September 2012

It’s true! Would I pull your leg?

My legs are strong. My yoga practice helps keep them that way.

And I like them. Now I do.

In fact, I have a pretty strong attachment to both my legs and my feet.

This summer I wore shorts.  And I wore them often.

I wore shorts when teaching my yoga classes. I wore them to the grocery store and on long walks in the park.  I wore them when I met my friends for lunch and while learning to run in the mornings. I wore them out at night once, and with heels.

But I haven’t always had such a friendly relationship with these legs.

I started shaving my legs at age 9 because I was obsessed with the way they looked. Ghostly white skin, and with dark black hair covering my legs made me believe I might be part spider.  Growing up in beachside Florida where all the girls seemed suntanned and care-free, this just wouldn’t do.

Once I started shaving my legs, the hair issue was no longer. It was the Casper-the-friendly-ghost look that bothered me.

Sure, there have been periods of my life where I’ve felt ok about being bare-legged.

But if my self-esteem was just the slightest bit fragile, I covered up with long pants, tights, pantyhose (argh), longer skirts.  Any kind of vulnerability made me feel exposed. If I couldn’t hide my face, well, I could sure hide my legs easy enough.

A couple of years ago, I decided this disdain for legs had gone on long enough. It was interfering in my life as a Memphis woman (think of days as hot as blue blazes) and as a yoga teacher (the students really ought to be able to see the shapes of the poses).

Determined to break out of the leg shame loop, and started wearing shorts when alone or with a close friend.

That wasn’t so bad.

Then I started going out in my shorts.

It took a long grooming session that included choosing the perfect-length shorts so as not to show too much leg, a hot bath to shave, a cool shower to exfoliate and close the pores, a spray session with Sally Hansen leg make-up, and then contorting myself as I looked in the mirror to check for streaks and spots I might have missed.

As I’ve gotten older my legs are fleshier – and cellulite has formed on the back of them. Cellulite is fat that puckers up close to the surface of the skin, giving a dimpled or rumpled appearance.

Most women have cellulite, even teen-age athletes. And losing weight won’t cure it.  There is a multi-million dollar industry built around convincing women that unsightly cellulite can be eliminated if you buy the right creams, vibrating machines, and eat a special diet.

I had a roommate once who underwent liposuction, where they put you under and vacuum fat out of your body with a long suction tube (think shop vac). She was in her early 30’s, 5’2″ and weighed just over 100 pounds.  She hated her legs.

She saved for months to get the lipo, and put the rest of it on her credit card.

She told me about it in a hushed tone, after making me swear not to tell her secret.

A year later she was still paying off the procedure. She still had cellulite. And it still made her cry.

Cellulite might as well be a 4-letter-word among women of any age.

I don’t mind cellulite on anyone else. But on me, cellulite + pasty white legs has always equaled hideousness personified.

The Sally Hansen leg make-up spray gave my legs a healthy-looking glow under certain light, so I could go out in my shorts.

But there was a downside to it.  The makeup rubbed off on my yoga mat and my clothes in a powdery residue.  And I was always self-conscious about whether I had inadvertently missed a spot or created streaks.

And my legs itched for days afterward.

Going out bare-legged felt liberating that first summer — even if the Sally Hansen spray meant my legs weren’t exactly bare.

This summer I took it a step further.  I decided to wear my shorts sans Sally, and left the spray can in the recesses of a storage drawer.

At 42, I have a curvy figure. Think hourglass. But not like Sofia Vergara hourglass. More like an hourglass hourglass with strong and fleshy hips and legs.

I put my shorts on and talked to those legs in the mirror. I do admit that I only looked in the one full-length mirror hanging strategically in a dimly lit room.

I asked my legs if they’d be okay if I focused less on how they look and more on what they do.

Wouldn’t you know those legs didn’t even answer me back. (Hey, I may be a bit OCD, but I’m not certifiable or anything!)

My legs provide support for me to walk and run, sit and stand. They provide a base for my spine and they carry around my (very large and often-overused) brain.

They take me on long walks in Overton Park, hiking along the Oregon Coast and touring the Umbrian countryside.

They spring into action when a friend needs help, and carry me away from places where I’d only find trouble.

