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A History in Laundry

(From the archives)

“We went through a lot of workout clothes this week,” I say. Raymond is making coffee and I’m folding clothes in front

of the drying rack that clutters our kitchen whenever we do laundry. Sometimes it clutters our kitchen all week long until I finally get around to folding the clean clothes and putting them away. However this week I don’t get to them until the weekend.

 

“We’ve had extra workouts this week,” he says as we both listen to the satisfying gurgle of the mocha maker sitting on the cooker.

 

“Both your gees are clean and ironed, all ready for Saturday.” I nod to the pristine karate uniforms hanging over the kitchen door. He teaches a karate class on Saturdays in Sutton and goes into London for a workout in the morning as well.

 

“Thanks.” He says, getting out the coffee cups. Raymond doesn’t iron, but he makes kick-ass coffee and a mean bowl of oatmeal. “Are you going in with me to walk?”

 

“I plan to.” I just happen to be folding the breathable Eddie Bauer shirt I wore last week when I took a long walk on the Downs, and I smile at the memory. I don’t smile at the memory of the ratty tank top I wear whenever I do the roots of my hair between visits to the hairdresser – always something I put off until I start getting skunk strip down the centre of my part. I fold it hastily and put it in the basket. Interesting that I take care in folding the clothes that I have fond memories of wearing recently, and not so much with the ones I don’t.

 

Raymond hands me the coffee just in time as I turn my attention to the frustrating task of folding his myriad black socks. The thing is, he has a gazillion pairs and they’re all look almost but not quite exactly a like. They’re just different enough to make matching them a real nightmare. Some have different coloured toes, some are ribbed differently and there are at least three kinds that are identical except for the ribbing on the cuffs which varies in width by millimeters. I hate folding men’s black socks. This morning he has mercy on me and takes the task off my hands so I can return to the pleasure of folding the history of our week told in laundry.

 

“You’ve got a rip there on the sleeve,” I say, holding up a blue shirt. “And the collar’s getting tatty. I think we should retire this one.”

 

He studies it for a moment and nods his agreement. “I caught it on the corner of the filing cabinet in the printer room. Something needs to be done about that.”

 

“You know, every week we can detail the past week’s history in our clean laundry,” I say. In our dirty laundry too, I think, but I’d rather not think about that so much reminded of the ripe load of workout clothes I put in with extra detergent on long cycle.

 

He gives me The Look – the one he always does when he thinks possibly meds might be requires. Then he nods to my coffee cup, because clearly I haven’t had enough caffeine yet this morning.

 

“No, seriously. Look” I pull a pair of his blue workout shorts off the rack. “Remember kettle bells last week?”

 

“That was a killer,” he says with a smile that says he likes kettle bells class best when it’s a killer.

 

“And look, those walking trousers — I wore those in to try on new boots at the North face shop, but they didn’t have my size. Then I got ‘em muddy on the walk to Newland’s corner the day after.

 

“And that long-sleeve t-shirt there,” I nodded to a faded red V-neck. “I wore that last Wednesday when the house was like a deep freeze and I was working on my blog. I wore that blue hoodie too and spilled tea on it in the process, and then I got toothpaste on it that evening when I brushed my teeth before bed.”

 

“I guess you’re right,” he says, looking around at our partially folded history lesson. “I never thought of it that way.

 

Neither had I, but there have to be a thousand stories in people’s laundry – dirty or clean. My laundry mostly tells the story of someone who writes and works from home, someone who walks a lot and works out a lot. Raymond’s tells the story of a man working in management, seeing clients, catching up on never-ending reports. They tell the story of a man who loves martial arts and loves being active. Sometimes there are travel stories, like the stain from some exotic sauce acquired while entertaining clients in a seafood restaurant in Alexandria. Sometimes there are anatomy stories, like the way his socks wear on the heels while mine wear out on the bottoms. We both threw away a couple pairs of socks after we’d finished the Coast to Coast walk a few years ago. I wear high socks when the weather’s cold and I’m sitting on my arse spending long hours in with my characters. I wear short light socks in the gym.

 

The point is that the stories of our lives and the fodder for the stories of lives I make up can unfold – or fold, in this case – in unexpected ways. Perhaps Raymond was actually using his martial arts skills to fight off spies who infiltrated the copy room to steal company secrets. Perhaps that’s how he ripped his shirt. Perhaps I woke up this morning and found myself folding the laundry of some stranger, none of it mine, none of it familiar. Perhaps the mud on my walking
trousers was actually from my night haunts of staking vampires in old churchyards.

 

Mind you, most of the time, the folding and putting away of laundry is cause for little more than a sigh of relief that it’s done for this week and I can take down the racks and unclutter the kitchen. But sometimes, even folding the laundry can be more than it actually appears to be, and at the end of the day, everything tells a story – even men’s mismatched black socks.

