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Reflections on 2013

Published December 30, 2013 by Susan Woodward

2013 was a year of changes for me… challenges, both physical and emotional, tested me to my limits, and I am still here to talk about it!  In one year, I made significant changes that I have, sadly, let slide a bit as the weather turned colder and I began the new school year.  However, I recognize my backsliding, and I am going to make sure that I do something about it.

I really decided to start posting my challenges online because I wanted to leave my thoughts to my children for the future.  I want them to be able to actually look at pictures of their crazy Mom, watch videos of her trying to make a 50 year old body do aerial arts, and read my introspective thoughts so that they might have an inkling of what goes on under all the red frizz.  It’s a pictorial diary, complete with video clips that they can look back on later, when I am no longer here.  That’s why I put these thoughts out there.  If people read them and are entertained or provoked a bit, then that’s great…but the ones I really want to have access to my thoughts are my kids.

So here are some thoughts about 2013:

JANUARY

Bat Girl

The year started off with a real bang…most of them on the mat as I made my aerial arts “debut”.  My first night on the silks and I was flying!  (sort of).  And I remember my two new best friends… Ibuprofen and Epsom Salts!  I am also reminded of my nemesis that was sent into oblivion… yes, Pall Mall and all his cohorts!  No more tobacco!  I have been smoke-free since January 8 and I will continue to be for life!!

FEBRUARYswimming

In February, I turned 51, and Will D’Ovidio helped me ring in the new life year with 51 push-ups for my birthday!  The most surprising thing, though, is that I actually DID 51 push-ups during that Cirque Fit class!  I was eating better, getting stronger, and feeling a whole lot more optimistic about my future.

MARCH

Jenns 6 InjuriesWell, March brought my Circus dreams to an end with tendonitis and problems with both shoulders.  I held on to the hope that I could return in a few weeks, which turned into months, which were finally crashed and burned with a bout of vertigo.  Although I am not able to get back on the silks, March also brought me to the YMCA.  I worked hard to keep the momentum going!

APRIL

beet juiceApril is when I got the idea to try my first 5K, and so I began training.  I have no ACL in my right knee, so I am more of a power walker than a runner, but that’s okay!  I was off the couch!  I also began juicing as a way to cleanse and detox my body.   The weather was getting warmer, so I was making more regular trips to the Rochester Public Market (THE best place to be on a Saturday morning!).

MAY

2013-05-18 16.32.04 May brought the premier of Ombis: Alien Invasion, my screen debut!  Even though I have never really been a horror movie fan, I have to say that I had a BLAST getting zombified a la Tom Savini School of Make-Up and then slimed by what seemed like GALLONS of green goo!  It was a terrific experience, and I am sooo glad that I was able to be a part of the fun!

JUNE

Hiking and Teacher Rally 020Ask anyone my thoughts on the current state of education, and you’d better be prepared to pull up a seat for a long tirade!  The fiasco of the implementation of the CCSS, APPR, SLOs, PLCs, and a host of other acronyms led me to get involved instead of just bitching about conditions.  I went to Albany along with THOUSANDS of others to let John King and Andrew Cuomo know how we felt!  With all the changes so far in the year, I felt my confidence soaring, and I joined in with another acronymical group: the BATS (The Badass Teachers Association)!    I also completed my first 5K in June!

JULY

Portland Headlight with Ram Island Ledge 4 In July, I decided that I was going to head out all by myself,  I was feeling strong enough and confident enough to just get in the car, drive east till I hit an ocean, and then turn left, driving till I found lighthouses and cheap lobster!  And I DID it!  Not only that, I had no hotel reservations or anything…I trusted that everything would turn out okay.  And that is exactly what happened!  I climbed a mountain, hiked, ran in the ocean, climbed into a lighthouse, took TONS of pictures and managed to find about a dozen lighthouses.  The cheap lobster was pretty terrific, too!

AUGUST

100_0746When my Marine daughter told me that she could not come home from San Diego before her deployment in September, I decided that I was going to go to her!  I managed to pick up a summer tutoring gig that paid enough to cover my air fare, and I got to see my Sarah Bear! Never in my life would I have thought that I would put my feet in both oceans that come in contact with North America within a few weeks of each other!   I also spent a lot of time hiking and taking Nature pictures throughout the month of August.

