Archive for the ‘heatlh’ Category

Long Dark Nights of Winter

December 6, 2016

Winter Solstice comes early to Little Renaissance.  Every year, we celebrate a Hatha Yoga Winter Solstice Retreat on the first weekend of December at Little Renaissance.   We celebrate early before the busy-ness of the holiday season takes hold.

Winter Solstice is a time of quiet firelight, a time to nurture dreams.  The dark clear nights reveal the bright stars.  Late at night, I can sit quietly in the hot tub and see shooting stars trailing across the  sky.  I celebrate the shortest day and the longest night of the year with a wonderful group of yogis.  We anticipate the rebirth of the sun and contemplate our own spiritual rebirth.  We see this time of year as a turning point and a time of year to renew energy.

I look out the window and see the garden boxes through sheets of rain.  The garden boxes look spent from having produced so generously all summer long.  Gratefully, the soil lies resting, patiently waiting for the warmer and brighter days of spring.   The resting soil of the cold winter days and nights reminds me that the future holds promise, always.  Come spring, seeds will germinate and take root.  Likewise, I believe the future will manifest our visions and dreams.

For now, while we wait for the rebirth of the sun, we stand still.  Winter Solstice is a time of repose, a time to light the wood stove, stoke up the heat, soak in the hot tub, sit quietly surrounded by lit candles, delve into a good novel, and dream.

Below are photos from our past weekend’s Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat.  This group of yogis has been coming to Ocean Shores biannually for 10 years running!

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Ready for winter winds: Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Pretty driftwood log

Pretty driftwood log

Vast Ocean Beach

Vast Ocean Beach  (Skye and Dan)

Remnants of an old boardwalk

Remnants of an old dock

Group Shot I

Group Shot I

Group Shot II

Group Shot II

A Forest Takes Root in the House

A Forest Takes Root in the House

Collage I put together from Skye's photos

Collage I put together from Skye’s photos

Second collage I put together using Skye's photos

Second collage I put together using Skye’s photos

Yoga: I Love Light

November 21, 2016

Whether he is in Japan or back at home, every morning Don wakes up at 4am and does his yoga practice.  At the end of his yoga practice and meditation, he recites the following mantra:

I am a child of light

I love light.

I serve light.

Light is in me

protecting,

illuminating,

supporting,

sustaining.

I am light.

Don was recently on the Japan tour.  One morning I asked him to share the above mantra with us as we did yoga.  Of the 13 full days touring Japan, we, as a group, had 10 sessions of yoga.  As usual, I am unable to take photos when I am teaching.  But luckily,  Jeff (and Karin) got a few good shots!  I only took some of these photos.

The first set of photos were taken on our cycling trip in Kyoto.  That day we had standing yoga in Kameyama Park.  Since we had been cycling all morning, I told everyone not to worry about bringing their yoga mats along.  And since the ground was a fine white pea gravel, we also wore our shoes.  We called the class Standing Yoga.  It felt so good to take in the clean fresh air of Kyoto!

Debby and Marc forming a bridge of friendship.

Debby and Marc forming a Bridge of Friendship.

One more view of the Vol-Au-Vents (the name of a savory light pastry in France that means Fly With the Wind)

One more view of the Vol-Au-Vents (the name of a savory light pastry in France which means “Fly With the Wind”)

Happiness is the Bridge of Friendship. Ginger and Woody

Happiness is the Bridge of Friendship. Ginger and Woody (pant legs tucked in from the bike ride).

Our team magicians: Chiaki and Yukiko

Our team magicians: Chiaki and Yukiko

Last shot for the Standing Yoga in Kyoto: I think we look we belong to a scene right out of Saturday Night Fever.

Last shot for  Standing Yoga in Kyoto: I think we belong in a scene right out of Saturday Night Fever.

See what I mean?

See what I’m saying??

