Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Sweet Side of Trick or Treat

The chill in the air this time of year, like a clean knife, cuts the warmth of summer from our skins and breath. Like past summers, this year’s is already a memory.

Halloween defies the obvious. The cold to come, the bright crisp leaves littering the sidewalks, the darkening days. The dead are alive and children costumed fearlessly as ghouls and zombies and clowns and super humans patter through my neighborhood. Dancers and princesses and storybook Miss Muffets politely rap at a doors and beg for candy. Lions and tigers and alligators, some in daddys’ arms, pursue their treasure from behind furry faces; some trip over their tails.

What I like about Trick or Treat is that the ritual treats everyone equally, no matter what their size or age. The callers at my door last Saturday ranged from babes to teens. Some adults were costumed too, under the ploy of accompanying their children; they wanted candy too.

There should always be a time to pretend, to be what you are not, or what you think you could be, or even what you are afraid of. Imagination is not just for the young. It  allows anyone to dream and soar above the chill of an ordinary dull-dressed day.


Wrong Exercise Class, Right Choice

I must have had it wrong. I arrived at the Y at 9 a.m. for what I expected to be a short, half-hour exercise class. I was ready. I had been in this class before and it wasn’t too hard. Requiring a few light hand weights, a little peppy music and only 30 minutes, it fit my comfort level for a Monday morning. I could do that. 

But wait. The sign outside the door said something else. This wasn’t KettleWorx. It was Total Strength and it was an hour-long class. Women were filing into the studio or, having just finished the previous class, were waiting for Total Strength to begin. They all looked much younger than me, and a lot more fit and toned too.

Now the women were scurrying around to the corners of the room selecting the equipment they would need for class. A step platform and support blocks, a foam mat, two heavy hand weights, a medicine ball and a body bar. 

Sarah, the instructor, spotted the newbie and asked if I had any questions. I started thinking of the laundry list of excuses and knee ailments that would prevent me from participating. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Do what you can do.”

I liked her easy attitude, her energy and the way her hair was styled in dreadlocks – how did she do that? Now the room was cluttered with pods of equipment and I rushed to grab mine, reaching for the three-pound weights before there were none left but the heavies. I picked a spot in the back of the room and placed my jacket and water bottle nearby. 

The music started pumping and we started out easy with some dancing motions that were nicely familiar. We then worked up to doing curls with the hand weights and body bar, then went down on the platforms for leg lifts and abs work. I liked the way Sarah added some stretches and low-key workouts between the core exercises and encouraged anyone to moderate the routines if they needed to, or even leave early.  

When it comes to exercise, I can be intimidated by words such as “total” and “extreme” and “crunches.” Even all that equipment makes me wary of what’s ahead. But this time, I went the extra mile and tried something new. I’m glad I did.

Often when I do something, take a walk, ride my bike or clean out a closet, I look for ways that I can go “an extra mile.” It might be another block, a side trip to another neighborhood off the path, or a file I’ve been meaning to organize. Trying something new and unexpected – even an exercise class – is that “extra mile” that opens up a new challenge and makes way for a new accomplishment. Soon that “extra” something becomes part of the norm, and you begin looking for the next challenge.Image

So when the sign on the door isn’t what you expected and you’re not quite sure of yourself, take a look around, take a breath and step right in.


Fine Vine

If you do not have a green thumb but have a little space in your yard and a tender spot in your heart for a rebellious perennial beauty, you might try a porcelain berry vine. Mine is planted in a rocky bed with a five-foot wire trellis to guide its climb. Its common name painted a picture I liked when I picked it up at a flea market plant sale. Its deep lobed variegated leaves are marked with freshly spilt milky white splotches. As fall arrives, perfectly round turquoise berries cluster and sparkle among them, like jewels on lace. Its curly tendrils hug the trellis, clinging fast even in winter when the vine is woody and leafless.
The Latin name for the porcelain berry vine is Ampelopsis brevipedunculata. But frustrated internet gardeners and arboretums have another name for the plant – “evil.” In some conditions it may become “rampant and out of control,” choking trees and shrubs as it tries to rob them of their nutrients and water. How invasive!
I am not going to change my opinion of my porcelain berry vine. It seems to be happy in its place, growing with a modest amount of control, and continuing to look small and nice.