Sunday, March 30, 2014

Forty-two gratitudes

It is a few days past my forty-second birthday, but it is not too late to do my annual list.  A list of things for which I am grateful, that make me happy, or just improve my life in some way.  Some big, others small.  The list will include both important and silly.  After I finish, I'll look back on my list from last year.  The list isn't in any particular order, just as I think of things.  

1)  I am grateful for my nieces and nephews, and their unique personalities. It has been a pleasure seeing them grow and develop.  Every age has been a delight.

2)  I am grateful Adam gets along so well with my family! 

3)  And, I am grateful for the family I married into, I couldn't ask for better.

4)  I am grateful for warm cups of tea.

5)  I am grateful for photography, it makes me happy.

6)  I am grateful for ceramics, and the creative, inspiring community at ARTica Studios.  

7)  I am grateful for the time spent in Florida.  

8)  I can't imagine a life without yoga, so so so grateful for it.  

9)  A good night's rest.

10) Our comfy bed.

11) Cat snuggles.  

12) Books books BOOKS!

13) Grateful for the nice birthday Kindle, I'll finally be reading in the modern era.  

14) Although it is a time suck and has its drawbacks, I am grateful for Facebook and the vast online community it creates.  

15) I am happy the crocuses have made their appearance, the brave first flowers of spring.

16) I am grateful to have many good options available to me.  

17) I am grateful for my freedom.

18) I am grateful for the house I live in, the food in my belly, and abundant clean water.  

19) I am happy for the capacity to learn and grow.  

20) I am grateful for NEW friends!  It gets harder as we get older, so happy I am still making connections.

21) And grateful for the continuity of long time friends.  

22) Grateful for my lovely sisters and our dad.

23) Happy to spend extended, casual time with my aunt and uncle in Florida.  

24) I am very happy my little old Nissan Sentra keeps plugging along.  

25) I am very grateful for wool socks and big thick scarves that help me combat the chilly weather. 

26) Favorite restaurants, where they know just what you are going to order.  

27) I am quite pleased with my new short hair.

28) King Spa, why did it take me so long to go there?

29) Massage, ahhhhh!

30) Newly painted toe nails.

31) Ginger chews.

32) Podcasts!

33) Receiving personal letters / cards in the mail.

34) Music.

35) I am grateful for my bicycle, and time to just nose around aimlessly.  

36) I am grateful for the free time I have had this year.  

37) I am grateful I have made it to 42!

38) And I quite like the symmetry and evenness of 42.  

39) Grateful for hot baths with Epsom salt and essential oils.  

40) Grateful for the hot water bottle that keeps my feets warm in bed.  

41) Thank you, Keen, for your sturdy shoes.  

42) Love you, Amazon Prime.  

Leave a comment with something for which you are grateful! 

Check out the first list 41 gratitudes.

May you be safe from internal and external harm.
May you be physically strong, healthy, and vital.
May you have a calm clear mind and a peaceful loving heart.
May you find wisdom, wonder, joy, and love in this world
Just as it is.  


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Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's SUP?

Instructor, Rachel (left), and another class participant.

I've been wanting to try stand up paddleboard (SUP) yoga for the longest time, and weather and schedule finally coordinated so I could make it to a class.  Bonus, I went with a dear friend,  Pamela.  We met (way back!) in high school.  I am visiting Florida, and she now lives here.  She drove from central Florida to our home on the west coast so we could have this fun outing.  Flashback - one of our past adventures was the flying trapeze!  

Pamela (left) and me (right) in a flying trapeze class, spring 2012, in Chicago, Illinois 

Here we are two years later and thousands of miles away - Anna Maria Sound, Florida

The class is taught by Rachel of Starfish Yoga.  After a quick tutorial and paddle fitting, we were off!  We launched from the northwest edge of Perico Island into Anna Maria Sound.  We ducked under the Manatee Bridge, and headed south to a quiet area surrounded by mangroves.  Jumping mullets amused us, and we saw a hawk with a fish in its talons.

There was a steady northeast wind that pushed us south.  A few times we broke from yoga to paddle a bit north or navigate away from the mangroves.  The water in the sound is shallow, no worries if you fall in the water.  The main thing is to stay away from oyster beds.  They are quite sharp, and will slice your bare feet if you fall on one.  Pamela and I managed to stay on board the whole time, but a classmate did topple in.  The water was not too cold.

It was a lot of fun, and good exercise!  Especially the paddle back to the launch site with a headwind.  After awhile my shoulders and mid-back were fatigued, and my hands felt a little tender from the paddle.  Pamela and I both found standing to use considerable leg muscles.  I'm sure this lessens as you develop "SUP legs."  I found it most effective to paddle seated on my heels (vajrasana, or thunderbolt pose).  Pamela headed north seated, with legs stretched out.  Standing added resistance when moving into the wind.  

In all, I think anyone in reasonable physical condition can SUP.  If you can kayak, you can SUP.  Even the yoga portion could be done by someone with little yoga experience, the sequence was basic.  And a more seasoned yogi will find plenty of challenge adapting poses to the SUP!

Kayaking is the most similar experience I can relate SUP to, but SUP has even more intimacy with the water.  Only a few inches lift you off the water.  It's very easy to see into the water, and you can really feel the movement beneath you.  Like being on one of those inflatable pool floats, but bigger, and of course with more rigidity and support.   It was a lovely outing, I'll be back!  

