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Dogs, Cats and AIDS?

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon 

My partner always said that if she didn't already love me, she would just because I couldn't pass up a lost or stray dog or cat. Of course, that had its flip side. I think at one time we had nine dogs and at least that many cats. All well and good while we lived in rural Louisiana or Tennessee but try moving to a suburb in the Houston area with that kind of family!

We couldn't keep that up but it broke my heart every time we had to pass one by. Then I found The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary outside of Santa Fe in New Mexico. This remarkable woman has established a virtual heaven on earth for animals that have been abused or abandoned. They never turn one away and they can live out the rest of their lives there if no one adopts them. Supporting her efforts goes a long way to making me feel better that I can't bring them all home. When Melinda died, I asked that any donations be sent there in her memory.

I feel a lot the same way about AIDS. Just like I can't bring every stray puppy home, at this point in my life, I, personally, can't do the hands-on work necessary to fight the spread of HIV or find a cure. At one time I was fortunate enough to be able to work, one-on-one, with guys who were actually in the end stages of AIDS-related conditions. And I do mean fortunate because I've always believed that I received far more from them than I was able to give. But life changed and my contribution became doing a lot of the things it takes to keep life going when you have a partner that worked the way mine did.

Melinda started working with HIV/AIDS sufferers more than 25 years ago and never stopped. Those newly diagnosed came to her office --- those with full-blown AIDS couldn't do that, so she went to them. Often, she didn't get paid. But every time, with every one of them, she started and ended her session the same as she did with every other client --- or friend or family member --- with a hug. That won't mean as much to you if you haven't been present with someone in the final stages of AIDS, but it meant everything to them. She did what she did best. She couldn't heal their bodies but she did help them feel peace and acceptance and love.

Now, she's gone, but AIDS is still going strong. Last year, when Ann-Marie and I walked the 10K AIDS Walk New York, we did it partly in honor of my partner and all of her work. And we'll be going back again in May. I'm sure, wherever she is, Melinda is pleased about that. But I also know that she probably thinks I could be doing a little more than a once-a-year hike through Central Park.

You know, I've been exceedingly lucky in that I have had the privilege of knowing the most incredible women in my life. One of those happens to be Kelly McCann, CEO of Aids Foundation Houston. It's nearly impossible to find one night a month to have dinner with Kelly because of how hard she works raising money to fight HIV and AIDS in Houston. She's working especially hard these days because donations are one of the first things people cut back on when the economy goes through troubled times like it is now.

The 20th Annual AIDS Walk Houston will take place on March 15th. Seems like something I ought to be participating in, huh? Better late than never, I suppose, but this means I don't have a moment to lose! Walking is a great gesture but it really won't mean that much without support from all of you in the way of donations. So, I'm asking for your help. It's kind of late to form a team but I would love company if anyone wants to walk with me next weekend. But, if you can't make it, then please consider being here in spirit with a donation.

Kelly says that she will keep walking until there is a cure. I don't think she will mind if we adopt the same commitment --- that OTGH will keep walking until there is a cure. And that we will do it in as many places around the country as we can.

No one knows better than our community just how important this is. I know it's a tough time economically but that only makes the need greater. And I've not the slightest doubt that you all have given before --- we've all given a lot. But it's just not the time to stop. Please do what you can. Click here to help.


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That's My Story.....

We've heard from several of you that you like the idea of telling our stories. No one has gone so far as to send us one, but that's okay. We're going to be here for awhile. And, I've been working on one myself, so check back next week. If I can get Ann-Marie to help me edit it (I have mentioned that she does all the real work, haven't I?), I'll post it for you. In the meantime, get yours spruced up and send it to us at admin@onthegayhorizon.com.


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Tone, Balance and Strengthen with Pilates

Fit in a Year - Week 10

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

If you haven't already begun adding activity to your schedule, consider adding a pilates class.  Exactly what is Pilates?  Pilates with a capital P is a core-based exercise developed 100 years ago by a man named Joseph Pilates.  Anyone certified by a company associated with his original studio is a Pilates instructor with a capital P.  Everyone else teaches a pilates derivative. 

This can be a problem.  Once the practice moved from its niche into the general fitness instructor pool, it changed.  Which is good and bad.  Some creative instructors have taken the elements of Pilates and adapted them, with precision, to a wider variety of body types.  This is good.  But others, have taken the ideas and tried to apply them to calisthenics, missing the subtly and especially the centering and alignment and 30% isometric principles of Pilates entirely.

The basic idea is that you align your spine with its natural curves within your ribs and you engage your inner core muscles to stabilize this alignment.  That's their job.  Stabilizers are closest to the spine, are shorter, and need to work for longer periods.  They need endurance, since they only work at 20-30% of their maximum capacity.  So in Pilates, we work this stabilizing group gently, but for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.  Holding this 20-30% contraction, you then challenge your stability by moving your legs and/or arms.  This makes the core work an isometric exercise--which means you are only using muscle, no joints.  Generally, this is safe for everyone.  You can do these exercises on a mat, which is very challenging, or you can use what is called an apparatus--a reformer, which looks like a twin bed, or a Pilates chair, or a barre, all of which provide some assistance and make the exercises easier to accomplish.  But these are usually private or semi-private sessions, so they are more expensive. 

The point is that with a good instructor, you can safely tone your core and provide the balance and strength you need on a daily basis.  Think rapid recovery from whatever life--or the sidewalk--throws at you.  This is not cardio work.  But it's not easy, either.  If you only have 5 minutes to do crunches, I recommend 8 perfect Pilates crunches over 28 of the other kind. 

The other benefit to this kind of work-out is mental.  You must pay attention to your body in a good pilates or Pilates session.  And you know what?  Thinking about one thing for a period of time is meditation.  So you leave a class feeling, as I say in my studio, toned up and calmed down.   What's not to like?


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