You take a walk. The air is fresh and bright, the fall leaves crisp pleasingly beneath your feet, the dog is asleep at home so you don’t need to stop every ten feet to sniff things or leave a post on Urinary Facebook. (With applause to John Tweedy for the concept.)

You’re probably walking at about three miles an hour. That’s a nice pace – an arm-swinger, but probably not one that will make you pant.

I go for a run. I’m togged out in my fat lady version of running clothes – leggings and a longer top so no one is forced to observe too closely the insulation that I’m carrying on the rear elevation. I’ve timed it so the high school kids have gotten in their fancy cars and driven away, and the track teams have already slipped past like a pony-tail-bouncing herd of gazelles teasing a lion.

I’m going at the blistering pace of FOUR miles an hour. Yes, it takes me fifteen full minutes to cover a mile – which I could walk in twenty.

And every damned time I have to fight the urge to berate myself. YES I am slow. YES I spend more time walking on my “run” than I care to admit. YES my hands tremble at the end and my lungs feel like someone has taken sand paper to them.

But – and this is the really critical point – actual, long-lasting change (like from a hippo to a gazelle) comes only very SLOWLY.


A person waiting for me to return from my run, someone tapping their toe impatiently at the open garage door, would just have to be patient; I’m going as fast as I can.

And my expectations, tapping their toes with nervous energy, will just have to be patient, too. I’m evolving just as fast as I can.

Now I chant three things as I run, instead of two. The first one was “use your abs, use your abs, use your abs…” which is only a valuable thing to say until your abs get tired. After that, mouthing this chant is useful only because it makes startled onlookers give you a wide berth.

The second thing I learned to chant was “use your abs, use your glutes – use your abs, use your glutes,” which is all but useless because I’m still having a hard time turning the glutes on. (Freeloaders.) Running up a hill helps, but damn it, then you have to run up a hill.

And now I’m chanting “use your abs, use your glutes, breeeeeathe deeeeeep,” which often makes me cough and that spoils everything. HOWEVER I think I’m running farther before shambling back into a walk, so the deep breathing seems to be making a gradual difference.

Still – four miles an hour. (Itself a ludicrous proposition, as I can barely make it around a one-mile loop. Going for a four-mile run is the gauzy, impossible ambition of an hallucinogenic dream.) Slow.

Slow – slow – slow.

I run slowly. I evolve slowly. I don’t give up.

Well – not yet, anyway.

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When I run, I alternate between hoping no one I know sees me and praying someone I know will give me a reason to stop so we can chat casually on the sidewalk while we both ignore the fact that I’m gasping for air and panting like a Labrador watching you serve the chicken.

Show a Little Backbone, Wilya??


Betcha nickel that when my sister Lexie saw the blog post title of “Show a little backbone, wilya?,” she added the other line of “That’s just my pet snake Reggie.”

I know that because Lexie and I must continually throttle the urge to quote entire passages of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to you whether you want to hear them or not.

The joke about that particular scene was not the large python crawling up Harrison Ford’s thigh at the time – the joke was that Indy had just displayed a cheer-worthy amount of spine in facing down booby traps and devious guides and blow-dart-wielding natives, only to be undone by his lone phobia, snakes.

(“I hate snakes, Jock! Hate ‘em!”)

The point is – the backbone is adaptable. Yours is loose in some parts and tight as hell in others, to make up for the looseness somewhere along its path.

For me, the low spine – the lumbar area, mostly behind your waist – is super-loose. I’m flexy as hell in the low back. But my thoracic region (call it the bra strap region, if you’re the bra-wearing type) is so tight as a result that I didn’t even know I was supposed to be able to move it the way I should.

Here’s how I know.

Barbara (the best trainer in the world at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) take a foam roller that’s been cut in half – so it looks like a hot dog sliced longways, only made of hard foam that even my weight can’t crush. She puts it against the wall and has me lean on it so the top of the foam roller is a few inches below my neck, and the bottom is somewhere below my tail bone.

“Push your spine against the foam roller. Use more abs. MORE abs. Okay – now without bending your neck, touch the back of your head to the wall.”

