Saturday, January 29, 2011

Too Many Choices, Too Little Time (Richmond, VA)

I have often thought it would be fun to learn kickboxing. Okay, so that won't come as news to those of you I bullied and/or beat up when we were kids, but most of you still believe that I am rather meek and mild. And the truth is that I am not interested in kicking or boxing anybody but rather in the movements, themselves, and the toning that would naturally ensue from working my butt off, both literally and figure-atively. I was, therefore, highly tempted to buy the recent Groupon deal offering me three group kickboxing lessons, a helmet, and a session of personal coaching.

But, at around the same time -- and there's only a 24-hour window in which to grab a Groupon -- I received an e-mail informing me of the myriad opportunities available to take belly dance lessons. In my zumba class, belly-dancing moves are among my favorites. I took a few lessons in Mexico last summer and was reminded of how much I love the music, the rhythms, the undulating movements. I had studied the art when I was a twenty-something residing in Manhattan, and had really enjoyed it. Or rather, I'd enjoyed it until I was asked to coordinate sounding those little finger cymbals (zims? zits?)with moving the rest of my body -- and couldn't. But here I am with all the necessary belly-dancing equipment: hips, belly, a jangly hip scarf, and, somewhere around here, some now-rusty little cymbals. Plus, conquering those body isolations will make my salsa saucier.

But I just enrolled in salsa classes. I took one two weeks ago, had to skip last week, and am finding lots of scheduling challenges and conflicts. I purchased a 10-class card, which I must use before June. So, I think I need to focus on refining my salsa.

However, I also want to better my bachata, the Dominican dance that I get to do from time to time at salsa events. I took an hour-long workshop last year, but I don't remember anything -- except that I'd be too embarrassed to replicate the moves that were taught: way too provocative. But I'm sure that there are others that I could add to my repertoire without taking away anything from my reputation or what's left thereof.

And I would really like to take a course in Bollywood-style dance. The music is fun, the movements energetic, with lots of belly-dancing undulations. You don't need a partner, either. Thank goodness, no classes are offered around here. One less choice....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Over Exposed (Richmond, VA)

Thursday promised to be a long and crazy day, full of challenges. A schedule that hinged on all going smoothly, no traffic snarls, no snow storms, no shmooze time factored in. Everything depended on my ability to launch myself from one activity to the next without a hitch. Should I tarry or lag, the delicate balance I'd engineered would be destroyed, as quickly, as easily, as unstoppably as the fall of a house of cards, a row of dominoes.

The alarm sounds at 5:45 a.m., allowing me plenty of time for a warm shower, an unhurried breakfast, and an unharried drive to the high school where I am to co-host a 7:30 workshop for parents. I drag myself out of bed at 6:45, allowing me barely enough time to wash what I need to, grab a cheese stick, and burn my tongue on a couple of gulps of coffee.

Luckily, I had prepared my clothing the night before: a little black dress, short sleeved, light and comfortable, with a beautiful silver zipper stretching from neck to hem -- perfect for moving from a day of work to a night of dance. I had splurged on it several months ago because, when I'd tried on, it seemed to have been made expressly with me in mind. It was that oh-so-perfect little, all-season, any-reason black dress.

I slip on the dress, button up a little green and black jacket that adds exactly the professional tone I'm aiming for, grab my little black purse and my big black bag, sail out of the house, jump into the car, race to my destination and arrive at precisely the time I'm expected: 7:15 on the nose. Except that it seems that nobody was expecting me. The school thought the program was starting at 9:00, although they truly seemed to be completely unaware of it, and the only people who showed up were my co-presenters.

As the workshop- that-wasn't is scheduled to last until 9:30, and I leave at 9 on the dot, I have enough time to dash to my nearby office and make phone calls, respond to and send new e-mails, start a translation, design a flyer, and, in short, try to cram seven hours of work into 45 minutes.

I shut down computer, printer, and phone conversation, wrench myself out from behind the desk, and propel myself out the door in more than enough time to drive to the university, park in the lot behind the pharmacy, as instructed, and race walk the seven blocks to the building, climb the two sets of stairs, two stairs at a time, and find the classroom where I am expected. Except that I wasn't expected in the pharmacy lot.

As I'm checking to make sure that I have the right room number, my notes, handouts, and sign-up sheets for the spiel I'll be giving to twenty-something twenty-somethings, a man raps on the driver's side window. He looks like a deflated Santa Claus, with the white beard one expects, but lacking the proper clothing and attitude. He's scowling.

"___________________ gave me permission to park here," I tell him confidently. "Her father owns the lot."

"Well, I'm her brother," he responds. "Who died and made her king?"

He walks away, leaving me to believe that my car won't be towed and that I can rush on.

Apparently, 11 in the morning is the college student's equivalent of my 5:45 a.m. One girl and one boy ask a question or two; the rest of thei4 classmates either sleep or quietly pass away while I'm talking. I would call my presentation a "very modest" success.

