Thursday, October 21, 2010
PHOTO: Leading an adult ballet and stretch class, Nursel Conrad (right), owner of Kerrville School of Dance, spreads the joy of movement.
As a busy adult, if you could take only one class, I know which one you would choose: dance.
I know that is true, because dance is the most popular class in every lifelong learning program, in every town, in every country. It always has been most popular, and continues to draw students regardless of the state of the economy, what’s on television, or the demographics of the community.
Why is that? I asked Nursel Conrad, owner of Kerrville School of Dance.
“Dance is a stress reliever,” she said. “It is something totally different in your life.”
Everyone should dance. In fact, Conrad believes “not dancing” is the anomaly.
“If you study ancient civilizations, they all get up and dance!” said Conrad, who is a native of Turkey where she performed with the National Ballet Company. “Dance is a connection, a language. When your body is active, your mind is active.”
Club Ed offers Country & Western, Tango, Swing, Ballet, Belly, Tap, Line, and Ballroom. The style of dance is less important than the fact that the students are dancing and moving. According to experts, dance promotes healthy habits, social skills, and self-confidence.
The physical benefits of dance are well known. Dance improves coordination, conditioning, flexibility, and strength. Moving across the floor also increases spatial awareness, toning, balance, and stamina.
But many overlook the mental and social benefits. Learning steps is proven to forge new neural pathways in the brain. Don’t believe it? Try learning how to “shuffle ball change” to Hit The Road Jack, or attempt to dip your tango partner with a rose clenched in your teeth. You will engage all your physical and mental facilities, or soon you’ll be looking for a new partner.
Dancing also improves your appreciation and awareness for music, rhythm, and creativity, not to mention improving your self-confidence.
One unexpected side effect is stress reduction. It’s hard to worry about your day when you are learning a complicated ballet turn.
The other pleasant surprise in a dance class is the level of social interaction. Dancing with a group is the very definition of esprit de corps. Conrad likes to use her dance classes to build that social interaction. After the last session, she often holds mixers, where all her students can gather to socialize and just dance. “Our duty and obligation in the dance world is to get our dancers out in the environment.”
To that end, many of Conrad’s adult students are surprised when they are told they will perform at her end-of-term recitals. Some want no part of getting up in front of a group to demonstrate their new talents. But most finally embrace it.
Her concerts - such as the popular White Christmas in the Hills - “gives students of every age and skill level the opportunity to get on stage and show what they have learned. It gives them self-confidence,” Conrad said.
Dance is also just fun.
“When I am teaching, I turn on the music and tell my students to imagine you are on the beach. It’s a cheap trip!” she said. “Just thinking of yourself is the most important thing.”
Saturday, October 16, 2010
What’s the word on travel this season? How about “free?”
It is still possible to see the world for little money, and for those with ambition, even to get paid for it. Gina Henry knows - she works six months then travels the world for six months. That schedule is possible for anyone, as she explains in her popular Club Ed course “Travel for Free & Even Make Money Doing It!” (Wed, Oct 20, 2010, 6:30 - 9 :30 p.m.)
Growing up in a small Kansas town, Gina Henry yearned to follow that yellow brick road beyond the border. While earning her masters degree in international management, she learned ways to travel free. She began sharing her tips, and soon wrote her book Free Vacations & Make Money Traveling.
I caught up with her in between cruises to find out what was happening in today’s travel climate. According to Henry, a lot.
“Travel is an $8 trillion economy, and actually is one of the industries not hurt by the challenged economy,” she said. “After all, if you go on vacation every year, you are still going to go on vacation. You are just looking for good value.”
So instead of taking a three-week cruise, you might plan a shorter trip. Or instead of checking into a luxury resort, you stay at a bed & breakfast or lodge.
In a way, the current economic situation may even be a good incentive to make more people consider travel as a career.
“With my tips, people are looking at travel as secondary income,” Henry said. “They can actually grow income on travel. The idea of having this as a hobby, business, second, or even primary income makes a lot of sense to them.”
One major change in travel has been the rise of the Internet. All your travel planning and booking can be done online, with incredible deals. Henry will show how to do that, as well.
“People are just looking for more information,” she said. “I love getting a roomful of people interested in learning.”
The most frequently asked question from her students is about the status of frequent flyer miles. There is a misconception that those are too hard to book. Not true, says Henry.