SEPTEMBER

Fist batThis month was certainly a challenge as I began teaching consultant classes for the first time.  Worries over standardized test results (it was announced that 70% of New York State’s 3rd through 8th graders “failed” the state exams).    I was still feeling confident, still working out, still pumping that blood through those veins…and ready to pump up the BAT action with my voice via phone calls, emails, tweets, and Facebook posts.  For so long, I’d felt sluggish, complacent, and didn’t want to get involved with much of anything.  Thanks to everything I’d been working through, I put that energy to work, and the BATS are working hard to make a positive change in educational reform!

OCTOBER

SeanceI returned to performing in October with the Rochester Landmark Society’s annual Ghost Walk.  I hadn’t performed since Titanic and the One Acts in 2012, and it felt good to do a little bit of acting again.  The best part was that we had an indoor scene on the tour, so we didn’t have to worry about the cold and rain!

NOVEMBER

NaNo logoNovember was National Write a Novel in 30 Days month.  Actually, what was required was to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  I’d had The Red Brick Road rattling about in my brain for quite a long time, and I did have a little of it started, so I had a jumping off point.  It was hard as hell keeping up with daily deadlines, trying to make sure that I had the magic number of words so that I could say, “Yes!  I did it!”  Now all I have to do is EDIT it!  But I DO have over 50,000 words!!

DECEMBER

meNearly one year after getting my behind off the couch and actually getting out to DO things, I am still going.  I do have to admit that I have not been to the YMCA recently, but I will be making that change to get back on a healthier track.  Backsliding happens, but NOT ONCE in this year did I pick up a cigarette!  My friend Jeanette and I participated in the It’s a Wonderful Run 5K…in 16 degrees and in the middle of a snow storm!  It was cold as all get out, but we were both dressed in layers (you can see that I look about 150 pounds heavier because of all the layers!) and we survived.  And in January, this body is going to get back out to Bristol to SKI!  I haven’t done that in a couple of years, and I am so looking forward to it!

For me, 2013 was one of my most memorable years!  So many challenges, changes, successes…I feel truly blessed.  Thank you to my friends and family for your support and encouragement, especially to Will D’Ovidio (of Rochester Aerial Arts) and my daughter Illy Welden who got me started and kept me going!

I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!!

Happy New Year to everyone!

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Holiday Preparations

Published December 24, 2013 by Susan Woodward

tree

After being energized by the gorgeous Solstice Celebration at church, the lights on my tree have kept that glow within me.  I love turning out all the lamps and only having the tree lit, sitting back with a glass of wine, and simply reflecting on the year.  It has been a wonderful 2013, but I will go on to that later… there’s so much to do right now to prepare for seeing my family on Christmas Eve!

This year, the holiday hosts have been Robin and Illy.  As it seems the torch has passed to the next generation for hosting the holiday gatherings, I have to admit that it felt a bit sad for me.   I actually considered not putting up a tree at all this year, but I am so glad that I did.

I truly feel rejuvenated!

altar

This really helped with that rekindling… when I returned from the Solstice Celebration, I was changing my clothes and noticed that the plant on my meditation space had flowered that day!  It was a perfect culmination for a perfect evening.  Add to that Zuzu’s (Sue-Sue’s?) petals from the It’s a Wonderful Run 5K, and I was ready to get into full swing. cookies1

One thing that I do every year is to make my Dad’s favorite Christmas cookie… Ribbon Cookies.  My grandmother used to make them, and then my mom…now it’s me.  These three-layered cookies consist of layers of poppy seed, chocolate, and candied cherry flavored doughs.  They take a long time to prepare, but they are worth the effort.   Over the years, though, I made a couple of changes that I think grandma would approve of.    I use green food coloring in the poppy seed layer and red in the cherry layer to give them a more festive look.

cookies2 And just because one never knows anything for certain, I am going to share this recipe here for my kids and for anyone else who wants to make them!

