Hoop It Up!


Unless you embrace reincarnation as a viable option for getting the most out of living (and I like that option more and more the older I get), chances are you’re only going to turn 40 once, and that’s a pretty big deal.

Such was the case for me last week: I turned 40!

And I decided to throw myself a birthday party. Because, well, who else was going to do it?


And if you’re throwing yourself a birthday party, my qualified position on the subject is you should throw the party you want, not what you think other people might want for you to want. Because let’s face it: if those other people wanted what you want, they would have thrown you a party to start with, negating the need for you to have thrown yourself a party in the first place.


My 40th birthday party was simply the BEST. BIRTHDAY. PARTY. EVER.

My Ideal Party Plan

  1. Contact my friend Monica of Monkey Hooper and coordinate dates. (Being friends with someone as awesome as Monica does not give you a discount, people. She’s got to make a living. But it does guarantee a fabulous and fun time with stories of back in the day shared with all party goers.)
  2. Confirm with best friend Karen it’s still okay to use her house and yard for the party. (Throwing yourself a 40th birthday party should never involve using your own houBestEverHoopingse.)
  3. Create guest list of all your girlfriends from all your circles. (Include your farthest away friends like Aimee, Christie and Dawna, even though they won’t be able to come they’ll still know you know they would be here if there weren’t those always present hateful thousands of miles between you.)
  4. Send a fabulous electronic invitation to aforementioned guest list. (I used Punchbowl.)
  5. Order the yummiest vegan carrot cake from the amazing A Sweet Success Bakery. (All their proceeds support Sanctuary House and I’m ALL about supporting a great cause.)
  6. Assume the sun will shine and the weather will be perfect. (Because even though my years in the event planning business taught me to ALWAYS have a plan in case it rains, I had no such plan.)
  7. Show up with hoop in-hand. (Really. It was that simple. And since all the guests each brought a yummy vegan treat to share [remember I’m vegan?], even Karen got to practically just show up, too!)

The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The flowers were blooming. It was all that.

My friends arrived, some with their own hula hoops and others nervous because they hadn’t hooped in years. No worries. Monica arrived with LOTS of amazing hoops that she fashions and makes herself. She had everyone swinging their hips in no time, and took us through some core exercises to¬† get us moving and then taught us some tricks and then we had a hoop-off! Karen won the prize: a brand new hoop from Monkey Hooper! So cool.


Despite it being Easter weekend with the double whammy of spring break, those who gathered were troopers and I loved being surrounded by so many wonderful people from so many of my circles. And I loved every minute of my hula hoop party.


My daughter was there, too, capturing video footage, and created the best birthday present ever. Thank you to everyone who participated in its creation, and especially to Lindsay, who is my greatest gift. I’d like to share Lindsay’s present for me with you:

The Vortex of the Russian Disco


It may have been because of her third consecutive meal of waffles. It may have been the many hours of swing dancing we’d just completed. It may have been that it was one o’clock in the morning. But whatever the reason, my friend Cathrine shared with our rambunctious late-night breakfasting group her New Year’s Eve trauma on the dance floor.

From my own late-night stupor, here’s what I remember: Cathrine got all dressed up fancy-like, floor-length gown – the whole bit – and bought herself a ticket to a classy soiree. Said soiree was in a classy joint somewhere in Washington, DC, and a ticket bought you access to a plethora of themed dance rooms, all with open bars. The only two rooms I recall her mentioning were the Great Gatsby & the Russian Disco.

Cathrine said all night long she really wanted to get to the Gatsby room, but never made because she kept getting

“stuck in the vortex of the Russian Disco!”

I wasn’t there, so I can only speculate, but it may have been one too many vodkas, Cathrine?

In any case, I haven’t been able to get that awesome line of dialogue out of my head in all the days that have passed since our night of fun (and waffles).

And I’m thinking that everyone is excited about the new year. New goals. New opportunities.

