Week 11: 24 Hours at 24 Hour Fitness

Have you ever wondered who works out in the middle of the night? If the gym is open 24 hours, it would be safe to say there are people working out all 24 hours, right? Well, I always wondered… so I thought, what the heck — I would stay 24 hours hours at my 24 Hour Fitness gym.

I am already a member, so that wasn’t a problem. And when I told them what I was doing, it didn’t seem like a big deal, they would just note it on my account so that the staff would know. Okay, I thought, now it was up to me.

I’m not a big fitness, workout everyday type of person. I usually go twice a week for the morning yoga class, sometimes I’ll take a Zumba or Pilates class, and sometimes I’ll use the machines or weights. But primarily I take classes, I need someone to tell me what to do. And I love those walks around the neighborhood and at the beach.

So, on the 24th of January (get it – 24 hours at 24 Hour Fitness on the 24th), I pack my backpack with extra workout clothes (I have to look good), gatorades, water bottle, snacks, sandwiches, toiletries, my journal, and a Travel & Leisure magazine. My friend Gigi picks me up to start the day with the 8:00am Yoga class at the UTC 24 Hour Fitness. I don’t want a car there just in case I get tempted to leave. Here we go.

    photo(10)

8:00 Yoga – my usual class which relaxes me and gets the day off to a good start, Gigi takes the class with me and my EdUCate! board buddy Tim comes by to give me an encouraging high 5.

9:00 Zumba – my first time with this instructor. I love Zumba but I feel like a little lost learning the steps each time with a new teacher. Some in the class look like professional dancers. Showoffs. Even the one guy in the class knew the moves better than me, he even had that S-move torso thrust thing down.

10:00 Core Workout – tough workout and I’m getting tired already, yikes.

10:30 Pilates – okay I’m really tired now. Instead of doing things double time, I’m doing them at negative double time, I would repeat the movements every other time and just lay there in between.

11:30 Silver Sneakers – I decided to skip this class. I’m not quite a senior yet. Actually I was afraid of those folks. They came in early and started talking during the wind down period at the end of Pilates and the instructor asked them to quiet down and they were arguing back. Those cranky seniors. Well, I know I’ll be one of them eventually.

Lunch – I find a comfy bench and eat my egg salad sandwich and drink Gatorade. I plan to be snacking a lot to pass the time. Dave, one of the Little League dads saw me and gave his encouragement, what does he do to workout in the middle of the day? There really are lots of people there in the afternoon. Not as packed as it gets in the morning or after work hours, but a good steady group of people. Well I walked on the treadmill for hour, had another snack, bought some earphones since I forgot mine, bicycled for an hour.

I watched some awesomely built guy exercising and jumping all over the place. He was hanging from the bars and did reverse sit ups, and then got on top to stretch. Who was he? I tried to take pictures of him for my friend Lacy, who was sick in bed and couldn’t join me for the day, because he was definitely her type. But he kept moving around and it would look stalkerish if I tried to follow him to take pictures. During this late afternoon period, I notice quite a lot of young (for me that’s late 20s/early 30s) dudes here. And I don’t mean to be a creepy cougar lady, but wow, these guys are some great eye candy. I can sit in this bicycle for a long time, and I do.

photo(9)

Okay, time to get up, I exercise with some hand weights…and another rest period. I sit and read through my social media and emails, played games on my phone, ate another snack – this is not a lose weight day. More bicycling, listening to music makes it go by much faster, and watching the cute buff guys in front of me sure helps the time go by nicely.

4:30 Body Combat – I get here early as I’ve never taken this class, it’s boxing mixed with martial arts moves. I thought it was a very effective class as I got really sweaty, and now my legs are killing me. I really need a better sports bra, my breasts are moving around way too much, I don’t need to add to the eventual gravity pull.

5:45 Athletic Training – normally I would be fine with these exercises, lots of calisthenics and running, but halfway through I was done! I walked out after 30 minutes. The others in the class probably thought I was some weakling middle aged woman, but hey I’ve been here since 8:00am!