Heading out

Sukhasana and intention setting.
Assistant Lisa (standing) keeps an additional eye on us.
Pamela in the front left there, I'm way off on the right.
Photo by Rachel

Urdhva hastasana
Photo by Rachel

Anjaneyasana (me on right)
Photo by Rachel

Utkatasana (me on the left in aqua shorts)
Photo by Rachel

Pamela takes a rest

Manatee Bridge viewed from uttanasana

Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the distance (crosses Tampa Bay)

Give SUP yoga a try if you're in the Anna Maria Island (AMI) area!  As of this post, Rachel teaches on Wednesdays at 11 a.m., weather permitting.  Mondays are on the schedule as well, once the weather is more consistently agreeable for being on the water.    

Rachel at Starfish Yoga

Like to try SUP, but without the yoga?  Contact AMI Paddleboard.  They have guided mangrove tours by SUP or kayak, and will also just rent you the equipment (bikes too, which is an awesome way to get around AMI).  

AMI Paddleboard

And lastly, want to go to a yoga class on good old dry land?  There are several options in the area, and that's worthy of a whole other post, but for now:

Island Yoga Space

Yoga on the beach
Rachel - Manatee Public Beach, Monday and Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
Erin - Pine Ave Beach (by the Sandbar Restaurant), Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mini-adventure - Howdy, MAM!

Milwuakee Art Museum - lakeside view
I've passed by the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) at least a dozen times.  Truly, walked right by the exterior as my family participated in the Milwaukee Komen Race for the Cure.  I had a free morning on the way to see my sister and family in the outskirts, so finally made my way inside.  
Surely I could have made the time sooner to see this beautiful piece of architecture.  Much of the time my sister has lived in Milwaukee overlapped with the years I worked at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC).  Museum fatigue was part of the delayed visit, spending Monday - Friday at a museum left me disinclined to spend my free time in one.  It was probably also a little snobbery, what could a little museum in Milwaukee possibly offer that wasn't on display at the AIC?
Shame on me!  The MAM is a delightful museum, and all in the Milwaukee area should plan a visit.  For me, the star of the show is the museum itself, specifically the 2001 Quadracci Pavilion addition designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.  Read more on the MAM webpage.  I planned my visit around the scheduled (weather permitting) noon opening and closing of the Burke Brise Soleil.  The "wings" are a 217-foot moveable sunscreen.  The day of my visit was rather cold and windy, so the wings did not open fully.  Or I missed it.  I went out to watch, nothing happened, so I went back in, only to see from the inside the wings were opening and went back outside.  As I said, it was very cold!

Me waiting for the "wings" show.
"Wings" in the closed position (left) and semi-open (right).

 This was my second visit to a small museum in the past few months.  When in Florida earlier this year, I met a friend at the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland.  Snobbery over, I'm rather enjoying smaller museums.  They feel more intimate, and are certainly more manageable.  Big museums like the Art Institute have stellar collections, but it is impossible for a day-visitor to see the entire facility.  In that regard, I am grateful for my time at the AIC, as I saw the collection over time.  
MAM has its share of "big names."  Georgia O'Keeffe in particular is well represented, with several galleries devoted to her works.
Chagall, O'Keeffe, Monet


"The Last of the Spartans"

At the time of my visit, the primary special exhibition was "Uncommon Folk:  Traditions in American Art."  As the name implies, it is a collection of American folk works and self-taught artists.  Drawn from the museum's permanent collection, the brochure describes it as "a captivating visual feast."  I enjoyed it for the display of beauty, pride, and care that people take in their "everyday" objects.  We all have our own creativity and artist lurking inside.   
Collage of works in the "Uncommon Folk" exhibit
Another special exhibit was "Flow," a celebration of the upcoming National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts conference (March 19-22).  I found this interesting because of the ceramics classes I have been taking.  A lot of inspiration, ideas, and questions on technique to ask my teacher.  I also found it a good use of a light-filled gallery.  I really enjoyed all the exterior views in the museum, but I know how troublesome sunlight can be for curators and conservationists.  Ceramics are, in general, a more durable art form, and can withstand the harmful effects of sunlight.   
"Flow" exhibition

"Valentine" by Michelle Erickson, part of the "Flow" exhibit
Enjoyments, notes, and miscellaneous:
1)  As I mentioned previously, one of my favorite things about the museum was the view to the lake.  Had it been a sunnier day, this would have been even more enjoyable.
2)  I also enjoyed the ship-like elements.  MAM is perched right on Lake Michigan's western shore, ready to go forth and share art. 
3)  Staff and volunteers super friendly and helpful!  Some volunteers even gave me the tip to be sure to see the garage, as the Calatrava design carries through.  Indeed, it may be the nicest garage I've ever seen. 
4)  Watching the "wings" open and close is free to any and all passing by. 
5)  If you are short on time, or art just isn't your thing, I think if you just wanted to pop in and see Windhover Hall (grand reception hall), no one would hassle you.  It's beautiful.   
6)  The museum was not busy at all, many galleries I had to myself.  I did visit midday on a weekday in February, so that is probably a factor.
7)  Loved seeing all the school groups!  Art and kids are made for each other, it warms my heart to see them together in museums. 
8)  Speaking of kids and art, also on display during my visit was the 2014 Scholastic Art Awards.  There are some truly talented student artists in Wisconsin.
9)  I spent about 3 hours there, including a cafĂ© sustenance break.  I took a lot of time with photography, and going in and out for the wings.  I'm more of an art glancer than deep ponderer.  In all, I think I could have used maybe 30-60 minutes longer for a first visit. 
10)  Lockers available for 50 cents.  50 cents!  No wait. 
11)  Parking in the north lot was $6 for as long as I wanted. 
12)  The museum has an abundance of much appreciated benches, water fountains, and toilet rooms throughout.        
13)  And there is actually yoga at the museum once a month. 
See you back here soon for another mini-adventure.
Fancy pants garage
Looking out to Lake Michigan
Inside the Burke Brise Soleil

Contemporary galleries
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