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On Aging

Old woman hand

Image courtesy of [Photokanok] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Aging is a terrifying and fascinating process. Personally, I didn’t start to notice my own age until I hit 30 or so (yes, I know 30 is not old – stay with me here). All of the sudden, there are lines on my face, cellulite on my thighs, and, as I discovered just yesterday, nose hairs that are no longer confined to the area *inside* my nostrils. Most days, I don’t worry about the cosmetic stuff – any laugh lines I possess have been hard won, and I’m proud to have laughed so hard it created lines over a couple of decades. But there are those days: I see a magazine cover with a woman my age who looks just shy of her 21st. Yes, I know it’s airbrushed and photoshopped. But I can’t help regret: “if only I’d worn more sunscreen.” Or wonder: “should I get facials/ waxed/ peeled/ injections?” Heaven knows there are almost as many “cures” for cosmetic aging as there are worries about them (maybe more, actually).

Even if you’re not the type to succumb to society’s unrealistic expectations of eternal youth on the outside, the stuff happening INSIDE our bodies is pretty scary by itself. You may have heard that our brains stop forming and start deteriorating around age 18 – that’s what makes it more difficult to learn new information and skills in adulthood. I learned recently from a teacher of mine* that our bones begin deteriorating around age 30. Age 30, y’all. So despite us living longer and longer lives, our bodies still get the same messages to start breaking down, at close to the same time as they did 500 years ago. But now, we stand to live another 70 years with these deteriorating systems! What’s an energetic soul to do?

As it turns out, fixing the inside is actually pretty easy. The concept of neuroplasticity is a hot topic right now: we now know adults can learn new languages and new skills very late in life, especially when approached with an open mind. On the physical side, there have been many documented recoveries from morbid obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other preventable diseases. The shift in thinking our doctors have undergone, from a paradigm of treating illness to one of promoting wellness has helped us be more aware of the power we wield to take charge of our own health. We get physical therapy for pain instead of pills, and we are given the tools to improve our posture and habits, and not just on the fancy equipment. Nobody *needs* a gym to stay healthy. It’s been proven that just walking 30 minutes a few times per week can improve cardiovascular health, bone density and emotional stability. Adding leafy greens to one or two more meals per week improves digestion and mineral absorption.

This. Is. Easy.

It’s easier than we think to improve our health, and improving the inside naturally improves the outside. We can’t go back and wear sunscreen, but we can drink enough water now. We can’t undo the past, but our capacity for change and improvement is infinite. But to make changes we have to love who and where we are now in our wellness. We don’t have to settle where we are now, but loving our bodies is an awfully good way to feel comfortable IN them – which is what movement and exercise is all about. We’re not as young as we used to be, but we can use what we have to the fullest. And hey, if we’re taking care of ourselves but still want a “smoothing treatment,” that’s okay too.

*My teacher of teaching, Bex Burton over at senseofmotion.com, has a depth of knowledge about the body I can only hope to attain. If you want some great advice and easy exercises for relieving muscle tension and promoting proper body alignment, head on over and pay her a visit.

Hey Guess What?!?! I’m teaching again! Check out my new class in Vegas right here!

Chicken Soup for The Sick

Simple, Delicious and Nutritious

One of the great things about my new situation in Vegas is my husband and I work for the same show. That means we have the same schedule (for the first time in years!) and we can carpool. It’s been wonderful so far. But last week I found out there’s a big drawback to working in the same building: when there’s a cold or flu circulating, we have twice as many opportunities to catch it. And catch it we did. Within 24 hours of us both waking up and saying, “man, my allergies are terrible,” we descended into the cold-haze, that netherworld between the cold and cold medicine keeping us functional. We’ve wisely avoided the discussion of which of us might have been Patient Zero and focused on hand-washing (to avoid contaminating anything else), keeping the symptoms in check and getting as much rest as possible. Unfortunately October has been one commitment after another for both of us, and this week was no different. He had long rehearsal days for a PR event, and I had multiple rehearsals and a performance for a band I sing with (somehow my voice remained intact). Today was the first full day we’d been able to spend resting and recuperating, and we took full advantage of it: We slept, we read in bed and on the couch, and we drank tea.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to realize around mid-afternoon, in between a sneeze and a cough, that it was my turn to cook dinner. We honor our respective meal responsibilities pretty consistently, and I knew takeout wasn’t going to cut it after the crazy week we’d had. I needed to come up with something nutritious and comforting, preferably without making a trip to the grocery store. Enter the humble Whatever Soup. We had just enough fresh and leftover vegetables, along with our omnipresent stash of chicken stock, to make a convincing base. I sautéed some garlic and fresh pork sausage in the bottom of the pot for flavor and texture, then added a can of diced tomatoes, the stock, the veggies and spices, and let it simmer until the veggies were soft but not mushy. The result was delicious and comforting, and I didn’t even have expose the local grocers to my gross germs. (Bonus points for NOT being Patient Zero to an unsuspecting stranger)

Below is a loose recipe for Whatever (AKA Sick & Tired) Soup. As with most of my recipes, nearly everything is optional and/or interchangeable. Don’t sweat the details. The point is this: meals don’t have to be complex or time-consuming to be nutritious and comforting.

