For our God is a consuming fire.

-Hebrews 12:29

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Reflections; Part 1

I have a very valid excuse for not posting for so long: I gave birth to an amazing daughter. For purposes of this blog, I'm going to call her the Geeb. Ozzie and Harriet had the Beav; we have the Geeb. May she be equally as family friendly, yet nowhere near as unidimensional.

Perhaps my first blog posting post-facto should be about her? Well, this is and this isn't. It's my first soiree back into writing in months, and I'm hoping to reflect on this past year. To do so, I'm following this website's prompts for pontification. I'm sure her presence will be apparent throughout, thus juicing two veggies with one blender (or other nonviolent take on a cliched idiom).

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

In late 2009, I wrote that the upcoming new year would be "Zen in 2010". In a way, I did achieve Zen, but it was not as I expected. My pregnancy brought a new level of awareness and appreciation for what my body is capable of, and an understanding that sometimes, there are things I just can't do. New physical limitations caused me to accept more with less, and ironically those limiting factors culminated in a magnificent display of physicality when Geeb was born. "Acceptance" was my Zen. And it shall be my One Word as well. Within that acceptance is also immense GRATITUDE for my blessings; however, I feel "acceptance" more accurately describes the totality of the year.

For 2011 - I'd like my word to be "Awareness". Be Here Now. Mindful. Conscious. Fully Present. These notions seem deceptively simple, yet I've a long way to go to attain. Daily actions with awareness = adventure where you least expect it. I'm ready to experience the now with gusto, and the Geeb helps me to do this each day.

I downloaded a small chime program on my laptop that randomly emits a gong during the day. It's purpose? To bring me back to the moment. When I hear the chime, I stop and consider where I am right then. Geeb also emits a loud lovely 'chiming' tone of her own randomly throughout day, and I am forced to consider where we both are at that moment, what her needs could be and how I can best address them. She's got a built-in awareness program! She's a five week old GENIUS!

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

Great googley moogley. Much of what I do doesn't contribute to it, but I can't eliminate much at this point. I'm glad to get in a shower and brush my teeth (and all this time I thought new parents were exaggerating! My sincere apologies to you all). But I can scribble down ideas as I have them and refer back once Geeb is in daycare and I'm back to work. In honesty, going back to work will actually open up pockets of free time I don't currently have: the commute, waiting for clients to arrive at appointments. I carry my journal with me and plan to take advantage of these brilliant moments of freetime to scribble freely.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

Holding my daughter for the first time. I won't be overtly vivid here, but I will offer up a series of adjectives: overwhelming, slippery, joyous, purple, loud, open, monumentous, united, thankful, infinite, purposeful, grounding...

I'll also add a non-Geeb moment: teaching my first yoga class. A personal triumph!

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

Attempting child birth naturally. This cultiavate an immediate sense of wonder at how anyone could actually do this! I spent the last two years immersing myself in a very au natural community and thought that perhaps I would be able to push (pun intended) my way through this process without the aid of drugs. Perhaps a more complete birth story is forthcoming for this blog, but let's suffice to say that I was and am confident that my decision to have an epidural after several hours on a pitocin drip was a wise one indeed.

It did generate an entirely new amazement and sense of wonder at those awesome women who forge ahead without the aid of chemistry. To quote myself on this topic, I share a homework assignment from my prenatal yoga certification with Janice Clarfield. We were asked to write one take-away we'd received from the classes. Here's my submission. I love that the theme of awareness is present!

"As a first time mom-to-be, this course has enlightened me as to: questions to ask my midwife, considerations for my own yoga practice and assurance in trusting my own Instincts. Most profound thus far though, is the notion that there need be no guilt in the decisions we make about our birth choices. It is our responsibility to act mindfully; with awareness. But if I or any woman choices a certain path for my birth plan, there need be no judgment.

I’ve been so concerned that if I decide in the heat of labor to get an epidural, that I will somehow be offering my child a “lesser than” entry into this world, that I will be a “lesser than” mom for not being able to withstand the pain on my own. I feel much more equipped with tools to bear the pain and face the fear now. And I am thrilled to take the notion of a GUILT FREE BIRTH EXPERIENCE as my own and to share this with other pregnant women. Guilt is a heavy burden to bear, and not in line with producing optimum conditions. I’m sure the baby feels it. I need not own any guilt for proceeding with a birth plan as best I can; nor should anyone else!"

Amen, sister. Preach it! I hope that I am able to share this with the Geeb. Guilt free experiences made possible from thought-out, aware-filled choices. She came into this world through a series of them, so we're off to a good start.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Serpents & Apples

The Book of Genesis offers us the famed story of Eve, the serpent and forbidden fruit. As I progress ever closer to our daughter's due date (4.5 weeks as of this blog posting), I'm mindful of this tale's outcome.

Quick refresher details: Adam and Eve are created as perfect beings in the image of God, and placed in the lush Garden of Eden. Everything is theirs for the enjoying save one item. They are instructed by God Himself not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So our frolicking first friends bliss out in the Garden for a time. Eventually, as humans tend to do, their focus shifted from the countless blessings they had, to the one thing they could not have. Enter the serpent.

