Author Archives: janaremy

strong shoulders

Getting healthy, one day at a time

A few years ago I realized that being healthy and strong was critical to my overall well-being.  In fact I began to see that when I was healthy, everything else in my life flowed better.  As a result, each time I sit down to set goals, healthiness is at the top of my list: to walk as well as I can, to do strength training, and to maintain my joint health.

For me being healthy is also one of my biggest challenges.  Because I’m an amputee I can’t just take up jogging five miles a day, so I find that I have to be a lot more creative in the ways that I exercise.  I also have learned that I can’t do this alone, so I have coaches and friends who keep me motivated to keep at my health routines.

As of right now, this is my weekly exercise schedule:

Monday:
Early Morning, strength training with Coach Sarah
Evening, gyrotonics with Victoria (at Beau Corps studio)

Tuesday:
Rest Day

Wednesday:
Early Morning, strength training with Sarah
Evening, Iyengar yoga with Denise’s Intermediate Class

Thursday:
Rest Day

Friday:
Early Morning, strength training with Sarah

Saturday:
Early Morning, Outrigger Canoeing Team Practice

Sunday:
Either a 2-hour yoga workshop or a solo paddle on my canoe

What I like about this schedule is that it is a good mix of activities that I genuinely enjoy.  And I also like that it is a mix of solo exercise and group/team exercise.  What I don’t like: is that I don’t get ample cardio exercise.  I also feel like I ought to incorporate more stretching into my regular routines, such as a deep stretching/yoga workout on Tues/Thurs mornings.  And I must confess that the first thing to go in this schedule is my Wednesday yoga class–it is so hard to keep that commitment between teaching into the evenings on Tuesday and Thursday (and also one Wednesday per month I am at our South County campus too late in the evening to get to my yoga class).

I also just feel like overall it’s not enough.  I’m not as tone as I used to be and I definitely get creaky and injured far more easily than I did even five years ago (not to mention having put on 10 pounds that is definitely not muscle).  But I can barely keep up with this routine on top of my work and teaching, so I can’t really imagine adding more (like swimming, I really want to add swimming–but when?).

I guess I’m curious if any of you can suggest ways that I could squeeze in a bit more exercise here and there, or if you want to share your fitness plans with me, as something I might emulate?

(Note: photo taken 6 years ago, when my friend Crystal was doodling on my shoulders–that’s not permanent ink…)

Reader, I married him

Just as I was beginning to plan our wedding a few weeks ago, this post came out from Clothilde about her simple Paris wedding.  What she said about planning her event in two months was similar to the timeline that we set for ourselves, and I felt empowered by her thoughts about keeping things simple and “100% you.” Our version of this was a bit different, because of being in SoCal, so here are the choices that we made:

-we’ve worn “wedding” rings for 5+ years (since he first proposed as we watched the sun set one evening at Griffith Park), so that was one thing we didn’t have to worry about for the marriage.  My ring is a vintage eternity band, from the ’20s.  Stijn’s ring is a simple silver band.

-for a few weeks I struggled with what to wear. I’d thought a cocktail dress would be more befitting our stage of life than a traditional white dress, but after looking and looking, I couldn’t settle on anything that felt right. I wore myself out dress shopping (note: I tire of shopping pretty easily).  One afternoon I was thinking about my favorite short story, Isak Dinesen’s “The Blank Page,” and it occurred to me that a simple white dress was what I wanted as I was about to begin the next chapter of my life (something that hinted at so many as-yet-untold stories):

It is in front of this piece of pure white linen that the old princesses of Portugal — worldly wise, dutiful, long-suffering queens, wives and mothers — and their noble old playmates, bridesmaids and maids-of-honour have most often stood still… 

The dress I settled on was a silk a-line floor length gown from J.Crew.  It was light and easy-to-wear for those two very long days of wedding happenings.