So I sit and charge my phone, waiting for Gigi to bring me my Rubio’s dinner. By now the gym is packed again, you can smell the difference.

7:30 – after Gigi brings me food, I lay down in the group exercise room for about 30 minutes. Then time for my jacuzzi, sauna, steam room hour. I love the heat. Afterwards I take my time showering. I know we have a water shortage, but I’m trying to use up time and long hot showers do feel good. I’ve actually never taken a shower here. As I dress, I do what I hardly ever do, blow dry my hair. Yes, I gave myself a blow job at the gym. I also take a selfie that you see posted. I hate taking selfies, but how tired do I look in the picture? I also put on makeup, changed my clothing, and eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for energy. It’s like I’m ready to go clubbing. Don’t you think that would be a good idea for the gym: open up the exercise room, throw on the disco lights and play music for club freestyle dance exercise nights (what do you think 24 Hour Fitness?). Of course we need to think of a catchier name than that. Ahh, off for more treadmill and bicycle work.

photo(4)

2:00 (am) – I spent the prior hour trying to sleep while listening to music, I really, really wanted to sleep. I walk another hour on the treadmill. I think my legs are officially done. I could have walked a marathon by now. There’s hardly anyone here. I count three women and about a dozen guys, plus the cleaning ladies. My eyes are getting tired.

photo photo(7) photo(8)

3:30 – two other people besides me and the staff are here.

5:30 – what a difference a couple hours makes. I go in for another jacuzzi, sauna, steam room session and after taking another leisurely shower and primping, the place is alive. You can feel the energy. I had chatted with some women while in the sauna, it was nice because they complimented me and said I didn’t look my age. It’s always an ego boost to hear that, but hey, we were all sweaty and I think everyone looks younger without makeup.

7:30 – I’m ready to go. I’m just hanging out until Gigi picks me up. I write in my journal, and watch the time to make sure not to leave until exactly 8:00 am, although I did arrive a little before the 8:00 am yoga class and I was actually up at 5:00 am.

Ahh, my bed…ready to take a two-hour nap before going to watch my sons’ games for the day, my legs are dead.

***

What did I observe?

  • regulars know each other – even in the middle of the night

  • there’s lots of people sitting around on the machines – especially in the middle of the night when no one is waiting on the machines

  • guys play basketball at midnite

  • this 24 Hour Fitness really should have a smoothie/juice bar

  • all ages come at all times

  • I didn’t see bouncers working out at 2:00 am, which is who I was expecting to see

  • saw more couples working out together at off hours

  • there sure are a lot of runners

  • lots of neon colors designed into exercise attire these days, especially in shoes

Now, I knew I wasn’t going to work out the full 24 hours, and when I was working out, that I would take it easy. I didn’t want a repeat of back pain I experienced when I tried to do too much at the gym that one time months ago (acupuncture worked great). And it’s a good thing because afterwards only my legs were really sore. I was surprised I wasn’t sleepier, and I was able to watch my kid’s ball games without falling over, and I actually carried on coherent conversations. I did poop out on a night out with the moms.

The next day I go on a nice long walk on the beach and benefited from a fabulous massage at Massage Envy (I get them monthly) which helped my muscles relax. Wow, no real side effects from my 24 hours, except for sore legs. I’m amazed. Monday morning back to the gym for Yoga. At the office in the afternoon…I trip over a step and sprained my ankle.

I have spent the past few days icing my ankle, keeping it elevated and wrapped, and using up lots of Icy Hot cream. How is it that I spend 24 hours at the gym, get hardly any sleep, continue to exercise by walking and taking yoga, then I’m out of commission by tripping over a step? All I can say is…I’m a klutz. Also, note to self: my next house will be a single story one – these stairs are killing me!

The thought to remember here, as a good friend texted me, is “the ironies of life!”

Notebook: 24 Hour Fitness, www.24hourfitness.com

I was at the UTC Super Sport location at 4425 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92122. They have a pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, full basketball court, and an outdoor workout area with those big tire things. And a Kids Club daycare center – although my son is old enough to workout and is a member, but there’s no way he would work out with his mom!

