Dancing, Celebrating, and the Big Day

OK - so it really is not a secret that I am getting married.  And to my closest friends and family it is not a secret that I love to plan.  I have in fact always loved to plan and never been afraid of events or parties.  In fact, when I was quite young, I planned a surprise 20th Wedding Anniversary for my parents.  They, of course, had to pay for the event, but I managed to find the caterer, pick out the perfect guest list and people actually came to the house, my parents where indeed surprised (in a good way) and it worked!

So now I am planning one of the most important events ever, and it is less than 6 months away.  Last fall, when I bought my first 2 Bridal Magazines, I did so with trepidation.  You see, I am rather superstitious.  I have never purchased a bridal magazine before last fall.  I chalked it up to bad luck.  When I placed the magazines down in front of the cashier it was almost as if I was buying pornography or the like.  Don't get me wrong - I have danced my fingers over the pages of such magazines thousands of times before, but never, ever had I actually laid down cold hard cash for the stuff!

So with the magazines - and yes, I only bought 2 because I quickly realized that once you buy 1, there is very little content that differs from one to the next - I started off of my planning adventures.  There is the layout of the event, the colors, and the atmosphere...


(image from www.theknot.com)

A decision to find a color that will coordinate with the theme, the room and the invitations that will pull the whole event together...

(Design by Katharine MacIntyre Navins, Tallow Studio)

The flowers, the music, and the cake... and then there is the decision of the first dance, if dancing is something that you choose to do...

(image from http://www.fortnet.org/tfc/Pictures/tangoOutline.gif)

However, it is all too easy to become caught up in the planning and loose track of how and why you started on this journey in the first place.  In the end, the flowers will not last, the rentals are returned to their rightful owner, and the crumbs of the cake are swept up from the ballroom floor.  These items are all secondary to the celebration.  The celebration of being with the most amazing man in the world, the man who came into my life and quite literally saved it.  The man with whom I will spend the rest of my life dancing and celebrating.


Lune de Miel

I love adventure, and I love to plan.  I am in full planning mode as I write down notes of colors, fonts, and frostings for our upcoming weddings.  Aside from the marriage (which is so very much more important than the wedding) I am head over heals excited about the trip.  Honeymoon.  Lune de miel.  Whatever you want to call it.  It will starts in a place called Selous, named after Frederick Courtenay Selous (1851-1917), and yes, he was British and a big game hunter.  Selous Game reserve is in fact the world's largest game reserve and filled with birds, elephants, hippos, lions, wild dogs, and, well, you get the picture?  Right?  No you say?  OK, maybe this will help...

from (http://www.adventurecamps.co.tz/selousinfo.htm)

Yes, there.  Now you know what it is that I am talking about.  Greatness and nothing less.  While on safari, I found out that we will be staying in tents above a hippo pond, which made me wonder if we will see anything like this...


Following the frenzy of the open terrain in Selous, we are heading to the open seas and the Spice Island also know as Zanzibar.  I do not expect that we will have much of an agenda, except maybe a run down the beach,

Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian

a tour of the spices,


and an introduction to some new friends,
Tanzania - Zanzibar - Prison island - Schildpad

Yes, I think that we can rest assured that adventure will come in all shapes and sizes.  And I cannot wait until I can fill pages with my own photos!

Breathe, and bring your hands to your heart...

Yoga.  I am sure that that word conjures up lots of different images for people everywhere.  I still remember the first class I ever took.  It was in a hot room (about 100F), I forgot a towel, sweat dripped from every pore on my body onto an old grey sweatshirt and soaked it thru and thru.  I must have stopped 10 - 15 times to look at the clock and wonder when the hell the class was going to be over, because 90 minutes seemed like 90 minutes too long, and I could not stop my mind from thinking about everything and anything.  It was not zen, it was not peaceful, and it was definitely not something that I wanted to rush back into anytime soon.  But when I left the studio, I felt lighter (probably from the 5lbs of water that I shed), and my mind felt clearer (quite possibly from the thinking that occurred and all the thoughts that sweat out of my pores).  In any event, I figured that I needed to try it again, because I was sore the next day.  Really sore, which in my mind meant that it did something to me that my other fitness activity was not doing.  So on and off for several years I would take a class.  I listened to the instructors, each with their own philosophy on life about how each one of us should go about our own lives.  I would listen, but not pay too much attention to what each particular move really meant.  Nor would I pay much attention to the intentions of yoga.