Colleen’s Whatever (Sick & Tired) Soup
Prep Time: 5-15 min, depending on ingredients
Cook Time: 25 min
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
1-2 tbsp        Olive Oil
4-6 cloves     Garlic, chopped OR 1 small Onion, chopped
1 lb               Ground Pork, Beef, Turkey, etc (if desired)
48-64 oz       Chicken or Vegetable Stock (low-sodium if possible)
15 oz can      Diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4-6 cups        Chopped vegetables, any kind
2 cups           Greens or Fresh Herbs, any kind

To Make:
Heat olive oil in stock or soup pot. Sautee garlic or onion until slightly browned, then add meat if desired. When meat is done, drain if necessary, then add chicken stock, diced tomatoes, vegetables, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are at desired texture, stirring occasionally. Add greens and fresh herbs last, stirring until slightly wilted. Top with crackers, grated cheese and/or fresh herbs and serve immediately.

The View from OUTSIDE the Hoop

I haven’t written. I know I should have been writing, but I didn’t. I haven’t known what to say. If I’m not hooping, how am I supposed to write a newsletter about hooping? If I’m not exercising, how can I write about living a healthy lifestyle? All of these thoughts and more have been tumbling around in my brain for months, and I think I finally have something to say about it all:

I’m living outside the hoop right now. And I’m making the best of it.

As some of you know, I sustained an injury while hooping last year. I was working on a new move and had the wrong footwear for the style. The rubber sole of my shoe caught on the floor when it should have slid across it, and I ended up sitting down with my right leg caught under my left hip. My doctor sent me for an x-ray even though I thought it was a soft tissue injury. The x-ray was inconclusive. For whatever reason, he never sent me for an MRI, and I didn’t push the issue. I went to Physical Therapy until we moved to Vegas, and when my insurance kicked in here, I went back to the doctor for evaluation and more therapy.
It’s a long story, but my first physical therapist here in Vegas ended up causing more pain – increasing amounts of it – until I could no longer attribute it to the healing process. I found a new PT, and I started seeing a massage therapist that works with dancers and athletes. Things have been improving, slowly but surely, but I have been unable to hoop or do anything approaching my normal level of activity for months now. I feel the need to explain all this because it has been my life for the past year. I’ve never had a severe injury before, and I’ve certainly never had to spend this much time recovering from it.

It sucks. The process is slow. It’s frustrating. It’s painful. And makes the rest of the normal life stresses much harder. But…I’m starting to be okay with it.

I’m finding my silver lining.

I am…HUMBLED by my body. I listen to it more closely than ever before. I rest a lot. I walk a lot to keep from getting stiff, and I stretch a little bit, when my joints aren’t hurting. I pay close attention to what I eat and when I eat it. Because I don’t have cardio to help with my moods, I’m careful about refined foods: sugar, flour, saturated fat, empty calories. Because I’m taking a lot of ibuprofen, I eat more regularly and more conscientiously. Pain has been a good teacher. I now know when I need to stop or modify a particular activity, and I’m better able to recognize that line *before* I do something to cause more pain.

(I’m going to write a post on pain pretty soon. If you have insight into chronic pain that you would like to share, please do email me)

As for the hoops. My interaction with hoops has been limited to making them, and at a much slower pace than before. I’ve had time to enjoy the process and rediscover my passion for customizing every hoop I make. I know now that I’m not a hoop factory. I never was, and I was beginning to resent the process because of the volume I had to produce, plus the extra work of transporting them to festivals every year just to turn a small profit. I just want to make hoops for one person at a time. The ones I’m making now are all one of a kind. Now I make a hoop because I’m inspired to: I like the colors, or I need something to do with my hands. I put it up for sale because I want someone else to be inspired by it. And when I FINALLY get back into my hoop, that’s what will inspire me: the flow only I can bring to MY hoop.

Hoop Well!  Live Well!

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