 

2018 Enjoy the Journey

Do you ever just NOT want to engage with a New Year? You know what I mean. It’s a little bit like that feel of not wanting to crawl out from under the blankets on an icy winter morning. It’s a little bit like not wanting to make that first leap into the cold waters of a swimming pool. It’s a little bit like not wanting to mess up the pristine new snowfall with your footprints.

 

I’m never quite sure if that feeling comes from the stay-in-the-warm-bed comfortable I’ve grown with the old year or the OMG terror of jumping out of a plane and hoping the parachute will open that the new year brings. Sometimes it’s a bit like those dreams in which I find myself naked on stage before a huge audience.

 

There have been times when I really did try to prepare for the New Year. I reflected on my successes and mistakes in the year past and made a serious and detailed plan for attacking the daunting new beginning. There have been other times when I’ve just sat back and let it take me by surprise and kick me in the ass. Whether it’s the paralysis of analysis or the deer in the headlights, whether it’s the planning and the scheming into minute detail or the burying my head in the sand, I can always count on two things. First of all, the New Year WILL come no matter how I prepare for it or not. Secondly, it will under no circumstances be what I expected it to be.

 

This year we welcomed in the New Year at a local pub with lots of friends listening to some seriously good live music. It was a great way of celebrating the best of 2017 and welcoming in 2018 with music and laughter and friends. And it was a wonderful place to gain courage, and encouragement to face new beginnings. On this January 1st 2018, there’s plenty of anticipation along with a very healthy dose of fear and trepidation as I prepare for major changes in my writing
career and my life in general. You’ll be hearing more my changes and adventures as the year goes on. This morning, I’m still in the girding my loins mode, still in that quiet space between letting go and plunging in head first. I’ll linger there just a little longer in the peace and quiet of bird song filtering in from the garden and a lazy second cup of coffee with my husband. Tomorrow morning will be soon enough, and by then I will once again remember that life is a continuum.It’s always about the journey and not the destination. The best goal I may ever have in any New Year is to simply enjoy the journey as much as possible and hang on tight for the wild ride that is the one thing I can always count on.

 

Happy 2018 my dear friends! Enjoy the ride.

 

 

 

The Battle to Get “Fit Enough”

 

For those of you who have been following my pole posts as I prepare for a photo shoot, I’m very chuffed to announce that I just got bounced up to the big girls’ class … well the intermediate class actually, but it’s the big girls’ class to me. I’ve looked forward to this major milestone since my first session. I can now do my basic spins, I can climb, do basic stands and sits, manage some really cool looking poses and as of today … wait for it … I can do my invert! It’s not elegant yet, and it’s not without a lot of effort, but still, getting upside down is a major accomplishment. Happy dancing all around!

 

What being booted up to the intermediate class means is that the learning curve, which is already steep, just went off the chart again, and the hard work is just beginning. Like any other challenge, there are obstacles to overcome. With pole, once I was hooked — and that took me all of ten minutes of the free trial class, I began to realize that the real obstacle, as much as learning the techniques, is getting fit enough to perform them. Essentially that means getting strong enough. I started out fairly fit, but as my instructor,  Lauren McCormick, reminds me, everyone starts pole at the beginning, and being fit doesn’t necessarily make you fit for pole. I wasn’t … I’m still not … BUT I’m getting there.

 

I have two pole workouts a week – one with the group and one that’s a private lesson. I can’t afford to miss either if I’m going to get where I want to be. In addition to that, I have one brutal workout at the gym a week with Klaudia Cel. We train strength, stamina and endurance as well as coordination and balance. That workout is entirely geared toward pole. Right now with an occasional kettle bells class, that’s about all I can handle. I do my regular pole conditioning and stretching exercises at home as well as kettle bells and walking everywhere I possibly can. Am I a bit obsessive? Of course I am! But any of you who know me already knew that. Even so, I only have to be with the pole ten minutes before I realize just how unfit I still am. And no matter how impatient I am – which I am – it takes as long as it takes.

 

 

The lovely instructors at Polerocks have a fantastic way of helping us gage our improvements. It’s called The Board of Pain, which I experienced for the first time Tuesday. There a dozen and a half basic pole conditioning exercises written on said B of P with a space under each for our names and our times or rep counts. We record those as we complete each exercise. To complete the exercises on the board takes an entire class. We’re competing against only ourselves, but in three months time, we’ll do it all over again and see how much we’ve improved. The B of P is a way to chart our progress. Like any other discipline, the basics are the building blocks for everything else, and conditioning is a seriously basic build block essential for pole.

