Finding Balance

Ever since we moved a few months ago, I have struggled to adhere to an exercise routine. I finally decided to sign up for some type of physical activity. My husband, facing the same struggle, agreed to join me. Due to my health issues, we decided on Gentle Yoga and Tai Chi.

The first Tai Chi class we attend, I quickly discover that I am by far the youngest person in the class. This should be so easy. The instructor begins the class with breathing exercises. No problem. Next, it’s time to balance. I danced for years, so this is my chance to shine. As I lift my foot off the ground to rotate my ankle, I start to topple over. I quickly put my foot back down. Hm. I lift my foot again. I am determined to do these simple ankle rotations. I wobble in an alarming fashion. The instructor with a concerned expression on her face informs me to stand close to the wall.

I move next to the doorway. I lift my foot and start to fall over. I grab onto the doorway with both hands. It takes all my strength to keep that one foot in the air. I glance behind me. Everyone is easily balancing on one foot. Really? I’m working as hard as I can to balance on one foot with a death grip on the door frame. Thankfully, the door frame is well constructed. The instructor tells us that we can teach our brain to help us balance. I vow to practice every day.

A couple of years ago, when we were in Hawaii, the hotel we stayed at offered a yoga class on surfboards out on the water. We watched the people in the class perform various yoga poses, including standing on their head. I consider that class a challenge in balance, not standing on one foot on a solid surface.

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The next day, I convince myself that my lack of balance was an anomaly. I assume a Tai Chi stance in the bedroom and lift my foot. I am able to lift my foot an inch off the ground before I start to fall over. My cat, who has been watching me, runs for shelter. At this moment, I envy her four feet and tail.

I move next to the door frame and discover my new best friend. I lift my foot and discover that I still need two hands to stand erect.

Next up is Gentle Yoga. If this is Gentle Yoga, I would hate to see what advanced yoga is like. I discover muscles I never knew I had. Warrior 2 and I’m struggling to find balance using two feet. Time to balance on one foot. Joy. The instructor tells me I can use a block to help me balance. I choose a stylish purple foam block, instead of the boring tan cork block. I lift my foot and knock the block over. Hm. I lift the block and knock it over again. I lower the block and finally get my foot on it. At this point, everyone has been balancing for a couple of minutes with one foot in the air. The purple stylish block is bending in half because I’m putting all my weight on it. I start to topple over. My foot goes down to the ground and telepathically informs me that is where it’s going to stay.

I realize that over the past few years, my ability to balance has been diminishing. This explains my inability to prevent myself from falling if I trip. For the past six weeks, I have been diligently working on balancing each and every day. My brain is a slow learner when it comes to balancing, however, I am no longer affixed to the door frame. I can hold my foot in the air to the count of four.

I have also discovered that my ability to balance life’s day-to-day activities have improved as well. I feel more in control of my body and that has translated into my ability to handle other situations. My husband and I encourage each other to attend classes and practice balancing. The classes we attend are welcoming and non competitive. I never dreamed that the simple act of balancing was such an integral part of my life.

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The Lavish Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is located in Versailles, France, which is located approximately 20 kilometers southwest of Paris. The Palace was initially constructed as a hunting lodge and private retreat for Louis XIII. Under Louis XIV, the Palace was transformed into a complex that was intended to glorify the King.

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This was my second visit to Versailles. The first time I visited this showcase, I neglected to purchase tickets ahead of time and I went during the height of the tourist season. The result was that I encountered lines that were two to three hours long in the blazing sun. I briefly considered standing in line, but instead I took a couple pictures of the Palace exterior.

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This time, I arranged for a tour and purchased tickets well in advance. We also arrived fifteen minutes before the Palace opened. These preparations ensured that we were able to thoroughly explore the palace and the beautiful grounds. We rented a golf cart to explore the gardens, although you are more than welcome to walk if you so desire.

Construction on the famous Hall of Mirrors began in 1678. The Hall is flanked by the Salon of Peace and the Salon of War. During diplomatic receptions, the king would sit on a throne at the end of the Hall, in front of the Salon of Peace. Diplomatic leaders would walk down the hallway with courtiers on either side until they reached the king. This ostentatious display must have been awe inspiring. Walking down the Hall of Mirrors with other tourists was overwhelming.

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The 12 Days & Nights of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas is on display at the Dallas Arboretum from November 4-January 7.  Twelve Victorian-style gazebos are elaborately decorated and can be viewed by following a gentle paved path through the park. In addition, a beautiful nutcracker collection is located in the DeGolyer House at the arboretum. This display features scenes from the Nutcracker ballet.

The 12 Nights of Christmas features over 500,000 lights and is on display from Wednesday through Sunday from November 9-December 30. My first visit to this arboretum was in the evening. It is situated by White Rock Lake in Dallas.  I recommend purchasing tickets online prior to visiting this holiday spectacle. Any changes in date or time will be listed on the site plus additional information regarding Holiday Tea, Elves Workshop, miscellaneous concerts and more.

When we arrived at 6:20 p.m., the parking lot was almost full. If you want a premium parking spot, arrive early. If you don’t mind waiting until 8:00 p.m., the crowds are greatly reduced. As we entered the arboretum,  we were treated to a sparkling lighted entrance. As we followed the twinkling tree lined path, a lady playing a harp provided soft music to accompany us on our way to the first gazebo.