“Without bending my neck?” I was awash in confusion. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Use your back. Your spine. Bend back from where the foam roller ends.”

“Bend back?? From here??” I made some confused little gestures with my shoulders, bending at most a quarter of an inch. “Nothing moves there – I don’t bend that way. Neither do you. You’ve got your anatomy wrong for once.”

Not at all. She demonstrated, and her head almost brushed the wall. SHE BENDS THE WRONG WAY THERE. Way up high. Between the shoulder blades.

Or rather – I don’t bend the right way there.

“It’s because your lumbar region is so loose. The thoracic region has stiffened up to compensate. We’ll get you loosened. It’ll take a while.”

This made me think about my mother-in-law, a tough, smart woman masquerading as a sweet southern belle. She speaks with a gentile drawl and charms everyone she meets, but she’s hiding a whip-fast wit and – apparently – the genetic code for healthy old age. She’s 93, and her only issue now is that she doesn’t stand up straight.

She and my son were in a horrible car accident nine years ago (I mean like the kind where they use the jaws of life to pry you out of the car). Doctors told us she probably wouldn’t survive the night… but she did survive. She recovered – and she’s up and wandering around, annoying her daughter and smiling on me – so bonus points to her.

But she uses a walker and gazes intently at her feet as she goes. No wonder; I wouldn’t want to fall, either. Still, her back has now permanently hunched her over; it’s extremely hard for her to straighten up.

And I think… if she could go back five years and work on her spine flexibility, would she?

What about ten years? How much better was it before the accident?

What if she could go back 34 years, to my age of 59, and work on whatever was beginning to be out of whack in her back bone? If she’d done it, would she be standing tall today?

Is it worth it for me to listen to Barbara and loosen up my thoracic spine now, when it’s just an interesting exercise in futility??


So I’m going to show a little backbone and follow where Barbara leads. You get credit for the places in your life where you’ve been tough and strong – but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the places where you’re less capable. The pet boa constrictors ARE going to come along. And I want to be ready when they show up.

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Really. Wouldn’t you rather look at a photo of Harrison Ford in his glory than even the most beautiful drawing of a spine? Yeah. Me, too.



Original Demon


Once upon a time, a little girl (every little girl) put on a Cinderella dress and suddenly she knew she was Cinderella… the same way you knew you could run faster in new sneakers.

She didn’t look in the mirror and think “Hang on – I don’t look animated AT ALL. It’s still JUST ME inside this magical dress.” No – that’s not what happens.

When you’re four or five, you spread the skirt and twirl in joy at becoming someone beautiful. Any minute now, bluebirds are going to fly in and tie a bow around your suddenly-slender waist. Bliss!

Something happens in the intervening fifty-five years. I’ve acquired demons since then – the most visible being sugar. But the oldest, most clever, most cruel demon never goes away. Call that one “self hate.”

When you look at a photo of yourself and wince, ah – the original demon is grinning.

I went to a gala last night at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia. For once, I dressed up in gala clothing. I had a huge, full skirt (with pockets! Forget the demons in your life and hear this: Pockets will never let you down!!) with a train. It was off the shoulder. Navy blue – which looks so nice with diamond-ish accents. It was a Cinderella dress.

Well, I thought it was.

It turned out I required both Mammy AND Prissy to wedge me into this creation. I needed a long-line bra that I couldn’t hook myself – and the corseted back needed at least four hands to secure, and none of them could be mine (which faced the wrong way to be useful).

The long train was stepped on repeatedly.

The boning that held up the strapless-ness was off-the-rack; no nimble tailor nipped and tucked so it actually fit. Instead, the boning in the strapless bra united with the boning in the gown to create a sort of breast plate that hovered in the general proximity of my torso without actually touching me where a gown is supposed to touch the body. The boning did, somehow, manage to repeatedly stab me in the groove between biceps and triceps. By the end of the evening I couldn’t even close the car door once I got in.

As for the pretty diamanté sandals with the thin ankle straps? Torquemada clearly invented them. By the time we sat down for dinner, I had a circlet of red, angry flesh above my ankle bones. Since I wasn’t able to buckle them myself while so heavily boned, I knew that if I took them off, I was doomed to being barefoot all night…

…and the acres and acres of skirt would only not be too long if I stood on those two-inch heels.

