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.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Year!

I know its 11 days into the new year and I am just now posting a new year post, why?  Because its all the same, I don't make resolutions, I just keep my promises to myself that I make and treat each day as a new opportunity.  The only thing that ushers in the new for me is a new round of Tai Chi and yoga classes.

This year I have added a core/yoga class in addition to my chair yoga and regular weekly yoga class, and I am learning two new forms in Tai Chi: Yang 24 Forms Simplified and Tai Chi for Energy.  The 24 form I'm told is the most popular Tai Chi form that most people practice, Yang goes up to 108, so after learning the 24 simplified and I can still learn more. Then after that, I can learn Yang with a fan, or a sword!  Watch out people, I can defend myself, veeeerrrry slooooooowly.

What I like about Tai Chi for Energy by Dr. Paul Lam, is that it is a combination of Chen and Sun styles, so it has fast, spiral energy moves coupled with long, smooth Sun style, it really is fun.  I am very motivated and energized just learning the two new forms.

The last Saturday in April, which is April 27, is World Tai Chi Day.  All around the world at 10:00am, people will be doing Tai Chi.  How cool is that?  Its like sending out healing and serenity for 24 hours around the world. Tai Chi has gained me a benefit, my blood pressure has come way down, which is awesome, with very little effort other than going to Tai Chi class twice a week, and running through my Tai Chi for Arthritis/Health form once a day, which takes all of 6 minutes.  Think about it, the amount of time it takes to boil water for my teapot, I can run through my form and keep my blood pressure down, how easy is that?  Much easier and more effective than running or walking and takes less time.  Lets hear it for self-care!

I haven't started any new knitting projects, just finishing up the ones I started last year.  This is Saroyan by Liz Abinante.  I used Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Wicked.  My picture is crappy, but there is border of leaves on the edge of this shawlette.  It was very fun to knit, and I will knit it again and add beads to the center of the leaves.

I am ten rows from the promised land on our second Knit Along project Magrathea by Martina Behm.  Its name is taken from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,and it is a scarflette, shawlette etc.,  This is the very beginning set up rows, and actually, I think I ripped these out and knitted them again, but anyway, I am ten rows from casting off so the finished product  which of course, is much bigger.  The yarn I used is Wollmeise sock in Auf Dem Roten Teppich, what a name eh?

My other shawlette/scarflette is Hitchhiker again by Martina Behm and again taking its name from the book.  I love this pattern because it really accents a variegated yarn, especially if the yarn has alot of color changes or goes from one end of the color spectrum to another extreme end of the spectrum.  Not many patterns can make such good use of that array.  The yarn is Kickapoo Sock in Pitcher Plant by Ewetopia Yarn.  It was a gift from my friend Jenni, she knows me so well and she has good taste too, I love this yarn!  I am at the halfway point, a bit further along than when I took this picture.  When finished, it will have 42 "teeth", and as we all know 42 is the answer to the Universe and everything ;)  It is an asymetrical crescent, just garter stitch, but a fun one to knit none the less.

One of my finishes is this cowl, the pattern is Fern Lace Cowl, basically a feather and fan pattern.  I used Noro Aya, which is a silk, cotton and wool blend, this is soft and the pattern was super duper easy!  Noro yarns, once washed and blocked, will turn very soft and the color gradiations soften into each other too.  I like Noro, it can be fiddly to knit with, but I like the results.  I see a stray yarn, I hadn't blocked or woven my ends in this picture, Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa.

I have other projects I am working on, two other cowls (one is our first knit along, which I haven't finished yet), another Fern cowl, lots of socks on needles, more tiny sweaters etc.  I like having a variety of projects to work on so I don't get bored.  I need to get back to quilting, and I am feeling better about that since my unfortunate quilting retreat experience.  My subsequent knitting retreat with the most awesome knitters on the planet helped me feel better about hand-arts and groups in general.  But we need more men knitters and men quilters to join us on these retreats, way way too much estrogen in one room for too long!!  Need to balance it out!

I am not the greatest knitter, but I enjoy myself.  The knitting police will NEVER recruit me, nor will the quilting police, the yoga police or the tai chi police.  I believe in enjoying what you do and haters be damned!

Do what you love, enjoy it fully, totally, humbly and sincerely!  I do what I do for my enjoyment, not to make others happy and if another's happiness results, well good for them!

Remember, what others think of you is none of your business.