My legs were steadfast when I got lost and could not find my way, and they kept me moving toward the place they knew I was heading.

Lately, my legs have been learning to run, and I’m up to 3 miles without stopping.

I think of the idiom, “I didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

People say this after they’ve fought hard for something, and lost anyway. As in losing a court case and starting the story with, “I lost. It’s not my fault. I didn’t have a leg to stand on.”  It means the person lacked the support to achieve their goal, with no possibility of a positive outcome.

For my whole life, I have had full use of my two legs to stand, walk, run, sit, amble, forge ahead, dance, traipse and strut about on.

I am writing this blog post to let you know that as long as I’m alive, I do not want to be ashamed of my legs. I will not spend tons of money on quackery creams and potions to rid myself of cellulite. And I will not compare my legs to other people’s — even if they seem to have a better shape, darker tan or smoother texture.  I am delighted to enter a new phase of life – where the defining characteristics of my legs are related to how they move me and where they take me.

This spirit is moving forward along with the rest of her iridescent and alabaster limbs.

Or you could say, until I am on my last legs, I will not have my tail between my legs about my legs. I will not pay an arm and a leg for products that I don’t need. I will not try to get a leg up by trying to make my legs conform to the shape of some ideal marketed to me. I have got my foot in the door, and I am dancing toward a place where my legs are valued for all the amazing things they do for me.

That’s it for now, because it’s time for me to put my shorts on one leg at a time and ease on down this road.


A creative girl & her bookkeeping

The coaching continues…

I’m sometimes a little too honest on facebook.  Mind you, I’m not the type to post TMI about deeply personal issues and I don’t blast friends who post political opinions on their status updates.

But I do procrastinate.  And last week I got “caught” on facebook.

My post was innocent enough.

Need a way to learn to enjoy my bookkeeping duties. I would rather be doing ANYTHING other than sitting here with a spreadsheet! : (

Ten friends commented.

One suggested rewarding myself with a margarita after I finished the work. Another offered to trade desk work for yoga classes.

Two friends said they love bookkeeping (not fair!).

But leave it to my mother’s comment to spur me to action.  When she suggested hiring my dad as bookkeeper and them moving into my guest room, I knew I had to do something fast!

I went for my coaching session with Bill Burtch.  I didn’t even have to bring up the bookkeeping brouhaha.  He did.

“I saw your post on facebook about the bookkeeping,” he said.

“Can we talk about something uplifting?” I asked.

We had a productive time together, mostly talking about the things I like:  my most valuable relationships, core values, how money enables my life.  We worked on my core purpose and my vision.

Then that budget thing came up again.  I brought it up this time.

After several coaching sessions I have learned a lot about myself. I learned that I’m motivated by social experiences and altruism.  I like to be with people and I like to feel like I’m doing good in the world.

I’m a creative type.  Boxes, charts, and spreadsheets make my eyes cross.

It’s amazing how fiscally responsible I have been my whole adult life – considering this aversion to logs, charts and graphs.

It’s not that I mind paying for things; I’m just not a line item kind of girl. Why sit around logging things into Quicken when I have people to meet, yoga classes to teach, and the beautiful old growth forest just footsteps from my door?

Bill challenged me to reframe my paradigm about managing finances. So I’m wondering.  What if I call my line items something compelling? Something, well, more fun. More meaningful. Maybe something that doesn’t sound so accountant-like.

Mortgage, rent, homeowners insurance sound so droll. What do these line items really mean to me?

They mean home.

What are some other names for home?

Sanctuary, Midtown Bungalow, Court Avenue Cocoon, Chez Nichols

Then someone suggested making each line item sound completely lovely.

So, I’ve set up a new category in my Quicken expense item list.

I just can’t wait for the accountant’s call when she reads my next expense report and discovers I’m paying $900 a month for something called “Love Shack.”

Looking forward to seeing Bill again next week to continue my coaching odyssey.  Who knows what we’ll come up with as we forge ahead? What do you struggle with that might be reframed into something more enjoyable?

My cousin Richard

Richard Simmons: A True Force of Nature

After 30 years of hearing stories from my father and mother about my famous family member, I decided to look him up.

I sent Richard Simmons a short email introducing myself.