Advertisements

Week 10: I’m A Flasher

Okay get that picture out of your head I didn’t flash anyone my naked body, at least not to any strangers (insert wink emoji here). However, I did participate in a flash mob for the first time.

When flash mobs started, I remember thinking how cool is that! To think that you could be minding your own business at the mall and all of a sudden people come out of the crowd and perform some dance routine. I wanted to be in one of those. And this past Sunday I did just that.

How do you get to participate in a flash mob you ask? Well, you could belong to a dance group that is asked to perform one, or do what I did — search this thing called the Internet. My research led me to a company called Flash Mob America that organizes flash mobs all over the United States. You sign up for free and find flash mobs that fit into your schedule. There was one on the list that was a marriage proposal in Anaheim on a Sunday morning. Fits my schedule and it was romantic. That was my choice.

Since it was in Anaheim, my sisters were able to join me on this adventure. We’re each in a different county now: me, the oldest, in San Diego; Liza, the middle, in Orange; and Roselma, the youngest, in Los Angeles. All in SoCal, and meeting up in Anaheim where we grew up.

About a week before the event, we’re sent an email with rehearsal information and a YouTube link to show us the dance we will be performing to the song Buttercup. Then we’re sent another super secret email with details for a super secret rehearsal the night before and a YouTube link to dance steps for the song Marry Me. You see, the girl being proposed to is also participating in the flash mob. The first email was sent as a decoy to keep her from realizing she’s the one. All this super secret stuff, who would have thought it would be so secretive. I guess it has to be secret, that’s why it’s a flash mob, duh.

Well, I looked at the YouTube videos and the steps looked easy enough, so did I practice – maybe once or twice while holding my phone while trying to keep up on YouTube. Not the best dance practice methods. But I do have full-length closet mirrors in my bedroom, and I had some dance experience in high school and helped choreograph routines for our drill team half-time shows. Oh, and there was that time us moms did a dance routine for a school talent show and our choreographer and instructor was Cheyenne Kibblewhite, the new Executive Director at San Diego’s Culture Shock Dance Studio – that counts, right? Is Zumba considered dancing? Okay, so it’s been awhile since I’ve danced. You really don’t need to be a super dancer to participate. A willingness to learn and a desire to help is all it takes.

Ehh, we’re going to two rehearsals we’ll be fine. So after watching a baseball game for one son, and a basketball game for another, I head on up to Anaheim to meet my sisters for the Saturday super secret rehearsal. It seems none of us has really practiced. Of course we’re late, and the instructors have begun. We stand in back and try to catch on. There will be a dance group performing a routine in between our parts, so we really don’t have to dance as much as we thought. Well, that’s good. No problem, we got this.

Afterwards, us sisters have an excellent seafood dinner at a new restaurant in Old Town Orange called Ways & Means. (If you have Instagram, you can see all the food pictures I posted.) Later, for inspiration, we watch Step Up Revolution. It’s the 4th movie in the Step Up series and is based around a group performing flash mobs. And if you like those type of dance movies, bypass the acting and concentrate on the flash mob performances. Personally, I looked at the routines as art in motion – the choreography, set design, sense of purpose was masterful. Watch it, because it’s hard to describe the art gallery scene where art is transformed into dance. And I especially like how their timing and locations of their flash mobs were designed to send a political message. I consider that a peaceful protest.

In the wee hours of the morning, when it’s still dark outside, we have the not so secret rehearsal at 6:00am – yes am. We figure out who the bride to be is and we run through all the steps of the Buttercup routine, although everyone knows full well that we only dance through the first chorus. I practice that torso thrust S-curve like movement…my sisters laugh.