My daughter came home from school today laughing about how many more people were at the gym during her PE class this morning. I consciously avoid the gym during the month of January because it always feels so crowded, but then it thins out again by February. I wonder how many restaurants serve salads during the month of January, when their clientele rarely order one any of the other eleven months of the year.

The point is this: I think we’ve all got personal vortexes from which we find it difficult or impossible to escape.

It’s a sad day when you find out that it’s not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you. – Lillian Hellman

Whether it’s a new goal we’ve set, knowing we’re probably not going to keep it top of mind, and therefore, a year from now we’ll recommit, or simply set a new and different goal entirely. Or habits that have kept us spinning for a long time already. Perhaps our vortex is a relationship that isn’t getting us anywhere: it’s not bad, but it’s not good, either. Maybe the vortex is idling away our time and not accomplishing anything beyond what is required of us. Or the vortex could be in the not doing. What are we not doing that a year or ten from now we will regret? Is there a skill you’ve been meaning to master? A class you’ve wanted to take? A language you’ve always wanted to learn? A stamp you want to put in your passport? A friend you wish you could see? An organization you think you should support with either your time, talents or checkbook? A trail you’ve never walked? A book you’ve yet to read?

One of my favorite quotes is framed in my office as a daily reminder:

Do one thing every day that scares you. – Eleanor Roosevelt

And why not? So with mega props to Cathrine for the best line yet of 2013 (and to everyone else who consumed copious amounts of breakfast food, especially Bobby [that’s another story altogether]) let’s all agree to:

  1. Identify our own personal Russian Disco Vortex
  2. Get out
  3. Come back and tell us about it here!

Eleanoor Roosevelt Quote

Happy Blogoversary to Me!

One year ago today I published my first post ever thanks to Karen (for making me) and John (for enabling me). It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year of random writing, knowing I had no specific goal when I started on this journey, but rather, wanted this site to evolve on its own. Evolve it has – and I believe there is so much more to come.

Thank you for reading, for leaving your comments, for engaging with me and the rest of the allarminda community, and most of all – for encouraging me to continue writing. I would love to hear from you now. Which posts have had an impact on you, and why? What suggestions do you have for year two?

Also, I think we should have a hula hoop party to celebrate. Who’s in? By the way, I’m completely serious.

Hula Happy

Memorial Day 2010 was just like any other American holiday with no mail delivery. Except it wasn’t. I decided Sunday night, at 9:30, no less, to host a Memorial Day get-together, and sent out a few text message invitations, promising my yummy veggie burgers and hula hooping. Who wouldn’t want to come to THAT party? As expected, within an hour, a group of approximately ten friends RSVP’d in the affirmative. Truthfully, I’m OCD and a perfectionist, and should never host parties, but that’s not the point of this blog post.

The food was good and the company was wonderful, but what I will forever remember about that night involves Kathy. Kathy and I went to high school together and have enjoyed a renewal of our friendship thanks to Facebook. See? I knew social media would give me an ROI!

Just as she was leaving, I reminded Kathy she had not yet hula hooped, and I insisted she give my ultra cool hoop a spin before going home. The shocking truth was revealed: Kathy couldn’t hula hoop! Not sure how anyone exits childhood without knowing how to hula-hoop, I forced her to take the ring, and provided – what I thought – were very clear instructions:

  1. Give it a spin to get started.
  2. Just move your hips like this (insert visual demonstration).
  3. Keep your hands out of the way.

Okay. That didn’t work. And not for lack of effort on Kathy’s part, I might add. She was a real hooper trooper – and was genuinely trying. So then I did what anyone else in my position would have done: I made up new rules.

  1. Find your center.
  2. Give the hoop a spin to get started.
  3. Focus on your core and move only your center back and forth – very slight movements.
  4. Keep your hands out of the way.

She did it! Kathy figured it out and was hula hooping like a pro, even between all of our giggling and picture snapping.