The snake slithers over to Eve and slyly suggests she help herself to the fruit of the Tree. When Eve states it is forbidden, the serpent counters with a rationale. Note: the snake doesn't say the Tree's apples are not off limits. Rather, it justifies the taking by a blame game stating God knows if they eat of the Tree, they will have God-like knowledge. Now I ask you, what woman has not been in a position to crave some additional knowledge?

So Eve eats. The first sin is committed. Then Adam eats, and they too play the blame game, pointing out the fault in both Eve and the serpent. The results are excommunication from the idyllic Garden, hard work and toil to make the Earth provide and excruciating labor pains for women. It's this latter consequences that has me all aquiver. I'm not looking forward to the excruciating part.

Meanwhile, these two graphics have recently crossed my path and I thought would share.


I really only like one. I find the apologetic take on Eve's "uh-oh" moment hilarious. My Bad, indeed. Because in all honesty, if it hadn't been her to royally flub up for mankind, or any of the billions of women preceeding me, I guarantee I would be the one to create dire consequences. Who among us can point a finger?

But I can't agree that the serpent was the best thing to ever happen to Eve. Give me a break. Some overly-chatty, legless male beast convinces our heroine that she should do the very thing she knows she should not?! Isn't this just a version of the same story so many women have acted out in their lives? We don't call certain kinds of men snakes for nothing. And which of us in following the sly words of a toothless, footless, slithering wonder has ever been overjoyed with the results? Not many women I've befriended have happy endings from their tales of trusting the untrustworthy. for thought; and not the rotten apple kind of food.

In summary, I'm about to embark on a wonderful journey of parenthood. It's going to start with some painful pushing and end with our blessed baby! She's no doubt going to encounter some snakes in her time. I hope I can help her, talk to her about her options, her strength and character providing what she'll truly need to obtain knowledge; not the smooth talking of some snake. Apples are quite tasty, but only when picked from a quality tree.

Let's choose our trees and fruit with care. But if and when we do choose without wisdom, let's not write it off as some great event that's happen to us, as victims; let's own our shit, move on with a lesson learned and eventually laugh. "My Bad!"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Idiosyncratic Joys

Everyone knows what to call small things that annoy us. They are "pet peeves", right? I think it's a shame though, that we don't have any well known phrase to describe the small things in life that bring us smiles over and over again. Isn't it here, revelling in the details, allowing subtle pleasures to sustain, that makes living an elevated experience? So, for lack of a better term, I'm going to go with "idiosyncratic joys".

I'll give you a look see into my brain for examples of unique items that bring me glee!
  • Nouns with an "i" plural and using them in sentences. Catcus multiplies to cacti; we've all heard that one. How about foci, carci, octopi, sarcophagi, PLATYPI? Even typing that last one gives me pause to grin. Now to figure out a way of offhandedly dropping platypi into conversation. uh-huh.

  • My favorite colors orange & purple used together in nature, decor or food.

  • Pet names with meaning. I've no hard feeling towards the Fluffies or Snowballs of the globe. But I adore an animal (& their owner) who has applied a more layered approach to the naming convention. I took this so seriously that both our ten-year-old felines have 2 literary-ish meanings relevant to their names (which are Parker & Ezra. Parker for Dorothy Parker the poet, and Parker Posey the actress; Ezra for Ezra Pound the poet and Ezra the Biblical prophet). Perhaps that's overkill in the precious department, but what can I say? It gives me joy and that's the point!

  • Maple Nut Goodies.

  • Hearing a song you've not heard in decades, and somehow your memory recalls most lyrics! Even a crappy song, recalled in full, can have this redeeming quality. Now if I could just recall an old song with platypi used, I'd be happy as a pig in poop....which brings me to my final one for now:

  • Similes. Love 'em. I love 'em like I love a pumpkin spice soy latte.

What aspects of life bring you idiosyncratic joy?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ambivalent (and Aircondition-less) in Alexandria

Oh my how I adore air conditioning! I type this on a sultry summer day from a local restaurant that has restored power and wifi. Almost 48 hours after hurricane winds pummeled our little burrow of Alexandria, the husband and I (and everyone else on our side of the block) are still without electricity. It's in large part due to this tree that snapped in half and landed in our back yard on the power lines. Note this portion of the tree is taller than the 3 story building in the background...

I was at home when the storm hit, and found myself crouched in fear in our pitch black basement with useless cell phone, glass of water and Bible for comfort. Thank you LORD that this tree fell in that direction and not backwards on our house, as many trees nearby did damage owner's roofs. Live power lines littered the roads the next day making even a breath of fresh air a dangerous pursuit. I'm also so thankful no one was hurt. The inconvenience of heat, discomfort and spoiling food seem so minor compared to the troubles that could have been.

Meanwhile, the day after the storm, with hot power lines still rampant in the roads and us homebound, I'd made late afternoon plans to meet up with a gal I know: GirlICan'tBelieveYa. I'd connected with work that I'd be unable to make appointments and why, and was conserving juice on our only means of communication with the outside world: my cell phone. So, I texted her the story of our plight and requested a reschedule for the next day.
Her response: "What time and where?"