I lasted about ten minutes. Then I took the shoes off and spent the rest of the evening barefoot in a tent in November, hauling up great handfuls of overlong skirt so I could move anywhere.

“Look out, Pru,” one of my charming dinner companions said, “someone broke a shot glass over here. I’m worried about your bare feet and the glass.”

So kind, I thought – but I’d rather walk through crushed glass than put those shoes back on again.

And then he kindly took a photo. “That dress is a romance novel in the making – you’re wearing a bodice ripper! Let’s take a photo for the author picture in your first book!”

What a sweetheart. Okay – let’s do it!

He took the photo, beaming at me with love and affection and approval, and handed me the phone back.


OH DAMN. Who is that old fat hag?? Surely I’m not going through the labors of Hercules to look like THAT??

And the original demon chortled happily, feeding off my fierce self-doubt.

A gala is a terrible place for people with body image issues. Everywhere I looked, slim women were effortlessly drifting about in stunning gowns. I was filled with envy and self-loathing. And I thought – ah, but if we had to run a mile, could THEY? I can. If we compared cholesterol levels, who would be doing better? If I was lying on side-by-side gurneys next to that graceful beauty and there was only one liver available and the transplant team had to decide who should get it based purely on evidence of an attempt to live healthfully, wouldn’t my general muscle tone give me an edge over a woman who clearly had no stamina nor determination to improve her health?

It’s not fair that some women are just naturally slim. I’ve been working out all my life – and working out with effectiveness for three years – and I’m still thick and plodding. And that’s just the way it’s going to be.


Next year, a tunic, leggings, and boots. That’s where I look and feel best.

Damned demon.


It takes a quarter-hour to get into this rig, and assistants – and cinching really doesn’t help. As Mammy said – you done had a baby, Miss Prudence – you ain’t never going to have no 15-inch waist again. Yeah. Let’s blame it on the kid.




I am BETRAYED BY CHEMISTRY. I had a dental implant put in a few days ago; I was under anesthesia for about 45 minutes and was never in any real pain. For which let us all joyfully shout HALLELUJAH!

(My big back molar cracked months ago. MONTHS AGO. This process has taken an eternity. First the dental surgeon pulled the tooth, for which I made him put me to sleep – for about ten minutes. Easy. He wadded up a lot of cadaver bone and shoved it up in the socket so it would bond to my jaw and allow for a screw to be put in, off of which they could hang a fake molar. The whole process takes about nine months; you could create and birth a baby in that time.)

(During all that time you’re not supposed to chew on that side, but hah. Best laid plans, and all that.)

However, now that I’m almost 60 years old, I’ve discovered that all those OLD PEOPLE from my past who were too wimpy to get over surgeries quickly weren’t such wimps after all. Three-quarters of an hour under IV sedation leaves, apparently, a little sticky residue in both body and soul. I find that three days after (or is it two? It must be two), my brain is utterly cloudy. I was keeping score while playing Scrabble last night and was rendered utterly confused at having to add the number six to the number seventeen. Surely that’s impossible, isn’t it? No one could REALLY add those two numbers together, right?


And I’m blue. Just utterly depressed and lonely and grumpy and sad. So I went to my fitness appointment this afternoon because – endorphins, right? And it was miserable, and my jaw hurt, and I could feel every single stitch disappearing into the vulnerable and naked pinkness of my flesh above where teeth are supposed to be and I think a few unsuspected pockets of anesthesia misery must have been waiting to burst forth because now I feel completely defeated and deflated and the exercise actually made me feel worse.

And oh – did I mention? I have an ENORMOUS SCREW STICKING OUT OF MY JAW BONE and I am constantly worrying it with my tongue. At first I thought it was a flat-head screw, but now I’ve discovered it actually has two parallel grooves in it. What I can’t figure out is…

Are those grooves just straight? Or is there a little wide place at one end so the new tooth can slot into a groove and hold there, like the cover of my cell phone? I don’t know why I need to know this, but I keep trying to figure it out – and my tongue is at just the wrong angle to perform a useful diagnosis. And yes, I have stuck my iPhone into my mouth in a blurry attempt to photograph it, but all I can see is darkness, more teeth, and a whole lot of filled cavities. My dental history has been sadly crowded with incident.

