HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE!!

My brother Joe would have turned 50 today and last month marked the 30th anniversary of his death. He was only 19, a month from turning 20, when he died. He has been gone 10 years longer than he lived and I have lived my life almost twice as long without him than with him. Today, I am 28 years older than he was when he died. Impossible for me to reconcile, because no matter how old I get, in my heart and mind, he is still my big brother.

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Our siblings are part of our identity. Growing up, they are the witnesses to our lives and are the people we know, and who know us, better than anyone else. My twin brother Grady and I are the youngest in our family, we were born with two older brothers. The only world we knew was with Cliff and Joe. Our bonds which began circumstantially, became part of our being. We depended on each other for teasing, support, fun, arguing, generosity, selfishness, secrets, betrayals, physical violence, protection, and a union for or against our parents. These dynamics were confusing to my parents who were both only children; they simply could not understand how you could be threatening someone with a butcher knife one minute and then going outside together to play catch the next. Lucky for us, we loved and liked each other in equal measure. Which is why when Joey died, the loss created an agitating insecurity as we all struggled with the repositioning in our family. Only now, 30 years later, have I come to understand that we didn’t, or couldn’t, reposition ourselves at all. We have spent decades trying to adapt to the holes in the nucleus of our family. The first created when Joe died and again nine years later with the passing of my dad.

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I can vividly feel and see how Joe would walk into a room jiggling his car keys, front pockets of his jeans slightly turned out, oxford shirt mostly untucked, dark curly hair a halo around his head, green eyes twinkling with a huge smile on his face. He had a great sense of humor; he was usually laughing about something: his energy kinetic and warm. If he wasn’t entering a room talking or laughing, he would have been humming and drumming Seeger, Clapton, Springsteen or another Classic Rock artist who met his approval. A great music enthusiast, he read the “Rolling Stone Record Guide” cover to cover multiple times.  A “guide” intended as reference material was a feast for such a trivia buff and voracious reader as he.

Joe was my mentor of many things, but especially music. “Robin, there will be no B96 played in this house!”  I desperately wanted him to think I was smart and cool. So, I obediently listened to and learned to love classic rock. But only after we had a couple of disco parties at the neighbor’s house where all three of my brothers stood on the street holding up Steve Dahl posters, made by my brother Cliff, chanting’ “Disco Sucks! Disco Sucks!”

Joey had this way of teasing me and making me feel better at the same time. The summer between 6th and 7th grade, one of my closest friends and I ended up with the same bathing suit. She was much thinner than I which caused me a bit of angst. Joe’s response was, “Oh Robin she will look like a little twig in it and you will look like a NICE. PORK. SAUSAGE!”

Joe and I shared sturdy statures and a great fondness of food; of course, a pork sausage was appealing to him, but none of the girls photographed in their bathing suits on the pages of “Seventeen” magazine resembled pork sausages! Even so, I felt better.

I definitely was not as intellectually curious as Joe was, few people were, other than EVERYONE else in my family. I leaned more toward physical pursuits; dancing and working out, my appearance, my peers, and thumbing through fashion magazines. This was troubling to Joe. So, one summer he spent a lot of his free time following me around reading aloud from “Time” magazine. His frustration grew as I stalked around rolling my eyes and sighing. So, he made me a deal. He said he would leave me alone if I could name the presidents of the United States backwards starting with Ronald Reagan. With a lot of coaching we got back to Herbert Hoover. “Come on Robin, he’s served more terms than any other president!”

I replied, “Wasn’t he the one who was married to Marilyn Monroe?”

Exasperated, Joe froze, looked over his glasses through the tops of his eyes and said, “President DiMaggio Robin? President DiMaggio!”

We didn’t get any farther, and I now understand that he was trying to get me to say FDR.

 

 

We were 2 years three months and three school years apart; he was a senior in high school when I was a freshman. Only two inches taller than I, when Joey would introduce me to his friends, he would stand up tall as he could, puff out his chest, rear back and proudly introduce me to people as his “little sister Robin” filling me with love, pride and a sense of protection.