The instructors announce the official location and general timeframe of the flash mob (although we found out the secret location the night before at the super secret rehearsal) — the stage at the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon at Disneyland. Woohoo – we’re going to the happiest place on earth to help make a couple happy! Too bad free tickets weren’t included, that would have really made me happy – have you seen the price of Disneyland tickets these days!

flash mob military band

Now comes the hardest part…waiting. Once we get into the stage area, we end up waiting around for a good hour and a half until there’s a break in the stage entertainment, and when most of the runners have completed the race. We try to blend in, looking like the throngs of supporters cheering on family and friends. We should have grabbed a few of those thermal blankets and looked like we ran the race, or wore some green Tinker Bell outfits with wings (maybe the half-marathon will be a future week…or not). We walk around, and walk around, use the porta potties, witness three other marriage proposals, walk around some more, listen to the military rock band…and then we notice that many of the other flash mobbers are starting to come towards the stage.

Flash Mob Jemma during Buttercup  flash mob waiting for the answer

Okay first, the fake marriage proposal (to throw off the future bride even more) happens on stage, then Buttercup starts playing, our cue to head to the middle. So we go in and start the dance no problem…then the deception…the groom-to-be pulls aside the bride-to-be and dances to her along with the dance group to the song Treasure…then the whole group comes back in for the finale of Marry Me and opens up their hands to reveal Ring Pops (the groom-to-be had a real ring)…and it’s over…she says…wait, I can’t hear her…YES!

flash mob the ring pop  Flash Mob Jemma with the happy couple

Ohhhh, it’s all so romantic (although personally, guys listen up, I would prefer a romantic vacation on some tropical isle). Is that it? Are we done? What do we do now? It was hard to leave. You practice the steps over and over again and again, and all those logistics the organizers handled to keep it super secret. It was somewhat anti-climactic. Most of the flash mobbers hang around, take a group picture, and congratulated the happy couple.

flash mob group 2

Well, I guess we’ll go out to breakfast.

***

Although the actual flash mob performance went by way too quick, the memory of it will last a lifetime. Primarily for the couple, who you wish will live happily ever after. It’s got to right? It started at the happiest place on earth. But also everyone who participated will be sharing a memory with each other — complete strangers, and who today wouldn’t recognize most of the other flash mobbers. The beauty of a flash mob is the fact that total strangers came together, volunteered their time, went to a super secret rehearsal and another one at the wee hours of the morning, to create such a lovely memory for this couple.

Although not at the same scale, it’s like when many San Francisco residents came out to help fulfil a Make-A-Wish dream come true for “Batkid.” Complete strangers coming together for the greater good. The greater good of bringing a smile to someone’s face and creating special memories. There is hope for all mankind afterall…and yes, I plan to continue to be a flasher…where are those Culture Shock gift certificates, I need to step up my dance moves.

Notebook:

http://www.FlashMobAmerica.com – no cost to get on their mailing list, flash mobs are organized all around the country – go be a flasher! (If the flash mob is posted on YouTube, I will update this post with a link.)

Week 9: Juice Me Up

The new year tends to bring up all variations of personal resolutions to live healthier, eat better, exercise more often. Although I have in the past tried to do such things, I can’t ever remember being on an actual diet. So I decided to go on one of those juice cleanse diet things. What the heck — I love juice!

Plus one of my goals is to have a hot body by the time I’m 50. I know, I know, I already have a hot body you say, okay so a hotter body is the goal.

After looking into a few juice cleansing diet programs, I decided to go with Suja juices. They had a 1-, 3-, or 5- day plan. One didn’t seem enough, five was too much, three was just right. A few people I knew had tried it. There were also are a number of juice cleanse storefronts that were recommended to me, but quite frankly I liked the convenience of picking up the juices at my local Whole Foods. And I did think of getting a juicer, but I wanted to make sure I liked drinking these type of juices before committing to that expense. The ready-to-drink Suja juices seemed to fit into my lifestyle the best.

kecia photo

I did notice on Facebook that quite a few friends were on juice cleanses, planning to start something similar, or sharing lots of juice/smoothie recipes on Pinterest. So at least I’m not the only one out there thinking of juicing.