Umm....ok. The husband and I are fine and safe. Thank you so much for asking! I answered her with a location suggestion. W/in the hour, power crews arrived out front to remove the live lines. Going outside was now an option. I texted her back an update and that I could now meet as originally planned.
Her response: "Let's do tomorrow. I've got stuff to do."

FANTASTIC. Problem is, I'm not really hip to get together with GirlICan'tBelieveYa in the first place. The below post is one I typed over a year and a half ago, and then took down b/c it was well, true. I didn't want to put that out there for her to see. Unfortunately, it's hard core, true sentiment about someone I feel is completely self-absorbed and therefore hurtful. Those characteristics haven't changed over time. So with some prayer and a call to my mom for guidance, I requested advice for using this heaven-sent-by-way-of-tree-fall opportunity to finally extricate myself from this toxic relationship.

With very little fanfare, I cancelled our plans completely, offering only that I no longer felt safe making plans with her. PERIOD. And I haven't I for many, many moons. It was hard. I cried tears of anger that I'd let this relationshp haunt me for so long, tears that someone who calls themselves my friend could be so callous; then finally tears of relief that I had the strength to just end it.

Now comes additional self-work, for though I no longer have any obligations to connect with this person, there are many lessons to examine and learn. For example:
*Why have I been so reluctant to express my feelings before this?
*Why did it take a blatant disregard/respect for my family's safety to spur me to close a door that should have been shut years ago?
*Is posting this blog appropriate sharing per usual or a passive-aggressive means of ridding toxic remants?
I don't have any of these answers yet, but I'm working on them all.

Romans 12:14 instructs us to bless those who persecute you. Hello, difficult! But I can pray that she is happy and blessed in how she chooses to proceed with her life. I can also pray thanks for providing a means of escape that I don't have to be a direct part of that path anymore.

Yoga Sutra 1.33 suggests we have indifference/neutrality towards those that are wicked or evil in order to clear the mind. I don't think GirlICan'tBelieveYa is either wicked or evil. But, I do aspire towards neutrality in her direction. For I'd love to have a clear mind on this matter versus the nauseous feelings I've dealt with for some time.

Finally, a pre-natal yoga teacher I've studied with Janice Clarfield always offers OMwork to her students at the end of class; picking a regular event of your day and using it as an opportunity to reset your focus. For example, at each red light, return to mindful breathing. If you continue reading this lengthy post, you'll understand my new OMwork self-assignment: Every time I see the large stain on our oriental rug (now 1/2 hidden under a couch after a Saturday of furniture rearranging), I will thank the Lord for life lessons and the ability to move on a better person.

Originally Redacted Post from 2/9/09
How many of us have a friend that just gets under our skin? Regularly? Perhaps without them even trying or knowing what they are doing? I have a friend GirlICan'tBelieveYa that I've known for almost a decade. When I first moved to this area, we were very close. She became by default my best local friend as she always wanted to go out, and in my mid-twenties, that's the space where I was as well. We had a blast on trips, at bars, you name it. GirlICan'tBelieveYa is very social, knows no strangers and is attractive. She's a good person to have at your side when the prime object to is meet guys.

Some other features about her include saying whatever pops into her head at the exact time it pops. GirlICan'tBelieveYa has no real filter on her. She is also scarily thin, yet I've seen her consume 3-4 overflowing plates of food in one meal. People often ask me if she is anorexic, and she is an exercise addict, but GirlICan'tBelieveYa eats... a lot. I always answer "No." I've never seen her purge once; never seen any evidence that she is bulimic. Yet there has always been this vast gap left unexplained as to how she can consume so much food and literally be a size 0, even 00. I admit to having jealous pangs about GirlICan'tBelieveYa's gift for eating without consequence. I am now a Weight Watchers member as I seem to carry my consequences on my gut, butt and thighs. But this has never been an impediment to our friendship. She's lucky in food, and I can accept that.

What has become an impediment, at least for me, is this woman's (she is pushing 40 now) lack of awareness. She opens her mouth and often a lot of nothing-much comes out. Sometimes though, with more frequency than anyone else in my life, very insensive, hurtful things fly out and land on my confessedly fragile ego. It is at these times, I begin to wonder again how and why we remain friends. As an example, last night we had GirlICan'tBelieveYa and husband over to our house for dinner. We invited them over after she had told me on several occassions how much her husband wanted to see our house. So I wanted to make it something special. I planned out a themed meal and yesterday we went grocery shopping and prepped the food and cleaned the house for the better part of our day.

I was also DETERMINED to workout, even if just for a half hour. But one hour before they were supposed to show up, I was just getting to a stopping point with the food/cleaning prep. I ran upstairs, changed into my workout clothes thinking "I'll just do 20 minutes." As I walked down our stairs I doubled back. I realized I wouldn't be able to shower, get ready and start the actual cooking all in time for their arrival. So I gave up my workout and was bummed. (I do realize I could've gotten up earlier on a Saturday to fit in this workout and still get everything else done, so I take responsiblity there.)