Then we have lots of yoga photos from the first Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn with Hot Springs/Onsen) we stayed at on the island of Shikoku.  The room we had was unbelievable!  It was like a ballroom/atrium combo with glass windows overlooking the city of Takamatsu.  We did yoga in the evening, just before dinner and the city lights made for a dramatic and lovely backdrop to our yoga class.  One more thing: I had access to chairs so we did yoga using chairs.  Amazing what you can do using chairs for yoga!

Camel Pose

Camel Pose (Kim in the foreground)

Forward bends using the chair

Forward bends using the chair

Revolved Triangles!

Revolved Triangles! (Bill in the foreground)

Deeper Backbends over a chair (Karin)

Deeper Backbends over a chair (Karin)

Resting Crocodiles!

Resting Crocodiles!

Resting crocodile

Resting crocodile

Deeply Relaxed!

Deeply Relaxed! (Jeff!)

And photos were also taken at the Buddhist monastery at Mt. Koya.  I think that may have been the best room ever.  The floors were made  of tatami mats. There is a nice sweet grass-like smell that comes with tatami mats, which are made of rush grass.  They are gentle but firm.  The room we practiced in was cavernous.  There were several heaters which kept us warm.  This is a good thing because it was pretty cold on the mountain at night. The monastery had a great feel to it. In the morning we watched the monks chant, pray, and do their fire ceremony.  It was very peaceful and meditative. I think their good energy permeated the yoga space.  And it was quiet. A very quiet room with great acoustics so my voice carried over strongly.

Side stretching

Side stretching

Windmill

Windmill

Trees at the Monastery

Trees at the Monastery

Flip Your Dog!

Flip Your Dog!

And lastly, we found that doing Warrior I-or any yoga at all- in our Kimonos was impossible! (Fran and Karin)

And lastly, we found that doing Warrior I-or any yoga at all- in our Kimonos was impossible! (Fran and Karin)

Desert: A Healing Place

November 20, 2016

After coming back from Japan, I made a quick escape to the desert with Rick. We spent a few days in Palm Springs, California with friends Linda and Steve.  I had no idea how much I would appreciate this escape when we planned this trip months ago.  Linda and Steve jokingly call their desert home the “fat farm” probably because we ate low-fat healthy meals.  To further go with the theme, we went on three great calorie-burning hikes in the desert.  I love the “fat-farm”!

We walked through nature preserves, desert springs and oases where thick palms groves thrive, sculpted gardens and sculpture gardens, and national parks and trails.  Mockingbirds, rabbits, lizards, a coyote, cactus wrens, butterflies, dragonflies, and many other creatures treated us to viewing them.

How lucky to have spent a few days in the desert sun and air!  How lucky to have spent time, away from the onslaught of media, with like-minded friends whose values are a true inspiration!

Enjoy the slideshow from Palm Springs and the surrounding trails and places of nature.

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Boosting the Immune System with Yoga and Wholesome Food

October 19, 2016

I am writing from Japan.  Japan posts soon to start coming (so exciting to be here!), but first a follow up on two fabulous in-city one-day retreats that I just offered with MJ Conboy of MJ’s Plant Smart Kitchen this past weekend.  The retreat’s focus was on building and boosting a strong immune system via yoga asanas and learning a few new recipes espousing a plant-based diet.

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Read on below.  I hope you are able to glean some ideas from this blog post, be inspired by the photos, try the yoga sequence, peruse the cook book titles below, and be inspired by the various readings shared in our retreat.

Plant Based Cook Books:

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Books with recipes based on a plant-based diet:

The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage

Salad Samurai, 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-To-Make Salads by Terry Hope Romero

Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge by Coleen Patrick Goudreau

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

A Grateful Heart, Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles , edited by M. J. Ryan

Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, 150 Pizzas, Pastas, Pestos, Risottos, and Lots of Cremay Italian Classics by Chloe Coscarelli

The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health by Michio Kushi and Alex Jack

the milf diet, Let The Power of Whole Foods Transform Your Body, Mind, and Spirit…deliciously by Jessica Porter

Macrobiotics for All Seasons by Marlene Watson-Tara

Mayumi’s Kitchen, Macrobiotic Cooking for Body and Soul by Mayumi Nishimura

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A yoga sequence for Immune System Boosting:

  • Seated Forward Bend (relaxes the nervous system)
  • Half Spinal Twist (Seated, twists help to cleanse, stimulate and strengthen the internal organs)
  • Dolphin (like downward facing dog, but on your elbows) to an inverted pose balanced on your elbows (can be done at the wall or with your legs walking up the wall) inversions are excellent for bathing and enhancing function of the endocrine system.
  • Uddyana Bandha (standing breathing exercises sometimes called the Abdominal Lift) breathe in through nose and exhale through the mouth while pulling belly in.
  • Sun Salutations
  • Standing Forward Bends (feet together and feet apart)..when in a wide angle forward bend, you can add twists
  • Arches: lying over a block, camel, bow, cobra, upward facing dog, full backbend (some of these were done in pairs with a helper)
  • Seated side bend
  • Shoulder stand—plough—fish pose
  • Block under your upper back (another way to do fish)
  • Legs up the wall (great for movement of the lymphatic fluids, enhances the lymphatic system)

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Yoga helps boost the immune system by reducing stress and strengthening the lungs (with the breathing).  We all know that psychological stress doubles the chance of a person getting a cold!  Yoga practice lowers stress hormones and calms the nervous system.  The fight or flight response is eclipsed by the relax and renew response.  It also helps by optimizing the functions of the following systems:

  • circulatory system
  • lymphatic system
  • respiratory system (the yoga postures help improve mechanical efficiency of our lungs by conditioning them.  With yoga, we increase the elasticity of the lungs and strengthen them)
  • nervous system
  • immune system

Twists specifically increase oxygen to organs for optimal function.  They also cleanse, rid the organs of toxins, and supply the organs and glands with fresh blood supply.  Twists massage the body and internal organs and help us to relax.

Restorative postures, such as lying over a block or bolster, putting legs up the wall, or lying in shavasana, are soothing.  They help us to relax and they also help build vigor!

In addition to the featured poses and breathing pranayama exercise to help boost the immune system, don’t forget to inject these other essential elements into your daily life:

  • LAUGHTER
  • OPTIMISM
  • ENOUGH SLEEP
  • ANY ACTIVITY THAT HELPS YOU RELIEVE STRESS (can be walking, dancing, listening to music, vigorous aerobic exercise, reading, spending time with people you love)
  • EAT WELL (and eat as much of a plant-based diet and non-processed food diet as is possible_

We also shared several readings (below are a few):

“The food movement is about quality of life. What we eat affects how we feel physically and emotionally. How food is grown and processed has an impact on the health of those who eat it. How our food is produced affects the environment, the existence of wildlife, and the size and characteristics of our country’s farms. It also impacts the local and global economies. How we eat affects our ability to interact with others and provide for ourselves, and it influences relationships with friend and families. Eating and preparing food with those we care about provides a much different experience than driving through a fast-food restaurant or eating in one’s car. How we spend our food dollars determines the kind of food system we create, and the health of our farms, families, and communities. As Wendell Berry said, ‘Eating is an agricultural act.’ With the present focus on local food systems, now is the time to vote with our forks, as well as our ballots, and make positive changes in the food system.”

Marion Kalb, Co-founder, National Farm to School Network

OK, the food we made and ate did not have cheese or meat, but I couldn’t help but read this fun poem by Shel Silverstein.  I read it with gusto…You really have to wet your tongue with a bit of olive oil and recite this aloud.  It’s a mouthful:

Italian Food
Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops–I think I split my jeani.

Very exciting was learning how to perfect making Nori Rolls!!

Roll your own! Nori Rolls

Roll your own! Nori Rolls

Got the hang of it. Perfect food to take with you on flights, for travel, or for lunch

Got the hang of it. Perfect food to take with you on flights, for travel, or for lunch

Read to cut

Read to cut

A sharp knife should do the trick of cutting the rolls easily!

A sharp knife should do the trick of cutting the rolls easily!

Macrobiotic Chef MJ Conboy

Macrobiotic Chef MJ Conboy  (So much fun working with her! She brings much nutritional knowledge to the table.)