To get my body ready, a couple days before I started the juice diet, I drank some GreenFix Organic Smoothies that I got from their booth at the La Jolla Farmer’s Market. I also didn’t eat any red meat for a few days prior, which can be very difficult when I walk into the house and smell steaks being grilled.

Okay, here we go. Everyone I am in daily contact with has been forewarned, particularly my co-workers since I am there most of the day. I expect to become very grouchy without solid foods, especially without eating any chocolate.

Day One:

Breakfast – Suja Glow (apple, cucumber, celery, spinach, collard greens, kale, mint), very tasty and refreshing, 160 cal. (each bottle is 2 servings)

Mid-Morning Snack – Suja Fuel (carrots, orange, apple, pineapple, lemon, turmeric) also very flavorful and I love all the fruitiness, 180 cal. This ain’t so bad. Even though the first two juices were very delicious, my stomach is growling and I’ve been to the bathroom so many times. My bladder feels like it has shrank. I really should get some Depends.

Lunch – Suja Purify (carrots, apple, celery, cucumber, beet, lemon), again very tasty (I’m using that word too much), but a little heavier in consistency, 140 cal. I wonder, with all these carrots in my juices, will my eyesight get better? I will say it’s getting harder to keep drinking the juices even though they taste good. Here I am peeing again. Usually at home I practice the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” toilet flushing rule. But that would be a no-no at the office. I’m already looking at ways I can legally cheat on this diet. The Suja website says if you “must” eat then vegetables, fruits, half of an avocado, a baked sweet potato, or broth-based soup are acceptable. I am feeling bloated, yet my stomach is growling and I’m supposed to be drinking again in 15 minutes.

Mid-Afternoon Snack – Suja Fuji (apples, celery, cucumber, spinach, collard greens, kale, lemon, ginger), once again very good, but is getting to be a lot of liquids. 140 cal.

Dinner – Suja Green Supreme (apples, kale, lemon), 220 cal. (110 cal). My stomach continues to make noises (“feed me I’m begging you”), but I only drink half my dinner because I feel full. Even on a juice cleanse, my M.O. is still the same — save room for dessert!

Dessert – Suja Vanilla Cloud (coconut, honey, almonds, cherry, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, camu camu) – 260 cal (65 cal). I really thought I would finish this entire bottle. I was waiting all day for dessert. I end up drinking about a fourth. I just feel too full. I start feeling a slight headache.

The hardest part was coming home and smelling the comfort food of my youth, my dad was cooking chicken adobo. This week he decides to do all this cooking! My parents don’t think it’s healthy to not eat food (remember we’re Filipino where the mantra is “eat, eat”), and my kids think I’m crazy — what else is new? But when I had to go to Whole Foods to get the next days juice they were eager to ask that I stop by Sprinkles to get them their favorite cupcakes. Being the cool mom that I am, of course I happily do anything for my sweet baby boys. Yeah. So not only do I have to endure walking by and smelling all the delicious prepared dishes at Whole Foods on my way to the juices, but I have to go to Sprinkles and not have one bite of a cupcake! That is sacrifice my friends.

day one – about 795 calories – 40% of the recommended daily intake – yikes

Day Two:

I woke up with a headache and a growling stomach.

Breakfast – Glow: I felt much better after guzzling down the juice. 160 cal. So I walk into the office and smell blueberry bagels toasting. I decide to avoid the kitchen area as much as I can. I brought some grapes with me because I know for sure I will crave some solid food today.

Mid-Morning – Fuel: boy, this really tastes good, loving the pineapple flavor in there. 180 cal.

Lunch – Purify: Not as into it this time, I only drank half. 70 cal. By 3:00 my stomach is growling again.

Mid-Afternoon – Fiji: I’m getting tired of drinking and again only drink about half. I’m full. Although I find myself checking out Pinterest updates for all the food recipes. Pinterest is my food porn site. 70 cal.

Dinner – Green Supreme: I drank half. 110 cal.