20 minutes before they are supposed to arrive, GirlICan'tBelieveYa calls me to say "Is it okay if we are late?" I didn't have much choice in the matter. Even if they left right that second, they were still going to be late. Usually, a friend calling to show up later than expected wouldn't bother me. Except that this was this particular friend who doesn't put a lot of thought into how her actions affect other people. I learned later in the evening that the reason she was late is b/c she scheduled her hair appointment late in the day and still had to get back to the house and get her kids ready. So, there was no planning on her part even though she knew we had dinner plans established for a start time she'd requested to accommodate her kids needs.

During dinner, she asked innocently "So what did you do with your day?" My husband and I exchanged glances and I truly wanted to say "This. This is what I did all day today." B/c it was like she had no clue that our crazy, cool 3 course themed meal or clean house didn't just appear by magic. I'll not say much about the red wine stain she left on my carpet - first thing one sees as they walk through the door of our house. I'll let it suffice that one week and one day later, I'm still trying solvents and cleansers to get the blasted stain out. It's like the devil is living in that stain just poking at me each day out in the wide open "HA HA HERE I AM. Caused by someone too clueless to care."

That is what hurts me the most, I think. I know this person cares about me. I care about her too. I know she is not saying or acting in ways to purposefully hurt me. But how do I excuse her actions? She's not mentally disabled (though sometimes I pause at else do I explain her?). She's bright, accomplished and social. But I've spent years explaining her as "Oh, that's Just GirlICan'tBelieveYa's way." WHY? B/c no one has ever trained her better? B/c like me, no one's ever had the balls to confront her and say "I don't appreciate when you do/say fill in the blank. It hurts my feelings." Why is that so hard for me? As we've grown older over the last decade, both she and I got married. We used to talk about the difficulties of being a newlywed...the learning about your husband's ways and petty fights. But I've found myself unable to relate to a lot of the reasons she and her husband were fighting.

She's had two babies and life has changed for us both for the better. It seems though, that our friendship has not grown with the rest of our life changes. Now that we don't have the go-out-with-a-purpose scene in common, I find we have very little in common at all. For my other friends, my life changes have not created a gap in our friendship. We've ridden the tide and our friendship remains strong and has grown. I don't feel the same here. This very fact has plagued me. Why not? And why does this relationship continually make me feel so bad?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Be Willing to Suck

Hold your horses! I mean this title in a positive, inspiring way :) A posting on Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Life site about life lessons got me to thinking; especially #8 which I'm pasting here:

"Be willing to suck at it! If you want to learn something new and get good at it, you have to be willing to suck at it. The key is to “be willing” and put your ego on the shelf while you are learning. So don’t let fear stop you from learning something new. Just be willing to suck as you learn it."

You can't let fear stop you from learning something new. One tenant of my current vision statement is LIVE FEARLESS! I included this because I need a constant reminder that it is ok to suck sometimes. No one can start off as the best at everything. Yet, I really really dislike not being good at things. Umm, newsflash dearheart: You are human, limited and imperfect. Sucking is inevitable, and as the picture prooves, can be cute!

I'm reminded of a high school memory that I feel has embedded a fear of failure in my heart. As a cheerleader (for those that know me only as an adult, yes I did the cheerleader thing ;), I was one of only two sophomores to make the varsity squad. Apparently, I made the team by the skin of my teeth as I was the absolute worst cheerleader of the lot. Our coach would regularly single me out during practices as having shoulders too high, moves off beat, lunges too shallow. I began to dread practices, and deplored the humilating aspects of her approach. After all, I was in the presence of senior cheerleaders, and who wanted to be noticed for their lack in front of respected peers?

I guess I began to internalize all coach's notes and make some changes. One practice towards the end of the season, we were mid-cheer when coach stopped everyone and said "Let's all watch W do this move." I was mortified. Fully expecting another tongue lashing, I repeated the cheer and popped back into a lunge. Coach had me hold the pose. "Look at how deep her lunge is. Watch how she twisted. I want you all to do it like that." H-O-L-Y-J-U-N-K. That was unexpected.

At the end of season banquet, I got the "Most Improved" award (which true to form, I interpreted as "Worst Cheerleader, Let's Throw Her a Bone" award). It came complete with the headstock of someone else's old trophy, no trophy body, no plaque with my name on it...just a goldish figurine trophy top and hearty handshake. However, along with that 20-cent momento, there may have been some actual improvement involved. That part is good. What's not so good is how I may have allowed that humiliation to deter me from trying new things later in life. To this day, if I don't shoot out of the cannon with perfection in round one, I'm loathe to try again. That's just not healthy.

In three months, our daughter will be born. This will be our first go at parenthood, and I'm anticipating I'll be somewhat sophomoric on this team as well. I need to embrace this fact and welcome some humiliations, or I really will suck at parenting. If I can't dust myself off and try again with conviction and enthusiasm, what lessons will I be teaching our girl? So, "Live Fearless" remains a motto with renewed incentive. It's not just me I'm living for, but another generation of fragile feminity is at stake. No! I much prefer powerful females emerge from our youth.