Joey loved music as much as he loved books. When he turned 16, he drove my mom’s hand me down, two door, V8, rear wheel drive, Oldsmobile Delta ‘88. He had a boom box he kept in the front seat plugged into the cigarette lighter and about 200 cassette tapes loose in the front and back seat. Every time he turned a corner the tapes would slide one way or the other thrashing around, not that we could hear it, the music was too loud. Lucky for Grady and me, Joe drove us to school every day our freshman year, which meant we didn’t have to take the bus. We did however have to ride in the back seat because Joe also drove two of his friends to school. Every morning we would climb into the back seat and Joe would drive us to school talking, singing, air guitaring, drumming and fishtailing the entire way. We arrived at school nauseous, bruised and slightly hard of hearing, but extremely grateful not to have to ride the bus and able to walk into school with our brother who was a senior; another example of the dichotomous manner our siblings look out for us.

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Joe read constantly from the time he was about 2 and knew more trivia than anyone. He loved sports, especially major league baseball, and was a sport statistic fanatic. Instead of playing sports in high school he competed on the Academic Bowl team, was the announcer for the varsity girls’ basketball team, served as student council vice president, was a little league umpire and wrote for the underground newspaper. Wise beyond his years Joe possessed a revolutionary outlook on his establishment. He revered men and women who fought for the underground, underrepresented, under privileged and underserved. He had a profound interest in current events, the human condition, and our environment. In fact, when he died, we set up donations to Greenpeace in his name. He was able to perform uncanny impressions of Jesse Jackson and John Belushi and loved an audience. At the same time, he knew how to make people feel seen. With his gregarious charm, he connected with people easily. It’s that that has remained with us. I am proud to say that in the years following his death, I have received many notes and emails from people with whom he connected.

 

I credit Joe for my love of classic rock, great books and true friends. He instilled in me intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm for food, revolutionary outlook, and ability to laugh at myself. I am glad that I see glimpses of him in my nieces Mary, Molly, and Rory and my nephew Mitchell. I am grateful that almost every Bob Seeger, CSN, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, David Bowie, James Taylor, John Lennon, song and John Belushi line I hear, no matter where I am or what I am doing, I can hear him belting out, see him playing air guitar, turning cartwheels or air drumming away like it was yesterday.

Of course, I have tried to age him along with us. I just can’t seem to do it. I can’t make him older than he was when he died, just as I can’t make myself older than he ever was. It’s okay, as my brother Cliff says, I think I’ll leave him right where he was; because he was pretty cool.

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Erin’s Story

Eight- year-old Erin Elizabeth Wilhelmi, accompanied by her sisters Katelyn and Sheila, walked into the basement of the Cary Methodist Church to take the first ballet tap combination class I would teach as a studio owner. All three were bare-legged, wearing bright-colored leotards and had the longest thinnest legs I had ever seen. I was enchanted by them, their huge almond-shaped eyes and the fact that they never stopped smiling. Breathless and excited to try a brand-new studio for her daughters to learn dance; their equally smiley, long, lean mom, Maggie introduced the five of us. I began class; unaware that this was the beginning of relationships that would become so important to me and have lasting significant impressions. I never stopped feeling as enchanted by Erin as I was that first day.

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Erin as a child with her family (lower right)

At 28, Erin is a Fulbright Scholar, high school Spanish teacher, musician, dancer, choreographer, world traveler, homeowner, sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece and friend. She earned her BA in Spanish Education with a minor in music from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. As a Fulbright Scholar, Erin lived in Argentina and taught at the University of San Juan and at ASIC, English Institute and Americas Public Library. While living there she was able to travel to Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, and Chile. Her travels have also taken her to France, the British Isles, Spain and many US destinations. Erin is a freelance accompanist, plays piano and choreographs for Cary-Grove High School’s Swing Choir, and is rehearsal and performance accompanist for C-G’s musicals. In addition to teaching Spanish at John Hersey High School, she will be the director of the Hersey High School show choir group called, Ladies First, for the 2019-2020 school year. While in high school and college, Erin danced and sang in numerous performing groups and shows and has sung at many weddings and funerals. She has played lead roles in musicals which showcased her great comedic timing and was one of the most beautiful dancers at my studio. I sat down with Erin several months ago to find out how she has accomplished so much so young; and how she maintains her rigorous work, travel and social schedule while managing to be happy, graceful, calm, funny, kind, and energetic.

