Cirque du Soleil’s art is magic

LUZIA Cirque du Soleil

My many-years-single-working-woman daughter treated us once again – a little late but in honor of Single Working Women’s Week – to a performance of the Cirque du Soleil at United Center in Chicago. Well, in the parking lot of the United Center, because the show requires such specialized equipment and rigging – due to the many extraordinarily imaginative features it includes – that they can’t set it up inside the building. They have to bring their own tents and equipment.

Imagine: a wall of water, falling from 60 feet above and not splashing the audience at all because of the carefully designed landing space on the elevated platform stage. Imagine safety railings that flip out from the edge of the circular stage so that no audience members are in danger of being struck by the wildly swinging platforms from which acrobats fly into the air and land across the stage with an ease that belies the disciplined agility of their efforts.

The physiques of the acrobats are inspiring. The women, scultped to perfection by their rigorous training and diligent practice. The men, muscular beyond any ordinary body – the contortionist so flexible it’s creepy, the strong man so intensely muscled that he can hold himself up by two ropes with both arms extended straight out. Unbelievable.

The clown is nothing like the old-fashioned image of a painted nose and big shoes doing stupid things. This clown is a central figure in the adventure of the story of LUZIA, this year’s 2017 Cirque du Soleil show. His antics are amusing and intelligent.

The sight that most awed me was the bigger-than-life-sized horse “puppet” made of pierced-metal, sculpted into real-horse parts with joints that were fully articulated – providing the priceless beauty of motion that only the body of a horse displays. The horse was operated by three dressed-in-black people inside the animal. Remarkably, their visible presence did not deter us from fully enjoying the animal in action. So lifelike. So beautiful. And the mane, flowing in the breeze. I’d love to meet the team that made this creature.

Anyway, the costumes, the lighting, the staging, the characters and the story in this show are well worth the money they charge for tickets. If you’re never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance – this is our second, and we are in love with the thing – save up if you have to. It’s a show you will remember for a long time – great place to go with a single friend to celebrate Single Working Women’s Day or Week. Or any time. The show is touring around the globe.

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Affordable digs for working women in Mumbai

Let’s get into the modern times – 50+% of women are single today

Good idea. Let’s see this spread to other countries.

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Reflections on single retirement and meeting friends

Flowers for your single friends – or you!

It’s coming up again: Single Working Women’s Day (August 4) and Single Working Women’s Week (7/30 – 8/5/17). It’s the time of year when we get to buy flowers or gifts or do little favors for the single women we know and appreciate – including ourselves, of course. Thank you to Working Woman Report and to TimeandDate.com for talking up the holiday recently.

Is singleness different when you’re retired? If you’re retired and live alone, whether you’re widowed, divorced or never married, you face unique challenges, yes. But for many of us, being able to choose our activities and allocate our time just as we like can make up for a lot of inconveniences.

Say, for example, you decide to spend an entire day reading – or two days or whatever your heart desires. You don’t have to make excuses or apologies to anyone about it.  What’s it worth to you not to have to worry about offending someone by passing gas or burping? To eat when you feel like it and eat whatever you want without having to explain yourself? To experiment with super-healthy recipes that no one else has any interest in? (If that idea clicks for you, check out this cookbook, Sneaky Blends, that shows you how to up the nutrition in lots of different recipes.)

The most important thing is having at least a couple of sympatico friends who like to go out and do things together once in a while. We humans are social animals, and a workplace always provided an automatic social setting. When we’re retired, we don’t have that setting, but we also don’t lose the wish to socialize. Even for those of us who are semi-loners, occasional companionship colors the world a little brighter. Having someone with whom you can share what your day was like can soothe the spirit.

In some cities, like Cleveland, Ohio, for example, many natives grow up with a ready-made social set – people who went to grade school and high school together tend to stick together throughout their lives. Although I lived there more than 30 years, only one native/local woman ever made even a small attempt to be friends, and she admitted I was the only “outsider” she’d ever socialized with. The rest of the folks I met and/or hung out with were all transplants like myself. Here’s an interesting chat forum on the subject of the “them” vs. “us” mentality in many cities and towns.

How do we meet new friends when we’re getting up there? Well, there’s always Meetup.com. In Chicago and in many cities across the country there’s a “school” for people over 55 called Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This is a peer-led organization that gets lots of retired (and semi-retired or still working) people – most are 70-ish – coming together in study groups to tackle subjects of mutual interest. The one in downtown Chicago – and in Evanston, too – is housed on Northwestern University’s campus, so there’s not a ton of diversity among the members, but it’s still possible to meet people with the potential to become friends or at least going-out buds.

So consider treating your single women friends somehow during Single Working Women’s Week. It’s a great time to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a single working – or retired – woman.

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Weighing the balance – busyness vs. reflection

Great place to sit and read in Chicago – Brauer Cafe in Lincoln Park

This is a little rant about growing older.

