It’s A Pool Party: Aqua Zumba

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Four weeks ago, I went to a fun pool party; and, I have “partied” every Saturday morning since.  Our community’s YMCA added an Aqua Zumba class to the Spring/Summer 2013 Group Exercise Schedule.   Taking an Aqua Zumba class was on my long Bucket List of “things to do before I die.” 

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About five years ago, my Baby Girl and some of the women who worked in our family-owned business started to take Land Zumba classes one evening a week.  They encouraged me to come along.   I wanted to join them, but I knew Mr. Arthur’s joints (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and Ms. PN’s feet (Peripheral Neuropathy) could not withstand the floor pounding steps of the cha-cha, merenque, salsa, reggaeton and mambo dance movements.

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Last year, I did venture into a Land Zumba Class at the YMCA.  Though, it was a beginning class, I was intimidated by the younger, fitter, and hipper women in the class.  Here I was, a fast approaching 70-year-old whose grace and rhythm, as a dancer, disappeared more than 40 years ago. This class was a painful experience for two reasons.  One, the physical pain to my deconditioned lower extremities pounding down on the hard floor; and, two the emotional pain of feeling inadequate and being judged by others in the class.   I finished the 60-minute class, but did not go back.  

For weeks, leading up to the first Aqua Zumba Class, I questioned whether —

  • I was prepared to appear in a swimming suit at a busy community pool on a Saturday morning?
  • I was able, given my mobility limitations, to even enter or exit the pool?

I arrived early for the first day of class.   Hoping no one would notice, I entered the pool area in the largest beach towel I could find.  It surrounded my body from chest to knees.  There were a lot of people sitting around the pool deck.  Most of them were relaxing, conversing or observing the preschoolers in their early morning swim class.  Quite frankly, a 70-year-old woman in a large beach towel did not seem to tweak anyone’s interest.

Then, I began to worry about how to make a smooth entrance into the pool.  Using the pool ladder I felt was my best option rather than lowering into the pool from the deck as the other women did.  I gradually and carefully focused on each step as I descended into the pool.  Grateful, I made it without a problem.   Since, I never learned to swim, I chose a spot toward the pool’s shallow end.  Thereafter, everything went smoothly.

The class started with a warm up dance to Latin music.  Wendy, the instructor, demonstrated the different dance moves from the deck.   The tempo changed and we were stretching, twisting, and splashing to the music – shouting along with Wendy.  Every time a new song started, Wendy instructed us on a new and different dance move.   Squatting, jumping and moving my hips in a circle pattern while moving around; then adding hand movements to spray, push, and pull the water was the ultimate full-body workout.

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Aided by the buoyancy of the water, the beat of the music, and the energy of the instructor; I was able to hold my own in a class of younger women

Aqua Zumba rebirthed my rhythm and grace, met my special needs, and opened the door to a challenging water based workout to improve my:

  • Aerobic/Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Muscle Resistance
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Joint Mobility

Aqua Zumba provides a safe haven to lose inhibitions and focus on the exercise.   It’s definitely a freeing and empowering feeling exercising in the water.

The party atmosphere of Aqua Zumba combined with a safe and effective fitness workout is a win-win for me. 

Be Still Day

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“Learning how to Be Still, to really Be Still and let life happen — that stillness becomes a radiance.”  (Morgan Freeman)

Last Sunday, overwhelmed and anxious, I decided it was time for a Be Still Day!   On this day only calmness, peacefulness, and stillness could enter my “Personal Space.”  

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Is it difficult to Be Still?  Or is it, just me?  As a young child, Mama often had to remind me to stop fidgeting.   She would quietly, but firmly say, “Yvonne, Be Still.”   An impatient child, I fidgeted most when I was . . .

  • getting my hair combed;
  • doing homework;
  • sitting in church,
  • riding in a car, or
  • eating dinner.

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Had I learned to Be Still as a child, perhaps my adult life would have been less stressful.   Though, I stopped fidgeting after a while, to Be Still is yet a work in progress.