 

Ribbon Cookies (from the kitchen of Grandma Neva Franklin):

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. shortening (USE shortening, not butter!  Let me tell you from experience!!!)

1 1/4 c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add egg and vanilla, and beat till fluffy.  Beat in baking powder and salt, THEN begin adding flour.  (Making sure baking soda is well beat in before adding flour will help avoid bitter-bump surprises if you dump it in with the flour…unless you sift dry ingredients.  Then it’s all good.  I don’t sift).

Divide dough into three parts.

– To one, add red food coloring and knead with hands till dough is fully colored.  Then add 1/4 c. chopped candied cherries.

– For the second, you need to first mix 3 tbsp. of baking cocoa and 1 tbsp. softened butter (REAL butter, not margarine is best!).  It will make a cocoa dough, which you will add to the next section of cookie dough.  Knead this till the chocolate color is uniform.

– To the last one, add green food coloring and knead the dough till it is uniform in color.  Then knead in 2 tbsp. poppy seeds.

Layering (fun, fun, fun!):

Press the cherry layer into the bottom of a waxed paper-lined 9″x13″ pan.  Make sure the waxed paper is long enough to overlap the width of the pan on both sides (like tissue paper around clothing in a gift box).   Chill.  Then press the chocolate layer on top of that one.  Chill.  Finally, press the green layer on top.  Wrap the sides of the waxed paper over the top and chill for a few hours.

Baking (preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly spritz cookie sheets with baking spray):

Lift the whole thing from the baking pan by the overlapping waxed paper and place onto a large cutting board.  Doing a cut across the long way, slice off a 1/3 chunk of layered dough.  You can use your large knife to lift it from the waxed paper and onto the cutting surface so that you can lift the remaining dough back into the pan to go back into the fridge to stay cold (got that?).

Slice and bake 8-10 minutes (I do 8).  They don’t spread out that much, so you can put them fairly close (see picture).

Now here’s the best way to get the production moving and to ensure even baking.   Put your oven racks on the 2nd and 3rd “rows” from the bottom of the oven.  NEVER bake them on the bottom row!  They burn!  Put your first pan on the lower rack and set timer for half the baking time while you prepare the next pan.  When the timer rings, move the bottom pan to the upper rack and slide the next pan onto the bottom.  Bake for the other half of the time.   Remove top pan from oven, move bottom pan to upper rack, and add another pan to the bottom rack.   Keep going in this manner, and all cookies will be evenly baked.

Let cookies cool on the pan for a few minutes before attempting to remove them…they will fall apart if you don’t!

cookies3The final product!  (FYI, this is a triple batch)

Because they are a family tradition, I will continue to make them as long as I am able.  I hope that at least one of my girls (or even my boys!) will keep this recipe and continue the tradition after I am no longer able to do so.

No matter what path you follow, I want to wish the brightest blessings to everyone during this season of light! May you know the warmth of a home, the love of family, the satisfaction of food for the body and soul, and the joy of simply being here to celebrate. Love to you all!

Altared Perceptions: Solstice 2013

Published December 23, 2013 by Susan Woodward

church

Solstice 2013: Saturday, December 21.  What a gorgeous and uplifting experience!  In the past five years since I began attending First Unitarian Church of Rochester, I have felt that this has been a wonderful place to call my spiritual home; however, I have never felt more at home until our Solstice Celebration.  Stars

The lights draped along the main wall amid shining stars was complimented with the laser show of stars on the ceiling.

We entered the sanctuary in darkness except for these twinkling lights and the center brazier.  The chairs were placed in a circle, sectioned to represent the four directions.  As one with strong ties to earth-based spirituality, the calling of the quarters and casting of the circle brought me an incredible feeling of belonging and peace.

singing bowl1After calling the quarters, the musical director led the opening meditation with a singing bowl.  The tone rang out through the church and drummers beat a pulsating rhythm that mirrored our beating hearts.