I also wonder – do these stitches go under the screw? Or over it and I just can’t feel it? I think under – but I’d better check again.

And just how big a gap is there between the top of the screw head and the roof of my gum? Could I fit a seed up in there and then lose it? No more brown flax with the morning breakfast, I’m guessing.

And am I rinse-and-spitting enough with disgusting salt water? And did I take the antibiotic today? And why can’t I get a decent night’s sleep when I’m so damned tired?

My mind is a weak, stupid rat running on a wheel. I’m not getting anywhere and I can’t figure out how to get off. This anesthesia stuff is bumming me out.

I’ll be better tomorrow. No need to send a St. Bernard with whiskey.

Although a dog would be nice.

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Fitness. It’s not just about abdominals, you know.


Fancy Footwork


Would you rather read a tender romance… or a report from the eighth grade science fair?

I ask because I can go either way. I was reclining propped by soft pillows as the handsome man dimmed the lights. He took my vulnerable, naked foot into his warm hands, strong fingers wrapping around the arch. “How’s the pressure?” he purred.

As it happens, my reflexology appointment with Bobby (at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) was a lot more like an eighth grade science fair.

In fact, my whole fitness journey is like an eighth grade science fair – except I was a lousy science student in eighth grade and now I’m continually goggle-eyed, amazed and fascinated by what I’m learning about anatomy, kinesiology, cardiovascular endurance, the role of nutrition and sleep, and the perpetual, ongoing quest to WAKE UP THE GLUTES.

So I hope you weren’t eager for romance – because this was ALL SCIENCE FAIR!!

Bobby is a trainer at BDI. I didn’t even know he was also a masseuse until the recent massage workshop. I went with my friend Laura, who’d recently had shoulder surgery. There were four massage tables set up in the Balance Class room, and the four BDI masseurs standing by them, ready to demo the different kinds of massage available – it was a drool-fest and pretty fascinating.

And Bobby was working on Laura’s neck and talking with her about her shoulder surgery. At the time limit (“get up and give someone else a chance”), Bobby refused to surrender Laura. He moved to her feet and began his version of reflexology (besides going to massage school, Bobby trained in Thai massage) – and Laura began making faces.

These faces are familiar to you because you’ve seen them on the faces of your dining companions when they bite into something magnificent. Perhaps you’ve seen these faces on your sexual partners – well done, you, if so. (Look! We’re back to tender romance!)

These are the faces of people who are suddenly lost in a sensation. The brain temporarily shuts off and the body takes over.

Laura got off the table and staggered over to me. She woozily put her shoes and socks back on. “Is your shoulder better?” I asked.

“Uh – yeah!”

Uh, yeah is right. I signed up for my hour with Bobby (and then stupidly arrived a full 15 minutes late; I hate that. It’s so rude. I blame traffic… but also that I kinda forgot until the last possible moment, eek).

Bobby and I discussed what he was doing and what he was noticing. He told me that there are some 7,000 nerves in the foot, and that reflexology focuses there instead of on the hand (which has even more nerve endings) because the foot is bigger and it’s easier to tease out the different strands of information.

“You’re a shallow breather,” he said.

“You can tell that from my FOOT?” I squeaked.

Bobby grinned. (This alone is worth the price of admission; Bobby has a megawatt grin you could use in a blackout to find your way to safety.) “I can tell that because I’m looking at you.”


“But also because this is the part of the foot associated with the lungs.” He bore down a little and I squeaked again – this time because he’d found a tender spot. “This tells me maybe you’re dealing with something in your respiration.”

We talked about the fact that I was running with Barbara, and that the reason I slow down and start walking is not because my muscles wear out but because my lungs do.

“Try doing some deep breathing. Fill your lungs to the bottom. Not all the time – just when you remember. See if you can’t become a deep breather, slowly.”

Well, shit.

That was pretty fascinating

There was more – a lot more – but that was my big take-away. When we were done, I was scheduled for my Barbara fitness appointment. We were going running. How provident!