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More recently, my inability to Be Still correlates with an addiction to my I-Pad and MacBook Pro.  For this reason, venturing into cyberspace — banned on Be Still Day.  No surfing the Internet, reading e-mails, or entering blogosphere for me on Be Still Day.  

The Be Still Day was a success.  I needed this day of stillness, aloneness, meditation, inner focus, and spiritual enlightenment to cure a serious case of undernourishment.

For weeks leading up to the self-imposed Be Still Day, I didn’t nourish my mind, body and spirit.  Far too many “first time tasks” on a long “to do list.”   All related to:

  • A 53rd Anniversary Gift this month from Hubby and The Eldest Daughter; as well as
  • Preparing for The Daughters and 13-Year-Old Grandson’s Annual Week-Long Spring Visit

The anniversary gift was a “generous, though budgeted amount,” for a mini makeover of my kitchen and bathrooms.    Hubby and The Eldest Daughter offered to help.   My immediate response was, “I Got This.”   After all, I have been an avid follower of . . .

  • Home and Garden TV
  • Do It Yourself Network
  • Martha Stewart Living
  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Real Simple
  • House and Home

Certainly, twenty years of devouring decorating magazines and countless hours of watching home makeover programs on television prepared me to handle a “mini makeover.” 

Feeling confident, I went to my trusted friend, The Internet, for ideas on tile, granite, sinks, faucets, and lighting.    Looking for contractors, plumbers, fabricators, installers, electricians, and painters; I  checked the telephone book, Angie’s List, Craig’s List as well as asking my neighbors.  Overwhelmed with all the options.  Unable to make a decision, I spent days analyzing, procrastinating and stressing outaccomplishing nothing.  

My inner voice shouted, “You need help.”   Putting pride aside, I called on the Hubby and The Eldest Daughter for help.   Working together, as a team, we completed all the tasks on the “to do list” in less than a week.   The last stage of the project, installing the backsplash tiles, is scheduled for completion by day’s end.

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I am a Survivor.  Living with a medical history of:

  • Breast Cancer,
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis,
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease;
  • Sleep Apnea;
  • Fibromyalgia, and
  • Peripheral Neuropathy

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The challenges I face, as a survivor, on any given day can be . . .

  • Fatigue
  • Sleeplessness
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Stressfulness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Cancer Re-Occurrence

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Oftentimes, I forget my survivor status and take on too much.  When this happens, the mind, body and spirit crash.   I can always count on Hubby and the Three Adult Kids to lift me up.   Ultimately, however, I am the survivor and it is my responsibility to make the right choices.

Since Be Still Day, upon arising every morning, I repeat my personal affirmation.

I am a survivor of Breast Cancer and Chronic Pain.   I claim, accept and embrace this life.  Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to follow my path toward a healthy mind, body, and spirit.  My Survivorship is Dependent Upon My Emotional, Mental and Physical Health. (SeasonedSistah 2)

Fifty-Three Years and Counting

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Fifty-three years ago, the odds were against the survival of our marriage.   Why?

  • I was a recent high-school graduate, unemployed, 17-years-old, and pregnant.
  • He was an 18-years-old, unemployed, high school dropout.

Back then, like it probably still is today, most teen marriages ended in either a permanent separation or divorce.

Though our parents agreed to the marriage, they were disappointed and wondered whether this was a “failure waiting to happen.“   We tuned out the naysayers and doubters.

On April 11, 1960, JT and I exchanged vows at the Cook County Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois.   Our mothers were the only guests; and, they definitely were not beaming and handing out congratulatory words.  Out of love for their children, they both agreed to show up and sign the papers to authorize our underage marriage.

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I did not have the wedding that most young girl’s dream of.   It was the extreme opposite.  There was:

  • No Church. 
  • No Music. 
  • No Rings. 
  • No Reception. 
  • No Photos
  • No Wedding Dress. 