Dessert – Vanilla Cloud: This is so weird, again only drank about a fourth. 65 cal. As I lazily lay in bed watching TV, I notice that there sure are lots of commercials about food. But hey, another day with no solid food. Wow, I’m doing pretty good.

day two – about 655 calories – 33% of the daily recommendation – I’m going to waste away

Day Three:

I woke up feeling fine, and realized I had been sleeping well.

Glow: The first drink of the day is always so refreshing. 160 cal.

Fuel: Continues to be so delicious, this juice is by far my favorite. 180 cal.

Purify: I finished the rest of the juice leftover from yesterday. 70 cal. I am now really fantasizing about food and planning out what I am eating tomorrow. But I can’t believe I haven’t resorted to eating any of my grapes. No headaches and I’m not acting like a bitch either. I’m doing it.

Fiji: Drank half. 70 cal.

Green Supreme: Drank half. 110 cal.

Vanilla Cloud: You would think by now I would finish the dessert, but no I only drink a fourth. 65 cal. While drinking my dessert, I watch Eat Street on the Cooking Channel, a show about food trucks. I am hooked on my food porn.

 day three – about 655 calories – 33% of the daily recommendation – I can’t believe I haven’t wasted away

suja

At the stroke of midnight, I happily eat five milk chocolate covered almonds and drink a small glass of cold nonfat milk. I missed milk.

Day After: I wake up so ready for “real” food. I make myself two scrambled eggs with cheese, potatoes and a flour tortilla. Orange juice to drink. Then…I could barely eat my breakfast. Probably about a third. I can’t believe I’m not devouring my breakfast. I was so full. A shrunken stomach I assume. Once at the office, my co-worker Rosey gave me a bag of chocolate covered mangoes – two of my favorite flavors. They were very yummy…then the runs. I have no real problems with my bowel system during the cleanse, and the day after I have a problem! I guess it takes a while for my body to actually cleanse everything out. I did have a nice lunch of grilled snapper and steamed rice from El Pescador Fish Market. Now I feel normal.

***

Did I lose weight? To be honest, I have no idea. I don’t normally weigh myself, so when I started the cleanse I didn’t even think about doing so. When I did, it was late into day two. But I did feel better about myself, and I like the idea of shrinking my stomach naturally. Would I do it again? Probably, but not all three days. I think the one day cleanse would be good every now and then, and even substituting one meal a day with juices would be very doable. The intermittent fasting type of dieting. I will say that I did like the idea of buying prepared juices, primarily for the convenience factor. I really enjoyed the Suja juice flavors and I want to try the other flavors available. And when life slows down (will it ever), I would definitely consider buying a home juicer.

Overall, I am proud of myself for actually sticking to the juice diet plan and not succumbing to desires for solid food. I really thought I was going to cave in. I guess I had a little more determination than I anticipated. But after this juice cleanse, the colonics, and the mental cleansing — I’m done with cleansing weeks for this year. From now on, these weeks are going to be all fun, okay, mostly fun.

***

Soapbox: Okay, I actually went on a diet and completed the plan. I never dieted as a kid because I was always a skinny girl. As I started married life, I was trying to have a baby, having a baby, or nursing a baby, so not the times to diet. Afterwards, I still never felt the need to diet. Sure I want to lose those nagging last ten pounds of baby weight gain, but my doctor has never said anything about my weight. So, if she’s not worried, neither am I.

But why as a society are we obsessed with dieting? I’m sure it’s the product of an effective marketing plan. Maybe there’s some secret government funded line item. Then I heard about the recent Paleo Diet trend which supposedly reflects the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. So are we going back to caveguys dragging their cavegals by the hair back to their caves too? Can’t we go back to some of those curvy body types shown in Renaissance art? I consider myself a Renaissance woman.