I put my sneakers back on; my feet felt smaller in my shoes. Was that because I just didn’t lace the shoes up tightly enough? Or were all those muscles primed and ready and sleek and loose?

Bobby had worked my ankles, so my foot rolled more easily; that was a plus. But mostly my run was notable because I was trying to breathe more deeply. (Barbara has told me repeatedly to breathe more deeply, but sometimes you can’t hear the message until you’re ready – or until a handsome man is holding your foot while he says it.)

And here’s what happened:

Envision my lungs as a large flannel bag. I use the upper two thirds, and a cluster of kittens has taken up sleepy residence in the lower third. They’re curled up, purring and warm, unassaulted by the gasping wind of my cold pants… until yesterday.

I was trying to breathe into the bottom of my lungs as I ran, and all the kittens woke up and began protesting, driving their tiny kitten needles into my flannel bag… it’s going to take a bit of time to work those kittens into mighty tigers, but I’m going to do it…

…and we made it back around our mile and returned to Body Dynamics in good time. I think I’ve run the loop in less than this 13 minutes, three seconds – but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to 12 minutes yet. YET. I can’t claim a “personal best” or anything, but I bet it was close.

So I think the fancy footwork was a benefit. Heaven knows, it was fascinating. I’m going back!

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Oh, dear. Upon re-reading, I see that it looks like I have a REAL crush on Bobby (as opposed to the entertaining crushes I already have on Barbara, Gwynn, Grace, Chip, Mario – all those fit, happy, kind people at Body Dynamics). But really – the man is TWELVE. I don’t want him. I just want to look at him. Don’t we all need more kind, smart, cute people in our lives??



The hand-off was botched; Graziella was supposed to slip the document into his hand. But either he bungled it or she did, and now the folded piece of paper was lying on the ballroom floor in plain sight.

“Shit,” he thought. “This stuff never happens to James Bond.”

Still smiling into the eyes of the Archduke’s teenaged bride, he shifted his weight to one foot and reached to the side with the other pointed toe. Got it!

Slowly, moving nothing other than his leg, he drew his toe back inward, dragging the launch codes over the parquet floor…


Sucked you in, there, didn’t I? Yes, this is an anatomy lesson, and today’s word is “Adduction.” It’s what you do when you want to draw your ankles back together from a wide stance.

You can’t BELIEVE how many muscles are needed to adduct your hip. I mean – dayum. Gwynn (the astonishing therapeutic masseuse at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) has a book she hauls out for me occasionally when I’m fully overstimulated by anatomy. It’s a massage-focused anatomy reference called “Trail Guide to the Body” and you can buy it on Amazon. I know, because my copy just arrived.


Did you know there were six ways your hip can move?

  • You can extend it. (Touch your toe to the floor behind you; feel that nice stretch in the hip? You’re extended.)
  • You can flex it. (Knee up. Stand there like a fool, wishing you could put your foot back down. Alternately, get the first foot up on the stair. You’ve flexed your hip.)
  • You can abduct it. (Reach out for the launch codes to your side.)
  • You can adduct it. (Draw that secret paper back in.)
  • You can laterally rotate it. (Make your knee and foot swivel out, so you’re standing splay-footed. This is my natural state.)
  • And you can medially rotate it. (Knee and foot swivel inward; now you’re pigeon-toed. I can barely get my feet past parallel. It’s just the way I’m built.)

So I was diving into my Trail Guide, studying the gluteus muscles. Between the three glutes, any two of them take part in all six movements. All three are used for abduction…

…except LOOKY THERE, PAW! The ONLY glute that adducts (drawing in the launch codes) is glute max! So… if you stabbed the secret agent in that muscle only and injected horse tranquilizers, HE’D NEVER BE ABLE TO RETRIEVE THE CODE – disaster!!

Actually, that’s not true. He’s wilier than that.

The Trail Guide tells me that there are SIX muscles involved in adduction.

(Want to know what they are? I know; me too. Just the names are so glorious. Adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, gracilis, and gluteus maximus (lower fibers). Couldn’t you write a hell of a Roman tragedy starring these names?? The mighty Clan Adductor would think they were in charge, but sneaky Gracilis and brave Pectineus have other plans.)