Dearest daughter and all who may someday read this, let's band together us gals, shall we? Let's dive into the deep end of our fears, confront possible failure and enjoy the learnings and friendships along the way. Courage is not the lack of fear, but proceeding ahead in its presence. Maybe I should rephrase my vision statement to "Live Courageous!" Either way, be willing to suck! The only thing we have to lose is a few shallow lunges and our ignorance.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Name Monster

Time suckage. Have you noticed how many things designed to make our lives more efficient, tend to also fill the free time they were supposed to help create? Laptops are my prime example this evening. I have spent way too many hours on mine over weekends. Granted, I've been using my laptop to research and plan our vacation, but really - TWELVE PLUS HOURS? Oy to the vey. (Fortuantely, I've also managed to pack in some fun with an amazing session of yoga on the mall.)

The time suck issue got me thinking about other things that kill my free time buzz. Another example I've experienced is the existence too many options. No one needs 500 sources of the same product or information. Do you remember going with your parents to the grocery store back in the day? There was the name brand item and there was the black and white generic version. That's it: two choices. It wasn't until Malcom Gladwell and his fantastico focus group sessions about spaghetti sauce preference came around that we uncovered a 'need' for 36 varieties of sauce.

Please don't get me wrong. I adore condiments, as well as the freedom to choose. Variety is the spice of life, after all. But what of too many choices? I believe in the law of diminishing returns: the first sip of cold beer is always going to taste best. And in our over-stimulated society, there is often just too much going on. Too many choices could offer a diminshing return on the advantages of variety.

Indulge me as I offer a final illustration: the husband and I are expecting! This news has us beyond the moon with excitement. It is indeed a blessed time, and I am daily thankful for our miracle. Far be it from me to wax poetic about the positive (this would be my excuse for the few and far between blog posts). I'm too busy being happy to worry about capturing the moment in writing. Any literary inclinations I may have usually stem from the ridiculous or the unfortunate.

Like with this wonderous event, I've not yet written a word. But I'm urged to blog about the immeasurable number of car seat/stroller options that exist, and how every manufacturer seems to patent an unnoticable difference in their version. So few things mesh across brand lines. As with weddings, just stick the word 'baby' in a product name and companies have an excuse to jack up prices and prey on your guilt for getting your child the very best.

PUH-LEASE PEOPLE. Did my naked behind need a baby wipe warmer thirty-four years ago? Unh-unh. And depending on who you ask, I came out just fine. Am I tempted to register for a baby wipe warmer for our child? Yes! Because I want only the best for our precious bundle. I'm just not sure that literally blowing smoke up her ass, or to politely rephrase, laying warming vapors on her bum, is going to be the method for success here. Enthusiast purchasers of baby wipe warmers comment that it's changed their lives. I'm tempted to go with the Pray and Play method of parenting (which I've just now made-up), versus the Pray and PAY method which so many companies would prefer me to follow.

Pray and Pay Parenting would be: Pray you have enough resources, and pay through the nose for all things baby-esque. This method ensures your house is filled with plastic junk made in China, and your retirement fund principle grows at 0%. Babies 'R Us shareholder dividends however, grow quite nicely. Disclaimer: I have absolutely nothing against Babies 'R Us, and am registered there. Let's just be rationale, and maybe even sustainable with our purchases, shall we?!

Pray and Play Parenting goes like this:
1. Pray non-stop for baby's health, happiness, present and future. Trust in the Lord to provide as He promised He will.

2. Balance work with lots of play. Babies are babies for a short time only. Revel in the wonder that is this new life. Thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy.

3. Rinse (bums sans warmed wipes) and repeat daily for the rest of your life.

Yep. This event is a life changer. Perhaps by planning and practicing the Pray and Play Parenting Method now, I'll be that much closer to perfecting it by our due date. Final disclaimer: Perfect is Beige. I love this! I'll never be perfect, so I'm thankful and covered.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Causes & Considerations

OUCH! With so many wonderful causes and organizations needing assistance, it can make your head hurt trying to decide. The husband and I have used the church to dissemenate our tithes and donations to those in need; however, there are times when certain issues hit the heart hard. It's then that we try to dig a bit deeper with our time and other resources.

Three issues that affect me deeply are:
*social justice - International Justice Mission is an amazing Christian non-profit human rights based org, that literally rescues victims of human rights abuse across the globe.

*clean water - Blood: Water Mission in part builds wells in sub-Saharan African communities where water is multi-mile per day walk. Did you know that $1.00 can provide one African with clean water for a YEAR!

*animal rights - I'm a BIG fan of animal sanctuaries and I la la love Farm Sanctuary, as well as the our local Poplar Springs (where we celebrated our first vegan Thanksgiving in 2008). Today, I received an email from PETA, of whom I confess I'd let my support lapse.

They shared information on circus elephants being abused and my heart broke all over again. I've known that circuses, theme parks and others using animals for entertainment tend to mistreat their 'employees'. One need only consider the recent Sea World killer whale attack or famous the Sigfried and Roy mauling to see that wild animals forced into unnatural habitats are not going to gently respond.

