked if we could bring her in sooner, Dr, Holly is a sweetheart and told us to bring her in right away.

When we dropped her off, we fully expected to pick her up in a few hours, pay a huge bill, and have a happy, comfortable dog.  Little did we know what the next few hours would bring to us.

Dr. Holly was having trouble easing her breathing, medication wasn't working as well or as fast as she wanted, so she took many more x-rays and discovered the problem.  Katie had a large tumor on her liver, and several tumors in her right lung.  I asked later if the tumor on her liver had caused her pain and Dr. Holly assured me that when she palped it, that Katie didn't seem to mind or be in discomfort.

There wasn't a choice left to us, we could have done an ultrasound, but she would not have lived to make the appointment.  Her oxygen level was falling, and soon her organs would fail.  We would have to make that ultimate decision.

When we went back to the vet's office, and had Katie with us in a treatment room, the first thing we said when she walked in was that she didn't even look sick.  Then as a little time went by, 30 minutes or so, I could see that her breathing was getting more labored, and she had an almost frantic look, as if she just couldn't get enough air.  I watched my mother suffer and die that way, and there was no way if it was in my power that I was going to let Katie suffer like that.

We made the decision to let her go, and all of us, including Dr. Holly, sat on the floor with her.  Mark cradled her and I held her head so she could see me, and Dr. Holly gave her the shot.  We held her and told her we loved her and that she would be okay.  The last thing she saw was my face, the last thing she heard was my voice telling her I loved her.  The last thing she felt was our hands and arms holding and petting her.

So our house is very quiet, and Zeek finally realized today, that Katie wasn't coming home.  He is a bit mopey, we all are a bit mopey, and tend to burst into tears.  Its funny, neither one of us wants to upset the other, so we do alot of sniffling and deep breaths to stop the tears, then we hold each other and sob like babies.  Mark loved his little girl.  He was so upset, he threw away the ice cream.  I don't think we will be eating ice cream at home for awhile.  He loved sharing his ice cream with Katie.

Mark stayed home from work on Valentine's day, that is the day we brought her ashes home.  We put her with Mom, Gracie, Zachary and Crooked Foot, she isn't alone.  We haven't put anything of hers away yet, except her food bowl.  We just don't have the heart to fold up her blanket and put away her toys.  I think for a little while, we want to pretend she is still  here with us, and is just being very very quiet.

I know we will adopt another rescue dog, I have been praying the same prayer I did when Zeek came to us. I know the right dog will find us, hopefully soon.   The cat doesn't think he can quite fill in for Katie, he is getting a little tired of constantly being picked up and covered with kisses, now even more than before Katie left us.

One saving grace, my best friend Gayle talked me into taking a tai chi instructor course with her next month in Wichita, KS.  It will be good to see my friend, and take the course.  All of my instructors have encouraged me to do this, and it will be fun to do so with Gayle.  Its been a long time since we were partners in crime.  Its a good project to keep me occupied for the next few weeks.  I think that was her intention.

So, here's to grieving and healing, endings and beginnings, and hopefully a new companion for the cat...and me.