Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Spa

No Pain, No Gain.

That's the slogan I expect to see at the gym in the weight room where men with muscular arms and fat stomachs are groaning beneath bars of weight to show off their prowess to other men groaning beneath bars of weight.

However, that same slogan should probably be stuck in big, bold letters on the front door of every spa in America. I know, because I love going to the spa as much as I love the grueling workouts of trail running, Ashtanga Yoga, and kickboxing. There's something in me that likes the pain of the challenge and the success when I push through it to the end. And the results - firm legs, shapely arms, a flat stomach. It's worth every drop of sweat in my opinion.

But it's spa services we're talking about right now, not fitness routines.

This weekend, I went to the spa to try something I hadn't tried before - a full facial. Everything started off wonderfully - like they always do. Dim lights, soft new-age music with Native American flutes and the sounds of waves crashing on a beach, the faint but distinct scent of some deliciously perfect essential oil permeating the room. In this particular instance, I was lying naked between soft sheets on a heated massage table with a bolster expertly arranged beneath my knees. Perfect. Heaven on Earth. Exactly what I needed after a week of 12 and 13-hour days of intense work, wifing and whisking my children to this event and that appointment.

As I said, everything was blissful. I should have just paid the people to leave me alone in the room and wake me when an hour was up. But NOOOOO. I wanted to chalk up a new adventure in my spa experience. It was at the point when the aesthetician began to press firmly on my right nostril (she claimed she was removing a white head) and I could no longer breathe, my eyes began twitching with the pain of the blunt instrument pressing down on my skin, and I felt that blood had been drawn, that it all came back to me. Everything. Every "first" spa experience.

There was my very, very first massage - pregnancy massage when I was 28 years old and in the final weeks of my endless pregnancy with my first son. All I have to say is I was carrying a 9.5 lb baby and he was 9 days late. No massage could comfort me - physically, mentally or spiritually.

Ah - my first bikini wax. Before I go into this, I have to share that I endure the pain of a bikini wax EVERY 2-3 months because the results are indescribably sexy and smooth in an area that is not naturally very sexy and smooth if you don't get a wax.

Anyway, I was presenting workshops at a hotel on Biscayne Drive in Miami Beach. On the last day of the conference, my presentation ended early and I didn't have plans until later, so I decided to get a pedicure and try a bikini wax since I'd heard so many wonderful things about the results. Strangely, no one had EVER mentioned there would be pain involved.

The Puerto Rican woman working on me was pleased I spoke Spanish and we exchanged pleasantries in her native language as she swiped alcohol on the inside of my right thigh. I was laughing about something she said when she applied the first layer of burning hot wax on my pelvis. I stopped mid-laugh and sat up abruptly from my supine position. "Uh, wait. What was that? Is it supposed to be that hot? Can it be a little cooler?"

I remember the aesthetician looking at me with these dramatically made-up smoky-eyes and asking me in heavily accented English, "Is this your first wax?" incredulously. Like every woman in the world over the age of 18 gets bikini waxes every other month. Come to think of it, they probably do in Miami Beach. But whatever... "Yes," I answered cautiously. What did this mean? Should I be prepared for something?

Too late. She had already begun pressing a rectangular cloth to the waxy area on my pelvis and inner thigh, and RRRIIIPPP. The hair was gone and all of the air in my lungs was too. I grabbed the woman's wrist as tears came to my eyes and I whispered, "wait." That's all I could manage. And the technician - dear, sweet woman that she was - just smiled and rubbed the back of my hand like the nurse in the labor and delivery room when I gave birth to that 9.5 lb child a few years before.

A procedure that normally takes about 10-15 minutes, took 30 minutes that day. I cried, I whined, I prayed out loud in two languages. The nice waxing lady held my hand, patted my thighs and pelvis, and cooed at me in calming tones.

I remember the drive from Miami Beach to my mother's house in Miramar like it was yesterday. I had every window on the car down, the sun roof open and my panties and shorts off. I had my left foot propped out the window and my right knee as far to the right as driving would allow. My seat was reclined as far back as I could go and still see the highway. I didn't care about the truckers driving next to me and honking their blaring horns. I just needed the breeze to cool the painful fire of the waxed areas and I didn't want ANYTHING to touch my skin around "there."

I called my girlfriend, Yvonne, on the cell phone and recounted the horrifying (but beautiful results) story as 18-wheelers honked and SUVs beeped at me like I was a porn star driving on the Las Vegas Strip. She laughed and I could tell she was crying from laughing so hard.

Two months ago, I decided to try something called a "Hip Bath" at JeJu Spa. JeJu is an authentic Korean bath house outside Atlanta. One day I'll share my first experience going to JeJu and meeting 8 strange women I didn't know for a birthday party completely butt naked. But that's another story for another blog.