After my stroke and heart surgery, one particular phrase took on an entirely new meaning..."Bring your hands to your heart..." Yes, every time the heart is mentioned in yoga, my mind now focuses intently on my heart.  My whole heart.  My heart that is mended, and no longer broken.  And now it is my heart that truly guides me throughout each yoga practice.  I have come to really like yoga, and when I leave class, the light clean feeling I have is because I have been able to clear my mind for 60-90 minutes (for the most part...) and really focus on thinking about nothing (except that woman three rows in front of me who can do crow, and I can't and it really pisses me off...but that is besides the point, because I am almost there).  And truth be told, yoga is a great compliment to my running, strength training and bootcamp.  It really is all about balance - which you need a lot of in yoga. 

And speaking of balance, when you are standing there, on your mat, it is important that you are comfortable when balancing.  The foundation can often come down to your comfort level (or it can for me anyway). SO now, more than ever, I have it all figured out.  I recently purchased a brand new yoga mat that will bring everything into focus - my energy, my balance, and I am pretty convinced that I will be able to master crow pose as well.

On Sunday, while perusing the aisles at SOWA, I stopped by the Lotus Pad booth to check out the mats.  I have followed her on Twitter, and checked out the website, but it is hard to know what you are buying sometimes unless you really get to see it... and I did.  These mats rocks.  They are soft, colorful, light, and the owner rocks.  The mats are reversible, so depending on your mood, you can change the color.  Kate, the owner, is fantastic, and you should really check out her blog too!  Check these mats out...you will be happy you did!
Mats2   Lotus
Kate - owner of Lotus Pad Yoga Mats

Home is Where the Heart Is

I am an avid tweeter - you know, Twitter?  I love it, and in fact have 2 separate accounts to match each one of my blogs.  It is not always easy staying on top of all of the info, never mind remembering to be engaged and provide updates and info that seem to be "worthy" of reading.  There is a lot of fantastic information on Twitter - likewise, there is a lot in MISinformation as well.  In my attempt to look for all things heart related, I came across HeartHub for patients, which is part of the American Heart Association (AHA).  The site is great - it is a site for patients and caregivers and it is affiliated with the AHA - who better to back a patient website with all things heart related?  You can check out your risk level for heart disease, your BMI, and review various treatment options.  But as the index page of the site came up and I started to look a bit deeper, that feeling of disappointment that so often follows every time I look at most heart and or/ stroke related material emerged.

There were no young people (that I could see anyway).  When I say young, I mean people who appear to be younger than 40-45 or so.  Speaking from personal experience, I know that strokes can and do happen to anyone no matter what you look like, what your age is, or your ethnicity.  The site reminded me of a brochure I received upon being discharged from the hospital after my stroke.  An elderly couple smiled back at me - they were sitting outside in a chair and had their arms around each other.  The heading on the brochure read "Sex after Stroke" and the couple was probably in their late 70s - early 80s.  How could I (33 at the time) possibly relate to the couple on the brochure?  I did not think that the brochure would provide alternative birth control methods since I could no longer take hormones following my stroke, and somehow, I did not think that the elderly couple would need to worry about such issues. 

The situation is similar with HeartHub .  While the information is fantastic, I would love to see someone (other than a health care professional) who is at least near my own age.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are  campaigns to which I can relate.  As I was on my run yesterday, I ran my an American Stroke Association "Choose to Move" poster.  A young healthy woman - probably in her late 20s - mid 30s - was wearing headphones, had a smile on her face, and looked as if she was dancing.  She could have been me - and I could be her.  This I related to.