Lordy. MY POINT – and I do have one – is that sitting there right now, you are an astonishing feat of engineering. Holy crow.

This book is utterly fascinating. And it’s huge. Paperback and spiralbound, it’s still so heavy that after you carry it around for a while, you need a therapeutic massage. This must be a clever ploy by the world’s masseurs.

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I love this book.



Above the swirling bodies in the club, sporadically plucked from the darkness by the spinning lights, is the god of raves, the master of beats, the silent hero amid the cacophony:

The DJ.

Always shown wearing headphones – and frequently really, really long dreads – the DJ is the acme of ultra-cool, matched with a technical nerdiness that transcends fashion or style. He (or she) holds every dancer in the palm of their hand, able to change frantic tempo, pulsing beat, grinding rhythm, MOOD with the flexing of one long, spider-like finger…

…unless we’re talking about putting together a playlist for Balance Class.

Barbara (my personal fitness guru and the Balance Class professor) does not object if I act as DJ for class. So every week I spend happy hours thinking up what we’re going to listen to. When my buddy Steve is in residence, he and I swap off as DJ – but he’s been temporarily sidelined, so it’s all me at the moment.

And this gives me SO MUCH JOY.

I think some people are completely indifferent to music in class, and some people are energized and powered by it. As for myself, I am ruled by it. If we’re doing an exercise that’s whipping me, I can be completely reenergized by a great song. NOBODY enjoys my playlists more than I do, and if I have any breath at all, I usually sing along. Sometimes loudly.

You can’t sing Pink quietly. Sorry – I meant P!nk. (A name that really messes with the spell-checker.)

Steve set an incredibly high bar by creating themed playlists. “Songs with lots of brass.” (Which he did for me because I LOVE a good brass section.) “Songs produced by Peter Asher.” (We cursed him when he finally announced the theme when no one could come up with it. He knows TOO MUCH about music.) His best was “Name the link between these two songs.”

When you’re sweaty and gasping, it’s a wonder and a glory to have a mental puzzle to figure out. It distracts you from the exhaustion. He played “Jolene” by Dolly Parton and followed it up with “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, and we were all stumped. Finally he had to tell us that Dolly is Miley’s godmother.

Yeah – too much knowledge…

But the theme concept is so much fun. I’ve done (checking my playlists now) an all-covers playlist, one that was all Beatles or Beatles covers, colors, girls’ names, places, songs by people who use a pseudonym (like Elvis Costello or Sting), movie soundtracks, and weather phenomena. Sometimes I tell the class the theme; sometimes I try to make them guess.

It’s trickier than you might think, because you can’t throw on any song. The class doesn’t love contemporary music; they respond best to disco or earlier. It can’t be inappropriate (Barbara looked at me in alarm when a song had profanity in it; she’s not prim herself, but she has to protect the sensibilities of her students, and I respect that). It has to have a driving beat and a lot of energy… so if you try to do a playlist that names every person in the class and you want to do something for Beth, you can’t dredge up that syrupy surprise from Kiss. That’s a BAD balance song. (And a bad song.)

I had to finally go with “The Boys Are Back” by Thin Lizzy, and then it turned out that Beth wasn’t short for Elizabeth, so the very long stretch of “Lizzy” wasn’t at all accurate… but everyone enjoyed that playlist. I did “Dear Prudence” but by Siouxie and the Banshees for me; the class agreed it was disturbing… which entertained me. Siouxie Sioux’s version has a LOT more energy for Balance Class than the original by the Beatles. I win.

The song that got the most people singing along ever? Creedence. Here Comes the Rain, from the weather playlist. Go figure.

Last week, Barb (not the teacher – this is another Barb, and a true Sister in Sweat she is, too) requested a Queen playlist. Fun!

Only… all that wild experimentation Queen did, it turns out, renders MANY of those songs ineligible. Those guys were changing tempos ALL THE DAMNED TIME. This would be the kiss of death if we were trapped doing Barbara’s infernal “Empty the Dishwasher” move.