“Frequent flyer miles are still a very viable option,” she said. “And you can gather them not just from credit cards, but in many other ways, such as online shopping.”
Another option for wannabe travelers is teaching.
“Teaching English at resorts is huge,” Henry said. “People don’t realize how English is the world’s business language. A young person can go overseas and study and teach around the world, with no certification. All you need to do is speak English better than the person you are trying to help.”
The curious and the serious will learn dozens more ideas in her three-hour class. Henry is happy to answer questions, and provide contact information so people can start traveling for free right away. Every year she teaches 100 seminars in cities across the country.
"It's all possible, it's all practical," said Henry, who leaves next week for India, Bhutan, and Thailand. "Anyone can do it. I like working six months a year and having six months off.”
Gina Henry will teach the class “Travel for Free & Even Make Money Doing It!” on Wednesday evening, Oct 20, at Club Ed. Her web site is www.ginahenrytravel.com. For information or to sign up, click www.clubed.net, or call 830-895-4386.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
It is not surprising Patricia Labeda believes in hypnotherapy. After all, it saved her life.
“Years ago, when I was only 29, I did everything wrong,” she said. “I drank, I smoked, I ate the wrong foods.” She also had cancer. Her oncologist started her on hypnotherapy. It changed her profoundly. “I went from smoking two to three packs of cigarettes a day to not smoking. That was over 40 years ago, and I’ve never had another drink.”
After a career in law enforcement, Labeda now works at sharing her knowledge with others seeking life changes. She is certified in Advanced Hypnosis; Investigative/Forensics, Pediatric/Emergency. She is now in private practice, and teaches several classes for Club Ed in Self-Healing Hypnosis.
The modern practice of hypnosis has nothing to do with stage magic or making people cluck like chickens. It is a recognized adjunct to health therapy, used in medicine, dentistry, childbirth, and trauma. In fact, Labeda first became interested in hypnosis as treatment while working in an Emergency Room. She recalls watching how people reacted in the aftermath of major trauma, such as being involved in an automobile accident. She noticed a common denominator.
“I watched on monitors as people panicked,” she said. “I noticed they were not breathing properly, so I asked them to breathe.” Conscious breathing had dramatic effect. It lowered heart rates and increased relaxation. “Breathing is key.”
When you strip away the mystery, hypnosis is best understood as a way to bring your mind into a heightened state of awareness.
“It is like your mind running on autopilot,” Labeda said. “You become more cognizant.”
She elicits this state with techniques such as breathing, soft music, imagery, and relaxation. Once the subject reaches REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage, Labeda plants suggestions, or cues, patients can use. For example, for those trying to lose weight, the cue may be pinching the fold of skin between thumb and finger to fight the urge to overindulge.
She never plants cues that might make the subject uncomfortable. Before they even begin the process, Labeda clarifies specific goals they seek. Rather than wanting “to lose weight,” for example, she embeds the concept of “my perfect weight is...”
Following the session, it is up to the patient to continue the process. They self program every night, using the positive suggestions as they fall through the stages of sleep.
Does it work?
“I feel I get a 100% success rate,” she said.
While most patients only need one session with Labeda, healing is not a one-time practice. Success requires an ongoing commitment from the client.
“It’s a ‘rest of their life’ thing,” Labeda said. “Whether you say, ‘I can’ or ‘I can’t,’ you are always right.”
Pat Labeda teaches Self Healing Hypnosis for Smoking/Drinking on Oct 17, and for Anxiety/Phobias on Nov 14. For information or to sign up, click www.clubed.net, or call 830-895-4386.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
This morning as I left my house, arms loaded with books, camera, and coffee mug, I had to use my knee to kick up the door handle so I could get out the front door. Thank goodness for the levered door handle.
I had accidentally discovered that handy device while remodeling. I preferred it so much over the conventional round doorknob that I installed them on all our doors.
According to Cathy Learoyd, owner of Wynsong Home Designs, I had discovered one example of universal design, which she defines as “trying to make living easier for everyone.”
She also calls it preparing your home for independent living, which happens to be the title of a course she teaches in Club Ed.
“Throughout the life of a house, the residents are going to have all phases of life in that house,” said Learoyd, who holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from MIT and is working on her Masters degree in Architecture. “At some point someone will break leg, or be in a wheel chair or walker. We ask the question: how do you set up your house to make things easier?”
When asked, 95% of people want to retire and live in their own home. Universal design is all about preparing your home so you don’t have to go to a retirement facility.