Prior to reaching the first gazebo, there was a stand selling Christmas drinks, sodas and water. I had a hot apple cider which was delicious. They also serve mulled wine (I didn’t care for this one at all), hot chocolate (yum) and hazelnut coffee (weak). After refreshing ourselves, we concentrated our attention on the Partridge in A Pear Tree gazebo.

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This was one of our favorite displays. We were amazed at the detail in each gazebo. Various strains of Christmas music also accompany each gazebo.

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Nine Ladies Dancing was my favorite exhibit. The costumes, hair, makeup, jewelry, accessories plus the Christmas tree, made me want to join this festive party.

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Ten Lords A-Leaping was also a popular gazebo.

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We spent approximately two hours enjoying  the lighted displays. Located by the Nine Ladies Dancing gazebo is a cafe and the Restaurant DeGolyer. We didn’t dine at either location, so I can’t comment on the food.

We enjoyed an enjoyable, festive evening. If you’re in the Dallas area, I recommend you visit the Dallas Arboretum.

Paris in the Summer – Day 5

Our first stop this morning was Laduree on the Champs Elysees. I read that Laduree is known for macaroons. I love macaroons. The exterior of the location on the Champs Elysees coupled with the gorgeous interior makes this an opulent tea room/shop experience. Having missed breakfast, we enjoyed a delectable brunch. I felt like a member of royalty dining at this tea room. Be aware that the prices for dining at this beautiful establishment on the Champs Elysees comes with a steep price tag. After brunch, I purchased a couple boxes of delectable macaroons.

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Next on our list was the Musee D’Orsay which is located in the center of Paris on the banks of the Seine. The museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station. It was built for the International Exposition of 1900. The building itself can be viewed as the first work of art.

The national museum of the Museum D’Orsay opened on December 9, 1986. This museum features art primarily from 1848 to 1914. Artists such as Degas, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Courbet and Bazille, among others, can be viewed.

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We spent approximately three hours exploring this museum. We were able to see everything without feeling rushed. I highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead online, unless you relish standing in line.

 

The Meaning of Being Thankful

The older I get, the faster time seems to pass. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and reflecting on past holidays made me nostalgic. As I googled definitions for the word ‘thankful,’ the definition that I felt a special affinity for was from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “conscious of benefit(s) received.”

The frantic pace of everyday life often makes us forgetful of what is really important. Every Thanksgiving is memorable because I was fortunate enough to spend it with people I love. One of my favorite memories of Thanksgivings’ past was spent exploring Golden Gate Park with my husband, my kids and my mom.

This might not be many people’s vision of the traditional Thanksgiving, but we had a wonderful day filled with special memories. We spent the morning at the Academy of Sciences, ate hot dogs in the park and relaxed at the Japanese Tea Garden with afternoon tea.

Thanksgiving in the Park, as I’ve since referred to that day, is also special because it was one of the last outings where my mom felt well enough to explore the park and enjoy the day with us. For that day, and many others, I am truly thankful.

 

Paris in the Summer – Day 4

Today, our destination is the Place de la Concorde. The Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris.  During the French Revolution it was the site of many notable public executions of royalty.

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After taking numerous photos of the area, we walked to the musee de l’Orangerie. This museum is famous for being the permanent home of eight water lilies panels by Claude Monet. The museum also houses works by Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-August Renoir, among others.

I’m not a huge art fan, however, I’ve always loved the images I’ve seen of Claude Monet’s works. The museum, located in the Place de la Concorde, is large enough to house beautiful impressionistic masterpieces, without being overwhelming.  You do not need GPS to explore this gem.

In the afternoon, we took a hop-on hop off bus to Sacre-Coeur. Sacre-Coeur is located in Montmartre at the highest point in the city. Montmartre, the name derived from “Mount of Martyrs” has long been known as a place for worship. Construction on the present edifice was begun in 1875 and finished in 1914. It was consecrated in 1919. The beauty of the church and the surrounding vista are sites that should not be missed when visiting Paris. Beware of pick pockets and aggressive peddlers when frequenting this and other popular tourist destinations.

 

Paris in the Summer – Day 3

Day three and it was time to explore the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe and the Hotel des Invalides. The Champs-Elysees is known for its shops, restaurants and theaters. While we were there, I had to pop into the Disney store. I do love all things Disney. Some of the more high end stores include Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Longchamps and Tiffany. Stores I frequent such as Sephora and Zara are also located along this prestigious avenue. My favorite dessert/breakfast place, Laduree, is also located on this strip, but more about my favorite dessert place another day. The Champs-Elysees is also known for its annual Bastille Day Parade and for the finish of the Tour de France bicycle race.

The Arc de Triomphe is located at the western end of the Champs-Elysées. It was commissioned in 1806 by the Emperor Napoleon. The actual construction was not completed until 1836. The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I lies beneath the vault. As we walked around this monument, I was brought to tears as I read the names inscribed on the inner and outer surface of  this symbolic monument.

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Next, we headed to Hotel des Invalides. The Hotel des Invalides is actually a complex of several buildings dedicated to the military history of France. There is also a hospital and retirement home for war veterans. We headed for the Dome des Invalides. The Dome des Invalides was designated as Napoleon Bonaparte’s final resting place in 1840. It was not completed until 1861. For those interested in architecture, this is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. IMG_1822IMG_1825

Napoleon’s tomb is made of red quartzite and rests on a green granite base. IMG_1827

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This was a weepy day for me. I bawled when I read the saying above. In his will, Napoleon asked to be buried “by the banks of the Seine surrounded by the French people whom I love so dearly.”