Wholesome ingredients for making chocolate truffles!

Wholesome ingredients for making chocolate truffles!

Truffles..we also rolled them in cinnamon. Some rolled in cacao powder

Truffles..we also rolled them in cinnamon. Some rolled in cacao powder

Windblown on the rooftop (Saturday's group)!

Windblown on the rooftop (Saturday’s group)!

After the storm (though it was not as much of a storm as was predicted)

After the storm (though-thank goodness- it was not as much of a storm as was predicted)

Autumn 秋

October 6, 2016

Autumn

Can’t believe this is our backyard!  Our condo sits looking at this beautiful park.  Rick and I still take a deep breath in every time we open the door to our condo and say, “God, I can’t believe we live here!”

Photos from this evening’s walk around Green Lake.

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Jumpin’ Above Hoops

September 25, 2016

He goes by the nickname Dream Caster and I am lucky enough to be graced by his towering and gentle presence three times a week, when he comes to my yoga classes at Seattle Athletic Club.  He always arrives early, rolls out his impressive “runway” mat, which is long enough to accommodate his 6’7″ height.  Once his mat is rolled out, he proceeds to set up his yoga oasis with two bolsters, two Gripitz (props used to protect wrists when doing yoga), four blocks, two straps, an eye pillow filled with beads, and a few blankets.  Intrigued by and respectful of this giant of a gentleman, I asked if I could interview him and write about him in my blog. He happily agreed.

His name is Vester Marshall.

Vester lives his spirituality.

“I’ve been a student all my life. School, education, and society try to put you into a box.  Life is much greater than what we learn in school.  You’ve got to go out on your own and explore! Surround yourself with mentors, people who offer opinions you can respect!  Be a seeker! Be a seeker and have enough trust to go to a counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist for help when you need it.  Being a seeker has taken me out of the box.  It’s what takes you outside of being black or white.”

Vester Marshal was a former Seattle Sonics player during the 1973-74 season. He told me once that as a forward he was known for his ability to jump high and now, in his late 60s, his knees are fairly worn out.  That doesn’t stop him from walking.  In fact, he hasn’t owned a car in over 25 years.  He lives in the heart of Belltown in downtown Seattle and walks everywhere.  He has been sober and clean for well over 25 years.  He is the kind of guy you can’t categorize in any way.  He is a father, a street minister, an herbalist, a certified yoga instructor, a visual artist, a fisherman.  As a teen, he was a political activist and marched in support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. He was active in registering blacks to vote in the 60s. Later he was a grunge band manager in Seattle! He has been active in the anti-nuclear movement. He worked at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Diversity is the name of Vester’s game!

He was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  He went to the University of Oklahoma on a scholarship and played basketball for the university. “Basketball was a path which allowed me to follow the path to greater knowledge and wisdom.”  Playing for the Sonics led him to great connections, such as meeting governors, senators, and legislators.  He used to go to Olympia to take state politicians fishing!

Dream Caster with his salmon

Dream Caster with his salmon

Vester is a visual artist.  “I’m capable of doing what I want to do.  When we do art, we create. We produce.  We work our way through different problems and become connected.”

What are his words of wisdom?

“You have to know yourself.  You have to be real!”

Warrior I

Warrior I

How do you make a difference in this world?

“By just being me, by making good choices, by being responsible for myself.  Be an example.  You see what I’m saying? You’ve got to be an example for the world to witness.”

Triangle

Triangle

How has yoga changed you, Vester?

“I’d be dead now if I hadn’t taken an inventory of my lifestyle. Drugs and other hippy addictions were killing me. I looked around.  My friends were dying all around me.  All the people in the rock ‘n roll scene around me in Seattle were dying.  I felt like there was a strong invitation for me to get clean. I made a decision to clean my life.  I went through a detox program with medical help. Shortly after that, I found yoga.  Yoga taught me how to be mindful, how to be kind.  Yoga IS all about kindness and friendship. Yoga is unconditional love.  Yoga has taught me to be a part of a community where everyone is working on becoming their better selves.”