 

The other battle with conditioning for pole is the bruises. I’m getting fewer as I progress, but every time I learn something new, there’s a good chance I’ll do it wrong multiple times before I do it right. And, as I mentioned before, the pole is not the most forgiving dance partner. That being the case, there are only so many times I can practice a move with repeated bruising until I have to give it a rest and practice something else.

 

 

I know it all sounds a bit mad, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, if I didn’t love the challenge of it. I push myself hard because I’m impatient, and I want to do really well. The truth is I adore the creative aspect of fitness. I completely understand why people get bored with the typical gym workout. It’s a bit like writing the same novel over and over and over again. My body craves creativity just as much as my mind does, and thinking through spins, combos, ways I can train core, ways I can gain conditioning and flexibility, is like thinking through the plot of a story.

 

This week’s challenge was the superman move at the top of the post,  which Lauren had me approach from an invert. Strangely enough though it was my first invert on my own, I was so focused on the superman, that the invert seemed secondary.

Slowly but surely. I’m learning the techniques, I’m getting stronger and more sure of what I’m doing. Progress, any progress makes me feel powerful, and I have to admit I like that feeling, bruises and all.

I’ll be back with another update in a week or two. If you’ve missed the first two installments, and want to read them, follow the links below.

A Pole, a Photographer and … Me?

Getting Upside Down

 

Getting Upside Down

 

 

As promised, today’s post is the second installment of Fit to Write and my challenge to prepare for a pole photo shoot in June 2018. (If you want to read the 1st installment, follow the link) For those of you who don’t know, I started a beginning pole dance class six months ago when Polerocks opened a studio just up the road from my gym – first lesson free. I wanted to give my workouts and my fitness routines another dimension. Well, that might have been how it all began, but it definitely evolved into something way more than that.

 

I just learned that I’ll be graduating to the intermediate class in January. I’m both pole-happy-dancing and biting my nails. I’ve been training for almost six months now. I can climb, I can do the sits and the stands, I can do the spins and combos we’ve learned – maybe not elegantly, but I can get through the techniques. At the end of the day, though, all the strength and conditioning, all the core training during those months, all the stretching and all the bruises have been leading to one major goal and that’s inversion – getting myself upside down without help from an instructor.

 

The thing about training pole is that unlike kettle bells, I can’t order one online and just stow it behind the sofa when I’m done with it for the day. My house is way too small to easily use one even if I did. That means my brain is constantly trying to think of ways I can practice techniques and core building and flexibility at home. That means every signpost, every light pole, every scaffolding pole I see, I speculate whether or not I could use it to practice when no one is looking. I can’t help wondering if a middle aged woman could get away with climbing the rugby goal posts in the middle of Stoke Park – when no one is using them of course. While I’ve not done that just yet, but there is a plan in the works for going over very early some morning …

 

Part of the reason I love pole so much is because it’s endlessly creative, even as I fumble about to figure how best to train when I’m not in class. Starting January 4th there’ll be pole classes two days a week rather than one. While I’m very excited, I’m now faced with the task of getting myself conditioned enough that two classes a week, plus my normal training, won’t kill me. That’s a post for another day. In the meantime, it’s all about getting upside down.

 

I had no idea just how complex the core is, and how much there is to training it just so I can pull myself into a v-sit position (a Teddy) and then into an inversion onto the pole. I’m close, but there’s one little sweet spot I haven’t quite trained enough, coaxed enough, strengthened enough to get my body over that one last hump. My goal, at the moment, is to be able to do that inversion from a Teddy on my own before the January extra classes start. Each night I sit in front of the telly doing v-sit leg lifts. At the gym, I practice leg raises from the dip machine, I do jackknife push-ups with the TRX suspension straps. I’ve even figured out how to use sheets of plastic or paper plates on the living room carpet to do sliders. And then there are the times when I’m just too tired to do anything at all, the times when my body reminds me that I ain’t twenty, and like it or not, my ass better get some patience or there’ll be hell to pay. In fact, I’m just getting over a nasty cold because I didn’t get me some patience when I needed it.

 

The shots in this post were taken last Friday. Having signed up for the June photo shoot, looking good upside down has become even more important, so most of the session with my pole trainer, Lauren McCormick, was about getting upside down. The screen shots are because I’m not quite brave enough yet to share the videos that happen in training, but this gives you an idea of what’s involved in getting upside down.

 

Oh! And did I mention skin? Yes, there’s a very good reason why pole dancers don’t wear a lot of clothes. It’s because skin grips and cloth slides. Gripping on the pole is essential, thus my exposed belly. It’s taken another level of courage for me to wear shorts, let alone expose the middle of me, but for the Gemini move, the extra grip along the side and hip makes all the difference.