The course professor, my co-presenter, and I go out for lunch afterward. Among other points of discussion, they admire my dress. Although the comment "You look like a twist-and-turn Barbie!" might also be interpreted as an insult.

We disband just in time for me to arrive, on time, for my next meeting and presentation. No one falls asleep, mentions dolls, or prevents us from leaving a little bit early.

This unexpected gift -- an extra 15 minutes -- grants me the opportunity to stop en route to the day's final meeting. I need to pick up a birthday present for my "daughter."

I find a parking spot out front (what serendipity!), exit the car, enter the shop, and start combing the clothing racks and shelves for something she might like. I find an attractive handbag that appears to have her name on it, and pick it up. With a few minutes left to kill, I continue combing.

Suddenly, I hear a pop. I'm wearing my long, lush winter coat, so I'm sure that I've somehow popped one of its buttons. My eyes search the floor around me. They stop when they happen to notice that my dress is unzipped from hem to crotch. Luckily, I'm facing a clothes rack, and no one is facing me. I hug my coat closed and run into a try-on room, where I struggle to zip up or, in this case, zip down. Alas, the zipper won't budge an inch or any portion thereof. I button up and down my coat, pay for the purse, and steer towards my dinner meeting.

The first to arrive, I wriggle out of my coat sleeves and cover my lap with the coat bottom. When my female co-meeters sit down, I ask them to remind me that, if for any reason I have to leave the table, I must first put on my coat. Our male colleague joins us, and we're meeting while eating. I remember to don my outerwear before excusing myself to go to the restroom.

Entering, I remove my coat, turn to face the mirror, and catch sight of myself, little green jacket gaping wide open, and my zipper open to the neck.

I double over with laughter. Had I not been in a restroom, I would have fallen to the floor. I struggle to draw the zipper down, but the zipper wins the battle. I am screeching with laughter, unable to leave the little room for 15 minutes, sure that every woman in the restaurant is cursing as she waits in line for the maniac to leave the bathroom. When I finally emerge, shrouded in my winter coat, my colleagues don't seem to realize that the wardrobe malfunction has gone critical. I am having a hard time attempting not to giggle. I take my leave and my purse, and scoot to my vehicle.

Needless to say, I cannot head directly to my dancing venue. I veer off course, stopping by home. My husband opens the door, surprised to see me at 8:00 p.m.

"I'm glad you're home so early," he says, already turning towards the kitchen.

I shed my coat and jacket and follow him. "I had a bit of a mishap, today," I say.

He turns, and his eyes go wide. "Whoa!" he shouts. "You could have been arrested, driving around like that!"

"It's 12 degrees outside; I had my coat on. I'm going upstairs to change."

"Why?" he says.

I change into something safe (translation: without a zipper) and set out for the dance place. As I'm driving, I'm imagining what it would have been like to have had my zipper go offline on the dance floor. YouTube videos? Captions saying: "Don't try this at home!" or "Warning! Not suitable for children under 18...or anyone else!" Would I have had the sense to immediately grab my (poor) dance partner, clasp him to my bosom, and maneuver him -- scurrying crablike but in sync to the salsa rhythms -- to grab my coat, then back to the lady's room? Or would I have just stood there, howling with laughter and embarrassment until someone else had the good sense and uncommon decency to either knock me to the floor or cover me up with whatever random garment he or she could grab?

I'm so glad I didn't have to find out.

A few days later, I go to a tailor's shop and ask if there is any way to repair my all-season, imperfect little black dress. "Zippers are undependable," the guy tells me. So I guess, if I get it fixed, I'll have to wear it only in winter and under wraps. I sure don't want it to be "open" season on me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Toothiness (Richmond, VA)

"Your teeth are so healthy and strong!" my dentists have told me. That may be true, but here's what I've discovered: Apparently, the only things that have the hardness, strength, power, capacity, and -- if you believe that evil can reside in inanimate objects -- the desire to hurt my teeth, are my other teeth. Or a sesame seed.

Whatever the nature or origin of the fracture one of my so-called healthy teeth suffered a while back, it was temporarily patched and proudly displayed in my smile. I went from grin to chagrin, however, when I received a painful wake-up call at 1:30 in the morning.

"Must be something stuck between my teeth," I groggily thought, envisioning the tiny bit of stray food that had firmly lodged itself in some unreachable crevice. As the pain became more throbbing and persistent, I began to imagine other possibilities: Was a squirrel trying to burrow into my head? Had I crashed into a brick wall while sleep-driving? Had I, unknowingly, joined the circus and been shot, head first, out of a canon and into a brick wall, on top of which an innocent squirrel had been twitching its nose and which (the whole squirrel, not just its nose) was now stuck inside my brain and trying to paw and claw and gnaw its way out?

I grabbed the floss. No squirrels, whole or in parts, stuck to the string. Nor did any food particles emerge, at least none that I could perceive through my grogginess. And, mercifully, the pounding pain dissipated within a couple of hours. Or I had passed out from too much grog. Either way, I got some sleep, got up on time, and got through the day -- pain free and believing that I had resolved the problem.