Warrior II, Spiritual Warrior

Warrior II

What are your keys for good living?

“I always have enough.  I live within God’s means.  Because of this, I’m in a beautiful place and I live a beautiful lifestyle.  I walk a path where life becomes divine.  I never worry.  Yeah, I’ve got issues with my knees, but I seek advice from the right people, the right doctors.  I take action and I never worry.”

Vester Marshall has class!

Vester Marshall

Sweet Summer

August 29, 2016

Summer time is my favorite of all seasons.  It comes after so much anticipation and seems to be over in no time at all.  Included in this email are some of my favorite photos from this summer, including some from this past weekend in Cle Elum and Roslyn.

I truly love taking photos.  And living in Washington state makes taking a great photo easy to do.

A visit to Vashon

A visit to Vashon and a hike on Shinglemill Creek Trail

Biondo Farm tomatoes!

Biondo Farm tomatoes!

Heritage Tomatoes (Biondo Farm)

Heritage Tomatoes (Biondo Farm). It was a 95 degree day so we missed out on Pizza Night at Karen Biondo’s farm (who wants to fire a 700 degree oven on a 95 degree day??)

Dahlias Forever!  Karen Biondo's farm

Dahlias Forever! Karen Biondo’s farm

We saw a wonderful paper art show at the Blue Heron Art Center (Vashon Center for the Arts). The new art center is magnificent!

We saw a wonderful paper art show at the Blue Heron Art Center (Vashon Center for the Arts). The new art center is magnificent!

Got my horse fix today in Roslyn

Got my horse fix today in Roslyn

Cosmos in Roslyn at the Farmer's Market

Cosmos in Roslyn at the Farmer’s Market

FRUIT: gifts of summer!  Roslyn farmers' market

FRUIT: gifts of summer! Roslyn farmers’ market

"fishnet" stockings...shadow on my leg in the beer garden in Cle Elum

“fishnet stockings”…shadow on my leg in the beer garden in Cle Elum (thanks, Nellie, for the idea)

Old mining town..on our way to the historical cemetery in Roslyn

Remnants from an old coal mining town..on our way to the historical coal miners’ cemetery in Roslyn

Stehekin!

Stehekin!

Stehekin hiking buddy: Winnie!

Stehekin hiking buddy: Winnie!

My other Stehekin hiking buddy: Leslie!

My other Stehekin hiking buddy: Leslie!

Relaxing at the cabin: Stehekin

Relaxing at the cabin: Stehekin

Have to include a foot photo:  soaking our hot feet when we break for lunch

Have to include a foot photo: soaking our hot feet while we break for lunch

Fantastic Rivers of Stehekin

Fantastic Rivers of Stehekin

Green and Trees at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Green and Trees at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Flowers at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

The Japanese Garden at the Boedel Reserve on Bainbridge

The Japanese Garden at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge

 

Living Your Yoga

August 17, 2016

Mostly I’d like you to enjoy these photos.  I believe these photos give you a good sense of the feel of Yoga on the Beach Retreat at our home and sanctuary, Little Renaissance on the Washington coast.

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The weekend yoga retreat at Little Renaissance is always held in August.  It is an annual event, one we have run every year since 1999! Generally, the weather is warm enough for us to enjoy at least one session of yoga on the beach.  While it was in the 90s in Seattle, it only hit a high of 70 at the coast.  In the morning, when we would generally go to the beach to do yoga, it was 49 degrees one morning and the second morning, we were immersed in the beach fog that covers this area much of the summer.  Beach fog and drizzles made for indoor yoga. Even so, a 70 degree high at midday on the beach is very nice and we got to enjoy a long walk on Saturday.

We enjoyed our walks on the beach and we had lovely retreat participants!  Good company, our organic garden produce used as ingredients for the meals, music, lots of yoga and lots of exploring of yoga toys/props including inverting on a sling, long walks on the beach, fair weather, hot tub, lots of visiting deer, bucks, and fawns, AND whale sightings on Sunday made for a very special weekend!