Anyway, during previous trips to JeJu, I'd seen women sitting under heavy drapes on short stools talking quietly to one another. It seemed like a peaceful experience and one I might enjoy. So, one weekday evening, when the spa was practically empty, I stripped down to nothing but my bikini wax and signed up for the Hip Bath. The animated Korean woman pointed me to a low box with a round hole in the center. I squatted down, got as comfortable as possible on a box with a hole in it and allowed the woman to encircle me in a rubberized drape that sealed at my neck - kind of like at the barber shop or beauty salon. But this drape completely covered me and rested on the floor around the box. A pillow was propped behind me and the woman brought me an ice-cold bottle of water. Cool. This was going to be nice.

The Hip Bath technician parted the front of my drape and began to stir herbs and leaves and what looked like salts into a crock pot beneath the hole in the box. Soon it seemed like a good-smelling stew was brewing beneath my va-jay-jay. The tech stirred the concoction with a big wooden spoon, then resealed the drape and went away to talk with her friend in the body scrubbing room. At first, things were fine. I was getting warm and I could feel beads of perspiration gathering beneath my breasts and running down my torso. Good. Great. I could literally feel the toxins pouring from my body.

Hm. Wait a minute. Things were starting to get a little hot "down there." I opened my eyes and starting looking around for the technician, but I was completely alone in the room, tied into a floor-length drape, sitting on a box with a crock pot boiling steam up a hole into my cootchie. This was no longer comfortable or feeling good. This was hot and I desperately wanted to drink the water sitting only inches from me on the floor. But I couldn't get my arm out of the drape. As I looked, longingly, at the beads of condensation rolling off the sides of the bottled water, my mouth literally went bone dry and I thought I was going to pass out from dehydration right there on the Hip Bath box in a Korean bath house on Pleasant Hill Road.

As a tear began to form in my right eye, the tech came walking into the room. I really thought I could hear angels singing around me. Deliverance had arrived.

"You okay?" she asked me in choppy, heavily-accented English.

"Um," I croaked through cotton mouth. "It's hot." That's all I could manage to say.

She mumbled something in Korean to herself, parted the drape in the front, and I sighed with relief as fragrant steam billowed out of the front and a rush of cool air enveloped my private areas.

"Water. Please." I whispered faintly. She unscrewed my water bottle for me and put in my shaky hand sticking out of the front of the drape. I put it to my lips and sipped gingerly. There are not words to describe the feeling of gratitude that rushed through me in that instant. As I sipped, she stirred more herbs and plants into the crock pot.

"You get hot - you open this," the tech said as she pointed to the crack in the front of the drape. I won't bore you with more details of the Hip Bath experience, but I will tell you that I truly enjoyed resting in the cold whirlpool afterwards.

Anyway, you get the point. Some of the things that happen in spas are not always pleasant experiences. But I for one am addicted to them. I get acupuncture, massage, reflexology, and pedicures every month. I love sitting in steam rooms and dry saunas or whirlpools. I even take my sons to the spa.

My 8-year old has enjoyed reading next to me in an "igloo sauna" while his older brother swam in the coed lap pool at JeJu. I want them to know that a massage, meditation, or a body scrub is for everyone regardless of sex, age, income, race or religion. Hopefully they will have more gain than pain with their spa experiences. Woo Sah...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Clutter Monster - Part II

The Big CM - otherwise known as the Clutter Monster - is still lurking on tables and ottomans and beneath my bed and around bureaus and next to chairs and sofas. And I'm still irritated by its simple existence.

As I explained to you in full detail in my previous blog, "stuff" - a.k.a. the Clutter Monster a.k.a. CM - is affecting my sleep, work and peace.

I know the simple solution is to just handle it - clean it up, throw stuff away, shred paper, give away never-worn clothing. But there's one thing necessary to make it happen that is in short supply most recently - time.

I am the queen of time management. So much so that I lecture on it... yep, that's right. I have a full multi-slide presentation with bullet points and fantastic graphics and hilarious photos to illustrate the simple steps to being successful in the daily juggle of managing life. Time management.