SISTERS

 

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Erin and her sisters Kate and Sheila

Growing up the middle of three sisters, Erin saw herself as a nurturer and a helper and the one in the family who fulfilled whatever role was needed. In this way, she says that she was much like Switzerland; she wants everyone to get along and will do what it takes ensure that. Perhaps more of a feisty Switzerland since she has the fortitude and the strength to assert herself when necessary. Raised by parents, especially her mother, who were great role models and set high standards and expectations of their children, Erin credits her parents for first teaching her to think of others…

“I think it started with my parents, especially my mom. She was always making me think about other people. Whether it was writing thank-you notes, or… Who was it who phrased it this way? Maybe my mom, but we said there are the “here I am” people or the “There you are” people. My mom taught us to reflect on this, even after family events. She really engrained in us to think about how we wanted to treat other people. My mom is a very “There you are” person, and I think going abroad also was a huge influence that made me understand the world has so many different people, different customs and different communities that have different customs. I wanted to understand those. I think that is when I started channeling the “there you are”. So, I would be a listener, and I learned to listen more than I talked.”

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Erin and her mom, Maggie

Erin describes herself as a teacher, learner, musician, and credits music with making her a team player. When asked if that is what she loves most about music she responded, “I am so grateful for music and I think both music and dance are and were an escape and a stress relief for me, a way to express myself. I still use music as a way to destress and challenge my mind. I feel that way with dance and choreography too. It puts me at peace and makes me happy and it makes people around me happy. It can be me playing the piano with my sisters singing or playing for Swing Choir or for the musical, it’s really cool. Whether that’s in the pit with these other amazing people or accompanying these kids who are having so much fun singing and dancing. It’s like, ‘oh I get to be a part of that!’”

Practically every time we talked about music and dance Erin got emotional. She credits her training and experiences in both as having a huge influence on her life and giving her the work ethic and discipline she needed.

Erin’s reply to what she loves most about teaching, “I like seeing kids as individual people, and I think that is part of why I love teaching so much. I meet these kids and I don’t know everything that they are dealing with in their life, but for 50 minutes I can form a relationship with them and make them feel seen, and make them think about something outside of themselves. For a high school student that is more of an uphill battle to fight. But it’s something that is important to me to do.”

Erin identifies going to Hope college as a pivotal time in her life. On one hand understanding how much her parents had done for her; on the other realizing that she could form and express opinions and make decisions without consulting them first. As a Spanish major, she was required to spend a semester abroad. One of the most important decisions Erin had to make was where she would study.

“I had This Argentinian, amazing, super-cool professor who would take us out for small group coffee dates to talk to us and also to talk about the study abroad program, our thoughts, ideas, plans. I just asked a bunch of questions of her and she started talking about Buenos Aires and Argentina and her life there because she was born and raised there. It was fascinating to me what she had to say about Argentina. I thought well, I feel like at some point in my life I will go to Spain because that is where everyone went. It would be cool and different and I don’t know as much about Argentina, I want to go there. But then I had a small moment of panic, after applying to the program through my school, which was a language intensive program, not a program where Hope took a bunch of students; I would be with student from all over the US. I got accepted and then researched Buenos Aires. I found out that it was a humongous city and kind of panicked. Then thought ‘I don’t think I can do this; I need to go somewhere smaller…’ But then it was the best thing I ever did.”

