Yoskay Yamamoto, August 4, 2016

When I am at Steelhead and have been sitting for a while, my habit is to get up, walk around the corner to the parking lot, and do a bit of stretchy flow. There has always been a plain white wall, which I have used as the backdrop for a short video. I went out today, though, and this is what I saw…

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Actually, I didn’t see all of it as there was a car parked in the spot next to the handicapped spot. I went back in to grab my phone, and as luck would have it as I looked for a good position that car left. In the corner you can see the credits…

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The name yoskay Yamamoto jumped out at me, and I recalled that he was the artist for the indoor wall mural pictured below …

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That mural appeared seemingly overnight on the wall of the Fox Coffee House on Willow in Wrigley. The Fox is another one of my hangouts, and they are a valuable community resource. There are open mic’s on Thursdays and Saturdays at 6:30 pm, and they are usually well attended by talented and interesting people, so you can hear some music AND see Yoskay’s work! Wow!

I have only the briefest of excursions into Yoskay’s website, but that was enough to impress me greatly in terms of quality, presentation, and quantity. Definitely worth further exploration!

My Body Mechanic, August 3, 2016

My body is very different than it was 5 years ago, or even from where it was 6 months ago. I have shed 60 pounds, remediated a foot problem that had hobbled me for more than 10 years, and made tremendous advances in core strength, flexibility, and stability. I have not accomplished all of that alone, and in fact all along the way I have availed myself of the services of experts in various fitness regimens. In short, I have assembled a team, known henceforth as “John’s Team”, and one of the purposes of my blog is to highlight those individuals who both currently and in the past have made valuable contributions to my progress.

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I was looking forward to an appointment that I had with one of those team members, my body mechanic Donna Place from Long Beach Gyrotonic, for this past Monday, but she had gotten overbooked. Fortunately, though, she was able to squeeze me in for an appointment today. Donna knows the body inside and out; she knows what’s in there, how it all hooks together, and things that can be done to correct existing problems and prevent future issues. Donna has certifications in Pilates, Dance, and Gyrotonics. She teaches Kinesiology at Orange Coast College and also is a trainer of prospective Gyrotonic practitioners. Donna is a master of all things fascial, and I don’t mean cosmetics, but that stuff that holds your muscles together. Most importantly, though, she has the requisite “thumbs of steel”. And elbows, knees, or whatever it take to make an impression on stubborn tissues.

 

Long Beach Gyrotonic itself is a space shared by several lovely ladies who practice a variety of healthy arts, Gyrotonics, Pilates, and Rolfing among them; it is a full service body shop, well equipped with Pilates, Gyrotonic, and sundry other equipment. My philosophy about keeping fit is that it is important to invest in yourself. All too often I hear people balk at doing something like yoga classes because “it’s too expensive!”, but I think that  money spent on fixing myself is money well spent. It is well worth the investment to develop relationships with professionals who can get to know your body with all of its quirks to help you work out all the kinks!

 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Let’s see… The last couple of days have been pretty low energy output. My knees have been pretty achy after stressing them out a bit too much on Friday, so I have been taking it relatively easy. I went to Ramona’s class on Sunday morning as usual, but she was stranded in Colorado and there was no sub, so I just did some walking in Belmont Shore, picking up my obligatory mushroom and sausage pizza slice at Z Pizza. No yoga, but I did manage to get in about 14 miles of bike riding. Monday was a walking day and I used it to take care of some business, like walking to the post office to pick up my held mail, and accumulated about seven miles, all of it with good form.

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Today was a very special day as my friend Renate met me for breakfast at Steelhead Coffee with the twins, Kit and Dot, in tow. They just turned 3 months, and while I have been happily deluged with extremely cute pictures on Facebook, this was only the second time I have gotten to see them live and in person. Kit was out like a light the entire time, but my repertoire of funny faces for babies managed to elicit some smiles from Dot, a treat that is apparently only bestowed rarely.

One of the purposes of this blog is to highlight those individuals who I think exceptional, and one of those is Renate. Renate eschewed the typical path to college–I am not even sure that she even graduated from high school–and instead went into cosmetology. Apparently she handled that quite well as she eventually wound up teaching cosmetology. Then she met Kenny, a rocket scientist (seriously, he works for SpaceX), and they married. Renate went back to school and is on the verge now of graduating from UCLA with a degree in Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). She would have been done by now if not for the fact that she was busy with other matters for much of the past year. Renate is extremely bright, a very hard worker, and has also proven to be an excellent mother; she is also getting ready to apply to graduate programs in that field. Remember, it is never too late to change the course of your life, and I hold Renate as a prime example of what can be accomplished if you set your mind to it.

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There was a bit of extra excitement across the street from Steelhead. A car in the parking lot of the liquor store was smoking badly, and a couple of folks wound up running over there with fire extinguishers. Their efforts were for naught, it seems, as shortly afterwards the car reached a stage which I believe is best described as “fully engulfed in flames.” A few minutes after the photo above the firemen arrived and quickly put an end to the fire.

Next stop for me was LA Fitness where I have very much missed the Tuesday morning yoga class taught by JR Johnson. JR is an outstanding teacher, and is a master at using his voice to set and maintain an atmosphere conducive to fostering the mind-body connection. It is not easy to teach in a room the size of that at LA Fitness, but JR manages easily and provides a challenging and invigorating experience that I always look forward to, and today was no exception.