Mark your calendars for next year’s annual Yoga on the Beach (never too early to sign up!):

The Next Yoga on the Beach Retreat: August 11-13, 2017

Walking on the beach

Walking on the beach

Rick soaking up the rays

Rick soaking up the rays

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Reaching for the sky

Reaching for the sky

Hanging out!

Isaac:  Hanging out on the outdoor sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!

Music

Music

Triangles on the beach (was too cool this year to do a yoga session on the beach in the morning)

Triangles on the beach

Pure Energy!

Pure Energy!

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the legs

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the feet!

Relaxxxx

Relaxxxx

I Dream Of Jeanie

July 7, 2016

I Dream of Jeanie

One day after school, not long after immigrating to America, my sister declared to my parents that her new name would be Jeanie. She liked the sound of it. Her full name Giovanna was too hard for her new American friends to pronounce. And her Sicilian nicknames Gianna and Gianina didn’t sound anything like how they were written. With a name like Jeanie, she’d be sure to fit in.

Jeanie was my middle sister. She was six years older than me.  She was the star. I dreamed of being like her: tall, slim, elegant, artistic, funny, popular, fashionable, admired by my parents, especially by my mother. My mother had the patience to sit with Jeanie and teach her how to sew, knit, cook, and bake. Jeanie was a quick study. In no time at all, she was sewing hip outfits for my sisters and me. She designed her own patterns and made coats, jackets, skirts, pantsuits, and gowns for bridesmaids. The Gallo girls strolled into the 70s looking as chic as the Mod-Squad.

Jeanie as a bridesmaid

Jeanie as a bridesmaid

Jeanie branched out and started sewing for neighbors. She did alterations for them. And she started cutting their hair. She was still in high school at this time. The neighborhood ladies lined up in our basement where she had set up a makeshift after-school hair salon. She did up-does and gave perms. She frosted their hair and covered up their gray. She teased and puffed their hair and then shellacked it with layers of spray. The Indiana ladies left our house inches taller, feeling mighty beautiful in a Hoosier kind of way.

Jeanie started painting nature scenes and then, using a hooking technique, started making throw rugs and carpets. She dabbled in weaving. She did quilting and crafts. She made Big Bird and Cookie Monster cakes. She was a success. She was also, like so many girls her age, boy-crazy. I was just a kid and often intrigued by what she had to say about boys, but just when I would tune in, she would send me out of the room. She had a gentle, but commanding way about her.

When my family went to Sicily for the first time in 11 years after their immigration, everyone in the village of Grotte was stunned by Jeanie’s beauty and elegance. A young admirer organized a formal serenade for her. Yes, it was an old-fashioned serenade late at night, guitars and singing under the upstairs balcony at Nonna’s house. During the late night serenade, Nonna rushed into our bedroom to make sure Jeanie did not appear at the balcony because, according to Nonna, that would be the most impossibly improper thing to do! Another young man declared his love to her, but she wasn’t interested.  She already had a boyfriend back home!  Years later, when I went to Sicily as an adult, men, now middle-aged, sitting right next to their wives and grown children, would tell me how they had been in love with her. They would say her name dreamily, “Ah, Gianna.”

Jeanie gave my dad a full-time occupation in Rome! Young men would attempt to follow us back to the hotel. After chasing the young men away from the hotel entrance, my dad would beg Jeanie to please not make eye contact with any passing male creature, and to please not smile!  She did these things because she thought it was funny. She was just a 16 year-old young girl having a good time! The gawky ten year-old little invisible me, with crooked bangs, an overbite and a huge gap between my teeth, found her fascinating.

1972 Passport Photo for our Rome/Sicily trip

1972 Passport Photo for our Rome/Sicily trip

And she was selfless. She lived for others, especially my mom and dad and her two boys.