I retired at 11:00 that night and woke up, with a start and at my wit's end, at one a.m. My head was a Fourth of July fireworks display, a house on fire, an earthquake in progress. Floss didn't cut it, sleep didn't come, and as soon as I could crawl downstairs, I called my dentist's office, begging to re-instate the scheduled appointment that I had canceled the day before.

At work, I passed the day answering phones, translating letters and fliers, running from office to schools and back, interpreting at meetings, running a fever, hurting like the dickens (Charles?), and counting the minutes until I could arrive early at my dentist's office. By 3:40, I was stonily stationed in the waiting room, trying not to moan, wail, or yank out my aching tooth with my bare hands.

I will not bore or haunt you with the gory details, but you already know about my fear of needles. So, you might be able to imagine my desperate state of out-of-my mind that would drive me to beg for 152 injections of anesthesia. Actually, I couldn't really beg, because I couldn't really talk. What came out of my mouth was some kind of muffled noise that sounded like a screeching squirrel being tossed about and very slowly torn apart by a playful cat. I also death-gripped the dentist's arm in a vain attempt to make him understand that if I couldn't have more pain relief, as he scraped, twisted, drilled, and dynamited the inflamed nerve that wound, it seemed to me, from the top of my right ear to the tips of my tippy-toes (perhaps it was really a tape worm gone astray; I have been eating more than usual...), I would kill him. And I didn't really get 152 injections, but I'm sure that the dental assistant was forced to immediately replenish the supply of Novocaine or whatever the heck that namby pamby stuff that doesn't work at all is.

When the root canal was over, I looked like I had barely survived a canon firing, earthquake, and house fire. My mouth was resting, rather uncomfortably, on a diagonal to the rest of my face. I could produce a pretty convincing, pirate-like "Aargh," but whatever else I tried to say was pretty much unintelligible. The whole right side of my face was swollen. And I must confess that, although the swelling smoothed out my wrinkles, this was not an attractive look.

My dentist, calm as ever and clearly oblivious to the threat I had posed against his continued existence, assured me that I would start to feel better quickly; however, I decided to forgo dancing -- and even dinner out with my number-one-and-only son. The only thing I did manage to do was to fill a prescription for antibiotics and open my mouth enough to slide in the required first dosage, along with as much over-the-counter pain killer a person of my size or lack thereof can swallow without overdosing. After wishing my son a good night or, as I put it, "Aargh!" I went to sleep.

I awoke 12 hours later, feeling a heck of a lot better. The downside (and there almost always is at least one) is that I'm not exactly pain free. Relief came at quite a cost: my wallet is a lot lighter and my wrinkles are back.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Balanced Diet and Other Bad Health Decisions (Richmond, VA)

I was recently reminded about the "balanced diet" I used to follow many years ago, when I lived, loved, and labored in Manhattan. Twice a day, I would consume a double scoop of some kind of chocolate ice cream -- balanced on a cone. I lost my appetite for other foods and I lost a lot of weight. Eventually, I lost my taste for ice cream, as well as all feeling in my lips and throat. I got pretty ill.

You will be pleased to know that my taste for ice cream has been restored and the ice cream diet has long been shelved. In fact, you can often spy a gallon (or what's left of it) of Edy's Slow Churned Chocolate-Something Ice Cream on my freezer shelf -- or on my hips.

During that same period of my life (or as I like to call it, The Ice Cream Age), I was drinking about 9 cups of coffee a day. One morning, as I made my way through a pedestrian tunnel, I thought the subway train was in the passage with me. When I stopped shaking (from fear? too much caffeine? both?), I resolved to cut down to one to two cups of Joe per day. Which I have continued to cut down to almost every day in the blankety blank years since.

Now older but, apparently, not much wiser, I find my hands reacting painfully to cold temperatures.(Raynaud's Syndrome? Lost Glove Disease? Hypochondria?). If I am, indeed, suffering from Raynaud's, one of the "simple" treatments is to completely cut out caffeine. In my finite wisdom, I have decided that I will just have to endure the occasional "my-fingers-are-going-to-fall-off feeling," not because I always need something to complain about (because I don't -- not always, anyway) and not because I am contrary by nature (although some would argue with me about that), but rather because I do not wake up until after I've downed a rather (translation: very) strong mug of java each morning.

What? You're suggesting that I become a walking zombie, stumbling through life in a foggy-headed ... fog? I don't think so! I need every wit about me, and will even take half of them, to get through the pressures of my existence.

I could try biofeedback, another remedy for Raynaud's, which might help me to control my stress, blood pressure and other bodily function levels. An intriguing possibility: anything with the word "feed" in it sounds like something I could sink my teeth into. Let me have a cup of coffee, a scoop of ice cream and the time to consider it. I'll get back to you....