 

Roger and Judy and I, July, 2016

In requiem, Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I received a message third-hand last week from Roger Gedney indicating that Judy had stopped eating and drinking and that the end of her journey through this life was approaching. I have also been seeing a lot more hits on this post, and finally today I saw this obituary from Clugman-Tibbets Funeral Home in Macomb, IL:

“Judith M. “Judy” Gedney, age 78 of Macomb, Il., went to be with her Lord and Savior at 7:05 a.m. Wednesday, August 21, 2019 at Wesley Village Healthcare Center in Macomb. ”

Clicking on this LINK will take you to the full obituary with a wonderful tribute to Judy. Memorial service is scheduled for September 7, 2019. Full details are in the obituary.

July, 2016

I was on the boy’s gymnastics team at East Leyden High School from 1965-68. In my freshman year I still had not realized that I was blind and was mostly in my own little world, but that changed my sophomore year. As the girl’s team worked out on the other side of the school I don’t know that I was even aware of the existence of a girl’s team until my sister Alice entered school and joined that team. She would come home with tales of the beautiful and very cool young coach, Mrs. Gedney.

 

Mrs. Gedney (aka, Judy) and her husband Roger, were both recent emigres from LSU.  Roger and Judy are graduates of the University of Iowa, where they had been gymnasts, dabbled in circus arts, were around for the birth of the trampoline, and other sundry accomplishments. Roger was the boy’s gymnastics coach at one of our rival schools, Glenbard East. Over the next three years I got to know Mrs. Gedney a bit and she lived up to the picture Alice had painted, and then some!

I graduated in 1968 and received a half-scholarship for gymnastics at Western Illinois University. 1968 was also the year that Roger and Judy Gedney began what would become quite long tenures at that institution as the assistant men’s and head women’s coaches. The setting was one where both teams shared the same workout area, and so everyone who came through that program, men and women, got to know both Gedney’s for the beautiful people that they are. As a matter of fact, my handle “Captain Univac” was created by one or both of the Gedney’s back in those days!

I have managed to keep in touch with the Gedney’s over the years and was able to almost keep track with developments. In her late 30’s Judy took up powerlifting as a training tool and found that she could be quite successful as she was always an extremely powerful person packed in a tiny frame. Judy set world records, won world championships, and is in the Powerlifting Hall of Fame. She continued to compete and to win well into her 60’s. Roger had always been involved in weightlifting and fitness and he began a community weightlifting center in the basement of the Salvation Army building that has provided training opportunity for locals for over 30 years now. Both Roger and Judy were also heavily involved in the charitable work of the Salvation Army; Roger spent several years in Haiti around the millennium doing relief and missionary work.

 

It had been several years since I had seen the Gedney’s so I routed my trip so that I could pass through Macomb, IL and visit with them. On my last trip all was well with them. They had sold their house in the country and moved into a small house in Wesley Village, a retirement community that provides appropriate levels of care from retirement through the end of life. At that time Roger was approaching 80 and still lifting very heavy weights (see the video below, with Roger at 80+), and Judy was in her early 70’s and doing very well. They were joking that Judy would probably have to be caring for Roger sometime in the future, expecting some kind of cognitive decline on his part.

When I arrived in Macomb I tried to call Judy’s number, but it was disconnected. As that  was the only number I had for them, my next course was to go over to Wesley Village and look for them, but I decided to stop by the weight room at the Salvation Army first. The weight room was still running and still populated, and I saw Roger’s protege and partner in keeping this endeavor running, Tim Piper. Tim gave me Roger’s number and informed me that things were not well for Judy. Some years earlier she had begun exhibiting cognitive deficits, and was found to be suffering from corticobasal ganglionic degeneration (CBGD), a rare progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks cognitive and motor functions.

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I called Roger, found out where they would be, and made my way to the Wesley Village where I found them finishing up their dinner. Roger was hand-feeding Judy the vegetables that he had finely chopped for her that morning. Judy appeared tired, as it was the end of her day and bedtime was approaching, and there was very little in the way of recognition or response on her part. I made another visit the next day, earlier in the morning, and this time Judy seemed to recognize me and made some efforts to talk. I gave her a kiss on her forehead, and her face lit up; for a few moments I could see the old Judy shining through.

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Roger told me that Judy is still physically in very good shape, and he expects that she may outlive him. He also said that she has been making some gains in physical therapy and has been close to walking on her own. I was also very heartened by her response to me. CBGD was only identified in 1968, and so there is a lot to be learned about it. Who knows, it may be possible for patients to make comebacks, or for new therapies to be developed. Any of you out there who believe in the power of positive energies in whatever form (prayer, meditation, etc.) are invited to send some of that energy to Judy and Roger. Life goes on for Roger, and it’s quite lonely for him as old friends disappear over time, so any visits to him would be greatly appreciated. For now, as he gently stroked her forehead as she lay in bed, he told me “I finally feel like a complete husband.”

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The Gedney’s and the Westberg’s.

Update on 9/24/2017–Shortly after I published this post last year a couple of former gymnasts from Western went out and visited the Gedneys. Colleen Westberg was on the women’s team, and her husband Jerry Westberg was a teammate of mine. They commented “These are our college gymnastics coaches, Judy & Roger Gedney. We visited them today in Macomb, and even though Judy has a form of dementia, she had her beautiful smile and I believe she recognized us. They were a tremendous influence on us.” They also posted the picture above.

The Westberg’s weren’t able to make a return visit until last week, and this time they noted that Judy was very unresponsive and they were very concerned. I am hoping that they just caught her at a bad time of the day. When I had visited last summer I first stopped by at dinner time, and at that time she was also very out of it, but when I caught her early the next day she was in much better condition. The difference was like night and day, and I hope to be able to get out there in a month or so to see for myself. In the meantime, please keep on sending that love and healing energy their way.