You retire. You’re okay as far as money goes – between Social Security and whatever savings or retirement plans you have. Now you face the big challenge – how to allocate your most precious possession: your time. As a single person – whether divorced, always single or widowed – you have sole control of that treasured resource.

Did you ever wish you could just sit and read for hours every day? All my life that was a frequent dream of mine. Did you imagine how great it would be to stop having to earn a living? I’m guessing most of us did at some point…even those who loved their careers surely got tired at times. Did you dream of traveling? If you did and you’ve got the money, this must be heaven for you.

But reading all the time – much as I love doing it – sometimes feels like an escape. From what, though? Working on my cookbook/memoir, for one thing. Seems every time I turn my mind to it, determined to get moving forward, I run smack into another obstacle. The most recent was the Adobe software program I bought specifically to help me sort through the hundreds of photos I need to go through to choose the right ones for the book.

One day, finally, I went to open the program and got – “Please provide us with a serial number and blah, blah, blah.” Of course, it’s been a couple of months since I bought the thing and I have no idea where the serial number is or how to go about doing blah, blah, blah. So then I put on the calendar, “phone Adobe support for help” and have to keep moving it and moving it because other things come up that take priority. So, once again, no progress.

Reading fun mysteries and crime novels certainly occupies the mind. And I feel virtuous that often I stand on the matt in front of the kitchen counter and work towards my “250 steps every hour” goal while I read. So, really, I’m not wasting the time. Ever try that – 250 steps every hour? Seems like you can never focus on anything long enough because you have to keep getting up.

But I remember often saying to my former husband – who seemed never, even for one minute, to stop reading: books, magazines, newspapers, legal journals, instruction manuals for cameras and other electronic gadgets, and ad infinitum – “When do you have time to process all the stuff you read?” But oh, well, we never know how another person’s mind works.

How do you allocate your time? Got guilt about reading or doing other “just entertainment” activities? Wonder if by the time you get in your 70s, you just realize it’s almost all over and who’s going to care what you do anyway? Maybe the trick is to just trust and respect your own feelings. That’s what counts. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, follow your heart.

 

 

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Journaling your thanks

Grateful for gorgeous sunrises (capture by OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA)

Supposed to write this morning in my journal about things I’m grateful for (started this post a year ago!). Got that idea after reading that in a big study of nuns conducted somewhere some years ago, researchers instructed the nuns to write in journals everyday. Then they followed the nuns for several years to record the state of their health during all that time. Turned out, as I recall, the nuns who thought, and therefore wrote, a lot about being grateful had significantly better overall health than those who thought and wrote neutrally or negatively.

So then later I read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Greater Creativity, in which author Julia Cameron insists that if you want to nourish your creative self, you must write every day at least three handwritten pages in your journal. So there I had my formula: write every day for 3 pages and make a lot of it about my gratitude for the good in my life.

And what about today’s kids who are not being taught cursive handwriting? Handwriting triggers entirely different brain areas than keyboarding and printing.

I keep a journal, some months on, some years off. Would like to say I was religious about this self-imposed obligation, but the fact is, life interferes at times and sometimes I’m just not in the mood. But when I do, it really makes a difference in how I feel. Centering. Calming.

That’s what I need. Going in for never-been-done-before surgery on my neck next week. Calm. Centered. Keeping it together.

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Book review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Just finished reading My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem at 70-something. A beautiful testament to her life – from her difficult childhood with a loving but somewhat looney, itinerant father and her lost-soul mother, to her many, many years traveling around the world writing for major outlets and organizing people in pursuit of women’s equality and reproductive freedom.

Beautiful stories of people she met, some of whom she developed very close relationships with, from the amazing Native woman who brought self-reliance and independence back to so many Native tribes that had lost their way, to the cab drivers and poor people and famous people and powerful people – including the then-pope – whose lives intersected with hers in some way, she gives the facts and reflects on their meanings in simple, fluid prose.

Another woman who fights for women's equality

Another woman who fights for women’s equality

My favorite parts are the ones where she speaks gently of her longing for a home when she was little and speaks tenderly about so many of the people she’s met and/or worked with. She has a clear eye and an open heart, and her book lets you know her in a way you never could from reading many of the often-harsh news stories about her battle for feminism and her long struggles to help make Ms. Magazine a force for good.

The book is a reflection on how a single courageous soul can create profound change by listening to people.

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Single Working Women’s Day is also National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Just found out. Not only is Single Working Women’s Week going on right now, but Single Working Women’s Day, August 4, is also National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. What a lucky coincidence that a favorite dessert fits right into the holiday week!

For those who love chocolate chip cookies – and/or the raw dough – what a great way to celebrate with your single women friends. Buy or bake and bring some when you go out or stay in to congratulate each other on your many contributions to the world. And kudos to AMNY for celebrating SWWW!

