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Monday, October 27, 2014

25 Things Redux

Last year, right before my birthday I posted a list of 25 things I wanted to accomplish in my 25th year. I turn 25 tomorrow and completely forgot about that post until it showed up on my Timehop feed a few days ago. I clicked through to the post and held my breath, expecting to feel disappointed about all the things I was sure I'd failed to accomplish. Instead, I felt surprised by the many milestones I've reached over the past year and the personal growth I experienced. It's been a year of being honest with myself about my own strengths, weaknesses and values. Instead of sweeping the ugly broken pieces of life under the rug, I've faced them and tried (to varying levels of success) to repair them.
 Many of my priorities have shifted as a result. My goals are different. Life has changed.

So, to mark the completion of a quarter of a century of living, let's look back at that list of goals I set for myself one year ago. The items accomplished are bolded, explanations italicized..

1) Establish and commit to a regular writing routine (at least over the summer. . . .)
2) Finish a short story.
3) Finish a non-fiction essay.
4) Submit something to another literary magazine.
5) Finalize my MFA program applications.

6) Become certified to teach the ABT curriculum.
7) Audition/submit myself for at least two dance (performing) jobs.
8) Lay the ground work for establishing a new company in western NY.
9) Expand the theater and voice offerings at my studio, including establishing weekly classes in music and acting. (We had a voice class for a few months before losing our teacher. That counts!)

10) Finally master all Teasers on the mat (I can do them correctly, but am still working on improvement as always.)
11) Take an apparatus class.
12) Earn a second Pilates certification
13) Become certified to teach another fitness discipline (Group exercise through ACE, 7/14, and currently taking a yogafit homestudy course to expand my knowledge.)

14) Become a more consistent meal planner
15) Finish decorating and furnishing our house
16) Finally get our wedding photos and A's baby photos printed and framed
17) Spend daily time in scripture.
18) Plan and grow a more varied garden* (attempted without much success)
19) Take a much belated honeymoon/five year anniversary trip with Graham (sort of . . .day trip for 5th anniversary; overnight trip for my birthday this year)
20) Go an entire week without using social media.
21) Take a class in something completely new.
22) Be intentional about serving and participating in church life
23) Donate at least $100 to a worthy cause or family in need.
24) Figure out a more effective way to organize our budget.
25) Take better care of my marriage, including taking at least two baby-free dates with Graham every month.

I  notice that the Personal, Home and Family category is where I struggled most. There are quite a few reasons for that and I may do a post on how my home life is shifting and evolving soon. 

While it's fun to make these lists and look back on them, I don't think I'll make any similar ones for a while. This year has taught me that life is too unpredictable to plan so meticulously. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Morning Pilates Mat Routine

In Pilates--at least in what is now called classical Pilates--the mat exercises are typically practiced in the same order from class to class. Pilates schools and instructors may differ slightly on the correct order of certain exercises with some incorporating modern modifications based on new understandings of the body, but in general classical Pilates teachers stick to the tried-and-true sequencing. Once you come to class a few times you'll begin to remember the order and can start to flow naturally from one move to another both in class and at home. But many of us are crunched for time when it comes to our home practice and clients often ask me, "What exercises should I be doing if I only have 15 minutes?"
     The answer will depend greatly on the individual (Pilates, despite it's formulaic structure, really is so personal!), their experience level, knowledge of the exercises, and points of weakness. Individual adjustments aside, the following routine is a quick 15 - 20 minute sequence I love to do first thing in the morning. This sequence will increase the flow of oxygen to your muscles, elevate your heart rate to warm-up the body, and give you a nice burst of energy to start your day.

Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you have any underlying medical conditions or injuries. For optimal results and safety, I recommend you first learn these exercises in a Pilates class under the instruction of a knowledgeable teacher. 

Morning Mat Pilates 
For this workout you only need an exercise mat! If you don't have one, a thin blanket or towel on a non-skid surface will work as well.

Before you begin:
Focus on body awareness and breath. Lay on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet placed on the mat about hip-width apart. Reach your palms onto the mat right next to your legs. Imagine lengthening your fingertips toward the edge of the mat as you sink your shoulders away from your ears. Take a deep breath in through your nose and let it out through your mouth as you feel your navel draw toward your spine. Repeat the inhale and, on your next exhale, soften the curve of your lower back toward the mat keeping the navel drawn toward your spine. Make sure you are not tensing your gluteus or shoving your lower back down. Take a few more breaths here, focusing on keeping the abdominals engaged and the shoulders down. For more on the neutral spine position and a few helpful body awareness exercises, click here. 