Modifications can be small - like replacing doorknobs - or major. Learoyd gave the example of buying an appliance.
“Buying a refrigerator is a 20-year commitment,” she noted. “So if you bought one in your late 50s, you will have that into your 70s and 80s.”
She recommends a side-by-side or one with the freezer on the bottom. “A large percentage of women in their 80s cannot reach above their shoulders. That is a very common condition, and a freezer on top is very hard to reach.”
Another concept in universal design is maintaining an accessible path through the house. As our mobility becomes limited, we need to be able to walk without tripping over wires or dodging furniture. Learoyd noted that doorways and halls must be wide enough for a wheelchair or for a caretaker to walk beside you.
The side effects of aging are not just physical. Universal design considers diminished perception and mental capacities.
Learoyd recommends using changes of texture in floor coverings to help guide someone from bedroom to bathroom. Contrasting colors on walls, counters, steps, and floors provide cues for those with diminishing eyesight.
Learoyd also talks about the Optimal Reach Zone.
“Our best reach is from 22 to 44 inches above the floor. So you want most of everything you reach in the course of a typical day within that zone.”
In a typical kitchen, that means raising the dishwasher a bit, lowering some countertops, adjusting pantry shelves, and installing innovative storage such as pull-down shelves and pull-out cabinets.
Not all modifications need to be expensive or major. Learoyd suggests replacing handles on cupboards, keeping a rolling cart in the kitchen to carry heavy dishes, placing nightlights in bathrooms and halls, and using simple toilet roll holders that don’t need to be spring loaded.
Nor do you have to sacrifice function for design.
“People have the concept that it’s all ugly stuff, but it’s gorgeous now.”
Universal design even extends outdoors, where gardeners can continue their hobby using raised flower and vegetable beds.
The fact is, the first of the baby boomers turn 65 this year. They all want to continue living independently, or as Learoyd calls it, “aging in place.”
“The first reaction is that you don’t want to think about it,” she said. “Because this is going to make me feel old. But when they come to my class, they realize it is beautiful, that I can do this, it doesn’t have to cost me money, and why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”
“I think it is an incredibly important thing. I really feel passionate about it. That’s why I’m doing it. People need to know this stuff.”
Preparing Your Home for Independent Living meets Wed, Oct 13. For information or to sign up, click www.clubed.net, or call 830-895-4386.
Friday, October 1, 2010
I looked up from my computer and saw a lovely lady standing in my doorway. She held some wood in her hand - three pieces of 3 1/2 inch rough pine, in lengths of 4 to 6 inches.
Mary Louise held them up. “I am looking for someone to saw these into 3 1/2 inch squares. Do you know anyone that can do that?”
This is Club Ed, I thought, not a handyman referral service. But then I started mentally running through our list of several hundred instructors, and quickly came up with three or four who could take on this project. I picked up the phone, and called Ed Fournier, retired sea captain, stained glass maker, electrician, plumber, carpenter, and proverbial jack-of-all-trades.
Ed loves projects. Whenever we need a picture hung, a door unstuck, a display put together, we call Ed. He comes right over with the right tool, and - after at least one trip to Gibson’s - he has fixed our problem. The man knows how to do everything. He is a walking Time-Life How-To book.
Ed is our MacGyver.
He figured out how to mount a neon sculpture in our window, then hooked it up to a timer so it would come on at night. There is no limit to his skill or endurance. When we needed an extra room, he built an entire wall in our building. When we worried about spam coming over our Internet, he came up with a clever device to manually disable the connection. When we needed to run electricity outside for a project, he built a heavy-duty extension cord with multiple grounded outlets.
Once he even built a walking armadillo. When his daughter needed a float for a company parade, Ed put together a model of an armadillo that she could pull, with feet that flapped and tail that wagged. It won first prize.
Back to Mary Louise...
Even though he had sold most of his woodworking tools, Ed came right over and managed to make the cuts, just right, then sand them smooth as an armadillo’s snout.
This story has two morals. One. Even while Mary Louise was wrong about the purpose of Club Ed; she was right to come to Club Ed for help. After all, this is community education. Where else would you find such a large resource of talented people with expertise in areas from aerospace to scuba diving, from weaving to woodworking? We have literally hundreds of instructors, hobbyists, and experts who are passionate about learning and teaching.
Second moral: If you ever need anything done, call Ed.