(Squat down and reach down to your left. Stand and reach up to your right. See? You’re pulling a plate from the dishwasher and stacking it on a high shelf. Barbara will NOT allow you to pull multiple plates from your imaginary dishwasher and stack them to move them all at once; I’ve tried. The point is, if you can get into a rhythm, then unloading an impossibly high number of invisible plates from a non-existent dishwasher is more bearable; you just can’t have music that makes you go speeding up and slowing down.)

(Do I need to point out that after you’re done unloading THAT dishwasher, there’s another one on your right, with empty shelves above you on the left? Barbara is VERY symmetrical in her Torquemada-like excess.)

So I’ve varied the Queen playlist; now it’s “Flamboyant Performers.” I’ve got eight good Queen songs (we’ll do our warm-up to the wildly-varied tempo of Bohemian Rhapsody; I’ll be watching to see how many people sing along), and I added some Elvis Presley, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Adam Ant. There’s a P!nk song because she is just astonishing in concert. And I polished it off with Adam Lambert, who the surviving members of Queen chose to go on tour with them because his voice is close to Freddie’s. His solo work is very high energy.

It’s time to go to Balance Class now. Hope my fellow sweaters (sweat-ers, not woolly pullovers) enjoy this week’s selection!

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Anyone got a good idea for a playlist theme?



Moonlight lovingly edged the ancient cobblestones. It wasn’t a square or plaza – nothing so grand. Osteria No. 8 (or maybe it was Osteria No. 7 or Osteria No. 21 – I don’t remember anymore) had its outside seating in a wide place in the street. Rome passed along beyond the low planters, but the pace was leisurely – just right for an Italian summer after sundown

We were having dinner at a place we just happened across after a day of tourism. The waiter set a large, shallow bowl before me; almost a broad dish. It was filled with heaven. A broth, fragrant with fresh herbs. Pliant, compliant potatoes, cubed and fetching. Beans – blameless and curved. Fresh carrots. Onions, sweet and nearly translucent. The occasional coquettish and winking noodle.

“Minestrone,” he said with a shrug that said both “nothing – air – merely the bare minimum for life’s survival” as well as “others may have fallen from the pure path but we hold to the old ways here at Osteria No. 8. Spoon up the glory and feel your life’s essence restored. Here is a reason to rise each morning; something to give your soul to – something worth dying for.”

I’ve never forgotten that simple, extraordinary soup…

…so when I tell you I know how good soup CAN smell, please believe me.

That’s not how I smell.

No one talks much about menopause. Sure, you finally put paid to the messiness of menstruation, and that’s a bonus. The underwear takes a decided turn for the better. And we’re all taught to fear hot flashes.

But no one told me that the change in my hormones would alter the way my sweat smells.

I keep smelling soup when I work out. Not ethereal, ambrosial Roman minestrone – no. I’m talking about the tinny, salty odor of cheap canned soup. Condensed, so the smell is strong and assertive.


It turns out that’s ME smelling like a bad chicken noodle soup.

My pits still smell like the primate house at the zoo, and my crotch still has that secret hot scent when I get an unplanned whiff (which sometimes happens; those trainers at Body Dynamics sometimes get me in strange positions where I’m confronted, astonishingly, with my own Lycra-clad genitalia).

It’s the rest of me that smells different.

“Jeez,” said Barbara as she was putting me through bird-dogs. (Hands and knees; now reach out, fore and aft, with one hand and the opposite leg. Don’t let your hip dip. Don’t arch your back.) “It smells like soup back here again.”

“It’s ME!” I collapsed to the mat (which smelled a great deal better than I did). “Menopause has made me smell like bad chicken noodle!”

There aren’t many things you can say to a trainer with Barbara’s experience and knowledge, but I think I really did startle her with that one. “What?”

I explained that my body chemistry had shifted WITHOUT MY PERMISSION and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. This made her laugh – but I still don’t know how to handle this. I can put deodorant on the primate house, and I can keep the nether regions clean. But what am I supposed to do when the skin over my chest exudes the smell of cheap soup until I hie me to the showers??

And if I ate a better quality of minestrone – say, if I moved to Rome and ate exclusively at the various osterias – could I improve the quality of my personal fragrance?!?

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And wouldn’t it be a delicious experiment to try?