One of the key points that I not only stress in my workshop, but live by, is the realistic to-do list. It's on my computer, in my cell phone and constantly running through my mind - in order of priority. Seriously.
  • A form with a past-due deadline for the IRS related to my business's sales and use tax: top priority, gotta happen today, no matter what.
  • Need to find a substitute teacher for our most popular class which starts in 2 hours because the teacher just sprained her ankle and I am teaching another class at the same time: top priority, gotta happen in the next 1 hour and 45 minutes, no matter what.
  • 500 word magazine article that's both humorous and informational about acupuncture for seniors due yesterday because it's going to print at 5:00pm today: top priority, gotta happen today, no matter what.
  • Water is leaking from the ceiling onto the hardwood floors of our studio in the middle of the youth jazz and hip hop class from three different pipes: top priority, gotta handle it NOW, no matter what.
You know, stuff like that. Forget the other small things like scheduling physicals for the kids before the registration deadline for soccer, or getting an updated passport before the international flight departure of two days from now at 7:45 am. Those are 2nd tier priority items.

But what does any of this have to do with CM all over my house? Everything.

When I wake up in the morning, I start hustling kids. I roll out the door with them and step right into the front of a class. I step out of class and put out at least 1-2 fires before I jump in the car and head to the next class or meeting. I get back in the car - nibble on a banana or grape or (more likely) a few gummi bears - and drive back to the office to attack items 1-3 on the priority list and head back home to meet child #1 and give him my undivided attention for 40 minutes before child #2 comes home and they begin to fight and argue and wrestle and break things. While they fight, I cook dinner and assist with homework simultaneously before packing them in the car/van to drop someone off somewhere and drive quickly back to the studio to teach one or more classes or workshops. There are two alternatives at this point. I either drive back home to break up a fight between the children, check homework, write checks for this trip or that year book, become a nurse practitioner in order to sew up the gash on the ankle of some child, and listen with rapt attention to husband on phone in another time zone about something work-related; OR I dial in to catch the end of a conference call for some organization I'm an officer for, or run to an evening meeting in Yoga-attire (apologizing simultaneously for being late and being inappropriately attired), or do a quick shower and change to make it to a business networking event or charity event to promote my business. Regardless of the choice, by 10:00pm I am finally sitting still and I relish the silence. I just want to lie down. The last thing I want to do is tackle the clutter surrounding me as I sit like a zombie.

In fact, the reality that I am constantly in my car, changing clothes and shoes and accessories and bringing props and music and mats and blocks and belts and oils to and from one destination to another means the CM has followed me out of the house and into my car. My husband calls our minivan the Disaster Recovery Vehicle because it's full of food and bottled waters and mats and blankets and... stuff.

I think that all I need is a day or two without interruption and appointments, and I think I can tackle the CM. I really do.

So as fate would have it, I got just that. Last weekend. The fairy godmother of women-who-do-too-much waved her dainty wand over my dredloc'd head and POOF... kids and husband gone (sort of) and only 1 appointment at the studio. I had a whole afternoon and evening, two days in a row, to clean my house! Yay!

Uh, no. What actually happened was... I laid on the sofa in my most comfy yoga attire and watched movies and ate oatmeal cream pies and doughnuts. For real. I'm not lying. And I had a great time, too. In fact, I didn't really see the CM all around me. All I saw was the sun shining through the window, warming my bare toes as they wiggled off the end of the couch above a stack of utility bills and credit card statements lying on the floor where I left them next to the shredder. Bliss.

The Clutter Monster

This is gonna be a two-part blog. I can't fully impart the reasons why I'm being attacked by the Clutter Monster (hereinafter referred to as CM) without taking time to explain why CM continually exists. So, there will be a Part II to this blog.

CM has been a part of my life forever. It's a part of my personality and dynamic. There are some people (typically Virgos) who are very ordered and neat and organized. Files neatly labeled and color-coded, or storage bins neatly filled with cherished personal momentos are a natural part of some people's lives (Virgos). Well, to a degree, that's me too. As I indicated in an earlier blog, I have a little OCD regarding folding clothes and having a neat closet and drawers. Therefore, the only storage bins I have neatly ordered are those related to seasonal clothing and shoes for my children and me. Outside of that, clutter is taking over my world.

Yes, clutter. It's gotten so out of control, I have changed the general term of clutter to the living, breathing object of... The Clutter Monster.

When I was a teenager, CM was stacks of journals and notepads and stationary and office supplies scattered in careless piles around my bedroom desk and bed. Every few months, I would spend a couple of hours carefully going through everything, discard what I didn't need, neatly stack the books and journals and file away the papers. But I was just as busy in high school as I am as an adult - I went from school to track or swim team practice to FBLA meetings to Charmettes events (don't ask what Charmettes is - that's another blog) to church activities to hanging out with my friends. I would rush in the house, quick change my wardrobe, throw my bags of books and papers on the bed or the desk and grab what I needed for the next activity.

As a young adult in college, not much changed. Instead of FBLA and Charmettes, it was Student Senate and my sorority activities after classes. Instead of cluttering up my bedroom at home, now I had a whole apartment to house my papers and journals and school books and applications and stuff.