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Erin in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Erin grew to love Buenos Aires, her host family became her second family, and the friends she made while there have become lifelong friends. Teary eyed, Erin said how proud of herself she is to feel that way about Buenos Aires. Not only did she conquer a completely foreign city but came to adore it. Brave of her considering that prior to going to Argentina, Erin had never traveled outside of the United States other than to a resort in Mexico. This experience sparked a sense of adventure in Erin and she now has a rule that she will travel somewhere at least one weekend each month.

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Erin in Bueno Aires, Argentina

Erin had a feeling she would return to Argentina. Return she did, as a Fulbright Scholar. A mention in passing from a friend turned into months of preparation just to apply to become a Fulbright. The Fulbright program was started in 1954 by Senator J. William Fulbright who called for the use of surplus war property to fund the ‘promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science’. The program offers opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program awards grants in all fields of studies and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Six months after graduation from Hope College, Erin headed back to Argentina as a teacher and Fulbright Scholar.  This was Erin’s first experience ever living alone, so she accepted every social opportunity offered to her from friends she made at the university, took Tela (silks) classes, read and traveled. To her this was an empowering and liberating experience that taught her to enjoy and embrace alone time. Her job was teaching English classes that were meant as a cultural exchange where she offered a United States point of view, told from her lense, on culture, pop culture, history, politics, and whatever her students wanted to discuss. All of which forced her to look at current American trends and fads and to research and learn more about her own country.

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Argentina is primarily Catholic and the current pope, Pope Francis, was born there. Erin was raised Catholic so I asked her if she had attended church while she was there. She described the church there as very literal and strict. Consequently, she didn’t attend mass while living there and avoided religious discussions. Erin describes herself as Catholic in background and finds solace attending mass here at home; but says that it is not how she would describe her faith. She identifies her faith as spiritual rather than sectarian.

Erin was in Argentina while Barack Obama was in office and was surprised and gratified to hear Argentinean people express their affection and admiration of him. Now more than ever, we need these cross-cultural personal connections and ambassadorship. I marvel at the people of her generation and their willingness to travel, study, learn and take a stand. They live in a world that encourages them to expose themselves in a myriad of ways, many not good; yet Erin and many of her generation whom I know and have had the privilege of teaching, have used the “age of information” to create lives and experiences that have and will make a difference in the world.

Erin is a professional woman who has traveled the world and is an incredible teacher who has experienced places and things I have not; yet there is part of me who will always first see that darling, eager, hard-working, magical little girl I taught my very first day of being a dance studio owner. Her energy is even more positive, fresh and kind than it was when I first met her. Elegant and gorgeous on the outside, her beauty emanates from her courageous, brilliant, generous, creative heart. This is only part of her story; we talked for hours. Our conversation was enlightening, interesting and fun and I am thrilled to see how the rest of her story goes!

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A post about friends…

The intention of starting my blog is to highlight women I know well, women I have been inspired by, women I have taught, who have taught me and the women I love. This post has been on the tip of my fingers for several weeks buried by the responsibilities of the holidays and my studio. Sharing the point of view of others on my blog is my ultimate goal. However, I feel it important to share my positive experience as a member of Delta Gamma sorority while attending NIU. It is not my intention to pontificate about the exclusivity of sorority membership. In fact, that part of it is a little weird for me and I know seems unappealing and even offensive to most people. This post is about friends I have continued to enjoy and make a priority. Originally, learned from the example set by my mother who is now a 50 year member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She has always been and had wonderful friends. My mother taught me to value and maintain my relationships with women and showed me how much life is enriched by having them. It is perhaps, the greatest value she taught me.

On this snowy Saturday, as I composed this post, I received an email from one of the 12 women about whom this post is written. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 days ago. She doesn’t know many details but is certain to go through at least a year of intense treatment. Lisa, I dedicate this post to you. I know you’ve got this, but you need to know that WE’VE got this too. We will do everything we can to help you fight this fight and will love you through every weird, tiring, funny, painful, and happy moment you will have.

The typical way that sorority life is depicted in television shows or movies couldn’t be farther from what I experienced during my sorority days of college. Sorority girls are most frequently represented by shallow, perfect-looking, mean girls who are only out for themselves and willing to humiliate and sabotage anyone perceived as competition.