-we held our wedding celebrations at our 1921 bungalow-style home in Old Town Orange.  While hard in some ways (parking? food prep? one guest bathroom?), our home is so much a part of who we are, that nothing else would have felt right. We were fortunate to have perfect 75-degree weather and the wisteria and bougainvillea brought tons of color to the pergola in our backyard. Also, we used All-American Party Rental to augment our supply of party goods, and they were wonderful to work with.

wisteria

 

-we scheduled a civil ceremony at the historic Santa Ana courthouse.  It’s a gorgeous space and we both love history and this reinforces our local ties.  Plus, it was a no-hassle way to do the business of marrying.  I was surprised by how beautiful it felt to take Stijn’s hands and recite vows as I looked into his eyes.  Our family sat on rows of pews around us.
flowers and bracelets

-for our reception we served drinks (sparkling water, juice, champagne, beer, wine) and cake.  The cakes were from Blackmarket Bakery: Total Eclipse, Citrus Tang and Straight Up Vanilla.  Were I to do it over again I would double the order of the Citrus and cancel the Vanilla (which was tasty but not ohmigawd tasty like the other two).  Several guests mentioned that the Total Eclipse chocolate cake was one of the most decadent that they had ever tried, and others complimented the fact that the cakes were rich but not too sweet.

-for the wedding dinner chefStijn and chefCharlie cooked a traditional Belgian dish, vol-au-vent.vol-au-ventThey also served a variety of cold salad starters and a cheese course accompanied by loaves of Stijn’s own handmade rustic sourdough bread.  While I don’t necessarily recommend cooking your own wedding dinner(!), anyone who knows Stijn can understand why this was what he wanted to do. That Charlie was there to lend a hand (and also his partner and honorary bridesmaid Bonny) is why we were able to pull this off…

dinner time

-both our engagement and wedding photos were taken by longtime friends, who understood me and my style.  D’Arcy‘s colorful shots captured our home well (and were perfect for our event invitation) and Brenda’s classical eye matched the look of the old-timey courthouse venue.

invitation

-for my something borrowed, I wore vintage gold bracelets (handed down from grandmothers and great-aunts) on loan from some women that I’ve known for many years.  I loved wearing something so old and precious for the occasion.
Jana&Stijn_4324

-because we have just about everything we could possibly need or want, we asked guests to consider two nontraditional options in lieu of gifts.  The first was to bring books for our Little Free Library, the second was to consider a donation to RIF (Reading is Fundamental) or to First Book (see firstbook.org). Although I don’t yet have a definitive tally, my rough estimate is that about $500 was donated to these organizations as the result of our wedding.  Of course we also received many sweet cards and gifts (especially plants, wine, kitchen goods and gift cards), and we have enjoyed each one of them.

-we married on a Friday (the exact 6 year anniversary of our first date) and that night we escaped to The Ranch in Laguna Beach, where we had dinner and sat in front of the fire sipping wine and hardly believing that we were actually married.  It was a perfect relaxed but not-too-far-away setting for that first night together as a couple.

fire and wine

-most importantly, our wedding included so many beloved friends and family members and this is what made it truly memorable.  I marveled at how far many had traveled and how enthusiastic they were about supporting our union.  These past 6 years, since meeting Stijn, have held so many highs and lows, and it’s those people who’ve been ‘there’ for us (both in-person and virtually) who have made this all come together.

the crowd

As for what it feels like to be married to Stijn…I’ll undoubtedly write more about that in the future.  It is not a small thing to combine families and traditions that span the breadth of the globe. Yet for now it has hardly sunk in and I am eager to see what’s next for the two of us as we chart the rest of our lives together.

legacy bio, or what happens when you log in to blogger.com after more than 10 years…

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.48.43 PMRecently I logged into blogger.com while I was teaching a workshop, and when I did so my legacy bio from 2005 popped up onto the screen in front of the audience.  It was a bit embarrassing to see my just-barely-in-grad-school self on that big screen and to realize just how much time has passed in the interim.  I don’t live with any of those people anymore (I’m over 6 years divorced from John and the kiddos both live in their own apartments in different cities from me) and I’ve long since finished my Ph.D.  While I still enjoy my afternoon cuppa and I do spend a lot of my discretionary time gardening, I rarely define myself by those hobbies.  Of course I am still a cancer survivor and I am still am amputee, but I would probably not advertise those aspects of myself in front of an audience while I was speaking on a professional topic.