There was a TED talk recently discussing why diets don’t work and how in the U.S. 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet. Is that the message we want to give our daughters? Look, I agree that being overweight or obese is unhealthy, but normal 10-year-old girls don’t need to be on a diet. And if they are overweight at that age, maybe we should be looking at their inactivity and the diet influences of their families. Yes, sometimes parents are to blame. Watch what you say to your daughters, and sons. A casual comment you make about their looks may influence about how they feel about themselves. This is particularly true of some cultures, my Filipino culture included. While we love to feed people, Filipinos don’t hold back on making comments about others appearances. A comment of “oh did you gain weight” doesn’t seem to be considered bad manners. And to a an already self-conscious teen, that could lead to a case of bulimia. Why do we make others feel that way? I would rather comment on how wonderful it was that the kids organized a food drive for the homeless shelter. That should be the focus. Your inner beauty, not the outward appearance.

Look, you want to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. Watch what you eat and the amount you eat…and be more active. Take the stairs, park far away at the mall, and walk to the store. We all know what to do. There’s no magic pill.

Besides the dieting soapbox, I had another observation. The longer I went without solid food, the more I concentrated on eating. Although my stomach felt full, I was hungry. And I wondered — is this how undernourished children feel…when they are at school? At home trying to study? During the summers or weekends when no school meals are provided? Kids don’t learn when they are hungry. Kids don’t do well on tests when they are hungry. While we as a society spend all this time and money on the business of dieting, maybe we should focus on feeding the hungry. What does it say about us when we starve ourselves on purpose? And not for political reasons either, but to make us look like some cover model – whose photo has probably been, as we say, adjusted?

Again I sound hypocritical during this journey since I did this juice cleanse thing and now railing against dieting. But along the way, we all grow and learn a little more about ourselves and life in general. Shouldn’t we be learning something new everyday anyway? I was determined to finish the three juice days because I really wanted food. My mind was on the food as a reward, not much of anything else. Hungry kids probably think the same way. Get me through these first few hours of school so I can get some lunch. There is no concentration on studies when your body wants nutrition.

These kids are our future. Flowers won’t bloom if they are not fed.

Notebook:

No Kid Hungry, www.nokidhungry.org

Suja Juice, www.sujajuice.com. The juice cleanses are available in 1-, 3-, or 5- day packs and run approximately $50 a day. Individual juices can also be purchased. Order online, or shop at your local Whole Foods.

GreenFix Organic Smoothies, www.greenfixsmoothy.com. Juices available in 16 oz. $5, 32 oz. bottle $8, or gallon bottle $29. Visit website for farmer’s market and store locations.

Week 8: Symphony Seduction

I close my eyes for a moment and pretend I am at the Great Hall in Vienna listening to the beautiful sounds flowing from the orchestra’s instruments. Today, the audience is easily transported to such a lovely setting while enjoying the music played during San Diego Symphony’s New Year’s Day Annual Salute to Vienna.

salute to vienna program

What better way to spend New Year’s Day than listening to such uplifting performances to get your soul ready for a new year. I had never been to the symphony before, and attending one was on my 50 weeks list. By chance, during our New Year’s Eve conversations, our hosts Sharon and Joe were talking about the next day’s plans and mentioned that they had tickets to the symphony. Joe was, let’s say, not jumping at the chance to attend and offered the tickets to anyone willing. Well, I mentioned that I had never been to a symphony performance and Joe was most eager to help with my 50 weeks journey. So it was decided that I would be Sharon’s date for the show.

And what a special performance for my first time! The Salute to Vienna concert is in its 19th year touring the U.S. Now, I have been to Vienna. My maternal grandparents took me there when I was in high school, as part of a grand tour of Europe. But we didn’t listen to classical music while there. We did eat our way through every city, and I remember the wonderful breads and pastries of Austria! Oh, sorry, I digress. See the music has already transported me to Vienna.

The concerts’ conductor András Deák, soprano Alexandra Reinprecht, and tenor Martin Piskorski are part of the Strauss Symphony of America. For bonus entertainment, there were performers from the Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine and the International Champion Ballroom Dancers. Not only did I get to enjoy the symphony, but I had never been to an opera either, so it was a welcome surprise to get some operetta selections thrown in there.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the performing arts. I have been to a number of musical productions, on Broadway in New York City, at the Pantages in Hollywood, all those Las Vegas show versions, and even our local small theatre productions. But never to the symphony or to the opera, and I’m not counting the band performances my son was in during elementary school, or my own orchestra days in junior high. (Yes, I played the flute and once made first chair!)