Sign Here to Stop Circus Cruelty

Seeing the video and photos of these elephants spurred me to act as a conscientious consumer as best I could. I'm once again a PETA supporter. I invite you to reflect upon issues that are dear to your heart, and seek out like-minded organizations with whom you can partner. So many of us are blessed with freedom, easy access to food and clean water, some spare time to share with those in need. Where can we make a difference?

"If I am not for others, who am I for? And if not now, when?" - Talmud

"Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"Whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me." -Matthew 25:45

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blessings, Bounty & Crap

I have been blessed with another yoga teaching gig; this time in my *almost* backyard. The Alexandria YMCA branch is looking to expand its yoga offerings and have decided to employ lil'ole'me to ramp up the expansion. Starting in April, there will be a new Saturday morning Open To All class at the Monroe Avenue Y. Come one, come all!

I think that's going to do it for new yoga teaching pursuits. With a full time job and teaching 3 classes per week, I'm keeping plenty busy. Yes, the schedule is bountifully full. Several recent additions to the calendar sparked an activity review in attempts to weed for clutter. Spring cleaning of the scheduling sort.

That is why I had a hearty guffaw this past Friday while walking the streets of Old Town. In the window display at the Paper Source, I saw this must have item: file folders appropriately labeled for practical and exhibition purposes. I'm sure I could fill a box of these with appropriate content. 200 emails a day? I've got a file for them. Comcast connections down in perpetuity? Let me stick Comcast in its rightful place. Household cleaners filled with crazy contaminents? Well, I guess I'll have to make a trip to the hazardous waste drop-off, but mentally you've been filed away as well.

On that last point, using some coupons for Seventh Generation, I'm pleased to share we're excavating all non-natural cleaners from the abode, and replacing them with natural substances. This is the first step in a stage of "envirofying" our home more thoroughly. The next step will be to reuse the containers for our own homemade cleansers.
We're progressing one step at time on this journey, with as many laughs as we can along the way. Organization systems like this only help the process. File on!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Yoga Alliance has made me bona fide. Earlier today, I may have checked the website for the eleventeenth time to see if my RYT was posted. Lo and behold, it was!

I don't know about you, but my lasik surgery of five years past isn't holding up like I'd hoped. I can't read that tiny print! Shall we examine a blow-up to confirm? Yes, let's shall.

Just in time too, as I believe I will be teaching yoga in a formal capacity starting this week. More on that to come, as I've not received the teaching schedule. But it appears that last weekend's audition was met with approval by the students, and I was invited onto Stroga's March teaching schedule! Swaha!

Did you know that bona fide is a Latin phrase meaning “in good faith"? I know it's most often used to mean “genuine” today, but I like the strict definition of origin. As I teach yoga, I am doing so in good faith that this practice is ripe with benefits of the physical, mental and spiritual kind. I'm eager to share those benefits with those eager to learn. What an amazing gift to partake of and now to pass on. I'm "genuinely" honored.

In the movie O Brother Where Art Thou, my husband's doppelganger George Clooney finds himself in a much different position. Let's take a look.

Finally, I've got the papers to prove my registered yoga teacher status. Proving to the world what I've guessed all along: I'm certifiable.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Three Thoughtful Tidbits

Examining the last two blog entries, one might think I’d had a guest writer. They both discuss the same snow topic; yet approach it from opposite viewpoints. Not yet ready to admit a split personality, I will however confess they both came from moi. The two entries are a testament to the effect that one’s outlook has on everything. Moving on, as those were then.

Today, a beautiful sunny Sunday by any standards, I am giving myself a wee pat on the back. Since completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training (TT) on 12/28/09, I’ve been looking at opportunities to teach in the DC metro area. Most recent TT graduates are unable to find employ at a yoga studio, as many studios require both a 200 hour certificate, and 1-2 years teaching experience. So where is a nubile yoga teacher to gain said experience? Why, yee local gym, of course.

This week I’ve had three auditions; two at gyms, and today’s at a new yoga studio. For the studio opening, I found an ad on Craigs List posting for yoga teacher auditions, and decided to inquire. Last weekend, I attended an informal “so you wanna teach at our studio” meeting. I was the sole teacher not currently teaching, nor with previous yoga teacher experience. I left extremely impressed with the studio management and space, yet less than enthused about my ability in this situation. Who am I to compete with these other, more experienced yogis?

Friends, I ask myself and encourage you to inquire the same within: WHO AM I NOT TO?

With more than a little encouragement from family and friends, I confirmed my audition time and prepared to give this opportunity my all. When I arrived at the studio, I learned that these free classes had been pulling 50-80+ people per class. I about dooked my slacks. I’m familiar with practicing, not teaching, in studios with max capacity of 50. Teaching experience (in the yoga realms) has been limited to much, much, much smaller numbers. Another phrase I like to use in times of potential pant soilage: FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT!

And so I did, but yet not. I guided these wonderful yoga students through an asana practice with everything I had, and found ½ way through that I had to fake no longer. I was having fun, I was sharing the gift that is yoga; and that is why I decided to attempt teaching in the first place. Third choice tidbit of the post: IF YOU CAN’T HAVE FUN, WHY BOTHER?