Then I graduated from college and moved into various apartments in several different cities and I had to box up my "stuff" and take it with me. Instead of stacks of papers and books and journals and crap, I had boxes of papers and books and journals and crap. Some boxes I never unpacked - I used them for tables and stands to put my plants on, or to drape my clothing over.

I would have continued in this fashion for the rest of my life if I didn't decide to get engaged and had to co-mingle my "stuff" with my fiancee's "stuff". Suddenly, I enjoyed giving things away, throwing things away. I had to. Two people with 20 years worth of "stuff" can't fit in a one-bedroom apartment without some drama, and I don't do drama.

Purging things I didn't need or use from my personal space was uplifting. I felt like I could hear angels singing in the heavens and the sun seemed to shine brighter in the apartment. It looked larger and I enjoyed sitting on our couch and simply looking around the living room or out the window. Why didn't someone tell me earlier about the de-cluttering thing?

Fiancee turned into husband and one-bedroom apartment turned into a 1940s cottage nestled in a wildlife reserve. We turned the master bedroom into a party suite with a big-screen television and a huge sectional sofa so we could entertain guests all over the house. Our hard wood floors gleamed and the minimalist styling was airy and fresh. No clutter and life was good.

Baby number one ended it all. Party room - gone. Clutter-free zones - gone. Airy, minimalist styling - gone. In its place - stuff. I won't even take the time to explain what some of the stuff was - it just existed and grew and I couldn't purge fast enough. In the end, I gave up - literally. We sold the house and moved away from CM.

So now, here we are in a beautiful spacious home. A room for every person and thing. An empty basement housing some of the "stuff" we couldn't part with in the move from the cottage to here. A garage housing more "stuff" we couldn't part with in the move from the cottage to here. In fact, I was okay with "stuff" in areas of the house where I couldn't see it on a daily basis, but slowly CM started to creep back in.

It started with the living room table where the boys do their homework. Pencils, pens, notebooks, gaming magazines, sneakers, backpacks - they just seem to gather on, next to, under, and around the living room table. It doesn't matter how many times I clean it up or ask them to clean it up, the living room table and the surrounding area always look like a 3rd grade classroom.

It moved to the dining room table where I would drop the mail and magazines and newspapers and things to be signed and returned. Anything important would end up on the dining room table.

Then "stuff" started accumulating on the kitchen table, because that's where we would sit to eat and discuss field trips and class pictures and new insurance and the new schedule for the studio and test results from the doctor for a childs' fractured foot.

Then "stuff" started growing in the family room around the gaming storage unit, because GameCube became a Wii which became a PS3. There are different controllers and games for each system and manuals explaining how to get to the next level of each game and chargers for cordless PS3 controllers and chargers for batteries for the Wii controllers and a BluRay Disc thing and an Apple home unit that syncs all of this technology together so we can watch movies and family pictures all in one spot. Yeah, okay.

Finally, "stuff" attacked me in my only sanctuary - my bedroom. And I can't blame anyone except me for it. It's the only place for my books and journals and pens and pencils and booklets from conferences and scraps of paper with email addresses on it and thoughtful cards from family and friends and Christmas gifts from the last three christmases which I haven't gotten around to using yet and important papers I have to attend to at some point. It's where I go as soon as I get home from a class and quickly shower and change to go to a meeting or an event. Shoes are all around my side of the bed - flip flops and sneakers and high heels - because I will wear three different shoes to go with three different outfits every day. Every day.

Like the monster children are afraid of under the bed, my "stuff" attacks me in my sleep. I can see the mounds of "stuff" around me in shadow form as I try to doze off and it bothers me. When I wake up in the morning, it's surrounding me. When I try to work on the computer in the bed, it's staring at me and calling to me to clean it up, put it away... DECLUTTER DAMNIT!

So easy, so simple. Just clean it up.

I tried. But I got frustrated and distracted and I couldn't stick to one room or one pile or one area. The entire first floor of my beautiful home is covered by the CM, and I can't seem to get myself together to tackle it. When I do get around to cleaning off one table, the kids come home and a week passes and it's covered again by our lives.

I hired a house cleaner. They can't clean clutter. Only the owner of clutter can de-clutter. So I have shiny floors and well-made beds amid mounds of crap. Depressing.

So here I am at 5:00 in the morning blogging about my clutter because I can't sleep with it looking at me, haunting me, teasing me, daring me to do something about it. When I'm done, I'll spend a few minutes and put a couple of things away. Maybe by Christmas I will have gone through the items from last Christmas and put them away to make room for the new "stuff". I'll let you know how that goes.