This is a pretty good example of how the internet doesn’t forget much, despite the fact that I’ve rather strategically moved my URLs around enough that my decades-ago blogwriting is not so easily discoverable.  It still happens often that near-strangers will mention to me that “they’ve been reading my blog…” and I am left feeling like I’ve just left my junior high school diary open on a park bench.

So perhaps this is the perfect segue to an announcement about the talk that I’ll be giving at my alma mater on March 1st.  It will be an opportunity to reminisce a bit about my life as a blogger along with my colleague Jeff Wasserstrom.  If you’re interested in hearing some of my stories (including, perhaps, how it felt to have my decades-old blogger bio pop up in my workshop last week), please consider yourself invited to join in!

(And it is not without a large feeling of fondness that I note the location of this event is one of my former favorite UCI study haunts, which is now named after my best-ever UCI Bio prof). 

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.58.32 PM

 

Sunday thoughts

in the courtyard of the Mutter Museum

in the courtyard of the Mutter Museum

It’s the quiet before the storm here, a few days alone before the family arrive for the holidays.  I am still not used to the rhythm of the holidays sans children.  I put the ornaments on the tree myself, reveling in the memories of each one.

I still only use the same small batch of ornaments that we’ve collected over the years.  I wonder sometimes if the secret santa who gave us a set of cheap tin angels in 1992 ever thought that they would still be on our tree 25 years later, not to mention every ornament that I made in grade school, on our tree alongside the ones that my children made.  Though it would be so easy to buy new stylish decor, I never feel the impetus to do so.

Which reminds me of a conversation that I had at a holiday party last weekend.  I met someone new and mentioned that I’d moved to Orange just as soon as my kids finished school in Irvine.

“Weren’t they sad about your selling the family home?,” she asked.

It was a stranger, one I wasn’t ready to fill in on the backstory of my patchwork life.  I am not sure how she would have made sense of our moving eight times in those last three years while the kids were finishing high school.  While I can so easily tell the stories of the rat house, the whale house, and that time that seven sailors were sleeping in the living room, I didn’t this time.  I simply said that we were all ready for a fresh start…

I had a similar feeling a month ago when a colleague asked how I was spending Thanksgiving.  I told them I was skipping the holiday and traveling to Philadelphia to visit my daughter.  I could see that they don’t really understand why I would opt out of the TDay to wander a strange city on my own and pop in to visit Em on her campus.

But it was a lovely trip.  The weather so cold and so bright.  When she wasn’t busy studying we went to the Mutter and the Barnes and the map room of the downtown library.  She showed me her favorite study spot in the campus library and her favorite trees.  We had coffee at Hobbs and water ice at her pizza place and noodles at her noodle place.  We found a swingset by the Friends’ Meetinghouse and swang and swang.  I felt the pull in my stomach as I pumped my legs up into the air I swung back and forth and felt so young and so old all at the same time.  Remembering myself as a young girl who wanted to swing so high, always reaching out my toes into the big blue.  And remembering the hours (upon hours) that I pushed Em in the playground swings, relishing her squeals as she flew higher and higher and further away from me.

When I wasn’t with Em I walked and wandered Philly.  I stood in line for Independence Hall and went on the tour along with the schoolchildren and families, all of us rubbing our hands together and stomping our feet to keep warm while the wind whipped at us as we queued.

It was all worth the wait when we finally got inside and the tourguide told us about the signing of the declaration, reciting those famous words in a practiced voice:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

I looked out the tall windows into the courtyard where we had just waited, to see dozens  still in line.  The wind was outside was gusting, and yellow leaves were swirling and dancing in the golden light of the winter afternoon.

 

Sunday evening

Yesterday I went to the farmer’s market, my mouth watering for the heirloom tomatoes sold by my favorite vendor.  I bought two last week and they are the tastiest tomatoes that I’ve had that I haven’t grown myself.  She had just three left and I bought them all.  I had the first on a salad of spicy lettuce for my lunch and it was just as good as I had hoped it would be.