I won’t know for a while whether or not the audition was a success in the students’ or studio’s eyes. But for me, it was a great success. I overcame fears; big fears. I grabbed at a wonderful opportunity to strengthen my voice as it speaks the God-inspired yoga language. As a newbie TT, I can already say I’ve led large classes through Vinyasa practice. My proudest reflection though, is that I stood fast to my mantra, even when I wasn’t sure it’s what I was capable of doing:
Yoga is all of the above. Teaching today allowed me to walk the walk; not just talk the talk. Namaste.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Diving Bell of Being

Right before the big blizzard set in last week, I went to the library to stock up on books, cds and dvds. Me and everyone else had the same idea; thus, the dvd selection was slim. I ended up choosing a video based solely on its production company, Miramax. In my experience, Miramax films are more artistic, esoteric, thought-provoking and heart-felt than most. Though I’d never heard of this film before, I decided to check out The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Tonight, day 4 of snowfall (well it was when I wrote this), snow shoveling, snowed-in and all other ways snowfilled living, the husband and I sat down to watch. I will not share many details in case you too, dear reader, are drawn to watch this film (written in French, but complete with English dubbing and/or subtitles). But I will share that it starts out with a man who is a recent paraplegic. The audience is privy to his thoughts, though he is unable to speak.

Thinking back over his well blessed and lucrative life, pictures of glaciers, hundreds of thousands of years old melt and drop like so many world trade center towers into the ocean. The viewer hears his thoughts:

"Today, my life feels like a string of near-misses. Women I was unable to love, opportunities I was unable to seize, moments of happiness I let drift away. A race whose result I knew before-hand but failed to bet on the winner. Had I been blind and deaf, or did it take the harsh light of disaster to help me find my true nature?"

I can relate to these words. These past few days of being locked away due to snow, I have been writhing in disconnection and isolation from the outside world. Tucked away in a warm nest with my husband, at times I’m sure we’ve both felt like lashing out at the other if only because we’ve been on top of ourselves with little to do for too long.

flipping a bird with all love

And yet, this situation, like so many other wonderful ones that have graced the stage of my existence is nothing short of a great gift. When is the luxury of downtime ever available in droves?

But even as recently as this morning, I was reflecting on how many situations present themselves to me, and I meet them with a seeming built-in sense of dismay, dis-ease, disthymia actually. When all is on top, I still feel as though I’m pulling myself up by my boot-straps. This movie, with the protagonist lying in his hospital bed, brought me back to the days of my mother lying in her hospital bed, halo attached and she in pain.

When I tried to imagine myself in her place, I recoiled. I think I am claustrophobic now just due to snow, yet I have 1600 square feet of space in which to frolic. What of me locked inside a metal cage in which I am literally attached? She was an amazing testament to the ability of mind over matter, spirit conquering self, Self saving soul. I do not want to experience a tragedy to be able to look on current days and revel. I pray for an opening of senses that I may not bury myself in lost opportunity.

How do I do this? This movie is certainly not the first time I've felt I am losing time without appreciation. I was drawn to yoga in large part to help myself be in the moment, to enjoy the now. And while I am constantly reminding myself of the need for this skill, I feel it is ever elusive.

Mine is certainly not an unexamined journey, but I wouldn’t mind a few determinations as a result of all the analyzing. That may just be the very thing that keeps me from the appreciation I seek. Craving an outcome, when the process is the fundamental goal. Perhaps I’d best imbibe a glass of champagne and let the effervescence lift me up. Or, maybe I could just stop thinking so much and start just being more. Yes…just.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snow Day in Del Ray

Yesterday I awoke to find a fresh layer of snow on the bedroom skylight. Pulling back the curtains, I was treated to the 4th flurry of the winter season. For the DC area, that's significant, and for this native Floridian it's fabulous! Despite the fact that I don't trust myself to drive in the snow (no 4 wheel drive on my Florida Jeep!), and I'm admiring from inside most of the time, I do so love the snow.

To ensure a successful day indoors, the husband and I bundled up for a trek to Main Street, otherwise known as Mt. Vernon Avenue, for supplies. What does one need for an evening snowed-in? Well wine and cheese of course! Fortunately, Planet Wine is a mere 15 minute walk away. We picked a berrilicious Pinot from South Australia and a smoky gouda wedge to pair. I'm no pro, so perhaps berries and smoke don't play well together; but there's none of either left today so it mustn't have been too terrible.

Then, we headed across the street to Artfully Chocolate. Confessions: this was my first visit to this incredible edible. I'm afraid it would be better named Sinfully Chocolate. We spilt a gourmet hot chocolate for the walk back, and oh my nibs. How delicious! The "Lucy" is a dark chocolate drink with cinnamin and chipolte. The perfect treat of spice and decadence for our snow day. The evening culminated with a fire, dinner of wine, cheese and chocolate and Angelina way of Gone In 60 Seconds on tv.

