Wednesday, June 25, 2014

10. Try Acro Yoga

I've found that one of the best things about trying new things is that it's an infectious habit.  Once I start listing the new things I want to try, I've found those near and dear to me start doing the same. A case in point is acro yoga, which got put on the list not by me, but by Jon, who decided it was something he really must try, and invited a number of us to try with him.  Unfortunately, currently the only weekly acro yoga class in the state of Vermont is in Montpelier, which is very convenient for Jon, but not so much for me.  So, Jon embarked on his acro journey with our friend Lynn, who found that she loved it as much as he does.  Most Wednesdays they are regular fixtures of at Lori's class at Yoga Mountain Center, and have been steadily increasing their skills and balance in all kinds of challenging poses.
A winter practice session at Lynn (upside down) and husband Ed's (spotting to ensure no traumatic falls) home in Montpelier, with Jon serving as base.

A recent picture of Lynn "flying" with our friend Kate (on the right) acting as spotter during an acro jam session on the lawn of the state capital building in Montpelier.
Anyone who wants to add some challenge to their planking can try copying Jon on this one, and base two other people planking at the same time.
Although the Burlington scene does not have a regular acro yoga class, there are regular acro "jams" at Sangha Studio on Friday nights, and as Jon and Lynn enthused about the wonderful qualities of acro, the temptation to try it got stronger.

So one night my good friend and rock climbing partner, Amanda, and I decided to forego our regular rock climbing evening and try an "acrojam" instead.  This could have been very daunting, since we were walking in as total beginners on a whole community of people who already know all kinds of poses.  But some of the veterans very kindly interrupted their regular practices to spend most of the session tutoring Amanda and I on the basics and giving us our first opportunities to try out "basing" and "flying".  We learned two things.  First, acro is hard!  It takes a combination of strength and flexibility and balance, and the work of "basing" on the bottom is very different than what it takes to "fly" above. Luckily, second, it's also fun! 
After we learned two other basic "flyer" positions, Amanda had her first chance to fly upside down...

...and then I did as well.

 Although we've only been back once, for a special once-a-month class run by Jon and Lynn's Montpelier teacher Lori, there are rumors that a regular class may be coming our way later this summer.  If that happens, we'll be there.  Until then, it's fun to dabble a teeny bit, and to appreciate the pictures that flow out from Montpelier and contemplate all the fun new things that are out there to try!

Monday, June 23, 2014

9. Take a Hike ON Lake Champlain

This is the very late last of the posts commemorating the good and the bad of the Winter That Went On and On and On, as the winter of 2014 will always be remembered in my heart.  As I'm writing it, I'm thinking of another upcoming New Thing in the same place.  This post is about walking on the lake to Knight Island; with any luck in the next few weeks I'll have another that's about canoeing on the lake, also to Knight Island.

The original hope had been to walk all the way across Lake Champlain from one state (Vermont) to another (New York).  It was the perfect winter for it: the coldest we'd had in years.  But the weekend we'd slated for our walkover we were peppered with warnings that the ice was beginning to crack. So, we adjusted accordingly. Even in warmer years when the Lake doesn't freeze over as it did in 2014 it almost always freezes in the area of the Champlain Islands, so we headed north to the venerable Hero's Welcome, a Vermont institution that is part deli, part general store, part sports equipment rental and one hundred percent local landmark.  It stands directly across the road from Lake Champlain and Knight Island.
Looking back at Hero's Welcome and the town of North Hero from the skating oval

We parked our car there, and got ready to try out the newest addition to our winter sport collection: Microspikes.  In case anyone has been on the fence on buying these guys, I'd say do it.  They are fantastic!  Walking on ice-- whether it's flat as it was that day, or alarmingly steep as it was when we put them to use on some rock climbing approaches a few weeks later in Boulder, Colorado -- is a million times easier when wearing Microspikes.
Trusty Microspikes!  Throw these babies on and your feet will stick to the iciest surface you can imagine. They may look strange but they sure do work.
The town of North Hero maintains an outdoor oval skating track across the street from Hero's Welcome, and we started our two-mile trek over the island there. Once we were past the cleared ice of the track, things got a little rougher, though we were by no means the only people out to get their last fix of the ice.  We passed people ice fishing as well as a few other walkers (with the usual dogs that accompany most Vermonters on ventures of an outdoor nature).
Jon, ready to embark on our two mile walk on (frozen) water.  Note both walking poles (which were not used) and yoga mat (which was).