When Rev. Kaaren began telling the tale of Jonah in the Belly of the Whale, we all contemplated on those times in our lives when we, too, feel like we have been in the dark.  She asked us to think of those things that hold us back and prevent us from moving forward to the light, and then write those things down on a piece of flash paper (the flash paper was a stroke of genius for this exercise!)

spiralKarren then called to the congregation to come, by quarters, forward to place those things we wished to move toward the light into a waiting urn.  As each quarter finished, she lit a match and dropped it into the urn, and in a flash of light, those things that had once been in darkness were transformed into light itself…and a bright light it was!

Kaaren  flash

The flash was brilliant, and made me feel as if something was rekindled inside me.  For the past couple of months, I have to admit that I have allowed the darkness of depression to creep back into my heart.  Going thorough “the change” into my Crone years has wreaked havoc with my hormones and emotions.  The Solstice Service did much for re-igniting my heart in time for truly enjoying the blessings of the Holiday Season.

Three more times this was repeated until all members from the four sections of the church had an opportunity to let go of something that has been holding them in the dark.  The beating of the drums was accompanied by clapping and snapping from the congregation and built to a frenzy each time just before Kaaren dropped the flame into the urn.  Four brilliant flashes really energized the whole place.

candles

We all also had candles, which were lit from the central fire.  The flame was passed from person to person until the whole church was lit.

lightsEveryone, young and old, held a lit candle…

lights 2The overall effect was not only gorgeous, but it left me with this strong feeling of energy within.

In the five years since I began attending First UU, I have not experienced anything quite like it.  This Solstice Service was the culmination of a tranformative year in my life.    I have loved this church ever since I started coming here, but for the first time, I truly feel at home.   I love the fact that UU’s welcome those from all spiritual paths, including those whose heart follows the Pagan path.  I began coming to First UU because I was seeking a community where I would feel accepted, and with this celebration, I not only felt accepted, but included.

What a blessing!

 

Still Trekking: It’s a Wonderful Run…Well, Stroll!

Published December 15, 2013 by Susan Woodward

banner-5kChalking up another 5K for me in 2013!  That’s a total of 4…and for someone who had NEVER done anything like that in 51 years, that’s an awesome accomplishment, even if I do say do myself.

meOk…so here I am just before the race: thermal leggings, jeans, snow pants…check, check, check.  Turtleneck, t-shirt, hoodie, ski jacket, and racing shirt…check, check, check, check, check.  Wool hat, headband, face cover, hoodie hood, jacket hood, goggles…check, check, check, check, check, check.  Wool socks, cotton socks, plastic bags, semi-waterproof boots… check, check, check, check.  Two pairs of gloves…check, check.  Alrighty!  It’s 16 degrees and it’s snowing…and I am ready to run!  I look about 150 pounds heavier, but at least I am completely insulated.

By the end of the race, I was sweating like crazy!!  Because of the snow, cold, layers, and lack of training, this became more of a Wonderful Stroll than a Run, but it gave me an opportunity to see the beauty of the village and to appreciate the good wishes of all the people who came out to cheer us on!  There were lights, music played, people had bon fires, and some offered hot cider.  It truly was WONDERFUL!

JeanetteThis is my friend Jeanette who was crazy enough to go with me!  Actually, she was the one to tell me about it in the first place…and I am glad she did.  We had an awesome time!

1

This is the bridge that George Bailey wanted to jump from before Clarence beat him to it.  I stood at the rail looking into the churning water, imaging jumping in to save someone…I told Jeanette she’d better not jump!

3

I have plans for this Main Street at the end of the race!

8

Martini’s!!

2

If we’d stayed in town longer, I would have gone to see this.  The whole town really gets into the spirit of the holiday and the film!  The florist was giving out roses to the ladies…Zuzu’s petals!  And mine was an amethyst tea rose…my favorite flower in the whole world!

7

Just look at the crowd!

6

And lots of people came in costume!  People ran with pets, some pushed baby strollers as families participated together, and we even saw a person in a wheelchair while on the trek.

4

The race begins on the bridge…just look at all the people lining up for the gun to go off!  We heard that there were over 4000 folks registered for the race!

Because I am a true nut case, here’s video proof:

It truly was a Wonderful Run!

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