Links to descriptions and demonstrations of each exercise are included!

Happy Pilates-ing! 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How I (Try to) Make it Work

     I don't read blogs as much as I used to back in the days of Google Reader (RIP) but lately I have been following this Moms Make it Work series on Julia's blog.  My family is entering a point of transition as my husband reaches the end of his undergraduate education and we decide where and how to take our next steps. I like reading thoughts from moms in all different life stages, from those who work full time to those who stay at home and the growing number of moms who, like me, straddle those two worlds. I've also gotten a lot of questions from friends and acquaintances about how work and childcare and chores are managed in our household, so I thought I'd do my own little "moms make it work" post about how I try to balance everything. (The answer is usually, "not very well.")
Barre buddies!

   A Typical Day
    Our days vary greatly depending on Graham's class schedule and my teaching schedule but we try to keep Gus's routine as consistent as possible. He tends to wake up at about 6:30 (though lately he's been sleeping until 7:00 am--glorious!) and I'll get him up, dressed, to the potty (on a good day) and downstairs where I try to get him to eat some breakfast as I make coffee. Graham leaves for school around 7:30 and, because we only have one car in our family, I'll often drive him the three miles to campus so Gus and I can have the car for running errands. Gus and I are home together until 3:00 pm, with the exception of Tuesdays when I teach three hours in the morning and Gus goes to a babysitter. I do my studio admin work like answering emails, updating student accounts, paying bills and planning lessons while Gus naps and usually squeeze in an extra hour of work or writing while he watches an episode of Sesame Street before or after his nap. At 3:00 pm Graham comes home and I usually head down to the studio to start "real" work. Graham stays home with Gus, making him dinner, giving him his bath and putting him down for bed around 7:00 pm. I'm grateful for a husband who doesn't mind our 50/50 childcare split because so far I've been able to work without paying for too much childcare! Every now and then, Gus has to come with me to the studio to clean or teach private lessons. He usually does well but I am not good at having a "mom brain" and "teacher brain" on at the same time, so I prefer him to stay home when I'm teaching.

Teaching Hours
     The last couple of years, I maintained a schedule where I was consistently teaching several hours of physically demanding classes Monday - Thursday, plus a couple of hours on Fridays or Saturdays, after taking care of a baby/toddler all day. Some people can handle that type of schedule but it was really wearing on my brain and body and a big strain for our family. This year I made the decision to combine a couple of ballet classes, so I'm at my studio for a total of about 20 teaching hours and four or five rehearsal hours each week, mostly on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. Tuesdays I finish teaching before noon and have the evening off to take yoga or even stay home and have dinner at a normal time! Thursdays, I've been teaching a couple of Pilates and barre classes in another town but will soon be devoting those evenings to ministry with a Christian ballet company near Seneca Lake. I'm so excited for the opportunity to dance and perform a little bit again in a ministry capacity!
     I get home from work anywhere between 8:00 pm and 9:30 pm. Usually, I make myself a late dinner and spend an hour or two before bed catching up with my husband or reading. I know some WAHMs who are able to squeeze in some working hours at night but my brain just doesn't function productively at night so I try to stay off the computer and away from my "at-home" work unless there's something really pressing to be done.
I take care of most of the day-to-day chores in our household (at least the indoor ones) but I'm pretty terrible at it.  Graham says it's because I'm "only meticulous about ballet." Keeping the counters clean and free of clutter, the dirty dishes at a manageable number, and the laundry done is about the extent of my capabilities on a good day but I'm getting much better! A de-cluttered house and reasonably tidy kitchen are essential to my peace of mind.

Would I do it differently?
This is something I'm trying to figure out. In some ways, I have the best of both worlds. I used to think I'd really like being a stay-at-home-mom but the reality of it is so different and I know I'll always need another outlet (or ten). I do really appreciate that I get to earn a living, mostly outside the home, while simultaneously getting to spend my days with my son.
         Sometimes I'm frustrated with trying to be both a full-time working mom 100% responsible for her family's income and a full-time stay-at-home-mom. We've talked a little bit about it and we think our ideal situation would be for Graham to work full time and for me to just teach/dance/perform part-time in the evenings without the added stress of running a business. That said, I'm incredibly thankful to get to own a business in a field I love where I am right now. It just may not be forever--we're taking that one step, one year at a time.

How does your family "make it work"? I'd love to hear about it!