He emailed right back!  You may not find it surprising, that he writes his emails in ALL CAPS and uses ITALICS for emphasis.

He invited me to come take a class at his exercise studio, Slimmons, in Beverly Hills.

So on Saturday, September 1 I arrived at Slimmons to experience my cousin in action.  I signed up for the free discussion group class and the 90-minute Sweaty Aerobics class.

While awaiting Richard’s arrival, the woman seated next to me introduced herself.  Rachel said she’s been coming to Richard’s classes 3 times each week for 3 years, and has lost 25 pounds.

I told her it was my first time and she said, “Well then, you are in for a treat!”

Then Richard made his entrance – complete with crystal-studded workout top and rhinestone Elton John glasses.

With 15-20 people seated on the floor in a circle for the discussion group, he went to each person and greeted them.  Most were regulars.  One woman brought her mom with her for the first time, and I was new.

I introduced myself, and he was kind and gracious – introduced me to the class.

Richard is known for his show-biz, high-energy antics.  But I was most impressed by the real impact he is making in the lives of the people there.  What he offers is real and true.  He has a way of connecting with people in a personal way – encouraging them, making them laugh, and making them sweat.

At the end of the discussion group, studio the doors flew open. The people rushed in so fast, and there seemed to be thousands of them.

Richard flipped the music on and shouted, “Step, touch, step, touch.”  Then, “Grapevine!”

For the whole 90 minutes of Sweaty Aerobics, his attention never shifted. He was focused on us.  “Do your best!” he screamed at a few of the newbies hiding in the back.

At 64 years old, he appears to be in excellent shape.  We worked up a mean sweat in this Sweaty Aerobics, and Richard did all the moves alongside us, plus deejayed the music, AND let out joke after joke after joke.

Two words come to mind, “Pure joy.”

The class participants ranged from 16 to maybe 75 years old.  Some appeared to be young LA performers dressed in short shorts and midriff-baring workout tops.  But the class was very diverse – skinny, fat, old, young, fit, out of shape, all races and backgrounds.

And with Richard’s method of a little bit of disco, a little bit of dazzle and a whole lot of encouragement, the group became as one. When he tells you that you own your body and that it deserves to be treated well, you believe him!

You couldn’t help but smile – and smile big. I mean BIG. BIG!!!!

Richard was passionate, energetic, tough, and really funny.  He doesn’t hesitate to give everyone a dose of inspiration.  Although he doesn’t dole it out like medicine.

He doles it out in the form of pure joy.




How I spent my summer vacation

The first week of my 2-week California trip was spent with good friends & fun family in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The drive up the Pacific Coast Highway filled me with an appreciation for nature.  The view from our Pacific cliffside  rustic cabin mesmerized me.

And the smell in Big Sur!  The herby scent of fresh pine, ocean, wild fennel and other herbs just hung in the air.  I swear nature never smelled so good to me.

My senses may have been a little more open than usual — considering we had no TV and no cell service to distract.  At first, I found the Internet connection in our remote location frustratingly slow.  But it meant that I gave up on surfing the web, and instead let my gaze wander over to the surf of the ocean — a much better view anyway.

I spent the last weekend of my trip in Los Angeles, staying with good friends Anne and Ernie.  We had not seen each other in nearly ten years, but it was like no time had passed.  Conversation flowed easily, and I rested well in the comfort of their home.

The last day of our trip was my birthday, and I spent the morning with my cousin whom I had never met.  If the earlier part of my trip was defined by REST and RELAXATION, this particular morning was more like REV UP,  REINVIGORATE, and REVIVIFY.

I’ve known about my celebrity cousin my whole life, but my extended family was never close, so our paths never crossed.  I knew he lived in LA, so when I decided on California for vacation, I wrote to him to see if he was open to meeting.

He was!

I was nervous the morning of our meeting.  We are second cousins and I didn’t know how he would respond to having a surprise cousin.  He might think I’m a stalker or something!

For years I’ve been aware of his good in the area of health and exercise.  And I wanted to see it for myself.

I was not disappointed!

So……just who is this celebrity cousin, you ask?

Scroll down to see.



Me with my cousin Richard at his studio


















To read about our time together, go to the next post!