Let’s be clear – it’s important: That title isn’t “WOO-choink” – it’s definitely “WUH-choink.” Can you hear it?

It’s the sound I make when I walk around my house. “Wu-choink,” I say, “wu-choink, wu-choink, wu-choink.”

I am, of course, providing the soundtrack to my glutes grabbing my femur and pulling it back. Now that Barbara and Chip and Grace and Gwynn at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA have done the impossible (only took three solid years) and turned my glutes on.

So now I mutter “wu-choink” as I walk. Unless I’m on the stairs, going down. Then I say “brraaa-aa-aa-ack?” Because I’m a lot less sure that my glutes can actually do that… despite the fact that I’ve been going down stairs for 59 years now.

(Well, maybe 58. How old are babies when they start going downstairs? I mean upright; not the bump-ba-dump method on the butt. I have a child and I remember when such milestones were important to me, but the actual date is gone now.)

Now that I think of it, I seem to have a permanent soundtrack going in my mind, helping me graduate from bump-ba-dump to thud-thud-thud to brraa-a-ack. Next up on my body playlist: Woosh! The sound of glutes gracefully lowering this body from one step to the next. No “falling with style” here – I shall slip effortlessly down the steps as if on rails, my toned and obedient butt muscles at last working as they are supposed to.

Soon. I’m sure of it.

It’s a good thing I live alone. I think this constant verbalization (not to mention the fact that I now keep my hands UNDER where I thought my butt stopped so I can feel the muscle connect to the thigh) would drive anyone else mad.

I was lying in my bed yesterday. (A brief round of intestinal distress made sleepytime a requirement; it wasn’t MY idea to sleep for 48 hours straight with brief but action-packed forays to the potty.) When I lie on my back with my knees up, I can feel a long, scary-hard muscle running down the back of my thigh.

I’m pretty sure that’s a hamstring… but I think it’s suddenly popped up like tensile steel because of wu-choink, wu-choink, wu-choink.

(No, not the noise – I mean the awareness of the glute’s role in ambilocamotion, duh, which deserves, nay – REQUIRES, that I make that noise as I prowl around the house at a pace just slightly faster than a wedding march.)

And if the hamstrings are suddenly waking up… is it possible that the hip flexors might one day soon be able to take a vacation in Tahiti? Lie on a beach in a hammock and drink fruity beverages adorned with cocktail umbrellas?

Come to think of it – you know what it sounds like when you rock gently in a hammock? That’s right. Wu-choink… wu-choink… wu-choink…

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This is not a picture of my ass. This is about a third the size of my ass. But this is how my ass is beginning to FEEL. Oh, Lordy.

A Trifle Less Well


Borborygmus – this word makes my “top ten best words” list. It means the rumblings and grumblings of the stomach and various innards. Sometimes doctors will stick a stethoscope on your belly and have a listen; they’re  enjoying the borborygmus concerti. A healthy gut is not quiet.

But when I woke up this morning, most of the intestinal orchestra had fled – all the flutes and clarinets and violins suddenly decided they needed to go for coffee – because the tympani section had all indulged in a marathon session of movies like “A Clockwork Orange” and were raising one hell of a rumpus. Kettle drums and huge standing chimes and clashing gongs had replaced the more sedate borborygmus.

“What’s up?” I thought, surprised. Usually my belly is peaceful and placid under its pale, downy layer of insulation. But barely before the question had formed in my mind, I bolted for the bathroom.

Fluid in the solid waste system. Uh-oh. Something’s not right, and I am today rather less well than usual.

As the percussionists in my intestines continue their riot – rumbling over here, suddenly popping up wild-eyed over there – it occurs to me that this is the first time I’ve actually been sick (as opposed to just overtired or stressed or temporarily flattened by a cold or something) since before Jonathan died, more than two years ago. And this is just a stomach thing; the tympani section is going to get tired eventually and will settle down to sleep it off.

My point is – I think all this working out and at least fretting over sugar (if not actually limiting it) has had a tremendous effect on my immune system. Knock on wood. I seem to be pretty healthy for someone with a stomach orchestra run amuck.

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Another favorite word for the Top Ten list? Syzygy. Isn’t that a honey?