I do like live music. Piano bars, small music venues, concerts — I just don’t get around to attending as often as I would like. And quite frankly, never really had an interest in classical music. Maybe that’s why I do so horrible in answering those types of categories on Jeopardy.

But I had put down attending a symphony and/or opera on my 50 weeks list because, well, isn’t attending such things a sign of maturity? There’s something grown-up about getting a little dressed up (I actually wore heels), to listen to classical music.

symphony2

Once the conductor raised his baton to start the orchestra, I was captivated.

As you watch from behind, the audience follows the conductor’s movements as he sways during the waltzes, or sharply points to the musicians when it’s a march. You notice the excitement in his arms, his step, his body. I would have loved to been able to have seen his facial expressions from the viewpoint of the orchestra, as he leads his musical team.

The musicians themselves were the stars of the show, as you watch them pour their own heart and soul into the pieces. The synchronicity of the violinist’s bows, the precision sliding of the trombones, and even the gentleness of the kettledrummer in calming down the skins. Praise also goes to the guy who plays the triangle and other percussion instruments — for one song he had to shoot a gun for special effects. With the smell of the smoke you would have thought this was a 4D performance.

And the singers…wow, after listening to a few songs, I am ready to attend a full opera. What is it about opera singing when you don’t understand the language being sung, but because of the way their voices reverberate through your heart, you can still understand the international language of emotions. And when the soprano crescendos along with the orchestra, the unison sends chills down your spine.

As the performance continues, I notice even more how much the musicians themselves sway to the compositions. How lucky that they have a profession that they enjoy so much. And why do they have to sit? I think they would love to play standing up and moving about. Has anyone ever thought of letting them move around on stage, like a marching band during a halftime show? Now that would be awesome!

The encores brought out the playful side of the conductor, including once when he decided to conduct the audience through a symphony of claps. We’re very good at following his instruction, regardless of his heavy accent, the conductor’s hand movements give us sufficient direction. It must have been that glass of champagne the conductor drank that made him so lively.

Listening to the symphony was very soothing. I would have loved to lay back, close my eyes, and snuggle underneath a blankie.

***

Attending a symphony performance, you get to appreciate the amount of work it takes to create such an extravaganza. Maybe the maturity is not in realizing the beauty of classical music in itself, but in learning to appreciate the creativity of things. The harmony of music, the twirls of fabric, the rustle of leaves, the colors of the sunset, a child’s art project. We don’t have to look or listen very far to appreciate the beauty and the creativity that surrounds us. You can be 5 or 50 to learn to appreciate that there is so much beauty right in front of you. Just make sure to do it soon enough for it to make an impact on your life’s outlook. That is a sign of maturity.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

***

There are times at home that I will listen to music on my phone before falling asleep. Usually I’ll play something like Journey, U2, or Pink Floyd. But I’ve added the Vienna Symphony Orchestra to my playlist. As I listen to the Viennese waltzes in the evening, I dreamily imagine dancing away in an ornate ballroom with my gown’s golden chiffon layers swirling around me. My escort twirls me around in his strong arms, as we head towards the open balcony doors for a bit of fresh air. With all that dizzying waltzing, I then proceed to throw-up over the balcony railing. Well, that’s not supposed to happen. As long as I don’t get the gown dirty…it’s a rental. Sweet Dreams.

***

Notebook: San Diego Symphony/Jacobs Music Center, 750 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101, 619.235.0804, www.sandiegosymphony.org; KPBS Salute to Vienna special and CD, www.kpbs.org; New Year’s Day 2015: 20th Anniversary Performance, get your tickets now at www.salutetovienna.com.

P.S. Thanks for the ticket Sharon and Joe, and Gigi and Tom too – hope you are feeling better!