Saturday, February 23, 2013

Turning 60: February, A Night At The Opera

I couldn't resist this title; having worked at a museum for four years. I was invited by my old friend Greg, who is a follower of this site, by the way, to attend the dress rehearsal of a collaborative production to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner; The Glory of Wagner. The Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera and the Dayton Philharmonic have combined into one arts organization administratively, the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. I don’t know how they all feel about it, but having struggled in one small arts organization in Springfield, where several arts organizations are competing for the same donor base, I think this is the best idea since sliced bread!

I always enjoy the orchestra, but I do lean toward choral music, so I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I appreciated the German subtitles; one would think with names like Kline and Derge, I would know a little German, but I don’t. The program opened with something familiar, the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin. I was always told this piece was a “show tune,” and even back in 1977, there was some discussion as to whether to use a “show tune” in a wedding in a church!

After seeing the actual words (which are NOT “Here comes the bride, big, fat and wide”!), and there’s a big difference between “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” and “The Bridal Chorus” from Lohengrin; it is a fine choice for a bride approaching her groom. 

I relived my solo walk down the aisle with fondness.

The other pieces of the first half were:
. Lohengrin: Act III Orchestral Prelude & Bridal Chorus – “Treulich geführt ziehet dahin” | Dayton Opera & Philharmonic Choruses 
. Tannhäuser: Elizabeth’s Aria – “Dich teure Halle” | Kara Shay Thomson, Soprano 
. Der Fliegende Holländer – Daland’s Aria – “Mögst du, mein Kind” | Nathan Stark, Bass 
. Rienzi: Act II Finale Chorus – “Erschallet, Feierklänge!” | Dayton Opera & Philharmonic Choruses 
. Parsifal: Parsifal’s Aria – “Nur eine Waffe” | Erik Nelson Werner, Tenor 
. Die Meistersinger: Act I Orchestral Prelude & Act III Finale | Hans Sachs – Gustav Andreassen, Bass | Dayton Opera & Philharmonic Choruses 

The chorus was dismissed after the first half, so after talking with Greg for a little while, we went home. It was a week night; no one had energy for any type of gathering.

Showtime! Greg (right) with Dayton
Opera Concertmaster Jeff Powell.
Greg and I have known each other since we were 16; we sang in high school choir together, and together we enjoy our music to this day. He has been with the Dayton Opera for over twenty years. We don’t always agree (!) because he is more traditional, and I lean contemporary. However, I think it’s fair to say that as “iron sharpens iron,” we have introduced each other to our preferences in the music world. I also think it’s fair to say that both of us have moved to a center, appreciating types of music other than what we are used to. 

For instance, next month I am attending a Michael W. Smith concert with my friend Debbie, and I THINK Greg knows who he is! If not, the man needs help!

Over the years, my husband and I have been to concerts ranging from the Boston Pops (here), the Florida Symphony (me--there), to the Trans Siberian Orchestra (here), to Paul McCartney (sigh!), John Denver (RIP), John Legend, and everything in between! We are frequent attendees of the Springfield Summer Arts Festival, something I highly recommend as the price is RIGHT (although we always donate)!

But I've never been to the Opera! Now I can check that off, and I look forward to doing it again sometime in the future. Thank you Greg, for inviting me! If you do a solo, I’ll even PAY to see that!

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Fitness Journey: Being The Best I Can Be!

Yesterday I discussed needing benchmarks. While elaborating on this within the framework of fitness and weight loss, I know in my heart that it applies to other aspects of life. We need markers to know that we are proceeding on a journey of any kind.

Today I am looking at the Fitness Journey from another perspective: Being the best me I can be.

Sometimes I have to forget the scales and measuring tapes and refocus on why I am doing this. I am not doing this to compare myself with others that have better genes or have been focused on fitness all of their lives. I am doing this (as well as a few other things) for me! This is not about looking good for others; my husband, my girlfriends (and if I am honest with myself, my male friends too!) and my co-workers and clients. If all of those were removed, I would still do this.

It IS about staring down the rest of the time that God has given me and making it the best that I can.

All of that said, however, I walk into the exercise classes and I do notice how I look in comparison to others. Because I am usually there later than earlier, I end up in the front row. Because of this, I can see EVERYONE. And, while I realize that they are NOT focused on me, my abilities and performance, I can watch the class as I exercise.

UGH! Even while getting some new workout gear, which is really a treat for me, I can see easily that I am still the heaviest person in the class. Maybe not literally, as taller people wear their weight differently. I think my reader knows what I am talkin’ about! I don’t think I am the oldest anymore, and I know that I am not when Susan is there J, but I am close.

However, what is interesting is to see that I am an example of how to modify what Wicked Amy prepares for us—and she and I KNOW that I may strengthen, but not cure my shoulder; and I will have arthritis in my knees forever. The words “squat”  and "lunge" have a very different connotation to me! I am able to show others—newbies, or whomever—that it can be done differently.

While I do not judge others’ commitment and attendance, because we are ALL busy, and this coming week is a particularly busy one for me personally too—most of the time, I am there EVERY WEEK. This alone is an example. I am large, but I am committed. I keep at it. I persevere. We know that eventually the landscape is going to change.

Yesterday, a visitor from months ago (who has moved) had returned to boot camp, just to see us all, and she told me she COULD TELL I had changed. I told her that I wasn't losing the weight, but we both agreed the fat was turning into muscle.


I am personally training with Her Wickedness every week, and I live by the “Just One More” rule in every endeavor. I also take breaks. But hear me, I WILL get stronger! I WILL develop more stamina! This will affect me if God gives me ten years, twenty years, or thirty years.