Meanwhile, DoubleTree Hilton Hotel on the Mag Mile has its own iconic chocolate chip cookie recipe and yesterday on August 4 they were handing cookies out with abandon at Union Station in downtown Chicago. Feathery light, break-apart, feels-fiber-rich cookie. I intended to eat a third. I ate the whole thing. Beware: 310 calories per.

Good chance you’ll get some when you stay at the DoubleTree Hilton next time.

DoubleTree Hilton Hotel hands out cookies at Union Station

DoubleTree Hilton Hotel hands out cookies at Union Station

Copy of Doubletree choc chip2

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Raw power in the wind

Originally written last fall…

Up early this morning. One of the blessings of being single is that you’re able to get up or sleep or not sleep and read whenever you like without bothering someone else.

Read the weather report–gotta know how to dress–and saw winds of 32 to 37 mph. And the prediction for gusts is 50 to 60. Wow. Looked out the window and, sure enough the trees are, as my dad used to say, “blowin’ like a maniac out there.”

Dimly recall a quote about an evil wind… Look it up. It’s from Shakespeare, from Henry IV, in the part where the hero Falstaff inquires: “What wind blew you hither, Pistol?” and Pistol replies, “Not the ill wind which blows no man to good.

So, let’s see. This is not an evil wind. It’s just a damned powerful one. When I go out today, I’ll certainly form a memory or two of things I see–tree branches falling/fallen, coats and hats and scarves frantically grasping human forms, leaves and papers and signs and empty garbage cans whipping about, little kids scudding along sidewalks faster than they can walk–all at the wind’s bidding. Reminds me of a story, an Aesop’s fable, that impressed me mightily when I was a kid.

The story begins with the Sun and the Wind boasting to each other about their power. (Remember it now?)

The Wind boasts that it is more powerful than the Sun. The Sun, says, no, I am the more powerful. So they make a bet. The Wind points to a man walking down the street below wearing a winter coat. They agree their challenge will be to get the coat off the man.

I, says the Wind, will blow it right off of him. And so he puffs himself up in a rage and begins to blow and to howl. His breath sweeps down and around and blusters something fierce against the man, pushing him and practically knocking him down with his power. But the man shakes and shivers and clutches his coat ever closer.

Finally, the Wind tires of blowing so hard and quits. The Sun smiles. “Now, watch me,” she says to her blustery brother.

The Sun begins to smile. Her golden rays descend and shine on the man in the coat. The sidewalk heats up with the intensity of the Sun’s smile. The street and the trees–and the man–grow warmer and warmer. The Sun keeps smiling quietly. Finally, the man stops, slips out of his coat and hangs it neatly over his arm. He looks around, smiles up into the sky, and continues walking.

Gentle strength wins out over harshness, says Aesop. And thank you to our veterans (Veterans Day was yesterday), without whom we might not have the option of using gentle strength.

Don’t let the Wind get you today. Be your own Sun.

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SingleWorkingWomensWeek – July 31 to August 6, 2016

Yes, it’s that time again. The official holiday week to celebrate the energy and passion and dedication of all single working women. The single working women who earn and bring home the bacon and then cook it, serve it and clean up afterwards. The single working women who come home from work and do all the housework and laundry, care for the pets, and still make time to visit with friends and loved ones.

So this July 31 to August 6, take a single working woman to lunch or dinner. Or take out her garbage. Or run an errand for her. Or ask her just how you can help. She’ll appreciate you thinking of her. Tell her it’s her official week and, if she can manage it, she should take some time off and relax. Everybody else has holidays, right? This week, every year, single women do, too.

Happy Single Working Women’s Week to you and you and you!

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Travels through life on foot

Last June my son-in-law moved up to the fancy new iWatch and no longer needed his FitBit fitness tracker. I was thrilled when he handed it down to me and have been wearing it faithfully since then. I love that it tracks my steps, my calories, my expenditure of calories, my sleep habits and efficiency rating, and my steps and activities (like weight training, biking, etc.)

I got an email today saying I’d just been awarded the Serengeti badge. Huh? Yes, they came up with the idea of awarding badges and icons and so on (like every other app and online program these days). The Serengeti badge is “awarded” to those who’ve reached a lifetime tracked goal of 500 miles.

Five hundred miles seems paltry when you consider my advanced age – surely my lifetime would be in the multi-millions by now. But since the fitness band’s only been tracking since June, I guess it’s not too bad as a milestone. And remember, a “step” doesn’t have to be outside on the concrete pavement or sweating in a gym to count. Even just in your own living room, stepping side to side and waving your arms around a little bit, can raise your count.

Is that “cheating”? Who cares? We didn’t make every move forward in our lives by ploughing straight ahead at full speed. Stop/start, think about it/consult others, decide/change your mind, do better for a while/relapse. That’s how life goes for most of us.

So how many miles have you come in your life? How have things been changing as you’ve grown older? This time of the year is the perfect time to ponder where we are, where we’ve been, and where we hope to go.

I wish you satisfaction with your past, gratitude for gifts received, joy in this moment, and happy wonder about what’s to come.

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