 

 

I find it fascinating that all of our journeys, no matter what we’re doing or where we are, happen on so many more levels that we can easily see. I’ve never been more aware of it than I am now when my body’s journey mirrors, sometimes even predicts and leads the journey of my mind and of my creative self. There’s something about pushing, even when I’m scared sh*tless, that makes me aware there’s always so much more going on in all of us than we ever expect. We’re all capable of so much more than we think we are. That makes us all explorers of our own unknown if we’re brave enough to take that first step, even if we do it with knees knocking and heart racing. That gives me hope.

 

Instant Replay

When I lived in Croatia a hundred years ago, I spent three weeks every summer camping on the Adriatic near Pula. At the campsite where I stayed, there was a small store and a restaurant that had live music every night. There were several buildings with showers and toilets. That was the extent of the place.

 

One of the shower blocks not far, from where I set up my tent, was a narrow concrete pre-fab with a row of cubicles, each containing a shower, each with a door leading right out onto the main path through the camp. One year one of the six cubicles was missing a door. That meant more congestion for the remaining shower units, which were in high demand in August. There was almost always a queue.

 

Early one evening on my way back from the grocery store, I noticed two very fit German blokes I’d seen wind surfing earlier in the day queuing for the shower, but they got tired of waiting, so they stripped off their Speedos and waltzed right on in to the cubicle without the door.

 

I happened to be with a friend who was a bit more prudish than I, and she averted her eyes and dragged me away in a huff, me nearly breaking my neck for one last glance over my shoulder at naked, wet maleness. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. What I saw was fleeting. But what I imagined – over and over and over again – was most definitely not!

 

Sometimes it takes nothing more than an image to capture our imaginations, to inspire us. An image can inspire us because once we’ve seen it, processed it – especially if it’s a little scenario like mine with the shower and the naked wind surfers, our glorious, super-high-tech instant replay brains take over. Not only can we replay that image over and over again, but we can change it simply by imaging what might have happened IF … It’s were our fantasies come from, it’s where a writer’s story ideas come from, it’s built-in entertainment.

 

My voyeuristic encounter at the showers stands out to me as outrageously erotic, and yet nothing happened. Two blokes got tired of waiting in queue for the shower, probably anxious to get to dinner and a cold beer, so they chose to shower in full view of hundreds of people they didn’t know, hundreds of people who would never see them again. BUT, they were wrong, I’ve seen them countless times in my imagination – sometimes sun bleached and golden in the late afternoon light, sometimes dark, tattooed and dangerous just before dusk, beckoning me to come join them, speaking softly to me in German — words I don’t understand, though I completely get their meaning. I know exactly what those boys want, as they leer at me and I leer right back. Well, in my imagination at least.

 

In some of those instant replays, I meet them on the beach at midnight to share a bottle of wine and a naked swim in the warm moonlit waters. In some of those instant replays, I shoo my prudish friend back to her tent, then strip off shamelessly and join them, letting them soap me and rinse me and protect me with their naked, glistening bodies from gaping onlookers. In other versions, they come to the shower late at night when everyone else is asleep, and only I’m there to watch them lather and bathe each other, thorough in their efforts to get clean, more thorough in their efforts to relieve the tensions of the day.

 

Our delicious instant replay allows us to rewind, slo-mo, enhance, zoom in on any part of any experience or image that catches their fancy, and then enjoy it a second or even a 50th time around. We can take that experience and totally change it if we choose. We do it all the time; in our heads, we rewrite the ending of an interview that didn’t go so well or an argument with a lover so that we can take back what we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes we imagine what would have happened next if things had been allowed to unfold to the end, if I had been allowed to linger a little longer in front of the showers. In fact, we can be really neurotic about it, playing the same scenes over and over and obsessing on them, for good or for ill.

 

Writers are especially adept at using this instant replay to inspire, to arouse, to tease out and focus on details we might otherwise have missed, details that might have totally intrigued us the first time around, even details that weren’t really there. Then we write those details into whole new scenarios, sometimes even whole novels.

I know, I know! It’s all a part of memory. Anyone can hit the ole instant replay button at any time and experience the

past all over again. We all do that. But there’s nothing ordinary about the ability to relive our experiences and imagine ourselves in a different life – perhaps even as different people who make a different decision; perhaps the decision to strip off and shower with the German wind-surfers. The creative process of a writer quite often depends on the exploitation of that instant replay button. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that isn’t grounded in some way, no matter how miniscule, in my recalling of an experience, my reimagining of a moment, or my reworking of an image that intrigues me. In a very real sense, we are what we write as we wind back the video in the editing room of our brain and hit replay, then hit slo-mo, then zoom in real nice and tight-like so that we can enhance and recreate every detail to tell a brand new story.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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