The young women who recruited me into Delta Gamma, the women with whom I was recruited, and the young women we recruited were all darling, kind, funny, smart, self-deprecating and have become fixtures in my life. There are 12 of us from two different pledge classes, who have stayed in close contact and get together regularly. We graduated from college 25 years ago and since then have three annual events and add in other impromptu outings, lunches, dinners etc. when we can. My favorite is our annual holiday party. We take turns hosting this event and either kick off our holiday season or close the season with it, depending on which time works better for us. The tradition began 25 years ago and we have not missed a year. Each year we do an ornament exchange. So every time I unpack these ornaments and put them on my tree I am reminded of my loving sisters. This year, my holiday season began with this party and inspired me to see the chaos of the rest of the month through loving and grateful eyes.

In the beginning we shared secrets, clothes, academic pressure, dressing for themed parties and dances, countless crushes, late night talks, studying, workouts, heart breaks, meals, libations, classes, meetings, rush, philanthropy, advice, tears, make-up, cleaning duties, “flushing!”, and just about everything shared by people who live together. In the years after graduation we supported each other as we started careers, shared apartments, searched for “the one”, got engaged and married, started families, bought houses and became adults.

Now that we are in our mid to late 40’s we have been there for each other as we have experienced the declining health, illness and even death of some of our parents, divorces, second marriages, infertility, financial ups and downs, raising teenagers, and spousal or our own health challenges. Upon making our commitment to Delta Gamma we agreed to be her champion in her absence and her friend always. And we do just that.

When we plan any event, we tirelessly try to find a date when everyone can attend. This is nearly impossible but never causes us to opt out of the event. We know that some of us getting together is better than none of us. When any of us has experienced the death of a loved one someone takes charge to order flowers and an accompanying memorializing gift to be sent, signed by all of us. Whoever is available attends visitations and memorial services and it is always understood that who is there is also representing who was unable to be there that time.

We have made it a priority to meet and/or know of each other’s family and friends outside of Delta Gamma and inquire about them with genuine interest and concern. When one of us has recovered from surgery or health challenge we have even done our best to participate and help out with neighborhood meal trains and support. We don’t live close to

each other, but luckily, with the exception of two, we are all in northern Illinois. Recently, by the blessing of social media, we found out that one of the DGs from my pledge class had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Through Facebook messenger, 60 of us rallied together and sent her gift cards, meals, gifts for her daughter, and some even accompanied her to her chemotherapy appointments. Now, we have made a new group and are planning a reunion with DGs who pledged over a 10 year period.

We are a ways from the practically perfect bodies, faces, and hair of our college days, but every one of these women is more beautiful and stunning to me than they were 25 years ago. Pondering this, I realized because after all this time, what remains through every life event we endure, is love. It’s just love.

I’m Thankful for…

For many Thanksgiving dinners while I was growing up, we passed a chalice of wine around the table and before taking a sip, had to say what we were thankful for. Of course we would respond with the usual “family, food, friends” ; but this year I would like to express my gratitude for something different.

I’m thankful for dance, yoga and the ability to be physically active. It is therapy for me. The first week of my senior year in high school, my brother Joe died suddenly.  Each surviving member of my family, my dad, mom, two brothers and I were awakened just after midnight and told the shocking news. In hindsight, only now do I begin to understand how profoundly changed I was in that moment.

One week later, I had a glimpse when one of my teachers handed back a homework assignment I had completed only hours before I found out Joe died. Staring at the assignment, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. I realized the person I was before Joey died was gone; nothing about me was the same but I couldn’t put my finger on how I had changed. For several years I struggled to concentrate on schoolwork, reading, and physically passive tasks. What this experience put in motion for me was a deep commitment to spending most of my time in my body. What I was able to do well was dance. From the momentum of a strong academic background, I made it through my senior year; but by the time I started college, a year later, studying seemed impossible.