When she was diagnosed with MS, we were all devastated. We knew so little about it, but what we heard didn’t sound good at all. The cruel disease gradually took away almost every motor skill she had. She became intimate with hospitals and nursing homes. Depending on which medication she was on, she’d puff up and her body would expand or she’d become bone thin. She’d volunteer to take various medications as long as they held a possible promised future for herself and others living with MS. Once she volunteered to take an exploratory non-approved medication that could potentially damage her heart, in the hope of finding a cure. My parents suffered as they watched her deteriorate from their vibrant, fiercely independent, creative, altruistic daughter to a bed-ridden, paraplegic, seizure-and bed-sore-prone disabled young woman. It broke their hearts. And yet, her spirit could not be snuffed!

She definitely had a curious, naughty side to her. When she was just 5, newly arrived in America, she went snooping around in my Aunt Lily and Uncle Sam’s bedroom nightstands. On Uncle Sam’s side, she found a hand gun. It was loaded, safety feature unlocked. All the adults and my sisters were sitting in the living room when little Jeanie came out of the bedroom with a loaded gun in her hand. “Mom, Dad! Look what I found!” The adults blanched. Silence. I’ll bet my dad wanted to kill his sister’s husband for having a loaded gun in the house. The gun, in his child’s hand, was being pointed at everyone in the room. Aunt Lily saved the day by exchanging the gun in Jeanie’s hand with candy. I guess I came close to not being born.

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What I will never forget is visiting Jeanie in various assisted living and nursing homes. Silly me, I’d be caught up in some idiotic life drama and then I’d see my sister lying in bed, with photos all around her of her fabulous boys, smiling at my arrival. Instantly, I’d realize that all my so-called problems were nothing. Her smile was pure radiance!  Whether she was lying there hooked up to oxygen, IVs, or tubing leading to some infusion or another, bruised from a recent surgery, or puffed from a recent medication or infection, she’d smile and say, “Frannie, I’m so happy to see you! How are you, honey?”

The disease took away a lot, but it did not manage to take away her love!  As her illness progressed, her love became concentrated.  It was enormous and powerful.

Christmas with Jeanie.

Christmas with Jeanie.

I don’t know how else to write about her. She could see the glass half full, even when the glass had nothing but a small drop left in it. I don’t know where such courage comes from. We were so lucky to have had her. She has been gone for five years now, but it seems like yesterday when I last held her hand. I write this on the fifth anniversary of her death. Jeanie’s beautiful lively spirit lives on in her sons and her grandchildren.

Dwarfed by Jeanie's sons, Vince and John

Dwarfed by Jeanie’s sons, Vince and John

Snow Lake in July

July 4, 2016

Snow Lake is special, a perfect hike.  Today we hiked 7.2 miles to Snow Lake and gained an altitude of 1,800 feet.  The trail goes through old growth forest and there was still snow in some higher areas.  A friend went up a few weeks ago and reported there was still much snow on the trail and at the lake.  By contrast, my group and I never walked on snow during today’s hike. The trail head is only 53 miles outside of Seattle, so it makes for a very popular hike.  The highest point, where we had lunch, is at 4,440 feet.  It was quite chilly and windy at the highest point, where we had great views of the mountains and Snow Lake.

Being the 4th of July weekend, the trail was full of other people enjoying the beauty of this hike.  It didn’t both me one bit to see so many other people and their dogs hiking up and down the trails.  Our own group was large, the largest group I have hiked with in Washington.  We were 10 people, including 4 out of town friends.

Enjoy the photos below from today’s hike:

View of Snow Lake from the 4,440 viewpoint.

View of Snow Lake from the 4,440 foot viewpoint

Such a fun group to hike with!

Such a fun group to hike with!

At our lunch spot, windy!

At our lunch spot, windy!

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflower

Wildflower

Jack and Kelley (Kelley of India Spiritual Journeys)

Lunch break: Jack and Kelley (Kelley of India Spiritual Journeys) 

These two met yesterday for the first time at the Mariners' game!  Fast friends for life!

Arvind (visiting from India) and Jeff (visiting from Florida) These two met yesterday for the first time at the Mariners’ game and have become fast friends for life!

Lichen-encrusted stone

Lichen-encrusted stone

Happiness!

Happiness!


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