The Redbox video option at the 7-11 wasn't working. I think the gears froze in the storm; so we were stuck with tv movies. Not even the pitiful acting of this film could damper a beautiful snow day in Del Ray. Did I mention I practiced yoga with Brian Kest earlier on? A flashback to the early 90's when I'd copied his Power Yoga 2 on VHS. All things old shall be new again. And for yesterday, all things snow shall be whoo-hoo'd again. It was a pretty darn good afternoon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Visions & SugarPlums Danced in her Head

During an art festival last October, we ran across a series of lovely paper accordion books. Large sizes had been used as wedding albums or memento holders. Opened up they could be hung on a wall, or folded in book form for a shelf. I thought they would make the perfect backdrop for a vision board for 2010. The husband (thank you!) bought me a small accordion book, so delicate and beautiful, for my Christmas stocking. It's the perfect size for carrying in my purse as a regular reminder of the hopes I hold dear, and the visions I wish to manifest.

Soon after the New Year, I set to work at putting visions to paper, collage-style. Starting with my mantra: "Love Jesus, Live Fearless, Seek Wisdom, Create Beauty," I created three foci for each phrase. It worked out quite well as the accordion book had 14 total pages. This was a perfect fit for a verso, 12 focus points (one for each month) and a closing page.
Here are some pics of the almost final product. All that's left is to write is the monthly focus on the other side of each fold.

You can see how wee the book truly is. 1/2 the size of a tivo remote.

Yet opened up, it's almost as long as the futon!

The foldouts are not in mantra order.
See, I'm living fearless already. oy.

"Create Beauty"
"Love Jesus"

"Live Fearless"
"Seek Wisdom"

Thank you Santa/husband for visions & sugarplums for Christmas! This gift keeps giving well into the New Year.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Zen in 2010: But 1st, a look back at 2009

It’s been a long two months since I last posted to my blog. During that time, I’ve been spending most spare moments immersed in yoga teacher training, which I completed on 12/28 with a 90 minute practicum. It’s no excuse for putting the blog on the back burner, but this 200 hr certification was actually 435 hours of classes, practice and training! Now that I’m back to blog, I thought I’d kick off the New Year by answering the same questions that got Digging for Fire off the ground: a recap of 2009 to bring focus for 2010 goal setting.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Yoga teacher training! Here's me post-practicum with a Happy Congratulations cake from the husband.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for next this year? I did not keep my new year’s resolutions, but I did chip away at the AblazeyDaisy Do list. And I will make more resolutions for 2010.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No, but I have two girlfriends due with their first in Feb and March of this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No, and I’m thankful that my grandfather is still with us while he undergoes dialysis.

5. What countries did you visit? Just U.S. trips: Omega Institute in NY, family trips to Florida, music festivals/camping in North Carolina

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? Fearlessness.
2010 Mantra: "Love Jesus. Live Fearless. Seek Wisdom. Create Beauty."

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August 21-23, Being Yoga Conference at Omega Institute. It was deciding factor that I wanted to complete yoga teacher training.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? See number 1!

9. What was your biggest failure? Not letting the healthy mind/body tools of yoga change me more fully. It’s a process; I’m a process so I’m still working. I’ll continue to do the work, practice, but I thought I’d be farther along than I am.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I dropped a heavy tray on my foot and lost my big toenail. Have you ever tried practicing yoga with a broke-up foot? It’s hard!

11. What was the best thing you bought? Teacher training!

12. Where did most of your money go? Our mortgage will be our largest expense for the next 14.5 years for sure. BUT, at least we have a plan to pay off our beautiful home in ½ the time of the mortgage.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Continuing and deepening my journey with yoga, sharing what I’m learning with others, clarifying how my beliefs as a Christian and the yoga practice are a natural fusion of spirituality in action and communicating same.

14. What song will always remind you of 2009? Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance: Rama-rama-ma!

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier
b) thinner or fatter? About the same
c) richer or poorer? Richer in friends, love and thankfulness.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of? Jivamukti yoga! I love it!

17. What do you wish you’d done less of? drunk less red wine. Me and tannins don’t agree like we used to.

18. How did you spend Christmas? In Florida with my grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins and beloved parents. It was a wonderful Christmas! Here's dad doing guyan mudra at the Christmas table :)

19. Did you fall in love in 2009? I fall in love with my husband over and over again.

20. What was your favorite TV program? Top Chef, Biggest Loser

21. What was the best book you read? Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar

22. What was your favorite film of this year? The Earthlings documentary…not that I enjoyed watching it. It was absolutely awful. But in terms of affecting me, it was profound. The husband and I have cut meat from our diet and are slowly phasing out animal products like eggs and cheese…slowly.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 34 in September and took the day off work to chillax, practiced Jivamukti and attended teacher training that night. The class chanted Om Tryambakam Yajamahe in my honor. Very cool!

24. What kept you sane? Yoga.

25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Sharon Gannon.

26. Who did you miss? Papa. Still. Always.

27. Who was the best new person you met? The 15 teacher trainees of Pure Prana’s 2009 class and our teachers Natasha & Kathy.
I'll post back with more 2010 thoughts, but it's Zen in 2010 for me. Namaste.