Heartbroken and in shock, the only time I felt good was while I was dancing. So, after a semester as a nursing major, I changed my major to dance. For several hours each day, my body felt strong and healthy. I could connect to myself without having to acknowledge how sad I was. Physically exhausted, I slept well and I received constant and appropriate attention from teachers in the form of constructive criticism during dance class which kept me present and mindful of what I was doing each moment.

Consequently, when grief would wash over me like a massive wave that knocked me down and left me gasping for air, I could recover. Occasionally, waking up in the morning was the worst part of grieving. Upon waking, my mind would be consumed with a dream I had. In my dreams Joey was alive so there would be that moment of happiness quickly replaced with the dread of realizing, again, that he was gone. I was able to get out of bed because I had somewhere to go where, at least physically, I felt good.

At the time, I had no idea that what I was doing through physical exercise was rebalancing stress hormones and raising endorphins and that there are provable scientific reasons I felt better. I was just doing what helped me survive. For this, I am so thankful for my career teaching dance and yoga. Each class I am helping my students be present and heal their bodies, hearts, and minds while providing them with tools to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Just like every aging dancer, I have reached a time when dancing the way I did as a 20 or 30 year old isn’t possible or even safe. As a result, I practice yoga. My practice helps me manage and care for old physical wounds, but it also isn’t lost on me that my favorite yoga poses are heart opening postures. The healing of my heart is what led me to it and I am forever grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Robin

P.S. Yoga is accesible to everyone!! See photos for some of my favorite heart opening postures!! Message me if you need help with your practice!

 

Election Day!!!

I love election day. There is something about the excitement and satisfaction I feel going in on the day of the elections to vote. In this way I am taking part in our civic duty, making a difference, exercising my right, and honoring a long -standing tradition in my family.

I grew up in a house where all of the members and guests were encouraged to discuss, shout, argue and even offend each other on the subject of politics. My husband’s entire career has been in public service. He has served at the state, federal, county, and local levels of government. When I stop and think and realize that when my grandmothers were born women weren’t allowed to vote and my great grandmothers were unable to vote in the first few elections of their lifetimes; I wouldn’t even consider not voting.

The expectation in my family that we will all partake in this civic duty began with the election of 1948, 23 years before I was born. On election day, my mother, Jacquie, was home from school sick with the measles. She was eight years old. Her mother, my Meemaw, came into her room, sat down on her bed and told her that she was going to have to leave my mother alone for a little while because she had to go vote. Meemaw said it simply was in her DNA to support Truman. She told Jacquie that Truman supported the labor unions and that Meemaw’s step father was an early organizer for the Teamsters. Meemaw explained that she remembered how much better things were for her stepfather and other truck drivers after the Teamsters organized. People could live off their wages and their lives improved. Meemaw would never forget being taken to those initial meetings by her stepfather in Battlecreeek, Michigan and Toledo,Ohio. To her, voting meant that things would not go back to how they were.

My grandparents had both been Roosevelt democrats, but were not in agreement of who should win this election. Meemaw wasn’t out the door 10 minutes when the phone at home rang and Jacquie answered. It was her dad, Grandpa Marvin. He chatted with his daughter and then asked to talk to her mother.

Jacquie said, “She’s not here. She went to go vote, and this is why.” She proceeded to repeat everything Meemaw had said to her. Exasparated, Grandpa Marvin said he would call back later. My grandfather always jumped around, waved his arms and yelled a lot. He was more animated than mad. In fact, he said that he would only be mad if Dewey lost by one vote.

When my grandparents spoke on the phone later he said, “you left her alone to go vote for that son of a @#$%&??!!”

To which my Meemaw replied, “yes, of course I did!”

This election was one of the biggest upsets in American history. The newspapers had already predicted a Dewey victory and had printed the following day’s papers with the banner headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman!”