Our one and only wedding gift was a crisp $20.00 bill from my mother.

Married without money or a job, our only available housing option was to live with my parents and occupy the bedroom I had slept in since the age of 12.

Soon recognizing our young age, educational deficiencies, and lack of work experience limited employment opportunities; JT enlisted in the Army.   In the military, he could earn his high school diploma and our family would have a guaranteed monthly income and health care coverage.

My young girlfriends as well as many of my relatives’ prophesized and warned us that his volunteering for the Army meant “the end of our marriage.”   Prepare yourself, they cautioned, “long separations” oftentimes turn into “permanent separations.”  When JT departed for basic training on April 25, 1960 the tears flowed, but I withheld talking to him about my fears of abandonment.

We endured the six-month separation through daily letters, occasional phone calls, and his two short military leaves to visit with me and our new daughter in Chicago.

On December 8, 1960, I truly entered the adult world.  Only three week after turning eighteen, I left family and friends to join JT at his new military assignment in Wackenheim, Germany.

His rank as a Private-First-Class, did not meet the eligibility requirements for us to live on the base in military family housing.  So, JT secured a one-room efficiency on the third floor of a private home.

As I recall the rent was $20.00 per month.  The landlord lived on the first floor and their son, his wife and baby lived on the second floor.   They did not understand or speak English.

In the efficiency next to us on the third floor, we shared the bathroom with two young women.  They understood a little English, worked nights and slept during most of the day.  Later, I learned they were prostitutes who serviced men in the military.  Once I overcame my biased and judgmental opinions, I found two very friendly and supportive neighbors.   They would come over to check their clothing, makeup and hair in our full-length mirror before heading out for the night.  Our Toddler Girl loved to imitate.  She would stand in front of the mirror, twirl, pull, and adjust her clothing.  Then, pout her lips and attempt to swing her hair.  Toddler Girl, now in her early fifties, is embarrassed when we share this childhood memory of her.

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In Germany, I was on the fast track to adulthood.  I had to manage our money and soon learned how to feed a family of four on an income of about a $140.00 per month.   There was always a nourishing meal for the Toddler Girl and the Baby Boy; but there were times when JT and I ate only smothered potatoes and onions for breakfast, dinner and lunch.  Both of which were free and readily accessible.

Our landlord was a farmer and these two vegetables were stored year-round in the cellar.  Though, they always encouraged us to take whatever we needed; sometimes, I was just too embarrassed to ask.  Every now and then, on the pretense of getting coal from the cellar to build a fire in the stove, I would hide a couple of potatoes and onions in the bottom of the bucket.  Of course, I now realize the smell of smothered onions and potatoes no doubt spread to lower floors of this small house.

I soon adjusted to my new life as a young wife, with two small children, on a limited income, living in a foreign country.   Out of necessity, I also quickly learned to:

  • build a fire in the coal stove
  • heat water for bathing and washing clothes 
  • cook meals on a two burner hot plate; and
  • live without television and rhythm and blues radio stations

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The two years, I spent with JT in Germany strengthened our marriage.  We both had to grow up and assume the responsibility of making our marriage work as well as parenting two small children.   Absent friends, family, and the other American amenities we were forced to depend on each other for friendship, entertainment, conversation, and support.  If we disagreed, it didn’t last long.   We couldn’t call a friend to complain or run to our parents for comfort.   We had to work it out between the two of us. 

Those early experiences as a young couple, struggling and relying totally on each other, established the foundation for our strong and long-lasting marriage.  Collectively working as a team, we were determined to build a better life for our three children.

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Marriage is not easy.  It’s a commitment that takes work.  There will be ups and downs, but we have to:

  • learn to compromise
  • spend quality time together
  • consider each other’s feelings
  • listen to each other, and most importantly,
  • laugh together

Through God’s Grace, we reached our educational and professional goals, educated our three children, and now enjoy living the life of retirees.

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April 11, 2013 – Fifty-Three Years and Counting. 

Happy Anniversary to Us

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