This morning I spent my extra hour in the garden, talking to our winter tomato plants that are just beginning to blossom.  They are thriving in this not-winter weather and I expect to have fruit soon.  I suppose we’ve gone a bit overboard, as we always seem to do, and  I am looking forward to having the problem of too many tomatoes.tomato plants

This afternoon I went to an intensive yoga workshop, “on the ropes.”  I hung upside down and did forward bends and backbends while suspended in loops of heavy rope hanging from the walls in my teacher’s studio.  While I suspect that I will be moving a bit slowly tomorrow as a result of my time hanging around this afternoon, it is such a delicious feeling to stretch and bend and twist and breathe into my body.  To push it harder than I think it can go.  As I walked home from the workshop I marveled that this is the thing that is middle age.  To have the freedom and the flexibility to choose to exercise for an afternoon just because it’s what I want to do.

And then afterwards I puttered around the house doing laundry and cooking dinner and watching a bit of Netflix.  A pair of missionaries knocked on my door as I was puttering.  When I answered the bell they greeted me by name, saying that they’d just received my contact information and that they were excited to meet me.

I was still wearing my yoga clothes, my bare shoulders revealing more than my tan lines.  I knew I couldn’t invite them inside, because I am an adult woman at home alone and that would not be appropriate.  They smiled and they told me they were from Utah and Texas and asked if they could come again soon.  I was tempted to tell them to google me when they got home, but instead I thanked them for their kindness and explained that I would not be interested in future visits.

I looked in their eyes and saw my brothers and so many other young mormons I have loved. I wondered which one of them had shared my address with the Church and wondered if they knew how sad I was to have my location known to the local congregation.

They asked how long I had been a member and I told them it has been for all of my life.

In that moment I remembered being wrapped in white linen, when holy oil was swabbed on my forehead and scalp and clavicles and spine, when I sat on a throne and was anointed to become both a priestess and a queen.  The details are still vivid, despite it being an eternity ago.

I wished the missionaries goodnight and turned off the porch light after they exited the front gate.

morning thoughts

 


Last night I dreamed about my cat who was dying.  It was my cat, but not my cat (in the ways that dreams work).  She was Toby, but not Toby.  She was curled into a ball on my chest and was shaking and heaving.  And as much as I tried, I could not remember her name.

I woke to the sinus ache of dry hot air, another night of the “Santa Anas,” yesterday’s temps peaking at 104 according to my car’s thermometer.  I immediately stepped outside to check the progress of the garden.  The peas that I planted a few weeks ago are surviving the dryness, thanks to a regular dousing.  The Siberian winter tomato varieties that we planted a few weeks ago are thriving.  We’ve never planted winter tomatoes before, but it seemed worth a try and the horticulturist at our local nursery was insistent that they would set fruit.  I wonder if they are as acclimated to dry desert winds as they are to the shortened days of the season.  They already have several blossoms apiece.

I am barefoot in the garden though I probably should not be.  We’re rebuilding our back house and the ground around the garden is covered in splinters of wood and screws and small sharp things.  But I take my chances anyways, today.

I sit on the pavers in the sun, near the plants, and marvel that it’s fall and yet it’s hotter than the summer.  Though this happens every year, it always feels strange and new when the dry winds blow.

My son moved home this week, for awhile.  It’s a strange thing to have my kids around–it is so easy to share with them, everything.  Yet I struggle with parenting them, as adults, never knowing how much to guide, how much to let them do for themselves.  We went grocery shopping together yesterday afternoon and as he put the shopping cart away he deftly lifted the entire thing over the parking lot median, as if it was as light as a gallon of milk.  I am jealous of his easy strength, and am reminded of my middle age.  The time when I carried him on my hip feeling more than two dozen lifetimes ago.

For lunch he and I have a salad of spicy mesclun lettuce from the garden, picked at midday.  The leaves are wilted and limp, but have so much flavor that they overpower the small grape tomatoes that I’ve added into the mix.

The house is full of the smells of fresh bread, as Stijn is baking his next round of sourdough.  We watched Michael Pollan’s “Air” documentary a few days ago and ever since I have craved bread, remembering all of the dark and rich loaves of Scandinavia.  Little else is as interesting to me right now, as that.