Don Miller asserts that “good stories contain memorable scenes,” in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and he suggests that if our lives are stories, and “when we look back on our lives, what we will remember are the crazy things we did, the times we worked harder to make a day stand out” (pp 208-209). I believe Don is right. However, I don’t believe we always have to try hard to make a day memorable.

Thank you, Kathy, for making a memorable scene with me.

p.s. – Thanks for still being my friend even though I’m asking forgiveness for posting these wonderful pictures of you, rather than getting permission before I do it!

Dolphin Whisperers

So I had pretty much the coolest day of my entire life. When Christie and I decided to take out the wave runner for a couple of hours we had no idea the adventure that awaited us.

Christie and her family live on the Gulf Coast of Florida, near Eglin Air Force Base, and are within a ten-minute drive of the Bay, and a 20-minute drive of the coast. With the unfortunate events happening off the coast of Louisiana, and not knowing when the oil slick will find its way to our side of the Gulf, we decided to take the wave runner out on the ocean, rather than keep it in the Bay.

After sweet-talking a really nice gentleman into helping us back the trailer into the water (who knew that task could be so challenging?), we unloaded the machine, donned our life jackets, adjusted our UVB protective lenses, and accelerated easterly, out of Ft. Walton Beach and backtracked to Destin, where we would meet up with the ocean.

Passing between the Bay and the Gulf proved to be more exhilarating than expected! We were jumping 15′-20′ swells, hoping to cross them before they broke, and not always succeeding. Not interested in repeating that joyride anytime soon, we decided to look for a different passageway back to the Bay, and headed west along the coastline – toward Pensacola, all the while on the sharp lookout for dolphins.

The water was extremely choppy, and we quickly discovered keeping the speedometer between 22mph and 30mph felt more like 50mph, and if anyone is interested in a first-hand experience of what it feels like to be buffeted by wind and sea – just let me know! Traveling by jet-ski is a unique experience in and of, itself, but on such a beautiful day we felt certain we would spot some dolphins.

As we continued our journey, we were really intent on finding a different inlet that would lead us back over to the Bay side, and kept pushing westward in that endeavor. The miles kept ticking behind us as we followed the white sandy shoreline dotted with blue umbrellas. Those umbrellas eventually disappeared, and the beautiful beaches were now marked with igloo-like huts and a tower, whose top could only be reached by elevator, all reminiscent of life on the desert planet Tatooine.

We agreed to only go as far as that tower – in the hopes of finding an inlet on the other side – before turning around and riding our own wake back to Destin. We were exhausted, hungry, thirsty, probably two hours past-due for a reapplication of sunblock, and 20 miles away from our car.

That’s when we saw them: what appeared to be five or six dolphins off the starboard side of our vessel. And then those five or six dolphins magically multiplied into another 15, and then another 50, and then another 50, after that! We were literally surrounded by dolphins!

I couldn’t speak. My heart raced. My fingers fumbled on the handlebars. I clawed to open the airtight compartment holding my camera – all the while not breathing, and desperately wishing for this multitude of beauty to just stay put.

Sure. Like that was going to happen.

I giggled uncontrollably, snapping pictures like a mad woman, while Christie reached around me, and drove from behind. We did finally switch places, and I stood behind her while my knees bored permanent indentations into her lower back.

We followed the pod for at least an hour, as they traveled in pack-like formation toward their destination. We watched in awe as they surfaced in perfect synchronization time and time again, and sat mesmerized by their elegance.

No doubt the dolphins wondered why these two out-of-water mammals kept trailing them, but Christie and I did eventually come back to our reality, and the return 20-mile trip with our saddle-sore legs didn’t seem quite such a bad deal in exchange for having just shared an hour of our life journey with these magnificent creatures.

SPF30 Sunscreen at 40% off: $9.60
Five gallons of gas: $14.25
Post-Adventure Pain Medication, Extra-Strength: $15.49
Two subpar pictures out of 260 taken on our Once in a Lifetime Day: Priceless