Meemaw was right, our votes matter. Every vote counts. I am honoring the legacy of my grandmothers and great grandmothers, all of the women before me who didn’t have the right to vote, and the women who fought so our voices could be heard. Election day always makes me feel hopeful and excited for the future. No matter what the outcome, whether I agree or not; as I settle in and watch election returns tonight I will be reminded that we are a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Concerns, Complaints, and Congratulations

I teach a gentle yoga class at my dance studio two days/week. The students in class are all women over the age of 60 including my mother who is almost 20 years older. Each of them comes to class with her concerns, complaints, wisdom, wit, humor, and willingness to practice yoga. They arrive stiff with arthritis resulting from old athletic injuries or recent falls. All of them experience post-menopausal balance issues and flexibility loss, a few have post-surgical limitations including the lack of ability to hang their heads, and many deal with chronic pain. Teaching them has become the highlight of my week. Each exemplifies what I adore about women. They are willing, coachable, and brave; and they have chosen to deal with aging through the support of others and lots of humor! These women faithfully show up for class; sometimes griping about how they feel physically, but always willing to share and reveal how they feel emotionally. As their yoga teacher it is my job to get them out of their heads and into their bodies; but I can’t resist participating in the gab session before class. In fact, I am often guilty of starting a conversation with something on my mind and they supportively chime in sharing their life experience in support of my tribulation. Each time we meet is an opportunity to vent, which means we begin and end class 10 minutes late!

Sometimes we start class sitting on folding chairs but usually we begin sitting cross-legged on the floor. For some, this requires the use of blankets and blocks to create what we refer to in the yoga community as “modifications” because many have tight hips, “bad knees”, or newly replaced joints. Regardless, we begin class breathing deeply and turning inward together. I am always humbled and somewhat amused by their trust in me. They allow me to lead them through breathing exercises and mantras seated like a pretzel with their eyes closed. However, once we start moving, I am snapped back into reality as they will verbalize shameless protests at my instructions, at the same time, giving a valiant effort to try to do what I am telling them to.

It is my responsibility to keep my students safe and make sure that they aren’t stretching too far or attempting something that may cause injury. At the same time, I want them to realize their potential and help them make changes to their bodies that will improve how they feel. Often, one of them will remind me that they have already reached their potential and they are as good as they are going to get! So I do what any good yoga teacher would do. I continue to teach. One of them will snicker, half of them will obediently take action and inevitably someone will bellow, “Robin, that’s just not gonna happen today!”

To which I respond with a number of solutions involving the use of yoga props, body placement modifications, and a reminder to breathe, which is then usually met with affirmation that the changes were successful, but sometimes uproarious laughter contagious to the whole class, including the teacher. Even though we spend much of our class time laughing, I am impressed by their progress and eagerness to enrich and improve their lives. They have chosen to learn to adapt to the changes they have experienced in their lives  by participating in something supportive, humorous, fun and healthy.

Congratulations to the women who take my gentle yoga class!!

I am grateful to you for many reasons. You have made me a better yoga and dance teacher, by example you have shown me how to be supportive of one another, how to be brave, how to laugh and mostly how to love each other!

Namaste,

Robin

 

 

By Women For Women

Thanks for joining me!

I am writing this blog, and hope to start a podcast, to create a community for women of all ages to tell their stories and share their strategies of how they live day to day. On the outside, our lives appear ordinary. However, upon further exploration, all of us are extraordinary. I know that as we reveal ourselves and learn about each other we will realize this. We have all come from somewhere. Our families, careers, friends, enemies, talents, gifts, challenges, and faith and/or spirituality have all shaped our lives and made us who we are. Our experiences and backgrounds create the lenses through which we see. I am interested in not only telling my story but also the stories of all women. It is my hope that through this endeavor we help one another feel great about who and where we are in our lives right now.

What and how do we prioritize to help us live our best life? From where have we drawn strength to overcome pitfalls, challenges, grief or setbacks? Is that still working for us now? What are our greatest accomplishments so far? What are our greatest challenges? From where do we draw inspiration? Where will this take us? What do we offer each other to help one another? I hope that by sharing our stories; the women of my community will thrive!

Together, we will explore, collaborate, commiserate, get to know each other, and open our hearts and minds!

XX,                                                                                                                                                      Robin