People who've known me for a long time know that I have a tendency to pack light (for many years I had a personal rule of limiting myself to a single carry-on bag as luggage for any trip -- international or otherwise -- of three weeks or less).  But I have to admit that Jon has had an influence on me in that regard, and now I do see the value of preparing for more eventualities.

Me. looking rather rotund and happy in the lean-to, after eating some soup that Jon had just cooked on our campstove.
Balancing postures are appropriate for all occasions, right?
Starting the two mile trek back

On this particular jaunt across the lake, we weren't sure what mood might hit us, so we brought cooking equipment, frozen food (that part was easy!) and yoga mats, all of which got pressed into use when we set up in one of the lean-tos on Knight Island for lunch, some stretching and one last chance to appreciate the glorious cold sunshine that was one of the better aspects of the harsh winter that was 2014.   I am going predict (and hope) that the winter of 2015 won't be as cold, nor as long as the winter of 2014 was.  But even if it's not, the odds are good that the lake between North Hero and Knight Island will freeze. When it does, you could do worse than spending an afternoon walking on water between the two.  I might even lend you my Microspikes.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

8. Give Up Diet Coke

One of the best things about the original year of 52 was the momentum I had -- in doing new things and in writing about them.  For a combination of reasons, it's been much harder this time around on both fronts.  But today I resolved to redouble my efforts.  There are a bunch of New Things I've done since March that I want to record, and then I want to really embark on a major push to catch up to where I'll need to be in order to hit 52 by the end of 2014.

Since that feels like a very tall order, I thought I'd start my "catch-up" exercise by writing about something was very definitely not on my original list, but was added by my students -- Give Up Diet Coke. I think only a fellow Diet Coke addict can know what a big deal this one is.  I've had a 1-2 liter a day habit since high school. That's about 30 years of daily diet soda drinking, beginning with one as my breakfast beverage instead of coffee.  I drank it with meals, and while I was working in my office. I always had a supply of coins so that anywhere I went I knew I could get one from a vending machine if I wanted to. I used to make sure I had some for road trips, and during my grad school days, it was the first thing I'd have in the morning when I got up and the last thing I drank at night before I went to bed  And then on February 26, 2014, I just quit, and haven't had one since.  Simple as that.

I had "given up" Diet Coke a few times before.  It is hard to get in sub-Saharan Africa (though regular Coke is literally more accessible than water in many places there), and there have been a few trips to Tanzania where I had to go without for a week or two, until I got back to an urban area or the airport. I also made a major switch back in 2002 when we founded the Saint Michael's College of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, and the inaugural campaign of the group was called "kick Coke off campus" (part of a successful effort to force Coca Cola to make good on a hitherto empty promise to provide HIV treatment for all the sub-Saharan employees of the "Coke family"). In that case, "giving up" Diet Coke simply meant switching the same level of consumption to Diet Pepsi, and when the campaign was over, I was equally addicted to both, and not interested in giving up either.

I think I had pretty much decided that I was okay with this as my Big Vice, and might have stayed with that decision indefinitely, until some of the students of SGAC inadvertently made an intervention.  We were having a brainstorm about future campaigns, and began discussing the reasons we still found Coke's presence on campus (and its products globally) highly problematic for a group that supports global health and human rights,  As we began discussing the possibility of another Coke Campaign, the students turned to me and pointed out that this time I would have to really give up Diet Coke. Something clicked, and I agreed.  Lent was a week away, so I decided to think of it as something I was giving up for Lent, but starting a week early. I decided to start right then and there, and I haven't had one since.

The first couple weeks were tough, but actually I had thought they'd be much harder. I applied a few of the lessons I'd learned elsewhere including the original year of the 52.  They were:
1. accountability:  telling everyone you know you're going to do something may be a little self-involved, but it sure does work.
2. support: soliciting advice works, too.  I wasn't the first person to ever try to give up this habit, and lots of people had great advice, and support.  My friend Lilly even sent me a tea set and teas to substitute for my DC habit in my office.
3. one day at a time.  The cliché is true.  It's much easier to do things for a day than to imagine doing them for an entire lifetime. To my amazement, the one time I attempted to cheat, during Finals Week when I was sitting in my office grading and feeling sorry for myself, I went down to the vending machine and bought a diet soda (Diet Dr. Pepper, I think).  It tasted like a bunch of chemicals and after drinking about half if it I poured the rest down the sink.
4. if you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.  For 30 years, I thought I needed Diet Coke. It was a huge part of my daily habits and rituals.  Turns out I was wrong.  All I needed to do was figure that out.  Before that it seemed impossible.  After that it seemed straightforward.  It really is all in our heads. Really.

So, that's the report on New Thing #9.  Now to catch up on the other 43!