In the end I suppose what matters the most is that the information is there-  people see it and remember what kinds of resources they have access to.  My only concern is that if people do not see individuals "like them" on health-related marketing materials, they may ignore the resources and think "This could never happen to me", when it fact it can, and it can hit closer to home then they could possibly imagine.

Work Your Heart Out

Last week I started posting about the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women: Better U Movement.  This 12-week program is a way to take steps - one at a time - to understand and learn about the importance of heart health.  The steps are literal, as they should be when one is talking about heart health.  You can make over your heart, make it stronger, make it work more efficiently, and make yourself healthier.  You might ask me how I know this information, and my first answer would be that I am a fitness instructor.  However, the more important and even relevant response is that I suffered a stroke in July 2006 and underwent open heart surgery several months later.  Because my heart had been worked, running up stadium stairs, the 1996 Chicago Marathon, hundreds of step aerobic classes, laps around tracks, hours on a treadmill, and years perfecting squats and bicep curls, I recovered from the stroke and from the heart surgery and found myself back at the gym, back to getting my heart beating like it once was, less than two weeks after the stroke and less than two months after the heart surgery*.

Yes, years of working my heart actually saved it.  Every single day that I decided to exercise and to work out, I made a decision to save myself.  Yes, the stroke happened after I taught a step aerobics class (irony at its best...) but due to previous training, and a conscious decision to take care of myself, I emerged healthier that I was before, stronger than I was before, and more aware of what I needed to do to ensure that I could forever choose to make a difference in my life and the lives of others.

*While this time-frame worked for me, it might not be the most ideal time frame for all stroke / heart surgery patients.  It is always best to check with your doctor before starting / resuming any kind of exercise program.

A Way to be Better, a Better U..

In the saddest of ways, I learned about a new genetic kind of heart defect this morning.  It is called Brugada Syndrome, and one of the things that it does is cause sudden cardiac death do to sudden changes in the heart rhythm.  Learning about this hereditary heart disease caused me to think more about my own heart defect - an atrial septal defect.  The hole in my heart is luckily now closed.  It has been more than 2 years since my surgery, and almost three years since my stroke, but the emotions are still raw when I hear about people who are affected by heart or stroke-related illnesses.

Heart Disease is the nation's #1 leading cause of death and stroke is #3.  This is so frustrating because by making small changes in one's life, these numbers can decrease.  The American Heart Association just started a National Campaign to literally change and save lives:  the Go Red for Women:  Better U Campaign.

There are so many ways that you can make a difference for yourself and for the lives of others but for today, for right now, I am going to focus on wearing RED.  When I see people wearing red, I know that they are taking a stand against heart disease, heart-related problems, and stroke.  However, never has it meant so much to me as it did on Friday, 5 June 2009.  You see, my boyfriend, who literally saved my life on July 21, 2006 when I had my stroke, graduated with his PhD from MIT this past Friday.  MIT students have a tradition of decorating their caps with inventions - outrageous inventions.  However, when I saw Hector walking in his gown, hood, and cap, he did not have any kind of invention on his cap.  He looked grand, handsome, and all together serious as he stood out on Killian Court.  And as he caught my eye, he tipped his head...
Go_red and there it was.  The Red Dress that stands for everything that means life to me following my stroke and open heart surgery.

So join me and the American Heart Association's Better U Campaign.  Go Red, and live a healthier life. today.

Behind the Doors

I have to say, there are lots of places I really want, no, let me change that NEED, to go and visit.  However, on an oh-so-magical-trip this summer to Morocco, I feel in love all over again.  The people, the food, and the mystery of a country that is nothing less than spectacular.  I found that some of the best secrets in Morocco were hidden, and you had to look around corners and doors to find them.  Door

That being said, some of the most amazing people were not hidden, and they can be found right here...