I will not compare myself to you, Amy or the person next to me in class.

I will be the best Denise that I can be!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Fitness Journey: Why We Need Benchmarks

Why do we need benchmarks?

In a Fitness Journey, “diet,” or “new exercise program,” we want benchmarks. People ask us how we are doing. We want something concrete to tell them.

We are fully aware that not everything can be measured, but we want measurements anyway. Why are we like that?

Maybe it starts with the baby books our mothers so lovingly put together—especially if you, like me, are the first born. Mommies of all ages make comparisons, if not verbally, they do it mentally. (My kid was potty trained before hers!)

Then we go to school. In my day, there were some “behaviors” that were judged with satisfactory and unsatisfactory; but most academic subjects were graded with letter grades. Most of us wanted to achieve the highest letter grade we could. We were on six week grading periods and our lives revolved around what we would do with that “benchmark.”
I can only dream! Haha!

I made pretty good grades, and I still remember feeling nervous about opening the last grade card and seeing the word “promoted” on it. As if there was ever a doubt!

There are physical benchmarks, and I’m not going there in detail—but every girl remembers when and where she “became a woman.” I am not a guy, but I am quite sure they have those memories too.

We grow up, and we get jobs; at least we hope we do. There are benchmarks of promotion, achievement in the professional area, moving up the ladder! There are advanced degrees; and honors.
Let’s admit it—we like them!

Some of our benchmarks aren't so obvious; a change in lifestyle, a move in location, change in number of family members, gain OR loss. What we consider success may not agree with society’s definition of success. (Especially if you read tabloids)

So, why should it surprise us when we want benchmarks in a fitness program? Even though we KNOW that it’s not all about the scales; that is the benchmark most of us use. We want it, and in some crazy way, we need it.

That’s why so many people give up, even though they know they are making progress in other areas. When life gets in the way, like breaking a bone, another sort of illness, or a time of having to deal with a specific problem of life, we don’t get back on the program. This is what sets us up for failure.

It is important to get back up on that horse and keep on riding. Keep on going. And, although I am writing about fitness; it’s important in other areas of life too. You know what to do. Do it! 

 Tomorrow: I continue this thought about "Being The Best That I Can Be." Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Fitness Journey: An Anniversary of a Different Kind!

On February 6, 2013 I celebrate an anniversary of a different kind. I have to admit, it was fundamentally life-changing, and the reason I discuss this subject is that any one of my readers may be considering this procedure; or have a sister, daughter, niece or mother considering it. I want people to be informed by a person who has been there.

Ten years ago, at the age of 49, I had breast reduction surgery. I do not regret it for a minute, but I wish someone had told ME how invasive this surgery really is. I thought, as you probably are, the surgery never enters the body cavity, how difficult can this be?

This surgery took longer than most open-heart surgeries. Five hours.

This surgery left me with two and a half FEET of stitches. (That had to be removed!)

I was told I could return to work as a church secretary in three weeks; by a MAN, who apparently didn't realize that church secretaries run small print shops. At least, they did back in that day. Today, I realize that more can be done electronically from the desk. Then, my job consisted of lifting many, many reams of paper.

I was blessed in that my nurse anesthetist was a member of the church which employed me. My surgery was on a Thursday morning, I was kept overnight and was really unsure of returning home on Friday; but I did, complete with plenty of pain medication. On Saturday morning, the nurse anesthetist called me at home and gave me a play-by-play of my surgery, assuring me that it went like a textbook case. They took 2.4 lbs. out of one side and 2.6 pounds out of the other side. Like most women, I was not “even,” and I doubt seriously that I am today; but any way you look at it, five pounds is five pounds. I went from a DDD to a C cup.

I was also blessed in that a very good friend of mine, a nurse, came by every other day to change my dressings. It wasn't pretty but as always, needed to be clean. It was not fun to look at, but I knew better days were coming.  

The one thing that I want to emphasize here is that if you work full-time and you do anything that requires being up and down; you need six weeks to recover from this surgery. Even if you sit at a desk all day, or accommodations can be made for you to be doing that (i.e. coworkers picking up other tasks), you need six weeks to fully regain your stamina. I called my employer at the end of my second week; and I knew that there was no way I would be able to do the job in 9-10 days. My employer insisted that I return and work half time. I did not have enough sick leave or benefits as most who work in a church do not, so it was either return or resign.

I literally returned to work holding myself up. This is not a picture I wish upon my readers, but it is what it was. My returning to work during the fourth week, even for 20 hours, set back my recovery at least five weeks. If you are considering this; consider ALL the costs. I don’t regret doing it, but I would have handled it differently.

If you are considering something like this, there are web sites that can show you exactly what will be done in this surgery. Some are more graphic than others, but they give the basic information.

There is no way that I could have handled even low-impact aerobic exercising before the surgery. Not that I got into a fitness program after it either, as I should have, but today I am able to do this. I look “normal.” I can wear “normal” clothes. I was never able to tuck in my blouses; and very soon I will be able to do that again, as I was able to after the surgery.

Putting everything in perspective, I am still ten pounds from my lowest weight after the surgery. I weighed that in 2003, and again in 2007 when I lost forty pounds in 06-07. I want to get at least 15 MORE pounds off from that number, and it will take time, but I will get there.

And I still remember what the doctor told me: “Denise, I can do this, but there’s one thing I cannot do anything about, and that is gravity.”

He was right about that, darn it!

I would still do it again!

And the answer to the question that everyone asks about this surgery is....YES!